Offcuts and Leftovers

It’s been quite a while since I’ve made a post and I don’t really have much excuse except that I’ve been so busy building the layout. The track has been gradually creeping around the layout room to the point where I really needed to take the bull by the horns and cut some holes in my newly installed walls to allow the trains to travel where they need to thus creating a full circle of track. I’d been unsure about the need for a circle of track but was convinced by friends that it would be a good idea to have this feature and I had originally planned to bypass the hole cutting by having the trains cross the path of the doorways but was talked out of this by another friend. I consoled myself that I could always blame these friends if things went wrong 🙂 After today I’m convinced that there is no doubt that this was the way to go. Having the trains circuit around the room behind the stairs which allows you to enter the room without a duck-under is going to be a long-term benefit as I enter my dotage, if I haven’t already, although getting up the stairs may be just as big a challenge over the same period 🙂

So the day had arrived: well it did about two weeks ago when I cut two holes either side of the cupboard.

This photo which I took a couple of weeks ago shows the interior of the walk in storage cupboard. It shows the first hole cut in the wall on the right but I haven’t yet cut the hole on the other side of the cupboard. The 12mm ply track-bed will sit on one of the shelves so trains will simply pass through. To provide a little more length to the rail yard at Raworth I’m going to place one of the points inside the cupboard. You can see this on the left. You can also see where I’ve cut the noggin “inside” the hole.

This photo shows the hole being cut on the outer wall of the cupboard. These two holes both had a noggin in the place I needed to have the trains pass through and these both needed to be cut. This shot shows a pause in proceedings as I stopped to take the photo. The saw is upside down as I cut up into the noggin. This hole is about 2.5m above the stairs! Straight down…

I cut the holes and did some test fitting of road bed and left things there while I went back and laid some track on the other side of this gradually closing circle. I’ve found having the track in place as I approach critical steps like cutting holes in walls helps with placement and set-up of the track bed as it approaches the holes.

Today I started to set up the brackets that will hold the track-bed above the stairs. I started by bolting six short lengths (420mm long) of 70mmX35mm framing timber to the U channel that is a part of the shed’s structure. This U channel runs around the interior perimeter of the building and is used to hold on the exterior cladding. On the interior you get two screw ledges facing inward to which I bolted the short bracket joists.

As I was working on the stairs, and the joists at the far end of the wall are a good deal higher than me, I needed a way of placing a ladder on the stairs. I built a small box from 15mm ply that sat on one of the steps providing a flat level surface for the step ladders I was using. I did need to be careful as I got up and down the ladders but I was surprised at how safe and stable the arrangement proved to be. It was only after I made the box that I found all the treads on the stairs are slightly different heights so I had to block up the box with scrap ply.

This probably looks more precarious than it is. I made a 600mm long box from ply that sat at the same height as the steps on the stairs. I clamped this to the stair tread it was sitting on and this gave me a surface wide enough to place a step-ladder. The short ladder in this photo was one of three I used to reach the U channel and bolt my joists into position. My partner asked me if I had my medical insurance up to date 🙂

This photo shows the installation of the 4th joist. Only two more to go! 🙂 I clamped each one into position and drilled through pre-drilled holes in the timber into the U channel. After the holes were drilled I secured the joist into position with two bolts which you can see on the surface of the blue timber to the left.

After getting the six joists secured into position (they’re 500mm apart) I then started making up some brackets that would be screwed to these joists at the required height. Because of the noggins the track has to rise about 40mm from where it exits through one hole (next to the doorway you can see in the photos) and re-enters the room through the other hole at the back of the walk in storage cupboard which is inside the train room. So the brackets all need to be at slightly different heights as the track bed rises up grade.

After installing the first three brackets temporarily I was able to place a piece of track-bed on these and mark where the hole needed to be cut in the wall to the right of the doorway at the top of the stairs. I’ll set the height for these brackets and screw them permanently into position when I complete the track inside the room next to the door in the next day or so.

I normally cut my 12mm play track base 9cm wide on all straight and curved single track but I wasn’t convinced that the longest vehicles and locos I have would be able to round the curve on this suspended section of the layout once I installed side walls on all the track base. I did some tests and while the longest loco I have on hand sat within the 9cm edge of the track bed, it was only clearing this by about 1mm. I made the decision to cut the track base at 11cm wide to provide plenty of clearance within the tube that will be created by the track base and the side walls of 3mm ply I’ll attach to them later, after the track is laid.

I’m really just testing clearances here and the track is for demonstration purposes only. The height of each bracket has not been set as yet so these are clamped into an approximate position at this stage. The pencil curves on this piece of ply tells me that it was from one of the sheets of ply we used to test the curves for the layout a few months ago.

Generally speaking I was very pleased with the progress I made today on this part of the project. It was another one of those steps I’d been thinking about and planning for months and it feels gratifying to have cut all the holes in the walls finally and to have made a start on track laying. However the really tricky bit will be cutting and laying the curved section over the highest part of the stairs. I’ve yet to finally decide the best way to hold this track up as it gradually moves away from the wall and heads out into open space.

Everything I installed today was made from off-cuts and leftovers and when I ran out of the framing timber I took a trip over to my partner’s place and raided her stockpile of leftovers from the building of her new home. She told me she wanted that timber to build a dog house. I reckon her black Labrador can sleep in the great outdoors just like she has for the last 3 years, I have a more important use for the timber 🙂

4 thoughts on “Offcuts and Leftovers

  1. We have chair lifts here in the US that would solve any future stair climbing issues. A friend has two to reach his basement layout.

  2. Looks great, a couple of questions:
    – How will you handle any derailments? Perhaps check rails are needed for the length of the track?
    – How will you clean the track once it is installed up there? Would it be better to box the track in completely (maybe as a lift-off roof section) in order to help keep it cleaner while still retaining access?

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