Category Archives: News

New and interesting items.

One Last Sunset

The Rock Creek Trestle, as it stands on January 16, 2019. The trestle is currently in the process of being demolished.
The Rock Creek Trestle, as it stands on January 16, 2019. The trestle is currently in the process of being demolished.

I spent all day Saturday visiting the Georgetown Branch to see some of the construction changes. It was a glorious day. Kelly R. and I found some amazing things. I took hundreds of photos. I’m planning many future blog posts.

The impetus for the journey was that I remembered that the Rock Creek trestle was going to be demolished to make way for a new grade for the purple line. I had no idea if it was already down, but Kelly and I headed over to the site. Much to my joy, it is still partially standing, although about 8 of the trestle bents are gone from the East end.

The venerable structure is not long for this world. Massive mobile cranes are staging nearby to remove the pedestrian path atop the trestle and on the west end, well, the original right of way has been completely decimated. It’s heartbreaking for me to see. This trestle has stood the test of time. Survived fire, flood, hurricane and countless storms and seasons. Since it’s original incarnation as a long wood trestle to what it is today, a bridge has spanned this valley since the early 1890s. It’s a beautiful structure and is showing its age, with rot starting to really take its toll.

I visited today after work to take some final measurements and as many photos as I could snag with the limited sunlight I had. It’s a special bridge for me. Something of wonder. If it’s of any consolation, it will live on in model form on my layout as best as I can manage.

Film of DC Transit at Dalecarlia

This neat video showing various railfan excursions from the 1950s to 1970s in the DC area shows a wide variety of subjects, including a brief, rare color film shot of the trolley approaching its crossing of the B&O’s Georgetown Branch, which crossed the trolley tracks on a deck girder bridge. The trolley last ran to Glen Echo on Jan 3, 1960 and the area beneath the bridge would be filled in later that year. (I walked the line back in 1991 and witnessed this deck girder bridge sitting only a few feet off the ground. It was a strange sight.)

Video begins at the 5:54 mark and is only a few seconds long, but it’s neat to see. In the background you can see the GB bridge crossing over the tracks. There was a second deck girder bridge to the left which extended the crossing.

Layout progress report: 12/26/18

Merry Christmas! Some more great progress has been made. I know it doesn’t look like much but I am making great headway considering the fits and spurts of attention the layout gets. All of the trackage at Chevy Chase is done and wired up. (Minus the turnout frogs, switch machines and the coal trestle at T.W. Perry.) the trains can now run all the way to just before Bethesda. Track is half way through the curve at the end of the room. Feels good to make such progress.

My goal is to get the upper deck done by the end of the year and I’m very close. I have already cut and prepped all of the track in Bethesda but had to rip it up so I could wire frogs and holes for switch machines. I also spent a day working with my friend Matt who helped me add some more prototypical curvature at the east end and rework my sidings. These changes are already in place, I just need to get the track in. One more week? Can he do it? Stay tuned.

Layout progress report: 12/23/18

Made some great progress this past week. The area around Chevy Chase is taking shape. I laid track halfway through the area and finished fitting the rest of the main and passing siding. I ran out of time to complete laying it. Still need to solder the drops to the rail bottoms and spike into place. After that I will install the team track which will go on the curvy bit of roadbed I installed.

I also installed a new-to-me Digitrax system that was graciously given to me. It’s an Empire Builder 2, about 15 years old but nearly new. Unfortunately the DT300 throttle suffers from the capacitor plague and I will have to have it repaired by Digitrax. Since they were badly hit by hurricane Michael it will not be for a few months. No worries for now, I have an old UT1 to play with. 🙂

Did some cleaning up and consolidating of scenery materials and storage in the layout room and a few other layout tasks. It’s been a productive week! More soon.

Friday view of work completed, showing the roadbed for the T.W. Perry siding (to the right) and the mainline and passing siding (to the Left) laid down as well. Ignore the jumper cables; they were just there to test the track as I hasn’t soldered the feeder wires yet.)
Sunday evening update. The track is laid in for the second half (West end) of the Chevy Chase section. This “boxcar-eye-view” of the track is looking geographic West, with the T.W. Perry siding on the right and the passing siding branching off of the main to the left.
An overview pic from Sunday evening showing the progress. The curved roadbed coming off of the passing siding is the team track. This track is slightly sunken as the prototype was.

River Road Metropolitan Fuel Co. Siding Survivor

Another relic from the Georgetown Branch surfaces as a siding in Bethesda at River Road emerges from the brush.

Note the wheel blocks fastened to the rail so the cars would not roll off the end of the siding.

Eagle-eyed viewer, contributor and friend Rich Pearlman went exploring the area around the crossing at River Rd. and came across the tracks on the South side of the intersection. I had a sneaking suspicion there were tracks there as I had previously seen and photographed rails buried in the dirt but I hadn’t seen them listed/shown on the maps I have, nor do I have period photos of them.

Well, Rich did the heavy lifting, digging through the B&O Railroad Yahoo! Group site to uncover a comment from Christopher Parker outlining a brief history of that siding. Here is what he wrote:

The siding, which was quite long (more than 10 cars), once served Metropolitan Fuel Company, across the tracks. By 1980 it was grown over and disconnected from the main, but the pipes and connections for
unloading tank cars were all still present. Metropolitan Fuel Company was purchased by Stuart Petroleum along with next-door Washington Fuel
sometime in the early eighties.

A red wooden caboose sat on this siding all through the seventies. When I first got a look at it in the late seventies, it was quite abandoned and didn’t have a road name on it. Around 1982, give or take a few
years, it was damaged by fire.

In 1981 or 1982, this siding was re-connected and the first 100′ was used by Jack’s Roofing Co to unload Cedar Shingles. They’d get a box car about every two weeks, sometimes less. UP, BN, BCOL, SP. Jack’s
Roofing also used piggyback service (unloaded elsewhere) to get a truckload of shingles every day. Jack’s Roofing company was located a bit behind Roy Rogers, a few buildings away from the tracks. I recall
them using a two axle flatbed truck and forklift.

So there you have it – the siding had multiple purposes and served a few industries over the years. It’s a neat story and a neat relic! I should really get down there and see it myself, because the fact that someone cleared the brush and put up those small red survey markers leads me to believe it won’t be around for long. 🙁

Layout Update: October, 14, 2018

Have been really making some great progress on the layout these last few weeks and it feels great. I last updated that I had got my DCC system up and running and after a little tweaking it is working flawlessly. I power up the system, turn the layout power on, open WiThrottle on my phone, acquire a loco and away I go! And on that note…

Power at Georgetown Junction
A visiting Maine Central U18B and B&O 730 prepare to switch the Junction.

I’ve completed the Junction area as well as nearly all the trackage in the first section of the layout. Bus wires and feeders are in place and trains are running! There are a few trouble areas that I am working on- the biggest being the sharp curve leading from the Junction on to the branch. Not sure how I’m going to solve this but I’ll work on the major issues when I get closer to them. I can see my steam engines having a hard time negotiating that tight turnout. In the meantime, here’s more…

Wide shot of layout progress
Here you can see all of the new trackage and lay of the land.
B&O 730 crossing Rock Creek
Here you have a nice view of the construction of the lowered section of benchwork. A fully scale representation of the Rock Creek Trestle will go here.

I created the temporary bridge from some plywood with an old 2×2 screwed to the bottom for rigidity. The bridge is easily removable with two wood screws. Feeder wires are screwed into a terminal block for easy removal. Right now track is laid semi-permanently on top of the bridge for operational purposes. Once I have the trestle model complete, I will “cut out” the old bridge and replace it with the model. Since that is far off, the temporary bridge is solid.

The drop down area is where the creek bed will be located. The trestle will be built to scale, an exact representation of the prototype as it stood in the 1940s.

B&O 730 crosses Rock Creek with its train
The first train across the temporary bridge over Rock Creek
The area around Georgetown Junction
Just after the junction we have the E.C. Keys siding, the coal trestle and the “main line” of the branch.

In this wide view you can make out the approximate location of the long coal trestle which will branch off from the main right after the junction. I really like how the re-worked grades turned out for the junction area. Originally I had the mainline up very high and it presented some real challenges down grade. My friend Matt helped to re-work the Junction completely. We spent a few hours looking at photos and studying maps to come up with the existing layout, which more realistically follows the prototype, where the Branch drops off quickly from the Metropolitan Branch mainline and is sunken between sidings. (E.C. Keys and the coal trestle) So far, everything is working smoothly. It feels great to make real progress. It feels even better to be able to run a locomotive on the layout! 🙂

Next up I’m going to continue track laying into Chevy Chase and on into Bethesda. If I stay on track, I should make my goal of completing all of the upper-deck track work before Christmas. 🙂

Hello, World! (DCC++ & JMRI)

The prototype DCC system is up and running. I decided to home brew my DCC when I read about DCC++ and realized I had an Arduino laying around with no real purpose. I bought a motor shield and hooked up my laptop and an old power pack to test it out. It worked but I knew I had to come up with a more complete and permanent setup.

I immediately considered the Raspberry Pi (RPi) as it’s a low cost, full featured Linux computer and I can run JMRI on it! I needed a power supply and a bit of research found others doing similar things using various inexpensive devices. I also wanted a proper booster so I chose a Tam Valley unit. I’ll invest in a second one for my other power district in the future. EDIT: I used Steve Todd’s “JMRI RaspberryPi as Access Point” which is a pre-built configuration for RPi which sets it up by default as an access point, connects to the DCC++ system and runs PanelPro, etc. It’s fantastic and worked right away.

Today I spent several hours putting all the pieces together that I had collected over the last couple years. The monitor was a donor from my dad. The mouse, keyboard and cabling was all old stuff laying around. I put everything onto a board, first laying it out and planning the cable routing. Once everything was good, I screwed the pieces into place.

Next was to test voltages and see what worked. A bit of tinkering and everything looked good. I set it all in place and started configuring things in the RPi. A bit of trial and error getting things to talk to each other, with some luck, and it’s working!

There are still lots of kinks to work out and I need to experiment with a lot of the features. My intention is for this to be a fun project and provide a robust DCC system to get me started for the Georgetown Branch. We will see how it works in the long run.

incidentally, I had planned on taking apart my Proto2000 GP7 to have a look at the plastic gears, as last time I ran it it was making lots of noise.

Wouldn’t you know it, all four gears were cracked! I replaced them with Athearn units, like a charm. Here’s one of the cracked units:

I was asked to give some more details about parts and prices. I’ve created a spreadsheet and pasted the data here to give you a rough idea. Building this setup requires many things that you probably already have on hand, so the cost will vary. Also, you can find things on sale occasionally and you can simplify or streamline it with your own skills or modifications. I included rough estimates for a few things which you will need just to get the ball rolling. Feel free to reach out with any questions you have!

manufacturer product url cost quantity total note
NEEDS
Arduino Uno Rev3 https://www.amazon.com/Arduino-A000066-ARDUINO-UNO-R3/dp/B008GRTSV6/ref=sr_1_3 $18.16 1 $18.16 You can purchase off-brand if you like.
Arduino Motor Shield Rev3 https://store.arduino.cc/usa/arduino-motor-shield-rev3 $22.00 1 $22.00 You can purchase off-brand if you like.
n/a Arduino case/mount n/a $9.00 1 $9.00 You can select any that you like, so long as it can fit the Uno + Motor Shield
n/a Jumper wires http://www.microcenter.com/product/486586/26awg-m-m-jumper-wires—20-pack $4.99 1 $4.99 Can also use solid 26 AWG wire, or similar.
Raspberry Pi Pi 3 Model B http://www.microcenter.com/product/460968/3_Model_B?src=raspberrypi $34.99 1 $34.99 You can upgrade to the B+ if you want Bluetooth, etc.
n/a Pi 3 case n/a $9.00 1 $9.00 You can select any that you like.
Raspberry Pi Pi 5V 2.5A power supply http://www.microcenter.com/product/483715/official-5v-25a-power-supply—black $10.99 1 $10.99 You can purchase off-brand if you like.
Tam Valley Depot DAB002 DCC Booster http://www.tamvalleydepot.com/products/dccbooster.html $54.95 1 $54.95
Tam Valley Depot DPS016 16V 4.5A Power Supply for Track Power Use http://www.tamvalleydepot.com/products/dccbooster.html $16.95 1 $16.95
Tam Valley Depot 12V 5A Power Supply for Accessory Bus Use http://www.tamvalleydepot.com/products/dccbooster.html $16.95 1 $16.95
Mean Well RS-25-15 Switching Power Supply https://www.meanwell-web.com/en-gb/ac-dc-single-output-enclosed-power-supply-output-rs–25–15 $13.20 1 $13.20 Power for DCC from Arduino
n/a AC Computer Power Cable https://www.ebay.com/itm/3-Prong-Pin-AC-Power-Cord-Cable-for-PC-Desktop-Computer/112999388247 $2.49 1 $2.49 To power AC-DC power supply.
VARIABLES *use what you have on hand
Verbatim keyboard http://www.microcenter.com/product/459324/slimline-corded-usb-keyboard—black $4.99 1 $4.99 Any USB keyboard should suffice.
Verbatim mouse http://www.microcenter.com/product/488018/corded-notebook-optical-mouse—black $3.99 1 $3.99 Any USB mouse should suffice.
HP monitor http://www.microcenter.com/product/485576/la1956x-19-sxga-60hz-vga-dvi-dp-led-monitor-refurbished $39.99 1 $39.99 Whatever you can find; simpler, smaller the better.
n/a wire n/a $6.00 1 $6.00 Various wire to connect components.
n/a assorted small screws n/a $5.00 1 $5.00 Need small screws to mount to plywood
n/a plywood n/a 1 I used a piece I had laying around
3M 3M Scotch 114/DC Heavy Duty Mounting Tape https://www.amazon.com/Scotch-Indoor-Mounting-1-Inch-125-Inches/dp/B00004Z4A8/ref=sr_1_4?s=hi&ie=UTF8&qid=1537809806&sr=1-4&keywords=3m%2Bdouble%2Bsided%2Bfoam%2Btape%2B1%22&th=1 $6.00 1 $6.00 Use any mounting tape.
n/a smart phone 1 iOS or Android – use to run throttle software (eg. WiThrottle (free))
n/a USB cable (B to A) 10″ https://www.mycablemart.com/store/cart.php?m=product_detail&p=6612 $1.54 1 $1.54 Use what you have
n/a cable management $6.00 1 $6.00 Any cable management will do. Zip ties and adhesive-backed mounts work well
Amazon HDMI cable 6′ https://www.amazon.com/dp/B014I8SSD0/ref=twister_B016I3XG0S?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1 $6.99 1 $6.99 Use what you have
Amazon 30mm x 30mm cooling fan https://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/B071RMKYW7/ref=oh_aui_search_detailpage?ie=UTF8&psc=1 $8.99 1 $8.99 Not essential but nice to cool Rpi
TOTAL: $281.18

The Metropolitan Branch is Complete

Even though it’s a short stretch of track and is purely cosmetic on my layout, it feels great to get it done. The track is some Micro Engineering weathered code 100 flex track that I received in a lot of very old track. It’s probably over 20-some years old, if not older. As such, it required me to drill all of the spike holes, which I did about every 4-5″ with a Dremel. Soldered the joints and pre-bent the curves. This stuff is very stiff and tough to bend smoothly! All in all, it turned out nicely. It will be a great spot to stage a mainline passenger train.

Next is to work on bus wiring, roadbed at the Junction and getting more track down.

Purple Line Brush Clearing Visible in Google Maps

I didn’t realize just how frequently Google Maps images are updated, but this is impressive to me. Here are a few images I snagged today which show the Georgetown Branch right of way as it stands very recently, earlier this Summer. You can see all of the clearing that has happened along the RoW very well. Very impressive. I really wish I could walk the line one last time before they do permanent grading, just to see what the RoW was like when the GB was new. Oh well! 🙁

Google Aerial View - Geo. Jct.

Georgetown Branch Right-of-Way Unearthed in Bethesda, Probably for the Last Time

Construction thunders on in Bethesda on the Purple Line project and as they make way for the station in Bethesda, the old right of way for the Georgetown Branch is unearthed for probably the last time. The buildings above the right of way were demolished, and now grading is complete. They’ve dug down a bit further than the original right of way, but it’s as good as it will get. Take a look at the photo below. You can just make out the concrete bridge carrying Wisconsin Ave over the old RoW at the bottom of the photo. The large angled pilings in the bottom right cover the RoW and it curves over toward those red awnings in the distance. Can you see it?!