I am thrilled, excited, relieved, exhausted, and happy to report track on the entire Maple Valley Short Line Railroad is finished! Well, the track is all in place. Installing ballast is yet to come.
This model railroad is the largest layout I have ever built. I started with a blank canvas three years ago and today am very proud of my progress. I have never tried using latex molds for plaster rocks but I think they look terrific. I also have never painted backdrops before, but am very happy with the results. I am just getting started with ground cover, and I plan to use a ton of Woodlands Scenic weeds.
The long outside loop has been operational for several months. When I get tired of slow progress I run a train around the layout several times and I’m immediately enthused again. For a kid who loves trains, there is nothing like listening to the clicking sound of the wheels as they roll over the track, through turnouts, and over bridges.
This is also the first time I have ever tried making my own trees. A large layout, depending on the kinds of scenes desired, requires a lot of trees. I have several from previous layouts but not enough for this one. I followed Luke Towan’s tutorials with step-by-step instructions to build trees with floral wire. It’s very easy, but requires time and patience. I quickly discovered the clipped wire ends are very sharp! Luke Towan’s videos can be found on YouTube. There are many videos for just about everything necessary to build a beautiful layout.
There is still so much more to accomplish! I insulated several blocks throughout the layout, which means a lot of wiring. This is the first time I have not used a common rail, so I will use buss feeds throughout for DC power. I also plan to use Atlas Snap Relays for turnout signals. Several years ago I made my own two-light signals using plastic pre-fab, non-operating signals. I drilled out the red and green lenses and replaced them with real lights. I soldered resistors into the feed wire, through a two-way switch and wired them directly to my AC accessory power supply. They looked great, but were essentially non-operating because I didn’t use the snap relays. This time I will.
Since I used 1 1/2″ extruded foam for the base of the layout, I’ll have to drill through the foam and the plywood deck to provide wire access for feeds to the rails and turnouts. I had big plans to use under-the-table switch machines and linkage. The more I thought about it, the less bold I felt. I decided the resulting appearance on the layout wasn’t worth the potential headaches. I’m not purchasing all new fool-proof tortoise switch machines. I’m using my old Atlas machines that still work fine.
My next project is placing, rearranging, then rearranging again, then finally moving all the manufacturing and retail buildings I have. I plan to paint streets and lay gravel roads for rural areas and around factories. I love lighting the buildings so that will be another wiring project yet to come.
Writing “Scandal at Maple Valley” has delayed my progress on the actual railroad, but I don’t regret it! I’m fourteen episodes in and I don’t plan to stop any time soon. The most recent episode included lyrics to a song I made up just for the band, Buck Wills and the Wagoneers, called, “Mama Drinks Whiskey From a Coffee Cup.” I am thrilled to announce the song has now been set to music and recorded by one of my very talented daughters-in-law. I couldn’t believe it! It’s fantastic, if I do say so myself! So, one day, we will release the fictional song for real!
Here’s to many more years of progress on the Maple Valley Short Line Railroad. Happy model railroading everyone!