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Our basement layout


scott

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Well, you have to be careful what you wish for, because you might just get it.

 

For months now, I've been hoping for a rainy day so that I could stand to be down in the basement long enough to get some serious work done on the layout. And today I got it--steady rain almost all day. So long, in fact, that I eventually had to stop working and dash around the basement getting stuff off the floor, because lakes were forming. :-P

 

Anyway--I was down there for hours, but I didn't bother taking pictures, since I was working on wiring almost the whole time. All of the lines now have three or four DC connections instead of one. And if that's not enough, I have enough empty spaces on the wiring blocks that I can add some more connections.

 

And the stunning result of my work is that--I have disabled one of the lines entirely. :-/ Now I hope I can get some more time to track down the problem. I figured if the whole thing was dead that it had to be the connection between the controller and the first wiring block, and sure enough, one of the wires had come loose. (Stuff had fallen on it earlier.) So I hooked it back up and--nothing.

 

So between the wiring and the flooding, I didn't get any scenery work done at all.

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At a guess, you swapped polarity somewhere and have a dead short as a result.  I've done that more than once.

 

Wiring can be very frustrating, because it's not something you see directly, like scenery or a train, and it can take a very large amount of time (and still not work properly).  I spent much of today doing wiring myself, and didn't make as much progress as I'd hoped (and am a long way from done).

 

Normally I like to do things incrementally.  Make one change, test it and make sure it works.  Sometimes you can't do that (the stuff I did today is like that; I can test until I'm done).  But if you can, it takes a little more time to do it, but can pay big dividends in avoiding problem chasing (and lost hair due to frustration  :grin ).

 

Sorry to hear about the flooding.  Hope it wasn't too serious and that nothing major was damaged.

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At a guess, you swapped polarity somewhere and have a dead short as a result.  I've done that more than once.

 

Thanks; I hope that's all it is, because (knock wood) it should be fairly obvious from a quick check of the wiring blocks.

 

Wiring can be very frustrating, because it's not something you see directly, like scenery or a train, and it can take a very large amount of time (and still not work properly). 

 

It's funny--that's exactly what I said to my wife yesterday afternoon--I told her it was the most time I'd spent on the layout on any one day, with the least visible result.

 

Normally I like to do things incrementally.  Make one change, test it and make sure it works.

 

That would have been better, but I was rushing to fit in as much work as I could while I was actually free to do it. But lesson learned about that...

 

(lost hair due to frustration  :grin ).

 

There's probably a big mat of graying brown hair floating in the basement right now.

 

Sorry to hear about the flooding.  Hope it wasn't too serious and that nothing major was damaged.

 

Thanks--fortunately I don't think we'll lose much more than a few paper or cardboard things. There were two sheets of plywood that got wet on the edges, though. I put them in the dryest place I could, but then the floor drain clogged during dinner, and we ended up with an inch-deep lake all over the basement. I eventually got the drain open somewhat, so now we have puddles instead of lakes, but the wood will probably warp.

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After several days of de-watering the basement, followed by a few more after the laundry drain started backing up through the blocked floor drain onto the floor, I finally got the drains going again (probably temporarily) with an electric sewer snake. Lots of roots and soil down there. :-P

 

So today I finally got a few minutes to check the wiring problem, and it turned out to be a problem I was sure I had already fixed. The polarity of the original power connection didn't match the new ones, which were all correct and matching. I was going nuts checking and re-checking the new connections until I figured out that it had to be the original. But I *remember* pulling the track apart there and fixing that one. Not sure what happened there, but at least that line works again.

 

So next it'll be back to scenery work--probably narrowing the river valley into more of a gorge so I can fit in the small onsen down there.  I'll also need to change the topography a bit to accomodate the ptp line, and add a slope that the cut for the formerly-tunneled line can go into. Hopefully that will look more believable.

 

I'll also need to make a tree-covered (etc) backdrop panel for that side, but it'll have to have little or no depth. Not sure how to make that work.

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OK, despite the "thread over 120 days old" warning (boy that's sad), here's my latest update.

 

The original layout design used 19-inch curves for the outer "express" line for reasons that are no longer relevant. However, this meant that the outer line could not fit onto one of the end "peninsulas" and so wasn't as long as it might have been. By using smaller curves, I was able to fit that line in and so make it a good bit longer. This also lets me use the "back" station for two line, eliminate the oddly-placed station at the other end, and gain some space so that the point-to-point doesn't have to end right next to the town in the middle of the layout.

 

A comparison picture is attached.

 

TBH, I've come very close to giving up on this entire layout recently. It sits in the basement for months on end and nothing happens, and I just end up feeling stressed and stupid about abandoning it. Really, this should have been finished years ago. I certainly can't claim that it gives the kid a chance to play with trains. Like many other things I have the stuff for but don't/can't really do, it makes me feel like I ought to stop faking it, sell all the equipment, and stick to things I know how to do and that my family and work life actually allow me the time to do. I'm still thinking about this; not sure what I'm going to do.

post-151-13569928798014_thumb.jpg

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TBH, I've come very close to giving up on this entire layout recently. It sits in the basement for months on end and nothing happens, and I just end up feeling stressed and stupid about abandoning it. Really, this should have been finished years ago. I certainly can't claim that it gives the kid a chance to play with trains. Like many other things I have the stuff for but don't/can't really do, it makes me feel like I ought to stop faking it, sell all the equipment, and stick to things I know how to do and that my family and work life actually allow me the time to do. I'm still thinking about this; not sure what I'm going to do.

 

I know the feeling.  I have a partially-built layout in the garage.  It's been through about 3 major reconfigurations of benchwork (a couple of around the walls, and several islands, "L's", "U's", etc....).  I can't even begin to tell you how many track plans there've been.  There was a major shift from Atlas flex track to Kato unitrack.  I've ripped up stuff to drop in a tram line, then ripped it up for a different tram line.  Built a mountain, ripped out a mountain, built a new mountain and ended up repainting it 3 times.  My goal is to have the layout done at least a month before Nik starts chasing girls or driving cars.   :grin

 

A lot of us have grand schemes, and it all comes down to the time it takes to realize them.  I'd encourage you to maybe scale things down a little bit.  Get the track done and wired so you can run trains, regardless of the state of the scenery.  Paint all of the landforms a nice tan color, and maybe even sprinkle a little ground foam on it to add texture, even if you know you're going to scrape some of it off to drop in a building or a road.  If you have an ambitious track plan, get a basic loop up and running with the appropriate turnouts and add all those other sections later.

 

The key to keeping interested, and to have the kids play too is to not have it all come together at some moving point in the future, but to get something up and running.  Even if you decide to rip up some track, you can do that later.  Otherwise (and trust me, I am guilty of this as well), we just tinker and potter and never play.

 

Just my opinion, YMMV

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Thanks--you're probably right about just getting things running. Unfortunately I spent a fair amount of time on that the last time I got any time to work on the layout, and added the additional DC power leads to get the trains to run more smoothly, but I'm not sure it helped. As usual when we tried to run something today, things just jerked and sputtered and stopped. I'm just so clueless about electrical stuff that I probably am missing all kinds of basic errors, plus I'm sure I need to keep things cleaner, but that's hard when they don't get used very often.

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Yeah, keeping rails clean on n-scale, particularly if you're not using it or working on it is tough.  Just use some of the liquid cleaners on a clean cloth and give a wipe-down. While power distribution may be a problem, cleanliness is more often the culprit.

 

There's lots of good resources on the 'net for wiring and electrical. Just make sure the inner rail is always connected to an inner rail abd external to external.  A cool way to do this is take a cheapy box car and pain one side black and the other white.  Pick something like "the inner rail is always white), and move the car on the track to keep your wiring straight.  Sometimes going through turnouts or other stuff it can get confusing.  Also, wire a section, maybe 10' and try it (after cleaning just that bit of track), then move to the next section.

 

Another thing, is to make sure your loco works good!  I've looked for track and wiring problems when it was a poorly running loco, or a loco with dirty wheels on clean track.

 

Just take things in small bites, with the goal to run trains.  You'll be futzing with scenery and detail forever, so just get trains running!  (and honestly, it's a psychological thing, but having any color of pain on the foam and plaster helps feel like you're going somewhere)

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Yeah, I think I just need to finish the track-plan changes that I've started (shouldn't take much), and then focus on getting things running for a while.

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Scott,

 

dont loose heart. you are at that point a lot of modelers get to where things are torn up or half built enough to prevent it from really being able to play with so you can loose the fun of playing with it. some folks only enjoy the building parts and can forgo playing for a long time (a few ever really), but i think the vast majority of us need something they can keep playing with to keep the energy up. also the changing things mid stream and the angst that comes with that is also a common gotcha.

 

i think your idea of getting thru the changes as quickly as possible to a running state and then playing a while before things are shut down for final scenery is a good idea. i think once you guys are down there playing some with anders you will find the fun and enjoyment again!

 

best wishes with this.

 

jeff

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Thanks, Jeff--I appreciate it. I doubt the kid would let me give up on it anyway, but yeah, some time to actually use the layout might be the best thing to keep me from cashing it in.

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TBH, I've come very close to giving up on this entire layout recently. It sits in the basement for months on end and nothing happens, and I just end up feeling stressed and stupid about abandoning it. Really, this should have been finished years ago. I certainly can't claim that it gives the kid a chance to play with trains. Like many other things I have the stuff for but don't/can't really do, it makes me feel like I ought to stop faking it, sell all the equipment, and stick to things I know how to do and that my family and work life actually allow me the time to do. I'm still thinking about this; not sure what I'm going to do.

 

I think most of us probably get that "faking it" feeling from time to time, I know I have.  You see something someone else has done, apparently effortlessly, that just blows you away and think "why am I even trying?".  But I think that's the wrong way to take it.  I'll likely never been as good as some of the models I see in magazines or on this site.  I don't have the artistic talent, or the time to invest in modeling. I've tried to set more realistic goals for this layout than past ones (and still seem to have set my bar a bit high) and not stress myself out.  It doesn't always work.  :grin  But that doesn't mean I'm in the wrong hobby.

 

Step back, think about what you enjoy about the hobby, and focus on that aspect for a bit, or put it aside as a "gift" to yourself for finishing up the necessary but uninteresting/frustrating part you have to get through.  And if you can't find that "enjoy" part, then perhaps it really is the wrong hobby.  But don't give up too easily.  Model Railroading is a hobby that requires, and rewards, a bit of persistance. Or mulish stubborness.  :grin

 

BTW, for post-construction track cleanup, I recommend either an old "dust-buster" hand-held vac or an older, and weaker, vaccum with a hose but no nozzle, to remove loose scenic materials held a few inches above the track and adjacent scenery (glue it down or lose it!) and then a wipe with a lint-free cotton pad dampened with rubbing alcohol (I go through dozens of those when I clean up).  You can actually find cheap cotton pads used for makeup that have one side very tightly woven and won't leave lint on every track joint if you use them with a light hand, and a light hand is all you need; you're removing dust, not oxide.

 

I'll note that I take removable things, like cars, off the layout before vacuuming. My goal is to get to the point where a Tomix cleaning car vacuum is all I'll need,  but I need to do less sawing and carving of styrofoam near the layout before I get there.

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You see something someone else has done, apparently effortlessly, that just blows you away and think "why am I even trying?".

 

Yeah, there's this guy named Ken who...um...never mind. :-)

 

or the time to invest in modeling. I've tried to set more realistic goals for this layout than past ones

 

Matching up time available and realistic goals has been a real problem for me, I guess. Of course, to do that I'd probably just have to do the temporary on-the-floor layout thing. :-/

 

Step back, think about what you enjoy about the hobby, and focus on that aspect for a bit, or put it aside as a "gift" to yourself for finishing up the necessary but uninteresting/frustrating part you have to get through.

 

Normally I enjoy the scenery construction (which is good, since I've built each area two or three times so far....), but right now I want to get out of the constantly-under-construction mode so when the kid asks about running trains, I can say "yes" for once.

 

 

I'll note that I take removable things, like cars, off the layout before vacuuming. My goal is to get to the point where a Tomix cleaning car vacuum is all I'll need,  but I need to do less sawing and carving of styrofoam near the layout before I get there.

 

I'm in the same place--I'm still creating lots of crud with my build-destroy-rebuild projects, so there's not much small stuff in place yet to worry about. For now I'm just using the Shop-Vac.

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i used to have this small sucking vacum for my pc to clean the dust out sadly it broke. Would be great for this as I have stuff eveywhere.

 

I spent 1 hour last night picking off bits of fluff with tweezers as the hand vac wouldn't get them.

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Martijn Meerts

I find that whenever I don't feel like working on a larger layout, I switch to a module or just a small diorama. They can get done fairly quickly, and with a bit of planning the diorama can be used in the actual layout as well.

 

Of course, whenever I do a diorama, I try to use techniques I haven't used before, or haven't used in a LONG time, which often results in crappy looking scenery, which in turn makes me want to work on the bigger layout again =)

 

 

Once I'm settled in, and the attic is cleaned, I'll be starting my large storage/hidden yard. I'm pretty certain I'll be switching to diorama's regularly while building the yard =)

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Hey Scott - At times I go through the same thing that you're experiencing....I've been working on my layout for 8 years now and am still working on it. I've also have learned that there are some aspects of the hobby I really enjoy more than others. (I really thought I'd like ballasting.....boy was I wrong.... and it took me forever to finish that element on my layout) What does inspire me though is when I look at what other members here are doing....then I'm curious to see if I can do what they did, or try a new technique that another member has tried.

Hang in there.

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Martijn Meerts

I don't think ballasting will ever get any less tedious, if you want the end result to look good that is. There are quick, fast and easy ways of ballasting, but the end result is never quite what you'd like.

 

The one think I've learned about ballasting though, is never ballast sections in such a way that you can't run trains until the glue has dried. If you have a 2 track main line, ballast them 1 at the time, so you can always run trains. Obviously, for certain layouts or parts of layouts that doesn't work...

 

 

I know very well how you feel though.. I've actually NEVER completely finished a layout, and there's only been once or twice where it wasn't me wanting to tear it down because I got sick of it .. A forum like this helps a lot though, getting input from others on your layout, getting tips and tricks on how to do things etc. What I like about JNS in particular is that people aren't afraid to criticize someone else's work rather than just default to "it looks good!" like on many other forums. Constructive criticism is the best motivation you can get when building a layout :)

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I don't think I'd be frustrated as much by having problems working on the layout as I am by just not being able to get to it at all. Problems can be fixed, but neglect and lack of progress is just maddening. I missed the entire spring's worth of work when I broke my right hand, and between the heat and various health problem, the summer was a loss. Plus a full-time job, home responsibilities, and family life just don't leave much free time--there's always something else that I "could" or "should" be doing.

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Mudkip Orange

The thing is, you're just using Unitrack. I've set that stuff up on the floor. And you've got a metric asston of track by this point, so you could throw together a pretty snazzy layout without any plastering, painting, or WS inclines.

 

Right now you're trying to decide between "Do I finish this exceedingly large, scenery-heavy layout, or just give up completely."

 

I think the choice should be "do I throw together some lionel-style table setup, or do I continue with the plaster palace."

 

I think a 7-year-old would be happy with either of those options. Hell, I didn't even get my FIRST TRAIN SET 'til I turned 7. The first layout was a 4x8 with a grass mat and a shitty 12.5-degree crossover that derailed every train that passed over it, and that was completely awesome, because I was a little kid.

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And you've got a metric asston of track by this point

 

Have you been in my basement?!? ;-)

 

 

I think the choice should be "do I throw together some lionel-style table setup, or do I continue with the plaster palace."

 

Maybe, but the funny thing is that what set me on this path was the kid's reaction to a lionel-style table setup, back when he was 6 or 7. "Dad--why do they just go around in circles?!?"

 

I think a 7-year-old would be happy with either of those options.

 

I think he was seven when I started. Now he's nine, and I'm still not finished!

 

But while I doubt I'm going to tear everything down and do a simpler layout on the same table, I know what you mean about making it fun for the kid. So it sounds like I need to take everybody's advice and just get the track working. I may need some advice from the electrically-clueful along the way.

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scott

 

you need to try suitcase connectors. they are just snap on wire connectors to wire feeder wires into a main power buss if you are not into making connections via strip and solder! not too horrible price if you get them in bulk.

 

jeff

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Suitcase connectors are great. I couldn't have wired my layout without them. Shop around for a good price, there's a lot of variation (I don't buy the brand-name ones, but I've read some people have had problems with corrosion on the cheaper ones; I haven't had any issues in the two years I've used them, but my basement is typically quite dry).

 

The one thing to be aware of is wire gauge.  Typically the through wire is a larger gauge than the drop, but the specific gauges vary.  For example the Scotch "red" is for 14-18ga bus with 18-22ga feeder (or whatever you use a drop for; mine go to a circuit breaker that's then connected to the feeders, so a larger gauge isn't a problem for me).  If you're wiring a 12ga bus directly to 23ga feeders, they're not going to work.

 

If you're doing a lot of them, consider getting the special crimping tool.  Pricy, but crimping them with pliers can be a bit finicky (I destroyed about 1 in 10 by mis-driving the steel wedge) and hard on the hand.  When I was doing crimp-on spade lugs I bought a professional crimping tool after the first hundred, and my hand felt much better.  I didn't buy the crimping tool for the suitcase connectors, and in hindsight I should have. I had around 100 to crimp, and I was really getting tired of those pliers by the time I was done.

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