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Monday, December 25, 2017

Progress Update 12-25-17


I promised an update so here goes:

1. It seems every op session gets Murphied with wifi issues.  Not sure why really, however, had Geek Squad out and the confirmed I have the best wifi mesh network using Eero's so even he was puzzled.  Great guy though and he may come over for an op session!  Can I convert him?  LOL  His testing showed excellent wifi coverage.  That said, we hardwired two of the Eero's just in case that makes a difference.  The operating department will know at the next op session.  (See below for dates)  It could be all the bodies in the rooms for the session.  Maybe I need to put all visitors on a diet before they come so they block less bandwidth!

2.  The IT department, Mark Lestico, has been working on the new JMRI dispatcher panel.  Still a ways to go, but making progress.  The new panel is much cleaner than the old one and will size to any monitor automatically.  The old one used custom graphics and would not fit the new monitor.

This is the old panel.  I'll show the new one in another post.

3.  The marketing department has been working on a new paint scheme for the CPRX home road and that will debut mid 2018!  The preferred scheme is the green one.  Their plan is to have mainly CPRX locos running, with a few BNSF and UPRR for assistance.  Customers need to know who to call!  Not BNSF or UPRR.

Drawings courtesy of Don Gaiser...Thank you!!!

4.  Scenery has progressed!  Big projects take big time and the time between Thanksgiving and New Years Day is the best time for me to get big projects done.  Thanksgiving weekend started with the new grove at Orange Grove.  What looks like about a hundred trees is actually 401 trees!  It took 72 hours to complete.  If that wasn't enough insanity I'm adding an area of 93 more and then another section of yet to be determined number of trees.  It looks great though.

The first step was to draw a grid on the benchwork, then drill small holes for the trees.  I used 1.5" grid.  Then I put tooth pick ends in the holes so they would not get plugged by ballast.  Spread and glued ballast.  Removed the tooth picks as I planted each tree so I would not lose the hole.  Looooong arduous process!

Blue tape is to prevent ballast from fouling the points.

I purchased the trees from a lady that sells at the local shows.  $5 for a block of 8.  Can't beat that!
In my opinion each tree has too many oranges.  So I take each one and rub the heck out of is to remove as many oranges as I can, being careful not to ruin the esthetics of the tree.

The trunks are way too long so I cut them down short, so when I plant the tree it sits close to the ground.

I saved all the extra oranges and leaves just in case I might want to use them for something down the road.

The ready-to-plant tree gets a small hole drilled in the bottom for the wire that will then be inserted in the benchwork.

A dab of glue on the base.

A dab of glue, then insert the wire.  The wire is only about 1/2" long.

Remove the tooth pick.

Insert wire in hole and plant the tree.

The completed orange grove.  My plan is to add 93 trees in the white area in the upper left and another grove of trees just out of the photo to the right, mid photo.

5.  Before planting the orange trees, the track maintenance crews needed to ballast the track and so that started the ballasting project.  Neighbors have been calling the home office complaining about noise from the increased number of ballast trains!  Since the planting at Orange Grove, crews have continued to ballast south to Famoso, Kern Jct., and as of this writing, they're ballasting Bakersfield Yard, totally disrupting the operation of the railroad!  The deadline is January 1, 2018, including laying the concrete in the engine facilities!  The crews are working day and night to get this done because they get a big bonus if it's completed in time!

Famoso ballasting

The north end of Bakersfield ballasted
Ballasting brings out the scariest of critters.  I don't have a bug problem though!  These bug managers handle everything.

6.  I bought new paint to repaint the backdrop and fascia.  I also purchased a laminating machine to laminate the fascia labels and documentation.  Projects for the next 2-3 months.

7. The Facilities Department, Joel Morse, made a couple more permanent temporary buildings for Bakersfield, Chan Nuts and Bakersfield Produce.  They make the area look much better.

8.  The Signaling Department has purchased a bizzillion Digitrax SMBK's and begun the creation of the etched brass Signal Kits.  All this is being sent to my Assembly Department (Mike Stoner) for assembly.  The signaling department already has the SE8c's fortunately.

Completed signal.  Digitrax SMBK, etched brass Signal Kit, and paint!  Looks great, easy to make, easy to install, and cheap!

The Operating Department has planned the sessions for 2018.  Joel Morse and I will be alternating every month, with the first session on the CPRX scheduled for January 20th.  If you are interested in joining us or just visiting sometime throughout the year, please let me know.

I know there is more to report, however, my mind is blank.  Probably from inhaling too much rubbing alcohol with the track maintenance crews!  Well, I'd better get back to inhaling more or this project will never get finished!

Happy New Year,
Frank Kenny
CPRX President

Sunday, July 9, 2017

July 2017 Railroad Update

Well, I haven't blogged anything since December 2016!  I keep meaning to but I simply use all the time working on the RR and not blogging!  So here is an update...

First...I've hosted a couple of operating session since and all have gone really well.  It seems the more ya operate, the more feedback you get, the more "updates" or repairs get made, the better the layout becomes.  It's a good cycle and the input from others is very valuable!  My favorite part of the hobby is the operating sessions.  Not only do we get to run trains, we get together and that's worth all the work that goes into putting all this together!

The next session will be during the Southern California Layout Tour in the South Bay August 19th, 2017!  Hope you can stop by or join in the op session.

Most of the open area will be an orange grove
First project...There has always been a track laying error in Famoso.  The SJVR track that veers off from the UP had a small kink at the connection to the turnout.  It operated with no issues, but visually it always bugged me!  You can see it in the photo to the right on the track that veers to the left.  So I ripped it out and started over!  The curve is much smoother now.  By the way, most of the blank space you see in the next several photos are going to be an orange grove.  Over the 4th of July I laid out a grid (thank Mark Lestico for the idea) and will be drilling holes to plant the trees, after the ground cover of course.  Yesterday I went to the train show in Pomona to get more trees, however, they changed the color of the oranges to a florescent orange (which doesn't work for me) so they are going to try to get a lighter color of orange, like the trees I already have.  I need 429 trees in this area!

More orange grove area with a small farm building in front
Most space will be an orange grove

Tearing out the offending track

Replacing the cork

Track replacement finished

You can barely see the tree grid

Orange trees for my grove

Next up was adding power to the rear industry turnouts in Bakersfield.  Joel has always been complaining about this for so long and I was a pain in the ass.  But you know how excited I was to pull everything out from under the railroad and put my body through contortions just to hook up the turnout motors!  Gee my two favorite things...installing tortoise motors and electrical and both at the same time!  Yippee!

Testing the circuit

Completed install.  This switch is recessed into the fascia and a different switch used because this particular turnout is under dispatcher control as well.

One of the local control turnouts installed.  Labeling yet to be formalized.

Here is the hook-up arrangement.  I made several of these prior to installation.

Testing the circuit and LED

Testing the power to the frog before final installation

Example of the installation

Testing the circuit

Next, Joel Morse has been prodding me for a couple years now to install a swing gate at the entrance to the Traffic Center.  Personally, I thought the benefit was not worth the effort since it's not a high traffic area.  I finally agreed so he and Chris Armstrong got together and built a swing bridge.  Not an easy task given the railroad structure and wiring were already installed.  As of this writing, it's been installed for a little over a month and I'm still installing the track and have yet to start the electrical.  The tracks must line up across the gaps perfectly to avoid derailments and that has been a difficult task.  The wiring has to be re-routed around the other side of the room to make all the proper connections.  In the end, I'm glad they built the gate as it really does make it easier to access the Traffic Center.

Before the gate being installed

Chris (left) and Joel (right) building the swing gate to the Traffic Center

Adding stiffening to the structure to hold the gate
Are they boxing?

Getting closer to being finished!

It actually opens

Almost there!


Next project...way back about 100 years ago Joe Warner installed rotary switches to control the Bakersfield Yard throats.  They work great, however, they are a little complicated for operators.  Since late 2016 Dave Waterstreet has been wanting to update the yard throat controls for Bakersfield Yard to make things easier for the operators.  Our schedules finally aligned in May 2017.  The new push button panels will replace the original rotary switches and the panels look great.  Unfortunately, they are electrically complicated with computer chips!  Should one of them die, there isn't anything I can do about it and I would lose control of the yard!  Not something I really want to entertain.  A story...When I was a kid I asked my grandpa why he didn't have automatic windows in his car.  He said it was because it was just one more thing that could break.  We all now have automatic windows but the concern is the same.  The new panels would not be fixable and they are not commercially made so I'm dead in the water should they break!  Needless to say, I'm having second thoughts about the panels.  That said, upon installation of the first one, it didn't operate.  Is that a sign?  Dave was beside himself.  I was glad it didn't operate while he was still here and didn't die after he left.  He lives in Portland so fixing things would not be easy.

Original yard throat panels installed by Joe Warner...way back when!

The North End panel.  The black dots are small pushbuttons.

Frustration!  Don't worry Dave...I can't figure it out either!

I'm gonna get this to work even if I have to sit here all day!
Attempting the install

Yet another project...the new JMRI dispatcher panel.  While I've had a JMRI panel for many years, it had so many bandaids (updates) on it, it was difficult to operate, especially for a newbie.  Not only that, but the original computer it was created on was failing and the panel needed to be installed on a new computer.  The original panel was created using custom icons and those didn't transfer well to the new computer.  Needless to say, things were a mess.  Mark graciously offers to rebuild the new panel.  Below is the old panel.

The master, Mark Lestico, at work on the new JMRI ops panel

Another broken turnout!

Always something!  Overall I've replaced 20+ Atlas turnouts over the years because of this.  Most of them have been right-hand turnouts.  This just happens out of the blue and I usually don't know about it until a train traverses the turnout of course.  No clue why this happens and Atlas doesn't either.  It's not a glue thing because I've used various types of glue for the turnouts and it's happened on all of the glue I've used.  This turnout happened to be in a high-traffic location in the Traffic Center yard throat so needed to be replaced immediately!  Fortunately, a dreaded project only took 5 minutes.  I was lucky this time!

Lastly, no matter how hard I work on the railroad, the boss is always micromanaging!
Happy Railroading!
Frank Kenny, Central Pacific Railway, Inc., CPRX
Contact me if you'd like to be involved!