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Sunday, May 5, 2013

LOTS OF PROGRESS! And a step backward.

Over the past week there has been lots of progress that I'd like to tell you about and one setback.

Joel Morse has come by a few times to build building mock-ups.  This has kind of brought the layout into 3-D.  It's amazing what a difference a few mock-ups can make.  I've included a few photos in this post below, and I'll do a separate post showing Joel's work.

Mike Stoner of Sedona, AZ and I made plans for him to come out and replace all 10 of the Peco curved turnouts left.  When I originally planned the railroad it was designed to use Peco curved turnouts to save space.  As I was building it, Atlas came out with their code 55 track.  At first I simply started laying the Atlas track, leaving the Peco track in place.  However, the difference between the two was so dramatic, that I just had to replace the Peco with Atlas.  I replaced all of it except these 10 curved turnouts because there was nothing to replace them.  Years later Atlas finally came out with curved turnouts and to my disappointment, the radius was way too sharp.  So there the Peco's stay!  They have always caused me problems for various reasons.  Don't get me wrong.  They are great turnouts.  They just don't look great next to the Atlas track work.

So, Mike was able to come out to replace all 10 of them.  He arrived on April 26th and left on the 28th and we still only were able to replace 8 of them!  Poor mike was stuck bent over the lower level railroad for three days!  I fed him only cheese crackers and peanut butter and a little bit of water to wash it down and wouldn't let him leave until it was done!  He was replacing the north throat of Bakersfield yard, an important stretch of railroad!  And of course, all turnouts are curved so that made it a much more difficult job.  Thanks Mike!

We just barely go the last Tortoise installed when we had to leave for the airport!  They are not wired up yet but I'll get that done soon.  Honestly, I'm a bit nervous that I might ruin the turnouts.  The look amazing!!!  Below are some photos of the process.

Ah, he's smilin' now!  Mike Stoner starting the process of replacing the throat turnouts by first installing thin strips of homasote.

I spent countless hours getting all the Tortoises installed and then wired in this not-so-accessable area just to tear them all out again when Mike replaced the turnouts!

Mike explaining the project.  Notice the bandage on his thumb.  The day before he flew out he slipped on his skateboard and fell on his thumb, tearing off the nail.  He powered through though.

Tearing out the old Peco turnouts.

This is Ron distracting Mike from doing the job.  Mike needed a break and was happy to engage.

Peco's gone!!!

Homasote installed.

Track lines drawn.

Tie installation. of those Atlas curved turnouts came in handy after all...just not in this location.

Spiking the rail.

Lining up the ties.

This is Mike's work area for three days!  Good thing we can't hear Mike!  ;-)

Continuing to slave away.

The angles were terrible for laying track.  Mike thought he was going to draw some lines on homasote and do this on a work bench.  That idea quickly disappeared.

Spiking rail.

Success!  First turnout done and tested!

Mike's tie jig.

Lots of detail to doing this.  Mike is a perfectionist.

More spike detail.

Laying another one.

See that determination!

Are ya done yet?

The master at work.

Move your thumb...I can't see.

A lot of mess for just replacing some turnouts.

Electrical testing to make sure there are no shorts.

All done.  This and the next several shots are of the completed turnouts from left to right.  The darker ties are Atlas track.

I can't thank Mike Stoner enough for taking 3 days of his life and spending them replacing all these turnouts for me.  Thank you Mikey!

That same weekend I had some of the other guys from the crew over and we accomplished a number of  those time consuming projects.

Mark Lestico installed MT couplers on 15 locos.  Joel has been installing resistors on wheels and for some reason about 40% of them have been shorting.  Mark claims it is very easy so Joel and I called his bluff and had him show us how it's done.  Lucky for Mark, Mike was working on the turnouts with tools all over the layout, we couldn't turn the layout on to test the wheels, so we saved that project for another day.

Mark got all the parts together and lined up in order for an assembly line construction and installation.  Can you tell this guy works for a Japanese car company?

Ron Sipkovich, David Sheehan and Rodney Zeibol installed small pieces of styrene in all the little electrical gaps around the railroad to keep them from accidentally closing, causing electrical issues.  (I've got enough of those gremlins!)

Another master hard at work!  Ron is famous for lots of things, including his Cajon Pass layout with amazingly beautiful scenery.

Ron was going to take a shot at installing resistors to wheels, but then we discovered the silver paint was dried up in the tube...brand new $45 tube too!

David, looking like he is enjoying his work just a little too much.

Joel Morse built more mock-ups.  I'll do a separate post on Joel's buildings because he has done so many and they look great.

Getting started.

A finished building!

After a hard day's work on Saturday, Ken Chan and I cooked up a BBQ chicken dinner for the hungry crew complete with corn on the cob, BBQ beans, cole slaw and potato salad and washed it all down with beer.  Mmm, mmm, good!

That left Sunday for me and Mike to finish all those darn turnouts.  You'd think that it would go quickly but it just didn't.

This past week I've been completing various projects.  Finishing installing the styrene in the gaps, relocating and/or replacing spurs, re-wiring spurs, planning additional track laying on the north end of Bakersfield yard, and various other things.  It's been really enjoyable to get these things completed.

I had one set back.  When I was able to finally turn on the layout, there seems to be a gremlin in the Loconet.  After lots of de-installing and testing, I believe it boiled down to the UR92.  And after trying numerous times to update the firmware, no luck.  It turns out that the PR3 may be bad too!  I packed up the UR92, PR3, and both DT402's and sent them to Digitrax to have them update all and make sure all are working fine.  I've got better things to spend my time on!

That brings you up to date.  We've pretty much improved the whole lower level of the railroad!  I'm sure there are things that I forgot to tell you and I'll put those in a future post.

Unfortunately I won't be ready for the layout tour May 18th as we still need to finish the turnouts and install the electrical, not to mention all my equipment is at Digitrax.

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