Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The ROCK 3.0: Re-visiting Temporary Staging Yard

I was disappointed to realize and receive feedback that having the temporary staging yard cross over in front of the stairs would be too much of an obstruction for operators and family alike.

But, today is a new day!  I had an epiphany this morning.  I thought back to what my wife asked, "Do you really need a yard that long?"  My answer then was yes, but the more I thought about it, no I could do with something much shorter.  So, what about a 4 foot temporary staging yard.  I could mount it to the end of the layout on a hinge.  When not in use, it would drop down and store on the side of the layout.  When time to operate, I flip it up and drop a leg down.  BAM!  Instant staging yard!

At lunch, I went over to Home Depot and picked up a 6" x 4' board and a hinge.  I also picked up a small storage bin organizer for the Tabs.

This evening, I spot checked the 4 foot board.  It will work perfectly as temporary staging.  It's just short enough to fold completely down at the end of the layout.  When extended, it goes just to the edge of the stairs.  As Colonel Hannibal Smith would say "I love it when a plan comes together!"

New Operational Plan:
Ottawa Switcher (OTSW) “The Sand Job”

Start at the yard office at the south end of Ottawa Silica.  Pickup any non-BN outbound traffic from Ottawa Silica and LOF.  Weigh all loaded sand hoppers.  Any cars over 263,000 lbs are over tonnage.  The cars need to be set off per the Plant Manager’s instructions to be reduced.  Once all pickups have been made and cars have been weighed (and reduced as required), deliver to Ottawa Yard.  Pickup and deliver any cars for Ottawa Silica and LOF.  At the end of the day, check with the Yardmaster to see if your locomotives are due for maintenance.

Note: Ottawa Silica Bagged Sand Loading and LOF Glass Loading tracks may not be worked while blue flags are present. At no time should a crew block the crossing at Ottawa Avenue for more than 15 minutes due to local regulations. Be aware the BN local will also work Ottawa Silica during the day.  All crews are required to work together to complete the job.

Utica Switcher (UTSW) "The Chemical Job"
Start in LaSalle Yard.  Build your train for deliveries to the local industries.  Deliver any cars to industries in LaSalle and Utica as designated by the Tab marking.  Pickup any non-local cars.  Weigh all loaded sand hoppers.  Any cars over 263,000 lbs are over tonnage.  The cars need to be set off per the Plant Manager’s instructions to be reduced.  Once all cars have been picked up and/or delivered, weighed, and reduced if required, return to LaSalle Yard.

Classify the outbound blocks of cars into two pickups:
·         Westbound including Peoria, Silvis and Council Bluffs cars.
·         Eastbound including Ottawa and Blue Island cars.

Note: Westclox tracks may not be worked while blue flags are present.

Bureau Switcher (BUSW) "The Rocket"
Train arrives at LaSalle Yard on the main from the west and backs into the yard.  Set off any LaSalle cars. Pickup any Ottawa and Blue Island cars.  At Ottawa, set off any Ottawa or Blue Island cars.  Return west with any cars for LaSalle, Peoria, Council Bluffs or Silvis.

Joliet Local
Arrives during the night at Ottawa Yard to pick up any Blue Island cars.  Sets off cars for Ottawa and LaSalle.

Ottawa Yardmaster
Each morning, you will receive a request sheet for empty cars from Ottawa Silica.  Assign tabs to the empty Ottawa Agent cars per the request.  Gather up the cars for the Ottawa Switcher.  The local will pull the loads first and deliver to the yard.  The local will then deliver the empty requests gathered by the YM earlier.

The YM will then classify the cars received in from the Joliet Local and Ottawa Local during the previous shift.  Majority of the cars will go outbound on the Bureau Switcher (BUSW) later in the morning.  Reference the car routing diagram below to block cars by destination.  Any cars marked with a white tab  but no letters are empty Ottawa Agent cars to be used upon the next industry request.  

Burlington Northern Local
The Ottawa YM at his leisure, can operate the BN local from North Ottawa.  Check with the Ottawa Yardmaster to see if you need to pick up or setoff any cars at Ottawa Yard.  Head south into the plant working with the Ottawa Local to deliver your cars.  Pick up any BN cars and return to North Ottawa.

Monday, July 28, 2014

The ROCK 3.0: Tab-on-Car Car Forwarding System

The other day, I mentioned the Tab-on-Car Forwarding system that I read about on OpSig.  I had mentioned that operating wise, I really enjoyed running the yard at my friend Larry's Lehigh & Hudson River Railroad layout that uses a Tab-on-Car system, but with Avery labels.  I performed a small scale test on the layout which was very pleasing to operate.

I pondered the idea some more and came up with a color operating scheme.  I then worked on crew instructions for the Tab-on-Car Forwarding method.  I created the tabs, which surprisingly enough, didn't take much effort or time.

This weekend, I worked on painting some c-channel styrene strips.  I then cut them into 1 cm lengths and decaled all the local Ottawa (white) and Gray (LaSalle) local industry tabs.  The others will simply be color coded with no text.

I will try the tab-on-car method the next session to see how it works.  I predict crews will like this method better, but time will tell.  I will report my findings.

Some sample pieces I cut up and labeled last week.
White indicates Ottawa Terminal and OS4 indicates Ottawa Silica Track 4.
The tabs are cut 5 scale feet or roughly 1 cm long.

A sample tab on a random freight car.

I used black on clear 1/4" labels (trimmed down) using a Brother Label maker.

I spray painted 3/16" C-Channel Evergreen #266 14" Styrene Strips various colors.
Green - Burlington Northern
Black - Peoria
Orange - Silvis
Blue - Blue Island
Yellow - Council Bluffs
Gray - LaSalle
White - Ottawa

As you can see, nice contrasting colors for my colorblind self.

I used 1/4" Black on Clear Label Tape (Brother Label Maker) set to 3 mm font to print the lettering on the tabs.

Some tabs on sand hoppers at Ottawa Silica.

Looking down on the tracks at Ottawa Silica. 

All of these cars will stay on the respective tracks.

I don't find them distracting at all.

The bagged sand loading tracks.  Six of these cars will be pulled.

A cut of Ottawa Agent cars that are ready for service when the industry requests them.
You also see the void of track where the crossover between tracks 4 and 5 (Arrival / Departure) tracks at Ottawa Yard.  

A N&W Hopper loaded with sand bound for Peoria to interchange with the Norfolk & Western. 

Sunday, July 27, 2014

The ROCK 3.0: Temporary Staging Cassette

So, I have been contemplating a temporary staging cassette for a little while now.  My friend Steve offered for me to test using his.  It seems to work ok, but there are a few concerns.

His staging cassette was constructed in two pieces and then mounted to the wall.  I had a hard time keeping the sections secure with the five tracks aligned in place while floating over open air.

The staging cassette creates a 45" duck under when coming up the stairs.  I didn't find any issue with it personally, but some of our taller operators might not like it.

Here are photos of the test mock up from Saturday.

Steve's staging cassette in two pieces.

Looking east at LaSalle.  Original track configuration.

Proposed new alignment if staging cassette used.

Temporary Staging Yard Cassette in place across the top of the stairs.

A view from LaSalle looking west to the new yard.

From the other end looking back toward the layout room.

An overall view of the temporary staging yard and connection with the layout.

A view from Utica looking west.

 Another possible solution would be angle the staging yard toward the open doorway to lower the duck under height as the operator is still climbing the stairs.

I added on to the layout at LaSalle to make way to couple a temporary staging cassette.

I'm not sure if I will use Steve's staging cassette or not.
I was considering constructing one solid 6 inch by 8 foot temporary staging cassette.

What is everyone's thoughts on the project?  Would you think the duck under would be an issue?
The operational possibilities of adding the yard would be great.  Now, just to figure out the logistics of installing the temporary staging yard and how it would affect operators and other family members during op sessions.

The ROCK 3.0: The Peoria Rocket Returns - Bankruptcy Blue Returns to the Layout

I'm working on adding staging west of LaSalle.  This will give me more operating freedom to bring back a passenger train.  I'm happy to report that the Peoria Rocket will be riding the rails on my layout again.  I considered modeling the Quad Cities Rocket, but that train is scheduled to go through my area before and after I start/end my operating day.

I have always liked the silver side passenger cars and wanted to run them, but the ones manufactured by Walthers are horrible.  They derail going straight!  I decided to go with a Kato Chicago, Burlington & Quincy set and re-letter for the Rock Island.  The cars arrived yesterday and they perform quite well!

The Peoria Rocket will be led by a custom paint Kato E8 unit in the red/yellow Billboard Logo paint scheme.  It will pull two coaches #306 Ottawa, #300 LaSalle plus the #450 Peoria dome car.  It will be exciting to see passengers headed to and from Chicago again.  I'm sure the crews will start complaining about those darn passenger trains again.  :-)

On the original version of my layout, I had a pair of Life-Like GP38-2s.  They were demon possessed and didn't work well. They sat parked more than they ever ran.  I used them to stage some photos in the Day on the Rock photo series a long time ago.  I got rid of them a while back because they were so troublesome.  

I'm happy to report that the locomotives have returned to the layout.  Life-Like version again?  Heck no!  Atlas GP38-2s!  Now, one of my own and one lease unit from a friend.  I will replace the lease unit with a Bankruptcy ("Boom Time") Blue GP40 when Atlas releases them later this year (hoping Atlas stays on schedule).  I really like the paint scheme and am happy for their return.  I got the decoders installed Friday and tested.  Here are some photos.

The "Boom Time" Blue locomotives pulling a cut of loaded hoppers from Ottawa Silica.

The RI #4304 Leased to the Rock: Illinois Division.

The locomotives pulling across Ottawa Ave.
Is that a red bug I see?

My new #4303 GP38-2 crossing Mill Street in Utica.

A favorite car of mine - the GM&O 40' Box Car custom weathered by Allen Heimsoth.

Friday, July 18, 2014

The ROCK 3.0: Progress Report 07.18.14

It's been a while.  I haven't stepped foot in the layout room much less done any work in quite some time.  This evening, I worked on a few things.

1) Worked on a turnout for the crossover at the east end of Ottawa Yard.

2) Dug out a barn I purchased at the Old Capital Building in Iowa City.  It's actually a pencil sharpener.  It seemed to be a good size for N Scale and the price was right ($3.50).  I think it will work with a little paint.

3) I came across a thought provoking article on OpSig recently regarding Tab-on-Car Forwarding System.  It was written by Mark Dance.  I have only operated on one layout that uses this form of the Tab-on-Car practice (my friend Larry's Lehigh & Hudson River).  Currently, he uses Avery sticker labels for identification.  I have worked Warwick Yard a LOT on his layout and thoroughly enjoy the job.  When asked for volunteers, everyone else takes a step back and I'm like Horshack, OOH OOH PICK ME!  PICK ME!  I have also worked other yards including my own.  I must say the easiest and most enjoyable time I have experienced was working Warwick with the Tab-on-Car system.  Although not a fan of the stickers per se, I do like the methodology.  Many people find the Tab-on-Car method to be distracting and take away from the realism of the model trains.  I'm more about performance and overall operations than counting rivets on freight cars or super detailing.  I would take more notice of a car's poor performance than a tab on top.  When operating at Larry's, I see the overall train and don't focus as much on the tabs.

Anywho, I watched Mark's video and thoroughly enjoyed it.  I thought I would share it here.  It's something I'm just pondering now, but would open up some operational opportunities for me.  I'll discuss those in more detail later.

This evening, I created a small scale test using labels.  I created some demand from the industries and the yardmaster (me) selected from a pool of cars available to send out on the local for delivery.  I added the decal to the cars for which the local will then deliver.  It made switching out the cars much easier to visually see where they go by color (yes, I'm colorblind - go ahead....start with the, than having to reference a switchlist.  It's hard for one person to control the throttle, read and handle the paperwork, and keep everything straight while other things are going on in the room.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The ROCK 3.0: Miscellaneous Railfanning in the Midwest

While on vacation a few weeks ago, we crossed numerous railroad sites that I could photograph and explore.  Here is what we came across on our journey.  Note: this is a very long blog post!

Meredosia, Illinois
This is my wife's hometown.  It is a small town of about 1100 people located on the banks of the Illinois River about an hour west of Springfield, Illinois.  It has some rich railroad history, but has now dried up for the most part except for a local that runs up out of Bluffs, IL (from the Norfolk Southern Mainline Chicago to Kansas City) to service a handful of industries on the south side of town.

Ex-Wabash Railroad Depot in town.  The line crossed the Illinois River here and was the last place running Steam Locomotives on the Wabash for many years. 

The rail bridge in Meredosia was constructed too light to handle a locomotive.  The Wabash kept a few small 2-6-0 Steam locomotives to make the run from Meredosia to Quincy.  The last train crossed the bridge in Meredosia in January 28th, 1955.

Around the same time, the Wabash upgraded the mainline from Springfield to Valley City and over to Hannibal.  Curves were straightened, grades were cut down and heavier rail was installed.  A new lift bridge was installed at Valley City in 1959.  The Meredosia bridge crossing the Illinois River was dismantled shortly afterward.

In 1838, the Northern Cross Railroad was the first railroad to operate in Illinois, originating in Meredosia.  It eventually extended both east and west to the state borders.  

One of the more fascinating early industries, was the Meredosia Button Factory.  They stamped buttons out of clam shells dug up from the Illinois River.  We have a basket full of these in our living room that were dug up in my in-law's backyard.  The plant operated from 1926 to 1948.  Once buttons were stamped out, the remaining portion was just used as backfill throughout the community.

Bluffs, Illinois
Small town about 40 minutes west of Springfield, Illinois on the Norfolk Southern Mainline to Kansas City.

Local power for the Meredosia Local

Caboose on the Meredosia Local in Bluffs, IL

Former Norfolk & Western 40' Box Car - Used for Storage - Bluffs, Illinois 

Old Grain Elevator - Bluffs, Illinois

An eastbound freight stopped in Bluffs before heading up the bluff toward Jacksonville and on to Springfield, Illinois.

Naples, Illinois

Consolidated Grain & Barge Elevator - Naples, Illinois

It's beautiful scenery out west.  I love stopping to take photos along the way.

Valley City, Illinois
Here the Norfolk Southern mainline to Kansas City crosses the Illinois River.

Railroad Lift Bridge over the Illinois River

Switch Heater for Derail before the bridge.

A side view of the Bridge from I-72.

Griggsville, Illinois
Continuing west on the Norfolk Southern Mainline.  This is the next town you come to after crossing the Illinois River.  United Feeds Grain has a large elevator here, but it is hard to photograph due to the sun angle.

Hannibal, Missouri
Continuing west on the Norfolk Southern main, it crosses the Mississippi River at Hannibal, Missouri.

The Norfolk Southern mainline across the Mississippi River via a lift bridge.

My wife's grandfather painted this bridge when he worked as a Bridge Painter for the Norfolk & Western Railway back in the 1970s. 

As you can see the water is really high.  The river is at flood stage.

Here is a view of the bridge at track level.  Once it crosses the Mississippi River, the line crosses the North-South Burlington Northern line and goes into a tunnel making a sharp turn to the south where the tracks run parallel to the BN tracks for a short bit before heading west.

The Burlington Northern / Norfolk Southern Crossing.

The Norfolk Southern tunnel that goes into the bluff and makes a sharp left turn heading south.

A view from the tunnel.

The water is coming in under the Burlington Northern mainline.

The Flood Walls have been installed.  Water is seeping in underneath.

A view from the levee looking South.

A view from the levee looking north.  These are Burlington Northern's tracks here.

The water seepage under the flood wall.

West Quincy, MO
Departing the Norfolk Southern Chicago to Kansas City mainline, we move north up to Quincy, Illinois which is also located along the Mississippi River.  Burlington Northern Santa Fe has a small yard here that also serves as a crew change point.  The line from Kansas City splits in Central Missouri.  Both lines reconnect in Galesburg, Illinois and on to Chicago.

Amtrak's Illinois Zephyr and Carl Sandburg trains from Chicago to Quincy terminate here.  I have seen it on occasion either sitting in the yard or turning on the wye just north of the highway crossing out of Quincy, Illinois.

There is a BN line that splits off in West Quincy and heads up to Keokuk and Fort Madison, Iowa following the Mississippi River.  The line also travels south to St. Louis along the river.

Canton, Missouri
The line travels through Canton, Missouri where my wife's aunt and uncle live.  Here are some photos of the line here.  It was closed due to flooding when we visited.

The Burlington Northern Mainline from St. Louis - West Quincy to Keokuk - Fort Madison, IA
As you can see the Mississippi River is in flood stage.

This was a beautiful park that overlooks Lock & Dam #20 that I took my kids to last September, but now under water.

The Ex-Burlington Quincy, Missouri Passenger Station

The flood wall has been installed.

Looking back north over to where I took the first photo by the park.

Dubuque, Iowa
Moving further up the Mississippi River, we found ourselves in Dubuque, Iowa.  When rolling into town from the Illinois side, we found a small yard in East Dubuque, Illinois.  I photographed the train and light power there, but before we left, we photographed a westbound traveling through as it made a turn to run north up along the river following the western edge of Wisconsin into Minnesota and points west.

Westbound train sitting in yard waiting to head Northwest up to Minnesota and further west.

In Dubuque, Iowa, we checked out Eagle Point Park that provides a great overlook of the Mississippi River, Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin.  Very nice!  On our way back into town off the bluff, my wife spotted some locomotives to the west of us.  She directed me down to the Dakota, Minnesota and Eastern (DM&E) Railroad (a subsidiary of the Canadian Pacific Railroad) yard in Dubuque.

A southbound sitting in the yard.

While in Dubuque, we explored at the Mississippi River Museum which is at Dubuque Junction (junction between the DM&E and Chicago Central Railroad) which is also the old Burlington Station and Freight house.  

At the back of the museum was the old William M. Black dredge steam boat.  We explored it and was able to snap a photo of a returning DM&E local at Dubuque Junction in front of the Mississippi River Museum.

Rochelle, Illinois
After our trip on the former Rock Island territory, we headed up north to Rochelle, IL and into Wisconsin before spending the night in Rockford, Illinois.  We stopped in at the Rochelle Railroad Park, but unfortunately no trains were present or lined up coming soon.  My plan was just to make a brief appearance here and hope for the best for a train.  It was a Monday so I'm guessing operations were a little slower than it would have been later in the week.  I met some nice guys from Wisconsin that had been watching trains since sunrise.  I believe they were up to 24 by around 2:30pm or so.  It is a nice park to catch some serious action.  Too bad we couldn't stay longer to hang out.

Elizabeth, Illinois
The following day, we traveled west to visit Elizabeth, Illinois which is now part of the Chicago Central Railroad which runs from Chicago west and splits to Sioux City, Iowa and Omaha, Nebraska.  This line was the former Milwaukee Road line as well.  We wanted to visit this small town in honor of my daughter Elizabeth.

Galena, Illinois
We continued west toward Dubuque and came across a really neat old historic town named Galena, Illinois.  The Chicago Central travels through here as well.  This town is full of Civil War History and will definitely top our list to return soon to explore further.

Historical Information found at Ulysses S. Grant's Home in Galena, Illinois.

Looking east on the Chicago Central at Galena, Illinois

The station at Galena, Illinois

Looking west on the Chicago Central at Galena, Illinois

Amtrak will be returning service to this region with the new Black Hawk train.  It will transport passengers from Chicago to Dubuque, IA via Rockford, IL.  It's expected to begin in 2015.  Amtrak originally ran service here between 1974 and 1981.  

It was pretty neat to come across this jewel.  Neither my wife nor I have explored this part of Illinois.  It is some beautiful countryside with nice large rolling hills and vistas where you can see for miles!  

Pawnee, Illinois
On the way back home to North Carolina, we stopped to photograph an eastbound BNSF coal train approaching Pawnee, Illinois.  

Litchfield, Illiniois
On our way home, we also made a quick stop in Litchfield, Illinois assuming this locomotive was parked where I had seen it once before.  Here is the Illini Terminal Locomotive of Respondek Railroad Corp.

This ended our railroad adventures on this 12 day trip across the Midwest.  My original intentions was to only explore the Rock Island lines near where I modeled, but happily gained the opportunity to see so much more.  It was a really great trip that I will remember for some time.  I really look forward to one day when my wife and I can just hit the road and explore America seeing whatever we might come across.   No schedule, no agenda, just whatever strikes our interest.