Pembroke II Benchwork Nearing Completion

Starting in January, the Proto:87 Posse has upped its activity level here in Vancouver. Julian Watson had been hosting us about once a month through the fall of 2012. We increased this to bi-weekly in the new year because, well, we weren’t making sufficient progress. Then in March, we started cutting out the pieces for my layout, Pembroke II. The sketch below shows the plan.

Pembroke II Plan

Frankly, I’m amazed at how quickly we’ve gone. The first evening was a little disappointing, but since then, we’ve started each visit with a job list, and we’ve rarely had an idle hand. Consequently, the benchwork is all but finished. We’ll be doing a lot of the work in my garage because once this layout is installed, it’s going to be hard to get in and work on the track.

The benchwork is entirely plywood, either left over from renovating the basement, or recovered from the demolition of the old basement. Indeed, apart from two boxes of screws, and a little bit of beer and chips, I’ve not spent any money on the layout so far. There are two sections, one twelve feet long, and the other six (north and south, respectively. The depth of the benchwork is at most 24″, but it is designed to overlap the ledge at the top of my foundation, and so, the full depth of the layout will be as much as 30″. It’s open-frame construction, with two layers of 1/2″ ply for the roadbed.

By the end of the evening, we were missing only one section of the second layer. ¬†Actually, we cut it, but for some reason (probably haste), it turned out wrong, so I’ll have to find another scrap. ¬†Below you can see Julian surveying the state of affairs before heading home.

Test fitting the sections together

Posse comes to Pembroke

I could hold them off no longer. It was time for the posse to descend on my own basement, which has been in renovation for over a year. When I invited them, I had grand hopes of being in a place where they could actually help me with benchwork construction, but as the date loomed, it became clearer and clearer that this would not be the case.

So, they arrived to find the basement clean, but the walls still unfinished, and the floor still bare plywood. There was no electrictricity, save for the old lights and an extension chord from far away.

However, I had cut out the shape for the top of the baseboard that will go in the corner. This will provide a home for the engine facilities and Pembroke Manufacturing. I was most curious to see if the engine house will fit on the baseboard, and so, we set out with a large compass and pencils, some paper and various boxes and blocks of wood and mocked it up.

The result can be seen in the photo. The container to the left will be the engine house. The coffee cup and jar of screws on the right will be the water tower, which will mark the end of the scenicked portion of the layout. Staging is out of bounds on the window sill to the right. In behind, the pieces of wood represent Pembroke Manufacturing, which I have moved from its original location north of the engine facilities because, well, I don’t have room to represent the whole line!

Pembroke Manufacturing will be the only trailing-point spur as a train is inbound to Pembroke, and thus makes an important operational element. In fact, the more I run through operations in my head, the more excited I become to get to operations. I had originally thought it would be a one-horse layout, but further study of the timetable shows that, with the operation of a special, I may be able to keep two trains busy. The sequence would go something like this:

  1. Operator 1 takes Train 51, the daily direct train to Ottawa (staging)
  2. Operator 2 takes Mixed Train 45, to Golden Lake (staging)
  3. Operator 1 brings the baseball special from Ottawa
  4. Operator 2 returns from Golden Lake with Passenger Train 44
  5. Operator 1 takes the baseball special to, say, Barry’s Bay (staging). These were quite common along the CA, although I’m not as certain about the Pembroke Branch
  6. Operator 2 takes passenger Train 43 to Golden Lake
  7. Operator 2 returns from Golden Lake with mixed Train 46
  8. Operator 1 brings the baseball special back from Barry’s Bay, and returns it to Ottawa
  9. Operator 1 takes the baseball special returns to Ottawa
  10. Operator 1 returns from Ottawa with Train 52

Will it keep two operators sufficiently engaged for an evening’s fun? I don’t know, but I’m excited to find out. Of course, we’re years away from having enough stock! Two more engines need to be built, as well as the layout, and the first engine took me four years. However, we model railroaders are great at imagining things that have yet to be built.

Meanwhile, the drywall goes up next Tuesday and the room needs to be ready to serve as a guest room for our Christmas guest. It’s been a full-court press for months, and there is no sign of abating. There is a long list of tasks to complete before the drywallers arrive, and I guess I’d better get to it!

Goodbye to Pembroke I

I am often asked if I have a layout, and I’m always cagey about it. Technically, you could say I have a layout. This is the layout I described back in Model Railroad Planning 1999 (at least I think it was 99). Most of the photos in that article were of a little diorama I created, though, and there are few photos published of the actual layout. Here is the long, sad story of my first model of Pembroke, which never got off the ground.

In about 1996, I proposed an article on planning for Proto87 in Model Railroad Planning. The editor didn’t see the angle at first, but after a few drafts, I convinced him. Then, I decided to move to England in the summer of 1997. So, I decided I would get as much as I could done before we went so I could take some photos that highlighted it.

Through the spring, I worked feverishly on finishing some of the layout, any part of the layout, finally concentrating on the area around the crossover. Then I was ready to take pictures, but the weather wasn’t cooperative. I got some halogen flood lights because I didn’t want to plump for expensive photo floods, and attempted the photos with those. I also shot a role outside at dawn on one of the only nice days we got. Unfortunately I swapped the rolls of film (you remember rolls of film, right?) and wound up with one set that was totally yellow and another that was totally blue.

It was too late to shoot again, I was moving across the ocean in a matter of days, and the layout was already in storage under my friend Scott Calvert’s layout. So, I resolved to build a little diorama that would serve for the article once I got to England.

Pembroke looking south

So the layout sat under Scott’s layout for four years while we traveled around Europe and suffered in Henley on Thames. While we were there, some things happened. The first one was an encounter with Bruce Pappin, who had the first photos I’d actually seen of the townsite. Up until now I had been working from fire insurance plans, and some assumptions. Nothing like building a model to make a photo of the real thing show up, I always say.

In Bruce’s photos, you can clearly see that I got the level of the river completely wrong, and the gound around the station is not right either. Both of these are difficult to change, especially the river as it holds the fascia to the curve at which it is bent.

The second thing that happened is that one of the stock rails came loose. This shouldn’t have been such a big deal, but it was soldered to studs that were in turn soldered to PC board under the ballast. I can’t see how I can mend this without making a cold joint inside the ballast or lifting the ballast. That method of track laying was, it turns out, not especially good.

Frog detail

I could fix everything, but there comes a time when the list of things to fix is so long, it’s just easier to start over, and I think I’m there now. Certainly the fact that the layout sat for almost eight – count ’em – years partially set up in our current basement indicates that there is something seriously wrong.

So, I’m starting over. This is the year that we renovate the basement and make it a comfortable place for making trains and for the kids to play. Time will tell how these two activities mix.