Going Uphill – Part 2

In last week’s post I shared with you plans for my new module for our layout ‘Solent Summit’ based on the Tehachapi Loop.  In this week’s post, as promised, I have some photos of the completed track work and the first trains to run through the loop.

The track bed is laser cut to ensure the loop ends in the right place and to help keep the gradient correct.

The track bed is supported on timber posts which have a bevel cut on top.  This was to ensure the track bed didn’t level out at each support.  To add a complication there are three locations where the twin tracks cross board joints.

The actual incline starts just after the line passes under itself and stops just before it passes over itself.  The real railroad continues to climb as it makes its way up Tehachapi Pass but as our line also has to come back down I needed to level it out as it runs out of the back of the module.

I still need to add a few more supports under the track bed and to do a little more work to smooth the gradient out but for testing purposes the loop is ready.

For those of you who are familiar with our layout you’ll know we like to run long trains so what better place to start than with a long coal train?  Approaching from the left is a pair of Kato SD70MAC’s with a train of Kato bethgon coalporters and a banking SD70MAC behind.

As I described in last week’s post, the loop is also a passing place.  To make the loop modular so it can be transported, the passing place has been made shorter than the real one, but it still allows for a 13′ (in N Scale) train to wait while another train passes.

The first pass we had was an SD40-2 with double stack train being passed by an auto-rack train.

The other reason I wanted to do tests with these trains was for height.  The double stack and auto-rack cars are some of the tallest on the modern railroad and I wanted to see how they looked in proportion to the loop.  The real loop climbs some 77′ before it passes itself due to the considerably larger radius.

The loop on the new module only climbs 33′ but as you can see below there’s still lots of clearance between the upper and lower lines and I think it looks good.

Throughout the day we tested many trains through the loop with trains heading down on the inside and trains heading up on the outside.  This is because the larger radius on the outer track makes for a slightly reduced gradient.  Coincidently, we also operate right road running for passing so this fits in with the rest of the layout.  Below two SD60s take a sulphur train down the line.

The Tehachapi Loop was built by the Southern Pacific Railroad so of course we had to try the iconic SP cab forwards with a Pacific Fruit Express (PFE) train.

I was amazed how long trains, such as the Santa El Capitan, which as you can see below normally stretch out on the layout, seem to disappear in the length of the loop.

Of course several of our trains did have an issue with the gradient; combined with the drag factor of the curve some of the heavy freight cars in short trains with just one locomotive ended up wheel spinning and stalling.  The answer is to add some more power and below is a video of how the Southern Pacific moved loaded coal trains over the loop.  I think 15 locomotives will do it!

The next stages are for me to start looking at the scenery, turnout control and signalling for the module, a lot of work still ahead.

This coming week I’m taking some time to work on my stock of trains and give them some much needed attention to several of the running issues I’ve had at shows lately. This is downtime for me, getting back to my hobby so I won’t be posting, instead I’ll just be enjoying working on my trains!  So in a fortnight’s time I hope to bring you some news on some more 3D printed parts.

Going Uphill – Part 1

This week I’d planned on bringing you some more 3D printed gears but the delivery’s been delayed so I haven’t received them yet.  So instead I thought I’d share with you my latest creation for our group’s N Scale layout, ‘Solent Summit’.

‘Solent Summit’, which has appeared on my website many times over the years, is a modular layout built by members of the Gosport American Model Railroad Group.  Back in 2015 I built the Warsash ‘Y’ module which incorporated a large scratch-built timber trestle.

Here’s the ‘Portland Rose’ running over the trestle at the Andover show in 2016.

Not wanting to do anything less spectacular I set my sights on the famous US railroad landmark, the Tehachapi Loop.

The Tehachapi Loop is in Kern County, Southern California.  It’s on Mojave Subdivision, the line which connects Bakersfield to Mojave, and runs through the Tehachapi Pass over the Tehachapi Mountains.  The line is currently owned by the Union Pacific Railroad but was constructed by the Southern Pacific between 1874 and 1876.

The route up the Tehachapi’s was challenging and the railroad wanted to limit the gradient as best they could.  At one location, between Woodford and Marcel, which was christened ‘Waylong’ after W.A. Long, who was the Southern Pacific District Roadmaster, the route simply became too steep.

To overcome this a loop or helix was constructed at a steady gradient of 2.2%, which lifted the line by 77′ before it carried on up to the pass. The actual loop is 0.7 miles long, In the screen shot below from Google Maps you can clearly see the loop.

There are other loops like this in the US; on the former Western Pacific route through the Feather River Canyon is the Williams Loop, but what makes the Tehachapi Loop interesting for me is that it’s also a passing point.  Just after the line passes under itself, climbing up the hill it splits in two, and then rejoins itself further up the line creating a passing place.  Shorter trains can be waiting in the loop, crossing above the line below, while upcoming trains pass under the waiting train and, if they’re long trains, actually cross over themselves while passing the first.

The Tehachapi Loop has been modelled many times and at the Golden State Model Railroad Museum there’s a great example of it in N Scale.

However the GSMRM is a fixed layout with space, Solent Summit is not.  But I like a challenge and plans were drawn up, with a bit of modeller’s license, to create a 5′ by 4′ module which would incorporate the loop at a sensible radius and give a decent height increase without making it too steep.

The idea is to create a corner module with the train entering from the left and exiting from the top.  This should give optimum viewing for the loop.  The result, as shown below, gives a rise of 2.5″ at a gradient 2.2%, on the inside track, which has a radius of 20″.  The outer track, which has a bigger radius, has a gradient of 2.1%.  This plan also creates a passing point which can hold a 13.5′ long train.

Although the gradient matches the real loop, the elevation gain is only equivalent to 33′ as opposed to the 77′.  But what goes up must come down and for us 2.5″ is enough.  The other issue is the radius.  At 20″ it looks sensible but when you factor in the weight of a 25′ train navigating a 450° curve the risk of it pulling in on itself is high.  But the only way to find out is to try it.

The baseboard, being bigger than our normal 12″ wide construction, needed a little thought as it has to be easy to move, but strong as well to protect the layout in transit.  All of our modules are in pairs so when put together they form a solid box with the layout inside.  The Tehachapi Loop module would be the same consisting of two 2′ by 5′ modules. The back scene on the short side would need to be removed for transport.

The back scene also forms the sides to the box, so the front section needs the extra pieces shown in red to be bolted on to form the box.

The lowest level, where the line enters the module would be flat solid timber. The track bed carrying the tracks up will be laser cut and supported on timber posts. This track bed is made from 6 sections, as shown below, allowing it to be cut from one piece of wood.

The actual laser cutting was done by Model Railway Solutions.

With baseboards constructed and the track bed cut out it was time to start thinking about setting out the parts.  Below you can get a rough idea of the size with a UK Mk1 coach sat on the loop.

Next week I’ll show you what the loop looks like with all the track work complete and I’ll have some pictures from the first test run to share with you as well.  The 3D printed gears should have been delivered by then so I’ll get back to them the week after.

N Trak Date Correction

To start with this week, I need to make a correction to last week’s post.

The N Trak convention in Bournemouth was not last weekend, it’s this coming weekend; 8th to 10th March 2019.  However it is still at the Trouville Hotel.  My apologies to anyone who went down last weekend.  You can read a bit more about the 2017 convention here and the 2014 convention here.  I’ll be there over the weekend if you’re in the area and want to come by and say hello.

As for a post this week I’m going to have to skip to next week as I’m rather behind and I need to concentrate on the projects on the bench.  But I’ll be back next week with some highlights from the N Trak convention.

Alco C-855 R-T-R Build – All Together

Happy New Year!

2019 is here and what better way to start than to see a project completed.  My C-855 Ready-To-Run set of N Scale A-B-A Alco C-855 locomotives have been a challenging build but fun to do and I think the outcome is very good. This set are now on their way to their new owner.

The complete How-To series for the build of this A-B-A set can be found here.

Looking forward I have some more projects which need to be wrapped up and the next big one is the Union Pacific Rotary Snow Plow 900081.

I also have some updates for the DD35 as well as several replacement parts to share with you once we get stuck into the year.

So for now it’s back to the digital drawing board and on with 2019.


Wishing You All a Happy Christmas!

It’s the Holiday Season and as this is Christmas Eve my post will be short so I would just like to share with you some videos and pictures of the first test run of the N Scale A-B-A set of Alco C-855 locomotives.

There are not too many photos of the original A-B-A set but I always found this one interesting with both the A unit cabs facing into the B unit. (Image from American-rails)

So here they are in N Scale.

Whatever you’re doing over the holidays let’s hope it’s full of trains! I’m taking some time off to get to work on some of my personal train stock, so I won’t be posting next Monday and I will see you in the New Year.

The Poole Model Railway Exhibition – This Weekend

This week’s post will simply be a quick preview to the upcoming Poole Model Railway Exhibition which is this weekend, Sunday 4th November 2018.

It’s been a busy few weeks getting ready for the show which was why I was unable to post anything last week.

This year we have some great layouts coming including:

Arnold Lane – O
Bournemouth West – OO
Earl’s Court Model Railway – OO
Exton Quays – OO
Hillbrow – OO9
Holcome – O
Horsethief Bridge – N
Llaniog Town – N
Shillingsford – OO
Stephens Lane MPD – O
Trenance – OO
TWA Dale Estates – O
NTRAK Modular Layout – N

As well as demonstrations from:

Andy May
DCC & Computer Control
Slim Gauge Society
The Spetisbury Station Project
The Swanage Railway

Plus trade support from:

Ian Shave
Model Railway Solutions Shop and Baseboards
RailRoom Electronics
R&T Model Railways
Ray Heard
The Second Hand Railway Book Shop
And the Poole Clubs own stand

The exhibition is at:

Poole Grammar School
Gravel Hill
BH17 9JU

Next week I will be back on with the R-T-R C-855 build.