Maine Central, Lamoille Valley

Maine Central, Lamoille Valley
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Wednesday, June 10, 2015

T Minus 2 Weeks

Well, as I was often advised to do, I set a date for the first Op Session to take place on the layout. I sent invitations out on June 1st to a small group of people I regularly operate with, and most importantly, have each been involved in helping get a new layout off the ground and going with Ops. I kept a copy of Marty McGuirk's "Sea Trial #1" email from a few years ago as I thought it was a pretty good template to use. I just didn't think it would be this many years later I would be referring to it for my first session. But luckily I received 6 affirmatives and the first session will take place on Wednesday June 24th.

So like any model railroader knows, having something on the calendar only intensifies activities to get things done, and I have been diligently chipping away at my to do list of things I think are essential to hosting an Op Session. Short of cleaning the track and loco wheels (which I'll probably do that day before the session), most every critical thing has been done. Now I am focusing on some 2nd tier type items that will make things better.

One of those is the Central Vermont trains. If these do not run in the session, its no big deal. But if I have time, it would be a nice extra couple of small jobs to be assigned. I found that I was short on cars and waybills to support CV operations and a small amount of interchange with the LVRC at Sheldon Jct. So I have been addressing that. Of more concern has been my 'fleet' of 3 CV RS11s. One is an Atlas unit that runs fine, but it's older Soundtraxx decoder no longer does the sound thing. It would be nice to fix or replace that, but again, not critical. The other 2 locos are really nice looking Proto 1000 of Canada units. These have great detail, but for whatever reason, both run poorly, stopping and starting despite clean wheels and clean rail. I'm not sure if it is the decoder (both have simple LokPilot decoders from a number of years ago) or something in the drivetrain or pickup system. I probably need to remove the decoder and see how they run on straight DC first. This may or may not be possible by the 24th. So I could annul these trains, or use borrowed power, perhaps a MEC GP7 with a sticky note attached with CV on it perhaps...

I had a some extended time last night and decided to tackle the install of two more UP5 panels for the Digitrax Loconet system. One extra one at St. Johnsbury at the north end, and one at the Gilman paper mill. These will allow each "action" location to have a panel should there be wireless issues. I figured this would take maybe an hour and I could also move on to some other items. Wrong.

I cut the holes in the fascia no problem, I do run the common wire to provide daisy-chained power to each panel, and these two would come off an existing feed nearby (I power two separate branches of UP5s from 2 plug in transformers, plus have a UR91 and UR92 each separately powered). I also had to cut and run Loconet cable. I will say running wires is much easier when you do it before scenery and such is in place. Once in place, I disconnect the Loconet feed from the booster and test out the panels to make sure they are getting power properly from the common supply. If so, your plugged in throttle will start up and then the light will blink indicating no Loconet signal (using a DT400-series throttle). Well it seemed that the 2 new panels, and 1 existing one did not pass this test. After some time, I traced the issue to one panel not have a good solder connection on the feed wire and this caused issues downstream. I'd prefer if Digitrax made this common wire connection a screw terminal also like the others for track power. Oh well, that cost me about an extra 30 minutes. Coupled to the difficulty in routing the wires, and the decision to more logically route the Loconet bus with the 2 new panels, and I was past the 2 hour mark. Well at least that task is done and crossed off the list. It also is reassuring to have successfully tested each panel prior to the session, so that is a bonus.

Here is the new UP5 as well as a new throttle holder installed at the north end of St. Johnsbury. Next to that is a first draft of operating instructions for the yard crew. I actually have a new one that separates the arrivals and departures that I think will work better. Just need to print it out.

And here is the UP5 and throttle holder added to Gilman, but actually on the side fascia for Lyndonville. The coal cars are for the Gilman paper mill power plant, while the CV boxcar is sitting on newly installed temporary track for Lydonville local switching, as detailed in a previous entry.
I also took a couple of pictures from new angles recently for posting to the new Facebook group for the layout, a trend I have seen with other layout builders. I figured what's one more place to share info. That will mainly be pictures and just a little text though, unlike this blog which goes into more detail.

A closeup of the Hardwick Farms stand. An LVRC train exits the Fisher Covered Bridge while the rest of the town of Hardwick is in the distance. It's pumpkin season!

Looking forward to the first session in 2 weeks. Still more I want to get done before then, as I really want to have as much success as possible in that session. Unknown issues are bound to occur, I just want to have addressed as many of the known issues as possible!

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