July 5th, 2008

Work on the layout has continued at a feverish pace. There was alot done to the layout the last few weeks of June, and it has continued into July. While working on the subroadbed for the upper level, I thought about the town of Mammoth, which is located at the bottom of the helix, and how I wanted the track to be laid out . I had already cut out the large piece of wood that was to be used as the base for the town and track, but as of yet I was still unsure of how I wanted the track to go. That has now changed. With this new plan drawn down on paper, I proceeded to install that large piece of wood that had been sitting in the layout room for the last couple of months. First thing to do was cut out supports for the main town, and the main line. Once they were in, I turned back to that large piece of wood. Since the main line has to be on a slight incline, I "cookie cutted" out that piece of wood. Once everything was lined up, I finished the subroadbed north out of town to connect with the helix, and south, or down the grade to where I will have a large bridge.

In the "real world", just south of Mammoth, is Crowley Lake, formed by a dam on the Owens River. Just below the dam is a nice sized canyon, and I wanted my main line to cross it on a big steel trestle. I had originally planned for the trestle to be smaller, but as I have a fondness for bridges, I made the canyon on the layout a bit bigger than what is there in real life. The trestle will consist of three 80' and five 40' Micro Engineering deck girder bridges, for a total length of 440' or 33 inches. The benchwork drops down 9" below the track level. This should be quite a view!

Once all the subroadbed was in, I cut up more homasote and temporarily put it down from the Owens River Gorge trestle to the helix. I then added some flex track and spiked it to the homasote. After adding some jumper wires, I could now run a train to the helix! Since the helix was all done except for the track, I figured I could start laying the track . I used quite a bit more Liquid Nails than normal, since I didn't want any of this track to possibley come loose. After the track was installed, I added the block detector and feeder wires, and ran a loco up and down it. Since then, I've tested the helix with almost every type of train that will run on it, and not a day goes by without me running a train up and down it. It just looks so cool! I'll hate to cover it up with facia.

One other thing that I have found out with the helix operational is that train length and power is higher than I originally thought. I figured 3 locos could pull 30 cars up the helix, which is a 2.1% grade. Well, that is not so. 3 locos top out at about 25 cars. So any train with 25-32 cars will need 4 locos. Above 32 cars, and 5 locos will be needed. I had planned for helper operations, so this will not be too big of an obstacle. Another "difficulty" that came up was the passing siding at Mammoth. It will only be able to hold about a 3 loco/25 car train. So dispatch will have to be on their toes and use a different passing siding for longer trains, and the crews of these longer trains will have to wait "in the hole" for a bit longer. All of this will add to the operating enjoyment of the layout! =)

LOTS of pics in this update!


Supports installed for the town of Mammoth. Main line track to staging is in the back with the Tonopah branch line staging tracks in front.



Another view of the supports for Mammoth



Subroadbed for Mammoth is installed and the extention piece to the helix is clamped and glued.



Left, or South side of the future town of Mammoth. The pencil lines are the curve for the main line and passing siding. The flat part cut out above the red tape is where a building will go.



Looking back toward the helix. I had already started to glue some track down. In the rear right is where the temporary homasote ends, at the Owens River Gorge.



Here the temporary track has been installed and more track has been permanently glued down on the helix.



As I waited for the last curve of the helix to glue, I installed track.



The track is now finished all the way around the top of the helix....



...and on to the upper level.



The first train to run across the entire lower level!!! 5 locos and 30 stacks. The temp feeder wire is just below the first stack car.



Here is where the main line will cross the Owens River Gorge. 440 scale feet or just about 33 inches. I have the track resting on a piece of square bar.



This has to be the coolest thing! Watching the locos grind away while the rear of the train is just below them. I'd never get sick of seeing this!



The completed helix.



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