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Thursday, December 29, 2016

Lots of Progress and an Op Session

I've managed to spend a considerable amount of time on the railroad.  I first started a list in Evernote, listing all the items I wanted to work on.  A sort of wish list of action items.  That worked out well and has allowed me to focus on specific projects.  In the past, I'd just stare at the railroad, wondering what I should work on now in the given time frame.  That wasn't too successful.

In addition to the wish list, once an activity is completed, I move it to the completed section of the list along with an estimated time it too to complete the project.  Now I can see progress!  Love it!

Recently I added a derailment guard on all six levels of the helix.  At the last op session, a couple of cars took a tumble and broke a coupler on each.  This doesn't happen often so I haven't bothered to install this.  The guard will prevent future damages but cleaning track in the helix will be more difficult.

On November 15th I had a client holiday party and a large number of people here so I had the railroad room open for viewing only.  Everyone had a great time, especially the kids.

The last op session was November 19th and it went really well.  There were 12 of us for the session and everyone seemed to have a good time so I'm happy for that.  Everything ran well, with a couple exceptions.  A few of the turnouts either decided to swap positions (thrown vs closed) or the dispatcher never noticed this in the past.  I also had a few locos that don't like to keep their speed match programming, and choose to have a max speed of about 5 mph.  More work on those to figure what that issue is.  In addition, we two turnouts in Bakersfield that needed work.  SW88 was a lose wire and SW102 needed emergency repairs during the session due to points becoming unsoldered.  All work well now.

I need to make a number of updates to the dispatcher's panel.  There has been some discussion about creating a new panel.  But the more I think about it, it may make sense to simply update the old one.  Nothing has been decided yet.  In any case, the old panel needs to be put onto the new computer and work properly.  It's not transferring to the new computer very easily, which was the reason a new panel was being considered...just start over.

I added 8 slide switches in the Bakersfield engine facility to activate the turnouts there.  I like that the turnouts work.  I just don't like the look of the slide switches.  Operation takes precedence over esthetics.

Dave Waterstreet is working on new panels for the Bakersfield yard throats.  The current control is via rotary switches.  We have a need to move about 6 turnouts in the yard, 3 on each end, to better facilitate switching the AD tracks, as suggested by Joel Morse.  We'll also add several turnouts to the panels for control so Dave volunteered to build the panel.  Installation was scheduled for the end of this month, however, due to everyone having a cold, we decided to put installation back a month or two.  Everything under the railroad in Bakersfield has been removed for that operation and placed in my bedroom!  I guess I just gotta live with boxes of trains in my room for a little longer.  And along with that, I'll be connecting several industry turnouts to be operable too.  So there is a lot of upgrades going on in Bakersfield!  More on the panels in future posts.  Below is the board for the north end of Bakersfield.  There will be a similar one for the south end too.  Lookin' good!

I fixed the locomotive sanding facility as it was falling apart.  Well, I thought I fixed it and it decided to come apart again.  I'll have to try that again!

Also in Bakersfield I installed the engine facility for the San Joaquin Valley Railroad and it looks pretty good.  Just need to start ballasting and getting scenery in there but that's waiting on the turnout redesign, and that is waiting on the yard panels to be finished.  Everything is tied to everything else!  And while I'm working I get a little supervision too!  Must have been break time.

Of course with all this work going on the Bakersfield area was a disaster area!  But in a good way.

Right next door to the engine facility, Mammoth Brewery was in the process of being installed.  Well, at least the foot prints were being planned. And not only that, I glued and wired the track here and just to the right at the Kern Oil facility! Now, this area is just waiting for the new Bakersfield Yard panels for control.

We used to use homemade track warrants.  Early in November I redesigned them and had my printer print them in a pad format.  Much easier to work with and more professional looking.  The key is they fit in a smaller footprint than the homemade ones.

 Oh and I installed several plastic boxes at key areas around the layout for the lumber and pipe loads that go on and off the various cars.  Now we don't have to just leave them on the layout!

Hard to see in the photo to the right, but at Bakersfield there are two throat panels, one on each end.  They had been "temporary" for a couple of years so I managed to tuck the power cords behind the back drop in both areas, hiding the power cord from view.

And the gremlins never cease to show up.  Suddenly there was a short on the Traffic Center loop and after a while trying to find it, discovered there was a loose wire on one of the tortoises.  This has been installed for years with no trouble.  Why now?  Crazy stuff.  To hide these Tortoises from view there is a fascia that has been removed to perform the work. (sorry for the messy desk in the background)

More crazy stuff.  I had another short in the Traffic Center loop and could not figure it out.  About to tear everything out, I started moving trains with my hands and that revealed the issue.  In the photo below you'll notice a white thumb tack in front of the UP loco.  Well that's the marker for the rail gap, which the loco was straddling to wait for the BNSF train that was trying to cross over, but due to the short could not.  Anyway, backing the UP loco past the thumb tack solved the problem!  Big frustrating problem, but fortunately a simple fix!  And just the other day, near this same location, I think I have a failed Tortoise!  First one ever!

Well, off to do more work on the railroad.  Next op session is January 21.  If you want to join, please contact me at

Frank Kenny CPRX Railway

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Progress Made

I was able to work on the railroad for much of the weekend.  First, I had Time Warner installed on Friday, replacing the Frontier FIOS because of WiFi issues.  Why would I expect it to go smoothly!  It was not!  It took about 7 hours of my time to get everything working properly and still one TV is not working.  But that's not for the blog.  I was able to get the WiFi working and it seems to be a lot stronger in the railroad rooms.  An op session will tell the truth.

I also was able to gather all my "To Do" notes and accumulate them into one list on Evernote and sorted them by the location on the railroad.  I think this will help me get these projects completed.

Next, I created the train sheet below that the dispatcher will use to track the trains.  In conjunction with all the train descriptions on separate sheets, the dispatcher should know exactly what is happening on the railroad and be able to better direct movements along with the Clerk.  The image below is not the whole sheet, but part of it.

Next up, this week I'll be in Austin, TX operating on Tommy Holt's Western Pacific Railroad so there won't be much work on the CPRX, other than maybe some work on the computer.

Frank Kenny, Central Pacific Railway, CPRX

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Updates Finally!!! August 2016

Well, like I always say, it's been a while since I last posted.  But then again, I'm not the only one who says that.  Guess we all get behind.

Since the last post in February, not much has happened.  But then again, lots has happened in the last 48 hours!  The op session in March was cancelled due to not enough bodies and then I got busy with work and now it's August!  Crazy how time flies and I haven't done a darn thing!

The end of July 2016 brought railroad guests.  Duncan Cabassi from Australia, Dave Waterstreet from Portland, and Phil Klein from Tuscon (ex Portland) as well as locals Joel Morse, Mark Lestico, Wayne Lawson, Lloyd Leher and Cyrus Nelson.  Together we worked on the railroad and held an op session.  Things went well after the wifi giving out to the dispatcher panel was dealt with.  I was happy with the session.  One of the reasons for having a session, other than Dunan's visit, was to test the new changes to JMRI ops.  Things went well there too and of course there are more changes and I now have a list of things to do on the railroad, including things in JMRI.  Just what I need...another list of things to do!  But that's all good.

A couple days after the guests left, I was off to Atlanta where Mark Bridgwater has moved from Seattle.  With a few other friends, we began to rebuild his layout.  In a week's time we got the whole lower level attached to walls so now Mark can begin to lay track and rebuild many of the modules.  Honestly, I expected we would get both levels up, but things just take a lot longer to do than what I expect.  Mark was happy though!  Keep in mind, this is a railroad that is about the size of two 50' boxcars side by side!  I can't imagine taking on that project.  My railroad is barely a measly 500sqft!

I just returned from Atlanta this past Saturday and promptly started work on my layout!  Below are some pictures and descriptions of what I've been working on.  Everything I'm doing is simply to make things better for the operators.

One of the things that was suggested is to get the turnouts all on the same type of control.  I've been testing with various control systems, so I get it that it's a pain in the ass with multiple options.  Working on it!  The next two photos below show the south end of Bakersfield yard and the north end of the yard, respectively.  The four tracks to the left in the photo below are main tracks, the next three are the A/D tracks.  As you can see, the connect to the main and not the yard lead.  Originally, when the layout was designed, these were to be intermodal tracks.  After installation, I decided to make them A/D tracks.  So, to make things better on both ends of the yard, I am going to redesign the A/D tracks to connect to the yard lead.  In the photo below, that new turnout would need to be just to the left of the second car.  I'll need to redesign the yard control system too and that's the next project.  More on that at the end of this post.

In the photo below, with the exception of the track the box car is on, the next three tracks are mains, and the next three are the A/D tracks that need to be tied into the yard lead on this end.  Same issues as above.

One more project...these two locos were purchased somewhere a while back and had oddball decoders.  So I swapped those out for Digitrax decoders, programmed them, and speed matched the locos.  This is the second set of yard job switchers.  Done!

Thanks to Mike Stoner from Sedona, AZ, I have several hand-made turnouts on the layout.  This one decided to become unsoldered at the points DURING the op session.  So after the session, I slapped it around, soldered the points, and fixed a gauge issue too.  Done!

As mentioned above, the wifi was causing problems.  So to fix it, I purchased new equipment only to find out that with FIOS service, whatever I buy won't solve the problem.  I also found out I need to switch to a different company if I want to use wifi effectively!  Seriously!!!  Ok fine...Time Warner is coming on Friday to install their internet service and I'll dump FIOS.  I am told, with the following 4 pieces of equipment (two photos), my wifi will be killer and no more issues.  I'll believe it when I see it so giving it a try.  This will set me back about 6 discounted locomotives worth!
I need one of these above, and three of these below.

Yet another project...Once upon a time, before the California drought and global warming, I replaced my wood shake roof with a composition roof.  I never considered that once I did that, the temperature in the train room would jump to 90-100 degrees on our sunny California days!  After several years of hotter and hotter weather, I'm doing something about it by installing fans to ventilate the heat and insulation to block the heat.  This will truly be a pain in the ass project!  Primarily for several reasons.  1. The railroad take up the whole room.  2. There is a drop ceiling attached to the roof.  3. The roof itself varies in height, from garage door level to a max height of 16'!  4. I hate heights!!!  So, I need to find a couple guys that will somehow manage to maneuver around the drop ceiling up the the 16' height and install the insulation.  We'll see how this goes!!

Back to railroad operations.  In Atlanta I operated on Diamond River Valley Railroad.  Owner Neil Thomas used some awesome track warrants, below, and I got some ideas from them.

Along the lines of track warrants, I was reading an article in the Ops Sig Dispatcher's Office magazine about track warrants.  Basically, the author said that once a crew has the warrant, there really wasn't any need for the crew to contact the dispatcher until the end of authority.  Yes, I know there may be times there needs to be contact, but ignore that fact for a moment.

So always considering improvements, it got me to thinking, why bother with each crew member having a radio?  Why not install a phone system, perhaps one (or two) phones in each isle that crews could use to contact the dispatcher?  This concept could be tested by just having a radio in each isle for now to see how that works out.  And if it works well, I could install a phone system.

The benefits of this would be, no more fussing with batteries, no more "How do I work this radio?", or "Am I on the right channel?", and no more "How do I carry everything?", and no more headset issues, among other things.

And honestly, I don't think the RR room is big enough to warrant everyone having a headset.

Am I missing a benefit of everyone having a radio and headset?

This leads me to my question for you.  What do you think of this idea?  Eliminate radios and go with a phone system contact method, one in each isle, that would allow crews to contact the dispatcher.  Please let me know your thoughts.

Lastly, I think, in the redesign of Bakersfield yard mentioned at the beginning of the post, I will need to redesign and re-build the control system for the yard.  Well, Dave Waterstreet has an idea with some electronic equipment.  This will make the yard easier to operate and so he's working on that as we speak, thus my fabulous drawings of the yard ends.  More on that redesign in another post.

Ok, well I think that pretty much wraps up this post.  I think I have enough to do for a few days.  LOL.  There was more input and more projects, but I'll save those for future posts just so you guys don't get bored!  Uh...maybe you already are.  Well happy railroading!

Frank Kenny, Central Pacific Railway, CPRX

Saturday, February 27, 2016

First Official Op Session since 2014! Session 02-20-16

Well it came and went. The first operating session since 2014. I can't believe it's been two years. Everything went great with the usual little Murphy things going on. But other than that it was awesome. Here are some photos.  Next session March 19. I plan to operate monthly to keep the momentum.

Friday, January 22, 2016

2 Years Later!

OK so you may or may not know that I have not operated the layout in two years. The last session was I think February 6 of 2014! Without going into boring details, I'm back!

Since this past Thanksgiving I've been working on the railroad, specifically the JMRI operating system. I have spent a considerable amount of time refining how this railroad operates with JMRI and fortunately with the help of one of the designers, Dan. His assistance has been invaluable!

And during this time I have done three shakedown sessions to make sure that things work properly. Yes there are still gremlins, but there is not much that I can do about that until they pop up and I can squash them. That's just part of model railroading.

In addition to working on the operating system, I have had to repair a number of turnouts and replace one more so far. Additionally a few electrical connections have decided to come apart for some strange reason, and I have fixed those.

The next step is to have another shakedown/qualification session on February 6. During this time I will have several of the operators come over and we will run the layout so that they can get used to the new operating system as well as get more familiar with the railroad.

All of this is leading to a more formal operating session on February 20. Even still, during that session I am going to have operators train and rotate on the various jobs on the railroad. I would like everyone to learn and know as much as possible about operating the railroad. I think that makes it more fun for everyone. And it certainly makes it less stressful for me having to train everybody every single time.

Some other things I'll be working on before the operating session is making sure all the track is clean, and that's usually not a problem because the room is very sealed. I also want to get a number of other locomotive speed-matched so that things run a little better together.  I have also cleaned up certain "work spaces" to clear up some of the clutter. And I still need to add about 300 cars to the layout! That's a bigger challenge because they all need to be weighed, have the proper trucks and couplers installed, and have metal wheels and resistors applied to the cars. That is a big project.

Oh I'm sure there's other projects I want to accomplish before the operating session but I'll save that for another post. Enjoy the photos below.

Frank Kenny