Tuesday, January 5, 2016


My seventh full mainline operating session began with two operating gremlins that needed to be banished immediately.  Operational glitches are well known to layout owners, especially this one with a “raw” railroad still a-building.  One learns to deal with them and hopefully, rapidly, find a solution.  Solution time becomes a bigger issue as the crew size grows.  I had twenty operators awaiting my trouble-shooting.

Gremlin # 1 showed up at Crescent Lake as the first train arrived from Cascade Summit.  At the same time, the first RR-East train was preparing to depart once the west train cleared into Crescent Lake.  I spent quite a while trying to find the source of the problem.  Eventually, I removed all the motive power from the tracks in Crescent Lake—no small feat, given the elevated location.  I started putting locomotives back on the track, one at a time.  I needed a throttle, so I grabbed one from a nearby operator.  That turned out to be the key, for I discovered this was a guest throttle that I had not been aware of.

In common with the Willamette Model Railroad Club, based in Clackamas, I use NCE DCC equipment.  Usually, this is a happy joining of my operation with theirs, as I draw a core portion of my crew from their membership.  On this occasion, though, that worked against me, as one of their members, new to my layout, brought along his personal throttle.  “Of course” it had the same throttle address as one of my throttles.  With that, my command station got quite confused and produced various strange effects.  Once recognized, that problem was resolved quickly.

As a side note to this, although I changed the throttle address on the guest throttle to an unused number, my throttle with the conflicting address refused to operate properly during the session.  The guest throttle was fine.  Upon expert consultation, I found a basic full power cycle (command station turned off and later turned back on) and a throttle ID reset on my throttle brought it back to life.  Whew!

The second gremlin took a bit longer to reveal itself.  Initially, operations in Eugene appeared normal, but then started going into a short detected in the power district.  This one took a bit longer to find.  I added almost a hundred cars to the layout in the past week.  During my set-up, I found one of the new lumber boxcars was creating a short.  I found that one of the wheelsets had a dead short across the wheels and axle.  A replacement wheelset was inserted (ironically from the same manufacturer) and corrected the problem and I didn’t think much more about it.

Flash forward to the operating session.  The problem at Eugene smacked of a similar issue, but now there were well over a hundred cars in the classification yard.  Eventually, my crew and I confirmed the issue was with a car in that yard.  We then pulled one string of cars at a time onto the switch lead (a separate power circuit) and identified what string of cars the offender was within.  As soon as I saw that string though, I immediately suspected another one of those new lumber cars.  Sure enough, that was the car!  Whew!

Operations at Eugene and in Springfield have settled back down after “Gremlin-2” was chased away.

With the two significant gremlins banished, operations settled down into a good experience--I hope for all.  One local wag notes that as the layout matures, the “Gremlins” grow up into AMC Pacers.  (Friends of CC and DM will understand the pun-dency.)

Notable Winterail Producer, Vic N., is seen running a train (and taking video with a camera in his right hand) at Wicopee.

John B-1 and Rick K.  work Westfir with the Oakridge Turn.

John B-2 dispatches while Dave C. (behind the ladder) works the “Santa Clara Tower” position.  The move of the ready engines down to the new diesel service tracks made this operating position even more important.  It was great to have one of my most experienced crew members take this on and help to define the job.

Looking in on the Eugene Arrival/Departure Yard throat and diesel servicing tracks.  Dave C. and I had a good discussion on the Tower Operator position.  Dave suggests moving the panels into the hostler pit, seen just beyond the caboose track.  This would relieve people congestion in the passageway.  This will take a while to implement, as the hostler pit panel actually needs to be a parallel panel to the aisle panels.  Switch control is needed in both locations.

This operating session saw the introduction of a more formal crew call board than my previous efforts.  Rick K. devised a different system than my initial thoughts for a crew call system.  His design reflects actual railroad practice where the crews are listed in order and the trains assigned as they become known.  In common with my WMRR Club friends, I designed a call board to have all of the jobs listed and then have the crew tags placed and moved as the train line up is fulfilled. 

New crew call board.  Names are blanked out with tape to maintain privacy.

The new board began with my idea of listing all trains, as can be seen in the photo.  Rick K. suggested we merge the two ideas and use my new call board to list the crews and then have the crew caller/dispatcher assign the trains.  That is what we will do next with this board, as one can see I already filled all available train slots.  There is at least another pair (EB/WB) of trains to be added to the line up and probably more.  Rick’s suggestion adds life to this board, as I never expect to fill it with crew—I don’t have that much space for crew or additional throttles!


  1. This web site Is Truly wonderful and amazing information maybe there is and looking so captivating... I look and feel good to generally be here... Keep sharing good things with buddies.. Thanks meant for sharing...

    Cat5e Wiring Services

  2. Hi there Bill. I much admire your considerable effort and fidelity to build a prototype layout. I do not know much about the SP as I live in the Great White North of Canada, but I can see your dedication. I model the CPR's Kettle Valley Line in BC closely. Tom and Rick know me. I cringed when I read about Gremlin #1 as I had a similar experience several times during my sessions. It happened that one of my CVP radio throttles had a habit when sitting idle between sessions of reverting to the default radio frequency which conflicted with another throttle set to that same frequency. As you describe, this causes chaotic behavior in the command station and is hard to trouble shoot in the pressure of an ops session. Glad to hear you solved it quickly. I didn't finally solve mine for three sessions. Your layout looks well done and your blog is very interesting. Congratulations on your splendid achievement. Could you comment a little more on the Call Board? Not sure why there are three columns for crew and for engineer and conductor.