M&K Junction Railroad

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

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Bridge Over The River Cheat

By June of 2008 the tracks that will become M&K Junction had reached the gap that will become the Cheat River, as you can see in the first photo below. Also in this photo you can see the jumble of trains, tracks, tools and materials that constitutes a layout under construction. About halfway down in this photo you can see the bridge abutments under construction on the table.

The other side of the Cheat River, which you can see in the next photo is being readied for two short tracks which will mate with the bridge and will establish the grade and alignment of the bridge. I hold my raisers and track board in place with clamps until grade and cross level are established then everything is screwed together to make it permanent.

The bridge that will go into this location is the Atlas O scale double track through truss bridge. At the real Cheat River crossing there were two through truss bridges until a flood in 1985 took out both spans. My bridge will be a single span because I do not have room for two spans. The bridge will be set level and the Cheat River grade will start about 1-passenger car length beyond the bridge on this side of the river.

The next photo shows the left (east by timetable) bridge abutment with the bridge deck in place above. Unfortunately, I did not take any contemporaneous photos of the bridge after installation and to take one now after the area has changed would not show the proper sequence of construction. (I have plenty of more recent photos of this location after the backdrop was installed - it's my favorite photo location so far)
The commercially available bridge abutments for the Atlas bridge are all cut stone and do not match the abutment that was in this location. On the other hand I could not find a clear picture of the abutment that was there in the '50s. The mid-river piers were cut stone until the flood, but I do not believe that by the '50s the abutments were still cut stone.
Therefore I was on my own. I downloaded a turn-of-the-century (twentieth century, that is) book on railroad engineering from Google Books and found a diagram for a NYC concrete abutment. Using selective compression and modeller's license I reduced and simplified the large prototype structure to fit my available space. The result is what you see in the following two pictures.

The abutment itself is scratchbuilt. I initially tried to make the entire thing out of MDF figuring that the uniform texture of MDF would shape easily - wrong! MDF does not take a raking angle cut (as is needed at the wing-wall to center section joint) no matter how many times I tried. I eventually gave up and fashioned the wing walls, with the trim, from 1/4" aspen bought at Home Depot. The parapet cap is also aspen, sanded and shaped to fit. The whole thing was given a coating of Rustoleum Multicolored texture paint and further colored with a wash of Floquil Aged Concrete. At some point before most of the other scenery in the river bottom is finished I will apply dirt, grime, rust, etc.

In these pictures the bridge does not have its truss structure in place and as of the date of this post it still does not. The trusses are painted and weathered, but will not be installed until this area is essentially fully finished. Otherwise I could just see myself, klutz that I am, destroying the trusses while doing the scenery or the backdrop.

I made the gap for the 40" wide bridge 48" wide figuring that this would be enough for abutments and approaches. If I had to do it over again, I would make the gap almost twice the span length to allow for the sloping of the river to the bed, the approach of the tracks on an embankment and closer to full-scale abutments with wing walls that allow for earthen embankments that are more nearly at the angle of repose.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Wheels Turn!

By February of 2008 I had laid track on one side of the Cheat River gap (unfortunately, no in-progress pictures) and I was itching to run a train; well not a train precisely, but at least a locomotive. So after careful consideration of which locomotive that might be, I threw caution to the wind and selected one of my brass locos, a USRA Light 2-10-2, as the first test subject. This was risky because just beyond where you see the loco stop in the video was a sheer drop to the concrete floor.

I ran this first-for-the-camera run quite fast because there was a dead frog on the turnout nearest the camera (in spite of wiring the frog to the contacts on the Tortoise switch machine); and this early Korean loco (open frame motor) doesn't do anything less than Warp 1.

A few days after I shot this, I was testing the switches and frogs using the shortest wheelbase loco that I had, an old AHM 4-wheel Plymouth, and it did take a trip to the floor. A few chips and a couple of broken couplers later, it's still running.

Those are Atlas #7 1/2 switches in the crossovers and, yes, they're facing point. This area is supposed to be the B&O helper station at M&K Junction (Rowlesburg, WV) and although I don't have anywhere near the room to even hint at the actual trackage, the arrangement must permit the three tracks coming off of the Cranberry Grade (in the distance) to reduce to two tracks to go over the Cheat River Bridge (behind the camera). I also tried to make it possible to tie on helpers going in either direction as the prototype did at this location.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Now for something completely different

I'm taking a break from describing the progress of building my layout to jump ahead to the present. On Aug. 15 2009 I took the enclosed video to demonstrate the operation of the Lenz XpressNet Phone Adaptor (XPA) in response to a question that I received on the O Gauge RR Forum. I’m posting the video now since I would post it here eventually.

The XPA allows you to use a cordless phone as a wireless operator’s throttle. The phone plugs into the XPA which in turn is plugged into the Lenz XpressNet via a phone jack. And that’s a point I did not make clear enough in the video; the phone jack is connected to the Lenz command station, it is not a phone jack connected to your household phone wiring. The cordless phone cannot be used to make phone calls and it is dedicated to the Lenz XPA, unless you disconnect it and reconnect it to your phone jack in the wall.

Lenz uses a cordless phone as a wireless throttle for a very clever reason. Lenz sells systems worldwide, to market a wireless throttle they would have to certify the system in every country where they sell it – a very expensive proposition. By using the cordless phone as the wireless link in their system, the phone manufacturer has assumed the cost and risk of certification. The user simply uses a phone certified in his own country.

I also made a mistake in the video, that’s a Weaver RS-3, not an RS-2 as I voice in the clip; my mistake, attribute it to a senior moment! I also mention that this RS-3 has an old MRC decoder that is 28 speed steps. It’s actually a 14/28 speed step decoder and I suspect that it is operating at 14 steps since it takes 2 speed steps before there is a noticeable change in speed.

You could use a number of cordless phones as throttles since there are at least 3 radio bands for cordless phones (900 MHz, 2.4 GHz and 5.8 GHz.) and there are multiple channels in each band. The ultimate limit would be the XpressNet which has a limit of 30 throttles.

Enjoy the video.