Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Progress Report 03.27.13 - Re-Staging the Layout

This morning I continued working on re-staging the layout.

The derailments encountered last session have been bothering me.  Two suggestions were offered to me by Larry Keller and Allen Heimsoth.  Larry suggested more weight in cars.  Allen suggested checking the flangeways on turnouts where I had hand-painted the rails.  So, that's my next two projects.  Marcus reported he didn't have any issues with derailments.  Most of the sand hoppers are weighted pretty heavy.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Daydreaming - The ROCK v2.0

Today, I found myself daydreaming of the ROCK v2.0.  If I ever rebuilt, what do I like from my current layout that I would want to do again and/or make better?

No, I'm not going to tear down the railroad and start again.  Although, my wife did see me with drawings today.  She gave me the skunk eye asking "are you..."  No!  Just thinking....that's all!

So, I came to the conclusion the parts I like best of the existing layout are the sand operations.  I also love working the yard and running locals.  The through freights and passenger operations are ok, but not a necessity.

So, what would I model?

I would model about a 16 mile section of the ROCK Peru, IL > LaSalle > Utica > Ottawa (and maybe up to Marseilles, IL).

The layout would be housed in a room similar in size to the current layout.  There would be much more distance between towns.  The scenery would be heavily forested with some sections of the Illinois River visible in the foreground.  There would also be a few areas of farmland.  Much of the area surrounding the ROCK in this region is wooded though.

The industries on the layout would be:

Peru Power & Water
Maze Lumber

Westclox (love the large Westclox plant)
Alpha Cement (possibility)
Spiller & Spiller (possibility)

Belrose Silica
Philadelphia Quartz

Ottawa Silica (very large facility)
LOF Glass (large facility)
Wedron Sand (trucks sand to the yard to load in hoppers)
Hartley Oil

The mix of industries would give me a good balance of traffic.  I would model the yard in Ottawa as my main terminal.

Trains/Jobs Operated
#118 LaSalle Local (based out of Ottawa Yard (works Peru to Utica)
#217 Ottawa Sand Local (would switch everything in Ottawa and manage Ottawa yard)
Various run-through trains

In Ottawa, the crew would build up outbound trains to Chicago and Silvis that would be "operated" during the night.  Arrivals from both locations would also arrive during the night hours.

I would design the layout to be double track as the ROCK was originally.  The tracks would be in a loop with a four track staging yard.  Various trains could be run through out the session to throw a wrench in the local crews plans.

I would get rid of the car cards & waybills and use printed switchlists.

I believe it would provide for a few hours of operations with a crew size of 2 to 3 people.  I think it would work out well.

So, just some thoughts.  I figured while I was thinking about it, I would document it on the blog.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Progress Report 03.25.13 - Re-Staging the Layout

This morning, I completed classifying some cars that arrived to Silvis late in the session.  I then began the process of re-staging the layout.  This part is interesting and fun.  I use a random generator in Excel to determine what the pickups and drop-offs will be for the next session.  Next session will see some heavy action with 83 pickups and 70 set outs across the layout.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Operating Session #10 - 03.23.13

Well boys and girls, operating session #10 is in the books.  We ran a total of 14 trains (5 locals, 2 road locals (swapping blocks along the way), 5 freights, 1 passenger and 1 extra unit grain train).

We had four operators in attendance including myself.  One operator was late arriving so I had to make a few changes to the schedule to start.  In the future, I think I need to stick with five operators.  There isn't enough people out on the road with only four operators.  Those trains interrupting local operations is what makes it *really* interesting.

Marcus took the Ottawa Local job.  This job works from 5am until 3pm shuffling sand around from mine to factory.  Larry took control of Kelly Yard at Silvis.  I had wondered if the job would have enough to do.  I have no fears anymore.  Kelly Yard is a busy place on the layout.

The session started at 4:30am.  At 4:30am I departed on train #111 Chicago to Silvis Shorts.  This train is a road local that drops/pick up blocks of cars at Joliet, Ottawa and LaSalle.  The train was powered by two GP18s.  I dropped seven at Joliet and picked up four.  I dropped off five at Ottawa and picked up three.  I picked up two at LaSalle and had a total of 12 when I arrived at Silvis.  I tied up in Silvis at 6:18am taking my power to the shop for servicing.

At 6:25am, I boarded the unit extra grain train to Silvis powered by two SD40-2s.  I was running heavy with 15 cars today.  With no one out on the road and no passenger train this morning (annulled - passengers bussed to Chicago), it was a pretty uneventful trip.  I tied up at Silvis at 7:52am.  I did manage to take some photos of this train as we traveled across the route.

Larry working hard at Silvis.  He was bombarded with inbound freight early in the session.

The next train out was Ben on the #113 Joliet local.  The local was late starting, but Ben did an excellent job running it.  It only works four industries, but does take time to switch.  His train was powered by a single ALCO RS2.  Ben tied up his train at 12:45pm (four fast hours later).

The LaSalle local was called out at 9:30am.  I started the job early at 8:50am in an attempt to keep the freight trains on schedule.  This was my first time running this local.  I must say it was quite a chore!  I asked who designed this?  The guys got a chuckle out of the complaints from the CEO operating his own local train.  They claimed that changes will be made to expedite the local for next time since the CEO operated it.

I started off with light power (two GP7s) out of Silvis up to LaSalle.  Upon arrival, I reviewed my pickups, Chicago bound freight and drop offs required for the day.  I had no work for for the Peru Power Plant today which made things easier.  I worked Westclox picking up some Chicago bound cars.  At the time, I didn't have anything to deliver to them.  I then rode up to Utica.  This is a more complex issue.  I have a facing turnout switch at Belrose Silica and a trailing turnout switch into Philadelphia Quartz (PQ).  There is a run around, but it's within the confines of PQ that is also occupied with sand hoppers.  To perform any other run around maneuver, I would have to go back to LaSalle or up to Ottawa.

I'm required to take all Chicago-bound pickups to Ottawa to drop off (for pickup later by the road local #110 Silvis to Chicago Shorts train).  I picked up the chemical traffic (dry and wet) from PQ and headed to Ottawa.  At the time, I had no chemical cars to deliver.

Marcus operating at Ottawa made for an easy turn around.  I pulled up on the main track, crossed over to the siding to run around my train.  I picked up my block of eight cars or so and dropped about the same number off.

Now, for the hard part.  I now have cars for the chemical track at PQ, but it's a facing switch coming back.  I left part of my train on the mainline, pulled into the PQ plant, ran around my train shoving the sand hoppers out onto the main so I could deliver the dry and wet chemical empties.  I took some of the empty sand hoppers from PQ down to Belrose Silica to swap with loads.  I have found with this job, you will make about six or seven trips in and out of PQ.  I couldn't imagine how stressful this would be dodging passenger and freight trains.

Speaking of such, I believe I'm going to bring back the Peoria Rockets next session.   Shhh...I should probably keep that on the down low or nobody will sign up for the next session.  LOL!

I finally finished my work over in Utica and rode back down to LaSalle.  I tied up my train on the siding so I could run #1.

I departed on #1 Chicago to Tucumcari, NM freight at 10:00am on schedule.  My train was pretty light today and powered by three GP40s.  I passed by Ben working in Joliet.  The train had clear sailing for the entire trip.  The train was held at Rock Island as Silvis was quite busy.  There was cars everywhere!  Train #2 was being assembled and there was no room for #1.  The dispatcher decided to hold the train at Rock Island vs. plugging the yard even more at Silvis.  The train was delayed nearly two hours.

While #1 was tied down in Rock Island, I resumed work on the #118 LaSalle local.  It was in the hole for an hour while I ran #1.  I didn't have much work left as I simply needed to spot two cars at Westclox (trailing switch) and place the remaining pickups from PQ bound for Silvis on the LaSalle storage track.  Once complete, I was instructed to take my power and caboose to Chicago.  I ran light with no issues.

At 12:15pm, I took train #2 Tucumcari to Chicago freight from Silvis.  We were running about thirty minutes late.  We were powered by two SD40-2s.  Once I pulled the train up to Rock Island.  I switched hats and resumed operating #1.  I pulled the train down to the Rock River bridge calling the yardmaster for permission into the yard.  I pulled down to the siding, dropped my power and took it to the shop to have a traction motor replaced.  I went off duty at 1:00pm.

At 2:00pm, Ben took on the Blue Island local.  For a first-time operator, he did really well with the train.  As usual though, the track arrangement did burn him at least once.  His train was powered by the GP7s pair I was using on the LaSalle local.

At 2:30pm, I powered train #43 Chicago to Council Bluffs out of Burr Oak Yard.  The train was powered by two GP7s and a GP38-2 all in the "Boom-Time" blue paint scheme.  Other than meeting Ben working in Blue Island, I had clear sailing to Silvis.  I marked off duty at 3:23pm.

Marcus completed his work at Ottawa at 3:30pm.  He didn't have much rest before being called out on the #112 Rock Island local out of Silvis.  He departed nearly an hour late due to some delays in Silvis plus a crew shortage.  His power today was a sole older GP18 in the red/white stripe paint scheme.

There was a situation in Rock Island when Marcus was shoving his train back into the siding.  A photo was captured below by a local railfan.  The ROCK at its best.  LOL

At 5:30pm, the evening Quad Cities Rocket departed Chicago powered by two FP7As.  The train encountered a three way meet at Bureau.  Marcus had just arrived in Bureau to work, but realized he needed to duck down on to the Peoria Branch due to the scheduled meet between the Quad Cities Rocket and Ben on train #44 Council Bluffs to Chicago freight.

All made it past with no issues, but Marcus encountered issues after everyone cleared out.  His sole GP18 wasn't enough power to shove the cars back off the Peoria Branch out onto the main so he could do his work.  He ended up doubling the train to get it back off the branch line.

Trains #5 Quad Cities Rocket and #44 Chicago bound freight both arrived on time at their respective destinations.

At 7:15pm (about 45m late), Steven took the #111 Silvis to Chicago Shorts train from Kelly Yard.  It's power today was a pair of GP18s.  I picked up three cars at Bureau.  In Ottawa, I picked up five cars and dropped off about the same number.  Wait a minute.  I was just thinking.  I never picked up anything in Joliet!  Good grief!  The CEO screwed up!  There was two cars in Joliet that needed to go to Chicago. bad!

Ben engineered the last train of the day #23 Chicago to Houston freight led by two U25Bs.  He encountered Marcus in Bureau, but managed to get around him ok arriving in Silvis on time.  

It was a good session, but definitely off with the train schedules due to the minimal crew size.  We seemed to be plagued with more derailments this issue in places.  They all occurred at various turnouts. I did notice the other day that it appeared that some of the turnouts in Ottawa actually closed up some.  I'm wondering after ballasting if it created some issues.  It's discouraging when we have derailments.  I will work on adding weight to some cars.  That seems to help a lot.  I also need to check over the slide switch throws to make sure the turnout points are locking tight for each route.

Thanks to Larry, Marcus and Ben for coming out to operate.  

Oh!  In late breaking news, my layout video has made it to the pages of Model Railroader Magazine!!  How exciting!!