Saturday, 24 August 2019

Got my mojo working ....

I has been a long time since my last post. I kinda lost my model railroad mojo after that last session, when things didn't go as well as I'd hoped. I had (and still have) a few problems that I need to resolve since that session, but I didn't have the motivation to fix them.

But I haven't been completely idle since then. I've been working on several structures for the layout, and most recently working out where to place them once they're finished.

Thanks to some amazing research by my friends Geoff Hoad (in Sydney) and Mark Parry (in the UK), I now have a very good idea of what industries were served by the GC&SF in Pauls Valley back in 1962. That's just two years later than I am modelling, or close enough! Most of that information came too late for me to design my track plan for Pauls Valley around it, and I don't have the space to do that anyway. But I will try to include as much as I can.

One surprising (to me) discovery from Geoff's work was the number of oil distributors that had small receiving warehouses along the rail siding to take delivery of bulk and packaged (drummed) oil products. The following cropped image from an aerial photo taken in 1962 shows those structures that still existed in 1962. The industry names are from a 1942 Sanborn map, and may not be accurate for 1962. For example, by 1962 the Field Bros and Cities Service facilities were owned by Gulf Oil.  However, I'm going to stick with Field Bros. Co for my model as I like it better than Gulf Oil.

That  larger photo from 1962 also revealed what Jacobson Concrete looked like back then, showing the location of the ready-mix concrete plant, and the then single silo for drilling mud (the structure casting the long shadow at the bottom of the image.)

One of the most interesting things revealed by the 1962 aerial photo is the number of freight cars that were received by these industries. There are three 40-ft box cars at the Texaco building, and six at Jacobson. The evidence suggests that in 1960 Pauls Valley was a busy place as far as railroad activity was concerned.

As I mentioned, I don't have space to model Pauls Valley accurately, but I will try to represent the industries that operated in 1960. I've laid a little more track, and been experimenting with my partially completed models to see how they will fit the scene. The following photos show my current thinking.

This photo shows Field Bros. Oil along the left and Gordon White Lumber on the right. The siding that Gordon White is located along is new.

This photo shows Jacobson Concrete on the left (the ready-mix plant will go on the far side of the buildings), and small grain elevator on the right.

The "downside" of reworking Pauls Valley is that I will be increasing the amount of work to be performed there during an operating session. I already have a strategy to tackle that, but that will be the subject for another post.

Thanks for reading.


Monday, 8 April 2019

March 2019 Operating Session

In my previous post I mentioned that I have 'discontinued' one of my passenger trains (Trains 5 and 6), and rearranged the consists of the other passenger trains to more accurately model the trains that they are based on. Rather than leave a hole in the timetable, I added an extra through freight - well, two actually, one in each direction. My initial plan was to simply have these through freights run on the discontinued passenger trains' schedules which would have required very little change to the timetable and the associated train instructions. And so, I sent out the invitations to an operating session to be held on 26th March, and set to work rewriting the necessary instructions.

Then, just three days before the session, I had a flash of brilliance stupidity. Instead of scheduling these two new freight trains to run non-stop from staging to staging, why not have them stop at the yards to pick up and set out cars that are moving between the yards. In the past those cars were moved by the Fast Freights (Trains 37, 38, 39 and 40), but they were often forgotten about. So I spent the last few days before the session hurriedly adjusting the timetable and rewriting train instructions.

Before the session started I warned the guys that there were probably errors in the instructions, and to watch out for possible problems. I figured that I would just trouble-shoot them as they arise, like I always do.

What I didn't take into account was that I had only one experienced yard operator (John C) for the session, and it therefore fell to me to run the other yard.

And so the stage was set for a disaster. Operating a yard is a full time job in its own right, and the questions and problems arising from my timetable changes required a lot more of my time than usual. And if I wasn't already as busy as ten men, I had two turnouts fail!! (That just does not happen on the GC&SF.)

The feedback I received from the operators was that they had a good time, but I personally found the session to be very stressful.

I was so busy that I didn't even think to take photos, but fortunately Chris and Derek both brought their cameras, and they have graciously allowed me to post their photos here. (Thanks guys.)

The Pauls Valley local freight is preparing to depart Pauls Valley.

The Pauls Valley local freight is switching at Wynnewood while a north-bound Fast Freight
rumbles past on the main track.

(L-R) Derek operating the Pauls Valley local freight, Bill, Peter running a through-freight,
and yard operator John C.

(L-R) Rod, Chris, Graham and me (operating the Ardmore yard.)

Bill is checking the turnout alignment as he brings the gravel train into Dougherty.

(L-R) Rod, Peter K and me.

John C is doing some car switching at Pauls Valley. Peter S is watching the CCTV monitor as he
moves a train into the north staging yard.

The Pauls Valley local freight has completed its switching at Wynnewood and is awaiting approval
to run to Pauls Valley yard.

John C hard at work at Pauls Valley yard. In the background Peter K is checking the car cards for
a train he is about to run from staging.

Ooops ... Graham had some sort of problem with the cars at Gene Autry.

... and ... another problem with the cars at Big Canyon. Looks like no grain spilled from those grain cars.

(L-R) Rod, Peter K and Chris (with John C in the background.)

Graham has brought a southbound Fast Freight into Ardmore, and he and I are
sorting through the paperwork.

John C is working the yard at Pauls Valley.

A SAL boxcar sitting on the track at Musgrove Lumber. I think that Chris took this photo,
and for some reason I kinda like it.

John C and Chris are working a train at Pauls Valley while Peter K prepares for his
next train from north staging.

I am doing some switching at Ardmore, while Graham lines the turnouts for a train
he is about to run through town.

This photo is a bit out of sequence, but it shows Chris cutiing the locos off the local freight after
bringing the train into Pauls Valley.
My thanks go to Chris and Derek for allowing me to use their photos. Chris is a regular GC&SF operator, and I've posted his photos before. I like that he takes pictures that I never think to take (such as the photo of the tree, with the box car sitting at Musgrove Lumber in the background.)

Derek is a new crew-member, and he brought with him a camera that does image-stacking in the camera. Yowzers! It produces some impressive photos, but you do have to be careful when you're taking candid photos. Here are two photos that Derek took looking along Pauls Valley yard. The distance from the stock car in the left foreground to the elevator barely visible in the background is about 14' (4 metres). In the second photo you can see that Chris moved his hand a little while the camera was taking the six images that it would use for the stacked photo.

Thanks also to all the guys for coming over to run trains, and for tolerating my crankiness when things started to get tough (for me).  I'm not sure when my next session will be as I have a bit of work to do repairing/replacing one of the failed turnouts, and correcting the problems with the instructions.

Regards to all,

Monday, 4 March 2019

GC&SF passenger trains get a make-over.

For a long time now I've been running three passenger trains during our operating sessions on the GC&SF:
- Trains 5 and 6 - the Ranger
- Trains 11 and 12 - the Kansas Cityan and the Chicagoan respectively; and
- Trains 15 and 16 - the Texas Chief.
(You can find brief information about each train by clicking on the train name. The information about Trains 11 and 12 appears to be incomplete.)

In reality, I've been cheating, as Trains 5/6 and 11/12 didn't (as far as I can tell) operate through the area I model at the same time. From what I can gather from Loren Joplin's website, Trains 5 and 6 (the Ranger) operated between Kansas City and points in Texas (via connecting trains) until they were discontinued in late May of 1960. At that time, Trains 11 and 12 had their routes extended to cover the territory that was previously covered by the Ranger. I've never specified when in 1960 my layout is set, but if that date is prior to late May then I should have Trains 5/6 and 15/16. And if it is June or later then I should have Trains 11/12 and 15/16.

I also cheated in regard to the consists of my passenger trains, which never matched the consists of their namesake trains. I just built them up with the cars that I had available within the following guidelines:
- Trains 15/16 emphasised first class travel, with more sleeping cars than the other trains,
- Trains 11/12 were geared towards chair and coach travel, and
- Trains 5/6 mainly carried mail and express, and short-distance passenger travel.

Thanks to Kato and Con-Cor, models are now available for many types of ATSF passenger cars, so I decided to see how accurately I could represent those that I run on my layout. I started with the car lists shown on the previously mentioned website. The lists are a bit confusing as they show all the cars that operated in a train, but the actual make-up at any point along the route varied due to cars being added and/or removed as it progressed.

Goodbye to the Ranger ...

After narrowing the lists down to the cars that ran through Ardmore I found that:

Trains 15/16: I have suitable models of most of the cars and reasonable stand-ins for those that I am missing. However, at Ardmore the real train had 14 cars in its consist, so I would have to omit a few cars for it to operate on my layout.

Trains 11/12: I have models of some of the cars, and reasonable stand-ins for most of the rest. I still need a couple more baggage cars or 50' express box cars. I also need models of ATSF chair cars but RTR models of suitable cars have not been produced in N scale.

Trains 5/6: These trains were heavy on mail and express cars, and I need more baggage cars and 50' express box cars to represent them. Also, in 1960 these trains included a pair of heavy-weight chair cars, and I have nothing that I can use as a stand-in.

As I mentioned, Trains 5 and 6 were discontinued in May 1960, and I have decided to do the same thing. Consequently, my layout is now set sometime in the period June to December, 1960.

Here's how restructured Train 11 (the Kansas Cityan) looks as it rolls through Davis:

(Click here to view on Youtube.)

... and hello to Trains 337 and 338

This process has corrected some long-standing anomalies with my passenger trains, but left a couple of gaps in my operating timetable. But those gaps were quickly filled.  The real southbound Fast Freights 37 and 39 were so busy that they often had to be run in two sections. The Santa Fe eventually added two additional southbound freight trains - Trains 337 and 339, to handle the extra traffic. Following their lead, I have added Train 337 (southbound) and Train 338 (northbound) to replace Trains 5 and 6 in the timetable. Train 338 is actually not prototypically correct: I had to create it to fill the timetable gap left by deleting Train 6's northbound journey, and to get Train 337 back to north staging. These new trains have simply slotted into the former Train 5/6 positions on my timetable. They don't do any switching - they just run from staging to staging.

It took a bit of effort, but I think (hope, really) that I've correctly amended all the paperwork necessary to reflect these changes. We'll have to wait for the March operating session to see how that works out.

Regards to all,

Thursday, 21 February 2019

Operating session February 2019

Wow - it has been a long time since I last invited a crew over to run trains on the GC&SF (way back in June last year.)  But I finally got myself organised and hosted a session last Friday evening.

Things went pretty smoothly overall, with the crew completing the assigned work with very few problems. However, there were a few glitches caused by myself.

First off, when I staged the gravel train in the north-staging yard (which has video cameras monitoring the tracks) I placed the (DCC) lead loco second in the consist, facing the rear. When the driver started the train, instead of running forward and out of staging, the train went backwards and disappeared from view on the video monitor. The driver didn't notice what had happened, and consequently couldn't figure out which train he was supposed to be running, as none of the visible trains were responding to his throttle commands. Fortunately, he stopped the train and called me for assistance before anything serious happened in staging.

The second incident happened when I reached under the layout to turn on an outside light, but inadvertently switched off the room power by mistake. Then, for some unknown reason, the power would not come back on again. After a delay of about 10 minutes, and checking and resetting circuit breakers, I got the power on again and we were able to resume running trains. But the difficulty I had in getting things restarted again suggests that I have an electrical problem that needs correcting.

Apart from those two problems (which took only about twenty minutes of my time to fix), the session went so well that it was over almost before I knew it. I was watching one of the trains and realised with some surprise that it was the Livestock Extra - the second-last train on my schedule. My initial thought was that someone had run it out of sequence, but a check of the crew call-board told me otherwise.

All the trains had been run, and I hadn't run any of them ... 😡

So what had I been doing? I wish I could say that I took lots of photos, but I really didn't take that many. Here's the best of what I did get ...
Barry preparing to run a local at Davis.

Darren and Graham waiting to run their first trains for the evening.

John C (yardmaster at Pauls Valley) waiting for a southbound freight operated by Rod to pull onto the arrival track.

Bill watching as Rod and John work the southbound freight at Pauls Valley.

Dennis is watching on as Barry brings the local freight into Wynnewood.

John F, Rod and Bill, with the southbound through freight approaching Davis.

Barry has taken a break from switching and has cleared the main track at Wynnewood so a southbound train of
empty gons bound for Dougherty and Big Canyon (operated by Dennis) can pass.

Graham is watching his northbound fast freight (out of the photo) as it approaches Big Canyon. The train
on the siding is the Ardmore local freight (operated by Darren) which has completed
its switching and is waiting for the through freight to pass.

John F (yardmaster at Ardmore) is checking the paperwork for the cars from Darren's local freight.

Dennis has exchanged some of his empty gons for loaded cars at Dougherty, and is pulling onto the
main track for the trip to Big Canyon. 

Barry has brought the Ringling branchline train into Ardmore and is about to move the combine to the house track.

John is moving a caboose onto the main track, ahead of the southbound gravel train. I have no idea why he did that,
but I guess it was a good idea at the time.

This blurry photo is the only picture I got of Brendan from the front, and that's Greg in the blue shirt
in the distant background. Sorry about that, guys.

I had ten guest operators for this session, which is one or two more than we usually have, and most of the guys didn't spend a lot of time running trains. But judging by the amount of lively chat, I think they had a good time anyway.

That's it for this report. My thanks go to all the guys who came over on Friday. I'm hoping to host the next session in mid or late March, probably on a Tuesday.