A decision on the section house

Those who have just read about the turntable build may have noted yet another mock-up of the section house next to the approach track. If you missed it, have another look:

Port Rowan section house

This is section house #6 – and the one I’m going to build.

Pierre Oliver and I went back and forth on the section house several times by email and phone – trading sketches and photos, and drawing on Pierre’s knowledge of building practices. We originally thought the section house featured a dormer, as seen on some of the previous mock-ups:

Previous section house mock ups

But in the end, we determined it’s most likely the roof on an adjacent shed:

Section house mock up with separate oil house

The problem was that in order to get a roofline that looked like the one on the prototype…

Detail of section house roof lines

…the dormer roof had to be a different pitch than the main roof. As Pierre says, that’s incredibly difficult to do – it’s a lot of math. While such challenging rooflines might be built on significant structures – on a major passenger station, for example – it’s unlikely the bridge and building department would have specified such a complex roof for a section house. It would have slowed down construction, and increased labour costs, for no benefit.

Once we decided it was two structures, designing a suitable pair of structures was easy peasy:

Section house and oil house

(Thanks for all the help on this, Pierre!)

The Port Rowan turntable

Port Rowan turntable installation

This past week, I decided it was time to tackle the Port Rowan turntable. It’s now built, and ready to be installed on the layout.

I kit bashed my turntable, starting with an HO scale kit for a 90-foot turntable from Custom Model Railroads* that I picked up back in October. A 90-foot turntable in HO works out to about a 65-foot turntable in S – close enough to the prototype’s 60-foot model. That extra five feet will make it that much easier for operators to spot a 10-wheeler on the bridge – there’s not a lot of room for error:

Port Rowan turntable - tight squeeze for a 10-wheeler

The CMR kit is laser cut from acrylic and creates a deck girder bridge. My prototype had a through-girder arrangement, so to replicate this, I added sides created from HO scale bridge components from Central Valley Model Works. I used two packages of HO scale, 72-foot plate girders (part 1903-1). I cut away the rounded ends and spliced the girders to get the length I needed for my turntable bridge. I carved away all the detail below the angled braces on the inside of the girders, then attached them to the CMR turntable deck by adding a length of .060″ x .250″ styrene strip to each side. (Sorry – no in-progress photos. I was too busy making progress!)

The prototype turntable had an air-operated engine at one end, which crews could hook up to their locomotive’s air brake system. In Steam Echoes of Hamilton, author Ian Wilson notes this was used if the pit rail was slippery – perhaps from too much crushed Queen Anne’s Lace. I modelled this engine using a white metal kit from Keystone Models for a stationary steam engine. I rearranged some of the details and mounted it on a pair of Evergreen styrene I-beams, then glued it to the side of the girder. It worked out perfectly and adds a great detail to the turntable. I also added a pair of armstrong handles using brass rod plus some strip wood and wire for the blocking and U-bolts that secure these to the bridge girders.

The CMR kit features a removable bridge, which – among other things – allows one to get it out of harm’s way when working on the pit. I’ve sprayed the pit base with random swirls of black and rail brown and whatever else was coming out of the airbrush while painting and weathering the bridge. It’ll eventually get covered with dirt and weeds:

Port Rowan turntable pit base and ring rail

I built the cribbing from Mt. Albert Scale Lumber bridge ties (also used on the turntable bridge and the three bridges on the layout). I only did a partial wall, to hold back the earth at the approach track, because the “pit” at Port Rowan wasn’t really that well defined. The railway elevated the approach track – easier than digging a proper pit – and I’m duplicating that by raising the roadbed by 3/4″ on my turntable lead. I’ve glued down and sanded some ties at the end of the lead to help with final installation of the turntable. That’s going to require a second set of eyes and hands to get everything level. I’ll add more risers under the approach track at the same time.

The CMR kit is powered by a slow-motion motor – I’m not sure of its original purpose but probably as a display motor. It’s not the kind sold as a stall motor switch machine. The label says it includes gear reduction of more than 7000:1 (yes, seven thousand to one) and it does move darned slowly. CMR did a nice job of making everything serviceable – there are several places where one can loosen a grub screw to pull the bridge, the shaft and the motor.

I’m really pleased with how this project turned out.

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

“Hand Tools” by Aldren A Watson

Thank you to my friend Chris Abbott, who this week gave me a copy of Hand Tools: Their Ways and Workings by Aldren A Watson.

This is a delightful book. Aided by more than 450 illustrations by the author, it demonstrates techniques for using hand tools safely and effectively. Illustrations are often superior to photos for such instruction since the artist can leave out visual information that’s not necessary to demonstrate the technique, or that may even interfere with demonstrating it. And this book does a great job of that.

From workbenches to bit braces … chisels to saw… drawknives to planes… this book has it covered. I already know – or think I know – how to use some of these tools, while others are terra incognito. So I’m looking forward to expanding my knowledge through these pages. Thanks, Chris!

(For those interested, there’s an interesting discussion of Watson on the Writing Woodworking’s History website.)

Throttle panels for location testing and trouble shooting

Throttle plug in panels - temporary installation

Chris Abbott visited this week and he helped me install seven Lenz XpressNet throttle panels (part LA152) around the layout.

As the lead photo shows, we did a temporary installation – for two reasons:

– First, we are not yet ready to install the fascia, but having the panels in place allows me to move about the layout – important as I troubleshoot the recently spiked and wired track work.

– Second, I can now run some trains and decide whether we have the panels in the right locations, before committing to their positions (by cutting holes in the fascia).

Seven panels may seem excessive for such a simple layout. But I had them anyway, used on more elaborate layouts I’ve built in the past, so I may as well use them all here.

Why panels? Why not wireless? Personal preference. I have a wireless system and I will likely install it for those who want to run untethered. But I’ve come to prefer the wired throttles – especially the Lenz throttles, which are elegant and functional. I’ve never had issues with cables getting tangled – and it certainly shouldn’t be a problem on this layout!