First run of a train on the helix. The rolling stock is some of the longest & widest that will traverse it. Train ran perfectly without issue through the entire helix and into Shippensburg Classification Yard...
So at the end of last week I have the helix installed with track but not wired into DCC as yet. I still have to glue the blocks in between the loops in place. The staging deck will be constructed once I finish the signal install.
The sub road base plywood has been reinstalled above the helix, including new timber for the fascia to be re-installed. The track work that forms Carlisle Junction that was removed is also getting done again too.
The last two photos show the limited amount of room between the last helix loop and existing bench work & sub road base plywood, which is just enough to clear a hi-cube boxcar.
Once the track work is re-installed I'll wire up the helix and conduct a test using a four & six axle locomotives and several variants of rolling stock to test out the performance of the helix. Jas...
So today was spent working on the two transitions from the future staging level and the finished layout level where the helix exits onto the return blob. I also cut & set in place the blocks for ruling grade on the first loop.
The last section of the last loop transitions from a 28"R to a 24"R to allow for the layout track work to connect. I have tested this section of track with both 40', 50', & 60' rolling stock and all run smoothly through this section...
With the helix to layout transition I decided to run Code 100 all the way up to the Code 83 #7 curved turnout where the helix connects with the layout track work. Because the helix & staging area will eventually have its own NCE booster, PSX-1 Circuit Breaker and Detection this join needed to be double insulated.
I managed to get the alignment between Code 100 & 83 really well aligned. This was achieved using track pins & shims, the insulated rail joiners are Code 100 and allowed the Code 83 to be manipulated to align with the top of the Code 100 rail.
The transition from the helix to the staging level needed some adjustment to the layout framework and tweaking of the curve leaving the helix. I had to add a short section of straight track to get the alignment to work, but the added benefit will be that it allows for a re-railer to be installed before entry into the helix.
Next step is to secure the blocks between loops with white glue and finish off the track work from the helix into the staging area. Jas...
So today was spent getting the initial grade set on the first turn of the helix and installing the blocks to set the ruling grade on the other loops.
It actually took a little time to get it consistent across the entire helix but I’m happy with it now. At this stage unless I can think of an easy way to install the all-thread rods I’ll be sticking with the timber blocks.
I made myself up a grade level by using a short spirit level with a piece of styrene rod which is 4mm (5/32") set at 200mm (7 7/8") along the level. So when the level showed “level” (the Bubble in between the lines) this meant the grade was set at 2%.
Next stage is to work on the transition from the finished layout level into the helix. The radius from the curved turnout is set at 24”R and then transitions into a 30”R section and then into the 28”R helix.
I have to also make a small notch out of the rear of the layout deck near the backdrop to given another 10mm (25/64") clearance for my high cube boxcars. They fit now but to be safe I will be giving them a little more wiggle room. Jas...
Today was another day of cutting out helix sections and laying track. The process is going fairly well, the time consuming part is laying the track and aligning it with the gauge to match the radius.
The RibbonRail radius gauge makes it easy to maintain the correct 28" radius, I'm also using it as a spacer for the stitching screws. The addition of each helix sections goes quickly, and using the stitching plates to secure the sections is an easy method to secure them. At the end of today I have managed to get two full loops completed.
I also collected today the materials for the helix supports. The method I'm using is 3/8" All-thread placed through each deck and secured with washers & nuts. This method allows the grade to be set by adjusting the location of the washer & nut along the all-thread.
Hopefully tomorrow I will have the remaining sections of the helix with track work completed and ready for the grade to be set. Jas...
Today I finished installing the framework for the helix base. Fairly simple construction that can be removed easily, the helix base is supported in several locations.
I have decided to use Peco Code 100 - Flextrack for the entire helix & staging area. It will save on cost compared to Code 83 and the higher rail allows for the flex track to be screw downed with stitching screws in the helix.
The stitching screws wok extremely well as they act like a flat head screw with a washer, but are all in one.
I have installed on section of flextrack today and secured in place with the stitching screws, I have also checked the radius with a Ribbon Rail 28" alignment gauge.
I'm hoping to have the remaining loops cut out tomorrow, and then beginning installing them and the flextrack as I progress. I will also be purchasing the all-thread, nuts & washes for the supports too. Jas...
Today was more framing work to accommodate the new helix. After some great advice from my good friend and fellow layout builder - Alan (LK&O Railroad), I added a timber lintel to allow clear access under the helix. This will allow access to both sides of the return blob framework and to fix up any issues if they arise within the helix. You can actually stand up completely in the rear section of the helix.
The wiring for the LocoNet, LocoNet power & Internet was also re-located and secured to ensure that it was clear of both the helix and access underneath.
I also divided the helix into 1/8’s for the positioning of the all-thread risers. The timber base frame will support the all-thread risers, I'm still yet to decide how I will configure the base support that will have the all-thread attached.
Next stage will be to complete the helix base frame work, then completing the remaining rings of the helix and install the track. Jas...
Will need some tweaking... I needed to adjust some of the bench framework, fortunately the adjustments needed only needed about 75mm/3" to be removed from the ends of the horizontal supports. I managed to miss the Tortoise Motors for two turnouts and two terminal blocks full of feeders too.
The section of sub-roadbed removed was an addition added to allow the crossover & track from the helix/nolix to be added when I built this section years ago.
The wiring that run over the top of the last helix turn also needed to be secured & adjusted so that it would clear the helix. I also had to adjust the main wiring bus and secure it in several locations to ensure that it remained clear of the helix.
Now that these issues have been completed I need to do an outside frame to support the base of the helix, this will also have risers and further frames to support the plywood sub roadbed (18mm/0.70") that has been removed to make the alterations. It adds another 100mm/4” to the existing fascia edge. And may also assist in extending the Shippensburg Classification Yard - Tracks too, now that the I have gained some more layout area.
I’ll be looking at the bridge/river crossing frame, it has been built using two sections instead of one piece and now that it is no longer a lift up bridge and is normal secured (it can be removed if needed, I may simplify it a bit too.
Guess the lesson of this post is, always be prepared to pull something out and start again if needed...
So today I managed to get the first full ring of the helix completed. It’s now in place and again I have checked it’s location relative to the fascia edge, and checked it’s position & alignment with the existing entry point & new exit point to staging.
I’ve also added a work light for the area whilst constructing the helix, which will stay to light the inside of the helix when finished...
Next phase is to design the base frame work to allow the helix to rise up to its final position. The frame work once completed will have the legs removed so that I can then lower the first ring so I can add the track, and remaining 4.5 rings. Once the initial grade of 2.15% is set the remaining helix will use the usual block timber method for separation. Jas...
Today I continued on with some more planning for the helix. I settled on a method of securing the sections together that is both easy, quick, sturdy & cheap by using stitching plate & stitching screws.
I also checking the position of the helix in relation to the layout framing and also the radius again. The diameter of the helix fits within the confines of the bench work as can be seen by the black marker on the floor, this is the edge of the fascia above. The radius will stay at 28"R.
I have ordered a large sheet of 12mm (1/2") structural plywood and will begin cutting out the segments tomorrow. Once I have one (1) full ring made and the sections joined together I will setting the initial grade and working out how much alterations will be required to one section of layout bench work supports.
Here is a short video of the completed Peco SL-U8363 Unifrog Double Slip Switch.
I completed the installation of the four (4) turnouts that control the interlocking, there are two Tortoise Switch Machines that control the routes within the double slip, and a further two that control the approaches via the left hand turnouts on the approaches to the double switch. The four turnouts are connected to a new Digitrax DS64, the DS64 allows computer control via JMRI & PanelPro of the interlocking, and also vioa push buttons on the fascia for local operator control. Due to routes that can be chosen within the double slip, both Tortoise Motors require individual control, previously with a crossover I could have two turnouts controlled by one fascia push button.
So I have received my new Peco - Double Slip Switch, over the next two days I will be installing it into the mainline at Shippensburg and connecting it to the storage tracks (north & south) on the layout.
The installation instructions are pretty much the same for all of Peco's Insulfrog range of turnouts. The only difference is that these "Unifrog" variants can be both "Insulfrog & Electrofrog" types by either leaving the frog dead or powering it via the attached frog wires.
The turnouts are what you would expect from Peco, well made, and great looking designed Code 83 switches with great detail as well.
I will do another post once it is installed and operating on the layout. Jas...
Today I invested in a new Peco - Double Slip Switch for a section of the layout requiring two sets of storage tracks to be connected for operations.
The switch is Peco's new UniFrog design and is their first in the Code 83-American design turnouts.
The switch will connect the storage tracks that serve the Hershey Chocolate silos & main plant. Previously these tracks were not connected to the tracks on the south side and it would have tied up the mainline switching cars with the existing setup. The mainline is highlighted in blue, the new crossover incorporating the new double slip is in yellow, and the storage tracks that serve Hershey or are used to switch cars to Hershey are in white.
New setup will allow greater flexibility for operations and will allow the Hershey Plant to operate at its full potential.
So given the cold & wet weather that has descended on Melbourne today I decided to finish off the day in the warmth of the house and begin designing the staging level for the layout. One of the things that has been missing when we have run operating sessions has been a staging area to represent the "other" parts of the east coast and in particular the interchanges with the other railroads that are working on the layout too. So in preparation for the end of the signal installation on the layout, I started today on the design of the staging area. It will sit below the main deck and will be accessed by either a 26" Radius Helix, or a Nolix on grade running along the back wall.
The staging area will consist of six (6) tracks and one run-around track all connected to a reversing loop. The reversing loop will allow for trains to enter staging and then run-around and enter the yard ladder closest to the loop, this will allow trains to be staged ready to head out on the next ops session. The staging tracks will all be PECO Code 100 - Streamline. The helix will be 26" Radius, 52" Diameter, 2.27% Grade, 4" height between each deck, 6 Rings in total and will be 24" in height. The staging deck will be plywood top and simple L type legs supported onto the concrete floor and secured to the timber wall framing. Underneath this will be storage. Jas...
Sometimes in the hobby necessity can often create a favourable outcome. Today ended up being one of those great outcomes. In the final push to install the last of the signals I realised I had ran out of triple head signal masts. I normally use Tomar's triple head mast and replace the 1/8" bi-coloured LED's with the RRCirKits - tricoloured LED's with Bivar light pipe lenses. The cost to buy the Tomar type is quite an outlay, and one that would see a two/three week wait for them to arrive from the USA too. So looking at a surplus mast that I had lying around I decided to deconstruct it and reconfigure it to a triple head mast. The process was pretty straight forward and I was also able to adapt the IHC plastic searchlight heads to fit the Tomar mast.
The next stage is to fit the RRCirKits LED's and place onto the layout, this mast will protect the east mainline into Harrisburg...
Signal mast installed on the layout & wired into JMRI & PanelPro...