Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Doubling Staging Capacity

One advantage of modeling a one-train-a-day branch is that solo operation is no problem. Sure, I'd love to have two- or three-person crews, but until enough folks get vaccinated (happy to report I got my first vaccine a couple of weeks ago!) solo sessions aren't going away anytime soon!

My staging consisted of exactly one track for St. Albans and one track for the CP in Richford!). About 10 days ago I noticed  everything - and I mean everything - was derailing as it came out of the St. Albans track.  

I'd had some noticeable rail kinks in one or two spots on the layout a few weeks ago - likely due to the rather sudden change in temperature and humidity. Most of these were easily fixed but in the case of this particular track something about the temperature and humidity shift, and/or the track itself, caused the rail to actually separate from the ties in the meat of a curve. 

Even before it became my version of a monorail, I'd noticed  issues with the brass 2-8-0s on this curve. As they went through the curve the top of the extended tender coal bunker would just touch the edge of the cab roof causing the locomotive to short. 

Since I had to relay the track anyway I opted to increase the radius of the curve. I even found I could add a Peco curved turnout and add another staging track - doubling the storage/display capacity of my yard. 
This hill, built in somewhat of a rush prior to an open house, never really looked right to me. 

I'd never liked how the hardshell hill at the other end of the staging track had come out. When I built it - just before our Christmas 2019 open house - I didn't brace it sufficiently so the whole thing kind of sagged in all sorts of odd ways. 

One thing that made this spot a little problematic was access to the wall switch that controls the room lights. I didn't want the switch plate to be visible, so I added a opening in the fascia that I can reach into to turn the lights on and off. To prevent another sagging hillside incident I constructed a Gatorboard former cut to the rough outline of the hillside with a hole cut to clear the light switch. A box from a couple of pieces of Gatorboard was added to make the recessed area look a little cleaner and to stop the hill from dropping down. 

The new hill under construction, with the Gatorboard former against the wall. (The two staging tracks are visible center left against the wall).  

The hillside is made from strips of foamboard cut to rough dimensions, glued in place vertically and side to side, and then formed to the final shape. That hill is basically solid so it isn't going anywhere anytime soon. The very top surface is florist foam to facilitate installing trees. 

Next step will be to fill in some of the gaps in the hillside, paint, and add ground texture and foliage.