Sunday, January 23rd, 2011

image of demolished model train layout

WHAT HAVE I DONE?

I demolished my model train layout this weekend. The original section still stands, but only because it’s going to take me the better part of a day to disconnect the electrical fixtures and unscrew all the hardware that I’ve attached to it over the years. I’m hoping to begin rebuilding later this week.

This is all John Armstrong‘s fault, or that’s who I’m going to blame, anyway. Ever since I laid eyes on a track plan he drew for the August, 1953, issue of Model Railroader, I’ve been dreaming about building it.

First, I tried to adapt it to fit the bench work I’d already built. I didn’t want to tear it down and start over, because, you know, yuk. But no matter how I fiddled with it, I couldn’t get it to fit. And the more I fiddled with it, the more I knew that fiddling with it would only make it so much less fun than the plan that Armstrong drew in the first place.

So I started to think in terms of building the plan as is, or nearly so. Armstrong’s 5 x 10 plan called for a minimum radius on the main line of twenty-four inches, with eighteen-inch curves on the branch lines. I didn’t want the curves to be quite so tight, and I had more room to play with, so I drove over to the library one afternoon last week and used their copier to enlarge the drawing until it was twelve inches on the long side. Then I re-drew the grid lines on the layout to make it a 6 x 12 plan. Finally satisfied that I could make the curves almost thirty percent bigger and still fit it into the back of the basement, I tried to get myself into a frame of mind that would let me demolish the bench work I’ve been building up for the last four years.

image of demolished model train layout

I started by picking noncommittally at the acoustic tiles I’d used instead of homasote for the track bed, just to see how cleanly I could separate it from the masonite subfloor. Pretty cleanly, it turned out. The tiles were way too easy to pry off with my fingers, and I could peel the acrylic adhesive completely off the masonite with a chisel in one long stroke with a little practice. In no time at all I’d carved up the rest of the tiles with a craft knife and was prying them off one at a time until they were all stacked at my feet. And I had to admit to myself at that point that I was pretty goddamned committed to demolishing the rest of it.

The masonite was glued to the cross-braces of the bench work but came up surprisingly easily without cracking. I’ll be able to reuse almost all of it as subfloor for the roadbed on the new layout. Next, I knocked all the cross-braces out with a few taps from a hammer. They were just glued in, too. I undid the screws fastening the benchwork frame to the Phase II module next, then broke the frame down until nothing was left but the end brackets. I’m going to cut each one of them in half, add a leg and use them as part of the bench work to brace up one end of the new layout.

image of demolished model train layout

I still had quite a bit of steam built up, so I started demolishing the long module on the end of the layout by severing the bridge that connected it to the station yard. This was also glued together and easy to knock to pieces with a few taps of the hammer. Quite a bit of the bench work was assembled this way, but the crossover bridge was a kludge so head-slappingly jerry-rigged that I’m amazed how well it held up under the onslaught of my periodic abuse. I laid down and tore out track over this part of the layout at least three times and it never gave way. Thank goodness.

That done, I began tearing the tiles off the long module, then cleaning up the masonite, and finally throwing away all the junk. That last step ran a close second to the hardest thing I did, including tearing to pieces the layout I built with my own two loving hands, as temps have hovered around ten degrees all day, which is why I spent pretty much all afternoon in the basement working on my layout. I was outside a grand total of maybe ninety seconds and I FROZE MY NIPPLES OFF! Literally. I now have no nipples.

image of demolished model train layout

Now I’m down to the really hard part: Getting all the passenger cars and kit boxes and tools and other crap that’s piled up on the bottom shelf of the original module, which I’ve been using as a work bench, and moving it away some place else, any place else, so I can finish this demolition and start rebuilding.

As it turned out, cleaning up all that crap didn’t take as long as I thought it would: I had just about all of it loaded into boxes and stashed on the other side of the basement with enough time before lunch to tear all the tiles off the top and peel the adhesive off the masonite. The clean-up went so quickly because a lot of the kit stuff was still in the original boxes or the original box was close by, and quite a lot of the small parts that were part of a model I’d been working on were already carefully stored in small boxes or pill bottles. I’ve lost a lot of parts to carelessly leaving them on the desk top, thinking it would be just a very short time before I put them back. Now that I know that never happens, I always drop parts into boxes or bottles as I take them off.

image of demolished model train layout

After pulling up all the tiles, cleaning off the masonite boards and stashing them away I still had a little time left before lunch, so I dismantled the portion of the bench work that I added on to the original bench, which was only four feet long and just under three feet wide. This was what I started with five years ago, what would have been my N-scale shelf layout that was almost immediately abandoned for an HO-scale shelf layout. I never had a plan for either one, just an idea in my head that was constantly morphing, and as soon as I started on the HO-scale layout it morphed again into a layout that would need more room, hence the addition, and every addition after that.

These constant changes were fun to pursue for a while, but over the years they’ve only grown frustrating as I’ve never had a track that I can run trains over. BUT NOW, I HAVE A PLAN! And I’m not going to change it in any way at all. I’ve drawn a sketch for the bench work and I’m going to start putting that together this week. Six by twelve, it’s going to run the length of the back wall, just as this one eventually did, but it’s not going to take up nearly as much of the room as the old one did, and there will be two openings in it, one on each end, so all of the track, even the corners, will be within reach without pulling a muscle or standing tip-toe on a stepladder, something I couldn’t count on before.

Train Wreck | 3:28 pm CST
Category: entertainment, hobby, LoCo Rwy
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