Friday, February 14, 2014

The ROCK 3.0: Progress Report 02.14.14 - Signaling!

Late last night, I got up nerve to work on the signals.  Although, I'm anxious to see the signals lit, I have been somewhat apprehensive of this project.  It seems overwhelming, but so far it hasn't been.

So, the signal heads from BeNScale arrive like this.  Tiny little suckers!  Believe it or not that wire bundle has either three or four wires depending on the head.  I'm not sure if this is one of the Red/Yellow heads or the Red/Yellow/Green signal heads.  There is a brass wire for each color LED and one silver common wire.  It's hard to see the difference, but I was able to make it out (with my color blind self).

So, to mount these signals, you cut the tape, carefully unwind the wire.  There is a eyelet hook on the back of the signal head.  You need to acquire some 3/64" round brass tube and slide into the eyelet.  I bought mine at M.B. Klein.  It's a tight fit.  I had to lay the eyelet flat on the desk and press down hard to get the brass rod to slip into the eyelet.  Once in, I was able to slide the signal head down with my finger nail.  I then cut the .020" brass wire that extends down from the bottom of the signal head.  That is used in the manufacturing process by BeNScale.  

I'm working on the signal bridge at West Utica.  I'm using the BLMA Double Track Signal bridge brass kit that I built a few weeks back.  I had to ream out the hole a little bit with one of my mini-files.  I then simply slid the brass tube with signal heads down into the hole.  I added a small amount of CA glue where the brass tube and signal bridge meet to secure.

Here are pics of what it looks like.  Note, I will cut the brass tube underneath the bridge once completed.  Overall, the process has been very easy so far.

So, what's next?  I painted the signal heads and brass tubing this evening.   

  • Remove the small tape that is applied over the lens (provide by BeNScale when shipped)
  • Route the wires down through the top of the signal bridge (there is another hole already punched out for this by BLMA)
  • Route the wires down the side supports and drill holes to route through the benchwork.
  • Test each signal aspect remembering to use resistors as not to burn out an LED.
  • Connect the wires to my signal control board I built.
I'm hoping to get West Utica setup before the end of this weekend.  East Utica requires me to construct another signal bridge like this which I have not done yet.  I have a feeling after we have light on this signal bridge, that project will be bumped up to the top of the list.  :-)

Just seeing the signal heads on the bridge was very exciting this evening.  I can't wait to see the signals lit up!  I'm very excited!!!!!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The ROCK 3.0: Progress Report 02.12.14

Late last night, I worked on freight cars some more.  I only have about 12 more that need repair.  I diverted a package from work to home for delivery, but the package was delayed due to the weather.  We live in the Charlotte, North Carolina area.  We were hit with a pretty large (for us) snow storm that started yesterday and will continue into tomorrow.  We haven't had a storm this bad since 2002.  We just don't have the equipment in the South to handle these conditions (as they are so rare).  So, the entire city is shut down for the next few days.

Photo of the pre-cursor snow event that occurred yesterday.  The good stuff came midday today.  
Photo by Will Schmidt

Tomorrow, I hope to work on signaling.  It would be awesome to get that wired up and installed!  

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The ROCK 3.0: Progress Report 02.11.14 ~ Operations on the new ROCK!

This morning, I worked on 19 cars that all required weight (bird shot) to be added.  The news reporters are all wound up here due to the impending 10 year snow storm.  We haven't had 6" or more since 2004.  I'm hoping to use some additional at home time to work on the layout.  If I get these cars done, I can start working on signals.

So, I have been thinking a lot about operations as we're about to open up the ROCK to visitors soon.  Here's a basic rundown of how I "think" it will play out.  Operators always surprise me so something could change.

March 29th, 1976
06:00 - Ottawa Yardmaster goes on duty.  He will find paperwork to outline his day.  There are notes from yesterday's yardmaster showing #118 LaSalle Turn returned with 12 cars and #217 Ottawa Local returned yesterday with 14 cars that need to classified.

Yesterday's crew already assembled today's #118 and #217 locals.  They are sitting on tracks #4 and #5 of the yard.

07:00 - The #217 Ottawa Local crew goes on duty.  The crew will find a pair of EMD GP7s to use today.  They will pick up a cab from the caboose track, put their train together (may be split across two tracks), perform a brake test and head down south of the main to work Ottawa Silica and LOF.  No track warrant will be required since they are not operating on the mainline.  Rule 99 is in effect for the area south of the mainline.

#217 leaves Ottawa heavy with 31 cars to be delivered.  The crew will pick up 42 cars, but only 31 will return to the yard.  The remaining cars are shuffled between LOF and Ottawa Silica.

#217 has a total of 20 cars to be weighed on the scale today.  Good thing they have two crew members on this local as it will be a chore to keep up with the action today.

08:00 - The #118 LaSalle Turn crew goes on duty.  They will also use a pair of EMD GP7s or EMD GP18 set for motive power.  They will grab a cab from the caboose track, perform a brake test and be ready to depart.  #118 will require a track warrant from the dispatcher to enter the mainline.

#118 departs Ottawa with 14 cars to be delivered.  There is a total of 29 pickups today, but only 15 will return to the yard.  The remainder of the cars will be shuffled between Belrose Silica and Philadelphia Quartz (PQ).

A total of 9 cars will be taken back to Ottawa Yard to be weighed at the scale there and then return to PQ for delivery.

Meanwhile back at the yard, the yardmaster works on classifying yesterday's inbound traffic from both locals to ship outbound on the Joliet turn.  The Joliet turn headed westbound arrives mid-morning running to Silvis.  It returns eastbound in the evening.  The train will drop off cars to be delivered locally as well as pickup outbound cars bound for Chicago or Silvis.

The yard crews will classify inbound cars from the Joliet local into tomorrow's local trains for Ottawa and LaSalle.

11:30The yardmaster (if available) will operate the BN Local from North Ottawa Yard on the BN (north of the RI Mainline) down to Ottawa Silica.  The local will work in conjunction with the RI local to service Ottawa Silica.  There is no room for animosity between the rival railroads.  Ottawa Silica has made it quite clear that both railroads need to work together to service their plant.  They will not tolerate either railroad delaying the other unnecessarily.  The BN local is small with only 5 setoffs and 4 pickups.  Those 4 pickups will need to be weighed before heading back north.  Majority of the sand loads are bound for Owens-Illinois Streator Plant which is just north of here.

Late afternoon, into early evening, the two locals will return to Ottawa Yard.


I estimate we will operate 12 hours on a 4:1 fast clock for about 3 real hours of running.  It could take longer though, but I wouldn't expect more than 16 fast hours.

I will run this first time with a crew of five people.
1 Yardmaster
1 #118 LaSalle Turn
2 #217 Ottawa Local
1 Floater (me) that will run the inbound Joliet locals, set signals for crews at Utica/LaSalle and work as general administrator/dispatcher.

Statistical info on the Layout
There are 132 total car spots at industries on the layout.  Not bad considering the small layout.  87 of those spots are for bulk sand (95 if you include the bagged sand shipped via box car).  72% of the traffic is sand!  For comparison, the first version of my layout had a total of 149 spots with 43 (29%) of those being sand related.

On this first op session, there will be 204 cars on the layout.  Of those 204 cars, 175 will move.  That's a lot of traffic!!

55% of the cars operating on the layout are Rock Island Railroad cars.

I'm really looking forward to operating.  I believe this plan will work, but I'm sure there will be some tweaking after the first op session.

Monday, February 10, 2014

The ROCK 3.0: Progress Report 02.10.14

Today, I worked on repairing more cars.  I believe 13 or so returned to revenue service.  I also continued staging yesterday's local trains that came into the yard.  The yardmaster will classify these in the morning after clearing the yard of the Ottawa Local and LaSalle Turn.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

The ROCK 3.0: Progress Report 02.09.14

This evening, I installed the felt strips along the 1x4 underframe of the benchwork.  Nothing too exciting, but necessary for the layout skirting.  That wore my hands out.  My hands cramp up on tasks like that.

Later, I worked on testing the tracks by shoving cars in and out of industrial tracks with various types of locomotives.  I repaired the one damaged turnout point at LOF.  I dislike having to repair the points, but man ol' man do they cars just glide across those turnouts.  I tested all of LOF and the south end of Ottawa Silica.  All performed very well.  I'm quite pleased!  I can't wait to get the boys over here to operate!