Slow Trains Down South: The road crossing or “The First Section”

The kids and I started our new finescale model railroad project last week. Maggie and Graham have been asking me if the could help build a “train layout” so they could “run trains” with me. I thought this would be a great way to (1) get me back into an active model railroad hobbyist instead of a collector and armchair doodler and (2) teach both the kids and myself various skills. Please join the three of us as we build “Slow Train Down South”, our adventure into a southern United States 30 inch narrow gauge railroad. We chose On30 because for my peace of mind we do not have to worry about dropping a brass or diecast locomotive on the floor. Plus, they have seen several On30 modular layouts and have really enjoyed watching them. The kids are going to help do various items as we build the module, even helping to write a post or two. This will help them with school work and even accomplish a few Cub Scout and Brownie requirements.

Several months ago, I built a curved module from some smaller scraps to see how the methods and designs that others had done such as the Sn2 Crew would work for me. Instead of building a new curved module, we decided to use this one and fix some of its problems to show other what to do when you make a mistake. More about the things that need to be fixed on in future posts as we build our staging modules and Module Two, “The Bridge”.

Before we started, I ordered several curve templates for various imagineering projects from Ondrew Hartigan of Modelrailroadbenchwork.com. Ondrew was great to work with, and he had my three large radii templates cut and delivered in no time flat. If you are interested in building a modular layout, but do not know much about benchwork or have the tools to construct your own, contact Ondrew!

For “the first section” as the kids and I have called it, we chose a 48 inch curve. The module had been designed to accommodate a much tighter 32 to 36 inch radius curve, but we all thought that the broader curve looked “cool” to quote the tie gang!

Slow Train Module One-curve template

We drew our center line and then glued down HO cork roadbed and let the whole thing dry for a day. Next, we glue down stock Mt Albert Scale Lumber Co. On3 6 foot long ties using a Fast Track On3 jigs  purchased from a member of the On3 Yahoo group. We measured the center line from one side of the jig and drew the center line across both of the jigs that had been purchased. Yes, know it would be easier using a On30 jig, but the On3 jig is doing double duty. We are going to reuse it on another project. We then placed the ties in the jig and drew a center line onto the ties. We applied  moderately diluted carpenter glue mix to the cork and laid out our ties. Once again we waited for another day for everything to dry.

My helpers took the day off as I sanded down the ties to be reasonably level throughout the curve. I then proceeded to drag my finetooth hobby sawblade across the ties to give them the appearance of aged ties  that had been exposed to years of weather. I also used my X-acto knife to further distress the ties to give some the look of having been in service for decades. For more information on the process, look at Mike Cougill’s book “Detailing track” from OST publications. Highly recommend the book for beginners and more experienced modelers interested in improving their trackwork. Mike also has some great posts on trackwork in his blog.

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