The workings of water tanks

In previous posts on the Lynn Valley water tank, I asked about the connections to the lever on the top of the tank that the fireman uses to control the flow of water.

As with so many things, the answer is, “Google it”. I did and found an article from 1899 on water stations. It includes Figure 633 – a drawing of the mechanism that operates the valve – along with a description.

Click on the image below to read the article. (Note that the description is a couple of paragraphs below the drawing – look for the “Fig. 633” note in the paragraph next to Figure 634.)

The Workings of Water Tanks photo WaterTankValve_zps2dbf1a7d.jpg

And in case the link ever fails, here’s the description:

The valve connection of the discharge pipe with the tank is shown in Fig. 633. The connection may be made either through the side or bottom of the tank. The bottom valve connection is shown in the figure. The valve rod a is attached to the short arm of the lever b. The weight c, attached to the end of the short arm of the lever, holds the valve firmly in place. A rope is attached to the end d of the long arm of the lever and hangs within reach of the engineman. By pulling down on this rope, the valve is raised, and the water flows through the discharge pipe a to the tender tank. The vacuum pipe f admits air to the discharge pipe after the valve comes to its seat, so that the discharge pipe is quickly voided.

Having read this, I’ve decided that the second chain connection on the lever is, indeed, a weight. I’ve also learned of a detail not often seen on model water tanks: The vacuum pipe to help drain water from the discharge pipe after the valve closes. This would be similar to the pipe at the top of a plumbing stack – a detail not often seen on models of houses. I will add a short piece of brass wire through the roof of the tank to represent this pipe.

As an aside, this site includes some interesting information on a number of typical railroad structures.

What a difference a backdrop makes

Taking a break from work related matters this weekend, my wife and I cut and sewed a backdrop.

Yes, cut and sewed.

Fabric isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when one thinks of backdrop materials, but fabric is used in the theatre all the time. In fact, it was a conversation with my friend Pierre Oliver – an experienced builder of theatre sets – that got me thinking about this.

Pierre advocated the use of fabric to create an “ouch-less valance” to shield layout lighting from view. It makes sense – if an operator leans forward they connect with forgiving fabric, not a skull-scraping edge of Masonite. As I thought about this, it occurred to me that a fabric backdrop would solve several problems for me too: I will need occasional access to the back of the peninsula on which Port Rowan is located. This is 42 inches deep – too deep to lean into the scene to do scenic work or repairs to details and background structures. With a fabric backdrop, I can simply duck underneath it. This is a far better solution than removable panels and the seams they would create.

I picked up a roll of medium blue fabric from a local store. It was a remnant (which I find amusing since it was almost 70 feet long) which means it was quite inexpensive – certainly a fraction of what I would spend on enough sheet material such as Masonite or styrene for a backdrop. I also picked up two rolls of one inch wide velcro – a roll of hook, and one of loop – each with self-adhesive (peel and stick) backing.

To prepare for the backdrop, Chris Abbott and I cut and installed backdrop supports using 1″x2″ lumber, with strips of Masonite curved in the corners. To this, I secured the hook portion of the Velcro. My wife and I then attached the loop Velcro to this, in a continuous strip, starting at staging and ending at the end of the peninsula. We cut the loop material to length, tore it free from the hook material, and had an exact measurement for the backdrop fabric.

My wife and I cut and sewed a 25″ wide strip of fabric as follows: We hemmed one end, then hemmed the top of the entire roll of material. We then went back and attached the previously measured and cut loop Velcro to the hemmed top – first with the peel and stick, then through the sewing machine to secure the Velcro to the fabric with a mechanical joint as well. The Velcro ran out about 50 inches before the end of the fabric, at which point we measured for a hem, cut the fabric and hemmed it. At the bottom, we simply cut the fabric with pinking shears and ran it through the sewing machine to add a zig-zag stitch, to keep it from fraying.

I will need to go over the backdrop with a fabric steamer to steam out the wrinkles, so keep that in mind as you look at the photos. As well, the valance is not yet in place – when it is, layout visitors and operators will not be able to see the top edge of the backdrop in normal viewing. Pierre has also suggested adding a chain pocket along the bottom edge of the backdrop, which will help pull out the wrinkles caused by twists in the fabric. (Good idea, Pierre – thanks!)

With those notes, here’s an overview photo of the fabric backdrop. At the left end, it has puddled on the deck for the sector plate. (Chris and I will cut a strip off the deck next time he visits so the fabric can fall naturally between the deck and the wall.)

Backdrop - Overview.

The backdrop hangs about two inches above the base of the benchwork, as shown in this photo of Port Rowan. This is about four and a half inches below track level:

Backdrop - Port Rowan.

For the fabric backdrop to work, it has to hang naturally, which means it can’t touch the scenery. Therefore, when I build up the ground contours I will leave an inch or so between the back edge of the scenery and the backdrop. This will create a soft edge – further softened by the addition of trees, bushes, fences and so on. This long-range view of the Lynn Valley area of the layout demonstrates how the fabric backdrop frames the scene:

Backdrop - Lynn Valley.

The lights will be hidden by a valance, which will also hide the top of the backdrop. And as previously noted, the backdrop needs to be steamed to remove the wrinkles in the fabric. But compare these photos of the backdrop to previous images I’ve shared – including the image below – to see what a difference the backdrop makes:

Lighting System.

Lynn Valley trestle: Installation underway

Installing the trestle in the Lynn Valley.

With the riverbed in place, I’ve decided I can now install the Lynn Valley Trestle.

It’s not easy to see, but in the above view of the trestle, the bents sit in notches carved into the foam board scenery base. In fact, they float in these notches, just above the plywood riverbed.

I started by spiking the rails on either side of the trestle to secure it in place. I then spooned ballast into the notches to fill them, and applied dilute white glue to lock the ballast around the bents:

Installing the Lynn Valley trestle.

There’s more scenery detailing to be done, including staining the ballast a darker colour. Next steps include building the wing walls for the abutments, building the scenery up to track level, and detailing the riverbed and banks.

Lynn Valley water tank :: finished

The finished Lynn Valley water tank.

I’m sure there are more but little things to be done, but essentially, my model of the Lynn Valley water tank is complete. I may add a lightning rod, or not: I don’t see on in the prototype photos I have so I’ll leave it off for now.

In the end, I made many modifications to the kit I purchased from Altoona Model Works*. That said, knowing what I know now, I would definitely purchase the kit if I were building this model again. It provided the raw material, the detail parts, and a good set of instructions to get me started.

(*Check the “Links” section on this blog’s home page for the most up-to-date links)

Lynn Valley water tank: Thanks Robert!

I’m grateful to noted Canadian rail photographer Robert Sandusky, who has given me permission to share one of his photos of the Lynn Valley Water Tank via this blog:

Lynn Valley water tank - Robert Sandusky photo.

Robert took this photo on December 5, 1953. It shows CN 2-6-0 #85 pausing for water. As an aside, I’m told this train is most likely backing towards Port Dover (to the right) in this scene. Apparently they did that, which would have made for a pretty slow seven-mile trip to the end of the line.

Note how the tank is on the outside of a gentle curve here. I discussed this challenge this has presented for me in a previous posting.

I’m particularly intrigued by the lever on the top of the tank that controls the flow of water. The fireman is pulling on a rope to start the water flowing. The other two lines in the image are fine chain attached to the counterweights that balance the spout.

Sharp eyed viewers will note the lever has three connections – just above the roofline of the tank. From other photos, I’ve determined that the one closest to the tracks is the fulcrum for the lever. Of the other two, one will be the chain that pulls on the mechanism to start the water flowing.

But what’s the third connection? Could it be a weight suspended inside the tank to help return the mechanism to the closed position? I don’t know.

If you have any information, please offer it up in the comments section. Thanks!

Rubber gauged

Sector plate with train.

I’ve decided to hand-lay the sector plate – even though I’ve purchased S scale flex track for the job.

In setting up a train to determine what would fit in the staging area (shown above), I discovered that the semi-scale wheel sets from Northwest Short Line* do not like the Code 70 flex track from Tomalco. I have these under my passenger cars and they drop in between the rails on the flex. Not good.

I’ve used an NMRA-style track/standards gauge offered by the National Association of S Gaugers* on all my hand laid track and turnouts and the cars work fine there. So, hand laid it is.

I like hand laying track and have lots of supplies to do this, so this isn’t a problem. It’ll just take a little more time.

(*Check the “Links” section on this blog’s home page for the most up-to-date links)

The rest of the world

I have been working on Port Rowan for several months now. Yesterday, we took a trip to the other end of the line.

My friend Chris Abbott (I should create a keyboard shortcut for that expression, I use it so much), dropped by after work. After suitable handwaving and head scratching, plus a hot cup of tea, we nipped over to the local builders supply store and picked up a 4’x8′ sheet of 3/4″ MDF from which to create the sector plate staging system for the layout.

The lumber yard made two cuts for us – creating a 2′ x 8′ piece, a 1’x8′ piece, and a leftover length. At home, we trimmed these to fit my space. The 2’x8′ was cut down to 7′ and became the deck, while the 1’x8′ was cut to approximately 6′-6″ and will become the movable sector plate.

Some basic carpentry later, and we had everything mounted and level:

The rest of the world: a start on the sector plate.

The track is S scale flex track, set in place to help visualize how the finished sector plate will look. I may end up hand-laying the sector plate trackage, as I have elsewhere. Also in this photo, at left, is a rectangle of MDF that will become a fold-down extension for the deck, plus a 4″x18″ piece of MDF that will become a removable cassette for turning steam engines. This will plug into the end of any of the four tracks on the plate. Unplug it, turn it end for end, and reconnect: voilà, the locomotive is turned.

A screen of trees will hide the sector plate from St. Williams – seen in the distance in the photo.

This sector plate will give me plenty of storage for the layout – holding 32 40-foot freight cars. But I will most likely use it to stage three trains with a clear track for engine escape moves.

Each train will provide sufficient operating fun on my sleepy branch line before friends and I retire to the pub or grab dinner. As an example, this S scale rendition of the Port Rowan Mixed M233 – a.k.a. The Daily Effort – features a 10-wheeler, three carloads for spotting in St. Williams and Port Rowan, a boxcar in less than carload lot (LCL) service, a baggage mail car, and a combine:

What fits: a train mocked up on the sector plate.

It’s nice to see how the full layout will come together. I can see an end in sight to the track-laying – and a start to running trains!

Getting tanked on the wrong side of the track

I have a decision to make about the placement of the Lynn Valley tank on the layout.

I’ve planned for it to be on the aisle side of the track, as shown here:

Tank on the aisle side.

Most photos I’ve seen of the tank are taken from the tank side of the track so this is the natural place from which to view the scene. But there are problems with this location.

At this location, the mainline curls through the Lynn Valley such that the tank is on the inside of the curve. This can be seen when looking up the track from Port Rowan:

Looking up the track towards the water tank.

But when I look at the prototype pictures, the tank appears to be on the outside of the curve:

Lyn Valley tank - DVD photo GPS-Vol5-Cover
(Click on the image to find out more about this video.)

If I put the tank on the opposite side of the track, I can duplicate that relationship:

Tank and track - a general view.

I can even shoot photos that are very close to what I see on the prototype (although with the bridge in the picture):

Tank - recreating the Brocklin view.

The tradeoffs? Well…

– Trains will be running the opposite direction from the prototype as they pass this scene. But I can live with that.

– It’s also a less interesting scene with the train running in front of the tank, instead of behind it, although the space in the foreground would be filled with trees to add some visual interest. And I should still be able to enjoy interesting views of the scene.

Tank on the wall side of the tracks.

– The tank would no longer be between the track and the Lynn River, which wanders away from the track at this point. But the portion of the river that would feed the tank if it were on the aisle side would be in the aisle anyway, and unmodelled.

As a bonus, having the tank on the far side of the track would make it easier for operators to line up the tender fill hatch for watering. So while it’s the wrong side of the track, I think it’s the right side of the layout.

Overview of the scene from track level.

Red. No: Grey! No: …

You know what they say about the word “assume”…

In consulting with friends and checking various colour photos of CNR water tanks, I decided to paint my model of the Lynn Valley tank with CN #11 Red, available from the Canadian National Railways Historical Association*.

And it looked pretty good:

Tank in (the wrong) colour.

But then – even before sharing photos – some friends said to me, “Hey – you’re doing the Lynn Valley tank. Did you see the colour photo from…?” And of course I hadn’t remembered it.

Naturally, this means that I got the colour wrong.

Here is the only colour photo I’ve seen of the tank (used in this instance as the cover for Railway Recollections Part 5 from GPS Video*.) It’s from the correct, mid-1950s time period for my layout. And what d’ya know: The water tank is grey:

Lyn Valley tank - DVD photo GPS-Vol5-Cover
(Click on the image to find out more about this video.)

I’ve repainted the tank. It now looks like this:

Tank - in grey - aisle view.

In addition to the paint job, I’ve done some weathering – adding white along the bottom of the tank to represent scale or mineral deposits leaching through the wood, some green on one quadrant of the tank and base to represent moss, and some grey-black along the track side of the tank to represent soot. A bit of silver on the base gives the timbers an aged look, too. As a final step, I added a light dusting of CN #11 Red to the tank. It warms up the tone, and suggests that the tank might have been painted red at one time… many, many years ago.

And I’m going to spend more time checking my library for useful prototype photos before I pick up the airbrush!

(*Check the “Links” section on this blog’s home page for the most up-to-date links)