Friday, March 30, 2012

Uh...I don't know

Or maybe, "That's never happened before." These are the recurring themes of Operation Session

v0.12 (still in beta).

v0.1 was some simple testing by myself here at home.

v0.11 was Joe coming by to test operations with a simple switch list

So last night was v0.12 with six guys (in no particular order - Dick, Pete, Pieter, John, Dave and Tom) with sample waybills, and a theoretically properly staged layout for a simple session.

•Waybills are set-outs only, we're using the tried-and-true pull one car for every one you set out.
•Three trains (OA-6, NY-2, and EA-2) have already dropped off cars overnight.
•Two local crews are assigned to the 44-tonners to work New Britain.
•Passenger service is suspended for the day.
•NY-4 and HDX-5 are expected sometime in the morning.
•Switching crews are Tom and John, and Pete and Pieter.
•Dick and Dave are running the additional freights.

So right off the bat there are problems with the controllers (MRC Wireless, latest firmware upgrades). Locomotives aren't responding consistently. This is never really resolved for the night. I will be in contact with MRC to look into the issues.

Theories - too many locomotives. Although I have had all 4 locomotives (with sound) idling before, I don't think I've ever had them all running. But, issues started with only two locomotives running and two idling. We tried swapping throttles, and I also switched the base from 'All Throttles' to 'Cab #1 to #8".

The answer? Uh...I don't know. That's never happened before.

The majority of the issues seemed to revolve around this. There was one section of dead track, I added two feeders and that was OK.

The Whiting Street Yard seemed to have a lot of control issues. John and I tested the voltage, and it seemed to be a lot lower there (which didn't make a lot of sense). Later testing looked OK, I haven't tested running a locomotives over there yet.

So again, the answer? Uh...I don't know. That's never happened before.

You can tell there's going to be a pattern here, so I'll skip ahead.
So what about the session. Overall I think is was good. I knew going in that sorting cars to be delivered would be a challenge to somebody who doesn't know where all of the industries are. I think the crews worked that out pretty well, although it will improve with future sessions.
Because of the design of New Britain Yard itself as a single-ended yard, and the unfortunate need for the grade and curve at the end of the yard, things got a little bunched up.

My understanding is that there was a long siding on the west side of town where eastbound trains dropped cars, another on the east side for the westbound trains. In addition, I'm pretty sure the Holyoke freights dropped their cars in or near Whiting Street Yard. In the current configuration, these strings of cars are all left in the center of town, which makes things more complicated.

So, for future sessions I will use the two sidings I have for the OA and EA freights, but I'll stage the NY freights in Whiting Street Yard. I'm not sure how I'll manage the Holyoke freights coming into town since the exit from the helix will eventually be hidden track making it impractical to back those trains to the yard. I may engineer a staging track (with an unfortunate lift-out) for the Holyoke freights. This would have the benefit of eliminating the turnout in the helix (and a second one on the Berlin line).

This will also have the benefit of spreading out the switchers at the start of the session. In addition, the first freight to come in during the session is NY-4 which will also drop off cars at Whiting Street Yard. So each switching crew will have two cuts of cars to classify and sort.
In the meantime, I need to work on figuring out the electrical and control glitches and complete the trackwork on the west side of town.

So work will continue. There will be a lull while a construction crew builds a new bedroom for Emily. I'll have to protect some of the layout from the construction. So it gives me some time to work out the details of the changes and updates, and then to get things ready for the NE Proto Meet in June.