Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Skally Line at the RiverCentre

In the previous post I over-viewed the whole MN FreemoN Layout. I also wanted to talk about the Skally Line. The layout was designed so the Skally could be set up and operated like it is in real life. This helps me see what I need to add or build next. There hopefully will be some video coming in the next few weeks too! First the photos, then the revelations.
Here is another overview shot of the layout, this one is from the opposite corner as the last. You can see where Hinckley branches off just to the right of the closer corner.
Looking from Hinckley South you can see just how straight the Skally is. While that is how it sits in real life, it does makes things a little odd from a modular stability standpoint. I ran out of code 40 track, so the spur to the Hinckley Depot got cut short for now, but it still gives me a spot to park a tank car.
Right now the Hinckley (HIN) interchange track and the Rush City Yard track are one in the same. I will fix that in the month to come.
The North side of the Horizon Mill. While I tried to operate the line realistically, one operator in particular kept bringing incorrect cars to the line. Once we get the car card operations up and running it will take care of that issue.
Looking North at Rush City. This scene is coming together well. I am making progress on the buildings and I have the crossing gates to install for the next show.
Down in North Branch I got some ground cover down, but I didn't make much in the way of structure progress there. Next time I have spare time I may put some ballast down on the green sections. The
As Zinpro is a South facing spur, I had to build a short layout extension so it could be switched out. At only 2 feet long, this kept it so operators had to plan how many tank cars they were going to pull and how they were going to use the buffer car.
So here is my list of revelations:
1) Progress is coming along nicely. All the track work is working well, so that is good.
2) I need to switch Rush City (RUS) over to the keyed switches that are used for turnout control on the rest of the layout. I like the look and feel of them better. Currently RUS is digitally controlled switches. The keyed switches will allow someone with a Utility Throttle to operate the line.
3) I need some separation. I'd like to add a scenic section between HIN and RUS, I have a couple spots in mind, one is a small culvert outside of Beroun.
4) I need to build corners. Not that they are on the Skally, but for stability and options in a future home layout or at shows it will be helpful. A 36 foot long straight peninsula has a little more vibration than I would like.
5) Once I add the extra trackage, the run around track in North Branch will be a must do for operations. I can't be doing shoving moves for 20 feet, I need options.

There were more things, but I think that will cover it for now...

Monday, December 30, 2013

MN FreemoN at the RiverCentre

I am exhausted today. This weekend was the big Choo Choo Bob Train Show at the RiverCentre in Saint Paul. MN FreemoN made its largest layout to date, measuring in at 65' by 35'. I'll get a layout plan posted as soon as I can get it. My rough math puts our main line between 5 and 6 scale miles long.

I want to say it was awesome getting to meet those of you that frequent by blog this weekend. I think it really is the people that make this hobby fun, so thank you all for tracking me down. For those that didn't make it, I'm going to split this topic into a couple of posts. In this one I'll overview the layout we had, the other will be more Skally specific. MN FreemoN is not a "club" per say, we are a small group who build our modules to the FreemoN standard and then bring them together for shows like this.

Here is an overview shot of the layout. I'll start the tour on the module right in front of the camera. That is the coal loop, built by our youngest member, Joe B. It needs a little tuning, but our trains get around it.
Moving down the line we get to one of our anchor yards. Chris K. built Valley Park, based on the UP yard in Shakopee, MN. This yard is great for flat switching, building trains and having meets between trains. It also includes a small engine service are and a couple of industries to switch out.
A short train ride through the countryside brings us to University. Chris also owns this module set. This is the largest Wye on our layout. It also includes the large elevator on the left. This is a great representation of the popular railfanning location in N.E. Minneapolis. It also gives us the ability to have a branch line or just turn engines and trains as we did this weekend. The passing siding here is also a popular spot to plan meets.
Around the bend from University is Imperial Paper. Here there is a small passing siding and a couple of industries to switch out. Imperial Paper gives us plenty of business moving boxcars. As you can see we had a nice mix of freight and passenger service over the weekend. The passenger trains are always a hit with the younger model train fans who like to see things moving briskly down the main lines. The switching action seems to keep the attention of the operations minded model railroaders.
After Imperial Paper you come to my Hinckley, MN module. This weekend it was the junction onto the Skally Line (as it was built to be). I'll show more of the Skally pics in a later blog posting.
The corner brings us to Chris's Bender Grain module. This rural elevator supplies grain in small cuts to the large elevator at University, which in turn supplies wheat trains to the Skally Line.
South of Bender we roll past my old MN Transload module (now owned by Chad S.) an into Oakland California, where Peter K. is recreating (exactly to scale) Jack London Square in a 30+ foot module set. Like the Skally, this is a work in progress. Peter just finished hand laying some #12 crossovers for the ends of the large siding here. This double track section really helps keep traffic moving.
 Here is a shot of a skyway Peter just mocked up.
And here is a close-up of his signals and some of his building work. Each building is being CNC'd in styrene to to an accurate representation of the prototype.
After leaving Oakland, we pass Ted M.'s Beaver Lumber, one of the main lumber customers on the layout this weekend.
The final corner brings you into the Roseville Yard. This gi-normous yard is our other anchor and has 14 tracks of fun that let us hold trains up to (and over) 20 feet in length. Here you can see most of the MN FreemoN crew, well worn from a weekend of running trains. An hour after this picture was taken, the layout would be packed up and out of the RiverCentre.
This is a great bunch and I am glad they let me run with them. The layouts have certainly grown in the couple of years I've been hanging with the crew. If you didn't make it this week, parts of this layout will be on display in Eagan in March, hopefully we'll see you there!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Happy Holidays!

Sorry I haven't been posting more this month. I just finished a big road trip for work, and now Christmas is upon us. We all know what that means, more time on the road, getting caught up with family and all that jazz.

I have been making progress on some projects. The Hinckley modules are ready for the big show next weekend at the River Center in Saint Paul. You can check out more of the details at: http://stpaultrainshow.com/. Our FreemoN group is looking at a layout about 35 feet by 65 feet. It should give us some decent room to spread our wings.

As an offshoot to the FreemoN group, some fellow modelers and myself are starting a DMIR themed set of modules. Earlier this week we built 10 five foot long modules to get the project going. I'll post more details about that as we progress.

The day after that I helped my friend HK with his 6 foot long FreemoN module that will represent Osceola, WI. We were hoping to have it in next weekends show, but the switches didn't arrive in time to pull it off.

I've been working on another locomotive build article. It is coming along nicely, I'll give you a couple teaser shots:
You'll be seeing more of that one later...

In preparation for the train show I also sat down today and speed matched all my engines. It may seem like a small task, but ti was nice to get the JMRI up and running, and to get that done.

On that note, Happy Holidays to everyone! I hope you all enjoy the season and have safe travels of your own!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Skally Track Plan

In preparation for the big show later this month, Peter K. was working on the digital renderings of my Skally modules. He drew up the Skally Line as it will sit in the upcoming event. I will have a small extension off the south end so we can switch out Zinpro, but otherwise it shows what I have built for layout so far. There will be additions coming next year, but I'm pretty happy with what I have so far!