Sunday, December 31, 2023

December Op Session

 The December operating session went well, but it highlighted an issue with how I have done DCC block detection on the railroad.

We had 10 operators join us for the session and we were able to complete the entire schedule of trains for the first time ever.

The yard crew chats.

Engineer Mike is working crossroads. You can see the very nice RF&P power on his train.

Engineer Bryce is getting ready for a run while the traffic manager gets paperwork ready.

More photos can be found on the gallery at

Friday, December 8, 2023

Brightening Up the Space - Adding More Light

One of the downsides of having a large layout and the large room that goes with it, is that you end up with a bunch of model railroad to light up so you can see. Even with natural light coming from your windows (and thankfully, I have 4 windows plus 2 glass inset doors), it can be a challenge to get those back corners sufficiently bright.

Having task focused lighting while you are working on something is easy - bring over a flashlight/lantern/etc and done.

However, having enough lighting for operating and photography with or without the sun can be a challenge.

The builder installed a couple of pot lights around the room, but even with 125W bulbs, we couldn't even hit dive bar levels of illumination.

Check out the first lighting post I put together a few years back for some more information.

I had three areas that needed help - the staging room, the back corner behind the helix, and the area at South Doswell.

Staging room got a T fitting and then a 4' and an 8' track added. Moved some heads around, plus added another 4 of them. Have space to add some more if I think it needs it after I get used to the new level of light.

Staging yard. Note the heads off to the far right to help brighten up the yard throats.

South Doswell was lit by a combination of what was installed over Hamilton and on the peninsula end between there and XR.

Here, working from the original 4' track, I added another 4' track at an angle that looked good (using a flexible coupler) and then terminated in a 8' track running parallel to the track at South Doswell (and the crossover I installed there last year).

Trying to source the hardware all the same color is tough. As I don't care if it matches or not, you can see the mix and match effect.

The far back corner was one of the spots where I initially tested out the track light idea. I put the original 4' bar at an angle, thinking it would be enough.

Not even close, and having to add a bar inside the peninsulas meant it had to be removed and repositioned.

I added another L angle and tacked on another 4' bar. It is the bar in the back of this picture that is running side to side.

This corner is much better than before.

A few more shots can be found in the gallery at

Wednesday, December 6, 2023

A bit more staging

 Long time readers and RTRR operators are aware that the lower level (south) end staging yard is approximately 50% complete, with all the rails truncated at about half of the planned and intended length. The yard ladder for the other side is missing as well and the physical space has been used for storage of tools and supplies since the benchwork was completed last year.

This was done for a few reasons:

  • To get the layout operating with south end staging
  • Give some run time to focus on other tasks, such as signalling
  • Allow for more planning time for the last bridge needed
As we have a couple of trains that aren't run during a session due to staging space, I decided that I would start to extend the tracks a bit. I haven't committed to building the yard ladder yet, but that is going to be a next year project, once the days for working outside and cutting wood are numerous.

Here is a shot of this work, in progress.

Sunday, December 3, 2023

Digitrax DT400 Series Encoder Repair

 During an op session earlier this year, a DT400 was turned in as defective.

The right hand throttle knob no longer had the push button functionality and that meant that going from one side to the other didn't work correctly. It seemingly was always pushed as well.

Digitrax no longer repairs the DT400 series throttles (or the UT4 series either, for that matter). Thankfully, the encoders themselves are still sold.

It takes some effort to get it apart, but replacing the encoder was straightforward.

The connection to the battery tabs broke, so I took the opportunity to install a snap connection.

This throttle is fixed and back in service.

Friday, December 1, 2023

Op Session November 12 2023

After a long break in operating sessions over the summer, I called another Sunday session in November.

The railroad ran well, but the signals require some additional tweaks. I wrote a list at the debrief and have been slowly working at it.

I did remember to snap a bunch of pictures for this session, so it was well documented.

The crew was:
Mike P
Mike B
Jonathan S
Dick M

Scott providing a pre-run briefing to Jonathan and Mike B.

Yard crew hard at work:

Yard paperwork:

Bryce had put together coal train that is almost 30 cars long and got his grandfather to put it on the schedule.

The head end is behind my left shoulder and the end is just about to hit the aisleway bridge at Doswell.

He had a couple of derailments and all the cars need resistor wheelsets installed. Going to have him to that himself so he has some more skin in the game.

Sunbeam is secure.

What do you mean I have to wait for trains before I go out?

More photos can be found on