Saturday, May 30, 2020

Signals & Interlockings for your Model Railroad - a book for Kalmbach!

As the wild spring of 2020 continues into summer, with uncertainty still swirling but a growing sense of life going on, I hit a neat milestone for the Onondaga Cutoff that I wanted to share with you and commemorate here on the blog.

This week I finalized and submitted all required components of a new manuscript, my first ever, along with supporting photographs from contributing photographers.  All was loaded onto a flash drive and sent to my editor, Eric White at Kalmbach, who has been a patient and supportive teacher in this.  Thanks Eric, and thanks to all at Kalmbach for working with me to take on this project!

Dropping my first manuscript off at Somerville Post Office
In a world of back-and-forth energy, this is the culmination of 16 months of writing and photography and coordination.  It has been a truly unprecedented 16 months.  A majority of the work was done on my commute to and from work thanks to my Google Chromebook, with other work at night and on weekends to pull it all together.  

I'm excited for the next steps; if all goes well this will be in print in the early spring of 2021.  Good stuff to come!

Monday, May 11, 2020

First Fully Remote Operations - a Success!

Saturday May 9 was one for the history books on the Onondaga Cutoff - we had our first fully remote operation session, broadcast on Facebook Live!  

We operated 3 hours of the regular schedule with a few adjustments to fit in the allotted time, with a remote dispatcher, 4 remote operators, and a backup remote operator.  The session went amazingly well for the first such session with me in the basement and everyone else at home!  

Operators used WiThrottle, logged into the JMRI server on the railroad through the internet.  Simultaneously, they used VPN software to view the dispatcher's panel, and ran a Skype group call hooked to an FRS radio set to voice activation in the basement that was my radio repeater.  

They also ran a Zoom conference video chat so they could see Onondaga Yard, which we used afterwards for a virtual cheers that was graciously photographed by Rich W.

Seriously awesome for this to have gone well.  My thanks go this this crew, of course - Rich, Andrew, Jack, Al, Ralph and John - as well as to Nick who built the system, and Alex who figured out the networking part of it.  Without that crew, this doesn't happen. 

The video was recorded and is available for viewing here:

Thanks for the support!  I am hoping to write an article about this for publication in print, and will keep you posted on that.  Necessity is the genesis of invention sometimes, and this is a case in point.


Friday, May 8, 2020

Goin' Live, Again! Saturday May 9

As the long, cool spring continues here in New Jersey, the state, nation and world continue to fight the COVID-19 outbreak as well as the economic devastation it has wrought.  This is a difficult and dark time, and it seems people are either extremely frightened about the virus, or extremely angry and frightened about the economy.  One thing is for sure - just about everyone is upset about something. 

On the other hand, the Facebook Live videos on the Onondaga Cutoff over the last month or two have really been well-received even as we learn more about how to pull it off.   People from the model railroad community as well as professional railroaders have reached out with support and suggestions.  Amazingly, friends, neighbors and family with less of an interest in trains are also repeat viewers, which to me is wonderful.  Watching trains is giving everyone something fun to think about for a while.  

So, we are going to do it, again!

Saturday May 9th, at 9:00 Eastern time, come along and sit trackside with us.  Tomorrow night!  We will be watching trains come and go at CP 280, a busy interlocking on the Chicago Line at the east end of Onondaga Yard.  As usual it's a busy railroad.  We will see several trains work Onondaga Yard while through trains pass on the main line.  You will find the video on the official 'OC' Facebook page:

All new for this film will be the remote operations we will employ.  While remote dispatching has been possible for some time, the recent experience of physical distancing due to the epidemic caused us to push the envelope to the next step.  We will have 4 or 5 model train engineers moving trains on the Onondaga Cutoff from their own homes.  The experiment continues!  

Thanks for your support - hope to see you tomorrow night over on Facebook Live!