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The 2021 Christmas layout starts today!

My starting point is the layout I created last year.  Here are some videos and pics to set the stage:

video - Christmas Eve 2020

https://youtu.be/xAHeih5lHKM

video - Christmas Morning 2020

https://youtu.be/q6rYfZBm1fk

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Last edited by Garrett76
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got the benchwork frames all set up and placed the foam on top.  the painted foam is what I used last year.  the unpainted green is new for this year.  realized that I did not account for floor space for plants which need the sunlight from that left corner.  so, going to have to flip this track plan horizontally.  the add-on 4x4 surface will have to move to the right side of the layout.  glad I started way early.

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You know....I've never thought of or seen an elevated dog bone used for a Christmas Tree Layout before.

Works great and keeps the trains off the floor.....yet you can still add presents to the base of the tree.

Many of us wind up moving a couch to make way for the tree....which one would do for a dog bone like you did last year.

Brilliant.  Thanks for sharing.

Last edited by Berkshire President

You know....I've never thought of or seen an elevated dog bone used for a Christmas Tree Layout before.

Works great and keeps the trains off the floor.....yet you can still add presents to the base of the tree.

Many of us wind up moving a couch to make way for the tree....which would for a dog bone like you did last year.

Brilliant.  Thanks for sharing.

I went with the dogbone concept at first because I could start building it in Oct or Nov.  We would get a live Xmas tree after Thanksgiving. I made the section in front a head of time.  just slide into position after the tree was in place.  My first dogbone layout: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RUXa4qVFwEA

However, problem- our older dog would stumble through it like Godzilla through Tokyo.  We could come home and find derailed train cars and broken ceramic buildings, LOL.  after that I lifted everthing up.  my first elevated layout was 2014.  it was smaller than what I have now (different house), but it is still one of my favorites: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gk7_b_cglMo

Keep documenting that Christmas layout build, Garrett. Might be a very good candidate for the Dec. (2022) issue of O Gauge Railroading magazine. Just get in touch with me if you might be interested. Our 2021 issue is already in production, but I really like to plan ahead when it comes to seasonal magazine features.

Thanks.  If you have any photography or documentation tips, please share.  Right now I am focused on making daily forward progress and sharing with the forum.

Garrett, You have a nice space for your Christmas layout.  I lost my previous space to my wife's quilting operation.  I'm all in favor of her doing it.  She retires tomorrow.  Yippee!  She needs to get her mind off nursing and work on her hobby more.

In addition, I finally notice the chipped off edges of the foam in the final photograph.  I think that is a nice touch.  I agree, get with Allan Miller on doing an article.

@Garrett76 posted:

as a friend of mine said, it's time for my wife to get a she-shed !

I tried to sculpt the edges of the foam to make it look more like a snow bank.  once the garland is in place like the pictures at the top then it really takes on a custom look with the lights and shadows

Our township only allows one outbuilding, and we have a shed with mower, snow blower, etc.  The only answer is to move!

@Garrett76 posted:

Thanks.  If you have any photography or documentation tips, please share.  Right now I am focused on making daily forward progress and sharing with the forum.

I will send you a copy of our Author Guidelines and Photo Tips sheet. Just document the heck out of everything you do with hi-res photos and I will work with you to put an article together. If we come up with a decent presentation (I'm confident we will), you will receive $400 for the article when it is published.

I picked up this graduated trestle set (MTH product, specific model for use with Lionel Fastrack) at the local train store (Just Trains in Delaware).  it was my first experience with inclines and elevation.  pretty neat product.  the fit around the track is pretty snug.  I got a few bent fingernails trying to slide the pieces down the 30" fastrack straights.  I wised up and started pushing with the end of a sharpie marker.  otherwise, it was easy to setup

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I did discover some problems with the inclined track setup:

1) the loco and tender are heavy and cause the curved track to bend toward the outside of the curves (O36 Fastrack).  I'm not comfortable with any flex and don't want any part of the loco or cars to derail and tumble onto the ceramic items that will be below

2) the MTH pillars seem fine to support the end of the track where they join between 10" straights and the O36 curves.  however, there are weak spots where I have small straight pieces (1-3/8, 1-3/4, 5).  at one spot on the left, the track flex causes a break in power.  in the video below, you will see the loco stop on its climb.  have to work on some fixes

3) I am uncomfortable with the height of the track next to the edge of the benchwork.  call it a fear of heights.  I will have to add some protective measures to prevent a major crash in case of a derailment

https://youtu.be/DQ4vxyPVDU4

I wasn't crazy about the extra wide opening in the center area.  The top pic is the setup I used last year.  I had an extra large Christmas tree and still thought the space was too open.  So, back to the drawing board and saw horses for a new piece.  The 2" insulation from Lowe's is plenty firm for tracks and village houses.  Also, it's easy to shape.

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This is a neat thread - and really nice work, Garrett. It is so rare to have so much natural light to work with. The foam cutting thing gives a neat effect. My only suggestion is to go back to a single operating loop but keep the over and under; having the train traverse the entire span will lend interest to viewers - making it appear more of a journey.

@Paul Kallus posted:

This is a neat thread - and really nice work, Garrett. It is so rare to have so much natural light to work with. The foam cutting thing gives a neat effect. My only suggestion is to go back to a single operating loop but keep the over and under; having the train traverse the entire span will lend interest to viewers - making it appear more of a journey.

yeah I had the same thought.  My past Christmas trains pulled about 20 cars.  A long train looks really nice traversing the layout.  But, I made the change for a few reasons which I will reveal later.  All good.

tonight's task was adding more piers under the elevated curves.  It really bothered me to see the O36 fastrack bending under the weight of the loco and tender.   Since I luckily purchased two of the MTH elevated trestle sets, I had plenty of extra piers to add.  Now, it's rock solid, and I have no fears about the train tipping over

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@palallin posted:

I see that you are using the Dept 56 O Little Town of Bethlehem initial set of buildings.  I have picked up one of those and a couple others from the series for my layout this year.  When I get the detailed finalized, I'll post a pic on another thread.  But I wanted to let you know I appreciate that aspect of your layout.

thank you, sir.  it's easy to get caught up in all the hoopla, but Jesus is the reason for the Season

PE train and MTH Nativity train.....

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the backdrop is the most time-consuming element in the entire layout.  I made a piece for the middle section in the back.  also had to make some length adjustments to the other back pieces.  I am painting two coats of blue as a base sky color then will add some other hues to achieve the desired look.  the overall length is about 19'

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here's a closer look at the backdrop construction.  A night sky backdrop for my Christmas layout has been on my to-do list for several years.  I wanted to incorporate the look of a quilt and star elements to give this a really custom and cozy look.  I think that it will look fantastic when the layout is finished and the backdrop is lit only by the lights of the Christmas tree.

the first step is to mark the vertical lines with a level while the foam is attached to the table.   I make a few other reference marks then remove the foam and place on a table.  Then, I map out 4" squares.  Then, I sketch the quilt pattern.

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Dallas, you are so right!!    I spent too much time on my knees crawling around working on electronic equipment.  I even laid on the cold concrete floors and steel grates so I could see what I was doing on equipment mounted 6 inches off the floor.  I hurt my shoulders reaching above my head as well, when I couldn't climb into the cable trough.   When I was 51, I moved into engineering, and I always tried to design equipment to be mounted above the knees but no higher than eye level, just to help the guys out.  (It was kind of like mounting the equipment in the strike zone!!)    Now at age 65, I wish I hadn't had to crawl and kneel so much! 

Sorry to digress, Garrett!  I never want to stop encouraging middle age guys to think like you are in getting off the floor.  All of your spotlights look great!  Excellent layout.

Last edited by Mark Boyce
@Mark Boyce posted:

Dallas, you are so right!!    I spent too much time on my knees crawling around working on electronic equipment.  I even laid on the cold concrete floors and steel grates so I could see what I was doing on equipment mounted 6 inches off the floor.  I hurt my shoulders reaching above my head as well, when I couldn't climb into the cable trough.   When I was 51, I moved into engineering, and I always tried to design equipment to be mounted above the knees but no higher than eye level, just to help the guys out.  (It was kind of like mounting the equipment in the strike zone!!)    Now at age 65, I wish I hadn't had to so much! 

Sorry to digress, Garrett!  I never want to stop encouraging middle age guys to think like you are in getting off the floor.  All of your spotlights look great!  Excellent layout.

You are da man Mark.😉

@Mark Boyce posted:

Dallas, you are so right!!    I spent too much time on my knees crawling around working on electronic equipment.  I even laid on the cold concrete floors and steel grates so I could see what I was doing on equipment mounted 6 inches off the floor.  I hurt my shoulders reaching above my head as well, when I couldn't climb into the cable trough.   When I was 51, I moved into engineering, and I always tried to design equipment to be mounted above the knees but no higher than eye level, just to help the guys out.  (It was kind of like mounting the equipment in the strike zone!!)    Now at age 65, I wish I hadn't had to crawl and kneel so much! 

Sorry to digress, Garrett!  I never want to stop encouraging middle age guys to think like you are in getting off the floor.  All of your spotlights look great!  Excellent layout.

discussion of back pain is on target for this project.  my back was KILLING me after painting the backdrop.  sitting in a non-ergonomic chair and hunching over caused me acute lower back pain that lasted for days.  then while that was going on, I was on the tile floor under the layout and wiring the operating accessories.  now I have broad based muscle aches and pains that cause me to wince every time I go over a bump in the road.  It's all wearing off but will definitely try to do things differently if there is a next time, lol

@Garrett76 posted:

discussion of back pain is on target for this project.  my back was KILLING me after painting the backdrop.  sitting in a non-ergonomic chair and hunching over caused me acute lower back pain that lasted for days.  then while that was going on, I was on the tile floor under the layout and wiring the operating accessories.  now I have broad based muscle aches and pains that cause me to wince every time I go over a bump in the road.  It's all wearing off but will definitely try to do things differently if there is a next time, lol

Garrett , you can be happy at least in knowing how much you have sacrificed for thr hobby .

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