A Helix tale, Part 1 The Construction


Don Bergman
 


All those nice helix photos made me a little jealous, works of art. 

A helix was not in my original drawings. (1999)  I did not like helixes and used grades between layers.  I was not able to work in 2 modules on Ridgway in the original design. (1st the yard  (1975 and 2nd the Engine facility 1985).   I wanted a long run and Ridgway modules were such a size that they would take 1/2 of one of my 2 layers. 

I had hoped to extend them into the family room, but with my marriage being more important, it did not happen. So....they languished under the layout for a decade.  Working on Bruce Chubb's layout I noticed he had staging 18" off the floor!.   After a few years of visualizing and a need for better staging after starting some operations, I realized that if I built a helix around the furnace, I could add the "basement" staging layer to my layout, 18" off the floor. 

The challenge.  One layer already goes around the furnace at 36" off the floor and I need to build the helix top down.    Clearance issues:  a stud wall 33" to the right of the furnace, a concrete wall 16" away from the back of the furnace and a water heater 20" away from the furnace on the left next to the concrete wall.   Some areas behind the furnace will be out of reach. This helix will not be circular, every curve will be a different degree.  I will need 2-1/2 turns to get to 18."    I was shooting for 3% grade put a portion turned out to be 3.5.  Not really a problem as once off the helix the train will encounter a short 4% grade between Pleasant Valley and Peake.   The only problem is that if it cannot make the grade the operator might not notice for a while! 

I started by laying 3 Layers of cardboard pieces on the floor all taped together plotting the area.   Took the cardboard into the family room and drew the ROW to miss the obstacles.  Legs holding up the 36" layer would have to be moved or replaced with dowel--future trees, several joists had to be notched and a stud in the nonbearing wall was notched to gain 3". 

Cut out the cardboard ROW and took them to the garage and drew them out on 1/2" 5 ply plywood.  The sections behind the furnace had to be one piece and the track already laid out to make the joints accessible.  It was not fun. Some of the work had to be done lying on my side or back for the lower levels.   But it works.  Never had a derailment behind the furnace except when a wire found its way to the track that was not secure because I could not reach it.   

This 3rd lower layer is operational but essentially staging. A person would have blocked the aisle to throw a turnout. But it is a lot of scenery and the Ridgway Depot built about 1975 and most of the Engine Terminal structures built in the1970s and 1980s finally came out of their boxes.

Very pleased with the results and gained an appreciation for helixes.

But, the furnace service guy, even of slim build who must crawl inside the helix to do his work, might have another opinion. 🙂 Working by the hour he's never complained.

Don Bergman
Holland, MI.

Photo1: In the first photo notice the Ridgway yard on paint cans, held to an approximate height to see if it would fit.  Exact height to be determined once helix is built.  Also notice the original staging tracks . The train in the foreground would circle around the furnace into staging.   And the track, hidden by the tree & fallen tree also looped back to the main for constant running.  As I began to build the "removable" Vanadium mine complex above that staging I realized that any derailment in that hidden staging could stop an operating session.  (The rock wall in front was removable. Part of the reason to design the helix.

Photo 2:  The view between the Water Heater on the left and furnace on the right

Photo 3:  View from the aisle. The room light switches were moved during the process.

Photo 4:  A wider view than photo 2.  Not pretty but it works

Photo 5: Once the yard was working, I began the process of carrying it around the room to include the depot section and the engine terminal.  That included moving the main control panel, which was where the depot will be.

Don Bergman


Jim Marlett
 

Hope your furnace doesn’t have to be replaced!

But, the furnace service guy, even of slim build who must crawl inside the helix to do his work, might have another opinion. 🙂 Working by the hour he's never complained. 

Don Bergman
Holland, MI.



Don Bergman
 

Jim,

I read your note and chuckled:  " Hope your furnace doesn’t have to be replaced!" 

Yes, that was another aspect of the project making sure the front sections come out and the joints in the tracks match.    I inspected homes for buyers and am aware of that need.  Most of the time I just told the buyer the age and informed them when they should expect to replace, but added, it can fail at any time.  They typically last 20-25 years.  I condemned a few and told the current owner turn it off and repair or replace before you turn it back on.  MY CO detector probably saved a few lives.  The youngest furnace I condemned was 7 years old.  Something was dripping water slowly on the heat exchanger, likely a manufacturing defect.  I saw a small rust spot , touched it and  a hole opened.    The unit was probably never serviced.  Or the tech did not look close enough to catch it.    One DIY gent put a stud wall in front of the furnace, and it was impossible to service or change the filter, and he was upset with me for calling the defect!

I did replace the 17 year old Hot  heater before doing the scenery on the staging level even though it was working just fine.   They typically go 8-12 years so it was due.

Don


Mike Conder
 

My thought exactly!  We jus tried that a year ago ...

Mike Conder

On Sat, Jan 16, 2021 at 2:24 PM Jim Marlett <jmarlett@...> wrote:
Hope your furnace doesn’t have to be replaced!

But, the furnace service guy, even of slim build who must crawl inside the helix to do his work, might have another opinion. 🙂 Working by the hour he's never complained. 

Don Bergman
Holland, MI.


--
Mike Conder


Jim Marlett
 

I feel fortunate that my furnace and water heater are outside of my train room, but I have a water line that runs to the outside spigot that is a little worrisome. I finally decided if it fails, I’ll move the spigot if I can’t repair it in place.

Jim Marlett
http://flatheaddrag.com/
http://jimmarlett.zenfolio.com/


On Jan 16, 2021, at 6:30 PM, Don Bergman <DBRenegade@...> wrote:

Jim,

I read your note and chuckled:  " Hope your furnace doesn’t have to be replaced!"  

Yes, that was another aspect of the project making sure the front sections come out and the joints in the tracks match.    I inspected homes for buyers and am aware of that need.  Most of the time I just told the buyer the age and informed them when they should expect to replace, but added, it can fail at any time.  They typically last 20-25 years.  I condemned a few and told the current owner turn it off and repair or replace before you turn it back on.  MY CO detector probably saved a few lives.  The youngest furnace I condemned was 7 years old.  Something was dripping water slowly on the heat exchanger, likely a manufacturing defect.  I saw a small rust spot , touched it and  a hole opened.    The unit was probably never serviced.  Or the tech did not look close enough to catch it.    One DIY gent put a stud wall in front of the furnace, and it was impossible to service or change the filter, and he was upset with me for calling the defect!

I did replace the 17 year old Hot  heater before doing the scenery on the staging level even though it was working just fine.   They typically go 8-12 years so it was due. 

Don