New layout design completed

I think I have finally arrived at the design and track plan for the new layout.  Check out the track plan in the menu above under New Layout.

One will see this is similar to my previous in that the twin cities of Festus-Crystal City are the focal point.  There are a few additional switching opportunities and the staging areas on both ends of the run are consolidated into a single peninsula with access to the turntable so steam can be turned from either terminus.  Bonne Terre and Herculaneum each had access to MoPac interchange.  Not to leave out the Frisco, Crystal Jct was added which was industrial trackage leading to the Pittsburgh Plate Glass Works #9 factory, as well as the interchange with the SL-SF. The Twin Cities’ trackage is now arranged prototypically given the luxury of a larger linear space.

There are likely to be a few changes as construction begins and I will try hand laying track.  If boredom (or insanity) sets in, I may revert to flex, but at least will give “4 spikes per tie” a try.  At the moment, there is a RH #8 turnout under construction on the bench for practice.

Basement renovation is finished!

I am happy to say the basement renovation has been completed in the new house and layout construction can begin soon.  The renovation was straightforward and turned out better than hoped.  The goal was to create an environment that was pleasant to work in, yet did not blow the budget.  I consider it a success!

The nine feet high open ceiling was spray painted flat black to make it disappear.  Spraying this before any construction was much smarter than my efforts in the previous house to brush & roll paint after the layout was in place.  The construction crew built out a full bathroom and a nook for the dog washing station, as well as a dedicated paint sraying area.  I painted the walls a soothing greige (combination of gray and beige) in the main area and painted the workshop bright white.  Floor coverings are all from SnapLock Industries with yellow Racedeck in the workshop and dark maple dance floor in the main rooms.  All lighting fixtures were replaced with 48” LED units.  Separate layout lighting will be installed as the layout is constructed.

Additonal features include a crew lounge area which will be fitted with a television, comfortable seating and a small refrigerator for refreshments.  Being a geek, I had to make room for my collection of vintage mobile telephones <g>.

There had been a few water leaks in the walls, but we regraded the exterior and installed multiple French drains throughout the yard to divert water away from the foundation.  It’s been raining several days lately and the basement remains dry.

Compare the following pictures to the ones in the last post to see how much has changed.  Final touches are being made to the layout trackplan and will be shared in a future post.  I anticipate benchwork construction to start in the next several weeks.

Crew lounge upon entry to the basement. Television will be placed on the wall between the bookcases and seating will be placed.

The train layout area is L-shaped and measures about 25′ x 47′.

Main workshop and modeling bench.

The Paasche spray booth has been installed with vents to the exterior. The dog kennels and extra tiles will be stored away.

Metal shop area with lathe and milling machine.

Bathroom – I have hung original MoPac and Frisco wall calendars from the early 1970’s in here.

The Mobile Telephone Museum contains examples of VHF and early analog cellular phones.

Dog washing station, aka Barbet Spa!

It’s down and we moved…

The old M-I layout is down – not without some difficulty.  I was able to save all of my turnouts by carefully soaking the ballast and gently prying up the turnouts from the cork roadbed – I’m very happy now that I had never glued them down to the cork.  The ballast released quite easily – I soaked them for 30 minutes in water and scrubbed the remaining ballast off.  I was hoping to save the P:48 flex track also, but most of it had been attached with silicon caulk which was not easily releasable.  I was able to retrieve a large number of Right-O-Way nickel-silver rail joiners, originally brought to market by Lou Cross.  All of the supporting Mianne benchwork was saved, although I may not use it on the next layout.  The standard leg height is 42″ and I am planning the layout to sit at about 53″.

All of the ¾” plywood and Styrofoam benchtop was tossed and fit into two Bagster  dumpsters.  These images were taken after a light frost overnight – I actually like the look of the frost on the track and scenery.  Wonder how to create that permanently in 1:48?

Bagster #1 of the original M-I layout.

Bagster #2 of the original M-I layout.

Fresh frost.

As to packing, nearly all the rolling stock and locos returned to their original boxes, or I placed them into a couple of O Scale Haulers.  Tools were boxed or left in Festool Sortainers.  This was the toughest move we’ve ever done, primarily because we (I) had accumulated more stuff than ever before.  Oh well, no more moves are planned…

As to the move itself, the good news is that it is complete.  The great news is that we ended purchasing a different house.  Or, more accurately, a 2100 square foot unfinished basement with a finished 1.5 story house on top of it.  Much better than our original choice as this provides a huge empty palette from which to begin again.  Before move-in, I had the ceiling of the walk-out basement spray painted flat black.

The new basement!

More of the new basement.

Planned workshop space.

Immediate plans are to finish unpacking the boxes, create some degree of organization and start refinishing the basement.  Plans are for a ¾ bath and a dog washing station, a workshop, spray booth area, and lastly a layout.


It’s coming down

We made the decision last week to move to a different house, so the current M-I layout will be dismantled over the next couple of months.  I will salvage what I can – primarily structures, track/turnouts, electrical bits, etc.

The new space requires moving two walls and replacing carpet with a firm surface, such as Marmoleum or hardwood.  The layout room will be a bit smaller, so more compression of the M-I will be necessary.  The benefits include a shorter work commute (14 versus the current 34 minutes) and the layout will be in a completely finished lower level, so no more cave-like surroundings!

I plan to document both the teardown and new construction, so stay tuned for pictures.

Frisco trestle at Crystal City

I’m partial to the St Louis-San Francisco Railroad (SLSF, Frisco) since it also ran in front of my grandmother’s house when I was a child and I watched many trains traverse the River Sub.  Back in the 1960-70’s, there were lots of tri-level auto racks coming south out of the Chrsyler plant in St Louis.  Of special note, is that the Frisco crossed directly over the M-I at Crystal City.  My grandmother’s house sat just beyond the hillside on the right (east end of the trestle).

SLSF trestle at Crystal City, MO

Here’s an older image from waaaay before Highway 61-67 was built through Crystal City.  The trackage in the foreground is just north of the MR&BT depot and shows the passing siding and a spur.

SLSF trestle

Although the trestle has not been incorporated onto the M-I layout, I plan to do so eventually.  It is a prominent part of my Crystal City childhood memories and deserves to be featured.


Welcome to my layout

I model a switching layout of twin cities located next to each other just off the banks of the Mississippi River 30 miles south of St. Louis: Crystal City and Festus, Missouri.  The layout deviates from the American tradition of modeling a route with trains running along it; rather, it mimics the British trend of modeling a place, with trains running through it.  At each end of the point-to-point trackwork are staging yards, one sceniced with a turntable (Herculaneum/Riverside) and the other bare.

Operations on the Missouri-Illinois Railroad (M-I) are intended to be slow and deliberate incorporating prototypical practices such as working magnetic air hoses between cars, manual turnout throws, opening of industry gates, working derails and protecting grade crossings when needed with fusees.  Freight management is handled using switch lists generated by the Mac OS app SwitchList.

As with all of today’s railroads, the prototype evolved from a series of mergers.  St. Joe Lead Company originally chartered a narrow gauge railroad in 1888 to haul lead ore from its mines in Bonne Terre, Missouri, northward 25 miles to the smelter in Herculaneum and an interchange with the MoPac in Riverside.  Thus forming the Mississippi River & Bonne Terre Railway.  By 1895, the MR&BT had expanded southward to accommodate additional mines and converted to standard gauge track.

Across the Mississippi River, the Illinois Southern (IS) Railway planned a route from the river to Kansas City, requiring a steam ferry to be built at Ste. Genevieve, MO, to shuttle railcars back and forth across the river.  The IS never made it farther than the river and in 1920, the first steamship ferry sunk, forcing the IS out of business.  A year later, the Southern Missouri Railway and the remnants of the bankrupt IS formed the M-I, affectionately known as the Mike-n-Ike.

In 1929, the Missouri Pacific Railroad (MoPac) acquired controlling interest in the MR&BT and then immediately incorporated it as a subsidiary into the M-I.  The M-I then operated as a very profitable sub until 1978 when it officially merged with the MoPac.  The MoPac itself then merged into the Union Pacific in 1982.

In its prime, the M-I operated about 200 miles of track operating in both named states and produced a steady profit. 

In translating Festus-Crystal City to 1/48th scale, allowances are made for size – principally the loss of 2 large industries – St. Joe Lead Company’s smelter at Herculaneum and the Pittsburgh Plate Glass factory in Crystal City.  Despite these concessions, the benchwork is rather large (24’ x 28’) for a switching layout, but this is O scale and I enjoy watching trains amble slowly along the tracks while the crew works.

Artistic license is taken and the layout operates across multiple eras.  Steam and first generation diesels with the colorful blue/grey/yellow MoPac livery are the rule for the transition era.  Given that I grew up on the M-I from 1956 to 1974, Jenks blue first gen diesels are also present.  Although Missouri-side passenger service ended in 1943, the railroad in my 1/48th world still hauls a few passengers to and from St Louis.