Almost Done Painting

I was going to report that I was done with all the painting until I realized that I still need to do the rear of the backdrop sections. But all visible wood has been done. It is just waiting to finish drying before I reattach the front wings onto the sides. The quick install was verified as I reinstalled the sides as a convenient place to put the dry-to-the-touch pieces while they finished curing.

Things are going slower than they might have because my attempts to replace the now used up 21 year-old! can of Behr flat black paint foundered on the twin rocks of the whole paint code and formulation system having changed during that period as well as Behr seeming to have stopped shipping quart cans of flat. Gallons and sample size you can have but not a quart. No idea why but I do know that a sample size is not enough and, given how long it took me to use up the last quart, a gallon is more than a lifetime supply.

The resolution was to get a quart of Glidden flat black instead. The colour matches but the sheen is not identical. Fortunately I arranged to finish whole sections with the old can so nothing has to be half and half.

Once I get it all done and post the final result shot I will be out of excuses for hanging the LED light strip and getting on with the scenery.

No Visible Means of Support

Way back when, I set a goal of getting Comstock Road self-illuminated so that I would be choosing the best colours based on the actual light conditions. (Or at least the best that I can). I have finally got the enclosing infrastructure to the point of proving that my light support concept can work. The first dry fit is pictured with a clear span of just over ten and a half feet.


The only support is the two visible clamps holding the light support to the side wings. Both side wings now have their front flush mounts to transfer weight directly downwards. I will be adding a couple of clips to each end of the top/side joins for the permanent attachment. Also missing is the front layer of hardboard.

The two sections are hinged together on the bottom edge with the biggest strap hinge that would fit which is not as bit as I would like. In place, the hinge is in tension and easily does the job but when moving the piece separately it is prone to twist. Definitely the weak link. A draw latch holds the back face together at the top but the two together are no match for the leverage of a six foot lever on either end if care is not taken.

It looks like it will do for the first iteration but I expect that it won’t take many outings before a second version gets developed.

I Meant To Do That


When I started this blog, I said I was going to share the mistakes as well as the things that go well. In a non-trivial design oversight, I implemented the above atrocity.  That is the backdrop extending about two inches into the space that the traverser used to travel through. First time operating with the backdrop up was a vocabulary expanding moment.

I cannot claim this was a failure of measurement since I failed to consider the traverser travel altogether. I think the much attentuated construction process allowed me time to forget about such an obvious thing.

On the bright side, the traverser is still usable as-is! The restricted movement means less flexibility and I am not sure that isn’t a good thing. Of the three tracks, the back one can reach the back siding and the runaround track. The center track reaches the runaround and the main and the front track just reaches the main. Effectively, there is a notional runaround with a turnout to the back siding and a storage siding off the main. Much more plausible than the full range of traverser movement. I think I shall keep things as they are and see if I like it. If not, I can rework that backdrop piece to clear things up later.

Flush Mount Clips for Detachable Backdrop

Waaaaay back when, I briefly mentioned flush mount clips in my baseboard plan for Comstock Road. I bought them from Lee Valley Tools and have finally got to the point of actually installing them.


These clips are only 1/8″ thick when together and provide a rigid enough attachment to keep backdrop sections upright on their own. Any sort of serious lateral force would be a problem, though, so I am making a tradeoff for speed of assembly and disassembly. The sections just drop into place with no fussing around. At least once I figured out the best way to mount them.

The product description specifies #6 screws but the ones available to me don’t fit entirely flush in the holes in the clip or are at least nigh unto impossible to get exactly flush. (The photo above shows the #6’s) The tightness of the fit between the two pieces makes any protruding screw top an problem. I did the first side piece with #6’s and it is a jam fit. I then tried #5’s for the other side and they work a treat. So 5’s it is if you plan on taking things apart often. I will have to redo the first side at some point soon.

Here is the stage left end with a back section propped in place for the photo.IMG_20200527_143937521

The backdrops will take a bit longer than anticipated due to a design oversight. The backdrop is supposed to clip onto the back of the baseboards and span the section gap. (Two 4’6″ pieces will do the visible part before the fiddle yard.) Also spanning that gap on the back is one of the clips holding the sections together… I will have to do something like frame around those points and cut suitable holes. I am not sure what the solution would look like if I planned for this but I have enough leftover 1×2 to bodge up something that will work.



No Kingdoms Were Lost

Ever set out to do something simple and run into a cascade of things that need to happen first kind of like the legendary horseshoe nail in reverse? That was me this weekend when I wanted to put the bus wires into the modules.

The sequence went something like: bus wires?, need to tip the sections up, need to cut some rails that are still spanning joints, need to solder those rails to anchor screws, need to put in diagonal braces in two non-traverser sections, need to drill holes in cross braces before diagonals take away clearance for drill, need cable anchors to fix bus wires to layout.

In a triumph of will over inertia, I managed to get all of that done. Here are the two non-traverser sections holed, braced and bus wired. I just need to glue to cure on the diagonal braces.bracedandbussed

Notice how each section is held upright by two clamps? There was an incident. Single clamp slipped on the center section and it face planted onto the support. Track looks intact but will have to check more thoroughly after I set it down. The impact also popped the joints between the two interior brace ends and the side rail. I fixed those with 2″ deck screws since the 1.25″ screws didn’t hold. I am contemplating adding 2″ screws to the other joints to be safe. Pro Tip: back clamps are a fine idea.

Traverser Leveled

I had been putting off completing the task of leveling the traverser due to the lack of success in my initial effort. I would get one bit level but getting all the traverser to level with that one spot was not happening. Eventually, I realized that I was attempting to level the traverser with the roadbed edge when what I needed to do was level roadbed with the drawer slides. After that, adjusting the table to level via normal drawer slide adjustment is easy. In other words, if the plane of traversal is not parallel to your roadbed edge, adjusting the table relative to the slide won’t help.

Here is the current state of the area with the first of the remaining ties glued down. From here, I will lay rail up to the edge and match it with rail on each of the traverser roads. After that, I will match the traverser roads with the other incoming tracks.traverserfiddled.jpg

Braced Baseboards

My initial intent for ensuring sufficient rigidity in Comstock Road’s baseboards was to achieve the equivalent of a solid top with a combination of subroadbed and sheet foam. As time has passed, I have observed that the subroadbed does little to prevent twisting and that there isn’t that much area for the foamboard to go. I am reluctant to commit the alignment of the trackwork to wishful thinking so I decided to make the diagonal bracing overt.

An added advantage (assuming it does the job) is that my traverser won’t need a bottom. This will simplify the design and make the mechanism easier to install and access.

Here is the traverser section waiting for the glue to set. I am using some 1/4″ fir ply strips I cut up for a prototype since it will get them off the wood rack. I don’t really like the stuff since it is one big splinter dispenser but it does mean I don’t have to cut any more plywood. Note also that advantage of portable baseboard sections: the ability to tip the thing on its side for working on the bottom. Wiring without dripping solder on yourself is to be recommended.braced

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

Making The Grade(s)

I have spent a few hours in the shop over the last couple days and the subroadbed for Comstock Road, while not done, is done-ish. All the grades have been finalized so I know what things will look like and can get on to worrying pondering about the next thing which is the traverser framing. Left on the subroadbed to-do list are about a half dozen supports including the steep grade where it crosses the baseboard joint. Expect some over-engineering.

I settled on a difference of +6 scale feet (1.5″) in elevation for the back spur and -2′(0.5″) for the front one. This gives me the visual interest front to back without overdoing it. That last half an inch just seemed too extreme. Here is my first attempt at a gallery showing the results from various perspectives.

Stories in what we throw away

middenboundA lot of archeology involves sifting through some ancient people’s garbage dump, usually called a midden to fancy it up. From what was thrown away, you can figure out something about what they ate, what they wore, what they had enough of to throw away the broken ones, etc. What might a future archeologist deduce about the guy who threw away some 1 1/2″ x 1″ pine blocks?  Used for ritual purposes, no doubt.

I have begun fabricating and installing the subroadbed supports. Main line roadbed height will be 3″ above the top edge of the baseboards. I flubbed the calculation of how high the supports should be by forgetting to allow for the 1″ taken up by the plywood and Homasote. I only figured this out after I had set up a stop block on my chop saw and chopped a bunch of verticals. Fortunately, taking an inch off is much easier than putting one on.

While I was down there, I glued down some ties on one of the Homasote bits I am redoing so I can test various colouring and weathering methods. I thought the dark walnut stain I used on the previous layout ended up too dark but I didn’t get around to trying to fade it with washes so I will be testing that possibility along with a couple of others.