Thursday, December 31, 2009

Cahaba Southern 2nd Edition (2009- )

The 2nd edition of the Cahaba Southern Railroad (CSR2) has been in the planning stages for most of 2009.  It will be built in a small room in the downstairs area of our split-foyer house.  The room is 116" by 101" with no windows and only one door.  The room is fully finished, along with heat & AC, and is located off of the downstairs den.  I only had to add 2 additional 110VAC 20A circuits to the room to make sure it could handle the needs of a model railroad.

It is a much smaller room than the original CSR had, but still plenty big for a nice size N scale railroad.  During the planning phase there were plenty of "I wish the room were a little bigger" moments, however I was able to work past those.  Here are some of the design parameters incorporated into the design:

  1. Southeastern US, circa 1966-1970, Appalachian foothills railroading.
  2. Primarily Southern Railway & Central of Georgia rolling stock
  3. Dual mainlines, 1 branchline
  4. Hidden staging on a second level
  5. Primarily a railfan layout, with some operating capabilities
  6. Several industries, including a coal mine and a small town passenger depot
  7. Digitrax DCC operation with future full electronic control and detection
  8. Peco Code 55 track, medium turnouts on mainline, small turnouts on yards/sidings
  9. 15" minimum visible radius, 12" minimum hidden radius, 2.25% maximum grade
  10. Everything within easy reach, all benchwork 24" deep (except the helix)

The final design features 2 levels connected by a single track 18" radius helix.  The lower level holds a staging yard that feeds the helix, with no scenery planned, at approximately 36" high.  The upper level will be fully sceniced at approximately 52" high.  I've attached jpeg exports from CADRail which I've used exclusively during the planning stage.

Upper Level:

Lower Level:

Benchwork will be built from 1"x3" lumber.  I have ripped the 1x3s from 3/4" cabinet grade birch plywood.  If you have the means (i.e. a table saw) I highly recommend using the 3/4" plywood as it is very stable and strong, resists warping, and cheaper than buying 1x3s made of pine.  A single sheet of 3/4"x4'x8' plywood is $40, out of which you can rip 18 8 foot 1x3s.  Decent 1x3s run over $3 per piece, for a total of over $54, and none of those will be as straight and stable as the plywood 1x3s.

Benchwork (Same for both levels):

The other thing that I've been doing over the months of planning is purchasing rolling stock and track.  95% of my purchases have been done thru eBay with a few exceptions of a couple of items thru online and local hobby shops as well as train shows.  It has been a pleasant surprise that the selection of southeastern rolling stock has greatly increased since I last was involved in N scale model railroading back in 1999.  In particular Southern & CofG locomotives have been produced in large varieties by both Atlas, Kato, Intermountain and MicroTrains, all with great details, DCC-ready, and superb runners.

Unfortunately prices of everything model railroading has gone up dramatically since 1999, in most case around 50-75 percent.  This price increase makes buying thru ebay a must, as that is where the bargains can be found.  I've purchased over 2 dozen locos thru ebay the last 9 months and have averaged around $42 per locomotive.  All of these were either NOS or testrun only, with usual $80-90 street prices to be found on the packages.  The most interesting part is that most of these were purchased from dealers selling thru eBay that are outside of the southeastern US.  All the local shops and shows are sold out of southeastern rolling stock but they do have plenty of "foreign" roads, guess the same happens elsewhere in the US and Canada.

Next on the agenda is finishing the room and beginning the benchwork, which will commence once the New Years bowl games are over with.  I promise more frequent updates and pictures as the work goes on from here...

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Cahaba Southern 1st Edition (1997-1999)

The 1st edition of the Cahaba Southern was in a 22'x10' room in my basement.  The benchwork  was 1x4 grid construction with risers and cookiecutter roadbed.   The track was Peco Code 55, weathered with regular Rustoleum primer in Rust, Black, and Gray.  A Super Chief Digitrax DCC control system was installed.  It featured dual mainlines, a decent size yard, and a large roundhouse was planned, fed by a Fleischmann electric turntable.  Some basic scenery, i.e. hills, was completed and the backdrop was painted with curved corners.

Here is the trackplan:

The Cahaba Southern 1st edition had some nice long mainline runs, however it had some things I didn't like.  First it was too big!  This realization wasn't reached until I was too far along, as it was too big to move forward at the pace I wanted given the amount of freetime I had.  Second it had a return run for the mainlines that was too hidden and too long.

Here are some pics, walking around the layout:

Unfortunately this is as far as the 1st Edition of the Cahaba Southern got. Our first child was born in 1998, and babies/toddlers don't mix well with model railroading, especially if you don't want things destroyed.  He immediately wanted to grab everything, and I came to the realization that there was too much temptation to keep him out of arms reach.  I also became interested at that time in the restoration of pinball machines.  I couldn't afford two hobbies, especially with a growing family.  With a heavy heart I tore down the Cahaba Southern and sold off all of my model railroading equipment in order to pay for my new hobby, restoring pinball machines.

I was out of model railroading again, but hoped I could one day return to it....

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Welcome to my model railroading chronicle!

After a 10 year absence from the hobby I'm returning to the hobby I just can't seem to get away from.  Model Railroading has always been a love of mine, starting with the first layout I got for Christmas in 1970 when I was 6 years old growing up as an Army brat in Germany.  It was a Fleischmann HO set mounted to a 4x6 board.  I still have the rolling stock from that set to this day.  Like any kid, a lot of different things got my interest, however I always seem to gravitate back to the trains.

Going to college marked my first hiatus from the hobby, but it was a short one.  After getting married and going to grad school I started back into model railroading again.  I dabbled in German N scale for a few years, building a few hollow core door layouts that never went very far. I then started getting into southeastern US HO trains, and with the purchase of our first house I built a 22'x16' L shaped HO layout.  It was my first serious layout, and had all the typical first layout mistakes, but I was learning.  I even joined a local club, Smokey City Rails, which had a modular HO layout.  I made a lot of great friends thru the club, however I was never really satisfied with HO.  It took up too much space to do anything that looked realistic without having a warehouse to build a layout.   It was the late 1990's, and N scale started catching my eye again...

I started noticing that the quality and realism of N scale, and in particular US prototype models, was really improving.  Atlas, Kato, and MicroTrain rolling stock was starting to rival the quality of German prototype N scale maker Fleischmann, and with one big difference:  it was less than one third of the cost!  The HO layout was torn down, I sold off all my HO equipment to fund my switch to N scale, this time in US prototype, in particular southeastern railroading around Birmingham, Alabama.  Thus in early 1998 the 1st Cahaba Southern was born...