Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Breaking Ground in Old Saybrook

Actually, more like "punching through a wall" - literally.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. In my last post, I hinted at the head start I got on my latest expansion during my last ops session. While Tom took over the agent's duties, I got out my machete and started hacking my way through the primeval forest, clearing the way to Old Saybrook. Here's what the landscape looked like when the surveyors arrived...

Given the, um, "terrain" a number of changes would be necessary to accommodate the Shore Line mainline as well as the Old Saybrook station area & wye (not to mention a new staging track for the Air Line):
  • The doorway would need to be moved left as far as possible;
  • I'd need to cut a huge proscenium (I'd never even heard that term until recently) in the main wall - essentially a large picture window, looking out at the basement's foundation wall;
  • Add supporting benchwork;
  • Cut not one, not two, but three holes in different walls in addition to the proscenium (just love using that word)
The day after the ops session, I broke ground - or, rather, broke wall. With a little lot of help from my friends (thanks Pete, Dick & Tom!) we got started (BillS had a lot less fun in the other room working on locomotives - when he'd come anticipating doing scenery. The DEY-5 (Alco S-2) is running & sounding much better, but the K-1b is still being ornery...).

As usual, the photos tell the story best . . .

Tom, Dick & Harry Pete get started on moving the door. The destruction de-construction went so quickly that by the time I got out my camera, they were already to this point!

Meanwhile, after much hemming & hawing - and figuring now that the doorway was gone we'd reached the point of no return - I finally made the first cuts in the wall with my machete drywall saw. The sheet over the other doorway was necessary given the HUGE cloud of dust created by power sawing the drywall next to the door.  Thus, the drywall saw used here.
Whew! Here's the proscenium all cut out and the doorway area cleared. That "line" across the wall is actually the top of the section of wall I removed with Tom's help. Compare this view to the pic at the top of the post.

Another view of the proscenium, with a 1x4 installed as a "window sill" (ties together the tops of the lopped-off studs) and a 2x4 attached to the foundation wall to support the back of the benchwork that'll go here.
Reconstruction of the wall to the right of the doorway. You can tell by where the baseboard ends where the doorway used to be. It doesn't look like much difference, but in HO scale that extra 10" means the difference between the ShoreLine going through the wall versus through the doorway itself.

After reconstruction comes new construction - of benchwork! Although the rest of the layout (except the modules) is L-girder, I decided traditional open-grid benchwork would work best for Old Saybrook. The terrain is pretty flat, so not much undulation needed - so a full plywood base would work well. You can see above my (relatively) ingenious method of clamping everything together to keep things tight & square for drilling/screwing everything together. Turns out this ended up being a bit of overkill - later joists were just held by hand against the triangle square. TIP: build the benchwork upside down resting on the plywood - that will ensure that all of your joists are flush at the top and there'll be no waves in the plywood top when you screw it down.

Once the benchwork was completed, I put it in place to level it all up, side to side and front to back.

Here's the benchwork in place. I attached it to the back 2x4 with two vertical 1x3s - much easier to level up & attach at just two points. Also, I shimmed up the joists at the front with old business cards. You can see in the background the new plywood "sidewall" with a hole for the Air Line coming through. Also, note the plywood "ceiling" - painted blue - which doubles as the top sill of the window. I salvaged some old doorway mouldings (and purchased two new long pieces) to picture frame everything.

And this is the view you see as you come down the basement stairs. You're looking "southwest" - the AirLine will come in through that hole in the back right corner and be hidden behind the masonite backdrop (which I've yet to install - you can see the "backdrop joint backer" 2x3 propped up at the left); the Shore Line from New Haven will come through the wall just to the right of the Saybrook Wye; the station will be approximately where that plywood rectangle is; and the "loop track" that goes behind the station is mocked up as well. The "pointy part" (north end) of the wye starts the track to Essex and points north.

This is the other side of "west end" wall, showing the cutout for the Shore Line from New Haven, represented here by a return loop. The Air Line will come off the module (right end of the pic) and head through the hole in the corner. That section of the Air Line will be a generic "Middlefield area" farm scene, with a team track and a cider mill. The Shore Line return loop will be hidden under that scenery.
This expansion has really fired my motivation to complete the rest of the railroad: Old Saybrook and Middletown to East Haddam, and New London to Old Saybrook (including a large staging yard). I was going to wait until I got some scenery completed in Wethersfield - and that's still a priority and the "to-do" for an upcoming work session - but I'm eager to complete at least the benchwork and track for the Big Plan so that I can start operating sessions incorporating all the trains (and crew members!) I'd planned: not only the Valley and Air Line locals, but the two Shore Line locals, as well as some mainline freight and passenger trains (gotta have someplace for my DL-109s, PAs, I-4 & I-5 to run!).

Continued progress will have to go on a brief hiatus while I do a remodel in our living room (part of the justification for all the tools/skills I've acquired while model railroading is that I can use those tools/skills elsewhere in the house), but with motivation this high I've already put together a very aggressive work schedule, and I expect I'll be back to work on The Valley Line by next week!

(PS: If you're in the Wethersfield, CT area this Saturday morning, I'll be doing a show following the prototype Valley Local in the late 1940s, using photos from John Wallace and research I've gathered over my time doing this project.  Also, if you're interested in actually riding the Valley Line, the Valley Railroad/Essex Steam Train will be running trains this weekend to view eagles!)

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