Sunday, January 27, 2013

T Track Technique

Arguably the most important component of a model railroad is the trackage.  It is a major scenic component, but must also be very functional.  T-gauge has major limitations with track, caused both by the operating considerations and the small market.  Eishindo makes the only track system for the scale, so we must work with what they make.  It's a decent track system, in my opinion, but has it's flaws.  Being 1:450 of the real thing, and therefore severely compressed, concessions are made in order to provide reasonably reliable operation and durability.  Some components are grossly oversize.  For example, the railhead itself is about 0.5mm wide--about 8" to scale.   This gives good electrical contact area, and also is not too easy to accidentally bend or break.  Similarly, ties are too thick, and spaced too far apart (about twice what is found in a North American prototype.)  Even so, with proper painting and installation, it can look--as with most things in T-- "good enough".  As I like to say,  "it offers a reasonable representation of the prototype."  This is my mantra in T-gauge!

Since most--or all--of my track will be Eishindo flex-track, I experimented with a few different techniques to get a decent appearing, reasonably fast-and-easy to install system.  After a few experiments, I landed on a system using uncured butyl rubber (AMI Instant Roadbed).  My roll of old AMI roadbed is light gray, 1/8" thick (about 3mm) and comes in a 30-foot roll.  It is a semi-soft material that flexes easily, can be painted, and (importantly) retains shapes pressed into it.  AMI went out of business, but you may find some old rolls at your LHS or, you can buy butyl rubber rolls from auto parts stores where it's sold as air conditioner sealer, or roofing patch.  You will probably need to paint it because most of what I've seen is black, but that's ok.  You can even press T-gauge ballast into it if you wish.  Below is my technique for your consideration:   

First, I cut the rubber lengthwise into strips about 12mm wide using the x-acto knife.  Next, I cut these strips again lengthwise in half, but I bevel the slice about 45 degrees.  Once you peel them apart, This way you end up with two "halves" of the ballast, which (similar to cork roadbed) can be butted up against each other with the beveled edges out representing the slope of the ballast. 

Using your center line as a guide you can then install the ballast on the layout. 

The next step is the track itself.  I use the gray tie flextrack.  The gray flextrack actually looks like old faded ties or concrete ones.  I paint the whole system (rail and ties) roof brown.  You could also use rail brown.  Previously, the track will have been bent to shape, and once dry you just press it into the soft ballast roadbed.  I use my thumb but a small block of wood can be used to try ensure the rail is level.  

The track system at this point looks pretty good, and you may like it just as it is.  (You would still want to spray the whole thing with Dullcote to keep dust from sticking to the balast.)  In my case, it didn't look quite good enough, and I wanted to finish it off a little more to add realism.   This is again pretty fast and easy:  First I give the ballast a wash of light gray.  This blends in some of the flecks of brown in the material.  Next, using a medium grit sanding board, I press the shoulders of the ballast to a more prototypical profile,  I try to eliminate any large bumps which would not exist in the real world.  It also imparts a very fine granular texture.  A prototype photo is always a good thing to consult when doing this.

The final finishing steps are to dust the whole system (using a photo as reference) with a little white or light gray weathering chalk.  This added more white highlights which I wanted.  If you were modeling an area with a flange greaser or engine facility, you can add black, or an area that sees a lot of sanding even more white or tan-- whatever you deem fit.   Then, very importantly, seal the whole thing with a good coat of Dullcote (flat lacquer).  The rail heads will need a good polishing with fine sandpaper.  That's it!


P&W Layout Progress Report

The P&W layout is pretty simple, but it will still have plenty of challenges for me.  It is essentially just a loop with some siding/yard trackage.  The loop will be single track, although the prototype was once double tracked in the area modeled.  I'll be using Eishindo flex track for the majority of the layout, and am seriously considering not even installing working turnouts due to their relatively poor appearance and performance.  I may upgrade when and if better ones come out or if I get the gumption to scratch-build them.  

Here we see the basic platform of the layout.  It rests on a 2" slab of pink foam, with layers of foam core hot-glued on top.  The base layer of foam is stiff enough to support anything I'll be adding.  This layout will be extremely light!  More foam--just plain blue insulation sheet--will be added to build up the hills.  A backdrop/scenic divider will split the layout down the middle from top-to-bottom in this photo.

Above we see the general track plan.  Going from railroad east to west, starting at top left going counter-clockwise:  Trains will emerge from Schenley Tunnel in the divider to cross a through truss bridge--a "modelers prerogative" compressed representation--across the Allegheny River.  Trains will pass above the Willow Grove Yard area that will be modeled at bottom left, then through Etna and BG Tower, and the Tippins Machine works.  Passing Etna the railroad crosses over Pine Creek meandering along the track going west towards Allison Park, where it will duck into a tunnel in the divider.

Here's a bit closer view of the basic surface with flex track pinned to test the track placement.  Pine Creek meanders in and out of the scene a couple times.  I will get lots of practice with water modelling on this layout!

Finally, a track-side preview shows how the curves seem prototypically broad even on this small of a layout.  Ya gotta love T-!  All this in 2x3 feet!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

A Bit of Work in the Paint Shop

A quick preview of the MP36/40 that's been under development for some time.  At a future date this is intended to be a commercially available model.  There are still details to be worked out with the model and production.  It is riding here on the new 35.5mm chassis, and although the truck centers are just a bit off--it's probably passable.  

Meantime I've been fiddling with a paint scheme and decals.  This is close but not quite finished.  For those G.O. Transit purists out there you'll note that the roofline paint is slightly off, but that has been corrected.   Of course there is more work to be done in addition.   

In other news, I'm experimenting with some AMI Instant Roadbed on the Etna test layout.  I will post some pictures as soon as I get some track laid poperly.  It seems promising!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

If You Build It...

Although I have "big picture" plans to model the Willow Grove (Millvale, PA) area, I have decided that a test layout is called for first.  A test layout will allow me to experiment with track and scenery techniques in T-gauge.  You see, although I have done a great deal of work on rolling stock, I have not done much (or any) layout modelling in 1:450 scale!  Time to get busy, as they say.   I intend to make just a simple loop on a small 24"x36" table, but throw in some prototype references based on another B&O prototype (Etna PA).  The layout will be portable as well, and I hope to display it at some train shows and thereby help to "get the word out" on T-gauge.

In the picture you see the highly complex benchwork and layout base ;-).  It's actually just some very cheap plastic shelving, glued with construction adhesive to the bottom of a piece of pink foam board.  The legs are drilled through with some 1-1/2-in metal screws to hold them secure.