Friday, April 24, 2015

The ROCK 3.0: Expansion Thoughts!

I preface this blog post with the following public service announcement...

I am continually fascinated to watch freight move across my layout with a purpose.  I love the logistics of moving Car A from Destination A to Destination B.  On the Illinois Division, locals would move freight between the towns to major terminals where they could be moved out on freight trains.  I model a small portion of this with train #113 Joliet to Bureau Turn.   Right now, this sweeper train moves freight from Ottawa to the west staging yard at LaSalle as well as move freight east to Blue Island via the East Staging.  What if I was to expand on this idea?

Uh oh, here we go.  I'm locked in eastbound and can't expand any further.  Although it was suggested by one reader to go out the one window and come back in the other window.  Crazy readers!  So, back to what I was say, but what about westbound?   The west end of the layout ends out in the hall upstairs with the drop leaf LaSalle Yard.  If you stand at the throat of the yard and look west you see about seven feet of hallway and a little used guest bedroom on the horizon.  Uh oh.  Did you get approval from your wife?  No. We are just in the planning stages now.

Possibly in a drug induced state, the wheels started turning.  I give the hallway a good skunk eye as I ponder.  What if I was to create another drop leaf section to meet LaSalle Yard?  I could span the hallway into the guest bedroom.

Things that make you go hmm...?


So, I got out my tape ruler and hobbled around post surgery to begin to survey the situation.  I think I could run a narrow layout (no more than 3" wide around three of the walls in the guest room and open up to a small urban scene at the end (modeling Peoria).  

So, let's review this idea.  Here is a plan I drew up.  Oh no, he has a plan already?  This is how it started with full room expansion on the first layout.

So, what do we get from this crazy idea?  First, let's give it a name.  I'm thinking the Peoria Branch Expansion Project.  It sounds official enough.  Let's look at the positives and negatives of this.

  1. Modeling Bureau Junction.  Very cool!  This would give my #113 Joliet to Bureau Turn an actual destination to travel to, turn on the wye and return making it one big job vs. two small jobs currently.  This train would operate very much like the prototype.
  2. Modeling the Peoria Rocket - Now, I have a sad excuse of a Peoria Rocket that runs from LaSalle to Ottawa in like two minutes making one stop.  This train will now run from the far end of the layout to the other end making a total of four stops now.  It will look even better when I finally receive my custom paint E unit.  :-)
  3. Off Layout Destinations - I feed my logistics desire to see freight move with a purpose.  Instead of everything westbound ending at LaSalle.  LaSalle would function as a small independent yard.  Westbound traffic would now be routed to one of three off layout destinations at Bureau Junction (Silvis), Chillicothe (Santa Fe), and Peoria (numerous railroads).
  4. The additional real estate and railroad jobs would require a fifth person to operate.  I have a core crew of four plus me.  This leaves nobody out when time to play.  If short a crew member for an operating session, I could keep to only operations in the main room for the session.
  5. Longer train runs overall: Peoria Rocket, Train #95 Chicago to Peoria freight, #113 Joliet to Bureau Turn.  
  6. Scenery would be minimal in the new section not requiring any additional materials.
  1. The railroad is basically doubling in size although majority of the volume of operations continue to be on the original layout with less overall track on the new section.
  2. More track maintenance.  
  3. Expense of lumber, turnouts, flex track, ground throws, additional NCE plug-in jacks (I have enough throttles), quick disconnect electrical hardware to run between temporary sections in hallway.
  4. I'm sure there are more, but that is all I can think of with my positive outlook currently.  :-)

Operating Scheme of the Peoria Branch Expansion Project
Using a series of drop down/lift out sections coupled with three permanent, semi non-obtrusive sections, the CEO proposes to extend the Rock Island: Ottawa Sands layout west and south to Peoria, Illinois.

Modeled Sections:
LaSalle – Modify existing drop down yard to be double ended creating a two track yard.
Bureau – The Junction at Bureau.  Model the line to Peoria.
Chillicothe – Model the Santa Fe Junction and passenger station.
Peoria Heights – Model Peoria Paper industry.
Peoria – Model small yard with tracks for various interchanges, Pabst Brewery, and Station.


  • New Train #130 – Peoria to Bureau Turn 
    •  Peoria – Work the Pabst Brewery, interchange cars with TP&W, GM&O, N&W, C&IM, ICG and BN (basically classifies this cars which will be removed during the session to represent the interchange with these railroads).  Cars will be present from previous day’s Train #95 Chicago to Peoria.
    •  Chillicothe – Pickup Silvis, LaSalle, Ottawa, Chicago Cars (Orange, Gray, White, Blue tabs)
      • Drop off ATSF (Yellow tabs)
    • Bureau – Drop off Silvis, LaSalle, Ottawa, Chicago (Orange, Gray, White, Blue tabs)
      • Pick up Peoria cars or Santa Fe Cars (Black, Yellow tabs)
    • Chillicothe – Drop off any ATSF cars (Yellow tabs)
      •  Pick up any Peoria cars (Black tabs)
    • Return to Peoria, classify inbound freight, and make deliveries to Pabst Brewery.
  • Changes to Train #113 – Joliet to Bureau Turn
    • Formerly terminated at LaSalle and return train came back later in the session.  Now, train will work as one job from Ottawa to Bureau Junction and return.  This will manifest into a really big job moving cars between terminals.
    • Ottawa – Drop off any Ottawa or Soo (White or “Soo” tabs)
      • Pickup any Silvis, LaSalle, Peoria, or ATSF cars (Orange, Gray, Black or Yellow tabs)
    •  LaSalle – Drop off any LaSalle cars (Gray tabs)
      • Pickup any Peoria, ATSF or Silvis cars (Black, Yellow or Orange tabs)
    • Bureau Junction - Drop off any Peoria, ATSF and Silvis cars (Black, Yellow or Orange tabs)
      • Turn power on the wye.
      • Pickup any LaSalle, Ottawa, Soo or Blue Island cars (Gray, White, “Soo” or Blue tabs)
    •  LaSalle – Drop off any LaSalle cars (Gray tabs)
      • Pickup any Ottawa, Soo or Blue Island cars (White, “Soo” or Blue tabs)
    • Ottawa – Drop off any Ottawa or Soo cars (White or “Soo” tabs)
      • Pickup any Blue Island cars (Blue tabs)
    • Return to Joliet

  • Changes to Train #95 – Chicago to Peoria Freight
    • Ottawa – Drop off any Ottawa or Soo (White or “Soo” tabs)
      • Pickup any Peoria or ATSF cars (Black or Yellow tabs)
    • Terminate in Peoria

  • Changes to #12 – Peoria Rocket (Peoria to Chicago)
    • Peoria - Depart at 6:45am (new station stop)
    • Chillicothe – Depart at 7:06am (new station stop)
    • Bureau – Depart at 7:39am (new station stop)
    • LaSalle-Peru – Depart at 7:59am
    •  Ottawa – Arrive 8:16am
  • Changes to Soo #574/#575 – Soo Line Dubuque, IA to Ottawa Turn
    • Train originates at Bureau Junction on the Main #2
    • Ottawa – Drop off all cars.  Pick up any Soo cars (“Soo” tabs)
    • Return to Bureau Junction, terminating on Main #2

Pfft....I give this expansion project a 25% chance of happening.  Well, it was a thought.  I know for one thing though, I don't want to change what I have now.  I'm really happy with that.  This would only expand on that idea.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The ROCK 3.0: Ottawa Yard Work

This evening, I pulled everything out Ottawa Yard to perform some work.

First off, I found a broken turnout point on the east end ladder.  I repaired that and commenced in moving all the freight cars down to South Ottawa.  It looked pretty impressive with a 35-car train snaking its way south out of the yard.  When working on that, I noticed a broken turnout point on the west end ladder.  Sweet Lord!  I hate broken turnout points!  I repaired that as well.  At least that didn't occur during the operating session.

I noticed the Micro Engineering turnout for access to Track 2 in the yard was acting up again.  My temporary fix was just that....temporary.  I need to replace that turnout.

I then took a look at track four that was reported without power during the op session.  I found a loose wire connected to the bus.  That was a quick fix.

Once all the track repair issues were resolved (minus the turnout replacement), I began work on ballasting the yard.  I came across this photo posted to Facebook from  I would like my yard to look like this.

Ottawa Yard Empty - Looking West

Ottawa Yard Empty - Looking East

Materials on hand for this project

My first attempt.  I'm not really pleased with this.  I think I need to try again.

I'm not particularly pleased with this.  It doesn't look like the photo.

I see from this angle (only accessible from the phone) that I have too much ballast and grass piled up along the track.

Well, attempt #1.  I will try again.

My photo inspiration of what I want Ottawa yard to look like.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

The ROCK 3.0: It's Time to ROCK!!!

Today, the ROCK came alive once again!!  In attendance were good friends Larry Keller and Marcus Neubacher.  It is Saturday, April 18th, 1975 and we have a lot of sand to move.

There are quite a few new rules in place for operating today.  I briefed the crews on the new rules.
  • Any 40' Box Cars destined for Ottawa Silica (OS5 or OS6) need to be coopered first on the clean-out track at Ottawa Yard.  Once clean, they can be set out for OTSW.  (this is relatively new as it was implemented last session).
  • For the Ottawa Yardmaster, expect the arrival of #217 Blue Island to Ottawa empty sand hoppers shortly after lunch for delivery to the plant today.
  • For the OTSW, do not travel under the sand loading tipple or move cars in line to be loaded at Ottawa Silica.
  • New weighing instructions - You must now weigh cars in blocks of the same type and set the scale to the appropriate setting.
    •        Setting A – ACF Covered Hoppers – Max 263,000 lbs
    •        Setting B – Box Cars – Max 176,000 lbs
    •        Setting C – PS2 Hoppers – Max 219,000 lbs
Last operating session, I had difficulty with the Mr FastClock application.  It only runs on a Windows-OS and we're a Mac family here.  I tried running through my terminal server at work, but it dropped connection during the day rendered it useless after lunch last session.  This morning, I researched and found an application called CrossOver by CodeWeavers that allows me to run one Windows-based application at a time without having to load an entire Windows OS environment.  I installed and tested before the session and it worked well.  For my fellow Mac users, check it out.

I gave the guys the option of what jobs to run.  Marcus chose the yard and Larry ran OTSW - Ottawa Switcher.  I took the UTSW - Utica Switcher as well as run the through freights.  Due to a short crew, I annulled the passenger trains.

Typically, the yard job goes on duty at 6am with the OTSW going on duty at 7am.  The UTSW doesn't go on duty normally until 8:30am.  Today, since the ultimate goal was just to move as much freight at possible, we all started at 6am.  I especially, had to stop numerous times during the day to run through trains so it took me a lot longer than normal to run.

There was two track issues.  The Micro Engineering turnout accessing track #1 and #2 at Ottawa Yard was acting flaky.  I was able to fix that on-site.  Also, track #4 in the yard lost power.  I didn't investigate further as Marcus was able to make do with buffer cars.  I would expect it is a loose feeder wire, but I will check that later.  Also, the scale at Ottawa was experiencing some issues where it wouldn't ramp down between cars therefore not weighing the next car by displaying the previous cars weight.  I need to check the sensor on it as it appears it needs an adjustment.

The rest of the op session can be best reported via photos and captions, so here we go.

U30C #4589 pulling the first cut of sand loads south of the Ottawa Silica loadout.

Larry working the OTSW pulling loads out of Track 3 at Ottawa Silica

Me working on the UTSW classifying the cars for my local before heading out of the yard.

Me on the UTSW pulling past Putnam Street as I work on building my train.

A view from Water Street by the yard as I'm shoving a cut of cars back into the yard.

Larry weighing his first batch of loaded sand hoppers at the Ottawa scale.

Larry inbound to drop off a load of sand hoppers and pick up empties as it is imperative to keep the plant fed with empties to avoid a shutdown.

Larry pulling out of the yard with his empties as Marcus is getting ready to classify some cars in Ottawa Yard.

Larry returning to work South Ottawa.  Still all smiles.  It was early in the day though.  :-)

Looking good at Ottawa Silica.  Here Larry is about to run around his sand empties so he can place them on the north side of the plant.  In reality, loads are on the north side of the plant, but due to the arrangement on my layout, I reversed the layout.

Larry spotting empties on Track 2.

A view under the sand loadout.

Look at all those ROCK hoppers!  Love it!

Me on UTSW finally moving.  I'm pulling up to Putnam Street with some fresh loads of coal for Peru Power.

My conductor made the cut and I pull east to spot my cars at Putnam Street.

Check out the old Virginian hopper still in coal service.  The ROCK had some of these weathered similar, but have the RI reporting marks.  I haven't added those yet, but will in the future.

Me on the UTSW picking up some empties from Peru Power.

Looks like we are picking up an old transformer today too.

Looking east behind Peru Power as I spot my loads of coal behind the Peru Power plant.  My empties pickup is sitting on the mainline.

Larry weighing a cut of sand loads at the Ottawa Scale.

Me on the UTSW at Mill Street in full blown local mode now.  My locos and caboose are now buried in the train as shove down the PQ Track 1 to pick up some outbound tank cars.

Our railfan photographer today snapped some shots of freight cars that struck his interest as well.  Here is one of the new Philadelphia Quartz covered hoppers that just arrived on the layout form Peconic Shops (Larry Keller)

Look at all those tanks at PQ!  Half of them are empty though.  I had the plant road blocked for probably too long today until I could sort out some cars and cut them allowing the truck traffic through.

A view from the mainline looking east as I shove down into PQ.  I realized during the session, I added three trees that block one of my favorite views.  After the op session, those trees were taken out.  I like being able to look down the mainline and see as I have a long cut stretched up into the PQ plant.

A Warren Tank that just came out of PQ.

This photo is surprisingly real.  The lighting and effects is awesome.  I only wish I had ballast down.

A 40' Box Car for Westclox.

Back over at Ottawa Silica, it appears the plant has been fed with empty hoppers.

No loads being produced currently though.

Larry left some loaded sand hoppers that had been weighed up at the yard board.  The discussion of where the yard limits are was yet again present today.  I need to get my sign back up to end this argument between the local and yard crews.  :-)

#113 Joliet to Bureau Turn is arriving in the yard as Marcus is classifying a cut of cars in the yard.

#113 passing through Utica after working at Ottawa Yard.

UTSW by the Westclox and Peru Power plants.

NYMX Mechanical Reefer by Mill Street in Utica.

The Soo Line #574 local headed east to Ottawa Yard by Water Street in west Peru.

Marcus using the yard lead classifying cars at Ottawa Yard.

Soo Line #574 Local by Mill Street in Utica.

Soo GP35 #722 by Utica.

Marcus was busy at the yard all day.  It was a constant flow of inbound and outbound traffic.  

Soo Line #575 headed back west after working Ottawa Yard.

After lunch, hoppers had been loaded with sand.  Larry is returning to South Ottawa with another batch of cars from Ottawa Yard.

Larry on OTSW weighing more sand.  He weighed sand in four batches during the day.  He had a total of 5 cars out of about 50+ that were over tonnage requiring reduction and re-weigh.

Larry on OTSW running his U30C south.

40' Norfolk & Western box car from the hill overlooking the PQ plant.

I was held up for a while due to running the through trains.  Here I am on the UTSW shoving some loads to the east end of the Belrose Silica plant.

A few box cars bound for Westclox.  I had the hardest time delivering these today due to new restrictions at Westclox.  One car at dock door two could not be moved.  I didn't have the room to work on the west side of the plant until I delivered some other cars first.  The box cars were finally delivered late in the afternoon to Westclox.

A covered hopper of chemicals picked up from PQ.

Here is #113 Joliet to Bureau Turn returning from Bureau headed east.

#113 by the signal in front of Westclox.

#113 west by Utica between the PQ and Belrose Silica plant.  #113 is passing by me on UTSW tucked away at the Belrose Silica plant.

Peconic Shops gave the ROCK a L&HR zinc hopper.  If we go with the expansion, zinc will be king in Depue.  What?  Oh, I said nothing.

#113's power sitting at the yard board while Marcus removes and adds cars to my train bound for Blue Island.

Ottawa Silica was a hungry beast today loading tons of hoppers on two shifts.  Before lunch, about 25 cars were loaded.  After lunch, about that same amount was loaded again.

Around mid-afternoon, the blue flags went down at Libbey-Owens-Ford so Larry could work the loads of float glass produced from the plant.

A 40' Rock Island Box Car in "Boom-time" Blue.

An aged 40' Erie 40' Box Car.

A 40' Double Sliding Door Great Northern Box Car

Larry working L-O-F.

Whoa!  An Alaska 50' Box Car headed back west.

Train #95 Blue Island to Peoria Freight picking up some cars in Ottawa Yard.

Larry loaded up with cars on both ends of his locomotive.

Illinois Terminal 50' Box Car spotted at door four of the L-O-F Float Glass Plant.

There was an issue with box cars loading up at the doors.  One box car had longer coupler boxes which required an offspot of one car.

L-O-F was consuming a lot of sand using over ten loads of sand during the day for their float glass production.

Larry shoving a cut of loaded sand hoppers up the pass track to be weighed.

Peru Power along Water Street in Utica.

After lunch, #217 Blue Island to Ottawa sand empties arrived with two GP18s.

Two cars being repaired at the RIP track at Ottawa Yard.  The blue hopper appears to have some missing hatches.

Trucks loading at the L-O-F Plant.

Sand being unloaded at the L-O-F Plant.

A 40' Gulf, Mobile & Ohio Box Car.

A 40' Combo Door Rock Island Box Car.

There was no shortage of cars at Ottawa Yard.  Marcus did a superb job keeping up with the constant flow of traffic.

A Western Fruit Express 50' Mechanical Reefer.

#95 Blue Island to Peoria Freight going from Track 1 to Track 2 in Utica.

#95 by Westclox in LaSalle.

A Milwaukee 50' Mechanical Reefer bound for the Pabst Brewery in Peoria.

a 40' Chicago & Illinois Midland 40' Box Car taken from the Highway Bridge.

The CEO must have not been feeling well when re-staging as I had one too many cars for Westclox.  The beauty of the Tab-on-Car system is the car can be off-spotted and delivered to the correct spot at the next session.

The UTSW moved super slow today due to the various interruptions.  Here I am pulling a cut of loaded sand hoppers from Belrose Silica.

UTSW by Mill Street in Utica.

Today's GTW unit train is running with full RI power, but with a GT caboose.  The yardmaster was authorized to fill this train out to twenty hoppers.  The train looked great leaving Ottawa Yard.

The Unit GTW train leaving Ottawa Yard.

Ottawa Silica never had a shortage of sand hoppers during the day.

Another re-staging goof up.  Three empty cars in a spot with a max of two cars.  The third car was off-spotted on the storage track behind the Ottawa Silica plant.

The east staging tracks at the end of the session.

Another re-staging goof.  I tell ya, I must have been crazy.  One car was off-spotted due to a door alignment issue.  The other was due to no space at the plant.

A 50' Railbox Combo Door Box Car.

So, that's a wrap for the session.  We ran for 12 fast hours or 3 regular hours and moved a tremendous amount of freight.  The layout ran well and couldn't have been more enjoyable to operate with such great friends.  Until next time, ROCK ON!