Monday, January 31, 2011

And now, time for the big, messy, risky projects!

[Additional projects added.]

Last year was a bit of a mess. Between work and family pressures and a crazy merging of households that turned the garage into storage, I hadn't done much on the Vasona Branch (except for detailing the Alma scene.) However, I really love the operating session portion of the Santa Clara LDSIG meet, and knew I wanted to volunteer to host an operating session on the Vasona Branch.

The Santa Clara LDSIG meet is special because the organizers explicitly want to give novices the chance to try model railroad operations and work on a large model railroad that they might not otherwise see. My experiences in 2000, 2001, and 2002 on Don Marenzi's Alaska Railroad, Rick Fortin's Sierra Western and Santa Fe, and Dave Adam's Rio Grande layout convinced me I wanted to build another model railroad, and I wanted to focus on operation. I open my layout to repay their generosity.

Prepping for an operating session still takes quite a bit of time for cleanup, fixing mechanical problems, and doing all the polish and setup to make the visitor's experience nice. While I was working on the layout in the last month, I had to keep myself focused on projects needed for the operating session. I touched up scratched paint, added additional fascia panels to hide the helix, repaired the velcro for the curtains that hides the junk under the layout, tuned and rebuilt locomotives, fixed uneven track, and did amazing amounts of cleanup.

I also saw lots of larger projects that I knew I couldn't touch because there was the risk I wouldn't put things back together before the operating session. Now that the operating session's over, I can start on those projects again. Here's my "big messy project" list. We'll see which I can finish before the NMRA National Convention in July!

  • Add another lighting fixture over Los Gatos without overloading the existing garage circuit, and without running new conduit over the roof. Requires some contortion, some thinking, and a lot of care to avoid dropping a fixture on the layout. (The problem with a flat roofed house on a slab foundation is there's no attic for new wiring. My grandfather would be shaking his head in disappointment.)
  • Break the lower deck into two separate power districts so a short circuit in Campbell doesn't stop trains in San Jose. Easy work, but messy and irreversible once I start ripping out wires.
  • Get rid of the double-ended siding for the Campbell canneries, and stretch the Hyde track enough to hold more cars. Perhaps there might even be room for the Sunsweet dried fruit plant!
  • Rough-in scenery in the Vasona Junction area. Messy, and requires yanking out mainline track.
  • Fix trackwork so a 4-8-0 or 4-6-2 locomotive can run over the layout. My 4-8-0 currently shorts out in several locations when a dip in the trackwork causes it to nose into the rails.
  • Continue with the scenery in Alma, and cover the hidden tracks for good. I've been using the holes in the scenery to reach in for track cleaning.
  • Strengthen the layout legs and relevel parts of the layout.
  • Start building the spur to a mine at Alma. When I replaced the track in Alma a few years back, I added a switch at the lower end of the Alma siding for a track that would lead to a mine site above the helix. There's no real prototype, but I could plausibly put in a mercury mine (as a hint towards the New Almaden and Guadalupe mines one ridge over) or oil equipment for the wells at Moody Gulch. I've seen mention of a siding at Alma for some of the early oil exploration around the turn of the century, but few hard details.
  • Start building the structures at the Del Monte Cannery on Auzerais St.
  • Build the Yesteryear Models kit of the Riverside Sunkist packing house which is going to be kitbashed into the Ainsley Cannery.
  • Rip out and replace a pair of misbehaving Tortoise switch machines in Campbell.
  • Ballast everywhere.

So what's on your "it'll break the railroad for a month, but I ought to do it" work list?

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