To paraphrase Vane Jones, "Knowledge is of little value until shared with others."

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Starting the Next Chicago and Utopia Layout

There were a few items left over from building my prior layout. These included flex track with code 148 and 125 rail, rail joiners, pre-cut ties, rail, brass rods for line poles, plus other items.

Two sets of items I have, unrelated to the prior layout, included a pair of right and left hand Right-O-Way street turnout point and mate sets and some right hand #3 frog code 125 and code 100 turnouts. The #3 frog turnouts appeared to be made by Old Pullman.

Furthermore, the #3 frog turnouts had been purchased on EBay as a lark - never can tell when you might need them - 2 or more years ago. The point I'm trying to make is this was well before any talk about downsizing came up.

The above mentioned items have come up because they have played a part in my planning for a new layout. Thus far a decision has been made to make a modular layout. The "base" module will be 48" x 16" with the ability to alter the size as required.

The track plan is to be a "U" shaped dog bone for streetcars and small trolleys. Other shaped were considered. However, the amount of space is limited.

To make the layout operational as soon as possible, the end loops of the track plan are to be made 1st. Information available from the East Penn Traction Club (EPTC) on the web was downloaded. This material was read several times.

The basic design of the EPTC as to having double tracks on the module was adopted. The loops had to be 14" radius. Some of my models had a tough time making it around the 13" radius on my test layout.

Scale drawings were made of the what could be the end loop modules. Larger and larger scale drawings were made. From the drawings it started to look like the end modules would end up being 4'6" x 3'6".

Next was to see what the total layout made up of modules would look like. That is, how many modules would be required to make the "U" to fit within the confines of the main, large room in the basement of our townhouse.

Since the layout was to be made up of modules, the size of the 2 modules which were to contain the 90 degree curves had to be known. Before any designing was done, how well would the track diagram of the Chicago West Towns' (CWT) La Grange Line fit into what I wanted.

In order not to repeat material presented in a prior Post, be sure to read my Post "What Factors Have Influenced My New Layout Decisions?" dated July 1, 2016.

One arm of the "U" shape is shorter than the other arm. Unfortunately the shorter arm was not the one I wanted. The layout would be in the opposite directed from what I wanted. With time this will make sense to you.

Another thought to take into account is I have a few "streetcar" models, plus some interurban and "L" models. These will require a method to reverse then at the ends of the layout plus curves at the 90 degree modules with a radius greater than 13". I picked an 18" radius for interurban and "L" cars coupled together.

For my friends with streetcar, interurban, and "L" models the greater radius will work out well. As for being able to reverse the models at the ends of the layout. The same method of reversing prototype cars on a double track route will be used. A facing crossover made from a pair of right hand turnouts will be used.  Almost all of the straight track modules could have a facing crossover. This style of crossover would be trailing for right hand operation.

That solved, back to the size of the 90 degree module. From scale drawings, the size of the module could be a small as 36" x 36". After rechecking the floor space available, it looks like the balance of the modules could be 48" long.

This drawing shows the modules which can fit into my available space. The modules are labeled with CWT La Grange Line locations. Not all of the importation locations could be fitted in. I picked the ones which could be made by me within a reasonable time. The width of each straight module needs to be determined.

The La Grange Line locations chosen are:
22nd & Kenton (east terminal) - paved track (my module faces east and not west)
22nd St. - open or paved center track in wide street
22nd & Harlem curve - paved track intersection with the single track to the "Siberian" barn
Harlem Ave. - open track in the center of the street
Harlem & 26th St curve - open track which did not really turn into 26th St.
Parkway Jct. - open track interchange with the IC (more on this in a future Post)
1St. Ave. - open track/paved crossing of 1st Ave.
Brookfield - paved track at south entrance to the Brookfield Zoo
Turn back - open track crossover turn back immediately west of the Zoo
Barn (possible module) - paved street to the "Siberian" barn for visitors' model(s) storage

There's more coming! Cheers,

Before You Rush-Out, Buy the Lumber & Start Cutting It Up

Before you spent the money on any lumber and then start cutting it up, you need to do some planning. Lumber is expensive! Know what you are going to do! Do as much research as possible!

While this may seem to be compulsive, the more you know where every piece of track,  street, building, etc. is to go the better design and operation of your layout will be. Things may change but have a comprehensive idea.

Granated if this is your 1st layout, there are bound to be problems. Consider these to be part of the learning curve. Very few individuals build a 1st layout without any problems.

If you are planning on building a layout which appears in a model railroad book on layouts or copy someone else's layout there is still pre-planning to do. Before doing anything consider the following -

As you do your planning, keep in mind the following - do you favor primarily the running of a train (turning the layout on and just running a single car or train around for a while), switching, or a combination of the 2 methods of operation? Do you want an oval layout (There's many forms of ovals which do not look like ovals.) or a point to point layout - an in, reverse, and out style?

Buy some layout planning books (booklets) which have layout plans. Ask your friends if they have some booklets you can borrow or buy used copies of layout planning booklets. Get as many as you can for your planning-the-layout phase. Read them!

Look at track plans with a pencil or a blunt pointer to follow the track as though you are operating a model (train) over the track. Does it make sense to you? Follow all the possible routes. Do you like it? Would it suit your needs? Can you or your friends install trolley wire over it (if you plan on operating trolley models)?

My father purchased a booklet titled "Model Railroading Track and Planning" published by Kalmbach in the late 1940's. I still have the booklet. It has all types of layouts from simple ovals to complex multi yards and tracks.

These are the cover and pages from the booklet regarding a trolley layout. As you read the pages keep in mind the era in which the material is written and what trolley models were available the late 1940 and early 50's.

 In the late 1940's there was almost more S gauge trolleys available than any other gauge. This is the reason the track plan was drawn for S gauge. Just a few years later Ken Kidder started to import brass O scale trolley bodies and Rich Wagner started making O scale power/trail trucks and parts.

The trolley layout plan reproduced above is a walk around style of layout. If each side is extended, the layout could become an along the wall layout where you and your friends could walk in the center of the layout.

Also, visit as many operating layouts as possible. Do you like how the layout operates? Do you like the track plan?
Ask the owner how he or she developed their track plan.
Ask about electrically wiring the layout.
Ask how the control panel was designed and built.
Ask about building the layout.
Ask about the installation of the trolley wire.
Ask about how the layout is operated - models just run arround or on a planned schedule of operation.
If there is not enough time to find out about these items, plan a second trip or a way to talk to the owner in the future.

Let's look at each item separately - Ask the owner how he or she developed their track plan. You want to find out the what and why. Something which helped me to understand what can fit into the available space was to make a couple of photocopies of the track plan. The photocopies were cut up to see if the layout would fit into my space.

Ask about electrically wiring the layout. In the past several years space-age electronics and computers have had a interesting inpact on wiring and operating layouts. Individual powered cars can be controlled individually or in sets. Many feet of wire are no longer required. Models can have sound and operating lights controlled from a central location. Are you going to wire up your layout the old way or the new way?

Ask how the control panel was designed and built. This aspect is listed separately because there are multiple methods to controling the trains. There are both centralized and decentralized methods of control and operation. If you read enough about control panels you will find out how to make very professional looking panels. Newer electronic control methods may not require a control panel.

Ask about building the layout. There's a couple of items to check out here. Some guys build their entire layout by themselves while others have several friends with different talents build the layout. What's the pro's and con's of either. The other item to sort out is the priority (flow) of the steps to be done to build the layout. What is to be done 1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc. Also, find out what happens if the flow is jumbled-up.

Ask about the installation of the trolley wire. There are a few ways to install the trolley wire. One thing they have in common is to have tension on the wire as it is installed. The wire has to be soldered to the suspension wires. The line-side poles can be made of metal or wood. The poles can be of different sizes and/or forms such as the CNS&M towers in the Skokie Valley.

Ask about how the layout is operated - Models just run arround or on a planned method of operation. Some layouts operate on a schedule exactly like the prototype. Trains are made-up of a fixed number of cars with trains stopping at stations. the operation of the model trains includes real life problems. While other owners of layouts like to see models running. They turn on the power and the model runs.

Add any topics in which you are interested. Find out as much as you can. Your friends and other's experience in what they do or don't do is important. Nothing beats experience.
I've seen multiple layouts started but not finished because the owner-builder forgot to find out about the steps required to build a layout. A layout is built one step at a time. Each step is a separate process. Sometimes a skipped step is hard to correct.

When building an around the wall layout, I discovered after trying to build 2 other along the wall layouts the 1st step was to paint the walls sky blue, The next step was to install what looked like wallpaper with trees and rolling hills. An industrial scene was install on a separate wall.

For the 3rd step a painter was hired to paint clouds on the walls. Then and only then was lumber cut to build the along the wall layout. As you can see, the beginning steps had nothing to do with cutting lumber.


Friday, July 1, 2016

What Factors Have Influenced My New Layout Decisions?

One of my past employers had a small lab/manufacturing room. It was equipped with an industrial quality "Whiring Blender". The blender came with a 1 gallon metal cup and the base contained a 1+ hp electric motor. This industrial blender is mentioned because we need to toss together several ideas to understand how I came to the conclusions reached during the writing of this Post. A heavy duty blender will help to blend my ideas into one thick, usable mixture.

Along the Walls, Stand Alone, or Modular
As mentioned in the prior post the area available is roughly 16' x 18' (corrected) with built-in book cases and cabinets along the walls. Also to be factored in is, we do not know how long we'll be living at our new location. My prior layout was built in along the walls and difficult to remove when we moved out.

The cabinets, bookcases, and furniture can be seen. These have to stay and remain untouched. Some of the smaller items can be moved and/or stored. In the front, my work on planning for the new layout is visible.

For these reasons The best layout to build is a modular one. The East Penn Traction Club (EPTC) uses both HO and O scale modular layouts. For both scales a 16" x 48" size is the basic module. A module can be larger or smaller if factors require it.

The EPTC has a way to "control" cars on the layout. You should check their website for more information.

I also recommend your joining the EPTC no matter where you are located. They can use your support. Every other odd number year they have a Trolley Meet usually in May. The next EPTC Trolley Meet will be in May 19th and 20th, 2017 in Allentrown, PA.

Over the past few years I, along with some friends have attended the EPTC Trolley Meets. If you bring along your models, they can be run on the layout set-up for the trolley meet.

3rd Rail, Trolley or Pantograph Wire, and/or What?
The new layout can be outside 3rd rail (fake 3rd rail with the models operated from 2-rail) ala CA&E and "L" like the Westchester branch. The other choice is to make it direct suspension trolley wire or simple catenary. The trolley wire could be over private right-of-way like the Mundelein branch of the NSL or over a street.

If the CA&E expansion to and through Utopia, the by-pass, was completed; the entire line would be 3rd rail without trolley wire. This choice would exclude my friends from running their trolley pick-up models on my layout. Not the best choice!

This leaves trolley wire pick-up the only choice for the layout. Direct suspension is fast to erect. Catenary wire takes a little longer to erect. I like the looks of catenary wire. But, I want to get the layout built and running as soon as possible. So, it looks like the new layout will have direct suspension. I can live with that!!

What's Left?
After selling off a number of my models, mainly interurban, what's left are streetcars, some interurban, and "L" models plus freight cars I just could't part with. What does this mean for a future layout?

The streetcars can be operated in the street - a no brainer. Depending upon the model, the cars can be operated on  as little as 9" radius curves. However, from experience a 12 or 13" radius is better.

Interurban cars can be operated in a street but with wider curves. Some interurban models be operated on 12" or so radius curves. But, if interurban cars are coupled together due to coupler swing restrictions, an interurban train of 2 or more models will require a larger radius curve.

This is an example of the trolley models in my collection. The 3-car NSL Replacement Electroliner made up of Silverliner cars plus a mixture of other interurban, "L", and streetcars are seen. There are a few more models which are mainly streetcars. 

The "L" models are much like the interurban models. The major difference is the mode (if that's what it can be called) of operation. Interurbans have steps for ground loading; "L" cars do not and require high platforms at stations.

Last are the freight cars and what to do with them. I have some small electric locomotives which can be used to pull 1-3 freight cars in a train. However, normal freight cars are too wide for operation with "L" platforms. Both the NSL and CA&E had different methods to deal with freight cars and high level platforms.

This is an example of my freight car models.

The other "problem" to resolve is the radius required to operate close coupled freight cars around. Most close coupled freight cars require a 15" to 18" radius. What can be done to give the freight cars the appropiate radius?

The Solution
If you live in the Chicago, you should be familar with the La Grange line of the Chicago & West Towns Railway (CWT). If you are not familar with the La Grange line, it operated in the street, Cermak Ave. or 22nd St., from Kenton Ave. (the border of Chicago and Cicero, a suburb) west to Harlem Ave. where the track turned south and started to operate on private right-of-way (r-o-w) in the center of streets for a while. A turnout at the intersection of Cermak and Harlem allowed the CWT to acess its barn and yard plus a single freight customer.

The freight customer was a commerical florist who grew plants (flowers). The florist received fuel oil in tank cars, wood and other small supplies in box cars, and shipped flowers and plants in insulated box cars. The CWT received supplies in box cars, low sided gondolas, and coal hoppers.

About 1-1/2 to 2 miles away from the CWT barn, yard, and florist was an interchange with the west route of the Illinois Central called "Parkland". There was a curve in the CWT route between Parkland and the intersection of Harlem and Cermak. This curve at about 26th St, and Harlem is recorded as having a broad radius for the freight cars.

It's best to consult the Central Electric Railway Association (CERA) Bulletin B-138 The Chicago & West Towns Railways  to see the maps and read about the La Grange line. If you do not have acess to this book it is still available from the CERA  From this web site you can also become a member.

On to the layout - from the photo of the basement included in this Post, it looks like the best design for the new modular layout is a "U" shape with loops at each end. One of the legs of the "U" has to be shorter than the other. Using the CWT La Grange line as the prototype the loop and modules for that leg can have in-the-street operation.

A complete circular layout was considered and rejected. It would require ducking under the layout to get inthe center of the layout.

A "U" shapped layout requires two 90 degree curve modules. One curve module has to have built in-the-street track while the other can be private r-o-w. The curves in both modules can be 18". This would not only accomindate freight operation but also the interurban and "L" models.

Due to space restrictions each loop in the end modules would be 13" to accomodate streetcars. For interurbans and "L" cars not able to operate on the 13" curves, the models can be turned back using right hand crossovers installed in the main line near the loops.

Unfortunately there are no drawings of the layout available. What drawings which exist are small pieces of paper of the individual modules or the general shapes of the modules together to verify the size of the total layout.

The layout may not be exactly the La Grange line of the CWT. Since it ended in La Grange which is south and east of Utopia, IL an arguement can be made to change the name of the Chicago & Utopia Ry. (C&U), But, this is railroad modeling and anything is allowed within reason. Furthermore, years ago when Mitch Markovitz came up with the name of C&U; Utopia was not only a location but also a state of mind.

My layout location in the basement of my new home is Utopia to me and should be for you!