February 1, 2009

Construction Begins

I have many questions about the feasibility of doing an O Scale ACW layout, so I am approaching the subject incrementally, testing techniques and ideas as I go along. I hadn’t had a chance to do much with this layout, as I was working on other projects. Just recently, I finally had a chance to lay some O scale track to test the concepts I will need to make this a successful layout.
I've been using code 100 rail on laser cut ties. I laser cut them to give them a slightly random, rough look. This is the first time I have tried spiking rail to ties. In the past I always was soldering to PC ties. I must say, there is something just "right" about driving a spike into wood to hold the rail down. The karma is just with me on this. :)

So far I installed two BK Enterprises (no relation to me), aka Trout Creek Engineering Number 5 Turnout kits. These kits come with the flange clearances too tight, so considerable fitting and tweaking at the frogs and guard rails was required. For the rest of the turnouts, I am making my own as that is easier and much less expensive. Getting the stub side to the turnout to work was considerably easier than the more modern turnouts with bladed points.

I initially tried to use Precision Scale brass castings for the harp switch stands. I modified them to lock more securely. They work well, but were hard to adjust. I have since adopted home-made switch stands made using my laser cutter.

I find it really cool to operate the switch by actually moving the scale sized switch stand lever on the table, as opposed to flipping an electrical toggle or reaching under the layout to pull a lever. The manual, above-the-table system just feels right for an ACW layout. This also helps avoids the dreaded, “model railroad thoughts” syndrome that the LDSIG guys so desperately fear (I’m being facetious in case you can’t tell).

I only have one curve planned on the layout at 24 inch radius. The rest will be 36 inch or more. The one 24" curve is on the inside of a 6 ft wide turn-back portion of the room, where I need to follow along the wall to get maximum length of run. I built that section first because if that didn't work, I'd have to totally reconsider the whole effort. So far so good. :)

I have had not had trouble running on 24 inch radius. However, I did have a kink that was initially problematic, but I fixed it. The SMR locos come with two lengths of link couplers. Both work on the 24" radius curve. I plan to make a set of links that are in between size, as the short links SMR provides are a bit too short for easy coupling, while his longer ones are not needed on the 24 inch radius. Again, there is something that just feels right about pulling the pin to uncouple cars. It's that karma thing again.

The first section I am building is a somewhat generic end of line terminal based loosely on the arrangement at Manassas. As I don't have the full length of run to accurately capture the Manassas track arrangement, I have to take liberties in the design to allow enough operational flexibility and interest. The turntable I will use is based on the Manassas design, as drawn in Edward Porter Alexander's book, Civil War Railroads and Models (out of print). I also found two photos of the turntable at the Library of Congress for additional reference.

The terminal I am building is generic enough that it could be used as a point on any of the USMRR lines I am considering, since I haven't decided what line I want to model. The primary options for me are the Fredericksburg and Aquia, Orange and Alexandria from Alexandria to Manassas, the Alexandria, Loudon and Hampshire from Alexandria to Falls Church, or the USMRR City Point line.

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