Tuesday, December 20, 2011

ACL #77034 flat car

ACL #77034, a 50-ton AAR Standard Flat Car, in New Britain Yard. I completed the Proto 2000 model one evening last week (a very quick build). It came with a pipe load which I'll build later when I'm working on loads for open top cars. I didn't make any modifications to the base kit.

In general, I'm building kits as they come, with a few exceptions (primarily running boards and handbrakes). This is basically because they are no different at this point than the RTR versions. When I pull the car for weathering I'll add missing details (uncoupling levers, etc.) and change the couplers and wheelsets if needed.

In addition, there's a new video on my YouTube channel of NY-4 in New Britain. As I continue testing the layout, I ran this train forward both eastbound and westbound with no issues or derailments at all. I'm very happy with my trackwork so far. The Atlas S-2 is a pretty good puller as well, which is good because this will be the regular locomotive for this train. At least until I can get a better quality S-2 model. I may just work on the shell, since the chassis works pretty well. I'll also eventually have to replace the MRC sound decoder. I'm happy that I have sound in it, but from what I've been told, it just doesn't sound like an Alco.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

First test session complete

Joseph came over to run some trains and see how the layout is operating. We ran trains for about 2 1/2 to 3 hours with a quick break in the middle to meet somebody new (more about that in a minute).

I had staged the deliveries from the night before on the siding. I had NY-4 staged to come online during the session. I did not run any passenger trains, but noted when they would come through. Joseph did the switching, with me as a brakeman since I don't have extension panels or wireless yet.

The session went very well. One turnout in the yard derailed a couple of cars. I tweaked it a bit this evening and it seems to be functioning better. Everything was in gauge and I wasn't really able to identify anything specific wrong with it. But I peeled the glued portion off of the roadbed to let it self-align and it seems to be OK.

One track had a loose feeder that I'll need to fix. All tracks worked, although it's clear that I need to power the frogs.

About 2/3 of the way through the session, Gary R. stopped by. Gary bought and RDC I posted on eBay, about 2 minutes after I posted it (I hadn't even received the confirmation email from eBay that I posted it yet). Gary lives in Waterbury, so he decided to come by and pick it up. He's a great guy, just starting to determine what he'll be modeling in and around Waterbury in the mid to late '50s. He's also an avid Trainz (virtual) modeler and has modeled the entire Naugatuck line virtually in the late '40s. Joseph also uses Trainz. So I'm looking forward to seeing what both of them have done in the virtual world at some point.

So I'm sure we'll be hearing from Gary again in the future, and it certainly sounds like his layout will be very interesting too. In the meantime, everything seems to be running very smoothly on the layout, so I'm thinking that I'll be picking up some scenicking supplies at Springfield this year to get moving.

Friday, December 9, 2011

All tracks are operational

I completed adding feeders to all of the industrial tracks that are currently in place. Everything works (including the crossing I built), and will be tested more thoroughly.

Joseph is coming by tomorrow to run a test session. I have the cars left overnight staged, and in addition to having him run the local switching job I'll bring in a passenger train or two and NY-4 to drop off additional cars.

I will try to get some paperwork assembled for a test run tomorrow as well. So far the consensus is that it looks good, although I think I'm going to go for a larger size than Tony Koester or Tony Thompson uses. Chris and Dick agreed with that direction, Pete was fine with the smaller ones.

We'll see how it goes!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

AO-5 has been dieselized

AO-5 came through New Britain with a thirty car train hauled by an FA-1/FB-1/FA-1 set. The locomotives are so new they haven't even been painted.


This is the first time I've tested the P2k FA-1/FB-1 sets. These are the undec version which will be painted in the delivery scheme. I have to add dynamic brakes (available from Bowser/Cal Scale), get rid of the Mars light which also requires filling in the headlight in the door, and install DCC sound.

To give you an idea of the scale of this train, the locomotives are just over Main Street in the picture. On the layout, the station is about 6' away from Main Street (where the single stub siding is). If I modeled it 100% to scale it would beabout 7' 9" long. So the layout in this area is only compressed about 23%.

AO-5 hauling loads and empties to Maybrook (and the only scheduled train to do so in late '47) typically hauled 80-100+ cars. So a 30 car train is compressed over 50%. But it has the right sense of scale, since it blocks all of the grade crossings on the layout.

The white building mockups are the Russell & Erwin factory, plus the Embassy Diner (just past the end of the box car).

I haven't decided if I'm going to run this train this length, but it will look considerably longer than the other through freights if I do. It is stopped in New Britain to pick up additional loads and empties for Maybrook (blocked at two different points in the train) and comes through town after the switchers are off duty. YN-1 coming eastbound is due in about 25 minutes to pick up additional cars bound for Cedar Hill. Following only 20 minutes behind YN-1 is train #472 to Hartford. It will pick up the storage mail car that has been loaded on the station siding and is the last train of the session.

If I follow the 1947 schedule strictly, then this is the only Maybrook freight that will operate during the session. OA-6 drops off cars at about 1:00 AM. I might add OA-4 which ran at various times from 4:00 PM, 7:25 PM, 10:30 PM, and 12:30 AM. If I do, this train will be the shorter of the Maybrook freight and hauled by an L-1.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Fleet and operations

I haven't had much modeling time over the last couple of days, but I have been working through more of the details of my roster and operations, particularly the associated paperwork. For those who haven't seen it, I highly recommend Tony Thompson's blog as he has a number of very detailed posts on both subjects, among others.

I'm generally following the Nelson-Gilbert hypothesis that free-roaming cars like box cars should be represented on my layout in roughly the same ratios as the national roster. To that end I'm planning on roughly 1 box car per every 5,000 rostered. So using a spreadsheet that was posted on the Steam Era Freight Car Yahoo Group that compared the national box car rosters to the cars represented in the NMRA Charles Winter collection of photos, I compared the number of cars in my planned roster by road. As it turns out, with the models available on the market today, I'm right about where I should be with my planned roster. I have a number of extra cars planned, but the basic ratios match very well. While this does not address the mix of types of cars (single-sheathed vs. all steel), nor does it mean that the most plentiful classes of cars for a given railroad are always represented, it does show that I can develop a very representative roster using only the highly detailed models that are currently available without a lot of stand-ins.

In conjunction with this I've been looking at the operations paperwork. Tony's approach is very much along the lines of what I want to do. On the Model Railcast Show, Craig Bisgeier has also been talking about an operations application he's working on called 'Here to There' and his descriptions are also very close to what I'm thinking.

What I'd like to have is:
 •Paperwork with a prototypical appearance
 •Waybills properly generated by the loading road, not based on the car.
 •Paperwork is generated based on shipments, not a specific car.
 •I will select appropriate cars to account for ICC rules, rarity of cars, etc.

I'm finding that not only is this acheivable, it actually simplifies things. I have tried a number of applications, some quite expensive, to accomplish what I'd like. But they all require an enormous amount of input to approximate an accurate operational scheme. While some applications do feature loads, and fill 'orders' based on shippers and consignees, they don't account for ICC loading rules, or maintain a proper mix of cars other than your general roster.

Most of our rosters aren't balanced well as a whole. For example, some relatively rare cars are over represented -  Atlas 1932 ARA, Proto 2000 50' Box and Auto Cars, Proto 2000 Mather Box Cars, etc. Other more common cars may be underrepresented, such as the NYC USRA Design steel box car (formerly available only as a Westerfield model, soon to be available from Broadway Limited.

Writing a program to account for the general ICC loading rules, how rare a car is, etc. is very complicated. In addition, all of the waybill programs I am aware of base the waybill on the loaded car. While this is accurate some of the time, the reality is that the waybill was generated by the loading railroad. Since the ICC Interchange rules requires a road to load an available foreign car first, it's just as likely that the New Haven would be loading a car bound for Texas in an ATSF box car as a NH box car. But the waybill will still be a NH waybill.

So right now I'm working on creating my potential waybills in Excel, and using a Word document with the waybill images set up using a Mail Merge to populate the data. Although it has taken quite a bit of thinking through, it's coming together nicely. Now the challenge I have is identifying what the various industries in New Britain would receive, and more importantly, what they would ship and where.

By doing it manually, all I have to do is populate relatively repetative information - The Household Fuel company receives coal of various types and grades. Once I've identified that, I simply duplicate it for the various railroads that might have shipped coal to New Britain, CT, and voila! I have all of the potential waybills I need for that industry. I don't need enter all of my roster, trains, interchanges, etc. nor do I need a complicated program to fulfill the order. I just need the waybill and then take a look at the available cars in storage to select an appropriate car to put on a train in staging.

What's even better is that I'm gaining a much better understanding of how all of this worked, and it actually makes sense, and gives a purpose to the layout.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

NY-2 in New Britain

J-1 #3012 struggled to haul NY-2 into New Britain today. Initially 15 cars, it was still having some difficulty when reduced to 10 cars. I have not done any sort of performance improvement on the locomotive yet. It is still just DC, and I haven't added any weight either.

I should be able to improve the performance considerably with DCC and weight. But like the L-1, it will never pull as many cars as three to four RS-3s on these trains in later years, or an FA-1/FB-1/FA-1 set for the Maybrook freights.

Because I'm using diesel and steam power for 1947, I have a plan to handle these descrepancies. Based on the freight timetables, it appears that in general the trains bound for Holyoke drop off cars in New Britain, and trains bound for Cedar Hill pick them up. This mirrors the Maybrook freights - Hartford bound drop off, Maybrook bound pick up. My operating sessions will be an extended daytime session.

Three of the five trains that drop off cars in New Britain run at night (between midnight and 5:00 am). So I will 'run' these trains off session, and the cars are staged on the sidings. The switching crew starts the day just like on the prototype, with a string of cars to work. The last through train to drop off cars is already hauled by a diesel (DEY-5) which was a prototypically short train because of the motive power at this time. The last train to drop off cars is HDX-5, the New Hartford local, which is also a short train.

The afternoon and evening trains pick up cars in New Britain. These trains will be primarily steam hauled, and shorter trains, until they pick up cars in New Britain. But these can be much longer since they will only have to go down the helixes.

So this will allow me to continue to run both steam and diesel locomotives, with the limitations imposed by the two helixes, and keep the trains looking 'right'.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

NY-4 in New Britain

I just ran NY-4 through New Britain behind DEY-5 #0615.

This is one of the scheduled trains, with the correct locomotive, at least until I get a better detailed S-2 than the Atlas one. I started with a 15 car train, but it was just a bit too much for it on the helix. I have the decoder set to a maximum of 30 smph (the prototype's top speed). Of course, with a full train it was slower, particularly up the helix. But the prototype would be as well. So I'm not sure if I'll bump it up a bit or leave it.

In the end, it hauled a 12 car train up, with only one location on the helix where I had to give it a push. I'll have to test that point on the helix (last turn before the Berlin Line branches off).

It came up the Berlin Line as appropriate, and I was even able to stop it before the turnout for the crew to throw the switch. There was no problem restarting on the curved grade. It then proceeded and dropped off 5 cars before continuing west to Plainville.

I'll have to remember to bring a camera next time...

Friday, December 2, 2011

Testing commences

Over the last few days I have completed laying all of the mainline track. In addition, I've added enough feeders to test all of New Britain Yard and the associated industries. The industries on the east side of town (on top of the helix) are not wired yet. As yet there are no tracks for the west side of town.
The most difficult track to navigate is the long siding on the north side of the westbound mainline. Entering this track is via a curved crossover that also goes up a fairly steep grade. The track is then a pretty much continuous curve with 6 turnouts. The I-2 and L-1 successfully navigated this track (westbound), although they will never have to do so in an operating session. But I'd like as much of the track to function with as much equipment as possible.
Test Session
So this morning I tested a portion of an operating session. 
  • I staged on the siding 22 cars representing the cars left overnight by OA-6, NY-2 and EA-2.
  • I was only operating one switcher to do the work.
  • I did not run any through trains; expected were two eastbound trains and I did not foul the eastbound main.
  • I did not run NY-4 or HDX-5 which presumably would have dropped off another 10-15 cars.
  • I was operating at fairly prototypical speeds, and allowing time for the crew to work (walking to turnouts, etc.)
  • I did not make allowances for train lengths. I was using the DEY-1b, and the T-2-b and DEY-4 probably won't reliably move more than 5-7 cars at a time, at least up the grade. I have not determined prototypical train lengths for these switchers yet, although photographic evidence shows at least 6 cars. On level track either model will handle at least 10 easily.
In about 1 1/2 - 2 hours of operating I was able to:
  • Block 11 cars for west side industries (to be switched by the other switcher crew)
  • Sort and block the remaining cars.
  • Switch out Armour, Swift, Landers Frary & Clark, New Britain Lumber, Cohen Williams, Carlson & Torrell, and Household Fuel, and sent cars to the Freight House and Team Tracks.
In total I sorted 22 cars, dropped off 11, plus another 11 set out for other switcher, and picked up 15 cars.
The loads and empties picked up were blocked in groups for Maybrook and Cedar Hill freights for later pickups.
In a full operating session there would be another 2 trains dropping off 10-15 more cars, plus 5 trains picking up cars, along with 8 passenger trains.
The end results - mechanically things worked pretty well. The track needs cleaning, more feeders, powered frogs, and I'll probably need to add jumpers to the points of the turnouts as well for reliability. No derailments.
Operationally, it looks like the planned amount of work will be plenty. I didn't have any waybills, nor did I add any additional work (empty requests, car moves, etc.). It's possible that I might be able to add a few more cars when I have a Stanley Works operator as well, but we'll have to see. The yard will probably be fairly congested with incoming trains and blocks for outgoing trains.
But so far things are going better than I expected. I have more tweaking and testing I'd like to do before having an 'official' test session, but it won't be long.