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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