Anyway, here's tonight's... ahem... this morning's update:
I splurged and bought myself some cork and track so I could work on the staging loop. And work on the loop I did...
It turned out that between the new track I bought and the flex that I stripped from the
old yard, I had enough to close three of the loops! I need about 3 more pieces to finish the fourth. The hardest part was tying into the old staging tracks, because the connection is smack dab under the riverbed, and there's only about 3" clearance at that point. But thanks to some bent needle nose pliers, some yellow construction glue and a cleverly concocted clamp, all went smoothly.
That's right. A half-filled water bottle. What I did was schmear a bit of yellow glue on the cork, then carefully positioned the new piece of track, sliding the rail joiners into place with the pliers. Once I was confident I had it aligned properly, I'd roll the water bottle into place, wedging it between the track and the 1x2 joist that holds the river bed. Once the glue was set, I'd roll it out and do the next piece of track. This took quite a while to do all 8 tracks by this method... Once all the tracks were poking out into the open, I started making the alignments needed to get around the big bend.
Of course, the resultant triangle where the balloon comes together just begs for a little something...
I call this "The Loneliest Job on the Railroad"...
Well, the sheer magnitude of the accomplishment wasn't enough to satisfy me for the night, so I pulled out a box of loose freight cars to check the capacity of this new facility... I'm amazed at what we can now get away with...
The outer loop is long enough now to hold two 25 car trains. That's right. I've gone from barely being able to hold one train with 15 cars, to now being able to not only run longer trains, but more of them.
The picture actually shows two trains of 30 cars each, but this doesn't leave enough room for the three diesels each that would be required to lug the damn things up the twist to North Jct. But now you see why it was so important to fix that grade on the drop bridge! The best part is that the second train into the loop will have a visual cue when to stop to stay in the clear of the train ahead of it. I can make a cut out in the fascia right where the balloon reaches its widest point, and the engines of a 25 car train would need to stop when they appear in that window. Likewise, I'll put a lamp below decks so the operator can peek in and verify that the track ahead is clear, and if it is, he can proceed until he sees either his engines reach the overpass of the twist, or until his caboose is in the location shown in the photo above.
Ideally, I'd install some real detection, but given the continuing financial drama around my house, I'm glad to know that by dumb luck or design, I don't have to right away.
Oh, and for good measure, I pulled out a bunch of coal hoppers, too... Track three can handle two 25 car trains of 70 tonners with three diesels each with plenty of elbow room. With all this capacity, I can now dedicate two tracks to Lurgan trains, and two tracks to Baltimore trains. (Before I had a maximum of 4 tracks at about 16 cars to deal with all of it, because the West end had to stage in here, too.)
I figure the middle track can serve as the run through track, and during ops sessions, can be the destination of the Union Bridge local, which can now be a more realistic 20 car train with coal and cement hoppers, plus some covered hoppers and boxes for the other switches along the way.
So, now I have to re-wire the whole yard down there, because I just created a big old reverse loop. I have a circuit board to make it work, and I think what I'll do is make the outbound lead up the helix into the reversing section.
Next, I'm building the frame for the skyboard that will divide the peninsula.
See ya next time, same bat time, same bat channel...