Author Topic: Allegheny Eastern: Design Evolution  (Read 8070 times)

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kelticsylk

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Allegheny Eastern: Design Evolution
« on: February 22, 2012, 05:23:35 PM »
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Since I'm new here I thought I should introduce the layout I've been working on for several years. The Allegheny Eastern is the first "real" layout I've constructed since I was nine years old. Most of the attempts since were Christmas layouts or dioramas. I did start a couple of small operating layouts featuring short mining branches, but lost interest. I wasn't that they didn't operate well or provide some entertainment. It was more that they weren't railroads the way I remembered them. Growing up along the four track mainline of the Pennsylvania leaves quite an impression. It's not that I'm snobbish or anything. It's just that after you've spent some time watching GG1's and E44's highballing along the what they now call the "Northeast Corridor" anything less just doesn't seem the same. Electric railroading so dominated the Philadelphia area that I really didn't get close to any other kind of road engine until I was an adult with children. The only other locomotives I saw to that point were working for the Strasburg. There was an occasional glimpse of Reading hood units from the EL train, but Heavy electrics were a way of life.

You would think that I would lean toward reproducing the railroad of my youth with my first real layout. Not so. I think I burned out on all those GG1's flashing by hauling endless trains. Instead I focused on the part of the Pennsylvania I did not visit till long after Conrail. I had read about the Pennsy Middle Division and Altoona in the model magazines and wanted to see it but never got the chance until Altoona was a mere shadow of its former self. To see the place after most of it had been razed or torn up was heartbreaking to a train fan. I think that's a major reason the Allegheny Eastern is modeled after the Altoona-Gallitzin section of the mainline. I'm recreating something I missed.

I think I started on the project in 2009, about 50 odd years after I saw my first Model Railroader magazine. I came to the realization one day that our new home had a two car garage that would be a great place for a train layout. I had recently been hospitalized for a quadruple bypass and found myself with some time on my hands. I had been building virtual rail models for several years, but after the surgery it was hard to spend long hours sitting in front of computers. I need something a bit more "active". I started building some models in S scale but soon realized that these would be too big to create the layout that was beginning to take shape in my imagination.

Most of the work to date has been the evolution of the track plan. I say "evolution" because I did not work from detailed plans drawn up ahead of time. Instead I worked with the actual benchwork and track, somewhat in the way you might work with sectional track on a cardtable (do they still make those?). I kept trying different things, building and rebuilding what I didn't want. Not the best way to approach the subject, but one that worked for me.

This was the original concept...A two level Z scale layout with Horseshoe Curve modeled as close as possible to scale size.



I used a track planning software called 3D trains to create a digital mockup. It looked like it might work. I could model The Curve full size in Z scale (about 5 feet across). Alas it was not to be...I found out that A) Z scale is quite expensive, and B) about the only Pennsy units available were F7's. Scratchbuilding or kitbashing equipment seemed unreasonable to me. I am much older and the eyes can't see well enough to work on such tiny models. HO scale was out of the question. It was only a bit smaller than S and there was not enough space to do what I wanted to do. I compromised on N scale when I realized that I could model Horseshoe Curve "half size" in a five foot space. I adopted the 3D plan to 1:160 and it was off to the races. I started to build the layout of my dreams.

Not quite...After several build, rebuilds, modifications, false starts and God knows what else (including a tri-level version). The Allegheny Eastern reached this configuration by April of 2010...



It had most of the features I wanted. A token representation of Altoona (there really is no way to accurately model Altoona, even in Z scale you need a city block), Horseshoe Curve, and the helper loop at Gallitzin. I was even able to split the freight and passenger mains through Altoona yard. At the time I was contemplating a helix to bring trains back down to Altoona from the dizzying heights (6 inches) at Gallitzin. This took up a ton of space and meant that the hoped for East Altoona service facilities would require an extension. I ran trains for a while and continued to mull over design ideas in my head.

Up until this point the layout used half the garage. There was still some space to use as a garage like storing mowers, fix the car, park the motorcycle etc. I had built the bench work high enough so that most of the storage containers we used to have on shelving were now under the layout. This storage "design parameter" was written in stone and could not be revoked. The resulting tabletop construction created a number of challenges I had yet to solve. That helix required raised roadbed and there was no open frame to facilitate this. Without the helix the westbound run between Gallitzin and Altoona was too short for what I had in mind.

I spent the next month revising the layout by adding an extension into the unused portion of the garage. I have my priorities. The motorcycle would just have to stay outside!



I swung Gallitzin 180 degrees onto new 5' x 8' bench work. At the same time I built a bookcase on the other side of the layout so I could widen the Altoona yard by another foot. I still had plans to install a helix but that would still entail elevating all of the track except Altoona to reach a 6" elevation. In the meantime trains had a longer level run westbound between Gallitzin and Altoona. I still hadn't come up with a good solution for Altoona yard or the East Altoona engine facilities.

It took a while and a bit of searching (interrupted by period of doldrums) but I came up with some solutions. By November of 2011 the layout plan had morphed again.



Unlike all previous drafts, I actually worked this out on paper before building (more like rebuilding). I had fouund space for East Altoona and some semblance of a yard. I had also figured out the grades on the layout. To drop the 6 inches from the west end of Gallitzin to the east end of Altoona on a 1.5 % (or less) grade would require a two loop helix using 30 inch minimum radius curves. This was fantastic! The helix would double the mainline run from 2 scale miles to 4! It would also use up a lot space on the layout. The helix could also be used as a kind of staging area. Four tracks and 60 some feet can hold more than a few N scale trains.

If there was any huge problem with the new revision it was that operations would be all mainline running. The only possibility for switching would be in the yard area. Even with the possibility of staging trains, I would essentially be watching trains "loop the loop". I was also unhappy with the curves on the layout. They didn't "feel" right. I started to sketch up some alternative ideas.

To make a long story hardly any shorter the current layout looks like this (almost)...



I realigned all the track for more graceful curves and easements. It "flows" better, if that's the right way of putting it. The tracks was also elevated using a method I tripped over by accident. I eliminated the helix altogether and in its place created what I'm calling Blair Furnace. In this area I interconnected several branchlines and a traction system. There are plans for a few "real" industries but most of the operations on these interconnections use John Armstrongs "loads in / empties out" scenario. Usually used for coal trains I discovered it can be applied to just about any type of freight car.

There is also a branch that represents the New Portage "cutoff" just east of Tunnel Hill. Although not shown on the plan, this branch is actually a loop connected to the team track siding at the west end of Gallitzin. The real New Portage branch connected to Duncannon and Hollidaysburg as part of a low grade route from Altoona. Its connections at Tunnel Hill were all on the east slope. I had to use some poetic license and moved the eastbound connection to the west slope. The team track and the other sidings in Gallitzin were actually used for coke ovens back in the day, so I didn't have to stretch reality more that a tad to model them.

One of the other branches modeled is the Glen White Coal and Lumber connection at Burgoon Run. This track appears in quite a few photos of Horseshoe Curve. The siding ran to some coke ovens fed by the Glen White's narrow gauge mining railroad. There were actually more sidings on either side of Kittinning point for much the same reason, but I could not reasonably incorporate more than the one. The real Glen White owned one narrow gauge Shay locomotive. On the Allegheny Eastern it's a standard gauge Atlas model.

I also modeled the long defunct Altoona Northern, known to locals as the Wopsy for the resort it was built to serve. The company went through several reorganizations and name changes and eventually became the Altoona Northern. It connected to the Pennsy at Juniata. The road was narrow gauge but was rebuilt to standard gauge in an attempt to make it a bridge line between the PRR at Altoona and the New York Central at Patton PA. It never happened. On the layout the Altoona Northern may or may not have a connection to the NYC. When the track was re-gauged the motive power was Pennsy F class Moguls. They couldn't negotiate the curves and grades and were replaced by Heislers.  N scale Heislers being hard to came by, on the layout it currently has one Fairbanks Morse 12-44 switcher.

The last part of the Blair Furnace interconnection is the Altoona and Logan Valley. This traction system ran all over the Altoona-Juniata area and was the main transportation for PRR employees here for decades. At one time it ran as far as Hollidaysburg and Tyrone. I only model the Altoona area of the line.

The Blair Furnace and Altoona yard areas are still under development. Once again I'm laying track to see what works and updating the track plan to match. It's a "bass ackwards" way of doing things, but it works for me.

Thanks for your time,
Frank Musick

GaryHinshaw

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Re: Allegheny Eastern: Design Evolution
« Reply #1 on: February 22, 2012, 06:47:08 PM »
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That's a heck of a plan Frank, thanks for posting it.  I'm not familiar enough with the historical trackage on the east slope to comment on your scheme, but you should find plenty of Pennsy pundits here able to provide expert feedback, should you desire it.

What is the scale of this plan, e.g. the grid spacing?  Do you have a way to access the rather complicated trackage in the middle of the big peninsula?  That seems like a concern to me.

Cheers,
Gary

wm3798

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Re: Allegheny Eastern: Design Evolution
« Reply #2 on: February 22, 2012, 06:49:54 PM »
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There's a lot of hard to reach trackage and/or the need for a lot of "pop ups".  It won't be long before you hate yourself for some of that...

Looks like you're stuffing 10 lbs of railroad into a 5 lb room...  (I got about 8 lbs into my 5 lb room, so I speak from experience!

Lee
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kelticsylk

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Re: Allegheny Eastern: Design Evolution
« Reply #3 on: February 22, 2012, 07:57:10 PM »
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What is the scale of this plan, e.g. the grid spacing?  Do you have a way to access the rather complicated trackage in the middle of the big peninsula?  That seems like a concern to me.

Cheers,
Gary

There's a lot of hard to reach trackage and/or the need for a lot of "pop ups".  It won't be long before you hate yourself for some of that...

Looks like you're stuffing 10 lbs of railroad into a 5 lb room...  (I got about 8 lbs into my 5 lb room, so I speak from experience!

Lee

The grid is misleading. The plan is actually out of scale as I discovered today when I tried to get some overall dimensions. Having said that, you are correct. The twin tunnels and the trackage left of them cannot be reached from the aisleway. Currently I'm accessing that area by means of an opening just left of Gallitzin Tunnel. The layout is about 51 inches above the garage floor. Most of the track can be reached from the aisle using a footstool.

Things are actually a bit "roomier" than the plan suggests and no longer as complicated. This is a photo of Blair Furnace on the layout. You can see the access opening next to Gallitzin Tunnel in the background.

The trolley loop ends where it ends because I ran out of track. You can see it's now opposite of what the plan shows.

This is a shot toward the access opening just left of Gallitzin Tunnel. The siding / branch curves around the opening towards the camera. We are essentially looking at the back of mountains in these images. The real summit is about 800 feet above railhead. That would be 5 feet if I thought I could pull that off, but I;m pretty sure the garage door would never open again. I'll have to settle for 24-30 inches.


I'm working on creating a scale plan using CAD software. Currently plans are drawn with Microsoft Visio more for illustration purposes than actual working drawings.

John

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Re: Allegheny Eastern: Design Evolution
« Reply #4 on: February 22, 2012, 09:08:56 PM »
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I'm a bit concerned with the way you are using the foam for the sub-roadbed. I know WS sells this, but it's hard to get level when cutting from insulation sheets ..  and laying it on end like you are is bound to cause problems stability wise ..

kelticsylk

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Re: Allegheny Eastern: Design Evolution
« Reply #5 on: February 22, 2012, 11:19:03 PM »
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I'm a bit concerned with the way you are using the foam for the sub-roadbed. I know WS sells this, but it's hard to get level when cutting from insulation sheets ..  and laying it on end like you are is bound to cause problems stability wise ..

So far it seems pretty stable. The garage has no heat or air conditioning. The temperature and humidity here swings rather quickly and often but I've had no issues (yet).  All the elevated roadbed is actually laminated from 1/2" thick extruded foam which is structurally quite different from the foam used by Woodland Scenics. It's more rigid for one. The cells are small and closed and not as "spongy"as the "readi-made" white roadbed. At $12 per 4'x8' sheet it also more economical. It will also hold track nails to some extent and is dense enough that I can use drywall screws to hold laminations together while the glue dries.

On the branches you see in the photos the roadbed is two pieces standing on edge about 1" across, just wide enough to support the Woodland Scenics ballast strip. The mainline is built up of eight pieces resulting in a mass of styrofoam about 4" across. Here's a photo of the roadbed crosssection in Gallitzin. It's about a half inch thick here, sloping down to a feather edge several feet away.



All these laminated "plys" are glued to each other and to the table top which is also a 1/2" layer of foam. The whole thing sits on a plywood subtop supported by 2" x 4" inch "stringers" spaced 12" apart. You can stand on it.

Each piece of roadbed in an area is cut to match it's adjacent piece. It's kind of like make spline roadbed but using styrofoam instead of wood. The grade is built into the roadbed as it's cut, resulting in long triangles of foam resembling ramps.  Once the glue sets up on a section (I usually wait at least 24 hours) I then use a razor saw and level to scrape the roadbed cross section wise. It's not nearly the amount of work creating a wooden spline would be.

The finished product can also support quite a bit of weight. Before I realized I could use drywall screws to hold it in place I was holding it down with coffee cans full of 1/2" bolts. I'm not sure what they weigh, but I have trouble picking them up.

Frank Musick


Scottl

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Re: Allegheny Eastern: Design Evolution
« Reply #6 on: February 23, 2012, 07:02:28 AM »
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Thanks for the details on the foam risers.  Ambitious layout, but I like it a lot.

kelticsylk

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Re: Allegheny Eastern: Design Evolution
« Reply #7 on: February 23, 2012, 12:18:15 PM »
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Thanks for the details on the foam risers.  Ambitious layout, but I like it a lot.

I have a nasty habit of doing things this way...My first wood working project was a kitchen remodel (including wall framing, removing a supporting wall and building the cabinets and tops. There were several "revisions". Only took a decade or so. Can't say it was the most beautiful kitchen in the world, but I sure learned a lot. We sold that house years ago.

Like that kitchen, the layout has gone through several incarnations since the project was started. I have literally built and torn down several different layouts on the way to what you see in these photos. The first few attempts make this version look like a work of art.

The foam roadbed turned out to have another advantage. The section in the detail is actually being reused. It was created for a different alignment in the same area created in January...



At that time only the eastbound mainline between the numbers 0 and 2.25 was elevated so that the New Portage branch could pass under at the bridge. It went up to 1.5" at the bridge and back down to 0 just before entering Horseshoe Curve. It was during this "phase" that I discovered I could make spline roadbed out of styrofoam. That prompted me to undertake elevating the entire route except Altoona. The plan shown here was created when I was figuring out the grades to start the elevation.

Anyway, not only was I able to reuse the roadbed, I was able to curve it to a new radius! I think the fact that it is laminated from 1/2" strips is part of this "reusability". I think the other factor is the glue I use...Aileens Tacky Glue...It's flexible after it dries. It is also a lot cheaper than the foam glue from a certain model railroad scenery company. Cost is a big factor in anything used on the Allegheny Eastern. The roads operating budget is pretty low. I try to never pay top price for anything unless absolutely necessary. I purchase equipment second hand and reuse everything I can to keep the cost down. The DCC system I use is an earlier generation Atlas/Lenz product. Even some of my DCC decoders are second hand. So far the largest expenditure on the layout is the code 55 flex track. I haven't found a way to cut that expense yet, but I'm always looking. I'm pretty sure I will be fabricating most of the turnouts for the layout. The factory products are getting too expensive.

Frank Musick

Scottl

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Re: Allegheny Eastern: Design Evolution
« Reply #8 on: February 23, 2012, 01:29:35 PM »
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I'm a big fan of organic layout development.  I use software to design it, but once it is being built, I find I need to move things around, especially in yards.  Foam is very forgiving of this process.  Still, I admire the beautiful benchwork some people can do in wood.

Clever to laminate thinner foam for the risers- like the spline roadbed some people make out of wood (or that old-school homastote stuff).

kelticsylk

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Re: Allegheny Eastern: Design Evolution
« Reply #9 on: February 23, 2012, 05:22:13 PM »
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I'm a big fan of organic layout development.  I use software to design it, but once it is being built, I find I need to move things around, especially in yards.  Foam is very forgiving of this process.  Still, I admire the beautiful benchwork some people can do in wood.

Clever to laminate thinner foam for the risers- like the spline roadbed some people make out of wood (or that old-school homastote stuff).

I really cannot develop a model railroad or anything  else for that matter on a drawing. I have to work with the actual "stuff" so I can see where it is actually going. It's ironic really, because my first career was draftsman. 15 years of making scale drawings with the last few spent using CAD systems. For me personally however it doesn't work. I just can't visualize things properly.

I also think the craftsmanship in other layouts is beautiful. I just can't justify in my own case. I'm not sure that cabinet quality construction is as necessary as we have been "taught" for benchwork. It certainly isn't used in commercial kitchen cabinets. Usually only the face frames, drawers and doors are "good" wood. Most of the time the rest is flakeboard. Even in the better stuff the carcass is plywood. It seems a little like building the frame of a house with finished wood. The frame can be rough as long as it's structurally sound. The better quality wood and workmanship are used for the finishing. I plan to finish the layout with nice fascia boards and drapes to cover the storage, but the grunt work is done by 2" x 4" pine. The only concession I have made to "finished" with the frame work is black paint.

I had actually tried wooden splines early on, I made them from parts I purchased at the home center.

The spline rails are made lattice molding like they used to use to make window screens and such. You can get it in pine and also in that plastic foam they make now. The little blocks took forever to set up and cut. I also ran out of clamps and had to wait for the glue to dry before moving to a new section. To support the four track mainline required three rails and a kjillion wood blocks so it gets pretty expensive pretty quickly for a project like this. It does create nice curve easements automatically if you let it bend the way it wants to.

The styrofoam does much the same job but works better on a closed table top. It also goes much faster. Since I can use drywall screws as clamps I never run out. You can buy a lot of drywall screws for the cost of a clamp. You can lay down quite a lot of roadbed in a short time. It also creates easements on its own if you let it.

Frank

John

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Re: Allegheny Eastern: Design Evolution
« Reply #10 on: February 23, 2012, 07:53:39 PM »
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I use foam also, but not for the mains .. in my steel mill area, the entire roadbed for the high line is 1 inch foam, hot glued .. but you do have to support it for stability .. I don't think i would do the hole layout with  it .. but lets see how it works out ..  worst case, you rip it out ..

kelticsylk

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Re: Allegheny Eastern: Design Evolution
« Reply #11 on: February 24, 2012, 11:14:52 AM »
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I use foam also, but not for the mains .. in my steel mill area, the entire roadbed for the high line is 1 inch foam, hot glued .. but you do have to support it for stability .. I don't think i would do the hole layout with  it .. but lets see how it works out ..  worst case, you rip it out ..

It won't be the first time I tore it all up...There is one place in Blair Furnace where roadbed spans openings in the tabletop.

I put the cart ahead of the horse and ran the roadbed BEFORE I finished the top to support it. The foam has little stability side to side but does support itself vertically. It might actually take the weight of an N scale train, but I'm not willing to find out.  The cars never survive the scale 500 foot fall to the unforgiving concrete below. I'd hate to think what it would do to my Atlas Shay.

I intend to insert additional support under this stretch, just haven't gotten to it yet.

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Re: Allegheny Eastern: Design Evolution
« Reply #12 on: February 26, 2012, 02:57:12 AM »
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Are you using 2X4's for cost or something else? They are kinda overkill for benchwork.
I WANNA SEE THE BOAT MOVIE!

kelticsylk

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Re: Allegheny Eastern: Design Evolution
« Reply #13 on: February 26, 2012, 11:05:15 AM »
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Are you using 2X4's for cost or something else? They are kinda overkill for benchwork.

Strictly cost. I also recycle construction materials. The two factors combined in building the benchwork. The garage walls were lined with shelves for storage and they were all made from 2 x 4 lumber. One of the design parameters of the layout was being able to move all that "stuff" under the layout. I built the benchwork from the lumber I salvaged from the shelves and then stored everything below the layout tables.
The bookcase "extension" under Altoona yard was built from existing bookcases laid on their side and more recycled lumber. Only the plywood subtop and styrofoam were purchased and they only cost about $12 a sheet.

Some of the 2x4s used for the shelves were recycled form earlier projects, which in turn was recycled from still earlier work. It's quite possible some of that wood has "been in the family" for decades.

The entire model railroad is being built on a shoestring. Most of the rolling stock and locomotive roster is recycled second hand equipment. The biggest expenditure has been for track, which is purchased new, but even that is reused from incarnation to incarnation. That's one reason I fasten the track with nails. On the first attempt I used silicone to fasten the track to the roadbed. I had to throw away a lot of track that got damaged when I tried to pull it up.

The track will be fastened down permanently, but only after I'm sure I'm satisfied with the track plan.

Frank Musick

John

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Re: Allegheny Eastern: Design Evolution
« Reply #14 on: February 26, 2012, 11:53:58 AM »
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!nnothing wrong with reuse... I have some stuff in my layout from o p layouts and old 2track modules groom 97 when  I was in mares