Model 160 Scenic Subdivision Project

Discussion in 'Crew Lounge' started by jamie@M160, Feb 13, 2018.

  1. jamie@M160

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    #1 jamie@M160, Feb 13, 2018
    Last edited: Mar 13, 2018
    M160-scenic-sub-project.jpg

    WELCOME TO THE MODEL 160 SCENIC SUBDIVISION LAYOUT PROJECT

    The Scenic Subdivision is part of the current BNSF Railroad system. More specifically, in the Cascade Mountain range in Washington state. So in a nut shell, this project will showcase the buildout of mountain scenery including the famous Gaynor Trestle, Gaynor Tunnel and the longest tunnel in the U.S., the 7.8 mile long Cascade Tunnel. So the goal is to build out some prototype real life scenes featuring rivers/creeks, lots of pine trees, mountain terrain and scenery, a large viaduct, a couple of tunnels and more. Full details on the area being modeled can be found in the Introduction piece below.

    I'm creating this topic here in the forums so if anyone has questions, comments, ideas and more, there is a place to ask them. I find that the interaction is usually a fun part of the process in building this as it keeps momentum going and also provides ways to share ideas, problems (and hopefully solutions!) and more along the way. I will organize this discussion topic for this project with a table of contents in this post that links to our articles and updates made on the site. I will also mirror the larger updates here in the forums as well and post smaller items, teasers and progress reports that may not warrant a full article on the front page of the site. In other words, check back often for updates. As always, I'm posting teaser pics on social media regularly too.

    It is worth mentioning, that this project is just one of the scenes/areas I'm building as part of a larger overall basement layout. I don't have a ton of space, but I have enough. The other areas are going to feature different scenery from different parts of the country and likely some iconic railroading areas to go along with it. I plan to head west to California next and I'll create a separate topic for that as well. This is all part of what I jokingly refer to as A Tension Dephasit Railroad Company. I have railroad ADD and find it difficult to narrow my focus to just one era, railroad or area. These projects let me scratch those itches building different locations using different scenery and different techniques, all the while doing research to try and capture the real life railroad locations that so many of us love.

    Hopefully you find this project fun and find some inspiration along the way.

    - jamie


    TABLE OF CONTENTS TO FOLLOW BELOW...

    1. INTRODUCTION
    2. THE LAYOUT SPACE AND STAGING
    3. STAGING YARD DETAILS & PLANNING
    4. BENCHWORK BEGINS!
    5. GAYNOR TRESTLE CONSTRUCTION BEGINS
    6. TAKING A LOOK AT TEMPERATURE ADJUSTABLE LED LIGHTING





     
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  2. jamie@M160

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    #2 jamie@M160, Feb 13, 2018
    Last edited: Feb 16, 2018
    [​IMG]

    INTRODUCTION TO THE PROJECT


    So our first mountain scenery layout project will feature BNSF's beautiful Scenic Subdivision or Scenic Sub for short. Originally built by the Great Northern Railway as means to cross the Cascade Mountain Range, the Scenic Sub covers roughly 155 miles from Seattle, Washington to Wenatchee, Washington. It includes steep ascents/descents of 2.2% grades for long stretches which tax any equipment (especially at elevation) clawing its way to the summit.

    Here is a Google Earth view of the area being modeled. The Cascade Tunnel is on the right side of the map with Seattle on the left:

    scenic-subdivision-map1.jpg

    Here is one of Great Northern Railway's PR shots:

    EBStPaulMPower.jpg

    The part I am modeling is from roughly Gaynor Trestle through Gaynor Tunnel climbing ultimately to the eastern portal of the the longest tunnel in the United States - The 7.8 mile long cascade tunnel:

    scenic-subdivision-map2.jpg

    The best way to show part of the reason why I choose this area is to show you this:

    BNSF heading west across Gaynor Trestle over Nason Creek (Joel Hawthorn Photo):
    [​IMG]


    Amtrak Empire Builder headed east over Gaynor Trestle (Matt Donnelly Photo)
    [​IMG]


    BNSF intermodal headed east about to enter western portal of Gaynor Tunnel (Joel Hawthorn Photo):
    [​IMG]


    Amtrak Empire Builder heading west across Gaynor Trestle (Joel Hawthorn Photo):
    [​IMG]


    Eastbound out of the eastern portal of the Cascade Tunnel (Reed Skyllingstad Photo)
    [​IMG]


    As you can see, this is a beautiful area for railfanning...

    The current Cascade Tunnel is actually the second Cascade Tunnel. The original tunnel was located at 500 feet higher elevation and required a number of switchbacks through difficult terrain and avalanche areas prone to deep snow. Relocating the tunnel also removed 21 miles of 2.2% grades. So a new tunnel was built and opened in January of 1929. It was originally electrified territory until diesels started ruling the grades and a ventilation system was installed in 1956. Since then the tunnel requires approximately 45 minutes to ventilate the full 7.8 miles. This has created an overall bottleneck these days for BNSF as the number of trains that can pass through the Cascade Tunnel is limited by the time required to ventilate the tunnel.

    As part of the ventilation system there are a set of doors that close on the eastern portal. You can see them in operation in this video:



    My plan is to animate those doors and use block detectors to trigger them. More on that later.

    The Gaynor trestle (sometimes referred to as Nason Creek trestle) was built in 1949 when Great Northern did a realignment to remove a large curved trestle that lead into the Gaynor tunnel. The current trestle made it a straight shot through eliminating 300 feet of mainline and significant curves.

    So here is the layout plan for this section:

    [​IMG]

    Grades are roughly 2% through the length of this section of the layout. Nason Creek winds it's way in and out of the layout and strategic use of view blocks with mountains and trees will hide where the creek enters and leaves the layout. Plus many of those view blocks will provide better layout design areas/elements and key places to take photos. A lot of thought has gone into how best to use this space to get not only location specific shots, but also non-descript mountain scenery photos. The layout needs to double as not only a project to be written about, but as one of a number of different "scenes" where I can photograph n scale equipment from different eras.

    So that's the overview. Next we'll look at the layout space and the beginning of benchwork.
     
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  3. jamie@M160

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    #3 jamie@M160, Feb 15, 2018
    Last edited: Feb 15, 2018
    [​IMG]

    1. THE LAYOUT SPACE AND STAGING


    Long back story short - I sold my company a couple years back and had 13 years of stuff at my office that needed to be moved out in a very short amount of time. This coincided with a new house purchase where we were closing in just 5 weeks. Since I was planning on keeping a number of things from the office, I needed a place to put them at the new house. There was an unfinished part of the basement that looked good to turn into a workshop area. It needed a lot of work as this house was built in 1920, had radiator heat and an addition put on it. That means lots of radiator piping crossing the ceiling. Lots of new and old electric and plumbing also crossing the ceiling. A retrofit forced air-conditioning system was installed over the years and that duct work *also* crosses the ceiling around the existing piping. The workshop needed new electrical outlets and more than just two pull-type light bulbs and a LOT of TLC. Here is a panoramic shot of what it looked like mid-clean at about 2am:

    workshopmess1.jpg

    So I cleaned it all up, put in electric around the room, installed new LED lights in the ceiling and framed out the upper half and a few walls to put up a fake shiplap of sorts. These were 4x8 sheets of 3/8 sanded plywood ripped into roughly 6" boards and nailed up to the framing to look like shiplap panels (for about 1/4 the cost). I painted it all ceiling white to make things brighter (and to make repaints of damaged areas easier). It is much more robust than drywall and if one board gets damaged, I can easily replace it with another. More importantly I planned to use shelf brackets to cantilever the layout, so I wanted to be able to remove everything down the road if necessary. In the end, *after* I moved remaining work items, cabinets, desk, chairs and storage cabinets this is where it ended up:

    workshopmess3.jpg

    And finally, here is another panoramic (which makes the space look bigger than it is) where I had begun to frame in the pillars:

    workshopmess2.jpg

    As you can see above, I clamped some lumber up temporarily to see what the grade would look like on the Scenic Sub portion. The air-conditioning duct work unfortunately could not be easily moved from that location on the left so I'm going to work around it (should be fine with the valance in place actually). I like the idea of having everything in one room. The beer fridge is here, tools are here, project desks and more and the ability to work on something at the desk and pick it up and move it to the layout quickly is great. The circular saw will move to the garage with the car tools and table saw and that should keep that mess out of this space long-term. Overall it makes a great escape/work space and gives me areas for photography, projects and lots more.

    So with the space ready, the first thing to tackle is staging. Staging will be underneath the Scenic Sub portion of the layout. The height of staging is dictated by the height of the roll-around storage cabinets and the roll around tool chest (ideally) fitting underneath it. So out comes the laser level to spot a line that gives me 2 inches of clearance across all portions of the basement (as the floor slopes quite a bit to the drain):

    [​IMG]

    After marking up the level lines, framing went up for the staging level:

    [​IMG]

    The pillars are framed in with screws which gives me the flexibility to take it all down with no harm or structural damage to deal with. Likewise the cantilevered parts of the layout are up in sections that are also screwed in. If you look closely, I added intentional gaps in the staging level, roughly mid-pillar which divides staging into three modules. Each module could easily be raised up or removed entirely down the road if I decide to change things up. I'm just trying to leave myself the most flexibility. Meanwhile it is quite stout and doesn't weigh a ton and kept simple.

    After the framing was done, I ran bus wire and then covered staging with masonite panels. I used flexible sealant caulk so that the panels could be removed if absolutely necessary. To maximize space I used a compound ladder configuration for the staging yard using Atlas Code 55 turnouts.

    [​IMG]
    As you can see above, using a compound ladder allows for larger #7 turnouts (which look better) to fit in roughly the same space as a straight ladder built with #5 turnouts. So after drawing out lines on the masonite for track locations, construction began on the ladders:

    [​IMG]

    I'm adding an additional turnout at the top to give me flexibility for additional track. And at the opposite end:

    [​IMG]

    All track feeders were soldiered to the bottom of the turnouts and track and I went ahead and connected them up to the main feeders underneath after gluing the track down with clear adhesive. I decided to use suitcase connectors under the layout as they are quick and easy to install versus other methods I've used in the past. There may be other parts of the layout where I'll install a wire connection block, but for staging, this is pretty straight forward other than the turnouts which come later. The downside to suitcase connectors being that if I need to pull a wire or add one, I'll need to cut and add another suitcase, but that should be fairly rare in this case.

    [​IMG]

    As I was doing the wiring as I was installing track I couldn't help but run a sound-equipped loco down the track while glue was still drying (!).

    [​IMG]

    Once the ladders were in, next came the Atlas Code 55 flex track straight sections. This went fairly quickly as I soldiered feeders and installed one after the other until it was complete:

    [​IMG]

    I gave the track a quick wipe down and ran a slow switcher back and forth through each ladder to make sure everything was working checking for misalignments, raised track, rough crossings, etc., etc.

    [​IMG]

    Time to let the adhesive set up for the night. I've decided to ballast the staging area because I figure any part of the layout can be a spot to take pictures, plus it looks better. More on that coming up...

    - jamie
     
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  4. jamie@M160

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    [​IMG]

    2. STAGING YARD DETAILING & PLANNING


    So after getting the track down and tested, I decided that I was going to ballast the staging yard. It seems useful to have another place to take photos and ballast and a few details would make things look a whole lot better. Plus I’m thinking of have a couple different backdrops with flats and other things to give more scenery variation to take photos. We’ll see how that plays out, but the next step is ballast. But first I need to get some weeds down so I busted out the static machine, some Silflor grass (mix of late summer and beige) and a shop vac with a paper towel over the end to vacuum up the static grass that doesn’t stick (a lot in this case) so I can reuse it. I dabbed Matte Mod Podge down in areas where I wanted weeds and applied the static grass. I usually worked in 12″ x 12″ sections or the glue starts to set up too much. This is what it looks like after vacuuming but before the glue dries:

    [​IMG]



    Not very attractive right? Until the glue dries it isn’t from this angle, but if we get down to track height…

    [​IMG]



    For ballast I had some Arizona Rock “yard mix” which I’ve always thought looked too grey. I mixed it with a cinders mix and things got better. I didn’t want to use a ton of this stuff if I didn’t need to and I was lucky that a sprinkling from above gave a nice thin coverage that worked well. I went over the track with an edge brush which works great:

    [​IMG]



    I also decided to add a few drops of dark grey and black umber to the glue/water mix I use to seal the ballast. I always use a mist bottle with 70% alcohol over the area that I’m going to glue first and that makes things much easier with the glue soaking right in. Once it was set up the yard started to look more like this:

    [​IMG]



    Next up is to add some smaller weeds. I used this process:



    I just spent some time researching new scenery material and there are newer flocks that are extremely fine available now (when they are in stock!) that I’ve ordered so I can try them out. More on that when I get the material. Now our weeds look like this:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

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    And lastly, a quick shot of some equipment for scale and reference:

    [​IMG]



    Overall I’m happy with how things turned out. I think there is still lots of room for more improvement and details but what amounted to not a whole lot of work made a nice difference in how things look. While this was all going on, I printed out a tiled n scale version of the Google Earth image of the Cascade Tunnel eastern portal entrance and temporarily taped it up to some pink foam. I’m a visual person and wanted to see how what I drew on the computer would translate on top of the real thing:

    [​IMG]



    In Photoshop I also overlayed the n scale track plan I had drawn on the computer ( faded green track graphic running left to right on a curve above). After looking at this, I decided that I needed to ease the curve going into the tunnel and move the Nason Creek bridge out a little more. This in turn will give more breathing room for Route 2 which will disappear around the bend/trees on the layout. Consider this stage I of many visualizations I do to make sure this flows and looks right. I may have a problem. ;)

    Next up is benchwork for the Scenic Sub. Stay tuned and thanks for reading!
     
  5. jamie@M160

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    [​IMG]

    3. BENCHWORK BEGINS


    So benchwork now begins on the scenic sub part of the layout and we start to see if what we drew on the computer translates well in real life. Dimensionally I have no doubt that curves will fit and such, but I always wonder whether the exact shape of the curve looks right. So lets look at the plan:

    [​IMG]



    We are starting at the right where the eastern portal to the Cascade Tunnel is. We want the curve leading into the tunnel to ease in nicely as well as provide photo opportunities to capture trains entering and leaving the tunnel. We also want to be able to shoot trains leaving the tunnel headed east (to the left) and rounding the bend with a scenery divider. So I started with a few pieces of lumber to see how the grades translate and if the heights look about right.

    [​IMG]

    Trains will be at about 54″ give or take when they enter the tunnel. We have about a 2 inch drop every 72 inches so a little bit more than 2% grade. So I mark off the track height locations, get out the laser and start cutting lumber:

    [​IMG]

    The pillars in the basement create nature divisions in the benchwork that function largely as individual modules. Since most of the Scenic Sub is a straight section that isn’t particularly deep, I’m leaving the door open to be able to potentially divide it up if it ever needs to be moved. Likewise, if I want to change this up completely, I can reuse the benchwork and have the flexibility to raise or lower it. I’m also trying to be realistic that the likelihood of my next basement having dimensions and supports in similar locations is fairly slim. That said, these will be straight sections that could be carefully separated and moved similar to what we recently saw with Pelle Soeborg’s layout that Trainlife/ExactRail saved. For me personally, I’m not sweating everything I can’t control and I’m having fun with this house as long as I’m here. I just try to keep in mind what might happen and try and plan ahead where I can. We’ll see how that goes! Anyway…

    So the main benchwork went up quickly. It is just piece of lumber I bought at the local big box store and I just made sure that I picked out the straightest pieces I could find. It is mostly attached with counter sunk screws that could be removed if need be later, but there are a few box sections that I used a nail gun on. The curved section made of miscellaneous pieces can be removed as well and at this stage I wanted to see how this all looked first before committing fully:

    [​IMG]

    I’m saving the Gaynor bridge section to the left above for later as I want to make sure of the location based on how the tracks approach this location after leaving Gaynor Tunnel. I also started to tack up some masonite spline to help finalize the curves:

    [​IMG]

    The track plan gives me rough ideas of where track will go, but I find that using masonite splines (about 2 inches high) are a great way to visualize things. Temporarily tacked/clamped in place, I can look at the shapes of curves and actually eyeball them a bit. The masonite spline also creates natural easements in and out of curves that make things flow really nicely. Likewise, with this in place I can rough-in some foam bits I have laying around to see how things might look. Here is a very rough look heading east out of the tunnel where the track will round the bend headed for Gaynor Tunnel. This will create a visual block that will make things seem a bit more spread out, plus it will give more photo locations and scenery variation. It was interesting when the kids saw the above photo and then came back down and saw the below photo. Even though they saw the drawn out plan, they had no idea how this would look or the actual size of it.

    [​IMG]

    Here is another look heading west towards the Cascade Tunnel from the other side:

    [​IMG]

    With the backdrop in place and largely covered by mountain scenery, this section will have a nice canyon effect on the left side above and Nason Creek running next to it on the right side. This low to high viewpoint will also provide yet more photographic opportunities.

    Just above the Cascade Tunnel eastern portal is US Route 2 which will be modeled as a curve disappearing around the bend:

    [​IMG]

    In the photo above you can see the backside of the tunnel portal support buildings on the left. To the right the scenery goes straight up a large mountain side that includes trees and talus/rock slide. The backdrop will curve in a similar way to run parallel to the road and I clamped up some masonite to try and get an idea of how far out it would come and how it would mesh with this scene:

    [​IMG]

    This will also provide a scenery block that hides other parts of the basement from this section of the layout.

    There were a lot of discussions online about layout expansion and contract this past winter with some photos people posted showing some pretty drastically bent track. Plywood is usually constructed of layers of different pieces of wood that are glued together. These layers can expand and contract in differing amounts and because they are glued on only one or two surface levels, they tend to shear as well. Now, people have been using plywood in model railroad layouts forever and many have little to no problems. Some basic expansion or contraction can be controlled with small gaps left in tracks. However if you live where humidity levels can fluctuate quite a bit between summer and winter months, you could have more issues. The old house I live in gets very dry in the winter thanks to the radiator heat in the house. Yet in the summer, the humidity level can change more than 50% versus winter. So I wanted to explore different materials for the roadbed portion of the layout.

    For this section, I’m using the 250 grade of pink foam which is a denser version of the poly foam that is quite a bit more rigid than the typical 150 version. N scale equipment and track doesn’t weigh much and most of the small track goes down with adhesives. I’ve used Liquid Nails For Projects in a clear form on N scale portable modules for more than 10 years and it holds great. It also stays slightly flexible, so on the rare occasion some track had to be repaired or pulled up, a razor blade can easily cut through the adhesive. I’m using Atlas Code 55 flex track and turnouts for this layout as I already had a large stash of it from previous projects (case and half of flex actually!). The foam roadbed sections are supported by cabinet grade plywood platforms and I’ll shore it up further with foam base underneath. This setup is different and a little bit of an experiment. Worst case, if I drop a hammer on the foam sections then I may be looking at patching some foam whereas a plywood underlayer wouldn’t deform. On the flip side I can carve the edges of the roadbed to my hearts content once cork and track are down. We’ll see how it goes.

    I laid a piece of foam over my masonite spline and traced the curve once I was happy with it. This created my center line and a basis to cut the foam sections. While in the past I used everything from hot wire foam cutters to steak knives to cut foam, most methods either created a lot of bad fumes that smell terrible or a huge mess of static foam bits everywhere (or both!). Then I came across this special jig saw blade by Festool made to cut foam with your jig saw:

    [​IMG]

    This 6″ blade fits most modern jig saw units and the serrated blade cuts through foam like butter so long as you don’t go too fast and you don’t bind the material up (either way, producing heat makes the poly foam sticky). It makes very short work of cutting sections of foam and produces a very smooth edge. In addition, there is little to no mess either. You can find it HERE on Amazon if you looking for it. So I set up the laser for the grade level and started getting the platforms in place:

    [​IMG]

    Then I glued the foam in place careful to make adjustments to the platforms to make sure things were nice and level:

    [​IMG]

    Then out came the heavier train library books collected over the years to weigh everything down to dry overnight:

    [​IMG]



    While thats going on it is time to start building the Gaynor Trestle bridge (Joel Hawthorn Photo):

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Our next installment will talk about the history of this bridge, the story behind the Great Northern Nason Creek Realignment Project that created it (black and white photo above) and how I plan to go about building it. Micro Engineering makes a viaduct kit that I can use to piece this one together but it will require some bashing and some custom bits as well. In N scale this will be about 30″ long, so it should make a nice signature piece on the layout. For now though, here is part of the pile of parts I’m looking at…

    [​IMG]

    Till next time, thanks for reading!
     
  6. jamie@M160

    jamie@M160 Administrator
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    [​IMG]

    So I’m now juggling a number of different things for this project at once which gives me a break from doing just one particular thing and allows me some workbench time as well. Currently construction of the Gaynor Trestle bridge over Nason Creek is on the priority list as we’ll need final model dimensions to plan the benchwork in that area. Gaynor trestle (sometimes called Nason Creek Trestle as well) is located below just eastbound of the Gaynor Tunnel:

    [​IMG]



    This 546-foot steel viaduct bridge was constructed in 1949 as part of the Great Northern’s Nason Creek Line Relocation. The relocation was necessary as erosion and rock slides were increasingly becoming an issue. Plus this realignment would help take over 300 feet of mainline out of the existing curved mainline and more importantly provide a straighter run through this area. So to complete the realignment of the mainline, Great Northern needed to build a bridge and a 675 foot long tunnel as well. Here is a photo looking southeast that shows a train headed east just leaving the Gaynor Tunnel (not visible to the right) and about to cross the new Gaynor Trestle. The old mainline curves in the foreground crossing a curved viaduct:

    [​IMG]

    The project went to the Board of Directors at Great Northern in 1947 and was estimated to cost $896,000 to complete. The proposal included this paragraph describing why it was necessary to complete this project:

    “This location is the weakest link in the main line and should a serious slide occur there is the possibility of a disastrous accident, and the minimum effect would be the taking of the line out of service a long time, assuming the slide occurred when no trains were passing. All precautions have been taken to minimize the danger from falling rocks, including placing steel pins in the rocks. Track watchman is maintained during the night hours when passenger trains are in this section. Nevertheless, frequent rock-falls occur, the most recent one on October 3, when the Seattle fast freight, with three electric locomotives made an emergency stop to avoid striking rock, jack-knifing two empty gondolas and tieing up the line for over 5 hours.”

    The bridge used over 630 tons of structural steel built by American Bridge Company. The viaduct has nine deck girders and spans and three support towers on concrete piers. Construction on the substructure elements of the bridge were complete in fall of 1948, but winter weather meant erection of steel couldn’t take place till April of 1949. A derrick car with 65-foot booms was used to place the beams and girders (seen below):

    [​IMG]

    115 lbs. continuous rail was used for the project back then (since replaced with concrete ties and heavier rail). Great Northern’s own crews did the electrification install in conjunction with the ongoing steel construction. Here is a final photo shortly before the bridge was opened to service in 1949:

    [​IMG]

    Once the new line was opened, heavy fright now had a straight shot through this area and there was a savings of about 5 minutes of time on the 7 mile run from Berne to Merritt.



    To build this bridge in N scale, I decide that I’d use Micro Engineering viaduct bridge kits as a base for the pieces. From there I would bash it together a bit mating two of the spans together where it crosses over the creek to make the model a little closer to the prototype. So after emptying the boxes of bridge parts on to the desk the first task is cutting all the individual parts off of the sprues using sprue cutters or a razor blade:

    [​IMG]

    This isn’t a difficult process, but it is tedious and you need to sand individual pieces to clean up edges and remove extra plastic flash here and there. So the next step was to tackle the towers that hold the whole thing up. As you can see in this outstanding photo from Matt Donnelly, the towers are built into the side of a mountain and the bottom piers are at multiple different levels:


    [​IMG]


    After looking all over the web for different views I was able to trim the bottom of the towers appropriately and then started to lay the pieces out on the desk to get an idea of overall length and how things will look:

    [​IMG]

    Next I went to work on the girders that make up the spans and needed to start gluing all the individual cross members and pieces:

    [​IMG]

    Once completed I sanded the tops and bottoms to reduce the mold lines and they look like this:

    [​IMG]

    Next step is to glue all of the bottom cross bracing as well:

    [​IMG]

    The prototype has cross ties running across the length of the bridge. I’ve hand cut these individually before on a different bridge project and it is a ton of work. This time I decided to draw it out and use the laser cutter to make the cross tie pieces as two sections. My first attempt had the tie spacing too far apart:

    [​IMG]

    So I adjusted it and printed a new one. I painted it Roof Brown and laid it on top of the girders and put a piece of bridge track across the top to see how it looks:

    [​IMG]

    And an overall shot:

    [​IMG]



    So the next step is to paint the individual bridge pieces, start gluing them up and weather them to match the prototype. I also need to start adding all the handrail uprights on virtually every single cross tie (sigh). But, good news is that I’ve got enough built to be able to get measurements to build the benchwork this bridge will sit on as it will need to dip down to creek level and support the bridge. More on that in the next installment…
     
  7. jamie@M160

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    [​IMG]

    With the idea that I’m going to use an upper and lower valance on this layout, I needed to think about how I’m going to light the scenes. Traditionally people typically used strings of regular incandescent light bulbs to light their layout. Usually a bulb holder is installed every 2-3 feet to try and eliminate dark and light spots. The downside if you have a larger layout is that each incandescent bulb even on the lowest end is at least 40 watts and you generally need a bulb every two feet to avoid dark spots (and even then it is tough to eliminate them). That a lot of light bulbs, but more importantly a lot of heat and a lot of watts being used that add up quickly and can exceed typical 15 amp circuits. Switching from old school incandescent to fluorescent or LED bulbs can help lower your wattage usage to much lower levels (in the case of LED bulbs) taking care of the wattage issue. If you want to be able to dim the bulbs, just make sure the fluorescent or LED bulbs you buy are dimmable (some are not). Likewise the dimmer switch you use needs to be compatible with LED bulbs as well. But the difficulty with this setup remains when trying to eliminate dark spots.

    Using LED strip lighting where the LED’s are affixed to a strip of circuit tape with adhesive on the back will eliminate dark variations in lighting as the LED’s are spaced evenly across the strip. This produces nice even lighting but there has been some discussion regarding the lighting being too even where there aren’t any shadow details being produced on the models. Personally my feeling is that I’d like nice even lighting when running trains or operating and the shadows are secondary unless I’m taking photos. In that case, I’ll use a stronger single light or two as my main source of light on the scene to get shadows the way I want and rely on the strip LED’s for ambient lighting. By using a dimmer on the strip lights I can control the amount of light and, as I discovered, the temperature as well.

    So, searching online for LED strip lighting will give you a TON of solutions and at a wide variety of price points. Everything from regular white in typically three flavors (warm, neutral and cool) and full color RGB LED strip lights where you can vary the color completely and lots more. However you typically are going to want 300 lumens or more to give yourself enough light. This will vary depending on how deep your scene is and how far away the lights are. 300 won’t cut it in a wide 36″ deep scene with the lights 3 feet above the layout but it may work with a shallow scene on a shelf. Plus, when you can dim them manually, you can adjust the amount of brightness and dial them in just the way you want them. So I’m leaning towards the higher lumen ratings.

    Knowing that I wanted nice bright lighting and the ability to dim it when I want better control, I went big and ordered some 1300 lumens lights (yeah I know, quite a jump) to test because I have some large areas that will be tougher to light. These are wider 4 LED wide strips (a LOT of LED’s) and were about $180 per 16 foot strip length. Check these out:

    [​IMG]

    I ordered the “neutral” white color and holy cow, they were not only crazy bright, but the color temperature was still too much on the cool/blue side of neutral for my tastes. Plus these use about 12-13 watts per foot so they add up quickly and I’d end up with a lot of power packs to run them. And these aren’t cheap. I was originally thinking I’d use these super bright strips for a deeper scene on the layout (almost 48″ deep) but after holding these up and testing them, I’m going to be better suited with a deep scene by installing one strip on the back of the upper valance and another midway between the upper valance and backdrop. Basically one very bright strip isn’t going to work.

    So back online I went and I found some temperature adjustable white LED strips online and ordered them at $129 per 16 foot length. Temperature adjustable white means I can dial in either a cool white, neutral or warm to my taste or mood. This way I don’t have to worry about which LED strips I order and whether they will be truly neutral or not (they can vary a bit). A few days later I received them, plugged them in, turned them on and bingo, I can get the temperature just the way I like it and they put out 500 lumens per foot which is nice and bright when I need it (plus I can dim them!). Bonus – they only use 4 watts per foot. So, other than the $129 price tag, these are darn near perfect.

    A little more research online and I found similar temperature adjustable LED strip lights available on Amazon except that these use a different LED type and they were only $33 dollars per 16 foot strip. Hmmm, this sounds too good to be true right? I figured I’d order one length and try them, worst case I will know better in the future. Best case I can buy 4 of these for the price of one length from the other online retailer.

    [​IMG]

    The top LED strip are the original $129 temperature adjustable LEDs I bought and the bottom larger units are the Amazon (LEDENET) $33 units. I plugged them in and taped them next to the other temperature controlled units and they look identical in temperature adjustment and brightness is slightly better (specs say 600 lumens, so slightly more). It is always nice when you end up saving some money for a change. If you look at the photo above you can see that they strips have alternating “yellow” and “orange” LED’s The yellow are actually the “Cool” LEDs and the orange are the “Warm” LEDs. Varying power between them produces the different color temperature mixes.

    So to power the LED strips you have two choices – a brick power pack similar to what comes with a laptop computer or a larger power supply similar to what you find inside a desktop computer. The laptop bricks have more limited wattages but if you have a small shelf layout would work perfectly. Nearly all of these LED’s come in a 16 foot long strip. In the case of the $33 units I bought above, they are rated at 4 watts per foot or 64 watts total for the 16 feet. A single laptop-style brick power unit will power a single strip fine. However if you need more wattage to supply say two 16 foot strips, you’ll need to consider using the power-pack style similar to this:

    [​IMG]

    You can find a ton of these online for sale and I wouldn’t doubt that there are a handful of manufacturers making these with various companies private labeling these with their logos and names on them. At the bottom I’ll include links to these as well. I’m using 24v LED’s and a 16 foot length uses about 96 watts of electricity. If you give yourself some overhead (say 10%), you’ll need to buy a power pack that can support the wattage you need. The above is 240 watts which gives me plenty of overhead for 30 feet of lighting.

    To control the lighting you also have a lot of different options that use either some type of switch or a remote control. I’m playing with both and trying to decide. Here are two that I currently have for testing:

    [​IMG]

    The one of the left is a touch pad that can be flush mounted to the layout and is backlit as well. The remote on the right is another choice and works quite well. There are a lot of options for control and I’m still trying to decide which route to go. Do I want to deal with the whole “Where did I leave the remote?” thing and changing batteries in it? Or just have the panels mounted on the front fascia of the layout where people can easily find them? I’m leaning towards the last option right now. Only potential issue is how many lights a single touch panel can control.

    Lastly, let’s talk about the temperature adjustable white LED strips. As we talked about, the strip has both warm LED’s (the orange looking LEDs) and cool LED’s (the yellow looking LEDs) and the adjustability in color temperature comes from varying power between the two different LED’s on the strip. Full “Cool” uses only the cool/yellow LED’s. Full “Warm” uses just the warm/orange LED’s. Neutral uses both in adjustable amounts. Here are the extremes of the temperature ranges of these LEDs –

    WARM:
    [​IMG]

    NEUTRAL:
    [​IMG]

    COOL:
    [​IMG]

    It is worth pointing out that the above photos are very tough to capture correctly. First I had to force the camera to a neutral white balance manually so that it would capture the warm and cool more accurately. If you pulled your cell phone camera out of your pocket, the auto white balance in your camera is sophisticated enough to adjust for the color temperature and it would all look fairly neutral. The other issue trying to capture this in photos is that digital cameras just don’t have enough dynamic range to capture all the variations in light and dark. So the above are decent approximations, but required a lot of fiddling around to show here.

    So one big thing to go back and look at above is the shades of blue samples. Under “Cool” lighting they look very blue. Under “Neutral” you start to see less blue and more of the purple tints coming out. Under full “Warm” those blues start to wash out to nearly grey looking and your sky is suddenly lacking in blues. Likewise the effect on scenery will be similar. The nice thing is that you can vary these a bit and could “dial in” time of day depending on the mood. You could also get creative and use an Arduino or similar controller to vary temperature with a fast clock to simulate time of day. Just some ideas…

    Personally I find that 1-2 steps towards warm from neutral gives me a really nice halogen lighting look that works well for most things. Plus the dimming feature is really nice when the lights are off in the layout room and I don’t need daylight conditions. Here are four adjustments between “Neutral” (50/50 mix of both warm and cool LED’s) and full “Warm”:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    I’m figuring at this point we will circle back for another article on these lights. Once installed I’ll have a better idea of coverage, spread, falloff and more. So stay tuned for more on the lights in the future. If you’re looking for links to the lights, here is the information off of Amazon:

    The LEDENET Temperature adjustable LED strips can be found HERE on Amazon. If you scroll down you will see “Frequently Bought Together” with a basic power supply and dimmer control.

    The power supply I’m using can be found HERE on Amazon. This is a 360 watt version that I’m using to control a little bit more than three 16 foot lengths.

    The dimmer touch pad above can be found HERE on Amazon. That is for the white temperature control version. They also make standard dimmers and RGB color adjustable units as well.

    Lastly the remote control version can be found HERE on Amazon.

    Hopefully the above was helpful.

    So moving on from the lights for a moment, I made some progress on the benchwork for the Gaynor Trestle bridge area:

    [​IMG]

    The first thing I did was clamp up a board to represent the grade across the top of the bridge. Then I taped the bridge piers to the bottom so I could get a better idea of depth. The laser helped me to mark the bottom of the river bed and the lowest point I need to worry about. The board under the bridge roughly represents the bottom level of this scene. I also needed to think about the backdrop as well as it needs to come all the way down to the bottom. The piece of pink foam on the left I used to give me an idea of where the landforms will be and I moved it around a bit to visualize where those forms would be. So I marked everything up and cut a piece of 3/4 plywood with a large dip where the river comes in as my front support on the benchwork. I also measures and marked out where I needed to cut this piece of the backdrop. Lastly a little look at a piece of equipment on the bridge…

    [​IMG]

    Our next installment moves on to backdrop going up. Plus building construction and more. Thanks for reading.
     
  8. jamie@M160

    jamie@M160 Administrator
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    [​IMG]

    Took a break last week and spent Spring Break with the family in warmer climates. Came back to the Chicago area still in the grips of crappy winter weather. Oh well, back to the basement…

    Masonite is going up on the scenic sub for the backdrop. I have two areas that require a little more thought to work out. One is the Gaynor Trestle/Nason Creek area where the backdrop needs to drop down to the creek level and the other is the fairly sharp curve the masonite backdrop needs to make where trains enter the Cascade Tunnel (light blue line on the right side):

    [​IMG]



    The first thing is to sort out where to maximize the use of the 8 foot long sheets. The obvious part is that I wanted a full sheet on the right-hand side where I needed it to curve at an angle behind the Cascade Tunnel. First though I needed to figure out how much material I needed for the curved section. I also wanted to try and visualize what amount of bend would look right (and how far I can push the material!). I was also looking to ideally anchor this to the ceiling joist as well since bending masonite puts a fair amount of pressure on the supports. So I clamped up some material to take a look:

    [​IMG]

    Once I was satisfied with how things looked, I measured the amount of material that hangs past the last vertical supports and marked off the 8 foot mark at the end of the sheet. Next, I knew I also needed a full 8 foot length for the backdrop behind the bridge/creek scene. I was trying to avoid having seams in this location in case of any cracking due to expansion or contraction. I marked out eight feet for the bridge scene and started taking measurements to cut that board. Measure twice, cut once is the old saying. That has come back to bite me a few times in the past, so I measured three times for this piece and started cutting:

    [​IMG]

    Space around the basement is taking on a hoarder-like appearance as I’m keeping a lot of scraps of foam and wood around for landforms and miscellaneous use down the road. While its driving me a little crazy, things should improve quite a bit over time – we’ll see!

    So the first piece to go up is the curved section behind the Cascade Tunnel portal. I clamped up a piece of masonite to get an idea of where the front valance would curve and the angles I’d need.

    [​IMG]

    Since this will be a tunnel access point under the layout, I also needed to think about the ability to reach up into the tunnel to grab anything that might derail. Now that I have the backdrop curve sorted out I can finish the framing underneath just to brace things up a little more. Here is the reverse angle:

    [​IMG]

    And an overall shot of this area:

    [​IMG]

    I countersunk the screws and then went over everything with lightweight spackle. This particular spackle goes on pink in color and dries white which helps give you an idea of when it is dry. Plus this is a “low dust” spackle (ha!) but I have to say, this was less messy than most compounds. I still sand it with a shop vac in one hand and a sanding block in the other. Spackle compound just gets into everything.

    And here is the overall view of the backdrop in place:

    [​IMG]

    In the end I had a roughly 10 inch section in the middle that I needed to cut in. This works out nicely as it is the area right behind the Gaynor Tunnel which will mostly be covered by a mountain anyway.

    The next step is paint colors. If you remember from the last update, I did some testing of the temperature adjustable white LED lights I plan to use with a variety of paint samples:

    [​IMG]

    I had a feeling that choosing a blue shade was going to be a headache for me. The two main purposes of this scenic part of the layout is to take photos and some video. I also want it to look like a sky in the background for operators as well. Most of the long-time model railroad stalwarts in this hobby will tell you to just pick something relatively light and don’t overthink it. If you have some talent, you can paint clouds and other things on the backdrop as well, but my plan is to use photo backdrops for background details and I’ll leave the clouds out of the equation. For photos I can always add the backgrounds I want or need. Lance Mindheim has done a great job with this, especially when you consider quite a bit of his layout has no backdrops or very minimal backdrops. So back to the discussion about a base color…

    Standing in the paint isle at your local paint store/big box store and looking at all the shades of blue can be a bit overwhelming. In my mind I was thinking I would try and avoid blues with too much red (making them lean purple). In my mind I’m thinking that more “neutral” blues would be better overall. So I picked five different color cards that looked like they had potential. I was also leaning more towards the lightest colors at the top of the cards. In Home Depot’s lighting things looked pretty good. Once I got them under the LED lights though things looked different as you can see above. I am leaning more towards lighting that is closer to incandescent/warm light. That means the blue starts to turn a bit more grey or neutral. Plus you can see shades of purple creeping in above.

    Good news is that this narrowed down my choices quite a bit and I ended up rolling the dice on a card labeled Behr M520A with the following colors on it: Vaporize (lightest), After Rain (middle tone) and Charismatic Sky (darkest). I decided to buy three samples of the paint in each shade. After painting a few test areas, I ended up going with the darker Charismatic Sky. The lighter colors were going grey (or even yellow) on me in the warmer LED lights and just didn’t look blue anymore. To drive this point home, here is a photo that shows what the exact same color looks like under different warm and cool shades of white:

    [​IMG]

    Yes, that is the exact same base shade of blue in each panel. The base color can be seen in the second “Neutral +1 Warm” panel at the bottom. It is the lightest of the colors. I won’t likely use the full “warm” or full “cool” settings of the white LED’s so that brings us to the middle two. I need the color of the blue to look right, but also need the scenery colors to look right too. If you look at the lumber framing at the bottom you can see that the +1 Warm brings out a richer more natural looking color of the wood. Neutral isn’t bad either, but it has a bit more blue in it which washes the wood color out a bit. Either way, I wanted something closer to the middle panels. So I ended up painting samples of all three colors and surprisingly ended up with the darkest blue to bring more contrast in and ensure that it stays more in the blue sky spectrum under the layout lights. This is all admittedly crazy detail work, but it was also educational and fun to sort out. Here is a quick and dirty look at the backdrop painted under the white LED lights in a neutral +1 warm shade. I just taped a section of LED lights to a board and held it up to get this photo, so the final lighting should be more even.

    [​IMG]



    Next update as you can see above will be putting down cork, laying track and test tunnel portals. Thanks for reading.
     
  9. What's the status on this? This was a great start, but what progress have you made to date now?

    Jeff
     

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