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I'm signing up.  I'm not sure what I'll do yet, but I have a few candidate projects:


1. Build my tram layout, which hasn't progressed past a bare table and a rough track plan in the last couple of weeks.


2. Build the roadway (deck, guardrails, lighting, lane markings) for the expressway on my big layout.  I've been avoiding this due to other projects, and because it needs several things (guardrails, lights) for which I wasn't happy with the available options. But I think I see my way though that now.


3. Build my Riverside Commuter station.  Those from last year will recall that this was my project party from then too, and it never got beyond building the roadbed.  I suspect this is actually too big a project to complete to my satisfaction in two months as it requires scratch-building nearly the entire thing.


I'm leaning to #2 right now, but still dithering.

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I've finally decided on #2: the expressway deck. I'll probably also be working on the tram layout this summer, but the odds of finishing it are not good, and actually signing up to do it would probably be the kiss of death.  :grin


So, I'll try a more manageable task.  This shouldn't be hard, as it's just some styrene cutting and painting.  And a bit of wiring. And maybe some carpentry if I need to re-do the supports.  Sure, easy as pie.


For those who haven't seen it before, here are some photos showing the prototype look I'm going for, plus what I have today.  The first two photos are ones I found on Flickr that give an impression of the look I'm going for (photo 1, photo 2).


Photo 3 is an overview of the support structure with the current upper deck (made from foam-core and construction paper; unfortunately this has come apart a bit since the photo was taken.  All I'm keeping from this are the PVC support tubes and the plywood sub-deck. Photo 4 is a closer look at those (before the plywood was painted gray).


Now for the actual project: I'm going to build a roadway surface, with sidewalls and a median guardrail, with a few LED-based light poles (likely commercial ones). There will be "beams" (actually just sheets of styrene) that stick down on the underside enough to hide the plywood.  The whole thing will be built in segments like the real highway, and just laid atop the plywood.  I haven't decided if I'll paint the roadway, or use photos glued to the deck, that's still to be determined.


I've been spending some time with Google Earth measuring things, and with loads of Flickr & Wikipedia photos making measurements to try to estimate the sizes. From that I've come up with the measurements in the last three diagrams.  These are only approximate (except for the width of the roadway and lanes, and length of the segments, which are from Google Earth and fairly exact).  There's also a lot of variation in sidewall height and beam size, so I really only need to be approximate; looking "right" is going to be more important.  I'll probably do some work to mock things up before I commit to carving styrene.


So that's my project in a nutshell.  Comments welcome.








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You need to buy a LOT more automobiles, I have never, short of 3AM, seen the Shuto that empty!  :laugh:


Are you going to try to build an on/off ramp? Toll plaza?


There are some neat locations in the suburbs where there is a parking lot next to the highway and a bus stop for the travelers from there. It would be an easy scene if you are in the countryside.

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I actually have a LOT of cars on the shelf, just waiting for me to get some roads built. What's on the layout now are mostly the older simple cars, just in case they get damaged during construction.  I have several boxes of the Tomix Car Collection sets, several hundred cars.  I expect the layout will absorb them all and still look a bit sparse, but cars are definitely in the plans.  I'll probably eventually add some of the cheap Chinese architectural model cars for background areas to fill it out, although I haven't bought those yet.


I did think about the ramp, but the space isn't just there to do one that isn't unrealistically steep. A toll plaza would also need more width than that section of the layout can provide without it bumping up against other things or unrealistically overhanging the river.  I'm going to settle for breaking the monotony with one of the pull-off sections for disabled vehicles.


I'm using the elevated section of route 6 along the Sumida in central Tokyo (Sumida ward) as the primary prototype for this. It's a fairly simple highway compared to others, with a minimum of ramps and other embelishments. I still need to provide a bit of detail variation along it.  My model crosses over several trains tracks and a park, both things that change the kind of walls used on the prototype.  I'm not sure exactly what I'm doing for those parts yet, but I'll work in some variation.


Given its central location and height it's going to draw the eye of visitors (and me), and it will figure promnenly in several of my typical photo angles, so it needs to be one of the more detailed parts of the layout.

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And we're off:


Here are a couple of photos to show what I'm starting from, a four-foot length of gray-painted plywood, winding above the riverbank on a series of pylons made from 1" PVC tubing, with 1/4" threaded rod inside the pylons the actual support, and washers on the rod keeping each pylon centered.  One of the pylons has had its spacer washers drilled for a wire, so I can bring power up to the deck (the wire isn't actually installed at the moment; I had it in for a while, but never hooked it up, and took it out during one of the rebuildings).


My project is to build the deck that goes atop this, with roadway, median with guardrails, and sides, plus a "girder" on each side to hide the edge of the plywood, and periodic streetlights (I'm likely using a commercial LED streetlight for this). I also need to add a couple of roadsigns held above the roadway somehow.  I'm going to build this in segments roughly matching the segments on the prototype, and disguise where they meet to look like steel expansion joints set in the asphalt, just as on the prototype.


I've had a "temporary" deck on this for the past year, made from foamcore, which looked okay from a distance, but was gradually falling apart (double-sided scotch tape isn't very robust). That's gone now, so I'd better finish this project if I want the layout to look nice.


This is about as "foreground" a model as you can get; it's right up in the face of anyone looking at the layout, and appears in nearly every photo I take of my trains.  It needs to look good close up. Right, no pressure then.  :grin


Step 1 is to put the wire back and hook it up to my 12V DC lighting supply, and run something along the plywood to use as a power bus. I'd originally cut a notch for actual wires, but now I'm thinking of using copper tape instead.  Then I'll be able to test the streetlamps as I get each section assembled.


Step 2 will be to build the first segment, one of the end units for the right-hand end; a short bit about 6" long that I can try out my planned structure on fairly quickly, and do some test painting, and scrap it all and start over if I need to. I hope to at least get started on this by next weekend.  I have four segments to build, so I need to knock one out about every two weeks, but I know I'll spend time on details and paint, so I need to get cracking.


Somewhere in here I may also work on the scenery of the embankment below the expressway, but that's not explicitly part of the project; I think I'll have my hands full just getting the deck done in time.




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Progress this week was a bit slower than I'd have liked, as I was working on a number of other things as well.  Still, my primary objective for the week was to wire up the power for the expressway deck and test one of the lights I plan to use, and that went well.


Photo 1 shows the anatomy of the support posts for the deck, and specifically the one that's had its washers drilled out for wire. Below it is one of the LED-based street lights I plan to use, and HO-scale Viessmann lamp. I'd picked up a bunch of these on a clearance table at a local hobby store about six months ago; odd, as I think they're rather new. However, they're available for about $11 generally. The instructions say that they're rated for 14-16 VDC (typical hobby power pack accessory voltage), but I assumed they'd work okay on a 12V DC supply, and they do.  Note that this design uses a socket (the black thing is a cap that covers the socket if you remove the lamp pole for painting or scenery work, a very nice touch.


Photo 2 shows the prototype, taken where the Mukojima route crosses over the Chuo-Sobu line.


Photo 3 shows the installed feed connected to my lighting bus.


Photo 4 shows the top side view, before the matching plug on the expressway was installed.  The plug allows the entire plywood top to be removed to the workbench for maintenance (it just rests atop the posts, with bolts on the top of the posts fitting into holes drilled through the plywood).


As seen in this photo and in photo 5, I've run 1/4" self-adhesive copper strip along each side of the plywood support to act as the power bus.  Where I need to tap it, cross strips can be run across it (the adhesive is conductive) and down into the center notch where I can place bulky connectors and solder wires to the copper as needed.  I'm not soldering the copper strips to each other, but where they cross I've added Wire Glue (a water-soluble graphite glue) to help reinforce the connection. End-to-end along the four-foot expressway, with multiple copper-to-copper joints I'm seeing only a half-ohm of resistance, which won't be any kind of a problem at the expected milliamp loads.


Photos 6 and 7 show the test of one of the lamps, for now just clipped against the power leads.  This is pretty dim, but does a decent job of illuminating about a four-inch circle around the lamp.  Since I planned to place these about eight inches (20cm) apart, that's a good match for my needs. And the height of the HO pole looks good for the tall expressway style of lights I want to replicate.


In the final design, the socket will be incorporated into the median, and the wires likely attached to copper tape on the underside of the styrene deck assembly, which will rest atop the lengthwise copper strips to make contact.  One annoying bit: I always use a "lighter color = positive" color-coding for my wires.  These lamps have a "brown=+, yellow=-" convention, the exact opposite of mine.  I just know that's going to get me in trouble someday.








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More progress.  This week I began assembling the first section of the deck. It's about 6" (150mm) long, and serves as my proof-of-concept, and allows me to refine the design, which was needed.  I realized as I preparing to build that it needed to be raised higher than originally planned, to allow the wiring for the lamp poles to come down.  The poles are mounted to sockets designed to fit 1/4" (6mm) plywood or similar surfaces, and while the underside can be trimmed a bit, there are limits to that.  I could have raised the socket higher on its own, but I didn't think that would look good, and I needed some structure underneath for the electrical pickups to attach to.


So I revised the design as shown in the diagram.  Then I made a pattern using a sheet of thin cardboard (cut from a cereal box) and used it to plan the spacing of the support frame.


The first step was to build a frame using 0.080" (2mm) square evergreen stock.  I used some painters masking tape laid upside-down on a sheet of plywood and held in place with more tape to form a lightly sticky flat worksurface, and lay the first course of the frame on that, using a square to make sure it was true, and glued the lengthwise supports to the crossmembers. When the glue dried, I test-fit it atop the plywood of the expressway to ensure I had not made any mistakes.


Next I cut two sections of 0.080" (2mm) sheet styrene to match the pattern, and glued them to the frame, leaving about 6mm between them for the lamp socket.  I could have just cut one big sheet and drilled a hole in it, and I may do that for later ones.  I test fit this too. A bit later I realized that the two parts were tending to sag in the middle, and ended up shimming them with more 0.080" stock underneath (another reason to use one big sheet).


The sheet styrene was cut using a scribing tool. And about 30 passes were needed to get 2mm styrene thin enough to snap; I'm considering investing in a model saw due to the amount of cutting needed on this project (and the expectation that it will be useful for future projects).


Following that I built a median strip.  It differs from the diagram slightly, being assembled from some 0.040" (1mm) square stock to lift it up, and with two strips of 0.080" (2mm) square stock flanking a section of 0.080"x0.250" (6.3mm) strip to form the top, which was needed as I realized the median had to be wider than originally planned to permit the lamp socket to be mounted.


Finally, I cut two roadway surface elements from 0.030" (0.75mm) sheet stock.  This notches under the edge of the median (and also under the edge of the not yet build side railing structures) to form a removable roadway surface that can be painted separately from the expressway deck itself.


In test-fitting the roadway I discovered that despite working from the same pattern, I'd cut them at a slightly different angle than the underlying support (not quite sure how I managed that).  Some work on the frame with a file removed the bit that stuck out (I don't care if they're an exact match, as long as the top overhands the support slightly and not the other way around).


After this the roadway parts were cleaned (soap and water) and painted with several coats of what I thought was a white primer, which turned out to be a beige, and then re-painted with "matt white" model paint, which turned out to be a lighter beige (I swear, nobody seems able to make a white, "white") as you can see in the final photo.


This "white" is going to form the white stripes on the roadway.  I have some narrow "racing stripe" tape for model cars which I'm going to lay down to mask the white, then paint the rest of the surface flat gray and remove the tape (a technique I learned from another site of someone building an expressway, which somebody posted a link to on the forum a year or two back).


I still need to build the sidewalls, and since this section runs above a bridge, I need to add a higher protective wall here to match the prototype (I have some ideas for that I need to try out).  I also need to build the median guardrail. Which may use a pre-made model detail part if I can find where I put that box, or be scratch-built.  And installing the lamp socket, connecting the electrical pickups, and painting the whole assembly "concrete" is yet to come.


I'd hoped to finish this first section in a week, but it's looking like it's going to take another before it's done.  Hopefully the other 3.5 feet will go more quickly now that I know what works, or I'll be finishing this up in October.








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I've "finished" the first section of the expressway.  I put that in quotes because there are still a couple of things undone.  I haven't made the guardrail for the median yet, and I'm not entirely satisfied with the concrete color.  I'm also thinking that I may re-do it entirely when I do the rest of the expressway now that I've refined my original idea of how to make it.


Photo 1: After last time I built the sidewalls.  You can't readily tell, but these are built up of several horizontal strips creating a small pocket that the edge of the removable roadway fits into, plus a vertical sidewall.  The sidewall is a bit too low (I used the widest existing strip I had, 6.3mm (0.25") when I really should have cut one about 10mm to make it high enough.  I painted this in the "concrete" color I had, and discovered that this was really too dark for sun-bleached concrete.   Photo 1 shows the dark color, but I then repainted them using the matt white (which is more like a beige).


not shown: I forgot to take a photo, but the two roadway sections were painted in matt white last time.  Then I applied some thin masking tape (about 1.5mm) and painted them light gray, removing the tape after the paint had dried (but before it fully cured so the tape was easier to remove), revealing the "white" stripes (more like beige, but it's hard to tell).


Photo 2: After that I assembled the two I-beam girders that go on the sides from strip styrene and a couple of small bits to simulate the linkages at the end of each section, painted them a dark red color, and glued them to the underside.  Then I created the power pickups on the underside using copper foil tape and some Wire Glue to attach the wires to the copper.  After the Wire Glue dried (overnight) I coated it with super-glue to make a stronger bond.


Photo 3: the last bit was to attach the higher railings above the tracks.  This used some Casco fencing, which is really just transparent plastic with the fence printed on it.  I scraped off a bit of paint from the sidewalls at each end, and attached them with a dab of plastic cement, clamping with a pair of soldering clamps while the glue dried.  This may not have worked very well, as one end came loose almost immediately.  I may do this differently in the future.


Photos 4-6: Here's the finished assembly, installed and lit.  The photo makes the "matt white" concrete appear whiter than it is in person, but it is a bit too white for my taste.  Still, it's an improvement over the dark concrete color.







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Nothing new to see, but I feel I should provide a status update.


I haven't done much in the last couple of weeks as I'm waiting on the arrival of a power saw so I can make even-width strips wider than the 6.3mm (0.25") sold by evergreen (I really need some about 10mm). I also want the saw because making the roads requires intersecting cuts in sheet styrene, which is really hard to do with the scribe-and-snap approach I was using.


This weekend I went to the not-so-local LHS where I get my styrene, and picked up a bunch more material.  I'm planning to spend this week making the sub-frame of 2mm x 2mm (0.080") beams for each of the remaining roadway sections.  Hopefully by the time I finish that, the saw will have arrived.


In other news, styrene cement doesn't work very well on the Casco fencing.  Both of the fences on my first roadway segment fell off. Clearly it's not styrene.  I'm probably going to give CA (super-glue) a try.  I'd worried about it fogging the clear plastic, but perhaps a small amount won't.  If it does, I'll have to try something like liquid nails or epoxy.


And I still haven't made up my mind about how I want to make the guardrails for the median (several different ideas, none feel "right").


All in all, the odds that I'll actually finish the expressway by the end of the contest aren't good. But we'll see how it goes.

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Okay, saw arrived, and I'm back to building the highway.


Things haven't been going as quickly as I'd hoped (too many distractions), but I've completed the under-structure for the next two segments.  This consists of the mesh of 2mm x 2mm girders that hold the roadway above the wood, and the 2mm slab of styrene that everything else attaches to.


I was slightly delayed be one of those "I did what?!?" moments, when I discovered that the night before I'd been less awake than I'd thought, and had glued the beams to the top side of the roadway slab, as seen in the first photo.  And, of course, it was the slab with all the complex angles that had taken me several hours to cut.


I managed to save the slab, cutting the beams away with an xacto knife (destroying them, and an hour's work, in the process) and doing a bit of filing to remove any rough spots.  Fortunately the roadway will cover the slab, so a few imperfections aren't serious.


After that, I glued new beams together and then glued them onto the slab (on the correct side), and started working on the next segment.  I've adopted a slightly different approach now, using tracing paper instead of the cardboard, for my template.  This lets me see through it when placing above the wooden structure, and when marking the plastic below it, as well as using it as a form to assemble parts above it on the workbench.  Photo 2 shows me using the first slab and its template to orient and mark up the second template.


Photo 3 shows the complete segment 2 slab and beam structure, with segment 3 waiting for its glue to dry.  Note the two little spurs sticking out on the right end of the lower slab.  These are a pair of 2mm square beams tucked between the lower beam (which rests on the wood) and the slab (which rests atop an upper beam).  These connect one roadway segment to the next (rather loosely, but keeping the two parts level with each other).  I didn't have these in the original plans, but realized during construction that I could add them, and make the finished structure better.


That's probably all I'm going to get done this weekend, but hopefully I'll make more progress next week.  I won't have the expressway done by the end of the month, but perhaps I'll be close to the halfway mark.




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Well, about five minutes after I said I was going to post a photo the other day and do some more work, the lights went out, and stayed out for two days (thank you, Hurricane Irene). A somehow fitting end to a project filled with (often self-inflicted) delays.  So, no more work happened, but here's the photo of what I have so far: one not-quite finished six-inch section, and another two "decks" that need a lot of work that bring the length to about two feet (60cm).


Still and all, it's been a good project.  I finally got the ideas out of my head and into styrene, tried a few things that didn't work, and a number that did.  And I bought (and used) a saw that will see me in good stead for a number of similar construction projects in the future.


So, I wish I'd gotten more done, and I wish what I had so far ended up more polished.  But it's a good start, and so overall I'm pleased.


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