Sunday, October 21, 2012

Reworked Track Plan

During a much-needed vacation along the Minnesota North Shore last week as a get away from our on-going home improvement projects and my two jobs, I was able to sit down for a little while and develop a new track plan for my planned On30 swamp logging layout.

Putting my other On30 track plan away and beginning with a blank sheet of paper, I tried a different approach. Instead of an around-the-room plan with two stub peninsulas as before, I decided to utilize the 18-foot length of the layout room of my basement space by designing a "W" shape layout with a long, bending center peninsula to gain longer mainline runs from the town of Blackwater to the Mosquito Creek Camp. I still wanted to use the large Pier 1 section leftover from my HO scale Big Island Rail for the new On30's Navy Pier, so I positioned it into an angled 'end of track' section butting against one short wall near the doorway to the basement bathroom.

This added a larger section of open water between one side of the pier and a small stub-end yard. The section of water will serve as a lift out access section. Along with the pocket-sized yard and lead track to the Navy Pier trackage, I included a depot, freight house and team track with loading dock, small loco servicing area with turntable, water and fuel in the Blackwater town section.  The former track plan included a couple industries for the Blackwater and Southern crew to switch, but between the logging trains and the Navy dock switcher and  speeder service to and from camp to Blackwater and passenger trains and mixed freights to and from Blackwater and staging, I think there will be plenty to do!

The one stickler was trying to figure out how to get staging into the plan so that it could be used several ways to aid operations. One: As the line from Blackwater to the (off layout) lumber company saw mill,. Two: As the logging operations spur to the woods, and Three: As the 'rest of the world' connection for the narrow gauge common carrier Blackwater & Southern Railroad.
Making the town of Blackwater a stub end yard/terminal in this track plan, rather than a stopping point for through trains came a train ride on the North Shore Scenic Railroad while visiting Duluth this past week. The North Shore trains needed to back out of the Duluth station to get onto their mainline. Then at the end of the line in Two Harbors, the railroad had to get dispatcher authorization for the move onto a small section of CP/DM&I trackage. The train pulled ahead onto the yard lead of the CN just far enough to clear the switch to allow another reverse move curving around into the depot about a half mile from the jct.
The way I have designed the town of Blackwater with the staging and Junction tracks, trains don't need to back in, but locos have to make a run-around move to get to the "right" end of their trains from the trip up to Mosquito Creek Camp, for an example. I don't like switching puzzles on model railroads. The real railroads try to make track arrangements as simple as possible (for the most part) and I want to do the same on my layouts. Staging will be a four-track stub yard that will be sufficient to hold the arriving and departing trains during an operating session. I might try a sector plate or a transfer table at the end of the yard to move "trapped" locos around their trains and minimise man-handling...depending on how much actual room I end up having under the layout at that section.
The fun part is getting extra running between town and the logging camp, which makes the rail journey seem more realistic. I also love traveling along with my train around the room as we run from point A to point B. I plan on getting a wireless throttle for mainline runs and use the tethered hand held throttles at Blackwater and at Mosquito Creek Camp. The longer peninsula will also help the scenery transition more gradually from 'town' to 'swamp to 'way back woods swamp!' I gave up an around the room idea for this layout, but I think I've gained more operations potential. Besides, my upper-level HO scale Big Island Rail layout will offer continuous running joy as well as plenty of switching.
I'm always open to comments and ideas, so let me know. Drop me an email at:

Friday, September 14, 2012

Getting Closer To The Goal

The Blackwater & Mosquito Creek Lumber Co. railroad lives...still! No, really!

I had no idea that planning a new layout in a new home basement could involve so much remodeling and construction before the first piece of bench work could go in. The past months have been spent working towards the goal of getting a new double scale train room ready for trains. First it was the master bathroom. Done. Then on to painting interior rooms of the house. Done. Rebuilding stairs getting from the main floor to the basement. Done, almost. Now, my wife and I are working our way towards the section of the basement that will eventually the train room. Plumbing was reworked, washer and dryer moved, electrical service upgraded and improved to provide enough power for the house and the lighting/power requirements for a new layout (not using a web of extension cords and shop lights like before in our rental homes!)

I've built a couple new walls to divide the basement into the laundry room and the layout room. Seeping basement walls have been repaired and sealed (I pray). A door is ready to be hung into the new layout room and painting is just about complete in the new refreshed laundry room (by this weekend.) Getting old basement windows replaced also part of the remodel that will help keep the weather and moisture out of the basement.

Next phase of the remodel will be figuring out how to run lighting for the layout room and installing a drop or suspended-type ceiling to finish off the rooms and keep the dust from dropping on everything.

I continue to refine my track plan for the On30 Swamp Logger layout. I'm pretty happy with it. My only ?? in the plan is working staging tracks into  the room where in earlier plans I had planned to stretch into another part of the basement. That's not going to be possible now. So, reworking the routing of the staging "Wings" will likely have to wait until the room is totally cleared out and empty and a full-size track plan is sketched on the floor.

In other news...I finished the On30 Logging Critter locomotive. I have submitted the how-to article and photos to Chris Lane, editor for the On30 Annual publication.Much of what I have published here in my blog could be included in this story proposal. Work on the 2-8-0 tank engine steam locomotive conversion project has been staled during the major construction projects. It's still sitting on the work bench ready for attention.

The big news is the addition of a new logging locomotive to the Mosquito Creek Lumber company...a 28-ton Climax! I won an e-bay auction of the DCC and sound equipped loco. I've been having fun running the loco back and forth on a section of HO scale flex track fine-tuning the sound system. Next it will be to the paint shop for weathering and detailing to get it ready for the future layout!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

I've Been Thinkin' 'Bout The Railroad All The Live-Long Day!

No, I didn't fall off the face of the Earth, but darn close...Working, family loss, last minute travel (due to my Mom passing away), working, wrapping up home remodel projects, working, fishing, working... Anyway, life goes on during the HOT Midwestern Summer and plans for building the On30 Swamp Logger layout keep getting pushed back. And with the arrival of my new fly fishing outfit, the layout may see some other "delays" as I head out to bend the pole before winter sets in!

But, with delays comes new ideas, clarity and renewed determination to do something right the first time. With the delays at getting the On30 layout started in my modest-sized basement, I have been writing articles, sending out  story proposals and getting some nibbles and seeing another of my "big" articles published in Model Railroader Magazine  a few issues ago (The one on converting HO scale pick-up truck into a Hi-Rail and modifying a Blazer into an extreme 4x4!)

Work continues with my two scratch-built On30 locomotive projects, with some interest from On30 Annual Editor Chris Lane on my Narrow Gauge Diesel Critter conversion. Thinking about building the Blackwater & Mosquito Creek Lumber Co. On30 layout also continues. With some extra funds coming in from working two jobs, we are talking about getting our home's electrical switched over to 200 amp and getting rid of the old fuse panels and limited circuit breakers used to protect our 1920s-vintage home. With the upgraded electrical, I will be able to hard wire in good lighting for the train room and more power outlets without fear of blowing fuses, over stressing the system, or worse, causing an electrical fire! So that's in the planning stages now.

My layout plan up to this point worked around a washer, dryer (with a dryer vent pipe that runs along in the exact MIDDLE of the long basement wall) and wash tub in one corner of the basement area marked off for the layout. These units take up a lot of space and cause a compromise to the design of the layout goal. A recent visit by our friendly plumber revealed that moving the laundry equipment to another location near drains and power is very do-able. So, that is also in the planning.

With the electrical upgraded and the washer and dryer out of the way, it frees-up a nice rectangle of room space in the basement for the trains. I will have a doorway to the basement bathroom to deal with, and the entrance to the "train room" to consider, but with the right track plan and a couple of drop-down/swing away benchwork sections, we should OK with that. There is also a floor support post at one end of the room, but that is easily worked around as well! I have made a pact with myself. I was going to prepare the train room fully- with sealed and painted walls and floor, install a drop ceiling, plus add good lighting, enough power outlets, and make sure it's an AC/Heated/Humidity-controlled place to build and run trains for years to come.

With the soon to be open floor space, some layout planning "thoughts" have come to mind. As you may recall, I had been thinking of doing a double deck layout with the lower deck my On30 Swamp Logger and the upper deck an  abbreviated version of my HO-scale Big Island Rail Hawaiian-theme railroad. Now I'm thinking make the lower level the BIRR and the upper level a shelf-style around the room On30 logging layout. The HO layout could feature a long center peninsula to increase the run of trains plus, I could use more of the finished sections of layout that were in our large rental home basement. The most drastic idea was to go back to my original concept for the On30 Swamp Logger and build it as a portable, modular, traveling display layout comprised of 4-to-5 manageable/ haulable sections that I could take to model trains shows in the region. These sections could be set-up for running in our "craft room" where we each have work desks for doing our hobby stuff. The concept would allow for a single layout basement railroad devoted to the HO scale BIRR. With all the talk in the model RR press about double deck layouts, that could be a possibility as well.

So that's where I am right now..still at the crossroads, but with some fun things to ponder as I wait for the plumbers and electricians to do their thing in the basement.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Delays, Delays, Delays

Yep, I'm still alive and kickin' and still without any layout activity. I haven't been doing much, if any, modeling recently as other things seem to continually crop-up and take away "free" time. Delays in getting needed plumbing and heating/AC work done to the on-going bathroom project, plus the fact I'm back to working two jobs, has once again brought the progress on my Swamp logger On30 layout planning  and the "Still Sitting In Pieces On The Basement Floor" HO scale Big Island Rail layout, to a dead stop. It's been so long since I posted in this blog, I had to think about what the log-in info was....
So needless to say, there's not much to write about here this time. I have made 'some' progress on my scratch-building/HO-to-On30 Conversion loco project, (mounted the bell housing and prepared some sheet brass to be cut for power pick-ups on the new On30 tender trucks) but really not that much to get all excited about.

So, while I continue to hone my house remodeling skills, the model railroading hobby sits in the hole on the passing siding.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Home Projects Delay Layout Start, But...

As they say in a favorite Classic Rock song..."One thing leads to another..." And thus it is with the "last" major upgrade project in our "new" 1920's-vintage home. The project to get rid of gawd-awful wall texture and purple paint by scraping and re-mudding the walls, has now lead to pulling out the toilet, sink and now the floor and sagging sub floor. So, with that said, getting some modeling in, in my spare "spare time" has been a luxury. I apologise for focusing on my HO-to-On30 locomotive conversion project for so many posts, but that's about the only wheel turning on my railroad of late.
Progress does soldier-on and at last the little engine is starting to look like a backwoods logging (or sugar plantation) saddle tank steamer. I have begun to apply those rivet decals I purchased from Micro Mark. They go on very easily with the standard decal solutions and decal application methods and look pretty good so far. I'm holding out complete giddiness until the model is painted!
I've begun scratch-building the loco's cab, doing the construction with an O-scale ruler and eye-balling it to see if the "look" is right. I also decided to test fit the saddle tank assembly on the loco's HO 2-8-0 chassis to see how the proportions looked and I think they are going to be fine. As you know, I'm not following any specific prototype locomotive for the build, but I am basing the "look" of the locomotive on images of Hawaiian sugar plantation saddle tankers and a couple of similar loco models I found pictures of on the Internet. As I've stated in early posts, the whole idea behind the Swamp Logger On30 layout and concept was to be creative, have fun and not get bogged down with details, rivet counting or painfully trying to recreate an exact replica of any prototype railroad or railroad equipment. It's all "imagineered," to paraphrase Walt Disney!
In the top of the page image, I have the loco sitting on a cabinet in our "craft room/hobby room" on HO flex track. There are plenty of details yet to be added and the under-construction cab is simply perched on the 'business end' of the frame. The widened auxiliary tender also is en-route to more finishing work and completion of the DCC sound system hook-up. But all-in-all, the little engine is coming along nicely and looks pretty darn good, I'd say. It has given me a much-needed diversion from the home improvement projects that seem to refuse to get completed.

Again, any comments are greatly welcomed! Thanks for reading!