Friday, December 31, 2010

First scratchbuild underway

This afternoon I started working on the first structure - Johnson's Produce.  The floor & loading dock is complete, built using matte board, balsa strips, and a textured stone paper.  This is my first ever scratchbuilt structure.  My thoughts on the process so far?  It's tedious, time-consuming, aggravating, frustrating, and the most fun I've had in a while, the afternoon flew by.  Now to do something about the CA glue that is all over my fingertips...

A suggestion of what it will look like when finished, although the building will be slightly smaller, to fit on the platform, and I decided to make it shorter, about half the height of this mockup.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Civilization from cereal boxes

I mocked up my first three structures, using cardboard from cereal boxes.  The building with the yellow reefer in front will be Johnson's Produce.  The building on the hill will be The Lakeview Inn (prototype photo below).  The third structure will be the Hill City Depot.  My goal is to scratchbuild every structure on the layout, no kits, and no plastic.

Fascia ready for sanding and painting

All panels, including the facing panel on the pull-out shelf, are installed.  Screw holes, seams, and corners puttied and drying.  I might actually get the fascia painted before going back to work on Monday!

The best part of the pull-out shelf?  I don't have to clean up my mess before calling it a day!


All cleaned up:

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Construction nearly finished

Today I installed the last of the fascia panels, the storage drawer, and the pull-out work shelf.  All that's left to do now is to put the facing panel on the work shelf, then putty over the screw heads, sand, and paint.  Then I can move on to the fun stuff on top...

Monday, December 27, 2010

Removable staging installed

Today I finished constructing the "cassette" to be used to represent Duluth (removable staging). I still need to add some side walls to prevent a catastrophic wreck, but for the most part, it's done. The cassette attaches to the layout using deadbolt locks, and can be attached from either end, allowing me to turn the train by simply turning the cassette 180 degrees.

Some tense moments as I ran the first train onto the staging cassette:

Friday, December 24, 2010

Turnout controls

I'm not a fan of powered turnout controls - they're expensive, "one more thing to break", and to me, they take away part of the interaction with the railroad. I prefer simple, manual controls. That said, I don't want to have to reach nearly 3 feet across a finished layout to throw a ground throw. After browsing around the hobby shop for a while today, I came up with an option that I really like - control cables used for R/C airplanes. Turns out it's fairly common knowledge, but I just discovered it today.

From DMIR Hill City

This works great! There's enough tension within the sleeve to hold the turnout points in place, yet the operation is very smooth. I haven't figured out what the user control will look like yet, maybe a simply knob in the fascia, maybe something more, not sure yet.

Here's a video I shot showing the turnout in action:

More power!

Today (after raking snow from my roof to try to beat a stubborn ice dam), I wired up the power bus for the layout, and began running power drops from the track to the bus below. My intent is to have one pair of feeders for each individual track segment. I'm also making a concerted effort to conceal the solder points, something I've never really focused on before.

From DMIR Hill City

From DMIR Hill City

Monday, December 20, 2010

Era-appropriate vehicles

This post serves two purposes - one is to show a little more of my "vision" for the layout, the other is as a holding place so that I don't lose these links.

Micron Art Vehicles

Woodland Scenics vehicles

First rolling stock acquisitions

The boxcar will ultimately be used to model this scene, showing the first rail delivery into Hill City - a cargo load for Smith & Taylor's store:

Tracklaying is complete

Roadbed and track are glued down....

From DMIR Hill City

From DMIR Hill City

Friday, December 17, 2010

Track fitting completed

All track has been cut to size and test-fitted on the shelf. Tomorrow I'll remove it all, fill the gaps in the foam surface, paint it brown, and then start gluing down the cork roadbed.

From DMIR Hill City

From DMIR Hill City

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Tracklaying has begun

Tonight I started laying out the track plan on the shelf, temporarily pinning it in place for test-fitting.  With most of the mainline in place, I couldn't resist a test run...

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Final trackplan

After seeing problems with even the 22" curves on the last plan, I started with a clean slate.  This latest track plan has minimal curves on the mainline, with no curves anywhere less than 24" radius.  Most of the curves are far beyond that.  The 2-10-2 handles 24" just fine.

Barring any further issues, this is the track plan that I'll be using, hopefully starting to lay track this coming weekend.  Staging will be done using a portable cassette on the left end (to/from Duluth), and on the interchange to Great Northern on the right end (to/from Grand Rapids).  I won't be able to turn the loco, so it will make the return trip to Duluth backwards.  Should be a fun layout to operate!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

New plan, wider curves

No curve radius less than 22", and I even opened up more switching room, and room for additional spot points. Off-layout "staging" will be done with a removable "cassette", onto which the train will be run, then the entire cassette will be turned 180 degrees, in effect turning the train around for its return voyage.  This will occur at both ends of the layout, where the track meets the edge.

Minor setback

Don't believe everything that you read on the Internet.  I knew this, but did it anyway.  Bachmann recommends a minimum curve radius of 22" for the 2-10-2, but I found some forum posts online claiming that it runs fine with 18" curves.  It doesn't.

I started laying out track today, following my track plan, and on the first test run through the first curve - boom, the locomotive derailed.  Tried it in reverse - boom, the tender derailed.  I moved the tender drawbar to the furthest position - no difference in either direction.  Soooo, I'm revising the track plan to eliminate the 18" curves on the "ends" of the layout.  Couple of ideas in mind, just need to make them fit on the shelf.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Motive power arrives in Hill City

DM&IR #506, the primary motive power for Hill City, arrived today...

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The track plan, major industries

The four major "industries" are shown, as well as the final track layout.  Additional features not yet shown will include the log pond for the sawmill and Woodenware factory, assorted shops and town buildings, and thick pine forests along the back (top of image) side of the shelf.

Hill City, Minnesota

The year is 1920, and Hill City is a thriving northern Minnesota community. The thick pine forests surrounding the area provide the raw materials for the National Woodenware factory, a manufacturer of wooden pails, pickle barrels, and cracker barrels.

Completed pails awaiting shipment from the Woodenware factory

The forests also provide a variety of woods for the J.M. Wood Company, the local sawmill, whose lumber is used for construction projects in Hill City, and also shipped off to customers in Grand Rapids and Duluth.

J.M. Wood Company as seen from the Woodenware factory

The community also enjoys the bounty of several productive farms, including potatoes, carrots, cabbages, and rutabagas. Farmers from all around bring their goods to Hill City, to Johnson’s Produce, where they are sold to Hill City townsfolk, or shipped off to market in Grand Rapids or Duluth.

Early photo of Al Johnson’s potato warehouse, which became Johnson’s Produce

The few roads around Hill City are generally poor in condition, making it difficult to transport goods beyond the town’s borders. The solution to this problem was obviously a railroad. Three major railroads operate in northern Minnesota - the Great Northern, the SOO, and the Duluth, Missabe & Iron Range. The Great Northern comes only as close as Grand Rapids, the DM&IR is primarily an ore line, and the SOO, being a relative newcomer, was uninterested. A group of investors, led by Warren Rabey, decided to build a new railroad, running from Hill City to Grand Rapids, where it would meet the Great Northern. This new railroad was known as the Hill City Railroad, and its first train rolled into Hill City in 1909. The first railroad delivery into Hill City was a boxcar (by way of the Great Northern) loaded with goods for the Smith & Taylor General Store.

Unloading the first boxcar to arrive in Hill City

The railroad struggled for six years, losing money from the beginning. In 1915, after a $2500 loss due to a passenger coach fire, the railroad was put up for sale by its creditors. The Great Northern expressed an interest, but ultimately the railroad was sold to the DM&IR for the sum of $200,000. The DM&IR was looking to become more than an ore hauler, and this acquisition opened the door for entry into the general freight market, as well as an interchange with the Great Northern. Today, as a subdivision of the DM&IR, Hill City is served by engine #506, a mighty 2-10-2 steam locomotive.

The train visits Hill City twice daily, once early in the morning, and again late in the afternoon. The morning visit (from Duluth) brings mail, empty reefers and boxcars, general merchandise, and occasional passengers. Outgoing mail, passengers, produce, lumber, and Woodenware products, bound for Grand Rapids, are picked up as the train departs Hill City just before lunch.

Later in the afternoon, the train returns, headed back home to Duluth. With it comes mail and passengers from Grand Rapids, logs for the Woodenware factory and the sawmill, and empty reefers. The day closes with the departure of more mail, passengers, Woodenware products, lumber, and produce destined for Duluth.