Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Trains of The Little Rock Line

I have had some questions about the cars that were left behind on the junction in the video from the previous post.  So I figured a good way to answer the questions was just to go through all the trains that run during a typical session.

I've thrown my modelers license on the table and renamed and renumbered the trains from what actually ran on the Little Rock line.  I did this so they would be easier to remember during a session for those who do not know much about the line or have a hard time keeping things straight, myself included.

There are two locals or turns that are the stars of the layout.  These both originate out of the yard at El Dorado, AR.  One works North and returns in the same session, the other works South and returns in the same session.  90% of the work on the layout is done by these two trains.

The Winnfield Turn
It leaves El Dorado Southbound and works the towns of Dubach, LA. Ruston, LA. and finishes up at Winnfield, LA. then returns to El Dorado.  The train only works trailing point turnouts so it does work in both directions.

Dubach, LA
Piggly Wiggly Distribution - A grocery chain in the south.  Boxcars, insulated boxcars & mechanical reefers.
A&A Cement Works - 2 bay cement hoppers and open hoppers.
ARKLA Distributing - A plastic pellet company  -  4 bay covered hoppers. The turn will work ARKLA on the return trip

Ruston, LA
An interchange with the ICG - Tank cars and pulpwood cars.
Cars from the turn are dropped off on the way to Winnfield and the outbound cars from the ICG that are bound for El Dorado will be picked up on the return trip.

Winnfield, LA
Union Scrap - Gondolas
 While in Winnfield, there are several older boxcars that need to have their journal boxes or bearings exercised so they don't freeze up from just sitting there unused.  So the turn has standing orders to move the last car to the the front of the string and then replaces the cars to the end of track.  This is a move that Quin came up with after volunteering on a local short line where they had to do the same thing.  It's  unique and interesting operation that isn't often modeled.

The Haskell Turn
It leaves El Dorado Northbound and works the towns of  Calion, AR. Fordyce, AR and Haskell, AR. then returns to El Dorado.  The train only works trailing point turnouts so it does work in both directions.

Calion, AR
Calion Lumber Company - All door boxcars, boxcars, bulkhead flatcars, GSC flatcars and centerbeam flatcars.  The turn will work Calion on the return trip.

Fordyce, AR
Dixie Woodworks - Boxcars and All Door boxcars.
Flappers - A chicken processing plant much like Tysons - Mechanical reefers, tank cars and livestock cars - the reefers will be worked on the return trip.  Loaded livestock cars that are dropped by the Shrimper will be picked up as empties by the Haskell turn on it's return trip.

Haskell, AR
Riceland Mill and Elevator - 3 bay grain hoppers and air slide hoppers.

The Four Manifests

LRMP - Little Rock to the Missouri Pacific [Alexandria., LA]
MPLR - Missouri Pacific [Alexandria., LA] to Little Rock
These four trains deliver the cars to El Dorado from the main yard. 
The "W" designates it has cars for the Winnfield turn & the W&OV.
The "H" designates it has cars for the Haskell turn and also cars bound for the industries at El Dorado.
These four trains come from the main yard, but leave it from different direction so they enter the layout as a Northbound or Southbound.  After making their runs they return to the main yard, to the same track they left from so they're staged and ready for the next session. 
The "W" trains runs before "H" trains do.

Through trains
There are eight through trains that make an appearance on the layout during the session.
MKT coal train
CNW Intermodel
MoPac Freight
SBD Auto rack
RI Frieght
RI Grain train
Amtrak's Rebel - Makes one stop in El Dorado.
The Shrimper - This is a Redball intermodel, the hottest train on the line.  It's a Refrigerated intermodel that hauls frozen seafood to points north, however on the layout it runs as a southbound empty.  To retain the Redball classification, it will deliver loaded livestock cars of chickens to the Flappers facility in Fordyce, AR. It's the only stop on the line that this train makes.

These eight trains come from the main yard, but leave it from different direction so they enter the layout as a Northbound or Southbound.  After making their runs they return to the yard, to the same track they left from so they're staged and ready for the next session just like the four manifests do.

In due time some of these trains will change from what is listed above to Rock Island trains as I get new locos chipped and/or painted in Rock Island colors.  The CNW, MKT and Amtrak will stay on the schedule as they have trackage rights from helping to fund the track revitalization.  For some variety from time to time I can swap out the power of some of the trains so I can say they are detour trains. 

The Illinois Central Gulf
It runs at the same time as the Winnfield turn does so they can meet at Ruston, LA.  Cars from the ICG are bound for or from the W&OV in the town of Malvern.  The Winnfield turn just delivers them to El Dorado where the W&OV picks them up.

Riceland Industries
The plant switcher pulls the cars and spots them at the beginning of each session for the Haskell turn.  After the Haskell turn is done working at Haskell, the switcher will spot the new cars that Haskell turn dropped off.

The W&OV  [Warren & Ouchita Valley RR]
The W&OV crew gathers up the outbound cars from the industries in Malvern, AR.  Once their train [The Razorback] is made up they will deliver them to El Dorado [via Rock Island trackage], exchange the cars and return to Malvern with their string of fresh cars. 

All in all there are a total of 17 trains that run per session.  In some of the session all the work wasn't done, so we have started over with the through trains until the last job is done.  A normal session will last between 3 1/2 to 4 hrs.

I've also added a link to a picture of the layout plan and a schematic, you can find it on the right hand column just below the layout overview.  
I hope this helps to explain things a bit better?

Monday, April 28, 2014

Session #8 review

Another session is behind me and it went really well, thanks to everyone who attended.

Starting at 5pm seemed to work for most everyone this time as it only lasted till 8:30pm instead of 10 or 10:30 like we have in the past.  So I think we'll continue with this starting time.

I had hoped to drag the session out to about 4hrs this time by keeping the overall speeds of the trains down to 20-25 mph, trying to run on a simple schedule that would space them out a bit, which would give the El Dorado yard crew a much less rushed job.  For the most part it worked.  Doug had more than enough time to get his jobs completed, this also included setting out cars for the actual town of El Dorado.  At one point he actually had time to set the throttle down and walk around to see what else was happening on the layout.

Even with the problem of the locos running at a reduced speed from what I had them programmed to, wasn't very noticeable with the slower speeds.  So if I never figure out what's up with the programming, or should I say re-programming of the CV's, maybe it won't matter much.  On thing I've considered doing was to adjust the top speed of the locos to a higher setting and then if the CV's get re-programmed maybe they will run closer to what I prefer. So many things to try to track down with this, I might never get to the bottom of it.

The more and more I run the trains at a reduced speed, the more I like it.  While I was never one to run them at top speed anyways, to see them crawling along at slow speed does several things for me. 
1- It takes longer to get where you're going so it gives a feeling of a larger layout or longer run.
2- It also does not show some of the sharper curves that are on the layout.  The locos do not seem to lurch or swerve as bad either.
3- It also give one more time to work and not feel rushed, this applies when working the yard at El Dorado which Doug concurred with this session.

I also plan to continue working on the timetable I've been playing with.  Not so much for keep to a tight schedule, but more so for keeping the trains spaced out and not getting them so jumbled up.

Unfortunately since we only had 5 crews for the biggest share of the evening, it didn't leave me much time to get a lot of pictures or videos.  So I went back down Sunday afternoon and re-staged a few.

The only major mishaps we had Saturday night was with the SBD auto rack.  Greg, not being very familiar with things didn't know he had to throw the North turnout of the passing siding at El Dorado before leaving town. It resulted in the lead loco derailing and completely rolling off the tracks.  But he was a trooper! He just brushed himself off, crawled onto the second loco and kept going so he didn't louse up the schedule!  Since it wasn't fowling the mainline, a call was placed for the cleanup crew who arrived later and reclaimed the C30-7 without much problems.

As for the new maneuver at Ruston between the ICG and the Winnfield local, it worked out just as planned and I will place it on my list of things to do.  When I get a chance I will remove the two sidings and relay the junction with a single track.  Again, since I didn't have time to video the actual interchange during the session I re-staged it Sunday afternoon.  I apologize for the crappy video and the vertical format, but it was the only way I could shoot the entire scene.

The way I had this designed in the beginning was to have the ICG leave the it's staging a the start of each session and run out the junction and preform a run around with the cars that was left there from the previous session, then return to their staging.  The the Winnfield local would drop off their cars and grab what the ICG had left earlier.  This was a simple job which gave a newbie a chance to get their feet wet without becoming overwhelmed.  But now this gives a chance for both crews to interact and adds small challenge to keep things interesting.  Quin drew the Winnfield local and I drew the ICG job and it went off without a hitch.

I also want to thank DJ of DJsTrains for posting his video which I uploaded in a recent post that gave me the idea for the new maneuver at Ruston.
Thanks DJ!

With this session behind me and the weather warming up, I have a bunch of outside jobs to get after.  Once I can get a few them under control and the weather really warms up, my plans are to get back to working on the layout and get some of the buildings finished up in Malvern and start on a few other places so I'll have more than just Ceiling Tile Flats everywhere.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Session #8 - A successful evening

Everything went off without too many problems tonight, well almost.
A few minor mishaps but nothing that caused any major set backs.

I thought we were going to have a pretty full house tonight but plans changed.  We started out with only 6 crew members and one had to leave a little early.  So we finished out the session with 5 members. 

We started at 5pm tonight and ended about 8:30pm.  We didn't quite make it to four hours so either things are going smoother and the guys are getting the hang of things or we got lucky.  We did manage to keep the speeds of the trains down around 20-25 mph which did give the yard operator at El Dorado more than enough time to get his chores done.  This included not only getting the outbound cars on their way and making up the two local, plus the cars for the W&OV, but also had time to pickup the cars for El Dorado proper and replace them by the end of the session.

The new maneuver at the Ruston junction between the Winnfield local and the ICG went very well and was pretty simple and straight forward.  So I think I'll go ahead with the plan to re-lay the junction and remove one siding.

When I get a few minutes over the next week, I will get some photos and a video posted. 

Thursday, April 24, 2014

New W&OV units at Malvern

I haven't had much time to get over to Malvern in the past few months so, between the rounds of thunder storms tonight I slipped past the W&OV engine house to see if anything had changed since the last time I was in town.

As I pulled into the parking lot I was greeted with a new ALCo, well new to the W&OV anyway.  Sitting front of the house was one of the recent purchases, an ex- Lehigh Valley RS11 #7641.  Behind that tucked inside the house and consisted with two other C420's was another Cornell Red C420 #410.  As I looked around I didn't see any sign of the ex- D&H RSC2 or the ex- MEC RS11.  After snapping a few shots and getting the camera stored away I decided to head for home.  
Just as I started pulling out of the parking lot I was waved down by Homer, the house foreman, he was just returning from what must have been a late supper. 

After exchanging a few greetings, I asked him where the RSC-2 was at?  He said they took it and the MEC RS11 down to Warren [AR] just two days ago.
He then asked if I had seen the new power sitting around and wanted to know if I'd be interested in taking a peek up close and personal?  As I glanced down at my watch, there was a bright flash that was followed by a loud clap of thunder that seemed to boom directly overhead!  At that point it started to downpour like someone just opened a flood gate. 
Homer laughed and said "Maybe another time when it's a bit dryer" and headed for the office. 

Rats!  Well at least I got one shot.


I didn't get as much done tonight as I wanted, but I did manage to get the rest of the locomotives readied.

I made a couple of changes in Malvern tonight.  I retired the ex D&H RSC2 that has been the Malvern switcher for the past number of sessions for a newer maroon Lehigh Valley RS11 #7641 that I acquired last fall from a hobby shop in North Carolina.  I reprogrammed the unit so that it had a little less momentum than the RSC2 had.  We'll see how it handles the switching for this session.  I also replaced the MEC RS11 with a new Cornell Red C420 # 410

The other locomotive that was showing signs of troubles was the El Dorado switcher, the ex-D&RGW GP7 #4602.
It was running very rough a few night ago so I gave it a complete rebuild.  It was acting like there was something wedged into the gears of the rear truck.  Didn't find much of anything but I notice that it was filthy with some kind of black gunk around the bearing blocks and on the contact strips where they make contact with the trucks.  After a good spraying with some contact cleaner and removing some excess grease around the bearing blocks, she was running smooth again.

So about the only thing to finish before Saturday night is to tidy up the basement and clean off the workbench and we should be ready to roll.     

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Session #8 continued

Since I've been having problems again with the locomotives running at a reduced speed, I went back down tonight to continue test running the rest of the power for the through trains, both consists for the local power at El Dorado and the pair of locos for the ICG, all checked out OK. I still need to get the power checked for the El Dorado switcher and the W&OV.  I've already checked all the consists on the four manifest.  Some of these may have one loco that runs either a little fast or a little slow, but they should be able to limp through the session.  Since it's The Rock Island, I suppose it's somewhat normal and prototypical to have at least one unit in the consist not functioning properly?  Heck it may add to the operations.

While doing this I also made sure that some the new cars that I swapped out for cars that have never been on the layout before ran OK.  Only a few needed to have the trip pins cut or bent.  This only leaves staging a few miscellaneous cars around the layout such as the cars for the ICG.

I have one turnout for the house track at El Dorado station that gives me fits from time to time that may need another feeder applied.  But for now I have it making contact so I'll try to get to it later.

One other thing I fixed a few weeks ago that should make a difference, four of the UP3/5 panels were under powered and was making the DT400r's act screwy.  Several years ago I was having issues with the throttles dropping some of the consists.  I was told that I had too many throttles plugged into the Loconet system and they were drawing too much power.  If  the voltage drops below 8v, the Loconet will not function properly.  

One option I was given was to place batteries in all my throttles so they had their own juice.  The second thing was that I could power all of my P3/5 panels with a PS12/14 power supply.  Since I had 9 UP3/5 panels and one UR91 I decided to split them up into two groups and power each group with a PS12/14.

The five UP panels on the East end of the layout was powered with one and the other four and the UR91 on the west end was powered by the power supply from the UR91.  Long story short here, two of my older DT400r's would act up and never settle down to where I could dial up a loco.  The DT402r's never had that problem.

After several nights and a few phone calls later, I found my problem.  Digitrax says that you can connect up to 10 UP panels with one PS12/14.  They also said that you could include at least one UR panel in the group.  I thought OK.  So I started the west group by using the power supply for the UR91.  Well the problem turned out to be that the power supply for the UR91 was only rated for 120vac - 12vdc - 300mA.  The supply for the East end was rated at 120vac - 12vdc - 1a.  This is why the DT400r's was only having issues when they were plugged into any of the UP panel on the west end, including the UR91.  So to be safe I isolated the UR91 with it's power supply and found another 1a supply for the four remaining UP panels on the west end of the layout and now everyone is happy again.  So much for following instruction...   

I figure on more night to finish testing the rest of the consists, then I can start tidying up the basement and clearing of the work bench and getting things moved out of the way and I should be ready for Saturday night!

Oh yeah, I finally got around to adding a link to the track plan.  You can find it below the "Layout Overview" 

Monday, April 21, 2014

Session #8

Another session is upon us and with it brings a new operation that I've seen posted on Youtube by DJsTrains as seen on the previous post.

He explains how a simple interchange works with no run around.  It looked simple enough and I got to thinking that I should be able to apply it to the ICG interchange at Ruston, LA.  Right now I have two sidings there and the simplest thing to do for now until I see if it will work was to place a blue flag [simply a piece of blue tape] on one of the sidings and treat it like it was out of commission for now.

I gathered some cars and staged them to simulate the ICG and the Winnfield Local.  With not much work or time, it played out pretty slick.  So I think we'll give a it a go on this session.  As mentioned before, this will make the two crews have to work together as opposed to having the ICG drop it's cars off at the beginning and then have the Winnfield local stop by and grab them on it's way back from Winnfield.  Kind of excited to see how well this works within the session and how much confusion it'll bring.

Another thing I'm working on is a timetable.  For now I'm not wanting to get overly involved with this and have to use a dedicated fast clock and a lot of extra paperwork.  I'm planning to use this more so just to space out the traffic so we don't get things too jammed up.  I only have one siding long enough to allow any of the run through trains to meet and that is at El Dorado.  In past sessions we've had occasions where two of the longest trains have met in El Dorado and one of the trains just barely fit in the siding.  While this can bring a little extra excitement and challenge to a session, it also takes time away from the session.  For now I want things to flow before setting up this kind of a bottle neck in the sessions.

In ops session #6, the MKT coal drag met the SBD rack train at El Dorado.  The coal drag was too long for the siding and we actually had to have both trains back out of town and swap tracks as the coal drag was too long for the siding.   Even after changing tracks, it barely fit!

That's a little too close for comfort!
Well this got me to thinking that I needed to make up some sort of timetable or schedule to avoid this the next time.  I'm working on this right now, but it's kind of slow going as I really have no idea of the best way to go about it.  So it's trail and error.

I did download a Fast Clock app for my iPhone and I adjusted it to a setting of 3:1. Wanting to see how much time it would take to get from the main yard to El Dorado and back, including swapping out cars on the A/D tracks.  Doug and I ran two of the four manifest that feeds El Dorado, wanting to keep the speed somewhat prototypical we set the throttle at 18%-20% and measured the train with my Accutrack tunnel.  It was showing them traveling around 20mph. At this speed it took approxamtley 12 fast minutes to reach El Dorado, another 20 minutes to set out and pick up the cars on the A/D tracks, then another 11 minutes or so to return to the main yard. 

After discussing this we decided to allow about 45 minutes to an hour for each train.  This should give enough time to for any set backs each train may encounter.  Another reason for wanting to spread things out is on the past sessions we normally started at 7pm and it would take about three hours to complete each session which would end around 10 to 10:30 pm.  Some of the crews would have to bail before the session was over.

Talking to Steven, he told me that they run from 10am to Noon, take a lunch break and then would continue around 1pm for another couple of hours.  So this time I plan to to start at 5pm and run till 9 or 9:30.  It will also hopefully keep us from feeling rushed during the session.  Setting the clock to a 3:1 ratio will give us a 12 hour fast session or the equivalent of 4 hours real time.  The extra hour should relax things a bit, I hope.

In the future we might talk about the chances of running a day session instead of a evening session.

I've got the tracks cleaned, the paperwork printed and the manifest are staged as of last night.  I need to get a few of the cars positioned on the layout, run the trains to see if they need their wheels cleaned and make sure their running OK.  Then just tidy up the basement and we should be ready.

Once this session is over I have a bunch of outside work to complete now that Spring is here.  Once I get the work done, I plan to finish up some projects on the work bench so I can continue working on the buildings and scenery in Malvern.  I also have some problems with the DCC system that I need to get to the bottom of.