We decided to use Atlas Code 83 flex track nailed in place with Atlas track nails. Brian S. led the track crew. Track laying started with the mainline along the west wall. It didn’t take long to get a fair portion of the mainline from the upper level of the peninsula to the north end of the main yard laid, about 70′. A test was made using a rather inexpensive passenger coach with plastic wheels to see how well the track was laid. It was given just a slight nudge at the top of the grade and then it rolled all the way to the other side of the layout without a hiccup. It would have gone further but it ran out of track.
Some of that track required a bit of adjustment to straighten it. The track had been laid straight initially so we suspect that humidity changes caused the benchwork to shrink a wee bit. Interestingly, that has been the only incident of track warping that we have had on the entire layout.
Brian has a rather unique method of joining flex track sections. The usual method is to remove a couple of ties and replace them later, but Brian’s method doesn’t require the removal of any ties. His method involves removing some of the tie plates and a bit of material under the rails, but the ties stay.
Here is a picture of how he has prepared the end of a section of flex track for joining:
The turnouts came next. After some debate we settled on using Atlas Code 83 #4 and #6 turnouts with a few Peco Electrofrog curved turnouts where they were needed. This was prior to Atlas releasing their curved turnouts, but the geometry of the Peco turnouts worked better for us regardless. All of the turnouts had jumpers installed between the point rails and the closure rails, and from the closure rails to the stock rails. Some would say that adding the jumpers was not necessary, but we wanted to ensure that the turnouts would operate reliably for years to come. The clubhouse environment isn’t the greatest and heaven knows how much dust we will generate finishing the layout. The jumpers eliminate any problems that dust and corrosion might cause over time. The turnout frogs are live and they are controlled by the Tortoise machines.
Here is a picture of the jumpers installed and the green wire that feeds the frog. Note that slots have to be cut into the cork roadbed to provide clearance for the jumpers to move or they will jam the point rails:
While all of the track and turnouts were being installed on the top of the layout, our Master Electrician, Dave, and several others were busy under the layout installing the myriad of wires needed to make the layout work. The first wires installed were the bus wires that feed the track. The bus wires are 12 ga. and 14 ga. twin wires that follow the track pattern under the layout. Track feeder wires are installed between the rails and the bus wires every three ft. or so. Care has to be taken to keep the polarities correct. We messed that up a couple of times. 😉
There are other bus wire systems as well. There is a system that provides communication to the track for controlling the locomotives, and there is a system supplying power to the Tortoise switch machines. Another system will provide power to all the accessories like street lights and building lighting, and eventually there will be a bus dedicated to providing power to the signal system.
To give you an idea of how complex the wiring is, each of the 100 or so Tortoise switch machines will have a minimum of five wires and as many as eight wires connected to them. That’s just to control the turnouts!
Next installment: Running some trains (finally!!)