It’s been a while since we’ve updated our blog (blame the webmaster), but we’re making good progress. We have two of the main pods in place, Midway East and Midway West. Midway, as its name implies, is the mid-point of the railroad, and it’s also one of three major yards — and it’s now under DCC control!
On this blog, we’ve talked about the importance of bringing outside skills to the club. We’re very fortunate to have a skilled cabinetmaker as a member. Brian, who joined PMRRC in 1993 as a high school freshman, has been building the woodwork for our DCC pods.
Meanwhile, work on our scenery continues. Zion Station, one of the landmark buildings at the western terminus of the railroad, has always sat at ground level. Now it has a sidewalk, and soon it will have a proper connection to the roadway, which means Sierra Pacific passengers will no longer have to teleport from their cars to the waiting room.
Most of the wire has been pulled, and last week we removed the relay panels from underneath the operating gallery. It’s a curious thing to be able to see the underside of the layout from beneath the old control panels…
Here are some of the relay boards. A lot of our old electrical components have value, so we’re salvaging what we can.
And for those who have been keeping track of our wire-pulling exploits, here’s the pile s far. It’s about to overflow the viewing gallery!
The blog is running late, but the DCC installation is progressing nicely. On March 29th, we installed and tested the first pod at Midway East, near the center of the railroad.
The pod is, in oversimplified simple terms, the set of components that delivers the signal from the controller to the tracks. We’ll save you a long story: The pod worked, and we were able to run our first train since we shut down our analog control system. Here it is:
Yep… Pennsy power. That’s not going to sit right with a few of our members…
Meanwhile, we continue to pull out wiring that won’t be needed (and perhaps a bit that will). For those keeping track, here’s the discarded wire pile as of March 19th:
Oh, and for those who can’t get enough of seeing Don Philpott covered in wire (I know I can’t!) here he is, hard at work in the operating gallery:
Meanwhile, there’s a lot to do. Walk into the meeting room and you’re likely to see a scene like the one at left: Members hashing out the details of how we’re going to wire all that equipment so that we can duplicate or improve upon our existing functionality.
Up in the operator’s galley, it’s out with the old in preparation for the new as the old analog throttles are removed. It’s strange to see the control panels with holes where the throttles used to be, while the throttles themselves are piled up like old soldiers mustering for the last time. Our existing control system has served us well for the better part of fifty years. Hence the importance of careful planning and picking the right equipment — we want our new system to be able to last for the next fifty years!
We’re at the Great Train Show in Costa Mesa, California, with our old-but-somewhat-reliable Timesaver layout. In a building full of “Please Do Not Touch” signs, we’re giving show-goers a chance to get hands on and try their hand at the Timesaver (or just donk around with the locomotive).
Yesterday, half a dozen people were able to solve the Timesaver (a new record!) so we’ve made it a little tougher today with a slightly longer tank car that makes it impossible to get the loco and two cars on a spur. No solutions yet… but the day is still young! (UPDATE: Two people — well, technically, one person and one family — solved the Timesaver, not counting PMRRC member Aaron Gold.)
If you’re coming to the Costa Mesa show, be sure to stop by and say hello. Look for us (and our Timesaver) at more Southern California train shows this year.
Thirty years of hands-on railroading has taken its toll on the Sierra Pacific Lines. As we work on our DCC conversion, we’re taking advantage of the railroad being “down” to make some much-needed scenery repairs and improvements. Below, Dan Wexler works on our iron ore mine as Frank Sele, Brian Neely, and Alex Calzaretta tell him what he is doing wrong.
Meanwhile, our DCC conversion marches onward. We are nearly done with the survey work (the difficult task of locating and isolating the right wires amid the electric spaghetti that lives under our layout), and we can move on to the painful part: Approving the expenditure for equipment costs and writing a very big check. Once the hardware is here, we can open the throttle on our DCC conversion to Run 8.
First things first: We want to wish all of our members and fans a happy New Year!
2015 has been quite a year for the Pasadena Model Railroad Club. We had two very successful Open Houses, we added new members, we built a new web site, and there was one other thing… what was it… oh, yes! We decided to convert the layout to DCC. This will be one of the largest projects conducted on the Sierra Pacific Lines since construction began on the current layout in 1979.
We have already begun in earnest, the first step being to trace the current wiring under the layout — and that’s no simple task. Our analog control system is extraordinarily complex, and along with track power, we have thirty-five years’ worth of wiring for block detection, turnouts, lights, route patching, and even some yet-to-be-installed signals. Take a look under our layout, and you might be tempted to ladle some marinara sauce on all that electronic spaghetti.
Phase 1 of our conversion involves the main line and its turnouts (switches), so the first thing we need to do is identify the wiring that will need to change. We also need to check for clearance on the Tortoise switch machines that will accompany the DCC conversion.
The good news is that we’ve already finished most of the tracing. As 2016 rolls in, we’ll begin building the DCC pods and wiring up the track. We have a lot of members willing to jump in (or perhaps we should say jump under… the layout, that is, not a moving train) and git ‘er done. With this level of commitment, we should be able to get the project done (relatively) quickly.
Stay tuned for details — and meanwhile, we wish you and yours all the best for a happy, healthy, and prosperous 2016!
First, thanks for visiting PMRRC.org. How do you like our new website? Spiffy, right?
This is the beginning of a new era for the Sierra Pacific Lines — and not just because of our spiffy new web site. We are beginning our conversion to Digital Command Control, or DCC. It’s a huge undertaking that we expect to take several months.
Why are we converting now? Our fifty-plus-year-old control system is probably one of the most complex analog systems of its type. It has served us very well, but it’s maintenance intensive and requires a high degree of specialized skill to repair. Converting to DCC will allow us to use standardized components that are easier to maintain and replace.
But it also means a massive amount of work. Much of the layout will be rewired, and our operating procedures will have to change. In some ways, we’ll have to learn to operate our layout all over again. The work is daunting, but we’re excited about the prospects for operating the Sierra Pacific Lines under DCC.
Follow along in this blog and we’ll keep you updated on all the changes. Now if you’ll excuse us, we have some wiring to do…