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Operations on the B-and-M Eastern Route

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  • #91
    George, Steve didn't say. But his NMRA AP Scenery certificate was hung on a wall, and IIRC he said the field had been a lesson in humility.


    • #92
      Now all he needs a a few B&A or NH "State of Maine" red, white and blue boxcars to move those potatoes.
      Bill Shanaman

      New Haven RR

      Hartford Division

      in Colorado.


      • #93
        It's been almost a year since the last one, but today the Eastern Route had its tenth formal operating session. I dispatched the weekday afternoon timetable with five operators and an observer (Dave, who posted pictures in my layout thread).

        Erich switching in Bexley yard. The Prodigy Wireless transceiver is just above his head on the chimney side of the timber.

        Bengt and Ken with Draw staging in the background.

        Bruce and Tom coordinating a pickup at West Lynn.

        We skipped a few rush-hour trains, mostly due to me neglecting my crew-calling duties while dealing with other issues. Bruce ran the 2nd Lynn Goat a bit past quitting time, but he got all the work done.

        This time I gave wired throttles to the switching jobs in the south (urban) end of the layout. Passenger and freight in the north end used Prodigy Wireless throttles. With the relocated transceiver, signal was usable almost everywhere, but operators had to remember which direction to wave the throttle when their loco didn't respond. No serious accidents, but some frustration. Delayed throttle response is harder on switching than on through trains.

        Punch List:

        1. Extend hard-wired control buss: Try MRC #1502 powered extension plate at Bexley, move current Bexley plate to Rowley.

        2. Empty hoppers were more troublesome than other freight cars. Weights vs. running them loaded all the time: Cerrobend once was the choice for pouring weight, what's changed since 1975?

        3. Diagnose/fix signal heads 7w1B and 7w2B not showing Red in some cases. Probably contact issue.

        4. Diagnose/fix Fuel Spur turnout point feed.

        5. Reduce momentum on non-sound locomotives.


        • #94
          A couple thoughts:

          1. Sound is a big help when trying to figure out which loco your throttle controls

          2. It might help to have a handout that correlates the schematics for Bexley (where I spent most of my time) with the "ground" (track plan) It took me a long time to learn the track names and more importantly turnout IDs

          3. The lever turnout controls for Bexley yard could use a numbering scheme, to speed up learning time

          4. A mirror above Bexley yard might help brakemen find cars in the yard, particularly if waycards get mixed up

          5. A wide assortment of road names is a big help to operators, it's easy to pick out the CN car in a string of B&M, D&H, PRR, NYC, MEC, CP, etc. etc.

          6. Those foldover card tabs for each train were a big help in makng up trains and switching the yard

          7. Put a magic marker next to the paper cups so each person can label his cup

          Modeling 1890s (because the voices in my head told me to)


          • #95
            Looks like a good session. With regard to your wireless throttles, I am not familiar with the Prodigy system, but for my Digitrax system, I have two radio receivers in my layout, one each at opposite sides of the room. This provides for excellent reception as I never get any complaints about the radio control. Just about all of my operators use radio throttles, which means there are about 6 or so throttles at use at any give time with no problems.


            • #96
              Belated thanks for the comments, I'll see what I can do to them. I am leaning toward a Raspberry Pi/JMRI/WiThrottle solution for the radio shadows. Belated credit to Mal Loughlin for the foldover card tabs idea. I will post a picture when I have a chance.

              I've been working on my Downtown Newburyport peninsula and probably won't manage to organize another session till September or so. But I got a reproduction of 'B&M Terminal Division Freight Train Make Up' effective Oct. 31, 1954 scanned and on-line. It was issued long ago by Rolling Stock Reproductions of Readfield, ME:


              The current version will take a while to load over slow links. If that's a bother, let me know and I'll make separate icons for the page images at the top level.

              Anyone who's operated my Eastern Route layout will find a lot of background on what I'm trying to do in this document.

              Also, my AP Chair told me this evening that he has my Chief Dispatcher AP certificate in hand.


              • #97
                It's been more than a year since the last one, but the Eastern Route has had op session #11: Seven of us ran the Weekday Morning schedule last Saturday. The good news was that the track, signals and equipment performed well. The only failures were an operator breaking the contact spring on a brass steam engine's drawbar, so it ran jerkily the rest of the session, and my Ambroid Laconia open platform coach showing occasional shorts on the diverging routes of #6 turnouts. The drawbar was easy to solder once I had time. The coach's short turned out to be truck sideframe to brass wire truss rods to the other truck sideframe - fixed by turning one truck around.

                Operationally, the session wasn't as smooth. Some engineers were having problems with power-routing turnouts: running locos into the frog end and creating a short, then not understanding that it was their engine shorting, or what to do about it. I had to replace my only fuse three times, stopping the clock each time. This gave the yard crews plenty of time, so almost everything was switched out at the end of the session. We ran most of the passenger trains, but the crew thinned out after the planned end at 4 PM. I think everybody had fun, but I was a bit frazzled at the end.

                I have travel coming up in spring and summer, so I'm not sure there will be another session till I have a new Freight Train Symbol Book. This will put Newburyport's new City Railroad and Pond St. Freight house spur into use. It will also make the west terminal of the Portsmouth Freight staging rather than Bexley. This will greatly reduce switching in difficult-to-access locations behind my house's frame. It will also let me bring another dozen freight cars on stage in the morning, and back off-stage in the afternoon session.


                1. I must do something about the turnouts at the east (clockwise) end of Bexley yard. At a minimum, I've worked out a circuit which will show which track that end of the yard is lined for, and remind operators when they must walk around the chimney to the panel to select another track. If it succeeds there, it can also be used for exit indicators for Draw staging. I have commercial turnouts with power-routing point contacts in both locations, so it will be useful that the circuit also tells whether those contacts are actually working.

                2. The MRC 1530 WiFi interface works. Their business-card instructions were inadequate, but I found a web site explaining how to connect with a browser and set up a roster etc. The unit takes a minute or two to initialize, and operations that read/write large amounts of NVRAM data are slow. The signal gets around my big chimney just fine. Two operators started out with their phones (WiThrottle & Engine Driver). But one commented that the apps burned battery life. I may not be able to depend on phone throttles for a whole 3 hr. session. And I won't know how the 1530 does with its promised 8 operators until eight engineers try using it.

                3. Hard-wire plug ins for Newburyport were worth the effort. I kept the MRC wireless throttles mostly in the south half of the space, and there was no frustration with them. No DCC components crashed badly enough to need power-cycling either.

                4. Time to replace that fuse with an 1156 bulb, in a location conspicuous to the Bexley operator. Maybe a Bat-Signal on the backdrop will do the job. Or a recording of "Danger, Will Robinson, you have driven your locomotive into a short". Or both.

                On the people side, I did OK at calling crews. But I didn't spend enough time on the controls and layout for one new operator. And I left some people idle in the early morning. Their conversations weren't a problem until someone needed to walk quickly to the other side of the chimney to clear a short. Next time, I'll assign two-man crews to the Bexley and Lynn yard jobs until rush hour starts. And I'll make a crew calling list which is easy to read and bookmark. Then the staging sequence lists can be just that, without the added burden of keeping track of throttle assignments.

                The Downtown Newburyport peninsula leaves considerably less spare space in the attic. So 7 people felt a lot more crowded than 10 had at a previous op session. Some of that was me chasing feeping breakers more, but I need to get my not-progressing projects out of people space and store scenery materials more effectively. Happily, Downtown Newburyport manages with only four legs, so there's lots of room to store stuff under it, once I get through with the road and landform construction mess.


                • #98

                  This is an excellent debrief of what sounds like a pretty good day overall. Lots of good info here, even for those of us who don't use the MRC system.... Many thanks.


                  in Michigan


                  • #99
                    James, another session, another list of 'fixes'. Believe, I feel your pain. But from reading your commentary, you are to be commended for being so observant of the issues that surfaced, and your willingness to address them to make your sessions that much better.

                    With regard to your DCC fuses, is there a reason you don't use resetting circuit breakers, such as those offered by Tony's Train Exchange? I use them and they are great! Of course, ideally, operators would check their route before moving to ensure everything is aligned correctly!


                    • I'm using Tony's PSXs; they try every 2 seconds till the short is cleared, then reset. All the operator has to do is 1) decide it's their loco causing the problem and 2) throw the turnout or pull the loco back off the gap. But if more than one loco is active in the power district, or the short affects two power districts, step one occasionally takes a minute or more. I have both LED and sound indicators wired to my PSXs, but when two of them trip simultaneously, twice as many engineers look around wondering 'did I do that?'

                      So I've decided there's a DCC design point I haven't heard mentioned before: Where possible, avoid power district boundaries associated with turnouts. Even if the turnouts are insulfrog, don't set it up so derailments at the points can affect two districts. I can do this in the Bexley yard at the cost of an afternoon in cramped quarters running new feeders. It also makes it simpler to install the indicator circuits I mentioned above.


                      • James,

                        You’ve written a good description of the things that can get in the way of smooth operations.

                        One problem that’s hard to eliminate completely is running through turnouts that are thrown wrong. We all do it or come close. I’ve even caught myself being very responsible by looking ahead and throwing turnouts for my route and then realizing I’ve thrown one already set correctly or I’ll throw one on a parallel tracks. I’ll think to myself “what’s wrong with my eyesight, or my brain? Concentrate!”

                        Wouldn’t it be nice if the turnout rails glowed for the route that’s been set? Sort of like the virtual first down lines superimposed on the broadcast image in televised football.

                        Maybe not.


                        Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced. James Baldwin


                        • Even if I could make the rails glow, on my layout it's not unheard-of for a crew to pass a RED signal and only notice when the loco stops and the FEEP starts. I ran past a red home signal myself Saturday.

                          Which brings up another point: prototypic signals are visible from the train, not necessarily from a quarter of a scale mile off to one side of the signal. I left a lot of light leaks in/around the LEDs on my signals, but that isn't always enough.

                          Two-man crews might help with both; in my layout's era, there were 5 guys keeping track of all the aspects of running a local freight. On the model, one running the locomotive, the other keeping track of cars to be switched and superior trains. Calling signals to one another would help a lot, but that's something you only encounter in a real cab ride (or cab ride video).


                          • James,

                            My experience with our large club layout is that as operators get more experienced on a layout they learn it to the point where they avoid mistakes and react more quickly to problems. Frequent op sessions help even when very informal. Just having time to run trains around the layout is educational. There is value in playtime.

                            Some of our members like to pair up when running trains and we almost always do that when we have a new person.

                            Finally, once we had operated seriously for a while, we found we had to pay more attention to power districts.


                            Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced. James Baldwin


                            • The Eastern Route will make it's first appearance on Railrun next month, the 31st event in the series. In preparation for operators who don't know either my layout or how my bit of the New England RR network did its job, I've made these 'bullet points':

                              - T-Mobile & Sprint signal are very poor here. Switch to 'airplane

                              mode' to be sure you'll have battery when the session is over.

                              - EAST is clockwise, outbound from Boston. WEST is counterclockwise, inbound.

                              - Most trains leave Draw or Saugus staging, run around the layout and

                              terminate by entering the staging track they left.

                              - Maps on chimney show how Eastern Route fits into New England rail network.

                              - Fast clocks are mounted on each end wall of the room.

                              - MRC Prodigy Advance DCC system:

                              - Throttle plug-in points are in Beige boxes or outlined in White.

                              - Phone throttles connect to "MRCWi-Fi_BM_Eastern Route".

                              - Visiting MRC throttles configure as Cabs 7 and 8.

                              - DCC power districts are Draw, West Lynn, Bexley, East Bexley &


                              - Each district indicates shorts by Red Light on the panel, FEEP.

                              - Turnouts with scale switch motors visible on the layout are power

                              operated from a control panel: Draw, Bexley or East Bexley (1).

                              - All turnouts in the Bexley Depot area are operated by keyswitches.

                              Numbers and letters key levers to the schematic.

                              - Rowley Team uses a toggle switch.

                              - Newburyport Spring Switch at End of Double Track - manual control on Draw panel.

                              - Other power turnouts are operated by Red pushbuttons on control panels.

                              - Other turnouts are hand-throw: NORMAL position is pushed IN toward the layout.

                              - GE, West Lynn, Bexley Yard and East Bexley use Humpyard levers.

                              - River Works and Newburyport use push/pull knobs.


                              • Have a ball! Sounds like Fun to me!


                                in Michigan