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The reason that any of the control systems require twisted pair is to help in the isolation of the signals.  Sooooo an answer to your question is NO do not use the third wire for anything other that a spare.  I might even go so far as to suggest that maybe it should be grounded at both ends of your bus run just for safety sake as far as spurious signals is concerned.  Any how thats my 2c worth for tonight!   Russ

My question is now moot. I decided to take a closer look at this wire. It's too small! It's somewhere between 20 and 22 gauge. It's very sophisticated which includes full shielding around all three conductors and the individual wires themselves have what seems like a very thin copper-looking foil around the strands. Since DCS needs 14 – 16 gauge this won't work. It will be perfectly okay to power all my Ross switches and powering lights and accessories, but my euphoria about all this free wire was a bit premature.


Here's the wire with some ferrules crimped on the end. The white ones fit perfectly. The red ones are too large. Pardon the focus, this is a iPhone photo.


new Wire


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  • new Wire

Ryan, I think you are right except I was thinking of an isolated seperate ground not tied to the electrical ground.


Since the price was right how about just making a double run of cable and using one cable (a pair of wires) for each leg of the bus.  I.E. each cable would be the same as a single wire, 2 wires at 22 versus 1 wire at 14.  Just a thought.  Russ

If I'm going to sell it, I really should give it back to the company that gave it to me.


Today, my oldest grandson and I did some more work on the bridge area. We got the joists in place with him doing the real low work, while I did the cutting. I then built 7 more riser/cleat assemblies, and started getting the subroadbed in place. I had to make some adjustment cuts to the mating edges to bring the roadbed into alignment across the bridge area.


bridge end 05


The left side of the assembly was a little springy since the rear girder was pretty far away from the wall bracket. My grandson suggested just putting a support under the bottom. It was a simple solution that made the unit very solid. As the subroadbed is added the construction gets more stable. It doesn't get in the way since this part is way to low to ever have to get under... unless you're really, really small.


bridge end 07


For the temporary bridge I cut and fit a piece of OSB into the gap. I then installed an edge-mounted 1 X 3 on the bottom to act as a stiffener since the span will be more than 31 inches. It makes a nice flat piece.


bridge end 06


I set the risers for the outer track first. This installation is complicated in that it's part of the down slope of the high line. I temporarily fixed the risers with clamps until the total grade was smooth without any abrupt changes in elevation. I then put in one screw in each riser and went back and leveled the heads before putting in the other screw. That's where we ended today. Tomorrow, I'll finish up the bridge area and with that the bench work will be finished... or at least finished enough to start laying track.


The temporary gap filler is just that... temporary. As so as I build the bridges and start landscaping the gorge, the temps will be discarded and the real bridge will take over. There won't be any rush since the trains will be running, but I can't get too complacent since I've already bought them.





Images (3)
  • bridge end 07
  • bridge end 05
  • bridge end 06

Moving right along, I finished the bridge end with the temporary bridges. I found another springy portion and added another drop-leg to ensure that if I learn on it, it doesn't move downwards. I also took care of a punchlist item. Some of the joist ends were sticking out beyond the OSB on the layout's long front. I kept catching stuff on it and today it almost pulled the camera out of my hand when the strap caught on one of the longer joists. I used a square to draw a vertical line on each joist that extended out past the sheeting and then carefully used the saber saw to hack them off. I'll mount the skirting to these ends (and also some glued blocks that will have cross-grain facing out for a better grip on the little screws.


Bridge end complete 1


Bridge end complete 2


While the center sections are temporary, they're strong, flat and will hold up anything I run across them. I will have to keep my momentum or they could easily become "permanent" bridges. With the 23" drop, it should be a decent looking ravine.


With this out of the way, I started on the final structure piece before I can actually lay track. It's been five months so far and it's almost done... the bench work that is. If the railroad was the size it used to be, it would have been built months ago, a point which I am regularly reminded about.


The middle bridge area has an OSB piece that was cut before I decided how I was going to bridge the ravine in this area, so I am using this piece as the temporary bridge. I braced the bottom using the last pieces of the old layouts laying around. This piece was actually two reinforced pieces that used to hold up a bridge in old design. BTW: any areas of open joists like that in the background, will be eventually covered with pink foam. I intend on doing most of the landscaping with pink foam and I have a foam carving set to do it.


Middle Bridge 2


I ran a string line to set a reference for the structure that's going to support this whole affair when all the landscaping is in ... some time in the distant future.


Middle Bridge 4


And here's my "artist's" impression of the structure. Perspective's a bit off, but it gives the general idea. As before, I imported the photo into CorelDraw and hand drew the structure on top of it. It's tricky (in real life that is) because all these members intersect the rear girders at angle requiring Simpson Strong-tie plates to provide attachment. Right now the temporary bridge piece extends all the way to the main piece on the right, but the actual bridge section will start above the place where the L-girders are dropped. I'll make that cut after it's finally fitted.


Middle Bridge structure


Here's a view looking across the layout. It's a bit confusing (to me anyway) looking at all the pieces going off in a directions. It will look much better when there's track on it rather than scraps of wood and power tools.


Middle Bridge 3


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  • Bridge end complete 1
  • Bridge end complete 2
  • Middle Bridge 4
  • Middle Bridge 2
  • Middle Bridge 3
  • Middle Bridge structure

Did some more work today on the middle bridge area. I got all the pieces cut and assembled the right hand frames. I decided to continue the vertical supports all the way to the floor since the nature of the these jogged frames seem to be springy. I had the stock so I decided to consume it. I was able to salvage a couple more chunks of old L-girder, so I only had to fabricate two new girders for the middle spans on the right and left frames. I even scavenged the last of my square stock. One leg is an American 2 x 2, another is a German 50mm X 50mm, and two more are old 2 x 3s from the very oldest iteration of this layout when I was building an N-gauge pike before my son went to college in 1989. I had some metric carriage bolts left, but they were too short to properly pass through all this wood and have enough threads on the outside for the nut and washer, so I used a Forstener bit to counterbore the bolt holes. On the Metric-sized lumber I had to counterbore both pieces, since the Metric is quite a bit thicker than it's American counterpart. Next session I'll finish these up and the benchwork is complete!


Middle Bridge 5


I still have to fasten this structure onto the existing girders. I'm going to use Simpson Plates again for this. There's really not much stress on this part of the layout since it's main purpose is to support scenery, but I am concerned to maintain the precise alignment between the two parts of the layout. These two bridge areas are the only things keeping the entire front part of the layout from pulling away from the back... plate tectonics and all that...


On a totally different subject, I decided to get some nice Keil-Line bridge shoes for the bridges that are eventually going to close these gaps over "dead man's ravine". Valley Model Trains had them in stock and I got three pairs. I actually will need five since the middle bridge is going to consist of three deck bridges to accommodate the curve and each will need shoes on one end.


From the ads in the magazines, I thought these were plastic, but was happily surprised to find that they're cast metal. The bridges have to support a lot of weight, such as large 3rd rail steamers. Being metal I'm no longer worried about this.


Bridge Shoes in pack


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  • Middle Bridge 5
  • Bridge Shoes in pack

Mike, thanks! It's my fourth time making an L-girder layout so "practice makes perfect" or so they say. I was a shop teacher and am pretty handy, but I also read the Kalmbach layout construction book cover-to-cover many times before attempting to build one of these things. My philosophy is "just start doing something", you'll learn as you go. You can't do it well first time out. There's some stuff that even after practice I never got good at...I'm talking about golf here. You need some basic power tools plus a good power miter saw. My big DeWalt driver is a God send with enough power to run hours on a charge and drive anything I need to use.


My grandson and I continued working today on the middle bridge area. I got the two support structures built and then he helped me by doing the low work. It thought I measured the legs correctly along with all the other parts, but when I aligned the tops of the L-girder extensions with the tops of the main girders, the legs sort of no longer were on the floor. I don't actually need them to touch since the whole thing will get stiffer and stiffer as I add the subroadbed, track, and all the scenery elements, but I may just screw some ply extensions to the legs that touch the floor to add some more stability.


 Middle Bridge 6


On the front right leg in this picture, I had to drill the holes three times. First I found out that the girders made with German lumber are bigger in all dimensions that those with US lumber. The legs on the left side are almost a half inch longer than on the right side. I didn't know this until I constructed the frame and fit it in place and found the girder extension was much higher than the mating girder. I took it apart, cut off the excess leg length and then re-measured and drilled the holes for the girder, but I inadvertently put the counter-bores on the wrong side so I turned it over and did it one the other side. The only reason for the counter-bores is because my carriage bolts are too short and I didn't feel like buying any more. Then I found out that I positioned the main girder wrong so I had to take it apart AGAIN, and put in another set of holes. I began to look like Swiss cheese. Even after getting it all installed, they're still cockeyed. Luckily they're not being asked to do very much, just hold up some scenery and stay put. They'll do both jobs just fine.


Middle Bridge 7


I cut the 24" out of the center of the existing bridge piece that represents the actual bridge gap. The two end pieces—shown here outlined in red—will be permanently fastened to the approaches and will both have a riser and cleat under them. The middle section will get a bottom rib to stiffen it. This piece will be temporary. Once I construct the ravine and river bed, then add the abutments and piers, this piece will give way to three, segmented deck bridges.


A point of information. All cabling that has to go from the control panel in front to the entire rear of the layout will be passing under and around this middle bridge area or the left end bridge area (in the background of this shot). It can go around the right side because the swing-gate cuts it off. It's one of the reasons that I'm going to need so much wire. If I'm using DCS, I may run just the power leads to a Track Interface Unit (TIU) positioned in the rear section, then run all the power block runs from that position. It will reduce the wiring that needs to go under the mid-bridge, and reduce the length of digital signal lines which is helpful also. I probably will have four power blocks fed by two TIUs. I will still have to run the switch machine wiring from the panel, but this is smaller gauge. You can also operate track switches remotely with the DCS, but I'm more comfortable with switch control on a real control panel with real indicator likes. I'm old-fashioned that way.


Also, I am not going to scenic the entire ravine from the left to mid bridge areas. I'm going to let folks use their imagination to fill in the missing area. I want that are open for access to the rear trackage.


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  • Middle Bridge 7
  • Middle Bridge 6

Well... the benchwork is officially done. I completed building the temporary bridge for the middle-bridge section. When I'm ready to add the real bridges, I just have to remove the three temporary fillers and then build the abutments, etc. and install the new ones. 


Benchwork Done 5


You can see the stiffening rib under the temporary filler. This thing is rigid enough for me to stand on.


Benchwork Done 3


Here's a shot taken from the top of a step ladder showing all the benchwork. I cleared off all the tools, trash, etc. in preparation for this shot.


Benchwork Done


And here's my MTH Veranda which couldn't wait to try out the high line. Big layouts make O'gauge, scale-length engines look good.


Benchwork Done 1


Here's a reverse angle view. Looks like an empty 'artist's canvas' just waiting for something creative to happen...


Benchwork Done 4


I've been doing research on how the Plastruct Truss Bridges should be configured now that I'm turning them upside down and converting them from a through truss to a deck truss. The bridge doesn't have to be as high or as wide since a train with over-height freight cars doesn't have to pass inside. So I took the scale drawing of the original design and narrowed it and reduced the height. In the Kalmbach "Bridges and Trestles" book I found some drawings of single tracked deck bridges and it looks like the trusses are centered about where the loading gauge of the engine is, and was stated at 9'-6", roughly double the track gauge.


Here, I hung the new plan under the temporary span to see how it looks and fits. It works well and the proportions seem right. Since all the components of the bridge kit are "cut your own", I should end up with extra material which be used to build the plate deck bridges that are going to span the middle bridge gap.


New Bridge design trial


Here's the newly proportioned bridge on the previous plan. The height of the truss looks about right. The previous version was too deep for the length of the span. The shorter the truss members, the greater their compression carrying capacity, however the longer the tension members are the greater tension they can carry.





I found some screw points sticking through some OSB on the far end that I had missed. I'll grind them off next session. Then, I'll vacuum the entire surface (and the floor) in preparation for track laying. I'm actually going to be building a model railroad not just the world's most complicated work bench.


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  • Benchwork Done
  • New Bridge design trial
  • Benchwork Done 5
  • Benchwork Done 4
  • Benchwork Done 3
  • Benchwork Done 1

I painted the entire surface with some Behr Acrylic in a nice earth tan. This will keep the splintering down a bit, provide a neutral backdrop for scenery to come, and make it easier to see the Sharpie marks that will show where the tracks will go. I also made a little fixture that will position the edge of the Sharpie beyond the edge of the Ross ties that will mark the outside edge of the Flexibed roadbed. I bought a laser level to shoot straight lines. I had some straight runs on the previous layout that weren't all that straight.


This picture was taken with my tripod taped the flip-out tray on a 6 ft step ladder. I'm keeping this setup so I can take time lapse shots of the track laying process.

Benchwork painted

Right now I'm preparing track...lots of track! Some of the old track has adhesive and old foam roadbed on the back which I have to remove so the track lies nice and flat.

Here's what I'm talking about.


Track Cleanup 5

The old roadbed Vinylbed from Hobby Innovations. I used two different adhesives. In Germany I used a clear urethane adhesive which worked real well, but it a pain to remove once cured. In the US expansion, I used Liquid Nails. It's easier to remove since it's a bit more brittle. At first I tried removing it with a razor blade scraper. It worked, but was difficult to control. Then I used the special chisel I have for removing detail from plastic models. It worked better, but it's very slow.


Tonight I tried using the Dremel with the flexi-shaft handpiece with a coarse sanding drum on a slow speed. It worked great! I was able to clean a piece of 29" Ross straight track in about 1/3rd of the time.


What you see here is just track from the old layout. I've got a couple boxes of new track that gets added. I have a lot of pre-cut pieces from the previous iteration. I'm going to measure each piece and put a tag on it so I can quickly find cut pieces without having to chop up more good track. I had removed all the track pins when I packed the track so it wouldn't puncture holes in the packing boxes. I have to reinsert all of them. You can see the Dremel on its stand. Getting the flexi-shaft and the stand was a good decision. It makes handling the tool much lighter and more precise. I used a c-clamp on the base to ensure it doesn't tip over when I'm working.


Track Cleanup 4


Next session should finish up all the track cleaning and I'll be ready to start assembling a train layout. Right now I'm trying to decide on how to divide up the DCS power blocks. My past layout was cab control and had 30 separately controllable blocks. I'm not going that route this time. I think it will take two DCS TIUs fed from one Z-4000 and should be enough. At least I hope so...


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  • Benchwork painted
  • Track Cleanup 4
  • Track Cleanup 5

looking good.  I too, took the 5/8 OSB route for my sub road bed. After four hours working with that equals about 30 minutes of splinter pulling. All in all, I do like the fact that its not as "directional" as Plywood, which has led to verry little waste. I was going to paint it, but instead, I am going to skin it over with ceiling tiles turned up side down (Can't get homosote or quiet brace here) then run a base coat of paint over that.

Keep up the good work....


trainman 2001, pig tails are okay where you run into a problem if more than one power drop is in same block that is where DCS has issues. I have them on my layout and haven't had any issues once i delegated one TIU channel to one Lionel BPC and one transformer per TIU channel I have perfect 10's and nary a error message unless this old senior forgets to turn the transformers on!!


thanks for the update and I Wish You And Yours A Safe And A Very Merry Christmas.



Track laying continued, but mostly doing problem solving. I suppose the upside of using Gargraves flex track is that you can simply bend the curves to conform to the roadbed regardless of minor changes in radius, and conversely, the downside of using Ross sectional track is that this flexibility is lost. When you design a layout with sectional track in the precise way that it appears in RRTrack software, you get a very accurate layout, but when you transfer it to the real world strange things start to happen. Between making changes in the layout process in CorelDraw, cutting the panels a bit off, and not having the layout exactly sized when overlaying the OSB plan, there have been several close calls, all of which are now fixed except for one.


Yesterday and today I did just that. In two cases, I was able to unattached the OSB from the cleats and splice plates and pull them out a bit so the track wasn't hanging over the edge.


Too Close 1


Too Close 3


In another I cut a filler-piece to close up one of the two holes in the layout (the other's going to have to be closed up also),


Too Close 2


and today, I added a mild "S" curve to bring the track further into the layout and get off the front edge. I generally try to avoid "S" curves especially with what they do with long equipment. I put 10" of straight track in the middle. This brought the two tracks into a 4.5" C-to-C distance and gave me over an inch to the edge. It's still scary, but it's better than the alternative. The alternative was trying to cut a piece of OSB to extend the platform at that notch. The notch was not supposed to be there, but was the result of the complete screw-up I made in cutting the OSB piece in the foreground. 


Track Laying 4


The last thing I did today was do more adjusting of the track union at the swing-out door.  I had to re-position the latch closer to the layout front edge to enable the tracks to align properly.


Track Laying 5


 Last night I redrew the panel graphics from the previous layout. Here's the schematic for the pilot lights for each channel in the cab control set up. I may still wire this new layout in cab control and then convert to digital. I was able to work with cab very nicely in the old layout. The reason the lights are on the reverse side of where they're connected is so they light when the toggle switch is thrown in that direction. What's underneath is actually the reverse.


Panel Lights Schematic


Here's the new panel with the blocks and switches identified. Each block switch lies directly over the track it controls. The switches are arranged in geographic groups corresponding to their place on the diagrams. Blocks are numbered, switches are letters and uncoupling tracks are Roman numerals.


Panel layout JPEG


As the last time, the panel will be plexiglass with all the graphics applied on the reverse side. The upside: a smooth professional looking, surface that's quite durable. The downside: the panel is absolutely impossible to modify to add new or change track design. First I put down the numeral graphics, then apply masking strips for the tracks. I spray the back black, then pull up the masking tape and spray the strips yellow. It looks terrific when done this way. I may be adding tracks to both the front yard and the back passing siding so I have to figure out how to make this area modifiable. It would be easier to do front-mounted graphics which could be changed, but it wouldn't be as durable. Another way would be to make the graphics on a separate sheet that would be laminated to the underside of the acrylic. That could be modified by just replacing the graphic. I may try that. 


The second challenge is to be able to drill the holes for all the penetrations. Using a standard 118º drill bit tends to grab the plastic just as it breaks through. Plexiglass drills are ground to a more acute included angle.



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  • Too Close 2
  • Too Close 1
  • Too Close 3
  • Track Laying 5
  • Panel Lights Schematic
  • Panel layout JPEG
  • Track Laying 4

Track laying for positioning is almost complete. Tonight I started building the thru-yard which is the last section to be laid. But before I did this I decided to go back to the 'drawing board' and see if I could realign that front curve that was way too close to the edge. At first I tried moving the O-96 further up into the curve, but that put the branching track too close to the inside loop. Then I tried moving in to the right, further into the layout and this worked. I was able to get rid of that modified "S" curve and at the same time bring the track off the edge. While it's still not a lot, it will keep the engines from actually riding out over the table edge. This reduced the spacing between the 3rd and 2nd tracks, but that isn't a problem. I first worked it out on RRTrack and then in real life.


Here's the before picture:

Track Laying cont


Here's the realigned view. And a closer look at it. Tomorrow I'll have pictures of the yard construction.


track realignment


Part of the change was using an O-80 curve piece instead of 0-96 which made the curve shorter. That combined with the switch's new position made the difference. 


track realign detail


The slight bend in middle track as it enters the #8 switch is deliberate. There's a small piece of curve track in there to more precisely align the track's entry into the switch so there's no kink. Before I mark the platform for the roadbed, I'll go back and align everything again and then clamp the track into position for marking. That's what the bricks are doing, in case anyone noticed.


To cut Ross track I use the Dremel with the Flexi-shaft and a fiber-reinforced abrasive cut-off wheel. The hand piece on the Flexi-shaft lets you hold the wheel at a shallower angle making a more square cut. I use a diamond coated needle file to deburr the holes for the track pins and knock off the rough edges. I put a piece of fat masking tape across the track as a cutting guide and make shallow cuts on all three rails. I then remove the tape and finish up the cuts.


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  • Track Laying cont
  • track realignment
  • track realign detail

I had a few minutes to work in the basement today and started throwing track at the thru-yard area, and guess what? I over-ordered both track and switches and ended up with a pile of Ross 29" straight sections, and 3 switches; a new #4 L-hand switch and from the last layout a #4 R-hand and a O-96 switches. So... I've got switches and I've got track so I created more sidings. I put a new long industrial spur on the back section and built a substantial engine servicing area in the yard area in the front section.


Here's the new layout design.


New Found Yard Tracks 2


On the above design, all those red circles indicate where insulating pins are installed. I'm installing all of them during this rough-out period. I'm also marking the OSB where they are so I can account for all the feeder wires' locations. The only drawback from adding all this track is less space for buildings and structures, but it will guarantee that I'll enough storage for the engines. I don't mind pulling cars off the tracks for storage, but I don't like handling engines any more than is absolutely necessary. They're heavy and some are very delicate. Just like their 1:1 cousins, when they're off the rails, they're in big trouble.


Here's an overview progress shot with the tracks just thrown in place. I did not cut any to fit nor connect any track pins, but I wanted to see how many pieces I would need. That's when I found that I had a significant surplus of straight sections. I don't have the same luxury regarding curved pieces. And I have a box of cut pieces which was added to today when I discovered an unopened box from the last tear down. 


Track Laying New Yard Trial 2


I'm going to have to fill the last remaining hole in the OSB since the yard tracks are crossing into empty space. I was going to fill all of the gaps with foam board anyway when they were just going to support buildings and such, but if trains are going over the area, I want to have something more substantial holding them up. Some of these engines weigh over 11 pounds!


I just tried to insert two pics that were in portrait format, but they came out on their side. This has happened to me before. Does anyone know how to keep it from happening?


Tomorrow I will fit all these pieces together. I don't know if I'll have enough roadbed since these new tracks were not in the original estimate. I can only hope that since I over bought the track, maybe I did the same for the roadbed.




Images (2)
  • New Found Yard Tracks 2
  • Track Laying New Yard Trial 2
Last edited by Trainman2001

As planned, I finished placing all the track today. Everything is fit and now waiting to be marked out for the roadbed installation. There's a whole lot of track. In some of the views, the front portion looks like a "sea of track". Since I've taken up more real estate with the new sidings, I've redesign how I'm going to build the city. First, here's the layout with just track and no other clutter.


Track Laying Final before RB


Here's a slightly different look from the left end.

Track Laying Final Before RB 5


And a reverse view looking down the main yard in front of the swing gate. There will be some landscaping on the gate, but that notch will remain so you can reach the latch from the inside of the layout as well as the outside.

Track Laying Final Before RB 4


And here's looking into the space from the far right corner. The wide angle setting accentuates the distance, but even with normal eyes, it's really long.

Track Laying Final Before RB 3


Here's the new city plan. While it may be a stretch to call it "realistic", it does solve several problems including, where to put all the buildings. In this view I've shown the streets supported by structure. It could also be solid retaining walls, but I think it would be neat to see the trains running underneath like they do under Manhattan or coming into downtown Chicago. Having the town back here also lends to doing some faux perspective mural painting on the back wall.


City Design 3


As it stands now, the train station's going to be in the front, but it could be above the tracks in the elevated section. Since I'm a long way from building this, I still have time to make the decision, and since I'm the owner and operator of the Pennsy & Pacific RR, I may have two train stations, one in the country and one in the city. The engine house shown is the Korber 3-bay, Car Barn. I don't have room in that space to house a 32" long, Pennsy S-1, 6-4-4-6 duplex so something smaller will have to do. I may scratch-build something that will work. Even with all this size, there's still a need for MORE SPACE. If I made it bigger, my wife would kill me. Of course if she did that, she'd have to figure out a way to get all this crap out of the basement...




Images (5)
  • Track Laying Final before RB
  • Track Laying Final Before RB 5
  • Track Laying Final Before RB 4
  • Track Laying Final Before RB 3
  • City Design 3
Last edited by Trainman2001
Thanks to all... and now work continues...

Started marking out and cutting Flexibed roadbed. I also installed the Ross Bed under the switches. I'm not gluing anything down yet... just getting everything in position. I don't want to separate the tracks any more than absolutely necessary so I'm just going to lift the track out of the way when I start gluing things down.

I realigned the 3rd track from the front. The problem with the kink was the connecting track between the #8 cross-over switches being too short AND the #8 being in the wrong place. Moving the switch more to the right and adding the longer connecting track worked and the track is nice and straight leaving the switch. Unfortunately, my Victorian station is too wide to go between track 2 and 3, and will either have to go above track 3 or go somewhere else and I'll use a smaller footprint station to go in the inner-track spot.

Here's the marking gauge in use.

Roadbed Install 1

The gauge allows me to mark the outside edge of the Flexibed so I can place the roadbed without consideration of the track's placement above it. The rough texture beats the heck out of the Sharpie's tip, but it's a cheap price to pay to get the lines nice and straight. Oh... and I have been using the laser level to strike straight lines. The only drawback is that the room light need to be off to see it reflected off the center rail. It's a cheap Harbor Freight Tools item, and it shows. The laser exits the nose at an angle that is not in line with the unit itself. I don't believe that's the way it should be.

Here's a couple of shots showing the Ross Bed under the switches, the Flexibed and the marked up OSB for the roadbed.

Roadbed Install 3

On the top #8 switch in the above picture , you'll see a lot of wires coming out of it. In the previous layout I was using Ross relays on these switches to activate or de-activate the various center rails so they would work well with engines with short roller base distance. It is a significant complication, but may be necessary again. Also, sitting on the track is not a boxcar... it's a brick. I'm using bricks to weigh down and stabilize the track after it's straightened and being marked. I'm doing this instead of screwing blocks down over the track because it's just easier.

Roadbed Install 2

Because I added the extra sidings, I was short some Ross Bed. I called Steve at Ross and ordered 1 each of a RH #100, a RH #4 and a RH O-96. I may also run out of the roadbed since my order was predicated on a slightly smaller design. I don't know the smallest quantity that Flexibed is offered, but I'll cross that bridge when and if I come to it.

I also found out that if you're going to ballast Ross Bed, you don't have to paint it. That's a huge relief. I wasn't looking forward to painting it especially since the fit is tight unpainted and painting could make it worse.

The only area that requires any particular care is fitting the roadbed to the angular rails in the long switches. You have to trim the roadbed pieces so they nest together correctly. With a new sharp blade in the utility knife, this stuff cuts very easily...much easier than their old Vinylbed product which was made with compressed vinyl particles.

I'm off again tomorrow and will continue working my way around the pike. I'm also going to redesign the control panel graphics to accommodate the new trackage. I was going to make the same size as before... 30", but I'm going to enlarge it to 36" wide to give more room for switch controls.


Images (3)
  • Roadbed Install 3
  • Roadbed Install 2
  • Roadbed Install 1

I've completed about 75% of the roadbed fitting and I'm happy to report that I'm just going to make it with the Flexibed that I bought. Since it comes in quantities of 12 strips, I ended up with enough extra to do the whole job.


I also redid the artwork for the control panel. I now have 26 switches and therefore have used up all the letters in the alphabet, which obviously means I can never again buy any more switched. Yeah... right... like that's ever going to happen.


I've got one area that's bugging me. The crossing in the center of the layout has a slight kink on the track that goes north and south. If I rotate the crossing to straighten it, the East-West track gets the same kink. There's something amiss in the geometry and I can't seem to find out where it is. I think I'll power up just that section of track and run several different locos through the area to see if anything derails. If they track through it, I won't worry about it. If they have a problem, I'm going to have to trace back from this point to see where I can add or remove some track to straighten the approach.


Control Panel Template


The toggle switches still represent cab-control switches for each insulated block. Depending on when I purchase all the digital equipment, I may not need all those DPDT switches. I would just need them for the yard tracks that I'd want to isolate. Question: if you use Z4k tracks with the latest DCS, can you isolate sections with toggle switches?


By the end of the weekend I should be ready to start gluing roadbed and track in place. I can't wait to run trains on this thing.


Images (1)
  • Control Panel Template

My grandson and I started gluing track yesterday. We ran into a problem that we didn't think would happen. After all the careful fitting and tracing of the track and roadbed, we must have started gluing a little too far the right (swing gate end) and the 25ft. run of straight track came out a quarter inch short of the switch at the left end. We had already glued in the first 12 ft section and it had already cured too much to rip it up. So we had to relax the track pin joints enough so it mated correctly at the left end. I found out where the 1/4" went... it showed up at the mating track at the swing gate. The track is firmly glued so I'll have to take out the Dremel and trim back the now-excess track. We'll have to be more careful moving forward.


We were challenged getting the switches into their respective Ross Bed urethane pads. We were using a soft mallet to tap them in, but this afternoon I found a much better way: using as quick clamp with the thick rubber jaws to squeeze the switch into all the nooks and crannies of the roadbed. We then used super glue to permanently hold the two parts together. The clamp puts more generalized pressure and doesn't damage either the switch or the roadbed. 


We're having to plan out the gluing routing so we don't create a situation where it's too hard to get the track reconnected when everything around a section is glued down.


We're using Loctite's general purpose structural adhesive. I'm not partial to this brand or Liquid Nails, but since Loctite is made by Henkel, and Henkel is paying my retirement, I try to give them as much business as I can.


Here's the no. 1 grandson spreading the adhesive before gluing down the Flexibed. That stuff goes down like a dream. Very easy to get it to conform to curves—especially the wide ones I'm using—and sets up in about 10 minutes.


Gluing down the tracks 1


Here's our "sophisticated gravity-fortified ballast & track restraining system" at work helping the track cure evenly. The previous owner of the house was the original owner and the house was a custom build. She was nice enough to leave a pile of bricks in the garage which have come in handy more than once. They also served as weights while gluing on the wing skins of the B-17 RC plan that I built. 

Gluing down the tracks 2


Yesterday we complete the swing bridge and the two mainline straight sections in the front of the layout. We also experimented with super-elevating the outer curve track on the swing bridge. We glued a 20 gauge insulated wire to the roadbed about a 1/4" inside the outside tie edge using hot melt glue, then glued the track down with the Loctite adhesive. It looks and works nicely, but my grandson feels it's too much effort for the effect it gives, so we may not do it elsewhere. We reduced the elevation to zero about 3 inches from each end so the track won't be tilted when it has to mate up with the stationary sections of each end.


I also just received the last three pieces of Ross Bed that I was missing so I went downstairs after dinner and joined them to their switches. So all the switches are ready to be reinserted into the layout. After spending 3 hours to glue just that small section, we both realized how much work it's going to be to glue the rest of it.


I may have a source for the roofer's gravel. The roofing company where I'm consulting, has it and will share it with me. They've got white, black and gray, which would make a nice mixture of lighter for mainline and darker for sidings and yards.


My grandson has also weighed in on where the town should go. He wants to put a mountain the far right corner and would rather have the town on the front left corner in the big circle made by the return loop. Here's the revised plan...AGAIN!. It's actually where I originally had it. I like the mountain against the backdrop too! I'll name the town, "Hilltown" or "Circleville" or something like that...


Hilltown Revisited


Images (3)
  • Gluing down the tracks 1
  • Gluing down the tracks 2
  • Hilltown Revisited

I got the chance to do some more track gluing yesterday and today. It's going okay, but I still keep getting strange fit problems even after thinking that everything was in line. Unfortunately, I used too much Loctite structural adhesive in the first two tracks and ripping it up to change location is all but impossible. The track at the gate was therefore sticking out too far and fouling the track on the swing gate. At first I thought about trimming it back right at the gap, but quickly realized that the position of these switches had a ripple effect that would add that quarter inch back through many other tracks, so I trimmed the excess from the two tracks leading into the switches. This worked! It brought the tracks at the swing gate in perfect end-wise alignment.


For other tracks, I've been using less adhesive. The tracks won't be going anywhere. There is still a couple of places where there are some hitches in the track. It's especially challenging to get the alignment on the diagonal tracks between #8 cross-over switches. Here's a picture of the misalignment. I've tried rolling equipment through the switches and everything works fine. I'm pretty confident that engines won't derail here either. 


The red line shows how it would look if it was straight. 


Gluing down the tracks 3


The above picture clearly shows the Ross Bed under this switch. I finally figured out a good way to get the switch nestled into the roadbed... I used a large quick clamp with nice rubber jaws. The clamp could reach into the center of the switch thereby exerting equal pressure on both sides. Working from one end to the other, all the switches bedded down nicely. It worked much better than a rubber mallet. After insertion, super-glue in strategic locations keeps everything where it should be...forever.


Here are the four tracks that are now fastened down, so I'm about 25% through the gluing process. These are the most difficult to align tracks (except for the crossing), so after these, it will go faster.

Gluing down the tracks 4\


One of the cars I'm using to test the track is this Lionel Santa-Fe 18" car. These were some of the last train purchases before I was laid off in '09 and they look spectacular behind the A-B-B-A Santa Fe F3s pulling them. This picture shows the superelevation at the swing bridge. It looks so good my grandson and I decided to do it on some of the other outer high-speed mainline curves. The line illustrates the tilt.

Superelevation 1


Lastly, here's a closeup of that cars trucks. I am just blown away at having a fully equalized, sprung passenger truck under these cars. They make all my other passenger equipment look very toy-like. Lionel did a great job with these. (I just couldn't help taking this picture.)

Truck Details 1




Images (4)
  • Truck Details 1
  • Superelevation 1
  • Gluing down the tracks 4
  • Gluing down the tracks 3
Last edited by Trainman2001

Train man 

 I haven't read this from the beginning but I have picked up on some of your progress updates. It looks like a nice track plan with the ability to do some fun independent running while still having a yard area to build trains. If I could make one small suggestion I would say to get some power to the layout and test run some motive power to be sure things will run well before you glue everything down permanently. Rolling passenger cars or freight cars by hand may not expose vulnerable areas of trackage problems. It may save you some track and time doing a few test runs as you go. Nice job  and what a great way to spend your retirement years. I look forward to your updates.

Didn't do any track gluing today... had to work at a real job... but did some design work on RR Track and CorelDraw PhotoPaint to update the landscaping/scenery some more. I realigned the Hilltown so there was bridges connecting it in a four directions. I extended the town's base towards the corner which accomplished two goals: it eliminated a bridge in at least one direction, and it provided more room for buildings. I am purposefully showing the gas and fire stations right up front. Both of them have (or will have) detailed interiors and or other things of interest. I have two other buildings with interiors that also need to be somewhere in town where they can be viewed. There's a lot more buildings in this picture than I currently own so there's room for expansion.


 Both tunnels clear any switches. I don't want any switches to be out of sight.


New City 3


Pretty cool how I got those cloud backdrops in there, don't you think. Before I pasted and warped the clouds, I masked and copied a portion of the mountain, laid the clouds in, and then pasted the mountain chunk back over the clouds.

New City 4


I'm off tomorrow and will be gluing track again.


Images (2)
  • New City 3
  • New City 4

I wasn't supposed to, but I did get some track glued today.


I glued on a 5 foot section on the elevated section in the half-hour between getting home from work and dinner. There was a small dip in the left-hand upgrade portion of track on the elevated section. I took some of it out by relocating a cleat upward, but didn't eliminate it. Instead of worrying about it, I'm just putting some cardboard shims under the track to smooth it out. The dip worries me since it makes the engine think that it's going up a more severe grade for a short bit, and with a heavy train, can stall the engine. If I go digital and can run pusher engines, this is no problem, but running singly it could be one. The shims eliminate the dip.


The roofing company where I'm consulting has some surplus 4 x 8 sheets of 4" Styrofoam that they want to give me for the layout. I have a hot wire Styrofoam cutter, but it isn't up to the task of carving up something that big, so today I bought a heavy-duty, hot knife foam cutter from MicroMark. With this tool I'll be able to cut the stuff down to size. I'd rather use plastic foam instead of the alternative. The alternative is cardboard strips held together with hot glue, then covered with plaster cloth or window screen soaked with polyurethane expanding foam.


As you guys know, Styrofoam cutting is very messy if you attack it with saws and normal cutting tools, but it cuts like butter when you use hot tools, and it doesn't generate a gazillion little static-seeking beads. Normally, model railroaders gravitate towards the green or pick foam that not made from beads since it cuts with less mess.


My first experience with Styrofoam bead board was carving a crocodile head for a float in Michigan State's float parade that ran through campus on the Red Cedar River. They really were FLOATS. This was in 1966. It made a complete mess of the dorm room! It was a great float depicting Peter Pan, Captain Hook, the Croc with the clock and a pirate ship. I don't know if they still do this every Spring. It was fun. Anyone out there know if it still goes on? Or if not, when did it stop? Unfortunately, this was long before the age of everyone walking around with a digital camera and I have very few pictures from that era considering I almost spent five years there.


The foam will make up the bulk of the bases for the mountain and the elevated city. I'll hollow it out wherever I have to gain access to hidden tracks in tunnels. There could still be some plaster work needed to make a realistic surface, but that's going to be a very small part of the total mass.

Looks really good!  I made my first (and last...its been a while since the trains were up) at styrofoam about 12 years ago.  My only problem, I used a razor blade.  Needless to say I ended up with bandaids on EVERY finger.  

Anyway, which program did you say you used to design that?  I actually am a mechanical designer and I'd love to know what you used and how I'd get it.




I'm using four pieces of software. The first is Russ Becker's RRTrack ver. 5.0. It has several modes with one being the plan view where you actually lay track and everything else, and the 3D rendering view which allows you to visualize the layout from any level from eye level to straight vertical and rotate around in 360º. But to get the image from that rendering engine to another program is problematic, at least on my computer, so I capture the 3D view as it appears on screen using Snagit, a very flexible screen-capture program that is much more intelligent than the "screen capture" button on my laptop.


I then use Corel PhotoPaint to do any further augmentation of the captured image. For example: I re-did the area around the tunnel portals since RRTrack doesn't render them very well.


The structural plan and all the OSB cutting designs were all done on CorelDraw X5, which is a nice vector drawing program like Adobe Illustrator. It's not cad-cam and will not output machine readable cutting instructions, but it does have excellent scaling and measuring features. I've also used CorelDraw to "sketch" in any details that are not so easy to create in a bitmap based program.


I have fun with the 3D rendering since it really lets me play with scenic treatment and helps define where buildings and structures will lie and at what elevation.

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