Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Oregon Joint Line Tour

While I have been working hard on the next signal install phase coming out this weekend, this post is not about me or my layout. This post is all about my my experience, overview, and influence of good friends layout this past weekend.

My favorite train - northbound coal drag from The Rio Grande seen here at Humboldt Jct.

Last Saturday I had the opportunity to attend and dispatch Dean Ferris' N Scale Oregon Joint Line set in the 1960s. This layout is not only great to operate on, but also railfan with the numerous scenes to catch a train traversing. The layout is single deck walk around with staging located below. It has been some time since my last OJL post so let's jump right into my experience as dispatcher and layout tour.

              Map of the layout 

Seated in my corner of the the OJL world I had all the tools needed for a succesful day including track map, diapatcher board, plenty of track warrants, and dispatcher phone. Dispatching anothe layout is a great way to get ideas for your own layout, not to mention really learn the territory. Having a good comfortable spot for the dispatcher is appreciated, and Dean did well with this.

    Prepped ready to begin the session.

Working through the lineup - 24 track warrants were issued for 11 trains and a dedicated helper working both north and south grades to Snowline.

Keeping them moving! Having a dispatcher white board helps dispatchers lay out there authorities and plan better. We use a similar board on the MCIS which will go digital soon. Each train receives a different color.

We start out on the lower level of the layout. This north staging yard represents Ukiah, Antelope, and other northern offline destinations.

North Staging below - Monument Yard on top.

Coming out of staging and past GN Jct where the joint line begins we traverse through Lone Rock. This is the only town on the lower level before coming up onto the main level.

With Lone Rock behind us we begin our trek along the South Fork of the John Day River with spectacular views of The Picture Gorge.

Following the river we enter Fossil which hosts a logging site and passing siding

       North end of siding at Fossil

              South end of Fossil 

Passing Fossil we diamond over the shortline Oregon & Northeastern at O&NE Crossing of all places before continuing on to Monument.

O&NE Scanlon Yard with OJL mainline behind the industries. As you can see forest products are king out here.

After passing the O&NE the main jogs to the right bringing us into NP Monument Yard.

Beyond Monument is Dayville which also hosts the GN yard with a host of industries around both terminals. Why are there two yards? It is a joint owned line so both NP and GN have their own classification facility.

Leaving Dayville we begin our assault up the grade to Snowline. Most trains other than passenger and piggyback require helps to conquer this grade.

  The grade crest at Snowline. There is a siding here to make meets.

Once past Snowline southbound it is downgrade all the way to Silvies. Here we are passing the ballast pit at Basalt.

Past Basalt we enter the town of Emigrant. Multiple customers keep a local out of Silvies pretty busy during a session. Additionally there is a station stop here and connection to UP Burns Branch.

Coasting out of Emigrant we enter Emigrant Canyon on our way to Silvies. Fantastic views along our route!

Emerging from Emigrant Canyon we enter a broad curve bringing us into Graystone and past the large Graystone Cement plant. 

Rounding the curve out of Graystone we enter the north end of Silvies. The locomotive in the foreground was our helper this session. Northbound trains heading towards Monument / Dayville need a helper out of Silvies to get over Snowline.

Silvies has a yard which hosts the local to Emigrant and numerous block swaps during a session.

Beyond Silvies Yard is the town of Silvies before trains enter Staging at Humboldt Jct representing offline destinations to the south.

Humboldt Jct and NP Hearney Staging 

While Dean's OJL represents the 60s I took the opportunity to model the OJL on my modern day Michigan Interstate. How you ask? Well those forest products that are King on the OJL must get to market so what better way than a FMC double door boxcar in forest product service. 

Former McCloud River found new life on the OJL. While the OJL is a jointly owned railroad which in modern times would be UP/BNSF, the railroads decided to create a paper subsidiary railroad to serve customers between GN Jct and Humboldt Jct using OJL marks. 

There are also rumors that Graystone Cement is looking to enter the Great Lakes market via a terminal somewhere in Michigan.... Will have to see if this materializes....

I hope you have enjoyed our tour of the OJL and seeing how two proto freelance railroads can influence each other. Stay tuned for my next signal install phase post coming this weekend!


Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Early September Update

The layout has been a flurry of activity this past month with my signal installation project. In addition to the detection circuits and signals, there have been a few other things happening on the layout,  so let's take a look.

A preview of items in this post... all of th right here. If you look closely you can see all four signal blocks displaying "Approach" after being powered up.

One side effect of this signal project is getting certain scenes scenic'd or "scene ready" while installing the signals. A project like this helps you solve those scenery road blocks quickly.

Mocking up the two backdrop sets before install. Love those toys in the picture.

Using SceniKing backdrops that I had amassed over the last year, I got off my butt and decided it was time to install them at Upper Huron prior to signals going in. Unfortunately SceniKing products are now out of production, but you can probably still find their kits or Rollouts online or at certain hobby shops.  Using scissors and a hole punch I cut out the sky and installed using a extra strength glue stick. The results speak for themselves, and once partnered with scenery the scenes will look even better!

Backdrop representing town of Upper Huron. A road crossing blending with foreground and backdrop will be located here.

Transition between town and soybean field to the right of the grade crossing scene. A few more overhead lights are needed here, not a big issue to add.

Grade crossing head on view. Backdrops really are a great scene multiplier.

The past month saw six Athearn cars get added to the overall fleet. 

30,000 gallon ethanol tank courtesy of R. Duncan Rail Corp. (RDLX)

Two 60' FMC DD Plate F boxcars stenciled for Coe Rail. We will see high cube 60s as modern fleets are trending this way. Got these in a buy/sell model railroad group on Facebook.

Three Trinity 5161 cubic hoppers lettered for US BORAX soon to be re-stenciled to Michigan Interstate marks. M.B. Kleins had a great Athearn sale recently, fleet management capitalized on that opportunity.

The new car additions help create better the modern era that I strive to model. Us modern era Modelers in my opinion are pretty fortunate with the products offered currently. For that matter the variety and types of equipment for all scales and eras seems to be a golden age for our hobby. I do need to get more on the "pre-order" band wagon, but sometimes it is the thrill of the chase finding equipment. Be sure to keep an eye out for them on the railroad.

Anyone familiar with my blog knows that video posts are very few and far between up until recently with demonstration videos of the signal system. I hope to begin changing that and add more consistent content quarterly via video on Facebook, blogger, and Youtube. 

MCIS 9901 - Engineering Survey railcar.

Recently a good friend let me borrow his GoPro Hero3 to test out taking video on the layout. From a clearance perspective the camera sits nicely on wellcar MCIS 9901 to provide a great shot as if the camera is mounted on the locomotive nose. A few more tests and I hope to publish a video tour from train perspective later this month.

Some time ago I found a HO scale Meijer grocery truck, but never had a chance to pick one up. Fast forward to a few weeks ago when there was large sale of Trucks N Stuff sets on a model railroad Facebook group. In short order it was on its way.

Meijer Freightliner Cascadia day cab pulling a 53' refrigerated trailer in current scheme.

Growing up in Michigan, Meijers was and still is a very prominent store. It is only fitting with Meijer stores around the area serviced by MCIS that we have one of their trucks on layout. The modern paint scheme and Freighliner Cascadia help further plant the timeline to current day. Take some time to find vehicles for your era and give it a whirl, you will be amazed how this detail sets the scene.

This past weekend we travelled to Walt Disney World for a long weekend trip. I would be wrong if I didn't share a few photos of locomotives that carry guests daily on a "Grand Circle Tour" of the Magic Kingdom.

WDWRR #4 Roy O. Disney leaving Fantasyland station. You could cut the Florida humidity with a knife!

WDWRR #3 Roger E. Broggie awaiting passengers at Fantasyland station as twilight sets in.

As you can see quite a few items here and there to help continue bringing the layout together. Remember layout progress comes in many forms, be sure to enjoy them all.... Even wiring.

Thanks for stopping by, have a safe month! Be sure to check back for signal project posts later this month.


Saturday, September 3, 2016

St. Clair Sub Signal Install Part 3 (Phase 2 Video - eastbound signals)

Video of multiple Azatrax TS2 signal circuits operating together between East Bay-Edsel-Weiss-Upper Huron. In this example we see a eastbound manifest operating over the signaled portion. 


Thursday, September 1, 2016

St. Clair Sub Signal Install - Part 3 (Phase 2 - Connecting Multiple TS2s)

Earlier this month we walked step by step through the process for you to install the Azatrax TS2 Signal Circuit on your railroad. This simple install was designed to allow for "Virtual" block operation with IR detection. 

In this post we are going to take those basic concepts of installing a TS2 and expand from one to four total detection blocks that will operate as a communicating Automatic Block Signal system. I want to preface the conversation that with any model railroad signal system, our goal is to achieve "prototype like or prototype based" operations. This system when linked together will do just, so lets jump right in. Quick note - this post is photo and content heavy, but what fun is a blog post without good photos... 

Readers: The signals and signal systems that I will be reviewing and installing in my Layout How To series were provided at no cost by Azatrax LLC. However the selection, installation, operation, and opinion of these signals and systems are 100% my own. 

3 - Azatrax TS2 Circuit Kits 
            (Kit includes the board, 2 sets of IR LEDs and IR Receivers with wire leads)
       **Note for this specific install we will not use the 1,000 ohm resister**
1 - BLMA 1038 Block Signal
1 - NJ International 1071 Block Signal
2 - NJ International 1037 Short Bi Directional Signals

In addition to the ordered components, you will the following items:
- 3/16 inch #12 Drill Bit
- Small Wire Stripper
- Solder Iron / Rosin Core Solder
- 28 Gauge Wire - Solid in at least three colors
- Signal Tester (Used for BLMA signals which are made with magnet wire)
- Heat Shrink Tubing
- Hot Glue Gun

Our previous install I showed you how we could detect the trains using "Reflective" mode which reflected light from the IR LED off the bottom of the locomotive / rolling stock which was then received by the IR receiver causing detection. For two of the three detection blocks in this post we are going to utilize "Across The Track" sensing. The best part for you the modeler is that choice is yours and the TS2 kit from Azatrax uses the same components to detect either way with a small change in how you hook up the wires. It is that easy. 

This particular install was going to be tricky since it was on curved MDF board in a helix. Two of the turns on my helix are open, so I saw an opportunity to add modeling interest through scenery and detection for signal operations. Looking at the photo above I chose my location and marked where the block signal should be on each level of the helix. From there I used a 50' railcar to help locate where the IR beam needed to be broken on each side of the signal. When installing in a "Across The Track" setup you want to have the beam cross the tracks at a 45' angle to help ensure as the train passes the IR beam does not get through a cause a false clear. 

In preparation for mocking up the sensors across the track, I needed to cut down the styrene tube provided with the TS2 kit. The tubes slide right off allowing you to cut them to any length you need depending on teh install. With each level of the helix being very thin I cut mine down to nearly 1/4 of the original size. 

Along with cutting the tubes I need to bend the IR LED and IR receiver 90' for across the track use. Using a jewelers screwdriver I bent the leads very carefully. You do not want to do this often or they could break off.

 Using painters tape I temporarily fix the tubes and their IR LED / receiver on each side of the track. It is important to ensure you have the right height and make adjustments before moving on. Aiming the IR LED at the side sills proved to have the best accuracy for detection. 

At the same time I was installing the tubes for the LED and receiver, I needed to add my basic landform scenery on both curves. One curve I used primarily Sculptamold and the other as show here I used pink foam. The tubes were mounted on the side of the MDF board using hot glue. I then used either Sculptamold or foam board to secure around the tube to avoid an opportunity to bump and break. Using the ruler to help ensure a consistent aim from tube to tube it is now time to add the IR LED and receivers. 

IR LED and receivers installed for both the upper and lower curves. The wires still need to be properly hidden and organized but as you can see the styrene tubes are blended into the scenery. A little coat of tan latex paint will help disguise them in bushes or ground foam when the scenes are complete. 

The helix leg support happened to be a perfect platform to run all of the wires from the IR LED and receiver up to TS2 on. The hardboard that the TS2 is mounted on is actually the backdrop for the upper level at Upper Huron. If you noticed we did not need to add a new power supply for this TS2. Up to 10 TS2s can be operated by the same transformer, so we need to do is add jumper wires from the last TS2 power supply to the next one. 

Closeup of IR LED and receiver wires coming into TS2 #2. The red and black wires are the power source running from TS2 #1 that we installed earlier this month. 

Before jumping into signal install - Test Test Test. After wiring up the IR LED and receiver pairs for each board be sure to Test Test Test with a live train looking for any false sensing or false clears. In the photo above we can see TS2 #3 has both the East and West Sensors lit since the hopper on the left is crossing the path of the East sensor pair and the tankcar in the middle is crossing the West pair path.

Installing the signal we then run the wires up and connect both east and westbound signals to their appropriate locations. It may seem intimidating with the amount wires, but by following the directions step by step you add a few at a time getting this as your end result for each TS2. I use solid strand wires for the signals and the wires that come with the TS2 are also solid, so you can bend wires into a organized shape. 

The process repeats itself over for installing TS2 #3 which also uses "Across The Track" detection. 

TS2 #2 on the left completely wired and tested. Once complet we move on TS2 #3 to the right and begin the same process. How do we link them together? Great question, we are going to focus on that next. 

So we have installed three TS2's (#1, 2, and 3). While they all share a common power supply, they all still operate independently as if there are virtual blocks on each side of the sensors. We need to link them and by doing so we change the operation from solo to a team effort if you will. 
Courtesy - Azatrax LLC 

Looking at the diagram above two wires link each TS2 in order. You have the common on both boards and then you link either East to West or West to East. It is that simple and bam.... you have a signal system that works together. 

 Close up of the Link East "LE" and Common "C" wire and terminal on TS2 #1. The wires run from this board up to TS2 #2 and plug in at the Common "C" and Link West "LW" terminal.

TS2 #2 and #3 are complete on the left and center of the picture. The power supply has been ran from TS2 #3 over to TS2 #4 on the far right of the photo. We will continue the install by discussing how we connected TS2 using "Reflective" mode. Keeping your wires and work area neat and clean is key to proper install and operation. 

Our last install post focused on installing the IR Sensor pairs for "Reflective" sensing. I do not want to re-hash the entire post since it is easy available just a few posts back, but I do want to show you some creative ways to help when under-layout space may be at a premium.

Using our 3/16" drill bit we make our 45' holes in between the ties. Note only two ties in between or one "gap" which provides for the perfect angle in HO scale.  

Back to that comment about premium under-layout space here we have a great example. The install of the sensor pairs for TS2 #4 are on the top of the helix where it comes back on layout. However below the sensors is turn #3 of the helix. There is no way the tubes can stick this far down without the train hitting them. All hope is not lost. 

 While the tubes are installed in their holes, take a marker or pen and mark where the tube comes out of the MDF board. We can them cut them down to provide accurate clearances for the track below while still using the tube to holster the sensors in between the tracks.

 End result = tubes cut down to fit in the alotted space. Once cut we can then thread the sensors and wires through them and install on the layout. 

 Trimming down the tubes has really improved the clearance for the track in turn #3. Since the wires are solid strand we can bend them up and use tape or a small dab of hot glue to hold them in place along the MDF board. 

 With our sensor pairs installed and in the clear of the track, we can easily connect them into the TS2.

 Test - Test - Test. In the background we can see a test train on curve #4 of the helix coming on layout and operating over both the East and West sensors as they are indicating detection. 

 Keeping it neat - I opted to use small dabs of hot glue to hold the wires for both sensors and signals in place versus a staple gun. Was it more efficient sure, but the driver behind using hot glue was this install taking place during late evening hours well after my kids had went to bed..... I have learned to work quieter than a church mouse.

Feeding my signal wires for both the eastbound and westbound block signal, I use the same technique of hot glue dabs to secure the wires. There is no doubt extra wire but with plenty of space there was not need to create waste. 

Our finished product with TS2 #2, 3 and 4 completely wired and operational. Remember to keep things neat and orderly which makes troubleshooting or maintenance easy to do. 


This completes Phase 2 of the St. Clair Sub Signal Install project. I hope you have enjoyed the content and the photos, this was lengthy post. By completing the install of these additional TS2s and linking them together, we have now created a four block operating Automatic Block Signal system. Tomorrow evening I will post on my YouTube Channel and Blog video showing the signal operating together in four aspect configuration. The realism created by the Azatrax TS2 has elevated operations to a new level going forward. I hope you find an opportunity to add this system to your railroad, as it will not disappoint. Please feel free to leave comments or questions and I will do my best to answer them. 

 Looking east at the block signal at East Bay shows "Stop" while the M-PHBA-01 trundles westbound. Eastbound signals on curve #1 and #2 show "Clear".

Looking opposite westbound we see the westbound signal aspects. The top signal in curve #2 is actually flashing yellow noting "Advanced Approach" while the signal in curve #1 displays "Approach". The tail end of the M-PHBA-01 is ducking under the overpass with the last signal displaying "Stop" since the train is in block.


Thank you for stopping by. We will continue with the install series in Mid-September showing how the TS2 performs basic interlocking functions. Our series will come to close in early October showing advanced interlocking functions and a post on how ABS will be integrated with the existing Direct Traffic Control.