15 September 2008

Behold, the frame!

Well, the basic frame is up. Apologies to the neighbours for the assorted drilling, sawing and banging that has accompanied the lovely weather at various points during the weekend.

I started, as planned, with the plank along the back wall....

Next I added two of the longitudinal beams. The location of the chimney breast meant that I had to do things in a slightly strange order.

After that, the rest of the beams went in without any trouble. Despite my less-than-meticulous measurements in places, the frame is pleasingly level!

The right-hand of the two bar stools in the above picture is in what will eventually be the operator space. I encroached into this space a bit to provide more baseboard area, but I can confirm that there is still enough room for two reasonably sized people to sit in there comfortably! I am toying with the idea of making a scenery "lid" which can be used to cover that space if the layout is running automatically (he said, breezily...).

Before the primary frame can be considered complete, I need to add two further things:
  1. Legs to prop the frame in the middle (one of them is already in place, just visible in the above picture). The frame feels pretty solid but I would rather be safe than sorry.

  2. Cross-bracing in each "square" of the main frame. This should help the frame stay in shape as well as providing a bit of extra support when the baseboards go down.
I have the wood for both of these things, but it may be a couple of weeks before I can resume construction because of upcoming commitments. Nevertheless I feel happy with the progress made so far.

08 September 2008

Entering the building phase

Lots more progress to report. With a clear weekend I had plenty of time to complete the last of the preparation, buy the wood and get on with some real live construction.

First, I had to sort out the flooring. The loft had a bit of old carpet covering the walkway; when I rolled it back I found that, as well as covering the walkway, it also covered a multitude of sins...

Fortunately there was enough good chip and plywood, and some serviceable floor slats, amongst the jumble to allow me to lay a decent floor around the layout area. A permanent chip floor can wait, and it will have to: what these photos don't show is the unsightly mountain of boxes etc behind the camera! I'll need to tackle those before I can do a decent permanent job with the floor. But the result for now doesn't look too bad.

Having done all that, I was finally ready to start making the frame. A trip to Wickes ensued, wood was purchased and loaded into/onto the car (thank heavens for the roof-rack), and brought home, hoping that my knots would hold. My trip would of course have to coincide with the biggest rain-shower of the day! I was very glad yesterday not to be living in Morpeth. Anyway, the wood quickly dried and is now all safely up in the loft.

I have bought enough large planks (47x75mm cross-section) to construct a basic primary frame, supported along the sides by the main roofing timbers, along the back by the wall, and propped in the middle by legs. It's a lot of wood! Once the primary frame is built I'll make secondary frames to carry the baseboards (this will necessitate another trip to Wickes). These secondaries will be of smaller cross-section (22x47mm) and will fix directly onto the primary frame using bolts.

As can be seen in the above photo, the first transverse beam of the primary frame has been attached to the main cross-beam in the loft. Next to go in will be the transverse beam along the back wall. After that I'll put in the four longitudinal beams; that way the two remaining transverses will have something to rest on. The main challenge is, of course, getting everything level so that the baseboards don't have any underlying gradients.

It will probably all take a long time because I can't do noisy work (masonry drilling, cutting) in the evenings - our daughter sleeps in a room just below the loft hatch, and even she would surely not sleep through such a soundscape. I'll do what I can down in the garage, but some things I can only do in situ. Ah well - there's no rush. But now that I've started in earnest, I can't wait to see the first trains running.

01 September 2008

Progress (at last)

After a break of five months, I'm finally under way. Over the past week I have made significant progress in getting the loft ready to accept the layout. The layout space has been cleared, surrounding boxes have been moved, and, yesterday, I put in the extra lighting I will need to be able to see what I'm doing when building the framework. For lighting during the construction phase I'm just using an old fluorescent tube that used to live in our kitchen (we removed it the day after we moved in!) but eventually I will put in spotlights and other lighting to make the layout look better.

It feels good to be on the move again, even though it will be a long time before any trains actually run up there. I can't really say why it's taken so long to make progress since my first posts - except the obvious explanation, namely that the financial squeeze has kept a lid on all forms of spending. And even now, I don't know how long it will take to amass the wood for the framework. There's plenty of recyclable timber in the loft which should help with the frame, but not enough for everything I need to do.

I am planning a modular baseboard construction - a basic frame fixed into the loft, and then baseboard sections slotting into place on top, bolted together. The idea is to make the layout as portable as possible. I think I know how to do it, but I need to read a bit more first...