Friday, November 15, 2013

A Fresh Look

Model railroading is a life-long hobby for those that choose to make it so.  I would argue that, compared to other hobbies, model railroading offers enjoyment at various levels, which is one angle that makes this hobby so great.  When you are a beginner, just starting out, the hobby is entertaining.  As you grow in the hobby, your skills and vision become more refined, and you can take it as far as you want to take it.

One example of that is my 3279.  This is a classic engine that I purchased in 1989, manufactured by Athearn Inc. in Compton, California.  This was part of their regular lineup and was painted at the factory in the Conrail livery.   Even at that time, I was interested in detailing locomotives and so I added several parts to the model to more closely represent the 'real' Conrail 3279, formerly a Reading Company GP40-2.  This meant that I needed to change the size of the fuel tank, add a cab-signal control box, snowplow, lift bars, and MU hoses, paint & decal the number boards and handrails, and weather the engine.

As my skills improved over the years, the 3279 started to look shabby in comparison to models I had finished more recently.  Other parts became available.  My research showed me ways in which I could further improve the model.  And finally, the conversion to DCC several years ago presented a great opportunity to take another hard look at the old 3279, and bring it up to modern standards.  Here's the result:

Without much doubt, this is the best this model has ever appeared.  Details make the model, and the correct fuel tank, the angled 'rain gutter' on the roof, smaller decals on the frame and nose lettering, and additional weathering all combine to create a more plausible model.

This hobby will grow with you.  There remains much to learn, of course; still, it is satisfying to see that, with some work, a model that stood out as being an early effort can be upgraded to fit better with the rest of the fleet.


Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Car-Forwarding & Freight Movement

After the Train Plan, the other central piece of paperwork in any operating session on the Onondaga Cutoff is the car-forwarding plan, as designed by Jack T. and Rich W.  Based on my research and layout space, I had come up with several industries loosely based on prototype facilities on the Chicago Line.  While not exact replicas, these industries are built to approximate the feel of some of the online industries that Conrail (and Syracuse-area shortlines) served.  This worked as we got sessions started two years ago.

However, yard traffic naturally ebbs and flows and due to the yard’s capacity of approximately 75 cars, and we realized quickly that things can get rather unmanageable for the Yardmaster as there was no set plan that allowed operators to plan ahead.  Nor was there any consistency to when the setouts and pickups were made.  Jack and Rich therefore took the loose plan a step further, devising a full interchange plan to accommodate where these cars would have come from and how they would be forwarded back. 

This plan has become the network behind the operation, assigning each and every move through Onondaga Yard a specific set of orders that are incorporated into switch lists and interchange manifests.  All trains that work the yard are on this sheet, as well as every industry, and the time the train arrives and leaves.  In the matrix are the car counts and types, helping operators keep track of their moves.  It appears complicated, and it was to create; however, operating with it is actually much simpler than it looks, and the entire operation is smoother now.

Now, it’s the key to the whole operation, and we’re learning more about it with each session!

Finally, an update for you on the signal progress:  the final 3 signal bridges are under construction this month, and should arrive before the end of 2013.  That will complete my order with Integrated Signal Systems.  With all the remaining hardware on hand, the completion of the signal system is just a few months away, and a dream of a fully-signaled, dispatcher-controlled mainline will be a reality.  These are exciting times!