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.