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Updated 2/07/2024:

I am happy to report that the number of installed Tortoise switch machines has reached 13!  Today, I completed 3 more installations - Nos. 17, 18, and 19.  There is still a ton of electrical bus work to be done, but this is real progress.  This first photo shows (front to rear) Switch Nos. 17, 18, and 19.  In the distance is the PRR B70 baggage car I used to test side clearance into the Staging Area (it passed!).


Here is a close-up of the track pins and GarGraves pigtails used for feeder connection 7.11 (the eleventh feeder pair in power district #7).


This shows Switch No. 17 in place.  The hole for the Tortoise throw wire is situated between the long ties on the left (inboard) side of the turnout.  Blue painter's tape holds the points in between diverging and straight for the Tortoise's installation.


This photo shows the 5/8" hole in the bench work beneath the throw arm.


This is the view northwest of Switch No. 17.  The Tortoise's wire can be clearly seen in the foreground, protruding up through the throw arm.  It and all the other wires will be trimmed later.


This was a good day's work despite being interrupted by today's 3 mile walk.  Below is Mr. Blue Herron, looking non-too-happy that Cranberry Township park workers mowed the area around his pond.  See?  He doesn't just live on the layout.


More when I know it. 



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Last edited by G3750

Updated 2/11/2024:

  • Installed the diverging track leading to the Staging Area and connected it to Switch No. 9.


  • Got the Tortoise machine for Switch No. 9 installed.
  • Laid down some track for test-fitting purposes.  This is the mainline as it heads to Switch No. 9.  I determined that the 064 curve did fit around the curved end of the peninsula, allowing sufficient space.  And that straight section (near the yard stick) is long enough to prevent any "S" curve issues with cars.  It's 28" long, which is much longer than my 18" passenger cars will ever need.


  • At the other end of the big curve, I added Switch No. 3 at the head of Weirton Junction Yard; it's diverging leg is the mainline.  Beyond it, Switch No. 4's diverging leg is an engine pocket.  The straight leg of Switch No. 5 leads to the Standard Slag dump track while its diverging leg starts the yard proper.  WC (Weirton Junction) tower will be located to the right of the mainline in the vicinity of Switch No. 3.


Here's a look from the opposite side of the yard.  The cutback in the bench work will eventually be the slag pit itself.  One of those O32 curved sections in the foreground will be cut in half to form the "S" curve to the dump.  Given that the slag cars are short and will be traveling very slowly, I anticipate no problems with derailment here.


More when I know it. 



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Updated 2/12/2024:

  • Investigated my supply of DZ-1010 and DZ-1020 crossing gates and signals.  I think we have enough for the layout.  One will be installed near the end of the Weirton peninsula soon (after track and switches are done).  These will all operate off the 15VAC bus.  I was thinking about trying to use an insulated rail to trigger the crossing signal, but I believe these will be otherwise occupied signaling occupancy in the blocks east of Weirton Junction.  Therefore, I am exploring ways to put one of the DZ-1011 IR sensors inside an overlarge relay box or track side structure (watchman's shanty?).  The idea is percolating.
  • Added about 6' of straight track just west of Switch No. 9.  Installed feeders 5.12 and 5.11.  See photo below.  At the end of the track (closest to the viewer), there will be a slight curve to the right.  It will be followed by a 28" straight section and then the large O64 sweep to the left.
  • The above stretch will have a signal at MP 32.0 (just the other side of the drawer of track pins).  I'm thinking about trying one of the Z-Stuff DZ-1060V-2 (2 PRR signal heads) at this position.  I am not sure what the signals should show yet - occupancy beyond Switch No. 9 and / or the state of the diverging routes.  Oh, if anyone has used this signal,  please drop me an e-mail and relate your experience.


More when I know it. 



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Updated 2/15/2024:

We have been working our way around the big O64 curve at the end of the Weirton peninsula.  Here's a progression of photos to that effect.  Note the wire for super-elevation.


Working toward the apex of the curve.


The white clamps (clips) help me keep the track sections aligned so that I can drill holes for track feeder pairs.


Here's the future location of feeder pair 5.08.  It will also have an insulated pin in the outer rail, establishing two insulated rail sections for activating block (occupancy) signals.


Finally, here's where we finished today (on the left).  That switch on denotes the entry (really the exit) of Weirton Junction Yard.  All that track from the divider (with the steel mills on it) up to the switch is fastened down.


Also received my green/white 2-conductor wire for the Tortoise bus today.

More when I know it. 



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Updated 2/16/2024:

A bit of progress, a small "speed bump", and more progress to report today.

  • Started in on the switches for Weirton Junction Yard.  The Tortoise for Switch No. 3 is installed.  The first piece of foam subroadbed for the mainline (coming off Switch No.3) has been laid down.
  • Track Feeder pairs at 5.06, 5.05, the Block Break (BB), and 6.01 are installed.
  • Switch No. 4 is installed and the hole for the throw wire has been drilled.  The foam subroadbed for the engine pocket / caboose track / freight spur has been laid.  I haven't finalized how this section of track will be used yet.
  • In my haste to shorten Switch No. 5, it collided with a chop-saw.  The result was instantaneous - and fatal.  Kids, don't try this at home!  All future track length adjustments will be done with either a hacksaw or a Dremel cut-off wheel.  Fortunately, C.T. McCormick carries Ross turnouts and I was able to replace this one before they closed tonight.  Like I said, it was just a speed bump.


  • Feeder wires (GarGraves pigtails) at the track joints are passed through the bench work.  They then connect to the bus underneath the table.  In this case, the track feeders were directly above one of the horizontal supporting 2x2's.  That forced me to drill the holes at an angle and clean them up with a round file.  This was an opportunity to use some of my grandfather's round files (no doubt once employed in building his model ships).  I bet he would have been happy to see them in use on the model railroad.


  • Finally, here's a look at a partially complete Weirton Junction.  The ladder is yet to be started.  The mainline is the farthest away from the camera, with the engine pocket next, followed by the diverging track for the yard ladder.  In the foreground is the start of Standard Slag dump track.


More when I know it. 



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@Mark Boyce posted:

Yes, I can see how the chop saw broke the Ross switch.  I clamped my switches down with a scrap piece of plywood on top of the switch then cut with a hack saw.  Actually that was what I did with cutting track as well.  As usual, I still didn’t get the exact length I wanted.  🤦‍♂️

Actually, I had it clamped down with a piece of plywood, too.  Unfortunately, I wasn't careful enough in aligning the switch.


@G3750 posted:

Actually, I had it clamped down with a piece of plywood, too.  Unfortunately, I wasn't careful enough in aligning the switch.


Yes, I think I see what you mean about not aligning the switch.  Those rails are securely spiked down for normal use, but if there is a force hitting at the wrong angle, the rails and spikes can pull out.  I broke one also, and it is a bear to get it secure again.  I tried supergluing the spikes into the ties, but I never got anything to hold correctly and gave up on that switch too.

Updated 2/17/2024:

As the saying goes - "When the map and the terrain differ, believe the terrain."  And so after looking at the Weirton peninsula and the spacing of the actual ladder tracks in the Weirton Junction Yard, I discovered a problem.  Test-fitting the turnouts really helped identify the issue.  Where the sides of the peninsula are parallel, it is 54" wide (not counting the bottom of Standard Slag).  The track plan did not accurately represent that width - it was larger.

The critical factor is really the position of the divider between Weirton Junction and North Weirton .  While the number of ladder tracks in the yard is important (more would be better), accurately portraying North Weirton is much more important to me.  As a result, I reworked the track geometries, eliminated one turnout, and retained North Weirton's original width.  The new area is shown below.  Even this plan is not super accurate - the yard is more compressed (north to south) than indicated and the mainline is much tighter to the bottom ladder track.

V142-Standard Slag

Here are two opposite looks at the Standard Slag dump track in the (partially) new configuration.


To aid me in keeping all this straight, it’s time to start drawing boundaries on the layout.  The first step will be to lay out the position of the divider.

More when I know it.



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Updated 2/22/2024:

Spent some time today working on Standard Slag's dump track.

When I built the slag dump area, I simply cut the table straight and a bit short of the edge of the rest of the peninsula.  Well, that looked a bit goofy and I was planning on just have a squared off end wall, but then I found this scrap of wood and adapted it to the situation.


After a visit to the mitre saw, I was able to support it from below and make it part of the bench top.


To keep ballast from running down between the pieces of subroadbed, I cut a piece of black construction paper and glued in place.  That will allow me to go sparingly on the ballast at the points, too.


Finally, here's a look at the Dump Track as it snakes away from Switch No. 5 towards the dump itself.  It's not all fastened down yet.  At the very bottom of the photo, the change from 3/8" to 1/4" high subroadbed is visible.  I have wooden shims under the 1/4" Vinylbed to ease the transition.


More when I know it. 



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Updated 2/23/2024:

I have been working on compressing the entire Weirton Junction Yard, including Standard Slag so as to buy space for the City of Weirton on the other side of the scenic divider.  That involves some shortening of turnouts and careful measurements and placing of track segments.

I installed the Standard Slag dump track.  In doing this, I discovered that I pretty much exhausted my supply of the 1/4" high Vinylbed.  I was planning on doing the entire Weirton Junction Yard with it, but actually this has turned out for the best.  By using the 3/8" foam subroadbed on the other tracks, the dump track will look lower and more poorly maintained (which it was in real life).  It will be a good (and accurate) contrast with the rest of the yard.

I finalized the size and shape of the end pit at Standard Slag and cut the table top accordingly.  I also trimmed a section to fill out the curve and installed it.  “Scabbed it” as Mark’s father would say.  Here the progression.

The first photo shows a test fitting of the steel reinforced walls for the slag pit.  These are a holdover from Panhandle 1's version of Standard Slag.  Hey, they're perfectly good castings.   I am using them to lay out the dimensions of the cut.


Here's a closer look at the area.


Here's the "scabbing" operation.


Except for that notch at the left, I'm done defining the boundaries of Standard Slag.  I made the cut more angular, in keeping with how sections of reinforced steel pilings would actually be driven.  They would not conform to a perfectly curved hillside.


Here's the actual start of the slag dump track.  There are 2 carpenter shims at the spot where the 3/8" foam roadbed transitions to the 1/4" Vinylbed.


Here's a look down the length of the track to the end of the as yet unconstructed pit.


Here's a better look at the end of the track.  For grins, I've positioned a slag car on it.  The green tank (I need to construct the base) represents the compressed air tank used in the prototype to tilt the slag cars.  I am playing around with its final position.  I may actually shorten the track slightly, place the tank at the very end (beyond the bumper), and build a small maintenance shack to hold the IR sensor.  That's all still TBD.


In the meantime, here's another look at the end of the track.  The bumper is visible and the car is accurately positioned at the dumping point.  That track may need to be 6-8" shorter.


Back in 2017 as part of the bridge / river photo shoot, I asked to photograph the intersection of Main Street, County Road, and Pennsylvania Avenue in North Weirton.  I was anticipating the creation of the divider between Weirton and Weirton Junction.  The time has come to work on sizing this photo for the divider.  Exact dimensions and placement are still to be determined, but we’re getting closer to making this happen.

Finally, today I dug out my stash of Arduino boards, breadboards, and jumpers.  After some help here on the forum, I placed an order for a number of HRS-04 proximity sensors.

As usual, your questions and comments are welcomed.  More when I know it. 



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@Mark Boyce posted:

George, the track and siding look great!  So, you will be dumping slag down a roughly 200 scale feet cliff!  That works for me!!

2017!!  Wow!!  I wouldn't have guessed it has been that long since did the photography of the river!  You should have a really nice backdrop of North Weirton when it is all done.

No, it won't be a 200' cliff.  I expect it will be something like a 30' slope.  It will look a lot like the one on Panhandle 1.  Well, hopefully alot better.


Yes, the photos were taken on Tuesday, October 10, 2017.  It was an absolutely gorgeous day on the river.  The shots had to be processed and then printed onto vinyl.  That took awhile and we received the finished product in February? 2018.  Judy and I hung the backdrops that summer.  And most of bench work for the long section against the back wall was in place by the end of August.  The river bottom module, scenery, river pour, and bridge installation followed in 2019 and the early part of 2020.

If the river backdrop is any indication, North Weirton will be great.



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Updated 2/24/2024:

I made some serious progress today.  All 3 yard tracks as well as the slag dump track are now in place.  The outermost track has to be fastened down, but everything has gotten their feeder pairs.  This shot was taken from atop a step ladder.  I had to shorten the top leg of both LH O64 turnouts in the ladder to squeeze the tracks closer together.  The empty vinyl subroadbed running parallel to the yard is where I believe the mainline will go.  The spur off Switch No. 4 (2nd from the bottom) with the subroadbed (but no track) is an engine pocket / caboose / extra freight track.  It will be shortened about 6-10".  The mainline curves off the bottom most switch (No. 3) and will jog parallel to the yard tracks.


For the time being, we have run out of GarGraves 37" straights, so the focus will shift to installing Tortoise machines for Switches 9, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7.

More when I know it. 



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@Mark Boyce posted:

George, the couple photographs of the slag dump on Panhandle I really clarify what your intention is for that small area on P II.  The yard tracks look great!  You are really making some great progress!

Thanks Mark!  I expect the slope to be a bit steeper.   Check out this screen grab from the YouTube video "Weirton Steel".


This is the look I'm going for.



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Updated 2/27/2024:

Worked a bit today on extending the mainline east after it exits the bridge.  This is the curve behind the end pit of Standard Slag.  Track feeder 3.05 and a Block Break were part of this track installation.


The Block Break is between Power District #3 on the left and Power District #5 on the right.  Below, the first feeder of Power District 5 is evident, 5.01.


The long section parallel to Weirton Junction Yard is next.  The cardboard envelop standing upwards on the clips shows the position of the divider.


More when I know it. 



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