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.

Woodwork Complete

Yesterday, I finished assembling the frames for the backdrop and light bar for Comstock Road. Other than whatever accessory mounting work might come along, that concludes all the actual cutting of wood with only the gluing of hardboard panels and installing mounting hardware left to make things actually useful.IMG_20200523_135222617

I came up with a better temporary assembly jig by putting the framing square on the outside. This allows me to just bang both pieces into the corner and clamp; much more efficient than having to separately align the ends with the square on the inside.

Hopefully, I can get the panels glued on over the next day or so and start getting things mounted. If all goes according to plan, Comstock Road should look dramatically more complete in just a short time. Of course, some actual scenery wouldn’t go amiss, either…

It’s A Frame-up

On day two of the mini isolation vacation, I carried on with the sides for Comstock road. I applied some woodworking overkill by assembling the frames using pocket hole joinery. This works very well and gave me a chance to practice with my new pocket hole jig on something that where mistakes would be inexpensive.

I proceeded in production fashion by drilling all the pocket holes first.IMG_20200505_152640828

The trick to getting a good result when assembling is to get things aligned and clamp everything. Holding things with your hand is not going to work. (But, yes, I did try it on a test piece.) I have a framing square set up to give me something to align to and the bar clamp over the joint is doing the real work. There are expensive fancy clamps for this purpose but I made do with the bar clamp. If I was going to be doing a lot of this I would seriously consider a specialty clamp or fixture. And that was before I dropped the bar clamp on my foot!IMG_20200505_160157641

Here are the results of the afternoon’s work artistically arranged. IMG_20200505_163054183

Next step will be applying the hardboard pieces cut yesterday to the frames.

Modeller Loses Bubble, Decides to Paint Fascia White


It could happen! And the dropcloth skirting really finishes off the look.

In mundane reality, it’s just primer. I finally got around to cutting out the profile for the remaining two thirds of the fascia after tracing the edge during the final minutes of last Saturday’s Train Night in Canada.

I got the final piece glued on at lunch today. I even got it right way round eventually. In a convincing display of why haste can be wasteful, I managed to first glue it on upside down and then left to right backwards. Taking a look at the overall orientation of the piece is recommended instead of just focussing (there was real cussing, too, not just faux cussing) on the corner you are trying to line up.

Tonight, I dusted off and pried open a pint pot of primer and  flat black that have been hiding under the drillpress since they were used to paint a dollhouse I built for my eldest when they were five. They will be twenty this summer so a bit of effort and a big flat screwdriver were required.

The age old debate about fascia colour was settled by the current crisis and flat black won out over concrete gray and brick red. So no complaints, it could be worse.

Nothing like a lick of paint to make things look like they are progressing.


A Minor Triumph of Ergonomics

Inspired by my initial bit of wiring to get the loco off the traverser, I got stuck in on the wiring for the completed bits of trackage on the center section. Things are considerably more involved that two pieces of plain track so more time is needed. My lower back soon let me know that the awkward bending over I was doing was not appreciated. And then it hit me. When I regained consciousness, 🙂 I realized that the propped up section was at a perfect height to work on. If I was sitting down. A quick policing up of the floor in front of the layout (power cords, project box, …) later, I had my work bench chair in position and I was back on the job.

Here is the view from the chair.seatedwiring

I will do a separate post on my wiring methods, such as they are, but I wanted to touch on this particular advantage of sectional/modular/small layouts. The ability to tip up a section to get at the underside without crawling about on the floor is a definite advantage I had not really appreciated up till now. I have done enough crawling about under my own and others layouts that doing the same work seated upright seems so easy that it feels like cheating. And that is before we discuss the prospect of soldering wires while looking up: “The most important tool in the shop: Safety Glasses!” — Norm Abrams.

There are compromises that one has to make for a layout to be portable, some of which I would rather not, given a choice. It is nice to (re)discover an appreciation for one of the advantages.

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 Manual Mode

We returned home earlier than expected thanks to an early start and great weather encouraging the cottage mob to stay late. I used my extra time to build character by installing the traverser slides. I did not have a failure of orientation error but I think I committed just about every other one except setting things on fire. I will summarize by stating that there is more than one set of holes in the table slide mounts and leave it at that. I may have indulged in an expletive or two as well.

I pressed on and made reworked things until I have something that seems like it will do, at least in manual mode. My plan to drive the table from a single screw in the middle may not work due to the tendency for the table to rack as the various stages of the slides are reached. The two slides cannot be counted on to behave exactly the same so I may have to resort to either two stepper/screw pairs or some sort of single motor pushing on both ends drive system. I have some ideas. I may just try it with the single screw and see how it goes since I have the one motor and motor driver already in hand.

Table at right extent puts the traverser center track in alignment with the runaround track.traverserright

Getting that reach required me to employ a trick I learned somewhere. I bent down the stopper tabs on the slides so that the slides run both ways. In this particular case the dual direction capability wasn’t necessary except for one of those previously mentioned errors. I located the baseboard slide supports based on bad assumptions about the travel of the slides relative to their footprint and ended up a half inch short on the right extent. Folding down the tabs fixed that with minimal fuss. Here is an underside shot of a bent down tab.traversernotab

Left extent puts the center traverser track on the back track and extends the table beyond the back of the layout. I have yet to decide if this will be useful for fiddling cars on and off the layout or not.


The big question is how well does it fit. The gap I ended up with is quite narrow, perhaps too narrow. If it turns out to be too close, I can shave things off the layout side.traversergap

Looking at the level of the two meeting edges shows the work left to do. The table is level but the matching roadbed is floating unsupported and is not level. The final step will be to attach a support to the end of the subroadbed and torque things into alignment.traverserlevel


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