Thursday, July 2, 2020

Reworking Trackwork at Dividend

As I mentioned at the end of Tuesday's post, I've skipped a couple of my usual morning bike rides this week to make some progress on the layout before heading into the office (admittedly, a "home" office - but I suspect I'm not the only one to discover that teleworking often results in longer workdays rather than shorter ones!).

Sometimes in this hobby, you have to take a couple steps back before you can move forward - and that's proving true in the Dividend section of Rocky Hill on my layout. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I'd initially based the trackplan there on a combination of a(n admittedly pre-era) Sanborn map and John Wallace's personal recollections. The track arrangement in Dividend has worked well and realistically for the 6 or so years I've been operating it, but more-recent research (a combination of aerial views and additional memory jogging) has confirmed that the curved track south of the Hartford Rayon factory complex (and which was used to unload chemical tank cars) actually came directly off the main rather than off the end of the switchback track as I initially thought.

Mockup of a new mainline turnout (one of the new ME #5s, as it happens) and 18"r curve which will become  the new tank track. Current tank track is at the end of the siding that goes alongside the factory.

The new turnout, and the fact that I didn't want it located too far south (and impinging on Cromwell), meant that I'd need to move the switchback about 12" north (to the right). The switchback's mainline turnout is mocked up here for comparison.

And the other turnout in the switchback gets pushed north too - into the current  grade crossing.

I want to be sure this relocation doesn't reduce the length of the tail track. I need about 28" to accommodate a K-1 mogul and three 40' cars.
Now, nobody wants to fix what ain't broken. The trackage at the rayon plant has worked well and we know that the switchback (the existence of which has never been in dispute) makes for some interesting switching - just like on the prototype. But the more I considered redoing the track to follow the prototype more closely, the more I liked it and the more the benefits outweighed the work involved.

And bonus! Yet more information has come in that suggests that there was likely a coal dump somewhere on the property as well - either for power or maybe cars of coke for smelting engine castings (when the plant converted to building Pratt & Whitney engines later). Either way, the track changes will allow me to use a little "proto-imagineering" to add a spot for a different car type.

Once the benefits of changing the track arrangement far outweigh the work of doing so, it's time to get to work! So that's what I've been up to the past few mornings. Follow along in the pics . . .

First step is to remove all the buildings.
Next, I unsoldered the feeders and (yikes!) had to unsolder the rail joints to remove the track. PRO TIP: do not solder your rail joints ever! Except on curves, but otherwise never! Not only does it make any future adjustments like this more difficult, but it also makes it more likely you'll have a kink in the track when the benchwork expands or contracts. Ask me how I know.

Once the track was removed, it was time to install the new turnout. With Micro-Engineering turnouts, I like to remove the frog rails (they're just short bits anyway) and fashion the adjoining flextrack so that a long bit of "excess" rail slides into there instead. The result is that you have 2 less rail joints per turnout and the joints you do have are staggered. Randy showed me this technique and now I try to remember to do it with all my ME turnouts.

Once I knew precisely where the new turnout was going to go, I wanted to mock everything up again to make sure that it was all going to fit and look how I wanted. First up is the factory building (above). Note how much tighter/closer the tank track is compared to before (and, if you compare to the aerial photos here you'll see that it looks a bit more like the prototype).

Next was the warehouse building. Note the cardboard mockup of where Belamose Ave. will have to be. And it's at an angle - again, closer to the prototype. The tape measure is a stand-in for the K-1-plus-3-cars tail track length I want to retain. The end is going out over the scenery base, so I'll have to address that later.

"Aerial" view of the factory siding. Recall that this siding used to go further and around the end of the building, but you can see now that it'll have to stop short of the new tank track - again, just like the prototype.

Speaking of the tank track, I started to mock up some "storage tanks" & a "power plant" as well (note the stack). The hopper car of coal is where I thought I might put a coal dump/trestle - but then I couldn't figure how how to make that look plausible soooo far away from the power plant - how would the coal get there?

So I moved the power plant to the trackside of the factory and will put the coal dump at the end of the factory siding. Much more realistic (at least for "proto-imagineering" purposes)

Here's what I mean: coal dump at the end (left) and still room for a few freight cars at the docks. Turns out though, I can't quite fit three 40 footers as well as a hopper (they'd foul the crossover). But it'll make for some interesting switching nevertheless.

The addition of a Tichy water tank (courtesy Bill Maguire) really makes this end of the complex, I think, and provides a nice balance to the tall smoke stack. And, frankly, it won't really fit anywhere else.

After marking the final locations of the structures & road, off they went again while I put in all the final track - all while enjoying hanging out "virtually" with the AML gang on Zoom (note ipad in background - I think that's Martyn Jenkins?).

Thumb tacks and water bottles hold everything down while the Aleene's Tacky Glue dries.

Remember me mentioning the end of the tail track above? Turns out, I barely had enough plywood subroadbed under the plaster cloth to support it. It was just a matter of making a cut in the cloth so I could push it down past the edge of the plywood - and scraping up what scenery material was still under where the track would go.

And here's where things stand as of this morning... The switchback is all glued and weighted down. . .

. . .as is the new tank track (now that the cork is dry and the tacks removed)
Even though I've done a lot of trackwork on this layout, it's been a while and I'm surprised that there were a few things I needed to remind myself of (especially Randy's turnout trick). And, fortunately, as I was perusing the blog for links for this post, I came across a post I'd forgotten about what to do before you paint your track. Good thing I saw it in time - since I'm pretty sure painting the track is next on the list for Dividend (and then weathering the ties I after that, I suspect...)

Nice to be down in the basement again making progress - hope you're enjoying following along!

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