Thursday, 25 May 2017

Trainspotting ...

I saw northbound Train 12 at Davis today:

A short while later a pair of F7s rolled through town with a string of empty box cars. They were probably headed up to Kansas for grain loading.

I chased the freight to Wynnewood where I got some more video:


Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Rebuilding Gene Autry (final)

I've completed the wiring and done some test running, and I can now report that Gene Autry is again open for business.

Here's the revised track schematic diagram that will be installed in the fascia:

The turnouts for the air base and the passing siding are located the wrong way around, in that the siding ended north (to the left) of the air base siding, but this arrangement gave me more room for the air base.

I still have to install the pushrods for the Peco points, and then wire power to their frogs. However, I've done some testing and the current situation does not present any problems for operation.


Thursday, 11 May 2017

Rebuilding Gene Autry (part 3)

I spent Tuesday laying the track at Gene Autry, and I'm pretty happy with the outcome. My photos really don't show the result very well, but here they are:

Gene Autry from the Ardmore (south) end, with the airpark in the distance. The main track is the centre track,
and is sitting on 3mm cork roadbed. The passing siding on the aisle side and the house track on the wall side
are both on 1.5mm cork roadbed.
Gene Autry looking generally south. The flatcar is located at the 'team track' area and the covered hopper
is at the feed mill.

This is the revised trackwork at the airpark. The box cars are sitting on one of the two sidings.

The next step is to complete the wiring. I soldered droppers to every section of track as I fitted it, and intended to complete the wiring yesterday. However, an unplanned trip to the hospital emergency ward yesterday afternoon put an end to that idea.  I'm still not running on all cylinders, so that job will probably now have to wait until next week.

I also have to construct and install the push-rods to operate these points, but it may be a few weeks before I can get around to doing that. These Peco points have been modified to make them "DCC friendly" so their frog rails will be unpowered until I install the push-rod mechanisms. I'm hoping that they'll work reliably enough without powered frogs that I can host an operating session in a couple of weeks.

Thanks for looking.

Thursday, 27 April 2017

Rebuilding Gene Autry (part 2)

This afternoon I finished laying the track at the north end of the Gene Autry siding, including the revised siding arrangement for the airpark. I couldn't arrange the track exactly as I wanted to, because I had to work around  the holes I had originally cut in the baseboard in order to mount Peco point motors under the turnouts. However, this arrangement allowed me to provide more separation between the airpark sidings and the main track, and also to maximise their length. The airpark sidings can now hold eleven 40' cars (up from four), although I don't intend to operate it to full capacity.

Here's how it turned out. The short length of track in the foreground indicates where the main siding will be located.

I envisage a row of storage sheds behind the shorter (rear) siding, which will be used for unloading boxcars. The longer (front) track will be for unloading tank cars (eg aviation fuel.) The short length of track in the foreground indicates where the main siding will be located.

The wires hanging down are the power feeders (droppers) which have been soldered to the underside of the rail, but have not yet been connected to the track power.  Also, I still have to build and install the push-rod mechanisms to operate the three turnouts.

Next step will be to install a new turnout on the main for the south end of the mainline siding. I will probably wait until all the trackwork is finished before completing the wiring and installing the pushrods.

Thanks for looking,

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Rebuilding Gene Autry (part 1)

Gene Autry Mk I

When I laid the track for Gene Autry (way back in the early '90s) the only information I had on the town was from Andy Sperandeo's 1980's "Washita & Santa Fe" series in Model Railroader magazine. The series included a track plan showing the township to have a double-ended passing siding, and a single ended siding serving a grain elevator and a stock pen. (Andy's compressed arrangement was plausibly accurate for Gene Autry at the time the article was published.)

As a CC&WB 'operator', I've come to dislike single ended sidings serving multiple busy industries. They may be fine in real life, when each industry only receives or ship a car or two every once in a while. But I was wanting industries that would receive/ship multiple cars every operating session, and I didn't want the operators tying up the main track with strings of cars every time they switched Gene Autry. So I built my version of Gene Autry with a double-ended industry siding coming off the passing siding. I've since confirmed that in the '50s the industry siding was indeed double ended, although it ran off the main track rather than the passing siding.

Ardmore Air Force Base => Ardmore Industrial Airpark
(Click here for information about the air force base and its history.)

I've been aware of the airbase/airpark for a long time, but for some crazy reason I originally believed that it was located somewhere near Ardmore. Silly me! In fact, it is actually located just north of the town of Gene Autry, and was originally served by a rail siding that left the main just south of the passing siding's north switch. There's almost nothing left of the original siding these days, but back in the day it had a respectable group of tracks, as shown in this 1965 map from Historic Aerials:
Airpark siding in 1965 (image from Historic Aerials)

Once I discovered the location of the airpark I wasted no time in extending my passing siding at Gene Autry, and adding a short stub siding to represent it. However, I only had room for a short track that is barely capable of handling the traffic that I want to send to it.

The following photo shows the track arrangement. The front track is the main, then the passing siding, and the stub siding is the airpark siding. (This photo was taken after I had started work on the remodelling, but the points are in their original positions.)
The track arrangement at the airpark. The front track is the main, then the passing siding, and the
stub siding is the airpark siding.

Gene Autry Mk II

Over the years I've learned a lot about Gene Autry (thanks in no small part to my friend Doug Williams who was born and raised there, and has written a book on his memories.) I now niggles me that my depot sits alongside the siding instead of alongside the main track (where it should be); and that my industry siding does not run around behind the depot (again, as the prototype did.) Most of all though, I want to increase the capacity of the sidings at my Airpark to better reflect that busy location. So today I started work on rearranging the track in order to address those matters.

The plan has three objectives:
  1. Move the passing siding to the aisle side of the mainline,
  2. Lay a new double ended siding ('house track') that runs from the main track, behind the depot, and back to the main. This track will serve the elevator complex, stock pens and team track.
  3. Realign the northern end of the original passing siding to become a second siding at the airpark.
I also wanted to move the main track closer to the aisle to provide more room for the airpark. However, I want to install Peco motors under the points, and the trackwork and timber located underneath the baseboard in this area severely limited where I could place points for the airpark sidings.
Edit (the next day):  It finally dawned on me that if I use Peco motors on these points then I'll probably have to also use either a Peco PL13 or PL15 to power the frogs. In my opinion, both devices are somewhat clunky, possibly unreliable, and certainly quite expensive. After further study, I've decided to operate these points with pushrods. Due to the thicker plywood baseboard (18mm instead of 12mm used elsewhere) the 'reach' from the slide switch to the throw-bar is longer than I've used elsewhere but I think I can work around that. Using pushrods completely rules out relocating the airpark sidings as I previously wanted, but with a bit of re-engineering the revised sidings will hold at least 6 cars each, which will give me nearly triple the capacity of the old siding.

Today's activities included:
- removing the track and cork roadbed at the north end of Gene Autry (see above photo),
- making two Peco C55 points "DCC friendly", and soldering track feeders to them,
- slicing sufficient cork strips from cork sheet for the entire project.

My plan is to have this rework completed by the end of April as I want to host an operating schedule in mid-May.

That's all for now. More to follow.


Thursday, 30 March 2017

Operating session - 28th March

As I mentioned in my previous post, I invited a crew over to run trains last Tuesday (28 March 2017).  From my perspective, the day went very well and I believe that everybody had a great time.  Two of the operators, Chris and Peter, were new to both the GC&SF and CC&WB operation (apart from one session that Chris had on Brendan's layout.)

I had my camera handy to help me tell the story. Chris also brought his camera along, and many of the photos presented below were taken by him. Thanks Chris!

Chris captured the trains lined up in South Staging prior to the start of the session:

The baggage car behind the locos in the passenger train on track 1 ("The Chicagoan") is off the track, and that was corrected before the session started. The other trains, from left to right, are a gravel train, a load of empty box cars headed to Kansas for grain loading, a tank car train which will switch cars at the Wynnewood refinery, and two through freights (Trains 38 and 40.)

Here's Chris waiting for his train (the northbound Chicagoan) to emerge from the hidden south staging yard:

At the other end of the layout, first-time visitor Peter is giving John a hand at running the Pauls Valley yard.

Bill is at Davis, collecting cars for the Pauls Valley local freight:

I recently changed the way I switch the quarries at Dougherty and Big Canyon to more accurately represent the way my friend Rip-Rap described the operations to me (here.)  Rod and Vic teamed up to run the northbound gravel travel, and in these photos they are delivering a cut of empty gons to the Dolese Bros. Quarry at Big Canyon. They'll pick up the loaded cars on their return (southbound) journey.

Graham is running a southbound fast freight (Train 39) through Davis while Bill waits for him to pass.

Vic and Rod have placed the gravel train onto the sidings so Train 39 can pass.  Nice work, guys.

Bill is switching Wynnewood with the Pauls Valley local:

Chris has returned to Ardmore with the local freight:

Peter ran the northbound refinery train, which switches tank cars at the Wynnewood refinery. Here, Bill is helping him sort out what work has to be done:

Before Peter can start the switching he has to wait for the southbound livestock train to pass through Wynnewood. Rod is keeping a close eye on the clearance, as the refinery train is a tight fit on the siding.

The following photos taken by Chris show some of the industries on the layout.

South staging yards, about half-way through the session. The trains with the locos in the foreground have been run, while those with a caboose in the foreground have yet to leave. The cabooses are all Atlas offset cupola cabooses that I've added MTL end handrails and chimneys to. I'm still awaiting the day that somebody (I'm looking at you, Atlas) produces a better model of these Santa Fe waycars that is appropriate for the '50s.

Two shots of Ardmore. First, the yard service tracks, and then the Bluebonnet Feed Mill (built for me by Rod.)

Rod's model of Bluebonnet Feedmill dominates the scene at Ardmore, just like the real thing does.

Some shots of Gene Autry. This area is soon to be torn up and rebuilt so that I can expand the industrial trackage at my representation of the Ardmore Airpark (formerly the Ardmore Airbase).

This is Big Canyon, with the Dolese Bros. Quarry in the distance. The second photo shows the 

The next picture was taken a few hundred meters south of the area represented in the previous layout photo, and shows the look that I want for my representation of Big Canyon. The quarry plant was located just to the left of the large hill that overlooks the tracks in the centre-left, behind the building. I've had this photo for a long time, but only just noticed that building, which is probably a GC&SF structure.  Unfortunately, the person who would have been able to tell me has recently passed away.
This is my model of the Southern Rock Asphalt plant at Dougherty.

My Southern Rock Asphalt plant represents one of two quarries that were located on a long spur that ran north from Dougherty. At one time, one of the quarries had its own steam engine that moved cars between both quarries and the GC&SF at Dougherty. Both of these pictures are said to be of the Southern Rock plant, so I assume that the first (referred to as the "new plant") replaced the facility shown in the second photo.

This is the depot at Davis, with Johnstone Construction and Pitmon Oil in the background. Both industries are fictitious.

This is Arctic Processing, at Davis. I created this fictitious industry because I wanted somewhere on the layout to ship reefers to. 

This is Stillwater Milling at Davis. There really is a Stillwater Milling at Davis, but it looks nothing like this structure.

This is Kerr McGee Oil Refinery at Wynnewood. There has been a refinery at the south end of Wynnewood for a very long time. I'm not trying to represent the entire plant; just an LPG tank car loading area (for outbound shipments of LPG) along with some large storage sheds (inbound materials).

Judging by the feedback I've received since Tuesday, the guys had a good time, and I know I enjoyed the day as well. Thanks for coming over guys. And thanks again for the photos, Chris.

Thanks for following along.


Friday, 24 March 2017

Next operating session - 28th March

I've invited a crew over for another operating session next Tuesday (28th March.)  It will probably be the last session I have for a few months (until May, at least) as I want to pull up the track at Gene Autry and re-lay it to provide better switching opportunities at the Ardmore Air Base.

I usually have trouble getting a crew together for week-day sessions because half the guys who come on Friday nights still have to work for a living.  Next Tuesday is no exception, so I've invited a couple of gents who've not operated on the GC before.  One of them has never tried CC&WB operation at all, and the other has had one session (we operated together on the last session of Brendan's previous D&H layout.)

This is the crew call board that we'll be operating under:
As with the previous session, I've now included the branch line trains that were previously run by the yard operators in the list of trains to be run by the general pool of operators. I've also prepared new and amended instructions for the trains that are affected by this change.

Fixing stuff ...

Since the last session I've finally fixed a problem that has annoyed me for quite some time. After converting the layout to DCC I decided to use car lamps combined with PTC fuses for short circuit protection.The plan was to have one of these devices installed to protect each town, so that a short circuit wouldn't shut down the entire layout.

Sadly, when I originally rewired the layout for DCC I got lazy as far as the hidden track that allowed continuous running is concerned.  The electrical blocks for that track are very long, and each has several sets of droppers (power feeds). Instead of running the power feeds all back to a single aggregation point, I simply connected them up to the nearest town's aggregation point. Consequently, power districts that were supposed to be isolated from each other were actually electically connected, and some short circuits could still shut down most if not all of the layout.

After several hours of crawling around under the layout I think that I've now sorted out the wiring, and that the short circuit protection will now work as intended. The big test will be on Tuesday.


Monday, 13 February 2017

Operating session - 10th February 2017

I called the crew together last Friday, for a night of train running. It was a big night, with nine guest operators attending.

In the days leading up to the session I made some changes to the operating timetable, as foreshadowed in my previous post.  The main change was to replace the Gainesville/Ardmore local freight with two separate trains:

(i) an Ardmore local freight that switches the towns between Ardmore and Dougherty, and

(ii) an extra that runs between Purcell, Ok and Gainesville, Tx (actually, north staging to south staging) switching the quarries at Dougherty and Big Canyon.

I also changed the way we operate the Lindsay and Ringling mixed locals, and the SLSF train that operates between Ardmore and Hugo, Ok. In the past these trains were run by the yard operators, in theory at least. In reality, the yard operators were usually too busy with other duties to run these trains.  So I added them to the operating sequence so they can be run by the general pool of operators.

Here's the crew call board for the trains that we ran on the night:

The fast-clock was set at 5:1 ratio, which meant that the session would (or *should*) last just under 1 hour and 50 mins provided there were no unexpected delays.

Shortly after the trains started running we encountered the first problem for the night: I had inadvertently started the fast-clock at 3:00AM instead of 6:00AM.  Du-Oh!

Greg volunteered to run the Ardmore yard. Here he is helping Barry to organise the Ardmore local freight. In the background, Dennis (on the left) and Peter (center) are getting ready to run Trains 38 and 6 respectively. Darren (right) is getting ready to run the SLSF freight from Hugo (staging).

At the other end of the layout, John C was again operating the Pauls Valley yard. Here he is with Graham who is running Train 37, a south-bound fast freight.

Bill is gathering up cars at Davis, for the Pauls Valley local freight. Noel (background) will soon be running the south-bound gravel train, and here he is checking to see what work has to be done at Dougherty.

John C watches while Graham brings Train 37 into Pauls Valley on the arrival track.
Meanwhile, over at Davis Bill is almost done building the Pauls Valley local....

Back at Ardmore, Darren has arrived with the SLSF freight train from Hugo, and is sorting the paperwork. Peter is bringing Train 6, the north-bound "Ranger", into town on the passenger track, while Dennis and Barry watch.

Barry is switching Gene Autry with the Ardmore local. As an aside, I'm planning to relay the track in this photo in order to increase the siding capacity at the Ardmore Air Base (where the cars are sitting in the far corner.)

The Pauls Valley local (bottom left-hand corner of the photo) is waiting for Train 6 to leave Wynnewood so it can commence switching.

South-bound fast freight #37 cruises through Dougherty en-route to Texas:
Darren spent the evening assisting the yard operators, and in particular, running the trio of local trains that I previously called upon the yard operators to run.  These trains all have a short run, but collectively they move about 15 to 18 cars per session to offline locations other than the main (north and south) staging yards. 

Here, Darren is bringing the Ringling mixed local into Ardmore on the arrival track. Once he's there he will run the locos around the train, cut off the combine, and move it to a stub-siding adjacent to the depot so the passengers can alight in safety.
Dennis watches on while Bill does some switching at Wynnewood with the Pauls Valley local.
When I changed the way the quarries are switched I suspected that the new 'gravel train' would arrive at Dougherty at around the same time that the Ardmore local would be there, but I thought (hoped, really) that the three sidings would have sufficient capacity to handle both trains at once.  Unfortunately, that wasn't to be. Barry had no problems with the Ardmore local, but Noel struggled with the gravel train (although he didn't have to use the 5-finger switcher!)  Before the next session I will have to give some thought to resolving that problem, particularly since I want to add another 8 to 12 cars to the gravel cycle.
Graham and Greg are doing the paperwork after switching Train 37 at Ardmore.
Bill has finished the switching at  Wynnewood and is preparing to leave for Pauls Valley
Train 40, with Dennis at the controls, has arrived at Ardmore.
Noel, with the gravel train, is collecting loads at the Dolese Bros. quarry at Big Canyon.
The Ardmore local followed the gravel train through Big Canyon. Barry had to collect a covered hopper loaded with sand.
At Pauls Valley, John and Dennis are discussing shipments for north-bound Train 38, while Darren switches cars at the local industries. Bill is back at Wynnewood, switching cars with the south-bound Pauls Valley local (which is returning to Davis.)
Due to miscommunication, the stop for "beans" came a little later than I intended. Here the guys are making short work of supper.
For some strange reason, late running Train 38 ended up on the house track behind the Pauls Valley depot. Here, it is leaving Pauls Valley immediately ahead of Train 12 - the north-bound Texas Chief.  And are they tank cars immediately behind the loco? Someone will have some 'splaining to do :-)
I'm not sure what's happening here, but my guess is that Greg is pushing the caboose from the Ardmore local onto the caboose storage track.
John's shift at Pauls Valley is almost done, and he'll be leaving a very neat yard for whoever runs it next time.  (That will probably be him. LOL)
I am very happy with the way the session went. Before we started I asked the guys to focus on a number of things that were tend to do badly, and they did do those things really well. Thanks guys - I greatly appreciate the effort you made to run the layout the way I intend it to be run. 

Thanks for reading,