Monday 13 November 2023

Long overdue update

After our last operating session on the GC&SF I decided that it was time for me to finally tackle a job I've been putting off for too long - finishing the river and bridge scene between Big Canyon and Gene Autry. I originally thought that it might take me about two months to get that job done, but then I started having second thoughts about which bridges and abutments to use. And then, well ... there was a lot of 'scope creep'.

Long story short, I'm still working on it. 

Here are some progress pics showing how things look today.

This is a mock-up of the Big Canyon quarry. The hole is where the water pond
will be. I still have more structures and vehicles to add.

The Big Canyon quarry, with the Washita River running along side the
ATSF main track.

The ATSF main track follows the Washita River past the quarry, and then crosses to
the other side of the river. The bridge abutments are in place but the bridge won't
be installed until after the river 'water' is poured.
The bridge abutments and pylons. I'm hoping that once the trees and shrubs are
installed they will screen the place where the river meets the backdrop.

I am currently working on making several of the turnouts DCC friendly before I install pushrods under them. That's going to be a bit challenging as the pushrods will be several inches lower than the turnouts, but I have a few ideas. Then I'll add more detail to the river bed before I pour the epoxy 'river'. I'm hoping to have the bridges and track installed by January so we can get back to operations.


Friday 16 June 2023

GC&SF operating session on 2nd June 2023

I've been a bit slack and didn't get around to posting a report on our operating session on Friday, 2nd of June. So here it is, albeit a fortnight late.

I normally like to have eight or nine guest operators (plus myself) because I've found that to be the right crew size to make the layout hum using a 6:1 fast clock, without having excess people clogging up the layout room aisles. However, I had several crew members drop out during the day due to illness and work commitments, so we were forced to make do with just seven of us.

I started the fast clock at 4:1 speed ratio, but even at that slow rate we soon reached the point where trains were missing their scheduled start times because crews weren't available to run them. From then on we ran the trains sequentially, and as most trains were starting 'late' many scheduled meets between trains would not occur where/when they were supposed to. I thought that I'd be called upon to play the role of Dispatcher (in addition to being yardmaster at Ardmore, but I'm pleased to report that the guys actually worked through this with almost no input from me. I became aware of this when I heard two of the guys agreeing that their trains would meet at Gene Autry instead of Pauls Valley.

Despite the staff shortage, we still managed to run through the full timetable, or rather, the list of scheduled trains, without any noteworthy problems.

Here are some photos from the evening's session. 

Duncan, John, Brendan and Don. John was the yardmaster at Pauls Valley.

Barry with a northbound passenger train at Ardmore.

Derek was running a train, but I managed to not get it in the photo.

Don switching cars at Davis while a southbound Fast Freight passes through town on the main track.

Don and Brendan.

Duncan, John and Barry at Pauls Valley.

Barry with a local freight at Gene Autry.

Don, still switching at Davis, while Derek (background) is switching cars at Dougherty.

Derek is switching stock cars at Pauls Valley. Meanwhile, the loco in the foreground is very slowly creeping its way down the branchline unnoticed due to somebody failing to completely zero a throttle.
Duncan running a southbound fast freight past the quarry at Big Canyon.
Don's local freight is in the hole at Wynnewood while a freight train passes on the main track.

For me, this was another really enjoyable session, even though we didn't adhere to the timetable. My thanks go to the guys for coming over to play trains with me.

For those who have facebook, I also post these reports on my GC&SF page at:

Regards to all,

Sunday 30 April 2023

Operating session on Friday 21st April

Here are some photos from an operating session on the GC&SF last week.

This was the first operating session on the layout for a couple of the crew members, and some of the others haven't been here for a while, so I started the fast-time clock at a leisurely 4:1 speed ratio. However, the guys performed so well that I soon had the ratio up to 5:1, and then up to 6:1.

Greg brought over his brand new TCS WiFi throttle, so in addition to Digitrax Duplex radio using both a UR92 and a UR93 we also ran WiThrottle Server in DecoderPro. The three wireless systems played very well together. The TCS WiFi throttle is a very nice piece of kit.

(L-R) Greg H., Duncan and John at Pauls Valley.

Derek with the Ardmore local freight at Gene Autry.

The Ardmore local freight at Gene Autry.

Darren running the Pauls Valley local freight at Wynnewood.

Greg H. ran the town switcher at Pauls Valley. Here he is uncoupling a car at the elevator.

A pair of H16-44 locos sitting idle at Pauls Valley.

Fast Freight train 37 departing southbound after switching some cars at Pauls Valley.

Duncan (L) and Don. This was the first operating session these gents had attended on the GC&SF, and they both did a great job. Welcome to the crew Duncan and Don.

For some reason, Greg J. looks like a Mt Rushmore statue in the middle of the forest.

Don with northbound train 338.

Greg H. cutting out some cars from northbound train 38 at Pauls Valley.

Darren switching tank cars at the Wynnewood refinery.

Brendan ran the yard at Ardmore, and even found time to do the town switcher's work as well (which was a good thing for me as I was supposed to be doing that.)

Things aren't as chaotic as they first look. Duncan is holding the Lindsay local (with the Geeps) on the branch line, waiting for train 38 (driven by Greg) to clear the arrival/departure track. Greg, in turn, is waiting for the southbound grain extra (Derek) to clear the switch onto the main track so he can leave the yard.

Derek (L) watches as Darren prepares the tank car train train to leave Wynnewood, after he has just switched the refinery.

Derek and the grain extra at Wynnewood.

The Crew Call Board for the night's session.
For me this was the most enjoyable session I've hosted for a long time. Apart from one weird glitch when every throttle lost communication for about 15 seconds (even the tethered and wifi throttles), the layout operated very well. I was worried that some of the recently modified switches at Dougherty might fail, but that didn't happen. I had few questions to answer, and only very minor problems to sort out. Well done guys, and thanks for coming over.

Thanks for reading.


Tuesday 14 February 2023

2023 kick-off: some work and an operating session.

Yikes!  It's been ten months since my last post. Unfortunately, my ops session last March turned out to be a COVID spreading event, with most of my guest operators, and then several of our wives, coming down with the disease. And after that, 2022 just got worse and worse. So all in all, I didn't get much model railroading done during the year.

However, with Christmas, New Year and then Australia Day festivities out of the way, I've resumed activity on the layout. 

Installing push-rods to operate switches

First off, I modified six ME switches that I installed at Dougherty way back in 2005, and then installed fascia mounted push-rods to operate them. I don't know why I didn't make provision for the push-rods when I installed the switches, but for the past 17 years we've had to slide the point rails across using our fingers. This is how the switches and their push-rods look (well, some of them, anyway.)

Three of the six switches before they were modified. The throw-bar is very short and narrow,
making it difficult to install a wire to operate it.

Two of the switches after modification. I replaced the throw-bar with a longer and wider PCB tie.
I also cut gaps in the closure rails and then soldered power feeders so that they bridged each
closure rail and its adjacent stock rail. Then I powered the frog using a DPDT slide switch mounted under the layout.

This is how the switches and their control knobs look from the operating aisle.

First operating session for 2023

Yesterday the GC&SF hosted its first operating session for the year. I was a bit nervous about how it would go as most of the trains had done very little running since the session way back in last March. Eight guest operators came over to run trains, and while I got stressed out far more than usual, things went pretty well, and I think that all the guys enjoyed themselves.

Here are some photos from the day.

(L-R) Chris, Peter S. and Peter K. at Dougherty. Peter K. is operating the Ardmore local freight
that is switching cars on the track behind the depot.

Ooops ... something went wrong.
As Peter K. rerails a car at Dougherty, Peter S. is operating the morning Pauls Valley local freight,
and switching cars at Davis.

John C. an the town switching job at Pauls Valley. Here he is uncoupling cars at the grain elevator

John F. did a great job running the yard at Pauls Valley. In the background,
Derek is about to bring a through freight into the Pauls Valley arrival track. 

(L-R) Me, John F. and John C. at Pauls Valley.

Greg (in the background) and Bill teamed up to run the south-bound (morning) gravel train.
Here, they've just picked up loaded cars from Dolese at Big Canyon and are about to
couple them onto the cars they collected from Southern Rock at Dougherty.

Greg must like running the gravel trains because here he is running the northbound (afternoon)
gravel train. 

Derek at Davis with the afternoon local freight from Pauls Valley.

The train line up at the south staging yards prior to the start of the session.

As I mentioned, I got a bit stressed out during the session as I tried to operate the yard at Ardmore as well as trouble-shoot problems. I hadn't taken into account that most of the crew members haven't operated the layout in almost a year and for some of them it was even longer. So the guys were all somewhat rusty on how to go about their 'work'.

Nevertheless, it was a good session and I enjoyed catching up with everybody again. Thank-you to all the crew members for coming oer to play trains.


Friday 15 April 2022

GC&SF operating session - 12th April 2022

I've been keen to get back into CC&WB operating sessions since COVID forced the suspension of services on the GC&SF, and I called a crew together last Tuesday for the layout's second operating session for this year.

It has been quite a while since some of the guys last operated on the GC&SF, so I intentionally ran the fast-clock much slower than we normally run it (3:1 ratio instead of 5:1 or 4:1). I had no reason for concern however, and the guys took to their jobs with skill and enthusiasm. We got much further through the time-table than I expected we would, and with very few problems.

Here are some photos from the session:

Dennis is switching at the Bluebonnet Feed Mill, in Ardmore.

Bill and Rod switching at Wynnewood.

Chris and John C looked after the Pauls Valley yard.

Derek took care of the Ardmore yard.

Bill checking the paperwork as he and Rod switch Davis with the Pauls Valley local.

Dennis is about to set out empty gondolas, and collect loaded gondolas
at Southern Rock Asphalt, Dougherty.

John F is bringing a north-bound freight train (Train 38) onto the arrival/departure track
at Ardmore, where it will set out some cars and collect others.

Noel is returning to Ardmore with the Ardmore local freight.

The Ardmore local freight  (Noel) has taken the siding at Gene Autry so that
John's northbound freight (Train 38) can pass.

Derek has cleared out almost all of the cars from Ardmore yard.

John F with Train 38 arriving at Wynnewood.

Rod and Bill switching at Wynnewood as Train 38 passes through town on the main track.

John F has brought Train 38 onto the Arrival/Departure track at Pauls Valley so he can exchange
cars with the yard. Bill and Rod are watching on as they await the chance to return to
Pauls Valley with the local freight (currently sitting on the siding at Wynnewood.).

Derek (left) and me at Ardmore. Things were so relaxed due to the slow clock-speed that I even
got to run some trains. Here I have just brought the SLSF freight train from Hugo into Ardmore.

The Pauls Valley yard crew, John C and Chris, discussing car moves.

Dennis and Noel ran the afternoon Pauls Valley local freight. Dennis is switching at Wynnewood.

Noel and Dennis with the Pauls Valley local freight at Davis.

I'll also post larger versions of these photos on my GC&SF Facebook page.

I am also pleased to report that the layout again operated very well with both the UR92 and UR93 radio devices working together. In recent months I've spent a lot of time researching the vagaries of the Digitrax system, and I think it is paying off in better, more reliable operation.

My thanks go to the guys who came over for making this a great session.