Dear fellow Valeasians,
Over the last two weekends I have been making a bit of progress on
Val Ease Summit, the long awaited, often postponed, fourth module in
the Val Ease Central empire.
As you know, I finally decided on a track plan which is pretty close
to the wye diagram that I presented in the infamous "Part one"
construction article in Ztrack Magazine a while back. The plan I'm
working on is a simple wye using a double slip at the wye return
point to provide two leads, both long enough for a short wheelbase
loco and two cars.
The upper section connects to the bottom via a down-grade curve to a
RH switch that makes the connection with Centre Val Ease. Both the
upper and lower levels have run through trackage so that VES can
either replace Val Ease West or extend the layout to a full four
modules, VEE + CVE + VES + VEW.
Last weekend's work entailed fitting the 1.5 inch styrofoam base
into the suitcase. It took a little bit more effort than expected
since the suitcase needed to be weighted down with four bricks to
flatten the sides to meet the level that CVE has settled to. With
the bricks in place, I was able to position VEW next to CVE and the
bridge section and then mark the connecting spots for the new
trackage. When it came time to start work on the second layer of
styrofoam, I discovered that my 1.5 inch thick section was 3/4
inches too high. Wondering what to do next, I left the project to
percolate through my subconscious over the week.
This weekend, I found the answer. I decided to finally unwrap a hot-
wire cutting tool for styrofoam that my wife had picked up many
moons ago for her layout carving projects. I picked a square
carving element for the job ahead. First I traced the track plan on
the styrofoam, leaving about an inch on each side of the rails for
clearance. The nice thing about working with sectional track is
that it stayed attached as I slid it carefully from the working
styrofoam to a flat piece of foamcore I had available.
The carving tool worked great. I measured the depth I needed to go
on the heating wire of the tool with indelible black marker. I
tried to keep the tool at the proper level while slowly carving out
12 to 15 inch long sections of styrofoam. After about an hour
having fun with the tool, I had removed enough styrofoam to begin
evening out the surfaces. It took at least three passes with the
tool to remove enough foam so there were naturally little ridges,
dips and bumps left over from my uneven cutting strokes.
Another brilliant idea came to me when I asked myself how I was
going to even the roadbed out. I used a small hand rasp to remove
excess material and make a nice flat base for the track. The rasp
was small enough to follow the curves and short straight sections I
Using a sharp paring knife, I then removed sections of the styrofoam
layer that I knew would not be needed in the next stage of
construction. I plan to have a marshy area making the transition
with CVE, so I cut out a 4- to 5-inch section on the left-hand side
of the wye.
I haven't glued the second layer down yet. I still have some
decisions to make about how I'm going to handle the downgrade;
inside a short tunnel or completely visible from the front? I'll
sleep on that question and probably get the rubber cement out
tomorrow. The last thing I did before heading to the computer to
report on today's progress was to slip the trackage into the nice
level grooves I had carved and rasped. The wye, switches and
downgrade curves slipped almost perfectly into the prepared
trackbed. There is a little bit of retouching to do in a couple of
spots but the trackage looks pretty good.
I can almost imagine the scenery sprouting up to fill the rest of
the space...marsh, forests, riffraff causeway, rock faces, cliffs,
burnt forest, snow sheds...
And, yes, I am taking pictures as I go along.