Saturday, January 30, 2016

Late January Update

January is coming to a close, and just like that we are moving full tilt into 2016. It feels like jut yesterday we were closing out 2015. While I did not get quite the progress on my farm field scene I had hoped, the month was a lot of fun with new equipment, scenery tests, and OJL Ops Session.

Equipment Arrivals & Departures
Modeling 2010-current is very enjoyable because you have the ability to look out your window and see the prototype in regards to equipment, right of way, and industries. However being true to modern day, that time comes when cars and their useful life in my era pass on. After my last operating session I studied the roster looking for railcars that are not very common in 2015.

The four cars above while plausible to be in service around 2015 fit more into the 1990s or earlier era. 

But an opportunity to trade these cars to another layout set in an earlier era appeared. It happened this modeler also had equipment that were two modern for his 1990s layout.

In short order five older cars were traded for these two ExactRail high-cube boxcars. These will fit in quite nicely.

Scenery Concept Tests
One part of my farm field scene will consist of soybean fields. After reaching out to a very well known modeler on the technique he used to create soybean crop rows, my son and I jumped into testing out the technique before creating the field.

- Green Pipe Cleaners
- 3M Super 77 spray
- Noch Leaf Flake (Color depends on season) - we are modeling summer green.

I was impressed with the results. These will look real good once scaled up to farm field size.

The plan is to tackle the farm field scene in February.

Oregon Joint Line
Wrapping up the month, I had the opportunity to attend an operating session on Dean Ferris's Oregon Joint Line and work the role as dispatcher.

Looking into the layout room. Town of Silvies on the right and Fossil on the left.

Plenty of track warrant copies - we issued 18 via internal phone system for this three hour session.

The dispatcher dry erase board used to keep track of authority limits issued. Dean had attended my Q1 session, and after seeing my DTC board decided to implement a similar setup. It worked without a hitch. 

            Layout map and train lineup.

More photos just because this layout is awesome to operate and railfan on.

                     Picture Gorge 

Looking south towards Monument and the Hines Papermill

        More Silvies yard looking south

Around the bend at Fossil looking towards the diamond between the OJL and O&NE. 

Yours truly using sizing up the N scale BLMA radio tower at Silvies. I plan to use either N or Z scale towers for my gps-dtmf wayside stations.

Amherst Train Show
While I did not attend the Amherst show, one of the regular St. Clair Sub operators did. 

While there I asked him to get a photo or two of Mike McNamara's Woodsville Jct. module.

   Delivered as promised - thanks M.T.

Social media does bring the show to life a little more as just minutes before M.T. sent this CN lashup photo, Mike McNamara had posted a video of the same consist rolling through the Woodsville Jct. Module. Not to mention the engines are in the module photo prior to consisting. Provided is a link to Mikes blog tbt post about the module.

Have a great weekend - stay safe!


Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Friday, January 15, 2016

The Balancing Act

Recently a fellow modeler asked me how I balance having a young family, time, and model railroading. 

       The St. Clair Subs biggest railfan!!

The secret to model railroading with two young ones is a compilation of items:


1- Blitzing - Luckily the layout benchwork was all complete mostly before my son was born in November 2012. A good portion of track was down as well, but up till last week I was still adding in customer sidings and making slight track change. Even if this was not the case a one day blitz to install simple benchwork with foam on top could have you running trains within a day. Additionally building benchwork in sections would allow you to expand as time is available.


2- Late Nights - A great deal of time spent on the layout is in the evenings between 830pm to 1230am after the kids go to bed. The entire week up to the ops session consisted of being up till 1230am, a little intense doing it every night. Other times I can work on things while my son plays on the floor while i work on the layout. I try to get 3 nights in a week, sometimes more on the weekends versus weekdays but it varies... 


3- Contract out work - any custom detailing, painting, decaling, weathering, and Sound install is contracted out to two guys who have been doing work with me for many years. There is a cost sure but based on limited time it is deemed worth it. I have begun completing my own sound installs as my skills have improved, but it is a ratio of 2:1 for every two I contract out, I do one in house.  


4- Commercial Products - use commercial track, turnouts, scenery products, kitbash commercial structures, and suitcase connectors for bus wiring. Make it easy on yourself, getting buried in these items will greatly reduce your overall layout time. 


5- Simplicity - My benchwork, wiring, and trackwork are all very simple making its install very expedient


6- Making Every Second Count - if its 15 minutes that is enough time to do any number of small projects. In the past I would only work in large time blocks and waste a lot of time, now any bit of time you gotta take and run with it


7- Planning List - I create a project list and categorize by time length so when I have the free time I can jump in and work on something, versus looking or getting the items needed which wastes time. Additionally each month I take a little time to outline the main projects I want to work on whether it be ballasting a small portion, build an industry, or install sound into an engine.  Be realistic and choose one or maybe two if they are simple to complete.


8- Expectations - things happen and you may not get in the layout room for maybe a few weeks, it is only a hobby the sooner I realized this the more I take it in stride and do not sweat it. Family is much more important than a model train.


9- Spousal Balance - take care of the family, then house and time will present itself. My wife has always known me to be a model railroading guy even when we dated in college. She understands and values the skills and hobby that I enjoy as a passion. So when I have free time I am usually in my layout room versus sporting events, railfanning, or even operating on other layouts... Its about the balance, I prefer to play all of my cards on getting my layout where it needs to be. Get her involved on making decisions based on overall layout visual appeal in scenes, industry planning, and scenery. Sometimes we as the modeler get stuck in making these decisions and having an outsider say “I like this versus that” gets us out of that rut and gets them involved just enough to know they are appreciated and progress isbeing made.


10- Spousal Reciprocation - if you get time to work on it, make sure she knows you appreciate it and reciprocate by letting her go have a girls night, getting the kids bathed, shopping, or just relax to read a book.


11- Family Involvement - Make progress and share the success with your family. I use operating my trains as a way to help my son with his counting, colors, and recognition of objects like tank car, boxcar. Take the family to the hobby shop or train show. On the way back get a bite to eat, ice cream, or stop somewhere for the wife to shop. This goes a long way. As my son does get older I plan to roster Thomas The Tank in HO scale for his enjoyment. 

     Train ride @ TWMRC Train Show

12- Continuous Running Loop - best thing I have installed on upper and lower levels are two continuous loops so I can run trains for the family to enjoy. Not to mention I can put a train on the loop and let it run for hours getting the engines break in time and go about my business in the house periodically checking in. Non-modelers want to see trains run, not operate. 


13- Family Help - If your father or father in law lives close and likes doing projects get him involved to help build the benchwork and basics. This can help double your efforts in the limited time you have.


  Just like his dad! Great sign of balance.

Everyone have a great weekend!



Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Mid January Update

Alot happening on the Michigan Interstate St.Clair Sub in the past week making preparations for and hosting the first session of 2016, 7th overall.

Saturday's session hosted 5 operators, lasted 4 hours, crewed 14 trains, and handled 125 car movements.

Our drive-in totals for trains included 4 manifests, 2 extended manifests, 2 local turns, 1 road turn, 1 CN haulage, 1 yard job, 1 coal train, 1 empty limestone train, and 1 HIWI special. So onward to the pictures and captions of the session. I made sure to post plenty of photos....

Bay Yard job Y-BA01-09 classifying a cut from the L-PBBA-09. This local left for Port Belle last session, went into staging, and returned to Bay City early in this session. The Chesepeake, Wheeling, and Erie hopper will return empty to Mountain State Carbon at Follansbee, WV. 

K-MYEX-07 bringing HIWI schnabel move across Saginaw River into Bay Yard. 

HIWI special seen again on Main 2 at Bay Yard. Once at Chessie Jct., train will head up Essexville Branch to Consumers Energy Karn Weadock power plant.

All quiet between trains in downtown Grays Lake, MI. For any of my normal readers, you will realize some structure placement changes here.

M-BAMC-09 departing westward from Bay Yard with EMD SD22ECO motors #2291 and 2290 on point.

Dean and Marshall coordinating moves for the Y-BA04-09 "Bay Local" while the M-BAMC-09 departs from track 2 in foreground.

Mike holding down the Dispatcher duties. During a lull in traffic Mike and Marshall swapped roles, letting everyone get a chance on the throttle or white board.

EMD GP38-2 #3828 at Grays Lake didn't make the local today, account mechanical issue. Luckily sister #3810 was on hand and took over duties for the R-GEGL-09.

M-MCBA-09 arriving at Bay Yard behind EMD SD40-2 #4052 and SD40-2M #4059. In the background you can see Y-BA04-09 switching the Michigan Agricultural Commodities terminal elevator.

Interesting steel load on M-MCBA-09 coming out of Essar Steel's Sault Ste. Marie plant.

CN overhead train Z-PHBK-09 idles on main 1 awaiting C-FWBA-08 in the foreground to clear off the main and into yard 1.

Bay Yard switcher (Y-BA01-09) and Bay local (Y-BA04-09) working the east end of Bay Yard.

Bay local pulling empty boxcar VMID1012 from Lakes Forest Products. This car will return to the Virginia Midland Railroad.

Work complete, empty pulled and load spotted.

While hybrid block cards are used instead of the traditional 4 cycle waybill cards, each of the locals does have a spot and pull sheet to help organize assigned work. The pulls page of the sheet is filled out prior to session. On the flip side is the spots page which is filled out when crew goes on duty.

Dispatching diagram for St. Clair Sub

Session wrapped up we see Bay Yard frozen in time with photos above and below.The amount of coal loads in the yard is directly related to the Sugar Beet plant coal train terminating at Bay Yard versus the plant. The Sugar Turn L-BAPB will take 5 of the 10 cars on the next northbound run. 

At Grays Lake we can see the outbound block of traffic for pick up on the next M-BAPH. Looking at the cars we see 2 empty plastic pellet hoppers, 3 loaded malted barley cars, and 3 loaded corn hoppers.

While 14 trains did operate the crew of the Bay Local did run "out of hours" after completing their customer switching on Bay Industrial Spur. The yardmaster will have to call a relief crew or use the evening yard crew to "dog catch" the local back to Bay Yard.

Wrapping up the session we see the Y-BA04-09 "Bay Local" tieing down with its engineer setting the hand brakes on NRE Genset 3GS21B #2101, while conductor dismounts to set brakes on the two boxcars adjacent to locomotive.

Thanks for stopping through, hope to have another update towards end of January showing project progress.


Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Early January Update

I had planned to post on New Years or over the long relaxing weekend. Guess I relaxed to much.... Nonetheless 2015 has departed so it is only proper to recap highlights from the MCIS St. Clair Sub:

- Added a daughter to our family crew board
- Consistent blog posts averaging1400-1500 views a month. December 2015 we surpassed with all time record 2000+ views. Thank You readers
- Quarterly Ops Sessions
  Jan 2015, Apr 2015, Oct 2015 am, Oct 2015 pm
- Founding layout in Fort Worth Layout Operations Day group 
- Added upper deck lighting / valiance
- 7 sound installs complete between in-house and contract shops
- 30 more railcars weathered by VMS
- Added blocking card car routing
- Had fun with my family and friends on the journey.

A lot of great accomplishments and progress in 2015, I even surprised myself. For 2016 here are my model railroad goals:

- Have fun and involve family to help
- Scenery... Itching to dive back in
- Structures... I know what needs to be there, time to build the story
- Quarterly Ops Sessions
- FWLOD 2016
- Locomotive sound installs (4-5)

Jumping right into a 2016 goal, the first ops session of the year is this weekend. Preparation has been in full swing as it takes around a week to get everything set doing just a little work each night. Enjoy the photos and captions of the prep.

Blocking cards by train ready to go. There are 14 trains lined up to operate.

East end of Bay Yard full while west staging trains are put together. Once built they will be backed into the 4 track lower level staging yard

M-MCBA and Q-GRPH ready to reverse into staging. 

Normally it takes 45 per staging yard and an additional 30 minutes to ensure online cars at industries are given their new block and load / empty status.

East staging with a lonely headlight ready to come online.

30 minutes later east staging yard full ready to go. 

Ops plan with sequence, slots, train ID, and power plan

I hope you have enjoyed a brief glimpse into the train staging piece that makes the ops session. There will be a full recap of the session in the Mid January Update.

Thanks for stopping through,