05/16/2005 Progress Report
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Work Continues on the Shenandoah Division

Since the 03/19/2005 Operating Session, I've been spending most of my time working on issues which surfaced during that session. Most of my efforts on the railroad over the past couple of months don't have visible results to show here in a progress report, but I thought I'd briefly mention a few areas where work has been done.


Challenges of Mountain Railroading

Mountain railroading with long trains proved to be a challenge at the first operating session, especially since management neglected to pay attention to some of the established rules.

Discussion with various crew members have resulted in some changes to operating procedures to use of pushers on all trains over 25 cars long traveling in either direction over Rich Patch Mountain between New Castle, Va. and Laurel, Va. The pushers will be used to push trains up the mountain and keep the couplers bunched to reduce forces on draft gear at the head-end of trains. The pusher locomotives will also provide "dynamic braking" assistance to all southbound trains headed downgrade in order to stretch the slack in the couplers. Three "mini"-operating sessions have been held over the last two months to test the operation of the pushers and to give crew members some experience with this facet of mountain railroading. The tests have proven quite successful.

In addition, the CSXT Mechanical Department forces at the North Salem Shops have been busy placing additional cars with body-mounted couplers into service and making repairs to any cars identified as having issues during the "mini"-operating sessions.

Finally, the Operating Department has agreed to reduce all train lengths so all trains operating on the Shenandoah Division will fit into the passing sidings at New Castle, Va. and Laurel, Va. This change has been implemented in order to increase fluidity on the railroad, which the dispatchers and train crews alike will appreciate. As the crew becomes more proficient in moving traffic across the Shenandoah Division, this restriction will be lifted, at least for merchandise trains.


Computer Assisted Traffic System (CATS) Software Installed

Effective Wednesday, May 4, 2005, CSX Transportation signal engineers and signal maintainers have completed the upgrade of the software used by train dispatchers on the SD desk in Jacksonville, FL. Prior to the upgrade, train dispatchers used a manual DTC system implemented in MS Excel to track train movements on the Shenandoah Division. Thanks to the generosity of the management and crew of the CRANDIC Railroad, the SD desk now has a working  installation of the Computer Assisted Traffic System (CATS) to control traffic movement across the Shenandoah Division.

This upgrade was made possible by the delivery of a LocoBuffer-II-f from RR-CirKits on Monday, May 2, 2005. This piece of hardware allows a PC to interface with the Digitrax LocoNet. On the day of delivery, the chief signal engineer of the Shenandoah Division used the hardware to connect the PC at the SD desk to the railroad and was able to use the JMRI (Java Model Railroad Interface) software to query various installed Digitrax components.

With some technical support from the lead CATS developer, configuration of the CATS system resumed. On Wednesday, May 4, 2005, the system was activated for the first time while connected to the railroad. Two trains were run from Wadesboro to Winchester and return to verify the track occupancy detection did indeed work and was visible in CATS.

On Wednesday, May 11, 2005, three members of the operating crew came over for a "mini"-operating session. I served as the SD dispatcher in Jacksonville, and I used CATS to control the train movements of two train crews plus the pusher crew. The system worked quite well during this beta testing, and we're looking forward to exercising it more fully at the next operating session.

This software will support DTC operations on the Shenandoah Division before the eventual proposed conversion to CTC.

CSXT management is very excited about this new software and its use in operations over the Shenandoah Division. A big thanks to Pat Lana and Rodney Black of the CRANDIC Railroad for graciously providing the CATS software for use on the CSXT Shenandoah Division!


Fascia Installation Continues

Cherie and I have done some additional work on installation of fascia around the railroad to try to complete this project. I've installed the remaining fascia at the Norfolk Southern Roanoke staging yard. In addition, most of the fascia has been installed at the back entrance to the layout, and Cherie has painted this fascia with an initial coat of primer.


Photos of Progress as of April 17, 2005

Overall view of the fascia at the rear of the New Castle peninsula. The town of New Castle is off the picture to the left.

Overall view of the fascia as seen at the top of the stairs. The tracks on the lower level are part of the James River paper mill complex at Catawba, while the tracks on the upper level serve the Appalachian Power Company plant at Laurel. Additional fascia will be installed here to conceal the benchwork and wiring for these two areas.


Another view of the fascia at the top of the stairs. Again, James River is on the lower level, and Appalachian Power is on the upper level.


A view of the south end of Laurel, Va. looking over the top of the fascia at the end of the New Castle peninsula. On the old layout, this picture would not have been possible since the New Castle peninsula butted against the wall.


Photos of Progress as of May 14, 2005

The fascia has been primed in this view. In addition, this picture shows the removable portion of the fascia to allow access to Bald Knob Tunnel north of New Castle.


The fascia has been installed at the Norfolk Southern Roanoke staging yard.


This picture shows the SD Dispatcher's Panel operating under the CATS software. In this view, northbound train Q244 has been cleared to leave North Salem for Catawba. The B264 pusher is on the rear of northbound hotshot Q420, and the dispatcher has cleared the train up Rich Patch Mountain to Laurel. Southbound coal train V615 has just passed B741, the southbound Black Cat shifter, at Ridgemont. V615 has been given clearance to the passing siding at Laurel where it will meet Q420 and receive assistance down the mountain from B264.

The white lines on the diagram indicate sections of track which have occupancy detection, while the dark grey lines are locations which do not have detection. The red lines are occupied blocks, while the green lines indicate future movements. Currently, the panel provides the dispatcher the ability to use Direct Traffic Control (DTC) blocks to control traffic movement. As signaling hardware begins to be installed on the Shenandoah Division, this same software will be used to control signals and turnouts by the dispatcher.

This pictures also shows the Fast Clock tool provided by the Java Model Railroad Interface (JMRI) software so the dispatcher can see the current time reflected from the LocoNet Fast Clocks installed in the layout rooms.

Click here or on the image above to see a larger, crisper picture of the dispatcher's panel (about 390K).


This page was last updated on 01/01/11.


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