Goods Shed I

Started cutting pieces from the sprues of the Peco Goods Shed NB-6 kit, and trimming, filing, and sanding as needed. Test fitting all pieces first, then I will start the painting process.

This model will have open doors, so I will be adding some interior detail, likely using printed cardstock for the floor and walls, and plastic miniatures for crates, barrels, etc.

I’m considering interior lights for my structures, which would showcase the cardstock interiors. Seems silly to put so much detail in only to hide it in the shadows. We’ll see…

New Platform IV

Tonight I used an acrylic wash on the platform’s brickwork to represent mortar. For the wash, I diluted FolkArt Wicker White acrylic paint in water then added a few drops of dish soap to reduce the surface tension. Then I painted several coats over the brick. Most of the acrylic ran into the spaces between bricks, but some remained on the surface, which gives a nice “chalky brick” appearance.

Photos never do the mortar justice–it practically disappears in just about every photo I tried to take, but here goes:

New Platform III

I painted a single stripe of Rust-Oleum Blossom White, and it suddenly looks like a British platform:

The white strip along platform edges was introduced so passengers could determine the platform edge during the blackout period just prior to WWII. (Blackout regulations were imposed on 1 September 1939, before the declaration of war. These required that public lighting be shut down and all windows and doors be covered at night to prevent light that might aid enemy aircraft.)

New Platform II

Did some spray-painting on the new platform today. Rust-Oleum Flat Gray Primer over all but the brick (to allow for some of the molded plastic “brick” color to come through). Krylon Satin Brick, then Rust-Oleum Chalked Charcoal for the “paved” surface and Rust-Oleum Stone Gray for the edging. Lots of painter’s tape for masking:

New Platform I

Inspired after the success of my frog-powering project (yes, all frogs are powered now—see edits in my last post for details) I decided to start working on a new platform for the Peco station.

Using bits and pieces left over from the two Peco Setrack ST-90 Platform kits that I used for the former “generic” platform, I put together a “bespoke” platform which I hope will be more fitting for the station area.

The most difficult task was beveling the edges around the backside of the wider “station” section. For that, I used my razor saw and a plastic mitre box. Here’s a couple of cuts:

Once the sections were bonded with Testors plastic model cement, I used Testors contour putty to fill some small gaps, then did some sanding with 400 grit. Next step will involve priming and painting.

In the last couple of photos I am bothered by my the curved track behind the platform, which will eventually service a goods shed. When I originally laid the track I was aesthetically—not pragmatically—driven, and I liked the look of gentle curves. Now that I’m planning to add sidings, a goods shed, and other trackside structures, I find myself wanting to straighten sections (as I did to accommodate the carriage shed). That means de-soldering feeders, lifting up (and hopefully not ripping up) the track, straightening, re-gluing, and then re-planting and re-soldering feeders. Oh well…

Feeding the Frogs II

Well, I finally have a single turnout with a powered frog! It wasn’t all that difficult, really.

I cut a couple of lengths of green 22-gauge wire and connected each to terminals 2 and 3 on the SMAIL, in addition to the wire already connecting the frog itself with terminal 4 (see my last post).

I cut two more lengths of the same wire and suitcase-clipped one to a red bus and one to a black bus. Then I twisted each pair of wires to connect them and tested the turnout. It didn’t short, so my guess at polarity was accurate. The SPDT switch inside the SMAIL was now active, and routing power/switching polarity as needed.

I soldered the twists of wire, then isolated them with shrink tubing.

Testing the engine was a complete success. The Bellwether, my little 0-6-0, can crawl very slowly over the turnout even if the points aren’t touching the rail.

There is one drawback:

When an engine reaches the fouling point (the short section of track between the frog and the isolated rail joiners), if the turnout isn’t already thrown in its direction, the engine immediately shuts the layout down because the metal wheels bridge the polarity gap and cause a short circuit.

Before, when the frog was dead, the engine simply stopped when it reached the fouling point, without shutting the entire layout down.

The benefits definitely outweigh this drawback. Engines shouldn’t approach close to the fouling point anyhow unless the switch is thrown in its direction. That’s just good prototypical operation. Entering the fouling point is the railway’s equivalent of nosing your car into an intersection when cross-traffic has the right of way.

Anyhow, I will post a video of the engine crawling over the turnout once I reclaim my YouTube account, for which I’ve forgotten the password. Maybe tomorrow evening.

Edit: I stayed awake later than I planned and powered another frog. This time, my guess at polarity was wrong and caused a short. No worries; that’s why I simply twisted the wires. All I had to do was swap the pairs and test again, then solder and heat-shrink.

Edit II: After another six hours or so, all the frogs are powered! I wish I could say I found a groove, but in reality each SMAIL and turnout had its own quirks and challenges. Also, I was in kind of a gloomy fog this weekend, but it was like a ray of light when I retested all the turnouts and each worked perfectly.

After briefly cleaning the railheads, the Bellwether can crawl at a very slow speed which appears to be roughly the equivalent of an N-gauge walking pace, and it doesn’t get hung up on the turnouts.

Feeding the Frogs I

Overall I have been happy with how well my engine runs on LSR’s track, but there is one recurrent problem that I want to mitigate before I start placing structures and scenery permanently on the board.

My turnouts are all Electrofrog, which means they route power across the length of the turnout, without any gaps to account for polarity. Because of this, different sections of the track switch polarity based on which way the turnout is switched.

This is why, when laying track, I added plastic insulating fishplates on the inner rails where track diverges. This creates breaks in the rails to prevent crossed polarities, which would shut the layout down.

The problem with insulating that section of track is that it completely isolated the part of the turnout known as the “frog,” which is the vaguely X-shaped meeting of inner rails. As a result, the frog only receives it power from the points, which move like windshield wipers from rail to rail to route the trains.

When the points don’t press hard enough against the rails, or when the smallest amount of dust, grime, or oxidation builds up between the points and the rails, the frog doesn’t get any power, and the trains stop on the “dead” frog because they aren’t getting power in turn.

The problem, though, is that the frog needs to switch polarity depending on which way the turnout is switched. Initially, I planned to eventually purchase a “hex frog juicer” which works with DCC controls and which powers six frogs and switches the polarity automatically.

I didn’t realize until recently that the SMAIL switch motor I installed for each turnout is capable of powering the frog and switching the polarity using a built-in SPDT switch. However, this will require more wiring and probably a lot of trial and error.

As shown in the diagram, each turnout needs three feeders added and connected to terminals 2, 3, and 4, which lead to one of two SPDT switches inside the SMAIL machine, as shown here:

Terminals 5, 6, and 7 also lead to an SPDT switch, often used to trigger signals.

Over the weekend, I connected terminal 4 on each SMAIL to the frog itself. It isn’t powered yet, though, without the added feeders from terminals 2 and 3. But it’s a start! I used lengths of green 22-gauge wire and soldered them to the outside of the rail between each frog-and-point assembly.

Now to add the outer feeders to the stock rails, which will complete the SPDT circuit. There will be mistakes made, though, because which wire goes to which side of the track will be dependent on which way the turnout is facing.

I will update after I’ve installed and tested one or two.

Carriage Shed I and Some Planning

A minor victory this weekend: I finally started putting together the Peco Ratio Carriage Shed which has been in my closet since I started this layout.

Plastic kits are finicky. They don’t look great on their own; they really require some extra time spent patching seams, painting and repainting, and a fair bit of weathering to cover bodged sections.

I built my first Ratio kits a couple of years ago: the Country Station and a Station Platform. It was built for my Inglenook switching module, so the platform shape was wrong for LSR, leaving a lot of awkward space behind it. I brought it to the layout at the office where it been collecting dust since. I happened to run the office trains last week and felt sorry for the station, so I brought it home. What do you know… I’m considering repurposing it as Little Snoring’s station and bringing the Metcalfe Station to the office.

Here’s a few shots of the station:

Looks pretty good, right? That’s because I spent about eight hours just painting it. I used Krylon and Rust-Oleum rattle spray cans on all the pieces, masking off sections to paint details such as lintels and window sills. After spray painting, I used washes of diluted white acrylic paint for mortar, and washes of diluted black acrylic for shadowing and weathering doors, windows, gutters, etc. I then dry brushed the roof with gray to weather the slates. I even detailed the interior with  printed cardstock:

Still needs some furniture and a couple of figures.

Inspired by this model, I went to work on the Ratio Carriage Shed a couple of days ago. Out of the box, the model is intended to be two tracks wide, but I don’t have any place for that on my layout so I decided to cut it down to a single track width.

I used plastic cement to bind the halves together.

The kit comes with enough pieces to make two sheds, and the builder can place them side-by-side or join them to make an elongated shed. I’ve only completed one shed, and will likely connect it to the other to make a longer shed, similar to one Hemyock used to have adjacent to its engine shed.

I used Rust-Oleum Colonial Red spray paint to color the parts, then super-glued them together. There were some pretty serious gaps between the side walls and the front, so I filled them with Testor’s Contour Putty, which I then sanded down and repainted.

Finally, I used washes of diluted black acrylic paint to weather the boards.


I still need to add the roof, but the one in the kit is a very thin and brittle plastic. I want to make sure I know how to paint and weather it before I begin, lest I break it. Here’s a photo of the half I’ve completed beside the length of track that I straightened for the sole purpose of placing the carriage shed:

I have five or six Ratio kits still in their boxes and will probably start working on a few of them. In particular, I’ve been wanting to start on the water tower to accompany some coal staithes near the turntable.

I’m also considering the possibility that I will replace the station platform with a longer, thinner version. This would make the space behind the platform less awkward (the space behind Hemyock, the real-life inspiration for Little Snoring, was used as a car park) and would allow me to move the station building toward the left-hand side of the layout, which is ideal in terms of realism.

If I alter the platform, it would go from something like this:

config 1

To something like this:


I will think about all this for a few weeks before deciding…

Fussy Stuff

With a pre-holiday hour to spare I straightened a couple of troublesome kinks in the track which caused the engine to shrug. I also straightened the longer curved siding where I had originally planned a goods shed. I’ve altered that plan to add a carriage shed, which requires a longer length of straight track. For that, I had to de-solder a few feeder wires. Now I need to let the glue dry on the straightened sections before I re-solder the feeders. In the next few weeks I hope to start working on the carriage shed, which I’ve been planning for a while.

Here’s a picture of our puppy, Fenton, to stare at in the meantime. He’s the reason why I’ve been so busy: