Oh great, another one!
Truth is, it's been far too long since I've actually had a layout, 10+ years infact, and although I do a bit of railway modelling amongst other sorts, it is limited to weathering, and modifying stock. I've become a collector, and it's not where I want to be, I want to run my collection on more than just a rolling road, and I need to stop putting it off and get stuck back into the hobby I enjoy rather than just reading about it, and seeing other people's at exhibitions.
I'm fortunate enough to have a large outbuilding that is the proposed destination for a much larger affair, but as it's been so long since I actually put into practice anything I think I know, it'd be foolish to jump straight into the dream layout, as it were.
So this small end to end, really rather simple layout, is as much about practising the art of constructing a model railway, and all that it entails from the ground up, as it is about creating a 'scene'. I will make mistakes, I'm very aware of it, but it's a great opportunity to learn from them, and to perfect one's technique and learn better ways, if necessary.
So with that in mind, please excuse the simple, linear design, and allow for maybe slight deviations from real world practices, as I'm constrained by a modest size (the outbuilding is currently full of typical family crap, so a spare box bedroom is the setting for this), and focusing more on functionality.
The layout is 00 Gauge, and the scenic part measures a modest area of a little under 1.5ft x 6ft - there are provisions for a small fiddle yard to be added later.
Theme is to be of an early 90s small servicing / loco stabling point. The area is to be modelled in a very run down, and little used state.
Layout operation will be DCC, I'll be following 'best practise' methods, such as making every single length of track connect directly to the power bus.
All trackwork is PECO code 75 Bullhead, and straight sections are modelled in 60ft lengths.
Operation of the turnouts will be by both DCC, and a switch panel with route indication, allowing different methods of switching to be used and practised.
The layout will focus on functionality. For example, if a building is present that would in reality have illumination, this will be modelled on the layout.
As a side note, I'll use this page to upload photos of the build from the baseboard up, whilst this might get a little comprehensive, and picture heavy, it's as much about my trials and tribulations in constructing it, as it is the layout itself. I appreciate that won't be everyone's cup of tea, but cataloguing my successes and failures will certainly be good for me, and maybe help others out also.
After a very quick play around with XtrkCAD, I'd settled on a massively simple track plan incorporating a single running in road, a stabling siding, fuel point, and twin road servicing depot. The railway area on the layout is bordered by a 4" raised section along the rear, and to the front, which will form the scenic break to the proposed fiddle yard later. The rear end will probably feature a low relief wall due to space constraints. In the plan below the area for the fuel point is the the right, and the twin track servicing depot building on the left.
Then onto constructing the baseboard. I used 4" x 1" timbers for the frame, with two lengths running either side, and braced across at the ends, and every foot in between. I like the 4" framework, it allows for a lot of depth on the underside to protect the larger slow action point motors, and gives plenty of chunky areas on which to mount accessory decoders, and for other components and wires to sit.
Carrying on the chunky theme, the baseboard top is 12mm thick plywood. Whilst 12mm may be seen as overkill given the ample bracing, again I like the thickness for its ability to take screws for the wiring guides I use. If this were a portable layout, I'd probably think differently about the materials and design used, but it's staying where it is, and I'm a sucker for over engineering.
The plywood top is glued and screwed to the softwood frame. Dog is useful ballast weight.
Next I printed off the XtrkCAD layout design 1:1 scale, and place it on the baseboard, just to confirm to myself that I like the look and feel of how the trackwork fits onto the layout
Happy with that, I then add two layers of 1.5mm (purely as it was what I had) cork sheet to the railway area. Being a yard, there is no ballast shoulder, so the cork covers the whole area, and the trackwork will sit, and be bed in at the same level as the surrounding scenery.
To avoid the PVA glue seeping through the porous cork, and glueing the ballast wood to the cork, I used a sheet of greaseproof paper between the ballast and the cork. Once the glue had dried after a good couple of days, the paper came away cleanly.
Once the cork was completely dry, I copied the track plan over onto the baseboard, and also marked out the exact placement of the turnouts, and then marked up both the holes for the point motor switch wires, and the track power droppers on the turnouts. I also then worked out how many 60ft straight track sections (plus some odd smaller ones) I'd need, marked them up, and marked out where the droppers would be for each of those also.
When it came to creating the 60ft sections, I created a single section, where I was happy with the sleeper spacing, and used some double sided tape and masking tape on a spare piece of ply to use it as a template / jig so I could re-create more sections uniformly with the sleeper spacing.
This was the first time I'd used Peco Bullhead track, and being a silly sod didn't even realise that the new Bullhead fishplates didn't need the end ties removing off the sleepers like I used to have to do with old flexitrack! So the first few sections I'd removed the last ties before realising
Whether going to these lengths to replicate the sections of track that would have been prototypical in such a yard was worthwhile, I'll not really know until it's all scenic'ed up, but it was something I'd wanted to try. As it's such a short run, the prototypical 'clickedy-click' of jointed rail won't be evident, but on a larger run I can well imagine it would give quite a decent effect audibly.
Onwards, and the drill came out, and the holes for the point switch wire / rod were drilled, the frog wires, and the MANY dropper wire holes drilled through. As I was using cobalt slow action point motors, I also used the cobalt point motor installation kit, giving me the correct size drill for the holes necessary. After, I used some brown paper and pritt-stick to re-cover the hole, figuring this would be useful to stop ballast falling below and creating a void further on.
Dropper wires were then soldered to all the straight sections and turnouts, and slowly the trackwork started to come together. I started with the turnouts as getting the orientation of these correct was obviously paramount to the rest of the layout. All the track was glued into place with PVA, no track pins necessary.
One drawback to having scale(ish) track sections and adopting a mantra of every piece of track needs its own power feed is a nest of dropper wires mounting up below the baseboard!!
Hopefully the running qualities of the layout will pay dividends and make this all worth it.
On with the wiring now, and making things tidy and sensible under the baseboard. I didn't take any 'during' photos of this stage as it's obviously quite monotonous, but I'll summarise...
For the DCC Bus wires I used 18AWG silicone sheathed multistrand I had left over from an automotive project (droppers are 7/0.2) connected to 'chocolate block' connector blocks in each one foot section. The blocks are bridged to accommodate for however many dropper wires plus any point motors that are in that particular section.
I use the same method for an accessory bus at the opposite end, obviously with different colour wires. However each one foot section has six available terminals, as at this point I don't know what or how many feeds I'll have to illuminate buildings etc. I also have two more separate accessory circuits for yard and depot lighting that I've installed. These are separate as they will be connected to an old DC controller, allowing me to adjust the brightness of the lighting from the controller as I feel is right.
The turnouts, as mentioned are controlled from Cobalt slow action point motors. Originally it was my intention to use digital ip motors, but no stock on these at the time lead me to get Cobalt classic motors, powered from individual DCC concepts AD1-HP accessory decoders for the same functionality. These are wired directly to the track bus, had it been a larger layout with more turnouts I'd have considered a separate DCC bus for the turnouts, so not to piggy-back off the track power. But I'm unlikely to have several sound locos running at once, and there being only four turnouts I thought the single bus would be sufficient.
For maximum functionality the turnouts will be able to be controlled from the DCC cab, a computer panel via a DCC interface and PanelPro, and also the wiring has been installed so every turnout will have a traditional push switch and LED route indication on a conventional panel at the end of the layout. A little overkill for four turnouts maybe, but it's as much an experiment in using these methods, as it is having them to use.
All tidied up, and wired in. There's provision for wiring for switches for individual building illumination if I wish, I've tried to futureproof the electrics to allow easy installation further into the build. And as you can see, I have a bit of a thing for wiring tidies!
Which brings it more or less up to date for now. Obviously the wiring is quite tedious, but it's nice to get it done and ready to move on to more rewarding aspects. Next phase is to get some of the depot yard lamps installed, look at a frame for the raised sections of the layout, and trial some different methods of surfacing the railway area. I have some air drying clay on order to try a method I've been reading up on that looks just the ticket for the effect I want!