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  1. It is most certainly the case that you can't test enough! I also take the view that (unless I have a collosal change of direction), I will be building this layout once, so there is no need to rush. Yes, it is nice seeing the ballast slowly spreading torwards Sherman and I would like to think it (the ballasting, not the layout!) will be completed this side of Christmas... Certainly, once the trains stop running on the FfWHR and the nights draw in, I imagine the pace on the layout will pick up again. But I am also continuously finding out new ways of operating it, tweaking it, and fixing problems, something I imagine will be a never-ending task. As for the GTEL, yes, I concur and I think the Rivarossi Big Boy suffers the same problem. Athearn are actually bringing out a new range of GTELs and I might be tempted to buy one, as they also worked in pairs and it would be nice to see one hauling a train on its own (assuming the weight has been significantly increased).
  2. I have not had much time to progress the layout since the last post, although I have done some electrical work (more on this later). Instead, I'll admit that I have been playing trains testing the layout and have discovered the power of the "shunt" function in iTrain; it's absolutely amazing and has taken operations to the next level. There is an excellent series on YouTube that discusses iTrain, so I won't go into detail here, but in brief, I can now bring a train into the return loop, split it (physically uncoupling it and then logically splitting the locomotive off the consist in iTrain), and get iTrain to automatically shunt the train locomotive into a siding and bring its replacement on to the front of the train from another siding with two mouse clicks. Incredible. The headline news is that I had a delivery of three new models this weekend that have been worked on by SH Modelmaking and, as usual, Simon has done a first class job. The first locomotive to showcase is a Broadway Limited Imports Big Boy #4014. This was an odd model, in it that it came with an oil tender but not in excursion (i.e. as restored in 2019) condition. I therefore decided that I would take the opportunity to create two unique models by swapping the tender with that from Challenger #3942... So, the coal tender from #3942 is now paired with #4014 (and, of course, has been renumbered) to give a coal burning #4014, whilst the oil tender is now on #3942... Of course, it was then necessary to change the identity of the Challenger, which is to become #3705 (one of the oil-burning Challengers still active in 1956) and will join the roster once Simon is happy with the finish following re-numbering. The following photographs show #4014 working an eastbound freight through Dale Junction. The next model was a chance opportunity to buy (at a very good price!) an Athearn model of a UP gas turbine electric locomotive (GTEL) from a friend who is a volunteer on the FfWHR. It has been fitted with an ESU Loksound 5 decoder and is a very imposing model. However, despite its bulk, it is rather light on its feet and cannot manage to pull a train up the helix. I have therefore taken inspiration from the prototype and paired it with Big Boy #4005 (also an Athearn model). The pair make a fine sight and this is fast becoming a new favourite train. The following photographs show the engines working an eastbound freight formed of heavy 50' box cars. The last model to be delivered was a Rivarossi 60th Anniversary Big Boy #4014, which has been fitted with an ESU Loksound 5 decoder and speaker. Whilst a fine model to look at (although the number board is not illuminated, which is an annoyance), it is incredibly light and has a poor motor. It is also in as-delivered 1942 condition. I am therefore going to double-head it with another Big Boy, #4002, that is also in as-delivered condition to form a 1940s train (which will not run on Track 3). Depending on how well it runs, I may ask Simon to change the motor and see if any more weight can be added, although I doubt it would be possible to add enough to make it capable of pulling a train on its own without destroying itself. And, of course, there was more double-heading in the 1940s before Track 3 was completed, so prototype inspiration comes to lend a hand again! I have to fit a lead coupler to #4005 before the pair can make their debut, so I'll publish some photographs in due course. Finally, I mentioned at the start of this post that I had done some electrical work. Having discovered the power of shunt mode in iTrain, and having operated the layout quite extensively now, I have decided that the sidings at the A end of the storage yard will be used exclusively for locomotive storage (i had originally intended to use one siding to hold a short local freight train but I have found no evidence of such trains on Sherman Hill). To that end, I have split the longest siding (#4) into two feedbacks, which allows me to get iTrain to automatically store two locomotives in it... This capture from the iTrain mimic diagram shows the siding with two feedbacks and two locomotives that have been automatically shunted into it; #4023 is at the lead end and #4017 is behind it. The siding next to it is holding four diesels, headed by GP7ii #105. This simple change has provided a lot of operational flexibility and means that I can have locomotives staged on the layout ready to swap for engines on trains that will shunted off into the cassette system. For anybody who may be interested, it is necessary to have the second feedback so that iTrain is able to distinguish when a second locomotive enters the occupied block.
  3. I see that it's been exactly a month since my last post... Work has progressed on the scenery on the upper level and in particular, I have been focussing on the area to the west of Sherman station. I have covered the basic land contours with plaster, painted the plaster with the base textured tan paint (which I mix myself from cheap paint and dried sand), and have started the long process of ballasting the 15 or so feet of track. Above sees Big Boy #4017 is heading east on the last part of the climb to Sherman. The basic ground cover is in place and the track here is ballasted. Above is anotehr view of #4017 heading east. The ballast in the foreground is still wet! I will need to touch-up where the backscene meets the ground cover. And finally, above is a going-away shot of the end of #4017's train, with caboose #3273 on the rear. It can be clearly seen where the ballasting ends! My intention is to continue ballasting all of this section and then weathering the track to tone it down before returning to work on the scenery.
  4. Today was my first footplate turn since Gordon's passing and I wanted to pay my respects in a small way, so our locomotive (NGG16 #87) carried a small black ribbon in his memory. I doubt any of our passengers noticed but I knew it was there.
  5. Thanks Keith! I appreciate your idea for the music stand but as you might expect, I don't have one to hand...(!) However, a quick Interweb search results in a huge number of options, so once I have my new phone, I'll look into further... Not sure when that will be mind and I think I will experiment with the RunCam 2 a little more as elevating it (so it's look more "down" on the trains) looks like it could work nicely. Of course, I do really like the "lineside" shots (i.e. where the viewpoint is more-or-less as though one was actually stood there) but as with all model photography of this type, excluding anything above the backscene level is hard. That is a intriguing idea! There certainly were ferocious snow storms on Sherman Hill, so it could make an interesting juxtaposition to the summer scene on Dale Junction itself. Thanks In other news, the latest motive power acquisition for the layout arrived from a friend in the US today: It needs DCC sound fitting (which will happen in September) but it's a stunning model and, having listened to the preview clip on the ESU website, it will sound as good as it looks!
  6. I have published a video comprising footage captured on three devices: The reults I got were as follows: Canon EOS200D in Video Mode: Good picture and colour on the wider shots but did not cope very well on the closer shots. RunCam 2: Exceptional picture quality but with a wide field-of-vision, making it hard to capture just the train. iPhone 7: Half-way between the other devices! So my plan is try some more with the RunCam 2, especially if I can narrow on the field-of-vision (which I believe is possible), and to upgrade my iPhone to a newer model and find a proper tripod/stand for it (it was just balanced on off-cuts of wood, which was not very satisfactory...). In the meantime, I hope you enjoy the footage from the layout! As a closing thought, I just wanted to mention the passing of Gordon S of this parish, a very sad time. Not only was his layout Eastwood Town inspirational, it was Gordon who encouraged me to start this thread. RIP Gordon; my condolences to his friends and famiily.
  7. That's an excellent suggestion, thank you! I do indeed have iPhone 7, so once I have fashioned some sort of stand/tripod for it, I will give it a go. Your post also reminded me that I have a Digital SLR camera that has a video mode and a RunCam 2 (which I used to capture the cab ride footage), so have tried both of those and the results (especially from the RunCam) are very promising. I will try to knock together a video in the next couple of days...
  8. Devasted to hear this news. Like most others, I only knew Gordon through RMweb but I have found this thread and his work inspirational. Moreover, it was thanks to Gordon's encouragement, after posting in this thread having been a lurker for years, that I started my own thread about Dale Junction and I am very glad that I did. RIP Gordon; my sincerest condolences to his friends and family. Ting..Ting........Ting.
  9. Work on the layout over the past few weeks has been concentrating on the trains, optimising train lengths and improving reliability (something I suspect will be a never-ending job!) with jobs such as installing Kadee couplings. I have now settled on a maximum train length of 28 x 40' box cars plus caboose (which works out at around 470cm) for the longer trains, as these will fit into tracks 1 and 2 of the storage yard (or just track 1 if double-headed). I have also commissioned 8 new freight cars. I have shot a new video, available on YouTube, showing Big Boys #4004 and #4017 working through Dale Junction: As mentioned in the video comments, I think I will need to invest in a new video camera as the (rather old) Panasonic unit I have does not cope very well with indoors lighting. Still, it's not a bad effort and gives a good flavour of what want to recreate with this layout i.e. the twight years of Big Boy operation (and indeed, steam in general) over Sherman Hill. However, all of this seems rather irrelevant with the horrible news of Gordon S's sudden and unexpected decline in health following his operation. It was Gordon who inspired me to start this thread in the first place and I have followed his Eastwood Town thread with great interest ever since I joined RMweb. I will cross everything that Gordon manages to pull through despite the rather bleak outlook reported on his thread. My thoughts are with him and his family.
  10. Wow, this is a trip down memory lane for me! I took a gap year between A-levels and university, and went on a four week trip-of-a-lifetime to Canada. By this time (1996), VIA Rail schduled their passenger trains to pass through the Rockies mostly at night (IiRC the eastbound Canadian left Vancouver at 8pm), so I travelled on the Rocky Mountaineer from Calgary to Vancouver, stopping overnight in Kamloops. Seeing you photographs has brought back many happy memories of that trip, especially the incredible run through the Thompson and Fraser Canyons... I have some of my own photos, so I'll have to see if I can find them. Please keep your photos coming! Ben
  11. Just a quick post as I reached another little milestone this evening with a successful test of the prototype Big Boy cassette. Above shows that Big Boy #4023 has become the first locomotive to be "on-shed" at Cheyenne Constructing the prototype has revealed that I need to make the cassettes in a specific order: Cut the base. Fit the ModelTech track aligner and track to the base. Wire track. Test! Construct the remainder of the cassette. I'll be giving a cutting list to my carpenter to cut the bases this week and then I can make a start of fitting the track...
  12. Sorry it's taken me so long to reply to these posts! It's been a very busy week and work and then a very busy weekend working on the layout (more on this later...). Thank you for your comments about my layout Jamie! I've likewise spent some time reading through your thread and love the photos from Sherman Hill; I will certainly be making reference to them as I develop the layout. I look forward to seeing more of your photographs Yes, the train in the helix is quite a sight! And I couldn't agree more about articulated steam locomotives Like you (and I'm pretty certain, nearly all modellers), I find that work on the layout goes in fits and starts; sometimes it is hard to find the motivation to do anything, whereas other times the layout comes on leaps-and-bounds in very short order. Speaking on which... This weekend has seen a lot of woodworking completed. Work has focussed on the cassette system for the locomotive collection. First of all, the shelves to hold the cassettes have been constructed, below: They are made from 12mm playwood and have stop blocks fitted to ensure the cassettes do not slide too far back. To swap the locomotives on the layout, the storage yard baseboard has been widened so that the existing siding can swing round to a cradle for the cassetters, below: This is currently laid with flexitrack but I am going to replace it with 3rd radius (21") SetTrack to ensure reliable operation (the Big Boys can operate down to 18"). I am going to use ModelTech ProTrack Rail Aligners to align the track; haven't quite worked out how to make the electrical connection yet but some form of plug-and-socket arrangement is what I have in mind. To increase storage capacity under the layout, more shelves were constructed, below: ...and they are slowly being filled. Finally, the shelves for the cassettes created a little alcove which I've utiliised to provide storage below: I need to finish tidying up the room but it's been a productive weekend On the locomotive front, BLI Big Boy #4023 has returned from a warranty repair in the US. Whilst a lot of the problems were addressed, the derailing problem persists, so will need to think what to do about that; none of the other BLI models have this problem, so it's definitely down to this particular engine...
  13. The second of tonight's posts and time for some Big Boy action! I recently purchased from ModelTrainStuff in the US four Athearn Genesis Big Boys. They have been run-in and speed calibrated, and are now at work on the layout. They are very good models and run exceptionally well. I think the BLI models have the edge in terms of the fine details but a very welcome boost the locomotive fleet. I now have 11 of the Big Boys in my collection (plus a duplicate #4014), so I am nearly half-way to my target of collecting all 25 examples. However, my wallet needs a break and I need to costruct the cassette system described in the previous post before contemplating buying any more...! Above #4005 thunders over the grade crossing just west of Sherman. Above #4017 is on the last few yards of Track 3 with a westbound freight. Above #4002 is on an eastbound freight on Track 2. The locomotive is in as-delivered condition before the aftercoolers were modified, so it will not use Track 3 as the modifications pre-dated the completion of Track 3 in 1953. Above #4004 crosses from Track 1 to Track 2 at Dale Junction with an eastbound freight. Above A side-on view of #4004 showing the white trim. I have no idea if this is prototypical but it makes for a very striking model! Above is a photo that really sums up what my layout is all about... Big Boys working across Sherman Hill at the end of steam on the Union Pacific. #4004 is eastbound on Track 2 as #4017 comes off Track 3. And finally, above shows #4017 a few yards on as it gains Track 2, where it will remain on the descent to Laramie. The new water tower is visible, which has helped to really helped make the layout more identifable as Dale Junction.
  14. Well, it's been a few weeks since my last post but this will be the first of two I plan for this evening. As I thought would happen, with lock down restrictions being lifted, things are starting to return to normal, the railways on which I volunteer are operating passenger trains again, we can get out-and-about, and so progress on the layout has slowed. Not that I mind! The layout is much further on that I possibly could have imagined it would be when we cut the first wood in November 2019... So, some photos of recent work... First up, as I have previously mentioned, I have a slightly mad idea to try and collect all 25 Big Boys. There will be more on this ambition in the next post but one of the challenges this presents in somewhere to store them all. I am determined they will not sit in boxes but will be active models on the layout. I am therefore planning a cassette system to store spare locomotives off the layout. Thanks to my wonderful local carpenter, I have now constructed the prototype "Big Boy Cassette", as shown below: The half-height end piece will allow the number of the rear of the locomotive's tender to be visible. Track will be aligned using ModelTech track aligners. The only thing missing is a small groove on the inside edge of the side pieces at the "open" end of the cassette to allow an end piece to be slid into position. The cassettes will be stored on shelves beneath the layout, which I have mocked-up below: There will be four shelves in total, each capable of holding five cassettes, giving a total of 20 storage slots. With the holding sidings at End A of the storage yards and several trains on the layout, that gives me sufficient capacity for all the Big Boys, plus a few other locomotives My intention is to have two shelves allocated as Cheyenne Depot and two as Laramie, allowing me to simulate the locomotive swaps that happened on the real thing. In particular, in the year I model (I've settled on 1956), the Big Boys worked pretty much exclusively over Sherman Hill as the subdivions to the west had been taken over by diesel traction. On the scenery front, I have been landscaping... Shown above is the polystyrene formers for the hill that disguises the top of the Helix B. I need to do a little more shaping and then I will cover them in plaster. Finally, the water tower for Dale Junction is shown below: A big "thank you" to Simon from SH Model Making, who managed to rescue this model after my rather poor attempt at constructing the kit. It will get properly "planted" once the scenery on the upper level has been completed. By way of a little teaser, one of the layout's new Big Boys, #4017, has paused to take water; more that in the next post!
  15. Hi Ed, I have just come across this thread and really hope that you are able to progress your model! I grew up in Horspath and, as a child, we often walked through the tunnel that starts just east of the old Horspath Halt and which runs more-or-less under my childhood home. Of course, it's completely inaccessible these days but it used to be quite the adventure. I also went to secondary school at Wheatley Park. I've often thought it was very short-sighted to close the line as it was frequently used a diversionary route. Cheers, Ben
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