An O Scale Switching Layout

Helotes Switching Company Serving Helotes, Texas Industrial Area

The Train Room Re-worked

I’m having new flooring put in the room where the layout resides. This meant moving everything out. Fortunately, it was easy to disconnect the modules and move them temporarily to another room. This is exactly why I decided on building my layout based on modules. Of course I have to admit that the reason I need to put in new flooring (vinyl tile) is because it was difficult to move the  modules on the original carpeting. It should be much easier with the new floor. Here are some “BEFORE” pictures. The “AFTER” will be posted when the installation is done.

The work bench is stacked high with things that will later be stored neatly away…I hope!

Not only was the carpet making it difficult to move the modules even though they were on wheels, it was pretty ugly with a lot of spills.

I have an old mechanic’s tool chest that fits in one of the closets to store my tools. I will probably build some shelves in as well.


Module Top

Since this is an O-Scale layout I wanted the surface to be solid so I installed MDF board on  each module. I hinged them so I could easily work on the wiring rather than crawl underneath. I used standard door hinges from the local big-box hardware store. I have found that once I finished the wiring and tested everything I would rarely need to mess with it again. My prior N-Scale layout used thin plywood for the surface. I also had remote switches controlled from a control panel. This current layout only has manual Gargraves switches. This means the only holes in the surface are feeder wires to the track.

Three hinges to each 4 foot module. I found that without the other modules connected for stability that it had a tendency to tip if I opened the top too far. Be warned if you try this!!

The track comes right to the end — no joiner track. This works well with the big O-Scale engines.

A good view of the end of one of the 4 foot modules. The ratchet locking device and the alignment holes are visible in this photo.

Joining Modules Together

This photo shows how tightly the modules join together…Nice!

I use a T-Handle Allen wrench to lock the modules together. Rock solid!

END SW-1500 Diesel Electric Switcher Locomotive

Click on image for more information.

The second locomotive on the Helotes Switching Company layout is the SW-1500. The EMD SW-1500 was a 1,500 hp (1,119 kW) Diesel-electric locomotive intended for switching service and built by General Motors’ Electro-Motive Division between June 1966 and January 1974. 808 examples were constructed.

ALCO RS-27 Diesel Electric Road Switcher Locomotive

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One of the two locomotives on the Helotes Switching Company layout is the RS-27.

The ALCO RS-27 (specification DL-640) is a diesel-electric locomotive built by ALCO between December 1959 and October 1962. Only 27 examples were manufactured. With ALCO’s introduction of the Century Series line, the C-424 (specification DL-640A) replaced the RS-27 in the builder’s catalog. Today, the Minnesota Commercial Railway has the only two RS-27s left in existence, both operational. Four of the original demonstrators (#’s 640-2 through 640-5) were purchased by the UP in September 1961 and numbered 675-678. They were retired by the UP in 1971.

There is an older review of this MTH engine in the 2002 issue of Classic Toy Trains.

Assembling The Modules

The legs are easily attached to the module with the included screws. The legs lock in the down position and can be easily released for folding up,

All screw holes are pre-drilled, Note the mechanism for locking the modules together. An Allan wrench, inserted in the hole in the top or bottom of the module is used to lock things tightly together.

A power drill is a necessity!

The legs fold up for transporting or storing.


A Modular Baseboard Table System

Kam Konnect – A Modular Baseboard Table System. Modules are dimensionally stable that will not warp or sag. Kam Konnect selects hard-woods while integrating plywoods that resist warping to allow heavier loads on top of modules. Kam Konnect modules won’t sag like a sway back mare. Kam Konnect modules rapidly & easily join other Kam Konnect modules using our patent pending method. This ability to join modules tightly together in three dimensions strengthens tables and joints such that proper track installations do not require rail joiners.

I am using two 30″ x 30″ modules  connected to two 30″ x 48″ ones with a 30″ x 30″ corner connector to form an “L” shaped layout.

Hardware for mounting the fold-down legs.

The four foot module in its shipping carton.


Modeling supplies

I like the idea of supporting my local hobby shops when possible, however I’ve found the selection of items they carry to be rather limited and often, when they do carry what I want, its out of stock. As an alternative I’ve been doing the bulk of my shopping on the internet and specifically with Fifer Hobby Supply. I originally started ordering from them through Google searches where I found the prices to be very competitive and the selection perfect for my interest in N scale. After a while it dawned on me that since they are located in Las Cruces, New Mexico and that I pass through there once or twice a year on my way to visit relatives in California, I could save a bunch of money in shipping costs if I could just pick up my order in person. I shot off an email to Mike and Robin Fifer, the owners and operators of Fifer Hobby asking if my wife and I could drop by. Not only did they give us a hearty “Come on down!’ but overwhelmed us with the warmth of their hospitality. While Robin and my wife sat in the shade of the front porch sipping iced tea, Mike showed me the operation. Wow, I was impressed! Not only does Mike carry everything advertised on the web site, but he is extremely knowledgeable about each product. And talk about “walking the talk”, just check out his layout on the web, The Albuquerque Carnuel & Tijeras RR – its amazing!  We have now been stopping by for the past couple of years and each time I save up questions for Mike who is more that willing to help out a beginner like me.  I highly recommend Fifer Hobby Supply, not just for the great prices and super fast response, but because Mike and Robin are just great people. Use Fifer Hobby next time you need something – you won’t be disappointed.