Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Getting Closer: Test Run

Well, I had the local club over for another attempt which usually means finding lots of problems and placing more red tape.  

The week before had been unseasonably hot.  This caused a short somewhere in my less than perfect trackwork.  I worked for several hours trying to locate the culprit.  I isolated the layout's sections and determined that it was on the upper level's higher section.  I got lucky and found a gap between track and a frog that was essentially connecting both sides of the track together.  The gap was widened and I was able to operate locomotives over the entire layout once again.

I had been running two 4-axel locomotives - a Kato GP35 and an Athearn F59PHI.  I ran them in both directions on the main and a few sidings.  Everything seemed to be working well. 

The club members showed up and I handed out a couple throttles so someone else could run and find the problems.  Everything  went well.  Then one of the engineers decided he would try something more challenging.  I had a short 6 car train sitting on the Goleta siding.  I had run it a little a while back but had put it in the siding.  The engineer of the GP35 decided to run the train so he ran the engine by the siding switch, uncoupled the train from the locomotive it was with and rolled it out of the siding and up to the lone locomotive.  Off he went with the train.

There were a few problems with the caboose which may be a little on the light side weight wise, but the train made it around several times.  On one of the trips, the engineer became a railfan and took some video with his cell phone.  We had to censor some of the background noise on the first half but here is the video:
You can also see the video on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8CTgckMsOJI

The other club member, operating the F59PHI was jealous and not to be outdone, grabbed some Amtrak passenger coaches which were sitting in the Santa Barbara Yard.  The longer cars and non-Kadee couplers caused some difficulties but the passenger train did travel some distance with some help.  I guess I need to change those couplers.

So I am closer to an operating session.  One fellow operator, who has been clamoring for a session, suggested getting together for a short session and lunch.   I told him I wanted to get a little closer first.  His reply was:
             "Closer" never happens.  I've seen documented evidence of a
              train successfully running on the SP SB Sub. You are there,
              not close.  No one is expecting perfect reliability, especially
              at a first session."

I still want to tweak the trackwork a bit more and "test run" all the trains I expect to run, but I hope to have a session within a couple months.

Southern Pacific Santa Cruz Division

One of my big problems with the SP Santa Barbara Subdivision is that I really enjoy operating on other peoples layouts to the detriment of progress on my own.  This post is from Gary Siegel's Southern Pacific Santa Cruz Division.  I have enjoyed working on its construction and operating on the 'finished' railroad.

It is a 1:32 scale model of portions of the former narrow gauge South Pacific Coast Railroad from Santa Cruz to San Jose. [Originally, the railroad went all the way to Alameda, CA near Oakland.]
In the early 1900's the Southern Pacific standard gauged the line.  It became very popular in the 1920's with a train called the "Sun Tan Special" which ran from San Francisco to the beach and Boardwalk in Santa Cruz.  In 1934, SP stopped the passenger service and soon after stopped freight service abandoning the line in the 1940's.  Gary has modeled the line as if it were the 1970's.

The mass of the larger locomotives and rolling stock, along with the Tsunami sound systems make operations very enjoyable.  We usually run with a dispatcher who communicates with the crews via FRS radios.  The crews actually do work along the way, setting out and picking up cars at various stations.  At Felton there is a branch line to Boulder Creek and beyond.  We sometimes run passenger trains and almost always run a McKeen car for the passenger service on the branch.  Here are a few photos of the McKeen car.

McKeen car at Boulder Creek

McKeen car in the trees

McKeen car on the Boulder Creek Branch
passing under the bridge east of Felton

Here is a photo of a Baldwin VO-1000 working at Zayante.

Lastly, I have posted a video from the most recent run session on YouTube.  You can see the video here.  http://youtu.be/I24YowiGeMU

There are other videos of the SP Santa Cruz Division here:

You Tube video of SP Santa Cruz Division taken several years ago at a Parkinson's Association benefit

Cab ride east bound

HiDef video taken from a GP38-2 on the SP Santa Cruz division [You may want to turn down the volume as the engine sound can be overpowering. Also you may need to adjust the resolution depending on the speed of your internet connection.]

I am caught up on my late posts so there should be some progress noted on the SP Santa Barbara Sub in the next few weeks.

Aborted Operation Session

I often get very discouraged about my layout as I seem to come up against a wall - more psychological than physical.  Everytime I work on the layout I feel like I am not getting as much done as I need to.  Everything takes longer than I think it will, and if something can go wrong it does.

I did get in five more Tortoises.  I still have two more candidates.  I took
some breaks and wrote instructions for the yardmaster, assistant yardmaster, a couple of fixed switcher jobs and train briefs for locals, passenger, and freight trains.  The freight still need some work.

Several times I have hoped to have an operating session.  I have invited the local club members on numerous Tuesday nights over the past year*.  

Almost every time I try to get the railroad running and find more problems including shorts, loose rail, locomotive problems.  I will not bore you with a retelling of each and every attempt but here is what transpired one of the evenings.

I still was not ready when eight members showed up when the 7PM hour arrived but I explained the throttles and handed out three.  All were just locomotives - no cars.  One member took two Kato F40PH Amtrak units (one with sound) and managed a complete circuit of the layout.  That is about 330 feet and includes both levels and the helix up and down.  Another member took a GP35 across most of the upper level and down the helix and over some of the lower level to the Santa Barbara yard.  Another member took two tunnel motors from the east leg of the wye at Surf went away from the main and then back on the west leg entering the main.  He traveled west to Tangair where he pulled in the siding to allow the GP35 by and then came out to follow him back past the wye at Surf and down the helix.  We were having some issues in the helix so he reversed on the main and went over the complete upper level and then back to the helix where he went down to the first level and into the Santa Barbara yard.  All three engineers found issues with the trackwork and marked it with red tape so I have my work cut out for me.  We were operating for about an hour.  While all this sounds good, I am not sure I can count it as an operating session.

Here are some photos:
Paul, Jim, Art, John, and David.
David is the engineer on the two tunnel motors on the right.

Bob, Michael, and Joe in a deep discussion. 

And a short video:
          John even sings as the GP35 crosses the Santa Ynez River bridge.

*November 5, April 8,  July 8, and September 9