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Thread: Costruction is under way on the GNRR Pitch Fork Pass!

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    Matt,
    Just took the time to finally go back through your full thread. You have a very interesting layout and have enjoyed the metamorphosis of it. I hope it continues as planned.
    I especially like the way you've added the return loops and the last change, removing the two turnouts and splitting the lines.
    I think this will enhance your operations.



    One thing I'm still not clear on, why are the two turnouts in the upper middle of the picture set back so far on the elevator spur (?), does that not limit the amount of cars that can be switched at one time? Or is that your plan, to limit the amount of cars?

    Looking forward to following your build.

    The Little Rock Line blog


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    Thanks Allen! Just in testing the track, I've already fell in love with the separated tracks. Makes for a great way to swap cars across the layout in a much more realistic fashion. I'm really getting excited about starting to turn this into a mountain valley really soon!! Please keep dropping by, if nothing else, I'll be ripping up a new area before scenery!

    GNR Pitch Fork Pass






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    Quote Originally Posted by Allen H. View Post

    One thing I'm still not clear on, why are the two turnouts in the upper middle of the picture set back so far on the elevator spur (?), does that not limit the amount of cars that can be switched at one time? Or is that your plan, to limit the amount of cars?

    Looking forward to following your build.

    Sorry I missed that last part, and you were spot on about that killing the number of cars that can be supplied for a grain elevator. After visiting the area I'm modeling... there are no grain elevators there any way, and all the thousands of grain hoppers that run through Marias Pass are doing just that, passing through with grain and ores heading west and imports headed east from the west coast. That is another area where the plan has changed now, and will loosely resemble the equipment sheds/Izaak Walton Inn/etc. at Essex. I'm considering a curved turnout off the slow part of the main being able send traffic that direction. I've really just let this layout evolve at it's own pace. Many things across the layout have changed since I started this one quite some time ago. The nice thing is, I'm in no rush this time around, and I see improvements in my skills when I revisit an area to tweak it's performance (some of my early trackage and wiring was just... bad! No kind way to put it). All the track being laid now is so much more reliable than my previous efforts, so this layout is proving to be quite enjoyable to return to. Plus, as an added bonus, all the drudgery of building the benchwork, all the yards, loops and spurs being already there was great! Now it's easy to go back, shore up the work that's done, make a few changes, and get ready for phase two!!

    GNR Pitch Fork Pass






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    Will be thinking of you as I drive over the pass to Great Falls tomorrow morning

    And yes, as you say, almost all the grain business is farther east. (There is still one small rail-served grain elevator, in downtown Kalispell; you could plausibly relocate it to Columbia Falls if you wanted to. It's actually going to get relocated a couple miles north in this next year, so that the tracks in Kalispell that interfere with downtown development plans can be ripped out.)

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    Finally have finished relaying the lower loop and the two turnouts, one that leads to the staging yard, and the other for the loop. The Tortoises are remounted and all is running well so far! Since the fascia will be blocking some of my view to the staging yard turnout, I hung the LED for that turnout where it's in plain sight before a train is sent out. If it's green, you're all good, if it's red, be prepared to slide the train back off the turnout and then throw it! LOL

    Next Up is laying the Pitch Fork Pass sidings and spur, directly above the staging yard. I'm finishing up planning the landscaping and what areas will be covered by a mountain/tunnel. I haven't decided yet on foam board or a plaster mesh for the mountains/tunnels. Some small areas will require a plaster mesh base, but I'd like to hear some opinions on the mountains. Which method would you go with? Just interested to see who prefers what.

    GNR-PFP10-24-18-001.jpg

    Matt

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  11. #166
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    Congratulations Matt!
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    I think you'll want the wire mesh approach in order to preserve maximum open area beneath, for access to the hidden trackage. I had a lot of success using 1/4" hardware cloth (I think that was the name) to shape my mountain, then spraying over this with Great Stuff expanding foam. So in the end, it was sort of like reinforced foam, a blend of the two. I use Great Stuff regularly, and I cover it with ground goop for the final terrain (Sculptamold would be a similar top-coating product, though I mix my own goop from Cell-U-Clay, joint compound, and other misc. additives). The advantage of my spray foam and goop approach is that it is not as brittle as a hard plaster like hydrocal would be, so I don't get cracks. My N-Trak module is over a dozen years old now, been dragged to and from multiple shows each of those years, and I've never had to patch a crack in the scenery.

    Hello. My name is Michael, and I am an ALCo - haul - ic.

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    Quote Originally Posted by WP&P View Post
    I think you'll want the wire mesh approach in order to preserve maximum open area beneath, for access to the hidden trackage. I had a lot of success using 1/4" hardware cloth (I think that was the name) to shape my mountain, then spraying over this with Great Stuff expanding foam. So in the end, it was sort of like reinforced foam, a blend of the two. I use Great Stuff regularly, and I cover it with ground goop for the final terrain (Sculptamold would be a similar top-coating product, though I mix my own goop from Cell-U-Clay, joint compound, and other misc. additives). The advantage of my spray foam and goop approach is that it is not as brittle as a hard plaster like hydrocal would be, so I don't get cracks. My N-Trak module is over a dozen years old now, been dragged to and from multiple shows each of those years, and I've never had to patch a crack in the scenery.
    Awesome! Thanks! I've been leaning toward screen wire to shape the mountains, etc., then covering it with plaster cloth followed by clay or drywall plaster to carve the detailed areas out of. The foam sounds interesting; do you use a rasp or heat to shape it with?

    Do you have a link to your layout or sample photos? I was looking for your layout the other day, I'm sure you used to have one on here years ago.

    Matt

    GNR Pitch Fork Pass






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    Quote Originally Posted by GNMatz View Post
    Do you have a link to your layout or sample photos?
    Regarding the mountain creation techniques, I made a video on YouTube, called "Mountaineering":


    Also there's stuff on my web page linked in my signature, and there's a forlorn thread right here at NSN that I haven't updated in a long time.

    Hello. My name is Michael, and I am an ALCo - haul - ic.

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    I'd also recommend a mesh as your "base". My last n scale I used very fine aluminium screen like what you might find in Fly Screens on windows. Fairly cheap and forms a nice "firm" base.

    What I'd recommend though for your covering is Durhams Water Putty. Much MUCH cheaper than hydrocal, or any "hobby specific" product, dries quickly and very VERY hard. Add to that, it is light once dry and can be sculptured, carved, drilled, cut etc. Finally, a little goes a long way and because you "mix it" (similar to plaster) you can determine how thick or thin you make it. Lastly, I got mine from Lowes so it is readily available from your general "hardware" type stores.

    http://www.waterputty.com/
    Cheers Tony

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    Very Cool!! Outstanding tutorial, and excellent landscaping!! That's very close to the look I'm going for, except for a bit darker floor and I'm going to hand-make a small forest of conifers. Hopefully I'll get similar results, your's looks great!

    Matt

    GNR Pitch Fork Pass






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  21. #172
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    Quote Originally Posted by wombat457 View Post
    I'd also recommend a mesh as your "base". My last n scale I used very fine aluminium screen like what you might find in Fly Screens on windows. Fairly cheap and forms a nice "firm" base.

    What I'd recommend though for your covering is Durhams Water Putty. Much MUCH cheaper than hydrocal, or any "hobby specific" product, dries quickly and very VERY hard. Add to that, it is light once dry and can be sculptured, carved, drilled, cut etc. Finally, a little goes a long way and because you "mix it" (similar to plaster) you can determine how thick or thin you make it. Lastly, I got mine from Lowes so it is readily available from your general "hardware" type stores.

    http://www.waterputty.com/
    Thanks! I'm probably going to come up with a combination of techniques, and keep shooting for the look I want.
    The more suggestions the better, I'm taking all these pointers, and adding them to what I've done in the past and hopefully will come out with some nice scenery!

    Cheers!

    Matt

    GNR Pitch Fork Pass






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  23. #173
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    I've been happy with Great Stuff over cardboard, never tried it over screen. It makes the construction real solid because its very similar to gorilla glue.

    Some Great Stuff pointers:
    Working with it takes some getting use to, keeps expanding long after you apply, so be sure to mask nearby track.
    It takes a long time for the center of a large volume (like 6 inches thick) of G.S. to cure and makes for large voids in the center.
    Carve it to basic shape with a steak knife.
    Nothing will stick to the initial shiny skin, you want carved surface for some tooth. If you top it with sculptamold, smear some into the foam first to get good adhesion between the sculptamold and the foam matrix. Probably wouldn't hurt to do that with plasters too.
    Once you start a can, shelf life goes way down. And old GS doesn't expand as much as new.

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    I got slowed down the past few weeks with an outrageous sinus infection, and then several family things to take care of. Anywho, where I had left off, I was ready to start laying the logging/(or industry) siding along the main was the project ready to go. My neighbor, one of my best friends and my RR consultant (he was a conductor at the UP 37 years) asked what I was up to, and we got on the topic of mainline sidings. So he came over to see where I was referring to, he said:

    "Sure! That'll work great if you don't mind fouling the mainline to do so for some brief switching work... you'll delay trains for hours to move a few cars. You need to add a separate siding long enough to get around the block you create, and long enough to park a long train in it east or westbound to keep the main open and traffic moving both directions."

    Well, that rearranged the game plan. I now have the industry siding tied into a relaid main, and I'm just waiting for a few joiners to finish adding a new, 8+ foot mainline siding. Tomorrow, I'll start adding the switch machines. That should be a pretty easy task, I pre-wired all the frogs so the drops are already soldered in place, and I have 3 open decoder slots available, and I'll have to add one more stationary decoder for the last two slots I will need. That'll happen when I tie the siding in to the west (left side in the photos). I swear I will eventually get started on the scenery, but everything will go much smoother if I make for sure positive all the track is where it will stay and make sure it will all run with very little needed maintenance. Also... as I've discussed on here before, this siding will really enhance to operational aspects of the layout.

    However, I have much more real estate than I expected along the industry sidings, so now I'm pondering what industry buildings I what the spur to service. The spur will come off the open ended turnout on the industry siding... it'll require a little more thought before the spur is officially laid.



    Matt

    GNRPFP11-8-18-01.jpg

    GNRPFP11-8-18-02.jpg

    GNR Pitch Fork Pass






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    Still making headway! I've mounted and fully wired 3 more switch machines, and on one of them, I used a "Remote Tortoise Mount" for the first time. Personally, I give it about an 8 out of 10 overall. They could change up the under table actuator so that it stays together as a separate unit, the kit has to be held just the right way as it is designed now, but you can put a remote turnout throw fit just about anywhere with one of these! I have another of of these the build and mount, and then one more turnout and a regular tortoise mounted with it. After that, It's on to finish up a few lanes in the small staging yard, and then I can put away the track tools for a while and just have them handy. I'm ready to see mountains and trees!!

    Matt

    GNRPFP11-13-18-01.jpg

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    Default Nightmare On The Pitch Fork Pass!

    Ok, just so everyone can follow along correctly, my DCC Command Station is a Digitrax DB 150 that easily handles my layout and 26 Tortoise Switch Machines and multiple stationary decoders, on Atlas Code 55 Flex track and Atlas Code 55 turnouts.

    Two evenings ago, I had finished up 4 turnouts and three switch machines, and ran multiple trains for roughly an hour tweaking cars, turnouts, machine throws etc.. Yesterday, I decided I would lay out the roadbed for the staging yard, and to do so, I needed to add the first turnout into that yard. After laying it, I turned on my Command Station for the first time since the night before, and got the dreaded "5 Beeps" of a short! I started the quest for the short by taking all locos and rolling stock off the tracks, and giving every inch of track a thorough visual inspection for something stray from where I was working or anything else out of order that could cause the short. My layout is not wired in technical "Blocks" (which is soon to change) so I had to begin creating them to isolate the short. I was having zero luck. I tested the Command Station on a test rail to ensure it was a track issue/short, and it worked fine. I then progressed to vacuuming the trackage to ensure there was nothing stray that was causing the short... nada!

    With all the decoders unwired along with the throttle plate and all the reversing loop relays... STILL shorted!! I decided I'd finally take a straight tipped exacto blade and began checking all the gaps at every reversing loop and every frog. After over 5 hours total, I found one rail on the stock rail end of the frog that looked gapped, but tight. I wedged it apart increasing the width of the gap, and Bingo!! Short Found!! The frog was touching one or both stock rails. The message? Always check the gaps FIRST! Especially when there is a seasonal change in the weather. During the summer months, I keep our house about 3 degrees cooler in the summer than I do in the winter (I think most people do that for comfort). This week we were especially cold for the first time this year, and on came the heater (Heat Pump). When I keep my office closed at night, if I don't close the AC vent down, it either gets really warm or really cold, depending on the air coming out of the vent and not cycled out of the room. Long story short, if your track is really snugly fit together, your heater actually can expend the rails enough to push gaps together... particularly those on the two inner stock rails that meet the frog, that MUST remain isolated. All that effort, disconnecting and reconnecting so many components all because of a 1/32" gap being pushed together.

    Live and learn.

    Matt

    GNR Pitch Fork Pass






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  31. #177
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    Latest update! The trackage has all been laid and wired at Pitch Fork Pass. I used 2 Circuitron RTMs (remote Tortoise Mounts) to gain a little more head room in the staging yard. I had no decoder slots available for the switch machines, but luckily I had a DS44 remote decoder in the back of the drawer! I prefer using the DS64s instead, but if you set up a DS44 on it's own wiring block, it's as easy to program and connect to as a DS64 is (actually easier to wire into). Next is to finish the long siding along the main where it ties back into the main, and the lanes in the staging yard. I am contemplating one other small track change in Essex to resolve an area Allen H. pointed out... more on that later.

    I also spent several hours yesterday speed matching locomotives to use in consists. It's amazing how much more pull you get out of your locos in a multi lash up when the locos aren't fighting each other. I did the speed matching in JMRI which really speeds up the process, and allows you to tweak your speed curves with very little effort, and most of all, it's much easier to program on your PC than with a throttle. More to come soon!!



    Matt

    GNRPFP11-19-18-01.jpg

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  33. #178
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    Finally! All the track in Pitch Fork Pass and the new long mainline siding are all laid, wired and now the entire layout is in testing mode! I'll probably lay the few staging yard lanes tomorrow (if I feel like it, yesterday kicked my butt!!) or maybe finish speed matching all my consists while testing, and then we're about to see land! Or some form of land, begin to appear on the GNR Pitch Fork Pass! Yesterday (into early this morning) was really a pain, maybe that's why I had put it off.

    All was going well until I got to the last switch machine (zero area to spare to work there) and then getting it's stationary decoder to accept the new addresses. OMG that turned into another SNAFU! All I had for a stationary decoder was a new DS44, and that's what everything new was to be controlled by. I have several of them on the layout, and always program by individually numbered turnouts for each slot, so that's what I did. After 4 hours of all of the Tortoises being locked in stall, resetting my DB 150 more than once, (one reset I goofed and left several locos on the track when I sent a programming command to the new decoder... and it therefore it erased all the CV's of every loco on the track). Thankfully, my roster is already saved in JMRI, so I just had to drop them on a programming track, select the unit, and "Write All Sheets", then they were good to go. Several more attempts to unlock the system and allow new decoders to get programmed just wasn't happening. Finally, I did a long rest (again) and got the system online. Then I decided to just set the stationary decoder in quick setup sequential (25-28, steps of four per decoder)... and viola' This entire section of the layout is all blocked and running smooth as silk! I plan to add a larger command station and run the DB 150 as a booster on phase one, and then I can just add an additional booster if ever needed. I doubt I will as I'm going to use a DCS240 for the command station.

    I'm making steady progress, but sometimes it beats me up pretty good! For those that don't know, I have progressive MS, and MRRing is one of my means of "Heavy Exercise". But, as long as I can model in n-scale, I suppose I'm not as bad off as many others are. These are all photos of the completed Pitch Fork Pass run-around and industrial spur, along with the long (10 feet) mainline passing track/siding. Possibly one other small change and the track is DONE for Phase 1!!!



    Matt

    GNRPFP11-25-18-01.jpg

    GNRPFP11-25-18-02.jpg

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  35. #179
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    I've been working with the acquisitions dept, while running all my locos and rollingstock over all areas of the layout, and then tweaking, rebuiding any area that has a bobble or weave in it, or rarely derails certain cars, and going back and with the NMRA gauge measuring and checking areas. So far I have 7 locos (2 consists of 2 and 3 individuals) and approx. 35 cars that I can run constantly without a hiccup. Still working on speed matching the entire herd, but some were "Atlas Scale Speed" and are really difficult to match to.

    Over the weekend, I picked up a near impossible find locomotive on consignment at the large train shop in Dallas. I got a very good condition IM FT A/B set, and am just waiting for the decoders to arrive. I picked up a TCS CN for one of my old RS-3's and did probably one of the nicest installs I've ever done... but the headlights were operating in the opposite direction. So be fore I started trouble shooting that, I connected the frame with jumper leads, and ran it up to speed polish the drive wheels and test it's general performance, which was great! So after very, very little thought, I decided all I needed to do was swap the LED wires on the back board... yeah! That'll fix it!! Permanently! Flipped on track power and (not for the first time) that crash to blue screen, tiny "poof" of smoke come off the board. Kinda like pressing your place bet one too many rolls. I have no clue why I did that rather than put it on the programming track and simply set it all correctly, but alas, I chose to make a sacrifice to the MRRing Gods. Lesson Learned.

    Matt

    *Horns blowing, larger locos bumping smaller ones*

    "OK! Lets face it! Somebody has to back up!"

    Matt


    GNRPFP12-4-18-001.jpg

    The Herd bottlenecked at Pitch Fork Pass

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  37. #180
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    Matt,
    Been there done that with the Cn and CN/GP boards.
    Not sure why, but several years ago I went through and got several of my RS-3's and my RS-1 converted using the CN's, same trouble here.
    At first i thought I revered the Orange and gray wires cause the first one ran backwards. So the second time I watched closely and knew I had the wires connected properly, but it too ran backwards.

    So what I did was to swap the Orange and Gray wires on the motor tabs. Worked perfectly.
    You can also, if you perfer, you can reprogram CV29 so that it runs opposite.

    Here is one CV29 calculator that's I've used which works pretty good.

    http://www.2mm.org.uk/articles/cv29%20calculator.htm
    The Little Rock Line blog


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    By thirdrail in forum General Rail Discussion
    Replies: 4
    Last Post: 25th Jan 2006, 05:02 AM

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