Friday, December 16, 2011

Redesign of the main yard

Before I get into the explanation of the yard modifications, allow me to give brief history of it first. When the yard was built it was designed for the use with our Bend Track modules.  We wanted someplace where we could build and tear down the trains other than on the mainlines.  Nobody wanted a dedicated set of modules that took up half the setup. Since Bend Track does not have an operating pit like Ntrak can have, we decided to create an operating pit.

The yard was built in a shape of an "L".  It started out 4' wide at the head end, then the long leg was 8' long by 16" wide, enough to hold 9 tracks.  By the next show we added another 16" x 8' section that doubled the length. We found this to be long enough, but it was no fun trying to back a train in or out of the yard.
The next expansion was to widen the tail end of the yard to 36" and make the 8 tracks doubled ended with a loop that returned on the ninth track.  The third expansion was a short 6 track yard that attached to the back side where shorter trains could be stored and built.  On the fourth and final expansion, the little yard was replaced with two sections that was 12" wide x 8' long.  Now we had two sub yards with eight tracks each.  Included were two By-pass tracks that ran down between the two sub yards on the front two sections of the benchwork, one of which served as a reverse loop section.  This was needed as the head end of the yard all came together into one track that turned the whole yard into a big loop with 18 sidings.  The nice thing was a train could then enter onto the modules via a wye in either direction, then stay on the inner mainline or could cross over to the outer mainline.

This configuration also worked for the layout as well but after the first real operating session, one of the members who played the Yardmaster came up with a better idea that would take away the need for a reverse loop section all together.  The idea essentially separated the single yard into two inline yards that folded back on themselves.  Then the single yard throat was replaced with two throats.  The last addition that needed to be made to complete the plan was a crossover from the left rear yard ladder to Rear By-pass track.
All of the modifications can be seen in this picture in orange.

This now made for a run through yard and became an extension of the layout. With a run through yard the reverse loop [in red] was no longer needed but I decided to keep it intact electrically for times when and if we needed to turn a train.
Everything went well until I tried to power things up.  Long story short, I had to completely re-wire the entire yard.  The yard was wired for common rail since we built it before we made the jump to DCC and all the rails were wired alike.  The Red wire to the front rail and the Black wire to the rear rail on ALL of the tracks.

So, since I had this job ahead of me I decided to it right.  I used a Digitrax PM42 to break the yard into three blocks.  The front yard was on one circuit breaker, the rear yard and the engine facility on a second.  Then I set the PM42 so that I had an auto reverser for the reverse loop section which was also protected by a third circuit breaker.

In doing this, I did a lot a reading and research on this kind of a setup.  I was told by a friend that this could be done very easily with the use of a PM42.  But 2/3 of what I read on the net made it sound like it would not work or would not work very reliable.  Well, so far so good.  It works like I was told it would.  This is the first time that I have ever used an auto reverser.  Let me tell you, it is soooooo nice not to have to make sure that the switches are lined up just so.  The first loco that I ran through the crossovers just putted right along without any sign of hesitation.  The only sound I heard was the PM42 when the reverser clicked to reverse the polarity. 

So, after three loooooooong weeks of modifications, this is how it turned out.

The new track at the left is the lead from the rear staging yard. This track enters the layout through the backdrop and dumps out at Haskell, AR. and runs south to El Dorado.
The right track is the old ladder track, this leads from the front fiddle yard and
Front By-pass/Reverse Loop.  It enters the layout at Winnfield, LA and runs north to El Dorado.



This is the new crossover that will allow trains that leave the front fiddle yard to by-pass the rear staging yard making use of the rear ladder track and to enter the layout at Haskell, AR as a southbound.

The engine facility hasn't changed much other than I re-laid the fuel and ready tracks in the foreground.
The Front by-pass becomes the Rear by-pass before it runs behind the engine house. Then it runs on the far side of the caboose track.
There are two sets of Left Hand crossovers that connect the rear by-pass with the front by-pass that creates the reverse loop ability.  The first set is just out of the picture to the left.

This gives a good idea of what the yard looks like.  The yard is 16' long and 28" wide in the middle.  There are a total of 18 yard tracks [Both the fiddle yard and the staging yard have 8 tracks each].  Then the Front and Rear by-pass tracks that run between the two yards.

While this in not a Prototypically designed yard, I think it will serve the purpose quite well.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Modifications at Haskell, AR

In September we started working on the operations and after we ran a few test runs several things came to light.
My original thought was to have the Haskell turn work the Riceland plant.  After the first run we saw just how long it would take.  So it was decided that Riceland needed to have its own switcher.  Even though the switcher only needs to move no more than 5 or 6 cars and get them ready for the local, the amount of time that it reduced from the Haskell turn was enough to warrant this.
Now all the Haskell turn has to do is pull into the siding, run around it's trains, swap out the empties with the loads that the plant switcher has ready, then tie back onto his train and start back to El Dorado.

Two things that came out of this change was it reduced the work load for the Haskell turn and it created a simple and easy job for a newbie to get his feet wet without having to feel overwhelmed with a large amount of switching.

Now that I had to keep a plant switcher in place, I went about re-arranging the track.  I added a switch lead and a third siding to act as a pocket track.

This is what I started with.

This what I ended up with.

Friday, September 16, 2011


In July I started applying the fascia. I finished in late September.
The process of applying the fascia took less than two weeks, but the rest of the time was spent painting the schematic!

I started out painting the Yellow first with a small roller, then taped it off with 1/4" masking tape.  The Blue came next followed by the Orange. Each color was followed by a stripe of tape. Once I had all this finished I sprayed a coat of Clear acrylic over the tape to help seal the edges so to prevent the black from bleeding under the masking tape.  Once the coat of Black dried, I slowly peeled all the tape off.

"Why did I do this you ask"?

I visited a NKP layout years ago and he did the same thing, but he used only Yellow for his schematic.  Since it was the first time seeing this layout, I had no trouble navigating the track plan when it was time to run trains.  All I had to do was to look at the fascia and I knew where each of the towns were located, as well as which tracks the industries sat on. 

I used Blue for The Rock mainlines, Yellow for the W&OV trackage and Orange for the ICG trackage.

I printed out little signs for each of the towns.  Avery labels work ideal for this.
Since my industries are fairly well spread out and not that complicated, I may forgo the industry labels for now.

It does look kind of busy and a little distracting, so once people get use to the layout, I can always pullout the roller and black paint!

I also got started hanging the skirting.  I just used Velcro to attach them to the back side of the fascia.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Trackwork and wiring completed

With the track work 90% completed, it was time to start laying out the sidings to see how the buildings would fit the spaces.  Instead of making mock-ups I chose to print out the footprints of the building kits on paper and lay them into place to get a feeling of area that I would need.  The tracks were just tacked into place so moving them was an easy job.

Once the buildings that had a questionable area to fit was determined,  I tacked the sidings back into place and I started dropping the feeder wires so I could get power to the rails.
I chose Digitrax for my DCC system.  This was the first time that I actually wired a layout for DCC and was looking forward to seeing just how easy it was.

I used 18ga trunk wires and 22ga feeder wires soldered to the rails.  Stringing the trunk wires was a breeze and I had them done in two nights.  The feeders took about a week or so.  I had heard of people using the SUITCASE connectors and then seen how a buddy used them on his layout.  It looked simple enough.  

Once I had acquired enough of these connectors, I started in.  It took me three nights of about two hours each night to get them finished.  This proved to be very simple and I would recommend them to anyone.  I ordered mine from and online supply house like  I found them locally at Radio Shack or the big box stores but they were about three times the price.  I think I ordered something like 400 of them for around $0.30 each.  What I didn't use I sold to some of the other members in my group.  

They sell a special pair of pliers that press the metal tabs into place, but for the price of the tool, I grabbed my trusty pliers.  Yeah, I bent the tabs over on a few of them but once I got use the feeling, the rest went pretty well.     

Winnfield is the southernmost terminus on the layout for the SB local.  In the foreground we see the siding for Union Scrap.  The track that the two boxcars are setting on creates the continuous loop.  On operation nights, "Stored" boxcars will be set here so as to create a block for the loop.  This will also be another job for the Winnfield local.  Every trip to town, the crew will need to swap the position of the "stored" cars and exercise the axles so they don't rust tight while they are stored here on the end of track.

Backing up a bit we can see Tioga Jct.  This is where The Rock leaves their rails and begins to usage KCS trackage into Alexandria, LA.   To the left is the open staging for the ICG.  These two units have a short train ready to set out at Ruston, LA.  [the next town North].

Here at Ruston, LA. we find several cars waiting to be picked up by the Winnfield local on its next run.


Just another view of Ruston, LA.
The silos in the distance are the plastic pellet transfer station for ARKLA Plastics  in Dubach, LA.

Setting on the outskirts & south end of Dubach, LA. are the silos of ARKLA Plastics.

At Dubach, LA a small siding has been installed off of the main siding for the purpose of a run-around track and pocket track to store cars for pickup on the return run of the Winnfield local.
In the background we see A&A Cement Works.

The aggregate track in the rear has been raised about 1" so they can dump the gravel into a pit for sorting.
The building that is setting in the foreground will be replaced with a Medusa Kit when it gets built.

On the north end of Dubach, LA the team tracks have been installed for the Piggly Wiggly Distribution center.

Crossing the Louisiana / Arkansas border after leaving Dubach, we swing into the town of El Dorado, AR.  Here we see the yard from the south end.  It is here that the NB and SB locals originate and terminate.

Looking south at El Dorado yard, the buildings against the backdrop is where the actual township of El Dorado will be located.  It will be raised about 2"- 3" above track level.

Today we find the house tracks and the caboose tracks full.  

At Calion, AR.  The shed track and the house track have been laid in place.  The white paper cut outs are the footprints of the buildings.  I've used these to determine the rough location of the tracks.

Here's another view of Calion Lumber Co.  The house track is in back.  Sheet goods and other construction products are unloaded into the building.  The yard track in front is for the unloading of dimensional lumber that will be placed in the racks of the open sheds.

Fordyce, AR is the home of two industries: Flappers Chicken and Dixie Wood Mfg.  Flappers has three sidings, from left to right: The Hen House is the receiving track for livestock. The reefers are sitting is the packing house track and the tankers are sitting on the litter track for editable tallow.  In the foreground right, the boxcars are spotted at Dixie Woods Mfg.

On the west edge of Haskell, AR a lone flatcar is spotted for unloading of a brand new Excavator at Mclehaney Equipment Co.  Flappers can be seen in the upper right.

Giving the town of Haskell, AR. it's largest employer is Riceland Industries.  Here rice is brought to the elevator for shipment to the gulf for export.  Some of the rice will be processed at the mill in the foreground where the rice is de-hulled and refined.  Rice hulls are used as a pressing aid in fruit juice extraction and as bedding in poultry houses. 
The tracks leading off to the left will wind up in Malvern, AR.  These tracks have been sold to the W&OV [Warren & Ouachita Valley]

As we enter the town of Malvern, AR. we see the engine facility of the W&OV in the foreground and Olin-Chlor Alkali Products in the background. These tankers will be filled with hydrochloric acid and returned to the ICG at Ruston, LA.

Just around the corner we see coil cars setting at Heavy Metal Mfg. ready for unloading.  Right behind Heavy Metal is the Pulpwood plant: Crushmoore Ind.  The Woodchip cars have been spotted and are ready for loading.

Looking from the west end of Malvern the track in the foreground leads to the next town West and to the Gritty Gravel Co.  The hoppers on the siding have been returned for a fresh load of aggregate to then be hauled to A&A Cement Works when ordered.  The next track is for the unloading of pulpwood for Crushmoore Ind.  When unloaded, they will make way back to Ruston, LA and the ICG interchange.

Now the next step: Make up the car routing system and get some buildings and scenery started!