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  July 13 Update

Below are pictures of the construction progress for your enjoyment. Click on the thumbnails to open larger, full screen size, pictures.

It's been two weeks since the last update. Since today, July 13, would have been a regular op session day if the construction was not happening, it's time to show you what has been going on since the June 29 update.

Not much progress was made the first week after the last update - I dedicated that time to completing a couple of home remodeling projects in time for Mary to have some guests over for a planning meeting. However, this past week has seen a flurry of activity that has resulted in some key progress being made.

The bracing for the Douglas area is now in place. Engineered and fabricated by Geoff Goble, the design was a collaborative effort by Ray Mayle, Gary Zaro, Ron Orlando, Geoff and I. This very effectively strengthens the plywood base attached to the bottom of the tube resulting in a very stable, and rigid, base for the Douglas roadbed and scenery. It's even strong enough to sit on!

Here is Geoff bolting the bracing to the underside of the Douglas support base. The assembly had to be engineered to fit precisely and in three sections to avoid having to remove all nuts and washers supporting the tube and the base board and having it drop out of position.

Here is the first pic of the new Redding area. I know, it's a mess! That's just the way I work, preferring to clean up only when I absolutely have to. In this image the birch plywood subbase is in place all the way to the spline roadbed above the Wig-Wag area. We're now ready to install the homasote.

Also in place is the new control panel for the small SP transfer staging yard behind Valley staging. This small yard also doubles as the lower end of the helix to the top level. Currently is uses a rotary switch to select the desired track. In the future it will be configured to operate like the Valley Staging yard panel next to it.

Here is a closeup of the SP staging yard control panel. The track labeled SP2 will hold the inbound SPI (Southern Pacific Inbound transfer). This train drops it's cars in Orchard yard and returns light. Later in the session, this track will hold the outbound SPO (Southern Pacific Outbound transfer) when it leaves Orchard yard with cars to be transferred to the SP yard off the layout. This track is also the connection to the helix. The track labeled SP1 will hold the returning SPI as it leaves Orchard yard heading back to SP's yard. The track labeled SP3 will hold the SPC (Southern Pacific Coal extra) before and after it has made it's way down the Kinglsey branch to the cement plant yard.

"So, what's with the bundle of flextrack?" you ask. This bundle contains 54 pieces of Atlas code 100 flextrack. The temporary staging yards and tracks are laid with this type of flextrack. To assemble the extra west end eight track staging yard, plus lengthen the "aircraft carrier" tracks I calculated that I would need to purchase 52 more sections of flextrack. This bundle of 54 was a gift! A neighbor was helping a friend's widow dispose of her husband's old model railroad stuff and he came by asking for advice. I offered to go over there and take a look and recommend what he could do. Although there was very little of value left, what was left I suggested he take to the Train Shop where they might be interested in it. I saw the flextrack and mentioned that I would be interested in it and he gave it to me for helping. That's about $150 worth of flextrack! Sometimes happy little surprises just happen.

Thom Anderson, Ron and Geoff helping out! Thom and Ron are cutting slots in homasote roadbed strips, and Geoff is cutting a length of steel tubing for additional Douglas bracing. The homasote strips had been precut during a similar work night several months ago. The slots are being cut into them to allow the strips to be bent to follow the roadbed curves. The steel tubing will add additional rigidity and support for the Douglas roadbed.

While they were working on those projects I installed homasote panels at Redding. Now we are ready to draw the guide lines for the track. This is one of my favorite steps because this is where I can start seeing exactly how the track will line up. Drawings give a good idea of how the tracks will look, but this is where we find out if everything will fit.

The tangent lines for the nine tracks at Redding are being laid out. In this area there will be industry tracks at the right of the image. Moving to the left, next will be the siding used for industry switching. The third track from the right (under the box) will be the passing siding (or South Main), with the main being the fourth track (also under the box). The fifth track will be the yard lead/siding, which will be called the #1 track. The next four will be the actual yard tracks, #2 through 5. The last track, along the edge of the metal straight-edge, will be 3-1/2 inches from the edge of the benchwork, so there is room for another track in the future if the need arises.

Another view of the lines being laid out. I use spline material to achieve the transistions at the curves. I drive nails into the homasote to keep the spline in place while I eyeball and measure to the drawing the positioning on the next section. I then use the spline to draw the guide lines that will be used to lay the ties. The tools needed are all in this image - the schematic or track plan, the box of nails and a hammer, the straight-edge, the spline, and a pencil. Simple processes and tools, but I really enjoy this part because I get to be creative.

The sub-roadbed surface is now in place at Douglas and the spline sub-roadbed previously installed has been attached. This is an important milestone because now we have sub-roadbed in place from where the layout used to end (at temporary Redding) all the way to Raymond past the west end of Los Molinos on the lower level, an extension of about 180 feet to the mainline, or just shy of 3 scale miles of track! When the homasote strips cut by Ron and Thom are installed, and when homasote sheets are installed on this surface, we'll have all roadbed ready for ties almost to the town Raymond. We'll now be able to begin the hardshell.

Here is a closeup of the Douglas area support. At the bottom of the assembly is the bracing that Geoff fabricated and was installed to the bottom of the tube earlier this week. Above that is the plywood support panel that is also attached to the bottom of the tube - it is hidden under the backdrop at the top of the image. Next are the tube braces that you saw Geoff working on a couple of images before. These will connect to the metal "L" brackets attached to the studs in the divider wall tying the entire assemble together. Above this tubing is the sub-roadbed ready for the homasote roadbed to be attached. Although this seems like a complicated and overbuilt assembly, be reminded that this results in a cantilevered section nine feet long and eight feet wide extending over the lower level with no support underneath to interfere with the lower level. And it's solid - strong enough to stand on!

This last image is of one of the two Atlas SD35s I ordered and received this week. These SP units are intended to replace the poor running Proto 2000 SD9s on the SP coal train that runs down the Kingsley branch. The poor running characteristics exhibited by the SD9s trying to run down this branch is disappointing - which is expected since they are, after all, Proto 2000 locos. The Atlas locos, which run extremely well, should be much better able to handle this steep 5% grade. And they come with a built-in decoder, are as well detailed, if not better, and cost less than the average Proto 2000 loco. Go figure! I wanted unnmubered units because the last two digits of the numbers Atlas chose match locos I already have and I didn't want to have to renumber any more locos. They were quite hard to find. No local dealer had them, and some checked with their suppliers with negative results. I checked Longs trains and Tony's Train Exchange as well as Caboose Hobbies with no luck. But when I called M.B.Klein, I was told they had lots of them, and so they got the sale and I got my locos.

Well, that's it for this update. Thanks for checking out the progress!

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