Over the long 4th of July weekend I took the two afternoons of free-time needed to do something I’ve been procrastinating on for a long time now: complete the short stretch of track needed to join the upper and lower decks of my railroad! This required the installation of three switches, five transitions from code 83 to 100, three rerailers and assorted wiring/soldering. So it was somewhat of a busy little stretch in terms of trackwork and attention needed for the actual construction even though it is not very long in size.
As part of this construction project, I also completed what I’ve been calling my level 1.5 staging tracks. These are three very long, single-ended staging tracks that can accommodate a huge train, like a 12 car North Coast Limited. Since the passenger cars and engines that compose a big train like that will draw a lot of current from my DCC system, I also installed a light switch under the layout that can switch power to that section of track on or off.
My layout wiring has been largely improvised with little to no foresight or planning which has resulted in an increasingly gory spectacle of wire madness for those brave enough to venture beneath the layout. There’s one particularly bad spot where several levels of track wiring all join together, combined with an autoreverser and a circuit breaker. It’s pretty much disgusting but that’s what I get for a lack of wiring planning.
When I designed my layout I knew that if I had an upper level and a lower level there were only 2 choices of how to join them: a helix or a long steep grade. I’ve never been a fan of the helix since they take up a huge amount of space and can’t be included into the layout as anything remotely realistic. So a steep grade it is. It turned out mostly around 3% although it does approach just under 5% at the steepest point, which is somewhat beastly of a slope.
In real life when trains encountered an unavoidable mountainous grade, the train crew would split the train in two and take it up the hill in smaller pieces in a move called “doubling the hill”. So this same behavior is required on my layout since the engines won’t be able to pull a huge train up this grade. After performing this maneuver a few times over the weekend, I think I actually enjoy this operational requirement. It adds a bit of challenge and reward for sending trains up and down. This forces some “operation” on the layout rather than running loops, which is still the main thing I enjoy.