Engine Terminal

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

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!


Saturday, April 14, 2018

The Engine Terminal at North Pierce- Part 2

As I mentioned toward the end of Part 1 of this post (https://cwerailroad.blogspot.com/2018/02/the-engine-terminal-at-north-pierce.html), I had found photos of the C&O roundhouse at Hinton, WV on Bill Simonson's website. The brick colors were exactly what I wanted and I studied that photo for a long time in an effort to come up with some techniques that might work.

The Walthers three-stall roundhouse comes molded in a muted red color that appeared to be a good starting point for the brick color I wanted. Also, the brick relief is fairly shallow on this building and I didn't want to lose it with a number of coats of paint. So it seemed that dry-brushing of some sort might work. I started with Accu-Flex R&RGW orange and lightly dry-brushed a small section of the brick. I wiped the brush on a paper towel in order to avoid getting too much paint on the surface of the brick. It took several passes of dry-brushing to get the color I wanted. I should mentioned that all of the trials of various colors and techniques took place on the back side of the roundhouse. And no, I won't be taking any pictures from the lift-out behind the building. I should also mentioned that all of the brick pieces were painted and weathered before they were assembled. More on this later.

The grout in the photos taken at Hinton is a number of different colors. Some of it is black from years of soot and grime. Other portions are fairly light, perhaps the results of some tuckpointing repairs that took place over the years. And in some places, it seems to fade to the color of the brick. For the black areas, I tried several different techniques. I finally settled on a thin wash of Poly Scale grimy black. I applied it in some random areas and let it dry.

The lighter grout was a real challenge. I've kept notes over the years of different techniques that I've used for grout and ones that I've found in magazines. None of them seemed to work. I finally stumbled across an article on using Durham's Water Putty for the grout. I tried a bit of it and it worked beautifully! There was nothing in the article about fixing it in place, so I thought I was finished. Then I dropped one of the test section of brick from about two inches above the workbench and most of the mortar came lose. Yikes! So I thought about ways to fix it in place. I tried applying water with a fine brush, allowing it to run into the mortar rather than soaking the surface, and it worked. The mortar stayed in place and the color remained. The photo below shows the final results.

After the mortar had dried, I masked the brick and painted the foundation, the window sills and the tile wall caps with Vallejo Model Air Aged White. I went back and weathered these areas with a wash of artists acrylics using the Hinton photos as a guide.

In order to the structure a slightly different look than the standard kit, I covered clerestory windows with Campbell Scale Models corrugated sheet metal siding. It was painted aluminum and then weathered using artists acrylics. The photo below shows the results.

For whatever reason, I thought the inside wall on the back of the structure would be much more difficult to see. And in fact, you have to lean in a bit to get this view. But it would have helped the overall appearance to have added some color to the walls, perhaps some whitewash that was common back in the day. I would have also handled the windows differently. But it's time to move on, and I'll settle for using a Geep to hide it. 

There are still a lot of details to add to finish the scene, but it's very satisfying to finally have the main structure finished.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Helpin' Out the Yard Crews- Part 2

One of the challenges of operating with car cards and waybills is finding somewhere convenient to work with them without damaging anything in the process. Many layout owners provide aprons to carry the cards but these are of limited use when it comes to actually working with them. Recently, a number of folks have started mounting vinyl carpet edging strips to the fascia in order to hold cards. The ones I have used have worked great, so I started looking for them online. It was more of a struggle than I thought it would be.

As I searched for the strips, I came across a post on one of the forums where the layout owner had built a thin shelf pocket out of wood to hold the cards. He had painted the wood the same color as the fascia and it looked great. The one thing I seem to have plenty of is Masonite hardboard and small wood strips, so I thought I would follow his example. 

The photo below shows the first pocket along the fascia at North Pierce. This pocket is above the car cards boxes and allows the crew to work and sort the cards before placing them in the appropriate track boxes.

The yardmaster for Hollister Yard generally works the freight side from east end of the yard while the assistant yardmaster works the coal side from the location above. It occurred to me that another pocket would be helpful on the east end. The photo below shows this pocket.

As can be seen in the photo, the yardmaster can tuck the classification index cards in behind the car cards to keep everything organized. Matt Snell, who usually works as yardmaster, mentioned that this new addition saved him a ton of time during the last session. In fact, it was Matt who came up with the idea of placing the classification index cards behind the car cards.

While I was finishing up the last operating session, I was working NM-68 in North Pierce. While standing at the location above, I glanced over at the panel at SJ Cabin to see if I was lined correctly to pull from the yard. I had to walk over and check the alignment in order to do so. That is one of the drawbacks of pushbutton route control- you can't glance at the switch to determine how you are lined. It occurred to me that a simple solution would be to add LED indicators to the panel in order to show the route alignment. The photo below shows the new LED's.

Now, a quick glance at the panels shows if you are lined for the coal side, the freight side or the lead to the engine terminal. Hopefully, this will make things a little easier for the crews.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Curtain Call

No- not that kind of curtain call. Perhaps I should have titled this post "A Call for Curtains." In any event, a full set of curtains arrived and were installed on the layout this past week. Carolyn Montgomery is the seamstress who made them and her husband Steve, a very talented modeler in his own right, installed them. What a difference they make!

The photos below show how the areas around Nelsonville and North Pierce looked prior to the new curtains.

The clutter under the railroad really does catch your eye. As much as I've tried to get rid of some of the junk and clear things out, it was never going to get much better than it appears in these photos. And I have always thought that curtains, along with valances, add an additional level of finish to a railroad. 

The photos below show the new curtains in place.

I had previously installed curtains in the alcove above using a material that was much heavier than the material that Carolyn used. As a result, the curtains tended to pull out fairly easily from the clothes pins that are used to mount them. The lighter material stays in place much better.

The photo below shows how the curtains are hung. The wooden clothespins are attached to the back of the fascia using a hot glue gun. I picked this tip up a number of years ago on one of the forums. If I was still in the design phase, or if it was a viable option at this point, I would have mounted carpet on the fascia as described by Allen McClelland in one of the Model Railroad Planning issues. By attaching a strip of Velcro to the top of the curtains, they can be mounted directly to the carpet at the bottom of the fascia. This makes installing them and removing them extremely quick and easy.

It's common knowledge that curtains help draw your eye toward the action on the railroad as opposed to being drawn to the clutter underneath the railroad. Still, I was amazed at what a difference it made in my situation. 

Carolyn and Steve did a beautiful job and I'm grateful for how quickly they got them done. The Mid-Central Region of the NMRA is hosting its annual convention in Cincinnati this spring and the railroad will be open for a tour. It's great to have this last piece of "finish" in place and I think it will help show the railroad at its best.