Monday, November 22, 2010


After six months of construction, the ROCK came alive Saturday! 

The inagural operating session was a great success!  Operators from three neighboring layouts were in attendance: Larry Keller of the Lehigh & Hudson River Railroad, Marcus Neubacher of the Charleston, Roanoke & Eastern Railroad and David Ward of the Denver, Boulder and Western Railroad.

A Recap of Saturday's Session:
A total of 16 trains were operated. 

The session kicked off with Larry taking XtrFE out of West Davenport Yard.  Larry dropped off some cars at Davenport Yard and headed east crossing the Mississippi River. 

Marcus departed next on the XtrFW out of Burr Oak Yard in Chicago.  He had clear boards until Stockdale where the first three-way meet occurred.  Marcus took the siding.  Steven pulled out on the main with the #12 Peoria Rocket as Larry inched up behind him with the XtrFE. 

Steven pulled ahead with the #12 and Larry followed on restricted signals. Marcus continued to wait for the #6 Quad Cities Rocket engineered by David. Once #6 past, Marcus was able to continue on to Davenport to setoff some cars for the Grain and Peoria locals.

Steven tied up the #12 Peoria Rocket in Chicago on-time followed shortly by Dave on the #6 Quad Cities Rocket as it overtook Larry at Joliet.  All the morning passenger trains successfully completed their initial schedules on time.

Larry began his work in Davenport on the Grain Local.  An hour later, David was assigned to the Peoria Local out of Davenport while Marcus took on the monster Stockdale Local out of Chicago.  All three were busy for quite a while. 

Steven departed Chicago with the midday #13 Peoria Rocket passenger/mail train to Stockdale.  He past Marcus as he began his work on the Stockdale Local in Blue Island.  For the next few hours the locals were busy at work with no interference from first class trains.

At 2:30pm, Steven engineered the #14 Peoria Rocket passenger/mail train back to Chicago passing Marcus who was now working in Joliet.  Larry on the Melon Express followed the Peoria Rocket into Joliet.  There, Larry was held for Marcus departing Joliet to return to Chicago, David on the XtrFW2, Steven on the long XtrFE2, David hot out of Chicago on the #5 Quad Cities Rocket and Marcus on a late departured Peoria Rocket.  The Melon Express quickly earned the name "The Rotten Fruit Express" by crews due to the delays.  Finally, Larry was able to gain access into Chicago to complete his final work and tie up in Burr Oak Yard. Seasoned engineer Marcus was able to make up time on the road shuffling passengers into the train quickly arriving in Stockdale only a minute or two behind schedule. 

Marcus ran the CB&Q local followed by Larry ending the session with the CNW local.

Everyone on the crew ran four trains each of various types.  We did encounter a few problems with a mystery short caused by one older throttle.  The short was so powerful that it caused another radio throttles batteries to explode.  There were some issues with the yard ladder in Davenport, but otherwise everything went well.  I would chock up the event as a success due to the layout only being six months old. 

Most rolling stock and locos ran ok.  Some locos were mismatched (fast locos mixed with slow locos) and a small number of rolling stock issues except for the reefers.  The jury isn't out yet on the reefers.  I wasn't pleased with their operation.  I later discovered that majority of them are out of gauge even though they are equipped with Micro-Trains trucks.  What a disappointment.  Management is deliberating on how to resolve the issue.

So, now that the first operating session is under our belt, where do we go from here?  Progress is expected to continue (most likely not as quick).  I plan on repairing reported track issues from the first session.  Next on my agenda is to install the backdrops and fascia.  Construction of Phase II: Peoria Branch and Phase III: Meredosia Branch have been placed on hold indefinitely.  I want to continue working on Phase I & IV's scenery.  I would like to continue to build up the fleet of cars and locomotives including installing the remaining decoders required.  I would like to acquire the remaining building kits needed and construct them all.  I plan to analyze the data taken from today's operating session to determine future train and operator growth.  Most of all I look forward to a bright future for the ROCK.

Steven Johnson
Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific CEO