Chapter 3. Old School from the Ground Up

...well, mostly. I'm not being a purist about everything; instead, I simply wish to impart a sense of nostalgia. I'd thought briefly about using period power packs and such, but again this isn't an exercise in authenticity; besides, modern electronic throttles are vastly superior. I've also opted for other 21st Century touches, such as LED lighting, and I'll be using modern scenery materials.

Ordinarily I'd have made a lightweight base from Gatorfoam, but I was all out of Gatorfoam, and one of the house rules for this project was to spend as little on it as possible. I did have plenty of "traditional" materials on hand, so going old school with the base made a lot of sense: can't get much more old school than thin lauan plywood on a simple box frame of 2 x 3s. It went together in about 20 minutes. Not much to write home about, really.

But it did mean that, 20 minutes later, I was ready to start layout-building, and that's worth some bandwidth. For starters, I chose self-adhesive sheet cork for the roadbed, which is thinner than traditional cork, and that worked to my advantage: its thickness is almost exactly the difference between the track and the bus roadway, which meant there was no need to ramp up to and down from the grade crossing; everything sat perfectly flush.

I unrolled the cork across the whole base, marked out where the track ran, and cut away the excess. About an hour later, I was ready to start bonding the track in place, which I did using thick CA.

With all of the track laid, it was time to solder all of the rail joiners. Given this is all 45- to 50-year-old used track, I didn't trust the joiners to remain reliable conductors, especially after ballasting.

Once that 30-minute chore was over, it was time to move outside and spray-paint the track.

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