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Sunshine, Palm Trees and a Food Industry - Modelling the Miami Down Town Line on a 12" Shelf


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I have been intrigued by the model railways of Lance Mindheim and the simplicity of his layouts for quite some time. Simple switching layouts serving industries in either California or Miami. As I have a few lengths of track, some old points and baseboard material, I'd thought I 'd have a go at building a simple switching layout, based on operations in and around Hialeah in Miami.

Here are some photos I took from Google street view to give an idea of what scenery I have in mind...









The scenes above dictate how untidy the lines are along the 'down town spur', and this is exactly what I want to achieve on the layout. A lot was learned about the area whilst researching this topic.


So the layout is based around one primary business, the food industry and a smaller, secondary cardboard packaging supplier, situated on a shorter siding. The food industry offers me the movement of corn syrup cars, refrigerated cars, box cars, grain cars and more.


I started this build back in January (2021) and have slowly been modelling away. Here is the track plan I decided on after playing around with 6 other different track plans. The layout measure 96" x 12" with a detachable fiddle stick.




The plan above was originally designed with Peco set track points... Don't ask, I'll get to that later..., but the track plan offered me plenty of operational interest.


The baseboard was constructed from 42mm x 10mm pine and a 6mm MDF top, to which I glued and framed it with 30mm insulation foam. Two sections 4' (1220mm) long were joined with a hinge block to enable me to fold the layout up for travels to exhibitions etc. Track was laid out and temporarily pinned in place for further adjustments.




The hinge blocks are raised so that when the layout is folded, there is a 150mm gap between the two boards, making the structures safe and unharmed whilst transporting.


More to come...


Cheers, Gary.









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G'day long island jack,


You are quite right, hence why I mentioned that I'll get to that later. Fifty foot box cars etc are fine, but the 60' and the SD60M I have, well.., I think you know where I'm going !  :unsure:

I will say that I hadn't acquired the SD60M and 60' box cars until later in the build. The Geeps and 50' cars roll through without a hitch....


Cheers, Gary.

Edited by gazmanjack
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All the points on the layout are operated via wire in tube or throw rods. To do this, I soldered up some brass tube for the throw rod and a vertical rod into a Tee shape. The vertical slides up into a hole in the foam and baseboard from the throw rod under the layout, some 40mm below the top of the baseboard.  I solved this problem quite easily and it works a treat...




The longer length of rod runs from both sides of the layout, allowing points to be thrown from either side.




A smaller length of wire is soldered into the top of the vertical piece. This passes through the hole in the tie bar.




With all the track down, push/pull rods for points installed and wiring complete, it was time to test it all out...



With everything working as it should, track painting was next. Several shades of grey and brown were used to paint the sleepers and a dark earth/rust colour for the rail.




The track doesn't look like much now, but once ballasted it all comes together.


Cheers, Gary.




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As you can see from the track plan in my first post, there is a railway crossing (grade crossing) for visual interest. Again I scoured google maps for a local crossing in Hialeah on the Down Town Spur. The pics here show what I will be modelling.






This is a reasonably easy build and I constructed the road surface and side walk from 1mm and 2mm card.






Having the crossing in place and firmly planted, I could go about adding the ballast and base scenery. I roughly threw some paint around the layout to darken the foam, although I probably didn't really have to as the area being modelled has quite yellowish soil, but if anything came up, I wanted something a little darker underneath just in case...


The ballast I use is from Matt's Ballast, available in Australia and I have many jars of it left over from previous layouts. It is a light grey blend which bodes well with what I could see in prototype photographs and off google maps.




Once the ballast had cured, it was time to tackle the base scenery colour. As can be seen in the pic below, the ground is very sandy and this is what I'll aim for.






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The base surface is a 60/40 mix of coloured grout (Canvas) and fine Sydney sand. 


Being 60% grout, I guessed that if I wet the baseboard, then apply grout and sand mix through a fine tea strainer. I should get the look I'm after. After I applied the mix, I misted the lot again with water. Where the crossing sits, the card sat up high, so I heaped the mix up and fanned it down with a light brush. These sections were first wet with isopropyl alcohol as a wetting agent, then sprayed with water.


I could feel in places a few hours later that not every area has been secured down permanently, so a misting of ballast glue was the chosen option here.

So, this is what the layout is looking like now with the crossing, ballast and ground surface applied...




The ballast had a dusting of the same grout and brushed in to blend the scene and make the ballast look well trodden and weathered like the prototype.




With this all in place, it was time to start with the buildings.


I knew exactly what I wanted and if you look clearly at the photo directly above, you can see an area behind the hinge block on the left that has not been treated to the base scenery. This will be the area for the food industry.


With Lance Mindheim's inspiration, I checked out images of the Family & Sons complex on google maps to which I scratch built a very similar building.




The building at the far end was also used for inspiration. Here is a closer look from the other end of the line...




These couple of buildings were scratch built from card, with additional details such as conduits and air conditioners/cooling towers. The conduits and junction boxes are made from lengths of Evergreen Syrne rod and strip of various diameters and thicknesses. The cooling units are from a Walthers kit.


Special attention was given to the size, shape and finish of these buildings, as well as door placement for rolling stock.






As you can see, the buildings are all low relief. I finished these buildings up with the roofs, doors, stairs, roller doors, roof top accessories, additional paint and weathering.


More to follow.


Cheers, Gary.



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Hi Prof Klyzlr,


If I was to model the soft joint, I would cut the rail slightly with a razor saw and install a small piece of styrene, fixed with CA. Once cured, simply file it to the rail profile. Another option would be to cut the rail slightly and add a small amount of solder. Again, once cured, sand/file to rail profile. :wink_mini:


Cheers, Gary.

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The next scratch build is a pair of tanks to receive the corn syrup. After viewing the silos on Alcan ManOne's layout, I requested some measurements and he told me his are 4 1/2" tall x 1 1/2" wide (diameter). With this in mind, I converted that to be around 40mm in diameter, so a run down to Bunnings I bought a length of 40mm diameter PVC pipe. This was cut on the drop saw to 4 1/2" or 115mm.




Looking at several photographs of the prototype and Walthers Cornerstone offering, I noted that there are four main bands of steel plate, forming the tank. I measured this up on the PVC pipe and marked it out. Vertical lines were drawn around the tank too. I measured the circumference and it was just a tad over 39 scale feet. The vertical lines were measured 13' apart.




In scale this worked out to be just a tad over 8', which allowed for the bands, or weld lines. I chose the finest Evergreen Styrene strip I had to replicate the bands, this being product #110.


I started gluing the strip on by applying a small amount of MEK to one point and fixing the strip on. This was allowed to cure before rolling the strip around, applying MEK as I went. When I got back to the start, I ran the strip parallel to the start and cut the length with a scalpel. This was then glued and held in position before I attempted to do the next three weld bands, two lower and one at the very top.

Once this had cured, the vertical strips were applied. Same technique, spot of glue at the top, allow to cure, trim above lower band and glue.




A piece of 30 thou styrene sheet was secured on top. This was trimmed around and sanded smooth. Both tanks were completed simultaneously.


A larger sheet of 30thou styrene was glued to the bottom of both silos as a scenic base. After this had dried, I raided my scratch building boxes and drawers (yes boxes and drawers, as I have a lot of scratch building supplies now) to find hand rails and caged ladders from previous models or from bits I picked up at exhibitions in the bargain bins.

I found my Central Valley HO scale fencing and also the caged ladders.






I cut the above section of fence/railing and taped onto an off cut of 40mm pvc pipe. This was submerged several times in boiling water to soften and conform to shape. After several dunkings, I allowed it to cool then removed the tape and attached it to the tank tops.




Whilst this was curing, I worked on the caged ladder. I had already had a ladder glued into one half of the cage. This just needed cutting to the appropriate length. The other half of the cage was fixed on, leaving a larger gap at the base and a higher protective section at the top.


Next was to connect the two silos with a walkway. This was simple enough to make out of some scale mesh and some Evergreen Styrene 1.5mm L angle (#291). I needed to add the bridge hand rails and the short sections of railing to the ladder. This was possibly the most tedious part of the build, getting the rails the right length and level ! Slowly but surely it was done !




So now the two tanks are coming along nicely, just some other details to add, but that will be in the next post.


Cheers, Gary.

Edited by gazmanjack
Doubled up on photograph.
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The next two detail items to be added are the vent valves for the top of the tanks and also the inspection hatches located at the bottom of the tanks.


I raided the spares box and found a few bits and pieces left over from a Ratio kit(#530 Oil Tanks), and I utilised some parts from this kit for the top roof valves/vents.

This is what I had created by cutting a return feed pipe, valve wheel, tank caps and some very short lengths of 6mm Evergreen styrene tube.




The inspection hatches were made from short lengths of 6mm Evergreen tube, two small pieces of thin Evergreen sheet and valve couplings from the Ratio kit. This were put together like this...



I measure 8mm up from the base of the tank and marked out areas I need to drill. I first drilled a 2mm hole, followed by a 6mm hole. The back of the tanks had a hole drilled as well to let out any build up of fumes from the MEK.




The two inspection hatches were pressed in and glued into position.




Now complete, they were primed and painted white and sat temporarily in position on the layout.




These will be weathered up at a later date.


During the build of the layout, a new loco arrived in the post, perfect for the layout. An Atlas Gold Series GP40-2 in FEC (Florida East Coast) livery...




During the build, I have been documenting it on my youtube channel...


Episode 1 January :



Episode 2 February : This takes you up to where the thread currently is at.



Cheers, Gary.



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  • 1 month later...

With the arrival of the new locomotive, I noticed a section of the layout it did not like. It is a particular curve coming off the points to serve the main industry. So it was out with the dremel, soldering iron, a new piece of track and finally, I had a new curve laid.




This pic shows the old curved piece of track on top of the newly laid track, showing the difference in the radius. Mind you I had to cut the end of the rails on the points back a fair bit to allow the new piece of track to flow freely.




I was happy with all this as the loco ran through faultlessly ! The only other thing I was concerned about was the hinge block being close to the track and how I was going to disguise it. Basically, the block had to be moved back somewhat...


After the removal of the top hinge, I pulled out the circular saw and made a cut down the timber, quite awkward it was to do and once fully cleaned up, I had to strengthen the hinge block so I added extra bracing on the rear of the hinge block that also screwed into the baseboard frame. Then the hinge was reattached. Sweet as !






I needed to come up with an idea to hide the hinge block and I had a few ideas. This is where Scalescenes came to the rescue and I printed off the Shipping Containers in HO scale and built two with ends and a side and a third with the ends, side and the roof. Hey presto, the block disappeared !






With the addition of more 20' and 40' containers, they completed a scene on the back edge of the layout.


So with that all done I could go back and paint and ballast the track that was pulled up to match in with the existing.


Next on the agenda was the crossing lights. I purchased a pair of crossing lights and also a flasher unit from Casula Hobbies in Sydney. These are perfect for the job and resemble the real lights, as shown below.






These particular lights have an armco barrier around them and I had to sort out a way of making these barriers.... Thinking cap was back on !


I took some 0.25mm x 4mm thick styrene strip and wrapped it around a socket of the right diameter. To this I attached two strips of 2mm half round styrene strip, starting at one end and allowed this to cure before completely wrapping it around.




With the two strips of half round on and cured, I could start on the second barrier...




Once both barriers were completed, I took 1mm square styrene strip and glued on four posts/legs. All that is needed now is paint !




With some silver paint applied, I say the jobs done !




More to come...


Cheers, Gary.

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With the two barricades made up, it's time to install the crossing lights.


As the baseboards have 30mm of insulation foam on top, I didn't want the lights just to sit in the top of the foam so I cut a few lengths of styrene tube. This runs all the way through the foam and partially out of the baseboard, where it is fixed with CA.




With the tube firmly in place I could fit the barricades and the lights...




Now with the containers in place to hinge the rear hinge block and the crossing lights in, attention now turns to greening the layout up.


I spent several hours scouring through photos of the down town sub branch and also google maps street view, getting a feel for the scenery. Most of it was really just grass and weeds, with the occasional palm here and there.


I jumped on to Amazon and purchased 12 x Mexican Fan Palms and these needed some work as they looked plastic with a load of flash up the trunk and the basic colouring was pretty poor, but what do you expect for $13.00 AUD ! 




You can see quite clearly all of the flash from the moulding process and the dodgy monotone colour ! These were painted in a much more realistic colour to resemble the palms in the real world. I also repainted the palm fronds too as the originals were a lime colour, not a deeper lustruos green...




With these done, I pulled out the static grass applicator and applied a selection browns, green, and burnt grasses of 2mm, 2.5mm and 4mm heights from various suppliers.








Next up was the fence off the rail corridor. I purchased the Walthers Chain Link Fence kit.


The Walthers kit comes with posts, gate posts, gates, rails and mesh. The mesh is pretty much identical to that of the Ratio kit. I had to come up with a plane of spacing the posts correctly and squarely so I could add the rails. The rails in the Walthers kit are thin strands of wire. These have a slight curve to them and you have to use super glue (CA) to keep them in place. I'd rather not use CA on the posts so I ended up ditching the wire rails in favour of Evergreen Styrene rod, #219 0.64mm diameter and used MEK to secure them to the posts. The best thing is that I could build a 350mm (14") length in one go !

I ended up putting this together on a length of wood with grooves cut into it every 35mm, or 10 scale feet.


I taped the posts in position with the angled top section facing up. A small amount of glue was applied to the very first post (Top and bottom) and the rails attached. After the first posts had firmly fixed themselves, I carried on with the other 10 posts.




I want to add barbed wire to the top and from what I have seen, you can twist thin wire around another strand to form the twisted barbs. To me this does not look real enough !


I had though long and hard over this the last few days and last night when lying in bed it came to me.... ...'fibreglass fly wire/insect screen' !

I just recently replaced the mesh on my front security screen door and I had off cuts lying around, so I cut the mesh close to one of the horizontal strands leaving small tabs of the crossing strands intact. This was then cut down the opposite side, leaving little barbs on the strand.

I set about gluing the strands onto the top of the posts and they didn't look too bad at all.




Once I had made up several lengths of the fence, I gave it a spray with some silver paint from a rattle can and it came up looking reasonably good, well it looks the part anyway  !




So, here is an overall pic of the layout and how it is coming along...




This then brings me right up to my next youtube update...



More to come...


Cheers, Gary.


Edited by gazmanjack
Double up on photo after posting...
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