Saturday, October 25, 2014


With the roadbed panels built ( and the track formed (, I moved on to installing Crescent Lake.  First up was installing switch machines and dropping feeders for the switch ladders already installed on three of the panels near the reverse loop throat.  I placed each panel on sawhorses so I had easy access to the top and bottom.  By now, Tortoise ™ has become straight-forward for me.  A wiring tail is soldered to the contacts and a new, thicker throw-rod used.  I am getting quite good at coming up underneath the layout to poke the throw rod through the hole in the switch throw bar.  I needed to remember which rail was which for the feeder color code.  The eventual turn-back loop at Salt Creek trestle exchanges the colors for the “aisle” and “wall” rails.

Initial wiring underway on a switch ladder panel for Crescent Lake.

The next task was to raise each panel to the final height—over seven feet up.  The first three panels were eight feet long and each had at least one edge that was to be supported by an L-girder ledger board attached to the wall.  I installed a temporary ledger “hook” that was used to catch the roadbed panel edge as I lifted the other panel end to the final height.  A temporary leg held the panel in place while I installed the threaded rod support into the unistrut ceiling mounts.

Temporary ledger “hook” installed on ledger L-girder.

Roadbed panel hooked onto ledger L-girder, ready to be raised to final height.

First roadbed panel in position with temporary leg supporting the free corner.

First roadbed panel installed.  Supporting threaded rods are just visible near the ceiling light and at the right front corner.

Unistrut ceiling mount.  Unistrut spans floor joists above.  Threaded rod is screwed into a unistrut nut above.  Fender washers and a conventional nut are screwed in above and below the plywood support arm for the roadbed.  This fixes the roadbed against gravity and bumps from below.

I continued this process by hooking the long roadbed panels to either the ledger L-girder or to an adjoining panel.  The staging yard switch ladder panel installed along the wall was swung up to the final height by first hooking it to that first corner panel and then moving it along the ledger L-girder to its final position.  A three-feet wide panel joins the two larger panels.

Switch ladder panel hooked onto corner panel, ready to be raised.

Switch ladder panel being moved along the ledger L-girder.  Temporary “hooks” are installed in the end panel sections, keeping the roadbed panel along the wall and on the L-girder.

Switch ladder panel and short joining panel installed.

The final task involved two major panels and one small joining panel that were completely supported—suspended—by threaded rod.  Neither of the major panels was long enough to use my hook and tilt installation method.  Both required use of brute force aided by my handy step-ladder.  Yes, it would have been good to have help, but I got the job done.

Corner panel being moved into position.  I worked one end up the back-side of the ladder and used several lengths of temporary legs at the other end.  The panel will be rotated from this position to meet up with the panel on the left.

Once the panels were up and suspended, I sanded the joints between panels to a common height.  Then I added cork filler strips across the joints.  This ensures a cork joints and roadbed panel joints do not line up.  With the cork installed and painted my usual gray, I could move on to track installation.

Corner roadbed panel suspended.

Roadbed panels installed.

Suspended Crescent Lake roadbed.

Crescent Lake roadbed panels installed.  Looking through the passageway to Eugene.

Friday, October 10, 2014


With the roadbed panels built (, the next step for the Crescent Lake project was to layout and form the track.  I used MicroEngineering flex track.  ME track has excellent detail, but is tougher to form than competing flex track.  That tougher track forming property translates into holding its shape once formed.  I chose to form the track while the roadbed panels were still on the floor.  This gave me a clear view of the underlying track lines and made it easier to form the track.

The first step was to transfer the track plan from the newsprint paper plan to the roadbed panels.  I overlaid the paper plan on the roadbed and then transferred key locations such as switches  to the cork below by punching through with a pencil.  This is one advantage of the cork sheet roadbed—it accepts such a punch-through indentation.

Paper track plan overlaid on roadbed panel.

The key points were joined using curve templates and straight edges.  I augmented my hardboard curve templates with “SweepSticks” curve templates from Fast Tracks (  These tools show in the photo above.  They have centerline slots that can be used to lay out the curve.  Later, they can be used to form the final track curve.  My track plan for my SP Cascade Line has twelve-track staging yards at both Crescent Lake (upper) and Eugene (lower), each with three sets of curves for the twelve tracks.  It was worth the modest investment to get curve templates for the broader curves of these yards.

Laying out and forming the track involved forming the curves in the appropriate locations.  A handy tool for this is the track laying tool by MLR Mfg. (479-5001).  This basically is a block of plastic with grooves cut for the rails.  One simply places this on the flex track and push to form the track to the desired configuration.  This saves fingers and sanity!  Once the track is roughly formed to the desired curve, I finish with a curve tool such as the SweepSticks noted above or the aluminum tools made by RibbonRail.  I have a selection of both, with radii below 48” available from RibbonRail.  I prefer these, as the aluminum plates slide easily in the flex track.  The wood SweepSticks get the same job done, but require more force due to their wood construction.

Track forming tools: RibbonRail templates in the foreground, MLR Mfg. track forming block in the middle, SweepSticks in center and above.    Maxon Rail Nippers complete the primary tools.

I laid out the track starting with the switch ladders.  Once they were located, I drilled throw bar slots and then attached the switches using Dap Alex 230 adhesive caulk.  This provided a firm base from which to lay track.  I loosely laid and formed the track around the loop, leaving a straight gap to be filled later, once the roadbed panels are installed and track permanently laid. 

Crescent Lake switch ladders.  Each side of the reverse loop has two five-switch ladders.  These will be joined by another switch before the throat switch for the loop.

I modified my original plan for Crescent Lake by consolidating the “left hand” switch ladders (center-right in the photo above) closer to the “right hand” switch ladder against the wall.  This greatly extended the reverse loop tracks.  These tracks are now 36-40 feet long.  I will wire them as two separate blocks so I can split them later should I chose to do some tandem staging of trains.  With the extra length, I ran out of track, so I chose to leave the inner pair of staging tracks until I gain a resupply.  These will be easier to reach from a ladder, which will be the access method once the roadbed panels are elevated.

I soldered adjoining pairs of flex track segments to each other.  This makes for easier handling right now, assists curve geometry formation and retention, and will provide a layer of redundancy to the track wiring when I solder feeders to each individual track segment.  Finally, I labeled the track segments and removed the loose track from the roadbed panels.  With that, I am ready to move on to elevating the roadbed panels.

Track formed and labeled.