PVRR CHEMICAL PLANT CONSTRUCTION PROJECT
FOLLOW ALONG AS WE BEGIN CONSTRUCTION ON A NEW AREA ON THE LAYOUT
Calm Before The Storm
This is a visual representation of what the area looked like prior to construction. This area was an extension of the COX Sawmill located on the opposite side of the mountain. This freight depot was used as a shipping area for the products generated by the sawmill. On the opposite side of the main track was a small M.O.W yard and equipment staging.
Developing a Plan
One of the most challenging aspects of an area redesign on a club layout is finding a plan that everyone agrees on. We have a group of experienced modelers at the club that put their ideas together and agreed we would benefit from having an industry that uses tank cars to transport their goods. We decided on a refinery for this area. This is an example of what we are planning.
The Old Freight Depot
Pictured is the old Freight Depot that the membership was no longer using. During our inhouse operating sessions, club members found that switching out this industry was troublesome and that most, if not all of the switches and track were worn out and no longer useable. It was decided to clear out this area and begin construction on an updated industry that's easy to switch and maintain.
Getting Ready For Demolition
Having a full time railroader as a member of the club has its perks! Before we began construction, we made sure to "protect" our crews from any active tracks and trains that ran through the area of the layout we were working on. Pictured here is an actual railroad Form D that controls train movements on the real railroad. Our Engineer member thought it would be funny to fill one out for our model railroad!
Protecting the Mainline
Just like in the real world, flagman are positioned along the right of way to protect roadway workers against the movement of trains through an area of construction. The Form D in the last photo specifies the location of where the flagman are to be positioned to protect the track workers. Shown here are our HO scale flagman at Weehawken Junction. These guys also come in handy when switching during operating sessions.
The first step of any project that involves replacing an existing area of the layout is demolition. In this picture you will notice that all of the track and ballast has been removed along with the ground cover down to the sublayer of the layout. Additionally extra scenery is removed and stored for use later. You will also notice that club members removed a section of rock face that will make room for a runaround siding and loading track in the new area.
Discussion or Argument?
Once everyone starts hearing the commotion of construction, they start making their way out of the back room to see what all the noise is about. This photo captures one of the many conversations had with the other members to discuss the plans of the new area. Involving the membership in the decision making process is very important and usually allows for additional and sometimes better ideas to be suggested and implemented.
Saws and Chissels
Moving mountains is no easy task! However, the Dremel tool makes quick work of removing the plaster. This old road is too narrow to serve the new industry and thus we must "blast" away some rock to widen the road. A vaccuum is used to collect the dust generated so it does not land on other sections of the layout scenery. Our expert demolition team made quick work of this rock face removal project.
Rock Demolition Complete
The planning comitee had originally thought we would widen the road using a retaining wall detail. However, club members discussed and agreed that cutting the hillside further back would allow us to slope the hill back down to the road and re-create new rock face as well. This proved to be a better plan and will allow us to put more rock detail back onto the layout. It is important to keep as many scenery details as possible.
The new industry no longer required the siding track used by the M.O.W crew and thus needed to be removed. Upon removal of the siding it was decided to remove the switch and eliminate any extra short pieces of track. Here you can see a member removing the individual track sections. Water mixed with rubbing alcohol is used to loosen up the glue and ballast which allows the removal of the track from the roadbed underneath.
Installing New Track
Once the switches have been removed, replacement track must be placed through the area. Each section of track is nailed down with tiny rail spikes to hold the ties in place. Later on, ballast and glue will be added to the new track to hold it in place. Eventually the new track and ballast will be painted to match the existing layout's coloration and details. You wont even realize this is a new section of track!
Finalizing the Track Position
Once the new track has been installed, its important to make sure that the curvature matches the existing track so that there are no kinks that would cause derailments. In this picture you can see a club member up on a ladder looking down at the track while another member works to remove a kink at the new switch. This switch will allow access into the new industry area.
Final Mainline Track Layout
Here is the final result of the track replacement project. You maybe able to see where the old track and switches were located before they were removed. The next step will be to ballast and glue down the track and then paint everything to match. Scenery wise the sub-layout will be painted to hide all of the different colorations before final scenery is added.
Sealing With Paint
We use homasote to build up the sublayer of our railroad. Homasote is a construction material similar to dry wall that is used for sound deffening. Before we place the cork road bed on top of the homasote, it is imperative that the fiber board is sealed to prevent warping when we add the glue and water to the ballast to lock in the track. If you skip this step, the homasote will delaminate creating a ton of problems!
A Quick Test Fit
Upon installation of the new homasote section, we were able to layout some track to get an understanding of what the new track plan might look like for the area. We are not yet sure how the buildings will sit in the new area so the track plan is only a mark up of a suggestion. We do want to install a run around section here for operations so this layout is close to what the final product will be.
Filling In Some Holes
The new section of homasote was not a perfect fit in the empty space so now the gaps need to be filled in so we have a continuous level area to lay track and place scenery. Pictured is a club member using toilet paper and a mixture of water and Elmer's glue to make a basic papier-mâché like material to fill in and cover the gaps between the old and new sections of homasote.
A Smooth Surface
With all of the gaps filled and covered between the old and new sections of homasote, the only thing left to do is let it sit and dry. We were also able to fill in the holes between the mainline and the lower section of the new area which we will later detail to form a rock face using scenic plaster and a rock carving tool. Now we just need to paint the homasote to seal it in preventing moisture intrusion.
More often than not, when reconstructing an area of the layout, you will find that there are elevation changes between new and old sections of the layout. In order to smooth out these transitions so that we can lay track, we utilize wood construction shims used for framing doors to create a ramp like section of the base layer to lay track upon. This ensures a smoot transition between two sections and thus wont cause derailments when we run trains.
Sealing The New Homasote
Now that the papier-mâché has dried, it must be painted to seal it from moisture intrusion. Painting also helps hide the different colorations and also prepares the area for the addition of ground cover. Once this are has dried, everything will be hard as a rock and ready for the installation of track components and then wiring. Once building placement is finalized, track laying can begin.
Ready For Ballast
This particular section of the railroad was shown earlier in our picture series. We have finished with the homasote sealing and track work and now this section of track is ready for ballasting. Before we begin ballasting, wire drops must be soldered to the outside of the rails which allow us to send power to the track to move the trains. Once everything is wired up and tested we will begin ballasting.
More Scenery Changes
Upon testing out the layout of the new track for the industry, the club members found that additional scenery needed to be removed to make way for the new track. Sadly, that required us to tear into the area we had just finished repairing the sub scenery on. The additional removal of the rock face will allow us to install a straighter section of track we plan on using for the switching lead.
Moving Over the Track
Pictured here is the track coming out of the Cox Saw Mill. We want to tie this piece of track into the new switching lead and that's going to require we reposition the curvature of the track to meet up with the new switch. This also required the removal of more rock to make way for the track. Eventually this area will be filled and with a retaining wall and new rock structure to replace the removed scenery.
The New Runaround
This photo shows the beginnings of the track laying for the runaround we are installing for the new industry. Trains can either pull into the new siding or reverse into it depending on their direction of travel. Once inside the new industry area, trains can utilize the run around to ensure their engine is on the right side of the consist for switching operations.
Replacing a Signal
The signal shown here was removed during the demolition phase and had to be reinstalled now that we are done with the demolition. This signal will now be used to protect the crossover going into the new area. Additionally, this signal serves as the distant signal to the yard lead switch around the corner. This signal currently shows "Clear" and when the switch is thrown into the area the signal will read "Stop"
Future Signal Placement
On the real railroad, signals show status of switch point position and also give instructions to the engineer on how fast they are allowed to travel through the switch. Once ballasting is completed, two pedestal style Pennsylvania Railroad Signals will be placed in the yellow circles to protect the crossover switches and to inform our engineers how fast to operate through the switches.
PRR Pedestal Signals
The Pennsylvania Railroad employed Pedestal Signals in areas where they needed full sized signals but had constrictions with space. The solution was to stack two dwarf style signals on top of each other and engineers would read them as high signals. This signal shows Medium Clear which tells the engineer to take the next right hand switch at medium speed. This is the signal style referenced in the prior layout photo to the left.
Our crews began working on repairs to the rock face we had to move to make way for the road widening project. We first placed foam into the empty area to support the top of the existing hill structure. Then we shaved down the foam to level out the edges. Finally we covered the foam with "Plaster Paper" and allowed it to cure. More plaster will be added to shape rocks into the face of the hill and then it will be painted to match the layout scenery.
Final Repairs to Homasote
The last piece of homasote needed to complete the area was installed and sealed with brown paint. Once the paint dries, we can lay the track that goes in this section. This piece of track comes out of the saw mill and will be tied into the new track work for easier access into the saw mill area. Eventually a retaining wall will be placed in the gap between the mainline and the new track work.
Track Work Begins
Here you can see how the track plan is finally coming together. We utilize both straight and curved switches to achieve the smooth curves required to run trains without derailing. Track laying is an intricate process and does require a decent amount of skill. Eventually this whole area will be ballasted and will receive final scenery repair. You can also see in this picture the gap in the layout where the retaining wall will go.
Finishing Up the Trackwork
With everything in its final resting place and the different track sections connected together, you can stand back and make sure there are no kinks in the track that may cause derailments. It is important to ensure the curves are smooth and flow together nicely. If the train cars bunch up anywhere, that can cause the cars to jump off the track in tight curves. We use PECO medium sized switches to minimize tight curves.
Wiring Up the Track
Once the track work is complete, our members need to power the track. This is done by soldering small wire "drops" onto the outside of the rail and fishing them down to the underside of the layout. From there all of the wires are connected together and then connected to the power source. Each individual section gets a drop to ensure we are not relying on rail joiners to carry the voltage. Eventually, the rail joiners fail and you loose track power.
The first phase of the track plan is completed. Now we wait on the membership to vote on the idea for the new industry. We laid out a template so members can get an idea on how the industry might look and operate. Once an idea is decided on, scenery and building construction can resume on the new area.
Make sure to keep checking in for regular updates!
KEEP CHECKING BACK WEEKLY
AS WE COMPLETE MORE CONSTRUCTION AND ADD MORE PHOTOS