Construction photos


It was a great day to spend with friends, and we got a LOT done. Things are REALLY coming together!

Thanks for having me over today David…had a GREAT time!


It has been a while since I logged into your forum. Looks like you have made a lot of progress. Very impressive. :smiley:
I just want to say that reading about your previous layout and this one was one of the main factors that convinced me to switch from HO to O. Actually, I started with On30 and am planning an small (tiny, by A&O standards;-)) O/On30 layout. Thank you for posting your progress on this forum.
Happy Model Railroading,
Mark Boyce
Butler, Pennsylvania


It is November 17, 2012. Where do the days go? Here are a few update photos of construction.

This people tunnel doglegs to the left as one enters the “rain room” of Ridge and Darwin, towns where the “sun don’t shine.” Here the rails will be quite high, so a ramp and platform lift the operator for a better reach. Very shallow single-track scenes near eye level will be built on both sides of this aisle.

The nod-under passage to enter the Kayford valley is just visible through the tunnel portal. Benchwork level will be a little above the top of the nod-under, and high enough to clear three hidden King Coal loader tail tracks visible along the back wall.

Portions of the stud walls for the coal branch through Kayford Valley are built. At the far end, in the town of Brooks, Vince works on a turnout that will eventually reside below the large King Coal operating loader. Track to Darwin will punch-through the wall on the left. The post on the right marks the location of another people tunnel.

Walking down the aisle we see Vince hard at work building a turnout on the to-be-hidden tail track of the Ricksburg turning wye. We plan to install Boulder Creek Engineering NightScope optical detectors for turnout clearance and end-of-track. The operating Kayford loader will be installed above this turnout.


David uses the classic “bent stick” method to locate smoothly-flowing tracks. Here he lays-out the Ricksburg engine terminal. On the original track plan the turntable would be found behind David in the far corner. This improvement gives excellent access to the turntable and makes the area a scene unto itself.

The Ricksburg turning wye punches through the wall behind David. Through the opening we can see Vince hard at work (thanks for the photo idea, David.)


VERY nice guys. The first people tunnel. :slightly_smiling: :slightly_smiling: :slightly_smiling:

So Bob…is everything done electronically in the Dogtown area and yard area? Are we pushing out to the paper mill area now?


Craig -
There are two smaller panels remaining to build, one for CM Tower and one for Willow Creek. Both will interact with the CMRI system through traffic levers. CM Tower can also lock a few turnouts used by the paper mill, but before the start of CTC.

Beyond those, the next panels to install will be along the paper mill as you surmised. For the mill area panels I will need to build more OS turnout drivers and also make signal driver boards. Once these are in, and Vince wires the signals to the first SMINI, we should be ready to start bringing up JMRI. Of course we will unplug and store the signals when we are not “testing” to keep them safe from David’s 2-YO grandchild. (This work won’t actually be playing! Honest!)

Edit - Oh yeah, one more thing. David just installed another uncoupling electromagnet under the garage, immediately prior to entering the righthand side of the “wye knot” turning wye in Havens Yard. I’m glad he thinks of these things before it gets really difficult to retrofit. :astonished: So I’ll need to start building my own 555/power MOSFET timer modules until David runs out of his stock of electromagnetic uncouplers. Two of his original Cuda Technologies timers already share the interior of two Bud aluminum boxes with switching power supplies. One lives behind the hump yard lead in a hard-to-reach industrial track, and a second on the grade up to Wye Knot. Every timer has its own power supply, unlike the first O-scale A&O for which we shared a single computer power supply and ran the 12 volt supply wires inside floor concrete expansion gaps. :astonished:

Ya know, instead of using an analog circuit with a 555 timer, I could just program another 8-pin Atmel ATTINY85 microprocessor to read an analog input through its 10-bit A/D converter, connected to a time-set pot, and use a digital output to drive the MOSFET directly. Hmm… must consider the alternative! But that way would be more difficult for folks to follow in my footsteps, as I haven’t yet found someone to be my successor for all things A&O digital. :smiley:


Hi Mark,
Thanks for checking in. And yes, progress continues. Thanks to others on the work crew for posting the construction photo updates. I’d like to encourage you to post some pix of your project as well. It’s always fun to see what folks are doing.


The build-out of Ricksburg continued over the Thanksgiving 2012 weekend. Lighting valences started to go up over the south end of Ricksburg. The unusually-low cabinet hanging over the stub-end of roadbed will eventually hold two control panels and car card sorting bins. It will serve as a scene-separating view block between Ricksburg and the Morrison coal prep plant scene just around the corner. It also blocks lighting glare on the convex curve. Underneath the cabinet we plan to install dimmable warm white LED strip lights.


Saturday’s construction efforts focused on the operating areas of Morrison and Ricksburg.

Vince builds turnouts in the yard throat to the Morrison prep plant.

Vince grinds the point of a turnout frog.

Kingston receives a mini-clinic from Vince in hand-laid track as he lays his first rail.


Here’s a couple more. David takes time off work for a little “locomotive testing.” The locomotive is a Car & Locomotive Shop RSD-12 temporarily powered by an HO Tsunami 1000. The locomotive draws only a bit over 1 amp at 12 volts with the motor locked.

Bill hangs light fixtures over the engine service terminal in Ricksburg.

We want non-glare light over the engine terminal, but a conventional valence won’t hide the lights. This experiment seems reasonably successful, even if the valence work is a bit tricky. Mounting the fluorescent bulb a bit skewed from the direction of the egg crate divider avoids visible shadow lines on the layout. The formerly dark cave of Ricksburg is coming to life.


A lot of benchwork just went up in Brooks and the “town formerly known as Darwin.” It was great fun observing how much progress Bill and David made in just a single work session.

Here Bill levels the future home of the operating coal loader in Brooks. The lower level holds the tail track of the Ricksburg turning wye.

The Kayford branch will run along this narrow shelf to arrive at King Coal. The aisle is comfortably wide but not a passing zone. Track enters the Kayford valley behind and to the left of the photographer, at a much wider spot.


Looking through a “people tunnel” we see progress in the “town formerly known as Darwin.” Plans for this dark and stormy area include thunderstorm sound and lighting effects. The people tunnel isolates the room, limits light pollution, and gives it an individual sense of “place.”

Because the benchwork is so high, a raised floor improves reach across the layout.

Passing through the tunnel and standing at a separate site for the small town of Ridge, we get a better view of progress and can look through the nod-under passage to Brooks. Tracks will soon run across the wall and above the passage. The hidden lower deck holds stub-end receiving tracks for the King Coal loader. The upper cutout behind David marks the entrance of C&O staging.


On December 29, 2012 David held another limited work session. Vince continued to lay rails and turnouts in the Morrison coal yard (not pictured.)

David pushed forward a number of projects, including a control panel box held together by many iffy Harbor Freight clamps (you get what you pay for, and I [Bob] bought them!)

Craig alternated between helping David aim screws into benchwork and installing CTC detection resistors on Atlas cars.

On the A&O we install a 7.5K ohm resistor on each end of an O-scale car. Here we see part of David’s workbench as we both wait for the nickel conductive paint to dry.


Help! I’m suffering deprivation! No progress since Decemberl?


Jeff -

I did not realize that it has been over 6 months since the last update here. There has been considerable progress, but I haven’t kept up taking photographs. David and Katie uploaded major updates to the construction web pages just off the A&O home page, so a lot of the story can be found there.

The Morrison coal prep plant yard is laid and waiting for its control panel. Here David gives a tour to Larry Hanlon, a guest who came out from Oregon to attend this year’s RockyOp. They are standing in Morrison. Right behind Larry is the future home of the revived River Gorge scene, which turned out to be the signature scene on the old A&O. A photo from the previous layout appeared on the cover of Model Railroader back in 2006.

Next up, the ties are laid in Ricksburg and a lot of rail is already in. Here David builds a turnout in-place for the general merchandise yard. The two center tracks are mainline and passing. Underneath boxes of supplies sit the start of the separate coal yard. Of all the jobs we encounter when building a layout, scratch building turnouts is one of David’s favorites.

In the early summer David received a request from a fellow named Tony for a progress photo. Meanwhile, I also received a request from our local model railroad club newsletter. I can’t show you the one we shot for Tony, but here is a peek at the one for the newsletter. This is Point Vincent, a spot on the north end of 28 foot long International Paper. A lot of old friends were pulled out of storage and staged for this photo.

It is a little hard to see in the photo above, but a lot of finish work has been completed, including fascia and control panels through the paper mill. With all the panels in place, David started a couple of test operating sessions for the paper mill switch job. I’ve had the pleasure of running that job with the SW1200 (far right). This should be one of the coveted jobs on the layout, taking about 3 actual hours to complete, not counting time required to prepare the switch list. Although space is tight, the job can be done in a single trip without calling for track and time.

Not visible, hidden under the layout off the right side of the photo, is the spot where Vince and I installed the start of the CMRI system. The SMINI and occupancy detectors are all in and wired, and cable pulled to the location of each signal head. This SMINI serves the paper mill complex and around the south end to the Bayfield scissor crossover. The corresponding CTC-controlled turnout driver boards are also installed. Boards that plug onto the SMINI connectors hold all parts needed to drive signal LEDS. Scratch-built signal bridges are still needed.


Hey…I remember those engines :slightly_smiling:

Mmmmmmmmmm I can almost FEEL the op sessions…and the ridicule to Darwin.




A construction push is on to get ready for a layout tour in September.

First up: Vince finishes laying merchandise yard tracks in Ricksburg. Next week a wiring crew will pull the DCC power buses and give the below-layout “Medusa” a haircut.

Next up: Bill and David saw lumber for lighting valences in Linnwood (the town formerly known as Darwin), a/k/a the “rain room.” On this Saturday they also worked on a couple people tunnels.


A couple of people tunnels received attention this last weekend. Here we see an “oversize person detector” (a Nephalim detector?) The photographer is standing near the town of Brooks in the isolated Kayford valley. The area beyond the tunnel will soon be enclosed with stud walls and isolated from the outer room.

Looking the other way through the tunnel, we see newly-installed lighting valences. This area will be modeled as a heavy overcast day, with distant rain and thunderstorm sound coming through the nod-under into Linnwood (the rain room) visible through cutouts on the left wall. The Kayford coal branch leaves the Linwood yard and passes through the leftmost cutout.

The top of the people tunnel portal looks purplish because I set the photo white balance to match the somewhat greenish LED strips. I do wish we could have found better quality warm-white LED strings that didn’t have the greenish color cast, but we will have to live with these.

In areas where we mount the LED strips facing up or sideways, we apply heavy-gage aluminum duct tape to the inside of the valence to improve the mounting surface. This serves two purposes—provide a clean, smooth surface for bonding the LED strip’s 3M adhesive backing, and conduct heat away from the strip, thus keeping the adhesive and LEDs cooler.

In areas where we mount the LEDs facing downward, they are first attached to 4 foot lengths of 3/4x1/8 aluminum strips, cleaned with IPA, with tie-wraps every foot or so for added security. Over time this should keep gravity from delaminating the LEDs from the aluminum.


The town of Sobol Springs was the first part of the layout that David built, and we are finally getting around to installing the control panel and fascia. To maintain better aisle clearance, this panel is installed facing up in a ball-bearing slide drawer. It is easy to slide out when the NR&W local works the area.

Since the control panel is in a free-sliding drawer, we don’t want a thick bundle of cables tugging on the panel, nor do we want the panel tugging on a thick bundle of cables (and potentially breaking a connection.) Even though the cable length is short, I resorted to another Arduino Pro Mini based controller. This allows the majority of the cabling to be replaced by a single CAT5 cable (middle of the photo) running between the controller and panel. A lot of CAT5 Tortoise cables have not yet been attached to the controller.

Most of the circuitry is surface-mount parts on the back side of the board. The 4 black rectangular parts are relays for controlling two Atomic Fuels operating coal loaders. The two small boards to the right are ATTINY-based OS section Tortoise motor drivers for turnouts that can be locked out by the Dispatcher.


Last weekend the A&O General Manager had to grieve. His old Delta table saw bit the dust for the last time, and the repair bill became excessive.

Here we find David with his new table saw, one warranted for life. And that’s good, because David is not afraid to use his tools. The blade turns faster than his old Delta and the saw has a lot more torque. It is incredibly easy to move around and set up.

Today David was very happy as he cut white Plexiglass for control panels.