Monday, September 29, 2014


I’ve begun at last the capstone project for my railroad—the upper level staging at Crescent Lake.  My Crescent Lake will feature a twelve-track reverse loop staging yard, much as the Eugene Arrival Departure Yard will have for the base level below it.  I need to build and install Crescent Lake and get it wired while I still have full access to the floor below.  Future access will be more limited once the Eugene complex is built below. 

The test operating sessions conducted so far point strongly to the need to expand the mainline track and get more of Eugene built.   This is so vital that I cancelled a previously scheduled test operating session to make way for construction.  Step One is to get Crescent Lake built and installed.

The basic structure for Crescent Lake consists of open grid panels topped with plywood and an upper layer of cork.  I used my standard nominal 4 inch deep plywood strips for construction, as this will extend below the Tortoise™ switch machines that will control the switches.

Crescent Lake benchwork panels under construction.  They overlay the track plan on the floor.

The panels are topped in my usual fashion for yard areas—3/4 inch plywood with ¼ inch cork laid on top.  I left gaps in the cork at the panel joints.  These gaps will be filled with cork sheet once the panels are installed. 

Crescent Lake roadbed panels ready for track line layout and switch installation.  Most of the two switch ladders will be on the two panels in the upper right, with two final switches located on the corner panel in the lower right.

The panels will be raised to their final location over seven feet above the floor.  Edges along the walls will be supported by ledger L-girder, similar to the lower L-girder on the back wall in the photo above.  Out in the room, the panels will be hung from the ceiling.  Our house uses open truss floor joists for the main floor formed from 2x4 on the flat—broad—face.  This made for a wider target to locate for the suspension lag screws.  The lag screws hold “superstrut” pieces, which provided a way to span between joints and provide a nut for a threaded rod to be inserted.  “Superstrut” is formed steel channel often used by electricians and plumbers to route and support conduit or pipe.  Jerry B. used his power hacksaw to help me cut the “superstrut” pieces to length.  Thanks Jerry!  All are now installed on the ceiling.

“Superstrut” installed on the ceiling, attached to floor joists above.  Each strut in this picture has a special nut installed within the channel to take the threaded rod.  The upper level wall ledger L-girders are visible along the side wall.

More to come…

Friday, September 12, 2014


“Call out the flanger!” was a call on Southern Pacific’s mountain lines such as the historic Donner Pass or the Cascade Line that meant snowfall was beginning to slow down operations.  SP employed four levels of snow removal: pilot snowplows, flangers, Jordan spreaders, and a rotary snowplow.  Pilot snowplows have been fairly effective at removing modest snowfall from the tracks.  Operations could proceed at nearly their normal pace as long as the pilot plows could keep up.  As snow levels rise and ice forms along the rails, the flanger would be called.

A flanger is a dedicated piece of snow removal equipment.  It employs a pair of plows mounted under the carbody that can be lowered between the rails allowing it to clear out snow and ice accumulated there, particularly along the sides of the rail—the flangeways.  This is where the raised flange on a railroad wheel rides, keeping the wheel on the track.  The close-to-the-rail geometry must be maintained, so the flanger rides on trucks with no springs—a solid (and bumpy!) “ride.”  Flangers typically are operated at or above posted track speed, as they work best when running fast.  As a result, flanger operations do not slow down railroad operations by much.  They are seen as just another train, albeit a speedy one, occupying the track.

The heavy-duty snow removal equipment—Jordan spreaders and rotary snow plows--impact the pace of railroad operations, as they operate at much slower speeds and can not be passed or run-around when they are in use.  The railroad operating department tries to keep ahead of a snow storm enough to not have to call out either of the heavy-duty snow removers.

Flanger operations have long been part of my planning for my dream model railroad.  Their operation screams “mountain railroad” to me.  I have a Lambert Models flanger model, representing an SP flanger with a wooden car-body as operated into the 1960s.  A steel-body flanger has been on my wish list.  Albrae Models ( just imported brass models of rebuilt SP flangers, including the one routinely assigned to Oakridge.  I just received mine!

My new flanger sits on the snow equipment track at the end of the Oakridge wye (right foreground).

Close-up of the flanger. 

Close-up of the other side of the flanger.  One of the highly curved flanger blades can be seen underneath the car-body.  Albrae Models version is pre-painted and lettered and comes equipped with Kadee couplers.  It’s ready to go!

Friday, September 5, 2014


With the subroadbed built, I moved on to installation of cork roadbed and track installation for the mountain extension into my nook space.  Track laying is very satisfying as it provides visible, tangible evidence of an advancing railhead.  Major tasks of switch machine installation and wiring remain to place the track in service, but the extension into the mountains is taking shape!

As I worked with the cork roadbed, I dealt with several height changes.  Secondary trackage ends up mostly on thinner N-scale cork roadbed.  An extra strip of the N-scale cork provides the needed width for HO-scale.  I created ramps out of balsa to transition the heights.  I used a Stanley Surform ® for the primary shaping of the ramp, followed by coarse sandpaper.  The Surform ® made quick work of the ramp.  I then had the idea of using it on the cork to finish the transition once the cork was glued to the ramp.  This also was fast and very controllable.  I’d forgotten just how handy that tool is!  I also checked side-to-side level throughout the construction process—when sanding the spline for a smooth surface and for smoothing the cork after gluing.  I even checked the side-to-side level as I laid track.  Yes, I had an issue on earlier track, so I now check continuously.  

Take a look at the new track expansion, beginning with the climb up out of Oakridge.

Climb out of Oakridge.  Salmon Creek Bridge is just visible in the distance to the left.  The foreground curve will provide space for Rooster Rock and Tunnel 21.

East McCredie Springs.  The beginnings of the rock bunker for the quarry I added are seen in the corner in the top center of the photo.  The mainline and siding curve around to the right.

McCredie Springs depot area.  The house track is nearest the aisle, followed by the mainline, siding and “Track 3” back towards the wall.  The train order station will be close to the aisle and company housing for train order operators will be towards the rear of this scene.

West McCredie Springs.  The track has climbed 13 inches above Oakridge.  The mainline descending from Cascade Summit overhead is 24 inches above.  Both tracks will curve around the corner toward the main east wall of the basement.

Continuing the tour from the upper end of the railroad at Cascade Summit, we first encounter Trapper Creek at the immediate RR-East end of Cascade Summit. 

Trapper Creek Bridge.  The bridge abutments and plywood base are much deeper than needed.  The creek will be much closer to the bridge when completed.  The bridge is a Micro Engineering 50 feet plate girder with a ballasted deck fabricated from Evergreen styrene strip and sheet on top.  The abutments are built up using Evergreen sheet and strip.

Continuing beyond Trapper Creek, the railroad enters the future site of the summit tunnel.  The tulle (veil material) sandwiched between the cork roadbed and plywood subroadbed is very evident in this photo.

Descent from the summit begun.

Descending mountain grade sweeps around the nook corner.  Part of this area will have a long open-gallery rock shed as can be seen on the prototype line even from Highway 58.