Wednesday, September 30, 2015


A bit of a vacation from the railroad was needed following the intense effort leading up to the NMRA National convention and the high energy expended during the convention.  The first couple of weeks of September found me in my lounge chair reading a couple of books.  I still have a tall stack of books to go, acquired over this past year.  A measure of my layout construction focus can be found in my deferring reading books by favorite authors, normally done immediately upon publication.

I returned to work on the layout with a couple of useful tasks that were deferred to “higher” priority tasks for the convention.  Both involved wiring.  The first task added a pair of circuit breakers to the Eugene Classification Yard.  Fortunately, I had wired the yard with circuit blocks that supported easy conversion to the new plan. 

I previously wrote about the task of DCC circuit protection assignment as that of “short management.”  The goal is to minimize the impact of a short by one crew on any other crew.  I originally configured the Eugene Classification Yard as one big power district, protected by a single circuit breaker.  Actual operations of this yard have had two switch crews assigned, one at each end.  Though my crews have not reported problems with shorts, the potential has always existed for one crew shutting down the full yard. 

The solution was simple—add more circuit breakers.  Fortunately, I wired the classification yard as several different power blocks, tied together at the station electrical panel.  It was very easy to isolate the two yard leads from each other and the main yard body tracks.  All had separate circuits that were joined together within the terminal block for the yard.  Those have now been separated such that there is a circuit breaker (power district) for the west yard lead and ladder, the east yard lead and ladder, and the body tracks. 

Eugene station electrical panel.  Two new circuit breakers are above the original group of four. For wiring convenience, they are arranged as the west yard lead on top with the east yard lead below it.  The depot tracks are the third district and the yard body tracks are below that.  The bottom two circuit breakers are for the Oakridge power districts. 

The second wiring task was to rearrange the NCE radio base station and repeater antenna already in use and add yet another repeater antenna in the “back room” where the reverse loop staging is located.  I had expert advice during my operating session for the NMRA Convention.  Good friends from my California days, Mark Guirres and Mark Schutzer, were part of the operating crew.  Based on Mark Schutzer’s advice, I relocated my base station (RB02) to the middle antenna location with the two repeaters split off at that point to locations to the left and right. 

NCE radio antennas in the main layout room .  The base station is in the upper left of the photo.   Repeater “B” is in the former base station location on top of the backdrop spine at the RR-East end of Springfield in the lower right corner of the photo.

Repeater antenna in the “back room” serving the staging yards.  Radio reception had been poor back here during the convention operating session.

I needed to mount two of these to the ceiling.  I fabricated mounting brackets from 0.060 inch thick styrene, reinforced by styrene strips.  A pair of toggle bolts was used to hold the bracket to the ceiling.  The NCE radio antenna base slipped into the bracket and the antenna and cables were attached.

Antenna base mounted in fabricated ceiling bracket.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015


Layout Design Special Interest Group Tour

The third event my layout was part of for the NMRA National Convention in Portland in August was the Layout Design Special Interest Group (LDSIG) Tour.  The prior two events were the formal convention bus tours ( and an Operations SIG operating session ( ).  As has been traditional, the LDSIG Tour was conducted on Wednesday of convention week.  This was a self-guided tour, with participants providing their own transportation.  We had seventeen layouts on the tour ranging from Washougal, WA, to Eugene, OR—a span of about 140 miles!  Participants needed to chose their layout visits carefully, as not all layouts were open all day.

LDSIG Tour participants bought a tour ticket, which included the information packet listing the layouts and their locations.  GPS guidance was assumed, though the information packet included ”terminal guidance” (specific instructions for locating the layout entrance once at the address) for many of the layouts.  The LDSIG Tour ticket also bought the purchaser an LDISG polo shirt, embroidered with an LDSIG logo and a loco image that was connected to the convention site.  We were not allowed to use the Southern Pacific—this convention followed one in Sacramento, CA, in 2011.  Instead, we featured “The Northwest’s Own Railway,” the Spokane Portland and Seattle Railway, with one of their Alco C636 locos.  The SP&S was well known for its Alco fleet, including those C636s.

LDSIG Tour Shirt logo.

One hundred twenty five folk signed my guest register during the Wednesday LDSIG Tour.  A couple arrived just as we opened up at 10 am—a quick drive out from Portland, as the information packets were distributed around 9 am.  Carloads and groups of carloads arrived throughout the day, with the last visitors arriving around 9pm—a long day.  The combination of the three events on Tuesday and Wednesday of convention week had been my deadline focus for three years of construction.  Whew!  Herewith some photos from the LDSIG Tour.

Many visitors took photos.  My helper and “height gauge” John B. is in the orange shirt.

Several folk who had been out to the layout on Tuesday came back as part of LDSIG Tour carloads.  Longtime friend Don M., who operated Tuesday night  faces the camera and is talking with helper Bob S.

John B. and Richard C. run trains in Oakridge as visitors look  on.

My helping crew relaxes at the end of a long day.   Conventions are full of intense activity for organizers and participants!

Following the NMRA convention activities, my wife and I held an open house for our neighborhood to show off what all the activity had been about.  Another fifty folk signed the guest book.  Following this peak of activity, I am taking a break from most railroad activity until the Southern Pacific Historical and Technical Society Convention in early October.  It is time to take care of a number of tasks put off during the intense build-up leading to the NMRA convention.

Monday, September 7, 2015



Operations Special Interest Group Ops Session

The second major activity involving my layout for the NMRA National Convention in Portland in August, was an operating session conducted under the auspices of the Operations Special Interest Group (OpSIG).  After the formal convention bus tours cleared away ( ), my helping crew and I had a brief moment to catch dinner before fifteen guest operators arrived.  Fortunately for my anxiety level leading up to the convention, half of this group was composed of friends from my days working in California.  It was great to show off what I had accomplished in my move north.  Many of these “guests” had participated in discussions leading to the layout’s design, its operations design, and the electrical system supporting it.  The remainder of the guest operating crew became new friends, willing to operate on a “raw” model railroad.  The operating session was only the fourth operating session using the full mainline.

I had a great crew helping me, including Dave H., who had trained under ex-SP Dispatcher Rick K., to perform that duty for this session.  Rick A. and John B1.  participated in all or most of the test operating sessions leading up to this event.  Friends from California days also joined in, as they had for the formal bus tour:  Richard C. and John B2.  John B2 was my “height gauge” as he stands even taller than me at 6 ft-10 in.  The probability that he might operate this railroad some day kept me honest about my overhead clearances for the overhanging sections of the layout plan.  John B2 used my camera to record the images contained in this post.  Follow along with the operating session as seen through the eye of the camera.

As seen here, I am doing the initial briefing before turning my operating crew loose on the railroad.

Mark S. served as Yardmaster at Eugene.  Here he is organizing the work for his two switch crewmen: Howard G. and Reid K.

Around at Oakridge, Principal Helper Bob S. advises Scott. C. on operations at Oakridge while Don. M. and Helper Engineer Dennis D. prepare to cut in a helper locomotive set.  Dave T. (using the operator platform behind him as a desk) is preparing to work with the Oakridge Turn.

Dispatcher Dave H. works with departing crew Norm A. and John M. as they prepare to depart staging.

I am fiddling with the headset connection to an FRS radio to help Mat T. and Hilding L. get ready to take their first train.  They were called for Amtrak Number 14, the northbound (RR-East) Coast Starlite.

Don. M. (foreground) and Helper Engineer Dennis D. guide their train uphill around the loop at Salt Creek Trestle.

Richard C. gravitated to the ill-defined role of “Santa Clara Tower Operator” controlling the switches in and out of the Eugene Arrival/Departure Yard on the lower level and “Crescent Lake Yardmaster” controlling actions at the upper level staging yard.  Though I had thought about the need for this job, I had not formally defined it nor briefed it.  Thank you Richard for jumping in to fill an obvious need!

Conductor Mat T. and Engineer Hilding L. are underway with Amtrak No, 14, seen just behind them at Wicopee siding.

Don M. confers with Richard C. about departure from Eugene.

Mark G. and Dave F. took the Eugene City Switcher job and are seen here conferring with West-End Yard Switcher Howard G.  In the background, two members of my local helping crew, John B1 and Rick A. were called for the Second Springfield Switch Job.  At this point in the operation, we had nineteen folk operating.  When I build the engine facilities within the Eugene staging loop, I can add a hostler position making a full crew of twenty on my railroad.  I had thought a full crew would be fifteen, but with two-man crews in use for both the local switch jobs and the road freights, it is clear the railroad can absorb twenty crewmembers quite productively.

Action is heavy at Eugene!  In the back, Hilding L. and Mat T. are taking the Marcola Turn out to work the Marcola Branch out of Springfield.  Working forward, Yardmaster Mark S. observes the activity, ready to provide further instructions.  Eugene City Switcher Crew Mark G. and Dave F. have pulled a car out of the switchback into Rubenstein’s Furniture in the corner notch to the left.  West End Switcher Howard G. is looking on, ready to do further classification work.

A couple of my guest operators, Jim B and Steve W., were “camera shy”—actually, the photos of them just did not work out.  Further, my intrepid photographer was on the other side of the camera—of course.

This fourth operating session of the full railroad was a success.  Yes, there  were a few glitches noted, but the railroad ran well enough that all could see how operating sessions will develop as I lay the remaining track and further develop the control system.  The layout tours and this operating session are what I worked toward for the past three years.  I just made it with the help from many friends for this “graduation exercise.”