Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Work continues on Whiting St Yard

I've been gluing down the yard tracks:

And also started on soldering PC board ties at the edge of the liftout:

The last picture shows what I'm planning here. I'll have a large piece of PC board screwed to the deck, and will solder the PC board ties to that, then cut the rail. This is the track that passes over it at the sharpest angle. I'll bury the ties in ballast to hide the odd angles required to get a tie right across the end of the liftout.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Whiting Street Yard, Stanley Works, etc.

So now that the ops session and layout tour is done, time to get moving on Whiting Street, since I can leave the liftout down for a while.

All the track is in place. The dark brown between the tracks are 3/4" strips of masonite to keep the spacing correct. Now I need to start tacking things down (glue in a few places) and get some feeders in place to test it and make sure everything works before I make things too permanent.

A little bonus is that I discovered I could cut away the foam where the Track Scale House goes, and actually "plant" the structure.

The immediate next job is to finish reconnecting the Berlin Line to the Highland Line. I can run some mock sessions to see how car movements will work.

Stanley Works
I printed out the templates for the Microengineering yard system turnouts and started mocking up around Myrtle Street. Well, that was the plan. Instead I had some ideas of how to do Stanley Works and worked around the entire upper section:

They will work fantastic, and the modifications will allow at least 10 more spotting locations at Stanley Works, and better fit Fafnir and Corbin Screw. I need to draw some sketches to show why I'm making the changes, but as it turns out it will be even better than I expected.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

New England Prototype Meet and Planning

The Proto Meet is done, and as always I had a great time and it's something I look forward to every year.

Ops Session
First I wanted to get the layout operational so I could host an ops session on Thursday night. It's something that I want to do annually. Although I really need to get Whiting Street in operation, I decided it didn't make sense to try to cram that in before the show, and worked on the session instead.

Despite a couple of weeks of work, I still had a number of issues to address. One was a bad turnout, that would only stay on the diverging route. Of course, this is a crossover between Track 1 (the mainline) and Track 5. It was easy enough for them to hold it into the correct position when using it, but I don't know why it suddenly stopped working on the night of the session. It's one that has been operational and scenicked for years now.

I've already fixed it, although I'm not exactly sure how. It involved a thorough cleaning (scraping) with a dental tool. trying to adjust (bend) the centering spring, which is under the throwbar, etc. Somewhere along the line it started working again. However, a more permanent fix is planned. More in a moment.

Proto Meet
The most important thing for me is the inspiration I get from seeing the modeling, but more importantly, from friends. The only clinic I got to was the scenicking one in the main room.

Missing clinics wasn't entirely planned, our daughter's nurse was sick this weekend, so I didn't make it back for Saturday evening (I really wanted to go to Bill Welch's clinic) and I missed his clinic on Friday too, because several of the guys wanted to see the layout, but there was enough traffic that we didn't make it back from that and dinner.

But I get a lot out of just seeing old friends, and met some new folks too that I hope to stay in touch with. One of whom is a brakeman that worked the New Britain job in the late '60s, and another was a signal maintainer on the line at the same time. For example, I now have confirmation that the scale track was not only present, but still used even in the '60s. I also learned that even at that late date they switched out Stanley Works twice a day.

I had a number of in-progress things to display, and hopefully that helped some folks who I talked to about what I'm doing and how, and it also led to other ideas about what I can do differently/better.

On Sunday, I was on the layout tour (Chris and I usually alternate, since he's stuck at work every other year). I had a good turnout, and again spent a lot of time with some new friends learning a lot of new things.

The biggest thing I get out of the weekend is motivation to get more happening on the layout (and hopefully the blog), and that's already happened.

First, I want to have more frequent ops sessions. I don't have a set schedule yet, but the biggest challenge I've always had is that everybody else seems to be a good distance away. So I'd like a big list of people to draw from. In addition, I really want to have it open to as many people as possible. I'm hoping for once or twice a month, but it probably won't start until mid to late summer because of the work I'd like to complete first.

But I've set up a newsletter so folks can sign up and be on the list for when the sessions start:

Sign up for Ops Sessions and Open Houses

The goal for this summer is to finish the infrastructure, specifically:
Whiting Street Yard/Berlin Line
Circuit Breakers
Final track arrangement
Railroad structures (crossing shanties, gates, etc.)

In addition, there are already some changes underway. In the Fafnir section of the layout I had a lot of electrical issues (that weren't there a week before). This probably had something to do with the work I did to separate Stanley Works electrically, and the installation of a circuit breaker. In any event, I didn't get it fully working. But it's also an area that I wasn't always happy with. The bulk of the track was moved from the old Berlin Line section, largely intact. In addition, I've since found a lot more information on the track arrangement on that side of town, and wanted to make some adjustments.


...I've torn it all up. There are some infrastructure issues (a part of the benchwork is plywood that is slightly lower than the rest because it was never intended to have trackwork on it, for example), and I can adjust Myrtle Street to be a much better arrangement to better fit structures. As a bonus, Stanley Works has a little more room too, so I can make adjustments there too (which looks like it will amount to at least 50% of that track arrangement too).

This is one of the benefits of operating for a while, and in using Microengineering track, since it holds it's shape and most of this track is not securely attached yet. Lockshop Pond may be adjusted a bit as well. Much of the track in this section will just be replaced, because the ME yard track system switches will also save space.

There are three sidings to add to the east side of town too, maybe a fourth. Plus we have to address the changes I've been making to the backdrop and area above the helix. I also need to finish the engine servicing tracks.

Signals and Switches
I'm excited about signalling, because I've learned that prototypically I have three pairs of signals to install. It's Automatic Block territory, so the mainline switches are tied into the signalling system. Because of this, I think I'm going to need to move to some sort of actuation for the mainline switches, since it will be difficult to detect the state of the turnout for the signals otherwise. That's OK, because I also really like how my buddy Dale has his mainline turnout controls locked, and requires a key to unlock them before throwing them.

These are still hand-thrown turnouts on the prototype. So part of my prefers the idea of Blue Point, Bullfrog, or similar control options. I can devise a method to lock the control, and they have contacts for the signals. But if I go with the Rapido powered option, then I automatically have the ability to turn the Rapido switch stands for the mainline switches. Right now I'm also testing Proto:87 Stores option for turning switch stands when throwing the points manually.

While I like that throwing the points directly makes it more intuitive, having only the mainline turnouts on the fascia is a good compromise. And I really like the combination of being able to lock the turnouts, tie into signalling, and operating targets. About half of the mainline switches are already scenicked as well, so it will be a bit of a project.

And, of course, I'll have to build the signals. The Highland is one of the lines with left-hand semaphores. I'm already working on getting the parts for those.

Not all of this has to be done to get the operating sessions running again. The paperwork worked fantastic this time (and I ended up being the Agent, which worked very well since I could easily see what I will change for the future). I'll cover that in more detail in a future post. But there's lots to keep me busy for the next couple of months!

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Operations: Empty Car Waybill and Home Route Cards

For my operations, I'm using form 1464 - Empty Car Waybill and Home Route Card as part of the process. It's an interesting piece of paperwork, intended to help ensure that the car routing rules for empty cars was followed. Basically this means the car is returned to the same junction and road from which is was received.

Cars received from a road with a direct connection did not need these cards. When empty they were returned to the nearest junction with that railroad.

These are generally printed on manila cardstock and are about the size of half a waybill.

In reality, there were a number of different form numbers, and I think the variety of the cards highlights their importance on the railroad.

Form 1464: Empty Car Card
The earliest card for the New Haven that I have is from 1919:
This early version serves a slightly different purpose than the later ones. You can tell it's the original version of the card because it's simply Form 1464. As revisions are made, the New Haven added a revision number. So the next version of this form would be 1464-1, or revision 1. Most of them do not include a date, so we're reliant upon finding used forms to know when that version was in use.

This is just an Empty Car card, not a Home Route Card. It is used when an empty is confiscated for loading. In this case the car was in Wallingford, and it is being sent to Brick Yard 5, presumably also in Wallingford.

Form 1457-G: Home Route Card
It appears that Home Route cards were a separate form at the time. While this one is not dated, the style and paper stock leads me to believe it is from the same era, perhaps as late as the '20s.

As you can see, this form is designed to tell you exactly which interchange and road to deliver the car once it has been emptied. Each day that a foreign car is on the road the railroad paid a per diem charge to the owning railroad of the car. This card would be with the waybill of the loaded car. When the car arrived in town, the Home Route car would be filed by the Agent. When the car was empty, this card would be pulled from the file and serve as the waybill for the return trip.

At some point, these two cards, the Empty Car Waybill and Home Route Cards would be combined into a single form. They would also continue using pre-filled versions of this form, like this one that is specifically for the B&A at Worcester. The letter designation ("-G") is for this location. It's not a revision number.

I know this because I have copies of several of the later forms thanks to George Ford.

Form 1462-C: Empty Car Waybill and Home Route Card
Here's one from 1952 (?) it might be 1962:

And the same form from 1962.

As you can see, there is a section in the middle of the cards now for reloading, and the point to return the car is printed on the form itself. However, it is unclear whether the appending number ("-2") is indicating a revision of the card, or a different form altogether since one of them is printed for NYC at Campbell Hall, and the other is the Erie and Maybrook.

Based on several others, I think it's just the form number in this case, not the revision number:

Note that several of them are for the L&H railroad, but note a specific connection beyond that road.

Form 1464: Empty Car Waybill and Home Route Card
But what about the form I'm using? It appears this is a blank card that doesn't have a specific loading point pre-printed on the form. In this case I have several revisions.

In this case I have revisions -5. 6, and 7 in addition to the original I posted above. You can see minor differences as the form was revised, first with the addition of a section on the interior condition of the car, then with a place to note the last commodity and type of floor. I have blanks for -6, and -7, but might modify one back to the -5 revision since I know that one was in use in 1952. I don't have any for the late '40s yet, so I'm not sure what would be different there.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Operations: Switch Lists

So in the last post, I mentioned that the primary job of the Station Agent is to write out switch lists for the crews. But what are they, and how do they go about creating them?

For years, Chris and I were trying to hunt down an elusive NH Switch List. We had an early one:
I'd seen some other switch list forms on from other railroads, but nothing that directly applied to our particular era.

We had come to the conclusion that crews often used them to do their work, and also had come to the realization that they were prepared for the crew, by the Agent. This makes sense, because while the crew would have waybills for the cars on their train, they wouldn't have any idea what work to do in a given town in regards to pick ups. This doesn't mean that the conductor might take that paperwork and write his own switch list in whatever format they prefer.

The first New Haven document that had specific information about switch lists is a document that describes the installation and use of a new computerized system installed by IBM in 1945 in Maybrook and Cedar Hill, to be expanded over the next few years to other major yards.

They showed a comparison between the old:

and new:

As this is a switch list for the Maybrook hump, it notes that it was made in triplicate, with copies for the hump yardmaster, the car marker, and general yardmaster. They were not provided to the trick yardmaster, home route clerk, or record clerk at the general yard office. In addition, it specifically states it was transcribed by the yard clerk fro the bills or inbound train arrival sheet.

In other words, they didn't know what cars were coming in until the train arrived.

For the new computerized switch list, it was transmitted ahead of the train, and copies were also furnished to the receiving yard office file, trick yardmaster, home route clerk, and record clerk. However, this only applied to yards with the new equipment, and small yards (like New Britain) would have to handle the paperwork the old way.

An important thing to notice is that while the handwritten switch list is on a form for that purpose, it only loosely follows the format, and there are two columns when the form is designed only for one. In other words, they didn't follow the format of the form or fill in all of the columns.

The handwritten list contains the following information:

In the header is the date, the originating road (O&W), and number of loads (81), the outbound train (NE-6),  and departure time (10.15 am).

There's one line (806 804) and I'm not sure what that is. If it's power, those would be G-4-a locomotives, not something I'd expect on NE-6.

Road - Car No. - Destination - Weight (I think) - Track No.

It ignores the columns for Station From, Consignee, Contents, Classification, Seals and Rider (which indicates this particular form was probably only used at the hump yards).

The computerized form contains the following information:
In the header:
Inbound train (L&H 1-92) arrived in Maybrook at 7.50 am on 7/11/46 with 64 loads and 1 empty.
Then the same info as the handwritten oneL
Road - Car No. - Destination - Weight - Track No., plus notes (several are listed as explosive)

What's clear in both examples is that it only lists important information for the crew to do their work, and nothing more.

I also came across what look like several B&O switch lists, specifically for blocking an outbound train:

This handwritten list is on the back of a B&O Home Route card. Without any more info, it's hard to know exactly what it was, but that's what it looks like to me. It's similar to a couple of NH Home Route cards that I have with what are clearly notes taken by a new employee at a yard, basically things to remember about the new job.

George Ford, once an agent at Thompsonville, has a sizeable amount of old railroad paperwork and had a folder labeled "Switch Lists" that simply held manila cards. He also had one of the old switch list forms, blank, with his wife's shopping list on the back.

The reason it has been hard to find NH switch lists is because they weren't a form required for the railroad to do business. They were simply a tool for the crew to do their work, after which they were just thrown out. Although they published some forms for the purpose, it appears that agents would use what was handy, rather than order the actual forms.


In talking to Dale and Joseph, who are both freight conductors on prototype railroads, they confirmed that they get switch lists when they come on duty. There's a different list for each cut of cars they receive, which is essentially a wheel report, in that it lists the cars as they appear in the cut. In addition, they get switch lists for pick-ups in town. They receive them via email, but also paper copies, which they just throw out when done.

They also confirm that where there is more than one crew, they all receive the same paperwork. The crews work out who will do what work between them (although since they do this every day, it's largely known by them anyway).


So for the agent on the layout, their switch list just needs to include whatever info the crews needs to do their work, and will probably follow the format of the handwritten NH example pretty closely. For inbound trains it requires the industry and track number or spotting location if needed. For cars being picked up, the outbound train and block must be noted so the crew knows how to build the outbound cuts.

They compile the lists from several sources:

Waybills from inbound trains. They list the cars in the order they appear on the train.

Report of Cars on Hand. This notes loads and empties that are ready to pull as reported at the end of the previous day (something that Joseph confirmed they still do on the Pioneer Valley Railroad). The loads have waybills, the empties have Home Route Cards unless they are a direct connection. Then no paperwork is required. The Agent has this paperwork to work from.

More requests for empties or loads to pick up that I provide during the session from industries.

In the past, Chris and I have used a Santa Fe switch list that I modified to add a New Haven header. Going forward, I may let the agent use whatever he would prefer for them, and if I can dig up a blank form 1426-1 switch list form, I'll have those available too.