ATSF Howard Branch

History of Construction

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Updated April 4, 2010

January 2, 2010. The past 6 months have been spent on a variety of projects. Jim Hinds and I made a presentation on LEDs at the Santa Fe convention in Chicago. We are now scheduled to do it again at the Houston Train Show and the Sn3 Symposium. Hooters went well plus an open house in November. My modeling has been focused on structures. Work has progressed on the Continental Oil bulk dealer in Eureka, the Eureka diamond gate, the Murphy Oil in Moline, and the engine house in Moline. Currently I am customizing and building 2 Walthers and 6 Intermountain cabooses with 603 LED marker lamps and flicker-free circuits inside.

June, 2009: Spring was time to work on the house and let the railroad sit a spell. My major railroad work was experimenting with 603 LEDs for lighting in and on structures. This developed into a clinic presented to the local San Jacinto Model Railroad club and to be presented at the Santa Fe Railway Historical and Modeling Society convention in Chicago in July. I will update the LED construction web pages in the near future as I have some much better photos than are currently posted. I also have experimented with working marker lamps for cabooses using the 603s and a small condenser circuit. Hooters (Houston Operators Of Tiny Electric Railway Systems) is coming up in October, and I look forward to hosting some operators for that weekend. Between now and then I hope to do more scratch built structures so some scenery can be completed. When I do the scenery for Moline, I will install a ballasted deck trestle which I have built.

December, 2008: I was open to the public on December 5-6. Completed recently are more structures and the stock pens.

September, 2008: I have now hosted 11 operating sessions including two during ProRail which was hosted in Houston earlier in 2008. The upper deck 7 track staging yard is operational and my work is now on scenery and structures. 50 hand laid turnouts are now working fine.

December 2, 2007: I was open to the public on November 9 as part of the Houston Area Fall Open Houses. Over 80 layouts were open. There is nothing like an open house to get you working on the layout. I did begin my scenery work. I mixed coloring with the plaster and hydrocal so that the surface has a dirt look throughout. I have not gotten to the final surface yet.

September 14, 2007: For the past 9 months the major emphasis has been on operations. I have now held a number of operating sessions using car cards. After the first two, it was suggested that I use a 2 man crew instead of one, and that has worked out very well. A few bugs have been worked out, though very few were found. I also received my MMR as number 389. Layout construction has focused on prototype (scratch built) structures. My Climax depot shown below received 3rd place in structures at the Lone Star Region NMRA convention and 2nd place at the Santa Fe Railway Historical and Modeling Society convention. I will not put that much time into other models unless I feel led to enter one in such a contest. I have also done some consulting for BLI which has taken some time.

December 2, 2006: Today I was open for Houston Layout Tours, so this was an incentive to get work done. Click on thee photos below to see enlargements. To date I have hand laid 39 turnouts and two diamonds, all code 70 rail. 16 turnouts are Tortoise controlled and the balance are manual using a piano wire spring to hold them in place. 19 homemade electromagnetic uncouplers are installed and functioning. The layout is broken into 6 blocks for short protection using automotive light bulbs instead of circuit breakers. The NCE system has 5 UTPs installed. Uncouplers are 18V DC from an old transformer and Tortoise machines are powered by that same transformer set for 9 volts. In getting the layout to this stage I have also completed the requirements for the Master Model Railroader from the National Model Railroad Association and have made application for that certificate.

September, 2006. Getting reading for the fall layout tour in Houston, I now have laid all of the track on the upper deck except for the hidden staging yard and Missouri Pacific interchange. It is wired and working. I also have perfected my electromagnetic uncouplers and made 24 of them, holding some in stock. September will be used to tweak things, power the magnets, and install some switch machines. I am also working on my NMRA MMR certification, completing two more credits in August and will be doing some paperwork in September to finish up a couple more as time allows.

April, 2006. I was able to return to the layout this month after numerous distractions. One of those, doing some testing of new equipment for Broadway Limited, revealed some flaws in my turnouts, so several were rebuilt to reliably handle steam. Then the tracks for the limestone quarry, Crusher, were added and operational.

October, 2005. I now have a loop in operation at Moline. The track work at Moline is complete with the exception of Crusher. All of the turnouts are hand laid and are manually operated. I have cut slots for electromagnetic uncouplers to be built in the future. Two legs of the wye on the east end are complete. I will now purchase an automatic switching device for the DCC electrics at the wye. I installed a NCE decoder in a Proto2000 GP7 to give me a second locomotive. Nothing has been done on the Moline staging yet. The above work was completed on November 4 for participation on the Houston Model RR Layout tour on November 5. If you are checking on me monthly, don't expect much progress next month. I have a bathroom to rebuild and holiday activities are starting.

September, 2005. The upper sky board and part of the lower sky board are in and painted. Most of the upper bench work is completed. The subroadbed has been cut for Moline and its staging and cork is being attached.

August, 2005. Started bench work My bench work is complete on the lower deck, Eureka side, and partially on the upper deck. I am leaving it unfinished until I get the sky boards in and painted. My bench work is partially complete on the Moline side lower deck. The back door to the room is access directly to my workshop, so I want to keep this section open as long as possible so that I don't have to go through the house.

Steve Sandifer