The Acadian Coast Eastern
A freelanced 1930's Maine narrow gauge line                                                                      President and Chief Gandy Dancer:  Sandy Eustis
Basic Construction Methods: 

I've had several painful moving experiences in life where I've had to destroy previous layouts.  
Since there may be one more move in our future, I decided to make this layout as easily removable as possible, and I've adhered to the promise I made about not nailing anything to the walls or floor.  The ACE resides on 3" of pink foam insulation glued on top of a series of hollow core doors ("doorminos"), supported on free-standing sawhorses.  I chose a 3" foam base so I could cut away areas below track level for my harbor and the one river crossing shown on the plan (2"would have been enough, as I eventually decided on a shallower 2" drop from track level to water level.)  This system is sturdy and fairly level because 5 of the 6 doormino sections fit snugly against a wall and also wedge against the adjacent doormino, while the center peninsula doormino is screwed securely to the one doormino to which it abuts.  To keep the whole layout level, I initially had to kick in or kick out the sawhorse legs occasionally, but after about a year, the doors settled into their current positions, and I no longer have to keep leveling.  Yes, there are two locations where adjacent doors aren't perfectly level with each other at the joint, and so there's a wee bit of grade where the tracks cross those joints -- just enough grade as it happens to cause cars parked on two of my sidings to roll slightly away from where I want to spot them.  But a short peg inserted into a hole next to the track rests against the car frame and eliminates the problem completely.  I really don't find this very annoying; it's just the modeling equivalent of having to set brakes on a parked car.  Other than those two short unintended grades, the entire track plan is laid on one level. The part of Maine I'm trying to capture had plenty of low hills, but also a lot of relatively flat terrain along the coast and up the shallow tidal valleys, and of course the builders would have skirted hills and kept the grade as close to level as possible.  All of my track is of the Micro-Engineering code 83 variety -- #5 On30 turnouts and flex track.  My removable bridge is simply a 60" long pine 1x6, made rigid by pressing a pair of U-shaped shelf brackets over the edges.  It rests directly on the layout on both ends, is aligned by eye with the track to which it connects, and is powered via a simple stereo plug and socket hanging below one end.     


More Construction Methods:

Wiring is probably my least favorite aspect of the hobby, so I opted for a basic Digitrax DCC system.  There's a single electrical  bus running the length of each doormino (on top of the door, so the underside of each door is clean), and connected to the bus under the next doormino with a simple plug connector.  Track-to-bus connections occur at the joints between doormino sections, with additional connections running as needed along the surface of the layout in shallow grooves cut into the foam surface.  I did install 3 on-off switches to divide the layout into 3 electrical blocks of 2 doorminos each, which has proven handy in finding those annoying short circuits that still happen occasionally.  I also ran a second bus line through all the doorminos for building lights or DCC accessories -- just in case I ever want to add those features -- but I have no plans to use that second bus anytime soon.  All of  my turnouts are controlled with Caboose Industries ground throws (look Ma, no turnout motor wiring!), though I had to install the kind of ground throws with built in contacts for frog juicers because my short wheelbase Forneys tend to stall momentarily when they cross unpowered frogs.   My fascia is 1/4" tempered hardboard ("masonite") screwed to the edge of the various doors, and my fascia curtains are just brown queen sizes sheets slit in half and attached to the back of the hardboard with velcro (look Ma, no sewing!)  My lighting system is just a continuous track lighting strip screwed to the ceiling and tapped into the ceiling fan circuit.  I've got various kinds of cans and various sizes and types of bulbs -- I just kept fiddling until I achieved an the overall relatively even intensity that I found pleasing.  My backdrop is just a 16" tall stripe painted directly on the walls of the room.  
So in every area where I had to choose a construction method for the ACE, I chose what I thought would be the simplest possible method to achieve layout stability, operational reliability, and easy portability.  If/when I ever have to move again, all I've have to do to relocate the ACE is to unscrew the hardboard fascia, unplug the wiring bus connections between sections, cut a few gaps in the  track at the doormino joints (there's already a flex track section joint at most of those locations, but on a few tight curves I elected to run flex track across the table joint without cutting a gap there), lift the 6 doorminos up off their sawhorses and slide them out, carry everything away, and repaint the backdrop stripe to the room color.  My workbench is another hollow core door mounted on brackets at desk height inside the room's closet, so I'll also have to remove that and rehang the sliding doors in the 60" wide opening if/when we move again.   Pretty basic methods leading to high portability, huh?

Progress to Date

I began construction in April of 2010.  As of November 1, 2014, I had installed and wired all the track on the revised track plan, painted the backdrop, installed my fascia and fascia curtain, and completed about half the structures that will ultimately reside on the layout.  Most of my structures are wood, with about half being scratchbuilt, while most of the rest were either built as designed or kitbashed from craftsman type kits.  Since I have a tendency to work on whatever moves me at the moment, and since I often choose a project because it makes a bigger visual impact than something else, I have a lot of semi-finished structures, and even most of the finished ones need more weathering and some final detailing.  I've

only added foliage and ground cover to the center peninsula, and very, very few of those wonderful little details that bring a layout to life are in place yet.  

(Hey, you can finish each project completely as you go along on your layout if you want; my approach isn't really recommended by anyone!)              

My modest rolling stock collection  consists of 3 forneys and 1 shay, a rail truck, an SR&RL long caboose, a 4 wheel bobber caboose, a combine, and 23 assorted freight cars -- everything RTR by Bachmann except for one boxcar built to SR&RL dimensions.  (Yes, I know that there was never a 2 foot Shay in Maine, but the Bachmann version was just too cute to pass up, and anyway, one of the founders of the ACE had a friend who knew a guy whose third cousin worked for the Gilpin Tram line in Colorado!)  Most of this equipment has been painted, weathered, and lettered for the ACE.  I've tried several color and lettering schemes on my freight cars (boxcar reds and shades of grey, a diamond herald and A.C.E. initials), which I feel provides a bit of pleasant variety.  I still need to add sound to 2 of the locos, and to repaint, weather, and/or add car weights to about a quarter of the freight car fleet, although I've already built all the open loads I need (coal, lumber, crates, pipe, cut stone, sand, and wire spools.)    

I'm now at the point where I can choose among literally dozens of projects when I work on the ACE.  ("Honey, I hear the bull moose calling me again; see you later.")  I have no particular plan of attack, but tend to work on whatever I think at the time will make either the biggest visual impact or most improve operations.  I know that juicing a few remaining frogs and re-aligning  a bit of bumpy track is important, but I'm now that I'm finally experiencing almost no derailments, nor any spontaneous uncoupling while running, I'll probably just keep focusing on operations and structure building for a while.  Well, I'm starting to get a bit more enthusiastic about ballasting, ground cover, and adding trees and shrubs, since the few areas where I've added those elements really do look a lot better to me. 

A Couple of Ongoing Projects:
The Winter Harbor Engine Terminal:
Commercially available turntable kits are pretty expensive, and even the HO models are either too big for me (my longest loco is only about 8 1/2"long), or they come with a motorizing kit, and all I ever wanted was a simple little hand-turned turntable.  I studied several methods I found in the hobby press for making a simple operating turntable -- a breakfast table Lazy Susan for the pit floor and a turntable bridge on top that rotates with it; a turntable bridge mounted atop a section of 1" PVC pipe, with that assembly resting snugly inside a 1"1/4" diameter fixed pipe; a brass pipe running up through a hole in a fixed pit floor, with the bridge mounted on its top end, etc.)   I eventually decided on my own method.  My turntable bridge, pit, and turning mechanism are all scratch built.  The bridge build was fairly straight forward, but  the pit and turning mechanism required a lot of pre-thought and some fiddling.  The guts of this mechanism is a rather stout stereo plug and socket I bought at Radio Shack -- good electrical contact and no possibility of twisted wires from rotating the bridge too often in the same direction.  The plug passes through a hole in a piece of 1/4" hardboard, which forms the bottom of the pit.  The plug is glued to the hardboard, so the entire pit, including its cast resin "stone" walls, rotates when I turn the bridge.  The rotating pit rests firmly on a second piece of  1/4" hardboard -- let's call it the  "underpit" -- with several more layers of foam and card stock glued under that to build the tops of the rails up to the proper height.  The whole assembly came out a wee bit too low, so I added a single layer of black mat board on top of the foam layout surface to bring the two lead-in tracks up to the proper height.  There's a Digitrax AR1 auto-reverser in the line leading to the plug socket, and the two rails on the bridge are simply led to the plug.   It works like a charm, and it's VERY sturdy. I can turn the bridge easily with one finger on the inside of the pit wall, and it's close enough to the front edge of the layout to align by eye.  I have no desire to motorize this operation.  The total cost of the entire project was under $5 ($2 for the plug, a handful of leftover stones from a big bag I bought at a train show for $5 last year, maybe $1.50 of strip wood, a couple of nut/boltwasher castings from my spare parts drawer, and some leftover scraps of foam, mat board, and masonite hardboard.)   As the pictures below show, I still have a lot to do in this area, including completing the roundhouse (how 'bout some DOORS for a starter!), and of course I still need to add a water tower, coal bin, sand house, ashpit,  another storage track for my rail truck, and a lot of engine service area clutter in order to complete the scene.


The Tunk Lake Lumber Co. Sawmill:
I knew I wanted a sawmill with at least a minimally equipped interior (a main rip saw to turn logs into boards, an edger to trim boards to width, and a chop saw to cut edged boards to length.)  Sawmill kits and mill equipment in O scale are available from several sources, but once again almost everything I found was either too big or too expensive for me.  I decided the old Keystone Models Danby Sawmill kit would be a good starting point, as it measures only about 12" x 6" and includes a cable driven log carriage, the main rip saw, a small vertical boiler steam engine and a mill engine to power the saw.  But there's no room for an edger or cutoff saw, no loading dock, and no office.  So I modified the basic kit, building it as a rectangle instead of as a long saw shed with an attached boiler shed along one side.  I also moved the opening for loading logs from the side of the building to one end, and I'll eventually add an overhead chain hanging from an I-beam to drag logs to the carriage.  My sawmill is still a work in progress, but as the pictures show, I've finished the main shed and the loading dock. 

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