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UP in the Pacific Northwest (N scale)

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    UP in the Pacific Northwest (N scale)

    This thread is to post progress updates on my current layout. I don't have a name for it yet, but I do know that I want the Pacific Northwest look and feel, and I mainly run Union Pacific equipment. So, we'll call this UP in the Pacific Northwest for now.

    A few things about this layout. This is the first time I've been able to find large enough space to build a room-sized layout. There were a few things I really wanted to try out that this layout features:
    • Shelf layout
    • Aluminum profile benchwork
    • LED lighting
    • Double-deck design
    • Train elevator to connect the levels
    Initially I was thinking about using the entire lower level for staging, but then I realized that I can get a lot more use out of the lower level than just staging. So, plans changed and now both levels will have staging loops instead. Lower level is for industrial switching and the upper level is scenic runs. Let me go over the track plans for both levels.

    Operationally, the staging loop at the lower level represents a main yard (think Klamath Falls or Springfield, OR) and the spurs represent industries near the yard. A local will handle switching all of these and then return back to the staging loop. This level will receive scenery until the highway overpass. The staging loop itself will not have scenery. The spur near the station will be a transloading company and the industry at the top right corner will be a propane dealer. I haven't decided what the others will be just yet.
    Lower level track plan
    In addition to the local trains, there will be mainline trains running from one staging yard to another. They'll go through the industrial area, take the elevator to the upper level, and then run through scenery to the staging yard. The inspiration here is UP's Cascades subdivision, but I'm not going to be modeling any specific place.
    Upper level track plan
    Both levels will have engine storage tracks, although I may omit that for the upper level. The lower level is 50" high and the upper level is at 60". The layout is against the walls everywhere except where the staging loops are. Because the lower level is at 50" height, it is relatively easy to duck under and get into the center of the loops in case something goes wrong.

    #2
    I've been wanting to try aluminum profiles for benchwork for a very long time. Unfortunately, it is a very expensive material. I finally decided to do when I found a reasonably priced site called tnutz. Their prices were much lower than other well-known brands like 8020. So, after careful planning I ordered the pieces and got to work.

    Aluminum parts sorted
    The build went very fast, and everything was quite precise. I was really happy with the process. I've built the frames to be modular (60" wide) so I can reuse them if/when we move as a base for the next layout. Here are some pictures of the assembly and what the room looked like after.
    Legs of the first module
    First frame
    All frames up
    I then got some really nice plywood for the layout base. I added a third shelf to hold the electronics.
    Plywood shelves in
    Here's an overview of the entire room. The loop on the left is the train elevator.
    Full room view

    Comment


      #3
      The pros of aluminum benchwork:
      • Super precise
      • Clean installation
      • Tons of flexibility with attachments
      • Easy wire management
      • Very sturdy
      • Will likely last a very long time
      Cons:
      • Not very flexible - it's an ordeal if you want to make changes to the dimensions
      • Expensive
      • It's not possible to make curved edges - you can probably do it with a flexible fascia and spacers, but at that point you might as well do standard wood benchwork

      Comment


        #4
        Serdar S, your use of aluminium shapes for your benchwork is very interesting. I went a similar way about a year ago with an N scale layout, mainly 18" X 24" square tube with 1" foam in between the frame. the plastic corner joiners didn't provide the rigidity your system provides which turned me off it's more extensive use.
        Another advantage of your benchwork is it's impervious to the seasonal expansions and contractions that wood is susceptible to, particularly if a foam decking is used.
        And thanks for the photo of the train elevator, it answered my question on how you were going to turn trains around.

        Comment


          #5
          That aluminum framework is pretty amazing. I've never seen anything like that. Looking at the RH side of the elevator the strength and stability speaks for itself in the picture. Is there a special way to line up the track there? I'd love to see the drive mechanism that runs the elevator. Really impressive. Thanks for posting the pictures.
          HO Scale

          Comment


            #6
            The elevator was an interesting project. I had a feedback linear actuator that I had from another project and decided to use that and a microcontroller for positioning. Because the linear actuator is able to hold quite a lot of weight itself, there wasn't a need for a counter weight. The t-slotted frames and the sliders also create a very smooth and precise motion.

            The initial design for the elevator frame was this:
            Elevator design #1
            This design didn't work at all. There were two sliders on each leg, but the actuator was in the middle. Even when perfectly positioned at the center, it would bind as soon as there was a slight difference in the movement of the sliders. The way to solve that issue is to use two synchronized actuators for each leg. That would've been overkill in this case, so I decided to try a single shaft design instead, and it ended up working pretty well.
            Elevator final design
            The elevator does wobble slightly as it goes up and down, but not enough to derail anything (even the unweighted, top-heavy hoppers.) Here's a photo of the trials.
            Click image for larger version

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            Once I validated that the mechanism itself worked, next up was building the elevator base and laying down the track.
            Elevator base
            Elevator base in place
            Track being laid
            Once the track was in place, it was time for a real test.
            Testing the elevator

            Comment


              #7
              I've used an Arduino to control the actuator. I had to use a motor shield to do this. I also wanted to have the following buttons:
              • Push buttons for each level
              • Programming button to save a specific position as the up or down button
              • Manual positioning switch
              • On/off switch
              The project started like this. I used this setup to test the code to make sure everything worked as intended.
              Elevator wiring.jpg
              Once I verified everything, I packed everything into a project box. I also printed a faceplate on vinyl sticker sheet.
              Project box
              Wiring the project box
              Faceplate
              I've posted the code for the elevator on GitHub for anyone who's interested.
              SerdarSoysal/TrainElevator: Arduino code for controlling a position feedback linear actuator used for a train elevator on my model railroad. (github.com)

              Comment


                #8
                Here's a video where I talk about how the elevator works and testing with a train.

                Comment


                  #9
                  That elevator is a thing of beauty! Nicely designed and executed.

                  Comment


                  • Serdar S
                    Serdar S commented
                    Editing a comment
                    Thanks Eric. It took A LOT of planning, research, trial and error. I'm happy with it so far.

                  #10
                  Good start!

                  Joe

                  Comment


                    #11
                    Thanks folks.

                    Next project was the LED lighting. I got dimmable high-density LED strips. It was pretty hard to find the right one. There are so many different options, dimmers, power supplies etc. In the end I went with a 24V strip so I wouldn't need repeaters and can do each level in a single run, each with its own dimmer.

                    As I mentioned before, I built the frames to be modular so they can be arranged in a different pattern if/when we move. I wanted to make sure that the lights also will be reusable, so I created a custom length LED strip that matches each frame's width. The strips are connected to each other with pin connectors, so the whole thing can be easily disassembled. I didn't find any channels I liked for the LEDs, so I ordered simple strips of aluminum online, cut to length. The hardest part of the project was figuring out what LED strip to buy and what the compatible dimmers, power supplies would be. I'm happy with the results though.
                    DimmersAluminum bar
                    Prepped to install
                    All lights up

                    Comment


                      #12
                      I can't begin to imagine the hours of research and engineering you have put into this. The elevator is unbelievably impressive for sure. Thanks Serdar for the pics and video.
                      HO Scale

                      Comment


                      • Serdar S
                        Serdar S commented
                        Editing a comment
                        Thanks for the kind words Michael. It's all part of the fun. :-)

                      #13
                      Slow but steady progress due to this summer being busier than anticipated both at home and at work.

                      I have finished the skeleton for one of the two turnouts remaining to complete the loop at the lower level. Once I finish those two, I'll be able to have a 4-track staging loop and able to run trains round and round for fun. After that, I can start working on industries, the engine storage tracks, or the upper level. I placed the turnouts in place today with some scrap track to see how it will look. I have a bad s-curve on the back entrance to the staging loop with tracks coming in from a right-curved turnout leading into two left-curved turnouts. It looks like I'll have enough room to put a 6-8" straight section and gentle enough curves to make this work. On to photos, going from left to right:

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                      I also picked the photo backdrop I wanted and just ordered it. It'll be a single 20' long piece for the lower level. I also ordered styrene sheets that'll be 20' long (in three pieces) from a local plastics store. Once they arrive, I'll be able to mount the backdrop for the lower level. It'll start to look like a railroad more once that's done.

                      Comment


                        #14
                        Originally posted by Serdar S View Post
                        Slow but steady progress due to this summer being busier than anticipated both at home and at work.
                        Slow progress is better than no progress!

                        Originally posted by Serdar S View Post
                        I have a bad s-curve on the back entrance to the staging loop with tracks coming in from a right-curved turnout leading into two left-curved turnouts. It looks like I'll have enough room to put a 6-8" straight section and gentle enough curves to make this work.
                        Do you know what the radius is now?
                        What kind of locos will you be running?
                        How long of trains will you run?
                        Will you be backing through that track a lot?
                        Are your cars weighted more than what comes from the factory?

                        Honestly if the track in question is the rear tracks in the back of this image, I honestly don't think it'll be a problem?
                        If you have room to add some straight sections, go for it.




                        Originally posted by Serdar S View Post
                        I also picked the photo backdrop I wanted and just ordered it. It'll be a single 20' long piece for the lower level. I also ordered styrene sheets that'll be 20' long (in three pieces) from a local plastics store. Once they arrive, I'll be able to mount the backdrop for the lower level. It'll start to look like a railroad more once that's done.
                        Looking forward to seeing this come to fruition!

                        The Little Rock Line Blog

                        Comment


                          #15
                          With curves that broad, Serdar, I too am confident you won't have significant issues arise that typically result from sharp reverse curves too close together. And with 6-8 inches separating such broad curves, I'd think even 89-foot auto racks would be just fine.
                          Paul Schmidt

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