Sunday, October 9, 2016

Op session #12

Last night's session went off pretty good.
Some typical problems arose such as dirty track and dirty wheel from not having played with things since March of this year.

The only major issue we had was with some anomalies within the Wheel Report. Doug found several times where the Blocking Sheet was calling for cars that were not delivered to El Dorado and was not even on the next train?

At first we thought he was just having troubles reading the sheets, then the thought occurred that I might have gotten the wrong sheets in front of him, but then he said there was a call for an All Door boxcar that wasn't on the Yard Master's list that Quin and I used to stage the trains with.....Hmmmm, something is amiss I fear?

Other than that, all things went very smoothly.

We also had a repeat visitor from K.C.  Coy Coles and his wife made the trip to play trains with us again.  We also had a newbie join us this session!  Bill S.  (more commonly referred to as "Wild Bill") and his bride Jeannie.

All told we had 7 crews working last night:
Quin, Doug, Jon D. Coy, Bill, Lynn and myself.  Thanks for coming over!  Hope the rest of the crews can make it the next time? 

Here's a few pics from the second half of the session after I remembered to grab the phone.

Doug is gathering up the last of the outbounds before the LRMP-H and MPLR-H arrive.

After running a few Through Freights, Coy decides to tackle the Winnfield Turn.  After arriving at the first stop in Dubach, he begins the sorting process. 

Shortly afterwards, Jon brings the MPLR-H to a stop as Coy feverishly tries to clear the main at Dubach. 
Dubach is not an easy section of the Winfield Turn to work. There can be a lot of cars to move and not much track to work with.  This is one section I plan to work on and lengthen the sidings a bit so it doesn't get so crowded.

Wild Bill is watching how things are done, unknowingly, his throttle time is coming.

Here Quin is giving a "Reach Around" as he works at sorting out the newly arrived cars in Malvern.

Wild's throttle time has arrived!
He was watching me get a train ready to depart from staging, when he asked what I was running next, I replied "You're running the Pig Train" and handed him the throttle.
And that's all it took!  He ran several more after that!  I think I gained another crew?

Jon!  Pay attention to what you're doing!

Back in Malvern, Quin has just about got everything finished.
He's one of our more proficient crew.

Caught a race in El Dorado.
While Jon was leaving El Dorado with the MPLR-H, Doug was pulling the new block of cars onto the drill track.

First time operating with us, first time earning the Asshat Award!
Wild earned it after putting a few cars on the ground a few minutes previously.

Meanwhile back in DuBach......
Coy is still slogging through the tasks at hand trying to get things finished up so he can move on to Ruston and Winnfield.  You can do it Coy!

This time I caught up with Jon who's about to hammer the diamonds at Ruston, LA  
with the final manifest of the session, the LRMP-H. 

After this shot, I noticed my phone was down to 4% oops, time to grab the charger! 

Unfortunately, this will probably be the last session for a while this winter.  Now I need to get busy with my "To-Do" list.  The first task at hand will be to replace the two aging Digitrax PM42 circuit breakers with some DCC Specialties PSX circuit breakers and one PSX-AR.   Once this has been accomplished I can start in on the planned track re-alignments.  First up will be to remove both sidings at Ruston Jct. and replace them with a single siding.  You can see the "To-Do" list here.

I plan to work on the list one job at a time and finish it before moving to the next job.  This way the entire layout will not be down with multiple jobs at once if we decide to have another session at some point or  if  I have someone drop by.

Stay tuned with the updates...

Friday, October 7, 2016

Kill switch

Several years ago I had an idea to have one switch that would kill power to the entire layout. Finally got around to it.  last night my electrician stopped by to finish a small project in the kitchen and had him tackle my kill switch for me.

I have four outlets in the basement for the layout, one for the main power supply and command station, two others where the circuit breakers for the layout are plugged into and one for the lights over Malvern.

So now with one flick of the switch, as AC/DC would say, the layout is on or off.  I took it one step further and had him add an outlet so when the stormy weather arrives in the spring and summer and there's bad storm coming, I can not only shut it off, I can also pull the plug and the entire layout is now unplugged from the rest of the house.

Not that this will be a sure thing if I get a good lightning strike, but it improves the odds of not having a bunch of puddles around the layout where my chipped locos were sitting or end up with a fried command station.  It's more of a piece of mind than anything. 

Thanks Jon!

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

An MKT rarity on the Little Rock

The other day while track side I was blessed with seeing a rare MKT loco.  I've heard of the unit and seen pictures but I have never seen it in person until this afternoon!


Years back while visiting a buddy in KC, we went railfanning and was lucky enough to actually see this unit in person, sitting in Katy's K.C. yard waiting to head south.  Since then I've always thought it would be cool to have one of these for the layout to run with my FPPX train.

Years later I ran into a guy on eBay who I had purchased several custom Rock Island locos from him previously. One night while snooping through eBay I found another of his listings.  This time he had done the #401-B using a KATO F7!!!

Well I gathered enough guts to actually make contact with him to see if I he would be interested in building me as well, but instead of using a KATO, I wanted mine made with a Intermountain unit.

Well he agreed and several years later here it is!!!

Thanks Chuck C.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Covered Wagons on The Little Rock

Back in March I got a few shells back from a painter who never got to them before he passed away.

After a little snooping I ran across another painter, who turns out, is following my blog.  I contacted him and asked about doing up my shells and he replied he would be glad to help me out.  So I decided to do a little bit work to the shells before shipping them off to him.

Here is his info in case anyone is looking for a painter.

Parker Locomotive Works
Doug Midkiff
Custom Model Railroad Painting and Detailing 

Doug was very professional and did a great job with my shells. He kept in touch with me throughout the process with emails and pictures.  I am very happy with the overall process and job he did for me.
Thanks Doug!

To me, there is nothing that screams "Underdog"  more than seeing a train roll past with a batch of Hood Units and having a at least one F or E units tucked into the consist or even on the point, which Rock Island did quite a lot. So I decided to fill in the gaps of my roster.  Another reason for adding a few was Rock used a lot of them on the fast mail trains once passenger service was dissolved.

This first unit was nothing special other than I finally scored the third number of the three FP7's that Intermountain ran several years ago.  The first two came from Steven Johnson's Rock Island Ottawa Sands layout. 

The next one, and F7a came from Brian K.  He did this one for a customer awhile back.  It was listed on eBay a few months ago and I was lucky enough to score it.  It came all the way from Germany.  I had asked Brian to paint my four units before I ran across Doug, but he said he had too much going and didn't have the time to tackle them at that time.  At least I got this one!

Here are the four that I had Doug work on for me.  The first one is an E8a #658 in the Red and Yellow dress.  I didn't have a good idea of how to add the proper raised number boards that the prototype had, but Doug was able to transplant some from an F7 shell he had on hand.  They turned out very nice, Thanks Doug!

A second E8a, this time in the maroon with yellow wing scheme.

The third unit is another F7a #122.

The fourth unit I just had Doug squirt some paint on for me and I did the decals.  This an F9b that was acquired from the UP.  It started out life as an F3b but by the time UP retired it, it was classified as an F9b.  It's not true to prototype but its close enough for me.  All the shots of this unit that I could find on-line showed it in service without having received the yellow stripe.  It also got received the smaller lettering. 

If I decide to have one more F unit made up it will be one like this F9a (F3a).

After getting them all back together, chipped and speed matched, I took them for a spin!

Saturday, September 24, 2016

What is that?

With some to kill this afternoon, I jumped into the truck and headed south Ruston, LA.  Earlier today I heard some chatter over the Squawk Box about a MOW train working it's way north from Alexandria, LA?  The clouds have rolled in but I figured I give it a shot since it's been a few months since I've been trackside.

Not long after I got settled in near the Ruston crossing and cracking a lid on a cold Dew, I heard the familiar rumble in the distance. About 10 minutes later a headlight came into view!   

I snagged a shot and quickly packed up the gear and headed North hoping to catch it again in DuBach.  As luck would have it I was able to get some shots and keep ahead it all the way North to Haskell.

It was nothing to write home about, but at least I got something!


It's been three weeks or so since I stuck a fork in the kitchen project and getting the house back into order.  I had some time to kill so this afternoon I descended to the laboratory to start getting the layout ready for the next operating session that I scheduled for Oct 8th.

Luckily I chose a Saturday night where the precious Huskers didn't have a game!

I still plan to do all the work on the layout that I listed on the previous post, but first we need to play a little...

Thursday, August 25, 2016

What's next?

With the kitchen project behind me (thank God) now comes the part I really hate.
Doing all the little touch-ups and cleaning up the mess that was made during construction.  While I really want to get back to the basement and lock myself in, I can't.

Tonight I had to do some little touch-ups in the landing:  painting the new trim around the steps into the kitchen, and while I had the brush and paint handy I had to touch-up the casing around the outside of the entry door that I put in several years ago before it rots out.  Well not really, as it's on the inside of the door.  But if I don't, the small strip of raw wood will haunt me every time I walk out that door. So no time like the present.

Next will come the garage, this shouldn't be too bad or take too long.  The place looks like a war zone from about three years ago when Lisa moved in.  She's gone through a lot of her stuff and I need to go through what I have and then see if we can stash it in the garage's attic.  What scares me is what's up there that I can't remember, ugh.  But it's still a little too hot to be doing that, so if I can at least get the garage floor cleaned up so I can at least park in there again I'll be a happy boy.

Then comes the basement cleaning!  All of the dust, wood chips and other crap that sifted down from the kitchen while the base was torn off needs to be addressed.  My work bench is directly below the kitchen and of course I didn't bother clearing it off or put a cover over it before getting started.  This will give me an excuse to clear off the workbench and give it a thorough cleaning that it's been begging for.  Once again, no time like the present.

I've also got two other major personal projects that will need to be worked on, but at least there really isn't a deadline on those, albeit sooner the better!

Now directly regarding the trains and the layout, I have a long list of things to do.
The first and foremost is to get down there before the dry season and static electricity returns and concentrate on replacing a couple of small electronic pieces. I have a PM4 and PM42 that I want to replace with some PSX circuit breakers and one PSX-AR.  I picked these up not too long before I started on the kitchen.  I think I know where I put them???

I also want to get another ops session worked in shortly, at least before winter sets in so I may wait until after the session since everything is working right now.  But before any of that can happen, I need to clean the layout off, both the tracks and layout as it became a catch-all during the remodel.

Other major things that I have planned are some serious track work and re-aligning.
I want to redo several sections of the main for operational improvements.  Quin, Doug and I have discussed this over the spring and summer months.

These include: 
Lengthening the siding at DuBach, removing one of the two sidings at Ruston Jct. and re-aligning the junction track, adding a new stub siding in Winnfield, try to realign the track to the North of Haskell (behind Riceland and through the backdrop), add a new fertilizer plant between Fordyce and Haskell, move the siding for Flappers away from the main so I have room to add some street running as well as realign the south end of  MQ siding at Calion before adding the Ouachita River bridges.

The siding at DuBach will be lengthened so as to match the length of MQ siding. This will be done by moving the south set of turnouts just south of the ARKLA siding.  The reason for this is two fold.  I plan to add a couple of trains to the schedule.  I want passenger service on the Little Rock, but have decided to use TOFC's or fast mail trains and tack on a few passenger cars to the rear of each for both ops and for looks.  If things go as planned these will meet on the layout at El Dorado.  One can hold in either MQ or DuBach siding while the other one works El Dorado.  We'll see how the schedule works out?

Also by increasing DuBach siding this will give us a bit more room to spot cars that are pulled from the DuBach industries and are left sitting on the siding while the Winnfield local continues it's run to Ruston and Winnfield with just the cars that are needed.  We do this now, but if the number of cars are high, DuBach gets a little tricky to work.

Speaking of Winnfield, by adding a small stub siding opposite of Union Scrap I'll be able to move the cars that are spotted on the End Of Track that we exercise their journals each session off the main and on to the siding.  Instead of placing random cars at the EOT I plan to spot ballast hoppers and Difco dump cars there.  These may be used during the sessions as extra train movements for another operation we talked about.  This should provide us with a bit more room while working Winnfield.

At Ruston I originally laid the junction with two sidings for a run around.  Since we changed how the Rock and ICG work the junction, now only one track is needed.  We discussed leaving both sidings in place and use one for MOW storage, but I was never really happy with the over all alignment of the Junction.

The track behind Riceland Ind has always been a little sharp.  I laid it with two sections of 11"r snap track and have always regretted it as longer cars such as auto racks and TOFC's will sometimes derail going through there.  It more or less becomes a dreaded "S" curve as it comes through the backdrop.  I'm hoping I can broaden the radius and realign the track on the Winnfield side of the backdrop as it enters the yard and across the diamond.  Doug and I discussed this one night and I think we have a plan?

Realigning the south end of MQ siding goes hand in hand with adding the Ouachita River bridges.  Right now between El Dorado and Calion is the longest tangent on the layout.  As the track curves out of the north end of El Dorado and heads north, I want to add the Bridges to the mainline and to the yard lead.
Why a bridge on the yard lead?  
Well I made the excuse that the lead was actually an abandoned track that was either a branch line or old industry lead.  

I thought it would look aesthetically pleasing if I had the track swing towards the backdrop just a bit, go over the bridge and then swing back and align with the south turnout of MQ siding and the Calion lumber siding, which will need to be re-laid with different turnouts.  Hopefully things will flow through the siding better after doing this.

Last but not least, I have a large amount of real estate between Fordyce and Haskell.  At Fordyce the Fordyce & Princeton RR crossed the Rock Island.  Since the only place I have to do this would be on a curve, I decided I would model the area with the diamond ripped out and say that the F&P ceased operations.  Then after widening the right of way through Fordyce and move the Flappers siding, I will try to find somewhere to lay in a new turnout that will connect to the old F&P track so as to still be able to service the new fertilizer plant that sits on the old F&P main.

The addition of the fertilizer plant came about as the Haskell turn doesn't have near the work load that the Winnfield turn has.  So I was trying to even out the work load for the two turns.

I know this is a lot of work ahead of me, but after running ops on the layout for a few years, this should improve the overall operations of the layout?  Or at least this is my hope.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

A New Kitchen part 23......DONE!!!

Finally, the kitchen is complete!
The only thing left is to install the under cabinet lighting and toe kick lighting. These have not been installed yet as we have not been able to find exactly what we want yet, but we're looking.

Last Saturday Lisa and I rounded up all the extra stuff we didn't need and spent the morning running to three different stores.  Once done, we headed for home and got the Refrigerator moved into place, then worked on the Microwave, that turned out to be the biggest challenge of the day!  As luck would have it, my electrician just happened to stop by during my second round of doing battle with it!  After getting it installed, he helped me get the pigtail connected to the stove so that we could bring it in.  

After getting the stove set into place and playing with it a little bit, we decided to put it to the test. We ordered a Papa Murphy's "Take N Bake" pizza!  It worked perfectly!

As a refresher, here is the before picture.

It's been a long time coming, and an enjoyable journey creating this kitchen.

The best part about it?  Being able to share it with Lisa!
Thank you all for following along and thanks for all the comments! 

Now!  Finally I might be able to get back to my trains before winter sets in...