Rethinking Furgeson Yard

There has been more mental growth within Free-mo to better define tolerances and adhere to them. I am no exception when it comes to finding modules that have areas of track that are hard for finer scale and detailed models to compensate. Some nasty track is pretty intentional as I was after depicting FRA accepted track on a team track. For the most part, that area was very successful. Unfortunately, areas of the Main Line on Furgeson Yard are falling below standard. All this has started the process of how I should fix it or if I should start over fresh and clean, do the job right from the very start. I have gained much more knowledge about working with tighter tolerances and feel much more comfortable with experimenting with materials that were unheard of to me a few months ago. Beyond reliability I started wondering if my yard design in general was what I envisioned or if it falls short.

Things I like about Furgeson:

  • I really like the #8 yard ladders. This makes autoracks and other long cars look right at home.
  • The industrial tracks and use of code 55 rail to define the difference from the industrial tracks and other more “used” tracks.
  • The ability to work Furgeson with another switcher or way freight making a pickup. Both can operate without interference or getting in each others way.
  • I learned that a yard that is easy to use for classification that will not foul a train on the main is ideal. A lead track is absolutely necessary.
  • The power ready tracks are great for setting up power for the next assignment.
  • I especially like the changes in track elevations for Main, Siding, and Yard
  • Caboose track!!!
  • Overall I think the scenery is going in the right direction, albeit flat, still right direction.

Things I Don’t Like and or Regret about Furgeson:

  • Hodge podge of modules built or acquired at different times. I want to build everything at once for uniform appearance.
  • I don’t like the 4’ modules. They are too short and have problems with fold up legs of 47-48” long!
  • Inconsistent subroadbed materials. This creates issues as homasoat has a different expansion factor then plywood. Inconsistencies like this will result in track miss alignments.
  • Pine that is warping as it goes through the final drying stages.
  • Areas that require hand thrown turnouts but have numerous obstructions that make that task difficult.
  • Dead frog turnouts and frog power relying solely on points to pick up current.
  • Big gaps between intermediate module joints, yuck!
  • Modules not perpendicular due to inaccurate ends.
  • Mainline not straight due to different phases of construction. Do everything all at once.

As I found out in San Jose(2000 NMRA Meet) all over again, accuracy and benchwork of the module is everything. Without a good foundation the track on top will not be reliable. so with these new techniques I find myself wanting to totally redo Furgeson from the ground up and incorporate methods to reduce the overall weight of the modules. So to provide words to adhere to: be patient, be accurate, build it light, build it right.

Construction Changes

In the past I used to build modules with carpenter like skills. I realize now that it requires much more precision then a drill and a circular saw. Seeking out better materials is only half the battle. In order to carry out tighter tolerances, precision tools are required for assuring square and plumb ends that will join seamlessly with each other. Extra care taken here will eliminate troublesome bumps and dips at the end which are the major cause of track irregularities.

This time around I do not want to confine myself to the regular 2’x4’ module sections. To adequately encompass all areas that I want to model, I find myself desiring a space more in the range of 2.5’x5’ module sections. Instead of the heavier plywood/homasoat subroadbed, I am opting for using 1” think blue foam supported by a skeleton frame to keep it from sagging. I saw a few successful modules with this construction technique.

Design Changes

A few areas proved to be a bottle neck that prompted me to rethink the design of the yard throat itself. I had no way of running around a train after it enters the yard. A switch crew must be on hand to pull off the cars and send them into the appropriate track. This is a major hang-up.

I did not like the fact that I had to make the elevation on all the tracks the same at the very end. It just did not look right. A better way exists to mate the NorCalF’s East Yard to Furgeson without the visual disjunction.

I wanted a designated track for the Furgeson Switcher to tie up on. The switcher will not foul the power set ready track.

I need to confine the industrial tracks to be operated from one side only. I really dislike the fact that people operating from one of the sides has to reach over the mainline and yard office to work the industrial route. This may become hazardous if there is a train on the mainline while working the industrial route.

I want all turnouts within the yard to be powered turnouts or mechanical from other means then the caboose industries turnout throws. The regular ones do not provide SPDT contacts for powering the frog and the ones that do just do not look as good. Micro mini slide switches mounted under the points on a RIX RAX or installing a Tortoise will provide all the necessary throw and contacts needed for reliable operation.

Design Outcome

The new plan utilizes a three 5’ modules which measure 15’ by 32” total. I took more care in arranging turnouts so they do not fall on an intermediate joint. I maintained a #8 minimum turnout frog with only two areas that are #6 and one #2.5 located at the car running repair facility. I also wanted more module between the siding and the side fascia. The original module had a narrow 2” between the siding and side fascia, I expanded that to 4” wherever possible. CP Furgeson also received a #12 turnout for appearance. The throat coming off the main is physically straighter then it’s predecessor and looks more prototypical even though the yard is entirely Freelanced. I wanted to maintain a Free-mo goal of making the scene authentic and it could have very well existed.

I separated the yard arrival departure tracks away from the Main Line 6”. I noticed, on recent expeditions to yards, and from photographs, there is usually some separation between Yard Tracks and the Main Line.

The Yard itself has nine tracks spaced evenly at 2” apart. This configuration will mate seamlessly with NorCalF’s East Yard should the two ever need to be joined together. East Yard is 24” wide while Furgeson has much more girth at 32” wide. The 8” over hang is where the Main Line and Siding resides, it can be turned into a junction should a setup configuration benefit from it.

One other possibility is to create one more 5’ module that would be optional pending on size of setup and traffic demands. The module will just consist of straight track that would extend the yard tracks and increase capacity.

Construction Execution

A few changes that will be less visible this time around will be hidden hinges. I like how the hinges work, but have reservations about a big shiny metal thing on the fascia. I am going to mount them differently to preserve a more finished fascia. With the expanded 5’ module I will not suffer the consequence of having to split fold up legs in two places. All fold up legs will be hinged at one point, thereby making the whole module set much more stable. I am adding another place for DCC throttles to be plugged into. The longer modules warrant more convenient locations to plug in throttles. At San Jose I discovered that there are never enough throttle jacks. One part of the layout had a good deal of throttle jacks while the other side of the layout seemed to be scarce of these necessary items.

Construction materials this time around are going to be more Free-mo mainstream. I like how Gregg Fuhriman and Ron Wixon exclusively used blue foam for the module tops. I also like Gary Green’s Birch Plywood framing. I am going to attempt a few trial modules to test combining the plywood frame with a blue foam top. I would like to cut down on gross weight of each module while maintaining strength and long term dimensional stability. Pine seems to warp and twist throwing everything off. This prompted me into searching for materials that are warp resistant over time preferably thoroughly dried out or even synthetic. I would like to also experiment with Alumalite and Lusterboard, which are both variations of aluminum laminated to dense corrugated plastic (best suited for fascia), and aluminum laminated to high grade plywood (I believe this may be suitable for module ends and the skeleton). I plan to make all templates at full scale including the trackplan. The trackplan will be reproduced full size and laid out on each module to guarantee an accurate transfer from plan to finished product.

I look forward to construction this time as there is more information and assistance to pool together to make such projects successful. There is much more satisfaction in having done a job correctly that will last longer then hastingly put a module together at the last minute and hope that everything works. The beauty of modular railroading is that if you do not like the way a module is turning out, you can easily start over, scrapping the first attempt, coming out with the minimum loss in materials. Could you ever imagine doing that to a stationary layout where inve$tment$ and time are much greater?

From August-September 2000 issue of Free-moNthly