Sunday, February 19, 2017


My SP Cascade Line features a number of turnouts located quite near the layout edge.  Most of these use manual pushrod throws with BluePoint switch machines.  A significant issue for me has been that my normal pushrod mounting through the layout fascia is significantly below the distance between the top of the BluePoint machine and its throw bar.  The close-to-the-edge turnout locations needed some way to eliminate the under-layout height difference when the switch machines were mounted directly to the subroadbed underside.  The throw rods for these machines typically are only two inches long, which creates too much vertical component to the movement if connected directly to the machine throwbar.

Eugene Classification Yard with three turnouts mounted near the layout edge.

My initial design solution for the height difference led to my creation of an offset throwrod attachment bracket mounted to the switch machine throwbar.  While this bracket brought the throwbar attachment down to a level where the throwrod could be mounted on a level.  While this seemed to satisfy the geometry needs, the actual service history has not been good.  There was a bit of flex in my brackets.  Quite a bit of force needed to be applied to overcome the slight over-center force needed for the BluePoint machine.  Often, my operating crews tagged these switches as un-throwable.

Original offset throwrod attachment bracket on BluePoint machine on the left.  The machine on the right, mounted further away from the fascia, could accept the slight vertical angle of the throwrod.

When I mounted the BluePoint switch machines for a couple of the aisle-side turnouts in the Eugene Arrival-Departure Yard, I finally tried a simpler idea.  I added a spacer block between the subroadbed and the switch machine.  Duh!  That much simpler idea is the right solution.  I should have listened to the advice offered up in Mechanical Engineering 101—the simplest solution usually is the best solution.

After the last operating session, wherein at least one of these aisle-side mountings had to be thrown—with difficulty!—from underneath, I realized I needed to systematically remount all of those switch machines.  As with all such projects, once the initial installation has been done, the rest go much swifter.  I re-mounted nine manual throw machines.  They needed spacer blocks 3/8 to ½ inch thick to compensate for the mounting height differences.  I got quite good at removing the old mount, installing a spacer block, and remounting the machines with longer music wire activation rods inserted in the switch throwbars.

Remounted manual switch machine on the left.  The spacer block between the subroadbed underside and the BluePoint switch machine solves the height difference issue for the throwrod mounted in the layout fascia.

The new mountings provide a solid, easy switch throw, perhaps easier than any of the other manual switch throws on the layout.  This should solve this operating problem.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017


Formal operating sessions on my SP Cascade Line finally started off in early February. For many model railroads, twelve sessions would be accomplished in a single year of monthly sessions.  Schedule conflicts, holidays and weather extended the time for me to reach that milestone to almost a year and a half.  Still it is gratifying to have a dozen sessions completed.

Nineteen operators joined me for this session.  As recorded in these pages previously, this session marked the introduction of two important supporting structures.  The new operator platform for Crescent Lake retired the use of step ladders, much to my liability relief.  It helps Crescent Lake operations a great deal.  A crowd of three or four operators easily fit on the platform, allowing a couple of train crews (e.g., in-bound and out-bound) to coordinate and control their activities.

Dick E., serving as Conductor of a RR-East train talks to the Dispatcher as he and his engineer look upon their train at Crescent Lake.  The new platform helps a great deal!

The second construction project of the last couple of months was a new Dispatcher’s Panel (model board) mounted to the desk.  The desk was modified to put it on wheels.  This allowed the Dispatcher’s desk and panel to be wheeled into our exercise room.  That, in turn, provided the noise isolation my Dispatchers have craved.

Mike Y. serves as Dispatcher in a room with a door he can use to shut the noise out.

This operating session used the same train line-up we have used since starting full mainline operations in June, 2015.  A dozen trains travel the full mainline, while five locals serve on-layout industries.  A yard crew of four (yardmaster, Santa Clara Tower Operator, East and West Switchers) keeps the action going by making or breaking up trains as needed. 

Action is heavy in the Eugene Classification Yard across from the depot.  Left to right, West Switcher Rick A. works his end of the yard.  Mike L. with the Eugene City Switcher (one of the locals) works industries in the depot area.  Engineer Brigg F. runs his train through on the mainline.  Yardmaster Dave H. is organizing the yard work while East Switcher Scott B. awaits instructions.  Tom D. passes by, having completed his work with the first Springfield local.

Santa Clara Tower Operator Vic N. hostles road power from the engine facility to a waiting RR-West train.  With additional crew members, a hostler can be assigned to help the tower operator.  Though the job is titled “Tower Operator,” it actually involves controlling operations in the Eugene Arrival/Departure Yard.  The tower function of the job controls the many switches in the yard throat.  Vic has helped define this job, but will soon move on to learning additional jobs on the railroad.  This job became much easier by moving Crescent Lake operations up onto the platform seen behind Vic.

Model Railroad operation involves waiting.  Two crews wait for clearance out of the Eugene Arrival/Departure Yard.  Assistant Chief Dispatcher John B. tries to get traffic rolling by coordinating among crews, train availability and the session Dispatcher (in the room behind the slightly ajar door).  Mike B. and Brigg F. form one crew, while Josef B. serves as another crew.  Both are awaiting clearance out of the yard—a common situation for railroaders.

Out on the line, up in the mountains, Greg P. copies train authority from the Dispatcher, while Rodger C. controls his train down through Cruzatte (RR-Eastbound).  In the distance, helper engineer Norm A. and train crew Dick E. and Dave C. hold in the clear on the Wicopee siding for Rodger’s eastbound. 

Harry B. and Tom D. teamed up to work the first Springfield Turn.  This job switches the industries on the depot side of the mainline.  Harry B. built the model of Tilbury Cement, the green structure close to the backdrop on the right. 

Bill M. works the Oakridge Turn.  This job starts the session in Oakridge, providing activity that does not require Eugene Yard interaction until the Turn returns to Eugene. 

Some of the “activity” is simply waiting.  Helper engineer Norm A. and road engineer Josef B. wait with their train at McCredie Springs.

The wait at McCredie Springs eventually yields a meet with a RR-Eastbound train.  Both will be moving soon.

At times, one could capture multiple trains in action.  Rodger C. is barely visible underneath Cascade Summit bringing a train through McCredie Springs.  Josef B. has made it to Cascade Summit.  In the foreground, Jim M. awaits another RR-Westbound to put his helper set on.  Bill M. continues to work the Oakridge Turn.  He has just delivered cars to the engine facility at Oakridge (oil and supplies).  Norm A. set his throttle for his helpers, so he is just biding time and movement—much like full-sized helper operations! (wink)  Mike B. watches the action up high as a train crawls up-grade out of Cruzatte toward Cascade Summit.

A critical part of my operating sessions is lunch!  We often serve chili while the crew brings potluck.  Nobody goes away hungry!

A mid-session break for lunch allows the crew to relax a bit and converse.  This social aspect of operating sessions is important and should not be overlooked!

Toward the end of the session, traffic got snarled at Springfield.  A mainline RR-West train occupies the main.  The second Springfield job occupies the siding and Booth Kelly tracks.  The Marcola Turn is using the depot and drill tracks.  Unfortunately, there is a RR-East Train just outside of view to the right with no place to go.    This turns out not to be a Dispatcher error, but rather a missed communication by the Springfield local crew who failed to get Dispatcher permission to exit Eugene, use the Judkins block and then occupy the Springfield Siding to do their work.  Count this as an example for a teaching moment for the next operating session.

The railroad performed well and the crew had a good time.  Most were already “marking up” for the next session in four weeks.