Pterodactyl Screams


Developing a DCC system for large layouts requires a great deal of thought. Randy, Gene, and myself sat down Monday and Tuesday mornings, put our heads together and developed a plan. This plan was based on maximum operability of the layout or, in other  words, the heaviest, best use during an operations session. We wanted to take advantage of the full capabilities of the layout. This included switching in 5 towns, a logging operation, 2 major yards, 2 locomotive facilities, staging capabilities, and several trains on the mainline all at the same time. Actual train crews can number 15 or more with a crew being 1 to 2 people. This is consistent with our minimum 36” radius curves,  maximum 1.7% grade, minimum #6 turnouts on the main, 48” wide aisles and long passing sidings. We also had to design in the ability for one or a few persons to come in, turn on the lights and the layout and run a train or switch a few cars. 

DCC planning session complete with colored diagrams, power district documentation, cookies, french fries and highly motivated participants. Jerry, Randy, and Gene maintain a laser focus on all things Digitrax.

In addition to an operations based plan, we had to develop a wiring system with specific and consistent standards. These standards had to be in as simple a form as possible so members with an interest in layout wiring could understand it, identify boosters, locate power districts and trace circuits. This makes trouble-shooting much easier.  Moreover, this same documentation can be used as a guide to actually wire the layout. 

The Digitrax DCC system uses wireless throttles that talk to a command station which in turn tells locomotives what to do through a series of boosters, circuit breakers and a wire distribution system. Color coded wires using several colors will be used and copied into the documentation. Booster stations and circuit breakers will be visible and accessible from the aisle thus allowing quick and easy assessment of problems. Our general thoughts were to make the DCC system robust enough to align with the full capabilities designed into the layout, and at the same time, make it user friendly.  This work will begin next week and continue for 2-3 weeks.  

Gene helps Jaymes with a decoder problem in a Missouri Pacific Alco PA 

The adept hands of Randy check power district gaps with a “tweeter” and then marks them with push pins.  The first time this tweeter went off 3 guys who wear hearing aids grimaced in pain and simultaneously grabbed for volume controls. The piercing sound of this device probably replicates the attack scream of a 25 foot Pterodactyl.

As vaccinations become more widespread, more and more folks are coming by on Mondays and Tuesdays to work, inspect, or just see what’s up. We welcome any who want to visit or work. We always have jobs available. Bill has started working on Deep Canyon scenery. Patrick continues his work on the town in Corvallis. Jaymes came by to get some help with installing a decoder into a really nice MP  Alco PA. Larry continues work on the helix “tunnel” liner and ballast. George is making track joints on sidings and Gene continues preparing electrical drops for power districts. Lonnie came by with his famous RS-3 to test the south helix concluding that the new helix allows his engine to pull 19 cars up the hill compared to only 12 on the old layout. Doug continues his work in Eagle Everything and has branched out into marine biology to include menacing sharks, sunken logs, and secretive fish.  And then there’s lunch – a time of supreme culinary delights and highly intellectual exchange of thought. 

Eagle Creek tumbles into Eagle Cove as this below the bridge aquarium view reveals a lurking shark, sunken log, and other submarine details. 

Spring has sprung in the northwest necessitating an increase in ranch work. Spraying fence lines,  fertilizing pastures, mowing perimeters, and fixing farm equipment that more resembles yard art or museum antiquities rather than working equipment will make these progress reports shorter and less timely. Oh yeah, and then there’s a mare who is going to foal near the end of the month and, as always, in the middle of the night.

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