Monday, July 30, 2012


Actual building of the HO scale SP Cascade Line has begun!  The first step was cutting up plywood into “dimensional” strips for use as L-girder and stringers for the base level of the railroad. 

Plywood is being used for dimensional stability.  Too many folk (local and nationally) have reported problems with solid lumber warping, often well after initial construction.  The alternative of kiln-dried lumber is both expensive and can be unsatisfactory as well.  The initial delivery of K-D lumber to be used for legs was rejected as it had far too many defects (knots and edge of trunk cuts) to serve my intended use.  I hand-selected the replacements.  The lumber industry has changed a great deal from when I was growing up here in timber country—Oregon.  Plywood largely overcomes the warping issue of solid lumber, albeit at the expense of alternative edge joining techniques.  Screws don’t hold as well in the edges of plywood compared to solid lumber.

Plywood loaded into truck prior to becoming “dimensional lumber.”  Underneath the ply are rejected 2x6 intended for legs.

Eleven sheets of seven-ply A-C plywood were cut into “dimensional lumber.”  Most were cut to 3-7/8 inches wide to serve as L-girder webs (vertical piece) and stringers.  Two sheets were cut into 1-7/8 inch strips to serve as the L-girder flange (top cap).  This should be enough to support the base level of the railroad.

July 30, 2012 became a red-letter day.  The first L-girder was assembled!  Construction truly has begun!  The first L-girder will be attached to the central post, on the Eugene side.  It is composed of four 8 feet lengths of 3-7/8 inch wide web and 1-7/8 inch top cap with offset joints.  Glue and screws were used to attach the top cap to the web.  The coarse thread wood screws should be sufficient to hold the top cap in place as the glue sets.

First L-girder resting on stringers. 

L-girder detail

Friday, July 20, 2012


With the completion of full-size track planning, construction planning and materials lists became the focus of activity.  Using the full-size plans drawn on newsprint on the floor, L-girder benchwork was spotted onto those track plans.  A critical part of this process was allocating space for the switch machines.  The following picture shows a section at the railroad west end of Eugene.  One L-girder was drawn with pink highlighter.  A companion L-girder will be mounted on the post, seen in the upper center of the photo.  The stringer locations were outlined in orange, while the space for Tortoise switch machines was outlined in green.  As expected, several stringer locations were adjusted to clear space for the switch machines. 

Eugene RR-West end plan with switch machine locations and benchwork outlines.

The full-size plans were used to estimate track and switch purchases. The track plans were measured for an estimate of track requirements.  The current estimate calls for about 900 feet of Code 83 track and almost 1000 feet of Code 70 track.  The current plan calls for 180 switches, with about half of those planned to be Micro Engineering #6 Code 70 and another ten ME #6 Code 83.  The remainder of the switches will be #8, built using Fast Tracks jigs.

The full-size plans helped illustrate a good opportunity to use manual switch throws rather than Tortoise powered machines.  Blue Point switch mechanisms will be used to provide a switch for switch frog polarity (hot frogs) and an additional contact set that might be used for input to the signal system in several locations.  About 70 switches in Eugene, Springfield and Oakridge will get manual throws.  The rest of the layout requires powered (Tortoise) switch machines as it is in CTC territory.  The reverse loop staging at both ends will get powered switches to facilitate easier control of those switch ladders. 

Another construction preparation task sighted a height reference line around the basement.  A laser level was used to spot the reference line.  This line will be at a nominal 36 inches above the floor at the central post.  This line should remain visible below the benchwork, which should be important in the more open structure area of the mountain climb.  A secondary reference line will be drawn 12” above the prime reference to achieve the 48 inch base level for the layout.  

Laser level setup with prime reference height of 36 inches at the basement center post.  Vertical alignment of the tripod shaft was set with a level.  Tripod base plate also was set with a level.

Thursday, July 5, 2012


The previous pair of posts ( and described the full-size track plans on the main (valley) level.  Plans for Cascade Summit and Crescent Lake wrap up the full-size planning effort. 

The Cascade Summit plan was fairly simple with the main line placed between the RR-Westbound “Hill” siding and the RR-East-bound “Lake” siding.  The short “Beattie Siding” at the RR-East end serves as a pocket for helpers or MOW equipment.  My Cascade Summit is laid out in an “L” shape, with the summit wye, used for turning helpers, coming off the “Hill” siding at the 90 degree bend.  As with the prototype, the wye tail will be placed inside a single-ended tunnel. 

Cascade Summit RR-West end

Cascade Summit RR-East end.

Two sets of crossovers provide for turned helpers reaching the Beattie Siding, ready to proceed RR-East back down the Hill to Oakridge.  The operator and section house “village” will be placed at the RR-east end.  The curve at the RR-East end will send the track through the summit tunnel, into the back “nook” of the basement and back downhill.   The full-size planning effort located this curve a bit closer to the nook wall which will help with the set of three operator pathways that converge in this space.

The Cascade Summit track is located above the operator path for the lower level as it climbs out of Oakridge toward McCredie Springs in the nook.  Think of the planning paper as outlining where the operator path will be in the space on the  main floor level.   A cross section of this arrangement was shown in the Track Plan post and is repeated here

Spaced out from the wall corner to the nook will be the lower level operator path, the steps leading up to the Cascade Summit operator platform, and the operator path around the tail of the Oakridge wye.  As all of this was laid out on the floor, it became clear that a bit more space for these three paths would be useful.  Fortunately, the Oakridge wye could be rearranged with left-hand turnouts instead of right-turnouts.  Doing so added another foot of space at the tight spot—a huge gain.

Revised Oakridge Wye Plan.  Former tail track is indicated by disconnected blue tape line to the left of the new wye location in the upper part of the picture.  The new right leg of the wye is the sharper curve, closer to the center. 

Crescent Lake uses much the same configuration as the Eugene Arrival/Departure Yard (reverse loop) below it.   Differences are the exclusive use of #8 turnouts and the placement of the left leg of the reverse loop closer to the stairwell wall.  With Crecent Lake suspended from the walls and ceiling at over 7 feet from the floor, access will be require the use of step ladders.  Using the more gentle divergence of a #8 turnout is prudent.  Spacing the left leg of the loop closer to the stairwell wall will place use of a ladder closer to the wall—better for operator stability on a step ladder and clearing a path below for lower level operators.

Crescent Lake Track Plan is a partial overlay of the Eugene Arrival/Departure yard below. 

Crescent Lake switch ladders.  Right leg is in the upper portion of the picture.  Half of left leg ladder is near the center of the picture.  Eugene A/D Yard is below (lower portion of picture ) on lighter colored paper.

August 4, 2012, edit: Corrected short siding at Cascade Summit to "Beattie Siding," named in honor of the Assistant Engineer on the Natron Cutoff Construction.