Saturday, February 14, 2015

The ROCK 3.0: What you Smoking? Report

Not much progress to report today after working into the weeeee hours of the morning on track work last night.  I had it in my head that I would get finished.  After spending some quality family time during the evening, I got a late start at 10:30pm last night.

Here are some photos of the rebuilt area.

The bagged sand tracks are now accessed from the main thoroughfare track just north of the scale track.

I really like this arrangement and feel it will work much better.  

In front of the bagged sand loading tracks used to be a switch that continued on to the CB&Q crossing where the drill sits.

A view from the top of the loadout building looking north.  You can see all the materials and such in place from the construction.

Today, I had the pleasure to operate at my friend Marcus Neubacher's Charleston, Roanoke & Eastern Railroad (Blog - and Facebook -  I had a great time as always.  In the morning, I worked with Jan managing the Lewisburg, WV yard.  That job keeps you busy.  During the afternoon, I was out on the road holding up everybody.  I received payback from Marcus sorting out various blocks of "green", "white", and "orange" (although I saw yellow - so the jury is still out on that) loaded coal hoppers.  At one point, I was working his Meadow Bluff yard and had coal hoppers everywhere.  I'm sure it is how he feels when moving sand on my layout.  All the cars look a like, but they are going to different places.  I tend to operate slow as well.  The slower the better as far as I'm concerned.  I don't like to fly across the layout.  I held up the railroad good today making my switch moves and then hauling my long unit coal train across the scale track at 7 mph.  :-)  Marcus' K&N Operations are the jewel in his crown.  It is a layout within itself that is chock full of operational interest.

Smoke Stack Update
This evening after returning from a day of operating, I did manage to get a little progress done.  I added ladders (Plastruct #90421 N Scale Ladders) to the smoke stack.  I also cut out a platform out of styrene.  I discussed with Allen using something with texture, but didn't want to invest that much time or money into another material.  So, I just went with plain styrene.  Now, I need to find some handrails from my stash that are thin enough to be bent around the walkway.  I painted the entire smoke stack the same off-white concrete color I used for the concrete silos (Valspar Flat Rivera Dune Spray Paint).   I think it has turned out pretty nice.  I'm pleased with it.

Grant Trunk Update
So, about a week ago, I learned from blog reader Bruce in IL that the ROCK operated a unit sand train from Ottawa to Montreal, Canada via Blue Island and then interchanged to the GTW.  He has no recollection of seeing Grand Trunk power operating on the ROCK, but it's my I wanted to add it.  I had performed an eBay search to find that there is a great lacking in GTW power.  My friend Marcus suggested the Atlas GP9s with Torpedo Tubes that are out currently.  I made it clear, I don't like Torpedo Tubes.  I don't know why, I just don't like them.  We had a good laugh about my adamant decision on NO TTs!   Anywho, I was talking with Jan while working Lewisburg Yard on the CR&E and he just so happens to have an Atlas Grand Trunk Western GP40-2 available for sale.  Now, we're talking!  We worked out a deal for the GP40-2 and GT caboose.  Since the RI required locomotives with cab signals, I figured I would have a RI leader with the GT in tow plus the GT caboose.  If all goes well, this will be implemented at the next op session.  I'm pretty excited.  Thanks Jan!

Friday, February 13, 2015

The ROCK 3.0: Window Sill Expansion Project Continues...

Window Sill Expansion Project Update
I received the wye turnout I needed to add back the LOF Bagged Sand loading tracks.  After spending much of the evening with the family for an early Valentine's Day celebration, I went to work around 10:30pm.  Things were going well, until.....

Yep, the Foreman at Ottawa Yard once again had to hang the sign of shame in the shop.  I believe this is the third incident on the layout, but now am starting to lose track.  So, I was trying to pry a piece of dried glue up off the benchwork using a small file.  The file snapped in two and nailed my index finger.  A little blood, but no foul.  Definitely no stitches.  I washed it off and continued with my work.

I am happy to report that all the industry tracks are whole once again.  The BN crossing has been cut out along with the access from South Ottawa.  A new curved track was installed to reach the yard.  The Bagged Sand loading tracks have sucessfully been relocated closer to the aisle.  A switch was cut in just north of the scale track.  

One of the two blue LED lights (that indicate when workers are loading the cars) was saved.  One snapped.  I looked for a replacement, but I couldn't find any in my stash.  I will have to order some more from the guy here in NC (  

So, overall a good night.  I still need to drop feeders for the new tracks, but that shouldn't take long at all.  

Next on the agenda, install the cork and new east staging yard.

LOF Smokestack Project
I finished applying the ribs to the smokestack.  Tomorrow, if my eBay package arrives, I'll add the ladders, walkway and railings to it.

Tab Update:
I worked on applying the decals to the c-channels for the GTW unit sand train.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The ROCK 3.0: Window Sill Expansion Project Continued

I have two family members down sick with some sort of bug, and hoping not to get sick myself, but I'm still pushing forward in attempt to get this all done (my self inflicted crack induced To Do List) before my February 28th Op Session.

So, on to business....

Site Preparation Report:
Immediately upon finishing up the dishes after dinner, I rummaged around in the garage and found my orbital sander.  Up to the layout room!  I sanded down the benchwork where the former tracks laid to make a smooth surface to start with on the Window Sill Expansion Project.

Bob Ross Report:
Time to paint some happy trees!

Well, maybe not, but it was a nice thought.  I do have fond memories watching his PBS shows as a kid though.  Anywho, it is getting dark outside fast.  I removed the windows that were tack glued in to the LOF structure.  Went flying downstairs and back to the garage to find the spray paint.  My knee was feeling better today.

Would you like some Tab soda?

No thank you, I'll pass on the Tab.

I do need some more tabs though.  This evening, I spray painted some more Evergreen C-Channel #266 strips to make some blue GTW tabs for my unit sand train.  I will decal those tomorrow using a Brother Personal Touch Label Maker (black on clear labels at 3mm font size).

Here are the LOF building components that will be painted gray for the sheet metal siding.



After again.

Window Sill Project Update
So, while the paint dries, I'm back upstairs (I really should have purchased a single-level home).  I re-installed the gondola sand loading track (OS Spot #7 - formerly spot #8 before the dynamite track was removed).  Shaped, measured, cut, installed the turnout and track.  I added the track behind the LOF Milling building as mentioned in the previous post.  It has the capacity to hold ten sand hoppers back there which will work out well for crews working the job.

This was taken before I completed the track work.  I was distracted for a bit by my children and then came back to finish up the track going behind the plant.  It extends out about a car length behind the long milling building.

Slowed down for a bit to watch a couple of shows on Netflix.  

You be Smoking What Report?
So, Sunday, I get this email from my friend Allen in Nebraska.  He sends photos of this smokestack he made out PVC pipe.  I started foaming out the mouth.  It was pure awesomeness!  He has a blog post in the works (spoiler alert).  Stay tuned for some inspiring work by Allen.  

Anywho, all week I have been trying to make it to Lowes Hardware, but one thing or another has kept me at the office during my lunch break.  Today, I finally made it.  I picked up some 1/2" PVC pipe and a coupler of adapters.  Total material costs was under $5.  Basically, I just needed to create a base and the top part.  The stack at LOF that I plan on modeling has these little rings spaced out evenly the length of the stack.  Conveniently enough, the metal siding styrene sheet that I purchased comes with this tiny tiny strips of styrene.  I mentioned to Allen the other night, I think these will work perfectly for those rings on the stack.  So, I tested one tonight.  I would say we have a winner!

Take note at the rings on the stack.

So, excited by the test, I cut the 1/2" PVC pipe to 17".  With the base coupler, adapter and top piece, it is roughly 19" tall now.  When placed behind the LOF sand silos, it looks great!  So, my plan for tomorrow is to glue the rings on in even increments and hopefully paint Friday.  I'm very excited about this project.  A million thanks to Allen for sharing his great ideas!!!

Remember how I mentioned earlier my knee was feeling better?  Well, I was reminded of my injury when I went to squat down on the stool to review my Bing Map Photos of the LOF plants.  As I went down, I was like ouch.....Ouch......OUCH!!!!  It has been sore ever since then.  

Injury or not, I must hobble along to continue progress!  We have a railroad to run in 17 days!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

The ROCK 3.0: Window Sill Expansion Project

After discussing my actions tonight with my friend, Larry asked if I was on drugs.  LOL!  He was just picking, but after reading the following, you might think the same.  By the way, I did go to the doctor today regarding my knee (no drugs though).  It appears that I might have a torn medial meniscus, but waiting confirmation from the MRI (waiting on that to be scheduled).  If so, I may require outpatient surgery.  We'll see how it goes though.  No timeline on when all this would go down, but I would hope after the op session on the 28th.

Anywho....on with the madness....

Well, after conferring with numerous friends, it has been decided to proceed with the Window Sill Expansion Project.  In N scale, a few inches can provide a lot of growth for the layout.

I tested the track alignment again and felt confident that this would work.

Before I knew it....BAM!  The bagged sand loading tracks were erased from existence.  Then the BN crossing....gone.....wiped from the face of the earth.  A moment of clarity came over me.  How much time do I have before my op session?  Oh yeah, 18 days.  Crap!!  Well, I'm committed now.

I managed to get some masonite cut (that I was using for backdrop on v1.0).  That will be my window sill extension.  It will be screwed to the top of the layout and go right up short of the glass.  I will still be able to open the window if needed, but most likely won't need to.  There is a second window in the room that I open on occasion if the weather is nice.  The height of the masonite is perfect for the track to come off the mainline (on top of cork), lie flat on the luan and then return to cork on the other side where staging will be.

Only one track will make the turn to staging.  The other track will disappear in the distance.  I will conceal the curve as much as possible.  Once the train makes the curve, it will cross over a switch (controlled by a tortoise) that will line the track for East Staging Tracks 1 or 2.  I will gain 71" of storage on each track.  I figure about 18-19 cars plus a couple of locomotives.  That's huge!  Well worth the destruction caused by this project.

Here are some photos of the carnage:

Looking north from South Ottawa.  The mainline crosses west to east (left to right).  
Ottawa Bagged Sand loading tracks are the pair on the right.  The other small spur was for the dynamite car.  I never spotted anything there.

Looking east on the mainline.  The tracks to the right are the South Ottawa lead and Ottawa Yard lead track.

Bagged sand loading tracks....gone!

BN crossing - now you see it.... you don't.

I used 5mm luan at first, but it ended up being too thick.  I had to use the masonite type stuff I had for the backdrop from version 1.0.

This gives you an idea of the new track alignment.

I can easily fit two tracks behind the Ottawa Silica main milling tower.

This switch went to a small track that loaded sand into gondolas.  I removed the switch and was just going to have a track go straight into the building.  I later decided to keep the switch there, but move it slightly so I can run a storage track behind the plant.  It appears I can squeeze the two staging tracks and a storage track behind the plant with no issues.  When operating this local, you need a place you can shove some cars just so you have room to work.  In the past, crews including myself used the track behind the plant.  Since that has been removed, I needed to create some wiggle room for the crews to operate in.

A view of the madness from above the Ottawa Silica milling building.

A view of the new track alignment for the bagged sand loading tracks.  I will still be able to spot ten 40' box cars here with no problem.

A view on the new alignment with the track running behind the milling building.

Another view of the same.

Revised Train Line-Up:
There will be a change in the train line-up on the layout.

07:00 AM - OTSW - Ottawa Switcher "Sand Job" - No change
08:00 AM - UTSW - Utica Switcher "Chemical Job" - No change
08:48 AM - #12 Peoria Rocket (Eastbound) - No change

09:30 AM - #113 Joliet to Bureau Turn - This train will depart East Staging, travel to Ottawa to work the yard dropping off any local cars and picking up any traffic bound for Peoria or points west).  The train will travel to the LaSalle staging (which also serves as my Bureau staging).  It will drop any traffic for Bureau and points west.  It will pick up any Ottawa local cars as well as Chicago traffic and return east working Ottawa a second time.

11:30 AM - Soo Local - Dubuque to Ottawa Turn - No change

Varies - Ottawa to Montreal, Canada - Unit Sand Train - Operates as needed.

BN Local - Annulled

In summary:
I have set a lofty goal for myself now.  I will be busy over the next two weeks bringing all this together for my op session.  It's go time!

Monday, February 9, 2015

The ROCK 3.0: Steve is on the Jazz Again!

I grew up in the 80s and loved watched the A-Team with my dad.  Just recently, I watched an episode with my wife on Netflix.  They were talking about Hannibal being on the jazz again.  Well, I feel like that myself this evening.

So, I continue to ponder the idea of east staging.  I love my layout, but the downfall in the design was lack of east and west staging for the local stuff to leave/enter the layout.  This afternoon, I wondered, if i was to curve back the mainline using the little bit of window frame opening space, I could make the turn and run staging along the back wall behind Ottawa Silica.

Here is a mock up of how it would work.  Only one mainline track would make the hidden turn back behind Ottawa Silica.  This is Kato Unitrack 13.75" radius that I use for my test track as an example.

Currently, to access the bag sand loading tracks, you have to come up from the south of the Ottawa Silica plant and run behind the plant to access the box car tracks.  I created this as it was the way the prototype was.  The only issue is that it is awkward for the operator to operate the turnout for both tracks as it is hidden behind the tall sorting building at Ottawa Silica.  It will be even harder to access after I add the conveyors in between the Ottawa Silica buildings.  

My new thought is to add a turnout just north of the scale track in the foreground of the photo.  It will open up to the two bagged sand loading tracks that will be closer to the aisle.

The staging track would come around where the blue board is resting now.  It will be hidden by the Ottawa Silica bag loading building.

Here is a view looking up behind the Ottawa Silica building to access the two bag sand loading tracks.  Once the mainline makes the hard right turn, I will open it up to two tracks for east staging.  This area would be hidden by the structures and most likely a 3-4" high sky blue mini-backdrop to hide the tracks.

So, if this plan was to be put into motion, let's list the Pros and Cons:

  1. Provides east staging (two tracks)
    The RI moved a lot of sand to the east.  
    1. New Blue Island Transfer Train
    2. New GTW Unit Sand Train (from the ROCK to Blue Island to GTW)
  2. Improves access to the turnouts for the bagged sand loading tracks.
  3. No loss of industry spots at the bagged sand loading tracks.
    1. The gondola sand loading track will still remain in place in the third picture above.

  1. Destruction/construction process.  You never know how well that might go pulling up track.
  2. BN crossing would probably be removed permanently.
    1. The crossing in reality was much further to the east.  I tried to make it work to include on my layout.  I haven't really used it much so far and would be fine getting rid of it.  
  3. ???  Maybe something else I'm not thinking.

Thoughts anyone?

Sunday, February 8, 2015

The ROCK 3.0: LOF Scratchbuilding Progress

It was so pleasant this afternoon (72 degrees) that I went out back and painted the silos and part of the building for LOF.  I used Lowes Valspar Flat Rivera Dune Paint + Primer spray paint on a suggestion by my friend Larry for the concrete.

After throwing around some ideas with my friend Allen in Nebraska regarding the smokestack, the paint had dried where I could continue work.  I constructed the building at the right end of the silos during the afternoon.

After dinner, I returned to the project constructing the head house.  I'm pretty pleased with the building so far.  There are a few things I need to work on.  One is the box in the center of the head house.  It needs to be bigger to extend out toward the front.  I have various other things I need to add as well.  Many of the components of the structure are not glued in place yet so they can be painted.  I think it looks pretty good as far.  I'll make an effort to run to Lowes tomorrow at lunch to pick up some gray spray paint for the sheet metal on the structure.