Image above captured on the upper deck of the layout where scenery has progressed to some extent...
Shot with Olympus C-750

Welcome to the SP Oregon Division!

An N Scale RR depicting the good old days along "The Friendly".

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Nov Update

Little time left for messing with the layout as of late, but felt good to get a full day + of progress in for a change this week.  Some of what has taken place as of late:

-Finished the rebuilding of all 9 ME turnouts so can get back to working on the staging yard project (have now acquired all 75 sections of flex track and the bridge also).
I have always been a staunch supporter of ME track, but I am now on the fence after the latest acquisitions.  The flex track was always superior to Atlas in my experiences, and I had never had any major issues with any of their turnouts...  The latest purchases of their new line of flex track have revealed a strange stagger problem with the rail not being centered on the ties.  And this last batch of turnouts I got on ebay I can only explain as a pre-production set since I encountered so many issues that had to be resolved.  I am tempted to embark on the use of Atlas 55 for the new expansion... but I still want a uniform look since using code 40 in the sidings.  Unable to make any decisions here yet...

-Replaced the ailing Tortoise Motor that has been keeping the DS from seeing / lining the W switch at Oakridge.  This was a thorn in my side as it was the most difficult motor to access on the layout.  Thanks for helping me align that thing back in place Ray!

-We have had a problem with slow trains in the Helix for awhile, so have been working on a number of items to mitigate it:

First I attacked an overdue problem that I have known about for quite awhile with my Tunnel Motor fleet.  Been running the drive trains through a rebuild progam since finding out that a large number were not pulling their fair share of the load.  When cleaning their wheels I noted that the wheels would stop turning but the motor would still be spinning while using the Minitrix wheel cleaner.  Come to find out the yoke on the output shaft of the motor cracks, allowing it to spin freely when under any load.  They ran fine as light units, but any cars behind them and the drive shaft would slip, so the unit would hardly be pulling any weight at all.  I simply clean and superglue the yoke to the motor output shaft as a fix, and now they are back to pulling their fare share of the load.

Then I reprogrammed all my Zimo decoder equipped locos as they were running poor when cold (???).  Unfortunately before I tested them under load on the layout I moved to the next fix, so I don't know which really brought them back to life, but they are running great again. 

The main issue appears to have been track voltage under heavy load.  The DCS was set to 12 V which is fine for most layouts, but we have added so many components that the voltage making it to the rails under load was significantly lower than should be.  So we bumped up the track voltage to compensate for the accumulation of V drop going through bridge rectifiers and other in-line devices, and am somewhat astonished at the results.  I had no idea we were only getting 7 volts under heavy load in one stretch (where I know I am lacking in number of track feeder wires).  That section has now recovered to about 10V by raising the output voltage on the DCS by slightly over one volt.  My Tunnel Motor lighting affects had been looking pretty blah for a looong time and this has also brought them back to full life again.  :)   A few test laps reveal that the layout is back up to it's old spunky self again.

-After settling that issue, we were newly motivated to install the meter onto the fascia that shows layout current flow, which had sat under the layout for seems like eternity.
Ray already had a circuit he built in-line so it was just a matter of actually installing and wiring the meter / display.  Interesting to see what different sets of power and locos actually draw on the layout.  About 300 cars with resistive wheel sets only draw about 1/4 amp, the stable of 30 locos at rest also about 1/4 amp,  and a 20 car TOFC with 4 old Kato SDs doesn't even pull 1/2 amp on the steepest sections of the layout.  I don't remember the layout ever pulling as much as 3 amps during a full operating session, but FWIW now we can see what is actively happening.

-Also Ray cleaned up the master signal control panel now that all systems have been verified as stable through the months.  Since moving the layout controls to the central computer in the house I haven't been using the layout computer for Decoder Pro in a long while, so He also brought the layout computer back on line by building one of Hans Deloof's Loco Buffer cards.  Now I am back to programming locos the easy way again.  *Hans also needs some credit here for his Loco IO cards that we use for turnout position sense (shameless plug). 

I forget how much credit Ray deserves till I look back at what we got done, so an ongoing Thanks! ...yet again for all your help Ray!

Monday, October 17, 2011

XtrakCad is Pretty Cool

This program that Ray used to configure things into the existing layout has worked pretty well throughout the design phase.  Appreciate the help here Ray! we would still be in the design phase if it was just me doing it!
So he brought over printouts of the yard ladders and transitions, and I transferred the track diagram onto the plywood in those areas with old fashioned carbon paper.... remember that stuff?  lol
Looking good so far.

  Meanwhile got all the turnouts, and the first order of flex track is here.  This batch of ME turnouts are junk.. unlike previous acquisitions.... as all the switch pivot points are falling apart.  I have had to replace a couple throwbars on some of the earlier turnouts, but never seen this issue.  These are getting new switch point / closure rails, and adding my own PC throwbars.  This looked cumbersome at first, but is making them more DCC friendly, and actually isn't as bad as it first looked.  Just demo out the old, slide new rail sections into the molded ties, add one PC tie, and the throwbar.  Here's a shot from the feasability study:
Looks like prefab and a mini production run should blow through all nine of them.  Atlas turnouts at the other yard throat is all new to me, so any input on how these perform is welcome, as now is the time to make any mods to make them reliable also...
Not sure of the order of operations yet, but still have to add the shelving under the basic staging framework, as it is part of the overall support in keeping things squared up and solid.  Probably come before all the track in staging goes down....  More on that later.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Guess how many Sugar beets in the jar?

In taking the beet rack train out of service, I was amazed to see just how many anise seeds were in 50 Intermountain sugar beet cars.  This train is a bit out of place since I eliminated the other side of Klamath Falls from the RR, but it is still a kick to have a train with live loads running on the layout.  This train will return once operations with staging are dialed in, but it is a hog in yard space... so for now I will be reviving a couple TOFC moves, bringing the total number of different Train IDs that roll across the Cascade Sub to 20.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Benchwork Progress

Thanks, to Craig and the use of his "woodshop" over the weeks so that we were able to make decent progress in getting all this wood cut.  Ray came over and helped to align the plywood and square up the benchwork last weekend.  Still have to add the plywood on the front corners by the workbench for structure support, and a few other loose ends, but looking pretty good at this point.
Now have to start hunting for more organizers to fit along the back of the workbench...  Then already having a hard time finding the track I need so looks like that could be a stalling point - I'm slowly coming to expect this kind of delay with the Micro Production Run Mentality of today   :(
Here's the latest:

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Phase II Taking Shape

Didn't really have much to take any pictures of, so another long dry spell for posting to the blog, but been busy working on the new benchwork at a steady pace.  Phase I was construction of the workbench that integrates into the new expansion.  Phase II is the staging yard deck.  Then Phase III will include a siding above the staging area, with possible Phase IV adding yet another siding into the mix on a top level....
All the modules for staging have been assembled, and most of the plywood top sections have been cut.  Finished assembling all the modules together today that make up the new expansion, but still have some fine tuning to do...  Pics of where construction is at this point:


Pretty cool to see it all go from XtrakCad drawings that Ray made for me, to actual benchwork in the layout room where I can see it all first hand.  I think we crossed the line so now we can call the layout a "G" shape configuration instead of the old "C".  Still kind of on the fence reagarding occupancy rate of operators in the room since loosing a fair amount of square footage, but I think we should be OK with the four foot isles on three sides, as long as we hold back to the original number of crews.  
With the new construction taking place, I revised the sketches of the trackplan to help visualize what is taking place. 

Trains headed "East" out of Irving (Eugene Yd) will go into the helix and make a 180 deg turn to send them into Portland Yd Staging.  From there they will get stored in the staging yard until the next run where they will then originate out of Klamath Falls at the other end of staging.  From KF trains head back up the helix toward Summit where they then make their way back down the "East" side of the Cascades.  A new siding Hampton will be added for the track section between Natron and Oakridge that will find a home above the staging.  The upper deck will be notched around each staging yard throat to allow operators to see their trains enter and exit staging.  By comparing the upper and lower decks one can get an idea of how this will appear.  Once we progress further along with the project it will be easier to see if a second siding can be added for the stretch from KF to Summit....
Coming next will be the install of the modular plywood tops, then it will be time to lay the 10 tracks that make up the staging, minus the transitions that connect staging to the helix...  the later will be one of the last steps when commissioning the staging.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Operations Format

I added a new page (under "Espee Oregon Division Pages" on the right column) titled, "Insight on Operations".  Here's a quick link:  Insight on operations
This page is designed to give outsiders a look at how the railroad operates, as well as preparing new crews for what awaits them when they get their first crew call.
This is still a work in progress, and I am actively looking for better ways to do the paperwork as well as improving how the railroad runs, but it's a start.  The railroad was originally designed to operate with three road crews and a yard crew on DC throttles.  Today we are running with as many as 11 participants to make it all come together, so the layout has endured some growing pains along the way to say the least.  Eugene Yard is the main yard on the layout and has only been in full service for about six months now, but ironing out the bugs more and more with each ops session... so improvements are taking place at a pretty good rate.  The completion of the staging yard is expected to add still more diversity to the layout and its operations soon.  If you have any suggestions how to improve what we have going so far, open to suggestions, but so far this seems to work pretty good!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Peninsula Addition Breaks Ground

The new peninsula will connect to the Helix, and preliminary drawings have it all configured with a built in workbench underneath a staging yard, and two sidings incorporated above the staging yard.  The two sidings are not yet completed in the drawing phase, but will be located between current layout deck levels.  Staging will be a 10 track double ended yard, with through track design.  The layout's termination points will be at opposing ends of staging with Klamath Falls on the West, and Portland on the East.
Over the weekend got the first phase of this project under way with the workbench getting built, and placed in approximate position.  This being the starting point, I will follow up with basic open grid framework to connect the workbench to the existing layout for the additional levels.  The work surface is about the same size as my old workbench on saw horses was (2' X 4'), but now I have an additional 1' of storage space in the rear for material organizers / storage (3' X 4').

The workbench slides back in for ops sessions to clear the isle.  Pics show it in both positions.  The framework pictured above the workbench is a part of what the staging horseshoe will sit on.  The main focus here is to get staging in to open up operations more.  Existing parts of the layout are crying for more scenery, so see how this all plays out once staging appears.  I'll try to update the trackplan here soon to help show what is taking place.  Special thanks to Ray and Craig for helping on this project!   

Monday, July 18, 2011

Switchlocks Completed!

Not anywhere as intimidating as one might first think...
Below is a pic of typical location used by the switch crews.
It's only the turnout connecting to the main with the protection, all others are conventional configuration.
In a location like this the proto uses a timed circuit with the key activation to protect the mainline, but here it seemed more prudent to eliminate that element so as not to be too much of an impediment. 
 So that project is done and off to the multiple of others...  finishing sleeper ties, working on signals, building the last three turnouts for Pope and Talbot lumber mill, or maybe the expansion project....  it's going to be hard to decide which project while I trip over the pile of douglas fir and cabinet grade ply that suddenly appeared in the layout room over the weekend....

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Upper Deck Switchlocks Almost Complete

Slow progress as of late with other business getting in the way of the layout, but been pushing forward slowly with the Sleeper Tie Project in Eugene Yd since I can put in a few minutes here and there... 

Expansion / Staging project has not broken ground yet, but the next open weekend I get where I can dedicate a block of time to it and blow through uninterrupted, it will commence.  We have a plan to where construction can progress and each phase will get cut in at the end of completion, thereby allowing the railroad to still stay in operation as I move forward.

The Switchlocks are in at Oakridge, Oakridge Yd, and Summit (one last install and all will be completed on the upper level).  This upgrade pulls us a bit closer to prototype operations, but won't change anything for our operators that handle the thru freights.  The only crews that will typically interface with them are the helper crews and switch crews.  We have already been calling the dispatcher to make special movements in CTC (so only minor changes there), but now we actually have locks that control the power to the turnouts in CTC sections.   I will edit existing procedures in the General Rules and on related Train Orders to reflect the upgrades regarding the handling of turnouts for our next ops.
...and a pic of one of the completed OS sections with key in lock:
Typically a dual controlled switch as above is only controlled by the DS as has always been.  Crews will not need to interface with these out on the road.  It will only be the switch crews using spurs and industrial track leads (that are connected to the main) where any changes are noticed.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Post Ops 6-18 Review

Well, the track cleaning train worked really well with the Centerline cars in the lead, followed by one of my custom cars, the power, and another five masonite pads.  Thanks for the suggestion Ron! Quite pleased with this new train's performance and how it will preserve on-line scenery details, as well as spare me some of the extra Ops prep work.
First time trying a drawing from a coffee can so operators could pick what jobs they wanted to start with... but I didn't realize we were missing one operator until he came back and pulled #1 out of the can half way through the job bidding...  My bad.   :(
We broke new ground with 11 participants this session.   A good turnout of crews with Michael dispatching from the comforts of his home, John worked the new position of West Eugene Yd Switcher / Hostler / Herder, which needs some refining, but special thanks to him forging the way through uncharted territory.  Kel worked the East End / Yd Master reducing the usual overload of multitasking for me... and even looked like he might have enjoyed it.  Danny bagged two of the local jobs somehow (Weyerhauser and Springfield jobs), but was a smoooth operator.  Steven ran the Oakridge Turn, and Marc handled the first call for mid-train helpers on a lumber drag from Oakridge up to Summit.   Road jobs were shared by most of the crews including Arnold, Mike, and Hans.  Special thanks to Ray as usual for his expertise in the Signal / Comm dept, and a pat on the back to the host for putting up with them all.  lol  I was worried it might be overcrowded, but seems to have been comfortable enough where the upcoming expansion might not force me to reduce crew sizes from where they are supposed to be...
Had a few problem children that derailed.  Only car to lay on it's side was an LPG tanker on the Springfield Job that appears to be due to an old NWSL wheel set (Call Hazmat!).  I'm assuming a few other bad wheel sets still out there, but all documented with the few cars that had "pulled knuckles".  Only scarey moment for me was the first time in recent memory that the beet train had a couple cars derail on the head end.... but saved before the dreaded domino effect dumped out all the live loads. 
Thanks to all who showed up and participated.  I had a blast as usual, and already looking forward to the next run!  Watch for the next crew announcement as we will try for around mid August so I can actually get some work done to the RR before then.
Good Times no doubt!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Update on the Track Cleaner Train

So there is good, but it comes with the bad.
The good is that all six of my custom cars are done.  They all track exceptionally well, even being pushed as one whole block through the yard ladders! ... kind of blew my mind they performed with talgos so well, as expected having to body mount the couplers.  The bad is the Centerline cars can't handle more than 2 of my custom cars in tow without derailing.  Have to do more experimenting, but looks like I will just pull the 2 Centerline cars (one wet followed by one dry) alone, then a second section train with the 6 cleaning cars not too far behind.  I was thinking maybe the 6 cars were overkill, but the last car in the string still gets dirt on it's pad after just a few laps on the layout.  Overall the track appears to be pretty clean, and the units don't stumble following behind the first pass of the cleaner train.  After track, its typically the Trix wheel cleaner to all the power, but more testing needed before I change anything there.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Track Cleaning Train

Been working on a train to do the work ahead of ops sessions since it has really been wearing on me lately.  Here is a shot of what I have going...

I'm using two Centerline track cleaning cars, and six modified MDC 50' boxcars with masonite pads following up the rear.  The first Centerline car gets alcohol, the second is dry, then the remaining cars will complete the cleaning.  Finally got all the pieces together and most of the prefabbing of materials is done.  I finished the first car today, so the rest will now go quickly.  Here's a shot of the materials:

I am using 1 ounce tungsten weights (thanks Ray!) for extra down force on the cleaning pad, then to keep the car tracking well (since I use low profile wheels), I upped the overall weight of the car itself to over 3 ounces.  So far it has tracked flawlessly over turnouts and around the layout a couple times... we'll see as I add the rest regarding performance.  If I have to add more weigh I don't anticipate any issues.  Here's a shot of the components assembled together.

...and the first completed car to hit the rails:

This set of cars will blend in well with the rest of the fleet during ops so that I don't have to remove all the cars every time.  They will hide on a back track in the yard during ops sessions so I can pull them out if we need a quick rebuff of the rails.  It is just the 2 Centerline cars that will get pulled after initial cleaning is done.  Looking forward to putting the brightboys in a box for the most part... but I'll still drag one out for spur tracks where the cleaning train can't roll through easily.   :)

Friday, May 20, 2011

Propane Distributor Progress

Had to take a break from installing the wood sleeper ties... so moved on to some on-line industry.
I hate operating on someone's layout where you have to imagine the industry in which you are dropping a car off... as you stare at a piece of raw plywood, so I finally started working on my Cornerstone kit to spare my Springfield Local crews from the same fate. 
This is where we are at so far, and glad this puts things more into perspective on how I will approach scenery in adjacent areas.

Got to laugh that this kit was a bit tedious aligning the fuel lines without the notches I have got spoiled having in some of my later brass kit projects.
A bit more piping to tie in the pump houses to the storage tanks, then back to the yard ladders...

Meanwhile, also been updating the pages here with more links, project pages, and credits under the yellow titles on right.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Yard Ladder Progress

I want to squeeze in one more ops session before tearing into the layout for the new expansion / staging, but waiting for the command station to return from upgrades before we can do that....  So I am using spare time to complete trackwork in Eugene yard for now.  All the trackwork has been laid, but still have to go back and slide wood sleepers in between where the pc ties are, and clean up sprues on the ME code 40 flex track.  Here is a pic of the East End's A/D ladder where I have the ME wood ties set in:
Can't wait to get some ballast and scenery in to get rid of that plywood prairie!
Next I'll move to the opposite side where the classification ladder is:

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Espee Oregon Division Blog

Make sure to check out my album for pics and captions of the layout's ongoing progress at: