November 19, 2017

NJ-DC Interchange 2017


Trains 3 and 4 meet at Brooke.
Bill and Henry pass Brooke
This year it was the Washington DC area layout owners turn to host the annual NJ-DC interchange. It is an annual event that has developed over the past few years where layout owners from each region host the layout owners from the other region.  We had a whole weekend full of events and op sessions planned for our northern visitors. Alas, I was not fully recovered from my cold, so I only participated by hosting an op session on Sunday morning.

My gallant crew of boomers included Henry Freeman, Bill Raymond, Tom Piccirillo, Andy Busgard and Jim Schweitzer.  Since the op session had to start in the morning to give the visitors time to drive home, we ran the morning session on Aquia Landing. This was the first time we ran the morning session.

Andy and Tom switch Falmouth
Henry and Bill ran Trains 3 and 6, while Andy and Tom ran Trains 4  and 5 back. The initial trains got off to a slightly late start, but they were able to make their meets on time. After a brief learning curve on the couplers and Stanton throttles, both crews did a great job and the trains ran extremely well.  Whew!

The commissary provided their usual great snacks, this time dark, double chocolate Ghiradelli brownies, coffee and tea. Thank's Alicia.










Jim has the right whiskers for operating on Aquia, but he took
PoLA for most of the session.
Meanwhile, Jim Schweitzer ran PoLA as a solo operator. He is an experienced operator so I knew he could handle it. I used the revised switchlist that listed hold cars as well as pick-ups and set-outs. I also added an extra task by requiring the out-bound cars to be classified according to destination railroad, UP and BNSF in this case. Jim liked the railroad and remarked that it was a lot of work for 5 sidings. He also felt that he could have used a 2-man crew as the job has a lot work for one person. At the end of the session, Jim ran the General's special from Falmouth to Aquia. It was actually easy as there were no scheduled trains on the road when he ran

Prior to their arrival I added two more box cars and a new conductor's car to the Aquia layout. So now all scheduled trains have a conductor's car to run in their train.

Jerry and Jim
On Saturday Paul Dolkos, Tony Koester, Perry Squire, Jerry Albertie and Jim Leighty visited my house after operating on Paul's Baltimore Harbor.  They got to tour the layout, but did not operate.

Later on Sunday Mike Willegal and his wife, Christie, stopped by to see the layout on their way to South Carolina for Thanksgiving. Mike is planning an HO version of City Point.

All in all a great weekend. Sadly, I was not the only one that got sick on the Detroit trip. Several of the NJ guys also contracted colds, but they toughed it out to operate this weekend.
Christie and Mike







November 16, 2017

Coal and Caboose



A few weeks ago I sifted through the conductors reports that I copied at the National Archive several years earlier. One of the reports listed coal as a commodity being shipped to Falmouth. I am really not sure why they were shipping coal at this time. One possibility was to refuel steam boats that landed at Falmouth. But I don't believe the Union forces were sending steam boats up the Rappahannock to Falmouth at this time because the southern shore of the river was in rebel hands.  

As far as I know, no locomotive on the Aquia Line burned coal. I have message traffic that talks about locos getting wood and water.  The USMRR did have some coal burning locos in 1862 that they borrowed from the B&O in service on the O&A, but those locomotives did not make it to Aquia.

The amount of coal shipped on the Aquia line was small. So it was unlikely a major fuel source. However, they may have stockpiled coal at Aquia Landing to refuel ships, so some coal might have been available. Perhaps the coal shipped to Falmouth was for use in tent stoves, especially at Headquarters.

As I was wondering this, I found a flash news reel from the USMRR Aquia Line that explains the situation . I've included it below to allow the widest dissemination.

I made the coal load with a piece of foam painted black and covered with real crushed coal . Like all my loads, it is removable so the car can return empty.

To improve the tractive effort of Osceola I filled its firebox with cubes of tungsten. I was able to get about 3 ounces in firebox void. It does seem to improve the pulling power of the small loco.

I added another caboose to the inventory this week. During a typical op session we have two trains running at one time, so now each train will have their own conductors car, also known as a caboose.

November 15, 2017

Great Lakes Getaway 2017

I spent last weekend in the southeastern Michigan area attending an event called, "Great Lakes Getaway." It's a round-robin layout operations weekend hosted by several layout owners from Battle Creek to Northern Ohio. That area is blessed with numerous fantastic layouts and some of the friendliest people you will ever meet. Among the many highlights of the weekend was getting to run the steel mill job on Jim Talbot's WL&E layout. I had so much fun, I spent the weekend wondering how I could fit a steel mill in my layout. Jim asked me to do a video as I operated and I did. I posted it on Youtube here.


The new coal dock temporarily in place on the layout
The next day I delivered the  coal dock model that I built for Mike Burgett's C&O layout. It is an honor to be able to contribute to Mike's layout. His layout is a tour de force of realistic model railroading. It is easily in my top 10 list of model railroads.  Aside from the beautifully finished layout, he has a separate room up stairs for the dispatcher, and ND Cabin operator in the garage. Both are fully equipped with authentic vintage railroad equipment.

My weekend continued with operations on Bill Neale's Pennsy Panhandle layout set in 1939. I had a series of interesting jobs on his impressive layout.

I also got a chance to visit Scott Kremer's GN layout. It is an absolutely gorgeous layout with over 5,000 hand made trees and beautiful painted backdrops.

I spent a good part of the weekend driving around and having dinner with guys that work for the real railroads. It is always interesting to get their prototype view of industry and how it applies to the hobby.

Below is a summary video I shot of the various layouts I visited. All in all a great weekend, except that as usual, I caught a cold. Airplanes and I don't mix.


November 5, 2017

Dual Op Sessions (11th on PoLA and 3rd On Aquia)

Brad and Paul are all business on PoLA
Ed and Eric spotting cars left from train 5 at Falmouth
The Aquia Line and PoLA layouts hosted dual (dueling?) ops sessions today. Paul Dolkos and Brad Trencamp ran PoLA. That was the 11th session on PoLA.

 Meanwhile, four newcomers ran the Aquia Line for its third session. Eric Payne and Ed Kapuscinski took Train 8 out of Falmouth. But first they had to spot the cars that train 5 had left there.  At the other end of the layout, Bob Sprague and Scott Wahl ran Train 7 out of Aquia Landing.  Ed, Eric and Scott are N Scale modelers. Bob, Brad and Paul have HO layouts. Eric's N Scale  layout uses TT&TO, so he was able to jump right in to the ops scheme. Ed models Conrail in the York PA area.  Scott builds modules and has a N Scale home layout. Bob is building a new Ma and Pa layout in HO scale.

Cornfield meet at Potomac Creek Bridge?
Scott and Eric sort out who will get to go first
The General rides the Special to Aquia Landing
Train 8 was late leaving as they had a lot of switching to do at Falmouth. Meanwhile, Bob, the conductor on Train 7, was waiting at Brooke. He realized that 8 was late, so he advanced from Brooke, his scheduled meeting point, IAW a special rule on the Time Table, which is verbatim copy of an actual rule used by the USMRR.

Unfortunately,  Eric, the conductor on 8, thought they could work Potomac Creek before 7 arrived. Meanwhile 7 was barreling down on them. Luckily they were able to stop on the bridge before crashing,  where they sorted out the meet. After some arm wrestling, Train 8 ended up backing up to Stoneman's to let 7 pass (7 was the superior train). You got to love TT&TOs.

Eric and Ed also got to use the working brakes on a car spotted at Potomac Creek.

Meanwhile, Paul and Brad got their work done on PoLA in about 1.5 hours. They were the first operators to spot the newly weathered auto-racks at Chase Marine Terminal for use by the US Army to take wheeled vehicles being unloaded from the ship. Afterwards, Brad showed Paul and I his design ideas for his new basement, a beautiful 12 by 34-ft space with room for staging in a adjoining utility room. Then Paul took off for home, while Brad stayed around to watch the rest of the session.

Scott and Bob switching the wharf at Aquia Landing
The crews on the Aquia Line were busy switching and doing a great job. Since they were such good operators, we decided to have Brad run the Generals' Special from Falmouth to Aquia.  It was simply a light engine, Osceola, with the general riding aboard. It got priority on the road. Fortunately, it did not disrupt operations too much, as both 9 and 10  were  waiting for  their scheduled time to leave, so the General's Special had a clear shot at Aquia Landing.

This was the smoothest op session yet. The new link design seemed to work quite well. The new way bill system also worked well. I  modified it a bit so that each car now has a car card that fits in a small plastic pocket. The waybill is a separate slip that also fits in the pocket. The waybill stays with the load, while the sleeve with car card stays with the car. No more tokens. An empty car has no waybill in the sleeve, a very intuitive system.

Two-part waybills in plastic sleeves on the left. On the right is the telegraph message Train 9 received to clear up the line for the General's Special.
I also swapped out some stock coupler's (McHenrys?) from some Atlas HO scale tank cars that drove Paul crazy. I also used JMRI to lower the volume on engine 30, though Decoder Pro was buggy in the process (but no this will not be another DCC rant!) Paul has complained about  both these issues before, so I finally took action.

I learned that I need to get another throttle for the Easy DCC system. I have two now, but will need a third for full ops. Also, we learned that 6 people plus me roving around is a good number for an ops sessions and for the basement in general.  It's not too crowded, and everyone gets to stay busy.

The commissary (my mom) provide some delicious three-layer Venetian cookies for snacks.

All it all it was a very satisfying day. Both op sessions went well. All the crews really did a great job.   Op sessions really make the layout come alive.  As I add cars to the Aquia Line and features (such as the General Special), the operations are proving quite interesting and rewarding.

More weathered cars for PoLA

I weathered 7 more cars for PoLA today, including some with hand painted graffiti. When I do graffiti on a model, I look at actual graffiti on cars to get ideas, but I don't copy it exactly. It's more fun that way. Here are 5 of the 7.