Thursday, January 29, 2009

I attended my 1st Op's seesion !

I attended the LDSIG/OpSIG/NMRA PCR joint regional meeting in Santa Clara, CA during the weekend of January 24-25, 2009.

Side Note:
Although I just joined, he OPSIG is a great organization worthy of joining. The best part is that they offer a $5.00 online membership that offers full membership - you just have to download the news letter – that’s the cost of one magazine for a whole year of membership. Most of the other groups I belong to have long since stopped the expensive process of printing and mailing newsletters and I like lower fees needed to belong. I wish the LDSIG could the same.

Back to trains-
The first day there were several good presentations and was I was fortunate enough to have my track and Op’s plan reviewed by 2 well respected experts as part of the get together! Our gracious host for the event was the South Bay Historical Railroad Society . The club layout was open to the public at the same time and was running for all to see.

The second day was for Op sessions. There was a list of very impressive private and club layouts that opened their doors for guests to operate. There were many styles, era’s, locals and methods of operations available.

I was happy to get my 1st choice of one of the nicest clubs layouts I’ve seen - Silicon Valley Lines

It’s 23’ x 72’ double deck layout that has over 600’ of main line. They operate diesels with some hold over transition steam. They use NCE DCC, Train Block Control (I think I have that right) and a home grown version of Ship It for train orders. It was an amazing day that flew by - 6 hours went by in the blink of an eye! The club even ordered pizza for all.

I was able to run 4 trains that day. My first was a though train that went for longest “half” of the layout, the second ran the other half of the layout with some switching, the third was a switching train that ran the longer half and I ran my last train by myself - the PFE Express (although it had a little switching) that ran from one end to the other. It was everything I was looking for and exposed me to many aspects of an Op’s session that I wanted to experience. The guys at the club were just as remarkable as their layout - very friendly, helpful and just all around fun to run trains with. If I was to join a club this would be the one.

Some things that I need to look at more as a result of this OP’s session are generating train orders and Train Block Control – if I got that right.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Years End

It’s December already and like I find myself saying every year – “Where did the Year go”? Haven’t had too much time to get to the trains. The time I did get I spent running trains! I found myself reflecting on the things that have changed since the last time I was MR’ing and my favorite things for this layout.

The things I’m finding I really like are:
The Digitrax Zephyr DCC – The perfect room size DCC system
Atlas GP 40s – Smooth running and strong pullers
Atlas SD35 – Smooth running, strong pulling and sound
Walthers 50’ Bulkhead flat cars – Great looking cars (need better wheels though)**
Walther’s 60’ Woodchip gons- Great looking cars (need better wheels though).**

**I received my Walther’s Gold Line 60’ woodchip cars. I really do like these cars and you can read about them on my post here

**I have also added several more of the Walther’s Gold Line 50’ bulkhead flats to the inventory. In addition, I picked up an E bay special for an Athearn GP 40 dummy in SP paint. Needs some work but it was a good deal.

I have found 2 areas of track work that I’ll be re-doing. The main track and siding in Happy Camp and the classification tracks in the yard. Just need to do some tweaking to get it right. It doesn’t get easier than doing it now. Well ok, next year…….

Friday, November 14, 2008

Specifications and Details of the Klamath River Line

Specifications and Details of the Klamath River Line

A little information on the nuts and bolts of the Klamath River Line. I’ve listed stores, brands, and exact info where possible. I have also listed TIPS in areas where I have used techniques that are new to me, that I have incorporated or things that made life easier as I went along.

Southern Pacific’s Klamath River Branch Line at a glance

Scale” HO (1:187.1)
Size; 9’ X 11’ (excluding staging)
Prototype: Southern Pacific
Locale: Northern California’s Klamath River basin
Period: October 1983
Style: Pit
Mainline Run: 80’ total (40’ visible)
Minimum radius: 24” visible main, 22” all others, 18” staging
Minimum Turnout: All but one no 6 mainline no 4 all others & Snap switches for staging
Benchwork: Plywood frame built domino style
Height: 48” Basement, 52” main area
Roadbed: Midwest Cork
Track: Atlas code 83 flex, sectional and turnouts.
Scenery Base: Extruded foam base with cardboard strips as needed
Backdrop: Painted vinyl flooring
Control: Digitrax Zephyr DCC

In Depth Detail

One of the many things that have improved since I was last serious about MR’ing is the use of quality plywood as benchwork material. I was able to get two sheets of ¾” cabinet grade plywood from Lowes for $38.00 a sheet. The best thing was they even ripped into 3” x 8’ strips for FREE!!! That’s 64 rips, took him over an hour and killed a new blade. I used a chop saw to cut the strips to the desired length. TIP: If you need even just two (or more) pieces of the same size, take the time to setup a stop block set up and cut them the exact size every time. It’s an easy thing to do and well worth it. All joints were screwed and glued. The legs are 2” x 2” with two 3” plywood strips as cross braces. I had enough material from the two sheets of plywood to do the whole layout, the leg braces, a few “do overs” and a little is still left over.

I’m not happy with the 2”x2” legs and will upgrade them in the future. The 3” frame work is covered with ½” plywood. Each section is either 24” wide or 18” wide. I wouldn’t go less than 18” for free standing units.

The Base:
It is double stacked 2” extruded foam. I went this route since I was originally going to have 3 different track levels in a total of 8”. This would have been the Basement section that was to be hidden at + 0” of the plywood, the Main section at +4” for a majority of the track and “The Loft” section which was the in the original RR&N plan as the Mine Loop at +8”. By this time I was calling this how I added 6 towns and scenery to my helix. The mine loop lost out. Quality of Run was the guiding factor here. It was just too little of an area to meld the backdrop and the main section with any quality or the mental vision I have.

If I was to do it all again, knowing what I know now, I would have one sheet of foam for scenery depth and redesigned the staging but that’s for another post. I did start out using caulk to “glue” the foam to the plywood and each section but I found this used too much caulk and was difficult to keep even. I went to yellow glue and found this worked well. I wound up using a total of 1 gallon of yellow glue for the entire project.

The backdrop was originally to be 1/8” masonite with 1”x 4” supports. I was going to paint directly on the masonite. This wasn’t working as well as I would have liked. When in doubt, trust Joe Fugate. He used vinyl flooring as a backdrop material. I wound up mounting this over the masonite. This was a little flimsy for me so halfway through I switched to ½” plywood as a base for the vinyl flooring without additional supports. I’ll use this method in future efforts.

Shop around though, I found an 8’ x 12’ section of vinyl for $30 at Home depot while Lowes wanted $60 for a 6’ x 8’. I used the chop saw to cut the roll to size BEFORE I unrolled it. I tried several paint colors from my own from photos but couldn’t find a suitable color. I used Crescendo Blue from Wal-Mart for the background color (again trust Joe). It was $8.00 a gallon!

Track and Roadbed:
All of the track is Atlas Code 83. All but one of the turnouts on the main are #6’s. All of the other visible turnouts and the one from the main to Anderson Door and Window are #4’s. Almost all of the track is laid on Midwest Cork roadbed. The crossover and the yard are laid on 12”x12” cork from Wal-Mart. It was $4 for four 12”x12” sections. It’s a perfect match for the Midwest cork. TIP: One of the many improvements to MR’ing is the use of caulk to “glue” down track instead of track nails – this is the only way to go! A LITTLE goes a LONG way. I used yellow glue to glue the roadbed to the foam.

Turnout control is Caboose Industries 206S ground throws – for now. Some other hand throw will come later.

I used Micro Engineering brown ties to fill in the gaps where I removed ties for the rail joiners.

I made several templates of Atlas 24” curved sectional track soldered them together to mock up areas for track work. This was an easy way to go. I used a single, a double and triple to mock up track areas.

I used Woodland Scenic’s 3% grades. These are great if you only need a few grades. Takes the math right out of it.

The Digitrax Zephyr is a great little unit. It can handle most small/medium sized layouts – as long as you don’t have too many QSI units. It also has built power boosting for programming. There is a program track option. The Yard track closest to the edge is the program track. I had to get my 4PDT switch from E Bay. It was a hard to find locally or at a retail internet dealer for a decent price (Man do I hate Radio Shack- have they gone down hill).

Hand throttles include one DT400R Wireless throttle and two UT4 tethered throttles….. as well as the Zephyr itself. Wireless 128 step throttles walking along a sound unit is just unbelievable!!!.

I used 12 gauge solid wire for the bus. I like solid wire for the bus because it can take it when I cut into the sheathing when using the 3M 905 suitcase connectors; another great thing since I was last MR’ing. I used stranded 20 gauge wire for the feeders. It’s easier to fish around. I soldered them to the rail joiners facing centerline of the track. I put these on my flex track where I had a few ties removed for the joiners anyway. I drilled a hole in the middle of the track for the feeders to drop down. TIP: I taped the feeders to a skewer that I used to fish the wires through the roadbed, 4” of foam and the plywood. Worked great.

I didn’t do any power blocks since this is considered a smaller layout and I’m planning on having only one QSI sound unit – The Zephyr can handle it. Additional sound units will be less power hungry dummy units as sound units. If I was to do block control, I would use the 1156 taillight method, although it would be the 1142 for the Zephyr due to the rating of each.

Main layout lighting is provided by five 48” dual tube florescent fixtures. These are the cheap ones from Home Depot/ Lowes for less than $10.00 each. I use Full Spectrum bulbs in the 5000 – 6000 K range. By using full spectrum bulbs I get plenty of light at low cost. The upside is these don’t fade anything on the layout, don’t make everything look yellow, photographs very well and give everything a real outdoors & natural look. These bulbs are about twice as much as regular florescent bulbs but for under $5 a pack of 2 they are well worth it.

Portable lights:
I found I needed 2 portable lights while working on the layout. The first is a cheap desk lamp from Wal-Mart ($5) and a regular 75 w light (while we can still get them before the greenies make them go away). I use this to set on the layout when I’m doing small work items – putting in ground throws, soldering etc.

I also have a clamp light with a 75w bulb in it. This is great for under table wiring etc. I have used both at the same time for layout work too.

The layout is a free standing pit style located in the corner of the garage. It was to have 2 parts that were to be movable but the ROW committee has gotten a ten year lease to keep it standing at all times. I mention this because had this be the plan from the onset the construction would have been differently. Staging would have been different too.

There are 4 sections to the layout. The 4 sections are labeled North, South, East and West. The North and West sections are semi permanent. The South and East sections are movable and are mounted on wheels but see above.

Under this setup though I do have great access from the “big isle” to the hidden trackage. I can also make temporary staging as big as I want - as long as it stores well and is gone when not operating.
Life expectancy of layout is 10 – 15 years. Then I’ll be able to the Klamath Line justice!!!! is 10 –
15 years

Monday, October 13, 2008

Planned Operations

The Klamath River Line is primarily designed for one operator but provides for possible operating sessions for up to several people.

Planned Trains
Willow Creek Yard switcher – as needed
Happy Camp Peddler – serving local industries up to twice a day service
Yreka West – Yreka/Willow Creek/Eureka – twice a day service
Eureka East – Eureka/Willow Creek/Yreka – twice a day service
Siskiyou Hauler – Dedicated service on a “as needed” basis
Bigfoot Express – Mainline “drone” ran during individual op sessions
Yreka Pax Turn – Possible future passenger service

10 car length for local trains, 12-15 car for through trains and the Bigfoot Express at 18-20 cars

Loco power is Atlas Silver Series GP 40’s, an Atlas Gold SD35 and MP 15 DC’s. 50’ box cars, 50’ bulkhead flats, and 60’ woodchip cars dominate the fleet roster. Rolling stock consists of Atlas, Accurail, Athearn, Details West, Walthers and LBF/E&C/Herbert’s.

Proposed one operator session
Bigfoot Express – drone train with mainline right way

Yreka West - Yreka (staging)to Willow Creek. Takes the siding in Willow Creek and drops off cars for the Willow Creek yard. Picks up any cars for Eureka. Heads through Happy Camp and continues to Eureka( staging).

Willow Creek switcher sorts the new cars into the yard. Makes up the Happy Camp Peddler from the new and existing cars in the yard. The Willow Creek switcher is also responsible for switching Siskiyou Forest Products as needed.

The Happy Camp Peddler- Heads out east from the Willow Creek Yard to Happy Camp. Conducts switching operations in Happy Camp. Stages cars on the Happy Camp siding for the return to Willow Creek Yard. Obtains cars on Happy Camp siding and returns to Willow Creek Yard via the western route.

Willow Creek switcher breaks down the returning peddler into the yard. Stages cars for the Eureka East.

Siskiyou Hauler (as needed) from Yreka (staging) to the Willow Creek siding. Switches Siskiyou Forest Products. Double ended loco uses the main at the Willow Creek siding as a run around. Picks up cars on Willow Creek siding and returns to Yreka staging through Happy Camp.

The Eureka East from Eureka (staging) to Willow Creek and takes the Willow Creek siding. Spots cars for the Willow Creek Yard and picks up cars for headed for Yreka. Heads to Yreka (staging) through Happy Camp.

Willow Creek switcher sorts new cars into yard. Stages outbound cars as needed. The Willow Creek switcher is also responsible for switching Siskiyou Forest products as needed.End of day.

Estimated session run time 1 hour.

How the “Basement” section and staging works –
Lets follow a train to illustrate how the elevations work on this plan The Yreka West (hauler) pulls out of the Yreka staging at an elevation of 0” in the area of the duck under and enters onto the main line – I call this the Basement Section since it is not visible trackage and is under the main part of the layout. It starts a 3% grade up and becomes “visible” as it emerges from the tunnel into Happy Camp at +4”. It passes through Happy Camp and continues past the Klamath River at +4”. The train takes the Willow Creek siding at +4”. After operations in Willow Creek, the YW continues on the main into the tunnel where it starts a 3% grade down and below Happy Camp. It will continue down to the area of the duck under and is at +0" again where it enters the Eureka Staging.

Friday, October 10, 2008

How I got here

The most import thing to keep in mind is that real trains never held any real interest for me until lately. It was model trains that got me. Two in particular, the original layout at The Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago and Joe Fugate’s Siskiyou Line.

If I did a website on the Museum’s layout I couldn’t do half as good this one. His story as a kid is my story too. The only other 2 things I saw were the WWII U Boat the dinosaurs - once. When I think of trains this is what I think of.

The other layout is Joe Fugate’s Siskiyou Line.

I first saw Joe’s layout on the cover of the January 1997 Model Railroader (MR) magazine.

I saved this issue for a scratch building project in it. The more I looked at the cover the more enchanted I became. I never did build that project.

I had two failed layouts in the time between 1997 and now. Sort of anyway, one never even got a stick of wood cut. In July 2007 I found Model Railroader’s contest runner up of the Red Rock and Northern. It was the dream plan I was looking for. I also saw that MR s subscribers could download a copy of the plan from the MR data base. Few changes and it would be perfect.
While I was there, I found they had a MR forum.

I made my first post in the forum on the Red Rock and Northern in October 2007.

In November I saw a post in the MR forums by Joe Fugate. I didn’t know then that he was the guy who had that January 97 cover shot. I followed his link at the bottom of the post. Once I got to his site I found out who he was. It was down hill from there. I read everything on his forum and bought all of his how to video’s This is the best money you can spend on making you a better modeler. I also bought all of the Live Op’s videos too. I couldn’t get enough of the Siskiyou Line!!

The Siskiyou Line site is where I learned the secret to a satisfying layout - quality of run.

The more I read about Operations and The Quality of Run the more I knew what I was missing in my previous attempts at layouts. I applied this more and more to my dream plan – The Red Rock and Northern. The more I applied this to the RR&N the more and more the plan changed. It changed until the final version became a plan of it’s own. You can still see the ancestry of the RR&N in the current plan. At this point I have to stop referring to this as the RR&N and call it what it is – The Southern Pacific’s Klamath River branch line.

Why the Klamath River? Just before I discovered that January 97 MR cover, a friend taught me how to pan for gold. That too festered a life of it’s own and in the summer of 2004 I took a dredging class on the Klamath River. This is an environmentally friendly way to mine for gold that improves the river habitat at the same time. You can learn more about it the New 49’ers site.

I now spend my summers there enjoying the area. I am anywhere between Hornbrook on I-5 to almost Hoopa along the Klamath River and The Bigfoot Scenic Highway – Highway 96. As I would take breaks along river I would look up and think how much this reminded me of the cover shot on MR. I could squint and see that trestle bridge with that Cotton Belt coming around the corner. It took me back to those days as a kid watching the trains go at the museum.

When I found the RR&N plan I was going to marry the Klamath River and the RR&N together and make the Sierra Pacific RR. It was going to be a freelanced spin off of the sale of the Western Pacific. As I learned how well applying Operations and the Quality of Run was working, I was also learning how well modeling a prototype works. I also learned about protolance – thus the Southern Pacific’s Klamath River branch line was born. I have learned a lot about the history of both the Klamath River basin and the Southern Pacific. Unfortunately I have limited space and can not do the concept justice. I do know that there will be a larger version someday and that will encompass everything that’s missing.

In the mean time, watch how this continues………..

You can always look at pictures here……

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Givens & Druthers

Klamath River Line



Benchwork Width
Main 24”
Minimum 18”

Deck Height from Floor
Minimum 48”
Main 52”
Maximum 54”

Minimum Radius
Mainline 24”
HiddenMain 22”
Industry/Yard 22”
Staging 18”

All Grades 3.0%

Mainline #6
Industry/ Yard #4

Track Spacing
Standard 2”
Curve 2 ½“

Track Distance from Edge
Front edge 1 ¼ “
Back edge 1”
Hidden ½”

Train Length
50’ Cars/ Feet 12 cars/6 feet

Track over Track Spacing
Railhead to railhead 4”