Tuesday, July 26, 2016

St. Clair Sub Diagrams

A lot of you guys have been asking for a trackplan of the MCIS St. Clair Sub and unfortunately I do not have one. Needless to say it is on my list of things to do, but in the interim we can look at each of the diagrams for each station. These diagrams will give you an idea of the industries, tracks, and general setup.

  Current timetable for MCIS St. Clair Sub

Keeping consistent with the direction of travel document in my "Run Over the Clair" post you can compare the photos to diagrams at your leisure. As we move from diagram you can keep yourself orientated to our location based on the line map of stations at the bottom of each diagram. Wherever we are the station box will be green. These diagrams are mounted on the fascia for operator refernence.

East staging is the origin/end location for trains coming from Port Huron, Detroit, and Sarnia. Each track can hold two locomotives and 11-12 cars for ops sessions.

Heading west from staging we come on-layout at Gerhard. At Gerhard the east siding switch (ESS) allows a train to use the long passing sidig between Gerhard and Grays Lake. From a customer perspective Huron Malting is the sole business with two tracks holding around six to seven covered hoppers serviced by the R-GEGL "Grays Lake Local". Additionally the upper continuous loop which also is the "long lead" begins here and connects Gerhard to Upper Huron to allow continuous train run. 

At the western terminus of the passing siding that begin at Gerhard is the town of Grays Lake. The R-GEGL is based here serving local customers 3M and Cooperative Elevator. Switching here can be a challenge at times with a trailing and facing point switch customers. Cars that are to be setout or picked up from the R-GEGL are left on the "local track".

Leaving Grays Lake we cross the Quincassee Creek bridge and enter the station of Upper Huron. Michigan Sugar , the largest customer on the west end of the "Clair" is located here. This station is unique in that it has a large wye where the Port Belle Sub branch leaves the St. Clair Sub mainline. The Port Belle Sub main that heads into staging is the same track that connects at Gerhard to form the upper level continuous loop. The L-BAPB local out of Bay Yard services Michigan Sugar and Saginaw Valley Power Cooperative on its east/north bound transit to Port Belle. Eventually the plant will have a trackmobile to move cars around internally. From Upper Huron the line heads slight down grade towards Bay City.

Both towns of Edsel and Weiss are unmodeled on the helix to provide distance. Eventual the second turn of the helix will be sceniced beyond the MDF board. At Edsel will be a defect / dragging equipment detector.

As we enter Bay City we see that there are four different diagrams for the trackage / customers. This is done to help simplify and break up the customers into zones for the local Y-BA04 "Bay Local" to handle. Some days only certain zones get switched since there are five customers not including interchange to the Lake State Railway or Huron Eastern. The east zone has one customer which handles inbound building materials adjacent to the east yard lead for Bay Yard.

Continuing into Bay City we encounter Bay Yard which is a hive of activity on the "Clair". This yard has three locals based here along with work events for theough trains and as the terminus / origin point for two manifest train pairs. The DSF here handles basic running repairs, fuel, sand, and scheduled inspections. Any heavy work is done at the Mount Pleasant or contract shops.

Located behind Bay Yard and the mainline is the Central Zone. This zone hosts Michigan Agricultural Commodities large terminal elevator that handles singles, blocks, and unit trains for agricultural products. Normally the east and central zones are paired together when switched.

Sandwiched beyond the Bay Yard west lead and foot of the Saginaw River swing bridge is the East Zone. Switching all three customers here will keep the Y-BA04 busy most of a normal session. A couple months ago the tracks were realigned to provide a decent run around for serving trailing and facing point customers at the same time. GEM Bakeries receives flour, sugar, and sweeteners while Fort Mackinac Corrugated receives paper for making corrugated boxes. The newest customers to locate at Bay City is Interstate Asphalt which receives liquid asphalt-bitumen products.

Passing over the Saginaw River Swing Bridge, the mainline heads off-layout towards west staging which represents Mackinac City, Grand Rapids, Mount Pleasant, and HESR interchange. Prior to descending to the staging yard a hidden switch connects to the LSRC interchange track found on the Bay Yard diagram allowing for lower level continuous run. West staging with its four track and descending lead allows for five trains to be sequenced for operation sessions.

I hope you enjoyed looking at the St. Clair Sub from a different perspective and when paired with the photos from the recent post you will have a greater understanding on how the railroad is setup. Please feel free to ask questions about of the diagrams.

Coming Up Next Month
With just a few days left in the month of July I will not be posting a late month update. However my Product Review - Install series is in the works for a first week of August publishing date. Check back next week as I start a multipart series showcasing the St. Clair Sub Signalling Project. During this series we will go into the planning, install, operation and product review of components used. The goal after reading this series is the confidence and ability for you the reader to add the same sort of system to your pike.

Have a safe week.


Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Mid July Update

Did not think I would be publishing a Mid July progress post, but after doing work last night on the Lakes Forest Products spur I had the momentum to continue working on the east end of Bay Yard heading eastbound.

Signals will be installed at the "BAY" AEI reader site.

Area Refresh
Just like when Walt Disney World "refurbishes" rides with new additions, enhancements, or fresh paint the same applies for model railroads. The area around Lakes Forest Products was the first on the layout to receive scenery a few years ago. Since its creation there has been a lot of new scenery products that I wanted to introduce in this area. Icing the cake was the need to cutout scenery for the ABS signal masts and bungalows that will be joining the railroad shortly.

Contractors clearing the vegetation and excavating for the signal foundations.

Site excavation cleared, engineering dumped in fresh ballast for the area.

Signal site - timbers will be added to support the terrain on three sides of the sites.

In addition to adding the signal sites, engineering took the opportunity during the MOW window to dump fresh ballast from the east yard lead up to the "EDSE" DTC block sign. 

Ballast work on east yard lead and mains.

Ballast glued down - SuperTrees and static grasses will be added this week.

Signal installation at this site is expected to begin first week of August.

Lakes Forest Product
Circled back on this industry over the weekend. I had originally hit a road block with the pavement for the customer. After trying different mediums I settled on the Busch flexible asphalt sheet. Of course not before messing up at least two rolls.

Pavement installed on the mark this time.

Once the pavement was installed it was time to plant the facility and blend it in with surrounding scenery.

Sculptamold used to blend industry with scenery

Dirt mix wetted and glued down, a little dark but should lighten some once dry.

Overall view of the dirt over Sculptamold. Ground foams, grasses, and bushes will be added over the week.

Later this week with everything dry I will spray the asphalt material with a thinned Acrylic mix to help weather it.

Wrapped up for the weekend. Existing scenery refreshed, ready for new material and trees.

It was amazing what I got complete during four hours over two nights, always pays to have different types of projects "Shovel Ready". This scene has been given and prepped for updated look, paired with new materials it will look great for years to come.


Friday, July 15, 2016

A Run Over The "Clair"

Instead of my normal update post, I had promised to do something a little different. This post we are going to follow a manifest train over the road from Port Huron to Bay City (Bay Yard) from the crews view perspective.

       Power on today's M-PHBA-15

Train Departure - (East Staging)
Coming out of staging the we enter a broad curve with a slight grade before reaching the first online station of Gerhard.

 Curve coming out of staging towards Gerhard. Scenery required....

Train Passing - (Gerhard, Michigan)

Approaching the east siding switch at Gerhard where we have been authorized to occupy the "GRAYS" DTC block. We see the rail lines future next to the concrete silo.

Staying on the main we continue on through Gerhard.

Rolling along soybean and corn fields west of Gerhard. Soon these crops will be harvested and on their way to
market via this very rail line.

Continuing west, we see the setout track for the Grays Lake Local and continuance of the passing siding from Gerhard.

Train Passing - (Grays Lake, Michigan)

Entering Grays Lake we see the power for the "Grays Lake Local" tied up on the industry spur to our right and the passing siding coming back into the mainline.

Passing thru town we approach the Quincassee Creek truss bridge in need of some serious engineering work.

Train Passing - (Grays Lake, Michigan)

Crossing the bridge, we reach the east wye switch. In the distance is the sugar beet plant with stored cars on the east leg of the eye. 

Curving through Upper Huron we see the east leg of the wye to the right with railcars on it, and the west wye leg straight ahead which continues to Port Belle.

West leg of the wye converging back into the mainline. From this point to Bay Yard the line has a gradual declining grade.

Train Departure - (Edsel and Weiss, Michigan)

Helix - Turn 1

                  Helix - Turn 2 
Transitioning from Edsel to Weiss. Neither stations are modelled beyond the sign in Turn 2.

Train Arrival - Bay City (Bay Yard)

Train slows prior to reaching the end of Weiss DTC Block limit, where Yard Limits begin.

Passing the "BAY AEI" reader site prior to reaching the east yard lead switch for Bay Yard.

Diverging onto the East Yard Lead at Bay Yard.

Proceeding at 10mph we see main 1 and 2 to the right.

      Beginning of the east yard ladder.

Yardmaster lined us for the "Yard 01" track.

Bringing the train to a stop, the journey from Port Huron to Bay City is complete. In the distance we see the Bay City Division office which will also be our off duty point.

Our next post here in a few day will walk through each station diagram from east to west on layout. I had hoped to put that content in this post, but it ended up being too much for a single post. Stay tuned!


Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Friday, July 8, 2016

Early July Update

I hope everyone had a great Fourth of July for my readers here in the States. For everyone else around the world, I hope your summer has been going well since my last update at the end of June showcasing the NMRA Lone Star Region Ops Session. Since my last update, I have been traveling considerably for work, leaving little time for the layout but that's part of a hobby. The time that I have had available has been utilized to finish up two Soundtraxx Econami installs  for a good friend. Lets walk through these installs, showcase two new railcars on the railroad, and talk about the next few posts in July.

Soundtraxx Econami Installs
A few months ago I began doing Soundtraxx installs for friends. Having done quite a few of the TSU, AT, KT, and IM 1000 type sound decoders, my customer asked about new items on the market. It worked out well that Econamis were in full force so I recommended we use the PNP board for his two Athearn R-T-R engines.

PNP board is very similar to the AT boards making install straight forward.

One improvement I enjoyed immediately was the plug for the Currentkeepers. I have been adding these to most every install, although the smaller the space the tougher it can be to find room. Partnered with a Railmaster DS1425-8 speaker the sound fidelity and motor control out of the box is definitely an improvement over the older generation boards.

For lighting on the engines I upgrade all to LEDS. Streamlined Backshops makes a custom clear tube with microled mounted on the end. These are self contained with one light per headlight so there is a lot of light output once installed.
Package of 4 SBS4DCC custom LED lights for Athearn engines. Resistors included!

While these lights fit right into the headlight, a #51 drill bit is used to open the headlight a little more. Using Microscale Micro Kristal Klear, I simply create new headlight lenses for the back and front once the led light assembly wired and installed.

Bottle of Kristal Klear - $3.00, last a long time.
Kristal Klear applied on rear light housings

Following the directions and using a toothpick I apply a dab in the headlight housings. Within 15 minutes it begins to go transparent, I give it a entire day to setup and dry.

Front and Rear light housings dry - perfect lenses!

With this MKT SD40-2 install complete I put the engines through around 6 to 8 hours of running to test and break in if they are new out of box. Completing this engine, I have turned my attention this week to the last work order which is a Cotton Belt SD40-2T. 

Initial board installed with Currentkeeper and speaker. 

This install will six led tubes, 2 on headlight. 2 on nose light, and 2 on rear light. Additionally the locomotive will have a flashing beacon on the cab roof like its prototype.
Details West cored out Rotary Beacon and wired micro LED from Streamlined Backshops.

I should have the locomotive finished this weekend with photos of the operating lights next week. If I can get fancy, maybe even post a video of the operating lights on my Youtube channel..

Any questions on my installs, parts used, or techniques please feel free to ask.

New Railcars
Two new Athearn 60' plate F boxcars lettered for CRLE arrived today. These will be in service hauling plywood, OSB building materials from the Upper Peninsula via Mackinac City gateway.

 Very nice railcars - will be great adds to the overall fleet.

July Posts Outlook
Previously I had asked for ideas about future posts and you the reader provided great feedback. Since there will be no layout work until August I am going to use July as an opportunity to fulfill the post requests. 

- Next week we will tour the layout from a locomotive engineers perspective heading westbound. Along the way we will look at each station and their diagrams to give you an idea of the track layout.

- Late July we will look at a behind the scenes of the layout showcasing its construction, lighting, wiring, and control systems.

Beyond July we are going to have a exciting series of posts working on a great layout project that will build on each other in phases as we progress from Summer into Fall. The series will be designed to help you the modeller get inspired to add the same items to your pike. 

A sneak peak of the series coming in August.

Have a great month, stay cool.