It’s been a while, but we have sooooo much to tell you…

There hasn’t been much activity on the web site lately (blame your busy webmaster), but that doesn’t mean there hasn’t been any activity on the Sierra Pacific lines. No, far from it. Our members have been hard at work on our DCC conversion, and we have some big news…

We now have DCC running on the east end of the railway!

Yep, the wiring is complete, and we can now run the entire railroad, from Alhambra in the east to Zion in the west, on DCC!

This is the point in the post where I should add a photo of Alhambra yard stuffed full of trains (which it is). I don’t have one of those handy, so here instead is a photo of Chris Holt’s beautiful Challenger on a reefer train:

Look at that clean stack — clearly we’ve got an ace crew in the cab.

(Chris here – We actually do have some photos of Alhambra full of trains!  Well, when I say ‘we,’ I really mean ‘I’… which explains why Aaron couldn’t post them!)

Opening up Alhambra yard to trains freed up a lot of space in both Midway and Zion yards, though I’m sure we can deal with that in short order.

So, where were we? Ah yes, the conversion. We have the east end wired up, but that doesn’t mean the conversion is finished — no, a long way from it.

Now begins the troubleshooting. Our old analog control system required lots of cuts in the rail to provide for isolation, protection zones, etc., and getting them all powered for DCC takes careful troubleshooting. (We’re still doing this on the west end as well.) And since our old analog switch motors and control panels are still in use in the yards, there’s a lot of work involved in getting the old and new systems to play nicely — or, more specifically, to keep the old bits from sending power spikes to the new delicate electronic bits. We also have quite a bit of work in the engine service areas (including getting the turntables working again) and some scenery repair.

Still, we’re very happy to be running trains the full length of our layout. Our DCC conversion isn’t done, but we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Of course, it’s a train — and for us, that’s good news!

Wire, wire everywhere

Don Philpott pulls wire from underneath the layout
Don Philpott pulls wire from underneath the layout

We’re on to the next big step: Pulling wire. There are miles and miles of wire under the layout, and the job now is to sort out what can go and get it pulled. All of this is done while crouching or lying on the Sierra Pacific’s concrete floor. With all the grunting, yelling and cursing, a person standing outside might start to wonder what goes on behind our closed front door…

To give you some idea of the magnitude, here’s the pile of wire we’ve pulled so far. It stands about thigh deep:

The pile of wire... so far
The pile of wire… so far

Meanwhile, we’re continuing to replace our switch machines with DCC-friendly Tortoises. The first of our pods are built, and we plan to install and test them this coming week. Stay tuned!