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Wilmington and Northern Branch

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Progress Blog 150th St Version

Running commentary on construction progress

April 5, 2012 : Realized I had to add a year to the dates on this blog, doh.

Finally got the Coatesville area in service.  Medical issues over the fall and winter caused me to lose some ground, but things are picking up.  I realized that with the Coatesville area in service I now need more cars, particularly gons and hoppers.  I started on a car building spree.  I have 14 metal underframes to use for gons.  6 of them were detailed and I made balsa wood superstructures for them.  They are good enough to work until I can cast resin shells, but bad enough that I will be motivated to replace them.  I have also assembled resin kits for PRR and P&R composite gons, a scratchbuilt flat car, upgraded a plastic gon and completed a first pass kitbash of a car resembling a P&R clas HTb hopper.  I have 3 cabooses ready too.  Hopefully in April I will do a paint party and paint and letter all those cars.

October 31 : Finished painting and installing the car card boxes.  Glued
labels for the car card boxes to the fascia.   Fiddled with method of
putting wipers on a Mantua tender truck.  Have a square piece of .040
plastic with a hole to clear the bolster drilled in the center.  On each
side there are 2 #76 holes drilled through the plastic about 1/8" apart. I
will solder a wire to center of a 1 1/2 inch long piece of phosphor bronze
wire, bend it into a 1/8 " wide U and stick the two ends through the #76
holes in the plastic square.  The bronze wire is bent over the plastic and
angled out a bit.  I can slip the plastic square over the centerplate of
the truck and position the bronze wire against the backs of the wheels.
thus giving all wheel pickup.  The pickups should be fairly invisible when
painted black.  Next step is to adapt that concept to old style Mantua
trucks and modern Bachmann trucks.

October 29 : Installed car card boxes for all Wilmington industrial areas.
 Each box was a 4" wide piece of 3/4 plywood as long at the number of
slots.  The slots were made with 1/4 by 1 1/4 pine lath.  On the ends I
put a 1 1/4 " high piece of 3/4 ply.  The back and dividers were lath. The
end blocks were glued on, the back piece was glued and then the dividers
were glued using a piece of plastic as a spacer to get uniform width. When
everything was dry I used a 1 1/2" hole drill to drill a half round recess
in the front center of each box for a finger recess.  I  set the plywood
on the top of the 1x4 benchwork grid and cut a 1 1/4" high slot in the
1/8" hardboard fascia.  the dimensions of the slot were drawn on the facia
and a utility knife was used to cut through the fascia.  The boxes were
screwed to the fascia with screws through fascia into the end blocks. Then
I used the utility knife to cut out the fascia in front of the finger
recess.  That makes it easy to reach in and grab the CC&WB in any slot.
This weekend I will remove them and paint everything, should get them
permanently installed by Sunday night.

October 28 : Cut material for industry car card boxes and assembled 4
boxes.  Have a 7  slot one for foreground industries, a 3 slot one for
west end industries and two 4 slot boxes, one for staging and one for
background industries.  Also found my phosphor bronze wire to make wheel
wipers for my 0-6-0 and 0-4-0.  Need to get some PC board.
I had two switches where the linkages dislocated from the throw bars.
Fortunately my mechanism allows for disassembly and re-installation so I
was able to reconnect everything and get the Christiana and scale track
switches back in service.
Next immediate projects are to cut some finger holes in the base of the
car card boxes, paint them, cover them and then install them in the
fascia.  On the rolling stock front I need to work on tender pickups to
get the switchers up and running.  After that its back to decaling the 4
P&R gons, painting and decaling the 2 cabooses and then flat coating 4
engines, 3 cabooses and 8 gondolas.

October 22 : It has been a while since my last post.  I have been busy.  I
have worked on some arrangements for the buildings in Wilmington.  Various
improvements have been made to the wiring.  The various staging tracks in
Wilmington are now all functional and have cassette staging capabilities.
Currently working on improving the electrical reliability of the temporary
portions of the railroad on the peninsula.  Have received my circuit
breakers for the Wilmington area and will install them this week.
Have painted and are in the process of lettering 8 gondolas, 2 B&O, 2 PRR
and 4 P&R.
I have found that key to success is improving the electrical pick up on
the tenders of the engines.  I have 2 Mantua 0-6-0 camelbacks.  One is
detailed for the P&R and the other, ATSF 1999, is out of the box (only
Lenz gold decoder).  P&R 1327 is an excellent runner, on of my best.  the
ATSF 1999 is much less so.  I was able to install all metal wheelsets in
the tender for my P&R 0-4-0 camelback, so I will have a project over the
next couple months to install all wheel pick up on those tenders  to get
them in service.
I have bought 2 Roundhouse 2-8-0's.  One will remain as a conventional cab
engine, an I-3f (which was a class of 2 conventional firebox engines in
the midst of a group of camelbacks) and the other will be an I3c or d
camelback.  All of them had 50" drivers and boilers/tenders about the size
of the Roundhouse engines.
On that subject I plan to convert the Roundhouse 4-4-0 and at least one
2-8-0 into camelbacks.  I have cut down the smokebox of an MDC boiler,
filled in the running boards and modified the cab to fit over the boiler.
I am now at the point of building the Wooten firebox, so that is an
ongoing project.
I have also been experimenting with the car forwarding systems and have
tried adding color to the waybills.  The jury is still out on that.

Goal is to get the following items up and running to support a limited
operating session:
1.  2 switch and 2 road engines working reliably.
2.  To have about 90 cars ready
3.  Get the temporary track working reliably
4.  Connect the command bus on the new portion to the command bus on the
old portion
5.  Install car card boxes for the industries and staging tracks

Aug 9 : Slow week at the beginning with family and yardwork, but a strong finish this past weekened.  Have installed  both temporary turntables and wired them.  Laid the two engine tracks to the turntable at Wilmington and wired it.  Was able to run a train between Wilmington and Birdsboro and turn the engines at both ends.  Tweaked two switches with tight gauge in downtown Wilmington.  Cleaned the wheels on the engines.  So far the Mantua 0-6-0 is the best runner with the Roundhouse 4-4-0 second and the Bachmann 4-4-0 a distant 3rd.

Lots of work to do on wiring the temporary track between Wilmington and Birdsboro, then installing all the styrene gap fillers at the insulating gaps.

Aug 1 : Have been working on small projects a hour or so every day.  Finally tracked down the short in the Betts Machine Co. switch.  Had 1 extra feeder.  I solder feeders to the bottom of the rail.  the good news is that makes them almost invisible.  The bad news is that it makes them almost invisible.

The wiring was straightened out in the interchange tracks.  I have cut rail/flex to lay the Del River Ext.  I removed the visible screws from the backdrop filled and sanded the area.  When I install and paint the Coatesville backdrop I'll paint it.  I recieved a new shipment of ties and glues ties in place for the engine area tracks and several tracks in Coatesville.

I removed the original hokey temporary turntable at Wilmington and cut out the benchwork under it.  I have installed a new piece of benchwork to flush mount the temporary turntable. No added functionality but a lot better looking. 

July 19 : Finished all the pushrods for all the toggles in greater Wilmington.   Found 5 switches with the polarity crossed, but since I have the terminal strips on each toggle it took a couple minutes to fix each toggle with no soldering.  Yeah!!  I also wired the diamond where the Del River Ext. Crosses the H&H lead.  Finished laying the Betts Machinery spur.  For fun I cut a switch list and switched the yard.  Tried to run a passenger train with engine #18, but it doesn't run very well so it will need some work.  Hopefully just cleaning the wheels.

July 14 : Cut holes in fascia for the Maryland Ave Br. toggle recess. Installed toggle recesses. Drilled pushrod holes. Prepared remaining 6 toggle brackets, giving me enough brackets for the entire peninsula, including branches, yards and wye.

July 13 : Finished painting toggle recesses. Experimented with using Unibit to drill out the holes for throwbar wire. Previously I was drilling three 3/16 holesdown from the top (one at the center and one just inside each rail) and then using a rotozip cutter bit in a Dremel tool to rout between them making a slot. had a few issues with the throwbar wire binding on the sides of the slot. New method will be to drill a 1/4" hole in the centerline of the track and then come up rom the bottom with the Unibit. Larger, tapered hole makes it less likely to bind.

July 12 : Installed the last 8 toggle brackets in Wilmington. Have cut pushrod recess holes in the fascia and painted the opening edges. Build pushrod recesses and gave them a first coat of paint. Had to make the Wilmington recess deeper since so many switches were in close proximity, will have to stagger the rods vertically in the recess. Painted benchwork legs on the peninsula and temporary turntable bracket. Modified 5 toggle switches for use in brackets in the Montchanin area. Put a vertical bend in the flex track for the Wilmington Coal & Coke Co. track so it would sit on the future coal trestle.

July 10 : Continued work on the toggle brackets, disassembled all the remaining old plastic brackets, mounted the toggles and terminal strips onto the new metal brackets. Rebuilt the throw rods and tapped all the holes on the toggles and wired the toggles to the terminal strips. Sorted out the car cards for the cars on the layout. Drilled toggle holes in 25 metal brackets (almost completes the peninsula).

July 9 : Installed 9 toggle brackets in downtown Wilmington.

July 8 : Installed a throttle plug in the fascia at the yard lead to be able to try out the new switch throws.  Seems to be working well.  Also connected the radio throttle up and tested it.  Test ran a few trains.  Have several dead spots in the temporary track and #18 has dirty wheels or pickup issues.
July 3 : Finished off the toggles and the recessed pushrod areas in the 2nd 8 ft piece of fascia.  Have painted all the push rod recesses and have installed the push rods.  Now have the full Wilmington Yard operational, just have the downtown Wilmington area to complete (about a dozen more toggle mounts and 6 ft of fascia.
June 29 :  Installed 3 more toggle mounts and glued up the recessed pushrod areas for the fascia.
June 28 :  Installed 8 toggle mounts.
June 27 :  Wilmington yard has the new toggle mounts in and I am working towards downtown Wilmington.  Have Prepared a double mount bracket for the crossing on the Delaware River Extension.  Spent a large part of the previous week wrestling with a new wireless router.
June 21 :  24 new metal switch brackets have been drilled with both the large 1/2" hole for the toggle and the 1/16" hole for the rod. That should finish the rest of Wilmington with a couple left over.  I have removed the fascia on the middle section of Wilmington Yard and have reassembled 5 of the 6 switches in that section.  The last switch controls the polarity of a crossing frog also, so is a double toggle and will take a little reconfiguring.
June 21 :   Decided to keep a running commentary on the progress of the layout.  I had the continuous loop running for OS Omaha.  I had built my own switch linkage brackets fby ctutting plastic junction boxes in half but the plast was too flexible.
I had to use the method Don Wetmore used with the metal tie down bracket.  I finished re-installing the brackets in the north end of Wilmington yard yesterday.

A running account of progress on the W&N (for those that say I spend too much time on the computer).