Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Early October Update

First off, I truly appreciate everyone who reads my blog. Your viewership and support is why this blog is here and continues to grow. Lately we have discussed a lot about sensor / signal installation. This project has been a lot of fun and has really built my confidence in this type of work, by the end of the month we will wrap it up. It is important while working on the signal project to continue showcasing other work happening on the layout, trust me there has been plenty of other St. Clair Sub on-goings so lets take a look. 

This past week I picked up two American Limited Models Trinity 3281 covered hoppers. These models are fantastic, and even better when you get them 50% off!

These cars will be re-marked for NRLX under lease to Graystone Cement. We will dive into the backstory and other proto-freelance railroad connections in a future post. 

Beautiful paint job - unfortunately the logo and marks gotta go

Logo gone - gotta clean up the smudge, didnt expect this... oops

Using the polymer eraser the smudge cleared up quite nicely

Car complete - ready for Graystone Cement logo and NRLX marks

This was my first time using this method, so not exactly perfect. To clean up the smudge I used a Polymer eraser which made quick work and cleaned the car of quite well.

Assembly line accomplished 

Tools for this how-to (Microsol, Cotton Swabs, Polymer eraser, and time 5-6 minutes). After dabbing the Microsol onto the bath tissue with the swab on the lettering you want to remove it just takes time. After 5-6 minutes using the swab you can remove the lettering. Clean up with the eraser (gently). 

Practice makes perfect - 45 minutes later 5 cars were ready for new marks

Thanks to Shannon Crabtree for the tips on doing this successfully.

While the signal gangs are working from Upper Huron to Grays Lake, the engineering department took the opportunity to rehab the Quincassee Creek Bridge. 

            What bridge?

I built this Walthers Single Track Through Truss Bridge kit back in the fall of 2007. After a few moves and being on its third MCIS layout it was in need of work.

After around an hour all of the loose parts had been resecured and it once again looked like a solid bridge. But to takes things one step further, I decided to add a walkway and handrail the length of the bridge track. 

Tichy makes a great kit for adding walkway or handrails to a bridge pretty easy. It took three kits or six walkway panels to complete one side. Once they were glued to the outside of the bridge track I let it dry 24 hours. The next day I used a fine 3M sanding block to smooth the side of walkway for the handrail install. After sanding complete the handrails were install just as easy as the walkway went on. For the bridge structure rehab i used Tenax 7R, while the handrail install was best suited with Loctite Super Glue and a toothpick for application. 

Finished bridge - side view

Finished bridge - back on layout

As you can see from the pictures a simple $2.50 detail kit added a lot to this well done structure. Overall a $8.00 add.

Moving at full speed on Part 5 (Phase 4) of my signal install series, I have been getting all of the signals tested and pre-wired. 

On the east end of Grays Siding the track layout dictated I mount the signal for the passing siding to mainline overhead. There is a prototype for everything they say and a double track modern single head signal is no exception.

Photo of prototype at New Iberia, LA. on BNSF Railway. (Courtesy & Copyright: Donovan Reed)

This signal modern bridge for the siding is fairly new. This territory is ABS with the siding having a spring switch from siding to main. Both signals on the bridge display the same aspect, remembering that ABS signals only show block occupancy not authority.

My basis for the project was the right handed or left handed BLMA overhead signal bridge. 

- First thing to do is unravel the ends of the four wire sets and test to see which are associated with which signal head before making any modifications.
- Test signals and mark wire sets (I use the Logic Rail Tech signal test - very helpful)

- Once wires are marked proceed to cut the magnet wire that is for the upper signals which will be discarded.
- Cut off the upper signals along with handail.
- Smooth with a file the cut locations and with that you have a overhead signal bridge for signal territory. 

Finished product turned out exactly as expected - will look great protecting at East Grays.

My layout has hosted no less than 8 operating sessions in the past two years. Always looking to improve I took at hard look at the station diagrams and wondered how I could improve. Simplification was the answer.

Diagram for Grays Lake Industries above and mainline / siding below

For each station I have begun making the diagrams smaller with one focusing on the mainline through the station and another diagram for industries either located adjacent to the main or on a spur.

Old meet new - same information but easier to read and less "intense"

The goal is a road crew operating through Grays Lake is focused on the main so the mainline diagram focuses on items they need to see, while the local would use the mainline diagram but then focus attention to the industry spur diagram. In addition to these new diagrams a small card is provided on the fascia for each industry outlining the work, commodities, and special instructions. 

Industry cards for Cooperative Elevator and 3M at Grays Lake, Michigan

One key layout design element is selectively modeling the modern Michigan sugar beet industry in the form of a Sugar Beet Processing Plant at Upper Huron. This industry with its numerous inbound and outbound commodities has been intimidating to capture, and quite frankly over the last year has stalled any trackwork that could used in an ops session. Working with Dean Ferris over the last week we regrouped and outlined the industry focus, givens / druthers, and adapted a plan that captures the feel in the space and allows for a great deal of operating potential on the L-BAPB (Port Belle Turn) during a session. Here is a photo of the industry layout as of this evening. 

Michigan Sugar @ Upper Huron will keep an operator busy for a good 1/2 the session

Nothing like 2 pounds of Fenugreek seed to help inspire as well. I see a future how-to hopper load post in this fall.

I hope these few photos provide inspiration in case you are having a hard time with an industry setup. My suggestion; engage a friend and let them give a fresh perspective, it is amazing what you can accomplish with a little teamwork. 

October has just begun and the past few days have seen alot of activity. Be sure to check back soon for my next signal install post.

Have a safe October,



  1. Greg,

    Great update- you've been busy! I like the idea of separate diagrams for the main and the industries. It also appears that they'll fit better on the fascia.

    I've been following your signal progress for a while now. I'm really impressed by how much you have accomplished. Signals and all the corresponding hardware are a real undertaking. You've made some amazing progress!

    And thanks for the shout-out back in June. It's much appreciated.


  2. Thanks Tom, looking forward to CWE posts this fall / winter.

    With the Sugar beet campaign in full swing, those CWE coke hoppers are keeping the rails polished between Upper Huron and Follansbee.

  3. Thanks for the shout out Greg! From the looks of it, you been quite busy. Love the bridge scene!

  4. Greg,
    Thanks for the short tutorial on removing factory tampo printing on the hopper cars- I'll probably have a Caboose to re-number in the future- your tip helps. Regards. KEV.

  5. Replies
    1. Hi Greg,
      I am wondering if you can help me out by taking a look at my new MONTANA -HO Blog. Please click on Link.

      I am just starting out on my HO Railroad and I would like to see if the Blog IS connecting with the USA properly. You would be doing me a big favour if you could leave a comment on the 1st Posting. Thanks. KEV.

    2. Hi Greg,
      Thanks so much for looking at my MONTANA RL Blog - and leaving a great comment too- this means a lot to me- many tanks. (Have replied on my Blog). Regards. KEV.

    3. Greg,
      That should read "Thanks" NOT 'tanks'. Cheers. KEV.