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Location: St. George, Utah, United States

Jun 13, 2010

First Op Session

For those who follow this blog, sorry for the lapse. Much progress has been made and I'll catch this blog up in the near future.

Goals when the revised AT&SG was started --(1) Have trains running by Christmas 2009. The first trains ran for club train tour in November. Trains ran again for the open house Jan 2 1010. (2) Have an op session by June 2010. We made it. The first mini op session was Saturday June 12. Doug Whetstone, Chris Mauzy, Jack LaDuke, John Westbrook, Ed Kruger.

John delivering the mine train to Park City.

Jack and his daughter Natasha, who as an artist liked the scenery.

Doug and John at Ascape yard.

Chris working Castle Coal.

Dave demonstrated classification in the Ascape Yard.
Jack ran the coal train assisted by Chris who finished the run.
John ran the mine train assisted by Doug.
Doug did some classification in the Ascape Yard and delivered traffic to Ascape industries.

Lots of tune up needed but at least folks ran trains.

More about operation to come.

Jan 10, 2010

23 2010 Open House

On January 2, 2010 the Ascape Tennsion & Sulphur Gulch Railroad was on view for the first annual open house for the railroad. More than 60 visitors signed the visitor's log. In addition to the railroad there was socializing among neighbors and friends together with delicious soups and breads. Doug Whetstone (for whom Whetstone Ridge was named) served as engineer to keep trains running for the visitors. Many commented on the beauty of Whetstone Ridge, Lost Creek, Cadi Falls, and Sulphur Gulch. While much of the railroad is still under construction there was sufficient for visitors to grasp the concept of the railroad.

It is hoped that the New Year's Open House will be an annual event. The new year's resolution from the management is to have the track work complete and many industries in place for the 2011 Open House. The goal is for the open house to be an opportunity to witness an actual operating session on the ATSG. Of course this means that the management anticipates the commencement of operating sessions by mid 2010. Interested engineers should contact the management to be placed on the call board.

Unfortunately the management was so busy with visitors that they neglected to take photographs during the open house. Photos will be scheduled for next year as well as for early op sessions.

For those interested in operation the following is scheduled for the ATSG Railroad. As you consult the history of the ATSG (Blog entry #1) you will note that the railroad is connected to the D&RG from Ascape to Provo via Sulphur Gulch and on the East from Echo Junction to Grand Junction. [Both Provo and Grand Junction are represented by staging]. Each day (op session) a D&RG freight travels across the branch from Provo via Ascape to Grand Junction via Echo Junction. This train leaves traffic from Provo and points West destined for the ATSG at Ascape and picks up traffic from the ATST industries to points East via Echo Junction to Grand Junction. A second freight enters the branch from Grand Junction via Echo Junction leaving traffic destined for the railroad's industries at Ascape and picking up traffic destined for Provo and points west. The D&RG has been petitioned for a Westbound and Eastbound passenger train to travel across the branch. It is hoped that this petition will be granted in the near future.

The Ascape yard operator prepares this freight traffic for the daily Eastbound and Westbound freights. He also sorts incoming traffic for delivery by one of the two local trains that run each day on the branch. Two locals are run each day from Ascape to points on the branch. Two passenger trains are also run each day delivering passengers, milk and mail to destinations on the branch. Each day there is a coal train from Provo to Castle Coal to deliver empties and retrieve loads destined for iron and steel works in Provo. Each day there is a mine train that delivers empties and retrieves loads of ore from the Silver King tipple and the mines at Park City for processing at Provo.

An op session on the ATSG requires at least 6 operators: a yard master for staging, a yard master at Ascape, and several engineers to run the scheduled trains and any extras that may be required. We hope that you will join us for an op session. Contact the management to be placed on the call board.

Jan 3, 2010

22 Sulphur Gulch & Whetstone Ridge

Uinta 2-6-6-2 is hauling a string of hoppers loaded with coal across the trestle at Sulphur Gulch. Upper Cadi Falls is visible in the upper left of the photo. Behind the trestle one can see Lower Cadi Falls. The locomotive is just passing Devil's Slide.

The major activity during the month of December was the construction of Whetstone Ridge, Lost Creek, Upper Cadi Falls, Lower Cadi Falls and Devil's Slide.

The remainder of this posting will describe the construction process of this key location. Because of its scenic beauty and the significant expense required the board of directors decided to include Sulphur Gulch in the name of the railroad. It has turned out that this location is a major tourist attraction for passengers.

Whetstone Ridge and Sulphur Gulch were constructed for two purposes: first to hide the helix and second to provide the scenic attraction for which the railroad is named. The picture (right) shows the trestle installed across what will become Sulphur Gulch with the helix behind the trestle. The helix has been wrapped with cardboard strips to prevent any derailed trains from falling to the floor inside the mountain. In order to construct Sulphur Gulch it was first necessary to make sure the trestle fit perfectly and that the track across the trestle was completely dependable. After the trestle was checked for a good fit it was removed from the canyon so that the scenery could be constructed.

The next step was to form the mountain with cardboard strips held together with hot glue. Mother nature (aka Chairwoman of the Board and the artistic director for the ATSGRR) suggested that mountains should contain ridges, crevices, streams to feed the waterfall, and other scenic details. The actual forming of the mountain was modified a couple of times to comply with Mother Nature's tendency to provide interesting terrain and a stream to feed the waterfall falling into Sulphur Gulch. Once the basic shape was formed the cardboard lattice was covered with cheese cloth which was held in place by diluted white glue brushed on to hold the cloth in place (left).

The next step was to brush a coat of plaster over the cheese cloth to form a thin plaster shell that provides the basic form of the mountain and canyon. The picture (right) was taken after a couple of plaster casts of rocks had been added to the top of the mountain.

Now the fun began. A single casting of a piece of a rock that resembled limestone was placed as a ledge near the top of what would become the top of Lower Cadi Falls. Using this casting as a pattern the rest of the cliff behind Lower Cadi Falls was formed by placing a layer of plaster about 1/2 inch thick over the shell. As plaster of Paris sets up it becomes soft like clay for about 30 minutes. While it was in this stage the rock was carved using a pen knife and a small pallet knife. A small piece of wire brush was also used to flick pieces from the cliff and to provide some irregularity in the stone. The challenge is to avoid repetition. Only one cup of plaster can be worked at a time so the process was repeated many times working from the top to the bottom of the cliff until the cliff was all carved. The close-up picture shows the detail of this carved limestone rock. This sculpture process required 8 or 9 hours to complete.

The picture at the left shows the entire mountain with all of the rest of the rock carved and in place. The upper rock was carved to resemble a different type of rock. The rock behind each of the steps that support the trestle was carved to resemble rock that had been blasted away to make a support for the trestle bents.

The process of coloring the terrain required several steps. First, the plaster was sprayed with a mixture of a few drops of India ink and a few drops of detergent mixed in a mixture of water and alcohol This emphasizes the cracks, crevices, and irregularities in the rock. The next step was to spray the surface of the rock with a very dilluted mixture of water-based paint in the lightest color of the rock. The base color for mountain above Sulphur Gulch was a light tan color, the base color for the cliff behind Lower Cadi Falls included a tiny bit of blue acrylic tube paint to give it a more gray hue.

After the base color was sprayed and dry the next step was to brush color into the rock. There are two sources for this color: powered pigments (burnt sienna, raw umber, chrome green) and powered pastel chalks in various earth tones. These were dry brushed onto the rock in a way that hopefully resembles nature. The lower falls emphasized the raw umber and grays while the upper falls and cliff above Lost Creek used warmer colors such as burnt sienna and yellow ochre. Once the color had been brushed into place it was sealed with a Matt finish spray.

Water was formed using Woodland Scenic's EZ water, which melts at a relatively low temperature and forms a liquid that can be poured into the stream and down the waterfall. It has a tendency to blob up when it hits the cold plaster but this is easily corrected by using a heat gun to remelt the material causing it to liquefy and low into the rocks in a natural manner. After it hardens a bit of white paint is added for the rapids and foam occurring with fast moving water. Left shows upper Cadi Falls and the top of Lower Cadi Falls with a couple of trees added. Right shows Lower Cadi Falls before the trestle was in place.

Final details complete the scene. These include trees, shrubs, and ground cover all constructed from Woodland Scenics' ground foam in various colors. The ATSGRR is set in the year 1937 in the fall of the year. Consequently the undergrowth and a few trees have started to turn to their autumn spender.

Left shows Upper Cadi Falls under Whetstone Ridge with the trees in place and the autumn colors beginning to show. Right shows the top of Whetstone Ridge. The ground shrubs have turned red and the aspens are yellow against the dark pines. To create a feeling of depth trees were planted to force perspective, that is, larger trees were planted in the foreground but toward the top of the ridge the trees are smaller and smaller to appear further away from the viewer.

Left shows the finished Whetstone Ridge, Upper and Lower Cadi Falls, Devils Slide, and Sulphur Gulch without the trestle in place.

Right shows the completed project with the trestle in place and a coal drag crossing the trestle.

Perhaps you are wondering about the unfinished portion to the left. This will be a tunnel where the track enters the helix on its descent to Provo from Ascape. Because the track was not yet "bullet proof" the mountain across the tunnel was left unfinished to enable trouble shooting the track. In the near future a tunnel portal will be placed in this location.

There is one other note of interest for those who wonder about the sanity of the owners in constructing the large trestle at Sulphur Gulch. The engineer constructed this trestle from a single piece of 1 x 4 clear pine. He ripped the board into 1/4 inch slices on a large table saw. He then ripped these pieces into scale sized lumber for the trestle using a small table saw with a very sharp carbide blade which had been pushed through the plate so there was no clearance between the blade and the plate. The bents were first drawn to exact size on a piece of poster board. The upright timbers where then placed over the drawing using double stick tape. The cross supports were then glued to the uprights with carpenter's glue and weighted. After all the bents had been constructed the trestle was assembled upside down. The trestle is on a grade and a curve. A piece of board was cut to the exact radius of the curve and one end was raised to represent the exact amount of the 3% grade. The track support beams and ties were then placed on this board using double stick tape. The uprights were then glued to the support beams using a level to get them vertical. The diagonal beams for each pair of bents were glued in place using contact cement. Then the cross support timbers were glued in place. The construction of the trestle was spread over about 6 months working an hour or two at a time.

The trestle was stored for almost 5 years. Remarkably after a couple of moves it survived rather well. As seen in the photographs the walk and railing around the top of the trestle did not survive undamaged and needs to be repaired and the railing replaced (another project yet to come). The right end of the trestle did suffer some damage in storage so the last 4 bents, diagonals and cross braces was reconstructed before the trestle was returned to Sulphur Gulch.

The trestle is modeled on an actual trestle which existed on the Southern Pacific Railroad. This was pictured in Bridge & Trestle Handbook for Model Railroaders by Paul Mallery 1972, The Builders Compendium. This handbook also contains detailed information about the construction of trestles. The original trestle has since been covered with fill. The model on the ATSG was constructed a number of years ago for the first Ascape Tennsion and Sulphur Gulch Railroad. Whetstone Ridge and Sulphur Gulch was constructed to accommodate this original model.

Tourists are welcome to come and ride the local passenger train across the trestle at Sulphur Gulch. Call to schedule your excursion on the ATSG.

Nov 15, 2009

21 Model Railroad Tour

Friday November 13 and Saturday November 14 was the First Annual Southern Utah Model Railroad Tour sponsored by the Southern Utah Division, Rocky Mountain Region of the National Model Railroad Association sponsored by the Color Country Model Railroad Club. The goal was to have trains running on the Ascape Tennsion & Sulphur Gulch Railroad by this date. Thanks to members of the model railroad club who were involved in to a couple of work Saturdays and a late work night Thursday November 12 the goal was met and the first trains ran Friday Night. Particular thanks to Doug Whetstone who coordinated these work activities and spent many hours personally getting the ATSGRR ready to run. Without this effort by Doug and members of the club the trains would still be residing in their storage boxes where they have resided since 2004.

Friday morning, after 5 years in storage, boxes were opened and some of the rolling stock and the locomotives of the the ATSGRR arrived on the newly laid track. The management was most pleased with the result when the trains ran from Ascape to Echo Junction without any problems. There were still track problems in the helix so there was no traffic from staging.

Photo 1 shows a view of the Ascape yard with three trains ready to make the run from Ascape to Tennsion and then up the grade to Coalville and Echo Junction. In the upper left of the photo you can see the other locomotives that operate on the AT&SG. You will note that the Ascape passing siding and station siding are in place but the yard tracks are not yet in place. The trains are sitting on the Ascape passing siding.

Photo 2 shows number 82, a 2-8-0 consolidation with a 10 car freight ready to tackle the grade. The locomotive was able to handle the grade but will obviously need a helper during operating sessions for trains longer than 8 cars. The photo also shows number 7, a three truck shay with a short string of log buggies ready to tackle the grade. You can see the track support for the high line at Echo Junction behind the locomotives.

Photo 3 shows number 9, a 2-6-6-2 Uinta sitting on the siding at Echo Junction with a string of loaded coal hoppers ready to descend the grade to Ascape for shipment on to Provo. It was able to negotiate the down hill grade with ease and was also able to the same loaded hoppers up the grade from Ascape to Echo Junction.

The visitors really seemed to enjoy the event. The little bit of scenery that was completed for the demonstration held earlier really helped them to visualize the finished railroad. A few structures were also placed in the approximate location on the layout. However most of the layout was more "roller coaster" in appearance with roadbed and track suspended in space. Running trains on this exposed roadbed caused some anxiety for the management but fortunately the only crash occurred when a train was pushed through a closed switch causing one box car to plunge to the depths.

The next big event is a New Year open house January 2, 2010. Hopefully natural events will cause mountains to rise, rivers to flow, trees to sprout, and structures to be erected before this event. One thing is for certain, the investors will be happy to know that trains began to run by the end of 2009 as specified in the contract with the land owner. Trains will for sure be running for the new year in 2010. The management hopes to see you at the open house. It is anticipated that regular operating sessions will commence early in 2010.

Oct 15, 2009

20 Scenery Demonstration

October 8 the HO group of the Color Country Model Railroad Club met at the Site of the Ascape Tennsion & Sulphur Gulch Railroad for a demonstration on how to create scenery using cheese cloth. Most members of the club have not seen this method of scenery construction in the past.

Prior to the demonstration the excavating team for the ATSGRR worked hard to construct the part of the mountain above Sulphur Gulch. The mountain was deliberately left in stages to show the whole process. The first photo shows this section of mountain.

For those with a technical interest the remainder of this post gives the blow-by-blow description of the construction process. The following are the steps in the process.

1. Before the construction of nature can begin complete the infrastructure for the surrounding area. On the ATSGRR this consisted of completing the trackbed for the high line at Echo Junction, the trackbed leading from Echo Junction to the top of the helix to return to staging, and the trackbed from Echo Junction across behind the helix to Park City which is located above the workbench roll-top desk on the other side of the helix. It was also necessary to complete the protective barrier around the outside of the helix to prevent trains from accidentally jumping to their destruction inside the mountain.

2. Place fascia around the edge of the layout in the area where the scenery is to be created. In the case of Sulphur Gulch this fascia is rather large with a contour cut to expose Sulphur Gulch and Trestle.

3. Place cardboard strips to create the contour of the mountain. They are held in place with hot glue and a couple of support posts inside the helix. The mountain forms a shell over the helix that is open in the middle so that someone can stand inside the helix when repairs are necessary or an accident occurs. The top of the mountain is above eye level so that spectators cannot view the inside of the helix even though the top of the mountain is open.

4. Stretch cheese cloth over the cardboard lattice work and hold it in place by white glue.

5. Paint a soupy mixture of plaster of Paris onto the cheese cloth forming a thin plaster shell when it dries. In places subject to strain or possible bumping from tourists paint several coats of plaster to form a more rigid shell.

6. Make plaster castings from rubber molds formed over real rocks. When the plaster in the mold is still damp but not yet set firm press the casting in place on the plaster shell. The castings can be forced into indentations in the shell to form small canyons as shown in the picture.

7. Add additional plaster to fill in spaces between castings and to form rocks where castings may not be appropriate or available. If molds for blasted rock are not available trawl a thick coat of plaster (2/8") over the plaster shell. While it is still damp carve this plaster by hand to resemble the rock from the molds or to form blasted rock faces where the mountain has been cut away to accommodate the track. At the damp stage the plaster will chip away in a most realistic fashion. Use an Xacto knife to cut horizontal seams in the rock face as occurs in nature. Randomly scratch and prick the rock face with a small piece of a wire brush to further deface the rock. With a little practice it is pretty easy to create realistic appearing rock cliffs.

8. After the rock castings are dry spray them with a mixture of wet water (water with a drop or two of detergent added) containing a few drops of India ink. This flows into the cracks and crevices of the rock to make them more apparent and to form shadows.

9. Using latex house paint representing the color of the soil in the area being modeled paint the shell in areas not covered by rock castings. Where the rock castings are in place spray a thinned (12:1) mixture of the soil colored paint and wet water onto the rocks. This thin paint runs a little forming natural looking variation in color.

10. Using earth colored pastel chalks dry brush various colors onto the rocks to form more variety in the color. Go easy as too much color does not look realistic. When the cliff looks like the real thing spray a dull coat matte finish over the work to keep the chalk from smearing.

11. Complete the scene by applying a coat of diluted white glue over the painted surface of the ground and sprinkling on fine ground foam (The ATSG uses Woodland Scenic Products) in appropriate colors for the area and season being modeled. Add shrubs from clump foam and plant trees as appropriate.

For more information about water based scenery consult

Dave Frary -- How to Build Realistic Model Railroad Scenery 3rd Edition

For more information about cheese cloth scenery consult

Jul 26, 2009

19. Cork and Cheese Cloth

Much of the spline roadbed is now installed on the ATSGRR. After the spline is in place the next step is to sand the top smooth. No matter how careful the track crew tries to be there is always one or two strands of the spline that insists on being a bit higher than the rest. A belt sander does the trick to smooth the top as seen in the photograph to the right.

Once the top is relatively smooth the next step is to install cork for
the ballast and to provide a smooth service for the track. The cork is secured to the spline with white or carpenters glue and help in place while the glue drives by a few staples from a staple gun. Driving spikes into the spline is a bit difficult but with the cork in place this is an easy task. For turnouts it is more convenient and provides a smoother surface for the turnout to use sheet cork that matches the ballest cork in height to cut pieces that underlie the turnouts.

The scenery for the railroad will be constructed on a web of cardboard stringers covered with cheese cloth. A later post will detail this process as it proceeds. But for now rather than attach the cheese cloth to the roadbed after the fact it is easier to lay a piece of cheese cloth on top of the spline and then lay the cork ballast strip on top of the cheese cloth. This way when the cardboard stringers are in place to form the mountains and valleys this cheese cloth forms a very smooth transition from the roadbed the the scenery. This prevents separation of the scenery from the roadbed which has occured in the past.

Once the cork in in place the track can be spiked in place on the cork ballest.

Jun 7, 2009

18 Staging Track

As soon as work resumed on the railroad the road gang went to work on laying track. As indicated in they previous diagrams the staging yard consists of a double ended yard with a ladder on either end. The longest track is more than 10 feet long, far longer than any train that will be able to make the 3% grade to climb the helix. The shortest track is about 3 feet long. The operation of the yard is to enter from the helix at the far end in the picture, proceed along the through track closest to the front of the yard (the left hand track in the picture) and then around the return loop at the end of the yard entering the ladder (shown in the picture) and being stored on one of the other six tracks in the yard ready for the next trip across the railroad. Since both ends of the railroad enter the helix this is true for both westbound and eastbound trains.

Details: If you have a causual interst in Model Railroads you may want to skip the following details which are primarily for those interested in construction techniques, materials used, etc.

Track: As indicated in an earlier post the track bed is homosote. The track is code 100 Atlas Flex track. This track is easy to use and is secured by means of a nail in about every 10th tie. The turnouts are a variety of brands rescued from the previous ATSG Railroad. They were salvaged when the railroad was disassembled. As a result the major construction task was to clean up the ends of the rails, repair sections which had come loose from their ties, and replace missing track. All the turnouts are #6 to facilitate the largest locomotive on the railroad (a Bachman Mountain 2-8-4).

An earlier railroad demonstrated the desirability of having a rerail section near the end of each yard track so that in the event of an accidental derailment cars are put back on the rail before leaving the yard end and entering the helix.

To ensure good electrical contact each of the joints between sections of rail are attached with a rail joiner and then soldered in place.

The control system on the railroad is Rail Lynx (more about this system in a later post). This is an infrared system similar to Command Control except that the control is a beam from the throttle transmitter rather than through the rails. The rails have a constant 12 volt current. This makes it necessary to gap the rails to prevent short circuits. These gaps occur just beyond the frog on each of the 13 turnouts in the yard. To make these gaps smooth the gap is filled with a small piece of styrene and then held in place with super glue. The filler is then filed to the shape of the rail. This prevents the rails from accidentally reestablishing contact if the rails expand (when the room gets too warm) or slip causing the gap to close.

The power is provided by a 15-20 amp regulated DC power supply (the brand of the power supply is Samlex but any regulated power supply works). This power supply has a 120 volt input and a 13.5 DC volt output.

The railroad is protected by circuit breakers which automatically disconnect when there is a short and reconnect as soon as the short is removed. The railroad has four separate circuits, each with their own circuit breaker, so that a short in one area does not cause the whole railroad to come to a standstill. The railroad has one circuit for staging including the helix, one circuit for the Ascape yard where short circuits are more likely to occur, one circuit for the main line, and a fourth circuit for all the industrial sidings where shorts are also more likely to occur especially during switching moves. The circuit breakers were purchased from Rail Lynx.

Wiring with this system is very simple. A pair of 14 gauge buss wires follow the track. 18 gauge leads are soldered to the track about every 3 to 5 feet and connected to the buss wires with tap connectors. Each turnout is also connected to the buss wire. Having wired an earlier railroad using block control I can assure you that this type of wiring is very simple in comparison. Obviously the track is always hot and the control comes from the receiver in each locomotive (more on Rail Lynx later). For those who are interested, the Rail Lynx control system was reviewed in the July 2009 issue of Model Railroader magazine.

The return loop at the end of the yard requires that the polarity of the track be reversed when a train is in the loop. Our plan is to control this reverse polarity automatically with a Circuitron Auto Polarity Reverser (AR-1CC). At this writing it has not yet arrived. A later post will report on its operation.

Turnouts in the staging yard are controlled by Tortoise switch machines. Many thanks to Doug Whetstone and Craig Harding for laying on their backs all afternoon installing these machines. A railroad of this size would not possible without the help of many hands. These machines are wired for route control, that is, setting a rotary switch to a track number lines up all the turnouts for this track. The system used was described in the May 2009 issue of Model Railroader magazine (talk about good timing for an article). The first set of turnouts have all been wired and they work as expected, each turnout slowly moving to the correct setting when the rotary switch is moved to the track number.

The control panel for staging is under construction and will consist of a rotary switch for the ladder at each end of the staging yard. It will also contain a closed circuit TV to show the far end of the yard to the operator to facilitate operation when the scenery is in place above the yard. It will also control a signal at either end of the railroad so that the staging operator can indicate to operators whether or not they are clear to enter the helix to enter staging. More about this control panel in a later post.