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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