Sunday, November 29, 2009

First Locomotive Conversion to Battery Power!

On the tail end of our first winter storm this season, I ventured south to Dewey, Arizona to make a return visit to Stan Cedarleaf's G-scale empire. He had his Christmas train running steadily on his Prescott Canyon Southern railroad while he converted my Bachmann steam locomotive to battery power. While the Baldwin ten-wheeler was in the "shop," I took a barrage of photos, in case he or I wish to show the process for conversion some time. For now, a few photos from the 2-hour procedure are below, including a shot of his railroad. If there was a surgeon for locomotives, Stan would be the one! All I could really do was watch and take photos while he conducted his "surgery" in the chilly afternoon. In the end he handed over my new throttle and let me give it a spin around his railroad. It runs well and is no longer dependent upon track power! I look forward to seeing this engine run on the Ponderosa Lines in 2010. (Click on photos for larger images.)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

PLR Acquires first motive power, rolling stock

PLR News Release:

The fledgling narrow-gauge railroad museum and tourist line announced its first acquisition of equipment Tuesday, including its two first servicable locomotives purchased this summer. With the small company strapped for cash, the railroad's owner is celebrating these initial purchases as a way to get the first train rolling by next summer, 2010. The railway's first equipment consisted of a small diesel switcher (LGB) purchased from the overstocked White Pass & Yukon Route railway in Alaska, accompanied by a ten-wheeler steam locomotive with 4-6-0 wheel configuration. Both will be serviced and fitted for use in the PLR's inaugural year in 2010.

A surprise acquisition of used rolling stock occured last night, including a "bobber" logging caboose, wooden 30' flat car, and wood-sided gondola. Though needing some restoration and retrofitting, these first pieces of rolling stock will be repainted, re-wheeled, and converted for light freight and tourist passenger service.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Visit to the Prescott Canyon Southern layout

I was hoping to learn a lot about the practical aspects of garden railroading when I visited Stan Cedarleaf's layout in the Prescott area, and that's exactly what happened. Stan gave me the grand tour of his Prescott Canyon Southern Railroad with plenty of suggestions yesterday, and his experience helped me find answers to numerous questions that I have been compiling. I greatly appreciated his time and interest in helping a "newbie," and he offered to assist with battery installation into my two "newbie" locomotives.

Decision on Power Supply:
I finally resolved the power issues, thanks to Stan's input. He showed me examples of track power, DCC, and battery. I am going to focus completely on battery power now, to avoid the need for powering the track. I can also install a battery and receiver in my little LGB switcher without the need for a trailing battery car!
The lesson: books and online forums are invaluable resources for learning (any hobby, I imagine), but there is no substitution for actually visiting someone else's layout and learning from their experience!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Layout at a Glance: Map 1

Here is the first possible plan for the future Ponderosa Lines, using AnyRail track-planning software (see map below). Everything is to scale, including the house, track, and dimensions of the yard (edge of the visible map). Each grid square is 1 sq. ft. The small yard and reverse loop near the deck are scheduled for construction during summer, 2010. Who knows what will happen after that! This is the dream plan!

Layout at a Glance:
  • Minimum curve radius, main line: 5 feet
  • Minimum curve radius, yard loops: 2 feet
  • Track: Aristocraft G-scale brass, European ties
  • Power: Battery and remote control. DC track power at termini for switchers.
  • Roadbed: trenched with "quarter-minus" bed with ballast on top.
  • Maximum grade: Apparently will be around 3%.
  • Layout concept: 3-foot narrow gauge, contemporary steam tourist line, point-to-point operations (possible continuous-run loop connector eventually).
Draft Layout Map (click for full-size image):

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Wall Complete

The first retaining wall for the Ponderosa Lines is now in place. I managed one hour of working the dirt and rock pile last night (Friday), fighting the daylight which is now in short supply after coming home from school. This morning (Saturday) I continued for 2.5 more hours and scrounged for enough malpais stones to finish the wall. Much of the fill is in place behind the wall, a bit muddy now after hosing it down to encourage packing. I still have a sizeable pile in the front yard to tackle, but Linda says that I'm making a good dent in it. Perhaps another round Sunday, and my weekend exercise will be fulfilled.

Bill of materials for this project:
  • 1.5 tons of thin malpais stone (for front retaining wall of shelf)
  • 1.0 tons of malpais boulders (for back-side retaining wall under deck)
  • 4 yards of screened fill (will likely only need 3 for the fill.)

Sunday, November 1, 2009

First Day on the Job

I was curious about what I could accomplish in a two-hour period of shoveling rock and hauling stone. Not to be intimidated by a pile of dirt and rocks, I began to uncover and sort the malpais flat rocks from the boulders. Of course, they were buried in the dirt pile (see previous post), so I occasionally filled up the wheel barrow and made some trips to the back yard. I was starting to feel drained after about two hours, so I wisely called it quits and vowed to fight another day (tomorrow).

Though I am in pretty good shape due to semi-regular jogging and step-aerobics classes, this task clearly brought forth muscles I rarely use. I was mildly sore in the legs, knees, arms -- pretty much everywhere by Sunday morning. I will plan on spreading out this earthen project over a week or two. The photo here shows what I accomplished on the raised bed and wall after two hours. The wall got higher on Sunday. Stay tuned for stories about this past summer's railroad planning and design process! The photo here shows one of the two planned termini for the railroad, this one with a 4-foot diameter reverse loop and station tracks to match the shape of the raised bed.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Groundbreaking for the Ponderosa Lines!

The deed is done. I am commited to our backyard garden railroad of the future. The young driver from Landscape Connections backed up his truck and unceremoniously deposited 2.5 tons of malpais (dark volcanic) rock and 4 yards of fill dirt (technically referred to as screened fill), all of which now decorates part of our front yard next to the driveway. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but there seems to be something slightly bizarre about paying good money for dirt and rocks. But we do, mainly because most people don’t have the equipment to trudge through the forest and dig the stuff out themselves. So we pay for earth.

When I visited the company on Tuesday morning to confirm what I wanted, I was told that the driver would likely bring a forklift on a trailer to drop off the pallet of stone, separated from the load of fill dirt. No forklift arrived this afternoon, however, and with amusement I spied the dump truck that did show up. They had saved me some money (for which I genuinely thanked the driver) by not hauling in the forklift. Instead, the driver had stratified the load with dirt on the bottom, flat stones in the middle, and boulders on the top. Can you guess what happened as it spewed onto the ground? The result reminded me of the so-called American “melting pot”. It really didn’t matter, except it will provide me with yet more exercise – something I have been lacking this week. Each stone and grain of dirt needs to find its way to the site of the future railroad’s terminus, approximately 70 feet away from its current location. A small rail yard at one end of the railroad will be placed on a slightly raised, level bed of earth, for which this delivery is destined. I had hoped that the truck could back up our rather steep driveway and dump the load near our side fence gate, but no luck. The driver was visibly skeptical about crushing our driveway and, perhaps more importantly, not tipping the truck over with a precarious, angled ascent. The good news is that I need not shovel out Linda’s side of the driveway, which may have provided a mountainous obstacle between her car and the garage. Underneath the existing pile, however, is a buried stone retaining wall, the condition of which will remain a mystery until it is excavated once again.

Future posts will provide a conceptual overview of the emerging Ponderosa Lines. Up until today, the thinking and planning phase has been free of charge. One exception was the small purchase price for some basic track planning software, which I would highly recommend – called AnyRail. With all of the competing brands, it required the time of a small geologic epoch to just choose one. I promise to provide readers with a history of this relatively inexpensive phase of the project. Now it’s time to shovel and haul. Who needs weight lifting when you have a 5-ton pile of earth in the front yard? My creativity was also stimulated, particularly with devising a variety of ways to move this stuff. Why not invite members of the Flagstaff Model Railroad Club to help haul it in, and in exchange I would donate some HO-scale equipment to the club? How about if I disassemble the fence to allow the now-absent forklift to take it back there for me? In the end, it will be me and my will power that will accomplish the task. We’ll see how long it takes for the neighbors to notice. I’ll have to take a break tomorrow, of course, for the Penn State game against Northwestern.