M&K Junction Railroad

M&K Junction Railroad
Another train of eastbound coal crosses the Cheat River

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Benchwork 2

By late 2007, benchwork had been completed along the west wall of the basement (the lower wall of the track plan) as shown in these two pictures. The upper picture is looking towards the water heater (lower left on the track plan) and the other picture is looking in the opposite direction.

In the picture above, there is a funny section of benchwork in the foreground and you may be wondering what this is all about. That particular location will have a river spanned by a double track truss bridge (Atlas') to represent where the B&O crosses the Cheat River in Rowlesburg, WV. The depression in the benchwork allows for the scenery in the riverbed. We'll see the track approach, and then finally cross the gorge in later photographs.

You might also be wondering why such slow progress? Several reasons actually. First, I am a slow and deliberate worker. Second, at this time I had not built a layout in almost 40 years, since I was a teenager; and although I had read about every advance in layout design and construction during that time, this was my first opportunity to put that knowledge into practice. Finally I took a hiatus from building the railroad in June, July and August of 2007 because of preparation for, and then taking an overseas trip.

In these photos, I have not yet installed the layout lighting or lighting valence. The basement, as built, had limited electrical service. I was able to bring only one more circuit into the basement as there was only one available circuit breaker position in my main service box, and I did not want to get into replacing the main service. Furthermore, lighting a layout of this size would have taken at least 3000 W of incandescent lighting, quite possibly a lot more. And I still plan, eventually, on moving (you never know in today's job market) so I did not want to invest in a lot of immovable infrastructure. The solution that I came up with was to light the layout with 4' long, dual-tube, "shoplight" florescent fixtures and tie these lights into the existing overhead lighting circuit. While this works well, I really hated to give up the dramatic and directional lighting possible with incandescent illumination.

A minor side benefit of florescent is that I could use 5000K color temperature lights which render colors much more accurately than incandescent. These lamps are not particularly expensive when bought in 10 packs at Home Depot for about $30. I made sure that I purchased shoplight fixtures that could use T8 bulbs. The T8s are the narrow ones which only use 32W vs. the T12 'fat' tubes at 40W; and the T8s actually give off more light.

Friday, July 24, 2009


Here's the first section of benchwork and typical of the design that I started with.

A word about the benchwork. The benchwork is open grid which I designed to be free-standing, with removable legs and in sections no longer than 7 feet. The sections are bolted together. Why all of this complication? Because in 2006 it was mine and my wife's intent to move to another house that we would custom build; and I intended for my railroad to move with me rather than start from scratch, which in O scale is too expensive. By keeping the sections to less than 7 feet they could fit into a U-Haul or PODS and by being freestanding they could be reassembled into any future basement.

The change in the economy in late 2008 and a job change in 2009 will keep me in this house for a while; but I'm still building with a future move in mind.

I have since changed my design to use 2x4 legs rather than 2x2 because I could not get straight 2x2 lumber - it would always twist and curl. Premium, straight 2x4s are always available and I have had only 1 go bad on me.

Track Plan

This is the track plan that I am building. It's around the walls of an approx. 26'x36' basement. The items in red are fixed obstacles in the basement: water heater, water tank, furnace, posts and the large 'L' shaped structure is the stairs. The plan was drawn in 3rd PlanIt. Minimum radius is 64".
It's supposed to represent the B&O West End with M&K Junction at the bottom of this picture, with the Cranberry Grade (with three tracks) proceeding to the east by B&O timetable (right in this picture) and the Cheat River grade (with two tracks) going west by B&O timetable (left on this diagram). the Cheat and Cranberry grade enter the 2-turn helix at bottom and top respectively and the helix serves as serial staging.

Ignore the yard-like arrangement in the lower center, it was totally changed during construction. Currently the track along the Bottom and right walls is built and I am working on the bench work in front of the water heater, lower left.

We moved into our current house in April 2006. The house did not have a garage and I had to find place for all of the 'stuff' that you accumulate. Unfortunately our new town was very difficult about building permits and was not making it easy to put up a garage. So I put up a couple of sheds instead to house all of the garden junk and household storage. This task took me until November of 2006.

Once the basement was clear to the point that there was room to work that did not clear the way for layout construction to begin. The basement was, indeed, unfinished. Bare concrete walls and floor and four single-bulb light fixtures. I had to finish framing the inside of the basement windows which were left oozing expanding foam. Then I painted the walls and floor to seal the concrete dust. The stairwell to the basement was a mess as well, so I finished that off to house the collection of railroad memorabilia that you accumulate over the years. I also installed some two-bulb florescent fixtures to alleviate the gloom. Things were looking up, but all of this pre-layout construction work took me almost a year to accomplish.

Monday, July 20, 2009


This is a place to discuss 2-Rail, O Scale railroading - but all model railroaders are welcome!

For those of you who don't know, O Scale does not refer to well-defined scale/gauge combination like HO does. There are 2 railers and 3 railers who call themselves "O". While 1:48 (1/4 in. = 1 Foot) is the accepted proportions for O scale in the US, in Europe the scale is 1:45 (17/64 in. = 1 Foot) and "Traditional" size (O-27) 3-rail trains use a proportion anywhere between 1:55 and 1:64. Finally the predominant gauge is 1 1/4 in. which, using the 1:48 scale common in the US, scales out to an incorrect 5 feet; there is a small community of US O scalers who re-gauge track and wheelsets to the exact 4' 8 1/2" gauge and call themselves "Proto:48"

We'll not belabor these differences here. We will not engage in the internecine 2 vs. 3 rail conflict; nor will we have any flame wars over the three command control systems in use in O (DCC, DCS and TMCC/Legacy).

So let's talk model railroading in the larger scale - whatever flavor you pursue.