Thursday, October 31, 2013

Main Line has been Severed..

As part of getting the railroad ready for full sessions, I determined that I would need an additional passing siding since the Helix from the main to upper levels is single track.

The only place to put a passing siding was on the north side of Acca yard, but the existing crossovers around that area were the wrong type; as trains could not move from the main to siding, on either end.

I pulled the right hand crossover that was right at the yard entrance and moved it to the end of the helix. I will build a left hand crossover to replace it at the yard and it will give me that one last passing track.

I have snapped some pictures, but they are on the tablet, so they will be uploaded later on.

A few more work sessions will be scheduled in the next 2 months, with the goal of running the entire railroad in January.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Op Session Canceled...

Queue up the wah-wah-wah horn, as I had to cancel the session this past weekend due to a couple of factors. First one being that I was sick (still am a bit) and I only had 4 signups. I got an email Friday afternoon that one of the signups had to bow out, so with only 3 people to run the railroad, I figured that I would be better to just cancel and try another day.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Staging Session

Since it has been months since the railroad was operated formally, I held a restage session to get everything set to go for the next session that is on the 12 of this month. I was joined by a few fellow modelers, which allowed us to get everything complete within 2 hours. If I stage the railroad by myself it takes normally about 4 hours over 2 nights. I hope that when the upper staging yard gets built, the restage time will come down to some reasonable number. I would be happy if it took me 2 hours to do it solo, but that may not be realistic. I was able to take a couple of pictures during the session, so they've been included.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Work session summary

A work session was held this past Saturday, the 14th of September. Dick M was gracious enough to spend a few hours with your host to expend some work cycles on moving the main line closer to completion. Track was laid down on the approach to the staging yard after cork ramps had been sanded down to get the track to the level of the homasote. I spent my time installing a few additional signals controlled by a SignalMan from rr-cirkits. These signals are from blma, which uses magnet wire to connect to the LEDs. It is always challenging to connect these signals, as the magnet wire isn't labeled, so you get to play 20 questions with 'did I get the right wire? No, that is red, I needed green.' Of course you are doing this while contorted under the bench work. Some additional work to the jmri panel has been done to identify the detection blocks and move the CTC system closer to completion.

Friday, September 13, 2013

DCC Refresh

During the last session, or possibly the previous one, there was an instance where there was a short on DCC that took a while to resolve. During running trains some time ago, track power wouldn't come up for a couple of minutes. I spent some time messing with the electrical setup and discovered that I had 1 psx breaker feeding 3 BDL168s plus non-block detected areas including the yard. I purchased a couple more breakers with the goal to get things setup a bit more, um, rationally. I put the yard on a dedicated breaker and the used an additional breaker on the bdl that feeds the railroad between lower level staging and ACCA yard. One more PSX was installed and used to power the other 2 BDLs. The final breaker will be used to power the upper staging yard.
Also took the opportunity to clean up a couple of power supply issues and made a couple of supply wires with color matched shrink tubing.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Room Changes

I have been talking about moving the dispatcher's area into the space underneath the stairs,but have been putting it off for multiple reasons, mostly laziness. I  had emptied under the stairs a while back and done some general "cleaning up" as well. That meant throwing out scrap wood, foam, homasote, and other su dry odds and ends. All that said, I moved the small cabinet to just outside the wall and did some measuring and thinking. Went ahead and began moving the desk into the stairwell and realized the opening is 38 and a quarter. The plywood I've been using as a top is (was) 38 and about 3/8s. Oops.
Out came the circular saw and rip fence. Trimmed about 2 inches off and started to put everything into place. The network drop I had on one of the outside stairwell walls is dead. Vaguely remember messing with it when I wired my house 7 something years ago, but looks like I will bring the network toner home and get that fixed. I ran a new run to get a loconet connection done; I had purchased a new complete spool of 6 conductor flat cable since my intention is to go through the layout and refresh a couple of questionable loconet connections. While doing so, I remembered how much I hate messing with drop ceilings. :-\
Discovered that I will need a better way to put monitors into the dispatchers new office if I get a larger monitor for the remaining 17" one, as the combo of the 17 and the 23 are just a hair larger than they can be to have them totally straight. I had to turn the slightly to get everything to fit, but I like the new look and it really opens up the railroad area. I also hope this will make crew utilization during sessions better as well.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Coming to the End (of the main)

Finally had a weekend that wasn't promised to anything else for the first time in months. Did a bunch of different things, one of the first was to get the final pieces of mainline cork down and begin the process of sanding it down to a ramp as it enters the upper staging yard. Couple of quick snaps to give an idea of how it is going follows. Sanding cork makes boatloads of dust and cork/rubber pieces, so I will have to spend some time vacuuming in the next few weeks and probably do a complete clean before the next op session in October.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

LNCP Install

I have been working on the scissors crossover area over the past few weeks. I decided that to control this area for both signals and turnout controls, I would try a loconet control point, or LNCP, from rr-cirkits. This device will control up to 4 stall machines, drive 16 signal heads with 4 lights each and has 6 occupancy blocks.

So far I have the tortoises mounted, as well as the lncp. I have the tortoises connected, which is pretty easy with the compression connectors that are built into the lncp. Next part is to get the signals mounted and connected. I will put another post up when I get to that point.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013


Haven't made much progress on the railroad since I came back from the convention besides getting some additional track down.

I did test place some signals to figure out what I needed and what I had in stock.

Mostly, I've been working on the formal website for the railroad,, and trying to put my thoughts about model railroading and building this layout into some semblance of order.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

NMRA National Convention Recap - Atlanta 2013

Been home just a couple of days from the NMRA national convention in Atlanta; the Peachtree Express.

Had a wonderful, if busy, time and am looking forward to working the convention in Cleveland next year into my schedule.

I was able to see a couple of friends from the last National Convention and make new ones this convention.

As the official JRD tweeter, I sent a few tweets from the convention, but the lack of wireless internet at the convention site was a downer.

I will add a couple of other thoughts as I remember them, but here is a good snapshot for now.

I was able to attend a pretty good sprinkling of clinics. Of particular interest to me where the clinics that Jim Langston gave on various topics around Amtrak. Something I didn't realize is that Amtrak still does some switching of various consists at points that are not big terminals such as Union in DC or Penn in NY. Hopefully Jim will get an opportunity to post his presentations shortly and I will link to them so others can find the information. He did list some good resources to check when it comes to books and the like, so I did some checking and purchased a few books.

One of the nice things about the conventions is that you get a chance to operate on layouts that aren't either easy to get to, or are outside the norm, or are totally different schemes or scales.
I attended 5 operating sessions, 3 HO, 1 N and one 7.5" gauge with 1.5" inch and 2.5" scale trains, this is what is called "live steam".
It all started with a visit to Don Barnes' B&O Old Main Line on Sunday the 14th. This was a offering for "en-route" sessions and I am glad that we took the time to do this. Don has a very ambitious plan that he is working on meeting the challenges of such a prototype focused layout, and it should be absolutely a joy to see as he gets closer to completion. I was able to run two trains; a through train to Cumberland yard (took about 30ish minutes) and then the eastbound local (taking 2 hours and change to the end of the session). He estimates he is 40% of the way with just benchwork, so that hopefully gives you an idea of the scope of his project.
Monday, I went to the layout of John Wilson, who models the St Louis Gateway in N scale. It was a pretty neat take on the TRRA in St Louis. He uses an operating scheme based on picking up a train card from a deck and running it. When you complete that, you just pick up the next card. Works pretty well for N scale, as it saves you from having to read the reporting marks off the cars.
Tuesday, the layout up was Tom Gordon's SAL. Tom models a route of the Seaboard in the 50's. One neat part of the layout is that he has a fair amount of signals going. The layout was smallish, but still ran nicely and gave lots of opportunity to railfan.
Wednesday was probably the nicest layout that I saw during the week. Tom Lloyd's N&W. A truly outstanding layout with multiple decks, a fair amount of scenery and operations to die for- 20+ trains with a mix of steam and diesels across a railroad with lots of single track main with passing sidings, with a good amount of runs between towns.  N&W steam - J's, As and Y's; with sound climbing the grades were absolutely awesome.
The final layout was live steam at the Canton, StPaul and Pacific. The use a 7.5" gauge track, so everything is big and dwarfs the normal stuff that you normally see. They have an actual mile of track which ends up being 12 or so scale miles of track. The layout is a loop/wye to a loop/wye up a pretty good size hill.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Another Fast Tracks Project - Scissors Crossover

So, I needed another crossover before my upper level staging yard as I just know that trains will get put onto the wrong track by the dispatcher or crew and then the schedule would get totally fouled up as trains would have to run back to the nearest crossover so that it would be easy to get trains to either main track as they head onto or off the line.

My original plan was to build a more prototypical take on the Acca interlocking and pull the existing set of crossovers off the line to be reused before staging.

I got out my tape measure and did some figuring and came to the realization that doing that would just about monopolize the space I had, plus impact the ability for trains to have some room between Doswell and the next interlocking.

I decided to slide the cross overs closer to Doswell and make the entire thing a bigger plant versus two separate plants.

As I spun up to make another set of crossovers, I remembered that I had two quicksticks for scissors type crossovers that were included in the kit I purchased. So, throwing caution to the winds, I started the scissors.

I refreshed my memory on the directions from fast tracks and started working. Took me about 4 hours or so of time to finish the build and I have another 30 minutes of staining and gluing the ties on, but it is mostly done.

I kept the camera handy as I worked so I could document the process. Worked pretty good and I've put cork down today so this can hopefully get installed before I leave to head to the National NMRA Convention in 2 weeks.

First half just about done in the jig.

Close up of the switch frogs and crossing frogs.

Little higher view

The seam is here; the protruding ends get filed down before this side leaves the jig.
The completed center section; lots of soldering and filing.

Low angle deflection shot.

X Marks the Spot!

Glad that is done!

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Upper Level Benchwork Complete!

The upper level benchwork has been completed and is ready for track.

Homasote is down and painted.

The end of major construction is just about here and the end of tracklaying is getting closer!

This will either be the Bear Island paper plant or the DuPont plant that is in Chesterfield in real life.

Dad did an outstanding job notching the homasote on this corner.

Lots of space!

Doswell getting closer to coming to life

Paint is still wet and shiny in this snap.

Consider the possibilities....

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Work session

Before the this last operating session, a small work session was held. Of course, with pictures being taken on the tablet, it complicated getting this update to the blog.

The last bit of benchwork for the upper level was complete, and the only thing thatremains on that front is to put down the plywood subroadbed and homasote roadbed.

Trackwork into the Doswell junction was worked, putting us closer to having the final staging yard in place so theentire railroad can be used during sessions.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Operating Session Recap

The June session is in the books and it went fairly well with respect to the fact that we hadn't turned a wheel in a session in a couple of months.

The crew were completely retreads; I'm pretty sure this is first session without any new folks to the railroad.

The crew was split 3/3 between local folks from Richmond and the crew from Charlottesville.

Crew Board
 Dispatcher: Yours truly
Dispatcher in Training: Doug B
YM: Wayland
AYM: Don W
Hostler: Mike G
Crew 1: Jerry
Crew 2: Dick
Crew 3: Scott/Bryce

 Pictures of the session follow. For some reason, the camera got turned to medium size pictures, so sorry about the lack of resolution.

Mike G works the north side of the yard and the local industries.

Doug with some drive time on the CTC panel.

Dick is working the DoD depot with F805. Power today is a BNSF Dash 9 GE.

Crew 3 takes a break and gets a snack or three.

Jerry has the southbound auto train through the Acca interlocking.

An SCL E6 is a bit strange to be seen on the point of Amtrak's premier train in the 1990s, but needs dictate operations.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Operating Session On Saturday, Staging on Thursday

Just a quick note to open June; I've got a staging session going Thursday night and then the full operating session on Saturday afternoon.

I will have one additional industry spot available on the upper level, assuming I get the turnout connected up in time.

Progress pictures will be posted later in the week, as they are on the tablet and haven't been uploaded yet.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Upper Level Benchwork Update

Positive progress was made on the benchwork on the upper level from the Doswell area to what will be the north end staging yard for the layout. One piece remains to be fitted, but all other pieces are in and ready to be fastened down. I am at the point where I need additional sheets of homasote, so I am planning on reaching out to a fellow modeler this week and seeing if I can impose on him to use his truck (and him) to pickup 2 more sheets. That should complete all the purchases I need to finish the benchwork stage of the layout.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013


As promised, here are a couple of snaps around the CB&W crossing and interchange.
As you continue beyond this piece of the railroad, you will come to the Doswell crossing, BB interchange, and lines west and east. This will also be where service to the Bear Island paper plant will run.

First shot is an overview of the roadbed. Next shot after that is what the actual track layout is going to be.
4, 25 degree crossings soldered together on the bench to give the correct spacing as the track leads into the turn.

Location of the Doswell Crossing and lead to Bear Island.