Sunday, November 23, 2008

Step 3 - Tunnel Work - Continued

Ok, so it's been a really long time since I last blogged about the model train project. Well, that's mostly because it's been a really long time since I've been able to work on said project. I went to Germany for work for a little over a month and since I've been back I've been working crazy hours. Finally yesterday, I told Pamela that no matter what else happened I was going to work on my train today. And I did!

So, today the tunnel work continued (as if you couldn't tell that from the title) and it is a slow and tedious process. Last time I worked on it, I had started gluing down the track bed (black foam that the track sits on) to the foam risers. So, with that accomplished I set about re-pinning the track to the track bed to make sure everything was still stable. It wasn't. There were three or four areas where the track didn't stay on the bed and a couple areas where the bed wasn't staying connected to the risers. So I repositioned everything that was out of place and connected the track again. I made sure all the track connections were really tight. Apparently, this is key to a smooth ride for the trains, which makes complete sense. Actually, after going through all of this just to make sure the track is smooth, it makes me wonder how my other trains have ever even managed to stay on the track... but it does explain why they gave me such trouble, too. Anyway, with the track freshly pinned to the bed, I was ready to start gluing the track to the bed. This is a moment I've been dreading. I have other moments I'm dreading, but this was the first one to arrive. I've been dreading it cause I know I'm gonna screw it up. Seriously, anyone who has known me for more than a week, knows how not handy I am. Handsy, yes; handy, no! So the idea of gluing things in place and getting everything to line up right, so on and so forth had me a bit nervous.

I decided to tackle the problem systematically. I took the first three track pieces on one side off, after marking with pins exactly where they went. Then I laid down the glue for the first piece. The instructions say "an even level of glue," which means nothing to me. An even what? So I started off erring on the side of caution and using very little. Which meant I had to pull up the track and add more glue, of course. Anyway, after gluing down the first piece I pinned it in place, and then glued the second piece and pinned it down. Next, I took the fourth piece off the track bed and then glued down and pinned the third piece. And on and on ad nauseam, until all the track in the tunnel portions was glued down and re-pinned. After a few pieces, it got much easier and I got a lot more comfortable with the "level" of glue required. As I added each piece I ran a boxcar over each connection, including testing the switch tracks to ensure it was smooth. It is! In fact, in a couple of areas where the connection was slightly off, I added shivs to make them even. Me! Adding shivs... It may not be funny to you, but it's down right hilarious to me. Anyway, once the glue dried, I pulled the pins from the track and tested it again. It is a thing of beauty! All things considered, of course.

So the next step is to lay the ballast. Ballast, if you don't know, is the dirt between the railroad ties. It makes them stable (in real life) and in model trains it covers up the track bed too! So, the directions state I'm supposed to "brush the scenic cement (provided) onto both sides of the track bed." Dang! A new snag. So, the problem is that when I assembled the entire track and tested it and all, it didn't exactly line up with the risers, exactly centered on the risers, I should say. I didn't see this as a problem, cause I knew the track bed was going to be on top of the risers anyway, so if the track came to the edge of the track bed, who cares? Well, now that I look at it, I do. You see, the track bed is designed so that the track runs smack dab down the center of it, and there is space on both sides to make it look like a realistically raised track. So, if it goes all the way to the edge, it won't look realistic. So, my only comfort at this point is that everything I'm currently working on, is going to be inside the tunnels, so I can make my mistakes there and have it right for the parts that will be seen. I also realized that my craftsmanship is going to have to be a lot better in cutting the track bed to look realistic. The shoddy work I did on the tunnels just won't cut it. Well, I still have a ton of gluing and ballasting to do for the tunnel areas next time, so I'll let you know how that goes.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Step 3 - Tunnel work

It has been a little while since I've been able to work on this layout of mine, and today almost didn't happen either. This is due mostly to the fact that I still haven't figured out the "pulley problem." The system I designed isn't stable enough to hold the base and the ropes were cutting into the layout (all of which you can read about in my previous post). Well, I came up with a new plan, with Pamela's help of course, and it didn't work as well either. In the end, Pamela convinced me to forget about the pulleys and work on the layout for a while. Quite good advice!

So, I got back to the layout. The next step in building the layout is laying out the track bed. This wasn't exactly the most easy of steps, though from the instructions you'd think this was a piece of cake. It wasn't. The first thing I had to do was put the track back on and pin it down and make sure it was tight and a car could roll across it without problems. This took a while. After that, I was instructed to draw the outline of the track on the plastered parts, which are in the tunnel areas. Having accomplished that, I took the track pieces on the plaster off the layout and got ready to put the track bed down. The "track bed" is black foam-rubber that lays under the track. The instructions are gloriously simple and say, "lay the track bed down and glue it down." That sounds simple enough, right? Yeah, not so much. After some trial and error, I figured out that to make the corners, I had to cut the track bed at intervals and then cut the appropriate angles to line it up. After that, it was quite simple. So, now it's drying and tomorrow I will try out the ballast and some "scenic cement" work.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Well, everything waaaaaas going well....

So, I should have known things were going too well, especially given my involvement with the designing and building of the project. So, you may recall that I had the grand idea of a pulley system for storage of this behemoth of a project. Well, it worked, kind of...
Unfortunately, as you can see from the next picture, it has a small flaw. Ok, so it's not a small flaw; the entire plan was flawed. The angle of the ropes cuts right into the model. Obviously, that is a less than ideal outcome. So next weekend I get the privilege of redesigning the pulley system and then tearing out the current system for the new one. Good times! Maybe I'll even get to work on my train layout!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Step 2 - The Layout "Rises"

I only had an hour to work on the beast (as I've come to affectionately refer to it) this evening. Work got in the way; what a pain!

Anyway, the next step was to take the track that I had so carefully lain out and pull it apart in large sections and set those aside. Next I took out the 2" risers and laid them out on the base according to the track layout. These will form the base of the track for the first layer. At first I thought I was reading wrong because I thought, "shouldn't the first layer be on the base?" But I soon saw the genius of their plan.

The whole first level will be two inches above the base so you can form rock walls, streams, etc, without carving into the actual base which is only 1/4" thick anyway. That is really smart and will make the layout look much more realistic instead of carving something in as an afterthought. So I got the risers all placed and pinned in. Tomorrow I will glue them down to the base with foam glue. Obviously, Woodland Scenics suggested "Woodland Scenics' Foam Tacks" to pin the risers into place while the glue sets, but I used Pamela's sewing pins and they worked great. They even came a handy tomato which I'm sure the "Woodland Scenics" ones would not have included!

Happy Trails!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Step 1 - Building the base

So, I order the kit and it showed up on Friday. It was about 30 times bigger than I had imagined. You see, the aspect of this "project" I haven't discussed yet is the size. The layout is 4'x 8'. Yes I wrote that correctly four feet wide by eight feet long. 32 square feet. It's huge. Being that big, we knew we couldn't build it in any room in the house so it would have to be in the garage, but we've gotten so used to having a garage and parking in it that something had to done. So I came up with a plan. I designed a pulley system that raises the whole layout up to the ceiling when it's not in use. Yes, I designed it. Not only did I design it, I built it yesterday. I built the wood base and frame and the pulley system. See:

Having accomplished building the base, I set out on the pulley system. Doing that was really fun. It was mentally challenging as well as physically. Those of you that know me well know I'm not the most "handy" person in the world. "Handsy" yes. "Handy" no. So it was with some pride that I finished the first stage of my monster model railroad project.

Phase two began this afternoon as I began build the layout. The Woodland Scenics kit is really well done. It comes with nearly everything you need to build and it incorporates all kinds of different types of techniques and products that are designed to save hours of time. I was really disappointed, however when I opened the boxes today and found that some of the items were broken. A few of the foam boards were broken and some of the plaster "masonry work" were chipped and broken. I will call Woodland Scenics tomorrow and let them know. I will let you know what comes of that. The first steps were to layout the foam base, glue the four pieces together and then layout the track to ensure all the pieces are present and get a feel for the actual layout. All of that went very well. As you should be able to see. Cheeto thought the whole process was very interesting and hung around most of the day, though I have to say he was rather less than helpful. I did promise him that when the layout is all done I will let him walk all over it pretending to be a giant "godzilla" cat! Should be a fun day at the Shane home.

I've decided that I'm going to start a new blog to document the actual details of this whole project. That way I don't bore anyone who doesn't care about the techniques used to build trees for model train layouts. I will put the link up as I create it. Let me know what you think of my crazy new adventure.