Monday, 19 February 2018

Operating session - 16th February 2018

Last Friday evening I hosted the first GC&SF operating session for 2018. We had a big turn-out of crew members, as (unusually) almost everybody I invited came along. The downside of that was that some of the guys got to run very few trains.

Nevertheless, it seemed to have been a great evening socially, and we made it through the complete timetabled session (which is also a little unusual.)

Here are some photos that I took before and during the evening on my Oppo phone.  (Sorry Dennis, but I somehow managed to not take any with you in them.)

This first group shows how things looked before we started the session.

The line-up at South Staging.
L-R: Train 6 (The Ranger), train 38 (a Fast Freight), train 16 (The Texas Chief),
train X2856N (a livestock extra), train 40 (a Fast Freight), and train 66 (the Ringling mixed local.)

A view of Wynnewood (left) and Davis (right) from the end of the peninsula. The yard at
Pauls Valley is on the far left, and Dougherty is on the far right.

The siding and storage sheds at the Ardmore Air Base near Gene Autry.

Johnstone Construction at Davis. Just behind the tree is Pitmon Oil.

Stillwater Milling (foreground) and Arctic Processing (distance) at Davis.

The tank-car loading racks at Kerr-McGee Refinery, Wynnewood.

Another view of the refinery at Wynnewood.

These photos were taken during the session.

Vic is preparing to leave Davis with the Pauls Valley local freight. In the background,
John F is switching Dougherty with the Ardmore local freight.

Rod, Peter and Bill (next photo) were waiting for the clock to count down so
they can run their next assignments.

Vic is switching Wynnewood with the Pauls Valley local freight, while Barry is watching for
the southbound gravel train to enter Wynnewood.

John F, with the Ardmore local freight at Big Canyon, where
a covered hopper loaded with sand has to be collected.

Barry, and the southbound gravel train en-route to Dougherty.

Darren, and Train 37 (a southbound Fast Freight) rounding the long curve at Big Canyon.

Greg, with northbound Fast Freight #38 at Ardmore.

Brendan, yardmaster at Ardmore, is switching cars for Train 38.

Train 38 approaching Wynnewood, with John C (background) preparing cars at Pauls Valley.

Darren brings Train 37 out onto the main, as it departs Ardmore.
Bill is operating the Frisco local, which operates between Ardmore and Hugo (OK.)

Vic and the Pauls Valley local at Wynnewood. The train has 'turned' at Pauls Valley
and is returning southwards with a long string of cars for Wynnewood and davis

Rod is switching tank cars at the Wynnewood refinery, while Barry acts at the brakeman.

John C, in his usual role as yardmaster at Pauls Valley.

 I think that everybody had a good time, despite a couple of minor problems (caused by my poor preparation).  Thanks for coming over guys.

I'm hoping for my next session to be on a Tuesday in March.


Sunday, 14 January 2018

Working on the railroad, again.

During the past week I've spent some time restaging trains and preparing the layout for my next operating session (to be held on a date which has still to be decided.)  In the process I added four more Intermountain ice refrigerator cars (because I love them) and removed about ten other cars from the operating system. I feel that I still have too many cars on the layout, and I'm thinking of ways to address that.

The cars that are not in use are still on the layout, and form a train that sits on a hidden staging yard track that is not used during ops sessions.  About half of those cars are ones that I should probably sell off or give away as I no longer want to run them on the layout (for one reason or another).  The rest get swapped out from time to time with other cars, just to change things up a bit.

This train has now grown to 27 cars, and is the longest train on the layout. I can, and have, run longer trains, but for ops sessions my freight trains are limited to 2 locos, 21 cars and a caboose, as that's all that can fit on my arrival/departure tracks without interfering with other tracks.

Here's a video of this train running southbound through Davis:

While I was at it, I also filmed my track-cleaning train as it ran laps around the layout:


Thursday, 14 December 2017

Santa Fe refrigerator cars service

After my previous post I discovered this "educational documentary" from 1956 which is about ATSF refrigerator car service. Watch it in full-screen for best viewing.

I love those ABBA FT and F7 sets!


Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Installing Microtrains trucks on Athearn reefers

Ever since Athearn released its models of ATSF 50' ice reefers I've been wanting to get some for the GC&SF. But unfortunately, I haven't been able to locate an online retailer with any suitable cars (ie those with either the "Ship and Travel" slogan or the straight line map) in stock.  From time to time such cars have shown up on ebay, but only as single cars, and the S&H to Australia pushed the total cost way above my budget.

Back in October I finally found a seller with 4 "used" cars for sale at a price I could afford, and I got my order in. It took a woefully long time for the cars to reach me in Australia, as the seller used ebay's Global Shipping Program. It took TWO WEEKS just for the cars to travel from the seller in New Hampshire to the GSP centre in California!!!

But eventually the cars arrived.

The cars are much nicer than I expected them to be, and are a very good match for my Intermountain 40' ATSF ice reefers. Three of them look 'as new', and the fourth was lightly weathered. Nothing to complain about on that front.
Athearn ice reefer in centre, Intermountain 40' ice reefer to the left, and Atlas PS-1 boxcar to the right.

However, the trucks used on the cars rolled very poorly, and the couplers (Accumates, or an Accumate clone) have a long extension which makes the car-to-car separation look very long. The fact that these cars are relatively low in height seemed to exaggerate the look.
Intermountain 40' ice reefer to the left, Athearn 50' ice reefer to the right.
The Intermountain car has MTL trucks and the Athearn car has Athearn Accumates.

I decided to replace the Athearn trucks with Microtrains trucks, but that proved to be a little more difficult than I anticipated. The cars have a post that extends through the hole in the truck, and that post is much narrower than the mounting hole in the MTL trucks.

I did some research, and found a Trainboard thread in which a poster named Christoph said "I put a short piece of a drinking straw over the cast-on Athearn bolster pin, then it just fit into a MTL truck. I reused the Athearn screws, and everything can be reversed if you wish so." I wasn't able to find a straw that was the right size to fit in the manner described, but then it occurred to me that I didn't need a closed ring of straw.

I cut approx. 2mm from the end of the straw, and cut it in half. Then, by trial and error, I trimmed it until it fit.

Then I installed the MTL tuck and tested that it swivelled properly.

As the screw-head is only slightly larger than the mounting hole in the MTL truck, I added a washer that MTL used to supply with their trucks (I'm not sure whether they still supply them.)

Then I installed Microtrains standard wheelsets, and the cars were ready to roll. Here's an "after" photo to show how the car-to-car separation now looks:
Comparison of models of ATSF ice refrigerator cars. Intermountain 40' reefer on the left,
and Athearn 50' reefer on the right. Both cars now have MTL trucks installed.

After doing some test running, I've added the cars to the GC&SF fleet where they'll be earning their keep at the next operating session.


Friday, 8 December 2017

Video action on the GC&SF

I made a couple of hand-held videos during last Tuesday's operating session.

This first one is the Texas Chief heading north at Big Canyon.

This is a northbound Fast Freight at Davis.

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Operating session for 5th December 2017

The crew came together again today, for one last operating session in 2017.

The session started off very well, but two-thirds of the way through the 'morning' half of the timetable we started to get behind schedule. I stopped the fast-time clock a couple of times so we could catch up, but we slipped further behind. Then we had a derailment in the hidden lead to the north staging yard. I pulled the derailed locos and cars out by hand and pushed the rest of the train through to the continuous-run connection track (which isn't used during operating sessions.) Then I called lunch, so I could sort out the problems while the crew had lunch and refreshments.

The afternoon half of the timetable ran a lot better. We had to finish the morning part first, so we didn't complete the schedule. Nevertheless, it was a good session.

Here are some photos from today.

John F operated the Ardmore yard. He left his glasses at home, and borrowed a pair of mine. They worked, .. sort of.

Chris is building the Davis to Pauls Valley local freight at Davis.

Bill has a north-bound passenger train approaching Big Canyon.
Chris has the local freight holding on the siding at Wynnewood while he plans his switching moves.
Rod is rolling through the town with a through-freight.

Darren has the Ardmore local freight. Here he is switching cars at Gene Autry.
The tracks under Darren's hand are the South Staging tracks, and the continuous run connection.

Dennis has the southbound gravel train which will exchange its empty gons for loaded gons
at Dougherty and Big Canyon.

Pauls Valley Yardmaster John C is sorting cars while he has a break from arriving trains.

Rod and Peter are preparing to cut cars out from their south-bound fast freight at Ardmore,
as Yardmaster John F. determines which cars are to be added.

Chris is picking up cars at Wynnewood. The local is a long train today.

The gravel train has arrived at Dougherty, where Dennis has to do some set-outs and pick-ups.
But first, he will have to split the train to make room for the local freight when it arrives.

Just on cue, here's Darren with the local freight.

The Davis - Pauls Valley local has arrived at Pauls Valley,
and Chris has cut off the locos to ready them for the return trip to Davis.

Dennis has pulled a cut of loaded gondolas from the Dolese siding,
and is now pushing in a cut of empties for loading.

Here, Darren has the south-bound refinery extra. He's preparing to pull a cut of loaded LPG cars
from the refinery at Wynnewood before swapping them for empties.

Yardmaster John at Ardmore yard.

Peter and Rod, with the north-bound livestock express rounding the
big curve between Davis and Wynnewood.

The south-bound Kansas Cityan at Davis, with Chris at the controls.
Much later in the day, and Rod and Peter are at Dougherty doing some switching with the afternoon
Ardmore local freight, while Darren prepares to collect some loaded gons with the north-bound gravel train.

Train 15, The Texas Chief heads towards Davis with Bill at the controls.
Dennis has the afternoon Davis - Pauls Valley local freight, and once again it's a long train.

Bill is receiving his orders for his next assignment. The sheet to the right of the clip holding the train orders
is the crew call board, with the trains listed in their order of departure. Above the call board are the train graphs
from which I derived the timetable.

We didn't make it right through the timetable today (or even come close). But it was still a very enjoyable day. A big 'thank-you' to the guys who came over.

Regards to all, and thanks for looking,