The pin vise has four different collets which are designed to hold small drill bits. The bit is placed in the collet and the collar of the pin vise is screwed down onto the collet. As the collet closes, it firmly grasps the drill bit. Typically, the largest drill bit a pin vise will hold is 1/8”. Larger bits sizes are expressed in either inches or millimeters while smaller bits are expressed in a numeric fashion, with 90 being the smallest. Small drill bit sets for model work are often sold in sets with drills between #61 and #90. The smaller the bit, the more delicate it is. Many dealers also sell individual bits, and if you are planning on drilling holes with a smaller size bit, such as #85 or such, plan on buying extras because they break frequently (usually as you are drilling the next-to-the-last hole).
Unlike using a power drill, the pin vise is turned by your fingers in a slow and deliberate manner, so using sharp bits is a necessity. In the case of attaching track to vacuum formed plastic, I was typically using a #85 bit (switching to a #84 after I broke the 85). Once the pilot hole was drilled, I pushed the track spike through the crosstie and the layout plastic, then bent the bottom of the spike over which holds the track in place. Given the slow speed of this process, you don’t need to use every spike hole in the track, just enough to keep everything in place.
Inside the Tunnels
The Cortina layout has two tunnels and placing the track in these locations can be a challenge. I’m bigger than the average bear, and my hands are really too large to fit into one of the tunnels, much less attach the track and overhead catenary wires without some cussing. It is helpful to remember that Z-Scale track does lock together and that the Märklin catenary mast are designed to lock onto the track. With that in mind, the tunnels are probably the best place to start laying track. First, you will be in a fresh state of mind, eager to get this project underway. And, second, you will be dispatching the hardest part of the track laying task at the beginning.
Upon sufficient reflection, it seems easiest to assemble the track pieces and catenary masts & wires for the tunnel segments out in the open and then to gently weave them into the tunnel areas, Attaching the track is subject to the same issues as the exterior track, but a few track spikes should be sufficient.
Wiring the Layout
Typically, the instruction sheets which come with manufactured layouts can be maddeningly vague. The designer of the layout had something in mind but what that might be is not always clearly articulated, which is to say, you may have to figure a few things out for yourself. Generally, the manufactured layouts use the Märklin approach to wiring; a discussion of this approach is here.
Generally, the Europeans like to have one transformer connected to one loop of track. In the case of the Cortina layout, one transformer would operate the outer loop of track and the second transformer would control the inner loop. This means that you will need to isolate both rails at the two points where the two loops of track meet, the two crossover pairs of switches at the front of the layout. These will be marked on the instruction sheet.
Once you’ve got the two loops wired for track power, you can then hook up the track switches for operation. After that, you can wire the inner loop to operate two trains moving in the same direction on one transformer; in this case, the Märklin signals and circuit tracks are used to keep the two trains from colliding. If you do not want complicated wiring, you can pass on this feature and simply run two trains, one on the outer loop and the other on the inner loop.
For such wiring, the instruction sheet will show an outline of the various relays, control boxes and circuit tracks necessary for both the track switches and for automatic operation. The outlines of the relays and control boxes will have numbers which correspond to the same number for a track switch or circuit track connection on the track plan. The idea is to connect the identical numbers with the appropriate colored wire.
To avoid unsightly wires hanging down from the bottom of the layout, use self adhesive wire tie pads, which are usually available from hardware stores. Look for them in the electrical department, in the electronics area. These pads are fixed to the bottom of the layout in key locations; a wire tie is then passed through the pad and wrapped around the group of wires you want to manage.
Typically, many of the manufactured layouts do not come with structures. The vacuum formed layouts have locating pads for structures however, and you can compare the available pad space with the different structure manufacturers’ catalogs, which list the base plate dimensions (usually in millimeters). Should you wish to internally illuminate these buildings, a small hole can be drilled through the layout below the base plate of the structure.
The brown plastic of vacuum formed layouts such as the Cortina have basic scenery applied to complete the general appearance of the railroad. Frankly, they could stand some improvement and that is your task should you wish to take it. In the case of water, these layouts use a bright blue to represent both standing and flowing water. In real life, water is rarely such a blue color except near petrochemical plants. Take a look at natural examples and use acrylic paint to correct this problem; you should exercise some caution about your choice of paint, since some paints may cause an unanticipated reaction. Test your paint on a small segment of the layout’s painted area.
Woodland Scenics makes acrylic products to represent water. One, Realistic Water (Woodland Scenics No. C1211) is simply poured into an area that would have standing water. The other product, Water Effects (No. C1212) is used to create water falls and flowing water. Both are clear, so the surfaces below the water should be properly colored for a realistic effect. In previous times, Woodland Scenics also offered a product called E-Z Water, which had to be heated in a double boiler type of arrangement. I cannot recommend this product since I have yet to see a successful outcome on projects done by the typical modeler. I’m sure that it can be done, and, by the way, you can’t heat this product in a microwave.
And that’s about it for the manufactured layouts. They serve a real purpose in the model railroad world, and they may be more than enough to bring you a satisfactory model railroad experience.