What's New at the West Island Model Railroad Club?
Below you will find periodic updates on the status of our new layout
What’s New for May, 2017
- Island Ops- we hosted the Saturday afternoon session and were happy to see upwards of 30 people attend. Many of those came from around the tri-state area, and some from even further away. It’s gratifying to see our layout, which we’ve worked so hard on, running at peak performance. From the main yard at Allentown, to the car float at Greenville and with the steel mill up and running - all aspects of our Operations were fully staffed. Our new CTC system was put to the test and passed with flying colors. Engineers running mainline trains (most with sound-equipped locomotives), can now follow the signal indications instead of constantly calling the Dispatcher for instructions.
- We’re making progress on constructing tracks on the upper level, adding new destinations and industries - Wilkes-Barre and the New Jersey Zinc plant at Palmerton. Al K. has been working on installing the zinc plant buildings and AL A. has helped with the backdrop, making it look very much like the ‘moonscape’ that can still be seen there, which was the result of the industrial smelting activity.
- The new upper level tracks will also expand our Operations scheme, so in the months ahead, our Ops will become more interesting and challenging, which are just different ways of saying they’ll be more fun. Our sessions are held on the last Friday of the month, so if you’re interested in seeing what Ops is like, stop by and join us.
- While Ops sessions at the club will continue all through the Spring and Summer, we’ll be gearing up for our next big event - our second annual Ops Invitational. This will be held on or about the last Saturday in October. We’re looking forward to hosting both dedicated Operators and introducing any ‘newbies’ into the interesting, fun (and sometimes exciting), world of Operations.
- The tracks at Plainfield are in and their electrical connections are just about finished, so that will be a new destination added to our Ops scheme. The track arrangement there approximates what Plainfield looked like ‘back then’ in the 1950’s. Preliminary planning is underway for the structures that will be needed there.
- The ‘Urban Development’ of Allentown city is moving along, thanks to Al A. and Al W. Part of the backdrop has been painted, the street grid has been laid out and some of the buildings have been placed temporarily to judge how they’ll look as things progress.
What’s New for March, 2017
- At Allentown, work is continuing on developing the city. The hills and the stream that runs under the station have been roughed in, the street grid has been laid out and some downtown buildings have been temporarily put in place, just to see how they might fit in to the overall scene.
- All the track has been laid in the Plainfield area - the yard, passing tracks and industry sidings. We’re in the process of hooking things up electrically and installing the necessary switch machines and control buttons. As work here progresses, Plainfield will be integrated into our Operations scheme.
- The signals and most of the mainline switches are now part of a state-of-the-art CTC (Centralized Traffic Control), system. The Dispatcher, using the track pictured on his display screen, with a click of a mouse, can set switches and signals to indicate to engineers out on the line what route their train will take.
- Our annual Open House in November and December was a big success. Attendance was good and we picked up a number of members. These ‘newbies’ have jumped in and have made significant contributions in working on the layout in various areas - trackwork, electrical and scenery.
- We’re looking forward to hosting an Operations Session as part of Island Ops. For those of you who don’t know, Operations is that part of the hobby where interested individuals get to run a layout like a real railroad. Island Ops (IslandOps.org) is a weekend where Long Island individuals, along with the West Island club, open their home layouts for people to come and operate. The West Island session will be on Saturday, April 22 and while there are many dedicated operators who participate, no special ability is required. Come join us!
What’s New for September, 2016
- At Allentown construction has gotten underway to build the city of Allentown, starting with installing better overhead lighting. This is a major scenery project, supervised by Scenery Committee Chairman Alan W. As part of this, Alan A. has been working on the Allentown station, using some really innovative techniques to model the building’s interior. Concurrent with this, plans are being developed to detail parts of the engine terminal, starting with the diesel facility.
- Ken M. has been working on the Bethlehem station area, cleverly incorporating photos into the scene to disguise the foreground-to-background transition. As part of the signature scene, the ‘switch on a bridge’ has been reconstructed in miniature.
- At the Bethlehem steel mill, the major buildings - blast furnace, rolling mill and oxygen furnace - are all in place. The rotary dump ‘kick-back’ track has been installed and tested thanks to Ken D. and Rick L. The steel mill is now a functioning part of our Operations scheme, taking in unit trains of raw materials and sending out trains loaded with finished steel products.
- Just to the east of the steel mill, Rick L. has completed work on the Freemansburg cut. This scene duplicates one on the prototype, with the railroad running between a rocky hill and a canal.
- We’ve started work on laying track at the next major town on our mainline at Plainfield. The yard there will serve as a base for dispatching local freights to serve industries on that part of the line.
- The Greenville yard and car float has been detailed, including the pouring of nicely tinted ‘New York harbor water’. It is now fully integrated into the Operations scheme, with a dedicated switcher moving cars off and on the float barge to handle trains from Allentown yard.
- At Palmerton on the upper level, the backdrop has been painted and Al K. is working to blend the foreground hillsides and the zinc smelting operation there into a distinctive scene recognizable to anyone familiar with that area.
- Our signal system has grown to include control panels that allow for route selection through complex interlockings. Simply by pressing two buttons - one for your starting track and one for your destination track - all the appropriate switch machines throw to automatically to align your route. In addition, Vic G. and his crew have been installing more signals on the layout and incorporating sensors for both track occupancy and switch position so that information shows up on the Dispatcher’s screens.
- For Operations (Ops as we call it), we’ve worked out a pretty good routine that includes all types of activities - local and express passenger trains, mainline and ‘peddler’ freights, yardmasters and a dispatcher. With Allentown yard as the focal point of much of the activity, the yardmaster there has a whole crew to assist him. We have one, and possibly the only, operating hump yard in model railroading. Last April, the West island hosted an Ops session as part of Island Ops, a weekend dedicated to operating on layouts here on Long Island. We’re looking forward to participating again next year. In the meantime, we’ll be hosting an Ops Invitational at the end of October.
Lastly, we’re getting ready for our annual Open House, starting Thanksgiving weekend and continuing for the next two weekends. These are Friday evenings and Saturday and Sunday afternoons. Hope to see you there
As of July 1st, 2013
All siding and yard trackwork has been added to the towns of Hershey, Lebanon Palmerton, and ReadingAllentown A&D yard. The computerized CTC dispatcher’s panel is being used during the operating sessions to monitor and control the flow of traffic across the main line. Setting up routes and throwing switches using the system is still to come.
- The Operations committee has implemented a car card forwarding scheme which is now used in our monthly operating sessions. With the completion of track in several new towns, we now have locals running west out of Reading to serve customers there. In the fall, we plan to institute Saturday operating sessions. We currently have about 400 freight cars on the layout, and have discovered we need many, many more!
- Ron W., Paul C. and Bill I. have built a set of shelves that are mounted on the wall behind the main staging yard. These shelves will be used by members to store their rolling stock when not on the layout.
- The Club was invited to a special operations session at Dave Ramos’s New York Harbor RR. 15 members spent an entire day immersed in switching on Dave’s 1947 era layout.
As of January 1st, 2013
- Th e largest projects we completed during 2012 were the Allentown Engine Terminal and the Greenville carfloat yard. Both these were major jobs with many tracks and turnouts. All the track work in the engine terminal has been completed while the track work in Greenville is complete with the exclusion of the carfloat apron which is currently under construction. The carfloat (a Walthers 3 track transfer float) has arrived and is moored just off shore from where the apron will be placed. The pontoon style floatbridge is being kitbashed by Vince Lee. While all the track feeds for both areas are in place, the Tortoises for the turnouts have been hooked up in the engine terminal but the Tortoises in Greenville have yet to be wired and both areas have yet to be debugged.
- Another major project that has been worked on this past year was the ongoing expansion of the working signal system that will enable a dispatcher to monitor and route trains for our Ops sessions. So far Vic Grappone and his crew have installed and wired signal bridges from Topton through Allentown and east to Easton. It is really impressive to see the signals progress from red to yellow to green as the trains travel through this area of the layout and sequentially clear their blocks.
- In scenery, this year has seen the completion of the rural fields just east of Topton including a scratch built abandoned and demolished barn that was designed and assembled by Al Winters. It is awesome! The rest of the scenery guys, including Ken Michaels and Glen Johnson, worked on the hillside in back of Allentown Yards and the small area in front of the Hump yard. They created an eye-catching burned-out by a brush fire area with the fire department still on the scene. The two Jims, Fassano and Sztabnik, labored on ballasting the 700 feet of double track main line, and as of this point in time, they are only about 10 feet from the finish line at the east entrance of the staging yards.
- We have had monthly operation sessions from January to October. The Ops committee under chairman John Bruno worked on refining the way we conduct our Ops sessions, beginning with setting up the sequencing schedule for our manifest and local freights, and our passenger runs. While the system is still in a state of flux, we have made significant improvements to our basic modus operandi for our sessions. The reason that things are still in flux is the fact that most of the layout’s industry and passing sidings in towns like Lebanon and Hershey have yet to be built and that in turn limits where we can actually place cars. For 2013, we anticipate creating a car card forwarding system to generate switching traffic.
- Member Stu Aaron has greatly expanded the A&W locomotive roster by painting a whole variety of steam and diesel locos in various color schemes that represent the evolution of a Northeast coal hauler from the steam into the diesel era.
- We finished the year with our annual open house that was held for three consecutive weeks starting with the weekend after Thanksgiving. All members pitched in getting the club ready for the public even though we all had to personally recover from near-Hurricane Sandy and then the following Nor’Easter snow storm. Although the club itself suffered no damage from the storms, many members suffered varying degrees of water and wind damage to their homes, and endured weeks of power outages. Show Chair Mike Dantone once again did an outstanding job of keeping the chaos to a minimum. Our concerns that battered and weary Long Islanders wouldn’t have the time or inclination for trains this holiday season proved unfounded, with total show attendance up significantly over last year. We placed in advertisement promoting the Open House in our local newspaper for the first time, featuring a photo of 3 year old Hugh Rudden, son of member Matt Rudden. Hugh became an instant celebrity.
As of May 1st, 2012
- Our second Open House in our new location occupied all our members for three weekends in November and December. Again, we had a completely successful event, with good attendance. The layout ran reliably for the entire time. Members brought down a number of impressive freight and passenger trains that are not regularly on the layout. Their fine modeling really wowed our visitors.
- Now that all trackwork in the Allentown hump yard is completed and wired, ballasting has begun. Scenery between the track and the backdrop is well advanced in the area of the hump, and behind the Arrival/Departure yard further to the east of the hump.
- Planning has begun for the track layout for the entire second level of the layout, from Topton to Easton. Track has been put in from Topton up to and somewhat past Palmerton. Eventually, as in the prototype, Palmerton will have a zinc mill, and a small company town.
- The signal gang now has 9 multiple head signal bridges installed and operating between Topton, and the east end of Allentown passenger terminal. During monthly operating sessions, block operators now instruct train crews to “Follow signal indications” when moving through this territory.
- The track gang planned to spring into action right after the beginning of the New Year with the first of the two major projects we will be working during the next twelve months. This is the Allentown engine terminal and repair facility. We will have a roundhouse, turntable, as well as multiple servicing and ready tracks for both steam and diesel locos. Structures will include a coaling tower, ash pit, and fueling racks. Almost all the track is already in place, and being wired. One day, the job of “engine hostler” will be a key function during our operating sessions. Just to the east of the turntable, there will be more switching work for the Allentown yard drill job at a large freighthouse, and a car repair facility.
- The second major project that will be begun this year is the branch to the carfloat yard at Greenville. This facility will require about 200 feet of flextrack to connect up to the mainline at Plainfield, and about 18 more turnouts. Unlike the prototype location, we will have only one floatbridge. In the future, moveable carfloats will be used to carry freight cars to two standalone industrial terminals in the corners of the layout room. Our layout will have enough switching to satisfy the most enthusiastic operator.
As of November 1st, 2011
- The scenery crew is almost finished at Topton. The town in the background is represented by a combination of photographs with model people, vehicles and foliage and is very effective. In addition, the industries and sidings are all done and in service. The railroad overpasses are in place and all of it must be seen to be believed. Check out the Photo section of our website.
- Much design and wiring work has quietly taken place under the layout to implement our signal system.
- The first signal bridges have been built and installed and are functioning via the programmable logic controllers and associated wayside hardware along the railroad. Progress by the signal crew is slow and necessarily deliberate – it must be done 100% right – and is like “black magic” to most members. However, it will be a great improvement to the operation of the railroad when it’s complete. Tangible progress is very encouraging.
- As mentioned in the last update, operating sessions have started and are scheduled monthly. The first few sessions were limited to running mainline trains and working out the bugs of running the railroad and controlling operations by the Dispatcher and strategically located “block operators”. The block operator positions will eventually be made obsolete by the signal system when it’s completed. It’ll be no different from real railroads as signal systems improved and automation was introduced, the interlocking towers familiar to generations of railfans were closed and railroad operations consolidated in centralized control centers. The large array of CRTs in the Dispatcher’s Office will allow one individual to control operations on the entire railroad and know where each train is located.
- The Topton Turn local referred to in the last update runs during each operating session and is a headache to the mainline trains and the dispatcher – just like real locals. Running that job is not for the faint-of-heart - whoever runs it gets razzed by just about everyone. It requires advanced planning by its “crew” and finesse in order to minimize interference with through trains.
- The track crew has begun work on the second deck’s trackwork. The club is considering various possibilities for providing lighting under the upper level. We hope that LED lighting technology will drop enough in price to be feasible.
- The infrastructure crew has made improvements in the appearance to the layout room and entrance hall. They have installed more sheet rock walls, and have completed a new storage space and “wet” work area in the back of the layout room.
As of June 15th, 2011
- The track crew has completed the entire hump yard at Allentown. The hump actually works, using powerful magnets under the track at the hump summit to uncouple the cars. All tracks have been wired with feeders, and switch machines installed. Push button control panels at each end of the yard are built and working, as well as a series of pockets to hold the car cards as cars are sorted into individual tracks.
- The signal crew has set up the computer and software system which will run the dispatcher’s control panel. A dispatcher’s desk was added to the small office next to the member lounge, and an array of eight computer monitors set up, and is now working. The central control computer is being integrated with the five programmable logic controllers located out on the layout.
- The scenery crew continues to work on the Topton area. Several highways and bridges have been built, as well as rock outcroppings and many trees. A number of new projects have been approved by our Planning Committee, including modeling the rock cut on the former CNJ at Freemansburgh, PA, the bridges over the west end of Allentown yard, and the Easton-Phillipsburg riverfront area with its distinctive LVRR station and multiple bridges.
- Regular operating sessions are now held the fourth Friday of the month. We have temporarily established the job of tower operator to assist the dispatcher in controlling the flow of traffic, and this has worked out quite well. When the signal system is operational, these jobs will be abolished. With the completion of the sidings at Topton, we have started our first local, the Topton Turn, which serves Topton, and the Fleetwood auto plant out of Allentown.
- The club was invited to a special operating session at Larry Reynolds’s PRR layout. The session went for almost five hours, and all who went had a wonderful time, and came away with new insights to apply here on Long Island.
As of March 15, 2011
- The club held its first open house in its new location. We opened our doors over three weekends around the Thanksgiving holiday, and attracted a significant crowd each day. We had good publicity from Newsday, News 12 LI, and the various hobby magazines. A contingent of club members had fanned out to all the local hobby shops to keep them well stocked with our announcement fliers. Members turned out enthusiastically to man the entrance table, white elephant table, security and crowd control, and actually run trains. The design of the layout’s wide aisles, really helped in engineers being able to navigate the crowds, and keep up with their trains. Many visiting children were given the opportunity to run a train themselves under watchful eyes of a nearby member. A memorable moment came in the last hour of the last day of the open house. Superintendant Kenneth DeNigris called on all members present to take a train out on the mainline simultaneously, and really stress test the DCC power and control system. The staging yards were cleared and a total of 27 trains were rolling at the same time on the double track main line, with no problems!
- After a hiatus to recover from the open house, and celebrate the holidays, construction has begun on the Allentown hump yard. The Allentown passenger station tracks have all been put in place, and wired up.
- The facilities construction team built and mounted two sets of shelves on the wall next to the staging yard for the scenery team to store their raw materials and paints.
- The “Coupler”, the news publication of the NMRA’s Northeast Region, published a nice article about the club, and specifically its decision to risk tearing down the old layout, and move to a new locations.
As of December 1, 2010
- The scene at Topton is moving along nicely. The Atlas Chemical Co. complex is in place, and the Valente Coal Co. trestle and yard are also in place as is the residential street behind. The town is a combination of photographs of actual buildings in Topton and HO scale scenery materials that is very convincing.
- The buildings and sidings at Fleetwood have been installed as has the adjacent F.M. Brown’s grain mill. Brown’s is another scratch-built structure by member John Busa.
- The canal scene east of Bethlehem is finished except for the “water” and follows the real location along the Lehigh Valley Railroad. Glen Johnson and Ken Michaels have been working on this scene.
- The viaduct is scene is finished. The viaduct strongly resembles the famous Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad’s Tunkhannock and Martin’s Creek concrete viaducts in eastern Pennsylvania. It’s a signature structure from the old layout and looks even better in its current incarnation. The surrounding scenery is finished including the water.
- Likewise, the pastoral scene immediately east of the viaduct is complete. The backdrop is done, forests have “grown”, crops are “planted” and livestock are trolling the fields paying no mind to the passing trains at all. Even wailing horns at the grade crossing can’t disrupt their placid nature. Member Rob Smith leads the scenery committee and has a core of dedicated members who have outdone themselves in achieving a level of “reality” that stands up to close scrutiny.
- Much more track has been weathered since the September update. The staging yard is fully functional and the Allentown arrival/departure yard is done.
- Temporary “blue foam” has been installed all the way around the layout as well as temporary arrays of structures from the old layout pending permanent scenery improvements. This has gone a long way toward giving the layout a neat, semi-finished appearance.
- Electrical work has continued unabated for track, switch and signal systems. Member Ray Kump leads that effort, along with his helpers Wayne Ambrose, Al Murray, and Vince Lee. Their presence at the club is felt rather than seen because they’re always under the layout somewhere with miner’s light on and crimpers or soldering iron in hand.
- Regular weekly operations take place on Friday nights now. Work is done on Mondays and Tuesdays as well as other times when needed (like before the upcoming open house!).
- The layout room is has been cleaned, and is ready for the open house. An entrance wall was erected at the bottom of the ramp by the heavy construction grew of Gene Johnson, Joe Lynch, and Rob DiMarco. They have provided the club with a much more attractive front entrance. The club room has been finished and serves as the focal point of club operations and rolling stock maintenance as well as spirited discussions on wide-ranging topics from layout configuration and scenery design to bathroom improvements.
- Our members have performed an incredible amount of work since we moved in to our new location just 2-1/2 years ago.
As of September 1, 2010
- The club had its official first run of a train around the mainline, using exactly the same equipment as on the “Last Run” in our former location in Farmingdale.
- All mainline and yard switch machines have been wired, tested, and connected to track diagram control panels at the staging yard ladders, and at Topton.
- The electrical crew has finished and tested all control wiring to make all existing track fully functional. They have moved over to the signal crew, and are wiring up the “PLC’s” which are the heart of the signal system.
- The members of the scenery crew are kitbashing a number of multi-story buildings for the auto factory at Fleetwood. Others are working on the wooded hillside next to the canal at Bethlehem, and the rural area between Fleetwood and Topton.
- An Open House committee has been formed, and planning has begun for our first Open House in our new location. We have begun to straighten up the club in preparation for the Open House.
- We had our first operation session in late August. Our goals were modest: test the layout, our equipment, and have fun running mainline trains at the direction of a dispatcher.
As of May 30th, 2010
- All the trackwork for the main staging yards on the layout’s lower level has been installed and wired up. The yard’s Tortoise switch machines have been installed, and are being wired to a separate control bus for reliability.
- The low voltage electrical crew has been extremely busy working on finishing up all the track control wiring system. A CAT5 cable bus for the DCC throttles has been installed all around the perimeter of the main line, and plug in jacks installed at regular intervals. The control bus has been connected to the main NCE unit, an will be extensively tested for reliability. A secondary 12V power bus for the DCC throttles has been run with the CAT5 bus, and must yet be connected to the UTP plug in jacks.
- Test trains are now being run around the entire main line!
- All of the main line occupancy detectors for the main line power blocks have been installed. Their wiring will be completed as the construction of the signaling system advances.
- The scenery crew has completed a set of beautiful scratchbuilt buildings for the Atlas Chemical site at Topton. The buildings were made from styrene with a number of commercial detail parts, and are selectively compressed from the prototype industry which is actually located in the nearby (to Topton) town of Mertztown, PA.
- The scenery crew have begun constructing the buildings for the town of Fleetwood, including the famous Fisher Body plant. They have also begun a canal scene near the town of Bethlehem.
- A member gave at clinic at the Railroad Prototype Modelers meet at Valley Forge, PA titled “Designing & Rebuilding the West Island Model RR Club:
Goals, Tradeoffs, and Techniques”.The clinic served to raise awareness of the progress we are making, and was well received.
- A photo taken on the old West Island layout appeared in Model Railroader’s Trackside Photos section.
As of January 1st 2010
- Benchwork is 100% complete
- The entire 600ft double track mainline has been laid. It is now possible to make a complete circuit around the lower level of the layout.
- The trackwork for 50% of the lower level staging yards have been completed, including two custom made # 8 double crossovers at each end of the yard. The completed portion is actually composed of two six track double-ended sub yards, with each bowl track 18 feet long, which is designed to accommodate our planned standard length trains.
- Electrical busses following underneath both main tracks has been complete, with feeder connection to each individual length of rail soldered in. Mini bus segments at each track interlocking (needed for our signal system detection) are being installed.
- The main DCC control closet has been populated with a central NCE control unit, and more that 25 separate 5 amp boosters, and accompanying fast acting circuit breakers, to both protect the equipment, and permit fast restoral of power after a short, even in the presence of multiple sound equipped locomotives.
- The Inspection crew has refurbished over 1/3 of our 1200 freight cars, including installing track resistors needed for our signal system.
- The scenery crew has expanded the sceniced area in the aisle at the room main entrance, and are working on scratch building a prototype-based chemical company at the layout’s Topton, PA.
As of September 1st, 2009
Even with the call of the warm waters of Jones Beach beckoning, construction progress over the summer has been impressive:
- The benchwork is now approximately 95% complete.
- Over 500 ft. of double track main line has been laid. All switches within and diverging from the two main tracks are being included as the track is extended.
- Our low voltage electrical crew is keeping pace by installing track busses, feeder wires, and connection terminal blocks at power block boundaries. We have begun to install and fill the main power conduits from the electronics shelves to the layout.
- Our high voltage crew has substantially completed the wiring of 22 individual AC power circuits for lights, the DCC system, room outlets and auxiliary power. Emergency room exit lighting is being installed in the main room, and in the entrance corridor.
- Our scenery guys have decided to follow a plan which initially concentrates their efforts on the aisle that is first visible to one entering the main layout room. This is the geographic location of the eastern Pennsylvania farming communities of Alburtis, and Topton. A rural background scene is being painted on the backdrop, country roads modeled, and the hillsides around our free-lanced inclusion of a large concrete viaduct are being roughed in. Really great looking trees are being turned out in significant quantities.
- With a work area cleared and a test site set up, the Inspection Committee is unpacking much of the club’s rolling stock and starting its work. Inspecting and upgrading our over 1200 freight cars will mean that when it comes time to put cars on the layout, the cars will be as bullet-proof as the trackwork.
- We had our annual picnic and pool party at Ken Michael’s house in August. The weather was fine, and the food and conversation great.
As of April 24th, 2009
The pace of construction has been maintained at a very high level since work began in June, 2008. Substantial progress is being made in the key areas of benchwork construction, tracklaying, scenery and electrical systems.
The benchwork is approximately 70% complete.
- Over 300 ft. of double track main line have already been installed including major switches.
- Our electrical crew is keeping pace by installing track busses and feeder wires. They are also completing the wiring of 22 individual AC power circuits for lights, the DCC system, room outlets and auxiliary power.
- The scenery guys have pitched in by installing and painting more than 250 ft. of backdrop. In addition, work has started on a signature scene featuring a large concrete viaduct.
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