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  Updated: July 15, 2011 
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July, 2011: At our November, 2010 Scale meeting, we decided to postpone the planned extension of the Chubb system through to the Oakland yards, and extension of DCC to our Mountain Division, and instead spend the winter shutdown time to focus on improving operating reliability. That time was well-spent ! The first four months of this operating season have been essentially trouble-free, significantly raising the enjoyment level of our run sessions.

Essentially all of the projects mention in the October, 2010 report below have been completed:

The 50-Lead changes have largely eliminated congestion around the Magnolia diamond.

The Oakland WP yard is now fully-functional as a run-through yard. Jeff Robinson, who handled the project, did a very clever adaptation of the existing control panel to provide temporary control of power and the new turnouts until the area is Chubbed. Weathering and ballasting of the new track remains to be done.

Phil Figel completed installation of the new intermodal yard in the Oakland mole. The crane works well and several members have mastered the tricky work of loading and unloading containers. Its truly a sight to behold when the area lights are switched on ! More details, pictures and video here in the HO section of the page. Some scenery work remains to be done.

October, 2010: We completed the extension of our 50-Lead spur in front of the Trolley layout to connect into SP trackage, and added back an interchange between the WP and SP Mainlines in the Magnolia diamond area (adjacent to Trolley). This gives us dual-mainline functionality coming on and off the SP Mains next to the Oakland Yard. For non-clearing trains, we now run westbound on the WP and eastbound on the SP over the Altamont/Niles Canyon route, rather than the reverse. This gives us right-hand running out of Oakland until the tracks cross at the Altamont summit. Beyond that, we have a number of cross-overs to change back to right-hand running if desired.

Work is in progress to make the Oakland WP Yard into a through yard by modifying the West ladder. The basic trackwork is in but we are still a way aways from getting it all operational. The major hurdle will be to revamp the control panel because the new configuration is significantly different.

Work is fairly far along on the new intermodal yard in the Oakland Mole. The base and track for the operating Heljan intermodel crane is in and has been tested successfully. About half of the spur tracks are in but have not yet been connected up. More details on the Website home page (see Our Layouts on the left about mid-way down the page).

One of the Chubb computers died a month ago after repeated surgery to keep it alive. The three computers are donees and have enjoyed a full life ! We have purchased three new low-end computers (which is all that is needed to run the software) and these are in the process of being set up for an imminent cut-over

We are on a major push to improve reliability of operation. With the layout now well into its late teens, we are seeing more frequent breakdowns of both mechanical (turnouts and tortoises) and electrical components. Several trackwork issues have been fixed. The prewiring project for the next phase of Chubb (February 2010 report below) has caught a number of missing drops and allowed some urban renewal so we are making progress. Any required turnout replacements are DCC-Ready. These are electrically superior for both DC and DCC in that each turnout point is electrically isolated from its adjacent neighbour. All problems are tracked when reported and fixed, giving us a database to assess what might need more radical surgery !

February, 2010: The Big News is that this winter shutdown we installed DCC on all Valley Divisions as an alternative to DC. We will be running separate DC and DCC sessions to cater to our varied members' interests. We chose a Digitrax SuperChief Xtra 5 Amp system with two 8 Amp boosters, dividing the Valley ultimately into eight separate sub-districts and three reversing loops. While we have not yet run any full-blown operating sessions to test the system to its capacity, experience so far has been surprisingly trouble-free, including intergration with our Chubb signalling system.

Our Chubb system is being pre-wired for expansion from the west end of the Altamont to the Oakland yards. Cutover is expected next winter.

We have modified Mainline trackwork in front of the Trolley area to ease congestion around the Magnolia diamonds. We now have multiple routes between the SP and WP trackage to provide operating flexibility.

Scenery work continues on the Hill. The Long Ravine bridges are finally being installed. The last of three BLMA 150ft brass truss bridges purchased last year was installed just east of Niles Junction, replacing a deteriorating plastic kit.

Visitors this year will find work-in-progress on two other major projects right up front by the public walkway. One is a rework of the west end of the WP yard to make it a through yard. The dead-end west ladder has been torn up and will be redone. Also, we will be adding an intermodal yard and operating overhead crane in the Mole near the wye. Work has not yet started on that.

February, 2009: After some minor hiccups, the layout was operated successfully during the Y2008 run season under Chubb with the newly Chubbed area between Sacramento Mains and the west side of the Altamont Pass. The complexity of the reversing loop from Sacramento to the hidden Roseville Yard continued to plague our electronics gurus for the entire year and it was only at the end of the year that we were able to access RV Mains from the west end of the yard. But progress is being made and we are within inches of completing the Elvas complex for full operation under Chubb, complete with working signals.

Having lineside signals adds a real and welcome prototypical feel for engineers. Repeater boards on the "Tower" over Sacramento allow engineers - and the public - to see the status of their trains from a distance. There are 7 sets of lights, one for each throttle, and the repeaters show the condition of the next signal that an engineer's train is approaching.

The focus this shutdown period, other than Chubb, is maintenance - a number of turnouts have been replaced with new - some have been in since the late 1980's ! We also purchased 3 of the new BLMA brass girder bridges to replace the 3 plastic ones we have on the layout - 2 just east of Niles Junction on the SP and the WP/SP overcrossing near the summit of the Altamont pass.

Longer term, we have finally found "takers" for reviving 3 long -delayed projects. The first is the turntable and roundhouse at Oakland Yard. The turntable bridge is being rebuilt, the pit levelled out, service tracks re-aligned and construction started on the roundhouse. The second is installing handrails on the 2 decks of Long Ravine bridge that have sat in storage for over 2 years. Finally, work is in progress on building Shed 10 bridge. Hopefully by mid-year, we should see some visible progress out on the layout !

March, 2008: Signals, signals, signals ! Wiring, wiring, wiring ! Much effort has been expended getting ready for the cutover to Chubb for the run from Sacramento to the west side of the Altamont. Our topside crew has installed a forest of signals, even beyond the planned extension. And our moles have had the back-breaking work of pulling and connecting new wire and removing old under the layout. With the layout shutdown since January, the pace has accelerated to do work that could not be done while we were still running during the last few months of the year.

And not to be forgotten is training for the new system. A well-attended class on signals aspects was held in February and “hands-on” sessions in March. We may see some shaky running for the first few weeks of the new season until we gain familiarity with running under our new Automatic Block Signalling (ABS) system !

Scenery has not been neglected. Our master scratchbuilder, Jeff Robinson, is doing a phenomenal job on the buildings in our new town of Pleasanton. As an example, he has used 153 pieces of plastic to build and stabilize the peaked roof for Pleasanton Hotel. Two previous tries with less bracing warped in the winter cold of our building. We are holding our breath that trial 3 is it ! The roof has a cupola. Jeff used an additional 55 pieces just for that ! He is also scratchbuilding a model of Kolln Hardware – the portion above the main roof of its corner dome contains 140 pieces of plastic. These are models of contest quality – we are working on him to find a way to give the models appropriate exposure in the modeling community.

Work on developing the site for the new Martinez depot is progressing well. Background information and a photographic record of the stages of progress is documented here.

A long section of the dual track Mainline between Davis and Sacramento was ripped out and relaid to eliminate an annoying vertical kink at the Sacramento River bridge. This was a problem that was introduced inadvertently when the bridge was installed some 3 years ago and has defied the many small fixes attempted since then.

Benchwork has been completed for a new siding and switching area at Dixon. Though this area is “backstage” out of the public view, it gives the operators some further operating interest and ability to change the makeup of a train before it reappears for the public.

And another large area of basket-weaving scenery base for the Hill was covered – under Cape Horn just to the left of the large elevated cab above Sacramento. Progress, progress !

September, 2007: We have just completed a major update of the HO Section of the website with many new pictures that show the significant progress made since the last update. These pictures replace the old Photo Gallery referred to in the January 2001 news below.

SP's Cal-P line - along the public walkway - has essentially been completed. We are, however, considering a complete redo of the Wood Street area to improve trackwork and switching operability. The large Oakland Mole building , which was showing signs of age, was renovated - internal support beams and roof "glasswork" replaced. A large turntable was installed at the (railroad) west end of the Oakland Yard but the roundhouse is yet to be built - a major undertaking.

The competing SP and WP lines over Altamont Pass saw the addition of the new town of Tracy. A second, Pleasanton, is under construction, together with some industries along the back wall.

The Trolley layout underwent a major redo of the Havenscourt area along the back wall and updating of the control system. Narrow Gauge continues to work on track and control refinements. DCC control was implemented about 12 months ago

Our energies are now focused on scenicking the large Mountain Division - Roseville through Colfax to Truckee. Many authentic scenes have been painstakingly modeled but much remains to be done; however, the line is fully operational with trains climbing to a dramatic 12 feet or so above the public walkway to the large (hidden) staging yard at Truckee. Last winter, a major new engine facility was added to the (hidden) Roseville staging yard.

We continue to refine the computer control system currently implemented on the Mountain Division. This will be extended from Sacramento to the west side of the Altamont Pass this coming winter shutdown, with working signals to control train movements.

August 2, 2004: The tower exterior was completed – it will ultimately house 4 control cabs for Hill operations. Most of the 2000- 2002 projects were completed which added alot of urban and rural building and scenery details, operating functionality and added interest. Major eye catchers are the Yolo Causeway trestles and scenery, Sacramento River and the Sacramento intermodal yard and exquisite rockwork and scenery at American Canyon. Our Newark/Decoto area has really blossomed with many additonal building and scenery. Cal-P and Sante Fe branchlines are complete and have been operational for 2 run seasons.

The Chubb system which controls operations on The Hill - our Roseville to Truckee Donner loop - was completed and operated during the 2003 season. A major rebuild of the Roseville Yard ladders, tie-ins to the branchlines and rebuild of the control panel with tie-ins to Chubb - was completed in Spring 2004 -this added much operational flexibility. Our large yard at Truckee at the top of the Hill - high above the main layout level - is close to being operational. We are currently focussed on continuing the extensive job of completing hardshell and scenery on the very large Hill area. And we are set to plant a few thousand trees !

The basic trackwork for a lumber line winding along the slopes of the Hill has been laid. The plan is to have this operate automatically, with one loaded and one empty train shuttling back and forth between the logging area and sawmill complex.< /p>

Narrow gauge has seen many improvements. The run to Elvas was eliminated and replaced by a Helix which providesa second loop up to Colfax. Extensive rewiring was done to improve operations and activate the helix loop. It is now common to see four narrow gauge trains operating simultaneously on Narrow Gauge, all controlled by just one operator. A rebuild of the control panel is in the works, as is some additional trackwork to add sidings for operational flexibility.

April 13, 2002: We have started a super-detailing program which includes both interior and exterior lighting throughout our urban areas (Oakland, Newark, Davis and Sacramento).

January 20, 2001: We have posted a large number of photos in the photo gallery section to show the tremendous progress we have made on scenery and details in the last year.

August 20, 2000: We have almost completed the CHUBB system on the Mountain Division. It should be up and running soon. We have begun installing scenery on the Mountain Division, we are currently working at American. The sanding facilty has been installed at the Oakland Engine Facilty. Newark Davis scenery is nearing completion. Roundhouse scenery is being installed. Radum, Hearst, and East Pleasanton scenery is nearing completion. The elevated tower has most of the exterior work completed. Interior work will begin soon.

Coming projects for winter 2000/2001: Installation of Yolo Causeway. Shoo-fly removal, branchline completion. Truckee yard completion. Colfax scenery completion. Completion of local panels which will allow full use of local switching at Newark, Radum, Hearst, and East Pleasanton. Installation of Sacramento intermodal facility. Roundhouse scenery completion. Completion of American scenery and starting at Auburn, Cape Horn, and Long Ravine. Installation of Narrow Gauge yard at Sacramento.

February 14, 2000: Work continues on Newark, it should be nearing completion by May 1. We are working toward completion of the town of Davis by May 1. We are continuing wiring work for our Chub computer control system for the Donner Pass Division. We have started construction of the elevated cab for the Donner Pass Division - it will resemble a switching tower. We have started construction of the Oakland yard roundhouse and the ferry boat for our Oakland ferry terminal (Mole).

September 2, 1999: Work on Davis continues. On the website, we have added trackplans for each division.

June 4, 1999: The town of Davis has arisen is rapidly being populated by railroads, buildings, people and vehicles. Work continues on many other aspects of the layout.

April 2, 1999: Come see trains straining up the Donner Summit grade to Truckee. While our Mountain Division is not yet fully operational, we will be running trains "up the Hill" for the first time. There is new and more complete scenery on several portions of the layout. The Oakland Mole building now is nearly complete and the Key System trackwork to the Oakland 16th Street Station has appeared and soon should be operational. The Oakland Roundhouse turntable will be turning an assortment of finely detailed steam engines - from Moguls to Cab Forwards - for service when we feature steam or transition eras. On modern days the layout features a number of intermodal hot freights. More passenger trains will be featured. It is a great sight to see a California Zephyr, a SP Daylight or a Santa Fe Chief departing the Mole and headed for points east. A variety of AMTRAK equipment operates when we feature a modern theme.

January 8, 1999: More work on scenery for the upcoming photo-shoot.

December 4, 1998: The focus has been on completing detailed scenes in preparation for the January visit from Model Railroader magazine. The hill is operational with one train in either direction.

October 3, 1998:Work continues on the Oakland Mole building as skylight panels are being added. Work on the Chubb system will slow for now, while members concentrate on getting the big hill operational and scenicked. The target is to have a train run up and down within a few weeks. The electrical team is also working on organizing the wiring to isolate systems for ease of maintenance and additions.

September 4, 1998: The ferry slip at Oakland Mole is progressing as details are added. Scenery at Newark and structures at Colfax have been updated. The track is laid on the "hill" and wiring and testing continues.

 

 
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