Progress report on Santiago Yard



Almost ready to lay track!  The string line is used to check uniformity of main track level along the thirteen feet of roadbed. There will be a main track on the left and three yard tracks to the right of it.

With roadbed and sub-roadbed glued together, I set about to build the frame to support it.  While L-girder benchwork is easy to build and forgiving of poor carpentry skills such as mine, I decided to use open-grid benchwork, as it’s much thinner than L-girder.  For the multi-level layout that I plan to build to get what I want for mainline run, this is a concern.

I cut a few lengths of 3 inch wide strips of 3/4″ thick plywood from a 4′ x 8′ sheet.  Two strips were cut to 5′-6″ long.  These were each butt-joined to an eight-foot long strip, with a foot-long 3″ wide splice plate glued to one side of the joint and then clamped together to make two 13′-6″ long side members.  Several strips of 3″ wide, 3/4″ plywood were cut to 10 1/2″ long for joists to run between the side members.  I drilled three 1/2″ holes through their sides to accommodate DCC bus line and Digitrax LocoNet lines.

I screwed a couple of joists to the side members, connecting them and making a basic benchwork frame 12″ wide.


Roadbed temporarily screwed to a joist.  These screws will later be withdrawn and the holes plugged. The level is used to check roadbed cross-level as I build the benchwork.

The roadbed assembly was screwed to the joists and checked for cross level.  Satisfied that the roadbed was level, I added joists between the side members, checking that the roadbed remained level. I did not want to use risers as this would introduce complexity, height, and weight to the roadbed/benchwork assembly.


An example of roadbed and benchwork construction for Santiago Yard.  The skilled carpenter will likely find my work a little rough, but fascia, scenery, and track should make this all look a lot better by the time that I’m done. 

Using this type of benchwork construction, I’ve built a rigid layout benchwork/roadbed combination that is less than four inches high.


The screws in the roadbed were removed.  Screws through the joists into the roadbed replaced these and can be withdrawn easily if needed.  I hate removing screws from the roadbed when they are under ballast or ties.


Soon I’ll build the turnouts to lead Santiago’s three yard tracks off from the main line.  Still to be drawn on the roadbed are accurate track centre lines for placing the ties.

More to come….



Roadbed for Santiago Yard


New sub-roadbed for Santiago Yard and some other stuff in the back of my car on arrival home from the building centre.

Having found the original sub-roadbed to be a bit warped, I drove over to the local Home Building Centre.  For the price of a 4′ x 8′ sheet of good-one-side 3/4″ thick fir plywood and a cutting fee of a dollar per cut, I get the needed sub roadbed cut to my desired width.

The staff pulled a sheet of plywood off the top of a pile of sheets, and took it over to a Skilsaw mounted on vertical rails, with its blade pointed horizontally at a wall.  With the saw set for a seven inch wide cut, one person slid the plywood past the saw, which cut the plywood at an accurate width.  Two passes, and I had sixteen feet of sub-roadbed for Santiago Yard.  While they were cutting this plywood, I had the staff also cut four more strips of plywood three inches wide.  I will use this in place of dimensional lumber in layout benchwork in future.  Dropped the back seat in my Hyundai Elantra, and slid the cut plywood in.  I’d never fit 4′ x 8′ sheets in this car, so cutting the plywood at the building centre made both my sub-roadbed and allowed me to fit the wood in my car.


7″ wide sub-roadbed for Santiago Yard on the right, four three-inch wide strips of plywood on the left, and the remainder of the sheet standing vertically almost for later use–the west end of Lindsay yard, perhaps?

I stacked everything on my deck, and cut one piece of Santiago’s sub-roadbed to 5′-6″ long.  Joined to the 8′ long piece, I’ll have a 13′-6″ long piece of subroadbed.  The distance point to point of the east to west switches of Santiago is 12′-6″, so this will give six inches of single track beyond the points to join the sub-roadbed to adjoining pieces of sub-roadbed as I incorporate this into a layout.


Sub-roadbed for east end Santiago Yard cut to suit CN No. 7 turnout angle on Santiago Yard lead.

I traced out the roadbed’s edge on the sub-roadbed, and cut the angle of the lead’s roadbed using my Swedish cross-cut handsaw.  I can always use exercise, and this saw makes short work of cutting lumber.  The sub-roadbed is purposely wide on the turnout side to accommodate headblock ties.  The east main track switch will eventually receive Rapido Trains’ Rail Crew switch machine, which has a neat feature that moves the target on the switchstand as the machine moves the points.  Which means that the roadbed has to be overwide here, too.


Apologies offered for the ugliness of this affair set up in the basement for test-fitting of sub-roadbed and roadbed.    But I can visualise how this all will go together.

I dry-assembled the sub-roadbed and roadbed temporarily in the basement on supports from an old layout to check out my work.  Clamps hold it all together for now.  Success!

Now to glue it all together and draw track centre and tie-end lines for handlaying track on it.


Test-fitting the joint between sub-roadbed pieces for Santiago.  


Another view of the whole thing.  Track centrelines are accurate on half the roadbed, but have to be re-drawn on the other half before ties are laid down.  Careful work is called for when laying out the centrelines.

Santiago–two steps forward, one step back…

I had a bit of free time this morning to cut some plywood.  I’d already cut the 3/4″ fir plywood sub-roadbed to the rough shape necessary for Santiago.  I prefer 3/4″ fir plywood for a sub-roadbed due to its strength. With the time and money that I’ll spend laying track on it, I prefer using what to me is the most stable means of roadbed construction.  This is not easy to cut, but a power saw makes short work of cutting it.  I also find that a good Swedish crosscut handsaw does a decent job, and is a far safer tool to use.

I placed the full-size trackplan that I’d made earlier on the 1/4″ poplar roadbed.  The main track centreline was placed about 3/4″ from the edge of one side of the roadbed.  With pushpins, I established a diverging line following the angle set by the ends of the ties of the turnouts diverging from the main track towards the south side of Santiago Yard.  As I removed the pushpins, I twisted a pencil tip in the resulting holes.  Took up the paper trackplan, and I had a series of dots to connect, marking a cut line in the roadbed.  I drew the cut line on the west end roadbed first–the east end roadbed is a simple pencil tracing job from the roadbed cut for the west end, as the east end will be a mirror image.

I took the sheets of poplar outdoors so as not to fill the house with sawdust and wake my sleeping wife, and cut out the roadbed using the Swedish handsaw.  A few minutes’ work resulted in some new roadbed cut for Santiago—


Success–so far….

I trimmed up the cut roadbed using the saw blade to shave off sharp slivers of wood, followed by 100-grit sandpaper—


Don’t throw away the scraps!  They can be used later.  I’ve marked them for future roadbed projects.  The use of a sturdy work glove to hold sandpaper when sanding the cut edge of a sheet of plywood is good practice, as it prevents getting slivers in one’s hand and/or fingers.  The edges don’t have to look pretty, as they’ll be covered by ballast when the track is completed.

So far, so good.  I set the roadbed aside, and went to work joining the sub-roadbed for Santiago.  It consists of two pieces of 3/4″ thick plywood, 6 3/4″ wide.  One piece is eight feet and the other 5′-6″ long.  I had already cut a splice plate of the same material and started drilling holes for the splice plate and attached a few screws to one piece of the sub-roadbed through them.

Something didn’t look right.  Sighting down the 8′ piece, I noted a slight twist to the sub-roadbed.  As twisting 3/4″ thick plywood back to a truly flat surface and keeping it that way is a dubious proposition on benchwork risers,  I have set this stuff aside–it may find use as smaller pieces or where its twist is not an issue.  A new sub-roadbed is called for.   I’ll make a trip to the building centre in a couple of days.  I have an idea….IMG_0544

It looked good when I cut it….


The start of Santiago Yard


In a Grand Trunk Railway of Canada 1922 Belleville Division employee timetable, Santiago Yard is shown .79 miles east of Lindsay station.

You, gentle reader, may have noticed that I’d written blog posts on two different locations on the CN Campbellford Sub.  Madoc Junction is a scenic location where steam-hauled tonnage grain trains did battle with a stiff grade on their way from Lindsay to Belleville.  But Santiago Yard can serve a very useful purpose to the modeller.

It isn’t often that a prototype hands the modeller justification for a visible staging yard–on a platter.  Just like the prototype, my model of Lindsay’s Durham Street yard can’t hold many fifteen-car grain trains that I plan to run on the Midland.  The three tracks of Santiago Yard were rated to hold 150 36-foot-long boxcars in the 1920’s.  At that time, a grain train hauled by a Mikado was about fifty or sixty cars long.

So I set about designing my version of Santiago Yard.  Staging like Santiago Yard has to trump Madoc Junction in the beginning if I ever want to run trains on a layout.


At the centre of the above plan is the main track turnout (P.S. 4517+13.6) leading to the west end of Santiago Yard.  Note that each track straightens out before the next turnout.  This was fine for the prototype, but I have to maximise my use of space for a layout.



My hi-tech full-size drawing of the west end of Santiago Yard.  I laid it out on three sheets of legal-size 8 1/2″ x 14″ long paper taped together.  Turnouts are CN no. 7. I’ve simplified the lead to a simple ladder to maximise use of space.


The CN property plan yeilded some interesting features of Santiago Yard.  Being laid in 1904, the Grand Trunk Railway laid the yard tracks closer together than was the practice just two decades later. I am modelling this, as it helps reduce the necessary basement “real estate” for the layout.  Every little bit helps!  The “Ties 14/33′ ” notation is a reminder of what tie spacing I’ll use on each track, following CN practice.  The main shown as a dark line will be Code 70 using 18 ties per 33′ rail length.   

I prefer drawing out track plans full size.  It’s easy to plan out turnouts, curves, and easements.  You KNOW that things will fit when one commits saw to lumber and spikes to rails.  I don’t want to be wrong when spending the time necessary to handlay track. It’s also easy to calculate track lengths.  The notations 36″ to P.S. main track” and ” 5′-6″ to mirror image of this plan” on the drawing allow me to figure out the overall length of the yard before I get too far in cutting lumber.  Santiago Yard will be about 12′-6″ main track switch point to main track switch point.

Based on an HO scale 40′ boxcar (the majority of cars used in grain service in 1956) being six inches long coupler to coupler, No. 1 Siding will be fifteen cars long, No. 2 Siding and No. 3 Siding will each hold eleven cars.  As I plan to run fifteen car trains, No. 1 Siding will be long enough to hold an entire train including the van.  No. 2 and No. 3 Siding will either hold shorter trains–or crews will have to be creative in yarding their trains.

I calculated the necessary roadbed length at 13′-6″.  This allows six inches either end for splicing the single main track at the main track turnouts to the tracks leading from Lindsay and Belleville.


A few minutes outdoors on the table saw resulted in two pieces 6 3/4″ wide of 3/4″ fir plywood sub-roadbed cut from a sheet (always an adventure) along with four pieces of 1/4″ poplar roadbed of two different widths. One of the pieces of sub-roadbed was cut to 5′-6″ long afterwards.

Next step–to laminate all this plywood and draw out the track plan full size, along with tie-end lines for when I start laying ties.  More to come….

And a reminder that I should stain my deck this summer!