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Long time, no update! Between a super busy spring, my Jeep project taking a lot of my mental capacity, work travel, and a tree limb falling into our garage, I finally got some time to start moving modules!

This won't be a big update, but, HOPEFULLY, by the end of today, I'll have all of the modules in the new train room and can start building out the last section and get the last bits of track. This thread is going to help me be accountable, so feel free to challenge me to get it done.

My main constraint right now is how to give enough room to the sump pump + battery back-up. I should have enough room, but I just want to make sure I can get to if needed.

Current status:

Train room: loading.......

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@Mark Boyce Its all a learning experience right? And at least now it pushes me to get the Jeep done to get out of the garage and my garage gets a nice little make over and roof! haha (Gotta look on the bright side, right?) And right? This wasn't a problem just a few months ago, but I think I have a solution to the prob



@RSJB18. You hit the nail on the head. Ultimately, I may build this module with just 1x4 to make it light. I'll be bolting it to the other two modules, with the goal of making it so IF I ever need to get to the sump pump, I can remove it pretty easily.  I'm also leaving it off the wall on that side incase I need to get to the battery. I actually may start working on it this afternoon.



As a quick update, I think I have the finalized track plan for the Corner Variation.  This is adding a 42x55 module (in blue) to connect to two pieces.  I spent about a few hours making sure I could make O-48 curves work on all of the pieces, and I did! I also added an extra passenger siding in the lower right hand corner. I think it would be fun to park some extra cars, or the RDC Budd cars I have on there.



And this is what I want the true future of the layout to be. This will be an extra little staging yard and above that, I will put a level of houses that will have a trolley track run in front of them.  Ultimately, the trolley track will go into the "down town" area to connect it. The thought is to use super streets and a Z stuff controller for the trolley. I may also try to blend in an abandoned coke oven scene by the staging tracks. Heres the vaporware version of it!



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Hey Everyone! I wanted to give a little update.

All of the modules are officially in the newly christened Train Room. I'm currently working on spacing them properly and aligning them up. I still need to build the 5th module, but the track plan will work with O48 curves. I need to decide my construction style for the new module. I want it to be light weight so I can lift it out if I need to get to the sump pump, so should it be 1x4s with additional buttressing in the corners or do I just stick with how I currently built the rest (2x4s)? I'm open for thoughts here.



I also put in some new investments in the pike as well. I was able to snag a Fastrack Truss bridge off of Facebook marketplace for a great deal. I've been playing around with it because I don't have any track yet, but it looks amazing and I can't wait to get it on the full build.

The other big addition was I pre-ordered the new DCS system from @MrMuffin'sTrains. I missed out on a used DCS system with a remote a few months ago for a steal of a price and really want to have DCS capability on my layout. I figured, by the time they come in, I should be at the point where I'm wiring blocks and running trains.



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Justin, the truss bridge looks great!!!

Are you referring to the blue module on the track plan that needs to be lifted out for access to the sump pump?  If so, it looks to be 4 feet by 4-1/2 feet.  It would be too unwieldy for me to lift out with the modules on two sides and the walls on the other two sides.  Of course I am pushing 66, have an artificial knee, rods and pins in my back, and arthritis in my hands.    I would have to make it in two pieces even if I used 1x3s.  It doesn't look like there is room for two people to get at it to lift.  All that to say, please explain your plan for removing it, since I think I am missing something.  Not uncommon for me. 

I have a Fastrack truss bridge on my layout and it's a great focal point! Glad you were able to find one to incorporate into your layout.

Looks like you have lots of space around the layout - why not just put the whole thing on casters and roll it out of the way for access to the sump pump?

@Mark Boyce I'm actually still brain storming that. It may come down to just adding casters. I was thinking about maybe building it in two sections and trying to get fancy with things like hinges and pulleys.



To @Mike0289's point, casters were part of my original thought. The big issue was we have a really uneven floor in the basement. I put leveling feet on each leg which has been perfect. I also could not find leveling casters anywhere that weren't a months long wait or insanely expensive.

My challenge would still be cost (20-24 legs). I'm seeing 4 packs of casters at $40, which would mean I'd need 6 packs at a minimum, so I'd be looking at $240 just in casters.  I'm open to suggestions on casters too. I may need to think this through a little more.

I put casters on my 4x8 and it makes it so easy to slide around the basement if needed. I did use one of those caster sets from Amazon. They do get a little pricey but it’s a convenient option if you can make it work with the floor leveling. Just run all locomotives with speed control so those inadvertent grades won’t matter. 😂

Where are you thinking about incorporating the bridge? I thought it might be a little tricky with that plan as is. Would it fit? Or were you thinking of adding an elevated line somewhere?

A lot has happened, but it still doesn't feel like much.

First off. I realized something about the new room: The floor is actually much more even than I originally thought. Like, almost dead even where I need it to be. After 2 months of fits and starts (and a 2 week trip to Scandinavia in the middle of it), I finally got the casters on every table leg. I ended up replacing the adjustable feet with casters and this has made my life so so so easy! I should've done this from the beginning



The second, and probably most detrimental thing is the layout design. After going back and forth, and getting a little overwhelmed by having to build more benchwork, my wife said "why don't you try to build something with what you have?" I was so hyper focused on a more detailed, larger plan, that I was missing out on the joy of actually running trains. So, with that, I scooted the modules around, and went to RailModeller, and....Voila! Version 5 of the layout. haha

It uses all of the existing modules, but adds in the Fastrack Truss Bridge, 3 Fastrack girder bridges, and one I'll need to build one bridge.  The new goal will be to add a river scenery module under the bridges there to make a pretty cool scene with some depth.  Here are a few pictures of the new track plan, and what it looks like in the room.  The best part, I've got enough room to get to the sump pump and can even roll the layout away from it if needed. Win, Win, Win!



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I'm writing this as I hear a CSX freight passing by our house on the Camden Line towards Baltimore.

Big progress on the layout! I was able to finally get all of the track pieces in place, risers, bridges, and bridge placeholders. I'm really like the shape the layout is taking. I haven't been able to run any trains yet, but I'm hoping to have some power running to the pike tomorrow. Here are some pics of everything in place.

My next project is going to be wiring. Before I start drilling holes and running wires under the layout, I'm going to draw out a good schematic on where each drop is going to happen, and the direction of them going to the to be designed control panel. I'll be running DCS via the WTIU, whenever they ship from MTH. I don't have the system yet, but I'm planning with that in mind.  I'd love to see some suggestions / pictures of wiring panels and some best practices. Wiring terrifies me, but I really want to do it right (and be super organized in doing it). I think I've got the majority of my supplies in. I just need to get some wire strippers and terminal blocks.

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The layout is coming along nicely.  One note of caution about the unopened roll of wire you have pictured.  The brand name on it indicates it may be CCA (copper clad aluminum). It is typically less expensive than pure copper, but is not recommended for train wiring.

While I don't personally have experience using CCA wire, GunRunnerJohn strongly recommends against using it.  If it's unopened, you may still be able to return it and find something else more suitable.  There are lots of other good choices.

@SteveH posted:

The layout is coming along nicely.  One note of caution about the unopened roll of wire you have pictured.  The brand name on it indicates it may be CCA (copper clad aluminum). It is typically less expensive than pure copper, but is not recommended for train wiring.

While I don't personally have experience using CCA wire, GunRunnerJohn strongly recommends against using it.  If it's unopened, you may still be able to return it and find something else more suitable.  There are lots of other good choices

Happy Friday everyone!

Thanks, @SteveH!  That's a great call out. I actually never thought of checking. Something is going back to the big A-warehouse this weekend.

Thanks @Mark Boyce! I definitely want to do this right and plan it out. When I planned out the bench work I had under a foot of scrap wood. I like efficiency and cutting waste in projects. I guess my wife has rubbed off on me.

On the wiring front, what is the suggested gauge wiring when using DCS and Fastrack? I've seen a lot of recommendations for 14 gauge, but it's too big to fit in the .110 female wire connectors I need to attach under the track. Would 16 gauge work, or is it too small?

Here is a quick, really really rough sketch out of the wiring schematic (if you can call it that, more like chicken scratch).

PXL_20221105_003014373

Another Q: I currently have a new WTIU on order from @MrMuffin'sTrains.  I never planned on an AIU, but I'm considering it. Do you all think it's worthwhile? I see the benefits of using it for switches but I can easily build a control panel for them (only 8 total on the pike).

Lastly, I took a trip to Engine House Hobbies in Gaithersburg, MD and picked up a URR gondola I haven't seen in the wild before.

PXL_20221104_235714388

Here is to getting some wires down this weekend and trains running before the work week hits.

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The recommendation for 14 gauge minimum pertains to bus wiring.  Assuming you plan to use a star wiring scheme with dedicated home runs, in my novice understanding of DCS wiring, I believe 16 gauge wiring should be fine given the size of your layout.  Others with greater DCS knowledge can confirm or deny my supposition.

To able to use larger than 16 gauge with Faston connectors you'd need to either change to the 187 series (or larger) or alternatively step down the wire's size just before the 110 Faston connector.  For what it's worth, I've found that even the 250 series (1/4 inch) without the shroud around the connector end will fit into the FasTrack tab and make a secure connection.

See page 8 of the following resource for compatible wire gauges and ampacity of Faston connectors:

TE Connectivity Faston Connectors

Last edited by SteveH

Very nice layout design.

I am building a similar size layout with Fastrack and the same bridge. The wiring design is very similar also.  I have two loops powered with a 180w Lionel brick for each.  I installed both DCS and TMCC.  The TMCC will eventually be replaced with a new Base 3 when shipped.  I used the same power blocks you have, one for each loop and wired it in the star pattern that was recommended in Berry's  DCS book.  The wire I used was 16g solid copper black and red insulated speaker wire.  Made it easier to run the wires since they're joined together.  I have been satisfied with the results so far.  Plenty of power.

To minimize flickering and future problems, I did take the time to practice some and solder a 22g jumper wire between most pieces of Fastrack when I installed it.  The main reason is my design required me to use many 1 3/8" and 1 3/4" track pieces.  They have a history of current issues over time.  By soldering a jumper between them I could Guarantee continuity and significantly reduce the number of drops necessary to give consistent power.

I have been very pleased with the results.  Passenger cars that used to flicker constantly on my temporary layout have no noticeable flickering now on the new layout, even through the switches and crossing.

Hey all! Thanks for the wiring suggestions.  I ended up going with copper stranded 16ga. Its pretty easy to get at Lowes (they don't sell it in spools though, but I can live with that). Its been super easy to work with too. I also picked up 2 tools that have made my life much much easier. The first, is an Irwin self-adjusting wire stripper. It easily strips wires and my hands aren't killing me after I strip them. Net positive too: they're consistent strips. The second is a ratcheting crimping tool. Quick and easy crimps of the connectors, and I feel like I barely mess any up or not get them on tight enough. Highly recommend the investment in both of these for any wiring "fun."

So how about a layout update! As I mentioned, I'm elbows deep in wiring. I have the stand alone module done, and connected to the terminal blocks. I also have the Fastrack bridge wired in with a power drop on both bridge abutments. I'm partially around the 2nd module, and hopefully, tomorrow I'll get the rest of it wired up. I still need to figure out my switch control panel, but I have ideas for that and just need to get a few small pieces of wood or MDF. Here are some pics!

I was able to FINALLY pick up an engine on my bucket list! I was able to find an MTH Premier P&LE GP38-2 (20-2665-1) at Toy Exchange in Mt. Airy, MD.  I'm really excited to get it on the layout. I was also at home over the weekend and pulled out the two MTH 6-car 2 bay P&LE Coal hopper sets, an extra MTH P&LE 3 bay hopper, an Atlas P&LE box car, and an MTH P&LE caboose, all of which I brought back in a tub on Amtrak. I've always wanted to pull those cars behind the GP38-2 or the U28Bs MTH made.  Now I've got one of them and am on the hunt for the others. Maybe I'll be luckily and find them at York in April.

Oh, and some light reading came in this weekend too.

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Hey everyone! Happy Thanksgiving. I wanted to give some updates on how the layout is coming along.

First off, I've got a name change for the layout. I'm going to be calling this version the Riverdale, Pittsburgh, & Western (RDP&W). I feel like its a good mash-up of my life now, where I grew up, and everything in between. As I mentioned back in my first post, I want to focus on the P&LE where my great-grandfather worked for 49.5 years; the Union Railroad, where my grandfather worked for 33 years; the B&O who my paternal grandfather was the time keeper for in Connellsville, PA; the Chessie System, and CSX.

So welcome to the rechristened RDP&W!

After a mad dash last week, I'm FINALLY able to run trains on the pike! All of the track is officially wired in and I've got trains running, with only 2 issues (which I'll get to in a minute). The goal was to be able to run trains by Thanksgiving since we were hosting all of our friends with some of their kids. The train room was a BIG hit, and I'm pretty sure our friend's son did not want to leave. haha

Here are some pics:

Building out the P&LE coal consist while watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

All 12 coal cars on, pulled by the new GP38-2. In the background you'll see a B&O Railking Passenger excursion train.

Just posing with some cars in the yard. A lot of Pittsburgh tributes here with the P&LE consist, the US Steel bridge and the URR coil car. The Tropicana car is for the juice train that runs by our house every day.

Just a cool shot I took this morning when I went into the basement.

And a short video!

Now, onto the issues I'm having. I outlined them in this thread, but the tl;dr is my O-60 switches on the outerloop are causing passing trains to ride up on their front trucks, and then the switch triggers and the rest of the train comes onto the inner loop. I've also had the front truck go through, and then the back truck ride up on the switch making a really fun drifting scenario. I've tested this with my Railking RDC Budd cars and a Lionel Alco engine. Here are some pics and a video of whats happening. I pulled them off the layout for guests, but I want to get these fixed ASAP and to start scenery and work on the mess that where my switch throws are hanging down.

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Justin, you did a great job getting things running for Thanksgiving!  It looks great!  The boy not wanting to leave is priceless!

The name change sounds good, how does Riverdale fit in?  You have a great railroad heritage in your family!

I have a question about the switch that isn’t working right.  Why is the light blinking before the train gets there?  I don’t remember that they blink. 🫡 Maybe that is a clue.  🤷‍♂️

Justin- congrats on the maiden run! Nice that you set a goal and were able to stick to it. I like the name you chose and your family railroading history.

On to the switch- from the video and stills, it appears that the points are floating out away from the outer rail causing the derailments. I've never dissected a FT switch but I'm sure others will chime in with their comments and advice.

Keep up the good work.

Bob

I have similar behavior on one of my FT O48 switches. I haven’t diagnosed it but it looks very similar to this. Not sure if it can be fixed or if the switch is just out of tolerance and a new one is required. Might be easiest to just swap it out and see if that does the trick. Maybe there is a Black Friday discount to get a few bucks off somewhere. 😊 Great progress, too. Between my cyclical interest in my hobbies and family life the trains are on the back burner now, but if the bug strikes me again I may pursue a similar track plan. It’s a good size for a modest space and keeps it interesting. I know you modified one of Ken’s plans… I have to read through the thread again and see what you changed.

Thanks everyone! Its been a real labor of love. I still need to work on the O-60 switches and get those reinstalled, but I needed a break, and works been crazy. I also need to put some jumpers in between a few pieces around the switches on the inner loop, but other than that, everything has been running great.

I'm going to set up a test track and work on them to make sure all is well before I reach out to Lionel about them. I haven't even had them a year so I hope something isn't wrong with them.

@Mark Boyce Thanks! Riverdale is where my wife and I bought a house back in 2020.

@Dave_C Thats what was happening. The tracks don't want to seat tightly against the rails causing the engines to jump tracks.

@RSJB18 Thank you! This too is a great call out.

@Greg Kwolek If you ever want the track plan, I can send it over! I changed a good bit and have a few variations for the corner. This one is shorter and uses a different table layout.

Happy New Year everyone! It was a busy December with a lot of work travel and family time, but I finally got some time to work on the layout. I was able to work on my O-60 switches and have them working pretty well. One is stubborn and doesn't want to switch, but I don't have the problem of them jumping tracks now. One of them needed to have the switch indicator tab adjusted, and both took a little brute force (i.e. bending with pliers) but they're now true!

After an unexpected detour to take my mom back to Pittsburgh after Christmas (*shakes fist at Southwest*), I was able to pick up 99% of the buildings I have for the layout. The last thing I really want to bring back is my Lionelville Fire Station. The one thing I'm missing is the bottom plug / connector and Lionel nor any of the places that would have the parts have been able to help me out I may need to figure an alternative system out for it, which I'm open to.

The next phase of the layout is urban planning and scenery. I've been buying some scenery materials in prep for this phase, but I want to make sure I have a solid plan for where things are going to go. I've enlisted the help of my wife, who is an urban planner, to help plan where the buildings will go. We have a rough plan of where the city area will go and how to build the upper urban area (leveraging a lot of building flats and a road to build depth). Thats probably going to be my next phase of construction. Here's a rough overview of where things are going to go. The elevated city city area will be along the back wall under the window.

I also got some new motive power over the month! Big shoutout to @Sid's Trains. He offered up an awesome MTH Premier CSX AC6000 and 4 Lionel rotary hoppers. I was able to pick this up for my first modern consists. It is what my dad and I used to watch around the Connellsville Yards growing up.



I squeezed in a trip to the College Park Aviation Museum in College Park, MD to see the National Capital Trackers in action! Great group of folks with a fun holiday layout.

Finally, here are some pics from around the layout with some of the trains I brought back from my parent's house, including the new friend that popped up while I was working on it.

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