Thursday, July 31, 2014

Upper Staging Yard extension and reversing loop construction, phase 1 and 1.5

After some thoughts and discussion about how the layout works or doesn't, I decided that I needed to make the upper staging yard larger. Primarily, the upper level's staging is currently smaller than the lower level and it is also stub ended, which complicates the ability to get trains in and out.

I started by measuring the area I had with an eye to trying to offset a bit from the lower level to give the crews working the there a chance to see what they are doing. After doing that and figuring out that I could space back just a smidgen so I would still be able to maintain the minimum radius for the reverse loop I sketched a plan out.

I decided to embrace the idea of a Bellina drop at the end of the reverse loop to help move folks through that walkway. It would also give me a way to hide the supports too.

Beginning the supports after tearing apart the existing side a bit apart.

More joists are in; the middle joist is actually a bit short. Oops...

Test fits, one of many

Double beam test fit; a 1x3 and a 1x4 sandwiched over 2x4 pieces

Checking for level

Final test fit before screws are put in

Staging yard blown apart; thankfully stuff was just screwed together - no glue

Test fit of the edge

You can see the middle 1x3 was replaced. Blocking installed to help support the coming plywood sub-roadbed

All screwed together

Checking for level

We are going to insert a 60" long piece here, replacing a 48" piece that was a bit bowed anyway

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

More about the car forwarding system

I've been a user of the car cards and waybills system of car forwarding since we started operations a few years ago.

I mostly created the waybills with the access based application that Dave Husman wrote that has a community on yahoo here. A couple were just done in MS Word or OpenOffice. The car cards are a mix from Dave's app and a few other applications that we used back and forth.

I finally standardized on Dave's app since it was much more easily portable from PC to PC since it is MS Access based.

One of the main issues was that I created the waybills over a period of time and the format I used per each step varied from lot to lot.

After the last session and some confusion on what should be done with cars, I went through all the waybills inside the app and standardized them in format. Once they were all set to be the same format; i.e. step 1 is always car coming onto the layout with next block defined, step 2 being delivered via local train x, and so on, I went ahead and printed them on cardstock instead of plain paper, hoping this will make them a bit easier to handle as well.

Time will tell if this solution works; I hope so. If not, I might go to single step style waybills.

I guess I can always try switchlists, but after spending time building card boxes that seems silly.

In process of cutting the new waybills out.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Website Updates

The full website, here, has been updated with additional pictures and content. I have been making a couple of changes to expand the operations and construction pages. I have also started on a page to document how I've developed my JMRI based CTC panel. There are some JMRI screenshots as well to help illustrate how the panel is put together.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Lighting on Multideck layouts

As I have developed the upper deck areas, I have found that the lighting on the lower areas suffers.

I know this probably isn't news to anybody with experience with this style of layout, but the normal solution - florescent tubes or fixtures - isn't where I wanted to be for a couple of reasons. The reasons for myself boiled down to the major issues: cost, size, power requirements.

One of the positive things with the advances in LED technology has been the advent of the white LED, in multiple color offerings from cool to warm white.

Unfortunately, as with any new technology, the cost of the solution can be a little high. However, I was able to work around this problem by finding alternative suppliers.

I ordered 4, 15 meter spools of the indoor (in other words, not water-resistant) LED strips from seeedstudio. A power supply from some retired hardware at the office gave me a nice +12V DC supply and I soldered two strips together and mounted them by using their adhesive backing to stick them right to the wood benchwork.

After a while of them being stuck up, literally, I found that the adhesive had a tendency to let go. I guess this is from the heat generated from the actual LEDs, but maybe not. I cut small strips of styrene and used that as a brace to hold the strips in place. I placed them anywhere from 3 to 9 inches apart and that seems to be working fairly well.

First test area for LED strip lighting

More pictures, as promised.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Quick Shot - NMRA Contest - Iron Carrier Lake Boat

I took a couple of shots of this neat diorama, but this was the only decent picture so far.

Two Hulett unloaders from Walther's kits, track, office, and a large pile of taconite to unload.

Only issue was it way too clean to be a real dock area - those are always trashed and rundown. Be that as it may, an impressive effort and well received in Cleveland.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

More Contest Models from Cleveland's NMRA Convention - Rotary Coal Dumper

Another scratch-built structure of some note was this rotary coal dumper building. HO scale, made to be integrated to a layout, and operating as well.

Overhead shot to capture a good portion of the model.

Very nice detail here; lots of safety railing, lights and model figures.

One of the things that struck me about this model is how well the insulation for this metal framed building was done. It matched what I have seen in the 1:1 prototype to a T.

This was another model that the NMRA magazine folks wanted to feature in the magazine, so I hope we will get to see more of this model in the future.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

NMRA National Contest Models - Big Steam

I figured that I would take the opportunity to highlight a few models from the past NMRA national convention that I found intriguing. I'm hoping to turn this into a short series, so watch this space for updates.

The first model, if you could call an undertaking like this a mere model, is a 7.5" gauge, 1.6" scale model of a Milwaukee Road 2-8-2 steam locomotive.

The pictures are not able to do this massive model the justice is richly deserves. In talking with the builder, Karl Kobel, this has been a 8 year quest that is is still not finished with; and he estimates at least another 2 years of work needs to be completed.

The amount of hand finishing and what I would call polishing touches are almost beyond comprehension. At the edge of the tender walls, he welded on stainless tubing to give the tender the correct and snag free treatment that an operating model cries out for.

If I had to sum up this model in a single word, breathtaking would be my word. I am hopeful that we will be able to see this model featured is great detail in a future NMRA magazine article (I hope many articles), as the magazine's editor requested to work with the builder to feature this in the magazine.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Interesting finds from the convention

Just a couple of quick hits from the convention:

A neat way to sense the state of a manually thrown turnout: microswitch spiked down next to the caboose ground throw that when the throw moves, depresses the contact. The microswitch itself connects back to anything that will send a loconet message; alternatively you could light an LED on a panel or set a signal to red. I have a picture from my phone that I will attach to this post to better illustrate. Hat tip to Brad White for showing me this.

The OpenLCB/NMRANet project seems to have made an actual commitment to getting real production gear available within the next 18 to 24 months, with announcements coming at the next national convention. As a person that received a dev kit as part of the project and being very disappointed, this is good news. Trick is going to be the group actually executing. So far, I'd say that both RR-Cirkits and cpNode have beaten them to the punch.

Upper Staging - Review, thoughts and changes

Currently, the upper staging yard is stub ended. This matches the original plan I had drawn up.

After operating with it for a bit and also spending some time at the convention with a gent from the LDSig during one of their 'ask the expert' sessions, I have begun to rethink it.

Operationally, it is a sticking point and requires another operator to make sure that trains can enter and leave. It is also a bit shorter than the lower yard, which is an additional complicating factor.

The major reason that I had not had it follow the same footprint of the lower level was the fact that I did not want to impact sight lines onto the lower level too much; as you can't effectively offset the higher deck when you have to fit in a turnback curve. In tangent sections, you can eliminate a track or two and space it back, but a 30" radius curve is a 30" radius curve.

After a fair amount of measuring this past weekend and some other tests, I am going to build out the upper staging yard to be part of a reverse loop for tracks 6 and 7, with possibly 4 and 5 included while extending the stub ended 1,2 and 3 tracks.

This will also let me simulate traffic coming to and from the ex-C&O branch that Buckingham currently runs, so I'm counting it as win. Watch this space for additional information as sawdust flys.

Monday, July 21, 2014

NMRA National Convention 2014 Cleveland Retrospective

My schedule lined up last week and I was able to attend the NMRA National Convention that was being held in Cleveland, OH.

I have now attended the last 3 National conventions; 2012 in Grand Rapids, 2013 in Atlanta and now 2014 in Cleveland. Next year is being held in Portland, OR. Unfortunately, the late august timing of the convention conflicts with the beginning of the school year, so it won't work for me personally, but if you have the chance to go, I would encourage you to attend and experience a convention.

Venue wise, I think Cleveland's new convention center was the best venue from the last 3 conventions. It was clean, spacious, convenient to hotels, food and transportation links. The kicker is that it backed up to the NS (ex-Conrail line) and the RTA line, with nice big windows so a convention favorite was to get a seat, enjoy the A/C and watch trains roll by if you were between clinics.

I attended just a few clinics this time, less than I attended in Atlanta or GR. Primarily this was due to the clinics not being on subjects that I am interested in currently. From the clinics I did attend, quality was very good and talking to other modelers that attended, their feelings were very close to my own.

I did not partake in any layout tours, but did participate in a few operating sessions, as again the OpSig did a good job identifying layouts for sessions and getting everything set. The local coordinator, Scott Benson, did an outstanding job on that front and he was recognized at the meeting as well.

At the OpSig meeting, Steve Benezra, the current editor of the DO, announced to the membership that he will be leaving the editor post after 6 years of doing it. He had already informed the BOD, and his intention is to give us a year to find a successor, after which he will work with for another year to help he or she get started.

Of the layouts I saw, Bram Bailey's HO Scale Ontario Central Railway was absolutely outstanding. I was able to run the West Bay yardmaster job during the session and came away very impressed.

The pictures that I managed to take are in the gallery on the main site - here.