Engine Terminal

Engine Terminal
A couple of Geeps head out from the roundhouse at North Pirece.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

That Was Fun

One of the blogs that I follow is Chris van der Heide's Algoma Central. His blog posts contain a wealth of information on Canadian railroading in the 1960's up through the mid-80's in addition to very in-depth research on the AC. He is also an incredibly talented modeler and scratch-builder. Some of his recent structure and freight car projects are just beautiful. You can find a link to his blog in the Great Railroad Modeling Sites list to the right of this post.

Last week, Chris posted about making a styrene strip sorting and storage rack. Here's a link to the post: http://vanderheide.ca/blog/2018/09/23/styrene-strip-sorting-and-storage-rack/. I have been struggling for years to keep my supply of styrene strips and brass wire organized and Chris' design looked like the perfect solution. Plus, I have never used foam core board for anything before and this project looked like a good chance to try it out.

The photo below shows the modified shoe box that I have used for many years to store strip styrene and brass wire. While it doesn't look it, the strips are organized by size and part number. But as you can see, actually finding the part number and/or size requires a bit of searching. And the box is getting pretty full.

Chris provides the basic dimensions of the rack in his post and it's easy enough to come up with the rest based upon the size of the Evergreen packages. So after a little cutting and gluing with the foam core board, the new rack was ready to be placed in service!

This was a fun little project and a nice diversion from wiring up LED's for the dispatcher's panel. And I know I'll be grateful the time I reach for some brass wire or strip styrene. So thanks, Chris, for the idea!

Wednesday, September 5, 2018


Now that the summer is over, it's time to get the railroad ready for operating sessions again. I spent most of the summer working on various pieces of the dispatcher's panel and developing all new waybills. As a result, nothing much moved over the road in about three months. There were several small problems that cropped up over the summer, and it's time to fix those and thoroughly check the railroad prior to the next operating session.

After firing up the railroad this morning, I heard a soft, humming sound over near the McHenry Coal Co. tipple at the end of the Sand Fork Branch. It appeared that one of the old Hankscraft switch motors had developed a problem of some sort. The photo below shows where the turnout that is controlled by this switch machine is located- it's next to the pole above the tunnel portal. Note the hill between the track and the aisle.

Fortunately, there is access to this switch machine in the area shown in the photo below.

Unfortunately, someone thought that this clever idea might actually allow a person to access the switch machine. Aside from the fact that the hole is behind the previously mentioned hill, there is simply no way to get to anything even remotely related to the switch machine. A quick check under the layout revealed the cursed, dreaded, abandoned west staging yard. And of course, it completely blocked any access to the switch machine in question. Sigh... This project was going to be much more difficult than I had originally imagined.

After studying the throat to the abandoned yard, it appeared that I might be able to remove it. It wasn't physically connected to the yard itself, except for the track, and it looked like there were only a handful of screws holding it the benchwork.

After much gnashing of teeth and a couple of skinned knuckles, I was successful. The photo below shows what was excavated from underneath the railroad. 

The next two photos show the site of the dig. Note the staging yard tracks in the lower third of the second photo.

The new machine is now in and operating as it should. I certainly dodged a bullet on this one. And fortunately, the remaining switch machines on the Sand Fork Branch that are above the abandoned west staging yard all have access holes that can actually be used. I think. At least I hope...

Friday, August 24, 2018

The Panel- Part 3

Well, I managed to get the panel and cabinet painted and some of the hardware installed. David Stewart, of Appalachian & Ohio fame, was kind enough to share with me how he finished his panel. You can see it on his website- here's a link: http://forum.aorailroad.com/t/ctc-machine-build/169. Given how nicely his panel turned out, I followed his instructions to the letter. Here's a view of the panel and cabinet.

Each of the individual switch plates is a model in and of itself. First, it has to be painted black. Then the plate has to be sanded to remove the paint from the raised surfaces. The edges of the plates also have to be filed to remove any residual paint. Next, a coat of gloss is required in preparation for the decals. Once the decals have been applied, another coat of gloss is necessary in order to seal them in place. And then they are ready to install. It appears this will take a little longer than expected...

And here is an up-close shot of the panel. 

In addition to the LED's, a few pieces of hardware remain to be installed to the section above. 

I'm not very satisfied with how the full page Avery labels are working for the track diagram. For whatever reason, they don't want to stay fixed in place. I'm not sure what the solution will be for this problem. One option will be to take all of the labels, once everything is laid out properly, and mount them on a separate board. That board could then be taken to a commercial firm to be used as a template for the artwork for an engraved board. More to come on this.

Next up- order the DIO cards from Signals By Spreadsheet and start wiring! 

Thursday, July 26, 2018

The Panel- Part 2

Work continues on the dispatcher's panel. The cabinet is just about finished and ready for paint. I still need to add pieces of Masonite to either end and fill in the screw holes.

All of the plugs have been added to the panel and the Masonite for the track occupancy diagram has been attached.

All that remains to do on the panel is add the 4-40 nuts and bolts to plug the small holes beneath each unused lever mounting position. Then its off to Randy Sieler's shop for a coat of olive green paint in a shade that will replicate what Union Switch & Signal used on their panels. Of course, there's a price for this service. And that price is a couple of hand-laid curved crossovers for the B&O/PC Cincinnati West Railroad.

And I've spent the last several weeks drawing up the electrical circuits for the various switches and levers. The diagram below shows the wiring for the turnout lever.

The diagram includes all of the electrical connections that will be needed along with the entries into the Signal By Spreadsheet software. Once Gerry Albers straightened me out on some of the nomenclature, i.e. active hi, active lo, etc. associated with his SBS product, the rest was relatively painless. And he also kindly reviewed each of the circuits. Without his help, I could have blown up all kinds of stuff and made clouds of smoke that would have been second in size and magnitude only to what Smokey Doll can create!

Monday, July 9, 2018

The Oven Box

Those of you who have followed this blog for a while understand just how much I enjoy building freight cars from the 1970's. My good friend John Miller has one of the most extensive and amazing freight car fleets representing many, many different types of cars that were running in the mid-to-late 1970's. All of the cars are beautifully weathered, too. 

I have long coveted John's freight cars and the running gag among all of us locals is that I take empty boxes to his work sessions and op sessions and fill them with cars. Well, it's usually a gag. At least some of the time. Whenever John comes over to run on the CWE, those "liberated" cars are hidden in the old west end staging yard that has been abandoned. Fortunately, it was abandoned because I couldn't get to it. Which means John can't get to it either, so what I've absconded with so far is safe.

Prior to John's last operating session, I asked that everyone bring some boxes for me. I mentioned that we needed them to move some stuff in order to fool John. Most people caught on and brought a kit box or two. Several people didn't, and one of who didn't seem to get it was Bill Doll. He took me out to his pickup truck to show me all of the boxes he brought for me. I almost felt bad for him. Almost. But of all the people in our group, he's the first that should have caught on.

So a week or so ago, Bill sent me an email about the new oven that had been delivered to his house. He said it came in a great big box and that he would be happy to drop it off for us. I asked that he send it to Michigan for us and offered to pay for the shipping. When we returned home today, the box below was in the mail.

I was almost afraid to open it. Recall that I had received some really special rolling stock from Bill in the past (see this post: https://cwerailroad.blogspot.com/2014/10/yet-another-special-boxcar.html). So there was no telling what might be in the shoe box. But open it I did, and here's what was inside.

Bill was also kind enough to include a thoughtful note. 

And if that wasn't enough, he even provided special instructions for reassembling the box. Each piece has been carefully lettered and numbered so that even I might be able to get it all back together correctly. What a guy!

I just can't wait to get the whole box back together! Too bad I have to wait for the remaining 12 boxes to arrive. And I sure hope they don't each cost $7.25 to ship as this one did. Otherwise, I'll have to sell some of John's cars on eBay just to pay for the postage.

I really should have known better when I sent out the email asking for boxes. With the crowd that I run with, I'm fortunate that this is all of the damage that occurred. So far. And as always with this group, be careful what you ask for. Very careful.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

The Panel- Part 1

This past February, I ordered thirty 2-pole, 2-position switches from Mouser Electronics. They were out of stock at the time and the company gave me an estimated shipping date of June. Well, that put the dispatcher's panel on the back burner for a while. And I was a little uncertain as to whether or not the parts would ever actually arrive from the manufacturer in Taiwan.

In fairness to Mouser, I received an email from them every month with an updated shipping date, and it continued to show as June. Then earlier this month I received the email- the parts would be shipping soon! Last week, a big box arrived, and in it were- you guessed it- all of the switches. A quick test fit in the panel was successful and the Rix Products CTC knob fit on the shaft snuggly. Success! Well, at least as far as getting the turnout switches.

The arrival of the turnout switches provided the incentive to order the rest of the parts for the front of the panel, including all of the LED's for the turnout and signal levers, the pushbuttons for the code buttons, and the LED's for showing occupancy on the board. I order all of these from Rail Logic Technologies and here's a link to their website: https://www.logicrailtech.com/. As Rail Logic was out of the Rix CTC kits which contain the levers, plates, and pushbutton covers, I ordered them directly from Rix Products. Here's a link to their website: http://rixproducts.com/. A special kudos to Rick Rideout on this one. I ordered the parts on Friday and they were delivered on Monday. And Rick even threw in a couple of extra kits! 

Also this past February, good friend Randy Seiler cut down the panel, removed the rust and primed the surfaces for me as I mentioned in this post: https://cwerailroad.blogspot.com/2018/02/the-panel-has-arrived.html. The photo below shows the panel after Randy's work.

Once the panel was trimmed and primed, I worked up the design for the cabinet. I spent a bit of time looking at prototype photos in order to get a sense of what size the track diagram should be. It will be located above the panel and will include track occupancy detectors. Using PowerPoint, I developed a complete panel which can be seen in the photo above. The next step was to determine how to convert the PowerPoint presentation into something that could be used to engrave the diagram. And this was a real struggle.

After numerous conversations with folks who have had panels engraved in the past, including a conversation with the company in Dayton, OH that Gerry Albers used for the V&O panel on his Deepwater District, it became apparent that I wasn't going to be able to find a graphics program that would work for me. So the project remained on the back burner.

After I received notice that the rotary switches were on the way, I started thinking about the track diagram again. And it the solution finally occurred to me- use the same technique that I used for all of the panels on the railroad. It would be relatively simple to match the PowerPoint presentation to the width of the panel. Once the pages lined up correctly with all of the signal and switch levers, I could simply print them on Avery full-sheet labels, apply a clear coat to protect it, and then mount them on a piece of 1/8" Masonite. The thickness of the Masonite would approximate the thickness of the material that would be used for engraving the track diagram. So if I ever find a way to replicate the drawing in some software package, swapping it out for the Masonite would be easy. The photo below shows one of the pages from the presentation.

The critical piece to this is making sure that the track diagram is spaced correctly for the holes in the panel. The holes above the switch plates match up perfectly with the panel. I will also be able to print out the entire track diagram and make sure that each page break lines up correctly.

So the next step is to begin construction of the cabinet. And while that's underway, I'll also be working on the electrical diagrams. Working with Gerry Albers on his Deepwater District railroad and his Signals By Spreadsheet products has been an incredible blessing and I believe I'm finally at a point where I have the knowledge to make this thing work. We'll see!

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Well that's a relief!

During the operating session yesterday, we ran X-1824 which is the MOW ballast train that runs from New Market, VA (east staging) through to Morgantown, WV (west staging). This train has run numerous times in the past, albeit with different power, and we've never had any issues. At least until yesterday.

As the train entered the siding westbound at Summit Springs for a meet with EC-2, the loco stopped on the grade crossing. The crew called the super to inform him that we had a problem. Sure enough, the loco was hung up on something. This was the first time this unit had been in service, but it had been across the entire main line and though most of the yard without any problems. So we pushed the unit past the grade crossing and the train left Summit Springs.

Shortly thereafter, the crew told me that the train had stopped in the tunnel between Summit Springs and Cedar Falls Junction. Now this was becoming infuriating! I crawled under the railroad and one of the ballast hoppers had derailed. I pulled the car off and we got the rest of the train back together. Fortunately, the train then made it to Morgantown without any additional issues.

These kinds of problems drive me nuts because they don't have to happen. With some time and effort, and a little bit of care, you can achieve almost flawless operation provided you have reasonably good equipment and track. So after the session I backed train up to Summit Springs to sort out the problems.

As the train entered the tunnel between Cedar Falls Junction and Summit Springs, the ballast car derailed again. So I pulled it off and set it aside. The train was then run back and forth several times through the same section of track without any additional issues. So it was off to the grade crossing at Summit Springs.

Sure enough, the loco got hung up again. The photo below shows the offending loco and grade crossing.

Keep in mind that we have run many different locos through this crossing over the years and none have ever had any problems. So I figured it was an issue with this loco. I removed some of the grout from between the rails and it made a small improvement, but the loco still stopped. So I took the loco back to the shop to see if it was a wheel gauge problem.

The photo below shows what I found after I turned the loco over. Note the bumps on the bottom cover under each axle.

This is an Athearn Genesis chassis with a Proto 2000 shell on it. I assume these bumps are to accommodate the gears on the axles. I'm fairly certain that none of the other manufacturers' units that I have on the railroad have trucks that are designed this way. In any event, these bumps decreased the ground clearance just enough to cause the unit to hang up on the grade crossing. After removing some more material from between the rails, the unit passed over it without any issues.

As for the ballast hopper, this car had traversed the railroad numerous times in the past without issue. A quick check of the trucks, however, revealed the problem- the car had code 88 wheelsets. I bought the car used and didn't notice this when I painted and lettered it. The photo below shows the difference between the code 88 wheels and the code 110's that have replaced them.

All of the track on the railroad is hand-laid and there's just enough variation in gauge that code 88 wheels will give me problems periodically. That's why I have standardized on code 110's for all rolling stock. I had this same problem with a covered hopper car that I bought used and it gave me fits until I figured out that it had code 88 wheels on it. Lesson learned. The hard way- again.

Fortunately, the problems were found quickly and the fixes are easy. I'm just disappointed that they cropped up during the session.

Here's one last shot of X-1824 holding the siding at Summit Springs. And when it proceeds west this time, it will run the way it was meant to!