Here’s an interesting old photo I picked up last week – a CRNW train leaving the Cordova depot. For those who don’t know, the Cordova depot was located at the bottom of the hill on the south end of First Street. Hand-written notes on the back of the image indicate this is August 8, 1913.
There’s a couple interesting items in this photo. The first and most obvious is the fact the fourth car back from the engine appears to be a house. Zooming in, it appears that the CRNW is moving some sort of structure north on a depressed-center flatcar, and notes on the back call it a “house”.
Other interesting bits are the two GATX tank cars immediately behind the engine, which were used to deliver fuel oil to Kennecott. I wish I could see the number on the rear car, but at least this confirms the CRNW tank cars were GATX. Then behind the house on the flat are six of the 20t Western air dump cars loaded with what appears to be gravel. My guess is that this is gravel from the pit on the north side of the Odiak Slough and the yard being moved up the line for filling trestles and shoring up the early track.
Also of interest is the Cordova station sign. It shows “TO WHARF 1.3 MI”, which makes perfect sense given that the wharf is the end of track. However, on the other side, it shows “TO CHITINA 129.4 MI”. It’s interesting in that this shows the railroad, at least when it was painting this sign, still viewed Chitina as a junction between the railroad’s main line (Cordova to Chitina, with future expansion northward) and a branch over to Kennecott.
Now that the fascia is all there, it’s time to start mounting control panels. This is one of those things I’ve been agonizing about for some time. My traditional method involves printed track diagrams sandwiched between two pieces of acrylic and bolted into the fascia. I’ve never liked it, because inevitably the acrylic gets scratched or cracks, the print on the paper fades or the paper yellows, and they’re just a pain the butt to actually build because of all the cutting and drilling that must be done precisely.
Michael came up with a novel idea when I was visiting ISE World Headquarters a few weeks back. Basically the whole thing is 3D printed, and the track and lettering is printed using a different filament color. We don’t have a Prusa i3 with the multi-material upgrade yet (it apparently shipped today), so filament changes are currently handled manually. However, the holes are just made as part of manufacturing, and since the track and lettering is literally molded into the panel as part of the print process, it’s almost indestructable.
Here’s the Chokosna lumber reload spur panel…
Right now, we’re printing them using white and “glint grey” PLA on a textured Prusa bed to give it a finished texture. The indicator LEDs (amber for turnout position, white for timelocks, other colors to come…) are 3mm pre-wired LEDs I found on Amazon.
This thing is actually starting to look like a proper layout rather than just a bunch of track on 3/4″ plywood cookie cutter. At 22:30 Friday night, I joined the upper deck fascia. The lower deck took just a bit longer – 14:00 on Saturday afternoon – because I needed to wait on some brackets to print. With that, the layout fascia is complete and I can move on to cleaning up the room, finishing electrical, and starting to shape in the terrain.
As long-time readers (or others who know me) know, I have a bit of a fascination with layout lighting and making it part of the overall operating day experience. Plus, it’s easier to work on a layout – either from a construction, detailing, or operations standpoint – when there’s excellent lighting. So in today’s post, we’re going to look at what I settled on for lighting the Copper River.
One thing that’s never been quite clear to me is how folks attach fascia board to open grid benchwork in a secure way, such that it’s solid enough to support the weight of an operator who stumbles, yet there’s enough room behind it for the mounting of controls and some modest wiring. If you just screw it straight into the front of the grid, it’s solid but there’s no room for switches and wiring. If you mount it on some standoff wooden blocks, there’s room behind, but has a lot of flex to it. Plus that’s a lot of standoff blocks to cut.
Then I realized I have a 3D printer and this seems like an excellent way to solve the problem – printed standoff brackets.
In addition to track power, which is something most of us have provided by our DC throttles or DCC systems, most of us have a ton of accessories. That can be as basic as things like switch machines or a hodge-podge of building lights, animated features, signals, sound modules, etc. Nearly every single one of those is going to have its own requirements in terms of voltages, currents, etc. Most layouts I’ve ever been on solve this by a maze of power strips, wall warts, battery packs, and old DC power packs repurposed once the owner converted to DCC. It’s a mess.
As an electrical engineer, some things about how people build layouts bug me far more than they should. Messy, disorganized power systems are definitely at the top of the list. I thought I’d give you a look at how power is distributed around my layout to run everything that’s not the track.
So I sketched out the first track plan for my modern day CR&NW on July 31, 2013. On Sunday evening, May 10, 2020 at about 7:45pm, I finished the very last section of main track, connecting the engine facilities and lower yard at Cordova with the outgoing mainline to Eyak and points northeast.
That sounds like an awful progress rate, and it is, but in there I’ve also started a successful side company, managed many of the technical aspects of a $5B merger between two huge global companies (one of which is my day job), dealt with my father’s passing with all the associated estate work and helping my mother to be on her own, and remodeled my entire house. So my personal life hasn’t exactly been slow either.
Fortunately, unlike many of my co-workers, I’m a natural hermit and this “stay at home” stuff has been tremendous for my personal productivity. Not only have I completed the mainline and all of the Cordova yard/dock facilities, but I’ve installed lighting on about half the lower deck and a third of the upper deck, started installing upper fascia, and am now starting to get all the switch machines installed.
That’s not to say all trackwork is done. I have some work left to go on the yard tracks at Chitina and I need to install the enginehouse track at McCarthy. But that’s all pretty minor. It’s just that it’s waiting on a few more turnouts to show up, given the current scarcity of Atlas #7 rights.
In honor of the main line being completed, here’s a shot from my collection of the real CR&NW’s main line back in the early days of the railroad. My guess on era would be 1916-1920 based on other photos in the same group. As to location? Somwhere between Miles Glacier and (probably) Tiekel.
One of the photos I’ve recently acquired is this view of a train approaching the Miles Glacier bridge from the east. It would appear to be a work train that’s returning from carrying ballast, given it consists entirely of the railroad’s Western side-dump gravel cars and a spreader on the back just ahead of the caboose.
Another thing to note is the trestle wye at the east end of the bridge. Most people don’t realize there was a wye here, completely up on trestlework. I also find it interesting that I can’t see the Miles Glacier station at the west end of the bridge, but it may be just out of the photographer’s field view.
Believe it or not, I’ve actually made progress again. I have a near-final design for the Cordova main yard and have started actually putting down track.
Don’t believe me? Here’s a picture! The barge slip will be to the left, the front half of the engine shop is represented by the eSun plastic box, and the main classification yard will be in the lower right. At the rear will be four storage tracks for ore trains and passenger equipment between runs.
As usual, nothing’s easy. I just ordered every left-hand turnout I need from MB Klein, but there seems to be a bit of a shortage of Atlas #7 right turnouts at the moment. Going to call some of my usual sources tomorrow and see if I can’t scare up about a dozen of them.
Regardless, I should be able to prioritize use of the few RH turnouts I have and at least get the mainline plumbed through. At long last, more than half a decade after I started this project, I’ll finally have a finished mainline. Then I can move along to fascia and scenery.