Pearre, Shane and Frank--the "Pie Guys"-- get the helix going. . .
And here's what it looked like last spring. Progress!
It's been over a month since I last posted on this blog; don't take the lack of any reports as meaning there hasn't been any activity--on the contrary. While waiting to get some "experts" over to the house to help me assemble the critical helix linking the two levels of the railroad, I was busy with other things:
- October meant the completion--at least for now--of the Namoi River bridge. It's "good enough" for right now to run trains over, as it has been painted and Micro Engineering bridge flex track attached atop. I've still got to add the guard rails, various details (such as nut-bolt-washers), etc to it, but that can wait until I go back at some point and scenic the river area. For now, it's operable, and at this point, that's good enough for me.
- Also used plans of the Narrabri passenger station to make a rough illustration board stand-in structure, again, until i get around to scratch building a permanent structure. I built a very crude refreshment room, based soley on a few photographs.
- Finally got around to fabricating and installing points on the upside of Narrabri West's yard, and laid the mainline down along where the station there will reside. I've got around a dozen points left to fabricate for the upper level, which, thank God, puts me well over halfway done for the upper deck.
The biggest construction milestone has been moving ahead on the helix. I'd never built one before, so this also has been a big challenge for my admittedly limited brain! The helix is 60" across with a 27" radius curvature linking decks 16 inches apart with four inches between levels. . .that works out, accounting for vertical easements on the top and bottom, at around a 2.4% gradient. A single 48 Class SHOULD be able to pull a 10 car grain train plus guard van around the helix. . .this is just an assumption based on what a 47 Class pulled in trials on a friend's layout. We'll see next March, I suppose!
This past evening, a number of my modeling mates, which call themselves the Thursday Night Pie and Jazz Society (which has nothing to do with pie nor jazz), met at my place to help get the helix built. Consider this the model railroading equivalent of an Amish barn-raising. I don't think our group has met in at least a year, so it was good to see those who could make it: Frank Treadaway, Pearre Davenport, Chris Atkins, Shane Murphy and Donovan Furin all gave up an evening to help the helix get around 70 percent completed. So far, so good. It appears my limited math skills worked this time. Thanks, guys!
Before building a helix, there's a ton of prepwork involved, so thanks to Lance Lassen's hard work, I had the basic parts ready for assembly: a free-standing frame for the helix to sit atop was constructed out of the "hole in the wall," four sections of helix benchwork, pre-assembled, with track laid atop them. I chopped a few dozen spacer blocks to uniform length and the railroad room was picked up a bit to make it semi-habitable. Most importantly, deep-dish pizzas were ordered to fuel the work crew.
All veterans of helix construction debate what's "good enough"--Chris, Shane and Frank.
I had been undecided whether to use "all-thread" steel rod in the helix construction over the less-fussy, cruder-looking, but quicker to assemble wood-block spacing method. Expediency won out over finesse, and after three hours of work, the crew had assembled three of the four levels of the helix as well as hung the "Werris Creek" staging yard benchwork in the adjacent spare bedroom.
The holidays are fast approaching, and with it, considerably less time to be devoted to playing with toy trains. I had set a goal to have the helix installed and ready for the lower-level benchwork to go in by Thanksgiving, and hopefully I'll meet this goal. December, rightly so, will be given to family pursuits, but I hope to sneak away to maybe instal switch motors on the mainline points, perhaps completing track wiring on track already laid, and installing the guys of the EasyDCC system. Then it's into 2009, with these monthly goals:
- January: Complete benchwork and trackbed for Narrabri sub-terminal grain area; complete upper-level trackwork (with exception of loco depot); complete trackage and wiring in Werris Creek staging yard; build portion of lower-level benchwork that would allow a temporary "Moree" staging yard. Completion of these steps would allow tabled train operations to begin.
- February: Complete lower-level benchwork and backdrops on Edgeroi-Gurley section; build lower-level staging yard; finish upper-level lighting valance and finish work exterior of helix.
- March: Complete basic landforms and roadbed on lower level. Install lower-level mainline
- April: Two week trip to Australia, beginning April 9. Install lower-level lighting and trimwork.
- May: Finish lower-level trackwork with construction of goods, silo and stock pen trackage.
This should bring me to summer and its many diversions from the layout room. But by this point, the railroad will be fully operational, electrically and in terms of track plan. Everything beyond this is cosmetic: tidying up the visual impact of the layout and bookshelves, the commencement of scenery, and scratchbuilding of structure. But I can certainly take my time getting the last 30% of the layout completed. . .maybe I'll get around to actually detailing, painting and weathering locomotive and rolling stock?