Thursday, February 28, 2019

Declaring Victory

As of this morning, I am declaring victory in the campaign to build an operating replica of a Union Switch and Signal CTC panel for the railroad. The last few remaining pieces of hardware were installed last night and configured this morning. The photo below shows the results.

And here's one last look behind the scenes.

There are still a few signals to place in service and a switch lock to install at the west end of North Pierce, but the panel is complete. This project is a dream-come-true for me. And it wouldn't have been possible without the help of many individuals, including Bill Ford, Randy Seiler, David Stewart, Mike Burgett, and all the others who have written articles about signalling and dispatcher's panels in the past. But most importantly, this would never have happened without the guidance and direction of Gerry Albers. In addition to providing his Signals By Spreadsheet product, he was instrumental in helping me learn how to actually make this all work. I am eternally grateful for his inspiration, friendship and patience. I am truly blessed to have met him, along with all the other fine people who have become great friends through this wonderful hobby of ours.

Now it's back to building more rolling stock and locos!

Sunday, February 17, 2019

And yet more staging...

As I mentioned in the last post about the dispatcher's panel, the introduction of CTC on the railroad provides the opportunity to run a lot more trains in any given period of time. And of course, more trains require more staging. So I spent the past week finishing the four turnouts on the west end and putting in some new tracks. The photo below shows the results.

The new turnouts (on the left) will provide another five tracks for the west end. I also added the track on the far right. This is a stub track that ends a short distance after it disappears around the corner. It will be used to store power and possibly a work train. The tortoises these tracks won't be wired up until all of the toggle switches on the west end panel are replaced with pushbuttons. And that's the next big project. 

Speaking of storing power, the first occupants of the track on the far right will be the LV C628 and EL SD45-2 that appear in the left of the photo. These two units will be protection power for now. Someday, the EL unit will be weathered and will be run-thru power and the LV unit may end up in CWE colors. Or maybe a CR patch-out. Time will tell.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

The Panel- one year in

It was almost one year ago to the day that the steel panel arrived. Before me was the daunting task of transforming it from what you see in the picture below into a functioning CTC panel. 

To be perfectly honest, I was a bit overwhelmed. There was so much to figure out, from the hardware to be used to the electrical wiring to the paint color. And I had never tackled a project like this before. Fortunately for me, there are others who have, like Gerry Albers and David Stewart, and they were more than willing to offer help and advice. 

So after a year of working on this thing, where are we? Well, the photo below shows how it appears today.

And here's a look at where all of the magic happens.

So the railroad is now under CTC control from SJ Cabin at the east end of Hollister Yard in North Pierce all the way to New Market, VA (east staging). All that remains to be done is the signal bridge at the west end of Hollister Yard and the eastbound signal just west of North Pierce. Yes- the end is in sight.

The new signals at the east end of Hollister Yard include the cantilevered bridge pictured below. These two signals control the main and siding eastbound at SJ Cabin.

As this bridge is right next to an area where the yardmaster is usually working, I installed a piece of Plexiglas to protect it from wayward forearms and elbows.

Also part of the CP at SJ Cabin is the dwarf at the east end of the yard lead.

And the last piece of the plant is the westbound signal at the entrance to the yard. This signal controls the main and the siding to the west of the turnout in the photo below in addition to the entrance to the yard.

During the last session, CTC was in place from east staging all the way to Petersburg Junction, which is just east of the signal above. As I suspected, the pace of trains over the road picked up significantly using CTC versus the old method of track warrants. It's clear that we'll need more overhead trains in order to keep the crews busy while giving the yards enough time to do their work. Which means more locos, freight cars and cabooses are needed! And that was the plan all along.