Parental Advisory: It’s gonna get a little N-Scale up in here for the next few weeks at least. You’ve been warned.
I regularly do dodgey electrical stuff. Possibly risky, but I’ve only once actually electrocuted myself on 240v AC current. However when I say my hacked up hot wire is unspeakably dodgey, I think it requires a picture (click for more detail):
Yes, that is a couple of bare ends of wire with some nichrome soldered across them. The socket on the end plugs straight into a 4 Amp 12V DC supply. But it worked, and it worked damn well. I did need my lovely wife on hand to manage the power input (i.e. unplugging the wire when I wanted to put it down). Read on to see what it did for me.
What I needed was a nice, long slope up to the back of my layout. I took a second sheet of polystyrene exactly the same size as my main layout sheet (1200x800x40mm), and cut a big chunk out of the middle. The middle will be the ‘ground level’. Then I tried something that I was a little unsure of: using tape as a straight edge (click the image to see what I mean). I did use heavy duty fibreglass tape, which I think helped where the hot wire may have cut into regular tape.
This worked really well, guiding the wire along the tape edge, and allowing for a fairly straight cut. I just held the insulated portions of the wire and kept tension on the hot nichrome wire. A slight wiggling saw motion, and it just plowed through the foam like a hot knife through butter. Literally.
Here’s what I ended up with. I’m pretty damn happy with it really:
It’s a little rough, but once I’ve glued it together and start adding roadbed and details, I think it’ll end up fine. The gradient is a little more than I had planned, ending up somwhere between 4% and 5%. I ran some test runs with my most baulky loco (a big 6-axle Atlas C-630), and it seemed to have no trouble with the gradient. I think I will shave a little more off the top left corner, reducing the gradient a bit on the clockwise uphill. This part will eventually be inside a tunnel, and I don’t want to have trains stalling inside the tunnel all the time.
So there you have it. I’m waiting on additional trackage so I can finalise the actual track layout, after which I’ll be starting to lay some permanent road bed and get into the actual detailing. Progress!