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!

Proto:87 Posse Builds Turnouts

Last night was a hideous night for driving to Langley. The roads were deep and shining with rain, and in traffic my windshield wipers could barely keep up. As with most North Vancouverites, I rarely go across the Second Narrows, much less the Port Mann Bridge, and so, of course we missed our turn and overshot. Fortunately, Julian had his phone with him and was able to redirect me back to the true path.

Jim Peters was our gracious host for the evening. And thrust drinks into our hands as soon as we were in the door; that helped to cool our nerves after the drive.

Jim has started benchwork for his model of a chunk of Prince Rupert yard. The yard throat will be to scale, although he’s elided a few tracks. He will also replace the western-most turnouts with a sector plate to save a little more room. In an unusual solution to prototype modeling in a small space, the mainline will curve across two of the yard tracks so it can avoid disappearing out the window, and follow the walls around to a small staging yard behind his drafting table.

Jim’s not quite committed to Proto:87 yet as he’s unsure if he can build track that will work. At the last meeting we realized that most of the Posse are in the same boat and have never built a turnout before. So we brought along Brian Pate, who has built more track than anyone I know. With Brian, we had a little hand-laying mini-clinic right in Jim’s train room.

Brian provided some short instruction and then a couple of us sallied forth with soldering irons blazing. Key takeaways for me were that Brian only uses PC board ties through his turnouts, rather than mixing PC board and wood as many people do. He tins all his ties as well as the underside of his rail.

He builds all his turnouts on full-size templates off the layout; the template is affixed to his favorite piece of plywood with Lepage spray on adhesive, and the ties are glued down with Lepage Hobby Cement. These both dissolve with lacquer thinner when he’s finished the soldering and ready to move the track to the layout. Between turnouts, Brian uses flex track.

Unfortunately, we hadn’t room for everyone to sling their solder, and so, most watched and listened. I built a curved number 7 because Chris declared he couldn’t understand how to make curved turnouts work. Brian already had a turnout under construction.

We take different approaches to building turnouts. Brian uses the method that I was originally taught many years ago: lay the two stock rails, and then joggle the frog around until it is in perfect gauge relative to the stock rails.

Brian’s is the easier way to build track, but it typically results in the point of the frog falling wherever it wants to, rather than on a specific tie as per the prototype. Since people started nit-picking my track, I’ve been gauging the frog to one stock rail, then laying the other stock rail to the frog.

Unfortunately, I didn’t bring anything to pin my rail down with as I was soldering it, and so, the gauge on the diverging route got kind of wonky. In particular the flangeway was much too wide, and we got a good demonstration of why that is no good when I ran a truck through. The main route was perfect, however, and a truck ran through nicely without a guard rail.

I think everyone finished the night with a little more knowledge and inspiration to try out handlaying themselves. Next meetup is tentatively schedule for Julian’s place. I’m hoping for every extra month I can get as my basement is nowhere near ready to host the posse!

Proto:87 Posse Progress

It’s been a few months since I posted on the progress of the Proto:87 Posse. Since that time, we have visited Jim Peters and Julian Watson and mostly talked about their plans. This month we were out to Andrew Hutchinson’s place, where we spent a little time reviewing his ideas for a small display layout. Then it was out to the shop to work on Julian’s modules.

Julian is building a P:87w63 (That’s Proto:87 5’3″ gauge) layout of Victorian Railways. He started with six modules that he built in Perth and had shipped over here, but has decided to redo the bases as he was not happy with their precision. For the mulligan, he is going with the new-fangled construction popularized in MRJ.

By golly this is a lot of work! It had better be worth it! At the end of the evening, with four of us working on gluing and nailing, we had enough bits to put together three modules, but we pulled the plug before doing more than a test-fit.

The Continuing Travels of the Proto:87 Posse

It’s been two months since we were at Chris’s house. In October we traveled out to Langley to visit Jim and see his space. It was largely a talking session, and I think he’s been convinced to bend Prince Rupert around the room to allow a little running room. He’s in the middle of renovating the main floor of his house right now, and just sawed off the ends of his fingers, and so, it will be interesting to see his progress the next time we’re out there.

This month we went to Julian’s place and mostly thumbed through his collection of books on Victorian railways and checked out his baseboards. We made a giant stack of baseboards so we could work on height visualization.

Next month we’re out to Andrew’s where he’s coming up with a plan for a small portable display. Then in February, we’re at my place again. Hopefully by then the basement’s ready to receive a layout, as I have every intention of putting these eight hands to work and getting a start on building when they’re here.

I’d better get to work! Where did I put that Tuck Tape?

The Proto:87 Posse at Chris Reid’s House

This week, the Proto:87 Posse (we had to come up with a catchy name) showed up at Chris’ house. Chris has benchwork in place for half his layout and wanted some help on figuring out what to do with it. He’s new to Proto:87, but I have a feeling, judging by some of the track he’s handlaid before, that he’s going to be a big producer once he gets going.

He’s been collecting passenger equipment and has a ton of really nice cars. Sadly, like all of us, he is a wee bit tight for space, and so, we’re not going to see the Super Continental winding its way through the Rockies on his layout. We did come up with what we believe is a workable concept for terminal switching his passenger trains, though. There is also space for a tiny bit of freight switching, but the focus is going to be passenger.

We left him with a table top covered in trains and boxes, all aligned along hastily drafted full-size track center lines. By the time we were done, we were all excited about the concept, and we really hope that the radii actually work out.

His homework for next time is to get some P87 wheels under some of his passenger cars, the Rapido ones especially, and play with them on the different radii of tracks. We’re quite concerned that the working diaphragms are going to be a problem on 42″ curves.

Proto:87 Vancouver

On Saturday, September 3, we had the first ever meeting of Proto:87 modelers in Vancouver. Julian Watson, who moved from Australia a week ago Thursday, suggested we get together, and Jim and I put out a notice to our respective networks. In the end, there were five of us to share burgers and beers on my deck.

We had a good time jawing about wheels and track and ultimately decided we would form a round robin group to help with each other’s layouts. We’ll be meeting the first Wednesday of the month, starting at Chris’ in October. Watch this space!