12/31/2006 Progress Report
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It's Been a Long Time....

Wow! It's been over six months since I last posted a progress report (see the 06/26/2006 Progress Report). The latter half of 2006 has been an incredibly busy time for me, perhaps one of the busiest half-years I've ever had. There's been little progress on the railroad to report about as a result of extensive travel, work and family commitments, and other interests--yes, even though it might not seem like it at times, I do have interests other than model railroading :-). I guess I've been a little bit burned out as well since most of my efforts the past year or more have been spent on maintenance and operating reliability issues. However, the latter part of 2006 has seen some renewed activity on the Shenandoah Division, and I hope to continue the momentum into 2007.

James River Lead Installed at Catawba

After operating the Catawba Shifter at the last two operating sessions (see the 11/18/2006 Operating Session and 09/16/2006 Operating Session for more details), management decided to implement some crew suggestions to make operation of this busy local easier. One of the suggestions was to add a lead at the James River Paper Company in Catawba so that the Catawba Shifter would not need to use the mainline as much to switch the paper mill.

There was already a double-ended track on the east side of the mainline in Catawba to serve James River and Valley Feed. This track was named the "James River Lead" on the layout plan, and the purpose of this track was to provide a lead for switching these two industries as well as an overflow spot for through trains to setoff and pickup cars destined for Catawba. Unfortunately, it was impossible to switch the two northernmost spurs of James River without going onto the mainline. The crew of the Catawba Shifter would often get no respect from the dispatcher as he tried to move a parade of trains across the busy Shenandoah Division. :-)

Accordingly, a new track has been installed at the north end of the James River complex. This new track will be known as the "James River Lead," while the track formerly called that will now be the "Catawba Work Track" (similar in name and function to the Work Track at Spruce Pine, N.C. on the former Clinchfield Railroad). The new "James River Lead" will also provide a more convenient location for the power and caboose of the Catawba Shifter to tie-up when the crew goes off duty. The new "James River Lead" is constrained in length by geography, but it should provide the ability for the shifter crew to handle 4 or more cars (depending on which spur is being worked and where the crew places the caboose) without needing to access the mainline.
 

Local Switch Controls Installed

Another suggestion to improve the operation of the Catawba Shifter was to accelerate the planned installation of local switch controls. Since the Catawba Shifter has work on both sides of the mainline at Catawba, the crew has to call the dispatcher to receive "Track and Time Authority" to make reverse moves through the OS section at the north end of Catawba. Without local switch control, the dispatcher would also have to throw the switch for the shifter crew since this turnout is powered by a Tortoise and under dispatcher control via the CATS dispatching software.

Local switch control will allow a train crew to call the dispatcher for "Track and Time Authority." Once this authority is granted, the crew may use a switch key to unlock the switch to place it under local control. The crew may then throw the switch as necessary to complete their work within the limits given them by the dispatcher. Once the "Track and Time Authority" expires, the crew will remove their switch key and the switch will be exclusively under dispatcher control. Having local switch control will allow a crew to make only one call to the dispatcher to receive authority and another when the authority is released without the repeated calls to line the switch.

Twelve local switch controls have now been installed on the Covington Subdivision of the Shenandoah Division, so all dispatcher controlled switches may now be operated under local control when given "Track and Time Authority" and unlocked.

A note on implementation of local switch control: The Digitrax SE8C provides a input for a momentary switch to provide local switch control of a Tortoise switch machine. I used a simple phono jack to serve as the "switch lock" and a phono plug (with the two leads of the plug shorted together) to serve as the "switch key." The "switch lock" allows the circuit to be completed when the momentary SPST (normally off) switch is pressed. An input on the SE8C is activated when the SPST is pressed, and the SE8C then moves the Tortoise into either the normal or reverse position. To restore the switch, another push of the momentary SPST is required.

I used Radio Shack parts simply for availability. The SPST momentary pushbutton is Radio Shack #275-1566A. The phono jack is Radio Shack #274-346, and the phono plugs are Radio Shack #274-321.
 

Scenery Begins Near Carpenter!

With some of the projects out of the way to improve operations on the Shenandoah Division, I decided to start on the installation of some scenery. The first scenic forms have been installed just south of the large Virginia Eastman plant at Carpenter. I hope to make more progress on scenery in the near future, but I thought I'd provide a little sneak preview for now. :-)

 

Photos of Progress as of November 29, 2006

Overall view of the plywood subroadbed and Vinylbed roadbed for the new James River Lead at the north end of Catawba. The James River Lead branches from the Catawba Work Track, which is the track next to the mainline and closest to the backdrop.

 

Another view of the new James River Lead looking northward at the north end of Catawba.

 

Local switch control panel at the north end (N.E.) Catawba. With no key inserted into the position marked "UNLOCK", pressing the button marked "THROW" will do nothing.

 

Once a train crew receives "Track and Time Authority" from the dispatcher, they may insert a key to unlock the switch as shown here. When the switch is unlocked, the "THROW" button may be pressed to throw the switch at that location.

 

Photos of Progress as of December 31, 2006

Here's an overall view of the completed James River Lead. The track, wiring, and slide switch turnout control have all been installed in this view.

 

The power and caboose for the Catawba Shifter are tied-up on the James River Lead.

 

The James River Lead will hold a few cars allowing the Catawba Shifter to work the spurs of the James River Paper Company's mill at Catawba without venturing onto the Shenandoah Division mainline.

 

The Catawba Shifter can work a few more cars into the next spur south at James River.

 

Here's a view of the James River Lead looking southward towards the paper mill.

 


Shown below are each of the local switch controls for dispatcher controlled switches on the Covington Subdivision. They are shown in the order they were installed. N.E. Catawba has already been shown above; it was installed first as the crew of the Catawba Shifter deemed it to be the most necessary installation. The rest of the switch controls will be needed for future shifter operations, and they make life a little easier when restaging the railroad.
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scenery work has begun just south of Virginia Eastman at Carpenter. More to come in a future report. :-)

 

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

 

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