12/11/2005 Progress Report
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TCS Installation Begins on the Shenandoah Division

In order to move traffic more efficiently across the CSXT Shenandoah Division, management has authorized the installation of Traffic Control System (TCS) on the division. TCS allows a remotely located dispatcher to move traffic over the railroad by controlling signals which authorize train movement. The dispatcher will also have remote control of power-operated switches at each passing siding location.

Initial operations on the Shenandoah Division began using Direct Traffic Control (DTC) to authorize movements of trains over the division. While TCS installation occurs, the division will be dispatched under TCS rules for the portions which have been signaled, with the remainder of the division remaining under DTC rules. The CATS dispatching software supports both TCS (also known as CTC on some railroads) and DTC, so Shenandoah Division dispatchers will continue to use CATS to authorize traffic movement.

The current plan for conversion of the railroad to TCS has the signal maintainers beginning installation at the south end of the Covington Subdivision and proceeding northward.  On November 5, 2005, the signal maintainers began wiring control panels for the first section of the division to be controlled via TCS prior to any field installations of equipment. The first of the control panels was installed near the north end of Catawba, Va. on November 20, 2005. The signal maintainers installed the first signal on the division at the south end of Catawba on November 28, 2005, along with the first Tortoise switch motor on the railroad at the same location. The remaining signals for the south end of Catawba were installed on November 29.

With support and assistance from the Rodney Black, developer of CATS, crews were able to configure the software correctly to provide the dispatcher with control over the signals and switch motor at the south end of Catawba on December 2, 2005. The signal maintainers then installed the signals and switch motor at the north end of Catawba from December 5-6, 2005, placing it into control via CATS on December 6.

Working northward from Catawba, crews will continue to install TCS equipment on the railroad. As TCS is installed, bulletins will be issued to train operation employees as to the limits of TCS.

CSXT Shenandoah Division management anticipates increasing traffic movement volume efficiently and safely once the entire division is controlled via TCS.


Photos of Progress as of November 20, 2005

The first Digitrax SE8C Signal Decoder awaiting installation. All of the wires connecting the decoder to terminal strips have been connected in this picture. Once the control panel is installed, wires coming from layout locations will connect to the decoder via these terminal strips. This panel has room for a future additional SE8C or other hardware, if necessary.


Another SE8C mounted on its control panel but not yet wired. This panel is narrower than the one above because of space restrictions at the location where it will be mounted under the layout.


The control panel board for the third SE8C (not yet installed). Similar to the first panel above, this panel also has room for a future additional SE8C or other hardware, if necessary.


Location of the first SE8C near the north end of Catawba. Eventually, this SE8C will control TCS equipment from the south end of Catawba, Va. to Shenandoah Junction. Like the other control panels on the Shenandoah Division, this panel will fold up to allow for storage underneath it.


Photos of Progress as of November 29, 2005

The first Tortoise switch motor and the first signal have been installed at the south end of Catawba. The signal is a Digitrax SMBK "test" mast. These signals will stand in until appropriate N scale signals have been manufactured. The signal shows an indication of "clear" (Rule 281), allowing movement to "proceed" on the mainline.


Another view of Tortoise installation at the south end of Catawba. The wire on the Tortoise throws a brass rod crank which extends through the subroadbed to the throw bar of the switch. The installation method was described in the July 1997 issue of Model Railroader by Lionel Strang. Also visible is the terminal strip used to connect the Tortoise to the SE8C and for the turnout frog wiring.


The remaining Digitrax SMBK signals have been installed at the south end of Catawba. The SMBK signals come with two heads, so they will be modify later to have one head where appropriate. Both signals to the left in this picture eventually will have only one head visible. Both these signals display an indication of "stop" (Rule 292). The DTC block board from Catawba has not yet been removed.


The signal cable and Tortoise control cable have been installed to the SE8C.


Overall view of working conditions near Catawba during the start of TCS installation. Working on a model railroad can often be messier than you might think. ;-)


Photos of Progress as of December 6, 2005

The signal maintainers have now completed installation of the Tortoise switch motor and signals protecting the north end of the Catawba passing siding. The signal immediately to the right of the locomotives displays "medium approach" (Rule 286), indicating medium speed through the turnout, then proceed, prepared to stop at the next signal.


A close-up view of the mounting blocks for the Digitrax SMBK signals. The mounting blocks are made from basswood. Double-sided tape is used to secure the signal to the block and the block to the subroadbed. The 10 wire signal cable also appears in this view. The Catawba DTC block board has not yet been removed. Once again, both signals in this picture eventually will have only one head visible.


The Tortoise switch motor and terminal strip for the north end of Catawba. In the background is one of the BDL162 control panel boards with its myriad wires.


The signal cable and Tortoise cable for the north end of Catawba have been connected to the SE8C as well.


Photos of Progress as of December 11, 2005

Signal maintainers have finished wiring the SE8C connector to the terminal strips on the second SE8C control panel board in preparation for future installation.


The signal maintainers have pre-wired 10 Tortoise switch motors for future installation on the CSXT Shenandoah Division.


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


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