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  • Pacific Coast Extension model railroading update

    2012 - 08.12

    So as I mentioned in my first posting, when I built my railroad, I immediately started to wonder if I hadn’t set the layout height too low. After about a week of watching the trains I decided that yeah, I underestimated where a good eye-level height should be. After cutting up a good amount of 2x4s, the new layout height is 39.5” above the floor, which is 9.5” above where it used to be. That might not sound like a big difference, but in person it has much better visual impact than it did before. I also reconfigured the benchwork on the far left side so that I can cut out a large circular area for access to the staging areas. That was a lot of work. Like a complex switch engine maneuver though, sometimes you have to go backward before you can go forward.

    That’s a perfect example of the disadvantages of planning as you go: things you just didn’t think about pop up and force you to backtrack. The upswing though is that my concept of the layout design is strengthened greatly by being able to SEE how each area looks and feels in the room. I’ve decided to remove the reversing loop on the far right side entirely, in favor of a longer one that will be partially underground on the yet-to-be-built section that will run along the ledge over the living room (this layout’s on the 2nd floor). Once that section goes in, the loop will get ripped out. Removing that loop will add a lot of extra elbow room for the computer desk and make the room feel more spacious. That is a consideration as well: I like the room to feel “open”, and cramming in too much railroad will ruin that sense of space.

    Another recent improvement is the addition of a curved section right in the center. This was more inevitability than sweet revelation, but this new piece will facilitate a larger staging area and better track flow at the “throat” of the yard. Next up I need to improve the benchwork at the center and start laying down rubber sound deadening to make the tracks permanent.

    There have also been two really sweet requisitions in the last few weeks: one, a set of Northern Pacific passenger cars which I’m really stoked about! They’re going to need some custom decals added to make them into a legit North Coast Limited train. I also plan to add the supplied handgrabs (maybe not ALL of them, as it’s tedious work) and airbrush just the sides with high-gloss finish to make them look like they’re freshly washed. I might try lightly weathering the trucks and underbody as well. One thing I noticed about these new cars is that they roll super-duper freely. I thought my Hiawatha cars were good, but man these things will move if you blow at them! This gross discrepancy in the coefficient of model railroading static friction has led me to realize… that the Hiawatha cars are in dire need of a truck cleaning! :O I think 99% isopropyl and a reapplication of Labelle’s #108 oil ought to do it.

    And the second thing, which is so fricking cool that it’s going to get its own post later, is…… the acquisition of a new Milwakee Road electric Bi-polar locomotive!! #E-2 in the maroon stripe scheme. After this one, all I’m missing from the MTH plastic production run (in any sort of desirable paint scheme at least) is the E-3. I’m quite excited to be adding this guy to the engine roster. He’s going to see a lot of action on the pike. All the hell aboard baby!

    But having an awesome railroad isn’t all about just buying up all the right trains.  It’s much more about making things.  Like building really awesome (and sometimes also hard) models!  If I want to run the Milwaukee Road’s “XL Special” freight, I’m going to need some tri-level auto racks to make her authentic.  Accurail makes a kit to build these things yourself and I just completed my first one this weekend.  I think it came out pretty good, although it still needs a Milwaukee badge yet.  Here it is, hanging out in the totally-empty staging area:

    Judge it against a photo of the real thing:

    Mine could use the railing along the top, and some of those cross-braces too.  Pretty decent as-is though.  I’m feeling happy.

    And–AND–this weekend I got into it with my new dual action airbrush from the cheap-tool wonderland that is Harbor Freight…  The Viaduct at Mine Creek now has paint.  Lookout people.  More on that to come….

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