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B-Train Small Layout #2


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New post for my next B-Train Shorty layout.  My city layout (http://www.jnsforum.com/community/topic/7889-b-train-layout/) is still around but may be sold in the near future, not the easiest to transport and only 2 trains running at any one time.


This new layout is smaller at only 34 by 21 inches.  The big thing is that it is constructed from Gatorfoam rather than wood, so is MUCH lighter than my previous layout.  This layout will feature a total of 6 lines on 3 levels.  One line is only partially contained on the layout, the rest of that loop will be extended "off board", but the other 5 lines are all on the board on 2 levels. 


The main aim of this layout is to have a lot of movement for interest at train shows, to better utilize the virtue of B-Trains by using smaller radius curves, and to be small and lightweight for transportation reasons.  This is definitely not something prototype modellers will enjoy, but the aim is to finish it to a realistic standard rather than just throwing things onto the layout.  Also, rather than using prototype formation trains on this layout, train length will be limited to 6, maybe 7, cars maximum.  Minimum curves are Kato 117mm, and the two sets of double track loops both use 117/150mm combination for inner/outer tracks.


Lower level has 2 loop main line and a separate loop for local trains/trams.  The height of the main level is dictated by the Tomix elevated track viaduct I am using at one end of the main level loops.


Attached are photos of the Tomix viaducts I have modified to follow a curve rather than straight track.  These will have the under-viaduct structures installed in them.  The next photo shows the buildings roughed in place under the curve.  Finally, a high level overview of the plan for the layout (minus the upper level partial loop).


The debut should be at the train show in February.  Not much time to get it ready...













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Nice Nick! this is exactly the kind of little layout i want to do for similar situations. something light and portable that shows the spirit of things w.o being exactly prototypical but done to a nice level of scenery.


my thought was to cheat on the double tracking and go to single track and then y or tight points at stations. same with the shinkansen line and just do single viaduct.


will be fun to watch it come together!





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Small city at the right hand end with the viaduct, transitioning to small town, almost rural setting at the left hand end.


There will be a station on the single track loop that runs under the viaduct, thinking 2 car trains maximum, a pair of MO510's or Keihan 600/700 type stock. On the lower two track loop I am thinking 4-6 cars since not much of this will be exposed, no point having longer trains on those tracks, but no station. The main level double track loop will have a station but no passing tracks. I have 4 tomix suburban stations for this station, one in each side and cutting the long platform off the other 2 to extend the length of the station since it is not modular.


I'm thinking floating period of 1980's to present day. Location will be determined by trains running. I have plans for eras/regions. For example, Hankyu will be 2 car 8200 on single loop, 5300/6300 on lower double loop, and 7000/9300 on upper loops. Keihan would be 600/700 on single loop, a pair of 800's on lower double loop and 3000/5000/2600 or similar on upper loop.


More later.



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I couldn't find any tunnel portals I liked that were in stock.  I did see something I liked but it was out of stock, so decided to make my own using the commercial product photo for inspiration.  1/4" gatorfoam base with styrene strips for the features.  Made a total of 4 of these.


Since using gatorfoam for the layout base I was concerned about how to mount the Kato catenary, especially if it was necessary to remove for track cleaning occasionally.  Came up with these small rectangles of styrene with a hole in the middle through which I inserted short pieces of brass tubing the right size for the catenary base.  I then drill a hole through the gatorfoam, push the tube through and glue the styrene block to the top face of gatorfoam.  I did the loops on the lower level.  All the track is superglued to the gatorfoam and feeder joiners installed at each end of each loop of track for redundancy (I'm an aerospace engineer remember!).  Finally, all track joints were carefully soldered to make transition between track pieces as smooth as possible, easier said than done.  Many joints took many attempts to get satisfactory.  B trains are very light so bad track joins are very noticeable, and Kato unitrack does seem to suffer from height alignment issues between pieces.  Anyway, this is done and tested now.


Next decided to make a sloped transition wall between the lower and main level.  This is cut from pink insulation foam.  I found 2 layers of pink foam and a layer of 1/4" gatorfoam match the height of my cut-down tomix viaduct bases.  I will add hex styrene walling from Greenmax to cover this area in the future.


Progress photos attached.













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Krackel Hopper

The debut should be at the train show in February.  Not much time to get it ready...


The Wichita Train Show & Swap Meet at the Cessna Activity Center?


Appears the Great Train Expo is also in Wichita the week before at the Century II


I'll certainly make the trip down from KC to check it out.

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Both, actually! In many ways I prefer the century II show since it is more family oriented, the Cessna show is more for modelers so not as fun. But I support both, especially since I am on the committee for the Cessna show...


I look forward to seeing you again if you make it to one of the shows, hopefully the weather is good!


Another update on progress later today...



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Main level was originally going to have a vertical wall between levels, but instead is going to be sloping.  This makes it a bit more challenging to make the walling, but should look better in the end.


Bottom left corner will be a lake with a path around it.


You can see the tunnel portals and some walling going in place.


More updates in a day or two...







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The under-viaduct structure was more complex to create than it probably looks.


The Tomix viaduct are straight and I needed a curved structure.  I had to use the back of an exacto knife to scrape the centre pillar to allow it to bend.  At the same time, the overall structure was just a bit too tall, so I had to cut off the top edge of the pieces.The sections were very fragile and just itching for me to make a mistake so they could fall apart on me.  The rear of the structure is at the large end of the "pie", so needed filler pieces made of plain styrene.


I glued the tomix under viaduct structure windows into the main structure after cutting them (they are straight too).  Turning the viaduct upside down, I determined the exact curvature requirements and then measured for the rear filler pieces.  Then I glued these into the supports which finally gave things a little more rigidity.  I glued both units together to make a single structure.


Next, I wanted to create a base for the "island" area inside the lower single loop.  Rather than do so on the board top itself, I went to my usual method of cutting a thin piece of sheet styrene so I can prepare the base prior to installation.  I scolloped the piece to fit around the catenary bases a bit, these will be covered by ballast anyway.


A couple of photos of progress.  Next step is to decorate the island base and install it.  I also want to make the viaduct pillars for the other end from the structures.  These will be hollow to allow long screws necessary to hold the viaduct to the lower base.





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Under-viaduct structure installed, and viaduct pillars built and installed.  You can also see from the photos that the island base has been painted and walling added.  The base for the footbridge to the main level has been made and installed too.


Steady progress at the moment, might get a little slower at some point so trying to make progress quickly while I can.


More later.






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Looking good!  One thing I have always found fascinating about Japanese railroads is the amount of businesses and homes that are build into the supports for elevated sections.  

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UK is the same way as far as businesses under railway lines, especially in large cities.


Much progress today courtesy of a cold day with nothing else to do.


Footbridge from lower loop area to main level progressed, this is a kitbash of the greenmax footbridge, but I doubled it back on itself to reduce the footprint.  Did mean some fiddly work involved, but I am happy with the result.


I have added fencing on top of the low wall around the island loop.  Added a few of the Tomix small market kiosks and a Kato toilet building.  Also added a Tomix building to the front of the loop just to break things up a bit, it is on a slightly elevated base.  Added the wall on the back of the layout around the loop track as well as finishing some initial walling on the front edge too.  You will notice a mock up of the lower level loop small station.


I have painted and weathered the hex wall behind the loop that goes up to the main level, as well as the viaduct pillar that cuts into the transition wall.


For the tunnels on the lower level double loop I have added tunnel lining pieces, and have added support blocks for the main level.  On the front left hand corner of the double loop I have made the sidewalk and retaining wall for the lake area.


I am ballasting the loops at the moment and will mask and paint the track tomorrow.


Some photos of progress below.






Edited by nickhp
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Lots of progress again since the last update.  I don't think I will sustain this level of progress for much longer!


So, loops are ballasted and painted.  I even installed most of the track on the main level, ballasted and painted it.  Also painted the viaduct in concrete colour.  The main level is not fixed yet, and since the bolts that hold the main level to the lower level on the viaduct area are under the track, the final pieces of track on the viaduct will not be installed until the main level is attached to the lower level. 


I should explain that the viaduct end is attached with 4 machine bolts, 2 in the pillar, 2 through the viaduct structure with styrene spacers acting as sleeves.  The rest of the main level will be glued and "nailed" to the support foam blocks.  This is the same process I am using to attach everything foam to other foam pieces.  I use superglue for gatorfoam to gatorfoam attachment, and woodlands scenic foam tack glue for pink foam to pink foam or pink foam to gatorboard.  When using foam tack glue, I punch holes in mating surfaces with a flat screwdriver blade and twist it, then when applying glue, I make sure to work glue into these holes, this improves adhesion between foam pieces.  I obviously don't do that when gluing gatorfoam to gatorfoam with superglue!  The "nails" bit is woodland scenics foam nails.  I push these through foam joints at different angles to strengthen them, and before pushing in all the way, I cut the head off and push them in with a pair of needle nose pliers so they are completely hidden.  I used this for the main board construction to strengthen it and am continuing that on all other areas too.


I have completed prep of the main level walling and painted it at the same time as the viaduct.  Since the main level also forms the roof of the lower level tunnels, I painted the underside of the main level base black.


I have added the front fascia to the layout.  This is black gatorfoam.  The back of this 1/2" foam is "routed" out using a single edge razor so that only the front styrene face is uncut.  This all then slides onto the front of the layout with plenty of foam tack glue in the routed areas.  On top of this, I use foam nails though the lower level base and the cross members underneath to provide an even more solid join.  Though perhaps not "bulletproof", once everything is glued together it is all quite solid.  I will say that the long front piece was quite "weak" before gluing to the board, but is very solid now.  This does make me a little nervous about the back fascia piece since it will have multiple layers and access holes cut into it, but I think it will be alright!


Update photos attached, and I am throwing everything together to take "end of the weekend work session" photos later.






Edited by nickhp
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For the ballasting - first, I put down a layer of superglue, add a thin layer of ballast.  This is to give the ballast a strong bond to the layout surface.  I then just carefully sprinkle on the ballast so that it reaches the top of the roadbed ballast and give it a taper on the edges.  I then wet with rubbing alcohol then dribble matte medium/woodland scenics "scenic cement" onto it and let it dry.  I then paint it using spray paint in small sections, immediately wiping off the railheads with a rag dipped in rubbing alcohol.


Hope this helps.



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Final update for the weekend.


So the main level loop has had the tunnel added at the back corner.  I should have cut a section out from the rear to give me access for track cleaning, but I rushed through and forgot so I will go back later and figure out how to address this.  In the photos you will see then end of the upper loop which is only partially on this section of the layout.


The patches on the viaduct - simple, I just masked off areas so I could see my outline of the roadbed to help in installing the remaining track sections once the main level is permanently attached.


In these photos, if you look carefully, you will see the front fascia installed (black face sheet), the lake that is almost complete on the bottom left corner, the little bollards I installed on the single loop pedestrian crossing and the one platform I have finished for the main level station.


I'll see how much time I have this week to get more done, maybe have some time this weekend, but in just over a week I will probably have a 2 week break so may not get much done during that time.  I feel reasonably confident this section will get finished in time for the show.  The "extension" pieces probably won't be ready in time, but that can wait.










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Main level has now been permanently installed.


As I mentioned in a previous post, the main level tunnel was supposed to have an access hole provided for track cleaning but in my haste to make progress I forgot about it.  I have now fixed that.  I placed a piece of styrene on top of the tunnel wall and drew around it and then cut it.  Once it matched the contour, I cut a second piece using the first as a template.  I then made edges the same height as the tunnel wall and glued all of this into a box like contraption.  I then carefully cut the tunnel wall section out and attached it to the wedge piece, added finger holes to the back of the wedge for ease of removal when installed and finally added the top to the box.  It all seems very solid.


With this step out of the way, I was able to add the fascia pieces to right end and rear of layout.  The rear piece was definitely making me nervous but now it is installed all is good and solid.  The tunnel plug I just mentioned fits almost perfectly, my perfectionist side is a little bothered that it isn't completely flush but honestly I think it will be good as-is!


With this all done I can now start on the center hill section.  More updates through the weekend.


Below is a series of photos of the tunnel access plug build.









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So while other people were spending time with family or out spending their money, I stayed in and worked on my layout!


Quick progress on the hill section I have worked as a time filler recently.


First thing is to get the sidewalk on the back side of the layout going to the station building.  Also added a staircase from the hill using a second greenmax footbridge for the stairs.  All the walling is now added, I simply measure styrene sheet, cutting it to size, spray it concrete colour and then glue it to the base.  The inside Tomix station platform is a work in progress for now.


I decided to make the outside platform have a sloping wall behind it, this required a little more work but edging made from 1/4" gatorfoam and then greenmax diamond walling for the main slope.  Need to paint this at some point...


I then started the front side of the hill, making bases for the houses to shim them to the right height for driveways off the main road.  I cut away an area in front of each house to allow for the styrene to bend as it goes from the slope of the hill to the level base of each house.  We'll see if it works out!!


I cut some greenmax stone walling for the front edge of the hill area, this will be installed after the hill is installed to the main level.  I then painted the whole front edge of the hill area in concrete colour paint.


Finally, I installed the hill base to the main level.  I mentioned in a previous post how I attach/assemble foam assemblies, so I thought I would show a photo of the woodland scenics foam nails with the tops cut off about to be pushed in with needle nose pliers.  There are a couple of views of the installed hill base including one from the left hand end that shows the stack up of layers.  All this will be hidden once the left hand fascia is installed.















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I understand that, but too many people take this hobby far too seriously (myself included!), this is my attempt to take it down a notch and make it about enjoying the hobby rather than stressing out about every little detail. 


There are more reasons I choose to go the B-Train route.


There is my daughter to consider, she likes the less serious nature of B-Trains. 


I have no place to call home, making layouts as small as possible means I don't see building them as a waste of time that results in something I can't take with me when I move again.  I can run on 4" radius curves which allows seriously small layouts to be made.


Small layouts allow quick progress, avoiding the typical stagnation that hits most layouts.


Building small means you can build more, building skills more and allowing lessons learned to be applied quicker since I can build one of these in a few months.


I can put this layout in the back of my Jeep and go to an exhibition where I am set up and ready to go in 10 minutes, unlike most layouts that take hours to get up and ready.  Given the amount of movement on my layouts, they tend to draw a bigger crowd compared to layouts with 1 slow moving train on boring scenery.


I'm certainly not saying my way is right for everyone, but it is for me, and at the end of the day that is all that matters!



Edited by nickhp
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Getting close to a period where I will have minimal time to work on this layout, so I have been hitting it hard to make progress as quickly as possible!


Another "off layout" item I was working was the lower level loop station.  I cut the 1/4" foamcore base before I laid the lower level loop track, so I had a base that matched the track contour.  I cut a piece of styrene to match the gatorfoam shape, then removed about 1/8" from the front edge to make the platform surface. 


I then went through my styrene box for something to raise platform height to the necessary level.  A piece of 5/16" square tube was found that seemed to fit the bill.  Since the platform front is curved, I had to cut many notches in the back edge to allow the piece to match the contour.  I glued the tube to the gatorfoam base.  The ends were capped with a small piece of styrene superglued in place and then trimmed off once the glue had a few minutes to dry. 


The back ends of the platform were notched to allow stairs up, I think these were of greenmax origin and were found in my junk box!  A piece of round tube supports the stairs in place as seen in the photos.


The remaining piece of square tube makes up the back support for the platform, this will be covered by the fascia so does not need to be too tidy!


In the platform top styrene I cut some locating holes for the Tomix station building and ticket machine.  At this point I checked the platform clearance with my Keihan 600 and trimmed back the edges to ensure no issues with what is a longer than usual B Train Shorty.


I then glued the platform top to the base and sprayed the whole thing in my concrete colour paint.  Once dry, I mask off the platform top and sprayed it primer grey.


The final step was to glue down the station building and add Kato fencing to complete the station.


Question to anyone that bothered reading through all this!  Should I add a small piece of fence to the platform ends?


I may go back and add a couple more small details, but this level of completion is enough for the time being, so I can now install this onto the layout.  I trimmed the fascia, which I deliberately hadn't contoured, to match the platform.  I will ballast between the track and platform once the station is installed.


Final photo shows the lower level station in place.  Notice the viaduct track has now been installed and ballasted.  Painting will take place later today.


Photos attached.








Edited by nickhp
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Need to battle the black friday hoards to get some paint and sheet styrene :hmh:


If I wait a little bit hopefully the roads won't be so busy.  So, while I wait, I thought I would explain the gatorfoam building approach.


See attached photos for details of the end of my layout, hopefully you can see what appear to be channels routed out of the sides to allow each level to slide in.  When glued together this all becomes quite solid.  Also attached are a couple of photos of the left hand end fascia which has been prepared using a single edge razor blade to make the cuts and then a screwdriver to scrape the channels out.


Not sure how much interest most people will have in this, but anyone looking to make lightweight benchwork using gatorfoam may find it useful.







Edited by nickhp
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