US Style Track in S - Jameston & Leven River RR

Discussion in 'Techniques' started by JimG, 22 February 2016.

  1. JimG

    JimG Western Thunderer

    Things have moved on a bit in the last couple of weeks. I had a chat with Richard (Dikitriki) about needing to build about twelve feet of low relief buildings and at the time of our discussion I had only achieved about one foot of this. :) So after sorting out the windows for the first building, I opted to build more in the style of this building so that the work on the windows wouldn't go to waste. :)

    The first building is on the right and the new work fills up the rest of the board - three feet's worth. :) What I'm also trying to achieve is plenty of relief on the buildings to get away from the low relief slab against the backscene scenario. A gantry crane will poke out of the top of the large opening just to the right of the railroad car. This crane would have been to load/unload from the railroad siding or from a barge. There will be a narrow tie-up jetty roughly parallel to the siding for barges of for the railroad float car. I'm thinking I might have to make the crane de-mountable since it could be liable to damage during carriage to and from exhibitions.

    Just a couple of low angle shots to show a bit more of the detail.

    ...and a shot showing more details of the protrusion at the end. I might colour the brickwork differently on this part to show a later built extension. I'm going to site a tank for some liquid in this space, hence the containment wall and the doorway part way up the wall. There will be a flight of steps down from the door, and a lot of excuses for plenty of pipework, valves and pumps. :)

    I've learned a lot while building this on how to make sure everything stays stuck together. The MDF delaminates quite easily, especially on the brick etched side , so I found that depending solely on a joint between MDF parts didn't last all that well. So I've now devised a system of re-enforcing all the corners so that things stay stuck together in the rough and tumble of building them.

    The next job on this board will be to arrange the transfer bridge for the car float. I want to find out the gradient I can incorporate in the bridge so that all my locos and stock can negotiate it with no problems. This will also establish the height of the deck on the car float.

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  2. JimG

    JimG Western Thunderer

    I thought it best to get the track finished on the left hand end board which just got its buildings - see above. The main feature of the track on this board is the float bridge to connect with the car float which is the layout's glorified cassette hidden sidings - in plain sight. :)

    I dug around for a prototype to base my model on and finally plumped for this one, from West 26th Street in New York.


    The Howe truss was a favourite for early railroads since it was of basically simple construction with timber in compression and iron (later steel) in tension. The iron work comprised of rods with tapped ends and simple plate shapes. The timber could be supplied from local lumber yards. No very long lengths of timber were required since there was provision for jointing timber to achieve the length of bridge required.

    There were also some good close up pictures giving a lot of detail of the construction.



    I decided to start on the main beams which are made up of four parts bolted together. They are spaced apart to let the vertical rods pass through to plates on their undersides so I have used small pieces of 0.8mm ply as spacers.


    ..and then clamped together with glue.


    For all the very obvious nuts and washers on the construction I've used the smaller nuts I used on the jetty as the larger nuts on this project and I scaled down the drawings to provide a smaller size of nut and washer to do for the smaller sizes on the bridge.


    I cut them with tabs between them to keep them all together. With no tabs the milling cutter tends to distribute them to all corners of the workshop. :) So far I've produced about 600 of the smaller nuts and washers and about 200 of the larger ones to go with 100 left over from the jetty build. I'll probably need to produce a few more of the larger ones but I think I've probably got enough of the smaller ones. :) They are eminently "pingable" hence the high numbers. :)

    The next job was to pilot drill the beams to take the nuts and washers. This was done on the mill since there are loads of holes and there was no contest between me or the machine. :)

    On this beam, the piles of sawdust are round the 0.5mm holes for the larger nuts and washers and the o.3mm slot drill is making the holes for the smaller nuts and washers.

    I've now started fitting the nuts and washers to the beams.

    The beam to the top of the picture is one of the bottom beams on the bridge and it has had all its larger nuts and washers fitted along with two jointing plates. I'm waiting on some 0.3mm drills to come to use for clearing the bores of the smaller nuts and washers before I start on them. The beam closer to camera shows the method of fitting, with short lengths of plastic rod inserted in the holes in the wood and then locked with a small amount of Butanone. Then the nuts and washers are fitted on the rods. The syringe with the Butanone is invaluable for this work since it avoids fiddling with brushes and bottles.

    I'll push on with the larger nuts and washers until the 0.3mm drills arrive - maybe tomorrow. :)

    The web site that the details of the bridge come from is an excellent resource for float bridges in the New York harbours.

    West 26th Street Freight Station - Baltimore & Ohio Railroad

    Dan Randall, unklian, Ian_C and 6 others like this.
  3. JimG

    JimG Western Thunderer

    I needed a break from placing small nuts and I also had to churn out more of the larger nuts, so while the milling machine was churning away, I started on the base of the bridge.

    6mm square timbers were stuck to a printout using double sided tape. The wider four timbers at one end are to support the winching gear to draw the car float onto the bridge. I also placed one of the lower longitudinal beams in place complete with all its nuts and washers at the top.
    [Edit] I've just noticed it's an upper beam and not a lower one. :)

    I then started laying the track, spiking the running rails onto each timber. The timbers are pre-drilled with a 0.5mm drill to take the spikes, which are 0.6mm wide. So there's just enough grip to keep everything in place but make spiking reasonably easy. I don't think the P:87 spikes would go directly into the timber.

    All the running rails and guard rails are laid and I started laying the longitudinal planking.

    Before I forgot, I soldered in some wiring leads just in case things got difficult when the building was further advanced.

    ...and the work so far with the planking in the four and six foot way. The standard of construction on the prototypes was fairly agricultural and I'm trying to represent that here. I remember discussing modelling structures with a member of the S scale society many years ago and he recommended slightly over-stating details so that these were visible at normal viewing distances of the models. So I'm doing this with the planking - like making gaps between them rather than butting them hard up against each other.

    The other major detail of my bridge is the missing central truss. From what I can see from photographic evidence, a two track float bridge would have had a central truss. But I just don't have the room to accommodate a central truss. In fact the two roads are at the absolute minimum distance apart to fit into my layout. It might have been better to have a single track bridge but I couldn't find a prototype for a car float with a single track access.

    The bridge will also be horizontal. I had hoped to have it at a slight angle as a feature but tests with track and stock put me off the idea. The problem wasn't the trucks on the locos and rolling stock, which managed to negotiate something like a five degree angle, but the Kadee couplings which were quite sensitive to a vertical angular change. All the couplings are body mounted and unintended decoupling was bad enough between rolling stock. But the locomotives, with a longer distance from coupler to bogie pivot were really sensitive to any change. By the time I found an angular change which would work, it was so small that I was just as well making the bridge horizontal. :) I might have got it to work if I had the room to incorporate a vertical transition curve but that would only work at the landward end of the bridge - there would still be an angular change at the joint between bridge and car float. Three link couplings can have advantages sometimes. :)

    Now back to work on the trusses now that I've churned out some more large nuts. :)

    Last edited: 23 June 2018
    Dan Randall, Jordan, unklian and 8 others like this.
  4. JimG

    JimG Western Thunderer

    I started by setting out the bases for the diagonal timbers on the main beams.


    I machined the bases to the correct angle in the CNC mill and printed a guide from the CAD drawing. The seats are also drilled for the vertical rods which pass through them.

    Top and bottom beams have all their seats glued in place.

    I then built up a frame from 1mm Plastikard to support the truss while being built. The main beams sit on the cross beams - the Plastikard on edge to fit between all the nuts on the sides. The lengthwise sheets are there to locate and support the various beams at the appropriate offsets.

    First the end pillars were fitted to provide a rectangular frame with the two main beams and located on the frame. I then started fitting the main load carrying timbers down one side. This was a bit fiddly to start until I had worked out how I would actually have to do it. :) I had originally intended to use Butanone to glue the timbers to the Plastikard bases but that didn't go to well unless the timbers were very slightly over-length so that they melted into the styrene when the Butanone was added. But getting that precise amount of over-length was very tricky and the beams tended to get distorted slightly which broke some joints already made. So I changed tack and fitted all the beams to be a mild push fit so that the main framework wasn't distorted. My sanding disk proved invaluable for this work once I had got the hang of taking off very small amounts. :)

    When all the load-bearing timbers were laid down one side, the intermediate, lighter timbers were placed - again as a light push fit.

    Then the other, outer, load bearing timbers were fitted, again with mild push fits. Then I glued all the joints with very thin superglue which wicked into all the joints and fixed them. The only possible problem with using the very thin superglue is that it has also wicked into the grain at the end of the timbers and may show up when I start staining. I'll do a test before I start on the other truss. There are one or two mistakes on this one and it will be relegated to the inner side of the bridge to keep it as far away from eyes as possible. So any problems with staining will almost be "out of sight, out of mind". :)

    The next job was to start fitting the vertical rodding. The rods are 20 thou Plastikard - the old brown variety which is getting close to a reasonable colour. More of the large nuts and washers were made for this job as well as the large plate to go across the main beams. The rod was threaded through plates beams and bases, nuts applied top and bottom and the lot glued up with Butanone.

    The truss with all its rods fitted and temporarily placed on the bridge deck...

    ...and shown with a boxcar on the track to give an idea of the truss height. From what I could see on digging around, trusses were usually a bit taller, but usually a bit longer as well. So I took the height down to retain the proportions on my shorter bridge.

    For the second truss, I'm going to start with the vertical wires and do the timbers after. Fitting the rods has been more fiddly working around some of the timber work and the rods won't get in the way of fitting the timbers.

    If I was doing this again, I would use metal rods - probably 20 thou straight spring steel wire. Trying to get the Plastikard rod dead straight is quite difficult. I did try fixing one end of the rods, letting them set hard, then applying tension and gluing the other ends. But the Butanone weakens the rods and they tend to break. :)


    Attached Files:

  5. Steph Dale

    Steph Dale Western Thunderer


    I'm not sure which side of the bonkers-or-brilliant line you're now on, but that's a wonderful piece of model making :thumbs:
    As ever, with unfamiliar scales I can't get a sense of the size of the piece; could I trouble you for a further photo with something I can use to judge the scale, please?

  6. Big Train James

    Big Train James Western Thunderer

    Looks like a 40' boxcar behind the truss in the above photo. So the truss would be something like 8 inches long? By about 2" tall?
    AndyB likes this.
  7. JimG

    JimG Western Thunderer

    Jim is correct. The main longitudinal beams are 200mm long and the trusses are 45mm high.

    Quick pic to show. :)

    Last edited: 4 July 2018
  8. ScottW

    ScottW Western Thunderer

    Absolutely superb, Jim. :thumbs:

    I do hope I get the chance to see it in the flesh sometime.
  9. JimG

    JimG Western Thunderer


    If all goes well, the layout should be on show at the Thornbury show at the end of the year. That's what the push to getting the layout looking reasonable is for. :) After that it could surface at the Yate show next February depending on whether we deem it well enough advanced - "we" being the exhibition committee of which I'm a member. :)

    I might also get it to an S scale meeting but not while I'm still Parts Officer - it would either be the layout or the parts in the car. :)

    ScottW likes this.
  10. JimG

    JimG Western Thunderer

    The finished truss in place on the rear of the bridge. Aficionados of Howe trusses would have noted the lack of the bolts and plates attaching the truss to the deck beams - without them the trusses would have been going along for the ride. :) Those have been fitted as well as the through bolts where the timbers cross in the truss. I note that I have some small repairs to do on replacing missing nuts due to handling. :)


    After this it will be attaching to the bridge deck using wood glue. The deck on its own is strong enough to support the loads although the S scale diesels do weigh a fair bit. So on my model the trusses will be going along for the ride. :)

  11. mickoo

    mickoo Western Thunderer

    .......a lie down in a darkened room, seems more appropriate :eek: :cool: :thumbs:

    Nice work !

  12. Yorkshire Dave

    Yorkshire Dave Western Thunderer

    Switch using idler flats which will prevent the diesels traversing the deck. All looks very impressive.
  13. JimG

    JimG Western Thunderer

    I had an N scale switching layout with a car float and used a flat car as an idler in that to load and unload the car floats. But I may have restricted myself a bit too much in this layout to have room for an idler car. Once I start operating it fully I'll try adding an idler car to see if I can accommodate it in the operations.

    But otherwise work on the transfer bridge progresses and it is complete - well almost - still got to paint it. :)

    There are one or two things I would like to do again but I really can't afford to spend another few weeks building another one. :) Also I've still got to fit the plates on the underside of the main beams - this bridge will sit right at the front of the layout and someone would be sure to note that they were missing. And I've done all the nuts and plates for them in any case so might as well use them. :)

    I'm also going to experiment with some of the offcuts of timber to see what kind of staining I will apply. I'm tending towards a shade of grey/black.

    I want to get this fitted as soon as possible since that will finish the track-laying on the left hand end of the layout.

  14. Yorkshire Dave

    Yorkshire Dave Western Thunderer

    I'd start with a dilute black ink wash as this will colour the timbers grey - if it's not quite dark enough after drying you can then apply additional washes to suit.
  15. JimG

    JimG Western Thunderer

    I've got some Ebony spirit wood dye which I'm going to dilute with IPA to see how it looks. It's not quite black, but very dark brown. I've also got black shoe dye which Steve Cook recommends for staining wood, also being diluted with IPA.

    I'm following your bothy thread with interest. I've got a load of brickwork to deal with and your methods are giving me a lot of hints.

    Yorkshire Dave likes this.
  16. Yorkshire Dave

    Yorkshire Dave Western Thunderer

    I'll be interested in the results of black shoe dye and the IPA as a wash.
  17. JimG

    JimG Western Thunderer

    The last ironwork fitted. :)

    ...and if someone gets their dental mirror out they will find that the rod end fittings are there as well. :)

    I've left the fittings off the end beams since I have to accommodate a hinge fitting at the landward end, and the fittings for the car float at the other.

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  18. JimG

    JimG Western Thunderer

    I don't really like working in hot weather so not much has been done in the past two weeks. So I've been messing about with some other matters on the computer which doesn't create sweat. :) But today has been a bit cooler so I was able to set up outside and start putting the transfer bridge in place.



    The landward bridge support will be covered in a stone facing. The outer support will be covered in a Plastikard replica of the flotation tank for the bridge. The car float will butt against the outer surface and I've yet to decide on what the method of alignment will be between this surface and the float. The bridge is screwed down at each end to allow removal for painting, etc., and the screws will be covered by planking when everything is finished.

    The dowel under the landward end represents a form of hinge that some prototypes used - i.e. the end cross-beam of the bridge sat on a round log to provide a very simple hinge.


    This board is getting a bit crowded - certainly by the time a car float is in place. :) I don't think "Less is more" will apply here. :)

    chrisb, jamiepage, Rob R and 6 others like this.
  19. mickoo

    mickoo Western Thunderer


    Maybe a bit late in the day, but have a look at this guys thread, it's in french but google translate works wonders, it's a wealth of prototype information on anything and everything to do with rail related barges, floats, tugs, links spans and some very good modeling, mainly focusing on New York I'm sure it'll give you something to use somewhere.


    Fair warning, it's 20 pages long so get a cup of coffee and some digestives first, you will loose a good amount of time down this rabbit hole.


    Going back a few posts you noted that you couldn't get any angle on the bridge as the couplings were coming free, are they that sensitive to angles, you must be able to add some slight angle to the bridge surely?

    It's too late now but one option might of been to add a pre slope on the land side of the hinge, say 2-3° then the bridge at 4-6°, the problem then would be on the bridge to float joint which might be too much of an angle.
    Last edited: 28 July 2018
  20. JimG

    JimG Western Thunderer


    I've just had time to go through the first ten pages with Google Translate and that is a wealth of information. I need to set a lot of time aside to go through the whole thread in detail. :) There is a huge amount of information within the thread that I've looked at so far. My searches in the Internet only dug up information about the transfer bridges, but this thread has got loads of info and pictures of barges, tugs, terminals, etc. I've bookmarked the URL for future reference. Many thanks.

    I had worked out that what I could have fiddled at the landward end to avoid problems with couplers would probably be difficult, if not impossible, to reproduce between the transfer bridge and the barge. So I've stuck with the level bridge. :) I noted in the thread that some bridges had a hinged section at the outer end. If I had modelled one of them that might have allowed a form of transition at that end. However, I think that would have meant a longer bridge and not a pontoon type. I don't think I would have the room, or the time to start on another bridge. :)