Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Taconite Tuesday

Hey Gang,

I know its been a little while since my last post.  I've been doing a little layout work, but most of my modeling time has been consumed by a couple of DCC installations I just can't seem to get right.  Off track right away.  Pun intended! 

Iron Clad Planning - The Taconite Plant

The first part of the Mascoutin Valley Railroad I wanted to get modeled was the Taconite Plant (see link for taconite definition https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taconite).  But I had to decide where on the Mascoutin Valley Railroad system map was I going to put the railroads largest industry.  Usually mines, quarries and other massive scale industries have their own branch line that would tie into the main line somewhere at a junction point or yard.  My conceptual narrative said that the Mascoutin Valley Railroad would have ore traffic in the Northern Division going from Crandon to Iron Mountain and then eventually to the ore docks at Escanaba, MI.  Also picking Crandon as a potential mining operation isn't too much of a stretch of the imagination since it was slated at one point to be the site of a large open pit mine.

Bench work - The Short Version

Now that a geographical location has been established its time to build some bench work and trace down a track plan.  I'm not going to spend too much time on bench work construction.  Its a classic 1x4" grid and riser bench placed on 2x2" legs with bracing used that will also be used for shelving.  I screwed down 3/4" birch plywood to risers that I attached to the grid work.  Its pretty basic.  Its also pretty strong.  You have to make sure your bench work is solid and LEVEL.  I'm not going to be modeling functioning hand brakes on the cars so they better not be free rolling around.  That's really all the time I want to spend on bench work.  I'll post a photo or two that can illustrate what I'm talking about.

My Methods to My Madness - Track Planning

How do I plan?  A couple of ways.  First I take a plan and draw it out on butcher or used/discarded plotter paper.  I take that and tape it down to my bench work and see if its practical.  Note:  I may or may not pre-plan the design.  I've spent countless hours trying to come up with the "perfect track plan."  But I've got a secret to share with you all...THEY DON'T EXIST!  Instead of letting paralysis analysis take hold and prevent me from doing anything, I've opted to lightly plan while keeping my Givens and Druthers in mind. 

The next part of my planning is I try it out.  I make a mock up.  As you can see here I got the Ore Jennies out and an old Walthers New River Mining Company load out tower.  I put them down on the paper and to see if my hair brained scheme will work.  As you can see here the Taconite Plant can take a train of about 12 cars at a time.  It also has a run around that can accommodate 12 cars as well.  The plant branch itself is about 10' long and has a couple of other spurs for Bentonite (a key component in making taconite) and coal unloading.  As well as a spur for tailing-to-ballast operation.  Take a look at the picture below to see how I make a mock up.

Planning Stages of the Taconite Plant

Trasferring the Plan

Once I get the track plan in place I cut a sheet of homasote and add it to the top of the plywood.  Then I transfer the track plan in the picture above to the homasote roadbed.  If you look at the picture below you'll notice that I made some mistakes.  Don't Panic!  You're going to make a lot of mistakes in building your model railroad.  I know I sure have.  As you can see here I added the entire taconite plant track plan to the homasote.  One tip I want to share is drawing in the turnouts (switches).  I used a bunch of old Atlas Snap Track switches I laying around to mock up their placement on the railroad.  I had #4 and #6's.  At the plant I wanted #5's.  SOL right?  Nah.  I used the #6's to get a feel for what the maximum size of my turnouts would be.  Below is a link that can explain the number or size of a turnout.


Side note: One rule of thumb in track planning...always over estimate. The reason I used #6's when I wanted #5's is I give myself a little extra room for making a mistake.  Its my experience that plans drawing on the bench work seem to shrink when its time to lay the track!  I give my sidings an extra inch or two.  Because nobody wants to pull a train to the end of a switching lead and have the last cars wheels on the points of the turnout!  When making a runaround lead make it the size of your largest engine.  I use an SD-40-2, its the biggest/longest I'll ever run on the Mascoutin Valley Railroad.

Getting the Final Track Plan Established
One last comment on the picture above.  I made another couple of mistakes.  I didn't seal the homasote in this picture.  And I also didn't smooth out the joints in the homasote pieces.  I actually smoothed everything out so it's as level as possible then I painted over it with some cheap latex paint that got from Ace Hardware.  Side store about the paint - I actually asked them if they had any mixing mistakes that were dark brownish taupe color and I got a quart for two bucks!  It really doesn't matter its going to get covered anyways its main purpose is to just cover and seal the homasote so it doesn't disintegrate when it gets wet!

Alright folks.  I'm going to stop here...that was a lot of information.  Next time I'm going to talk about final planning stages, drawing turnouts, and laying some ties!

Till next time keep 'er in Notch 8!

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