Construction photos


Yikes! It has been 4 months since the last construction photos.

Since then, Jackson scratch built 6 brass signal bridges. His work is immaculate with no sloppy solder joints. Jack is a master craftsman who builds custom fixtures for everything he makes.

Rails are going down at the end of the Kayford coal branch, in the town of Brooks. Here David built a 3-way switch with the third leg connecting to a lap switch. It is surprising how much space can be saved by hand laying custom turnouts in-place.

Build-out of the signaling system continues. This is a CMRI SMINI board installed under Morrison. The left and bottom “wing” boards are home etched and each connector directly drives a 3-lead searchlight signal or two other digital outputs (with a very strong pullup to +5.) The right wing board translates the inputs from an old, bulky connector to more modern IDC connectors that work great with CAT5 cable.


Most of the stud walls that enclose the Kayford coal branch have been erected. This means that work spaces are getting tight, and overview photography requires extreme wide angle lenses. Here are a few photos taken with a 16mm fisheye lens, which sees a full 180 degrees across diagonal corners.

This is the Ohio River grade up from Glen Forge on the left to Jackson and the Ohio River bridge (to be installed) on the right. This is the ruling grade, about 2.5% uncompensated. The upper deck is hidden NYC staging. Light fixtures in this area are still under construction. There will be an anti-glare grid erected for the right side fluorescent lights.

The wall to the left contains the “blob” for the town of Kayford on the coal branch. Just visible on the Masonite wall panels are supports for a narrow track hugging the wall from Mount Union to Linnwood.

Here we step inside the Kayford blob. Tracks to the left are Rick Bacon’s Antioch & Dover staging. The Kayford coal branch will run about a foot above those tracks. The King Coal loader from A&O 1.0 will live along a hillside above the box of raw tie stock. The mainline curve will be 48", so operation here calls for the more limber locomotives and rolling stock. Elsewhere the minimum radius is 60".

The aisle in the Kayford does get pretty narrow in one place. That is inside a “people tunnel” where there are emergency duck-unders that also permit work carts to roll inside.

Here we look down the Kayford branch as the stud wall to the left goes in. One of the access hatches can be seen just to the right of the blue cart. A single track line will hug each side of this pinch point, inside tunnels open to the aisle.

Note: Edited to correct 16mm fisheye lens, was 8mm lens.


We walk around to the outside of the wall that encloses the Kayford and inspect it from Glen Forge. There is another emergency exit at the apex of the “blob”. Above that David is starting to establish the spline roadbed grade from Mount Union, (beyond the right side of the wall) upgrade towards McDonald Tunnel and eventually Linnwood (past the left end of the photo.) Glen Forge is behind the camera. The track along the right wall is Bayfield.

Walking a around the corner to the right we arrive at the future site of a long bridge that brings track into Mount Union. Benchwork on the right is the double-track mainline and part of the 28 foot long International Paper plant. The lighting fixture above the bridge is still under construction.

Continuing down the aisle, then looking back, we see the town of Mount Union. I let Photoshop “de-fish” this one to create a rectilinear view. The future bridge site can just be seen to the far left. Note that the long horizontal supports will be cut shorter once David finalizes the space needed for buildings.



Some great progress on the layout. I can almost hear the diesels now!!

And I gotta say…Jack is absolutely amazing. Those signal bridges are jaw droppingly amazing!!!


Again it has been months since the last update. :astonished:

The Historical Society steamed up for a test run of a newly-acquired N&W 4-8-0. It successfully negotiated all the curved turnouts at Point Vincent. Yes, the front dummy coupler is mounted backwards but that’s the way it came from Sunset. It will be replaced with a Kadee (somehow!)

Meanwhile the wiring crew pulls CAT5 for the telephone system. Craig seems to be working, but Mark appears distracted and all together too comfortable!

David and Bill assemble a lighting valence for the Ohio River Bridge scene at the layout entrance from the crew lounge.


Wiring is a lot more comfortable where the bench work is high. Here Mark solders DCC rail drops to a feed bus at Hawkins tipple.

A lot of progress has been made inside the “blob” known as Kayford. This area has been a big push over the last couple months. Lighting is hung, the benchwork is in and Vince works on a crossover leading to the operating King Coal #1 loader.


Bob finally got caught-up installing control panels in Ricksburg. TA Tower is the north end of Ricksburg. This route-select panel uses an Arduino mounted on a custom PC board under the layout to drive turnouts.

South Ricksburg controls are a lot simpler.

There is not very much inside the South Ricksburg panel. Toggle switches directly drive the Tortoise turnout motors.


Ties and a lot of rail are down in the isolated town of Kayford.

Vince volunteered to work on the Ohio River bridge, which will span the opening to the crew lounge. He is using the OC bridge in Pittsburgh, PA for inspiration. A full-size OC bridge would not fit the space, so the model will be scaled-down.

Vince and David get a handle on the track spacing and interior width of the portal. Vince holds styrene and paper mock-ups. Eventually he will make a set of masters and cast replicas in urethane. These parts will be decorative; a pair of 1 1/2 inch square aluminum tubes will carry the live load.


Vince shows off more progress on the Ohio River Bridge mockup.

Rick’s amazing A&D crane made a guest appearance. It was running in “dead rail” mode off an internal LiPo battery.

During the work session much progress was made installing fascia inside the Kayford operating aisle. This needs to be installed before the last bit of non load bearing wall can be erected. We also installed an NCE radio receiver and repeater. The two units are about 40 feet apart and located to avoid being blocked by HVAC ducts. Quick testing suggests that radio reception should be just fine including areas that were not well covered by the old, single radio receiver.


We were recently blessed by “A Visitor from the East” (reference to the Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson…)

Jay Barnaby, one of the original A&O 1.0 operators, arrived with a dozen or so A&O coal hoppers he re-detailed.

Here David shows Jay a few photos on his touch screen tablet/laptop.

Jay spent Saturday morning and afternoon with us at the A&O job site. We hope he can mark off time to join us for many future operating sessions. It was great to see you again, Jay!


A little more progress to report. Vince brought a partial 1/2 arch mockup for the Ohio River bridge. Later he nearly finished several turnouts inside the Kayford lobe that serve the operating King Coal loader.

Meanwhile Bill and David worked to complete a major milestone—finishing the last of the partition walls that seal off the isolated Kayford branch, forming a “layout within a layout.” This occurred while Vince worked inside the Kayford. I think he got out OK!

The last of the sheet rock is up! Behind the left wall is the Kayford branch. The hole in the wall beyond the yellow part boxes provides an emergency exit. It will normally be closed off with something easy to remove. Track will run on a shallow shelf along both sides of this wall.

Not shown, I installed a fourth DCC power supply inside the Kayford and fixed a few short circuit issues where rail drops have already been connected. Finding shorts is fast and easy with the use of a lab power supply and a $60 Hall-effect DC current probe. I was frustrated by lots of bad crimps on the NCE DCC control bus. A cheap plastic 4P4C or “RJ22” crimp tool has been tossed and a better one ordered.


Upon arriving for today’s Saturday work session, this is what I found while standing near the crew lounge entrance. David installed stand-ins to indicate the Ohio Bridge crossing/nod-under. All of this temporary construction was exciting, as we can already imagine traffic across the double-track bridge. The sheets of drywall sitting on saw horses and a cart indicate the planned water level of the Ohio River. The nod level was very easy for all 3 of us.

From the initial view there is no way for a visitor to anticipate the size and features of the rest of the layout.

A 3’ gap between sections of the Ohio River serves as the spot where “David (a/k/a Moses) parted the waters” for the operating crews and visitors to enter the layout proper. This is from my imagination, not David’s, so don’t blame him! :smiley:

Soon Vince arrived, and the two jumped into detailed planning that on and off lasted most of the day. Below we see David explaining the double track alignment and OS Jay, and also the spot where the B&O enters the layout.

Vince brought a mock-up in styrene and paper of a 1/2 arch section. He and David had a lot of fun visualizing the size of the arch in place, and eventually David added clamps to the spline so that we could all view the bridge while standing deep in the crew lounge. We all agreed that it should be a very spectacular view.

By the end of the day, David cut the 1 1/2 inch aluminum box sections to length that will provide all structural support for the bridge (cutting procedure not shown.)

And Happy Birthday, David!


(jaw hits floor)…


And I agree with Bob…Happy Birthday David. I hope you had a great one!!

(picking jaw up off of the floor)


As of this last weekend’s progress, we see light at the end of the tunnel, and it isn’t blowing a horn!

The stud walls are finished. We view the Kayford valley where David located the last Kayford spline roadbed. Behind the camera is the “blob” of Kayford, and just ahead, past the dog leg and people tunnel to the right, resides the town of Brooks. Along the right we see the start and end of fascia. Between the two ends this entire area will be in another “people tunnel”, one fairly narrow that some may choose to navigate sideways. David plans to “daylight” the sides of these two long tunnels so operators can follow their trains and to make track cleaning a lot easier. Elevated DCC bus wires on the right will be hidden by the tunnel liner. I didn’t want us to run them through the same shelf bracket holes as a telephone wire bundles, to avoid coupling a DCC buzzing sound in the phone system.

One of three emergency exits can be seen on the right side below track level.

Vince continued to lay rails in the town of Kayford. Here we look through an equipment access porthole located on the end of the “blob.” To the left we see the base assembly for the A&O 1.0 operating Kayford coal loader. Foreground ties are the mainline and a passing siding, to be hidden behind a rising mountain. When Vince finishes, David will build in place a 3-way and a double slip switch just behind the black cardboard tray.

Bill made base cabinets for the Ohio River bridge. The top of these cabinets represent water level. There was some discussion of mounting a large A&O logo on the front of the rightmost cabinet.

We spent quite some time staring at these cabinets. With their installation we shared a real sense of nearness to a major milestone. We also observed that a first-time visitor standing in the crew lounge will not be able to anticipate the entirety of the layout. A long walking tour through the labyrinth will be required!

Ceiling-high partition walls worked well on A&O 1.0 and made the layout feel a lot bigger, with a tremendous sense of isolation and standing in a scene. When can we start scenery, David?


So what does the resident electrical engineer do during a work session? Much of the work may seem boring to most model railroaders, but it is a bit like putting tendons on the bones of the layout. Two DCC power district supplies were recently installed, the first one powering the Kayford valley. It is a 10 amp NCE booster, the black box to the left. The large black transformer was harvested from A&O 1.0, sold by Tony’s Train Exchange (free plug!) Inside the aluminum box resides a medical-qualified 12 and 5 volt power supply to operate the control panels. To the left is a “smiley face” load meter harvested (with permission) from the control stand of Great Western GP7 #2233, which wrecked a few years ago in Kelim, CO. The meter indicates scale Amperes, 1000 Amps indicated representing 10 Amps DCC current. It will mount in the fascia to the left of this shelf.

Above and out of camera view are 4 PSX electronic DCC circuit breakers. Each operating loader has a dedicated breaker, and the mainline is split with two, to increase the chance of being within dope slap range of an operator who causes a short circuit.

The 5th of 6 DCC power supplies was installed at Mount Union. Here we only have one DCC circuit breaker, but there is also a CTC system SMINI. It powered up just fine, but full connection testing awaits. This round “toroid” transformer was found at PartsExpress. It was originally intended for use in high-quality stereo amplifiers or perhaps in a CNC (Computer Numerical Control) mill or lathe power supply. It is of extremely high quality.

The relay on the right end of the supply cuts off DC power to the CMRI SMINI boards. When power is cut off, custom A&O turnout driver boards all switch to full local control. These relays on DCC power supplies are wired in parallel, to be powered up when the CTC machine powers up. So far this design has been a huge blessing, as we can play, test and perform maintenance to our heart’s content anywhere on the layout without a working CTC system.


Here are a few more photos from this month. First up: Mark finishes up lighting wiring above Jackson. No, he is not working on live wires. These are connections to feed track lights and are on a different circuit.

Levi shows his father Frank how we make resistive wheel sets. We install a 7.5K resistor on each outside axle so that we can detect a car that is part way into an OS section.

Bill roughed-in formers for the long Kayford Valley people tunnel. Tracks on both sides will run through side-daylighted tunnels so that operators can follow their trains.


Bill delivered welded aluminum structural elements for the Ohio River Bridge on Saturday. He emailed two photos and gave me permission to post them.

Two 1.5" square aluminum box sections will support the double track bridge.

Even more interesting was Bill’s delivery vehicle!


The aluminum structural components for the Ohio River bridge recently received a test fitting. Even though David lowered the bridge a couple inches from the original design, we had no difficulty quickly nodding under it.

Previously, David installed a cutoff piece of the box sections to serve as the structural support for a viaduct (why a duck?) above the primary Kayford branch emergency hatch. Since this photo was taken there are ties and rail atop most of the Homasote spline roadbed.


Well…another session down, and another step closer to the A&O operating.

Yesterday David, Mark, myself, and Bob did a little work on the A&O. Bob and I focused on wiring (sorry no photos there) and David and Mark focused on carpet! You know that things are getting close when carpet starts to go down :slightly_smiling:


More construction photos from August 22nd. Things are getting close!!