Long Delayed Writing Project

I learned through a Potomac Division colleague several months ago that a modeling publisher was putting together a book that would feature prototype structures and how-to, step-by-step model making instructions by a modeler who had replicated one.

So I decided to pitch them my build of the old Woodsboro, Maryland depot.

Well, I finally finished my draft with photos, including this one, and sent it off to the editor today. He replied quickly that it looked just fine. Hurrah!

So now I must pull the individual photos to send along separately with the plain text of my submission to the publisher. (The photos were all included in the PDF draft I sent the editor for review, but that won’t do for actual publication. I have to pull them out of the file where they’re stored in order to send them one by one.)

It’s good timing as I have once again had to set aside my NMRA Civil effort while I await the arrival of a Gauntlet track template from FastTracks in Canada. I’ve decided to junk the idea of making a crossing as the third required hand laid track element for my AP Civil certificate. Too many complications arose in my efforts to make a crossing. The gauntlet, recommended by my AP Coordinator, seems an easier task.

Once that is done, then I can deal with the tricky business of mounting the elements (turnout, crossover and gauntlet) on a display board and wire them up so a locomotive can run successfully through them — a requirement for that portion of the Civil certificate.

The other requirements — make a track plan on paper and have six track features on your layout — were easy to handle.

I’m finding the hand laid track portion much more difficult that making Cars and Structures, two of the AP certificates I received previously.

Partial Recovery (NMRA Civil)

I’m beginning to think that maybe I’m not cut out for making my own track elements. Sigh.

I mean I did successfully re-solder the bits that came off all three of my turnouts when I cut insulation gaps. Fine.

But the crossing was another matter. While some of the bits that went flying during the insulation gap cuts were restorable, some weren’t — specifically the points at the tip of the center diamond.

No matter what I tried, I simply could not cut, shape and solder the two bits that need to come together at a point. I even tried building the points off the template by gluing them to a PC tie to hold them in position and then solder them together. That part worked OK but then trying to solder them in place on the crossing itself caused the two joined bits to come apart.

I hate to admit defeat so I think I’ll start all over and try to make a new crossing, making sure all the track bits are solidly secured before cutting insulation gaps.

Still, I have this horrible fear that my inadequate experience with soldering means that when I try to hook up these elements to electrical power, nothing will work.

Cross that bridge when I get to it? Maybe. But I still suspect any NMRA Achievement Program judge who looks at these amateur pieces of track work will probably snicker in disgust. I’m just not cut out for hand laying track, I think.

As I said at the top, sigh.

Disaster? (NMRA Civil)

As promised, I today cut insulation gaps in my hand-laid turnouts and 19 degree crossing. After reconsidering my options, I took my B&D rotary tool with a cutting disc to do the job versus using those German precision jeweler’s saw blades I acquired. Mistake?

I ask because as I wielded the rotary tool, some of the track parts came unfastened from the PC ties where they had been soldered.

So now I am confronted with this dilemma: do I attempt to re-solder the broken bits back onto the PC ties, or do I start all over, remembering next time to use the saw blades and not the rotary tool?

Help wanted.

Back On Track (NMRA Civil)…

Or better said, back on the turnouts. I need to make some progress so after the departure of our Vermont visitors, while watching the Masters golf tournament on the laptop, I pulled out the FastTracks manual to check my next steps.

And first up, reinforcing the frog points.

This was actually pretty easy. I just flipped the turnouts over, dabbed some flux on either side of the frog points and then added some solder on both sides while pressing down on the PC tie to ensure the frog point was secured. It wouldn’t do to have the frog loose and possible popping up when a train car’s wheels passed over that point.

So, what’s next? It will be isolating the frog. I picked up (via Amazon) a “German Style Jewelers Saw Frame with 144 Assorted Jewelers Saw Blades.”

Should be fun — even if I have more blades than I could possibly ever use. Maybe I’ll break a few while trying those isolation cuts. Wish me luck.

The Lincoln Lumber Company

This Shay is the title photo for Railroad Resurrection. But you haven’t seen it on the layout for a long time because it hasn’t been running. Well, some time back I got it out and cleaned and lubricated it. And now it’s running just fine. A smooth, steady if slow runner perfectly suited for the Eureka and South Pass Railroad and the Lincoln Lumber Company’s sawmill up at South Pass.

I love this little brass model, a United/Pacific Fast Mail creation. It’s still on its original motor and operated on DC only. Someday I hope to upgrade it with a new motor, DCC and sound.

But for now, it’s ready and running — just in time for the visit of an old college friend who lives up in Vermont. He is keen on seeing what he calls my “choo-choo.”

I’ll show him.

Moon Charging

The small 3″ illuminated moon I bought stays lit for a long time but when it needs to be charged it’s a very simple task: just plug the USB end of the charging cord into my laptop and the other plug end into the bottom of the moon and you’re in business.

And now back to track work for my NMRA Civil certificate. (I’ve had to take a few days off that project to deal with a host of responsibilities, including getting my second dose of the COVID vaccine! Feeling safer every day now. Get yours!)

Sunday Confessional

Friends, I have to make a confession. Although my initial work on the 90 degree crossing looked promising, I have deemed it a failure. My downfall was the complex guard rail system, which I botched completely. Working with small bits of code 83 rail was too hard for me — first just cutting the bits and filing them, then attempting to hold them in place while applying flux and then solder. It was a colossal mess.

So in a moment of enlightenment, I realized I was disadvantaged by not having the same detailed step-by-step instructions I had for the turnouts and only a short guide from FastTracks on assembling a 19 degree crossing. So I ordered one, figuring that ought to make life easier and allow me to complete the project (and eventually donate the 19 degree crossing template to my NMRA Division AP chief’s library of templates.)

Also, in anticipation of eventually mounting the track fixtures, I bought not only a sheet of plywood for a base but also Caboose Industries switch throws I will need (along with a couple spares.)

So today I’ll restart my crossing efforts and see if, as I hope, this time things go much more smoothly.

NMRA Civil (Cont’d) & a New Moon

Without the printed guidebook for making my 90 degree crossing, I encountered some difficulties trying to proceed, relying on some rudimentary photos and diagrams.

But before abandoning this part of the project and reaching out to fellow NMRA members for assistance, I did manage to make the easy outer portions.

The challenge is the interior square with its guard rails and where to make the insulation cuts. That’s the guidance I am waiting for.

But on Sunday, I attended one of our virtual clinics — this one on lighting effects on a layout. And the clinician, John Sethian, who is amazingly talented on this topic, introduced us to a product I was not familiar with — an illuminated moon about three inches in size. He uses one for a moon effect on his layout landscape. I thought I’d do the same.

I propped the moon up between the wall and some flat backdrop rocks overlooking the town of Eureka. I obviously have to play with it some to obtain better effects — or improve my photography.

But I like it. Here’s what the moon looks like.

As you can see, it is quite authentic looking with craters and dark spots.

There are two light settings — pure white and a kind of yellow glow. It is powered by a USB connection and supposedly will run for hours before needing a recharge. The hand shape stand comes with the product. I bought it through Amazon. It’s called Mydethun Moon Lamp Moon Light Night Light for Kids Gift for Women USB Charging and Touch Control Brightness 3D Printed Warm and Cool White Lunar Lamp(3.5In moon lamp with stand)

I’ve thought about supergluing some clear fishing line to the moon and then suspending it over the layout. But that might make recharging problematic so I’ll have to think more about how best to deploy it.

Still, it’s nice to have a moon over Eureka.

NMRA Civil: 3 Turnouts Done and the Next Challenge

After finishing the second turnout, I took a break for a nice leisurely walk on the first day of Spring. Then a snack. And then I thought, “why not do another turnout?”

So I did. It went much faster, confirming the prediction of the FastTracks folks that once the first one is under your belt, the next ones will be much easier and quicker to accomplish.

Two of those turnouts will be used to create a crossover. The third will lead to a simple spur.

The next challenge will be to make a crossing using the template on the right in the photo above.

If I get that done, then I’ll have to run the old NMRA track gauge through the fixtures to make sure they meet the standards. And then I’ll have to find a board, add some connecting flex track (or whatever is on hand) and see if I can power it all up and successfully run a loco through all the segments.

Wish me luck!