Thursday, March 28, 2013

Details Make the Model

While signal construction and adjustment has dominated recent work efforts on the Onondaga Cutoff, I am again making time between signal work to build a few kits and work on other, smaller projects on the railroad.  One of those has recently been to assemble and install the fuel pad kit I had purchased years ago.  After working on it here and there, the 'final' fuel pad has been installed where the wooden mock-up used to sit. 

I'm happy with the look of this facility - I painted the components, and then weathered the slab, collection grates, and office after assembly.  A few figures and details top off the scene.  Now that this is installed, I can assemble the sand tower and finally install the full engine yard surface.  There will be 'concrete' aprons around the facility itself and well-weathered ballast everywhere else.

Details make the model.  On a big layout, details take time, but are worth the effort!


Friday, March 22, 2013

Major Step Forward

I'm happy to provide some of the most significant news to date regarding the Onondaga Cutoff:  on Wednesday, March 20, the home signals at CP277 were cut in, and are now fully under computerized dispatcher control.  Here's a telephoto view of the new eastbound home signals:

And, enjoy this video of the first test run, an eastbound manifest freight, knocking down the eastbound 'clear' aspect on Track 2:

These are the first of many beautiful, custom signals I have ordered from Integrated Signal Systems in Florida.  ISS builds signals to your specifications, and I have found they are much more to scale than others on the market.  CP277 is the first of 6 interlockings and 3 intermediate signal locations to be cut in.  As the budget progresses and allows more signals to arrive, more cut-ins will follow.  It's a long term project - I am working to have the full railroad under computerized control, with manual options, by the end of 2013.

This project would simply not be possible if not for the help and guidance of those assisting me.  Like Rick helped so much with bench work 4 and 5 years ago, Alex, Jack, and Nick have been instrumental in operation and signal system design, and Nick deserves special mention for signals, as he has stepped in with this new layer of signal construction and installation.  There is plenty of work to come, and their help and enthusiasm is invaluable.

In a society that increasingly is obsessed with immediate satisfaction and quick rewards, I believe there is something to be said for grand visions and for the continual progress required to accomplish all that the vision defines.  Smaller steps over time perhaps call back to 'old hobbies' or a more simple society, but there is something natural about that:  Long-term projects involving numerous people working together over years, like the construction of the Onondaga Cutoff or that of a real railroad, hold a special energy.  Further, operating a railroad builds even more upon that same chord.  There is a sense of community that is only developed when people come together, working towards a common goal in construction, or in an efficient operation. In reflection, that energy is one of many reasons why I have always loved the railroad.  It's a journey.

Thanks for joining me on the journey!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Signal Progress!

As a belated birthday present, Jack arrived at my home last weekend with an arm full of model railroad signals, and a full evening of time to install them on the Onondaga Cutoff.  These are off-the-shelf, generic signals made by Model Power, but Jack's idea is that since it will still be many months until the 'real' signals are up and running, this way things can look better in the mean time, and we get a head start during operating sessions deal with actual signal aspects.

Here's a 'medium clear' on Track 2, east at CP280, with the temporary signals standing guard:
Note the dwarf signals to the left, guarding yard track entrances to the interlocking. 

The new signals were located at the entrances to each interlocking across the whole railroad, and will allow the dispatcher to use manual controls under each signal to display aspects for train crews.  These signals are not linked to the detection or the computer, but still will allow for a much more prototypical look than my original system of cardboard and sprue!  I think we can agree this is a huge improvement over the old system.

Jack is working on a signal aspect card for the temporary system to get operators used to what the different colors and patterns mean for the train approaching them.  Railroad signals are more than a traffic light for trains - while traffic lights tell drivers to stop, slow down, or proceed, railroad signals do that plus tell trains which route they will be taking as well as what maximum speed to use when passing the signal.  It's a fascinating part of railroading, and an even more fascinating part of model railroading.

A big thanks to Jack for taking on the expense and donating his time to the railroad.  It only gets better from here!