Monday, September 18, 2017

I can't see the damn tabs!

One issue I had with the tabs right after I first switched over to them was with empty open hoppers and empty woodchip hoppers.  I had to sit the tabs in the cars and this meant on the bottom of the cars.

May not seem like too big of a deal, but when the layout is set at 52", some of the crews couldn't seen into the cars, some had to stand on their tippy toes.

From my normal eye view

Standing on my toes.

This issue would pop up while staging and then during a session but was forgotten about soon after the session.

Well with the next session just around the corner, I decided to try and find a solution to this issue.  I thought about making some sort of a bridge from plastic or wood that could sit across the top of the hoppers. I also thought about using some of poster putty to hold the tabs in place?  All seemed to be more work than I wanted.

Last night I came up with a little something that might work? 
I spied one of the clear plastic covers that come in the MTL jewel cases.  The nice thing about this was it was clear and wouldn't stand out more than the tabs do.

So I cut a small section off and bent the ends down so they hung over the edges and placed the tab on top.  Not bad, but kind of bulky and the tab wanted to slide a bit.

So I kept playing around with this.  Pretty soon it hit me, let's make it narrower so the tab straddles it like they do over a roofwalk?

This seemed to work OK and it was much smaller, plus the tab couldn't slide around either.

So for now I think I'll give this a whirl and see how they ride throughout the session?  And like Steven said, if anyone knocks them off due to some rough switching, I guess that crew earns a turn to wear the Asshat award.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Pipe loads complete

Tonight I finally got the pipe loads completed for Ozark Irrigation.
I still need to get some strapping installed on the pipe, but at least I'll have some loads for the session instead of using our imagination.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Pipe Loads

Made some good progress today.  Labored on Labor Day.

I finished getting the cars staged and tabbed.
I got all the extra cars moved off the layout.
I re-typed some of the Train Instruction sheets and added the new industries.
Removed some of the passenger cars from the two Mail trains and added a few extra TOFC's.

Then I started making a few pipe loads for the flat cars that will serve Ozark Irrigation.

A few years ago I picked up a slug styrene round and square tubing from a seller on eBay called kdarr70.  He sells a lot of different types of styrene in bulk a lot cheaper than you can buy it from Evergreen or Plastruct.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Closing in on Op session 14

Last night I got off to a rough start staging the layout.  I generated a new Wheel Report and after getting the biggest share of the cars staged and tabbed, I noticed that something wrong.  On one sheet was calling for 14 cars, but on another version of that sheet, it was showing 13 cars?

So I opened the spreadsheet and starting digging through it.  Found it!  One of the sheets wasn't summing up all of the cells becuase I had added a couple of lines to one sheet and not to the other.  I can see now how important Copy & Paste is going to be with this.

Next I came across another issue, one sheet was incomplete.  I must have started working it over and never finished it or simply missed it. Grrr!  After about an hour or so I got things in order and went back down to finish staging the cars.  So we'll see how things work out in this session.

I still have a bunch of small time consuming things to do:

  1. Finish getting the Town schematics printed off, these will show where to spot the cars since I don't have a lot buildings in place yet.
  2. I need to re-do some of the train instructions so that they match with some of the new industries I've added.
  3. I've got a bunch of stuff strewn across the layout that I'm planning to sell on eBay and/or the forums.  I found a huge box of older Atlas turnouts and snap track that I have no need of.
  4. Clear off the workbench and get it cleaned up.
  5. I need to get the throttles out of the box and get them ready to go.  I have only pulled out a couple to play with since I got them back from Digitrax and having them upgraded to Duplex and also need to get the batteries charged up.
  6. I need to change out a few 48" fluorescent bulbs.
  7. I still need to double check the Locomotive consists and make sure they're still running properly
  8. Clean the tracks, again.....
I'm sure there are a ton of things that I'm not thinking of?

There are two things that I want to add to the Ops, one is the new Seniority Status for assigning or choosing the jobs on the layout.   This will based on a "per session" basis rather than "accumulative" basis for now until we see how it works.

The other thing is I plan to split the El Dorado Yard Job into two shifts.  There are 8 jobs per one full session that the crew has to deal with.   This way the crew isn't tied to the yard job the entire session and it creates another job.  

With me being off work for a month due to a minor leg injury, I'm hoping I will have more than enough time to get things done in a short order.  I'm itching to get the trains rolling and see how the new track arrangements and industries work out.

Monday, August 21, 2017

All Shimmed!

As of tonight I shimmed the last turnout!

Altogether I shimmed 50 turnouts on the main layout.  The ones I did not shim were the ones in the yard at El Dorado, the main yard and the ones in Malvern.

So far those have not shown any kind of issues with shorts or derailments, so I have left them for now.  The ones in the main yard I didn't touch as sometime I see ripping up portions of it and realigning at least one end and a few turnouts eventually.

After I shimmed each turnout I would check it with a lightweight car by running it back and forth, then I would run it through and force the trucks to the guardrail to see if I could get it to pick the frog point.  If they passed I would then run the train that found several shorts.

This was made up of two KATO E8's and IMRC FP7a.  The E's would normally be the ones that would find any shorts due to the longer three axle trucks.  The train consisted of one Wheels Of Time express baggage car with three axle trucks and metal wheels and 8 more TOFC cars, MTL and Trainworx.  The Trainworx cars have stock metal wheels.

After tonight I was able to run this train at or near prototype speeds without shorting anywhere.  next is to try running some of the 6 axle freight locos: SD40-2's, SD45, U30c's.

I have to admit the black styrene looks a lot better than the white did, but for some reason the black styrene seems to be a bit tougher to get glued in place?  But they are all done for now.

What's next?  Well the first thing, I need to get the layout and basement cleaned up.  Then I plan to get an ops session ready to go first, then I hope to get started on some scenery, starting with areas of the backdrop first. 

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Can it be, no shorts?

Tonight I got the last of the turnouts shimmed on the south side of the layout from Winnfield to the three south turnouts in El Dorado yard.  As I added the shims to each one I kept a car handy to test the shims.  The car told me that the shims are working and are keeping the car from picking the frog points, but then came the true test......I ran the same train that I ran the other night that found three shorts. It has two KATO E8's on the point and several Trainworx 85' TOFC's with metal wheels in the consist.


Now this was just a test, so we'll see how it goes during an actual session?

Before starting on the rest of the turnouts I'm waiting for an order to arrive from MB Kleins in the next few days. The sly Mr. D. Foxx who follows the blog left me a comment asking if he could talk me into using Black styrene to shim the turnouts instead of the white? This way when I clean the tracks I won't be left with two white stripes.


On the ones that I have done now I went back with a black Sharpie.  Hopefully this will help as the guard rails are slightly below the railhead?  So now I have some sheets of 0.010" thick sheets of black styrene coming along with new blades.

The obvious things are always overlooked.....  

Saturday, August 12, 2017


I got a couple of turnouts filed and filled with epoxy which seemed to work, no shorts.  But because the Peco guard rails are a little sloppy I also decided to add some shims to them as I stated in my last post.

This helped in keeping the wheels from picking the frog point so I decided to try a few more.  On a couple that I added them to it also stopped a short that I was having on one.  So I made the decision to continue adding the shims to ALL the turnouts.  I figured this would be a good idea even if no shorts appeared as it helped to reduce the picking of the points.  If it also cured any shorting, then it would be a bonus, and if needed I'll go back and file and add the epoxy to any that need it. 

As of this post, I have added the shims to everyone of the turnouts on the south side of the layout over three nights.  That's 17 turnouts so far.  I also was able to get the shims added to the three turnouts on the south end of yard at El Dorado tonight.  While doing this today I snapped a few pics of how the process goes.

Here is the shim stock

I then cut them just a bit longer than the guard rails and set them in place and brush on a bit liquid cement, in this case I use MEK.  Using an old #17 blade I press the shim onto the guard rail until the glue evaporates.  This leaves the shim jutting past the guard rails.

Next I snap a toothpick in half and gently wedge the pointed end between the outer rail and the shim so it's pressed tight against the bent end of the guard rail. With the picks in place I brush a small amount of MEK on the ends of the shims and let them dry for a bit.

Once they're dry, at least 15 minutes, I'll take a sharp blade and gently trim the shims to the same height as the guard rails, being careful not to take too much off. I also carve the ends of the shims to match the profile of the guard rails. Afterwhich I've tested each of them with a car to make sure there's enough clearance and nothing is rubbing.

Once they're painted they'll blend in and they shouldn't even be seen.  Now I need to run a few trains to see if this has cured any shorts.

Sunday, August 6, 2017


With the trackwork complete, I circled back to a recent problem I encountered after the ops we had held in February.  Just before that session I had replaced my Digitrax PM42's with DCC Specialties PSX circuit breakers.  I had always heard good things about these and gave them a try.

Well the first thing I found out with these were just how fast they were.  On only a few occasions with the PM42's did I see any shorting on the Peco turnouts.  During the February session I had shorts showing up all over the place!

Most of these occurred when a 6 axle locomotive rolled over them.  After a bit of research I found out what the problem was.  Where the frog rails converge just in front of the frog, the rails are too close together and the wheels made contact with the very tops of the railheads.  Not for very long either, but just enough that the PSX units could see it and they would shut down!  That told me just how fast the PSX circuit breakers worked cause I never seen the PM42's ever do this.

I found three fixes for this after surfing the web. 1) One fix called for filing a "V" down between the middle of the rails to create a "V"and fill it with a drop of epoxy. This basically spreads the railheads far enough apart the wheels won't touch both rails.

2) This one calls for gluing a strip of 0.010" thick styrene to the outer edge of the plastic guard rails, thus forcing the wheels to stay closer to the rail they are riding on.  3) was to paint fingernail polish over the railheads, but this was said to be only a temporary fix as the nail polish would wear off after running trains and/or when cleaning the railheads.

Now this second fix is used more for the fact that the gauge is normally loser on the PECOs than on other brands of turnouts because they are of European design. But I read where this might also help to keep the wheels from touching both railheads?  So I figured I give them both a try.   

Here's a shot of the first turnout to get the 0.010" styrene treatment on the right guard rail.  And as a bonus, it DID fix the issue that I had where one of units I was using to test the new tracks in Fordyce, the rear truck was picking the point as it went through the diverging route.


First I tried filing a "V" and filling it with epoxy.  This worked on the first turnout like a champ. However it's damn hard to get a file in place to get the groove made. Next I tried using a dremel with a small stone bit to make a dimple in both railheads and fill that with epoxy.  This also worked.

So I now have a new mission, find and fix the shorts.  But how do I do this?  Do I fix the one's I find as I find them?  Or do I just go down the line, fixing one turnout after another until I have them all done?

No matter what I do, I have to keep reminding myself of something a good friend and I always joke about when we come across issues like this.  

"Remember.....Model Railroading is fun!"

If it hadn't of been for the fact that I had pretty much everything I needed track wise to build this layout, I might have decided to go with PECO C55 or Micro Engineering track.  Hell I might have even taken the time to learn how to hand lay my own turnouts.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

The track realignment is complete!

This evening I was able to finish the track work at Fordyce thanks to Doug F.  I was short two medium Peco turnouts and he happened to have a few on hand, Thanks Doug.

I still need to drop a few feeder wires and work a few kinks out of the sidings, but with this section done I can now get things cleaned up (and I mean a thorough cleaning) and ready the layout for an ops session to give everything a good shakedown. Woohoo!

Here's how it turned out and looks with the max amount of cars per siding.

Even though I say all the tracks are in place, I will probably still need to adjust the spurs in all the locations once I start working on the buildings.  The tracks are still just tacked into place and can be moved or adjusted if needed.

Once I get the next session ran and all is good I can then get started on the scenery!  But I have no idea where I'll start?

I still have some track work left to do, but I will need to install the raised portion of El Dorado between the yard and backdrop first.  I'll need to raise it approximately 3" and then add the Woodland Scenics foam 3% incline to reach a couple of industries I have planned in El Dorado proper.  This will not affect the operations as I have a short spur next to the yard that is used for the two industries in the town. It might be awhile before I get to that though as I want to get some color on the layout first!

Friday, July 28, 2017

A light power move...

Earlier this week I took a break from track work and installed a few more chips.  Now when I get ready to have another ops session I will have a few more locos to use.

GP38-2 - 4303
GP40     - 363
U33B     - 298 (It's a B23-7 for a stand in until Atlas decides to produce them)
GP40     - 367
GP40     - 382
GP40     - 368
GP40r   - 3001
GP38-2  - 874   (MoPac)

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Changes at Fordyce

In the last post I mentioned about removing one turnout and connecting two spurs, well that went by the wayside.  While adding the Gavilon Fertilizer plant in Haskell I removed one small industry that received flat cars, which left only industry on the layout that used flat cars.  Wanting to have a more flats in use I came up with a company that received pipe on flat cars.

It produces Irrigation piping and I named it Ozark Irrigation. Along with loaded flat cars, some pipe may arrive on Bulkhead flats aswell and also gets some a boxcar for some of the smaller items like fittings needed to produce the irrigation pipe.  

This new industry replaced Dixie Woodworks and will probably not allow me to have the street running as I had planned.  But that's progress.



The next project is to reconfigure Flappers on the left.  Before I had the Flappers Litter track on the right side of the main in the background.  Now I'm gonna have to move it to the left side.  

Another side project that needs to be done with all this realignment is to reconfigure the Wheel Report and add a few more Tabs for all the new industries

Once I get done with the trackwork in Fordyce, I plan to clean up the wiring a bit, then I want to put together an Op Session to test and see how all the work pans out.   


Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Riceland complete.

While relaying the elevator tracks last week, I ran out of  turnouts so I had to order a couple. They arrived tonight so I slipped down quick and got them installed.

One thing I did was to address the closeness of the elevator tracks to the mainline. Doug M. brought this to my attention after getting the mainline relaid behind Riceland a few weeks ago.  This should allow me to get a bit scenery or fencing between the tracks now.  Good call Doug.

The only thing left is to attach the feeder wires and trim the tail end of the elevator tracks.

I did forget that I have one more small bit of trackwork left to redo in Fordyce.  I want to remove the turnout for Dixie Woodworks and attach that spur to the spur for Flappers Litter track.  Two reasons for this.  1) I want make a little more work for the Haskell Turn so they might have to move any tank cars sitting on the Litter track to access Dixie Woodworks.  2) I want to try and get a little street running on the layout and I don't want to have a turnout buried in the middle of the street.

Fordyce seems to be a good candidate for this because of the viewing angle. Standing at the bend in the layout you can look right down the tracks.  I also want to move the spur for the Litter track and Dixie Woodworks a bit towards the backdrop so I have a little wider area to layout the street.

We'll see how this works when the time comes.  Here's the reason I kind of forgot about it, it was buried just a bit.

In this view you can see the turnout that I want to remove that's just in front of the blue tank car.  That spur will connect to the end of the spur with the two black tank cars.  Then I will try to move them a bit closer to the right towards the backdrop.  This also has the bonus of having one less turnout on the mainline.

Once I get this work completed, I plan to get an op session together to test all the new track I've been working on for the past few months.  Another thing I've been working on, I've been rebuilding my Wheel Report, adding the new industries and cleaning it up a bit.  Another reason for the Ops session, to test out my Excel skills! Thanks for all the help on that Steven!  

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Riceland Re-do

After finishing up the basic track work for the Gavilon Fertilizer plant, I got started on ripping up the turnouts that lead into Riceland Industries this weekend.  I wanted to move the turnouts back down to the south end of Haskell siding.  

This has always been a troubled spot through the turnouts with frequent derailments and electrical issues, so hopefully this will resolve those issues.  This will also allow me to move the elevator and mill tracks back towards the backdrop and away from the mainline to give me a little extra room. Overall the track plan will stay pretty much as it was.

I'm still planning to leave the drill track (top picture next to the backdrop) in place for the Riceland switcher to use, but I'm working on another idea.  The whole purpose of the Gavilon plant was to add more work for the Haskell Turn because it never took as long to run as did the Winnfield Turn.

My thoughts now are to have the Haskell Turn switch out the Riceland elevator and mill tracks during it's run.  This means that the Haskell crew will be spending the majority of its time working in the town of Haskell. 

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Reversal at Gavilon

After getting one of the spherical tanks and the two loading platforms assembled then making the mockups of the hopper unloading facility, I could see that it might be better to reverse the purpose of the two sidings.

The hopper unloading buildings actually fits better at the end of the track.  With only the tank car unloading platforms on the other siding, this leaves me more room for the spherical tanks and a small pump house.  

While the big tanks probably would NOT have been built this close to the tracks, one has to deal with compression.

After getting things rearranged, I had to try it out.  I found out that with the hoppers at the end of track, and following FRA rules of not having the locos coupled directly to a tank car, I will have to have the cars blocked at El Dorado so that there will be hoppers (or a buffer car) on the head of the train that I can use to work the tank car siding if there are no hoppers called to be set out that day. Otherwise if there are hoppers to be picked up, they can be worked first.

Let's take a look at how the local handels this new job?  I used the max amount of cars (2 hoppers and 2 tanks) to see how things fit.

After the Haskell Turn pulls into the siding at Haskell it uncouples the new cars and pulls forward then reverses onto the new Shoofly.

First thing is to switch out the tanks cars.

Next comes the hoppers.  First they set out the tank cars on the old main and swap the hoppers, then recouple..........Glad they left the old main intact.

With this done, they head back to Haskell siding and place the cars on what will be the rear of the train when they leave for El Dorado.

This looks like it could a fun and simple operation! 

Monday, June 19, 2017

Gavilon Fertilizer LLC. takes shape.

After getting the basic trackwork laid out, I needed to figure out where to install the two sidings.  So this past weekend I started working on the two tank car loading platforms, then got started making some mockups of the hopper unloading shed and storage bins.

Here's an overall view of the area.

I made a few blocks of wood for the hopper unloading station and elevator along with four 1" PVC tubes for the storage bins.  The shorter block will also have a corrugated lean-to shed to keep the material dry while unloading it.  But I'm still debating what I'll do for the actual elevator?

I really like the Tomix kits even though most of the time their details are a little oversized.  But it's nothing a little Evergreen sheet stock can't take care of.  I made the new roof panels a bit larger and added a second section that overhung the tracks a bit further.

Their railing are also a bit oversized so I snipped off the top railing which helped the appearance.

On the back side of the platform they give you a support for piping which lined up over the top of the railing, so I cut a section out to make it line up under the platform.

I got them painted and temporarily set them in place along with one of the spherical tanks to get a feeling of space needed and location of the siding.

Where the yellow squares of paper are I plan to use the Pikestuff  Milton A. Corp kit.  I bought this originally to use for the Crushmoore Co. building in Malvern, but it turned out to be too small for what I wanted.  Hopefully it'll be a better fit here?