Monthly Archives: January 2016

Layout Room Floor

My objectives in installing a finished floor for the payout room are:

  1. Provide some cushion over standing on concrete.
  2. Allow a chair with rollers to roll across the floor.
  3. Ability to dry flow if it gets wet through evaporation or shop vac.
  4. Ease of installation.

One product that caught my eye is made for garage floors.  It is the RaceDeck Freeflow.  It is available for around $3 per square foot.

RaceDeck FreeFlow


The tiles snap together using loops.  Installation is as simple as (1) place the tile, (2) step on the tile to snap into place.  It is available in a variety of colors so interesting patterns can be designed.


Layout Helix

This will be a two level layout.  Her is the calculation I ran to help design the helix that will allow trains to move between levels.

Helix Calculator

Track radius is 22″ which takes the diameter of the ring to 48″.  Rings are 4″ apart vertically.  Grade is 2.65%.  4.5 rings (18 segments) will allow trains to exit 18″ higher than they enter.  Segments are 6″ wide.  I should be able to cut from one 4’x8′ piece of plywood.  Cuts would generally look like this although there will be less of them.

Segment cutting layout

This is the helix design that makes the most sense to me.  It is attractive and allows crawl under to the center of the helix to deal with disrailed trains..  It could also be enclosed.  Trains would enter at 32″ (lower deck) and exit at 50″ (upper deck).  Helex would be located outside the train room wall.  Helex would be reversed from this photo.


Quarry Engine House

Rather than build a roundhouse like others will from the RDA Stone Roundhouse Kit, I decided to bash two RDA Branch Engine House kits instead.  Why?  I want this structure to be unique.  I also want the challenge.  The specs for the Stone Roundhouse don’t specify degrees taken from the turntable.  Positions on the Atlas turntable are 11 degrees apart.  By bashing Branch Engine Houses, i can control this potential issue,

Both kits employ some of the same stone panels.  Here are a series of shots of the Engine House.  The first shows the front of the engine house.

RDA Engine House

This shot also shows the front with a close up of the engine opening.  Note that there are two front panels – one for the engine and the other containing a door and window.

RDA Engine House Front1

This is a shot of the rear.  Note that there is a second engine opening.  A simple bash would be to put the engine opening on the front in place of the section with the door and window, thus converting this structure into a two stall engine house.

RDA Engine House Rear

This is a view of one side.  Note the large windows.  It is three sections deep, plenty long for my longest HOn3 engine, the 2-8-0 Consolidation.

RDA Engine House Side1


This is a view of the other side.  Note the large windows.  The small lean to structure could be a workshop or a power house.  I won’t know till the kit comes what material is supplied to implement the wall between the main structure and lean to.

RDA Engine House Side 2

Now add a second engine house.  The structure could easily morph into a three or even a four stall engine house.  The lean to could be two sections deep or wide — or the two could be placed on the opposite sides of the structure.  The roof would need to be changed — either by reducing the slope or turning it into a flat roof.  It would be challenging to convert this into a round house as the back walls would need to be longer than those in the front.  Of course, I can always curve the track.  Given that combining the kits frees up panels, the lean-to could be implemented as a free standing structure.  Or it could be part of a single stall engine service building.

What about the Atlas Roundhouse?  I basically got it at no cost as part of an eBay bundle.  It is loaded with windows and other useful pieces like downspouts.  And the brick can be used to ‘brick-in’ openings all over the layout and in constructing other smaller structures.

The only thing that is obvious is the lack of doors in the stone Engine House.  I may need to scratch build those.  Or, the lack of detail in the back of the Stone Roundhouse could easily be addressed with a bit of styrene so I’m going to find out whether they will sell me the sprues containing the doors.  What about the lack of celestory windows?  There may be a solution to that issue using Atlas windows instead.

Once the two kits have arrived, I’ll lay out the structure I decide to build.

Mining Scene – Ore Cars


A mining line needs ore cars – lots of them.  Tichy sells kits that assemble into the above wood side ore car in bags of 12 for around $65.  These are HO standard gauge.  So in addition to being assembled, these cars need to be converted to HOn3 narrow gauge and appropriate couplers need to be added.  Will they be too big?  They aren’t as wide as my ON30 Shay’s cab.  I think they will be just fine.  I purchased 12 of these ore cars.  I will probably add another 12 once the first 12 are built.

The Tichy instruction sheet lays out the series of steps that should be followed in assembly.  You could complete one car at a time.  But it makes more sense to me to set up a production line and bring them all on line together step by step.. Here are the instructions for the body.


Step 0 (not on instructions) involves cutting parts of sprue.  Here that are sorted into two zip lock bags, one containing truck parts (left) and the other containing body parts (right).


Here’s a chance to show off a portion of my nearly complete modeling bench.  It is made up of a rack that can hold eight 3/4″ melamine boards.   So partially complete projects can be tucked away freeing work space and reducing the chance parts will be scattered and lost.

Project Shelf

This shot shows an ore car after step one.


Step 2 involved inserting and gluing the braces (steps 2 and 3).  The advantage of the assembly line approach became apparent in this step.  These braces are very fiddley work.  Putting the braces on the first car took 25 minutes.  The third took 5 minutes.  I’m not sure how long these two steps would have taken if I didn’t have a PanaVise to hold the parts from step 1 at exactly the right angle for mounting the braces.



Rather than attempt to bash H) trucks that came with the kit to HOn3, it makes more sense to buy HOn3 trucks and save the trucks that came with the ore cars for another application.  I chose to hedge my bets by ordering two kinds of HOn3 trucks.  The first set is Kadee 716’s.  They come unassembled so I ordered their assembly jig.

Kadee 716

The second is Grandt Line 5110’s.  They come assembled.  Both the Grandt Line and the Kadees have 3′ 7″ wheelbases.

GrandtLine 5110

When I see how they compare, I may go exclusively with one of the two and save the other for another set of rolling stock.  Freight cars are often sold without trucks so I shouldn’t have any problem repurposing them.


As tempting as some of the non-Kadee options are, I’m going to stick with Kadees.  I decided to go with their medium shank narrow gauge scale coupler No 158.  I picked the medium shank as I want to test them in a section with 18″ curve radiuses.  Because the cars are short (roughly 3″) I’m betting they will work in this application.  If not, I’ll use them in sections with larger curve radiuses and buy the long shank version.

NPC Turntables & Roundhouses

Atlas Turntable Bash 1

This is an example of the turntable I plan to install in the Quarry section of the layout.  This is a bash of an Atlas HO turntable.  Douglas van Veelan sells the H Frame Gallows Turntable that is sitting on top of the Atlas turntable in this photo.  He also sells an A Frame Gallows Version.  I picked up the HOn3 version from him in kit form.  If you are interested, you can reach him at .

H Gallows Turntable

I also ran across an Atlas HO turntable including an indexing motor and a roundhouse in water damaged boxes for $35.00.

Atlas Turntable

The motor drive is continued in a cheap looking building enclosure.  The railroader who bashed the Atlas turntable bashed it into this.  The structure covers the power unit that powers the Atlas turntable.

Atlas Turntable Bash 2

I’m not sure I can match his craftsmanship but I’m sure going to try.

A second option for the roundhouse is the RDA Stone Roundhouse.  This would be more likely to be found in a quarry spur.  It is also spectacular.  Envision it with the roundhouse implementation pictured at the top of this post.

RDA Stone Roundhouse

RDA also offers a small stone engine house.  I may also consider working this in, possibly in the Mining area.

RDA Engine House

A third option for the roundhouse is the Banta Sargent’s Roundhouse.  Two of these would make sense in the Sausalito yards as they are similar to the actual roundhouses/engine houses that existed on the prototype.

Banta Sargents Roundhouse

The three stall roundhouse is perfect for the Sausalito Shops location.  Size fits.  Style fits.  Number of stalls fit.

As I work on individual projects links to builders logs will be shown below.

PC&N Mini Layout – Lighting Experiment

There will be a number of face structures along the edge of the mini layout.  The PC&N will have many more.  One issue that needs to be addressed is how these structures will be lighted.  While I am capable of fabricating LED circuits this layout has a significant number of projects.  A turn key solution is welcome as long as it is cost effective.  Woodland Scenics has released structure lighting system they call their Just Plug system.  Here is a schematic.

Woodland Just Plug Schematic

I’m going to experiment with the Get Started system on the left.  Assuming the experiment goes well, the system used on the PC&N will be some form of the Expand system in the right.

The system can be powered with track power or with a power block.  Because the PC&N is likely to be radio control battery power, the power block will be used on both the mini-layout and the PC&N.  One power block can support up to 50 LEDs.

Wpoodland Power Supply

The power supply plugs into either a Light Hub or an Expansion Hub.  An Expansion Hub supports up to four Light Hubs.  Expansion Hubs can also be ganged if more than four Light Hubs are needed.

Woodland Expansion Hub


The Light Hubs support up to four LEDs which can be dimmed individually.  This version included two LED Stick-On lights.

Woodland LED Stick-On

The LED Stick-On lights are normally used to provide lights to structures.  They are available in multiple colors.

Woodland LED Nano

LED Nano lights simulate individual points of light like in street lamps or automobile lights.  They also are available in multiple colors.

You might notice at the top left of both the Light Hub and Expansion Hub there is a jumper.  That jumper can be replaced with an Auxiliary Switch which can turn of all the power to the LEDs supported by that unit.

Woodland Aux Switch


There are two additional components.  One is Light Diffusing Window Film.  The other is a Light Blocking Kit that kills light leaks.  The following image shows a structure without the window film on the lift and with the film on the right.

Woodlands Light Difusing

Experimental System Components

I ordered the following:

  • One Power Supply
  • One Light Hub with two Stick-On Lights
  • Two Nano-Lights
  • One Auxiliary Switch

Bashing Just Plug

It is likely that any switch could be substituted for the Just Plug switch, allowing lights to be operated from a control panel.  In addition, they claim to be DCC compatible but fail to elaborate.  I suspect a stationary decoder could be used to switch lights on and off as long as the decoder has adequate power handling capability.

Could you fabricate your own lighting extensions from a Light Hub?  The answer to that question remains to be seen.

Magnesite Mill Crusher

Prototype Research


The above photo of the Magnsite mill that includes an updated crusher.  It is on the far right side of this image. The following photo is a cropped blown up version of that image.



It is lamely the framework for the crusher contained a Blake Crusher as shown in the following photo.  Ore was fed into the top, crushed with the crushed ore coming out the bottom.




While it would be possible to scratch build this crusher, another alternative would be to bash a coaling tower kit.  Campbell Scale Models has a coaling tower that has the same feel as the crusher at the mill.

Campbell Coaling Tower

The hoist and the top portion of the coaling tower would n red to be removed in modeling the crusher.

MDC 2 Truck Shay – HOn3

MDC HOn3 2 Trk Shay

Prototype Research

The Shay is a renowned logging locomotive that was less common in mining areas.  Yet its short radius capability along with its ability to deal with less than perfect track and grades make it a plausible engine to run in this section of the layout.  Besides, I love these engines.  I’ll doing up some prototype photos when I get a chance.

Modeling the Shay

I picked up this engine in kit form produced by MDC Roundhouse.  It is an early run engine which means it was produced in the 1970s.  These MDC engines have a reputation of being difficult to bring to smooth operating status so there are a fair number of unfinished kits out there.  The image is an example of the assembled product.  My engine will be assigned to the Sonoma Magnesite Company mining district.  It is likely to be joined by a second Shay when an appropriate kit becomes available.

Here are some kit images.

MDC Shay Kit 1

MDC Shay Kit 2


MDC Shay Kit 3

Obviously someone got started on assembling the kit then set it aside.  Hopefully all the parts are there.  These engines have a reputation for the drive line binding due to manufacturing issues with the plastic gears.  I picked up upgraded metal gears from North West Short Line.  This is the Bull Gear Upgrade set.

NWSL MDC Upgrade 1

This is the partial running gear upgrade.

NWSL MDC Upgrade 2

I also picked up a NWSL can motor, and a copy of Jeff Johnson’s MDC Shay Handbook.  So with the parts in hand, I’m going to start building this Shay.  In Jeff’s book he shows step by step construction of a two truck Shay using kit parts and a three truck Shay using NWSL drive train components and other super detail parts.  I’ll be \doing with my two truck Shay kit what he did with his three truck Shay.

I have the additional challenge of finding a place for a receiver and battery pack is what is a very small engine.  Fortunately, this is a district that uses oil as its fuel and construction of a taller than normal fuel bunker should allow me to solve the battery storage issue.  The receiver can probably be tucked under the cab roof.

I hadn’t started on the first Shay kit when a second kit showed up on eBay.  I got the second a bit cheaper as the seller wasn’t sure all the parts were there.  I think they are.  So while I’m waiting for that kit’s arrival, I ordered a second set of NWSL gears.  I also have two can motors and two sets of flywheels.

Once the second Shay and parts have arrived, I’ll work on both kits together.