Five Week Construction Sprint

Everyone knows that there is nothing that focuses you on work that needs to be done like a deadline. My deadline was an upcoming neighborhood home and garden tour on which our house was one of the destinations.

We had agreed to be on this year’s tour more than a year ago. The main feature of our home, the one that prompted the tour organizers to recruit us, was our rooftop solar array – a feature that is not common in Central Ohio and is virtually unknown in my neighborhood.  One component of that system is the inverter, and our inverter is in our basement.  Given that the layout is also in the basement, it would unavoidably also be on display and I decided that this was as good a time as any to “out” myself as the guy in the neighborhood that builds models.  And that meant the work that needed to be done by the deadline was getting the layout in presentable condition.

I had been making steady progress on the layout before and since we committed to the tour – but with little haste and no definition of “done” (i.e., no goal).  Left to my own devices, I would have been happy to have a static train displayed on dead track in front of a building mockup, but my better half would have none of that.  Trains had to run and those trains had to be moved by steam locomotives with their visually interesting running gear.  Inspired by her resolve, around the first of the year I set the following goals for the tour:

  • Trains running on a continuous loop
  • Fascia, a scenic base and skirting installed along the length of Circleville
  • At least one semi-finished scene to give a sense of what the future miniature reality would look like

Between the time I set the goals early in the year and the end of April, I had completed the track work (with some concessions to expedite the work) and most of the needed wiring.  This took longer than expected, partly due to the effort of working out the wiring logic, but largely due to work travel interruptions. With incomplete wiring, no running trains and zero scenery, the deadline was starting to look imposing at the beginning of May.

With the help of my wife, we mapped out what we needed to do to get the remaining work accomplished. One big change was the use of the “we” word – I began recruiting friends and family.  The other change was simply her keeping me on task – she sent me to the basement virtually every evening to get something done.  The nature of the work also started to change, moving toward more finish-type work, which is easier to delegate out to multiple helpers.  Those helpers came in the form of my brother, dad and friends. My dad and brother did the dirty work of figuring out some fascia mounting solutions that I had been actively ignoring.  Most importantly from a teamwork and labor standpoint, my wife became fully engaged in the effort – planning and working on items completely independently of whatever I was doing (this was a big deal since I am not a natural delegator!).

This all led to a remarkable (for a Goodman) work sprint in the month of May and early June in which all goals were met or exceeded. The work is documented in the following video.

Most importantly, trains ran flawlessly for four hours on tour day! One fully scenicked farm scene (with figures) and two partially scenicked areas added visual interest for our visitors and the fascia and skirting added a finished look. During the pre-tour (for other homeowners on the tour and volunteers) the day before the public tour, I even heard a few gasps of surprise when people entered the basement.  Two of the organizers that had seen the basement only three months before were frankly astounded – proof that they were being overly polite during that earlier visit!  Compared to even a month prior, the basement was was engaging, organized and VERY tidy!

The visitors were a wide spectrum of people, of which all showed at least a passing interest in the railroad, and a large percentage were fascinated by it. Everyone loves miniatures – they can trigger your imagination to take you to a different place, time and reality.  I suspect there were at least a couple of visitors that are now potential hobbyists!

Building Spline with Homasote – Time Lapse Videos

This is the excerpt for your very first post.

Many years ago, I bought Joe Fugate’s well-done video series about the construction of his Siskiyou layout. The section on Masonite spline roadbed convinced be to try the method. Having built several plywood cookie-cutter layouts over time, I was ready to try something different.

Before starting construction of my current layout, I was further influenced by another modeler who was also a proponent of using spline – but his material of choice was Homasote.  His reasoning was logical and applicable to my way of doing things.

The advantages of spline in my way of thinking is three-fold; it produces natural vertical and horizontal curves, there is little waste of material (a flat sheet of material can be turned into any roadbed shape; straight or curves) and the subroadbed is also the roadbed (if using the solid spline method)  The key selling point of Homasote is the ability to assemble it with screws; important to me since I tend to do a lot of revisions.  Screw assembly means disassembly and reassembly when one’s mind changes…

Over the past two years I’ve laid about 150 feet of this roadbed – about 220 if double tracked sections are included – and I thought it was about time to share the process via some time lapse videos I’ve accumulated over the past year.  It won’t necessarily show specific details, but will give viewers a good sense of what the build process looks like.  All are narrated.

As is obvious by the video titles, these are effectively a video layout blog.  Though they weren’t recorded with that in mind, it turned out to be a useful side effect.  Enjoy the cheap entertainment – and questions welcome.

1/12/17 Edit – Added link to update 13