Yesterday I finalized the height of Crossover Point. Crossover Point is the point in the track where it crosses over itself (makes sense!). This is the highest point that the train has to climb and also the lowest point where the train has to duck under it's own track underneath in the Rainbow Caverns.
I set the height of the track above at Crossover Point to the absolute minimum--just a 1/16th gap between the train crossing under and the track above. That shouldn't be too much of a problem, eventually the train I have now will be retired and replaced with one that is shorter in height so that will clear very easily. The height for Crossover point is at 2.75 inches and so everything has to match that height, mostly in that corner of the layout as shown in the picture above. Since the track around the geysers and the paintpots is slightly higher than Crossover Point's new height, I knocked out the supports and lowered it about 1/2".
It may look like an earthquake fault line, but here is the newly lowered track in relation to the scenery. I cut that "fault line" so when I lowered the track, it didn't angle outward like a piece of super-elevated track reversed. I lowered that section of scene to match the new height and now it's just some patch work in the crack. The ground of the scenery slopes every so slightly but it's hard to really notice.
Now that the highest point in the layout it locked down, it's time to work backwards down the line all the way to Rainbow Ridge.
Rainbow Ridge is currently a piece of plywood with some flex-track temporarily tacked down with some screws so I could figure out the arrangement. Unfortunately, the spur line that I had planned to go in the Caverns had to be eliminated; the curve was simply too sharp for a turnout in the desired location. But, I've got an idea on adding another spur line in the desert that I'll get into in another update. Since I'll only have two trains max with only one train at the moment, the double track Rainbow Ridge will do just nicely for now.
As you can see in the photo above, there is plenty of space for a much better Rainbow Ridge. The blue line hovering above the plywood indicates the original edge of the layout before the expansion; anything that wasn't on the table wasn't on the layout!
But before I even get to Rainbow Ridge and all that fun stuff, I have to deal with the track. The grade going into the Desert and over Crossover Point is being a troublemaker again and the joints before and after the Bear Country trestle are making the train stall. I thought it was time to solve this grade/stall problem once and for all. The track from Rainbow Ridge, around Cascade Peak, through the Living Deser and over Crossover point is made up of track that is raised at different gradients (sections here and there were changed over the years and that resulted in different gradations). Before I get to Rainbow Ridge, I want to regrade the entire track from Crossover point, through the desert, over the trestle, around Cascade Peak, through Beaver Valley, and Rainbow Ridge. I want the route through these areas to be absolutely smooth, gradual, and consistant. This way, the train should have no problem at all on any section of that track on it's way upgrade.
So, the last few days I've been doing a lot of math, measuring, and testing to find the right grade to raise the train without causing it to stall out. There 3 main factors in these calculation: Whether or not Rainbow Ridge would have a slope to contribute to the grade; the height of the Bear Country Trestle that results from the grade, and the steepness of the grade itself. The track will raise in increments of 1/8" and the space between these increments is what establishes the steepness and the other 2 factors. The train will have to negotiate a height distance of 2.25" (even though the height of crossover point from the base is 2.75", the grade will start 1/2" from the base on that new piece of plywood). From all of my calculations and testing, I came up with 2 plans, each with it's own pros and cons:
- The grade will start from Point A and end at Point C/Crossover Point (refer to photo above) and will rise 1/8" every 10.25".
- This is the most subtle and gradual grade which makes it the easiest for the train to climb.
- The height of the Bear Country Trestle remains at it's current height of 2" (I want that trestle to have some height; otherwise it'll look lame and un-prototypical).
- The entire Rainbow Ridge will have to have a slope as the section is part of the new grade; this isn't easy to hid or build with the number of platforms and buildings that can look odd all leaning to one side).
- The grade will start from Point B and end at Point C/Crossover Point (refer to photo above) and will rise 1/8" every 7.7".
- Rainbow Ridge will remain perfectly level and flat, which makes it much easier to build with all the platforms, buildings, turnouts and track. Won't have to do any visual tricks with the slope.
- The Bear Country Trestle has a disappointing height of 1 7/8", I don't want the trestle to look lame and un-prototypical. I could "dig down" 1/2" to make it appear taller, but that's nearly impossible to do with the layout screwed down into the table already making it impossible to cut.
- The grade is steeper than in the plan above; although the grade from under Crossover Point in Rainbow Caverns to point A is steeper than rising 1/8" every 7.7", I'd rather have the majority of the layout be subtle in gradations.
I've been testing the two plans above a lot with some pieces of straight track set at those increment distances with a train full of weight (I also testing the train with a 3X the weight and an underweight locomotive, since the newer train I have planned will weigh a little less than my current locomotive). Obviously, the grade in Plan A is easier to climb, but the train was able to do both grades with double the weight of the total future passenger load. I was indecisive with which plan to go with, but I reminded myself why I'm re-grading the track--to make the train run easier.
With that in mind, I'm choosing plan A. Although this plan will make the train run better, it makes construction of Rainbow Ridge a heck of a lot hardre to do; since the track is sloped, I have to figure out what will run parallel with it in terms of the raising height, what will stay level, and what building will have to be level corrected. That's what I'm up to now. Once I figure it out, the track will be re-graded and installed, and I can finally have a trouble-free train completing a full loop.