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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


  1. Hi Frank good to see you back at it. I had the pleasure of visiting Marks layout in Seattle in 2005 and really enjoyed it. I have also known Duncan for many years alas he lives 2000 km away from me. We are using (or did use) headsets and radios on my SFRSD and they worked out very well. We also use them on other layouts. We thought that the wiring, cost to purchase and install phones was too great. We were also concerned that the local crew would not see any lights (in the local panels) from the dispatcher if he needed them tom call in. Just some thoughts.

  2. Hi Frank.

    As Rod mentioned, we used radios on his layout and they're very successful (as long as the Dispatcher stays focused on his job.) However, I think that if the timetable and train orders are properly organised there should be minimal (if any) need for a person to act as a 'real-time' Dispatcher. I don't use one in my ops sessions simply because he would have almost nothing to do.

    If you decide to implement a radio or telephone system then you might like to see how Brendan Dennis did it on his former layout, using radios coupled with inexpensive handsets to build a telephone system:

    The phones were installed around the layout to simulate the trackside phones used by real railroads up until the '60s, '70s, (whenever). This system seemed more 'railroady' to me than carrying a radio around.

    Re the WiFi - can't you just get a cheap wireless router to provide a dedicated wifi network for the layout? I'm using an old ADSL modem with wifi ("G") as a dedicated wifi/wireless router.


  3. Hi Rod and Ron. Thank you for your comments! We've used radios for a while and truthfully I love listening to the chatter and it keeps me up on what is going on out on the RR. However, there are the hassles as mentioned. I posted that question to the crew and 99% replied they were not necessary and a hassle. Therefore, I'm probably going to retire them soon. As for the wifi, well that's been an issue for a while. Also Verizon sold out to Frontier and the quality has gone. In finding out how to fix it, I'm told by several sources that because of the proprietary nature of the service, there isn't anything I can do but change to another company. They come tomorrow to install. I picked up the hardware today. I have issues around the house, not only with the RR. I can be right in front of the thing and still get no connection! I can deal with that but when it disrupts op sessions, I draw the line. The last session, the wifi was working fine all day while testing the RR, but when the op session started, it checked out and we could not get it going. That was the last straw! Thanks for your interest! Hope all is well down under!! ;-)

    1. Frank, I'm still a bit puzzled by your problems with "WiFi". Are you referring to wireless broadband (ie a wireless internet/broadband connection to your house, which is not actually "WiFi"), or wireless LAN around the house (which IS WiFi)?

      In any case, a wireless router will set up a new wireless (WiFi) network which is totally independent of anything else you have running. I have an old Wireless "G" router connected to my train-room PC via an ethernet cable, and my PC is connected to the DCC system using a Locobuffer-USB interface. The wiThrottle network is totally separate from my broadband service (and the equipment that came with it.)