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 A dual-gauge module for FreeMo diversity

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T O P I C    R E V I E W
Vagel Keller Posted - 09/08/2008 : 7:42:31 PM

Hi, Folks,

This is admittedly a retrospective thread, in that it covers a project that was largely completed before I got off my duff to join RR-Line and start contributing to the general knowledge base. The module was mentioned frequently by Don Reed in latter-day updates to his now-inactive topic on a FreeMo module to display craftsman kits (SEE http://www.railroad-line.com/forum/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=11232).

The idea was to add operational variety to our Pittsburgh-area NMRA group's FreeMo set-up at model train shows and, at the same time, evangelize for HOn3 or at least get some existing HOn3 modelers active in the FreeMo group. It also gave me a venue to operate two recently acquired Blackstone Models K-27's. I retired my old HOn3 Blacklog & Shade Gap Eastern layout a couple years back and had back-slid into HO; the release of the extraordinary Blackstone K27's was my "road to Damascus" moment, and I was itching get back into HOn3.

Here is the basic frame for the module before installing the 1" thick blue insulation foam base. The ends are 1 x 5 pine, and the sides are a composite of 6-ft L-girder and 1/4" thick plywood ripped to 5"-wide strips.

From problems experienced with dips in the roadbed on my HO modules caused by the transition from foam base to the 3/4" thick end plates, I decided to attach 6" deep 1/4" plywood extending over the end plate, and I am happy with the results.

Here is a shot taken during the 1:1 scale track planning phase. Note that, while the plan for the coal prep plant side of the module was unchanged, the dual gauge changed a lot. The dual gauge track has no turnouts, which drastically simplified track work. Instead, the narrow gauge mainline diverges into a small yard. The run-around track in the original plan was thereby lengthened to handle 5 30' cars plus caboose. The drill track went away in favor of moving the yard office, support buildings, and a water plug to that end.

Another think I learned from 1:1 track planning was that I needed 2" extensions between turnouts to clear the throw bars. This was due to the design of the hand-made No. 6 turnouts I purchased from LITCo. The loss of a car length on passing sidings was a small price to pay for the flawless operation of these turnouts, which actually bend the rail instead of using the prone-to-failure hinges of the mass produced turnouts from Shinohara.

I started work in early March 2008, and the module was operational, minus scenic ground cover, in time for the MidWest Narrow Gauge Show sponsored by Gary Kohler's Light Iron Digest every April in Washingtonville, OH.

Here is is at that venue. It caused quite a stir among the largely 2-ft gauge oriented crowd. The fact that it was the only narrow gauge module at the show with sound might have had something to do with it.

I'm going to pause here and try to come back to this a couple days.

5   L A T E S T    R E P L I E S    (Newest First)
Vagel Keller Posted - 02/25/2009 : 12:29:52 AM
Hello, all. Since my last post we've added three HOn3 modules to the Pittsburgh-area FreeMo group. All will be set up and operating at the up-coming MidWest Narrow Gauge Show at the Greenford Christian Center near Washingtonville, OH on Mar. 27-28. Check back for a report and photos.


Vagel Keller Posted - 09/16/2008 : 10:57:21 AM
Hi, Brian. Right now the prep plant is something between a mock-up and a model in progress. It's an old Plasticville coaling tower covered with Evergreen corrugated siding and with an Evergreen styrene addition spliced to the dump side.

vamodeler Posted - 09/15/2008 : 10:42:15 AM

Nice module. Where did you come up with plans for your coal washer/seperator? Is it based on a certain prototype or did you scractch it?


Vagel Keller Posted - 09/10/2008 : 6:28:09 PM
Well, Don, I'll add some more about the project and see if it generates any interest.

After the Midwest NG Show, the next task was tweak the mating of my Caboose Industries ground throws to the LITCo. turnouts, which depend on contact between points and stock rail to route power -- always a problem with DCC. Once that was taken care of, I set up the whole 3-piece FreeMo module so I could attack the scenery in one fell swoop.

I had so much fun playing with operating train around the dual gauge interchange that I almost waited too long the ballasting and scenery in time for our FreeMo group set up at the Pittsburgh Greensberg Show in July. But everything was done except the steps and porch on the yard office and the coal preparation plant, which is still pretty much in the mock-up stage.

Here are the LCL interchange tracks. I like the size contrast between standard and narrow gauge equipment; it takes visitors a while to grasp that they're the same scale.

To add some verticality to an otherwise level FreeMo layout, I set the interchange yard an inch lower than the FreeMo standard track height. This was the third location for the yard office, which in the original plan sat in the middle of the yard, then moved to the far end in the initial set up at the Narrow Gauge show. Only after I had completed the scenery base with the standard gauge curving down through a shallow cut to the yard did it occur to me to set it on the bluff overlooking the yard -- another argument for the value of 1:1 track planning with the paper plan being little more than a sketch map.

The yard office is a facsimile of the 3-ft gauge East Broad Top's yard office at Mt. Union, PA, where that road maintained a large dual-gauge yard and 5-track coal preparation plant for interchange with the PRR. At the far end now sits a replica of the enclosed water tank at Mt. Union. EBT modeler Doug Taylor, of Kansas City, KS built the yard office and Tom Middleton scratch built the water tank.

I admit the D&RGW K-27 is a bit far from home, but it IS a Baldwin product! The weathering is by RGS modeler Kevin Kuzman, is also the fellow who started LITCo, the HOn3 turnout source. Here she is posing with EBT No. 12, Baldwin Class of 1911; this was a Hallmark import from Samhongsa ca. 1987, factory painted. It's the first of my five Hallmark mikes to be DCC'd. It's a real shame that eastern narrow gauges have such small following among model railroaders, or we'd see one of these beauties in diecast and styrene with DCC and sound, just like the K-27's.

So, did I actually build any of the structures in the dual gauge yard? Well, yes ...

This nifty little PRR standard shelter is by GC Laser and goes together in a short evening. The Depot Buff and Tuscan scheme isn't QUITE Pennsy standard, but it's as close as the B&SGE B'n'B gang's paint locker could come up with. I didn't quite press the bench down completely before taking the picture; it's been adjusted since then to avoid startling any overweight passengers who might come along.

Here it is on the module with the EBT's gas-electric M1, another mid-80's Hallmark/Samhongsa import, making a station stop. Tommy Gilbert, of Tommy Gilbert's Hobby Shop in Gettysburg, custom painted it for me.

By the time I walked around to the other side, two pigeons (sky rats, as a former colleague in graduate school calls them) had showed up ... they had not yet "anointed" the roof.

Well, that's as far as the project has come so far. When I get a chance to add the steps and porches to the yard office or make some progress on the coal prep plant I'll post more pics. Until then, c'ya on the railroad ...

AVRR-PA Posted - 09/09/2008 : 07:59:36 AM
Hi, Vagel --

This part of the Forum (Logging, etc) is pretty inactive. Maybe having you posting here will perk it up a little. I hope so.


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