Give Kids The World
Give Kids The World is a charity organisation in Central Florida where children with life-threatening illnesses and their families are treated to a week-long cost-free vacation they will never forget.
Mid December last year we were contacted by one of their volunteer helpers and asked if we could help to refurbish the existing G-scale indoor layout which is a huge attraction for kids any age.
After a first visit early this year we decided that this organisation definitely needs help! The layout looks really neat - at first glance. However, the track is about 10 to 15 years old and worn out, especially in the curves, and needs to be replaced. Thankfully, we could bring AristoCraft® on board who gave us a very genereous discount for needed track. We help out by donating half the cost of our services.
The layout consists of 4 continous loops of track and a trolley track. Two loops are suspended from the ceiling and circle the layout room along the walls, with one portion of this loop being designed as a scenicked "high line" along two walls of the layout. The challenge is to replace the track without shutting down the complete layout. It has to be operable as much as possible since the children love it so much.
Following is the diary of the project's progress.
To view a picture in full size, please click into the image. To close the full-size view, simply left-click somewhere in the dark-grey shaded are.
After a short meeting and briefing with a volunteer who maintained the layout the last 10 years, we decided to take up the track of the suspended line first. It was fastened to the sub-construction by twisted wire and so we went around and cut everything loose first. I expected some dirt and dust but never expected to have pitch-black hands after 2 minutes working . The amount of dirt piled up over time was just amazing!
About half of the track on the suspended was removed yesterday. The dismantling process went slower than anticipated because we found a lot of hidden wire straps that had to be cut and removed. Since we can't just turn on the room lighting for better working light because of the ongoing day-night simulation of the layout, it took quite some time to find all those little wires with a flashlight.
We made good progress today and basically all track on the suspended line was at least free of any straps and ready for take-up.
While John - a volunteer helping me - took care of the suspended track, I went on behind the layout and started to loosen the track on the high line. The tricky part here was to find all the nails in the tunnel sections, standing on a ladder about 12 feet above the floor. Some sections of the high line are just wide enough to walk on (about 1 foot) which helps a bit in finding the nails...
By 4:00 PM all nails and screws were removed and we called it a day.
No pictures today...
Today, I removed all the remaining track on the high line. All track joints were soldered which isn't a bad idea in general but de-soldering was out of question due to the bad lighting conditions and tight workspace. The maintenance aisle behind the layout is only about 3 feet wide which means that the ladder you're standing on leans against the layout at a very steep angle. So, in favor of work-safety, I chose to simply break the track into manageable sections at their soldered joints and drop them to the floor.
By 6:00PM all track was removed. The next step is a thorough cleaning of layout's upper part in order to prepare for the new track. We all hope that AristoCraft® is able to deliver the track witihin the next wekk, so we don't un-nessessarily delay the work progress. Our deadline for this project is the end of February this year when travelling season starts to pick up again!
Since the track finally came in, I could actually start working on the layout. The first thing to replace was the upper (or suspended) line with two loops of track.
Some of the curves were really tight and leading onto trestles. Therfore, I decided to replace them with flex track and incorporate transition curves to ease the stress on track and engine wheels, and make the bridge approach safer. The upper line sits about 7 feet from the zero level. It took about 4 days to rip out the old and replace it with brand spanking new track.
On 02-25-13 the suspended line was handed over to the public after some extensive test running.
With the suspended line up and running again, I could concentrate on the lower loops.
I started with the trolley line (which is a mere back and forth), and gradually worked my way to the outmost track without shutting down the layout.
The trolley track was a snap: just 3 hours and it all trackage was replaced, with the road surface back in place, too.
The inner loop with the circus train on it was a bit more difficult. In order not to have to construct new roads, I had to stick to the existing grade crossings but wanted a gentler curved approach than before. Since the new curved track is stainless stell, I had to do quite some "metal bending" but it worked out just great.
The two outer loops had long stretches of straight track in it and so the 5-footers I ordered came in very handy. I had to cut a new tunnel opening in the rear of the layout, though, since the curves in the short left tunnel were way too tight to allow two larger engines to pass without touching each other. Had to build custom curves out of stock stainless steel track pieces in order to fit them into the available space...
Now everything runs as smooth as glass :-).
In about a week or so, the scenery is on the to-do list: building a new tunnel portal and refreshing the existing scenery. Should be a fun job!
We are closing in on completion of the project!
All track has been re-laid and ballasted. What is left now, are "just the small details" - like glueing down the ballast, cleaning up, and restoring flawless working conditions...
Viewed from an ant's perspective, one can see that the garvel used for ballast is just about the right size.
A new dawn on the layout shows the cracks in the river being filled, re-painted and coated with gloss laquer. The "Ciccus Line" received fresh track and ballast.
The curves at the fun fair display have been considerably widened to allow trains passing each other without touching. Unfortunately, one ride of the fun fair had to be relocated to make room for the new curves. By the way, all curved track is made of stainless steel since this material is not as prone to wear and tear as brass. Stainless stell curves are said to last at least 15 to 16 years before they have to be replaced.
Amberville depot hosts a little surprise for viewers - Smile!
... you can only see it when you look at the bay window :-)
This bare area will boast a drive-in theater in the near future. The theater will be modeled by two volunteers who also concepted and built the layout. We'll keep you posted about the progress.
This concludes our report about the GKTW project.
We just received the maintenance contract and will periodically post news about this amazing "little" layout (in terms of G-scale).
Thanks to Give Kids The World for giving us the opportunity to be of help!