Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Almost Operations

I keep getting closer to having operations on the Santa Barbara Subdivision but am still not there. The SP Santa Barbara Sub has come a long way since that abreviated op session on January 23, 2007. You can see a photo and read about that night in an early blog post here.

Some of the same friends from the South Coast Society of Model Engineers, the local Santa Barbara model railroad club I belong to, were over again on December 6, 2011. I still have some track tune-up to do so we struggled running trains. Michael Lopez, one of the club's junior members made an attempt and finally got a short passenger train running on the second level.

Here are some photos and a video.

Behind and between Paul G and Michael L is the location of that first impromptu operating session mentioned above

Here is the rest of the crew assembled at the curve of Santa Barbara Yard

Here is a short video of the second level passenger run

Monday, December 12, 2011

Second Level Fascia

While some of the second level fascia was installed almost a year ago, there was still some to install and all of it had to be painted. I had delayed putting the fascia along the track at Surf as there were 7 turnouts and slow-motion switch motors that needed to be installed. Once the fascia is installed it becomes more difficult to work in the areas.

Area at West Surf before fascia was installed

The Surf wye and the helix before the fascia was installed

The east portion of Surf on the outside of the helix before the fascia was installed. Note the fascia installed on the Lompoc shelf on the right side of the photo

I also decided to install fascia on the Lompoc shelf and the White Hills shelf. Both of these shelves are constructed of plywood and homasote. The second level fascia is narrow in most areas to maximize the views of the lower level and the open space between the two levels.

Wherever a switch for a slow-motion switch motor was to be mounted on the fascia, I cut a 1 1/2 inch hole so I could fit a PVC tubing end cap into the hole. The switch is mounted inside the end cap and does not stick out into the aisle. I first saw this technique on Rick Fortin's ATSF Valley Division Fourth District layout.

A close up of the PVC end cap with a DPDT switch installed

DPDT switch pre-wired before installation

Installed end cap and DPDT switch

I did not install the endcaps until I had painted the fascia.

When I finally had all the fascia in I painted it with the same color I used on the lower level. I had used a computer color matcher to select a color that roughly approximates the Southern Pacific Dark Grey used in the two-tone passenger scheme and the post-1958 scarlet and grey locomotive scheme.

Surf area after fascia was installed and painted. Note end caps installed

Painted second level fascia above Santa Barbara

Painted second level fascia at White Hills and Devon

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Layout Tour 28

November 19th was the 28th Layout tour of a group called Model Railroads of Southern California. The group was organized by Bob Chaparro back in 2006 to gather information on layouts in Southern California in advance of the 2008 NMRA National Convention in Anaheim. Bob was the layout chair for the local convention committee and wanted not only find layouts for the convention tours but also get layout owners ready for the tours.

It has been three years now since the convention and five years since the group started and its membership has grown to over 1400 members. I had been on a tour 15 in January 2009 but at that time I only had one level and not nearly as much "thin wall" as I do now.

There was talk of rain on the day of the tour but it dawned bright and clear. [The rain came the next day with about an inch.] I had help from friend Jim Scott so I could answer questions and attend to visitors. The day started slowly so Jim and I did some programing of his four new Athearn Southern Pacific GP9's in Black Widow paint scheme with Tsunami sound decoders. They sounded great.

We had about 30 visitors during the day from as far away as Bayview, Idaho and Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and as close as next door. Ages also ran the gamut from youngsters to seasoned model railroaders. Several of the youngster's enjoyed running trains over the layout - a feat that I usually am unable to do. The trackwork still needs tweeking but we helped them over the rough spots.

Here are a few photos from the tour day.

Bob Chaparro talking with Jim Scott at the sign-in table with more signing in

Answering questions as a small engineer in red pauses during his train running around the layout

Happy and enthusiastic visitors

As always, in anticipation of a tour, I try to get more done on the layout. This time I put in another 40 feet of fascia on the upper deck, painted all 130 feet of fascia on the upper deck, installed more slow motion switch machines, installed most of the street trackage in Lompoc, and installed a few more decoders to increase my DCC equipped locomotive fleet. In the next few days I will try to post some of these projects so you can see more progress on the SP Santa Barbara Subdivision.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Portland in September

I attended the Southern Pacific Historical and Technical Society's convention in Portland in September.  My son lives in Portland so my wife and I stayed with him while we attended the convention and toured around the greater Portland area.

The convention was good and I particularly enjoyed the visit to the Brooklyn Roundhouse.  They are moving in the near future, so I was glad to see the facility before it is no more.  Here are a few photos from the roundhouse tour.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Helix Happenings

As usual, it has been a while since I posted. I spent some of the time since the last post attending the NMRA national convention in Sacramento. The X2011 West was very enjoyable for me. I got to see lots of friends, lots of layouts, did some operating, and generally had a good time. As usual, I spent much of my time with the Layout Design Special Interest Group and the Operations Special Interest Group. This year both of the SIGs had lots of activities and the SIG room always seemed to be active. I tried to stay below the radar, but it is in my nature to help out and since the national was taking place in my home region, I did volunteer a few hours during the convention. The final registration figure exceeded 2000 for the convention and 19,800 for the National Train Show. My wife went with me and we stayed with friends and spent time with them. He also came with me to the convention for three days. We visited Lake Tahoe to escape the 100 degree valley temperatures and enjoy the outdoors.

I have been doing some tuning of my mediocre trackwork and almost am able to get a train all the way around the layout without problems. I am hoping this will happen sooner than later and so do many of my friends who have been patiently waiting to run their trains on my layout.

One item that came up during some of the work on the track was some tell-tale piles of wood dust in my helix.

I had not noticed them before so it is a recent development. I had not been drilling in the area so I investigated and found holes in the 1/4 inch luan plywood that I used to laminate the roadbed for the helix.

I have also discovered a dead body of one of the culprets. I am not an entomologist but I believe it is one of the insects commonly called Powder Post Beetles. As you can see from this photo, they are quite small.

Here is one belly up, which is the way I wish they all were.

I have investigated how to eliminate them and will be applying some sort of aerosol spray in the holes they have drilled in the hopes of stopping further damage. I thought about calling in a crop duster and have managed to get a volunteer in the person of a model of a Curtiss Pusher that I built when I was a lot younger.

The model is a Cox Thimbledrome. I did not want to let it go so I found a place to hang it in the layout room directly over the helix. And yes, I know it is out of scale.

I will be off to the Portland Southern Pacific Historical Society meeting for a while but will post more progress in September.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

New Track at Surf and a Reverser

When I first put track down at Surf, I put in some flextrack off the helix and did not cut in the turnouts for the siding or for the wye on the east end. Several weeks ago I went back and took out the flextrack and installed three turnouts. The turnout from the main to the siding is a curved #8 that I built off the layout and then put in place coming off the helix.

The other two turnouts were from the main to the storage track and from the storage track to the east leg of the wye. Here is an overall view of Surf with the helix at the top and Carpinteria on the lower level below the tracks at Surf.

In addition to the trackage, I also installed an auto-reverser so that engines can move across the area of the wye without polarity issues. The auto-reverser is a DCC Specialties PSX-AR. It was quite easy to install. It has the capability to run a tortoise switch machine so I might attach it to the tortoise I expect to install on the leg toward Lompoc. Here is a photo showing the Lompoc leg of the wye disappearing through the thin wall with the auto-reverser installed underneath the east leg.

Here is a close-up photo of the auto-reverser installed.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

A Few More Car Card Boxes

I plan on using the car card and waybill method of moving cars from one location to another. When cars are spotted at an industry or in a yard, there is a need to store the corresponding car cards and waybills nearby to keep track of the cars. As I have mentioned before, I have already compromised my original druther of 36 inch aisles. As a result, I am continually looking for ways to minimize any intrusion into the aisle space. One of the best way I have seen is the use of car card boxes behind the fascia in the manner that Rick Fortin has on his layout.

I had built the boxes before and just needed to cut some additional holes in the fascia and mount the boxes behind the finished holes. I hope the following series of photos adequately demonstrates the process followed.

I also added a strip of plastic to hold car cards when they are being sorted. The strip is trim for holding FRP and is available at home improvement stores. It is visible in the last two photos above. I also am using some "J-bar" from Tap Plastics - http://www.tapplastics.com/shop/product.php?pid=155&

Both seem to work OK. Here is a photo of the clear J-bar just visible at the top of the fascia parallel to the track. Click on any of the photos for a larger view.

Measure Once, Cut Numerous Times!

Over two weeks ago I promised some updates and the time has flown past. I have decided to not bite off more than I can obviously chew and post several smaller items to get us caught up.

The first is an issue that I discovered almost a year ago. As you might recall, I spent some time at the Ventura County Fair last year assisting my friend Bob Lyon on his booth (see the post from August 20, 2010). At the fair I worked on several structures including the Standard Oil building for Carpinteria (see the post from August 23, 2010). There are several photos of the model building in that earlier post. If you look at the photos you will notice that the edge of the building is resting on the top of the fascia. I had modified the original kit so that it would fit into the space I thought I had. I obviously did not measure accurately as the building is not only a bit to large for the space but also makes it impossible to run a car down to the end of the Standard Oil spur track.

I looked at the model and decided I did not want to try to take it apart and shorten it up. That meant I needed to make the space I had bigger. One of the problems with cutting is that it usually makes items smaller. It is very difficult to make them bigger. In this case, I decided to go further against one of my initial druthers and narrow my aisle.

With the structure right on the aisle, I could envision it getting snagged as someone walked by so I needed to deal with that situation also. I had some Plexiglas so I planned on adding that to the outside of the model for protection.

I cut several short strips of masonite, the first was 1/4" like I use for the spline roadbed and the second was 1/8" like I use for the fascia. I placed those on the aisle side of the homasote of the Carpinteria section and then added the Plexiglas. This added 1/2" to a short 30" section of the layout infringing on that much aisle space. I guess I will have to work harder at reducing my girth so I can still fit in the aisle. Here is a top down photo showing the track with cars, the structure, the Homasote, the additional masonite, and the Plexiglas.

I then tested the spur track with one boxcar and it fit fine. Hoping to have learned my lesson about measuring twice and cutting once, I tested the track again with another boxcar and found the boxcar's door rail scrapped along the roof of the Standard Oil building. I decided this time to trim about 1/16" off the roof, which had a good overhang. After trimming the roof the wider boxcar slid by the building without contact. Lots of extra work but it fits fine now with some protection. Hopefully I will measure more closely in the future.

Here are a few photos of the finished retrofit.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

NMRA Daylight Division Meet

Progress is continuing on the Santa Barbara Subdivision and I will update the blog about that in a week or so. For now I will just say the helix is back together, the mainline, siding and wye tracks have all been permanently installed. I installed an autoreverser on the wye which works nicely. I finally made the decisions about the trackwork in the Santa Barbara industrial area so tracks are in and wired. I have also added some additional car card boxes for the Santa Barbara industries, but all this will be covered in the next installment.

For now, I would like to step back three weeks to May 21 when the Daylight Division of the Pacific Coast Region of the NMRA had their quarterly meet in Santa Barbara. I usually get called upon to help organize the meet here and this time was no exception. We met at Gary Siegel's house and everyone enjoyed seeing the progress Gary has made on his outdoor 1:32 layout. They also enjoyed his fabulous indoor HO L&N EK Division. It is my pleasure to operate on this superb railroad.
The meet included three clinics - modeling Eucalyptus trees, railroad traffic control systems [including a field trip to Gary's functioning CTC machine.] and how to track down shorts on you layout [an electrical discussion] -, a lunch, a business meeting, a white elephant auction, and lots of comraderie. After the meet several local layouts were open, including the SP Santa Barbara Subdivision. I had about 16 folks come by. Most of them had been to the Santa Barbara Subdivision before but the last time the Daylight Division came by there was only one level and only part of the thin walls up so they were impressed by the progress. To me it seems interminably slow, but I see it all the time.

Here is a photo taken by Brewster Bird during the Daylight Division Layout tour.

Check back in a week for the next update with details of the progress.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Slow Progress

The progress on the SP Santa Barbara Subdivision has been down-right slow. In fact, I have actually taken a few steps backward.

The track in the outer helix was taken up temporarily. I ran a passenger train through and it was non-clearing so I looked at the track and it was too close to some of the supports. This will be easily fixed by centering the track. But it will wait for another project.

The main-line into Surf from the east had been put in temporarily to see how things ran and because I was procrastinating on installing a turnout for the siding. That turnout has been built but still needs to be installed. An additional turnout off the main at the east end of Surf accesses the wye. There is actually a "storage track" that runs parallel to the main and on the opposite side from the siding. It is from that track the actual legs of the wye begin. So besides the main/siding turnout, I need one turnout from the main, and one turnour from the storage track. Then because it is a wye I need to install an auto-reverser. All is ready, staged to be installed.

The street section of Lompoc is another big job that has been languishing. I laid down the base and now need to put in the street rail. Again, all is ready to be installed.

The industrial area across from the yard in Santa Barbara is still sitting. I keep looking at track arrangements, but so far have not made a decision so the tie strips are still in temporary positions. I complicated my decision recently by deciding to include the scale track.

The Santa Barbara scale track was located between the freight house and the spur to Johnston Fruit Co in the industrial area. It was on the track that parallels the double track main on the mountain side. Here is a wonderful photo that Charles Lange took of the scale and the scale house. You can see the Johnston Fruit Company in the background.

According to an October 1, 1966 Southern Pacific Company Circular 4 List of Agencies, Stations, Etc., the Santa Barbara scale track was 52.5 feet long, had a capacity of 125 tons, withs a Fairbanks scale. My problem is fitting it in. I have a space but the track is curved. I need at least 53 feet of straight track for the actual scale and should have some straight track leading up to both sides where the track has points to divert locomotives on separate track so as not to run across the beam of the scale. I may compromise here and have some minor curvature.

I also was looking at a USGS map of Santa Barbara and noticed two additional spur tracks. One led to the flour silos at the Weber's Bread bakery and the other led across a small bridge to another lemon packing house operated by Santa Barbara Lemon Co. Here is the map.

I do not have room for either of these on the layout but here is an interesting aerial view showing the still existing buildings. [Click on the image to make it larger.]

I did have the local club over a couple times. Once we just sat around and talked while installing Kadee couplers in some locomotives and freight cars. Some of the freights had the old horn-hook couplers but the locomotives and some of the other freight cars were using some of the Kadee copies. They do not seem to work as well, as the split or set in the wrong location and make coupling difficult to impossible. Here is a photo of that get together.

I had one of the club over on a Monday and we pulled wire to power the turnout motors for the first level. Second level power has already been pulled and we have four Tortoises installed. We also went out to lunch at a local eating establishment that holds some promise for the crews once I start real operations. Some of the club members came over the following evening and we drilled holes in the fascia for the turnout motor control switches, and wired up some of the switches.

Then this week they returned and they decided to be track inspectors. Using an NMRA track gauge and one of Micro-Mark inspection car (http://www.micromark.com/HO-Track-Inspection-Car-with-Metal-Wheels,8025.html ) they went along the track and put red tape everywhere the tracks needed work. I feel like the FRA just went through and issued slow orders for the layout. Here are some photos.

The local NMRA division is having a meet here in Santa Barbara on May 21 and the layout is on the tour after the meet, so I have lots of work to do between now and then, so you can expect another update in a few weeks.