Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Ops Session - 1/27/2017

This past Friday I had what I hope will become an annual pre-Springfield tradition: an operating session to kick off the Big Train Show Weekend! I sent out the Crew Call the night before, and this particular Friday would be "Friday, October 5, 1948". . .


Unlike last time, I had everything prepared well in advance - including all the paperwork. And, since I got my Powercab, I even had a full complement of throttles! Good thing, since I couldn't get the WiFi throttle to work (JMRI was communicating to the phones, but not to the command station).


This was, by far, my largest operating session to date - an even dozen guys, including me. Marty, Bernie, & the-sadly-blogless Stic were up from the DC area, BillC was up from NJ, and Darren made it down from Canada. All were in the area for the Big Show and I'm psyched they were able to join our happy band of regulars Randy, Roman, Mike, Dick, Pieter & Pete.


Things went very smoothly, thankfully - and likely due in no small part to the experience of the operators. But there was one unanticipated drawback of having so many operators - it was CROWDED! Huge contrast to last month's session which was all but snowed out. You can see above what happens when you have PDX-1 (eastbound Shoreline local, operated here by Roman and Mike), PDX-2 (westbound Shoreline local, operated here by Bill and Marty), and Shoreline trains (operated by barely-visible Dick) all running through Old Saybrook At The Same Time.
DERS-2b #0510, power for PDX-2 - The Haddam Local, switching around the Saybrook wye.

It's just starting to open up a bit as PDX-2, having finished its switching in Saybrook, takes the east leg of the wye and heads up-river to Essex.

With PDX-2 out of town, it's relatively quiet - finally - and PDX-1 can finish its switching and pick up the rest of its train, seen sitting here on Track 6 (aka "the balloon track")


While it was pretty crowded, one of the benefits was having Randy take over my duties as AO so I could roam around, visit, and take some pics (thanks to Darren for help with that!). Here he is getting paperwork for the Valley Local's conductor.


The Valley Local was crewed by Pieter and Bernie - that's them above switching Wethersfield.


HDX-12 - The Airline Local - was crewed by Pete and Stic. They're doing some switching at Somerset while Marty looks on at Essex.

High-Hood on the Airline Local switching at Somerset
This was probably one of the most - if not the most - successful operating sessions we've had on the Valley Line so far. Everything ran great, any shorts (which were fewer than ever) were only the result of misaligned turnouts, and there were no major issues (other than the JMRI/WiFi throttle not working). Couplers on a couple of cars (and one caboose) need to be adjusted/replaced and the I-5 decided it doesn't like the curved turnout at the entrance to west end staging. Oh, and the verdict on my patented custom uncoupling tools was, um, not quite unanimous either way.

Other than those punch list items, I continue to try and enhance the operator's experience. I may try adding bill/switchlist boxes at each town so crews don't have to make the trip to "report to the agent" - especially helpful for avoiding the duckunders. And now that I've seen what a FULL staffing of the Valley Line looks like (a bit crowded), I may consider throttling the number of folks back just a bit.

With regard to the biggest choke point - Old Saybrook - there is fortunately some prototype evidence that the two locals weren't always in town at the same time ("schedules" for extra trains are notoriously optimistic) so next time I'll probably wait until PDX-2 has headed up-river before clearing PDX-1 into town. And until they report for duty, I may have the PDX-1 crew stand off to the side and run the "background" Shoreline trains instead of having a dedicated Shoreline crew doing that. Still considering.....

But the real the fun of all this - having friends over, both old and new, running trains and having a good time - wasn't diminished by being a bit, um, "cozy" - I just want to see if swinging the pendulum back ever so slightly will hit the sweet spot crew size wise.

I wouldn't have even been able to see how all this would work without having such great folks being willing to come over and provide a full crew. So THANK YOU to all the guys that took some time out of a very busy train weekend to run some trains on the Valley Line. With your help, it wasn't hard to imagine that we were a part of the post-war transportation network in southern New England. 

Hope to have y'all visit again soon for another trip back in time!

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Sunday Funday - RDC Through Old Saybrook

Wow - What a weekend! It started with an ops session Friday night (largest ever, with 12 guys including yours truly), the Springfield Show all day yesterday (followed by our annual dinner in the parlor car), and a relaxing day today with BillC (who was visiting for the weekend). Lots to report, but I need to get some rest before tackling the work week. So for now, I'll just share a little railfan video of an RDC heading eastbound, picking up passengers in Old Saybrook. It's September, 1952 and this unit is only 5 months' old (the underbody hardly has any dust on it!)...


Thursday, January 26, 2017

Crew Call - Friday, October 15, 1948

So much of what I'm trying to do with this project is create a time machine. I want the guys operating on my layout to really get a sense of what it might have been like working on the New Haven during the late 1940s. So I try to send some additional prototype/historical flavor to them beforehand to get them in the right mindset, and to give them an idea of what's going on in the world as well as with the trains. It's another opportunity for realism, and a heck of a lot of fun to put together.

Even if you can't make it to one of my sessions, I hope you enjoy this little trip back in time...

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
MEMORANDUM
To: Operating Crews
Lower Connecticut River Valley Region,
New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad

Providence Division Extra #1 (PDX-1, Shore Line Local)
Providence Division Extra #2 (PDX-2, Haddam Local)
Hartford Division Extra #7 (HDX-7, Valley Local)
Hartford Division Extra #12 (HDX-12, Air Line Local)
From: Superintendent of Operations
RE: Detail of Operations – October 15, 1948
To Whom It May Concern:
You have been assigned to work on one of four local freight extras this Friday, but please note - our transition to diesel motive power is almost complete; consequently, only one local remains steam-powered. Please review the information below to gain an understanding of what to expect during your assignment:
·                     October 15, 1948 is a Friday and Harry Truman is the president, currently campaigning for re-election on a whistle-stop tour throughout the western US. The local forecast calls for Indian summer to continue - mild temperatures in the morning (upper 40s), and it'll warm up in the afternoon (around 63 degrees). Should be a nice, sunny, dry day - much nicer than it was 10 years ago. Back then, we were still cleaning up after the Great New England Hurricane (a.k.a. The Long Island Express) that devastated our Railroad. But thanks to all your hard work and effort, we survived and even made it through the recent war, stronger than ever.
·                     The most popular song of the day is "A Tree in the Meadow" by Margaret Whiting – much better than Twelfth Street Rag by Pee Wee Herman, which was #1 last month. It almost compares to the great music we heard during the war. Of course, many of those songs bring back bittersweet memories, so maybe we're better off trying to forget.
·                     The cost of living keeps going up: The average cost of a new house has risen to $7,700 - reflecting the persistent housing shortage - but gas is still only 16c per gallon, and cars cost a little less - about $1,250, on average. Average wages are stagnant though - at less than $3,000/yr you're not making any more cabbage than you did last year.
·                     In sports, the first Olympic games since before the war ended in August, the same month Ben Hogan won the PGA Championship. The Cleveland Indians just beat the Boston Braves in the World Series this past Monday, killing our chance for a New England win. And we're all still mourning the passing of Babe Ruth a few weeks ago. Only 53, he was far too young to leave us.
·                     Given the recent sports events, you may have missed Whittaker Chambers accusing Alger Hiss of being a communist. But if you're lucky enough to have a television (and as a railroad employee, you’re probably not), you would have been able to see the HUAC's first televised congressional hearing and the Chambers/Hiss confrontation.
·                     If you'd rather not think of Reds under the bed, and have time to catch a movie this weekend, Sorry, Wrong Number (starring Barbara Stanwyck and Burt Lancaster) premiered on September 1st. If you hurry though, you may still be able to catch Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (Cary Grant, Myrna Loy) or even Key Largo (Bogie & Bacall).
As usual, you can expect to receive your paperwork (Clearance Card, Orders, and Wheel Report) when you report for duty, but here's a brief description of what you can expect when you arrive: 
·                     PDX-1 (The Shoreline Local) will have DEY-5 (S-2) #0615 for power and will depart Cedar Hill Yard/New Haven for Fort Yard/New London with 6 cars. It'll do most of its switching in Saybrook and will use Track 5 to transfer cars destined for up-river consignees to PDX-2 (The Haddam Local). It will also pick up east/New London-bound cars from Track 7.
·                     PDX-2 (The Haddam Local) will be debuting newly-arrived DERS-2b (RS-2) #0510 for power and will depart Fort Yard for Cedar Hill Yard with 11 cars for towns along the way. It will also pick up cars from PDX-1 on Track 5 in Saybrook and run up-river through the towns of Essex and Deep River to East Haddam. It'll drop any cars bound for points east of Saybrook on Track 7.
·                     HDX-7 (The Valley Local) will have K-1b (2-6-0) #278 for power and will depart Hartford for Middletown & return. It'll be a heavy day with 12 cars for consignees along the way. Since it's Friday, this train won't be going down-river to East Haddam, but may leave Haddam-bound cars in Middletown for forwarding the next day. It also interchanges cars with HDX-12 on Track 1 in Middletown.
·                     HDX-12 (The Air Line Local) will have DEY-1b (HH660) #0924 for power and will depart Cedar Hill for Middletown with 7 cars for local industries and interchange with HDX-7 in Middletown. This train will also coordinate switching in Middletown with HDX-7.
Of course, the crews of each of these trains must report to the agent of each town on their route for any additional car movements which may be required and to receive any additional orders, as necessary. Furthermore, Providence Division Extras must receive permission from the Dispatcher or Saybrook Tower Operator, as the case may be, in order to occupy main track between Cedar Hill Yard/New Haven and Fort Yard/New London. Finally, be sure to review the latest Bulletin Order and sign the Employee Register when you arrive, or else you may forfeit your pay for the day.
Signed,
C.R. Adams
Superintendent

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Wordless Wednesday #155

Authentic New Haven Railroad flimsies - reserved for special operating sessions

Monday, January 23, 2017

Setting Up...

The January ops session is coming up this Friday and so I'm neck-deep in the "Pre-Ops Ops Session" - which is to say, I'm setting up...


This is the "paperwork" portion of the prep - I already set up the trains. Now comes the "fun" part - filling out all the paperwork(!). Thanks to MikeR, the traffic is generated by a cool spreadsheet, but I still have to fill out all the switchlists (and clearance cards, and orders) by hand.

One of these days, I think I may just bite the bullet and convert to car cards - or at least something more automated. But until then, I'll keep my pencil sharpened...

Friday, January 20, 2017

Friday Fun - Feline Fotos

Only tangentially railroad-related (note RR stove and decor), but kitty photos are always welcome and popular on the internets....




Happy Friday!!

Thursday, January 19, 2017

NCE PowerCab Mount/Box

I mentioned recently that I got an NCE PowerCab as an additional throttle and to use for decoder programming at my workbench. And I've also posted some photos (here & here) of a little box I've been working on to store it all. Well, I just finished the box - so here's why and how I did it.


The PowerCab comes packaged in a nice box that stores all the components safely and conveniently. You have the PowerCab itself (the throttle, affectionately known as "the dogbone"), a plug-in panel, a power supply, and a flat cable to connect the throttle to the panel.

You can do as many folks do and store/transport your PowerCab system using this handy box - but what do you do when you want to connect your PowerCab to a computer to use JMRI for decoder programming, for example? You need to get the NCE USB PCB - and there's no handy place to store/transport that (and its associated cable) in the original box. Besides - who wants to go through the hassle of unpacking & connecting everything every time you want to use it?

So, I decided to make a new box that would store everything, be easy to transport, and already have the components mounted so all I'd have to do is plug everything in and I'd be up and running.

For a nice, professional look that would match my components, I used black foam core board from Staples. I'd considered masonite, but figured that would less convenient to work with (requiring drilling & sawing) and would need to be painted afterwards. Black foam core is already - ahem - black, and I could cut it easily with an xacto knife at the coffee table in my den.

The most difficult part of this project was deciding how big to make it. I figured the end would need only to be as big as the components that would be mounted on it, and the length would need to be long enough to hold the throttle. From there, it was easy - just measure and cut 4 sides and a lid (which later turned out to be the base) - and use hot glue to put it all together.



The photo above shows the plug-in panel and USB socket. I was surprised that the #4 sheet metal screws I used actually bit and held in the (relatively) thin foam core - but I hotglued the two screws I could get to for some extra insurance. Note that - in addition to the USB socket on the right, there are two RJ11 sockets on the panel. The left one is for the flat DCC system cable, and the right one is for a cab/throttle cable.


Here's a view inside the box. The plug-in panel is on the left and the USB PCB is on the right. I mounted the USB on a piece of foam core using hot glue and white spacers as you see above. I also determined how far "forward" to position the board so that the socket would protrude through the foam core enough to be flush with the front of the box (as you can see in the first photo).


Another view inside the box after I connected the wires. PRO TIP: All the instructions for the USB board tell you to use the coiled throttle cable to connect it to the cab/throttle socket on the front of the plug-in panel. Well, once I discovered that there's another extra cab/throttle socket on the rear of the plug-in panel (thank you Erik), I decided to make my own, much shorter throttle cable using some spare phone cord (thanks to PeteL for loaning me the special crimping tool) which spared having to use the 6 foot coiled cable. I think you'll agree this is a much more elegant set-up.

Other than that new, gray wire, the other wires are for power supply (black) and track wires (black/white). To keep things neat (in case you haven't noticed, that's a "thing" with me), I used my handy hot glue gun to tuck & glue the wires into the corner of the box. They all go out through a hole cut in the rear.

You may notice I've changed orientation here. While I initially conceived this box as having a "top" I could mount/rest the throttle on, I quickly discovered that it was much smarter to just use it as an open-top box: better for storage/transport and nothing would fall out. So the USB socket is now on the left, and the socket into which you plug the flat/DCC/PowerCab cable is labeled with that handy labeler I got from Roman.


And here's the setup: PowerCab connected to front panel and power plugged in (note LED light and throttle screen are on), track wires connected to track feeders using alligator clips, and USB board connected to computer


Another view showing how nice and neat everything is - all organized and together without wires going helter-skelter all over the place.


Once you're done, just disconnect the cords from the track, computer, and wall, disconnect the throttle, and tuck everything neatly away in the box. Pretty cool. The only thing I would have done differently is make the box deeper and add a hinged lid and latch (and maybe a little carry handle). But I don't plan on transporting this stuff too often so the way I have it now will work fine.

I hope you'll get some inspiration from this to make up your own storage/transport box. Using the foamcore and hotglue makes it a pretty easy, fun project. And if you do make one, be sure to let me know!

Now that I have such a cool setup, I was excited to connect it to JMRI and do some programming. Well, unfortunately, that ended up being a project in and of itself. The instructions weren't as complete or as clear as I'd hoped, and "Google help" just made things worse. But after lots of trial and error - as well as a few emails back and forth the the very patient Erik at Tony's Trains (where I purchase all my NCE stuff) - I was finally able to get everything up and running. Next time, I'll let you know what I learned and hopefully save you some trouble.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Weekend Working through the Punch List

"Be careful what you wish for."

Like most model railroaders, I for a long time wished for more space for more railroad and I'm truly blessed to have a full basement to give the Valley Line (and the Airline, um, and the Shoreline) its due. And - even better - after wishing for a good crew of friends to help me with regular operating sessions, I have the best, most enthusiastic group of guys helping support my effort.

So I've been able to have regular operating sessions on a (fairly) large layout. And it's just as much a blast as I'd always hoped it would be. But . . . there is a downside. An ever so tiny cloud way out on the horizon of an otherwise clear blue sky. It doesn't look anything like a bunny, or a sheep. It's a funny-shaped, long, skinny cloud and actually looks a little bit like a word . . . I can barely make it out . . .ah yes -

M  A  I  N  T  E  N  A  N  C  E

It's one of the few things that can dampen your model railroad enthusiasm - and the larger the layout, the larger this cloud can be. But just like clouds bring much-needed rain, regular maintenance is necessary to keep your railroad healthy and happy. There's nothing like a good operating session to make those clouds pop up. And the best thing you can do to keep the rain off your parade (of trains) is to keep up with the maintenance and regularly work through your punch list of issues.

So that's how I spent my hobby time this past weekend - working through the punch list created after last month's session.

After snipping off some more KD "air hoses" and re-aligning/clamping the liftout between Somerset and Mill Hollow, I decided to figure out why the Airline local derailed on its way back from Middletown. Of course, the derailment happened on the only almost-inaccessible track on the entire railroad.


Yup, the track between Middletown and Mill Hollow on the Airline is tucked back behind the backdrop at Shailerville bridge. See pic above. To even see that track, you have to stand on a tall, 2-step step stool - making sure to tuck in your shirt so it doesn't damage the scenery - and lean over carefully. When you do all that, you can finally see the track...


There it is - coming from Middletown, which is on the other side of the wall. Close observation may reveal the cause of the derailment (especially if you click to embiggen the photo) - one of the feeders had popped off and poked up! Naturally - the only feeder I've ever had fail (so far, anyway) had to fail in the worst possible place! I can't access it at all from underneath, so I had to try and (re)solder it from above.

Very fortunately, as it turned out, this wasn't as difficult as I'd feared. I fluxed the wire and the side of the rail (both had already been tinned from being soldered before) and I used a long bamboo skewer to press the wire against the rail. I had the skewer in one hand and the iron in the other. Presto! Feeder reconnected!

After cleaning off the flux with denatured alcohol (you do clean off flux, don't you?), filing the solder from the top of the rail, and Bright Boy-ing the area, I moved on to my next problem: the turnout for the Meech & Stoddard siding in Middletown, the one "powered" with a coathanger.

TomD had a lot of trouble when switching this siding - he couldn't get the points to swing all the way over very easily, and often had to apply constant pressure to keep cars from derailing. Once I got under the layout, I saw immediately what the problem was - the coathanger had slipped over toward the tube. Consequently, there was almost no travel - certainly not enough to actuate the points on the turnout.


The solution ended up being simple in concept, but difficult to execute. I first bent the piano wire into a tight loop at the end - but even that wasn't enough to keep the coat hanger from creeping toward the tube over time (and the piano wire was a bear to bend in those tight quarters!). So I also soldered a scrap piece of copper wire as a "stop" to keep the coat hanger in place. It's certainly not an elegant solution, but it works. So far at least.

Another problem that crept up during the last session was the lack of bumping posts at the end of the east end staging tracks. When I redid this area a couple weeks ago, I installed nails at the end of each track. But that resulted in an unexpected problem - cars would actually couple to the nails!

So I went back, removed the nails, and did something more conventional and just as easy...


I used spare ties (you clip off a lot of them when laying flextrack) and glued them to the rails using drops of Aleen's Tacky Glue. Now there won't be any unexpected coupling and - bonus! - no possible damage to the couplers themselves. I should have just done it this way from the start.


Sometimes, while going through the "known" problems on your punch list, other things occur to you along the way. Case in point - photo above. One of the persistent points made during ops session job briefings is to let the Airline local crew know how to actuate the turnout in the tunnel at Somerset. Well - duh! - I finally got around to just labeling the darn thing! Thanks to Roman for his labeler (I'm going to try - really hard - not to label everything in the house. This is not a something you should ever give to someone with OCD. It just enables them. Not that I'd know anything about that. Nope. Not me.)


I still have a few items left on the list to do, but I think I'm going next to concentrate on finishing my little ProCab project. I really want to finish the mount/box - and really need to make sure the USB/Computer/PCB is working, um especially since it's already mounted in the box... And, of course, it'll be nice to get this mess cleaned up in time for the next NHRHTA Photo Archive session. But all in good time. These are just fun, little, puffy clouds. What more could you wish for?

Friday, January 13, 2017

Friday Fun: Finally Finishing Feeders

It's my first busy time of the year at work, so there's not much layout progress to report - and the progress there is, is pretty much invisible crews and such. Other than building a box to house my new NCE PowerCab components, I'm wiring up the (hopefully) last of my feeders!

Yes, like most folks, I was anxious to get the railroad up-and-running ASAP so I just installed enough feeders to get by. But now that we've had a bunch of operating sessions (and have completed what I hope are the last of the track modifications) and are now starting some scenery, it was time to audit/check what tracks didn't yet have feeders.

So, I reconnected all the feeders in the East End Staging yard and under the Saybrook Scene (including adding additional new ones), and I'm "finish feedering" the line from Essex up to East Haddam (electrifying every section of track).  Click here and here for how I do feeders. I'm not going to take the time to go into it in this post since I have to get back to work!



Friday, January 6, 2017

Friday Fun: NCE Power Cab


I've needed another throttle for quite some time now . . .

and I could use a way to program & test locomotives in the comfort of my den, near my workbench.

Well, a late-arriving gift just arrived today and fit the bill for both!

I'm looking forward to putting this all together on a nice, portable mount/box that I can take anywhere and hook up easily to my test loop. I just haven't decided whether to use masonite or foamcore. Either way, I'll share here how I do it.

Merry Christmas/Happy Birthday to me!

Staging Script: Shoreline Trains Through Saybrook - c. 1948

So, now that I've expanded my staging to accommodate the traffic through Old Saybrook, the next, HUGE, question I needed to answer was the obvious one - "what trains went through Old Saybrook?" The answer isn't as straightforward as you might expect.

Fortunately, Old Saybrook - while not a major town on the New Haven - does have a Signal Station (tower SS-102) and a passenger station so it shows up in both the Employee Timetables and the Arranged Freight Service books. I had to consult and cross-reference them both in order to come up with a pretty close approximation of the traffic. I actually started this research in the summer of 2014, and got into it more last February (click here for more details on the resources used), but at that time focused only covered the mid-day traffic, when the two Shoreline locals would be in town.

But as my interest in the traffic through Old Saybrook grew (along with progress on the Saybrook scene), I wanted to include more trains. And now that my staging yards are expanded to their full potential (as inadequate as that might turn out to be), it was time expand my research to cover a full 3 hour operating session (12 "prototype" hours on a 4:1 fast clock) and figure out how the trains would interact with each other.

Below is a compilation of all that research:

You really should click on the image to enlarge/read
That, my friends, is a detailed listing of all the trains through Old Saybrook from 7:10 in the morning (westbound freight BN-9) til 7:42pm (eastbound freight GB-8). All 33 of'em! As I mentioned earlier, I compiled it from information in the employee timetables and freight service books. John Wallace helped too by supplying the "station stop" info. And most interestingly, I was able to determine the actual locomotives used for each train using the railroad's engine utilization report from April 20, 1948 (read more about that here).

The table is pretty straightforward. The numbers in the left-most column tell the Shoreline crews how many actual, real minutes they have between trains (hint: it ain't much on a 4:1 fast clock). The next column gives the actual prototype train times, etc. The right-most columns tell the crews where to start each train - whether at New London (east end) or New Haven (west end) staging.

As you can see, I lucked out big time - most trains alternate eastbound/westbound, so I don't need as many staging tracks as you might expect (each track empties by the time it needs to be filled). The only exceptions (trains 12 & 182, 14 & FGB-2, and 402 & 26) are all eastbounds - and it just so happens that my largest staging yard is the east end yard which can receive these additional trains #FTW!

I can't wait to do a dress rehearsal to see how all this is gonna work!

But before that, some really cool things that became apparent as I compiled the engine assignments:

  • lot of engines are used twice during this 12-hr time period - yes, if you stood on the station platform long enough, you'd see some of the same engines coming back from where they went. So, even though there are 33 trains, I don't need as many different locos as you'd think.
  • But I still need a lot of engines if I want to truly duplicate this traffic:
    • One I-4 class Pacific (#1350)
    • One A-B-A set of Alco FAs (New Haven class DER-2 #0418-0459-0419)
    • Five I-5 class Hudsons (#1400-1403 & 1405)
    • and a whopping 28 DL-109s! (DER-1)
Yes, the Diesel Era was certainly in full swing on the Shoreline by the spring of 1948!

As I've mentioned elsewhere, when I decided to include Old Saybrook on the layout, it was primarily 1) to have a nice scene to greet visitors when they first come down the basement stairs, and 2) to have a nice scene for the New London-Cedar Hill local to go through on its way up the Valley branch at the Saybrook wye.

But as you can tell, the Saybrook Scene has become so much more and the heavy Shoreline traffic that went through here in a typical day provides a really cool contrast to being out on the Valley branch all by yourself with the local freight. This contrast even shows up in the motive power - all but 7 of the 33 Shoreline trains are diesel-powered, while the Valley and Air Line locals are still all steam. While I didn't build all this contrast into the design from the beginning, it's certainly become a really cool bonus and provides another opportunity to tell the story of rail transportation during this era.

Now I just have to see if my staging yards are actually up to the task of supporting all these trains . . .

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Shoreline Traffic & Staging Expansion

As I mentioned earlier, at my last ops session it became quite apparent that the Shoreline/mainline trains - which had always been planned as bit players in the grand scheme - are starting to upstage the marquee actors. It's just really cool to see the parade roaring by on the mainline through Saybrook, all in stark contrast to the sleepy branchline locals.

While there were 71 trains through Old Saybrook during a typical day, I certainly don't have to model them all. I never plan to replicate a full 24hr period, and - in fact - could get by with just four mainline trains if I focus only mid-day, when the 2 Shoreline locals were scheduled to be in town. The problem with limiting my ops session to mid-day though is that my session would have the Airline and Valley locals operating for 1-2 real hours before the Shorelines locals would ever start and enter the scene at Saybrook.

So, for now, I'm experimenting with starting all the locals at the same time - 7am. That results in the Shoreline locals getting into Saybrook in the morning rather than midday - not prototypically perfect, but certainly plausible. And if I want to continue running the Shoreline trains until the last local typically leaves Saybrook for the day, I need to be prepared to run all the trains through town from 7am until 7:42pm at the latest. That's 33 trains, not counting the 2 locals(!).

What does that all mean? You guessed it - MORE STAGING!

Now, there's no way I can expand the staging yard at the west end of the Shoreline (New Haven/New York). As you can see here, I'm pretty well hemmed in and have only 4 tracks 8'3" long. So I needed at least to expand where I could - the east end staging yard (New London/Boston).


The pic above shows my main motivation for focusing on this yard (heh - other than the fact that I really had no other choice) - I spaced the track VERY far apart for ease-of-access. But many subsequent ops sessions confirmed that space could be put to better use - more tracks! To orient you, the staging yard is on homasote and those tracks in the background are for storage only and mounted directly to the plywood.

Another view of how spaced-out the original track configuration was. The placards more where I need to put feeders.


The photo above shows the expansion in-progress. I've already moved 3 staging tracks all the way over to the left (aisle side) edge of the homasote (the 4 tracks further to the left are storage only). Moving the staging tracks resulted in a slight, broad S curve, but I - and more importantly, the equipment - can live with that to shoehorn more tracks in. Look at all that real estate opening up!


Before I could move the tracks over, I had to unsolder the feeders. And when I went to reattach the feeders, I had to drill new holes at the new location. Since I'd be threading the ends of the feeders up through the bottom of the layout, I came up with the idea above to keep track of the proper holes.


As you can see, from underneath the layout it's really hard to tell which holes are the right ones. But these little skewers make it obvious.


In the post on my last ops session, I mentioned needing bumping posts at the end of the staging tracks (my engines have pretty high momentum and a few have Keep Alive circuits. 'nuff said). Here you can see clearly why they're necessary - and you can see my stingy cheap thrifty way of solving the problem.

As I've mentioned before, the east end staging yard was originally conceived as only a place where Shoreline local PDX-2 (New London/East Haddam/Cedar Hill) could originate off-stage.

East End Staging, February 2016
And as you can see in the pic above, it was more than adequate for that lone purpose. But once I discovered all the cool Shoreline traffic (not to mention having a beautiful Saybrook scene to run it through), and decided to expand it 11 months ago (see post here), there was no turning back.

I jogged the back (rightmost) staging track (PDX-1 receiving) to the left a little to keep it away from the edge. But looking at it now, if I'd kept it straight I could probably have avoided all those little S curves. No, I'm not going to redo it.
Yeah, that photo above is what the yard looks like as of today. Big difference from last February. By narrowing the track centers to 2", I was able to add three more staging tracks - including a dedicated "PDX-1 receiving track" coming off the main near the east end of Track 6. And BONUS! I had a turnout leftover, so I added yet another track to the storage yard over there on the left (as well as rerailers at the end of two of those tracks to facilitate adding cars to the layout).

Certainly a significant expansion, by any measure. But now truly maxed out. Don't even mention that "vacant" space to the right, near the wall. I want to keep that open for access.


So what's all this time and effort do for me? Well, I'm hoping that it'll make it easier to run those 33 trains I'd like to run. The next step is to see if it actually does.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Wordless Wednesday #152 - The Situation at Saybrook

Delivery of two new parlor cars - the Desiree and the Nina

Saybrook Junction, east leg of the wye, showing the towers - signal and water - as well as the backside of the cemetery, with pine grove.

West leg of the wye at Saybrook Jct - another view of the cemetery on the now-dead-ended old Middlesex Turnpike

All clogged up (as a result of moving all the equipment from the east end staging yard during expansion)

Overview of a stuffed Saybrook

View from the "stadium seating" (aka the basement stairway)

Sunday, January 1, 2017

2016 In Review - 2017 Goals

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!

With the changing of the calendar comes the best opportunity to reflect, assess, and plan. This year is no exception, though with the so-called low hanging fruit of layout construction (mostly) done, future projects on the Valley Line promise to be a bit more involved, complicated, and slow-moving. But it's a hobby, not a job - thankfully - and that's all part of the fun. I actually look forward to these annual posts since it gives me an often-much-needed reminder of how far I've come (even while reminding me how far I still have yet to go). So, without any further ado, here's a look back and a look forward....

Here's where I started as 2016 dawned:

Goals for 2016
  • By June 1 (in time for the NE Proto Meet (formerly Collinsville)):
    • Finish the rest of the trackwork, including new "west end" staging yard as well as Essex/Deep River/East Haddam
    • Install the rest of the backdrops & fascia
    • Install the rest of the lighting
    • Have either Old Saybrook or Wethersfield "done" - backdrop, buildings, signals, scenery.
  • By December 31:
    • Have either Old Saybrook or Wethersfield "done" (whichever isn't done already)
    • At least start on Dividend and Cromwell, including the huge Hartford Rayon complex in Dividend.
    • Have at least 4 operating sessions over the course of the year.

So, how'd I do?
Some highlights
Some failures things to work on:
  • Still didn't get to many any of my large pile of freight car kits - though I DID do a "shake and take" boxcar that I started at Collinsville, oops, "Enfield."
  • Related to the above, I didn't spend much time at the bench. My J-1 2-8-2 project has languished on the back burner for at least over 3 years now (a search for a post on it came up empty, so I realized that that project predates this blog!)
Overall and all things considered, I'd call 2016 a resounding success for the Valley Line. Sure, I didn't get to a few things I'd set as goals for the year - but OTOH that was mostly, if not entirely, due to the fact that I ended up accomplishing different things that I hadn't planned on.

So, what's all this mean for 2017? Without going into the many punch list items there are to do, here's a list of the more major things I'd like to accomplish in the coming year:
  • Finish the Saybrook Scene
    • Rt 1 overpass
    • Ford dealership & background/backdrop buildings
    • Signal bridges (ugh - signaling?!)
  • Complete Berlin Branch for operations
    • Install bridge & finish trackwork/sidings
    • Buildings & scenery later
  • Truly and finally, finish layout construction
    • Masonite behind the Airline & above the west end loop
    • Extend Saybrook scene "east" past doorway
      • Install masonite backdrop & false wall/viewblock
  • Start/Finish the Wethersfield side of the peninsula
    • Finish Ballantine's and Wethersfield Lumber (been in medias res for about 2 yrs now)
    • Hartford skyline backdrop
    • John Wallace's house
    • Various minor buildings
  • Finish class J-1 2-8-2 #3022
    • Tender mods
    • Detailing, painting, weathering
    • Decoder install
This time next year, if I can report most/all of these things done I'll be very happy (and, frankly, not a little surprised). But as they say - "shoot for the stars and you'll at least hit the moon" or some such thing. Far too often, my reach exceeds my grasp - but with the help of my very generous and hard-working friends, I think we can get a lot of these items crossed off the list. So stay tuned!

Whether I get all - or even none of these things done though, at the end of the day this whole project is about spending time with those friends and sharing a hobby that drives - and sometimes consumes us. And as long as we have our health and some spare time to get down to the basement, 2017 can't help but be successful.

So here's wishing you and yours all the health and time you need to make your model railroad dreams come true - Happy New Year!