Transformer arrives

When I got home, a small box was on my doorstep delivered by DHL.  It contained the transformer and the voltage control for the track.  I was surprised that the box was so small because I was expecting it to also contain the track.  The website for my order showed the track as having a status of being shipped.  But, now the track shows a status of backorder in the shipping area.  But, I also got an email from DHL indicating that a package with the weight that matches the track was on its way and would be here on September 4.

2 curves left to go

I took the 6th curve out of the jig tonight and put the 7th in the jig. To bad that I am almost done because I am getting better at making the curves with each one. The spacing is better on these latest ones and I have found a really good placement for the cross members to be symmetrical. When all is said and done, it is unlikely that anyone will notice the differences between the curves. Once I finish the 8 curves, I will need to put putty in the divots, cut dowels and fill the end holes, and then sand everything so that I can put the polyurethane on it.

Choosing the Train!

The next part of the project is to build the mounts for the walls and ceiling. Before I can build those, I need to know the maximum height of any car that I will have, and that means that I need to get the train.  So, I bought the the tallest cars for the train and the engine.  I got them from WholeSaleTrains.com.  Here is the inventory of what I purchased:

Description Item Cost
G RTR Circus Caboose, Bachmann Brothers (purchased earlier) BAC98385 $25.99
G RTR Circus Flatw /Giraffe&Hippo Wagon, Bachmann BAC98382 $52.64
G RTR Circus Observation, Bachmann Brothers BAC97381 $47.60
G RTR Circus Flat w/Bear&Gorilla Wagon, Bachmann BAC98381 $52.64
1:20.3 Spectrum 2-6-0 Mogul, South Pacific Coast, Bachmann Large Scale
Trains
BAC81493 $429.98
Track Power Controller Only ; For Use with
Power Supplies or Transformers under 10amp ; Crest
CRE55401 $47.52
Elite Dual Voltage Power Supply , 13/20 amps , 22/13.8 volts ; Crest CRE55465 $124.99
Heavy Duty Track to Transformer Connector Wire , 75ft Roll ;
Crest
CRE55453 $3.29

Total $784.65

I went with the all Bachmann line partially because of price, but more because I wanted something that was whimsical and bright.  I knew from the start that I liked the train cars with the little animals in them and that is why I didn’t build the track with 2 foot radius curves.  The 2.5 foot radius curve will allow the engine to pull these longer cars without the car tending to hop the track…I hope.

I almost bought an engine called the bumble bee that was bright yellow, but it wasn’t a heavy duty engine and was in the lower end.  The engine was the hardest decision and was why it took so long to decide what to purchase.  I wanted something that was strong, would last a long time, was DCC capable, and had a sort of oversized look to the smoke stack.  The 2-6-0 Mogul was my final decision because it seemed to fit all of the criteria. I like the spacing of the wheels and I like it better than a 4-4-0 because it looks beefier in the back.  I don’t like the 4-6-0 models as they look to long.  DCC is important because if I ever figure out how to make an elevation to go over the beam to the house, I will add a second track that will use DCC to allow for independent control of the two trains on the same track.  Here are the features of the engine:

  • Design
    • LED Headlight,
    • Polarity Selector Switch,
    • Smoke Generator with on-off Switch,
    • Load Synchronized LED’s in Firebox and Ashpan for Realistic Fire Glow,
    • Precision 5-Pole Can Motor,
    • Metal Frame,
    • Sprung Axle Bearings,
    • Chemically Blackened,
    • Machined Metal Wheels,
    • Scale Coupler Pockets,
    • DCC Ready,
  • Detailing
    • Complete Backhead Detail
      • Steam Gauge with Piping,
      • Throttle,
      • Sight Glass Fittings and Operating Firebox Door,
      • Fully Operational Stephenson Valve Gear with Operating Piston Valves,
      • Johnson Bar and Linkage,
    • Machined Brass Bell with Metal Clapper Brass Plated Metal Whistle and Machined Brass Pop Valves,
    • Separate Sanding Lines,
    • Metal Handrails and Piping,
    • Woodgrain Detail on Planking,
    • End Beams with Nut,
    • Bolt and Washer Detail,
    • Fully Detailed Tender Trucks with Brake Beams,
    • Hangers and Shoes,

For the power supply, I almost bought a 10 amp transformer and then I started reading about the differences between power transformers and found that an old fashion transformer would produce a hum and it would also put a lot of noise on the track that would interfere with DCC.  So, I went with the more expensive digital power supply that is more like what you have in a computer.  It is smaller and does not produce the hum on the track.  Since I will be running the train at a low speed, I knew that a normal transformer would produce a hum from the rheostat like when you put a rheostat based dimmer on a light and turn the dimmer way down.

Here are pictures of the train cars:

BAC81493-EngineSouthPacificCoast

BAC97381-ObservationCar

BAC98381-BearAndGorilla

BAC98382-GiraffeAndHippo

BAC98385-Caboose

Benny: The next foster?

The fostering is on hold at the moment till I find out what is happening with my company and my job.  If my commute changes so that I get home later, it will be difficult on the foster dogs.  But, there is a dog that is in desperate need of a foster.  His name is Benny and he is a black lab that was adopted by a single military fellow.  Well, opinions run rampant on whether single military guys should be allowed to adopt, but in this case, the most common thing happened.  He got shipped out and his dog needs a home.  But, Benny has a personality flaw…he has bad separation anxiety.  So, he will have a rough time now that he is bonded with the military fellow.

The guy has been extremely upfront and good about this and has been bringing Benny to the adoption events for 2 months but there have been no takers.  Mike has been asking me to consider taking him in and when Mike is persistent like this, I usually give in.  But, humorously, Mike did lose a lot of influence when we took in Babe and I took the brunt of the problems because of his office location move.

benny-2007-2-17-3

benny-2007-2-17-2-1

Three curves completed

I took another curve out of the jig and put a new one in today.  The curves are coming out matching up perfectly when I stack them on each other.  Every curve has an extra tail of about 8 inches that makes a fine transition to a straight section and has a bit of overshoot so that I can mate curves together and still have a perfect curve.

I have switched from using wooden dowels to hold the spacers in place and am now using decking screws that are countersunk and then covered with a dowel that is glued in place. This holds a bit tighter and I think it will last longer.

Success with the new jig

I got more materials and put a curve in the new jig Friday night.  I took it out this morning after adding the crossmembers and then measured the curve.  It held the 2.5 foot radius perfectly.  Adding the extra 12 inches and extending the curve worked perfectly.  So, after taking that curve out, I put a second curve in and will let it sit overnight with glue and then take it out tomorrow morning.  I need 8 total curves.

I have also decided not to try to cross over the beam between sections of the basement.  While it would look really cool, I cannot figure out how to get the track to rise over the beam and then back down without creating a slope that is to much for the engine and to much to make the arc at the top.  Given the new layout, I think I can mount all of the track off the wall rather than hanging from the ceiling.  I have been thinking about this quite a bit and while the ceiling mount would be neat, it would also create obstructions from viewing the train.  So, if I mount it to the wall, there will be no obstruction to viewing the train.  I think I will still need to hang part of the track where the curves are.

I have finished enough curve to mount a section toward the bathroom in the basement.  But, I have a good bit of work to do in cutting more ties and then sanding and putting a finish on everything.

Let’s try this curving thing again

Well, the third curve did work better than the first 2, but I still have a problem that the wood expands more than I am expecting and so I don’t end up with a 90 degree curve even with my extra half inch pull in on each end.  The problem appears to be that the last 12 inches of the wood wants to be straight rather than continuing the curve and I have not been able to overcome the strength of the wood to stop this.  So, I turned my work table around and created a new jig for the curve.  The new jig is still using a 2.5 foot curve, but is moved inward on the corner by 6 inches on both sides.  This causes the curve to be 6 inches longer on each end but beyond the 90 degree end that I previously used.  Hopefully I will end up with a full 90 degree curve with a smooth transition on the ends.  I am out of 1/4 inch stock so I will have to wait till Thursday night to actually test the new jig.  Here is the new jig:

NewCurveJig_full

You may be able to see in the picture that there are lines drawn at every 15 degree mark.  This will be the point where I put in a cross member for support and is also where I put the pegs.  In the first two jigs I just approximated where I wanted to put pegs and ended up with some flat spots in the curve because the spacing was to long between pegs.  So, this time around, I am making the jig very regular.  Also note that I put dowels in at every 7.5 degrees in for the first 30 degrees to give extra strength to the curve on the ends.

I can still use the first two curves that I produced as they are equal offsets meaning that if I reverse them and attach at the ends, they will exactly offset the shortcomings of the curve so that I can go around something like the stairs.

At the end of the day, I also did the first pass on every railroad tie.  Each little 3/8×3/8×5.5 tie has to be routed 1/8 of an inch to fit over the beam and give added control to the spacing of the beams that support the track.  This has the advantage that it aligns the ties and provides a better surface to glue the ties to the rails.  I still have to make a second pass because the largest router bit I was able to buy is 3/4 inch wide and I need 1/16 inch more to fit over the beam width.  Ugh.  So, I made a jig for the ties that holds them in place for a pass over the router head, then I flip the tie around and do the same thing.  After finishing all of the ties, I then adjust the jig to move over 1/16 of an inch and repeat the process with ever tie.  I have 3000 of these little ties to do this to and the Poplar wood splinters on the edges.  So, after doing the second pass, I still have to sand the little ties down so that they don’t have feathered edges.

Building a second 2.5 foot curve

I didn’t get a lot done today.  After all, it is a vacation.  Anyhow, I took the curve out of the jig this morning and put another in.  I found that a couple of the pieces of wood that I bought were darker in color and fractured when I bent them.  So, now I know more about what color wood to pick out when buying the wood for the curves.  So, now I am out of wood for curves and I have to make a choice as to whether I go and buy more 1/4 inch wood or just wait till I go to work on Thursday?

I am still working on my method for producing the curve.  When I took the curve from yesterday out of the jig, it bent back more than the inch that I had allotted.  It bent about  2 inches and I think it is because I took the individual curves out of the jig independently and then tried to drill into them to make the cross beams.  So, on this second try, I drilled the cross beams while it was still in the jig and then glued in the dowels immediately.  When I take this one out tomorrow, we will see if it expands as much.

Here is a picture of the one taken out of the jig and the one freshly put in.

FirstTwoAttemptsAtCurves_full

Kira & Remy: Another reason that you should walk your dog on a leash

So, Mikey takes the dogs out for their usual walk, and when he returns, Kira and Remy reek of the smell of a skunk. Well, it turns out that during the walk, Remy found a skunk and chased it and then got sprayed. Kira apparently got only a peripheral spray. She stinks, but Remy smells horrible. Mike immediately took Remy into the bathroom to be washed and Kira is under my desk at the moment.

Adding the rail to the prototypes

The Lagas Creek rail arrived today and I cut it with a hack saw and then mounted it to the 2 foot prototype sections.  They are shown below in both the Poplar and Red Oak with a soda can and the caboose in view for scale reference.  The caboose is sitting on standard Bachmann track.

2_foot_poplar_prototype_full

2_foot_oak_prototype_full

Of note, for these prototypes, I have only put in a few spikes.  In the final assembly, the rails will be spiked on every tie.

Building the first 2.5 foot curve

I took vacation this week to burn up some of my time off and used it to build the second curve for the track.  I did basically the same thing that I did for the 3 foot curve, but I learned a few lessons and did this one differently…and faster.  See the picture below for the curve in the jig.

2_5_foot_curve_jig_full

  • The first big difference is that I used larger 3/8 inch dowels and made the dowels longer. This allowed the inner row of dowels to be set higher than the outer row so that I could more easily bend the wood against the longer dowels before pushing down to the supporting board.
  • The second big difference is that the outer rail does not have inner dowels.  Notice that in the picture, I have dowels on both sides of the inner rail, but the outer rail is spaced off of the inner rail by small chunks of wood.  This improves the flexibility of creating the curve and actually makes it a smoother curve.
  • The last 8 sections of the curve (on both ends) is pulled in 1/2 inch.  I found that in the first curve, when I pulled it out of the jig, it expanded slightly causing it to not be a true 90 degree curve.
  • The last difference is that this is a 2.5 foot curve rather than a 3 foot curve so notice that there are no joints between the 1/4x1x48 strips of wood.

3 foot curves are not available in standard track but 2.5 foot curves are.  It appears that a 2.5 foot curve can be navigated by any of the available stock but I don’t think this will matter in the final layout in the first place.  The train is intended to have a whimsical look and will likely be a circus train with a simulated steam engine.  So, each car should be fairly short and the engine will be a 2-4-0 wheel layout.

Building the first 3 foot curve

I worked most of Friday night and Saturday morning building the first curve.  This may be a prototype or it may be an actual curve used in the final layout depending on how it turns out. Just about every posting on the internet suggests that a 2 foot radius curve is to small for G-scale trains and that only Lionel and Buckmann use it as a standard curve.  You can buy USA and Aristo rail that is 2 foot in radius, but you are limited to the cars that you can run on the rail due to the curvature.  So, I built my first curve with a 3 foot radius.  I couldn’t figure out how to bend 1×1 rails, so I got 1/4×2 Red Oak strips that are 4 feet long and ripped them to make a 1/4x1x48 strip of wood.  Three of these strips is exactly the width of my 1×1 rail so it is perfect in dimension.

I got a 4×8 piece of oak plywood and drilled holes every 4 inches on the inside of the curve and then similar holes for every other edge of the curve.  I then cut wood 5/16 dowels to fit into the holes.  The only problem I had is that I didn’t have a 5/16 drill bit and had to make a run to Lowes to get a new bit.  I opted to get a new bit because I have a lot of 5/16 holes to drill anyway.  After putting in the pegs, I was able to bend the 1/4x1x48 strips into the jig and so I removed the wood, put glue on, and then put the wood back into the jig.  That last step was the hardest because the wood wouldn’t hold a curve and the glue first made the wood slide apart and then kept it from sliding at all.  After getting the inner curve in, I started working on the outer curve.  This was even more of a pain because the clamps for the inner curve made it difficult to manipulate the wood.  I eventually got everything in place and used little spacers between the rails to hold them in place.  The picture of the final assembled 3 foot radius curve is shown below.

3_foot_curve_jig_bright_full

Modified Layout and possibility of self laid rails

After thinking through the look of the track and holding the G-scale model in my hands, I have decided that the original track layout creates to wide of a platform that looks more like a ledge than a train track.  For the areas in the large part of the room where there are 2 tracks running in parallel, the track will be sitting on a ledge that is 1 foot wide.  If this is off the wall by any amount, the ledge will be even wider.  So, I decided to eliminate the inner loop and use either 2.5 foot curves or 4 foot curves.

I have discovered another option for the rail work.  Instead of piecing together factory made stock railing with black plastic ties attached, I have the option to just buy the rail and attach it to the wood directly.  So, I ordered 6 strips of Code 250 railing (which is smaller than the standard code 332 railing that comes with Aristo and USA track) from Llagas Creek Railways. The advantage with this approach is that I can create any curve that I want and can make slight variations as needed.  But, the real reason for this is that while the Loco-Boose mounting looks great, the little black railroad track sitting on top of the railway doesn’t look as good as using the wood ties as the real ties for the train.  Not knowing how hard this will be, I bought both large and small railroad spikes and only 6 strips of Code 250 rail.

Red Oak versus Poplar wood?

Building the first 2 foot section of prototype track took most of the weekend to get ready and then 4 hours to actually build.  The second section of track took less than 30 minutes because I had figured out most of the cutting and assembly methods.  To create each section of track, I ripped a 1×2 board in half, then cut 3/8 inch square dowels into 5.5 inch lengths to create the ties.  Each tie is then notched 1/8 of an inch to fit onto the rails and glued.  The notch ensures that the rails match an exact path for the track.

The problem I have run into is the choice of Red Oak versus Poplar.   Red Oak looks best but is about 1/3 more expensive than Poplar.  More importantly, I cannot get 3/8 inch square dowels in Red Oak.  So, I bought the same materials in Poplar and Red Oak and created a 2 foot section of track as a prototype (see pics below).

2_foot_prototypes_full

Notice that both the Red Oak and the Poplar prototypes are using Poplar ties.  At this point it would be an easy choice as to which to use.  I like the all Poplar prototype because it is similar in color and has consistency.  But, Poplar is a terrible wood for this small detail work because it splinters on the saw blade.  Poplar also does not take stain well and will be splotchy.  Red Oak, on the other hand, will stain well and take a polyurethane finish very well. But the deciding factor in the use of Red Oak versus Poplar is the flexibility of the wood.  Poplar splinters and cracks when you try to bend it even if it is steamed.  Red Oak is the most bendable of all woods according to a government survey of woods.  This is a deciding factor because I have to bend wood to create the curves.

2_foot_prototype_assembled_full

Building the prototypes has been a good exercise as I have learned of faster cutting and assembly methods.  Next will be the curve prototype.

The Cabooses arrive

When I got home, there was a box on the front deck that was about the right size to contain the cabooses that I ordered earlier.  Sure enough, it was exactly what I expected…except I had made a mistake in ordering.  I got a G-scale caboose, but I had ordered an ON-scale caboose instead of an O-scale caboose.  I didn’t even know that “ON” was a scale.  It is basically an O-scale car body with a N scale wheel track mounted on the car.  Looks kinds stupid as the wheels are so tiny on the larger car.  Well, the little car is certainly a work of art but I don’t have track to match it.  It also came in a really pretty box with molded padding inside.

Anyhow, G-scale it is so I can start planning the track.

Mounting choices for the track

Mounting the track to the ceiling or wall is fairly straight forward, but I need something that will support the track.  My original thought was to just simply cut a piece of wood in strips that are the width of the track but then I realized that this track had to be attractive so I started searching for professional elevated mounting options.  The first product I found is called Interrail Overhead Suspension System but I don’t think it is particularly attractive for a home system.  It might look good at a store but not at home.  So, I kept searching and stumbled on Locoboose.  The Locoboose track is really impressive looking and would look great in the basement.  The only catch is that it is $124 per linear foot so it is cost prohibitive.

So, I am going to make my own suspension system and it will model after the Locoboose system.  So, I modified my spreadsheet to try to make a cost estimate for me building a similar system.  Turns out, if I space the ties at USA Euro style spacing, set my hangers every 18 inches (same as the joists in the ceiling), and use Red Oak 1×1 boards for beams, I can do the entire thing for $850.  But, that will require a lot of manual work.  I need to build a prototype but I also need to wait for the samples of trains arrive so that I can verify that I am going to do the entire thing in G-scale.