April Ops and winter changes!

This is going to be a busy month for ops. I’ve got 3 sessions scheduled with 3 different groups of people. The first one was last weekend.

What’s changed since my last post? I’ve been tweaking the crap out of JMRI. I changed the tracks in Nelson so that 5-7 were each assigned to a particular train (5 is 81 west and 90 east, 6 is 87 west and 92 east, etc)

I changed the plan for Nelson yard – that’s detailed in This Post.

I’ve also been doing some more scenery. I finished off the fascia at Shields and put in the big fill – but my local dollar store changed their construction paper to something flimsier, so I’m having issues with the fill now 😦

West of Shields, the line comes out of Shields Creek valley, over a retaining wall, and through a tunnel, all high above Lower Arrow Lake. This is a scenic highlight that I’m very excited about. I haven’t got the time to work on it myself, but my dad chipped in a little and did some light scenicking on my behalf. Thanks, dad!

During the op session, not many people could make it. I tried dividing the jobs into different crews, so that people wouldn’t have nothing to do.

20170401 crew calls

There were 5 people, but this requires 6. (4 road crews, 1 yard, 1 dispatcher.) I decided to be crew D, just to get movements done.

The session started off around 0500 with me bringing the sleeper into Nelson, and the yard crew working away to get 87 out and about. Jon was crew C, so I gave him #11 to kill the real life hour before his first train was due. Here he is halfway up the hill at Shields. 4080’s headlight was burned out, but it’s the Kootenay Express, they can’t stop and wait!

In the yard, Brian was fantastic. Both trains 87 and 81 were ready to go on time, which was ironic, considering I removed them as scheduled trains.

The Kraft Switcher was running as No. 87, seen here crossing the Kootenay river at Taghum.

The eastbound Boundary sub. wayfreight departs Midway early, at 0730, so their work at Grand Forks, which is 90% of switching, is done before the westbound wayfreight arrives. Here Doug is, working on Grand Forks with Extra 8610 East, while 87 crosses the Kootenay below.

A first for the Kootenay Division, Cam actually finished the Kraft job. It took from 0830 to 2130, but he did it! Hardly heard a peep from him the whole session, though.

The east and west Boundary sub wayfreights met perfectly at Farron – I love it when a plan comes together. Too bad I was running 92.

8610 arriving in Castlegar:

81 working Grand Forks Sawmills, the main industry in the area and within GF yard limits (inspires creativity!)

After 81 and 92, the eastbound Cranbrook freight from Nelson were made up and departed on time, Brian had a lull in the yard while waiting for Extra 8610 and Extra 8647 to arrive back. Out came a through freight from Penticton and other points west. Must be a mudslide on the mainline! Extra 4072 East following Extra 8610 down the hill.

The last train of the day was 12. It ran right to schedule east from Midway to Cranbrook.

Finally, all trains made it into Nelson, leaving just the sleeper to be thrown together. The session lasted from 0500 to 2230 on the 4:1 fast clock, about 12:30 to 5:30 real time. The Kootenays are pretty grueling.

The takeaway from this session was encouraging. With 4 road crews, few meets were necessary, and the dispatcher’s position was manageable despite the time it takes to dictate train orders.

My new timetable has instructions on wording (meet vs pass, run vs permission to go from A to B) so there wasn’t any confusion. Nobody had to back up!

Additionally, I finally got everyone signing the registers!

I’ll be tweaking the design before the next session to make them more clear.

Over at the dispatcher’s desk, things look busy.

Enough paper for you? I finally got my own copy of the 1962 UCOR, which has helped me hone my train order protocol.

Train sheet and train order record

Two more changes: Stick-on arrow tabs to indicate where trains are. Dispatchers tend to forget about the Boundary sub wayfreights during the hour or more that they’re in Grand Forks. This helps! The arrow indicates direction.

I also got more phones so that there’s always one within reach if necessary. (Justification: There’s a phone in a shack in Celgar, and another in the station at Procter despite it losing its operator)

Lastly, a pile of train orders.

A good session, all in all. Up next: A non-train-people guest session, and a session for out of town folk during Supertrain. Can’t wait to see how those go!



Changes to Nelson Yard, Part 1

Two things led me to make some fairly major changes to Nelson, the largest yard on the layout, and one that has its own assigned switch crew (and possibly 2 in the future)

The first was a comment from the yard crew, mixed in with others from my last op session, that it would be nice if Nelson had a yard lead so the switch job wouldn’t need to clear the main. No problem!

I decided to pull out 2 of the 3 switches at the east end of Nelson, push the main track outside of where it previously met with the yard lead, and effectively double track it through Procter. I also put a crossover in where the east siding switch previously was.

Removing the 2 switches from the east end was easy, but turned out to be fantastic, as even though they were cut to fit a specific space, they fit perfectly in with the new switches in Procter!

Original position. At left is an industry track to various warehouses, centre is the main, the MLW S2s are on the yard lead, and to the right is the shops.

With switches carefully removed…

…I took them to their new position, and cut out that precise length of track.

Then I installed them by sliding the rail joiners completely onto the turnouts, and then sliding them back once in place.

Mission complete!

Now, the crossover was difficult. I couldn’t fit a pair of turnouts into the space available as a traditional crossover, so I opted to use a curved turnout on the main. A Fast Tracks 30″/20″ radius #8 turnout would fit, but I wouldn’t want to spend $150 on a fixture for a single turnout. So I downloaded their template, printed it out, and went at it! I made sure to bend all the rails to just the right curvature and shape before soldering them down.

It ended up being very sexy, even though it took more than twice as long to build as a regular turnout! I installed it across from a normal #8, making the S curve very gentle.

I use Ribbonrail track alignment gauges on my curves, and in this case, I used it to keep the curve flowing properly into the switch as I laid it.

Looking good!

I throw my turnouts with servos controlled by Tam Valley Octopus IIIa boards, and to save on outputs, my crossovers are thrown by a single output together.

So far, it’s been operating nearly flawlessly. Huzzah!

There are more changes to tracks that haven’t been laid yet. Let’s look at the plan again.

I’ve had issues with JMRI not being able to move all the cars it should, and it’s due to limitations within the yard. Look just below the diesel shops and left of the roundhouse, and you’ll see the RIP (Repair In Place) yard. I had 2 tracks in the original plan, and I was simply going to put bad ordered cars there until I could get to them.

Instead, I moved things around so that there were 4 tracks of the maximum length that fit (#5 ladder) to use as an overflow for the class yard. I may even end up building the shorter trains, such as the Creston turn and my Tadanac wayfreight on them. (The second may be short lived, however.)

I also moved the drop-down wye further into the aisle. It’s still up in the air whether it will be built as such.

Lastly, I moved the top right tracks a bit. In real life, the merchandise terminal is on the north (aisle) side of its tracks, but I moved it to the far side so the switch crew could actually reach it!

Time to have an op session to test this out.