Working on The Railroad

To say that 2021 was interesting seems to be a colossal understatement. First Brad and I moved from DC to Rehoboth Beach. Then it finally appeared that the US had gotten a grip on the whole COVID mess. Perhaps it would be possible to make travel plans again. I had not been to London in three years to see my friends and the bi-annual InnoTrans rail industry exhibition in Berlin would finally be held again. Then Omicron hit. And here we are again, thanks to some idiots who refuse to get vaccinated. Who take no precautions and think they have a “right” to travel, a “right” to spread this crap and infect others.  People who get their “news” from Facebook, Fox News and that ilk. Why anybody would even consider boarding a cruise ship right now is just beyond me. On top of all that we have opportunistic folks like DeSantis in Florida making political hay out of this most sad situation.

But I digress. After all this is suppose to be a blog about “All things railroad”. So, without further social commentary, a progress report on my evolving HO scale layout:

The bench work was finished by a carpenter in about a week during June. 1/2 inch plywood was used for the base. The framing was fastened to the concrete floor using a powder actuated nail gun. That gizmo actually uses a .22 cartridge. No bullet though!

The whole bench work was than painter with a white primer:

Originally the idea also was to have several roughly two foot wide hinged sections of the bench work. These would be able to be folded up, thus not necessitating me crawling underneath the bench work to reach the inner part of the layout. It’s an age thing…Problem was that I could just not find a satisfactory solution to make it work correctly, particularly the electrical connections to the individual sections of track. So, at least for now, back on my knees…

I am using DCC ( Digital Command Control Information) to operate the rolling stock, as well as accessories. That would include things like turnouts, signals and the like. This negates the need for extensive wiring. Currently my DCC system is the Model Rectifier Corporation Prodigy Elite 10 A unit. The handheld controllers are two plugin Advance 2 pieces and I  have three wireless controllers as well:

Since the layout is relatively large I installed a DCC power bus wire underneath the bench work. This I can tap into at regular intervals to reliably feed power to the track. My turnouts and signals and such are decoder equipped and are directly connected to the track. This makes a reliable DCC power feed essential. Thus the DCC power bus wire.You will also notice in the above picture that there is another wire installed. That would be the Accessory Power Bus Wire. This will be used to connect street lights, house interior illumination, animated figures and anything else using 10 to 12 volts DC. The power comes from a central transformer with an adjustable voltage output:

I earlier mentioned turnouts with integral decoders. As far as I know only two companies currently produce these. Namely Roco and Bachmann. The beauty of these decoder equipped turnouts is the fact that these products do not require any kind of complicated wiring. Which is not my forte, to put it mildly! The control impulses and the power are directly routed through the track. The downside is that Bachmann is not particularly known for the quality of their track and turnouts. In the past I had some real issues with their HO scale track. Furthermore Bachmann HO scale track (including their turnouts) is Code 100, whereas the flex track I am using is Atlas Code 83. This is not really an insurmountable problem and is, in fact, rather easily fixed. However one has to be aware of this fact, lest operating issues arise.

Bachmann HO Amtrak “Charger” SC-44 Locomotive on the programming track.

The Broadway Limited UP 844 also will not take a decoder address from my system

On the other hand Roco decoder equipped turnouts appear to be of excellent quality. The problem here is that I have a devil of a time programming the Roco turnouts. Some will easily “accept” the decoder address programming, other I can not get to do much of anything. At this point I am still trying to figure out whether the issue is with my DCC system or the turnouts themselves. I am leaning towards believing that there are some issues with my DCC control box, for the simple reason that I also have issues programming my locomotives on the dedicated programming track. My new Bachmann Amtrak “Charger”, as well as a new Broadway Limited UP 844 will not accept new decoder addresses.

A lot of my track is down and I am actually able to run some trains. As I mentioned before most of the track is Atlas HO Code 83 Flex Track with concrete ties. Generally the track goes down on foam road bed. I tack it down with track nails to keep the flex track in the desired position and then glue the track to the road bed. After about 12 hours the nails come out, making the whole thing look better. Now I just need to ballast the track, add some weeds and such to make it look realistic:

No major scenery project has been attempted yet. I have created a little park, as well as a railroad crossing. Brad has decided to try himself at creating a little funeral scene:

A little park area:

A railroad crossing. Ballasting the track is still needed and the cross buck flashing lights are not connected yet:

Rural idyll?

The central station has found it’s place and already a rail fan has shown up with his camera (must be a Leica!):

Since a lot of my locomotives are models of European and Asian prototypes, which are mostly electric, I am also hoping to put up catenary. Well, at least on the main lines. A very short test section has already been put up and it seems to be working nicely:

So, that’s the progress report. It has only been a couple of weeks and it definitely looks like this is going to be a very long project. I suppose that it will keep me out of trouble.

Here is a short video:



  1. RDF says:

    Impressive, though as mentioned, a long way to go.

  2. Anonymous says:

    A funeral?! Brad!

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