TTFH Update

I was asked on the model railroading forum for an update with pictures on what I was doing with the train table. I tried to make a video of the changes, but I made the mistake of trying to do it with little “helpers”, so it was a total failure. Stills don’t show things quite as thoroughly, but they’re also lacking the sound effects of “The loudest train in the world!” and the loudest engineer to accompany it…

workbenchFirst of all, I have to show off my new “project station”.  I’m pleased about this, because previously I was doing all my modeling projects at the kitchen table, where light was less than ideal and I kept having to put the pieces up in the built-in to dry. It’s supposed to be a display cabinet, but not for partially-finished modeling projects… Currently on the table, a block of potentially gorgeous Victorian era shops for my train-enthusiast friends, Jay and Maddie, currently drying from a coat of white-wash.


This is what the TTFH looked like when I got it, versus now:








After much fiddling, hemming and hawing, I did away with the turntable. It took up too much space, was a pain to wire, and was manually operated, which encouraged the kids to reach over the layout to turn it, something I wanted to discourage as much as possible. Once that was gone, I sawed off the piece of plywood it was attached to, and readjusted its height to fit with the lower part of the table, making a smoother slope that I hope to fill with scenery and a road.  I also re-located the spur to fit better with my idea of where a river might go and bridges might make sense. The space that was originally router-ed out to fit the turntable, I filled in with plaster of Paris (a generous squirt of brown acrylic paint was added so it would act more like ‘ground goop’). With the extras of that, I did a little smoothing of some of the more abrupt level changes, for later road additions. It is still a bit wet in this photo – I’m hoping the color will even out, but it’ll eventually have more paint and ground cover over the top whether it does or not.


IMG_1959IMG_1968The switching yard, I left mostly intact. I shortened some of the rails and added bumpers so the kids wouldn’t have too many catastrophic derailments from failing to stop quickly enough, as well as an ‘extra’ bumper to the short end of the turnout that formerly led to the turntable, because it was simpler than pulling up the turnout and cutting a curve that fit correctly. The kids can only reach the rightmost turnout and we tend not to do anything with the other three, but I left them because I imagined that someday if I was so inclined, I could use it as an Inglenook Sidings puzzle. Or, I could just say it was an Inglenook switching puzzle, and instantly look more intelligent than I really am. Or perhaps just prove my dorkiness. In any case, there it is.

In the left sidings photo, you can see my electrical controls. I have an old DC controller powering the accessories, which at the moment amount to five non-working or unacceptably-working switches on the opposite side of the layout. My train power is provided by a Bachmannn EZ Command power pack. I initially chose this DCC power pack because my “other” train table (let’s not talk about that right now) is all Bachmann EZ-Track and it provided the simplest way to add multiple engine functionality. Ironically, the TTFH – even with buggy functionality and not totally understanding what’s going on –  works better and more consistently than my scratch-built project, is a better height for the kids to interact with, and is overall less annoying to fiddle with. I have intentionally not touched the Riverside Blue Line layout (the EZ Trak one) for a couple of months. It just pisses me off to look at it, at the moment.



This is the underside of the layout, looking out at the ‘command station’. It looks like a mess because essentially, it is. I have two 14 gauge house wires running around the edge underneath the table. They meet up with themselves in two separate loops (red to red, white to white) and are then connected to the two wires of the EZ Command by simply twisting. Nothing anywhere on the underside of the table is soldered, taped or otherwise connected aside from simple twisting until I have it tested and thoroughly established that it is wired correctly.  For now, it is a shock and short hazard for the cat.


IMG_1963This is what the underside of the ‘north’ end of the table looks like. I haven’t added any feeder wires to the lower track yet, because 1) it’s running satisfactorily without it, and 2) I intend to lower part of that section of the plywood to make room for a river and don’t want to have to rewire it when I do. As you can see, I’ve simply got red-to-red and white-to-white, wrapped around the bare copper and nothing else special going on. The red is the ‘inside’ rail of the double loop, the white is connected to what was the ‘common rail’ of the DC system.


IMG_1964Here is another view of what’s going on underneath the table. White on the outside rail, red on the inside. That switch is a leftover from the bits of the table that I don’t understand, and while it’s connected to power and makes noise when you “switch” it, it does a remarkably poor job of actually changing the points. I’m thinking that I probably will have to replace the under-table switch part on all of them, but the layout is small enough right now that it’s no real hardship to change them by hand, and I’m still trying to make my rails run really smoothly as they are.


IMG_1965This is the top side of the same end of the table, although not preciisely the same angle. The NYC and his hopper car are on the ‘lower’ track, headed towards the grain elevator. You can see the markings from where we were trying to figure out the power blocking, and little red arrows where I added feeder wires. Also visible is a switch that is still insulated with the original orange insulated joiners. I’m not sure whether I’m supposed to replace them with “normal” joiners or leave them as they are, so I haven’t messed with it, yet.


IMG_1967IMG_1966These are close-ups of the bit of track that was originally giving me fits. As you can see, I’ve done a rather clumsy job of soldering joiners and adding in a couple of feeder wires. (I am literally learning how to solder by doing this…) I took some very fine sandpaper and the whole Tidy Track system to it while I’m waiting for my needle files to come on the slow boat from China. I’m able to mostly let a train run without having to chivvy it across this spot now, but it has of course highlighted other areas that need some TLC.

So! That is the shape of the TTFH at the moment. Thank you so very much to everyone who has helped me along thus far!

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