Sunday, December 30, 2018

Lead up to and at the Operations Session

Wednesday dawned with me going to the shed and running the complete narrow gauge timetable.  This is 12 trains that ply the rails from Acacia Ridge Yard through Clapham Yard and sometimes reach Fisherman Islands Yard.  So my fleet of 4 locos and 17 wagons is not enough to run the timetable.  I actually need another loco and at least 4 grain wagons and then the first phase of my narrow gauge loco and rollingstock fleet will be complete.  The second phase of rollingstock expansion will include adding more coal and grain wagons, maybe 4 or 8 more of each along with a few different wagons.

I had an issue with the new dual gauge/standard gauge point for entry into Rocklea Sidings.  While all the standard gauge trains were working, the narrow gauge trains were not travelling through the point on the mainline.  I needed to add some isolation joiners around the point, and then feed the frog from a Peco switch connected to the point motor working this point.  I found a Peco switch lying around on the layout and soldered it up.  I jerry-rigged the dual gauge point, so that the narrow gauge track and the standard gauge frog all worked from this switch.  Testing revealed that the standard gauge track in both directions was again working, as was the narrow gauge traffic on the main line.  However, but putting the switch atop the point motor, the point no longer throws to the curve position (to access the sidings) each time I push the button.  However, it does restore to the mainline correctly.  

I think in the longer term, I need to acquire two auto DCC switching frog juicers (or a similar brand) piece of kit.  One will be deployed to the point at Rocklea Sidings, and another at the Fisherman Islands dual gauge point at the farthest end of the Yard.

So while running the narrow gauge rollingstock, I adjusted the coupling heights on a number of narrow gauge wagons to more correctly match the height gauge I have.  These adjustments made the trains run better, as it stopped some uncoupling events from occurring.  At the end of t\he day I still had another 4 trains to run to complete the timetable, which is what I did on Thursday.

On Friday night, I ran my track cleaning train from Grafton all the way to Murwillumbah.  On the way to Murwillumbah, I took the mainline, and on the way back to Cassino I took the loops where I could (when there were no trains in the way).  When back at Cassino, I then went north up the mainline all the way to South Brisbane Interstate, again taking the mainline all the way.  While at South Brisbane, I ran through the first 6 tracks at that location .  The other tracks have wagons stabled in them.  The track cleaning train then ran all the way back to Dutton Park, before taking a small detour back down the branch to Fisherman Islands.  From there the train returned all the way to Grafton.  While on the way, back, I ran through all the Loops.  It was this movement that caused me to noticed the track at Cassino Meatworks had a dead section, as did the northern end of Cassino Yard.  Another issue that developed, is that the point at Dutton Park, which directs trains to either Fisherman Islands branch or South Brisbane Interstate decided to not throw towards Fisherman Islands.  At least I could climb up the back of the layout and manually change that set of points if I needed to.  The set of points on the southern entry into Clapham Yard standard gauge track 3 would also not throw, so that was added to the "to be fixed" list for after the session.  So I could feel a big whoops occurring on Saturday!

Then on Saturday morning, I had previously forgotten to move 4 of the narrow gauge trains back into place to align the narrow gauge trains with the timetable start time.  So I went down and did this.  However, I was having issues.  I could not get trains to travel over my dual gauge point at Rocklea Sidings.  My Operations Session was not going to go well.

Saturday started off with the standard BBQ snags on a piece of bread, with onions, sauce and cheese.  Total crew was 11 attendees including me.  Of course drinks were available of various persuasions to keep the attendees cool.  I had a few new runners this time.  These guys got a quick overview before the crew took their places.  The aircon was turned on.  Everyone was handed a lanyard to attach their timetable cards to, and to provide a solid backing if they needed to write any notes onto the timetable card, so I can go through and correlate the issues and fix these following the session.  Greg started the Raspberry Pi for me and set the fast clock.  But I told him the incorrect time – Oh silly me!  He soon fixed this, and then Arthur assumed the position of North Coast Control.  The headsets were handed out and initially what seemed like dis-organised chaos, soon turned into a generally organised bedlam before settling down to a more sedate operating session.  We were able to get around all the issues of dead track.  Another dead track section popped up and this is over the Richmond River bridge just south of Cassino.  This regularly occurs.

There were a number of wagon issues.  One coupler jaw snapped on a stock train.  That wagon was placed in the back platform road at Cassino.  A low coupler was identified on a shunt train from Grafton to Murwillumbah and return.  A couple of trains were positioned wrongly at the start of the session and this caused some issues with trains not being able to exit staging due to something in front of them.  But we can move trains around to fix this and we did.

During the session, we had a few cases where shorts were detected.  We all knew who was causing them.  Don’t we?  Shelton could not remember that the last 4 digits of a loco was its address.  So while trying to address 44238, accidentally sent 4423 and its ballast train that was sitting in Fisherman Islands Yard careering into Loco Pilly.  I think he was trying to replicate the BHP run away in the Pilbara region from a couple of months ago.  A couple of other issues occurred, and we all thought they were caused by Shelton.  Upon further investigations, sure enough most were.  No one was killed, although an oil train ran into a car at a level crossing just outside the Rocla Sleeper Siding.  This has happened before.  The car sits on the road overbridge and the layout must have been bumped and the car ran to the railway track.  This shot featured on a couple of Facebook posts by session attendees.  Those running the layout via the JMRI wifi connection through my Raspberry Pi mostly ran out of power in their phones before the session was due to end.  So there was less and less trains running as we headed towards afternoon tea.  That is why I prefer to use the NCE Procab-R throttles, as the power lasts for about 12 months of use.  That includes all the times I fire up the layout and test it each weekend.

I think everyone had fun.  I wore the brunt of most of the jokes, as did Shelton.  But all was in jest.  I think close to 40 trains were run.  The timetable still has another 30 trains to complete its cycle.

After the Operations Session, I think I found 5 cans of drink that PK squirrelled away around the layout, and today I got stuck into the "to do list".  I fixed the three sections of dead track, Cassino Meatworks, Cassino Yard and the bridge over the Richmond River south of Cassino.  I fixed the stock wagon with broken couplers,  I adjusted the low coupler height on the MRC wagon.  I decided to attend to an issue I have had at Cassino Yard for quite some time.  The powered points at this location, were addressed as 1, 2, something unknown and 4.  They should have been 1, 2, 3, and 4 initially and then set to 424, 423, 422 and 421 respectively.  Well this has now been fixed.  I did discover that there is another set of point somewhere on the layout set to 4.  I'm not sure where, as it was at the other end of the layout that I could hear it throwing when I was working on Cassino Yard.  I will check this out tomorrow.  I ran one train twice yesterday.  So I had to "unrun" it today.  So I ran it in reverse to put it back.  I moved another two trains that were in the wrong locations at Grafton Yard to their correct locations.  More issues will be ticked off the to do list tomorrow.

Have a happy New Year everyone.

Some of the crew getting directions.

The Brisbane Limited at Acacia Ridge.  On the right of this is the dual gauge, then two narrow gauge loops.

Yours truly up doing something at Rocklea Sidings.

Darryl going to do something to Chris maybe.  Or was it Shelton?

Glenapp Loop.  The troublesome 44238 or was that 4423 or maybe 4238?

The car ran off the bridge into the oil train.

The boys in blue out to protect the public.

Roadworks here with an ambulance coming through.

All these photos have been provided by Shelton.  Thanks Mate.


  1. LOL nice write up Craig. Really enjoyed the session.

  2. Oi ! They we not drink cans - I was placing extra "wheat silos" around the place due to a bumper crop ! hehehehe. What a great day we all had, as per usual. Thanks for having us all over mate.