First pod test: Success!

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 first test pod installed at Midway East
The first test pod installed at Midway East

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:

First DCC test train at Midway
First DCC test train at Midway

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:

The scrap wire pile grows...
The scrap wire pile grows…

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:



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!

And so it begins…

First, thanks for visiting 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.

wiring_2015Why 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…