I had made good progress. All the roadbed and track had been laid, and trains were running. However, after about a week or two I decided the layout and the operations opportunities it provided were not quite what I was looking for. I wanted to run longer trains. The yard, though accessible, was cumbersome to enter and depart from, and too much of the main line run was involved while switching cars.
I therefore disassembled the entire project and started over with a new design, one that was a bit larger (12′ x 8′), provided more flow, and one where the operators could be more immersed and closer to the action. The new layout is pictured below. The operator is now no more than a 30 inch reach from any point on the layout. The majority of the layout surface is only 24″ wide.
The yard is larger and more flowing. It can be completely bypassed or entered from two points on the west end. Otherwise it is isolated from the main line. One operator can be sorting cars and completing switching operations there, while the other just cruises on the main line.
One feature I really like this the engine yard, which will now have a turntable and a two-stall engine house. I am in the process of figuring out how to operate the turntable by hand with some sort of hand crank and gears. Should be fun.
The new layout will feature some elevation changes at the west end, a larger more flowing yard, mountains, tunnels, and a lake. All of these new features will still fit well into the concept I originally had for the layout. I’m very excited. I will need to purchase more switches and another box of flex track and a case of cork road bed. However, I will still be able to make use of my PECO switches and motors, and all of my Lenz decoders and command stations.
I will enlarge the main bus wiring up to 16 gauge since the runs are longer, and I have increased the voltage output on my booster to 16 volts from 11, as I noticed the trains slowed under the track block that was being powered by it.
Bench work as pictured above is complete. Rewiring is under way. The wiring process will go much smoother as I learned much from my first attempt. Even switch motors will be installed and powered before the top goes on. All electronics will ride in a suspended shelf, which will allow me to attend of them without crawling under the layout.
Rewiring is going much smoother and easier thanks from knowledge gained from my first endeavor. All electronics are centrally located on the shelf that holds them. Everything is facing upward, which greatly facilitates installation and management. The outgoing ports on the two green circuit breakers will sport 16 gauge wire to more efficiently deliver power to the rails.
Switch motors are being wired and attached near where they will be deployed on the layout. Although I will eventually have to get under the layout to secure the motors, at least the wiring process is easier. I have them labeled with blue tape to keep things straight.
Some motors (as shown below) will operate from one decoder. They are in such close proximity that one cannot be thrown without throwing the other to secure the proper route for the train.
The new layout will have 25 switches in total, but eight of them will be thrown by hand. Even so, I will have to purchase 5 new motors since some are doubling up onto one decoder.
Another new trick I will be implementing if it works is to solder the feeders directly to the bottom of the metal rail connectors. In the past, I’ve soldered directly to the sides of the rails, but I really don’t like attaching feeders that way. There’s too great a chance of melting ties.
My first attempt went great. I’m using 18 gauge feeders, solid core, copper. I was able to easily attach the feeders and the physical connection is surprisingly sturdy. The challenge will be to precisely place the holes through the roadbed so the flex track will lay exactly where I want it to go. It think that will be easy to do.