The long tail of the glacier

With apologies for the low light of the photo from last night, here’s the state of my layout last night:

Layout overview - June 15, 2015

Layout overview – June 15, 2015

…and here’s what I learned along the way:

DSC01727To recap, on this layout I thought that I’d use Scotch double-sided foam tape as a roadbed and means of sticking down the track. I took the above photo some time ago following some experimentation with this approach. Armed with a much larger roll than I used, last night I set to work.

Tape on foam

Tape on foam

I marked out the track locations on the layout. Since the tape I’m using is the full width of the track I didn’t need to mark out a centreline to place the roadbed against. Instead, I marked out some key locations along the outer edges of the ties. Obviously there’s more marker on this layout than I needed and that perhaps exposes some other options I thought about in the space.

Curves and turnouts are long. The turnouts, both of them, use a number 8 frog and the curves are all at least thirty-six inch radius. With that broad a radius, I hoped that I could just stretch the foam tape into place but quickly found that the material just doesn’t comply as much as I’d like. After several failed attempts at getting the tape to fluidly follow even these broad curves failed I resorted to cutting half way across the tape’s width at about one inch intervals. This was done as I laid the tape down and with this change, things went a lot more smoothly. Lesson learned.

Feeders installed and first track laid

Feeders installed and first track laid

I don’t use rail joiners between sections of track and, even if I did, I’m a big believer in attaching feed wires directly to each length of rail. At this stage in construction I can solder them to the base of the rail so that when the track is installed they are absorbed into the scene. I’m using Micro Engineering code 40 flex track. It’s beautiful track but delicate. I had hoped to be able to cut away the web between the ties and slide them out of the way of the solder joint but found I broke more free than I saved. In the end it was just easier to just remove a few ties from either side of the planned feeder wire location – I’ll just thread replacements in later on.

Plain track overlaps where turnout will be installed.

Plain track overlaps where turnout will be installed.

I still have some important decisions to make about the turnouts so I’m not ready to install them right now. I do know their location so was able to mark that on the layout. I simply left each length of plain track just a bit long and overlapping into the turnout’s space. To accommodate some fine adjustment when it’s time to stick in the turnout I also left the track loose for these last few inches by not removing the tape’s protective backing.

In all, I probably spent longer fretting over reasons to not do anything productive than I did getting this done. I’m very happy with this simple track layout and from having invested so heavily in the design so far I understand why things are the way they are. In terms of the tape itself as a roadbed material, here are some observations that occurred to me so far:

  • I’m installing the tape directly over extruded foam. The tape does stick down but the bond isn’t as permanent compared to a more traditional glued joint. It’s strong enough and when this is all buried in ballast it will become permanent by being buried in the ballast layer.
  • Since the bond is only “good enough” it’s really easy to move a siding compared to every other roadbed I’ve ever used. I suspect it will be just as easy to clean roadbed from the track if I ever needed to.
  • The foam tape’s adhesive does not harden and the tape’s core should actually absorb some sound so this could take a bit of noise from the track compared to track glued to cork using white glue and the cork in turn glued to the layout deck – each glue layer creating a hard surface for noise to bounce from.
  • I feel like it was faster to use this tape compared to cork and like materials
  • I feel like the tape cost less too (about 60% the cost compared to Midwest N scale cork)

The turnouts won’t be installed tonight but should be soon. With feeder wires in place, I could hook up a temporary controller and at least run trains along each length of track. While simple, it could be quite fun and I’ve not run a train at home since December and I miss that.

In terms of where this is all going, I’ll close with a few inspirational photos from a railfan trip last year to keep me focussed on my inspiration.

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