HelixDisplayPanel  This is my first design proposal for the display/control panel for the helix.  The mainline enters the helix on the bottom right and then splits into two tracks.  The outer helix track (upward traffic) has a 40" radius and the inner helix track (downward traffic) has a 37.5" radius.  There are 4 1/2 laps to the helix plus lower and upper entrance/exit tracks.  Each 'lap' of each track will be an occupancy zone so there are 18 zones in the helix plus 3 zones for each of the entrance/exit tracks for a total of 22 occupancy zones. IMG 3132  Jan 3 2016 - I finished building the steel bracket that supports the middle level benchwork where the mainline nolix crosses over the aisle as it heads up to the upper level. I have also started cutting and dry placing the 3/4" plywood subroadbed for the lower return loop and staging tracks that will be hidden under the city (Ogden).  Once I am happy with the layout of subroadbed before screwing it down I will use it as templates to cut 1/2 homasote roadbed.  This task has also forced me to figure out exactly how I am going to support the plywood base of the city above the hidden return loop (as well as how the detachable backdrop behind the 42" deep high rise city scene will be built/installed. IMG 3134  This benchwork projects 48" from the wall and the top of the 1x3 benchwork is 77.5" elevation. IMG 3135
IMG 3136  Working on laying out the subroadbed for the double track mainline as it climbs a 1.3% grade and emerges from under the city. IMG 3143  I finished installing the layout lighting LED strips that light the lower level. Note the "start climb" notation on the left. This is the point where the middle level nolix starts the 2.0% climb up to the upper level. IMG 3144  Placed the board that shows the span where the mainline crosses the aisle on its way up to the upper level. IMG 3145  I also installed a conduit over the door to allow me a shorter run for electrical cables/busses as an alternative to going all the way around the outside of the room. I considered trying to run the conduit inside the wall but this wall is a load bearing wall (with lots of extra blocking), it has all the plumbing for the bathroom, and it has a bunch of electrical.  So I took the ugly path of less resistance.
IMG 3146 IMG 3147  Showing the newly installed LED layout lighting sections with the room lights turned off. IMG 3148 IMG 3149
IMG 3154  The lower return loop double track mainline will exit a tunnel portal at the bottom left of this photo.  You can see where it will transition from the homasote roadbed to the Woodland Scenics 3/16" foam roadbed about 3 feet from the exit of the tunnel. IMG 3157 IMG 3158  I created a 1:1 scale design proposal for a control panel for the hidden lower return loop and staging track.  The red squares represent momentary switches that will toggle the turnout position.  The green circles represent 5mm bicolor LEDs that will indicate the turnout status (closed/thrown).  The red circles represent 5mm LEDs that indicate occupancy zones.  It also shows where the track is gapped.  The control panel would mount about 7" above it's current location once the plywood/foam base for the city is installed. IMG 3160  Jan 10 2015 - I painted/sealed the homasote subroadbed for the lower return loop.  The color is Behr N200-3  "Nightingale Gray". In the top left corner you can see a train crossing the aisle on the "plate girder" bridge that will be used to cross above the aisle into the upper level.
IMG 3163  The 8 ft long "U" channel raw steel bar that I plan to use to cross aisle into the upper level was delivered last week. It is 3" wide and 1.5" tall.  I plan to glue a section of 1/2" homasote into the U channel to use as roadbed.  This allows the train to be clearly visible as it crosses approx 80" above the floor but still (hopefully) provides some ability to "catch" wayward trains before they make to death fall to the floor.  I need to get the raw steel sanded and painted soon to avoid it rusting (of course some rust might be appropriate as 'weathering'). IMG 3165  I used caulk to cover the drywall screws and seams in the homasote roadbed of the yard area.  After caulking I painted it with the Behr Nightingale Gray to seal it. IMG 3168  The loco service area in the lower right IMG 3169
IMG 3171  I finally started laying track (In the lower return loop).  The track is Atlas code 100. IMG 3174 IMG 3175  I'm using Peco code 100 large insulfrog turnouts in the lower/upper return loops.  They will be controlled by Tortoise motors (which will be controlled by NCE Switch-it mk2 stationary DCC decoders with fron panel toggle buttons. IMG 3179  Jan 19 2016 - All the track for the lower return loop and staging tracks has been layed.  Now I need to install track feeders and connect them to the track power bus.
IMG 3181 IMG 3182 IMG 3190  Each of the 6 loops of track is an occupancy zone and each of the 2 turnout ladders is an occupancy zone so there are 8 track bus wire pairs. I ran out of combinations with a white wire so I ended up using a blue/silver wire as #8. IMG 3195  Jan 24 2016 - The lower level reverse loop and staging track have been wired for DCC track power and tested with 3 locomotives. I have also begun to work on the DCC infrastructure in order to test the track installation.
IMG 3196  The next step is to install the Tortoise motors to drive the turnouts and the NCE Switch-8 + button board to control the Tortoises.  I will also be installing the RR-Cirkits BOD-8 and FOB-A boards to handle the occupancy zone detection and LED status display. IMG 3197  This is the 'remote' booster #2 which  provides track power for the lower return loop and staging tracks.  The lower return loop is driven by a DCC Specialties PSX-AR to handle the reversing nature of the return loop. Booster #2 weill also drive a DCC Specialties PSX-4 which will eventually handle 4 other track power districts. IMG 3199  This is the main layout control panel.  The Digitrax DCS-100 which is main 'brain' of the DCC system is located here along with two Digitrac DB-150 boosters.   The DCS-100 will not be used to power any track.  One DB-150 will provide power/control for all the turnouts on the layout and the other DB-150 will drive a DCC Specialties PSX-4 and power/control 4 power districts. There are also four 20AMP 12v power supplies which power the lower/middle level layout LED lightstrips. IMG 3201  I'm using a Digitrax PS2012 to provide power for the DCS-100, and two DB-150 boosters. Booster #1 will be connected to the PSX-4 in the top left corner to provide DCC track power for 4 power districts.  The turnout control booster will be connected to a power bus that will power/control all the turnouts (~100) on the layout.
IMG 3204 IMG 3354  March 18 2016 - I've been working on installing backdrops and coving corners on the lower level for the last couple of weeks. I was unable to get the 1/8" masonite to consistently bend sharp enough for the inside coved corners around the center platform so I ended up using cheap formica to cove these corners.  Lots of spackling, fairing, sanding.  I'm not very good at making perfect drywall joints so this task is tedious. IMG 3355  Coving the corner with 1/8" masonite. IMG 3356
IMG 3357  I hit the masonite with 80 grit sandpaper using a palm sander before installing it on the layout to knock down the glossy finish and help the paint adher. IMG 3358 IMG 3359  I painted the panels on the right before installing them to see what the 'sky' blue was going to look like with the layout LED lighting.  I think it looks good and will look better when I drybrush on some clouds/haze. IMG 3360
IMG 3361 IMG 3373  I'm figuring out how the RR-CirKits BOD-8 and FOB-A boards work by testing them 'off layout' on my workbench before I install them on the layout.  I need to solder eight 82 ohm 1/8 watt resistors on each FOB-A board for the display panel occupancy status LEDs. I learned that if the occupancy zone is LARGE (like all 60+ feet of flex track in 4 staging tracks plus three turnouts in model workshop staging yard) then the occupancy detector will 'detect' empty track unless the sensitivity POT is turned almost all the way down.  Once I reconfigured the detector coil to detect a single track the BOD-8 started working as expected. IMG 3374  A Switch-It on the left and the Switch-8 on the right.  Behind the Switch-it on the left is the mount location for the RR-Cirkits BOD-8 and FOB-A occupancy detection/display boards. IMG 3375  Feb 24 2016 - All twelve turnouts in the hidden lower return loop/staging track have been hooked up to NCE Switch-It mk II (one Switch-8 and 2 Switch-its).
IMG 3376 IMG 3377  I installed a RRampMeter inline with the Digitrax DB-150 booster track power output to measure the voltage and current being consumed. This RRampmeter needs to be calibrated because it displays 0.16 amps even when no current is present. IMG 3378  After priming the coved corners.  This is the corner where the double track mainline (foreground) is descending into the hidden lower return loop/staging track and a branchline (behind) is climbing to service the city above the hidden return loop. IMG 3379  Primed lower level backdrop with coved corners around the center platform.
IMG 3380 IMG 3381  The primed coved corner where the double track mainline enters the division point classification yard area. IMG 3382 IMG 3383
IMG 3384 IMG 3385 IMG 3386  Two issues here:   #1) The plywood that covers the window opening is recessed back from the drywall about 1/8"-3/16".  Do I just paint the plywood the backdrop sky color or do I install removable 1/8" masonite panels and then paint them?  #2) There's about a 1/16"-1/8" 'dip' in the homasote between 22" and 9" that needs to be filled/leveled before continuing to install the mainline foam roadbed. IMG 3387  The double track mainline descending (1.4% grade) down into lower level return loop and the branchline climbing (1.5% grade) up to service the city above the lower return loop.
IMG 3390  This mockup photo shows how the hidden lower level return loop control/status panel will sit between the 1x4 benchwork and the city base (5/8" plywood and 3/4" foam). It will be recessed so hopefully the turnout toggle switches won't be inadvertantly hit very often. IMG 3394  There will be about 6" of clearance beneath the city base (5/8" plywood, 3/4" foam) to the hidden lower level return loop and staging tracks underneath. IMG 3395  March 20 2016 -- I have started painting the base 'sky' blue on the lower level backdrops/background.  I have also installed coved corners in the the outside corners of the middle level.  I'm starting to spackle/fair/sand the coved corners before they are ready to prime/paint.  The middle level along this section is part of the 'nolix' that climbs from the middle level default 62" elevation up to the upper level at 80" elevation.  The middle level on the right will be a canyon wall with bridges and tunnel and will have terrain the reaches with a foot or two of the 10ft ceiling. IMG 3396  The coved inside corners around the lower level center platform turned out great.  You can see any seam at all.
IMG 3397  You can see I have installed the coved corner for the middle level on the far (right) end of this aisle. IMG 3399 IMG 3400 IMG 3401  It's remarkable to difference some sky blue paint makes.
IMG 3402  I'm finishing up the fairing/sanding of the last coved corner on the lower level and starting the process on the middle level above it. The unpainted area on the lower level is ready to prime/paint. IMG 3403  I also painted the two removable backdrop panels behind the turntable/roundhouse area. I still need to finish the 2x4 supports and PVC conduit on the middle level. IMG 3405  I'm not very good at drywall finishing so it takes me a long time to get the fairing/smoothing done to my satisfaction. IMG 3407  March 26 2016 -- More base blue sky being painted
IMG 3411 IMG 3412  This shows how the middle level needs some LED layout lighting so the backdrop sky color matches the lower level backdrop. And it show how much work I've got to do (later) on the upper level backdrops. IMG 3413 IMG 3414  This is in front of the left window opening. The 1/8" masonite panel is removable and the seams on the left and right sides of the window don't stand out too bad....
IMG 3415  The right window opening. The seams are a lot more visible. IMG 3416  Again this highlights that the middle level needs some LED light strips in this area to match the lower level lighting. IMG 3417 IMG 3418
IMG 3420  The sky backdrop on the left looks more purple than the other sky backdrops. It turns out the LED strips in that area are outputting 4400K color temp versus the rest of the LED strips outputting 3800K color temp. That LED strip will have to be replaced.... IMG 3422 IMG 3424  March 27 2016 -- Working on the 1/8" backdrop for the middle level around the center platform. IMG 3427
IMG 3428 IMG 3429  I coved the three corners of the middle level around the center platform using cheap formica. IMG 3430  Now I need to spackle/fair/sand/repeat all the seams and screw holes before priming/painting. IMG 3431
UpperReturnLoopDiagram3  This is my design for the hidden upper return loop and staging tracks. This is almost identical to the lower return loop except the upper return loop is a 'true' return loop with a single track mainline. IMG 3602  April 17 2016 - After painting the middle level backdrop around the center platform.  You can really see the difference in the much cooler color temperature of the LED strips on the level compared to the middle level backdrop. IMG 3591  April 16 2016 - After spackling/fairing/sanding all the seams several times I primed the backdrop using Zinser 1-2-3 sealing primer. IMG 3592
IMG 3594 IMG 3596  The lower and middle level backdrop colors look slightly different right now also because they are picking up the pink/purple foam on the bottom level versus the light brown/tan of the exposed plywood on the middle level. IMG 3601 IMG 3598  I painted sections of the 2x6 beams that support the upper level 'wings' the blue sky color where they project below the upper level benchwork. I will either leave them sky blue or possibly paint them (and the upper level benchwork) flat black at some point in the future.
IMG 3599 IMG 3600 IMG 3597 IMG 3593
IMG 3605  Glueing down the track as it turns left near the loco service terminal area. IMG 3606 IMG 3608  April 30 2016 - I've been working on installing the double track mainline through the main classification yard area. The flex track has been glued down with clear caulk and track power feeders have been fed through to the DCC track power 10GA bus wires under the benchwork.  Now I need to connect the track feeders to the track. I solder track feeders every other flex track connection (Approx every 6 feet). IMG 3614  Continuing on towards the big loop around where the turntable/roundhouse will be located.
20160501 080508  May 1 2016 - Gluing down the 3/4" foam around the center platform of the lower level. IMG 3617 IMG 3618  I installed the foam roadbed for the mainline around the center platform lower level. IMG 3619
IMG 3620 IMG 3621  Gluing down the single track mainline behind where the turntable/roundhouse will be located. P5081682  Gluing the first sections of the helix plywood roadbed.  Once I finish gluing the first level roadbed I will install both the inner and outer helix tracks and then I will install track feeders.  And then I will install the next level of helix roadbed. P5081681
P5081680  This is where the mainline track comes through the backdrop to enter the helix. I am fairing down cork roadbed in order to drop from the mainline track 3/16" foam roadbed down to the bare plywood of the helix. P5081679  Here I am gluing the helix entrance roadbed where it comes in from the lower level mainline. I have also (dry) placed all the risers overlapping 1/4 arcs that make most of the first level. 20160508 130547  May 8 2016 - I have started construction of the helix.  The helix roadbed will be made from overlapping 15/32" sanded plywood so the roadbed will be 15/16" thick. There railhead to railhead height is 4" so there will be only 3 1/16" clearance between the helix levels.  The outside track (upward) has a 40" radius and a 1.595% grade and the inside track (downward) has a 37.5" radius and a 1.69% grade. There will be 4 1/2 revolutions to climb from 42" to 62".  This is the pattern I used to cut 1/4 arcs from the 15/32" plywood. I get five 1/4 arcs per sheet of plywood and I need 36 arcs. I tried cutting 4 sheets of plywood at once and the radial saw had no trouble but the jigsaw could not cut that many sheets at once so I cut two sheets at once with the jigsaw (and that was really slow). 20160508 112032  These are the 3/4" plywood risers I made to establish the grade for the first level of the helix.  There are 16 of them and they have 1/4" rise between each step.
20160513 055257  The inside track has been soldered and dry placed. 20160514 062125  I test fit a couple more 1/2" plywood roadbed arcs to see how the spacing when the helix makes a complete circle and starts covering the lower levels. P5221721  I have started working on the helix trackpower bus infrastructure. P5221714  I installed a plywood panel where booster station #3 is located.  Booster #3 will power a DCC Specialties PSX3 amd PSX-AR.  The PSX3 has three power districts: helix, upper level left, and upper level right.  The PSX-AR will power the upper level return loop and staging tracks.
20160514 081954  A good use for cheap Publix root beer. P5221726  Each half of each track (inner/outer) of each level in the helix will be an occupancy zone. There are 4 1/2 laps/levels for the helix so there will be 18 occupancy zones within the helix (and 3 occupancy zones for each the helix entrances (lower/upper)) for a total of 24 occupancy zones.  Each occupancy zone requires a track power bus. For the helix I plan to use 9 different 12GA wire colors (brown, gray, yellow, orange, red, green, blue, purple, pink) paired with white on the left half and paired with black on the right half for the track bus (18 total color combinations). 20160514 082401  The lower level mainline track has been completed all the way around the center platform and into the entrance of the helix. 20160514 082342  The lower level mainline track has been completed all the way around the center platform and into the entrance of the helix.
20160514 082324  The lower level mainline track has been completed all the way around the center platform and into the entrance of the helix. 20160513 061051  I installed a scrap piece of 1/8" masonite as a proof of concept/test for enclosing the helix (eventually).  It seemed to be fairly sturdy but I may try a piece of 3/16" masonite to see how that does. 20160513 055333  I altered the turnout where the mainline splits into the inner and outer helix tracks from being a left hand to a right hand turnout to resolve two 'S' curves. 20160512 064616  May 10 2016 - Gluing down the outside track of the helix.
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20160601 063211  Only one injury during construction of the helix. 20160530 152916 20160610 064817  Wiring the track power in the helix.  There are 22 occupancy detection zones in the helix. 20160610 064825
20160715 165653 20160715 165712 20160715 165627  Building the subroadbed along the 'nolix' that climbs @1.95% from the middle level to the upper level. IMG 4155  The exit from the top of the helix into the middle level.
IMG 4156  All the mainline track has been installed and powered.  Trains can now run all the way from the lower return loop to the bridge that crosses the aisle where the mainline enters the upper level. IMG 4157  I will be adding several service spurs around the center platform area of the middle level. IMG 4158 IMG 4159
IMG 4160 IMG 4161 IMG 4162  Middle level passing track. IMG 4163
IMG 4165  The start of the 'nolix' climb from the middle level at 62" elevation up to the upper level at 82" elevation.  The grade is 1.95% and will be operated as a disgnated helper district. IMG 4166 IMG 4167 IMG 4168
IMG 4170  There will be a 3ft long trestle bridge in this corner of the middle level level. IMG 4173 IMG 4174 IMG 4175  There is 41" elevation difference (38" - 79") between the lower return loop and the middle level mainline where it reaches the bridge that crosses above the aisle into the upper level.
IMG 4176 IMG 4179a  I had originally planned to butt join the backdrops in these two red highlighted corners of the upper level but I subsequently decided they would look much better if the backdrops are rounded/coved so I am reengineering these areas.  I plan to finish the upper level backdrops before I start laying the upper level mainline track. IMG 4180  After taking out the backdrop panel for redesign/rebuild. IMG 4181  After installing the 1/8" masonite with rounded corners.
IMG 4182  After installing the 1/8" masonite with rounded corners. IMG 4189 IMG 4187 IMG 4186  I am completely replacing the panel in the right corner to see if I can get a better/tighter fit to the ceiling.
IMG 4184  Dec 19 2016 - Still working on installing the 1/8" masonite backdrops for the upper level. IMG 4193 IMG 4191  Dec 28 2016 - Applied first coat of mud to seams and screw holes. IMG 4194  I have sanded the screw hole patches but the taped seams need to dry more before sanding and applying the second coat of mud..
IMG 4195 UpperBackdropPanorama  A panoramic view of the upper level. IMG 4203  Dec 30 2016 - I finished the backdrop prep and painted two coats of primer this morning. IMG 4204
IMG 4212 IMG 4211 IMG 4210  The slightly darker shade of blue for the upper level backdrops. I still need to cut in the very top near the ceiling. I plan to use white spray paint to create some 'haze' on the lower area of the backdrops.