Saturday, March 29, 2014

The ROCK 3.0: The 1st Op Session ... SUCCESS!

Today, the ROCK rose from the ashes and came back to life.  I had four great friends in attendance to kick off the inaugural op session of the Rock Island: Ottawa Sands layout (i.e. v3.0).

We started off with a tour of the layout referencing where the towns used to reside in the room followed by a 10-15 minute briefing on operations.

Larry volunteered for running Ottawa Yard.  He was smart!  :-)  Larry managed to whip it in shape classifying the cars from the previous days locals with no problems.  Larry also ran the CB&Q local in the morning hours.

Marcus and Jeff volunteered for the #217 Ottawa Local.  It was a beast today departing Ottawa Yard with 30 cars!  They returned with 31 cars!  Wow!  That's a big honking local!  They didn't weigh the first grain of sand until after lunch.  At times it seemed there were shoving cuts of cars aimlessly back and forth through the plant, but they had a plan.  They rocked the massive local!

Steve H. was on the #118 LaSalle Turn departing the yard at 8am.  Steve had complete control of the local and knocked it out with no major issues.

I worked as dispatcher, #112/#113 Joliet to Silvis Transfer Train Engineer and Plant Managers at Ottawa Silica and Belrose Silica.

Operations went well with no mechanical issues on the layout.  The scales all worked well.  I believe Steve H had some issues with scale not ramping down between a few cars.  I will have to investigate that further.  It was interesting to see the randomness of the weights.

Larry - weighed four cars on the CB&Q local.  One was overloaded.  That car was set off to be reduced by plant employees for a fast hour (15 minutes or so).  The plant would blow their whistle (old steam whistle sound effect on my phone) when the car was ready to be re-weighed.

Steve H - weighed 9 cars and had two overweight.

Marcus and Jeff - weighed three batches of cars (one batch from each load track).  The 1st batch of eight cars were all well under the 263,000 weight limit.  The crews at Ottawa Silica must have been drinking on the job when loading the cars on track #3.  Out of 7 cars, only two were under the weight limit!  The third batch of 5 cars were all under the weight limit.

It was interesting to see how that went.  Crews were found to be hovering close to the scale readout so the plant manager couldn't see.  LOL!

List of trains and (fast clock) run times:

- #217 Ottawa Local - 7am until 6:50pm - 10 minutes from going on the 12-hour law of service rule.
- #118 LaSalle Turn - 8am until 4:38pm
- #113 Joliet to Silvis Transfer Train - 10:55am until 12:40pm
- #112 Silvis to Joliet Transfer Train - 2:15pm until 3:12pm

The blue lights were used today forcing crews to come up with another plan to switch out those industrial spurs that were marked off limits until crews completed loading.

In case you are wondering, crews moved 3,978.5 tons of sand today.  Crews reduced 19 tons of sand that was left between the rails at the two sand mines.

Two videos:

Proof of why this in my absolute favorite crew.  This crew provides a great mix of realistic control and operation of their trains, but we still have fun while doing it.  Marcus spotted a green 1970s VW bug in the parking lot of LOF and "punch bug" Jeff.  I was rolling with laughter!  Great times! 

The sensors were a little screwy at Mill Street today.  I know one of the four sensors is not working.  That could be causing the issues.  Here is #118 departing LaSalle headed back to Ottawa Yard at the end of the day.

Photos from the Op Session:

Jeff was the engineer on #217.  Here he eases their monster local down past Ottawa Avenue.

Steven Holzheimer and Larry chatting before Steve departed on #118 LaSalle Turn

#217 by Ottawa Avenue.  At one point during the day, the crossing was blocked for a while.  I grabbed some of the vehicles and started lining them up at the gates.  The crews got the message and cleared the crossing.  LOL!

The crew stored cars everywhere.  They found great storage potential behind the main mill building (along the backdrop) and the LOF chemical lead track.

Like the RI crew didn't have enough to worry about with a 30 car local, here comes the CB&Q local into town engineered by Larry.

Steve H pulling a cut of empties out of the PQ plant at Utica.

Marcus punching Jeff after spotting a green VW bug parked at the LOF shop building.  

A cut of sand cars being shoved up to the scale track at Ottawa Silica.

Good thing I added the yard lead.  My original plan was for the RI to use the lead down to Ottawa Silica.  When laying the track, I had an epiphany.  The local crew would be using every last bit of the available tracks.  No way these two could share the track.  Here was proof of this.  Larry was busy classifying cars while the RI local was all the way up to the yard board pulling a string of cars to be weighed.

This was just amazing.  Shortly before lunch, all empty hoppers were delivered, but the loads hadn't been pulled yet.  The plant was LOADED with hoppers.  I counted 57 on the four tracks.  WOW!  This made me very happy to see all that sand!  :-)

I really do like the structures at Ottawa Silica.  Neat stuff!

Steve H writing down weights as his train is on auto slowly creeping across the scale.  Looks like this car is over tonnage.

#112 Transfer run from Silvis is headed to Ottawa Yard on Main 1 while Steve H is switching Belrose Silica on Main 2.

Did I mention I really love seeing all those sand hoppers?  Here's more proof as I returned to snap some more photos.

Another cut of sand being pulled to be weighed.

Cars were stored on the LOF chemical track while working in the area.

All smiles as Jeff and Marcus are weighing loaded sand hoppers at Ottawa Silica.

Cars being pulled across the scale track.

Whoa!  This car must have been from track #3.  6,100 lbs over tonnage!

Ottawa Silica Plant.

These crazy people didn't move all day.  They must have watched those gates go down 20 times today.

While Jeff wasn't looking, I would park a vehicle on the track.  He caught it every time.  I was hoping to catch him not watching where he was shoving cars.  He passed .... for today.  LOL!  

We operated (real time) 10am until about 2:20pm or so with an hour lunch.  Not bad!  Per the fast clock, we ran a 13-hour day from 6am until 7pm.  4 1/2 operators.  I operated the two transfer trains.

Overall, it was a great day!  Everything ran really well.  Crews did well with the task at hand.  No broken turnout points!  Yah!  Last night, I did nothing on the layout.  I chose to relax on the sofa while watching episodes of Duck Dynasty.  Either I was very relaxed about the pending op session or delusional.  Evidently, I did my planning well.

Thanks to the guys for coming out today to bring the ROCK back to life!

Friday, March 28, 2014


March 29th, 2014
Ten months later, the ROCK returns!  On May 31st last year, the Rock Island: Illinois Division was shut down.  It was rebranded as the Rock Island: Ottawa Sands layout with the nickname v2.0.  Destruction began shortly after the last op session in May.  By the end of July, the layout was completely down and room re-painted.  

By August 1st, the benchwork began to rise in the layout room.  Progress was slow.  It was quickly realized, that the dream of v2.0 was still too big.  We needed a more defined focus on the layout while allowing more room for family in the room.  The CEO worked over various scenarios.  With an adjustment to the 2.0 plan removing the peninsula, the layout could be built around three walls of the room allowing for an open area in the center for family craft projects and such.

On September 11th, 2013, a new vision for the ROCK v3.0 was announced.  Here's the original drawing of the proposed layout.

The layout plan worked out to be pretty close as originally perceived with a few minor changes in Utica and over by Libbey-Owens-Ford.  Here is track plan today.

The benchwork that had been assembled for v2.0 was torn down and re-purposed in the new v3.0 plan.  All benchwork on the new 3.0 layout was completed by the end of September.  With the new layout, the owner focused more on technology.  Some neat things installed are two operating Boulder Creek Engineering track scales, NJ International Crossing Gates with lights and motion controlled by Azatrax signal controller, Blue Flag LED lights at three industries and (future) LED Signals by BeNScale.

Trackwork was completed in January and wiring of the layout began.  Since this time, various electronic components have been installed as well as work on scenery has began.  Six months since v3.0 was announced and the layout is up and ready for it's first op session!  Not bad at all!

The CEO has been very pleased with progress and excited to continue with scenery and detailing the layout.  
Today, the ROCK comes alive once again with a new focus.  Moving sand!  There are 39 loads of sand and 40 empties ready to be moved on the layout.

Here are some photos of the layout prior to the op session today.  Four veteran operators: Steve Holzheimer, Larry Keller, Jeff Lindstrom and Marcus Neubacher will be in attendance today for the inaugural event.

Ottawa Avenue - The Libbey-Owens-Ford plant entrance.
This driveway/parking lot was just added this past week.

Newly added driveway and truck lot for loading flat glass from the Libbey-Owens-Ford plant.

The main mill at Ottawa Silica has risen on the horizon.  I really like the large size of the mill.

Here is a small access road from the west to the east side of the Ottawa Silica Plant.  

Looking south from Ottawa Silica (the plant road crossing) toward Ottawa Avenue and Libbey-Owens-Ford.

You can see the plant road crossing at the south end of the Ottawa Silica Plant here.  There is one more ground sand plant that is on the north end that has yet to be constructed.

On the north side of the Ottawa Silica Plant looking south.  The scale track is on the left side of the photo.

The overhead piping moves a sand slurry up to the processing plant to be dried and sorted by size.

A front loader down in the sand pit at Ottawa Silica.

Another view of the sand pit looking south toward the plant (photo taken from yard throat at Ottawa Yard).  It looks like the Ottawa Local is entering the plant.

An overall view of the Ottawa Silica, scale track, main mill building and the loadout building.

Ottawa Yard is pretty full with traffic.

The diesel servicing facility at Ottawa Yard.

Utica, IL - Belrose silica is located up against the hill on the left with Philadelphia Quartz (PQ) on the right.  New structures at PQ just went up last night.

Dry chemicals are loaded in this building.

A view looking east of the PQ plant.  Belrose Silica is on the left.

Many tanks and other small buildings need to be added at PQ.

I made a temporary loader out of scrap wood I had to give the operators a sense of what it will be like in the future.  The plant was located on a hill a little higher than the tracks.  At the bottom of the plant, a conveyor carried the sand out to an overhoad loader above the cars.

Looking west at Utica, IL.  The scenery isn't painted yet, but I added some trees to give a sense of what the area will be like.  There are a few homes you will notice through the trees as a neighborhood was located up the hill from the plant.

Utica Station

Mill Street Crossing between Utica and LaSalle

I really like this area.  It's one of my favorite railfan spots to hang out.

I like the fall color on the trees.

Belrose Silica spur off Main 2 at Utica.

Looking east at Utica.  There is a road that leads up to the mine that parallels the mainline.  

Beautiful tree at Mill Street.

There are houses behind those trees on top of the hill.

An overview of PQ and Belrose Silica.  The newly installed scale at Belrose Silica.

Who is ready to ROCK?


Previous NewsFlash:
May 31st, 2013

On Friday, May 31st, the Rock Island Railroad: Illinois Division officially shut down.

The notion to build the Rock Island Railroad: Illinois Division was conceived in April 2010.  By May 28th, 2010 construction had begun.  In six short months, the layout was operational.  For the next two and a half years, the railroad operated eleven times, by eight different operators moving a total of 166 freight and passenger trains.

In late January this year, the CEO of the Rock Island Railroad began exploring ideas of building a new model railroad.  As research was gathered, it became evident that change was eminent. 

The Board of Directors met behind closed doors debating for some time the viability of a new layout, quickly nicknamed 2.0.  It was not an easy decision to make as it met great opposition.  In the end, it was decided it was best to focus on modeling the Rock Island prototypically verses having a larger layout that exhibited no real identification of the ROCK.