An operating session at Highball to Indy 2016
This page is updated periodically to report on the progress we have
made on the development and construction of the Operations Road Show
layout since the beginning of 2015. The updates from years prior to 2015 have been moved
to their own pages.
Owing to the scope of this project, these reports do not necessarily
contain everything which is going on or has been accomplished at a
December 17, 2016
One of the things that many people discover after holding operating sessions over a period of years is that running their trains regularly can actually wear them out. After thirteen years and over 150 operating sessions, we're starting to see the effects of heavy use on our locomotive fleet.
So far, we have had to replace motors on two Kato-era Atlas GP7s, after the motor bearings became worn. Perhaps with a more regular program of preventive maintenance, or at least more frequent lubrication, we might have avoided this. In one case, the afflicted locomotive was purchased used, so we have no idea how many hours of use it may have accumulated prior to our acquiring it. Other layouts we have operated on regularly have experienced worn-out power pick-ups on their motive power over the years.
Fortunately, spare parts for Atlas, Kato and most Athearn diesels are still available, and for those parts which aren't easily available, it is also possible to pick up replacement mechanisms (in the form of models painted for other roadnames) at hobby shops and train shows. We keep a few spares in stock to either use as entire replacement mechanisms, or to cannibalize for parts.
Out of a fleet of approximately fifty diesels, we have had three decoders fail after over a decade of use, each. These were one Digitrax DH163 and two NCE DASRs.
As far as our underlying DCC system is concerned, we have not experienced any failures of our command stations, throttles or other DCC infrastructure hardware over this period.
November 13, 2016
We've often referred to the elevated housing we've built for our UR91 radio receiver as a "birdhouse". This summer, we finally took it to its next logical step. We painted it red, added a perch, then clipped an ornamental cardinal we found at a craft store to it.
We previously had one of our UR92 duplex radio transceivers mounted an inch or so beneath the UR91 in the same birdhouse, but found that we got better duplex reception on this side of the room if we moved it a couple of feet away.
This photo also shows the completed paint job on the layout room's walls. While we went with basic white walls, we chose to add blue and gray accent stripes to provide some Wabash-themed visual relief from white walls transitioning to a mostly white-ish ceiling.
October 30, 2016
Operating sessions resumed in late September. As part of the North Central Region NMRA's North Central Express 2016 regional convention, we hosted an operating session for attendees on October 6.
As of the end of October, the project to repaint the walls in the layout room is nearly completed. On the scenery front, we have begun work on another batch of trees.
September 10, 2016
With a lot of work done over the past three weeks, the layout is back up, and is nearly ready to run, again. After reorganizing some of the non-layout things in the room, we will begin placing cars in preparation for our first operating session back at our home base.
August 18, 2016
With a new coat of paint on the walls, we have begun to set the layout back up at its home base. We expect this to take four or five work sessions.
The modules, back in the basement, as we prepare to set the layout back up
August 4, 2016
Our trip to Highball to Indy 2016 was another success!
With a great deal of work from our core team and a number of volunteers both at our home base and at Indianapolis, we moved the layout to the Westin Hotel in Indianapolis and held a dozen operating sessions during the week of the Convention, filling all 144 operating slots.
Setting up the layout Sunday morning
We couldn't have done it without the help of our crew of volunteers-- at home, we had help from Mark Davis, Josh Feldkamp, David Pickell, Jordan Solano-Reed, Walt Trancygier and Tim Young.
In Indianapolis, David Correia, Ross Kudlick, Marty Lontz, Phil Monat, Brad Rotert, Stu Stewart, and Tim Verberg all gave of their Convention time to help with set-up and tear-down. Thanks, guys-- you made it possible and contributed greatly to the success of our outing! Additionally, during the week we had help from volunteer docents from OpSIG, including Will Jordan.
Our road team this year included Paul Anderson, Dave Bowman, Brian Everett, Jeff Fryman, Bob Milhaupt, Fritz Milhaupt, Al and Bev Robertson, Dave Simmons, and John and Cindy Young, all of whom put in considerable time packing, loading, hauling the trailers to and from Indianapolis and unloading before and after the Convention, in addition to set-up, tear-down and conducting the operating sessions. Unloading and set-up on Sunday took fourteen hours. Tear-down and packing up was about eight hours this year.
During the course of the week, the layout ran well, despite having racked up a couple of thousand miles of travel after five previous outings and hosting hundreds of operating sessions at home. We experienced a couple of "interesting" electrical events during the course of the week that we were finally able to trace to an electrical connector that had not been plugged in quite all the way and was making intermittent contact.
A couple of the things we especially enjoyed were seeing people who had operated on the layout before come by again for another session, and visiting with old friends dropping by to say "Hi!" and see the progress we've made. We were pleased to hear how many of our previous guest crews had taken operating or construction ideas from the ORS layout and applied them to their own layouts.
Crews confer with docents during the Wednesday night operating session
At the Convention, we were able to show off the changes we have made to the layout since the last National Convention, including several modules' upgraded scenery, rearranged trackwork and scenery at Lafayette Junction, and the new configuration at CW Tower. The most recent change was the addition of Walt Trancygier's new buildings for the industries behind East Yard, which debuted at the Convention.
New three-dimensional building flats along the industry tracks behind East Yard
In addition to adding color and detail, the new buildings include loading platforms and doors as specific places to spot cars, which several of our previous hardboard flats did not have.
Highball to Indy 2016 was another successful outing for the Operations Road Show team and our layout- Our thanks go out to all who helped and all who attended our operating sessions! Additional photos from this effort have been added to the photo gallery.
The ORS Road Team at our traditional Teardown Dinner at Highball to Indy 2016
We'll take a few weeks off to relax and tend to other things we might have put off while preparing for the Convention. After doing some work on the layout room, we plan to set the layout back up by mid-September so that we can resume operating sessions and try to regain the momentum we'd built up on scenery work before we packed up to go to Indy.
June 23, 2016
The layout is completely down, now, with all of the rackable modules racked and the rolling stock packed. Nearly all of the miscellaneous materials and traveling supplies are packed up. The next step will be to load up trailers and pull out to Indy!
For anyone who wishes to help with set-up, we will begin set-up at 8am, Sunday morning, July 3, in the Grand Ballroom at the Convention hotel, and will continue working through the day and into the evening until it is set up and ready for the Monday morning operating session. This has usually taken us from 12 to 15 hours. We would greatly appreciate any assistance that we can get with this massive undertaking!
June 9, 2016
Tear-down work is well under way, now, with rolling stock being packed up, legs taken off of modules, and modules being racked.
May 1, 2016
Our operating session this coming Saturday, when we have our annual get-together with a group of operators from southwest Ohio, is the last one until we once again set up the layout in Indianapolis. We look forward to this visit as one of the highlights of the first half of the year.
Over the past two months we have continued with scenery work, track adjustment, and maintaining the locomotive and rolling stock fleet. The area around CW Tower has received ground cover and we have begun installing a stretch of state highway along the right-of-way between Burrows and Rockfield. We've also made a few hundred more trees, which are slowly appearing around the layout, and improved building faces are going in behind East Yard.
Since we expect to run the Purdue-University of Michigan football special while at the Indianapolis convention, the passenger cars we only use on that train are receiving special attention so that they run more reliably than they have in the past. With two manufacturers having announced Pennsylvania P70 coaches last year, we were hoping that we might be able to replace our aging Bachmann Spectrum P70s with cars that run better. Instead, we will move forward with performing major truck and coupler work on our existing cars, since neither manufacturer has released them, yet.
February 28, 2016
Scenery work continues.
New scenery going in between New Waverly and Keesport will feature a Christmas tree farm and a dirt road crossing. The autumn trees visible on the other side of where the skyboard would normally be are about 35 miles away by rail. The rebuilt CW Tower area is receiving new scenery as well, and trackwork changes are wrapping up at Lafayette Junction.
January 11, 2016
Work continued over the holidays to ensure that our current projects will be completed in time for Highball to Indy, the 2016 NMRA National Convention, July 3-10, 2016 in Indianapolis, Indiana. most of what we are working on now is concentrated on scenery. We have begun scheduling operating sessions for the first half of 2016, right up until mid-May when we begin taking down the layout to pack for the Convention. Each time we go to a convention, the packing is done a little differently, based on past experiences and upon the vehicles we will have for a specific trip.
The ORS project received a very nice and very prominent mention in the January/February 2016 NMRA eBulletin. We will update this web site with information about our operating sessions at the Convention as details are determined.
November 15, 2015
At one of our weekly work sessions over the summer, we decided to test out running scale-length "hi-cube" boxcars over the layout to see whether they could even make it around successfully, much less be something that we would want to incorporate into our operations. After all, by 1964, hi-cube boxcars and 89-foot auto racks were in service on many railroads, including the Wabash.
Our test train of lengthy freight cars
We determined that there were only two places where there would be curvature or clearance issues that we would need to adjust. However, we decided that the "play value" of running the long cars as overhead traffic just wasn't compelling enough, given how much longer trains would end up being, particularly in relation to the length of our passing sidings.
September 12, 2015
Installing the newly-built crossings at Lafayette Junction
One of the significant scenes on the ORS Wabash layout is Lafayette Junction. Four railroads cross through it: The Wabash, the Monon, the Nickel Plate and the New York Central.
Owing to the unique angle required for the single-track Wabash mainline to cross the double-track stretch that makes up the joint NKP and NYC passage through the junction, this location requires a hand-laid pair of custom-built crossings.
The original crossings were some of the first track laid on the layout, back around the turn of the century. John Young performed a lot of fussy work to build them and to make them function the way we needed, and they have served us well. Over the years, however, they have suffered from the ravages of thousands of miles of travel and repeated annual cycles of heating and cooling seasons.
Earlier this year, John decided that their performance was sufficiently reduced that it was time to replace the crossings. Owing to time constraints, he engaged Marv Linke to construct new crossing "diamonds" to our specifications. Over the past two weeks, John has been installing the new crossings. He is also taking advantage of the opportunity to rearrange one of the interchange tracks between the Wabash and the NKP. The plan is to have the mainline back in service for the operating session scheduled for the evening of September 16.
July 18, 2015
Nickel Plate Berkshire #765 on the "new" wye at East Yard
in Lafayette, Indiana on July 17, 2015
Over the weekend of July 17 and 18, several members of the Operations Road Show team headed down to Indiana to ride the Fort Wayne Historical Society's "Wabash Cannonball" excursions from Fort Wayne to Lafayette. For a few of us, this was our first chance to ride over this stretch of the former Wabash, which includes the 53 miles that we loosely model on the ORS layout.
This trip drove home again how much has changed along the Wabash right-of-way in the years since our trips to scout the line for the layout. Some of the most notable changes in the last fifteen years have been the replacement of the bridges over the Wabash River at Logansport and the re-routing of the former Wabash around the north end of Lafayette (rather than through it) as part of the local rail consolidation effort. One of the elements of this massive project was the construction of the "new" wye at East Yard that made for a good destination for the weekend's excursions.
East Yard in Lafayette is still centered around the yeast plant, but it is now operated by Cargill, as opposed to Anheuser-Busch. There were several Manufacturer's Railway boxcars in evidence, though.
The construction of US-24 and Indiana Route 25 as the Hoosier Heartland divided highway has had a significant effect on the roads adjacent to this line.
One other thing that this trip made apparent was just how many more trees we need to add along the right-of-way!
May 25, 2015
On the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend we cleared the mainline and held a "Run What You Brung" session for the members of Rails on Wheels. This was an opportunity for some of us to get out equipment that we otherwise normally don't get much chance to use and to run it over the large Operations Road Show layout. This is something that we don't do very often, since it can disrupt the positioning of trains between operation sessions. This time it worked out well because we only had three trains that we needed to relocate from the mainline and passing sidings to clear the tracks.
A number of members brought trains they hadn't run in several years. The variety was pretty impressive, with lots of equipment that wouldn't have been seen on the Wabash in 1964, such as a UP Big Boy pulling a lengthy freight drag, and a twelve-car Milwaukee Road Hiawatha behind a pair of ALCo DL-109s. Trains from railroads closer to the layout's real-world home base, such as Conrail and Ann Arbor freights from the 1970s and 1980s made appearances, too, along with a pair of Amtrak passenger trains and some more modern Southern and Norfolk Southern freights.
We ran these random trains for about five hours, after which we restored the trains that had been on the mainline and passing sidings at the end of the most recent operating session to their previous locations.
May 22, 2015
During the first two weekends in May we hosted guest crews from southwest Ohio and Grand Rapids, Michigan.
We have a standing arrangement with a group of modelers from the Dayton and Cincinnati areas to come up for an operating session each Spring. Usually this happens in March or April, but this year we held it a little later than usual, on May 2, due to scheduling constraints on both ends. We all look forward to this visit each year, and this year was great fun all around, as usual.
On the ninth, eight new crew (well, new to us) from North Central Region NMRA Division 4 in the Grand Rapids area visited for an operating session. We all had a good time, and would enjoy making operating sessions with this group regular events as well.
John Young discusses some of the finer points of working Logansport with Thom Post, Dr. Bruce Chubb and Hank TenWolde.
April 15, 2015
We've held several operating sessions so far in 2015, and things are going well. We're looking forward to hosting guests from the Cincinnati and Grand Rapids areas during the month of May.
March 6, 2015
The new arrangement at CW Tower is in place and has been in service for three operating sessions. A work-in-progress photo appears at right. The whitish space in the upper right corner is where the interchange tracks' bridge tracks had yet to be installed across the module joint.
Since this photo was taken, the backdrop and the train order signal have been restored, initial ground cover has been applied, and a card box for the interchange was mounted to the fascia.
In addition to increasing the number of cars that we can interchange with the C&O during an operating session, the new arrangement adds a bit of curvature to the line west of Peru, to make it more interesting. The former C&O interchange track in Peru is being converted to an interchange track for the Nickel Plate.
January 31, 2015
With a lot of focused effort in January, the trackwork changes at CW Tower have been completed, and the wiring is finished. Scenery work is under way. We are investigating new methods of mounting the train order signal at CW Tower as it is now very close to where we mount the legs to one end of its module, which can put the under-layout mechanism at risk during set-up and tear-down.
The track plan on this site has been updated to reflect the new arrangement. (February 15)
and progress reports for years prior to 2015
are found on the next page.