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"
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. :-)