Sand Fork Shifter

Sand Fork Shifter
MOXE 962 heads east through Big Chimney with a work train.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Great Source of Signal Information

I stumbled across "The Position Light" bog earlier this morning and was amazed at all of the information it contains regarding all aspects of railroad signalling. I was searching for locking devices on CTC panels and a picture of Amtrak's THORN Tower appeared in the images page. Here's a link to the blog post: There's an incredible wealth of information in this post on the operations of THORN Tower along with a large number of photos and diagrams. And the home page for the blog is now listed in the Great Railroad Modeling Sites panel on the right of this blog, too. Absolutely great stuff! 

For those of you who have interest at all in railroad signals, spend a little time on this blog.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Well, that won't work...

As each new group of signals is installed and new blocks are wired, I have to go back and change the spreadsheets for the signal input for the previously installed signals. The last signal along the line before an unsignaled section of track is always set to Red over Yellow, or restrictive. Once additional signals are installed, the aspects for this last signal need to be changed to reflect the new configuration of blocks and signals. Other signal inputs also have to be changed to reflect the new configuration.

During the last operating session, I asked the crews to report any aspects that weren't displaying what was observed in the field. Due to the recent installation of the signals and blocks at the west end of Nelsonville, I had changed a number of inputs to various signals and wanted to confirm whether or not they were working correctly.

As Robby Vaughn brought COXE 532 down the mountain from Summit Springs to Nelsonville, he encountered a Stop signal at BA Cabin. Train NMMT-5 was on the main clear of the turnout which was lined for the yard. Robby should have had a Red over Yellow, or Restricting, giving him permission into the yard. The photo below shows the approximate location of NMMT-5 when Robby approached BA Cabin.

It quickly became apparent that the locomotive on NMMT-5 had run into the block that included the turnout to the yard from the main (far left side of the picture above). Of course, the engineer on NMMT-5 was none other than the infamous Smokey Doll who just happened to have spent his entire career on the SOU and NS. There was no convincing him that he had overshot the signal. Which, of course, he hadn't. The problem was the position of the signal relative to the block.

In the picture below, engine 3017 is just short of the start of the next block. The red arrow shows gap between the blocks.

As I don't want to place the gap for the block anywhere in the turnout to the siding before the signal, I need to move the signal. And in order to position the signal head to the right of the track it controls, I'll have to build a signal bridge for this location and place it to the right of the siding where indicated by the arrow in the photo below.

The good news is that I can use the current signal at the east end of Nelsonville to control the westbound entrance to the yard and the junction with the Dry Fork Branch. The bad news is that I need to build another signal bridge. 

Fortunately, I have a supply of signal bridges on hand and the need to build one for this location has provided the inspiration to build the one for the east end of Nelsonville that will control eastbound movements on the main and the Dry Creek Branch. And that, in turn, has provided the inspiration to build the signal controlling the entrance to the main from the Dry Creek Branch. With any luck, we'll have the eastern half of the railroad signaled in the not too distant future.

Sunday, January 10, 2016


It was about mid-way through the last operating session when I noticed that the rascals had showed up. As I walked into the railroad room from the crew lounge, I spotted an odd sight at the end of the west staging yard. It appeared that someone had set up a new spur complete with a building and a car spotted at it. A closer observation revealed what you see in the photo below.

The infamous K&LE horse car had arrived on the CWE and was spotted at a to-be-named industry. The horse car is the work of the illustrious John Miller and he was the one who found the "building" back in the workshop.

Before the session started, we had talked briefly about the whereabouts of the horse car. When last seen, it was headed westbound on the CSAO of Deb and Matt Snell. It has also been spotted on the FPS and the DP in the recent past.

There are several individuals who can't be trusted to be alone in any railroad room. I won't name names, but the creator of this car is the ring leader and the guy behind the FPS has been known to be his able accomplice...

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

December Update

The holidays are here and the end of 2015 is rapidly approaching. There are a lot of projects in the works on the railroad so I thought I'd provide a quick update on recent activity.

The new panel design has been finalized and the first one is shown below. As I've mentioned before, the new panels will utilize route selection versus turnout controls. This should simplify operation for the crews as some have found the toggles confusing. The system will be run by the Route Control System (RCS) developed by Gerry Albers and sold by his Signals By Spreadsheet company ( More on this later. The new panels will be printed on Avery full sheet labels, given a light coat of clear gloss to protect them, and then mounted directly on the existing panels. 

There are five signals in the vicinity of Big Chimney that either aren't visible from the aisle or are difficult to see. The solution to this is to provide repeater signals on the panel. Holes will be drilled and LED's installed in each of the targets on the panel which in turn will mirror the aspects in the field. Four of the repeater signals are on the Big Chimney panel and the fifth will be on the Cedar Falls Jct. panel. While this sounds great is concept, it requires wiring another complete signal for each one repeated. Needless to say, I'm glad there are only two other signals on the railroad that will require this setup. The photo below shows the repeater signal terminals wired up and awaiting the leads from the LED's.

The first RCS card has been installed and is shown in the photo below. It can control up to eight turnouts. Also shown to the left of the RCS card are the Tortoise drivers (TD8's) which are wired directly to the switch motors and control their movement based upon input from the RCS card.

After the next op session, all the toggle switches will be pulled and the Tortoises will be wired to the TD8's. One of the SPDT switches on each Tortoise will be used for power routing for the frogs and all of this wiring is now in place. 

The next photo shows the current mock-up for a portion of the CTC panel that controls Big Chimney. The panel itself will be in the crew lounge outside of the layout room. Part of the beauty of the SBS system is that there will only be one wire between the layout and the panel.

In addition to the signalling project, the scenery around the caboose service area is just  about complete. Some more vegetation will be added along with some additional details.  

The rails have been put down in the roundhouse and the two radial tracks although they haven't been wired yet. The walls are being held in place temporarily with small blocks of wood. I haven't decided yet just what I'm going to do with all of the doors and windows.

And the two N&W SD35's that see regular service on the Nelsonville Turn are in the shop being completely stripped and cleaned. They'll get Tsunami decoders and sugar cube speakers along with some weathering before going back out on the railroad.

There are a number of other projects in the works, including another SD40 and a two-bay hopper car for sand service that are in the paint shop, the fuel unloading cranes, a pump house for the diesel fuel service area at North Pierce and some additional small detail items like mailboxes and fire extinguishers.

More progress to come in the new year, but for now, I hope everyone has a very Merry Christmas and a great 2016!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Another Spot

While working on the scenery and structures around the engine service area at North Pierce, I happened to notice that there was some extra room at the end of the spur where tank cars of diesel fuel will be spotted for unloading. That led me to place a boxcar at the end of the spur to see just how much room there really is.

So with a boxcar spotted as above, would there still be enough room for two tank cars to be spotted at the fuel unloading cranes? If I moved one of the cranes closer to the turnout, it might be able to unload a car on either the Supply 2 or the adjacent Supply 1 spur. I mounted one of the unpainted cranes to check clearances, and sure enough, it works. As can be seen in the photo below, Supply 1 will also accommodate two tank cars and a boxcar.

So the old water treatment building next to the water tank is now used for storing supplies and a boxcar will be spotted there occasionally for unloading. It's always great to find another location to receive cars during an operating session, especially given the limited amount of switching on the railroad. And it's these types of finds that can really ramp up the enthusiasm to get a particular area finished.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Go west, young man!

While filling out waybills for cars heading west via various connections with the CWE, it became apparent that there was a real dearth of western road cars on the railroad. An article by Bob Rivard in the July 2014 edition of Model Railroad Hobbyist ( provided the inspiration to correct this problem. I had purchased two of the ExactRail Gunderson 50 foot double door boxcars which were decorated for the Frisco. However, a little research revealed that the Frisco never owned these cars. I set them aside with the plan to strip them and paint them for the home road some day.

Then Bob Rivard's article appeared in MRH. I have long been a big fan of Bob's modeling and, in particular, his freight car modeling. He has written many articles over the years and they have always been a source of inspiration for me. So armed with his article and the two SLSF boxcars, I got to work.

First up is BN 318572. Basically, I just followed all of the instructions in Bob's article on this one. The only difference is that I drew the weld seams directly onto the car with a number 2 pencil versus first drawing them on clear decal paper and then applying the decals.

Next up is SP&S 319179. I struggled a bit with the doors on this one as I couldn't find any Superior doors that didn't have cast-on tack boards. The door on the left side doesn't have them so I either had to try and remove them from a couple of doors or scratch build them. I chose the latter route and used Evergreen styrene strips to make the doors. I also painted the yellow band on the left hand door versus using Micro Scale trim film as Bob did on his model. The photo below shows the car after I painted the yellow band. There are several places where I need to touch up the green paint prior to weathering the car.

And to round out this first group of western road cars, I picked up couple of the new BLMA Models ATSF Bx-166 double door 60' boxcars. These cars are absolutely beautiful- the detail and prototypical accuracy is just amazing. These cars were new in July of 1974 so I weathered them lightly to reflect how they might have looked after several years of service. The bottom of the car and the trucks were sprayed with Rust-Oleum camouflage brown.Then the entire car was sprayed with a highly diluted coat of Vallejo Model Air aged white. After the aged white had dried, I applied a light coat of Dullcote. Next, I applied a thin wash of artist's acrylic ivory black mixed with a small amount of burnt umber. This wash helps bring out the details. The trucks and wheels were weathered using gouache and weathering powders.

The BN and SP&S cars are the first two boxcar projects in a long while where I took the time to carve off ladders, change the doors, etc. in order to model a specific prototype. This has long been one of my favorite parts of the hobby and it was a lot of fun working on these two cars. And now that all of John Miller's freight cars are stored away in boxes, I have to add cars to my fleet the old fashioned way- by actually building them myself rather than "borrowing" them from John.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

The Continuing Adventures of FRC- Part 2

Yesterday, FRC (Free Range Chicken) finally made it onto the Pennsylvania & Western. He had last been spotted on the Deepwater Distrcit of the Virginian back in May. While we're not sure where he stayed over the summer, it's good to have him back in our neck of the woods.

Some sharp-eyed railfan caught FRC as he arrived in Annville Yard.

Later in the day, he was spotted at the caboose service track on the west end of Annville Yard. 

Toward the end of the day, he was spotted over in Lebanon at Quality Meat Packers. He was obviously concerned with the subtle advertising he found there and was last seen chasing a westbound freight.

While we wish he could have stayed longer, we're looking forward to more pictures of his adventures. Because as we all know, if you're a free range chicken...