Track Tip: Stagger your rail joints.

While laying flex track years ago I discovered a method for keeping the rails parallel at a joint.  If not carefully laid, flex track will “kink” at a joint in a curve.  To combat this, typically you hear of people soldering the joints before bending the track.  I typically don’t like to solder my joints, as I often change the track around and soldered joints would make this very difficult.

I discovered the rails will stay parallel if the joints are offset or staggered.  By carefully removing a few spikes, rail joiners can be offset.  Here is an example of such a joint.  The joints are separated by about an inch or more.  If very careful, you can accomplish such a joint without removing any ties.  This prevents you from having to glue them back in later.

Staggered Joints

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Loop Expansion

With the transition from Kato Unitrack to Atlas Code-55 track, I decided to extend the table by a few inches.  This would allow for broader curves, and a more natural look to my new passenger cars.

Before Expansion and Conversion

After Expansion and Conversion

Track Conversion

The layout I inherited from my grandfather was done with Kato Unitrack.  I knew I would eventually convert it to something more realistic.  I’ve liked working with Atlas brand track, and its easy to get a hold of, so it was my natural first choice.  That and I had a box of Atlas flex-track and cord roadbed in storage.

I could not convert the entire layout in one fell swoop, buying all the switches would exceed by budget.  I would need to do it in sections.  I planned on converting the loop first, followed by the various sidings.  In order to accomplish this, I created two sections of conversion track.  They would be placed at the beginning of the conversion and one would “move” with the end of the converted track as I converted different sections.

Custom built transition track

I built two pieces, each a different length.  I have one that is a combined 3″ long and a second one that is a combined 9″ long.

I’ll upload another picture in the future, when the pieces are not in use. =p

Tunneling

Every layout needs a tunnel!  I built a table in the closet to support the track as it ran through the “tunnel”.  The track is positioned such that a second line could be run to the inside of the curve.  There is the possibility of adding a helix here as well.

Table built.

Detail of ramp: 3/4″ rise.

New Passenger Car Set – Kato Smoothside in N-Scale

Picked up a 6 piece passenger car set on ebay.

 

RPO: Railway Post-Office
Baggage Car
Coach
Diner
Sleeper
Observation

I  can’t wait for these new cars to come in!  Of course….I have nothing to pull them, but still, nice find at $20 under original retail price.  (I paid $155 for the set)

From https://katousa.com/N/Smoothside/

The Future

While the future is already set, it is also unknown.  I had all intentions of building an HO-Scale freelance model railroad based on the Alaska Railroad.  That has all changed.  With the inheritance of a substantial N-Scale layout and boxes of supplies, I will probably switch gears.  Amongst the stuff I inherited from my grandfather, were a couple N-Scale engines, a DCC switcher and 3 DC diesel engines.  In the few HO parts he had, were three DCC engines: a Steam Engine, a Diesel engine and a switcher.  He must have had an HO layout set up for DCC control at one time.  With the exception of a few odds and ends, everything was N-Scale.

Atlantic Coast Line HO

Maine Central (MEC) HO

L&N HO Switcher

After setting up Cy’s layout and extending the loop of track, I got his DCC equipment working.  He had his layout wired for DC so I converted it.  The switcher he had was DCC, but the diesel engine he had was DC.  I was able to locate a DCC chip for it and upgraded it.

Boston & Maine No. 1502 with New DCC Chip

Its been fun watching the ol Alco RS2 run around the tracks…but my mind keeps drifting.  I’m dreaming of watching a pair of ARR SD70MACs pulling a line of hoppers around the track.  There is something about them.  Their size, their power, their color scheme….

I just might have to make this new N-Scale layout a freelanced Alaska Railroad theme.

News, Bittersweet News

Has it really been over a year since my last post?  Wow…time sure does fly.  I’ve been very busy with work and family.  I have not had much time to work on model railroading in the last year or so, but that all changed recently.  Just look: my son helping me with my N-Scale layout!

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My son, Chad, and I terraforming.

Here is a catch up story.  My grandfather, Cyrus Palmer, started me in model railroading when I was very young.  If I had to guess, I was around 8 years old when he and my father helped me build my first 4’x8′ HO layout.  Later that expanded to a second 4’x8′.  Since then, I have always had an interest in the hobby.  Through college and the first few years with my wife and son, I had no time to invest in it.  Money was also an issue: everything I had was in pretty poor shape and all controls were DC.  Most of what I had, I played with as a kid, and it was showing its age.

Skipping ahead a couple decades: My grandfather passed away last month.  He was 93 years old and had lived a very full and successful life.  Before he passed, he told one of his daughters, he wanted me to have all his model railroading gear. Little did I know, that gift would reawaken my interest in N-Scale model railroading.

I loaded his layout into the back of a pickup truck and hauled it home.  Along with the table came boxes of parts and pieces, rail cars, trees, shrubbery and…..a complete MRC DCC system!  I quickly set to work tearing down the start of an N-Scale layout I had in my office.  I made room for the largest portion of his layout then filled in around it and expanded it.

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The large part of Cy’s layout.

 

News, Bittersweet News
Area inside the red lines shows the large part of Cy’s original layout.

To move Cy’s layout, I cleared everything off it, leaving only the track and mountains behind.  All buildings, trees, cars, and loose pieces came off and were packed up.  In the picture above, you can see his layout in its new home.  I spread new grass, planted trees and placed the buildings.

The layout was an “L” shape but the smaller leg was too long so it was removed.  Cy had a mountain on the removed portion, along with a couple sidings, so not much was lost.  I salvaged everything from it and relaid the loop that would have ran through it.  In fact, in the first picture, you can see my son helping me fill in around my grandfather’s mountain with new Sculpt-a-mold.  I reused as many parts of my grandfather’s layout as I could, including the mountain, honorably named “Palmer Hill”.

News, Bittersweet News
Filled in around the original layout and rebuilt the removed loop.

Its only been a month or so, but I’ve worked on this new layout almost daily.  It is a blessing to have been given such a wonderful gift and with it, some form of responsibility.  Each time I work on it, I think back to the days of watching my grandfather run his layout, with an 8 year old me at his side.  I inspect the way he constructed his roads, buildings, trees…I am still learning tricks from him, even though he has passed.

Thank you “grampie” for introducing me to the world’s greatest hobby.  Thank you for mentoring me, loving me and leaving me with that which was so dear to you.  I miss you, but know that part of you lives on in this model railroad.