A new beginning

At the request of family for more open space in the family room I have downsized the layout and relocated the theme to the  rail lines in the Vancouver industrial area. Of necessity due to the large area covered by rail I am only modeling the port area. With Spring upon us and the garden calling progress on rebuilding is progressing slowly. I will still run PC Ry traffic on the layout along with SP&S, NP and GN power.

Changing my layout design

After considering my available time for modeling and the interest at the Vancouver RR club in railroads in Clark County I have decided to alter my layout design. Thursday I drove around Vancouver and took lots of pictures of the BNSF and Port Authority rails and yards; there are a lot!  Using my Anyrail CAD program I then designed an around the room modular layout, of parts of Clark County, that could be moved should the need arise. This transition will involve removing the large center benchwork of the current layout. I am still refining the final drawing but am posting the current design now. This location will allow me to run my PCRy engines plus SP&S, NP and GN trains.

SP&S in Vancouver

Some of the rail around Vancouver

Control panel work

I’m working on a prototype control panel for the layout. I have a sheet of white-faced press board to use for the panel facing, but want to try out some turnout control ideas before I commit the good stuff. I’ll be using both some tortoise motors and some timer motors for the turnouts. This will require having both toggle switches and push button switches on the panels.  I have to get all the turnouts in the hidden area wired before I can build the upper track above it.

Laying track again

I’ve started laying track again after a couple of months respite.  I was finally able to overcome a computer to Loconet communications problem that has been plaguing  me for most of the last year. I was given an older used Dell laptop running 32 bit Windows Vista and the USB driver problem I had with my 64 bit  Windows 7 went away. Hurray!!I hope in the next week to be able to complete my main line and start laying turnouts and sidings. Stay tuned.

Computer problems

I recently obtained a used HP Pentium 3 with Windows XP on it in the hope of overcoming the problems the Digitrax PR3 computer interface has with Windows 7. When the XP system wouldn’t communicate with my Loconet I was feeling very frustrated. What I didn’t realize was the PR3 was in programming mode from my fiddling with it. After consulting with the Digitrax and JMRI forums I found the problem and fixed it. Now at least the XP computer is talking to Digitrax. If only I could get my Win 7 laptop to communicate.

Building track switches

Using some ideas from the “Fast Tracks” company (thanks) I have developed a switch (turnout) jig, using track spikes, to facilitate building my own switches in less time and trouble. Counting the switches on the autocad drawing of my layout, I will need 20 left hand, 20 right hand and 16 curved switches.  I’ve made three so far.

switch jig (1)

Back to work

After taking the summer off for house painting, new gutters and rain barrels, and a new kitchen, I’m back to working on the layout. I’m finishing the mainline, both lower and upper loops, and then can start on the yards in Yakima and Chehalis.  Since I build my own turnouts, it’s less expensive but more time-consuming and more fun.

I’ve built interest in both the Clackamas and Vancouver RR clubs in using JMRI and the WiFi throttle. Now I just have to learn how to use JMRI for engine programming.

Updated track plan

After a very busy spring and summer, I’m trying to get back to working on my layout. I just updated the track plan for the yards in Yakima and Chehalis, see the PCRY page. I was not happy with the previous yards in either area as neither allowed for the kind of switching I am learning about from the train clubs I attend. I also used Google maps to get an overhead view of the real Yakima yard(s) and found that there are two actual yards connected by an interchange track, like my layout now has. It’s possible that if Northern Pacific had built the line to Chehalis, the second smaller yard could have been for that line. Sometimes reality is the best guide for fiction.

JMRI control with Wi-Fi

Set up the SWWMRR club computer to automatically load JMRI and its WiThrottle so members can use their smart phones to run engines. The connection to the NCE digital system seems flawless while using my Digitrax PR3 computer interface just keeps being frustrating. I see where I can get the LocoBuffer from RR Circuits for $62 which by all accounts is much superior to the PR3. What to do with the PR3?

Growing interest in Willamette RR club

Thursday evening I again attended the Willamette model railroad club work session. I proposed the idea of setting up a Wi-Fi throttle for “smart” phones through JMRI and using the laptop PC they already have. Next Thursday, June 6th, is their business meeting and I think I will propose joining their club. They have a six month probation period to see how you fit into the club.  The Willamette club is very active and devoted to “operations” and I feel I will learn much and find great companionship.