Author Topic: Portola Valley RR  (Read 12798 times)

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Noah Lane

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Portola Valley RR
« on: September 26, 2013, 04:10:23 PM »
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The Portola Valley Railroad is freelanced, but loosely based on various elements of Sonoma County in Northern California.  I got back into model railroading at the beginning of this year, and almost immediately started the layout.  I modeled as a kid, and just now got back into it at age 31. But I never stopped loving trains.  I wanted this layout to touch on all the basics of model railroading, and be a fun and effective learning experience. So far, I think I've been pretty successful with those objectives. Just keep in mind: I'm a total noob.

The basics
Track: Kato Unitrack
Dimensions: 40" x 80"
Turnouts: #4 (for lack of space)
Turnout control: control panel using BCD toggles
Min Mainline Radius: 12 3/8"
Grades: 0%
Control: eventual DCC (currently DC for testing)

I'll provide a quick photo/caption summary of the layout over the past six months that I've been working on it.  And I must reiterate, I am a full green horn, so any suggestions and constructive criticism are welcome. 

Here was the original plan (designed with the help of DKS).  The plan changed has since changed a bit as you will see in the pictures.


I own a small townhome that I bought here in Sacramento. This little 42 X 93” area is my room for a layout.  Pictured is the benchwork material  after ripping the ply.


The benchwork design is based on…. a napkin drawing I came up with during lunch. I think.





« Last Edit: September 26, 2013, 10:04:52 PM by Noah Lane »

Noah Lane

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Re: Portola Valley RR
« Reply #1 on: September 26, 2013, 04:11:33 PM »
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The water feature is supposed to be a river that feeds into the bay. Something like Petaluma, CA.



I ran feeders to every piece of track that was greater than 64mm. What a treat!  14awg solid bus, and 22 awg solid feeders.




The upper portion of the layout started to take shape too.


I procured some structures for the future Wharf scene:


Noah Lane

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Re: Portola Valley RR
« Reply #2 on: September 26, 2013, 04:12:31 PM »
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DKS kindly assisted me again with the graphic for my control panel.  I had a local graphics place print the decal which I applied to 1/8” ABS.


For the controls I used Ray Stilwell’s BCD circuit. Pictured is the mess of wires that I crammed behind the 8 x 10” panel.


Not really knowing how I’d [cleanly] attach the panel to the fascia, I built a small frame and figured something would work out.


Oh, and I had to try my hand at fascia as well.


I used some of the wood for the panel frame to make mounts on the fascia.


The finished panel


Noah Lane

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Re: Portola Valley RR
« Reply #3 on: September 26, 2013, 04:13:46 PM »
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Finished front fascia w/ panel


Over the past couple weeks, I have been working on the rear fascia


I painted it just a few nights ago



Close up of my tunnel access holes


This is roughly how the top of the layout sits now. My next projects will focus on scenery and structures.


Philip H

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Re: Portola Valley RR
« Reply #4 on: September 26, 2013, 04:32:14 PM »
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Very nice.  The fascia sets it off well, and the control panel is compact and really functional.  Once you pick a DCC system, it look easy enough to get an opening for the interface panel.  Given your  geography, wil you do big time western roads, or something smaller ala the Sacramento Northern?
Philip H.
Chief Everything Officer
Baton Rouge Southern RR - Mount Rainier Division.

"Yes there are somethings that are "off;" but hey, so what." ~ Wyatt

"I'm trying to have less cranial rectal inversion with this." - Ed K.

"There's more to MRR life than the Wheezy & Nowheresville." C855B

Noah Lane

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Re: Portola Valley RR
« Reply #5 on: September 26, 2013, 04:39:14 PM »
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Here's a quick bit on my inspiration for the freelanced Portola Valley RR:

My first model railroad show as an adult was the World's Greatest Hobby show in Sacramento (January 2013).  Seeing Robert Ray's Z-Scale modules made me want to model a wharf scene. As you can see why. Obviously, mine won't be nearly this cool. But a guy can dream, right?





Petaluma, CA is a town that has elements very similar to what I envision for the Portola Valley RR. You can kind of see that in these pictures:




My family lives here, in Capitola, California. There is a main road called Portola Avenue, which is mostly where I came up with the name.


Sacramento is my hometown, and current place of residence. It has a gang of railroad history, and also provides some ideas. Pictured below are some cell phone pics (actually all of these are shot with my phone) of Old Sacramento.






Noah Lane

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Re: Portola Valley RR
« Reply #6 on: September 26, 2013, 04:54:52 PM »
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Very nice.  The fascia sets it off well, and the control panel is compact and really functional.  Once you pick a DCC system, it look easy enough to get an opening for the interface panel.  Given your  geography, wil you do big time western roads, or something smaller ala the Sacramento Northern?

Thank you!

I'll likely run the bigger western roads -but really anything goes. I do own some Sacramento Northern equipment. Since it's my first layout returning to the hobby, I'm not trying to confine myself to a prototype. I view this layout as more of a stepping stone for learning techniques. And there has been a crap-ton to learn!

Perhaps my next layout will be based on a specific prototype. The idea that Portola Valley is in Sonoma County is more of a basis for the landscape elements.


Noah Lane

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Re: Portola Valley RR
« Reply #7 on: October 15, 2013, 03:01:44 AM »
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Finished my first couple of M.C. Fujiwara speaker wire oak trees:


Temporarily placed this one. As you can see in this harsh [natural] light, I have some poly fiber showing that needs to be addressed. And when I choose its final location, I will plant the roots, and add soil & static grass.


During the week I ballasted into my tunnel portals. The purpose of this was so I could secure the hill/tunnel structure over the track. This ballast can barely be seen; but for the rest of the trackage, I plan to paint the rails, use a less-uniform ballast, and then apply wash to 'dirty' up the ROW.


In this shot you see the tunnel/hill structure (back-center-left) that has been glued down over the track. I know this layout engineering thread hasn't been going on for long, but this was a bit of milestone for me.  You can also see that I slapped down the first layer of earth/turf texture at the front-left of the layout. I will apply static grass later on.



The most important thing is that this layout has brought me tons of stoke. I've only been back into the hobby for nine months (the lift of this layout), but it's been everything I'd hoped for and more!

-Noah

« Last Edit: October 15, 2013, 03:06:15 AM by Noah Lane »

Chris333

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Re: Portola Valley RR
« Reply #8 on: October 15, 2013, 03:46:36 AM »
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Now you need to get Microtrains to produce all those building kits in N scale instead of just Z.

GaryHinshaw

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Re: Portola Valley RR
« Reply #9 on: October 15, 2013, 04:42:26 AM »
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Nice progress!  Regarding the oak, it may be the lighting in the photo, but I would be inclined to make the foliage a darker green, and maybe a little less dense, rather than more.  I'd also try to make the bark a bit darker, and not run it so high into the head of the tree (though that is mostly hidden).  I have this set of MC's shots in mind:

https://www.therailwire.net/forum/index.php?topic=28047.msg311331#msg311331

It's way better than any tree I have made though!

Noah Lane

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Re: Portola Valley RR
« Reply #10 on: October 15, 2013, 12:38:04 PM »
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Now you need to get Microtrains to produce all those building kits in N scale instead of just Z.

No kidding!  It's a shame there aren't more cool wharf structures available in N Scale. As proven in those modules, a wharf can be such a cool scene to model!  I haven't developed much skills or vision for scratch building yet. But I think that skill is a must for a truly great N Scale wharf scene.

Nice progress!  Regarding the oak, it may be the lighting in the photo, but I would be inclined to make the foliage a darker green, and maybe a little less dense, rather than more.  I'd also try to make the bark a bit darker, and not run it so high into the head of the tree (though that is mostly hidden).  I have this set of MC's shots in mind:

https://www.therailwire.net/forum/index.php?topic=28047.msg311331#msg311331

It's way better than any tree I have made though!

Thank you and I do appreciate the constructive criticism. 

The shots do make it look brighter green than they are in person, however I agree that a darker green would look better. Unfortunately, the light was all I had on hand. I'll need to buy some darker green ground foam. 

The bark color was also limited with the spray paint I had on hand, but again, I agree that it should be darker. 

As for lowering the trunk (or raising the branches above the top of the trunk), this is a must.  Managing the twisting of wires is trickier than it might seem.  And time consuming like a mo fo!  The branches seem to get more confusing to sculpt toward the top of the tree.  However, I think it's just one of those things that comes with time.  Keep in mind, I've literally only made two trees before this using Woodland Scenics plastic armatures. They came out crappy, as I used wayyy too much poly fiber.

GaryHinshaw

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Re: Portola Valley RR
« Reply #11 on: October 15, 2013, 12:49:47 PM »
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As for lowering the trunk (or raising the branches above the top of the trunk), this is a must.  Managing the twisting of wires is trickier than it might seem.  And time consuming like a mo fo! 

This is the part that scares me.  I'm going to need quite a few, and I want them to be showpieces.  I'll be re-viewing MC's how-to video myself when that time comes.

Looking forward to more of your updates.

JMaurer1

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Re: Portola Valley RR
« Reply #12 on: October 22, 2013, 03:57:05 PM »
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Great start. We should get together some time since I model the NorthWestern Pacific (although currently I'm building NTrak modules) and live in the Sacramento area (Loomis actually). The NTrak group I'm in meets once a month at my house, maybe you can come during a work session or some other time. LMK...

Jeff Maurer
Sacramento Valley NTrak
Sacramento Valley NTrak

Bsklarski

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Re: Portola Valley RR
« Reply #13 on: October 22, 2013, 04:33:59 PM »
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That layout is awesome! More pictures when you can. Just one thing, ditch that center connector on the bridge, US bridges dont have them
Brian Sklarski
Engineer, New England Central Railroad

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Boston-Maine-Conn-River-Line/173358446076160

Noah Lane

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Re: Portola Valley RR
« Reply #14 on: October 22, 2013, 11:29:17 PM »
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Jeff- definitely! I have no model railroading friends  :oops: lol. But really, I do would want to get into a club, and the Sacramento N-Trak club is probably the most appropriate for my location/interest. I'm not sure that my skills are up to par, but I'd give it a go.

Brian- Thanks man! So you think get rid of the center bridge pier?  It's funny, I have currently another thread going on in the N-Scale forum asking that very question. I have no attachment to it, I was just waiting to hear what is prototypical.

I always keep up to date photos on my thread.  I have a thread on The Whistle Post (Under N-Scale > Unitrack > "New Guy's Thread"). I started it when I had only been back into MRR'ing for a couple weeks.