Thursday, April 25, 2013

Rock Island v.2.0 - Session with Corporate Therapist

So, this evening riding home, I enter into a conversation with the Rock's corporate psychologist (i.e. my wife). She was reviewing my blog post yesterday regarding the ROCK v2.0.  Halfway through reading it, she comes to the conclusion that I simply like to build layouts.  I responded that was crazy talk!  I must have denied this ten times.  She was adamant in her diagnosis.  She responded "You see that the layout is nearing completion and have nothing left to build.  You like to build.  You will build the ROCK 2.0 and then be unhappy and rebuild again."  She then hit me with a question.  "So, how many layouts have you built?"  I started thinking....4...but really just 3.

  • The ICNW - Illinois Central / Chicago & Northwestern urban switching layout in HO scale
  • a Rebuild of the ICNW in a smaller shelf built layout in HO scale 
  • The MC Junction layout (a fictional shortline railroad in Meredosia, IL) in HO scale (never got very far)
  • The Rock Island: Illinois Division in N Scale.  This was the first fully successful layout.  
So, not too bad considering I'm nearly 40.  

She responds what about the layout in your parents garage?   oh....

Well, I need to confess something about that layout.  .  Well, the layout in my parents garage must have been changed / rebuilt 20 times (maybe not that many, but at least 10+ times).  Of course, I would chock that up to my inexperience and experimentation of the hobby.  Funny thing, I had a Tyco Rock Island locomotive back then too.  I just remembered that.  

My wife just smiles.  I still proclaim that I'm on a quest to model the ROCK prototypically.  

Corporate deliberations are still continuing over the fate of v.1.0.  Maybe CNN will setup camp in the front yard providing live updates of the events.  LOL!  

While the corporate psychologist was previewing tonight's blog post, she stated there have been numerous revisions to the four layouts I have constructed in the past.  The ROCK has had many additions or major changes as well!  

My response....."ohhhhhh.....I wasn't counting revisions.....that's a whole nother story."  LOL!

Sounds like this is going to be tough debate.  I cast my vote for the ROCK v.2.0!!  

Rock Island v.2.0 - Post #500!! - Ottawa Silica Sand Processing

Can you believe it?  We made it to post #500 on the blog!  Pretty exciting!

Here are some notes I took from the book "The Silica Sands of Ottawa".  Hopefully this will give you a better understanding of how the sand is processed.

Ottawa Silica has no need for mechanical crushers.  Each dynamite blast disintegrates the quarry’s sandstone into free-flowing banks of silica composed of thousands of tons of separate grains, just as the sand used to be, in its original state.  Any few remaining boulders are broken up by secondary blasting.    

After the initial blasting of the quarry face, jets of water under pressure stab into the banks of sand.  This does three things: it breaks up the few consolidated chunks of rock not completely disintegrated by the explosion, it gives the sand the first of many washings, and it forces the sand into a sump pit where it gets another cleansing. 

From here, powerful rubber-lined rotary pumps pipeline the sand to the main pumping station at the base of the refinery.  Here the sand is washed again.  In addition to the primary washings, the sand has been scoured and polished in the pumps and pipelines.  The sand is then moved into a large main washing plant.  A second washing is administered as the sand is discharged into a sump and is pumped into great draining bins.  Here is where the final washing takes place.  The sand is then left to drain. 

The sand is then conveyed from the drain bins to steam coil dryers by an overhead crane with a clam-shell bucket.  The steam and vapors from the drying sand pass off through the spaces between the pipes and baffles of the dryers and are vented out.  The sand works its way between the pipes, dropping below onto a continuous conveyor belt.  It is transported to the end of the building and elevated up and conveyed to the top of the refinery to the distribution screens. 

Ottawa Silica Sand is not ground to size for the hundreds of uses to which it is put.  It is screened to size, thus preserving the quality of the naturally rounded grains.  The grains are screened and graded by electrically vibrated screens with various sized meshes.  The vibrating machines comprise most of the mechanical equipment in the refinery.  It is elaborate, expensive equipment.  Each grain vibrates along the screen until it finds its particular mesh, and drops through into bins below.  Using this method a greater variety of grades is achieved and with flawless accuracy.

In summary, sand is washed, re-washed, scoured, polished, screened and then vacuumed. The sand is then shipped via rail using 2 and 3-bay covered hoppers.

Ground Silica Mill
No grinding is performed to effect sizing of grains.  Grinding is only done in the manufacturer of powdered silica.  It is ground to the fineness of confectionery sugar. 

Originally, the sand was ground with imported beach pebble from Danish and French coastal beaches.  Today, the grinding mill uses high-density aluminum-oxide balls to the grind the sand.  Although they are much more expensive than the imported pebbles, the new aluminum medium lasts longer, and does an even better job at grinding.

The powder product is stored in bins and bagged for market.

Some Uses of Silica Sand
·         Glass
·         Tableware
·         Sand-formed-and polished silver
·         Wall and ceiling plaster
·         Composition floors
·         Hand-washing products
·         Concrete
·         The safety in Safety Matches
·         Oil well fracturing
·         Furnace lining
·         Composition siding
·         Silicate of soda
·         Filter sand
·         Concrete improvements

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Rock Island v.2.0 - Silica Dreams (cont'd)

It's been a while since we have talked.  So Steven, what's up with the ROCK?

Well, nothing major has been completed on the layout since the last operating session.  Earlier this week I did complete the weight project where we added up to a 1/2oz of weight to nearly every car on the railroad.

The layout is staged in preparation for the op session next weekend.  Starting Saturday or so, I will start cleaning locomotive wheels and track.  I'm looking forward to operating with good friends.

We have heard numerous rumors about a ROCK v2.0?  The rumor mill seems to have intensified over the last few weeks.  Do you care to comment on this?

I can not deny the rumors surrounding the ROCK v.2.0.  It started off innocently enough with an article on Ottawa Silica operations provided by Steve Holzheimer.  Upon reading the article, I found myself hungry for more information.  Hours upon hours of extensive research was performed.  The idea of modeling the 16-mile stretch between Peru and Ottawa, IL seemed plausible as well as intoxicating!!  It's a very interesting section of railroad full of industry and operational interest.  The fact that the layout would actually represent the ROCK is very appealing.  The current layout was designed first with research on the ROCK second.  There is no discernible feature on the layout today that screams the ROCK.  I'm also very interested in not only operations, but the modeling aspect of trying to re-create the scenes as close to the prototype as possible.

What research have you done on the prototype?

I have found Bing Maps to be a great source of information for track arrangements and structures.  Some might think that most of these buildings are gone, but on the contrary much of the ROCK is still present even 30+ years later.  I have also found numerous magazine articles and forum posts on operations in the area.  I have compiled all my notes, drawings and plans into a bound notebook.

To fuel the need for information, just today, I received an out of print book from the sixties outlining operations at the Ottawa Silica mine.  It includes numerous photos as well as a history of the operations.  I have been searching for some time for just this information.

If you decide to build the ROCK v.2.0, what is your plan?

If a decision was to come down from the corporate office in the near future, operating session #11 on v.1.0 would be the last.  The layout would be disassembled preserving as much track and scenery items as possible.  Approximately 50-75 cars would be sold off as well as 6-8 locomotives.  Numerous structures would be sold as well.

I would estimate it would take roughly six months to tear down the existing layout and build back up to the basic benchwork with track and wiring.  I would schedule my first op session to be right before Thanksgiving 2013.

Wow!  That's a quick turnaround.  Do you think you can meet those goals?

Absolutely!  The first layout was constructed in the same time frame.  There is no overly complicated benchwork involved in v.2.0.  Only the slightest of grades will be added to the mainline for added interest in train handling.

Do you have any plans drawn for the future layout?

Below are some plans that were previously released as well as a third plan outlining a possible Peru-LaSalle arrangement.

Very nice!  What about operations?

I would convert from a Car Card and Waybill system to using Switchlists.  Crews on the Ottawa Local would be responsible for weighing all loads out of Ottawa Silica using an electronic scale track provided by Boulder Creek Engineering.

The layout has a potential of operating anywhere from 1 to 5 people.  Jobs could be run during solo operations or all-at-once.  Possible jobs on the layout could include: #217 Ottawa Local (1-2 man job), #118 LaSalle Local, Ottawa Yardmaster, CB&Q Local (being considered) and Dispatcher.

Have you tested some of your operational plans?

Yes!  Just recently, I took the sample switchlists I created and followed the moves on the drawings I made.  These jobs will be quite busy.  At first, I thought the Ottawa Local would be easier as it has less distance to cover.  Wrong!  In my test scenario, I found it to be quite complex.

For example, I was to pull 10 loads from the north end of the plant.  Five were being delivered to LOF, five to Ottawa Yard for destinations elsewhere.  To simulate the random weights generated by Boulder Creek Engineering's scale, I created a formula in Excel to generate random weights between 250,000 and 270,000 lbs.  The sand hoppers max gross weight is 263,000 lbs.  Not to leave cars strewn all over the plan, I only pulled the five cars for LOF at first.  I had a loaded box car of bagged sand that I picked up earlier as a buffer car.  I shoved the five cars onto the scale.  3 of the 5 were overweight.  Sadness!  I marked those on my switchlist and set them off on a track behind the sorting building.  I notified the plant manager and continued with my work.  Since  I had other cars to set off at LOF, I decided to perform that work while I waited for the three cars to be reduced.

I performed my work at LOF along with picking up seven empty sand hoppers for the (Ottawa Silica) mine.  Traveled back up to Ottawa Silica, spotted the empties on the south end of the plant in Track 2.

I went back up to the north end of the plant, picked up the five cars destined for points beyond Ottawa Yard as well as the three hoppers reduced by plant workers.  I weighed the 8 cars.  The three previously over tonnage were all fine now.  I did have one more over tonnage.  That car had to be set off to be reduced.  Wow!  Another one!  Contacted the plant and continued with my work...

Steven?  Steven?  

Sorry, I got a little excited talking about the operational potential of these jobs.  In summary, numerous trips were made between the Ottawa Silica plant and LOF before the job returned to Ottawa Yard for classification.  Both jobs are very involved.  It's not that I made them artificially overcomplicated.  It's simply modeling the prototype!  It's a wonder the ROCK ever made money.  Oh wait, never mind.

So, Steven, when can we expect the big announcement?

I'm still pondering the idea.  It would be an extremely large undertaking to dismantle the layout and rebuild.  The question is just how bad do I want to really model the ROCK.  Stay tuned for an official announcement.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Rock Island v.2.0 - Scale Operations + Weight Project

I was thinking more about scale operations the other day.  I remembered a friend had installed the electronic scale by Boulder Creek Engineering.  On his layout, he used it for weighing loaded coal trains while in motion.

So, I researched it some more.  This would be perfect for the ROCK at Ottawa Silica.  The gross weight on these hoppers are 263,000 lbs.  I could set the range on the Boulder Creek Engineer scale to display a range from 240,000 to 270,000 lbs.  Majority of the cars would fall under the max gross weight of 263,000, but occasionally (at random) one would display a weight above.  The crew would record the weights as the car is stopped on the scale (only one at a time vs weigh in motion).  Once the bell sounds, they can move the next car onto the scale.  At no point can the locomotive be on the scale so they would require a buffer car when weighing a cut of hoppers.  If the car is over tonnage, they will have to indicate that on their switch list, contact the Ottawa Silica plant manager and set the car off to have some of the load reduced.  Typically, they reduced the load wherever it was spotted.  You would find sand piles scattered throughout the yard where loads were reduced or hoppers were leaking.

This procedure would add some randomness to the operations.  Also, the crew would find themselves dealing with rejected cars for mechanical issues or various other reasons.  A sample of the scale form is below.
In other news, with my daughters' help, I completed adding weight to all the freight cars.  There are only a handful that can't be broken apart (mainly Exactrail).  Those will have to stay as is because I can't bring myself to part with those.