Now that all of the new track at Carson and Curlew had been tested by VanRail and other operating sessions, it was time to paint it before we start on the scenery.
I have been using a spray paint made by Rust-Oleum called Specialty Camouflage – Earth Brown. It is very flat and covers well, and seems to stick to the plastic ties.
I clean the tops of the rails after it dries with a special tool I made from a simple piece of aluminum with one end sharpened with a file. The aluminum is softer than the rail, so it does not scratch it, but the paint peels right off with very little effort. The tool needs to be sharpened a few times, as the rail wears a groove in it. I found that if I tried to wipe the paint off while it was still wet, I would manage to hit the ties as well, messing up the nice finish. Also, by carefully using the tool, the tops of non-running rails such as guard rails can be left brown.
I have not bothered to try to paint the rails a different colour, as I just don’t have the patience for that. I find that the dark brown colour of the paint seems to make the track just recede from view, and once it is ballasted, it looks fine to me.
The only problem with this painting method is the fumes. You can’t really take the layout outside to paint it, so the room quickly fills with noxious fumes. I close the door to my workbench area which closes off both it and the layout room from the rest of the house, and I use a respirator when spraying. Afterwards, I run my paint booth exhaust in my workbench area for about 24 hours to clear the air. One window elsewhere in the house is left open a bit to let in fresh air, and it seems to travel through the heating ducts to the train room to replace the air that is being exhausted. This works well and we don’t smell the paint elsewhere in the house.
While the spray paint works well, I really need to find a suitable acrylic alternative and learn to spray it before I need to paint future track additions.
When “Measure Twice” is Not Enough
Fascia on the layout. It is a very important aspect that helps make a layout look finished, and it has to be good otherwise everyone notices. As one of the last construction steps before VanRail in September, the fascia around the corner with the Morning Star Mine was installed on Saturday with the help of my trusty Saturday gang. Everything was installed just fine, and it was left for me to drill out the three large holes for the switch control pushrods and guide cups. Due to the very tight space along that section of the layout with the track near the edge, there is no room for normal length pushrods. They are so short that there is no room for error and things have to line up well or it won’t work. So, I did a lot of careful measuring up, down, left, right, etc., etc., and made copious notes so that I could position the holes very accurately on the fascia, which is what I did. Or so I thought… I forgot to include the amount that the fascia sticks up above the plywood roadbed, so when I positioned the holes down from the top edge, they were in fact too high.
Then, after remounting the fascia, and noticing my mistake and immediately knowing why, Suzy came along to inspect and tried to push the plastic control cups in and found that they hit the plywood. No problem, as the holes are too high, so that is to be expected, right? Well, it turns out that even if I had positioned them where I had so very carefully measured, it still would not have been right, as I had neglected to allow room between the cups and the switch mechanism attached to the bottom of the plywood. The track is so close to the fascia at that point that the cups have to be even lower than normal to clear the mechanisms.
The solution was to install offset push rods that lower the rod so that the white cup can be below the switch mechanism and all will be well.
So, even if I had “measured twice” and “cut once”, it still would have been wrong. I needed to measure “three times” and “cut once”. This is exactly what I did on the newly purchased second piece of fascia hardboard the next day. Tom was a huge help in coming over mid-week to help get it installed, and this time everything lined up correctly. We also decided that since we had a new piece of hardboard to play with that we would cut some significant undulations in the edge to add more scenic interest. So, in the end, it all worked out even better than had I done it “right” in the first place. Thanks Tom!
More work on the mountain beside the Morning Star Mine. The track was first enclosed inside a cardboard tunnel, with side access, to keep dust and scenery materials off of the track. Then a web is made of cardboard strips, followed by a layer of brown paper to even out the “ribbed” effect from the strips.
Hoping that the new operating scheme’s success last week was not a fluke, we decided to do it all over again on August 3rd, just to be sure, with VanRail only one month away.
If I may say so, I think it was one of the best operating sessions we have ever had on the layout. Lots of cars were in motion, even with 10 extra cars on the layout than before, but with no real tie-ups or confusion. The Grand Forks yard did what it was supposed to do, namely be a place to organize cars when a train is in town, and not be a big storage bucket all of the time. There was even space for two trains to meet and pass, because the siding was not clogged with cars.Continue reading “Second go at the new ops scheme”
Following the “Fateful Friday” test operating session debacle, I did some deep thinking about how the layout should be operated now that Carson and Curlew had been added. I wrote a number of posts about the problems and what we should try instead:
- Operating Grand Forks as a Classification Yard is a Mistake
- Too Much Yard Switching Busy Work
- Who Should Switch Grand Forks Industries?
- Still Too Much Congestion
After all of that, I designed a simplified train operating scheme without a dedicated switcher at Grand Forks. During the week, I ran numerous simulations to fine tune it until it seemed very workable.
The following Saturday, July 27, 2019, and still smarting from the previous session, my brave crew agreed to try out the new operating scheme. This meant that each train was just a way freight that switched its portion of the layout’s industries, with very little interchange of cars between the trains. I tried hard to keep the trains in different areas of the layout so that we would not have too many people in one place at the same time, and that seemed to work out pretty well.
Afterwards, everyone agreed that it was much more relaxed and enjoyable, even though there was still lots of work to be done switching all of the industries. What a difference from one week earlier where we had to abandon the session because it was just impossible to continue. Same guys, same layout, same number of trains, just a different approach to what the trains did. Thank you for not giving up after the previous week!
Thanks once again to John for capturing the day in photos and for his captions.Continue reading “First operations under a new scheme”
Following the construction and commissioning of the new towns of Carson and Curlew with their additional industries, a new operating scheme was developed to include service to these new towns. It was a simple extension of the one used to date, whereby trains from all four compass points would exchange cars in Grand Forks as well as service their assigned industries. The local industries at Grand Forks were switched also as part of the classification switcher duties at an appropriate point in time. This proved quite successful, and it was used during VanRail 2017 for two sessions.
With the significant increase in industries wanting cars, the classification role at Grand Forks was expected to become a full time position, leaving the local industries to be switched by a different job.
The Saturday gang bravely agreed to try out these ideas on one Friday evening that will be well remembered for all the wrong reasons. Let’s just say that my ideas didn’t quite work out as planned. If you are interested in the gory details of my analysis, it continues below the following pictures that were taken before everything went wrong.Continue reading “That Fateful Friday – or the first attempt at switching Grand Forks after the addition of Carson and Curlew”
This is a start of the new crew job descriptions for operating the layout with the addition of the new town of Curlew. The number of operating positions grows to fully four with the added number of industries to be switched at Curlew and at Carson.
A Bit of Philosophy
Grand Forks is a true interchange hub, as the S&BC runs north and south through it, the CPR runs east and west, and the GN comes in and back from the southeast. Lots of cars must be interchanged between trains at Grand Forks, which requires a dedicated switcher job to classify the incoming cars. There are also 6 industries in Grand Forks that need to be switched, plus the new adjacent town of Carson has a few more. As Carson is right on the US border, it did not make sense to switch it with a way freight that crosses the border, due to the paperwork involved. Instead, all deliveries and pickups at Carson are made by a turn out of Grand Forks that never crosses the border. Southbound cars leaving Carson will be brought back to Grand Forks and then sent south on the next scheduled way freight, after their customs papers have been drawn up.
The new town of Curlew is located between Carson and the original temporary end of the line at Darestof. It has only S&BC trains passing through it, and a number of industries that need to be switched. The initial ideas around how to switch Curlew were to parallel Grand Forks with a dedicated switcher that handles blocks of cars from the passing trains. This is really not a good approach as there is not enough work for a full time local switcher because there are no interchanges with other trains.Continue reading “New operations plan to include Curlew”