Sand Fork Shifter

Sand Fork Shifter
The Sand Fork Shifter approaches Cedar Falls Junction

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Kanawha & Lake Erie Railroad in Model Railroad Hobbyist Magazine

John Miller's fantastic Kanawha & Lake Erie is featured in an article in the January edition of Model Railroad Hobbyist magazine. Follow this link to read the article: There are also two bonus feature articles on the layout- one on the Newport Steel mill complex and another on how John created some history for the railroad via different paint schemes. Follow this link to find these articles: You have to be a subscriber to view the bonus extras, but the magazine is free.

The pole barn for the new version of the K&LE is rapidly coming together. It appears there will be a need for a bunch of layout monkeys in the not-too-distant future to help with the benchwork. Of course, that's after we get finished tearing out the rest of the old layout...

Monday, January 19, 2015

Some New Scenery

After the last operating session in November, I decided to make a push to get the scenery around the Laurel Ridge Prep Plant finished. Over the holidays, I got the scenery planted in most of the area and made a good start on some structures that will be needed here. 

Here's how the area looked before the rock facing was added around the tunnel portal at Summit Springs.

Here's an overview of the area now that the scenery is finished. Note that the crew of the Summit Springs Shifter spotted all of the empties up above the prep plant so that they can be rolled downgrade as they are loaded.

There is still a lot of detail to be added to the scene including barrels, old equipment, junk piles and the like. There's also a 550 Pay Loader in the paint shop ready to be weathered that will eventually be in this scene. But it's good to have the basic scenery finally finished.

There's also some new motive power on the railroad as can be seen in the photo below. Stay tuned for a post on this special unit!

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Pennsylvania & Western Blog

Bob Bartizek has set up a blog for his beautiful Pennsylvania & Western Railroad. Here's the link: The layout was featured in the March 2014 edition of Model Railroad Hobbyist magazine and is also featured on a segment of TrainMasters TV. Bob intends to use the blog instead of his website to update folks on progress on the Pennsylvania and Western.

The Pennsylvania & Western really is an amazing layout and there are some significant changes coming. Check out the blog to find out more about what's coming in the next several months.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Signals- Part 2

In the last post, the local made it into the clear on the passing siding at Big Chimney and the dispatcher lined the switch for normal at the east end of Big Chimney. The approaching way freight now has a clear signal.

Next, we see the eastbound signals at the west end of Big Chimney change as the dispatcher lines the route through Big Chimney on the main. Note the signal at the west end of Big Chimney initially displays Approach. The turnout here is lined for the main and the turnout at the east end is lined for the siding. The Approach signal tells any eastbound movement that the next signal will be Stop. Once the dispatcher lines the east end turnout for the main, the west end signal displays Clear for the main as does the east end signal. As the eastbound freight heads toward Big Chimney, the eastbound signals drop to Stop.


Next we see the way freight moving past the local in the hole at Big Chimney. Note that the westbound home signal for Big Chimney on the hill drops from Approach to Stop as soon as the eastbound freight enters the block at the west end of Big Chimney.


Once the eastbound has cleared the west end of Big Chimney, the dispatcher lines the turnout for the siding and the westbound local receives an Approach Medium. The crew of the local know that they have at least two clear blocks ahead.


As soon as the local hits the block with the turnout west out of the siding, the signal at PN Cabin drops from Approach to Stop.


Note that once the local passes the west end signal for Big Chimney it changes to Approach. The turnout at the west end is still lined for the siding and it is unoccupied and the east end turnout is still lined for the main. An approaching eastbound would know that the next signal it encounters would be Stop.

In some future post, I'll detail the preparation and planning that took place in order to get the signal system to this point. But for now it's back to making resistor wheel sets... for every car on the layout.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014


As I have mentioned on and off in past posts, I've been working on installing operating signals on a portion of the layout. Over the past several weeks, the last pieces have come together and the system is now working. I'm using the Signals By Spreadsheet (SBS) hardware and software and I'll provide some more detail on this later. I'm also using the signal aspects and indications used by the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway and there will be some more information on that later as well.

The goal is to eventually have full CTC control of the railroad from a remote dispatcher's panel and I've built the signals with that in mind. Fortunately, the SBS system is designed so that you can get bi-directional automatic block signals (ABS) up and running prior to developing the CTC system. This allows you to establish all of the required blocks and corresponding detection, get the signals built and in place, and develop the programming of the signals in steps. Gerry Albers, who developed and markets the SBS product, strongly recommended that I get all of the detection in place and the signals working before starting on CTC. Getting the bi-directional ABS system up and working is a  tremendous amount of work and there's much to be learned in the process that will aid the development of the CTC system later. It should be noted that bi-directional ABS must be overlaid with a traffic control system such as time table and train orders or track warrants in order to provide conflict free movement authority. Thus we will continue to use track warrants until the full CTC system is up and running.

The section of the railroad that is now under ABS runs from Petersburg Junction to Cedar Falls Junction. This area includes Big Chimney, WV and the passing siding there along with the Purgittsville Branch and the Elkwater Branch. Let's take a quick look at this area.

Looking east toward Big Chimney, we see the signal at Petersburg Junction controlling the Purgittsville Branch in the foreground and the signal controlling the eastbound entrance to the passing siding at Big Chimney in the background. Here's a link to the track plan so that you can follow along: Note that there are no westbound movements approaching this section of the railroad as indicated by the Clear aspects. Also note the signal on the Sand Fork Branch which is displaying a Restricting aspect. This is the first of two signals on the branch before the connection with the main at Cedar Falls Junction.

Looking back west at Petersburg Junction, we see that the turnout is thrown for the main and the line is clear.

At the west end of Big Chimney, we see the signal governing westbound movements at the west end of the passing siding. Note the Stop aspect for the siding as the turnout at the west end is lined for the main.

Looking at the east end of Big Chimney we see that the turnout is lined for the main and there are no movements in the area as indicated by the Clear aspect.

The signal governing the westbound approach to the east end of Big Chimney also shows Clear.

So here's some video of the system in action. My apologies for the small size of the screen and the noisy Tortoises. Here's a link to larger versions of the videos which are posted on YouTube: There is a local moving west and a way freight heading east toward Big Chimney. The dispatcher wants to arrange a meet there and have the local take the siding. He throws the switch for the local to take the siding at the east end of Big Chimney.


As the switch is thrown to the siding on the east end, the westbound signal drops to Approach indicating to the approaching local that the next signal will be Stop. The turnout at the west end of Big Chimney is lined for the main and the local will face a Stop signal at the end of the siding. As the local enters the block before the turnout, the eastbound signal on the siding drops to Stop. If there had been a train in the siding when the turnout was thrown for the siding, the westbound signal would have dropped to Stop.


Now the local comes down the hill from Cedar Falls Junction and heads toward the siding at Big Chimney.


As the locals moves into the clear in the siding, the dispatcher throws the turnout at the east end back for the main. The signal for the eastbound main now shows Clear for the approaching eastbound way freight. The momentary Clear signal eastbound from the siding in this short clip came about as the caboose cleared the block that contains the turnout. As there are no westbound movements in the blocks behind the local, the eastbound signal from the siding would show Clear as long as the turnout remained lined for the siding.


Next time, we'll watch as the eastbound way freight approaches the local in the siding at Big Chimney. Until then, here's wishing you a very Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

A Few More Boxcars

In between working on signals and installing resistors on wheelsets, I managed to finish a couple of boxcars recently. 

The first car is V&O 33786 which began life as an NMRA Division 7 project car. John Miller had a number of these kits and gave me one that had the original number scraped off. He intended to re-number the car but realized at some point that he had enough V&O cars on the K&LE. Rather than try to match the original paint, I simply added a piece of Micro Scale trim film to make it appear that the original number had been painted over when the car was re-numbered. I added a few additional decals to bring the car up to my era and then weathered it using artist's acrylics and powders.

For the roof, I found a number of shots of Great Northern boxcars on the web and used them for references.

Next up is an Atlas 60' auto parts boxcar decorated for the DT&I. I added an ACI label and then weathered it using the same mediums as the V&O car.

For the roof, I found a number of photos that captured the look I wanted to achieve to use as references. I then tried the techniques described by Gary Christensen in his article in the August 2104 issue of Model Railroad Hobbyist. Here's a link to the article: Gary does some absolutely beautiful work and I've followed him on the Rustbucket forum for some time now. Here's a link to the Rustbucket: You have to register to get into the site, but it's free and well worth the time and effort. The work being done by a group of people on this site is some of the most fantastic weathering ever done.

As described by Gary in his article, the base rust color is a 50/50 mix of charcoal grey and burnt sienna craft paints. I applied this coat with a cosmetic sponge in order to get random, "pitted" look. Once that was dry, I applied Transparent Orange Oxide oil paint with a cosmetic sponge in order to add some depth and additional color to the roof. That was it- what you see in the photo above was achieved with just these two simple steps. A special thanks to Gary Christensen for sharing some of his beautiful work along with his techniques.

At some point in near future, we'll take a look at recent progress on the signal system. 

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Some Different Angles

Yesterday, I was sitting at my laptop working on the signaling program and I glanced over at the layout. I was just about at eye level with the track and it struck me that it might make a neat photo. And Randy Seiler recently took a bunch of really great close-up shots on John Miller's Kanawha & Lake Erie which got me thinking about some different angles to shoot on the CWE. So here are a couple of shots from some slightly different angles.

The next shot shows the eastbound signal at the west end of Big Chimney. I'm working on getting ABS up and running on this section of the layout. Of the fifteen signals in this area, 12 are now wired and operational and all of the block detection boards are in place. The Signals By Spreadsheet program is up and running thanks to the assistance of Gerry Albers.

And here's what the area looks like right now as I make like a mole and crawl around under the layout hooking up wires.

While I had hoped to have the signals operational in this area for upcoming session in January, it occurred to me the other day that I will need resistors on wheel sets in order to make that happen. Sigh... The resistors and the paint have been ordered, but there's just no way enough cars will done to make all of this work by then. Buying wheel sets with resistor on them is an option, but as my friends will tell you- I'm way too cheap to do that. Guess we'll just have to wait until the shop forces can get enough resistors installed.

Hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving,