Tuesday, May 23, 2017

"Honey! What's all that commotion down there?"

"Nothing dear!  Just finishing up a little trackwork, that's all"


What I thought was going to be some major work turned out to be not as bad as I first thought.  Last night I finished up the last major realignment on The Little Rock Line: The track between Haskell and Winnfield.

As stated in an earlier post, where the track curved through the backdrop was a little tight and I had a turnout right afterwards which created a bit of an "S" curve. This only reared it's ugly head after I had decided to run some longer equipment. So I turned up the tunes and grabbed the track working tools and dove in.

After some head scratching and conversations with a few friends, the work commenced. I was planning to rip up the biggest share of the track all the way through Haskell, but as it worked out I only needed to pull up the track from the backdrop to the first turnout leading into Malvern.

Here are the before and after pictures.

Haskell, AR

 Winnfield, LA

This is the town of Winnfield, not much was changed here.  The first thing I needed to do was to slightly swing the mainline to the right and a bit closer to the fascia so I could get it to meet up with the new tracks through the backdrop and the diamond.

Then I played around with the spurs.  I wanted to leave the spur for Union Scrap and after some research I decided to add a small pallet company (which was actually on the line and severed by The Rock, but I do believe it was further north on the line).  

The rightmost track is the mainline, but it is not used during the sessions and is treated as the EOT.  In real life (I believe) Rock Island used tracks owned by the KCS to gain access the yard in Alexandria, LA via Tioga Jct. which is in the bottom of the picture.  (I still need to add a section of track from the diamond to the fascia to finish it off).

During the sessions cars are placed on this track and it is the job of the Winnfield local to exercise the journals of the cars stored there.  Which means it needs to pull all the cars from the track, move the last car to the front of the line, then replace all the cars to the EOT as part of it's daily duty.

The other industries: Union Scrap is nothing more than a scrap yard that receives empty gons and the newest industry is the pallet company: Boudreaux's Bayou Pallets.  This will be a very small industry and will only receive one or two cars at the very most from time to time.  Either a 50' flat of lumber or a empty 40' boxcar to be filled with, you guessed it, pallets.

Now with the major realignment projects behind me, it's time to turn to a few smaller projects.

First, the three turnouts that lead into the Riceland facility.  These were laid kind of hastily in order to meet the deadline for an earlier ops session.  They work, but can be kind of electrically spotty from session to session.

Back in the Winnfield area, it's been decided that the ICG does not need a siding on their track.  When the sessions are over, the train never gets run around the itself and winds up getting stripped of it's cars while restaging the cars.  So the two turnouts will be removed and reclaimed for another future project I have planned between Fordyce and Haskell.  The ICG track will be shortened a bit, this will allow me to move it a bit closer the backdrop and hopefully be able to partially conceal it with a tree line or low rising hill.

Lastly, again while doing the research, I stumbled upon another quaint little on-line industry.  In Ruston, LA The Rock would drop off one or two open hoppers of agricultural limestone on the house track. This in turn would be unloaded via an auger into farm trucks and spread onto local fields.

So returning to Ruston one more time, I plan to install a simple siding like this.

This type of simple industry was part of what drew me to model this section of The Rock.  It reminds me of the article in an older issue of  Model Railroader where they designed a simple 10' x 10' layout that portrayed Southern Railway's Murphy's branch line.  If stock High Hood locomotives had been available back then, I may have actually been modeling the Southern instead of The Rock?

In closing this post, I am so glad that I only tacked down the track throughout the layout.  This has allowed me to run Op Sessions over the last several years and see what and where any changes needed to be made.  A few more sessions will be needed to make sure these changes are in fact the final changes before proceeding with any scenery.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017


How is it that whenever you do a little bit of work on the layout, the rest of it becomes a catch all?
It's always amazed me...

Saturday, May 13, 2017

The "un-named" Pallet Co.

During my track realignment I decided to add a small one car industry in Winnfield.

While doing a little research, I discovered there was actually a Pallet manufacturer on the line that the Rock served, it was named "Someone" & Sons Pallet Co. Sounds a little boring to me so I decided to try and find a new name for it but keep coming up blank.

So I thought I would throw it out here and see if anyone can come up with a cute or catchy name for it that I could use. 

You got any names?

Update:  A follower gave me a good suggestion for the name.
He's resides in Louisiana and sent me this note.

Being in Louisiana, you just can not go wrong with a name such as "Boudreaux", that or one of those other crazy Cajun names that have far more letters than syllables.

So I combined it with another name I came up with for: 

Boudreaux's Bayou Pallets

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Haskell to Winnfield realignment pt2

Making a little progress on this latest realignment project.  The way things are turning out, I was able to squeak by without ripping up a ton of track.  

I decided to move the curved turnout back to Haskell and it seemed to work out much better. It actually has given me a larger radius on both tracks.  Now I need to decide what to do with the turnout?
Do I power it or leave it manual? 
If I power it, do I use a choke cable or switch motor?
A buddy has a DCC capable Cobalt machine that I can use?  Hmmmm?

During Ops it will not be used, so leaving it manual may be an option for now?

Before and After of Haskell.

Before and After of Winnfield

In the last photo, the track that crosses the diamond from the backdrop is the continuous run connection, this is not used during a session other than parking some cars on it and serving as the EOT.  It's primary purpose is so I can bypass the yard when I'm running by myself.  The other two tracks lead to the yard.

It will definitely look a lot cleaner now and..... the "S" curve is gone!

Here's another shot further down from Winnfield.

Just out of the picture at the bottom is a 45° crossing.  From this point to the diamond the mainline will have to swing out towards the fascia to meet the new connection track seen on the right.  The spur for Union Scrap was never permanent, It was placed where it's at so we had a physical spur, I'm kind of thinking about relocating it a bit, maybe to match the swing of the connection track?

Once I figure out where and how the mainline will wind  up, I'll relocate the spur for Union Scrap and get everything wired up.  Then life will be good again....

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Haskell to Winnfield realignment

Tonight I got a chance to remove the large curved turnout and some of the track.  It looks like I may get somewhat lucky and not have that big of a job on my hands that I anticipated.

After pulling it up I laid it over by Riceland and if I can leave a bit of flex in front of the existing turnout that leads to Malvern, I maybe able to the tweak it to the right enough so that things will line up correctly.

This should give the mainline a larger radius without any turnouts between here and the yard and allow it to parallel the backdrop without an "S" curve.

The continuous run track will also have a bit larger radius, but I will have to do a little fiddling to get it to line up properly with the 90° diamond on the Winnfield side.

I'll move the diamond to the right so it lines up with the first section of loose flex. The loose section of flex right next to the backdrop will be removed and the section of flex with the insulated joiners will be removed as well.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Next major realignment!

This next realignment is going to be a big one compared to the work I've done at Ruston, DuBach and Calion recently.  It's going to affect more than just one town or one small area.

This area of the layout was the first sections to be laid when I started laying track back in 2009.  Back then I was very anxious to get some trains rolling and wasn't paying much attention to what I was doing.  Which of course is now coming back to bite me in the ass!

The main issue I'm having here is with the two sections of 11" radius snap track. At the time they allowed the tracks to fit plan I had in my head.  But now after several years of Ops, those two sections, coupled with a turnout just past the backdrop in Winnfield has create enough of an "S" curve that I am now having issues when running longer cars like the new TOFC's and Auto Racks. Something I hadn't planned to run when I first started the layout.

So, here we are.

This shot gives you an overview of the layout from "MQ" siding in foreground, through Fordyce to just past Riceland's elevator in Haskell in the background.

In this pic you can see the two sections of 11" r snap track starting just to the left of the SOO hopper and the second one ends just past the backdrop.  The large Peco turnout is attached to the end of the second section of snap track just past the backdrop.

This shot is on the other side of the backdrop in Winnfield (current).  The loose flextrack against the right backdrop is where I plan to relocate the new yard lead for the rear yard.  The track that curves to the lower left after the turnout is used for continuous running by myself.  This section is actually the end of Rock Island's main at Winnfield during Ops sessions.

Originally there was only one track leading into the yard (just out of the picture on the right) which can seen in the second picture below. This was later split into the two tracks to eliminate the yard being a large reverse loop like it was designed for when it was our staging yard for our Bend Track modules.  Now the entire yard is nothing more than two run through open staging yards that are folded and became an extended section of the mainline.

Heres another broad view of Winnfield and the yard leads.

The track against the left backdrop is the ICG.  The next track to the right is the lead to the front yard which also connects to the track on the extreme right just out of sight to the bottom.

Here's the plan!
I hope to shift the rear yard lead closer to the backdrop as it exits the yard, thereby giving me a broader curve as it passes through the backdrop and enters Haskell. The turnout may actually have to be moved to the Haskell side.  If this move happens, it may result in being the first and only powered/remote turnout on the mainline.

This will probably mean that ALL the tracks in Haskell will need to be ripped up and relocated closer to the fascia.  The two tracks that are ballasted (leads into Malvern) will more than likely need to be moved as well.

I do not plan to revise the existing track plan, but rather just shift everything to the fascia.  I'm not sure though how this will affect the Riceland, Ind tracks or it's switching lead?  Hopefully they can stay untouched.  However, the entrance into the Riceland tracks have experienced some issues, so more than likely they too will be pulled up.

I may wind up just ripping everything out and starting over, it might just be easier.

I'm not sure how far I will rip up the tracks on each side, but I can see the possibility of a little bit on the Winnfield side?  And as far back as Fordyce.  I say that as I have plans for Fordyce later, but if needed I will do this while the tracks are already ripped up.

I'm not sure when this undertaking will commence?  I have a few things that will need my attention first, such as the UR92 when the throttles show up.  But sooner than later.

I think this is where the saying 
"A layout is never finished"  came from?

Saturday, April 15, 2017


Well the time has come to upgrade my Simplex Digitrax Super Chief  Radio to the newer Duplex system.  

While I don't NEED all the bells and whistles that comes with the Duplex upgrade, I have two DT400r's from the original starter sets that a buddy and I got and one of the DT's was showing issues when I plugged it in.  The screen would flash back and forth between the track power voltage and the series ID of your throttle along with a series of Hex numbers.


Pwr 11.1V
0000 0o 0301

DT300 v1D

It would continue to repeat this and never settle down.  Now the second one is showing the same symptoms.  After a little digging on the net I found out it had something to do with some capacitors that would go bad over time in the original DT300's and 400's.  

After conversing with my Guru, he advised me to get them sent in and have them fixed and while they were in for repairs to have them upgraded to the Duplex, as Digitrax sent out a notice that they were planning to retire the Simplex system shortly. Following his instructions, I shipped the first DT400r in for repairs and upgrade along with a UT4r to be upgraded.  Then I picked up a UR92 from him so that when the time came to send the rest of my throttles in for the upgrade I would still be able to operate the layout with these two throttles.

To help offset the cost of this upgrade, I've been turning to eBay and started thinning the herd to scrape up a little extra to help pay for this, but it's still gonna hurt.  

Before shipping them in I want to get the UR92 installed and test the two throttles to make sure the system works. Then in the meantime while the throttles are in for the repairs and upgrades I plan to start ripping up the mainline between Haskell and Winnfield to realign the main with a larger radius and a new alignment into the yard.  Right now it's a bit tighter than I'd like and I've had issues with longer cars derailing as they enter yard from Haskell.

Due to lack of experience (or over excitement) when I first started laying the track, I grabbed two sections of Atlas 11" radius curved track.  While this isn't the main problem, I also have a PECO large radius curved turnout following them and this has created a dreaded "S" curve.  60' and shorter cars normally do not have issues, but not so the case when I run auto racks and TOFC's. So this needs to be rectified and I figured it would be a good time to do this while the throttles are in for upgrades and repairs.  

At the present I have no plans for anymore Ops sessions until these two projects are complete.  Hopefully they will be done by this fall.