01/16/2006 Progress Report
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TCS Installation Continues on the Shenandoah Division

As mentioned in the 12/11/2005 Progress Report, management has authorized the installation of Traffic Control System (TCS) on the Shenandoah Division. Since that progress report, the signal maintainers have continued northward from Catawba with the installation of switch motors and signals to allow the train dispatcher to authorize traffic movement via TCS.

The signal maintainers worked steadily northward. They began their work by concentrating on the installation of switch motors and signals at the various OS sections (control points) at the ends of passing sidings. From December 14 through December 26, 2005, the switch motors and signals were installed at the south end (SE) of New Castle, the north end (NE) of New Castle, SE Laurel, and NE Laurel. With these installations completed, the signal maintainers then installed the intermediate signals at Abbott and Rich Patch.

Realizing that a DTC block would be required between the yard limits of the Salem Terminal and SE Catawba, management directed the signal maintainers to install the second SE8C control panel below MC Cabin, as well as the switch motor and signals for MC Cabin. This work was done on December 29, 2005, and with its completion, the mainline of the Covington Subdivision was under TCS control from MC Cabin north to NE Laurel.

Management then authorized the signal maintainers to install the switch motor and signals at the NS connection track located at Shenandoah Junction. The CSXT SD Dispatcher Jacksonville will now be able to control the railroad via TCS from MC Cabin to Shenandoah Junction. DTC rules are still in effect from Shenandoah Junction to the north end of the Covington Subdivision, and yard limits apply from MC Cabin south through the Salem Terminal.

The chief signal engineer then defined all of the switch motor and signal addresses in the configuration file for the CATS dispatcher panel, and ran some functional tests of the newly installed TCS system.

Three of the operating crew members came over on January 5, 2006 to assist with a system test of the newly installed TCS components. Three trains were run continuously over the layout, and the signal system worked quite well.

Future plans are to extend TCS northward to NE Covington.


Photos of Progress as of January 16, 2006

The CATS panel for the Shenandoah Division showing TCS territory from MC Cabin to Shenandoah Junction. The dispatcher can throw switches remotely from this panel and feedback is returned to indicate the position of the switch. When the dispatcher clears a route, the appropriate commands are sent to signals located on the layout. As a visual cue to the dispatcher, the "brighter" white signals indicate an actual signal on the layout, while the gray signals indicate virtual signals (not on layout) for DTC territory.


This SE8C is mounted underneath the north end of Catawba. This panel controls seven switch motors and eight sets of signal heads (32 heads in all) from SE Catawba to Shenandoah Junction. The gray 10 wire cables coming into the board on the left hand side of the picture are the "plug and play" signal buses. The wires going to terminal strips on the right hand side are the switch motor control and feedback wires.


The second SE8C is located under MC Cabin. Currently, the only switch motor and signals it controls are located at MC Cabin as well. Eventually, this board will control Ridgemont and portions of the Salem Terminal.


Signals and switch motor (Tortoise) installed at MC Cabin. Digitrax SMBK signals are being used temporarily on the Shenandoah Division until appropriate color light signals are manufactured in the future. Black electrical tape has been wrapped around heads on the SMBK signals to prevent those aspects from showing as a result of the way the Digitrax signaling system (and SMBK) is configured. "Real" signals will not have this issue as they will only have the appropriate head.


Intermediate signals at Abbott, Va.


The B264 pushers on the right are waiting for the dispatcher to give them permission to pass the stop signal at SE New Castle so they can couple onto the rear of northbound R422 to shove it up Rich Patch Mountain. Southbound train R699 is holding back of the stop signal.


Signals at NE New Castle.  In order to extend above the track more prototypically, the Digitrax SMBK signal boards would require a 5/8" hole to be drilled because of the width of the bottom portion of the board (seen in other photos). For the portions of the layout where I have scenery, I'm choosing to drill only a 1/4" hole, which allows the top part of the signal to extend from underneath the layout. When the future "permanent" signals are installed, I plan to mount them above the layout and use the 1/4" hole to run the wires below to the SMBK boards, similar to the article by Kent Williams in the November/December 2004 issue of N Scale Railroading.

By bulletin definition, all signals located on passing sidings, such as the one immediately to the left of the CSX SD40-2, are dwarf signals. All other signals are high (or mast) signals, following Clinchfield Railroad practices.


Intermediate signals at Rich Patch, Va.


Signal installation at SE Laurel.


Signals and switch motor at NE Laurel. The signals can be mounted higher on the portions of the layout which don't have scenery, since I use a homemade bracket to mount the SMBK boards.


Current north end of TCS at Shenandoah Junction.


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


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