Track Laying — Finished Yard

This week I basically finished the yard.  There’s still more work to be done, but enough of it is done that we can safely begin wiring things up and running the black steamie around a little bit.  I decided to go ahead and continue the outer circle to at least have that part done so we can play with it some.  I gave David the option to put in a bridge on the end and he absolutely loved that idea.  The only problem is I need to raise that section of track.  Guess it’ll be good practice for doing it on the other parts of the layout.  I started to get the inclines all set.  I really like how the incline kits are working out, but I need to adjust the bridge a little bit.  I can’t do too much of an incline because I need the turnout to be at ground level due to the switch machine having to go through the table.  The bridge side is pretty steep, but the black steam engine can make it.  The problem is the peak when it starts to immediately go downward, the front wheels actually come off the track slightly.  Just enough that it could potentially cause a derailment.  I haven’t had a chance to go back downstairs and work on this, but I’m afraid it’s going to be pretty rough by the time it’s finished.



Laying the Track — the yard

It’s been a pretty productive couple of weeks.  The progress is pretty slow, but I’m picking up the pace.  Laying the road bed is pretty time consuming and doing it on the yard is pretty tough with all the turn outs.  The first turnout I did met up into another one so I did them at the same time.  That was pretty rough, but it looks ok enough.  It’ll all be covered up with scenery later on, so I’m not overly concerned with how it looks right now.  The next 5 or 6 turnouts went much, much better since I finally got a feel for how to nail down the road bed.  I only bought one box of track nails and I’m burning through them pretty fast.

I’m using tortoise switch machines for the turnouts.  Since they go under the table, I have to drill a hole right under the turnout.  Finding the exact position is pretty easy once I’ve got the road bed nailed to the table.  I just use a T-pin to mark where the bar is, move the turnout, cut away the road bed in that spot and drill the hole where the mark is.  Once that’s done, I cut the road bed down the center line and set it in the shape of the turnout.  Takes a little while for each turnout, but they’ve been looking pretty good.

So far I’ve got 3 lines on the yard done.  There is technically a 4th, but it will be connected to the outside track eventually, so I’m going to save it for later.  After taking the pictures, I started on the last bit of track that goes into the turn table.  It continues around the track, so I’ll have my first taste of laying road bed under curved track!

Laying the Track — The Turntable!

So one of David’s favorite parts of the track is definitely the turntable.  Since the layout calls for 2 of the tracks to terminate at the turntable and we’re adding a 3rd, I thought it would be a good anchor point to start.  We didn’t get a whole lot done on the track this week, but the turntable is in its final position and screwed down to the table.  That actually took quite a bit of moving around, with really small adjustments here and there, but I think it’s in a good spot.  I put some straights next to it as a place to store the engines since a round house probably won’t fit very well.  After putting our black steam engine on the track, I’m not sure it’ll be a good storage option, but we’ll see.  I went ahead and put road bed on one of those straights, just to see how hard it would be to do the road bed.  It goes down pretty easily.  The directions say to glue it down and glue the track to the road bed, but I’m using the nails instead.  They seem to be doing just fine.  I also ran some power wires to the track and drilled holes so they can run beneath the table.  It looks pretty good but will look better once we put ballast on the track.  The Atlas turntable has a split ring inside, so that means we don’t need an auto-reversing circuit for our DCC.  I ran some scrap wire to the turntable to power it and the track to test everything.  It works really well so far!  The 2-6-0 steam engine barely fits, so the 4-6-0 that David wants will be really tight.

We went to the train show in Indy this weekend.  I was hoping there would be more vendors there, but it was pretty small.  Most vendors had O or N scale stuff but the HO stuff was pretty limited.  There was a whole area for layouts and David really enjoyed watching those trains run.  Overall it was worth it to have gone, but we may not go next year.

This week I’m hoping to get more road bed under the yard and the holes for the switch machines drilled.  I’m still waiting on more parts, so once they get here I’ll be able to make some more progress.  I’ve got some of the road bed placed, but the track isn’t nailed down yet.  The progress is slow but steady!


Laying the track, base layer!

We made quite a bit of progress laying the track this week and today we finally finished it.  Well, sort of.  We put down all the track for the track plan we’re using, but we plan on adding to it before beginning the next phase.  The track plan (HO-23 in the Atlas book) requires a 5.25’x8′ area and we built a 6’x10′ table, so we have a bit of room to play with.  I’d like to add train storage around the turn table, a couple more sidings around the yard, complete the outer oval so a second train can run uninterrupted.  Eventually I’d like to be able to run 3 trains at the same time… one running the main line, a second handling the outer oval, while a 3rd works the yard.

This upcoming weekend is a train show in Indy that we plan on taking the boys to.  That should be fun and should give us some great ideas. 🙂

Laying the Track – TESTING!!!

Since the table is done, we couldn’t just leave it alone.  We had to start playing with the track!!  David was pretty impatient, but very eager to help.  I had to show him how to connect the track, which is harder than he is used to.  That didn’t stop him and he’s already pretty good at it.  Some of the connections are tight, but he understands how it all works.  We decided to start with the closest part of the yard, since it’s pretty straight and a good starting spot.  This section has two power districts so we had to use two different powered sections.  The wiring is currently pretty rough, but it works and the black steamie runs well on it.

Building the Table (Part 3)

Cutting the 4×8 sheets of plywood wasn’t super easy and was a little too dangerous for a 3 year old to be involved in, so I handled that part myself.  It was harder than I thought it was going to be, but the pieces look great and were finally ready to be nailed to the top.  David had been talking about it all week and was super excited to get the table done.  I got all the pieces cut and ready on Saturday but was too wiped to finish it all at once.  I clamped one of the pieces to the table, but the kids had already started bedtime so it wouldn’t have been a good time to do any nailing.

Today I managed to find some time to nail the top on and it looks very nice.  The edges are pretty close to perfect, which is good enough for me.  David really likes the new table and is excited to see all the track going on it.

Building the Table (Part 2)

So we made a little progress this week.  We bought the lumber to do the rest of the table build and began assembling the legs.  Turns out, I bought the wrong bolts to attach the legs to the table, so this required a special trip back to the store.  Luckily, David didn’t seem to mind so much.  I was originally going to make 3 sets of legs, but after mounted the two on the ends we felt this was sufficient.  After bracing the legs together, the table is very solid aside from some side-to-side motion, but the top will take care of that.  Now all that’s left is to cut and nail on the top pieces.  We bought 3 4×8 sheets of 1/2″ plywood for the top.  We’ll have to cut that down to 6′ lengths and one of them will need to be cut in half long-ways, so that’ll be fun.  Hoping to get it all wrapped up this weekend!

Building the Table (Part 1)

A couple of months ago, I got the go ahead to buy some track to build the layout I’ve been dreaming of building since I was in highschool.  Atlas HO-23.

The track plan requires a 5′ x 8′ table and I’ve only ever had a 4′ x 8′ table.  My old layout was fairly simple and as you can see this one is pretty complex.  I decided to add a little extra room and planned for a 6′ x 10′ table, so I could expand things and have more room for a larger yard and possibly a round house for the engines.

David and I spend a couple of hours building the frame for our table.  He’s pretty excited about the whole process. 🙂

Gaming line laser – Prototype!

Well I received both the laser module and the Black & Decker level in the same shipment.  Being of the more engineering mindset, I went for the module first.  I grabbed a few AAA battery holders and some alligator clips and it powered up just fine.  The laser is pretty crisp and gives a very good line.  On black felt surfaces, the red laser is absorbed quite a bit (as one would expect) but it still seems playable, especially on our gaming surfaces.  After playing with it for a few minutes, I opened up the Black & Decker level.  The laser just just as bright (if not slightly more) but has a brighter section towards the center of the beam.  My only two complaints about the line level is the unit is pretty big and the switch is in a weird position.  It’s also an on/off switch instead of a momentary switch, but that’s not quite a complaint… more of a personal preference, I would say.

After a few minutes of messing around, I started to wonder how I could use that laser module and what I could mount it in.  I spent probably an hour or so looking for pen lasers that are either cheap or sell assemblies that I can put my own module in.  I didn’t find anything good.  So I headed down to the basement to see what parts I could come up with or anything I could re-use to get a proof of concept going.  Then I found it.  A 4 AAA battery holder.  Bingo!

The laser module run on up to 5V DC.  3 AAA batteries would yield about 4.5V DC, which is what I had been using for testing.  The 4th spot in the holder would house the laser module and the momentary switch.  Once again, I got out my alligator clips and batteries and tested my theory.  The battery holder has leads which need to be tied together.  The laser leads would then be clipped to the posts for the 4th battery.  If you’re doing this at home, check the voltage with a digital meter BEFORE hooking up your laser!  Worked like a champ for me!

I ended up drilling out both ends of the 4th battery slot.  The prototyping process only took about an hour.  I ended up leaving the leads on the laser long, in case I wanted to change something, so the laser is slightly angled right now.


linelaser - 1 - Prototype linelaser - 2 - Line display



After this turning out so well, I decided to open up the Black & Decker level to see what its laser module looks like.  Come to find out, it’s very difficult to remove.  I guess they don’t want that little laser to move around at all… makes sense.  Anyway, after around an hour of working at it, the laser module was finally free.  This model uses a standard laser and has a lens fit over the end to produce the line… with probably produces the darker section in the center.  After buying another 4 AAA battery holder, I went ahead and mounted this one too.  Especially since the Black & Decker case was pretty much ruined.  From start to finish, it took about 30 minutes to get the laser mounted, soldered, and working.  Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures of this one’s final product.  I also don’t have any pictures of the process.  At some point in the next few weeks, I think I’ll try to post some in-depth pictures of how to build one.


Gaming Line Laser – Inspiration

Recently I watched the 2014 World Championship for Xwing to get some build ideas, movement ideas, etc.  But through all that, I saw that they were using a laser to see if ships are in the firing arc.  In our basement games, we kicked around the idea of how cool it’d be to have laser lines come directly out of the base of our ships, but I never really seriously considered it since the cost of a base with two lasers would be horribly expensive plus it’d be super difficult to project a line like that.  Also the fact that the laser would just go on forever without some serious tweaking, it just seemed like too much to attempt.

After seeing that handheld laser in action, I started Googling around to see if I could find it.  Well in a few short minutes, I found it here:  Great, cool!  Problem solved.  Clicked the link to Amazon and it comes up  No big deal, I’ll sign into my Amazon account in German.  Show stopper… they don’t ship to the US.  After a little more research, I found that this particular laser is too powerful to pass the US import laws.  Back to square one.

On the official FFG forums, other users have been wanting a laser solution as well.  I think this is where I found out about the power limit on the US customs.  But anyway, other gamers use a Black & Decker line level and they feel it does a pretty good job.  So I headed over to Amazon and purchased the Black & Decker BDL220S Laser Level.  I also found a stand alone laser module that looked pretty good.  So I went ahead and purchased one of those as well.  The laser module was $10 more than the Black & Decker level, but it would give me the option to build up something from scratch.  Reviews on both items are mixed, so we’ll have to wait and see if we get a lemon.

Once these get here, I’ll report how well the project is going.