Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Great Night on the Dixie!

Wow, what a great night!  I have to complain about the NMRA's AP system as it makes me work alone in the basement.  Tonight the guys came over to help me think out solutions to problems and we had a great time.  Its snowing here, too!

Coalfinger Ken braved the sleet and helped me set up Section Three.  Here we are checking his reach.  Ken is 5'6".

We laid Section Three on top of a 2" slab of extruded foam and drew the profile for cutting.

Using the new Harbor Freight foam cutter we tried it's variable heat power on the foam.

Ken pulled the trigger and it appeared to have plenty of cutting power.  Nice!  I only paid $15 for it.

Steve-bay was back from his holiday travels so we used him as a paperweight.

It takes a bit more kerf than I like, but way better than a hot wire.

Here Steve is cutting on a hard surface (the work table) which didn't work so well.

Here is the cut.  Not bad!  This foam has scored breaks in it and the hot knife helped to seal them so the foam didn't break apart.

Hanging off the table it worked well.  We all took a turn getting the feel of the new knife.

We test fit the foam.  Just a little too big.  We have view blocks on either side that must fit tight.

The foam is a bit rough, but still fine for what we are doing.

I dug out the foot long rasp.  We used it to "sand" down the edges to make the wedge fit.

The kerosene heater knocked the chill off as we fit the foam to the wood.  Perfect!

Switching to 1" stock (which is really 7/8") Ken takes a turn cutting the thin stuff.  It works great!  Made a very nice cut.

It still makes a wide kerf that you have to plan for.  But the knife cuts VERY quickly.

Here the 1" is dropped on the 2" (which is really 2") and we test fit.  The edges are a little shaggy, but still better than a serrated edge knife cut.

The right and left view blocks are next.  They are cut from 1/4" sandply plywood.  I don't have a proper compass or radius tool, so Big Blue Steve Rowe (yes, he showed up!) showed me how to cipher it out.  Haven't seen him in a long time and it was great to have him over.  He's a very experienced modeler.

We played with the board until we finally decided that it needed to be 16" long.  This seemed to be (for us) the proper amount of backdrop without going so high you couldn't reach it from the pit.  We clamped it on a looked at it from all sides.

Here are the dimensions we needed.  The side view block is 29 3/4" long, 16" high and has an 8" radius cut on the front (outer) side.  The backdrop is 1/8" Masonite cut 29 1/4" long and 16" wide.  We will trim the Masonite down and I'll post the exact length later.

Steve helped me test fit the rather springy Masonite.

Steve R. and Ken made a radius template so that all future boards are cut the same.  Then they cut out the left view block.

"Ahhh...a bit short.  Maybe Scott won't notice.  He's too busy talking anyway..."

There!  The view blocks and the back board are temporarily clamped  to the module.  We put an extra piece of foam for the upper level, a loco and track just to get a feel for it.  We like it!

The section looks bigger to me than it did in my head while drawing it.  I like it!  There is a lot of room here.

At this height will be the service area for the locomotive.  The tank and sheds are in their rough positions.  Everything on each section has a focal point that keeps the viewer's eyes from wandering around.

Steve R. stands in for me as the operator.  All you will be able to see is his head in the pit.  Steve R. is 6" tall.  We've also put the warf building and some track in on the left.

With the backdrop, reaching more than half way across the layout becomes impossible.  Too high?  Not sure.

Here is the left view block.

The back drop.

A view from the right side.  The backdrop height can't be any lower or higher.  Its just right.  So how do we reach the cars?

Steve B. had an idea.  Raise the operator!  We put him on an 8" high step.  Steve B. is 5' 10".   Now he can reach everything while the viewer still has their trackside view.  Excellent idea Steve!

The 8" is just right and when I tried it the lift gave me the ability to reach 100% of the layout.  I asked the guys if it looked funny with me standing up so high, but they said no.  It is always optional.  I thought I might make a tool and parts box that you could stand on and use that.

The joints where the two boards meet must be strong and perfect.  We kicked around some ideas but the Masonite is still my big worry.  It just has to bend too much.

Ken came up with a great idea.  Put in steel L-bracketts and screw them into the back.  Steve R. and Steve B. added a support of 1/2" plywood behind the Masonite to recieve the screws.

The section looks awesome!  Just what I had hoped.  All are excited and I can't wait to work on it some more tomorrow.

Thanks for all the ideas about a Roto Zip.  Steve R. brought his Dremel with the Roto Zip bit over and showed it to me.  Now I HAVE to go buy one!!!

As always, keep the ideas and comments coming!  Questions, too!

You may notice that some of the pictures and appearance haven't been as centered and nice as before.  The kind folks at Blogger changed the software.  Hopefully they will fix it.


  1. Scott,

    Great progress on the layout! Also great to see Steve Rowe - I hope he can join us more often! By the way, I was also thinking about buying the hot knife from Harbor Freight - yes or no?


  2. Scott,
    Looks like a great adventure. You guys have done some very innnovative work. How would one go about making 1:1 templates to the honey comb bench work.
    Keep Up the Great Work
    Erie RR Co.

  3. Most CAD systems will let you print a 1:1 of the drawing. You should be able to take my drawing and have Kinko's blow it up to fit 1:1.