Thursday, August 17, 2006

Getting Non-working Track Working Again

Thanks to an insane time at work during July, I'm taking two weeks off for R&R. Some of the projects include:

* Installing my first working semaphore signal

* Building the hillside behind Glenwood

* Rebuilding the track at Alma.

The track at Alma's been the most effort. Right behind the Los Gatos scene, the track climbing through the Santa Cruz mountains sits about five or six inchest higher than Los Gatos . Before, the helix would climb away from Los Gatos, and then would suddenly double-back across the rear of the Los Gatos scene on a narrow strip of plywood. I knew I wanted to treat these as separate scenes, but I wasn't sure how I was going to separate them. Worse, when I'd first laid the track, I'd done the bare minimum needed to get trains running on the second level. This meant the Alma scene floated on a narrow strip of plywood above... well, nothing. It didn't help that the scene was at the rear of some deep (30-35 inch) benchwork.

It was finally time to deal with this scene. I needed better support for the track, and I needed some structure for attaching the Los Gatos backdrop. My solution was to take out the existing roadbed, build something like a small shelf layout that would take it's place on the bench, then drop the new shelf into place. Here's the before and after photos:

Doing the work at the bench was a great choice; this track never was well-laid or sloped correctly, and I was able to finally get things right. I also added Tortoise switch machines to the two turnouts on the track, and it was much easier to adjust them on the workbench instead of during gymnastics-like bends on the layout. I also took the chance to start putting in scenery.

One of the reasons for doing all this work was to add a new switch at Alma; there's now a switch on the siding that will lead to a steep siding climbing up above the helix. My plan is to add a mercury mine and town on top of the helix. (There weren't any mines around Alma, but a couple valleys south of Los Gatos creek canyon held the richest mines in California -- the New Almaden mercury mines.) We'll see how it goes...