In the layout room, nobody can hear you scream


Glen Park is coming back to life!

My good buddy, Joe, has an awesome N-scale Burlington Northern layout. No, awesome doesn't do it justice, but once you hit 'awesome', any other adjective just seems superfluous ('Super-awesome'? 'Awesome-squared'? 'Awesome times infinity plus 1'?)

Joe's great layout is centered around Kansas City, and he has shown the good taste and wisdom to include the MKT's Glen Park Yard in his design.

After much begging and cajoling from the local MKT fans (excluding your humble correspondent, who is WAY too cool for such things), Joe, starting last fall and continuing over the holidays, commenced construction on the Glen Park design and track.

During original construction of the layout, he had set aside this portion of the benchwork for the yard, so every time I ran a train south out of Murray Yard toward Lenexa, I cried bitter tears at the bare homeosote that should be filled with sweet Katy love. And now it is! Or soon will be.

The pictures below show the Glen Park track in its current state - all track is installed; the magnificent Kasper MKVII, Rev 2 turnouts have been built and installed; the torti are installed and connected to some awesome Kasper MK III diode matrices. The area is awaiting fascia and car card boxes. Then we can rock out with our sock out like it was 1990 all over again!

Take a look at the track and Joe's handiwork below:

Glen Park - East End
The east end of Glen Park. The BN double main is to the right.

Glen Park - ladder and engine service
East end of Glen Park, including locomotive service tracks and the east ladder.

Glen Park - West end ladder
The west end of Glen Park, showing the Ash Grove industry tracks in the foreground, and Bunge Elevator tracks in the background.

Approaching Perfection Asymptotically

I once heard a live-aboard sailboat owner lament, "With ownership comes maintenance". Truer words have never been spoken.

Having a layout is fun(ish), but keeping a layout in good running shape is a non-ending endeavor. Non-layout owners, by and large, don't get this. They seem to think that you open up the doors of your layout room on operating night and "VOILA!", it is all magically pristine, with superbly clean track, and mirror-bright clean wheels.

Not so.

Maintenance is an on-going task, particularly on a DCC N-scale layout. Our locos don't (yet) benefit from the "keep-alive" capacitor unit that the HO fellows have. (But I'm not bitter!)

After each session, I generate a list of maintenance items that must be completed before I'll schedule the next session. Most are minor (low coupler, dirty track, etc.), but some require that the experts be brought int.

Such is the case of the misbehaving turnout at Boonville. I have an original (non-Kasper MKVII, rev2 - GASP!) turnout at west Boonville that often did not throw completely back to straight track after being thrown for the siding. The throw bar was just a tiny bit short and would catch on the rail, keeping the points from throwing all the way. No amount of filing or tweaking (not twerking, eww) would resolve the problem. In desperation, I implored my friend, Joe, expert turnout maker-betterer, to come have a look.

His diagnosis confirmed my worst fears - my entire layout sucks.

But specifically, that throwbar at west Boonville sucks more than acceptable, and must be replaced. So out comes the suck reduction tools and Joe gets to work.

An hour later, Joe looks up from the patient and says, "I call the time of death at 6:52 pm". No, he actually says, "Boom! Done!" (or something like that). And now the west Boonville turnout works perfectly. Many thanks to Joe!!!
Throw bar
Thanks to my buddy, Joe, the official Grand Poobah of track maintenance on the Mighty MKT, a new mo' betta' throw bar gets installed at the West Boonville turnout. As Joe likes to point out, retrofitting parts into a scenicked and signaled layout is a "special kind of Hell".

Improvements to SafetyKleen


With the help of my buddy, Steve, I've been working on the St. Charles industries. Here is a nice shot of the SafeyKleen waste transfer facility. This industry accepts waste oil and solvents by truck and transfers the waste to rail tank cars.

You can see the ACF RailCar repair facility in the background.

New turnout at Mokane!

Turnout installed, waiting for glue to dry on the ties.

In my never-ending quest to remove suck from the layout, I implored my good buddy, Joe, to build (and install) another of his awesome Kasper MKVII, Rev 2 turnouts for the west end industries at Mokane. Actually, we had earlier struck an agreement - if he installed this turnout, I would have an operating session within two weeks!

So tonight, Joe kept his part of the bargain. Now I need to call a crew, clean the basement, and get the soda fridge loaded!

Turnout ties cut and painted. Ballasting will be next.

Here is the turnout after ballasting. Now a thorough cleaning and check to make sure that the points aren't cemented shut (they were) and this turnout is ready to be placed back into service.

What they don't tell you when you start building a layout


If you are the owner of a layout intended for operations, I don't have to tell you what this is.

Master of Disguise - a work in progress


I've been working on obscuring the opening at St. Charles, where the track punches through the wall into staging. It's a work in progress, but the effect is already much better than the gaping hole that was there before. I need to replace the N&W train on the bridge and place more ground vegetation, but it's getting there.

New turnouts for Bunge-holio

Joe attempts some layout magic by passing the "Wand-o-suck-reduction" over the turnouts at West Rhineland

Soon, the Bunge Elevator and other West Rhineland industries will benefit from the sweet nirvana know as a Kasper MKVII, Rev 2 turnout retrofit!

I originally installed Peco turnouts at this location (and many others around the layout), and for years they worked fine, particularly during the DC-powered Chubb-o-matic era (Computer Cab Control using Bruce Chubb's great Computer/Model Railroad Interface).

But, since the conversion to DCC, I wasn't happy with the performance of the turnouts - too often, the locomotives died on the unpowered frog. Plus, the turnouts were hand thrown, and my personal preference is for turnout operation using a fascia-mounted toggle or a diode matrix rotary knob.

Joe has come to my rescue with some sweet Kasper MKVII, Rev 2 #6 turnouts! And he has graciously offered to help me install them. And by "help me", I mean that he kicks me out of the layout room while he installs them himself. He say's that my "help" just slows him down (it's true…).

So, the next time your run on the Mighty MKT, do yourself a favor and take the St. Charles local. Then you will get to experience the silky operation over the West Rhineland track and turnouts!

Turtle Envy

box of Tortoises
The awesome sight of 12 brand spanking new tortoise switch machines!

The postman was my best friend today - he dropped of a box containing a dozen shiny new Tortoise switch machines! Christmas in May!

So I promptly did what EVERY Elite Operator™ does when he gets a new tortimus - crack then all open and increase the pressure on the springy electrical contact thingy!

Spring contacts on tortoise

Parsons Yard is coming ALIVE!

Kasper turnouts
The Parsons Staging Yard ladder on Joe's Burlington Northern, Marais Division

It's TRUE! Parsons Yard will soon be operational, and filled with lusty semi-sweet green locomotives pulling manly freight and pig trains.

Not on the Mighty MKT, but on the next best thing - my buddy Joe's awesome and massive Burlington Northern Marais Division. I'd prefer to call it the "Missouri-Kansas-Texas, Kansas City Subdivision (with a few BN trains, too)", but Joe says no. I'll keep working on him about that name.

Joe models the Burlington Northern, circa 1987, and has included the MKT junction at Paola, Kansas. Katy trains come onto the Marais Division at Paola and run into Kansas City. Most MKT trains will terminate at Glen Park Yard (south of Joe's big Murray Yard), but one train, the Houston Chicago Express (the HCX or "the Bull") will continue on into a staging track located near 10th Street. This hot train would typically be handed off to the CNW at Kansas City and proceed on to Chicago.

Today, Joe built the 4-track Parsons Staging Yard, installing his amazing Kasper MK VII, Rev 2 turnouts. The turnouts will be tortimus powered and driven by a Kasper Version 4 Diodifier™ matrix actuator with the optional LED visual indicatifiers, Joe is truly an Elite Track Layer™

Joe is also working on the design of Glen Park, and it's like trying to stuff 10 lb of potatoes into a 5 lb bag. Soon, lovely sight of Katy locomotives growling up the hill at Paola will accompany the ejaculation of excellence that is the BN Marais Division.

Tavern Rock gets the Kasper Treatment!

Sweet Tavern Rock ladder
I am pleased to announce that all the local St. Charles industries are now fully retro-fitted with Kasper MK VII, Rev 2 turnouts, complete with tortimusses, diode matrix selection and rotary knob control panels.

Just another step in the gradual improvement of the layout. The St, Charles local should be a real treat to run from now on.

As usual, special thanks go out to Joe for his dogged installation in the face of nearly inaccessible locations and subpar working conditons. Joe, I owe you several more Long Island Iced Teas!

Tavern Rock Matrix