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Building an Operating Overhead Catenary System for “O” Gauge Model Railroads                       ....Continued

By Thomas P. Leyden                                            (Return to Beginning)

Building the Catenary System


Building the Catenary Bridge-Support Bases

1. Cut 1" x 1" x 8' wood trim into 3/4" high pieces. Mark each with corner to corner “x” to indicate center of each piece. These will be catenary pole bases.

2. Use wood drill with sharp point and drill 1/2" holes in center of 1" x 1" x 3/4" pieces. DO NOT drill all the way through. Drill to leave 1/4" wood at bottom with 1/8" hole. This hole will be used to secure to tabletop.

3. After drilling operation paint the bases a medium grey to simulate concrete.

Building the Catenary Bridge-Supports

(Note) I used a Dremel moto-tool with cutoff disc to saw (cut) “H” columns and basswood sticks

There are two kinds of Bridges; multiple track and single track.

1.  Purchase the "H" columns from Plastruct (#H-12 3/8" x 3/8")   Cut columns to 7 1/2".  This height can vary depending on your layout’s height limitations.

2.  Purchase 1/4" x 1/4" basswood sticks.  These sticks will be cut to suit specific need but I used 2 1/2" for singles.  You have to measure double or triple track span widths.  Paint columns and basswood flat black.


3.  Drill small holes in columns 1" from top to accommodate tiny screws to mount single or multiple track crossbeams. 


4. For single track and for most curves the crossbeams are cut to 2 ½” in length and mounted  to the columns in the same fashion as detailed in 3. above.  These crossbeams must be reinforced, either with ¼” x ¼” basswood sticks or with 1/8 rod as shown in the photo below to accommodate the upward force of the pantograph.

Single track crossbeam reinforced with basswood stick (Photo 8)

Assembling Catenary Bridge-Supports

Measure and assemble catenary bridge-supports at predetermined places screwing bases to layout platform using appropriate wood screws.   Straightaway bases were located 2 ¾” from track centers.  Curve bases were located 2 ¾” to 3 1/2” from track centers.  I built a template to insure uniformity.

a. Straightaways
Pick a location to start.  I chose the beginning of a straightaway as a good place to start. I used a distance of 19” between the bases for straightaways. Other factors may necessitate shortening the distance, i.e. crossovers/switches.

b. Curves
Trial and error is necessary to be sure curves are engineered appropriately.  I placed poles a distance of 6” to 7” apart on curves depending on curve radius. (See photos below.)



Continues with Installing the Overhead Wire

Second Decade.
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