Sunday, March 1, 2015

The ROCK 3.0: The ROCK is Back Part III

Once again, the ROCK (v3.0) came to life today.  This was the third operating session since the major revision to model the Ottawa Sands.  This is the tenth overall operating session I have hosted since I went to the dark side converting to N Scale and started modeling the Rock Island nearly five years ago.

I had the pleasure to have senior operators Larry Keller, Marcus Neubacher and Steve Holzheimer in attendance today.

Overall the operating session ran very well.  We had very few problems reported.  The new operational items added flowed very well.  The addition of the new east staging was a smashing hit!  I really couldn't have asked for a better session.

Here is my favorite photo of the day.  Not the clearest, but the zoom and scene is awesome.

I really love this photo.  I need to take more telephoto shots with my Canon camera (vs. iPhone).  I love how Marcus has a long cut shoved deep back into PQ.  

Layout Issues:
There was three issues I observed during the op session.  No major electrical gremlins which was a big relief.
  • Caboose Industries Ground Throw at West Belrose loadout track broke.  Needs to be replaced.  No big deal.  I believe it was too tight and caused added stress on the pin.
  • Fuel tank on GP7 (Atlas Repower) popped off.  Easy fix to repair later.
  • The turnout accessing Track 4 from Track 5 in Ottawa Yard caused issues for the U30C.  It sits up a little bit and we believe the six-axle power was long enough for it to cause issues.  None of the 4-axle power had issues traveling through it today.

Requisition Requests:
I received a request for an additional crossover at Ottawa Silica between the run around track (just past loadout Track 4 and the Thru Track.  I've been told this would help prevent having to go back south of the road crossing to run around a few cars.

We ran a total of ten trains today.  Here's a breakdown of the train operations.  I had four basic positions on the layout.  Ottawa Yard Job, Ottawa Local, Utica Local, and Through Freight Train operator.

OYJ - Ottawa Yard Job 
Motive Power - GP7s 1232, 1201 - Originally Bachmann GP7s, stripped and painted in Rock Island paint by Peconic Shops (Larry Keller) - Repowered with Atlas chassis and speed matching setup by Allen Heimsoth.  The motive power ran very well with only an issue of the fuel tank coming off.  I'll work on securing that better for future operations.

The yard job was worked by Steve Holzheimer.  He went on duty at 6am and worked until the end of the session around 6pm.  It was a full 12-hour day for him.

Steve worked the yard masterfully.  Both eastbound and westbound trains were blocked where they could be worked on the east end by the yard crews.  Trains would arrive on the A/D Track in Ottawa Yard.  For westbounds, the yard crew would sweep in behind them, pull their drop offs, grab their pickup and shove back on to the rear of the train.  For eastbounds, the road crew would pull their motive power off down onto the South Ottawa lead so the yard crew could pull the drop off and shove their pickup back on to the train.  It worked extremely well today.  There was some dispute between Steve and Larry as to where the yard limits actually existed.  The sign was sucked up in some tornado wind clean-up a while back and I haven't replaced it yet.  Those tornadoes seem to strike often on the layout.  It was rumored that the crews would go out and physically move the sign back and forth about 100 feet.  As you can see we have a good time ribbing each other during our op sessions.  :-)

I did implement the coopering of the 40' box cars for bulk sand loading.  Steve received the cars throughout the day and shoved them over to the clean-out track adjacent to the RIP track in the yard.  He would leave them there for a while and then shove them over to the A/D track for pickup by the Ottawa Local.  This new method worked very well and will continue in future operating sessions.

OTSW - Ottawa Switcher (The "Sand Job").
Motive Power - Single U30C 4589.  A great custom weathered Kato unit by Allen Heimsoth that looks beat up and run down, but runs like a Cadillac.

The local was run by Larry Keller today (his first time).  Larry moved over 80 cars throughout his 10 1/2 hour day.  Larry went on duty at 7am and finished up at 5:30pm.

Larry had some downtime throughout the day which posed some operating ideas for future sessions.  As time goes on, I figured crews would learn the jobs better and get faster.  Since I'm using the blue flags, that helped spread his duties out into the afternoon.  So, although Larry had downtime, he was never able to complete his work for the day until late in the afternoon/early evening.  It worked out well.  We did come up with some ideas today that will be discussed further below.

Of course, Larry did perform some moves that RI management scrutinized later.  Bulletins will be issued to address these operational concerns (see below).

Overall, Larry spotted empty sand hoppers first, pulled loads for weighing next, worked the sand tracks at LOF, worked the chemical track at LOF, pulled and weighed the box car bulk loaded sand, and then switched the LOF float glass plant.

UTSW - Utica Switcher (The "Chemical Job")
Motive Power - SD40-2s 4797, 4785 - Both of these are custom Kato units.  #4797 was purchased off eBay, lightly weathered. It also includes operating class lights on the rear.  The #4785 was a custom paint by Peconic Shops (Larry Keller) from an Undecorated SD40-2.

The local was run by Marcus Neubacher.  When debriefing Marcus on the job, I told him this is "easy"!  You are only working four industries.  It won't take long at all.  Marcus didn't go on duty until 8:00am.  He immediately was delayed by #12 Peoria Rocket.

Marcus' first task was to classify his train.  His power and his caboose was on one yard track and cars for the day on the other.  They were not sorted.  Marcus classified the train as he saw fit and then headed out.

Marcus managed to work Peru Power and moved over to Track 2 to clear up.  #113 Westbound passed by on Track 1.  By this time, Marcus was able to work Westclox.  He was moving all the box cars except for one in the middle.  It was mentioned by crews maybe I should blue flag individual cars since you can access the plant from both sides.

While still working Westclox, Soo Line #574 passed by Eastbound with a short train.  Marcus began his work at Belrose Silica.  About an hour later the Soo Line local passed back by westbound.

Marcus had a few hours to work with no interruptions by through trains.  Of course, we broke for lunch during this period to provide even more disruption for the thought processes involved in working the local.

After lunch, Marcus worked mainly on Track 2 pulling loads, weighing loads, spotting empties at Belrose Silica.  During that time #113 Eastbound and #95 bound for Peoria went by on Track 1.  Marcus went off duty around 6pm 9 1/2 hours later.

#113 Westbound - Joliet to Bureau Turn
Motive Power - GP18s 1346, 1343 - Both are Life-Like Shells on Bachmann GP7 chassis.

The train was called on duty at 10:15am and run by myself.  We arrived with 10 cars for the yard (1 Peoria, 9 Ottawa Local cars).  The yard job pulled these cars from the rear of the train, and placed 12 cars on my rear.  That would make me over tonnage (max 15 cars westbound).  Two cars were pulled off the rear and I was ready to go.  I went off duty at 11:20am.

#574 / #575 Soo Line Dubuque, IA to Ottawa, IL Freight
Motive Power - GP35s 722, 731 - The #722 is a custom weathered unit purchased off eBay.  The #731 is simply a stock Atlas GP35.  The #731 has given me problems on two sessions now.  It seems to run well when testing (but usually at faster speeds), but hesitates and runs poorly at slower speeds.  I'm not sure what to do about that unit.  Next session, this train might be powered by a single unit.

The train was called on duty at 11:30am and run by myself.  We arrived at Ottawa Yard with 8 cars (4 Ottawa Local cars, 4 Blue Island cars).  I departed the yard with only six outbound to the Soo.  I went off duty tying up at LaSalle at 12:20pm.

#113 Eastbound - Joliet to Bureau Turn (Return trip)
Motive Power - SD40-2s 4798, 4790 - Both are custom painted Kato SD40-2s.  One was purchased off eBay, and the other by Peconic Shops (Larry Keller).  These locos run very well.

The train was called on duty at 2:10pm and run by myself.  We arrived at Ottawa with 12 cars (5 for Ottawa Local, 7 for Blue Island).  I would keep the Blue Island cars and fill out to a max of 16 cars eastbound).  I probably need to reduce that though as I was over the length of the staging tracks.  It appears the eastbound staging might be maxed out at 14 with two long locomotives.  I went off duty at 2:55pm.

#95 Burr Oak Yard (Chicago) to Peoria Freight
Motive Power - RS2s 454, 451 - Both are custom painted Life Like units by Peconic Shops (Larry Keller).  These locos run very well and pull a fair amount.

The train was called on duty at 3:25pm.  We set off only one Soo car at the yard.  We were granted permission to go over tonnage westbound with a total of 18 cars.  I went off duty at 4:55pm as I had some delays in the yard.

Future Session Bulletins
As always, it is interesting to see how crews will work their trains.  It rarely seems to go as I had planned in my head, but that is perfectly fine.  Sometimes, mainly due to the characters I hang around with, bulletins are required for following op sessions due actions observed (and to add to future operational interest).

Bulletin #1 - Ottawa Silica Switching - Cars being loaded at Ottawa Silica (Tracks 1-4) may not be moved.  Nor at anytime should the locomotive travel underneath the loading tipple (scaring the bejesus out of working employees).

Bulletin #2 - Weighing Cars - All sand hoppers and box cars will be weighed by their weight class.  Currently, all cars are weighed with the max weight of 263,000 lbs.  In the future, PS2 hoppers will be weighed at their max of 219,000 lbs and the box cars at their max of 176,000 lbs.  I will utilize the three scale settings on the Boulder Creek Engineering Scale to switch between the weight ranges.

  • Scale Setting A - ACF 2-Bay Sand Hoppers (263,000lbs max weight)
  • Scale Setting B - 40' Box Car Bulk Sand Loading (176,000 lbs max weight)
  • Scale Setting C - PS2 2-Bay Sand Hoppers (219,000lbs max weight)
* Car max weight and capacity vary between each car, but for my purposes, this will be the rules.

Bulletin #3 - Westclox - If individual cars are being loaded at the warehouse, those cars will be blue flagged individually for the day while being loaded.

Bulletin #4 - Eastbound Staging - Max cars permitted on a train is now 14 cars plus locos and caboose.

Bulletin #5 - Ottawa Silica Production - Sand hoppers at Ottawa Silica will be loaded throughout the day.  In the morning, there will be cars available for pickup.  During the break at lunch, any additional cars that were present at the facility before empties were spotted will also be ready for pickup.  

So, on to the photos.  I was snapping photos like a Japanese tourist today.  I like to catch the action though.  Enjoy the 100+ photos taken during the op session.

Before the start of the session, all the eastbound trains lined up in the drop leaf LaSalle staging yard.

U30C #4589 waiting to start the day on the Ottawa Local.

A view of the yard at the start of the day.

Here Larry starts the day on the OTSW spotting the empties at Ottawa Silica.

Larry is now pulling the loads from the south end of the plant.

Calling signal maintainer Johnson.  The crossing gates don't seem to be working at Ottawa Ave today.  Larry was between the sensors when they timed out going back up.  Luckily, nobody was hurt at the crossing.

Larry weighings and on the scale track.

Larry had one car that was over tonnage.  It was set off on a spare track and reduced by plant workers.  A timer was set on my phone for one hour fast time.  When the factory whistle blew, Larry could pick up the car and re-weigh it.

Larry shoving the loads picked up to Ottawa Yard.

Yardmaster Steve watching over Larry as he shoves his loaded sand hoppers into the yard.

Larry returning to South Ottawa to continue his work.

Marcus on the UTSW pulling across Putnam Street classifying his train.  He works up to the signal in front of Westclox which is his yard limits.

Larry on the OTSW pulls empties from the LOF plant.

Cars begin to gather at the RIP tracks at Ottawa Yard.  It appears we have a few that need to be repaired today.

There is a line of cars to be coopered before being prepared for the OTSW to pick up and deliver to Ottawa Silica. 

UTSW continues working at classifying his train, now pulling up in front of Westclox.

Larry back to the scale to weigh the LOF cars.  He was under the assumption they did not need to be weighed.  

Yardmaster Steve watches over as #113 Westbound Joliet to Bureau Turn arrives at the yard.

UTSW is finished classifying his train and commences working.  Here his traveling from Track 1 to Track 2, but will work Peru Power before clearing up on Track 2.

UTSW at Mill Street in Utica.

UTSW in front of the Westclox plant in LaSalle.

UTSW completed his work at Peru Power and continues east on Main 2 by the station at Utica.

#113 Westbound ready to depart Ottawa yard.

#113 Westbound passing by the caboose of UTSW at Utica.

#113 Westbound by Westclox as Marcus is off working in the distance at Utica.

Ottawa Silica 

Larry working at the north end of Ottawa by the mainline.

Marcus on the UTSW working Westclox.  

Soo Line #574 on Track 1 passing by the UTSW on Track 2 in Utica.

Soo #574 waiting to pull into Ottawa Yard.

Ottawa Yard 11:45am is looking pretty full.

UTSW has cars left out on Main 2 in front of Westclox as he continues his work.

Larry working the OTSW.  It appears he just received a fresh cut of cars from the yard.

Soo Line #575 returning to LaSalle Yard with a short train as Marcus works off in the distance at Utica.

Larry with a cut of empty box cars for bulk sand loading.

Marcus on the UTSW working the tank car track at Philadelphia Quartz (PQ).

UTSW caboose sitting out on Main 2 while Marcus works PQ

UTSW pulling out of PQ.

UTSW by Westclox in LaSalle.

UTSW by Putnam Street in LaSalle.

Marcus with a long cut shoving back into PQ.

While traveling up in Illinois in the winter time, I notice that even early in the afternoon, the shadows are very long due to the low sun angle.  It is not that way back in NC.  This photo reminds me of that in Illinois.

Ottawa Yard is looking better.  Roughly around 1:30pm.

UTSW at Mill Street in Utica.

UTSW shoving some covered hoppers back into PQ Track 2.

Larry working the LOF Chemical Track with the loco buried in the train.

Marcus working the UTSW in Utica.

I really love this photo.  I need to take more telephoto shots with my Canon camera (vs. iPhone).  I love how Marcus has a long cut shoved deep up into PQ.  

Marcus cutting off a string of cars for storage in PQ temporarily.

Marcus pulling a cut of empty hoppers from PQ.

Marcus on the UTSW looking like a real local with his locos and caboose buried in between a long string of cars in both directions.

A view from the Westclox truck lot as Marcus towers over Utica.

#113 Eastbound passing through LaSalle and Utica on Main 2.

A telelphoto shot (not the best) of #113 Eastbound crossing from Main 2 to Main 1 to access Ottawa Yard.  Marcus on the UTSW is up in the clear just pass the crossover. 

#113 Eastbound arriving at Ottawa Yard.  Marcus sitting on Main 2 waiting for us to clear.

I pulled my power down on to the South Ottawa Lead while Steve worked my train removing the drop offs and adding pick ups.

Steve on the Ottawa Yard job on the yard lead rounding the curve as he works my train.

The Ottawa Yard job with Franklin Farms in the distance.

Plenty of empty sand hoppers lined up for loading at Ottawa Silica.

Ottawa Yard Job pulling down the yard lead under the piping for Ottawa Silica.  Sand is pumped up in a slurry form from the sand pits to the processing plant to be dried and sorted by size.

Ottawa Yard Job shoving my pickup back on to my train.

A view from Franklin Farms of #113 Eastbound ready to depart the yard.

Marcus on the UTSW getting ready to weigh some loaded sand hoppers at Belrose Silica.

Doh!  Over tonnage!  I believe Marcus had two cars over tonnage today.

A common scene with the Utica Switcher.  There are cuts of sand hoppers loaded and emptied spread out everywhere.  The tab-on-car makes this much easier than trying to keep up with this by paperwork alone.  

#95 Chicago to Peoria Freight in the yard.

Sand hoppers everywhere in Utica!

Larry working the bulk loaded box cars at Ottawa Silica Tracks 5 and 6.

#95 Chicago to Peoria freight by Mill Street in Utica.

A view from a top the signal bridge of Train #95 headed westbound through Utica.

Train #95 by Westclox in LaSalle.

Train #95 by LaSalle.

Larry picking up the over tonnage sand hopper set off on one of the back Ottawa Silica tracks.

Larry on the OTSW working the Float Glass plant at LOF.

Larry's OTSW with his loco buried in a cut of cars.

Cars just spotted at LOF Float Glass Factory on Tracks 1 and 2.

The RI/GT power pulls out on the run around track in Ottawa Yard in preparation to be added to the new GT unit sand train to Montreal, Canada.

The GT caboose on the rear of the GT Unit Sand train.

Cars were stacking up at the eastbound staging due to a shortage of track space and long trains.  

RI/GT power ready to depart on the GT unit sand train.

#13 Peoria Rocket headed back home by West Ottawa Yard.

#13 Peoria Rocket dropping off passengers at Utica.

A view from the top of the Westclox plant of #13 Peoria Rocket dropping off passengers at Utica and Marcus on the UTSW working Belrose Silica.

GT Unit Sand Train and #113 Eastbound safe away in Eastbound Staging toward the end of the session.

Marcus finished for the day headed back to LaSalle yard.

Oops!  This was after the session when parking the LaSalle Trains out on the mainline to put the drop leaf yard down.  I backed it up "Tyco" style (as Marcus called it).  One of the cars derailed taking out the train next to it and the station.

Ottawa Yard at the end of the session.

Thanks for checking out the ROCK!!


  1. Wow! You really did take a lot of photos Steven. LOL.

    That's a nice write-up though, and it looks like the session was a lot of fun. Are the times shown 'real time' or were you using a fast-time clock?


    1. I was using a 4:1 fast clock. The times listed were fast times. We started around 6am fast time and run until 6pm.