M&K Junction Railroad

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

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Open House Success

I think that my open house today was a great success.  In all, 16 people attended, and I found out that 15 people plus me pretty much fills up the basement.  People were not one on top of the other but, as you can see, the aisles were full.  Acting as host (and also tending to inevitable mishaps) usually allows little time for taking pictures and video, but this time I got in a few (I wish that I had taken more).

Bringing a coal drag east over the Cheat River into M&K Junction

Coal moves east up Cranberry grade (right) and a westbound manifest is about to summit the helix (left).  Even the wives were interested.

Here's that coal drag moving up Cranberry Grade moments before

When not at the throttle, guys were chewing the fat

The westbound manifest freight pulls into M&K

A view east up Cranberry Grade

I really get a kick out of seeing these pictures and the enjoyment that my guests were having.  I'm now even more enthusiastic to finish more of the layout to be able to run a parade of trains and begin formal operations.

We were able to run helper service pushing the coal train up Cranberry Grade.  The train would not make it around Graveyard curve (where the grade stiffens) without the helper.  The task of handling the road locomotive on one of the shoves was even accomplished by a 12 year old boy.  

When I could turn away from my guests, the sight of trains passing on the double and triple track grades was exciting. I wasn't able to take much video (and I apologize for a shaky hand) but what I did capture brings a smile to my face.

In the first clip, that really is a steam helper pushing backwards.  The prototype did it that way and there were valid reasons for me to do it that way on the model.  

In the second clip, the coal train that was being pushed in the first clip has reached the top of the grade and the pusher just comes into view as the clip switches.  The pusher will be cut off to reverse and go back down the grade (facing the right way, see why it pushes backwards!) to be ready for the next shove.

In the final clip the coal train has come downgrade, without the helper, and is about to come into M&K Junction to complete it's circuit of the layout.  You also hear someone ask for me - which is why I do not get more pictures and video!

After the layout we all had lunch of BBQ from a local BBQ chain; and it was superb.

In all it was a great day and I want to thank my guests for making it wonderful.

Now I will take a pause from construction to add additional power boosters (the wiring for them is already in place), tend to some unpowered frogs and tight spots on turnouts (more frog juicers needed!).  Then begin adding decoders to more locos and revamping some of the existing older decoders.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

First Loco On Cranberry Grade

Today, after returning from a Trail Life USA camping trip, I got a loco operating on Cranberry Grade.  Since Cranberry is a future standalone power district, I can isolate it from the rest of the layout.  I did so then hooked up my auxiliary DCC System (a Lenz Compact) took a loco which was at hand (a Weaver FB-2 repainted for an early 1950s B&O unit) and ran it up and down Cranberry, on all three tracks, stopping short of the crossovers at the top.

Having proven out the track/electrical on Cranberry Grade, I reconnected it to the rest of the layout and operated it from the main DCC system (Lenz Set 100).  I was concerned about doing this as the length of run from the main unit is well beyond the DCC specification.  However, I have found Lenz equipment to be bullet proof and it operated properly.  After I finish all of the main track I will be installing additional power boosters/districts which should alleviate any signal problems.

I can't wait to see some steam on the Grade!

Friday, April 17, 2015

From Russia With Love?

A curious thing has been happening on this blog over the last few weeks. Pageviews from Russia have been increasing.  They had been creeping up for several weeks, but in the last couple of weeks, pageviews from Russia have been far and away #1.  In fact on all of the days of this week pageviews from Russia have exceeded, or have been within a very few views of exceeding, all of the pageviews from the rest of the world combined!
What’s up with that?  I am flattered that I have been discovered in Russia.  Or has my blog been listed on a prominent Russian model railroading website?  I don’t think so because there are no referring URLs from Russia.  What is the state of model railroading in Russia?  I believe that at one time I read that the old Soviet Union made an electric train set in “O” gauge (probably 7mm/foot, 1/43).  What model trains are manufactured in Russia today?  How prevalent is model railroading in Russia?  Maybe one of the Russian readers can comment on these questions.

добро пожаловать

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

East Meets West

Working with all deliberate speed, I have finished the track leading up to the crossovers from both directions and the two ends of the layout are physically connected.

That is not to say that I am ready to run trains around the basement.  There are some feeders to install, gaps between (future) power districts to cut and the inevitable electrical gremlins to chase down; but I should just make it to my April 25 open house with at least one track operating.

In the picture above, both tracks from the helix are connected to the crossovers (background) and two of the three tracks from Cranberry Grade are connected while roadbed for the third track (on the right) is coming along.

I must admit, looking back along the Cranberry Grade is a great sight; and gives the flavor of the prototype.

The downgrade track on Cranberry will only be usable if I can get switch machines installed on one of the crossovers by the 25th.  If not I will spike the crossovers so that the one track from the helix feeds straight through to the center track on Cranberry.  The third track on Cranberry might be installed, but unlikely that it will be usable.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The Facing Point Crossovers

There are two facing point crossovers where the Cranberry Grade feeds into the top of the helix.  The purpose of these crossovers is to allow trains from the three-track Cranberry Grade to enter the two-track helix on the proper eastbound or westbound track and vice versa.  

I had been building the turnouts in the crossovers through a few of the weekends in March and early April. The turnouts were built in Fast Track's jigs.  I was able to install them tonight and complete the roadbed leading up to them.

The roadbed and track for two of the tracks on Cranberry Grade are in the foreground (the third, at the right, roadbed is not finished).  In the background, the roadbed for tracks from the helix are ready to receive track.   

Once the turnouts had ties attached (by epoxy) and they were in place on the layout, I cut through the frogs and made sure that the left and right rails were electrically separate before adding the next one or the track leading up to it. Several ties along the length of the turnout were reinforced with Micro Engineering medium spikes, that also help hold the turnout in place.  ME small spikes will be added to the remaining ties later, mostly for cosmetic purposes.

Tomorrow I hope to have the tracks leading up to these turnouts in place and, if that is the case, the two ends of the layout will be physically connected.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

3D Printer Arrives

The SeeMeCNC Rostock Max V2 printer kit arrived today, along with three spools of filament.  SeeMeCNC shipped it via USPS 2 Day Priority Mail, but...the Post Office would not deliver it to my door because it is "oversize". I had to go pick it up which is not a problem as the Post Office is just a mile or so down the road; but it is frustrating. SeeMeCNC might do well to skip the premium shipping as long as the Post Office makes you come to get your package.

Now to find the time to assemble it.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015


After three attempts, I finally got the suspended part of the Cranberry Grade right! If you have been reading this blog, you'll know about the small section (about 15')  of double deck that I have incorporated into the layout as an afterthought (i.e. it was not in the original plan).  It allows the approach into and out of lower staging to be visible inasmuch as this is a nice sweeping curve that would otherwise be covered (lower staging is itself an afterthought and not in my original plan).

I had made two unsuccessful attempts to support the upper section, which is on Cranberry Grade. The supports obscured too much of the curve below and it looked like peering through a narrow slit at the lower tracks.  The second unsuccessful attempt is recorded here: The Twelve Days of Christmas.  After two tries, I had to stop and really think out what I wanted to do next.

The only support for the upper deck is via the backdrop and/or suspended from the ceiling.  While I did not want suspension wires, I could not see a way around it.  What I decided to do was to build something akin to a through plate girder bridge:
  • Thicken the subroadbed by adding a 1/2 inch layer below the existing 3/4 inch subroadbed to stiffen it up.
  • Added suspension wires from the outer (aisle) side of the subroadbed up to the floor joists above.  These wires are a single strand of #12 piano wire (240# breaking strength) and only 0.029 inch thick.
  • Add 1x2 lumber athwart the underside of the roadbed to act as "beams".
  • Screw a metal "L" slotted angle iron to the backdrop to use as a ledger on which the backside of the beams rests.
  • Glue and brad nail two thickness of 3" x 1/8" masonite to the outside (aisle) edge of the subroadbed to act like the plate girder to stiffen the upper deck.
The following photos document the construction:

First, I added the additional 1/2 inch of subroadbed along the entire suspended section. 

Then I added the suspension wires. The upper ends of the suspension wires were fitted with small turnbuckles (from Home Depot) that allow me to adjust the subroadbed for level and will allow me to compensate for the weight of scenery in the future. The turnbuckles will eventually be hidden by the valence

Screw eyes were placed on the outside (aisle) side of the subroadbed and the other end of the wire inserted, pulled taught, passed through the eye a few times and then  wrapped securely.

The beams and the angle iron went in next.  Since the subroadbed was already to grade, and I did not want to disturb it, I clamped the beams to the underside of the subroadbed, fitted the angle iron to the ends of the beams, then screwed everything together.  The final product looks like this from the underside.

Here the first strip of Masonite is in place on the edge of the shelf.  

Glue was applied to the edge of the subroadbed and the ends of the beams then the Masonite was held in place while an air nailer drove brads through the Masonite into the subroadbed. The strip was applied with about 1/2 inch above the level of the subroadbed and 2 1/2 inches below.  The 2 1/2 inches hides all of the supports below the upper deck and provides 1/2 inch of space on the backside of the lower edge for mounting LED strip lighting.

When I first applied this with glue and brad nails from a nail gun, the upper deck still flexed more than I would have liked.  However, I had faith in my design and I let it be.  After the glue had time to set up, the shelf flexed a whole lot less.  In fact, the one thickness of 1/8 inch Masonite would have been enough.  But since I applied the Masonite with the rough side facing out, anticipating another layer with the smooth side out, I was compelled to apply the second strip.

Here's the second strip glued and clamped in place.  

Joints between the first and second layer are offset for strength.  I used no brads through the second layer for a nice finish surface.

And here is the final result.

I must admit that I am very pleased with the result.  The thin upper deck gives the lower level a feeling of spaciousness and openness; and there are no supports below to obscure the view.  The Masonite end cap gives this part of the layout a hint of it's finished appearance. There is minimal deflection at the center of the 15' suspended section and none towards the ends where it ties into structure.

On the other hand, the suspension wires, thin as they are, will detract from trains on the upper level.  And I've already discovered that they interfere with track laying up there.

Lessons learned: Increasing the thickness of the subroadbed gained me little; 3/4" would have been enough.  One thickness of Masonite as the flange would have sufficed; maybe going up to 3/16" thickness, just to be sure.  I have 5 suspension wires unevenly spaced along the 15' span (because of overhead obstructions); not all of them are bearing the same load and I believe that 3 would suffice.

I believe that a modification of this structure: 3/4" subroadbed; 1x2 lumber laid edgewise rather than flat and 3" x 1/8" flanges on both sides of the roadbed for stiffening would make an excellent shelf layout and/or upper deck structure that would only need widely spaced support from above or below.

With this major task completed, and all of the turnouts for this stretch of the layout completed, it's a race to the finish line - I think that I'll make it!

Thursday, April 2, 2015

I Took The Plunge

Well, I finally overcame indecision and inertia and bought a 3D printer. I ordered a SeeMeCNC Rostock Max V2. This machine is what is called a "delta" 3D printer.

So why this machine and not one that's more popular like the Makerbot or one from 3D Systems?  There are a number of practical considerations.  The size of the build volume is 11" diameter by 14.5 inches high. That should allow me to print a 40 foot O scale car on the build platform. And, due to the delta design, the build platform does not move which results in more accurate prints and better adhesion to the build platform. The Rostock Max has a heated build platform, which allows you to print in different materials not just PLA. The Rostock is an open architecture, as opposed to Makerbot and 3D Systems which try to tie you into their ecosystem. Finally, SeeMeCNC is an actual company with real employees and a physical plant - this is not a garage operation or a Kick Starter.

The only fly in the ointment is that the Rostock Max is a kit, requiring 20 hours of assembly. It will arrive next week, but I will not be able to begin assembly before May. So it' s going to be quite a while before that first print materializes.