Monday, July 19, 2010

Advancing on Many Fronts

Operations-wise, I've built the switching area at Thomas, including a new industry switch for Kingsford Charcoal. Kingsford wasn't actually located in Thomas, but at Parsons a few miles down the hill. But it will add some interesting rolling stock to the subdivision, having used the WM's fleet of 60' cushion framed boxcars.

There's also a home for the old Meyersdale Farmer's coop from the previous track plan, plus a team track ramp, and of course, the big coal tipple. I've got two more switch throws to install, and some wiring drops to hang from the switchback, but otherwise this section is complete and ready for paint and scenery.

In the trackwork department, I extended the western frontier of the Connellsville line, which is the two-track line that comes in at the left and then arches over the staging yard. This will eventually extend across the front wall to a helix, and thence down to the west end staging. With that bit of benchwork constructed, I could add the most visual feature of the new work to date:
...the curved skyboard that will provide the backdrop for Cumberland's urban scene, and which conceals the helix on the Thomas Sub. Naturally, after weeks of running trains up and down the helix without a problem, as soon as I installed this, I had one train suffer a derailment, and another a random uncoupling, inside the corkscrew, of course. Hopefully I won't live to regret this design compromise...

I think in both cases the problem was related to a stalling locomotive, so I sent the MOW crew up and down a few times with the track cleaning car. Hopefully that will prevent, or at least minimize, future problems.

The Bridge Department has all the materials needed to finish the High Bridge east of Thomas, I just need to take some time to sit down and build the last 80' girder span, then fabricate some bridge feet.

Electrically, I installed my first accessory decoder to run a pair of turnouts on the Thomas Sub. This is a major breakthrough for me. The decoder was certainly cheap enough, and it's an absolute delight to stand on one side of the layout and throw a switch without having to dive to a control panel on the other side of the room. There will be more of these installed, I assure you!

Things on the peninsula are really shaping up, and I expect I'll be cutting some foam and sculpting out the landscape shortly.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Take Me to the River

Since the last time we chatted, I've made some significant headway on some basic scenic elements in the new section. I had started working on the dull stuff, wiring switch machines, mostly, when I decided (with the help of my adult ADD)to switch gears and work on something else.

Since the Casselman Crossing scene on the original layout turned out so well, my thoughts turned to the extension of the river into the new section. With the sweeping curve of the new Connellsville Line on the right, and the lofty, cliff hanging Thomas Sub high above on the left, this area promises to be a good spot for railfanning.

So off to the garage I went, in search of odds and ends to help me get started. First I needed something for the riverbed. I have a ton of plywood, homasote, and masonite out there, but for this purpose I chose a chunk of broken ceiling tile I had scavenged from somewhere. The river will step down in another falls near the new Connellsville line tunnel, so it can drop down to a level lower than that line's right of way. A little further along, and it will drop through some rapids reminiscent of the big hook in the Youghiougheny near Ohiopyle State Park in southwestern Pennsylvania.

This visual will help create a scene that will remind viewers of Ohiopyle, as the Thomas Sub will cross this gorge on a high, gently curving steel bridge at this location.

In addition to the river bed, I obtained a 12" door panel that has been pressed into service as a skyboard, which splits the new peninsula into two distinct scenes. On the left side of the view block is this river gorge. There are virtually no switching opportunities here, and it's designed to be the scenic "signature" of the railroad. On the other side, the peninsula is lousy with switching, with Thomas on the upper level with its sawmill and coal loaders, and just around the corner, Cumberland with its industrial districts. With the addition of the skyboard divider, the railroad is really beginning to take shape in this area.
I've also been steady working on the high bridge, and thanks to the contribution of a couple of Micro Engineering bridges from Daryl Kruse, we're moving right along with that project. I've been casting bridge piers from Plaster of Paris, which will allow me to really begin to get the scenery moving along in this area. All of the wiring under the river is more or less complete, which will also permit me to charge ahead with this phase of the project.

Once the bridge is completed, I can go back to that dull wiring business.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

All the way to Elkins!

All that's left now is to wire the Tortoise switch machines to operate from the Elkins panel. Using a little help from a 9v battery, I was able to stage a train from Maryland Jct. all the way into the Elkins Yard, and then reciprocate with another train headed back. Here's the evidence...