Ye Olde Dusty Blog

As expected, I’ve neglected updating this blog and spent more time in the basement. Since last update, there really hasn’t been that much progress on the layout per say, however I did finish wiring up the turnout control for the Prince George staging yard. And of course, I have yet to take photos of the panel for said staging yard, maybe I’ll save that for a future update.

I did finish the fascia around the layout, and decided to give it a couple of coats of green paint to seal the hardboard and to give it a (somewhat) finished look. Here’s a shot of the one end of the layout looking towards Kennedy

The weekend of September 17th 2016 was the annual Greater Edmonton Train Show (GETS) which while small in size, brings several modellers in from out of town. With the suggestion of a friend, I invited several modellers from the province to operate the layout on the Saturday afternoon. We had 6 operators paired into twos running trains on the layout, along with the first use of radios and an RTC. Everything went very well, and the ops seemed to get used to the OCS clearances I had made up. Other then a few minor problems, the layout ran very well.

A week later, the NMRA OPSIG group held their Northern Rails meet in the Edmonton area, with my layout making it’s debut. Again, we had 6 operators (plus one RTC) putting the layout through it’s paces, running 10 trains in 3.5 hours. I was happy every train I had staged ran, something that so far has not happened with our regular crew. It was very safisying to see the op scheme I designed being used, and more importantly, running with no major issues!

I’m currently researching the BC Rail MBS system that was used up until the late 1980’s, I think I will adapt it for future op sessions once I figure out what forms were used in 1989.

Once fall has ended in my area, I plan on spending more time in the basement, with the start of scenery to commence at Kennedy. The diesel fleet conversion from Soundtraxx to LOK Sound continues, with a good portion of the fleet complete. I’ve acquired several of the new Bowser SD40-2’s which will be covered further in a future post.


Operational Paper Work

Now that I have the layout up and running, I need a way to prevent operators from crashing each other. The prototype BC Rail used a system called MBS (manual block) which I may adapt for my use in the future. For now, I’ve decided to go with the CP Rail system of OCS Clearance forms.Here’s what I’ve come up with:


And for the RTC I took a white board and some pin striping and made a basic layout of all dispatched areas of the layout (crappy cell phone pic)


The trackage representing the Fort St John Sub will be controlled by the Chetwynd yardmaster, since the modeled length of track from Chetwynd to staging is short. The other evening we had a gathering of regular operators to run through the basics of OCS, since my layout is the first and currently only in our group to have RTC control. There were a few confused faces in the room but I’m confident once we start to use the system in an operational setting most of the group will pick up on it.

I’m still working on the number of trains to run during an op session, currently I have 9 trains staged and ready to go. The trains that can/will run are as follows:

Pinesul Switcher: Runs from Chetwynd south to Pinesul to switch out Petrosul Industries (sulphur traffic). Returns to Chetwynd when finished at Pinesul. Power usually 2 units of any class. Pinesul Switcher may also work any needed industries/trackage on the layout. Example: I currently have the switcher at Dawson Creek with 2 loads of ballast to dump at Groundbirch. After dumping the ballast, the switcher will run south to Chetwynd, lift empties for Pinesul (and spot the ballast hoppers at Chetwynd) and run North to Pinesul.

Dawson Creek Switcher: Runs north from Chetwynd to Dawson Creek, and return. Power 2 to 3 4 axle units (RS-18/M420/C425 units).

Chetwynd-North Vancouver freight. – Runs south from Chetwynd to N Van, may switch Kennedy as required.

PV Peace Vancouver – Runs south from Fort St John to N Van, may switch Kennedy as required.

VP Vancouver Peace – Runs north from N Van to FSJ, may switch Kennedy as required.

N Van Chetwynd Freight – Runs north from N Van to Chetwynd.


One addition to the operating scheme I am adding is freights running north and south out of Fort St John may lift and spot cars at Chetwynd. Example a north bound VP will enter the yard at Chetwynd, set out any cars billed for Chetwynd or Dawson Creek, then run north to FJS (staging) On the flip side, a southbound PV may lift outbound traffic at Chetwynd then carry on south. Since the staging yard and grade at FSJ limit train length to 15 cars, the addition of cars at Chetwynd should create the proper length of trains running south.

A good example is the southbound PV. PV enters the yard at Chetwynd from FJS staging,with 15 cars. The crew will lift 10 outbound cars that came off of the Dawson Creek Sub, creating a 25 car southbound freight. 25 cars is the ideal/max length that my two passing sidings can handle on the railroad.

The reverse happens with the VP. VP enters the yard at Chetwynd heading north, sets out 10 cars (or so) destined for Dawson Creek/Chetwynd, and continues north to FSJ staging with the remaining 15 cars.

Since I use both sides of my Micro Mark car cards, train make up changes on every freight running out of Prince George staging. Some freight smight have traffic for Chetwynd and/or Dawson, or a mix of traffic for Chetwynd, Dawson, or FSJ. The randomness of the car cards creates the need for setting out or lifitng traffic at Chetwynd, which will make the yard a busy place!

The only way to tell if this whole scheme will work is to run it a few times, and next op session (if we have enough people) I plan on using OCS and the set out scheme together. One thing we discovered during a small session last week was the layout can run fine without a Chetwynd yard assignment. However, with more operators, a yardmaster is required to direct the flow of traffic around the yard.

First Operating Session

October 13 2015 marked the very first official operating session on the layout. Friends AJ, Dave, Jack, Ken and Doug from our regular operating group put the layout through its paces for a few hours. I’m pleased to say everything worked close to plan, and there were a few learnings taken from the session.

I’ve purchased some FRS radios and have printed out a basic OCS clearance form template to be used in the next session, once I clean out a spot in the furnace room for the dispatcher to sit!

AJ runs a north bound freight at Pinesul while Jack waits in the siding with the local.


Doug pulls into Kennedy where he’ll lift a couple of cars on the south end


Ken does a pretty good job of filling the yard at Chetwynd with cars. By the end of the session he managed to sort everything out!



Planning for Ops

When I started to plan the new layout, semi prototypical operation was a key design element. For several years now, I’ve been involved in a local round robin group of very talented modellers. Each week (or so) we meet at someone’s house to operate their layout, work on projects, or usually kill the evening with a lot of BS.

I really like operating sessions on scale model railroads. Rather than run a train endlessly around a layout, you get a chance to run it like the real railroad would. Of course, as model railroaders we keep on finding reasons to make more switching moves, whereas the real railways try to get things done in the least amount of moves. I’ve operated with car cards, and switch lists, and plan to use both on the new layout.

So here’s a quick run down of the trains I’ve planned to run on the layout:

Chetwynd Yard: Handles switching of Chetwynd yard, building outbound trains as well as breaking down inbound traffic. Job will also switch the team track, station track, and the Canfor Mill. Yard job will also handle motive power make up for all outbound trains. Could be a 2 person job depending on work load. Power will be a C420 or RS-18

Dawson Creek Wayfreight: Runs from Chetwynd to Dawson Creek and return. Power restricted to 4 axle M420, C425, and RS-18 locos. Max train length 10 cars, 3 units and a caboose. Dawson Creek on the old layout was a pretty good switching puzzle (as is the prototype). The new layout will essentially have the same track layout. Traffic is cars to the Louisiana Pacific OSB mill, TOFC, station track, 3 grain elevators as well as the CN interchange.

Pinsul Local: Runs from Chetwynd to Pinsul (located o nthe upper level) Switches the Pinsul sulphur load out and runs back to Chetwynd. Power 2 units, 6 cars and a caboose. The prototype in my time period quit running the local and had the regular freights witch Pinsul, however I wanted to keep the local job. In addition to switching Pinsul, the local may be required to run to other locations to lift bad order cars dropped by other freights.

Helpers/ Locotrol Operation: This job was created after one of my friends asked if I would need helpers up the helix. The trains that run up the helix should be sufficiently powered, but I liked the idea of a helper job. The helpers will consist of a 2 unit high horsepower set (C/M630 and or SD40-2) and will push trains from Chetwynd up to the siding at Mackenzie. I don’t have room to model the branch line to Mackenzie, but I will have a dummy wye and maybe a short siding on the upper level. The helpers will use one leg of the dummy wye to cut out of the train, then return light to Chetwynd. For sessions where I don’t have a helper crew, all south bound (lower to upper level) freights with the exception of the Pinsul Local will have Locotrol slave units cut into the train.

Chetwynd Prince George Freight: Runs from Chetwynd up the upper level of the layout to Prince George (staging). Power will be 2 to 3 units, train length 20 cars or so plus a caboose. No on route switching required other than switching out bad order or off spot cars

Prince George Ft St John Freight: (or PGFSJ) Runs from Prince George staging on the upper level to Fort St. John staging on the lower sub level. Job will drop Dawson Creek/Chetwynd cars in the yard at Chetwynd, list FSJ traffic, then run to the FSJ staging yard located under the Chetwynd yard. Power 2 to 3 units, 20 cars or so and a caboose.

Prince George Chetwynd Freight: Runs from PG staging on upper level to Chetwynd yard on lower level. Freight terminates at Chetwynd.

In addition to the scheduled jobs, I plan on running work and passenger extras when required. Typically I’d like the layout to run with 3 to 4 operators, but I can add or remove jobs based on the number of people that show up.