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San Luis Valley in eight square feet

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  • Member since
    August, 2014
  • From: CO
  • 150 posts
San Luis Valley in eight square feet
Posted by pt714 on Monday, February 05, 2018 10:13 AM

Hi everyone!

It's been two years since I last came to this forum, and the same amount of time since the trains came out. I moved from Pennsylvania to Colorado (about six hours away from my prototype, as luck would have it), downsizing everything I owned to fit in my midsize car. This meant that my HO-scale San Luis Central, with its rural switching prospects, had to come down and very little was saved. Looking at one small duffel bag to hold all my model-related projects and tools, I held each piece of rolling stock and determined if it held personal significance to me, and 90% of my choices ended up being scratchbuilt, kitbashed, or hand-painted (or all three). All of them I could tell a story about how I built it and why it was important to me.

Two years and a trickle of a budget later, this led to an epiphany: every layout I have created has gotten smaller, their footprint shrinking as each car's story and attention to detail becomes more important. Among the few non-rolling-stock creations I saved were five of my handlaid turnouts, and I decided for this next layout, all of the track will be handlaid. Though I'm not going Proto:87 by any margin, I plan to pay attention to detail in each project to create something personally significant.

Photos to come soon,

Phil

  • Member since
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  • 9,591 posts
Posted by mlehman on Monday, February 05, 2018 12:44 PM

Phil,

Your story holds great significance, since many seem to be troubled by lack of space, budget, or time to varying degrees. I think you're right that finding the meaning of what you do, the quality of your modeling, is more important that any quantitative metric.

I've been relatively blessed when It comes to our hobby: a generous space, enough time to do much of what takes time, and a budget that was sufficient to build my empire, even f that is mostly in the past now. I have more than what I need and consider that it's enough to enjoy the hibby even when I can no longer generally afford the latest and greatest.

You picked a great prototype for a limited space. Anyone who's ever been to the San Luis Valley know how expansive it can be. Until you get close to its edges, the mountain backdrop that surrounds the SLV looks much like, well, a backdrop. There's most of your scenery and whenever you are able to create that effectively and fit it in your budget, it'll be something you can roll up and take with you (more than likely).

Track arrangements at various location differed, but were similar enough you could get away with swapping structures, etc to change the layout to something else entirely with relatively little effort. Likewise, many structures in the ag-based economy were very similar.

I think you're off to a great start here, because having plans that you are pretty sure you'll be able to meet the expectations of usually results in more satisfying modeling.

BTW, if you haven't already discovered it the Rio Grande forum that has been on Yahoo is a great place to learn more. There are several SLV-focused members who would be happy to give you assistance if needed. However, now that I'm thinking about it, you may have already heard that from me before as your user name seems familiar. Good luck!

Mike Lehman

Urbana, IL

  • Member since
    December, 2004
  • From: Rimrock, Arizona
  • 10,746 posts
Posted by SpaceMouse on Monday, February 05, 2018 12:56 PM

pt714
Two years and a trickle of a budget later, this led to an epiphany: every layout I have created has gotten smaller, their footprint shrinking as each car's story and attention to detail becomes more important

I hear you. I moved from PA to AZ three years ago and just this week I started an 80 sq ft layout in my garage. I saved 14 turnouts--not hand layed, but Fastrax. The layout seem just about the right size.

Chip

Building the Rock Ridge Railroad with the slowest construction crew west of the Pecos.

  • Member since
    March, 2013
  • 204 posts
Posted by Colorado Ray on Monday, February 05, 2018 1:41 PM

A true eight square feet as in 2' x 4' or eight feet square as in 8' x 8' = 64 square feet?

Ray

  • Member since
    December, 2004
  • From: Rimrock, Arizona
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Posted by SpaceMouse on Monday, February 05, 2018 2:54 PM

Colorado Ray
eight square feet as in 2' x 4'

Dang I read that as 80. I should wear my reading glasses when I'm using a laptop.

Chip

Building the Rock Ridge Railroad with the slowest construction crew west of the Pecos.

  • Member since
    August, 2014
  • From: CO
  • 150 posts
Posted by pt714 on Monday, February 05, 2018 9:53 PM

Thanks for your encouragement, Mike! You did give me a lot of helpful advice on the older layout incarnations back in '14-15, and I continue to be grateful for your wisdom. The valley is a pretty magical place-- you sink into a zen-like state, and then it just seems to go on forever. I've kept the Grande Gold newsletters within reach-- they're a treasure trove of info.

Colorado Ray

A true eight square feet as in 2' x 4' or eight feet square as in 8' x 8' = 64 square feet?

Ray

True eight!

I lifted a design idea from M.C. Fujiwara (mcfunkeymonkey) to have a 1'x4' box that could unfold to make a 1'x8' shelf (his own plan lovingly taken from Byron Henderson-- credit where credit is due.) All of the wood came from a single reclaimed 80"x24" folding slatted closet door. In the future, I can plop this on a shelf, keep it open and put a valance on it, but for now, it can fold up and is easily stored.

The hinges will be hidden by two removable structures.

Track plan is essentially a refinement of my last layout plan: a single runaround at the end of the line in Center, CO, with the double-ended spur serving a potato storehouse and a team track, a small depot at one end, and a stub spur for an oil storage facility. Across the stream is one more spur for a grain elevator at the far end. 1-foot cassettes holding two 40' cars each can be supported on that end by the hinged section that folds up to complete the box.

Phil

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Posted by mlehman on Tuesday, February 06, 2018 2:18 AM

That's an interesting and practical design. Nice execution by you, too.Thumbs UpYes

Mike Lehman

Urbana, IL

  • Member since
    July, 2006
  • From: Phoenix, AZ
  • 1,460 posts
Posted by bearman on Tuesday, February 06, 2018 2:38 AM

Hey, that is pretty neat, can hardly wait to see when the track is laid and some scenery.  As for the San Luis Valley, took a vacation years ago in the area and spent a little time in the San Luis valley.  Ran into a cattle drive on the road and my baby (then) daughter thought it was the greatest thing to see.  The ares is, indeed, magical.

Bear "It's all about having fun."

  • Member since
    August, 2014
  • From: CO
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Posted by pt714 on Monday, February 12, 2018 10:07 AM

Weekend's been quite productive-- on Friday my order of ME code 83 and code 70 rail arrived, along with some other Fast Tracks goods and some electronic components for building a throttle. I'm using an Arduino Uno I've had on hand for years, one of the few gizmos I saved in the move. Here it is, connected up on a breadboard with a 10k pot and an H-bridge:

Now someone is going to think an Arduino is way overkill for a DC layout with one loco, a few LEDs and hand-thrown turnouts. And they would be absolutely right! However, I happen to have it on hand (free's a good price), and I keep some of my (limited) Arduino programming chops alive by putting it to use this way. It also means I can build a throttle that takes up virtually no space, useful for a layout this small.

As an added bonus, the Arduino's PWM signal can be modified to be out of hearing range, so there's no electrical hum coming from the motor. The result is VERY smooth, VERY quiet low-speed running.

Track is progressing, too:

My procedure actually does not involve spiking the track at all, but to use occasional PC board ties to keep the rail in its shape (and as added security at the hinged section) and then eventually use Pliobond to secure the rail to wooden ties once they are stained and secured in place. Both of these techniques I've used successfully in the past, and I'm combining them here to give myself the option of adding tie-plate detail in between.

 

All for now,

Phil

  • Member since
    September, 2003
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Posted by mlehman on Tuesday, February 13, 2018 7:03 AM

Phil,

Good progress! The trackwork looks great. You're gonna just cut the rails to let it fold up?

Mike Lehman

Urbana, IL

  • Member since
    August, 2014
  • From: CO
  • 150 posts
Posted by pt714 on Tuesday, February 13, 2018 9:12 AM

That's the plan! The trackwork sits in three large moveable pieces right now, and the 'arms' reaching out of the turnouts have four PCB ties wherever they cross folds (two for each side of the hinge), so once I fasten them permanently I'll cut the rails in those places. The rail height is just below the center point for the hinge, so it'll swing away when it folds up.

  • Member since
    August, 2014
  • From: CO
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Posted by pt714 on Friday, February 16, 2018 4:56 PM

All tied up this week. 

I had been reading this week about "weathering" wood furniture with ferric acetate, made by placing steel wool in plain white vinegar. Different wood types react to the stain differently depending on their tannin content, and I found that priming basswood with super-concentrated black tea (which is full of tannins) deepened the rich, gray, sun-blasted color of the stain on the ties. I really like the way they've come out. Apparently, allowed to steep for a longer time (and allowing the steel wool to fully dissolve), the solution gets more brown and rust notes in it, which will be great for detail work and brushing rust onto the ties later on.

Rails are tacked in place with nails so they don't go anywhere-- still need to sand down the tie tops, wire up the feeders, paint the rails and PCB ties, and install tie plates (still debating that) before permanently affixing the rails. All that said, it's nice to be able to work with them in place to check all the clearances.

All for now,

Phil

  • Member since
    August, 2014
  • From: CO
  • 150 posts
Posted by pt714 on Wednesday, February 28, 2018 9:14 AM

Rail painted, wired and tied down with Pliobond-- I decided to skip the tie plates, partly due to cost, partly because while the SLC absolutely doted over its sole locomotive, they were never as fastidious about the track-- stray ballast, dirt, weeds and shrubs all along the right-of-way. With all that detail between the rails, I doubt the tie plates will make enough of a visual difference.

Electrical testing and rail continuity across the sections went well-- there's one vertical kink at the hinge that I'll need to address, but most everything else is smooth! 

I also began testing out some scenicking ideas. I had a couple of scrap 2"x3" foam blocks lying around, so I made up some ground goop, slabbed it on, and had my first go planting some sagebrush, rabbitbrush and some various and sundry weeds. I'm aiming for early autumn-- some of the brush will be flowering, some yet to flower, others will have lost their leaves.

I used lightweight spackle in the goop mixture instead of Celluclay, then mixed the two in equal proportions later on. The Celluclay imparts a much rougher texture and makes the block significantly heavier-- I might use a little bit of that if I need more 'tooth' in a spot. Also, sagebrush is a pretty unruly plant, but I can see in the sunlight that some of those branches are marching to the beat of a different drummer (nothing a quick snip or two won't fix, though.)

Phil

  • Member since
    August, 2014
  • From: CO
  • 150 posts
Posted by pt714 on Friday, March 16, 2018 5:53 PM

I've been in ballasting mode for the past couple of weekends-- using a mix of different tile grouts and a little fine sand to get that short line 'dirt' look.

Can't beat real sunlight. Behind, you can also see the beginnings of the sagebrush fields. Here's a bird's-eye of the whole thing, unfolded (click for a larger view):

All for now,

Phil 

  • Member since
    August, 2014
  • From: CO
  • 150 posts
Posted by pt714 on Sunday, March 18, 2018 11:55 AM

One more update: I took some time yesterday to scratchbuild a loading dock for the team track-- figured if I was planning to build up all the structures from scratch, I had better start small! Weathering done with the same ferric acetate solution as the ties.

Phil

  • Member since
    August, 2014
  • From: CO
  • 150 posts
Posted by pt714 on Saturday, May 12, 2018 3:19 PM

Ballasted turnouts successfully (without freezing any of the moving parts) and did some track/electrical testing this week. Little by little over the past month, the foundations of a few scenes have been coming together. For the stream crossing, I salvaged the deck of one of my small scratchbuilt trestles from the last layout, re-worked and re-stained it, and made new bents. Built up the water from layers of paint, acrylic gloss gel, and Mod Podge.

On the other end, I installed the dock for the team track and built up a road crossing nearby.

 

All for now,

Phil

  • Member since
    August, 2014
  • From: CO
  • 150 posts
Posted by pt714 on Thursday, May 17, 2018 10:04 PM

Seems a little silly to post a track plan well into ballasting and scenicking, but having worked on slight variants of the same track plan in the past two layouts, it wasn't as much a priority to share it. I do sketch things out occasionally to make minor changes and also to work out the scenic elements-- here's the most recent one:

As far as the real work, this week I spent a little time off-layout to build staging. I had some two-foot steel angle that I had picked up cheap some weeks ago (from the same used construction place where I found the bi-fold doors for the layout.) At the time I figured I could probably use it for something staging-related, and ended up cobbling together these cassettes.

The wooden base sits just off the layout on two swinging L-brackets and brings the cassette even-level with the rails.

I used neodymium ring magnets to keep the tops clamped on:

Nell gets her own cradle, made from aluminum angle with a friction-fit top, and a rerailer for the base:

Nice to have some of my rolling stock out of the boxes and bubble wrap, that's for sure-- I figure I'll eventually make a couple more one-foot cassettes to hold the remainder (only got about 13-14 cars, so I'm most of the way there.)

Back to scenicking. Thanks for looking,

Phil

SPV
  • Member since
    August, 2008
  • 86 posts
Posted by SPV on Thursday, May 17, 2018 10:23 PM

Really great looking work! And a cool prototype choice. I'm a big fan of the various little Western shortlines long ago disappeared, and I'm enjoying following your progress.

 

Chris

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