Archive for the ‘BS&T Times’ Category

JMRI Clinic for MFMR Convention 2011

Saturday, May 14th, 2011

Here are some links for more information in followup to the clinic I gave at the MFMR Convention on May 14, 2011.

JMRI is a very useful tool for anyone using Digital Command Control.  In it’s basic use JMRI – DecoderPro is a godsend for programming DCC mobile decoders.  I really don’t know how folks not using DecoderPro get along.  I have one loco Proto RS-11 with QSI sound that “loses it’s mind” every now and then during an operating session.  Since I have the settings for all my locos stored in my DecoderPro roster file it takes only a minute or two to set the loco back to my customs settings and it’s back in operation on the layout.

Since the introduction of WiThrottle – a server and application combination – there has been a revolution in wireless throttle technology.  Now we use our iPhones, iPods, and Android phones as throttles when we operate.  The great thing about it is that our throttles are now universal – they will work on any DCC system as long as it has a computer interface, DecoderPro, and a wireless home network.

Anyway, on to the “more information” part of this post.

JMRI web site

At the moment 2.10 is the stable production version.  2.11.4 is the current test version.  In my experience it is relatively safe to install the test versions to take advantage of new features, but beware that there may be issues.  If you do have problems with a test version you can always reinstall the previous version.

DecoderPro Manual

With the rapid development of JMRI this manual is almost always out of date.  But it would certainly help for basic/older features.

JMRI Yahoo Group

A great resource when you are really stuck.  The developers of JMRI check the group daily – some several times a day.  If you ever have a problem or question this would be the first place to ask your question.

Other JMRI Clinics

A collection of other presentations on most aspects of JMRI.  If you are into automation, dispatching, or remote control this is a great resource.

JMRI on YouTube

Lots of great (and some not so great) videos about how folks are using JMRI – from the basic to advanced.

My PresentationClick here

Probably not as good as many of the other presentation you’ll find on the internet, but it does have some links to neat videos of JMRI in use.

Degraded Passenger Service on the BS&T

Monday, April 4th, 2011

Derwin’s Drop – Over the last few years passenger service on the Bayside and Tidewater Railway has slowly been degrading.  Since the regular (actually “occasional”) passenger trains were annulled in 2010 for the less expensive combination cars (passenger and caboose/conductor’s office).  At that time BS&T management said the change was due to decreasing demand for travel by train.  “Using the combination cars will reduce cost for the railroad and still provide timely service for our regular riders”, said Albert Moneygrabber (head of railroad management for the BS&T).  Since the changeover many regulars on the combination cars have reported a steady decline in service.

“The first train in the morning usually leaves on time”, says Penny Perriwinkle of Stevenville, “But I never know when I’m going to get to work, or when I’m going to get home”.  Penny works as a secretary in the office at Chappell Seafood in Chappellton.  Her boss, Mr George Pennypincher, complains, “I have lots of employees that travel from nearby towns that have no car (note – because he doesn’t pay them enough).  The way that cheap old bugger runs that railroad I can’t depend on any one of them!  I’m going to have to let them all go and only hire locals.”  (note – good luck with that Georgey!)

As bad as service has been over the past year it reached an all time low yesterday.  Rather than hold up the CN Interchange train the BS&T dispatcher ordered the Wayfreight to take the siding in Derwin’s Drop putting the lives of all the passengers on board at great risk when the combination car ended up parked at Chemical Hazards.

“The stench was horrible!”, said Penny when we caught up with her at the hospital in Chappellton where all of the passengers were taken after the incident.  “We were all feeling quite ill, and started getting a rash before we got to Kenville.  By the time we got to Chappelton my nose had fallen off.  I put it in my purse so the doctor could sew it back on.  I hope he put it on straight.”

In all, 14 passengers were taken to Chappellton Memorial Hospital and treated for exposure to several dangerous chemicals and radiation.  All are in stable condition and are expected to require several weeks of treatment before they are completely recovered.

The transportation authority is investigating the incident and say they expect to be able to wrap it up quickly.  Spokesperson Ima Fairman said, “It’s pretty obvious where the blame lies in this case.  The Engineer of the train will be dealt with swiftly.  He won’t be driving anything bigger than a motor scooter by the time we’re done with him!”

(see page 3 for “Accusations of Corruption in the Transportation Authority”)

Operating on the Island Central – Nov. 13, 2010

Sunday, November 14th, 2010

Jim, from the Codiac Operators Group, contacted me several weeks ago wondering if any of the Half Nuts Model Railroaders would be interested in joining them in an operating session on Doug Devine’s Island Central Railway (ICR).  I jumped at the chance, as did Derwin, Greg, and Ken.  Unfortunately none of the other Half Nutters could make it.

We were on the road in the wee hours of the morning – well, 6:30 is the wee hours of the morning for me.  We met Jim and Mike (#1) at the Big Stop just outside Moncton about 8:30 and had time to stop for a refill of coffee before we got to Doug’s at 10:00.

If you haven’t read my reports of operating on the ICR then you may not know that this is one of the finest operating layouts in the Maritimes.  You can get more information about the layout on Doug’s web site.

Photo: Mike (#2) having fun working in McAdam.

We weren’t there long before the local reinforcements arrived.  Lawrence and Mike (#2) came to give Doug a hand, or maybe it was to keep us in line?  If it was the latter they failed miserably!

After Doug gave everyone the corporate line it was time to choose work assignments.  I had a brief stint of operating Dever Road Yard the last time we operated on the ICR and really enjoyed it.  I wanted to see what the task would be like for a full session so I grabbed it.  There wasn’t really much of a fight over it since not many people seem to want to do yard work (except Chris and Brian).

Once I got down to work I lost track of most everyone else, except when they would come around to take out a train that was ready to leave or (laugh) as they arrived with a @$#% load of cars for me to deal with.  I managed to get the work done without many stressful moments and even had some downtime to take a few (very few) photos.

Photo: Jim working (wrecking?) Mill Street.

I don’t think there were too many mishaps, other than the few that happened in Mill Street (behind me at Dever Road).  Jim worked that job for about half the session.  In that short amount of time I’m sure he racked up quite a few demerits, but since I wasn’t the layout owner I couldn’t hand them out.  Doug never seemed to be around when anything happened in Mill Street.  I heard a lot of talking and laughing in the other parts of the layout but I have no idea what was going on.  It didn’t matter, I was having fun in Dever Road.

Derwin, Greg, Ken, and Mike (#1) got a lot of road time in.  Between fast freights, wayfreights, passenger trains, and yard work on other parts of the layout they were pretty busy.  I heard that they had some sitting time but Doug and Lawrence were keeping a close eye on the crew lounge to make sure no one sat for too long.

Greg and Ken took turns working West Saint John – a small area with enough switching to keep one person busy for hours.

Photo: Ken, Derwin, and Mike (#1) running trains.  Ken’s running a freight on one of the upper levels, Derwin’s taking some video (hopefully we’ll see it later on his site), and Mike’s obviously having fun as he leaves Grand Bay heading for Dever Road.

The 45 car fast-freight was quite a sight it was as it slowly left Dever Road.  It seemed to take forever for the end of the train to go out of sight.  Jim was at the throttle and did a great job pulling it out.  It was quite a sight as it snaked it’s way down the line past Grand Bay and beyond.  We were all amazed that such a long model train could run the entire layout without something going wrong.  Somewhere between there and McAdam all that changed. The video below was taken along the main line not long after it left Dever Road.  It’s about midnight on a fairly dark night.  Double click the video to watch it in full screen.

On most model railroads there is a rule that you should keep an eye on the head end and rear end of your train.  If something changes you should stop and find out what’s wrong.  Well, apparently the fast-freight left some cars on the main line and the operator didn’t notice that the rear end had changed.  Since Jim handed over controls part way through the run there was some dispute over who was actually responsible.  Long story short – never sign anything!  Double click the video below to watch it in full screen.

The last train of the night (session) arrived about midnight (or 2:30 pm real time) as Derwin pulled the Pan Am into Dever Road.  I ended up doing more work than I had to.  There was still work happening on the layout so I figured I’d sort these cars and leave a clean yard.  Doug told me later that normally this train marks the end of the shift and is left for the morning crew to put away.  Oops!  Oh well, the regular crew will be ahead of the game at the start of another day on the ICR.

We had a great time!  Thanks for opening the ICR to a bunch of Half Nuts and Codiacs!  Thanks to Lawrence and Mike (#2) for giving Doug a hand!


The Passing of a Friend

Saturday, October 9th, 2010

I was shocked when I read the email this morning announcing the passing of a very good friend – Dave Thompson of Berwick, NS.

Dave joined our UMG modular group a few years ago.  He fit into the group right from the start with his good natured sense of humour and eager willingness to lend a hand.

Dave enjoyed getting children interested in the hobby of model railroading.  It was rare when you didn’t see Dave operating as a conductor or brakeman for a young operator during a show.

I could only find a few photos of Dave in my collection, but thanks to Dave M. and Doug W. for digging some up and sending them along.

Dave will be missed by all that knew him.


An interesting thing!

Friday, July 23rd, 2010

Reviewing the comments from the Black River Road post with this photo in mind, I see that someone didn’t take his own advice. This photo shows what can happen when a load is just a little too tall. I won’t say who is responsible, but he’s pretty tall as well. Ha!

Fortunately for him he is not responsible for replacing the equipment or repairs to Chappellton Station.  It’s a good thing the roof supports were strong enough that the street above didn’t cave in!

Thanks for the photo, Greg!


Black River Road

Sunday, May 9th, 2010

Not even Sheriff Tom drives down Black River Road.  Everyone in Chappellton, including the Sheriff, knows what the Rowan gang have down that road.  It’s one of those things that everyone keeps their noses out of.   They don’t bother the Rowan Gang and the Rowan Gang won’t bother them.  Besides, a lot of folks are actually very good customers of the Rowans.

There are a few signs on the road warning anyone thinking of traveling down Black River Road.  Anyone from the area would know better, but a few new comers to the area have gone down the road while out touring.  Some of them have taken heed to the “No Trespassing” signs, some have not.   As the stories go, the bolder, more curious people seemingly “leave town” very quickly – without a good-bye to anyone.

If the first two signs aren’t enough to turn someone around the “third sign”, just around the bend, certainly will.  Old Charlie is a member of the Rowan Gang.  He can usually be found “hunting” just before the railway crossing.  When anyone asks why he’s always hanging around there he just says the rabbits always cross the road at that spot and he’s always ready for them.  If you ask me it’s not rabbits he’s after.  He’s one of Rowan’s guards.

I wanted to find out if the rumours were true, so I took my new camera for a walk along the highway hoping to be able to see what was going on.

It was risky, but I was able to get some photos from the highway using my best telephoto lens.  This shot was the most risky, since I was standing just above Old Charlie.  I had to be very quiet and be sure I didn’t disturb any gravel along the edge of the road.  I didn’t want him catching me taking pictures!  He’s just tell Sheriff Tom he thought I was a rabbit.  Anyway, I couldn’t get a very clear shot of what was going on so I walked along the road and away from Old Charlie.

I found another spot where I could get a bit of a better view through the trees.  There he is, Guzzlin’ Greg.  Apparently he’s one of the Rowan Gang’s “quality control technicians”.   From what I’ve been told he’s always out here, pretty much in that same spot, every day!

I thought I could see a few more people around so I walked a little farther up the highway hoping I could get a better view of what was going on.

I was a long ways from Old Charlie so I was getting a little braver.  I could see Big Barry (red shirt and coveralls). BB, as they call him, is the leader of the Rowan Gang.   A couple other guys were unloading something from an old green truck but I couldn’t tell who they were or what it was.  The trees were just too thick!  There were a couple other fellows working on something too, but I couldn’t get a good view of it.  I decided to go a little farther along the highway.

Bingo!  This was the perfect vantage point!  I guess Big Barry was also doing a little “quality control” too.  I could see the bags in the back of the truck.  They look like big sacks of sugar.

The two guys working on the gizmo in front of them are a couple locals.  One claims to be an “engineer” of some sort and the other is the local Mensa wannabe.  Derwood something or other and Chris Smeer or something.  Anyway, I’m sure between the two of them they are almost smart enough to fix any contraption – even this whatever it is.

I think the guy behind Big Barry is his second in command – Krazy Kenny.  He’s a little guy but you have to be careful around him.

I recognized the red and white car too.  It’s THE fastest car in town.  I’ve seen it zooming through town many times after pulling out of Black River Road.

Well, I hope you’ve enjoyed my story.  I was lucky I wasn’t caught.  Here are a few more pictures I took after I was a little farther away from the danger zone.

I made it home in time for supper and to catch my favorite TV show. Perhaps you’ve heard of “Dukes of Hazard”? Anyone know where I can get an HO scale General Lee? How about a Daisy Duke?



It’s Playoff Season!

Monday, April 26th, 2010

Yes, it’s that time of year again! Wouldn’t you know it, the only team that didn’t make it into the semi finals is the Stevenville Stalkers!  The three other local teams: Tidewater Titans, Chappleton Crushers, and the Bayside Bashers all made it as well as the rival Wholinthall Wolverines.  Operations on the BS&T have seen an increase in passenger traffic from all the local fans that want to attend as many games as they can.

Photo: The Milk Train passes the “Hockey Specials” on it’s way to Wholinthal. The RDC is heading to Bayside with Titan fans while the larger train carrying Wolverine fans is heading to Chappellton.

Last night the Titans played the Bashers in Bayside and the Crushers were host to the Wolverines.  Fan specials ran from Wholinthal to Chappellton and from Tidewater to Bayside.

The Wolverines won against the Crushers 12 zip.  Local fans could see the defeat coming so left early and jumped on the late combine.  They knew it would take longer to get home, but felt safer than if they had traveled on the special with the Wolverines fans!  I think it was a good decision since, judging from the amount of cleanup and repair the maintenance crew will have to do, Wolverines fans are rather rowdy.

The Titans were bashed by the Bayside Team 6 – 3.  It was interesting to note the difference in fan disposition between Wolverines and Titans fans.  The RDC that carried the latter received very little damage in comparison  I guess they were not in much of a celebratory mood after their loss.

Next week should be interesting!

The Wayfreight crews doubled as passenger crews last evening.  In keeping with Union regulations those operators received bonus pay – 1 extra Kimmie Treat at break time!  Barry ran the Wolverines fan train while Ewen ran the RDC with Titan fans.  After taking the fans to the games those guys had to run over and grab the local switch engines to get their Wayfreight trains ready.

Photo: Tom stands back to watch a rare sight on the BS&T. The Special Passenger run carrying Wolverine fans to Chappellton rolls through Stevenville.

Tom ran the local job in Stevenville.  It’s been a while since he was able to make it to an operating session on the BS&T (since he tried to take a picture of me – and failed miserably).  It took him time to get into the swing of things, but once he got on a roll he did a fine job.  I haven’t gone through the switch list to make sure everything got delivered to the right places, of course, but I’m sure there were no mistakes.

Photo: The East Bound Wayfreight cleared the west switch a few minutes ago so the Interchange from Wholinthal is able to leave town heading for Tidewater. The local switch crew has a string of cars ready for the Wayfreight.

Ken was late arriving so Chris grabbed his usual place switching the local industries in Chappellton.  I’m not exactly sure what Barry is doing (running the East Wayfreight).  Perhaps it’s some new hand signal system that Management is not aware of.

Derwin is running the CN Interchange train from Wholinthall into Tidewater.  You can see it just leaving town in the distance.

Photo: The East Bound Wayfreight is heading onto the station track in Stevenville as the Transfer from Bayside waits on the mainline.

Here’s a rather common pose for Derwin.  Ha!  I guess I should say, in all fairness, that he is waiting for Barry and the East Bound Wayfreight to finish swapping cars with Tom in Stevenville.  It’s just coming through into the station now so Derwin will soon be on his way.

Photo: The Combine has just cleared the switch so the Transfer is able to leave.

Unfortunately Ken missed a lot of the early activity on the railroad.  I was just getting the Coal train into Chappellton when he arrived so I handed that task off to him.  He completed that and then performed local switching in Kenville and Derwin’s Drop.  Sorry,  I was too busy turning trains for their return runs and I did not get any photos of those areas.

I didn’t get many photos of Ewen either.  He must have been behaving himself, otherwise I’m sure I would have gotten a photo or two of him.  He ran the West Bound Wayfreight in the first half of the session and the East Bound in the second half (Barry ran the second East Bound).

All in all it was a great session.  There were the inevitable equipment failures – tank car fell apart after it was knocked by a big hand (wonder who!) and a few coupler springs went “sproing”.  Barry lost a loco for a few minutes after the decoder in it reset itself.  Thank goodness for DecoderPro!  I had the loco reprogrammed and back in operation in a few minutes.  Unfortunately it was not until AFTER he had to get helper service over “The Ridge”.

So next week (May 2nd) we are back at Derwin’s “Canadisle Rail”.  The following week is Mother’s day so we will not be operating.  We’ll be back on the BS&T on May 16th!  Derwin and I will be just returning from the MFMR Annual Convention on May 23rd, so we will not be operating that evening.

Remember, if you are planning a trip to Prince Edward Island you should contact me to set up some layout visits or an operating session.


The Moncton Invasion

Sunday, February 7th, 2010

I know I’m a week late, but… better late than never!

Last Saturday a group from the Codiac Operators made the trek across the bridge for a day of operating.  Our first stop was Derwin’s Canadisle Rail.  We had a great time there, and a great lunch – thanks Derwin and Shelley!

We arrived at the Bayside & Tidewater about mid-afternoon to round out the day.  I was looking forward to having a full crew, but a couple of the Moncton guys decided not to come due to the weather.  We had a snowstorm on Friday and the forecast wasn’t too bad, but they didn’t want to take a chance.  The weather can be a very unpredictable thing.

There were enough guys on hand that I was able to have a yard operator in Tidewater for the first time.  I think things went a little smoother there because of it.  Too bad for Jim I didn’t have a yard operator in Bayside.  He would have gotten out of there with the Wayfreight a lot sooner.  The poor guy didn’t understand the instructions and was going to put every car leaving the yard onto one train.  Hmmm… I seem to remember someone doing that on another layout.  Who was that?  Oh yeah!  It was me on Steve’s layout in Saint John just last year.  I guess I can’t be too hard on Jim!

Other than that there were no horrific stories – like what happened to Derwin with the CN Interchange to Wholinthall last time.  But I won’t dwell on the past, just point you to the story in case you missed it – Derwin’s ill fated run to Wholinthall.

Milne took this photo of Derwin derailing a freight car (or is he breaking something?) while John is checking out his instructions.  Using switch lists is a little new to these guys since they are very used to car card systems.  Either way, you still have to find the car at the industry and sometimes they aren’t where they are supposed to be.  Good switch crews are hard to find!  HA!

Jim finally did make it out of Bayside and is pulling into Chappellton to drop off cars and pick up a cut heading for Tidewater.  Mike has things under control and is very glad I suggested he take the Chappellton job.  There is definitely a height advantage working on the lower side of the room.

Milne took this photo as well.  It’s great to have someone else on hand to take pictures since I’m usually too busy.  It begs the question, though… Why did he have so much free time?!

Milne took this shot as well.  It’s a different perspective of just how crowded things can get when there are lots of operators on the same side of the room.  Fortunately I didn’t get really greedy for layout space and make the aisles any narrower.  People can still get by one another.

I guess I should clean the light fixtures in the ceiling.  Those lights never get used.

I didn’t run a train so I guess I’m just observing – making sure folks understand how the layout works.  It looks like Derwin is waiting with the CN Interchange (Yes, he’s running that one again!  You’d think I’d learn!) for Jim to finish in Chappellton so he can get into the yard in Tidewater.  Derwin’s glad he won’t have to do the switching for the Interchange and Transfer trains for a change.  It can get a little confusing (and we know how easy it is to confuse Derwin).  Dave has things in Tidewater under control.

Derwin took this shot of Milne running the East Bound Wayfreight into Kenville.  John took the task of doing the local switching in both Kenville and Derwin’s Drop, and providing helper service over “The Ridge”.  It’s not one of the busiest jobs on the layout, but it does keep a person occupied and provides a bit of variety.

All in all the visit went really well.  All the freight cars went to the right places and everyone had a great time.  We are now looking forward to out trip to Saint John on the 20th to operate on a couple layouts there.  It will be a joint trip with some Half Nutters and some of the Codiac guys.  I hope Steve and Doug are prepared  for the havoc we can bring!



Moncton Visit

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

A group from Moncton are coming over on Saturday for a day of operating.  It should be a fun day and I’m sure I’ll have lots of stories for next week (as long as I take the time to post them).

I haven’t had much time to work on the layout but with the impending visit in mind I did take some time on the weekend to work on some electrical issues.

The track layout in Chappellton has changed many times since the layout was first constructed.  I originally had feeder wires to just about every siding in the town.  The feeders were disconnected to allow for rearranging the track and, although most of them were reattached, apparently I missed some.  So I re-soldered feeders to the passenger track where we were seeing trains slow down for some “unexplained” reason.  I also relocated some other unused feeder wires to the industrial area of Chappellton where we lost power completely during the last operating session.  Hopefully that town will run much better on Saturday.

There was a short section of track in Stevenville, between two turnouts, where we were having issues with locos stalling.  So I ran new feeder wires to that section.  Unfortunately that did not resolve the issue.  I discovered that the locos were actually losing power on the point rails of one of the turnouts.  So I installed jumpers across the riveted section of the point rails and everything works fine now.  However, I was not careful enough when I soldered the fine wires across the opening and actually soldered across the gap.  This resulted in the joint being too stiff for the Z-spring wire I had installed in the turnout’s throw bar.  I had to install a Caboose ground throw.  It’s amazing how one simple thing can lead to so many jobs.

I also started wiring a series of plugs around the layout that will be used for accessory power.  The plugs will be switched from a single location near the door using a lighted switch as a reminder that the power is on.  Since wiring the lights in the passenger station in Chappellton I have left the wall wort power supply plugged in for days.  Fortunately the bulbs do not get so hot that they melt the styrene on the street above.

There are a few more things I’d like to do before Saturday and precious little free time to do them.  As long as we have operating instructions we’ll be good to go.  The other things will just have to go undone.

Anyway, there will be more next week, I hope.  Until then – don’t drive your trains while talking on a cell phone!  It’s against the law now, you know.  You should get a Bluetooth device.


The “Incident”

Friday, January 22nd, 2010

Now, getting to what I alluded to previously.  The guys in Moncton will be pleased to hear that Derwin earned some well-deserved demerits during Sunday’s operating session.  It seems he didn’t inspect his train before he left Tidewater heading back to Wholinthall with the CN Interchange.  A coupler let go on The Ridge and the rear section of his train rolled uncontrolled down grade.  The caboose and the next car derailed at the crossover causing little damage to the contents of the box car, but almost wrote off the caboose.

The cupola is laying on the ground, the handrail between the cars is at an odd angle, and the ladder is missing.  A search crew found it the next morning just after sunrise.  They had to use a helicopter to do an aerial survey of the area.  They couldn’t believe how far the ladder flew from the scene!

It’s also amazing that no one was injured!  Conductor Ima Lukyduk was heating up some soup and pouring coffee at the time.  “I was trown onta da cot dere an a bunch a pillows landed on top o me.  They kept me from gittin covered wit the soup and coffee I was heetin’ up!  I’m glad I sleep a lot an have a good mattress (from U & M Mattresses by the way) and lots a pillows on hand!”

The caboose is now at Fixum Car Repair in Chappellton where it will hopefully be repaired before the next operating session. They already used the crane to put the cupola back on the roof.  I really hope they straighten it up!

How many demerits do you think that’s worth!?