Thursday, December 22, 2016


A missing important physical feature of my layout has been an operator platform for Crescent Lake—the upper level staging yard.  We have made do for the past year and a half with step ladders.  I always intended replacing these with a more permanent solution, but the design of the eventual platform involved several compromises.  I needed operational experience for the Eugene Arrival/Departure yard, down below and the developing job of “Santa Clara Tower Operator.”  Though the Eugene engine facility is incomplete, sufficient experience has been gained with the intended operation to proceed with changes to the physical arrangements in the area. 

A pacing task has been placing the Dispatcher’s Desk on wheels so it can be moved into our Exercise Room when needed, but otherwise stored out of the way.  The previous post documented that shift.

The new operator platform is eight feet long and follows my standard construction design for such platforms.  The platform occupies half the space between the Eugene A/D Yard below and the stairwell wall.  It necks down as it approaches the stairwell pass-through—a busy place.  Nonetheless, the narrow end sits even with the pass-through wall.  Using a short stool, I can reach the far wall and the in-bound switch ladder for Crescent Lake.  The platform depth does not extend all the way to being under the upper level layout edge, but all of the key areas are within easy reach—at least for me.  Compromises. 

New operator platform for Crescent Lake (upper staging).  The papers taped to the wall at the stair end show where the Dispatcher’s Desk has been located.

The new platform is the same height as Cascade Summit, 30 inches above the floor.  This, too, is a compromise.  A bit more height might be useful for some of the shorter members of my operating crews, but I have consistently maintained a seven feet overhead clearance for the layout.  This height is a nod to my own height and friend John B, who stands even taller.  We have had plenty of adaptation in our lives for doors and ceilings not quite high enough.  Shorter folk can use stools.  Our adaptation is a lot more difficult!

End view of new Crescent Lake operator platform.  The width compromises can be seen in the floor level aisle width versus matching the platform to the overhead layout edge.  That speck of blue tape on the floor in the foreground is directly under the corner of the overhead layout edge.

The pair of projects represented by the Dispatcher’s Desk (now on wheels!) and the Crescent Lake operator platform received active requests from my operating crew.  The two-month break between operating sessions (November to January) gave me a great opportunity to tackle both.  All of us are looking forward to the operations enhancement they make possible.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016


A task on my “To-Do List” has been a more permanent Dispatcher’s Panel.  The basic desk, cardstock track schematic, and paper system used for the first dozen formal operating sessions served to point the way to more routine operations.  The “temporary” system and initial desk location beside the basement stairwell in the “back” room (staging yard room) outgrew both system and location.  With large crews of twenty or so operators for most sessions, the back room location could get noisy despite best intentions. 

The new Dispatcher’s panel is a steel sheet attached to a plywood back that, in turn, is attached to the desk.  The desk has now been mounted n caster wheels with brakes, so it can be moved easily to the desired operating location.  The steel panel supports using magnetic train markers which can be moved along the track schematic as block clearance is granted.  My first attempt with the markers features pointed plastic strips with the magnetic tape material on the back.  We will continue to use Post-Its™ to list train identity and other critical information.

New Dispatcher’s Panel.  Orange Post-Its are for Westbound trains, blue for Eastbound.

The track schematic includes the mainline and sidings and only a representation of secondary tracks.  I have additional thin vinyl tape on order to represent more of that track.  The block boundaries are indicated by the vertical blue stripes.  This system will develop over the next several operating sessions.

Meanwhile, here is a view of the old desk setup.

Old Dispatcher’s Desk occupying space needed for an operator’s platform for Crescent Lake.

A critical part of the new Dispatcher arrangements was to put the desk on wheels so it could be rolled into our Exercise Room.  Yes, people chuckle when they see that room function identified on the track plan, but in fact it serves exactly that exercise function every morning.  The Dispatcher’s Desk needs to be stored elsewhere between operating sessions.  I finally figured out how to guide a precise cut on the legs of the existing, assembled table, so the rest was a matter of getting materials and using them.

New Dispatcher’s Panel and desk located in our Exercise Room.

Now I need to run a long cable for the fast clock system for use in the Exercise Room and build an enclosure for the clock.