Thursday, November 24, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving

Take time today to give thanks and spend time with family and friends. I am thankful for you the reader.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Early November Update

Happy Election Day! Just like that October is behind us and we are running full tilt towards the holiday season starting with Thanksgiving.

This past week things have been the quietest on the layout in probably six months. After the Lone Star Region Ops session in June, I began the ABS signal project which is now 80% complete, followed by hosting two sessions at the 2016 DFW Interchange. Sometimes a little break is nice before getttig back to the layout. That being said let's look at the Ops Weekend, Industry Changes, and future posts.

Z-BKPH-28 departing Bay City after making crew change

DFW Interchange Weekend
On October 29th I hosted both am and pm operating sessions during the operating weekend. The layout operated very well during both sessions with only five railcars going bad order. I was honored to host guest operators from Houston, Austin, Dallas, Tulsa, and Kentucky. That evening everyone had a chance to meet up and have a group dinner at Uncle Bucks in Grapevine. I put together some quick stats of the days operation: 

Operators Hosted: 10 (5 am session, 5 pm session)

Trains Handled: 25 
Car Movements: 263
Bad Orders: 5 (Tight Trucks mostly)
Operating Hours: 6 hours, 15 minutes 
Donuts Eaten: 5

Provided are a few photos from the day with commentary. Thank you to all who participated and operated on the Michigan Interstate St. Clair Sub. 

Y-BA04-29 pulling across Saginaw River to clear switch to River Spur

L-PBBA-28 awaiting authority to take West Wye Switch and proceed to Bay City

Inbound M-PHBA-29 on Yard 1 to classify. In the photo you can see four sugar beet loads
RCL Operator on front platform of MCIS MP15DC #153 at Bay Yard. 

Every type of boxcar in modern era is pretty much in this photo at Bay Yard

West end of Bay Yard - Sugar Beet harvest is in full swing no doubt

Y-BA04-29 spotting two loads of Bitumen at Interstate Asphalt

Towards the end of the afternoon session we had enough traffic for Michigan Sugar at Grays Lake that we ended up running an extra L-BAUH-30. In this photo we can see the inbound traffic shoving into the plant storage tracks.

Industry Changes
Always looking to continually improve the layout, a few industries will have their locations changed. 

Bay City Station
The history of this location has been altered and the station no longer existed here. The station from its construction has been located on the mainline at Grays Lake. Accompanying the move is a neat history that we can explore along with providing a great architectural add to the downtown of Grays Lake. The location clicked almost instantly and where I placed it was actually a coincidence while I was working on the lower deck. Imagine that....
Grays Lake station looking west

Grays Lake Station looking east
View of station from an eastbound train. The station adds alot of character to this scene,

GEM Bakeries
The bakery has moved from the River Spur (West Switching Zone) to the Elevator Spur (Central Switching Zone) located where the Bay City Station was located. This new location will allow for a facility that will located on the edge of layout while providing three car spots for flour, sugar, and corn syrup unloading. I plan to cut in the switch and industry track over the Christmas holiday
Bakery adjacent to MAC Bay City Terminal

Graystone Cement 
In place of where GEM Bakeries had been located will be Graystone Cement's Bay City Terminal. This cement distribution terminal will receive inbound lake freighters of cement from Graystone's Superior, Wisconsin Plant. From here the cement will be stored then transferred to outbound railcars or trucks for delivery to batch plants / smaller distribution facilities. Using photos, a lake freighter will be added to the backdrop behind the terminal. Base model will come from the Walthers Medusa Cement kit. Ever since a kid I have loved the look of this kit, glad I will have the opportunity to add one on the St. Clair Sub. A single track will serve the plant allowing for 3 cars to be stored at one time for loading. 

Having a little fun clearing the lot before silos went in... 

Stand in silos for Graystone Cement. A simple print out of a lake freighter was used to get a sense of the scene.
Overall the changes in industries will net an extra 6 to 10 car movements per session in the form of GEM Bakeries gaining two extra car spots, and adding Graystone's new four car track.

Tank cars for Interstate Asphalt
A friend in Virginia snapped photos of three Interstate Asphalt cars coming out of VMID after receiving new markings and tank maintenance. The railcars were waybilled empty to Bay City for loading. Those cars sure look fantastic!

Steady progress is key.... it may not be alot but it is still progress. Always remember to continue moving forward with your hobby no matter how large or small the gain is.

Have a safe month.


Monday, October 31, 2016

Friday, October 28, 2016

Here's to the Weekend

While staging the layout for this weekend, snapped a great photo of the M-PHBA-27 between Gerhard and Grays Lake.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Late October Update

There has been a flurry of activity on the layout with the approaching DFW Interchange this weekend. Let's take a quick look at the projects that will be enjoyed by the operators.

With progress on the sugar beet plant at Upper Huron, I realized an important LOC (layout operations characteristic) would be modeling the sugar beet campaign and the traffic that comes with it. In building the layout I captured an important LDE (layout design element) with the processing plant. The beet season known as a "Campaign" starts in mid-late August which is the timeframe I model. Like the Huron & Eastern Railway which hauls beets from the thumb to Bay City in large cubic hoppers, the MCIS was going to do the same thing but selectively compressed.

Using the existing fleet of MCTR/MCIs marked bethlehem 3 bay hopers, a portion were removed from Illinois Basin coal service and cleaned. The plant will still burn coal for sometime but will lease RDL 5 door type hoppers which are readily available. The HESR prototype uses large former coke / woodchip GMO cars but we are going to compress with a 3 bay hopper. Saves track space but gives us the feel of beet hauling.

Back to our beet loads, let take a look at how I created them quite easily in just two days.

My base is plaster coal loads, the ones that need some work to look like a load.

We will use Modelmaster Light Earth and a Rustoleum almond colors to paint the loads.

        Generous base coat of Almond 

               Dusting of Light Earth

Overcoat dusting of Almond to tone it down. I then allow these to dry overnight in a well ventilated area. The porous loads soak up the paint quickly.

With the loads dry I then apply a generous coating of white glue then followed by sprinkling of Fenugreek seeds. Use a pan so you can collect the extra seeds not used. I also set the loads on foam or cork risers to keep them off the pan while being worked on. After an hour of letting the glue setup I then drizzle scenic cement over the loads to secure any loose seeds on top. Let dry overnight, it is ok if the beers are piled high as they would be in the prototype short haul move. 

     Loads drying post scenic cement 

    Finished loads dry ready for ops

Finished load ready for delivery to the processing plant. The loads are removable for load / empty flipping between sessions. Later on I will add a light coat of an India ink wash to highlight details and give them a dirtier look. Overall the effect works for me and is a pretty cool loads right behind the power on the M-PHBA manifest.

One side effect of installing signals at the west end of Grays Lake was realizing the signal mast fouled the Grays Industrial Spur lead. In short order I decided to use Sunday night to refurbish the spur. While no customer locations or tracks changed, I did a two run around with engine escape track allowing the R-GEGL room to work without inferring with the mainline. Truthfully I was not very happy with the track layout and knew there was a better setup.

Old configuration, no run around meant the R-GEGL "Grays Local" would have to use the main and passing siding to make a run around to serve the industries since two are facing point and one is trailing point moving east to west.

The best part of using track nails is ability to change without ripping up track. I wanted to keep the track footprint very similar to what I had used before, just differnt layout.

Track reinstalled, Cooperative Elevator to our left, Crop Production Services to our right, and runaround with escape track in the middle.

Looking west at same industries above. Adding the run around track gives the local a lot more flexibility

3M track, Grays Spur, Run-around, and mainline

Industrial spur lead relocated to the right to clear westbound ABS signal. 

We can expect to see a single 3800 series EMD GP38-2 assigned on the R-GEGL out of here. 

We are around 80% complete with the ABS signal project. While I will save more detailed discussion of the last install phase, I did want to give you a sneak peak of the kitbashed signal bridge installed on the East end of GRAY/GRAY SDG DTC block in Gerhard.

R-GEGL-24 with GP38-2 (3833 and 3827) returning from Kincaid, Michigan. Kincaid is not modeled but is represented by fiddle storage in east staging where I will or remove / add cars for this station. The local runs east to Kincaid on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

In November we will wrap up the signal install project, recap the DFW Interchange Ops weekend, and look at some new projects on The Clair.

Have a Safe and Happy Halloween!


Tuesday, October 18, 2016

St. Clair Sub Signal Install - Part 5 (Phase 4 - Advanced Interlocking)

October is here and with it brings our next phase of the St. Clair Sub ABS signal system install. This post we will walk through Advanced Interlocking at the Grays Lake West Siding Switch (WSS). Using the concepts we have learned through our previous posts we will connect three signals with the TS2 circuit and a Blue Point Turnout DPDT switch.

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. 

Eastbound signal at West Siding Switch (WSS) Grays Lake installed

Kicking off this phase like we have with all in the past, it is important to first read the directions, lay out your materials, and have all of your tools. This install requires the same tools from Part 4 - Phase 3 which has been consistent since our first block. Following Azatrax's instructions both of the sensors for the dual head signal need to be located prior to the switch. 


Courtesy Azatrax LLC.

 Marking the location where sensors will be mounted prior to drilling holes

Looking up from lower deck - holes for signal and TS2 sensors. 

 Installing IR LEDs first between the concrete ties

 Installing IR Receivers next through tracks. Note the angle of the receivers and LEDs is key

The end of the LEDs and Receivers can be gently bent a little to get the correct angle. 

IR sensors installed (location noted by fingers) ready to connect to TS2 and test 

 Wires from sensors fed through foam board. 

Until the final connections are complete I use blue painters tape to hold the wires in place keeping all the wires neat and organized. 

 Wires connected to TS2 - testing with multiple types of cars and locomotives.

Before moving beyond this step - ensure the sensors detect properly. Refer to Azatrax directions for troubleshooting, adjust sensors as necessary, test until it is right.


Once your sensors install is complete and operating properly, we can turn our attention to adding signal to the TS2. For this block we will install a dual head BLMA (right hand) signal and two BLMA block signals (one right hand and one left hand).

 Signals pre-wired and staged at Bay Yard ready to install

Wiring signals before installing on the layout helps tremendously with time savings and frustration factor. I used 22 ga. wire for the signals in this project and probably could have gone a tad smaller but this size seemed very durable.

 Threading the wires through the foam board. Use painters tape to band the different signal heads together prior to install. 

 Instead of trying to take pictures of connecting the wires I figured it was best to provide step by step guides on how to connect all three signals and make them operate as planned. 

Step 1 l is identical to how we have installed signals on all of the previous blocks with a east and west signal.

 Sensors, Eastbound, and Westbound signals connected to TS2 board.
Step 2 we dive into the advanced interlocking. By connecting signals #2 and lower head of signal #1 to the DPDT we are able to drive the signal aspect to either be red or green depending on how we have thrown the switch which drives the Blue Point turnout controller. The DPDT could easily be a Tortoise type machine. 

 View of Blue Point Turnout Controller with wires soldered to connections below.
 Step 3 uses the concepts from basic interlocking in our last post using the 1000 ohm resistor to cause the TS2 to sense a detection. This happens when the switch is thrown the DPDT routes the power from #6 to #4 where resistor causing a detection. Once these connections are complete spend some time operating the signals and running trains through them before connecting with TS2 #5 at Upper Huron. 

 Using switch knob on fascia to move throw switch and test DPDT / signal operation 

View of TS2 connections between TS2 #5 and TS2 #6. Using plastic clips to hold TS2 power cables and (LE to LW) and (C to C) wires.

Overall view of West Siding Switch at Grays Lake


The following diagram below describes signal operations at the west siding switch using the TS2 and DPDT switch. It is important to remember that this is not a CTC control point, the signals do not convey authority to enter main track. 

- Upper head of eastbound and westbound mainline signals are ABS intermediate signals
            These signals indicate block occupancy only or if switch is thrown against mainline

- Lower head of eastbound and westbound signal siding signal display switch position only
            Red - signal lined normal for mainline
            Green  - signal lined reverse for siding

Direct Traffic Control blocks issued via dispatcher provide authority to enter to operate over main track. 

Proceed indication with next two blocks clear / Switch lined normal

 Approach indication with next block at Gerhard occupied  / Switch lined normal

Stop indication due to caboose just traversing into block / Switch lined normal 

 Switch thrown against mainline within in block / Switch lined reverse to siding

Westbound signals - Left signal for siding (switch indication) / Right signal indicating block occupancy 

With the westbound siding switch and signals operating, I am now wiring up the eastbound siding switch and signals. These signals will operate via TS2 Circuit #7 prior to the mainline going into east staging. Beyond the detection circuit at the east switch one more TS2 #8 will be installed just ahead of the east staging yard throat. This final circuit will provide proper advanced block occupancy indications whether operating east or west. 

I hope you have enjoyed this install post. For me it did stretch my wiring abilities where I learned how to tackle more complex wiring. Breaking it down into smaller steps really helped bring it all together. While it is not a CTC control point, the ability for the TS2 to drive four signal heads at a siding can allow you to have an effective signal system with ABS as the basis. With our DFW Interchange session coming up next weekend, the system will add another layer or railroading for the operators. Please feel to ask questions about the install, one of my goals with this series is showing that you can add this type of setup to your railroad.