Simple Tools – 2


Simple tools were popular here a couple of months ago. Fellow pre-Depression Era modeler Dave Emery shared several ideas so he steps in as a guest blogger with more details. Take it away, Dave!

The HO scale cigar factory seen above is more than just wood shapes, plastic castings, paint, decals, and other parts. It is the sum of work done with an assortment of common and uncommon tools. Let’s take a look at some of the uncommon tools from my workbench that helps me move projects forward.

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Track Installation Basics, part 5

Mind the gap!
Mind the gap!

Building a model railroad involves assembling track components into a design that meets a desire to operate or follow a prototype location. In many cases, three-foot sections of flexible track are joined together, or joined to track switches, as the mainline is installed. Often a tie or two is clipped from the track ends in order to connect the pieces with rail joiners. Installation proceeds and eventually the completed track is tested with a few freight cars and a locomotive before it is deemed complete.

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Track installation basics, part 4

Soldered electrical leads
Soldered electrical leads

Model railroading is the sum total of a variety of elements as an individual builds their dream layout. History, carpentry, engineering, painting, geology, architecture, electronics and electrical, and other components all combine for the final presentation. Each of these components may have additional aspects. As an example, electrical can consist of work with switches, relays, wire, and soldering.

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One step inspires more progress

A view of the wiring tasks.
A view of the wiring tasks.

I worked on the layout over this past weekend and completed the electrical wiring on the yard throat module. While surveying the work, I realized I had not made much progress in the last 4.5 months. Of course, I do consider wiring to be sheer drudgery, yet it is a necessary evil to complete in order to make the trains go. I guess I’ve just been avoiding this work as the fun factor is quite low. It’s a basic human trait to avoid the stuff we don’t like to do.

A terminal strip is used for multiple connections.
A terminal strip is used for multiple connections.

Over just a few days, I’ve completed the following tasks on the yard throat module.

  • installed feeder wires on four tracks
  • spray painted the rail and ties
  • installed leads on seven SPDT momentary contact switches to control the frog polarity
  • attached all feeder wires to the appropriate buss wires
One view of the module surface.
One view of the module surface.

Successful completion of this work inspires and motivates me to keep moving forward. This is how my hobby ebbs and flows. I’ve rarely achieved a straight line progression in task completion. There are often bursts of activity followed by a quiet stretch. At this point, only one module remains to be electrically completed. I hope to wrap that one up in the next week as the B&O Wheeling Freight Terminal project moves closer to operation.

Everything looks a little better with a few freight cars.
Everything looks a little better with a few freight cars.

I welcome your comments. All comments are reviewed and approved before they appear here.

Track installation basics, part 3

odd track tools

The last blog entry ended with the arrival of a friend who suggested a less labor-intensive method of matching the railhead height on two different manufacturers of code 83 flex track. The image above shows the unorthodox tools for this method. In a nutshell, masking tape ramps were installed to raise the end of a Shinohara track switch or flex track so it would be compatible with the top of the Atlas flex track. I used three-quarter inch blue painters tape, a pair of scissors and a metal ruler to build these simple ramps. Thanks to Mike Weiss for the idea.

Start by marking on the roadbed the location of the last tie on the track that needs to be raised. Cut a piece of masking tape three inches long and place it on the roadbed along the track centerline and aligning with the mark for the last tie. Place another three inch piece of masking tape on the other side if the center line from the first piece. Repeat this process with two inch pieces of tape. as a final step, cut a piece of one inch tape and install it perpendicular to the centerline but aligned with the mark for the last tie. Check how the track fits over the ramp. Add another piece of tape if needed, but the thickness of three pieces of tape should be fine.

In the following images, I used tape to raise one end of a Walthers/Shinohara track switch. Click on any of these images to view larger versions.

track ramp made of tape

Check your rail with a metal ruler to see if your tape ramp did the job.

checking the tape ramp

Once you are satisfied with the ramp, paint it a grey or earth color to seal the tape and disguise the ramp.

tape ramp installed and painted

As my layout is sectional, there are a number of places where track crosses from one section to another. There are a few places where the sections have an uneven interface. Use a metal straightedge to check these spots where the track will cross over a section joint.

checking the level across sections

Each instance is slightly different and a careful eye will determine how long a ramp and how many layers of tape will be needed. With a pencil, mark the location where the roadbed is at the proper level then install a couple of tape strips and check again with the metal ruler.

tape partially installed at a section joint

Add tape layers to make the transition smooth, but note the tape strips should be shorter as the layers increase. Once you are satisfied with the new transition, paint it a grey or earth color to seal and disguise the tape.

Take the time for a few extra steps when installing your track so you end up with a smoothly running railroad. You will find this is much easier than returning to a problem area later to tear it up and rebuild.

I welcome your comments. Please follow the directions of the anti-spam program when you leave a comment below. Comments are reviewed and approved before they appear here.