Making Tracks


This morning I made a start on the laying the rails. Given that this is going to be all-in Proto:48 with tie plates an scale sized spikes, this is going to take a while. Good thing that I generally enjoy it.

I wanted to get a bit of track at least tacked down enough to run on to prove myself that I can still do it. I realized that I had put it off longer than I would have in the past and decided to get myself over it. All went well with no more than the usual number of lost spikes.

Some notes:

  • The raw wood ties are easier to get spikes into. I think the stain I used hardens the pine somewhat.
  • Raw wood spikes make it easier to see what I am doing due to the contrast.
  • Sanding makes it easier to get intermediate tie plates under the rail.
  • I need to swap the Optivisor back to the shorter focal length lens for this job.
  • Distressing ties is much easier if you don’t get excited and forget to do that before you lay rails…

Motive Power

In the not too distant future, Comstock Road will have some rails that a locomotive can run on. I have an Atlas SW-8 converted to Proto:48 with drop-in NWSL wheelsets. This unit will be the only loco for the near future although I will probably acquire at least one more of a different class that CN might have plausibly run in Scarborough in the ’70’s.

The before photo reveals a few minor tweaks needed.sw8before

I am neither an experience locomotive detailer nor an expert on CN locomotives so I expect this project to be a learning experience in many ways. I have begun making a list the things that will need to done to produce a plausible CN SW-8. I am looking at photos on sites such as CNR Photos to get an idea of what needs to be done.

  • DCC decoder and sound.
  • Paint (duh) – the yellow paint looks very thick to my inexpert eye. The louvers and hinges may be decently molded under all that paint.
  • Decals – fortunately, the simple paint scheme does not require a special decal set. If I can find CN “wet noodles” in the appropriate size, I am class labels, GS-8a, and unit numbers, 7100 series, away from done.
  • Maybe louvers and hinges depending
  • Spark arrestor – this is probably the most distinctive feature on CN switchers.
  • Headlight/number boards
  • Side handrails – outer ones on stanchions, not ones on the hood. Some holes are going to need to be plugged.
  • Remove MU drop steps
  • Air hose but no MU hoses.
  • Sinclair antenna on the cab roof
  • Horn – seems to vary from unit to unit, will have to pick a specific one. None match the current model one, of course
  • Those bay windows – extended view?
  • Sunshades
  • Flush windows – the Atlas ones are highly inset – there is/was a kit for these
  • Replace all the grabs and handrails with scale sized wire.
  • Windshield wipers

Stretch goals:

  • The roof and cab wall are massively thick compared to the prototype. A replacement cab out of sheet brass would look much better if I can pull it off.
  • Cab interior.

Phew, this might take a while. I will either need to resort to an initial quicky re-paint and do the detailing incrementally, get a second loco to use while this one is all over the shop floor in pieces or be resigned to having an unpainted, partially detailed shop escapee handling the switching chores.

Empty Victory

Like most modelers, I accumulate various tools, materials, kits and supplies over time. Like most modelers, my heirs will likely have to dispose of various unused tools, materials, kits and supplies. Hopefully not that much but there are times when that voice in the back of your head suggests that your real hobby is buying stuff and storing it…

So, one of the things that gives me a particular sense of progress and keeps me going is when I use something up. Throwing out an empty container tells me that I am getting something done. Maybe not finished (especially if I needed more of whatever that was) but getting there. I have used up that last of my bag of pre-stained Mt.Albert regular ties and am now well into the next bag. The time between the purchase of the new bag and the old is measured in years.emptyvictory

And because empty bags aren’t particularly exciting, here is the current state of the tie laying phase. Note that I am also starting to run out of some lengths of pre-stained switch ties. I probably won’t use up all of some others.halftied

Fit to Be Tied

I haven’t cut and installed the replacement Homasote for the ends of tracks but that didn’t get in the way of making a start on glueing down ties. Laying ties is one of those simple model railroad activities that I enjoy and can do in small increments or distracted or tired or any of those other excuses that get in the way of doing challenging tasks. You plunk down some sticks, you lift them with tape, apply some glue, put them back down and repeat. Ten minutes is enough time to make some visible progress.

Here are the first ties down on Comstock Road. This is an exciting moment for me as things now start looking like an actual railroad. I did get more done after this but forgot to take another photo.tiesstarted

These ties are part of my pre-stained stock left over from the previous layout effort. I intend to use a different method that does not require pre-staining so bare wood will start appearing as I run out of various lengths.

Speaking of various lengths, I previously cut and stained switch ties in scale 6″ increments in batches. Which leads to issues with finding the correct length when you need it. My solution was about as cheap and cheerful as you can get: toilet paper rolls, paper clips and a shoebox lid.tiesorter

Tools, Fancy and Simple

In order to measure and transfer the correct angle for the joint support of the sloped back track, I used one of my more esoteric tools, a sliding t-bevel. This tool is handy for taking an angle and either marking something else or setting a saw angle. I did the latter to produce angled cuts that precisely match the slope of the plywood. I have no idea what the actual angle is and I don’t need to.

On the simpler end of the tool spectrum, I picked up (no project is complete unless I get to acquire at least one new tool) an inexpensive plastic adhesive spreader on one of my trips for yet another length of 1×3. This turned out to be a great deal! In the past, I have used scrap bits of wood or popsicle sticks to spread glue over large areas. It worked, sort of, but there always seemed to be too much or too little and my fingers got goopy. The spreader lets me quickly and evenly apply glue which reduced some of the anxiety about glueing down the main Homasote piece. I plan to get even more mileage out of it when I glue down ties.gluespreader

Brother, Can You Spare A Clamp?

My friend Trevor Marshall has asserted that one cannot have too many clamps. While I am sure that there is a practical upper limit to clamp quantity, I am also sure I am nowhere close to that. Having finished up the subroadbed supports and cut the section joints in the plywood, I took a deep breath and tackled glueing down the central piece of Homasote. I felt some trepidation about this step because it necessitates applying glue to a large area and then setting and aligning a seven foot long, slightly floppy piece of material on top. I used Weldbond PVA since it is strong when set but gives me some working time to get things aligned.

When clamps run out, paint cans must serve:allthethings

And glue bottles. And eventually, even the shop fire extinguisher. I have some vague concerns that I might have failed to adequately protect some joints from glue seepage so cutting the Homasote joints may be somewhat character building.

We Have Separation

Yesterday, I finished adding in the last of the subroadbed supports while listening to Model Rail Radio. I didn’t get around to writing it up because I was excited enough by getting that job done that I pressed on and started cutting roadbed at the section joints. My plan is to cut each layer as I go to make sure things stay aligned. No point in adding another layer on top of a mistake that needs to be fixed.

Here is one set of joints:plywoodcut

The two outside cuts were made with a coping saw but I just couldn’t get at the middle section. I was forced to resort to the jigsaw with a fine blade. This produces a coarser cut than the coping saw but it at least produces a cut.

Having made the cuts, of course I had to try things out and I am happy to report that the sections separate and go back together while preserving alignment. The only iffy thing is there is a wee dip at the joint on the grade at left. I am not worried about that since it can be handled in tie sanding if need be.plywoodseparation