Friday, June 28, 2019

A computer for the layout room

A couple years ago I replaced my computer.  There was nothing wrong with the old one it just would not run some of the new software.   In the past at work I had on a number of occasions re-purposed older computers to use in situations where the program applications being run were limited so I thought why not do the same with this old computer.  The computer and monitor had been collecting dust in a corner of the train room while I was waiting to decide where to set it up.

The space under the DCC drawer was the perfect spot to set up the computer as it was right next to the work bench.

I made a shelf supported by a pair of steel brackets for the computer and monitor and added one of those pull out keyboard trays.

This train room computer will be primarily used for running JMRI Decoder Pro to program locomotive decoders and possibly experiment with some layout control in the future.   I will also use it to program Arduino micro controllers. Up to now I have been doing the Arduino programming in the house and then bringing the Arduino back to the train room to try it out.  This was rather inconvenient so this will be a big improvement.

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Starting some car cards and waybills

Since having finished a few on line industries in Battle Mountain,  I have been looking into way of having a more structured operations scheme.   After looking at different operating schemes from many different sources on the Internet, I decided to go with a type of car card and waybill system.  I drew upon several things I saw and adapted them to my own needs.

I did my car cards and waybills on Microsoft Visio.  Here is a JPEG of my car card template.  The dashed line is where it is folded over to form the pocket for the waybill.   This is printed on a medium quality paper but I laminate it with clear packaging tape to make it sturdier.

My car cars have color coded dots corresponding to the 3 different eras on my layout.  Most of my cars overlap into 2 different eras so have 2 dots.

In the September 2017 post Trying to get organized I give an explanation of the 3 eras on my layout.

For the waybill, I use one side as the "loaded to be delivered" part and the other side is a "empty to be delivered" part.  This is printed out as one part then folded and glued back to back with stick glue.  Once this is folded over it is sturdy enough without lamination.
Micro-Mark offers some nice car card boxes which are widely used but because my bench work is thin they would stick up above the bench work so for now I am going to clip the card cars to the light valance right above the location of the car it represents.
At this point I have limited my car cards and waybills to the cars needed to support the 4 industries in Battle Mountain without regard to any through traffic.

After running a couple of test locals using this system I already get the sense of a "bigger" layout with the references to some of the far away locations suggested on the waybills.  Over the summer I hope to get a couple of my train buddies over for a sort of operating session so they can critique this system and make some suggestions for improvement.  This will be an on going process.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Train watching at Weso in 1984

With the new DCC components and upgrades installed I have been actually enjoying running the layout quite a bit over the past week or two.  Operationally one of the focal points on this layout is Weso at the western end of the paired track where the Southern Pacific and Western Pacific lines diverge.  When you think about it this is actually like a junction and a great place to watch trains.

I operate this layout in 3 different eras and will switch equipment around to try to match each era.  So here we are one day in my 1983-1988 era checking out the action.  Always on the lookout for any interesting or unusual locomotives, rolling stock, loads, or paint jobs.

The first train we spot is an eastbound freight coming off the SP line from Sparks and crossing over to the eastbound paired track.  The power on this train included an SP GP40-2 and a SSW B30-7.

Spotted this Great Northern box car in this train that was still not re-painted or even re-numbered 14 years after the creation of the Burlington Northern.  The only evidence that the car belonged to the BN was a door that was replaced or re-painted in the BN green.

This train also had one of those 89 foot auto parts box cars.  These are one of my favorites and I don't see them very often.

Not long after the SP train had passed this eastbound UP train approached from the old WP line.  Soon after the UP acquired the WP a few years ago they pulled almost all of the WP power off the line as it was in such bad condition.  Power on this train was a SD45 and a SD50 painted in UP colors but lettered for Missouri Pacific which is another railroad UP recently acquired.
Nothing much else noteworthy on this train until it got to the end and a caboose.  This one was a bay window type painted and lettered for UP but with a road number for the WP.  Looks like they are having some fun at the UP paint shop with all this equipment they are acquiring.

After about 30 minutes another SP train approached from the east and passed through on the straight alignment to enter the SP line.  This was a solid train of covered hoppers and was being pulled by a B23-7 and an SD40.
At the end of this train was one of the new end of train devices or FRED.  Seeing more of these and fewer cabooses all the time.  Guess we better appreciate the caboose while it is still around.
After waiting awhile this Burlington Northern freight approached from the east.  Occasionally a BN train is routed over the UP line between Denver and the connection to the inside passage at Bieber, CA.  Power on this one was a C30-7 and an SD45.
This train took the cross over from westbound paired track to the old WP line.  The train was mostly lumber empties but again found the caboose interesting.  It was a wide vision type with a road number for the Denver and Fort Worth which had been a subsidiary of the Burlington.

Well, this was fun but it's time to call it a day.  We'll do this again sometime, perhaps in a different era.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

More updates to the layout's DCC system

My Digitrax throttles of various types have taken quite a beating over the years getting dropped after being set on the edge of layouts and just being used a lot.   I hope to take better care in the future with the throttle holders I built late last year and explained in this post.

I recently got around to purchasing a new throttle and ended up getting the DT500D which is the only one now offered by Digitrax.

This throttle has some new features I like such as being able to actually turn it off without removing the battery which was the cause of some of the excessive wear and tear on my old throttles.

To go along with the new throttle I also got a new UR90 Infrared ( IR ) receiver.  For this layout IR works just fine and the UR90 is less than 1/3 the cost of the UR92.  I also found out that my old UR91 that I was not sure was working at all does still work as an IR receiver so with it at the other end of the layout the coverage is very good.

After creating a place for the DCC system in a drawer, I found myself opening the drawer to check the track status light on the command station.  Then it occurred to me that I should connect the track status LED on the panel, Duh !

This was really easy to do as it just required running a pair of wires between the command station output and the two screws on the back of the panel pointed out in this photo with blue arrows.   Eventually I would like to do this for all the panels on the layout.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Guardrails for the Interstate highway

It's been awhile since I have posted anything.  My wife and I have been traveling but are back home now and I have started again to work on this layout.

Continuing to finish up the area around Winnemucca I realized a need for some highway guardrails along Interstate 80.  For the bridges that pass over the SP line I used 2 sets of modern concrete railings from Rix Products.  Each set has four 50 foot long railings and my bridges are about 80 feet long.  I cut 2 railings in half and used those in combination of a full length section to get a 75 foot long railing.  These are designed to fit along the edge of a bridge.

For the areas along the sides of the highway where there was a steep hillside and for in the center areas I picked up Kato  set # 23-213 from their DioTown series.

This set includes highway guardrails as well as some fencing of a type commonly found along the streets in Japan.  The package contains 3 each of what is shown in this photo.   The lower one is what I used for this project and the upper on I will use on some of my Japanese modules.
I painted the railings with old silver and left the posts white.   These railings are designed to fit into holes in the DioTown street plates so I needed to drill some holes into my highway.  To make it easier I removed the highway and brought it to the work bench to do the back and center divider rows.
Along the front edge when viewing the highway I drilled the holes into the scenery along the edge of the highway as it was an easier reach.

So here is how the area now looks with the guardrails installed and the scenery touched up.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

The bright lights of Winnemucca

At the west end of the scenicked area of the layout is Winnemucca, Nevada.  In the era I am modeling Nevada had only a handful of towns with a population of over 10,000 and Winnemucca was one of them.  It sits right on Interstate 80 and has all of the types of businesses that are common along Americas Interstate highways but because it's Nevada there also has to be at least one Casino.

I found this little Miller Engineering sign on ebay which just seemed to be a good fit for a small casino.   This kit is designed so that it could be mounted on a wall or on a billboard frame which was included.

I found out later that there actually is such a sign on Fremont Street in Las Vegas but without the casino part because it was a topless bar.
Next I needed a building that could work for a small casino.  I have had this kit sitting around since the 2000 National Train Show when Bachmann was giving building kits away and decided to use it.
After a bit of work this is what I came up with.  This is most of the lower level of the Bachmann building.  Some windows are covered with posters.  Could not get the etched metal frame for the sign to fit right on the roof so made my own from Styrene strip.  Still need to develop the site for the building.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Re-working the Melarkey Street overpass.

The Melarkey Street / US 95 overpass in Winnemucca is intended to be the western exit from the layout for the Western Pacific line.  From here the line enters the helix down to the staging yard.  This is a common arrangement on model railroad layouts and in this case it resembles the prototype location.    I have used this same setup just a few feet away with the Southern Pacific line exiting under the Interstate 80 overpass.   I have never been entirely happy with the the way the WP track left the layout under the US 95 overpass in Winnemucca.   I suspect this has kept me from really finishing the Winneumcca area.

Here is a view of the US 95 overpass right after I built it back in July of 2017.  It seemed fine then but I had not yet built the sky board.  After the sky board was in place I was not as happy with this arrangement.
Here is what the area looked like after the sky board was installed.  I did not like the fact that the inside of the helix could be so easily seen and the gap between the bridge and the sky board.

So I reshaped the hillside just a bit to align the bridge to be parallel with the sky board and painted the area of the sky board that would be under the bridge flat black.

This view is from the other side of the sky board inside the helix.  Using a scrap of PVC drain pipe I made this tunnel liner.   I painted the inside of the tunnel liner and the bench around it a flat black color.

The track in the foreground is the SP track which enters the helix at the Interstate 80 overpass.

I replaced the bridge columns on the outside with a solid bridge abutment and have started to build a new bridge.

This photo shows how it looks now.  I am patching up the scenery and need to finish the bridge but already like this better.

Monday, February 4, 2019

Diesel fuel distributor open for business

After looking at a few on line photos of tank car unloading I came up with this arrangement for the diesel fuel distributor.
The Chevron diesel fuel distributor in Battle Mountain is now finished and has received it's first shipment of product from the company's refinery in Richmond, California.  I now have an excuse to buy a few more of the right tank cars.

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Scratch built end of track bumpers

I like to have nice end of track bumpers at the ends of my spur tracks.  After seeing some scratch built ones on the Internet done in larger scales I decided to make my own N scale ones from brass.  I used this photo of something done in a larger scale as a reference.
The materials used include scraps of code 55 rail, PCB ties, and brass stock and all soldered together.  This photo shows the one I made for the diesel distributor before I had painted it.

Here is the same bumper after painting, being glued into place, and some ballast and scenery added.  The PCB tie material is covered by the scenery.
Because it is made of brass and can conduct electricity it is important to keep the bumper from actually touching the track.  I somehow blew it on this one at the warehouse and had to cut a gap in one of the rails to clear a short as shown in this photo.