Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Layout lighting: Day and Night

My layout room has a solid poured concrete ceiling, so drilling holes for all my lights would have been quite a chore. To minimize drilling, I fixed 7 foot long 1 x 2's with three screws to the ceiling. Attaching the lights to these went very easy.

The light supports also serve as a base for attaching the valance all around the layout.

Where the valance sheets meet I screwed brackets to the 1x2's to give it more strength.

The lights are all turned on and off with the main light switch of the room.
Operation on the Surf Line was Passenger trains by day and Freight trains during the night. To achieve a realistic operating feeling I also installed blue rope lights next to the normal layout lighting. 

This is the same view as above with the blue lights on. These are not the Northern Lights but obviously my camera caught the red color that comes from the blue light rope. This is not so obvious in reality.

The night lighting was not planned in the beginning, but now I absolutely need to install interior lights in all of my buildings, streetlights and everywhere lights are to be found at night. Not to forget the lighted passenger cars.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Backdrop Main Room

With the benchwork and subroadbed in place (btw that's all 1/2 inch plywood) track laying went on fast.
I used PECO code 83 track and turnouts

The backdrop is 3 mm tempered hardboard, again glued directly to the outer walls to save railroad real estate.
For the peninsula I had to erect a frame to support the hardboard sheets. It consists mainly of 1x2's, screwed to the benchwork and to the ceiling.

The hardboard is screwed to the framework and the seams filled with putty and sanded smooth.

For the transition from the outer wall to the peninsula I curved the backdrop to follow the tracks.

The backdrop also curves along the yard throat of Oceanside

This is the other side of the penisula with Capistrano and the return curve to the staging yard (at left).

How I bridged the door opening may be read in the October 2013 issue of NMRA magazine. 

Benchwork Main room

Benchwork in the main layout room also went straight forward with IVAR shelves along the four walls.

In the middle of the room I installed the benchwork for a peninsula. The track curves are all 30" radius.

I did a lot of trying until the shelves had their final position. Then I secured the shelves with 1x2's

The subroadbed above at left will be San Clemente, at right Oceanside (OK at this stage its hard to figure out)

This is the framework for the peninula

As you can see, I had to use every bit of free space to temporarily store my supplies, until all the benchwork was ready.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

San Diego

Following are a couple of pictures with the key elements that I try to recreate (from top down: Library of Congress, San Diego Historical Society and the color photos are from one of my last trips to SoCal)

The Santa Fe depot as it looked in its early days.

This is a view from the 1930's looking down Broadway Avenue to the Pier

This view shows Consolidated Aircraft Company with part of Lindbergh Field to the right. The 4-lane road is Pacific Highway

The depot like it looks today, surrounded by Palm trees and skyscrapers

This is the turning wye with Washington Street leading into the US Marine Corps Recruiting Base (right). To the left are the fences of today's International Airport

This view shows the diverging tracks that pass under Pacific Highway

Here the highway crossed the tracks at the same level. I suppose that the wye was bridged for security reasons.

The lead tracks curve to the right into the Marine Base. In the background you see an Airport Tower and the tail of an airplane

Backdrop San Diego room

The smallest of my two layout rooms houses the depot of San Diego with Broadway Pier on right side and Old Town on the left side of the room.

On my previous layouts, due to unregular walls, I had to construct a frame to screw the backdrop on to. IN my current basement the walls are straight like all other rooms in the house. Building a subframe would only cost me precious real estate for my railroad.

So I figured out that gluing the 1/8 inch thick masonite sheets directly to the wall should also work. A trip to my local building supply store provided me with the mounting glues that I needed. These have an adherance factor of about 50 kilograms per square meter, which is more than sufficient because the boards are litterally leaning against the wall and not hanging from the ceiling.

Because I need all the available space for my rendering of the San Diego depot scene I did not cove the corners. There's no need for a curved corner on the right side of the room, because Broadway Avenue and the Pier are located next to it.

The left wall houses Consolidated Aircraft and the US Marine Base with Lindbergh Field. That's the place where the International Airport is today.

After all the masonite sheets were installed, I painted them sky blue. I did use a stronger blue color because lighter blues don't show enough on photographs.

The picture above shows my Broadway Pier extension. I tried to incorporate some office tools and desk under this part of the layout also.

Monday, December 9, 2013


On my previous layouts I used "traditional" benchwork with brackets bolted to the walls of the layout room.
One big problem I encountered with this system was that the spacing of the brackets never fit the needs for storing boxes or crates under the layout. Either they were too far apart or too narrow, leaving useless space in between. Another disadavantage in my opinion is the fact that construction is more timeconsuming with constantly leveling everything out.

When we moved into our new house back in 2007, I had so many boxes with rolling stock and structures that there was no way in moving everything to the new house and then starting to build the layout. I just did not have enough store room for everything.

I decided to set up IKEA Ivar shelves along my two layout rooms and filled the racks with my boxes as soon as I had another shelf standing. I had planned this step a couple of weeks ahead of our moving so that I had no boxes with material standing in my way.

Before I set up the racks I built L-girders from two 1 x 2's and screwed them along the walls of my layout rooms, at the height (124 cm) so that the legs of the shelves fit right underneath. I advanced one leg after the other, always fitting shelves in between as I went along. Then I screwed the legs to the L-girder to keep them from moving.

Along the front of the legs I screwed another L-girder.

Then I screwed joists to the L-girder to support the plywood sheets on top.

The shelving system did not fit seamlessly into the corners, so I joined the L-girders and screwed them together. With the plywood bases on top the benchwork became sturdy as a rock.

To join the two rooms I had to break a hole into one wall. One leg of my turning wye in Old Town reaches through this hole and saves me space.

The shelving system is easy to set up and gives a very strong support for the layout. I could even sit on top of it when attaching the lighting system. The shelf boards are clicked into pins so they may be adapted to the size of the storage boxes. All in all its a very rational system.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The concept

On my numerous travels to California, the southern part along the Pacific Coast pleased me most, and because the railroad tracks along the coast belong to my favorite railway company - the Santa Fe - it was a natural choice for my home layout.

I don't have the space to recreate a large part of the Santa Fe system so the "short" two hour travel time from Los Angeles to San Diego seemed just right for my project.

There's a page on Wikipedia that explains the setting very well, so I don't need to repeat it here.(

A lot of study of the prototype and the history of the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad and more specifically "The Surf Line" led to my first track plan The Surf Line and San Diego

I also owe a lot of my knowledge to Keith Jordan who inspired me with his own layout and the excellent articles he wrote about this part of the Santa Fe Railway.

As you can see, even though the prototype is very small compared to other parts of the railway system, I could not include all the stations along the line. I concentrated on the towns which give me the most switching possibilities, because my layout is designed for operation, passenger and freight as well.

The Santa Fe operated daytime passenger service with the San_Diegan name trains, doing 3-4 round trips daily and the freight trains operating during the night, so there will be no interference with Passenger and Freight trains during operating sessions.

File:ATSF San Diegan combined.png

I have two rooms for my layout. The smaller one will house the San Diego scene with the depot area, Broadway Pier and the wye in Old Town where all the passenger trains were turned before their return journey to Los Angeles. One leg of the wye entered the USMC Recruiting Base and Consolidated Aircraft Company which build the B-25 bombers during WWII.

A hole in the wall leads the line to the second room with the actual Surf Line.
The first town is Oceanside with its small yard and the start of the Escondido branch on one side and the Fallbrook branch on the other. Oceanside will be the break up and assembly point for all branchline traffic. It is also the arrival and departure for San Diego and Fullerton locals.

The branches will only be narrow sidings with run around and enough set out spots for the local citrus industries and military camp.

Leaving Oceanside northbound leads the line along the Pacific Ocean (the Surf) through San Clemente. Here the tracks almost hit the beach. The bluffs against the backdrop will help conceal the Fallbrook branch on the upper level.

Around the curve on the peninsula through an orange grove the line enters San Juan Capistrano with its Mission style depot and a couple of local industries.

Another curve brings the line to its destination, the staging yard. Los Angeles or Fullerton I'm not sure yet because its very generic. On the second level above the yard is the end of the Escondido branch.

One of the yard lead tracks will also serve as connection to allow a continuous run between sessions.