Saturday, October 6, 2012

The ROCK at Post #400!

Congratulations to the ROCK's blog reaching 400 posts!  Nearly 2yrs and 5 months later, the ROCK is chugging right along.  I'm quite pleased with the direction of the layout and the progress made so far.  I thought with such a milestone, I would go back and recap some of the top moments and milestones of the layout.  It ended up totaling 50 items!  Better get a cup of joe as this is going to be the mother of all blog posts!  So, without further ado, here's the ROCK's Top 50 Moments!

#1 Construction Begins ~ May 31st, 2010

#2 The Ovalix is Born ~ June 19th, 2010

#3 Subroadbed Work Begins ~ June 19th, 2010
This was a big turning point for me.  Every layout in the past was a flat piece of plywood.  To cut out subroadbed and create a scene was unheard of from me.

#4 First Level Subroadbed Complete ~ July 2nd, 2010

#5 Track Gang Enroute and First Roadbed is Laid ~ July 7th, 2010

#6 The First Locomotive Travels on the ROCK! ~ July 8th, 2010
Rock Island GP40 #367 pulled a train consisting of 3 cars from the Mississippi River (now the Rock River) to the bridge at East Rock Island.

#7 Day 100 in N Scale ~ July 24th, 2010
April 9th, 2010 changed me forever!  I finally broke free from the grip of HO Scale and never looked back!  I officially converted selling off my HO scale assets and began a swift N Scale acquisition plan.  To have a layout rising from the dust in under 100 days including the first test train run was amazing.

#8 Peconic Rebuilt ALCO RS2s arrive on the CRI&P ~ August 14th, 2010
Friend Larry Keller custom painted his old Peconic RS2s for the ROCK!

#9 Construction is Complete ~ November 14th, 2010
The initial design construction was completed.  A test train was run from Rock Island to Chicago.

#10 The First Op Session ~ November 22nd, 2010
Friends Larry Keller, Marcus Neubacher and David Ward were in attendance.  A total of sixteen trains were operated with only a handful of issues.

Larry Keller was the first to operate a train during an operating session.

Stockdale (now Ottawa) immediately became the choke point on the layout.

Joliet Local - Already looking to be a tough one!

#11 The End of the Melon Express ~ December 5th, 2010 
The golden era of moving produce across the rails has come to an end.  After very disappointing service by the reefers and a desire to move up in era to the late 70s, ROCK management decided to annul the Melon Express.  The official announcement below:

The golden era of moving produce across the rails has come to an end.  After numerous complaints of rotten/damaged produce due to excessive delays and derailments, the "melon" industry has dried up.  CRI&P crews did an excellent job moving the freight to the best of their ability, but deferred maintenance and questionable dispatching tactics by management was too much for the Melon Express.  Foreclosure notices were posted by local authorities at Kohr's Cold Storage in Davenport, Johnson Grain & Produce in Rock Island, and the large Markham Produce facility in Stockdale.  Grocery store chains were so disgusted by the poor quality of produce delivered to Chicago Wholesale Foods many canceled their contracts.  Foreclosure proceedings were filed this morning in Chicago.

#12 Completed my First Laser Kit Structure ~ December 29th, 2010

#13 Attempted my first Kitbashing Project - January 12th, 2011
Going against everything I ever knew about constructing a kit, I threw out the instructions and tried to create something on my own.  It turned out well!

#14 Major Real Estate Acquisition from Peconic Realty ~ January 22nd, 2011
The now defunct Peconic Railroad was looking to liquidate some assets and the ROCK was more than happy to step in and take the structures off their hands.

#15 A Diesel Locomotive Photo Op ~ January 29th, 2011

#16 Installed my First N Scale Decoder ~ February 2nd, 2011
While I had installed decoders in my former life as a HO, I was apprehensive installing in N as everything was so small.  With great instruction from mentor Larry Keller, I pulled it off and installed many since.

#17 The Second Op Session ~ February 26th, 2011
Friends Larry Keller, Jeff Lindstrom and Marcus Neubacher were in attendance.  Eighteen trains were operated.

#18 The Tale of Two Sisters ~ March 1st, 2011
Official Historian Jeff Lindstrom dug up some history on the famous feuding Wyza Sisters from Bureau.

Rookie Engineer Jeff took it upon himself to dig up the genealogy on these two.

It was brought to my attention after picking up Buela Mae, that I didn't even know the ladies last name. After some extensive searching at the Bureau Public Library and contacting the Chamber of Commerce in Bureau, I now know the ladies full names.  They are the Wyzas sisters!  Buela Mae is the younger of the two, Maude Ethel is the old lady.

Both Wyzas sisters are long lost relatives of the CEO that live in Bureau, IL.  Bureau is a very small town with only a handful residents and a small general store.  The Wyzas sisters homes are easy to spot; the only two nearly identical homes side-by-side separated by a 8 foot tall privacy fence.   You see, the two sisters can't stand each other.  Legend has it they had a disagreement back in the 1939 over a guy.  There was a big knock down drag out fight between the two.  Since that day, they have refused to talk to each other.  Although they reside in the same small town, you will never find the two out at the same time.  They dislike each other so much that they require separate trains to ride to Chicago.  Aunt Maude typically takes the early scheduled trains for her daily trip into Chicago while Buela Mae takes the latter pair.  The Peoria Rocket is required to make a special reverse move across the wye just to accommodate the bickering sisters.  Crews are reminded not to arrive early back at Bureau.  Aunt Maude takes a smoke on her front porch every day after returning from Chicago.  I don't even want to mention what would happen if she is required to put out her cigarette early!  The last engineer that did that hasn't been seen since!

Crews secretly hope the sisters would pass to avoid the tireless bickering and complaints generated from the two.  Unfortunately the old gals keep kicking as they approach 90s years of age.  

So for the indefinite future, crews will continue to endure the two Wyza sisters from Bureau.

A special thanks to newly appointed Senior Class Engineer Jeff for his dedication and research of the ROCK's heritage!

#19 Blue Sky Backdrops were Added to the Layout ~ March 6th, 2011

#20 First Scenery is Underway ~ April 3rd, 2011

#21 The First Roads were Paved on the Layout ~ April 7th, 2011

#22 Street Running in Blue Island is Formed ~ April 10th, 2011

#23 First Roads were Painted ~ April 18th, 2011

#24 First Sidewalks were Installed ~ April 24th, 2011

#25 Railfanning the Rock ~ First Street Running ~ April 25th, 2011

#26 The ROCK 1st Year Anniversary Tribute Photo Album (130 Photos)

#27 Third Operating Session ~ May 14th, 2011
Friends Larry Keller and Marcus Neubacher join me in bringing the layout alive again.  Operated sixteen trains.

#28 The Re-Alignment of Davenport Yard and Formation of Carrie Ave Shops ~ June 7th, 2011
After the previous Op Session, I wasn't at all impressed by the workings of the locomotive servicing facility.  I then created the Carrie Ave Shops complex.  Although located in St. Louis, they are in Davenport (now Silvis) on my layout as my wife has the same name.  The complex became an industry within itself due to it's size.  Also involved in the project was realignment of the west staging yard.

#29 First Weathering Performed ~ July 9th, 2011
These pictures don't look near as good as many of the hundreds of cars completed since, but it was my first attempt and I was excited.

#30 Major Train Symbol Changes on the ROCK ~ September 12th, 2011
Armed with knowledge form the Rock Island Technical Society (RITS) and a 1972 Freight Symbol Guide, management threw away the old operating scheme and introduced major changes reflecting the prototype more accurately.

Road Freights
XtrFE > #1 - South Chicago, IL to Tucumcari, NM (Southern Pacific connection)
XtrFW > #2 - Tucumcari, NM to South Chicago, IL (Southern Pacific connection)
XtrFE #2 #20 - Houston, TX to Davenport, IA (mix TOFC)
XtrFW #2 #23 - South Chicago, IL to Houston, TX (mix TOFC)
N&W Peoria Local > #92 Peoria to Davenport Freight
N&W Peoria Local > #93 Davenport to Peoria Freight

Blue Island Local > #221 South Chicago to Blue Island Turn
Davenport Yard Job > No longer switches industries in yard. Now handled by #112
Grain Local > Annulled
Peoria Local > #130 Peoria to Bureau Turn
Rock Island Local > #112 Davenport to Bureau Turn (will work all industries including grain)
Stockdale Local > #113 Joliet to Bureau Turn (will work all industries including grain)
#110 Davenport to Blue Island Shorts 
#217 Blue Island to Ottawa Sand Turn as required

Passenger Trains
Peoria Rocket > No change
Peoria Rocket 2nd Section > No Change
Quad Cities Rocket > No change

Other Trains
AT&SF Local > Annulled
CNW Local > #145 Davenport to Clinton Turn (now Rock Island operated)
Extra Coal Train > Annulled

#31 Fourth Op Session ~ September 17th, 2011
Friends Larry Keller and Marcus Neubacher were in attendance.  Sixteen trains were operated.

#32 The Peoria Branch is Born ~ October 16th, 2011
A short lived branchline was born and functioned quite well until the great Operation Nolix plan was commissioned later.

#33 The Prosperity Red Special II Arrives from Peconic Shops in Warwick, NY ~ November 5th, 2011  My friend Larry Keller custom painted quite a few GP7s and SD40-2s for the ROCK!  They look amazing!!

#34 Fifth Op Session ~ November 12th, 2011
Friends Larry Keller, Jeff Lindstrom and Marcus Neubacher were in attendance.  This was the first session to operate under the new train symbols.

#35 Blue Island Revisions Announced ~ December 4th, 2011
Blue Island revisions were announced to change the appearance to be a more urban switching center.  The mainline was doubletracked from Joliet with two crossovers added.  Construction began December 13th.

#36 A non-Traditional Interchange was Created a Blue Island ~ December 21st, 2011
The morning before heading out on a long trip to visit family, I drafted out a basic design for the new track alignment in Blue Island.  I pondered over that drawing over Christmas break.  Upon my return, it was implemented and still in use (and messing up operators) today.

#37 Joliet Tower Taken out by a Tornado ~ January 13th, 2012
Residents reported what sounded like a freight train took out the tower at Joliet.  Some conspiracists reported aliens with a large vacuum sucked the tower right off the map!

#38 Scenery Takes a New Direction ~ January 26th, 2012
Inspired by the classes at the Railroad Model University (RMU) put on by the local NMRA chapter, scenery took on a new direction switching to blue foam insulating board and plaster.

#39 My First Scratchbuilt Structure ~ January 31st, 2012
Still inspired by the RMU, I scratchbuilt a barn at Franklin Farms.

#40 New Scenery is Installed using Foam Board and Plaster ~ February 5th, 2012

#41 First Fascia Boards were Installed ~ February 18th, 2012

#42 Installed the First Road Signs on the Layout ~ March 27th, 2012

#43 Sixth Op Session ~ April 1st, 2012
Friends Todd Arnett, Larry Keller and Marcus Neubacher were in attendance.

#44 Seventh Op Session ~ May 9th, 2012
It was a limited operating session as it was only Larry and myself.

#45 Operation Nolix Idea was Formed ~ May 24th, 2012
After extensive research online of the former ROCK lines on Bing Maps, I decided I need to make my layout more like the prototype.  I formed an idea to eliminate the ovalix between the upper and lower levels extending the layout adding two towns and expanding Ottawa.  This was the most crackheaded idea I had ever had littered with doubts during the destruction progress, but in the end it worked.  A third of the layout was removed and rebuilt.

#46 Destruction Begins on Operation Nolix ~ June 19th, 2012

#47 The Death of the Ovalix - June 21st, 2012

#48 The Re-Construction Begins ~ June 25th, 2012
A plan was formed for the new Bureau Interlocking.

#49 Rock Island Mainline Track Service is Restored ~ July 31st, 2012
Approximately 45 days after destruction began, the mainline was restored.  ROCK Management sighs of relief were heard.

#50 Eighth Op Session ~ September 29th, 2012
Friends Steven Holzheimer, Larry Keller, Jeff Lindstrom and Marcus Neubacher were in attendance.  Eighteen trains and nearly 300 cars operated across the layout.  This was the first op session after the major revision of Operation Nolix.  It was considered a success even though we encountered some locomotive issues.  No problems were encountered with the newly rebuilt section.

Here is the ROCK today...

The ROCK at 400!!!


  1. Very nice trip down memory lane. (RIP, ovalix)

    In #16, can you tell us more about your former life as a HO? Or maybe that's a subject for a different blog . . .

  2. #16 is classified David! It's a forgotten lifestyle. lol