Saturday, May 1, 2021

Trackwork Progress on Port Costa Mainline Trackage

UP Trackage today at Port Costa looking across the Carquinez strait to Benicia

Wow, I missed posting what I did in April. The focus for the month was mostly trackwork  on Port Costa mainline trackage. But I have been sidetracked a lot of times and there were days I just didn't feel like working on the railroad.  So much of what I do is ad hoc, spur of the moment change of focus. This is a hobby and I am not too disciplined or end focused so I change projects almost on a whim. I do have a spreadsheet with a master list of projects.  But I don't keep it up and follow it rigidly. 

I have developed a workable approach to laying the mainline and north/strait side siding track.  I had purchased a 4' x 8' sheet 1/4 inch thick sheet of polystyrene at Zap Plastics 3-4 years ago and had it cut into 2' x 4' pieces. I am going to use 6" wide pieces of it as a track base/roadbed for the mainline and the strait side siding trackage.  I have cut it into manageable lengths to allow the track to be laid, wired, ballasted working at the dining room table rather than reaching over the 32" area of the benchwork where the turntable, roundhouse building ant out buildings are located. 

Before test lay out of turnouts
Test layout of turnouts with freight cars to check clearances.

This is the overall view of the mainline with the track just laid on the plastic for working out the crossover arrangement and ramp for changing from the yard trackage height to the elevated trackage of the mainline. Note that I understand that SP standards called for a 6 inch difference in height between yard and mainline trackage but the 1/4 inch thick plastic scales to about 9 inches. The track separation should be 14-15 feet between mainline tracks. Note the ramp has been fitted. It is quite steep but short. I don't have much linear space to work with so the S curves are unavoidable if crossing to/from the yard lead trackage to the westbound main. 

Note that the sheet plastic was primed/painted with Rust-oleum and Krylon in several over sprays on the plastic sheet to prime it.  The matte clamshell color approximates the light grey tan look of the ground at Port Costa in bright sunlight. 

I have been stalled at this point since mid-April. I have had a diversion to review ballasting and seeing how this will work on top of the sheet plastic road bed. I have been working on a sample of double track with ballast and painted rail. 

The rail was glued to the painted plastic using Formula 560 Canopy Glue.  Left to dry overnight it is a very tight bond. Next came the ballast. I used Woodland Scenics walnut shell light grey on the far track and Woodland Scenics new Grey Blend on the near track. I am using Joe Fugate's recommended zip ballasting technique with Ballast Bond from Deluxe Materials diluted about 50% with 70% IPA. I apply the ballast adhesive with an eye dropper. Setting time is about 18 hours. I used the same technique on ballast between the two tracks. Fingers run inside the track tamped down the ballast and then a metal pick was used to remove stray pieces of ballast on the ties and tie plates. 

I am using the shorter Micro Engineering Code 83 rail joiners on the Peco Code 83 track with no problem. I am worried about the ballasting around in place rail joiners so I added solder to the joints. I don't have any long runs of track without power feeds and my layout is in an air conditioned very low humidity room so I am not to worried about expansion. There are going to be insulation gaps and separate feed wires around the turnouts  

The track was painted after ballast using Vallejo 70.822 German Black brown brushed on the ties and rail sides.  After the black brown dried, I brush painted the rail and tie plates with Vallejo 71.080 Model Air  Rust (AKA #29015 Freight Car Red at Micro-Mark when I bought 6 bottles about 8 years ago.)  I tend to like a dark rusty color even on mainline track. This photo was shot from the observation platform of the Redwood Empire in 2017 on a trip to LA at Vandenberg south of Surf. Those are rusty rails.

 Magnify the picture and you can faintly see the launch towers to the right of the track in the background.

After painting the rails, I cleaned them off with the 70% IPA. within a couple of hours. The upper track has a trail of Vallejo 73.817 Petrol Spills. I have also used a light brushing of dusty colored weathering powder on the ties of the rear test track. 

All this work will be done on the dining room table when my motivation comes back to finish the mainline trackage so I can get on to the ballasting of the yard trackage and building the turntable. It will get done sometime in 2021. 

Note that trips on the Redwood Empire are chronicled elsewhere in this blog. Unfortunately with Amtrak becoming highly restrictive on private car operation, the owners have put the car up for sale. It was no longer fun.  In addition Amtrak has now banned open platform riding while the train is in motion so a picture like the above is no longer legally possible.