Octobers ops session

October 2015 Operating Session.

     Once again it was the last Friday of the month so as per normal another operating session was hosted on the Santa Fe Railway Southern Division.
     Numbers were down due to some of the lads on travel (we have a 4 day long-weekend here in Melbourne this weekend to help celebrate the world famous horse race the Melbourne Cup that is run on the first Tuesday of November every year. I think this is about it's 152nd year.) anyway there were 8 of us in total to run trains across the Railroad.
     Kick off time is usually 7.30 pm so after setting the computer fast clock to commence at 6.40am and a 4:1 ratio, turning on all the power to get the BDL168's, SE8C's, track power and the CTC panels to light up we were ready for a hectic night as it turned out.
     During my walk around the RR a few days before the session to set up car cards and waybills along with the first two trains, I noticed a lot of cars had not been picked up on earlier sessions from the towns of Winfield and Ponca City. I thought why move them, why not send out some "extras" just after the first two trains had departed to do a sweep, pick them up and return them to their correct locations at Flynn and Augusta.
     So Trains 1 and 2 departed close to the correct time from Augusta and Flynn respectively.
     As dispatcher for the session I called on a Dennis and Ron to handle the two extras one from Flynn and the other from Augusta.
     Dennis grabbed two locos and a caboose from Rob the Flynn yardmaster for the session and worked his way to Ponca and back.
     After Ron grabbed a pair of four axle loco's and a caboose from little John the Augusta yardmaster he set off to Ponca also only to find that with all of the other traffic he did not get that far.
     Calling up the extras sounded like a good idea during the week but they just got in the road (not the lads fault) of almost every other train that had to run straight after. Note to self, do not let that happen again, at that time into the timetable at least.
     I've been a bit slack and not been working on the RR of late so did not get any of the loco wheels nor track cleaned. Note to self, clean track and wheels before the next ops session. Hmmm.
    Anyway we did get to run a few trains mixed in with about 40 minutes for beans starting at about 9.00pm. and stopping at about 10.45.
    I think the night was okay, just not as good as we normally have.
    I got to take some pics of a few trains with my Samsung Smart phone and Ron got some more of the action so here are a couple from last night with thanks to Ron.

Train one passing through Perry on its way to Augusta

Big John is in charge of the AUG/HAC/AUG sweeper as he drops off empties and picks up loaded grain cars from Hackney.

A Manifest freight passing through Hackney on its way to Flynn Yard headed by FP45 105.

Rob doesn't get to operate that much on the RR so here he is in charge of Flynn Yard. He drives real trains too!

Barry switching at Ponca. This is a tough job as this train which left Flynn gets to Ponca, drops off empty grain cars, picks up loaded grain cars from an elevator at each end of town and then returns back to Flynn. All the while making way for passing trains to and from other locations on the RR.

Big John in charge of the AUG/HAC/AUG Sweeper switching at Winfield on his return to Augusta whilst a patient Vic (in the foreground) waits to enter Winfield to switch at the Winfield Cement plant way off in the distance with his cement train and complete his job.

The old dispatcher (me) sitting at the CTC panel trying sort out the traffic.

Thanks for a great night lads.
Catch you soon and thanks for dropping by the SFRSD Blog.


Bulletin Number 100

Bulletin Number 100

     Early last week I sent out one of my regular Bulletins to invite all of my operators to the September, last Friday of the month operating session. It so happened to be bulletin number 100 which made me wonder how many ops sessions I have held on the SFRSD. In my estimation there has been over 85 since 2007. Several bulletins were produced to announce the extending of the RR shed and its progress. Another was when the RR was converted to DCC and others followed announcing the move to ABC signalling then to full CTC.
    There have been many more held in earlier years when I used a very cumbersome operating system and they even go back as far as on my third Layout back in 1973/4.
    Last night we had 9 of us to operate the RR and that's including myself. I felt like running a few trains which doesn't happen that often so I asked Greg to be the dispatcher for the session.
    John C ( little John) was the Augusta yard operator while my Guest Rob operated Flynn yard.
    To start the session I usually stage two trains. The first a through freight Loaded Grain Aug/Fln departs Augusta at 7.10 am whilst the second, Empty Grain Fln/Aug departs Flynn at 7.30 am. These two meet at Red Rock. I decided to take the Flynn to Augusta train while Darren took charge of the Augusta to Flynn. All my main line trains are hauled by two six axle locomotives many with sound.

    Here's a few images from the session.

Augusta yard looking a little empty

GE 8028 is in charge of the Aug/Hac/Aug Sweeper Grain. Here it is crossing the dry creek between Winfield and Hackney

Noel is in charge of the Aug/Hac/Aug Sweeper Grain. It is just arriving at Hackney and has just passed under the cantilever ready to switch then return to Augusta. This train takes out empties to Udall, Winfield and Hackney and returns with loads to Augusta ready to be dispatched to Flynn.
A few cement hoppers left at the McFarlane Redi Mix Plant at Hackney by the Win/Gut/ Win local Cement.
Ron was in charge of the Win/Gut/Win Local Cement train. Its locos sit on the house track waiting to complete its work at Winfield having just returned from Guthrie. This train can take a while to complete its job as it has absolutely no priority. I custom painted the GP35 to the SPSF Kodachrome scheme and added the smoke deflectors.

Local Turn Aug/Pon/Aug holds at Udall waiting for the mixed freight to run through. Darren was the engineer.

The Directors needed to get to Flynn post hast so the dispatcher needed to clear a path to let the directors special Hauled by E8A #85 & B unit haul the varnish as quickly as possible.

Here it is seen at the Hackney grade crossing

No time to give it the main so here at Red Rock it overtakes the Fln/Pon/Fln Sweeper Grain on the passing siding.

Crossing the culvert after leaving Red Rock as it heads for Perry.

My train the Fln/Aug Mixed Freight headed by FP45 100 holds at Red Rock.
    I would like to thank all my crew, Big John, Little John, Vic, Greg, Ron, Darren, Noel and my guest Rob for helping to make the session a success.
Thats it for this post.
Thanks for dropping by.


Augusts Operating session

First time for two months
    Last night was the first operating session since June. It's winter down under and this past few months has been the coldest Melbourne has been for over 20 years. So with the weather being a bit inclement in July I canceled that planned ops session.
    Last night I only had a few of the crew over 6 in fact as Dennis and his wife are overseas enjoying the sights of the UK and environs, Brendan and his family are on a three month driving holiday right around Australia (wish I was there with them to do it again) and three of the others were tied up with family duties.
    So the 7 of us had a quiet time running trains and telling a few jokes as is the norm.  Little John ran Augusta (it's hard to get him away from operating that yard) Ron took charge of Flynn and I was the dispatcher but with no head sets tonight as this was going to be a very relaxed night.
    This left John to run the first grain train the Aug / Fly from Augusta to Flynn and Noel to take charge of the Fly / Aug empty grain from Flynn to Augusta. I have the starting times for these two separated as it is not as far to Red Rock from Flynn as it is from Augusta as that is where they meet.
    Barry arrived and he took the Cement train as is the norm. This train has no priority at all and can tack a while to move from Winfield to Guthrie and return.
    As we had few operators I decided to move the fast clock from 4:1 to 6:1 well that was a mistake for the guys in the yards could not get everything done in time to meet the next trains departure times so that will not be happening again.
   A stop for beans and a look at the 1/16th scale tank that I painted for Ron and we were back out running again until about 10.30pm.

   Just a few shots from the session.

Little John (on the stool ) with Barry looking at the loco storage area at Augusta

Big John switching the Aug / Hac / Aug sweeper at Winfield on its return to Augusta from Hackney.

The cement train on its return to Winfield from Guthrie sits on the main waiting for the sweeper to finish switching before it can head to Winfield cement to drop its cars. I custom painted this GP40 and added the smoke deflectors trialed by the AT&SF

Ron's setting up the Fly / Pon / Fly sweeper grain at Flynn.

Noel working the sweeper at Ponca. This can be a tough job as Ponca has a lot of industries and cars can be stored on the tracks everywhere and often the owner of the RR will put cars on the passing siding just to make it a bit tougher. Sorry Noel.

A couple of GE's head Johns train at Winfield

I know its not a train. This was grey and now in a true Panzer PzKpfw 1V Ausf.f2 scheme that I painted for Ron. It is Radio Controlled with sound etc. It sure looks the part.

Well that's it for another post, until next time have fun.


Last Nights Operating session

Another Friday night on the SFRSD
     Last nights ops session was a bit different than usual as I only had 6 guys plus myself to operate the RR..
     Several of my regular operators are on holiday. Vic is in Weipa which is almost as far North as one can get in Australia. Weipa is a Bauxite mining town. Little John is at the Gold Coast visiting family, Greg is on a cruise with his wife heading up the East Coast of Australia. Darren was working and Brendan was stuck at home.
     Roger a member of our Melbourne 2003 convention committee asked if he could participate in a session so he could see how it works. Roger is a Victorian N Scale Modeller and a member of the Victorian N Scale collective so he added to the numbers.
     We started at about the same time as usual 7.30pm only this time Ron was in charge of Augusta while Noel took charge of Flynn.
     I usually stage the first two trains to depart the day before. The loaded Grain that departs from Augusta at 7.10 am and the empty grain that departs Flynn at 7.30am by the fast clock that is set to run at 4:1.
     Dennis and Roger took control of the Aug / Fln loaded grain whilst Big John was in charge of the Fln / Aug empty grain. These two trains meet at Red Rock.

The Aug / Fln arriving at Flynn headed by custom painted SD40-2

The locos are about to be cut off the train so Noel can switch the cars.
Ron on the left and Big John discussing the days events at Augusta

Locos off train 2 are being sent to the Augusta servicing area
Roger on the left then Dennis and Noel at Flynn discussing?

Barry in charge of the Win / Gut / Win Cement train.
    The Winfield to Guthrie and return Cement train can take almost all night. It has no rights and must fit in to whatever is happening around it.

Switching at Guthrie

Heading to Perry

Arriving at Perry ready to switch.

Dennis and Roger switching at Ponca with the Fly/ Pon / Fly Sweeper.

The Aug / Hac / Aug Sweeper arriving at Winfield on its way back to Augusta.

    So with only 7 of us to work the session, me as dispatcher, time out for beans at 9.00pm we called it a night at 10.30pm.
    A big learning curve for Roger as he plans the operating system for his new RR and a good night was had by all.

That's it for todays update.


Thompson River Canyon Pt 2

The Journey Continues
     Once we decided to build the TRC we wanted to push the envelope to show N Scale to its best especially since it was to primarily be an exhibition layout.
     The track plan was worked out over the kitchen table so we could have some industries at which to switch (to show the public how operations work) along with those fantastic snow / rock slides along the canyon which are a feature of the area.
     We also decided that the RR would use Digitrax DCC, use Micro Trains code 55 track along with some hand made turnouts and an important feature in our minds was to incorporate a signalling system. We wanted the layout (track) to be much higher off the ground (56 inches ) so you looked into the trains and a deep fascia to help frame the scene and allow room to hold our Digtrax Up5's and turnout control panels. It also provided room under the track to hold all of our trains, signalling system and the Digitrax command station and power packs.
     Vic is a master at producing custom made, brass etched signals as seen on my RR.
     The track plan is simple. Single track with a passing siding on both sides (to allow bi-directional running) with a couple of industry tracks and a house track on the front module. We added four storage tracks behind the front backdrop to allow us to make up trains which also allowed us to change the trains more often to keep the public interested.

      The number of modules was also important so we could fit them into our existing vehicles. I chose to build the rear half of the layout so that comprised the two corners and the three four foot modules. Vic had a ute so he took to build the front sections which comprised two six foot straight modules and the two larger corners. In fact all of the layout was built in my workshop given that I had all the machinery necessary to build what was needed. The layout is 16ft long and 8 ft wide so plenty big enough. The front modules are 18 inches deep with the rear only 12 inches.
    We purchased several sheets of 7ply and had it ripped to 3 inch wide strips with which to make all of the frames. We wanted to use this as we thought it would be more stable than plain pine.
    It took quite a few months to get to the stage you saw on the first post but there was still a long way to go.
   The signalling system was one of the biggest hurdles. We had seen a system when in San Diego at an N Scale convention and the following NMRA train show called Signalling Solutions. This system was quite new however it looked like it might just do the trick for the TRC. Vic and John made contact with the owner, sent him our track plan and following many emails later agreement was made as to what was needed to run the layout as prototypical as we could. Noel, one of our longstanding friends having an excellent knowledge of wiring and an N Scale modeler to boot was gently persuaded to do the wiring of the signalling system. I'm not sure Noel nor any of us realized just how difficult this was  going to be. So after many wiring diagrams later, (some 3 feet long) we were able to get the wiring in, mount the main boards and all of the signal drivers. Then lots of tweeking to get it to work.

Little John did all of this wiring

We utilized Automotive wiring connectors to plug the many module wiring looms together. We cut off the retaining clips so they became more easily removable. Here you can see the module legs sitting in their sockets. We also added small legs so the fascia did not hit the ground when we were setting up. This allowed us to get our fingers under the modules.

It was a bloody hot day the first time we were able to get all modules onto our deck to start testing the wiring. Here good friend Little John is contemplating what might have gone wrong. We were sure we had it right the first time. You can see the shelf holding the Digitrax command station. All of the wiring for these sections were made into small looms so we could quickly fit them. Each piece of electrical equipment had timber locating fixtures so they went in only one place during assembly.
This was a Walthers station Kit that I altered slightly to make it look a bit more Canadian

Taken as we were checking to see how we could fit them into the new trailer that Vic purchased to carry the whole layout.
    One of our other goals was to get the layout up and running for the 2003 Melbourne N scale Convention. Boy this sure put the pressure on however we got there even though we had not made any light fixtures.

It fits! Just no legs and lights.
Just one of Vic's superb Signal gantry's
   We survived the convention and then set about building our light boxes. These followed the contour of the modules and were made the same size to fit over each module. We chose to use 25 watt small frosted globes spaced 18 inches apart, these worked very well. To connect the light boxes we used old computer power cable male and female sockets along the top of the light fittings.
   The first time we were able to use the lights was at the 2006 AMRA Model Railway Exhibition at Box Hill. We were also able to use our black drapes so the layout looked quite good once the layout was set up, drapes on and the lights all plugged in.

I took this shot before the crowd arrived for the second day of the AMRA exhibition in 2006 and we were very proud to receive our first.award.
    Vic and I could not have completed the layout without the great help of Little John and Noel nor be able to set up, run and strip down at each show without Brendan, Ron, Greg, Big John and few of our other mates. Thanks guys.

A ten loco lash-up created by Brendan one lunch break

   There are a few You Tube videos of the TRC taken by others so if you want to see some action head over there.
   The TRC was a very enjoyable layout to share with a good many mates.

Thanks for stopping by.


Thompson River Canyon

Looking back
    Last July I added some images of Thompson River Canyon a layout built by Vic and myself many years ago that now resides at Barry's house.
    I thought I would show some construction images I took way back so the quality may not be that good however it might show some of the techniques we used and what it looked like on display.
    So here goes.

This how we stacked the foam to start our mountains on one of the corner modules.
Here is all the frame work. We deliberately made the fascia 12 inches deep so we could recess all the panels.

More mountain material going in along with the start of the fascia

This is one of the three 4 foot modules with mountains now showing some  progress.
 To get the mountains to some shape we just hacked the foam with a small chisel and a Stanley knife following images we copied from a video of the area.

Another corner with  scenery underway.

All of the tunnels were lined and the portals scratch built following the prototype as closely as possible
As the modules needed to be transported we did not want to add plaster rocks it would be way too heavy. So we thought why not try tile grout. This was the start to see how it would look. Much to our surprise it turned out better than we had hoped.

Now dry before we added any stone dust.
A test run with my new PWRS special run CN hoppers by Deluxe.
Recessed panels made it safer for transporting

We protected the backdrop while adding the grout with cling wrap. Sure saved a lot of cursing.
Vic standing and John under the module adding droppers on one of the two front 6 foot modules.
CP GP30 holding at one Vics scratch built brass signals.

Two Dash 9's that I custom painted and decaled.
Two of the scratch built snow / rock slide sheds. The one above was made using styrene the one on the right was 3mm MDF covered with styrene sheet and scribed to represent marks left by concrete forms.
     Seeing these images again has brought back some great memories. Next post I will try to find my  images of the layout on display showing the light boxes and signage.
That's it for today.