The Flagstaff Sub Takes a Colorful Turn

IMG_3106I left the canvas of the Flagstaff Subdivision blank for too long. Or, maybe just long enough.

Trackwork and wiring were 90-percent complete this spring when warm weather called us outdoors. My plan for the fall was to finish up powering the turnout frogs, get the backdrop and fascia done, then focus the long, cold winter on scenery.

But, baseball’s fun until it’s not, and by the Dog Days of Summer, the Superintendent and the Conductor had rediscovered the wonders of model railroading.

IMG_3107“Dad,” they said on a drizzly Labor Day afternoon, bats and gloves stowed in the garage. “Can we do some scenery on the new subdivision?”

Two paths spread out before me.

Down the one, hours spent mostly alone festidiously crafting a convincing if not altogether faithful facsimile of Flagstaff.

Down the other, happy memories of my boys creating, expressing, falling in love with the hobby while turning the Flagstaff Sub into a candy-colored mush.

“Just don’t get any paint on the tracks,” I sighed.


The Flagstaff Sub Hits a Home Run

photoTrains are cool until they’re not, and when you’re six or eight years old the start of spring training seems to be the tipping point.

My help is gone, so the work of bringing the Flagstaff Subdivision to life has been solitary. Sure, The Conductor and The Superintendent swoop in between innings to make sure Dad is on task, but when they see wire and plywood instead of trees and locomotives, they’re off again.

No matter. It’s a little project in a little hallway and we’d be crawling over each other anyway. I’m content that The Conductor stuck with me long enough to learn some soldering, and The Superintendent tried his hand at the power drill.

Model railroaders aren’t built in a day.

Neither is an 11-foot-by-six-inch switching district, especially when your priority is to be Dad, and Dad is needed to Pitch.

Flagstaff is taking shape in fits of 30 or 40 minutes: the track plan in paper and pencil, the benchwork, the sub-roadbed, the frustrating search for Code 55 track. Then suddenly, last Saturday, a train rolled into town.

IMG_2663[1]I called upstairs that I had an important moment to share with the family and would they please join me by the layout.

“After this at-bat,” they said.

The first train to arrive on the Flagstaff Sub was a short maintenance-of-way consist. To my delight it was greeted with applause (The Train Man’s Wife is a generous booster) and before it got underway The Conductor wanted to make sure it included a piece of rolling stock from his collection. A nice touch that assured me he still regards the FCFL with some admiration.

Nobody seemed to notice that, in order to give the long, skinny track plan some interest I built in grade separation between the mainline and the passing siding. (The main drops about 5/16-inch between the turnouts, while the siding is level.)


Nobody seemed to notice that to give the shallow scene some depth, I curved the mainline and angled most of the industrial spurs so there would be minimal track parallel to the fascia.IMG_2640

Nobody seemed to notice the powered turnout frogs, the hidden feeder wires every three feet, the Z-scale roadbed under the spurs to drop their grade a tiny bit and allow the ties to hang over the edges so when the track is ballasted it looks washed out and in need of maintenance.

Nobody noticed any of that, but it’s okay. They were there, and I think it was a hit.