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Denver's RailRoads Blog Page

Recording the progress of building the Denver’s RailRoads N Scale layout

All genuine posts are welcomed and will be acknowledged. Please submit your first post by email to: dennis@denversrailroads.com

Putting the layout back together — Update #1

Soon after my last post in January we actually moved into our new home and began to shift all the boxes and furniture out of my garage and into the house. That is when the fun really started. At first I was busy moving into the house but when I came to work on the layout modules that we had moved from Townsville I ran up against all sorts of challenges, in particular adding longer replacement legs to the modules whose legs had been damaged in transit and adding complete new legs and  frameworks for two of the modules that had been shipped legless to sit on. I also decided that the section on which modules 5 & 6 were built needed to be rebuilt and as I have never been happy with my track-work on that section Ii removed all of the tack pending a re-build.

Then disaster struck. My largest module, made up of three 6 foot modules (Mods 2, 3 & 4) bolted together, fell over whilst i was adding a new leg. It took a whole week with 2 pull-along winches, 2 double pulleys and 2 car jacks to lift the module into the air and right it on its broken legs. A mess as can be seen by the first two pictures. The third picture shows the module on it’s new and stable legs and the forth, a picture of modules 11 & 12 on their new frameworks and legs.

Kato Test Track — Speed Matching Update

Speed matching was put on hold pending the big move. Unfortunately I did not put away all the locos and freight cars sitting on the test track layout . So to punish me for my carelessness the whole test track layout fell over as I was positioning modules 1 to 4 in place. After I finished crying I picked up all the loco and freight car bits and put it in one big box which I have yet to inspect. I am not looking forward to finding out what a mess my brand new Atlas GP-30’s are in. The lid of the control panel of the test track layout was also broken off its hinges.

I considered breaking up the Kato test track but on checking my CADRail drawings I realised that it could fit onto the module 6b L-girder framework as a temporary part of the re-build of modules 5 & 6. As the track-laying for modules 6a & 6b are part of Phase 2 of the layout, that will not be started for a year or three, so in the meantime the test layout could be well used for loco testing. A modified part of the track-plan follows. To see details of the three phases of construction check out https://denversrailroads.com/DPoverview.htm.

As can be seen, with a minor alteration a connection can be made between the Kato test layout and the main layout. This could be used as a convenience to move trains between the layouts or the test track could be operated as the Leadville branch of Denver’s RailRoads, as it was originally designed.

As of the date of this blog all of the modules are now in place but I still have the following woodworking jobs to complete:

  • Install 20+ stand alone spot lights, including 13 over modules 1 to 5, 4 over modules 5 & 6 and the remainder over my work desks situated around module 10.
  • Add longer legs to module 8
  • Bolt modules 10 & 11 to module 8
  • Finish building the framework for modules 5 & 6
  • Attach modules 5 & 6 to module 4 at one end and module 7 at the other end
  • Bolt together modules 1 & 1a
  • Build new module 9 ( a long time into the future)

I can then start the track-laying for Phase 1.  To understand which module is which check out the track plan at https://denversrailroads.com/Denver/DR-Layout/DR127A3.pdf.

Kato Test Track — Speed Matching Batch #2

On to Batch #2 made up of three Atlas ‘Gold Series’ EMD GP-30’s, all from the same production run. They are:

  • #2893 Atlas 40 003 773 EMD GP-30 Phase 1, Road Number 3001
  • #2894 Atlas 40 003 788 EMD GP-30 Phase 2, Road Number 3027
  • #2895 Atlas 40 003 774 EMD GP-30 Phase 1, Road Number 3002

Atlas ‘Gold Series’ locomotives are at the top of the Atlas N Scale range and are all fitted with ESU sound decoders and AccuMate Chinese made couplers.

The maximum speed for a EMD GP-30 is 71–83 mph (114–134 km/h). Quite a bit higher than the SW7 top speed of 65 mph.

In addition to the above I have 4 older Atlas GP-30’s. Two are GP-30 Phase 1’s (manufactured in 2006 according to Train Control Systems [TCS]) and two are GP-30 Phase 2’s. They are:

  • #994 Atlas 42816 EMD GP-30 Phase 1, Road Number 3006 with TCS ASD4 decoder installed by Gwydir in December 2015
  • #995 Atlas 42817 EMD GP-30 Phase 1, Road Number 3008. TCS ASD4 decoder in stock ready to be installed.
  • #1390 Atlas 47546 EMD GP-30 Phase 2, Road Number 3016. TCS ASD4 decoder in stock ready to be installed.
  • #1391 Atlas 47547 EMD GP-30 Phase 2, Road Number 3019. A TCS ASD4 decoder needs to be ordered from Fifer Hobbies (8 ASD4’s in total required) who have the lowest price of $36.49.

Fifer Hobbies can be found at http://fiferhobbysu770.corecommerce.com/cart.php?m=product_detail&p=13668.

Let the speed matching begin.

Kato Test Track — Speed Matching Batch #1 Continued

Next I speed tested the two UP SW7 units #1800 & #1824. Although They were the same loco as CBQ #9255 by the same manufacturer their speed were not quite the same.

CBQ #9255 was set as:

  • CV5 set to 130 giving a Top Speed of 80mph at speed step 126
  • CV6 set to 60 giving a Speed of 41mph at speed step 63

However UP #1800 had  to be set as:

  • CV5 set to 140 giving a Top Speed of 81mph at speed step 126
  • CV6 set to 65 giving a Speed of 41mph at speed step 63

And UP #1824 was different again and was set as:

  • CV5 set to 141 giving a Top Speed of 81mph at speed step 126
  • CV6 set to 65 giving a Speed of 41mph at speed step 63

The two UP SW7 units #1800 & #1824 will become a consist and will be permanently joined together. However I will get into consisting at a later date.

Time to move onto Batch #2 – three Atlas EMD GP30s.

Kato Test Track — Speed Matching Batch #1

I have started work on speed matching and the breaking-in of my locos starting with the newest received. The first batch includes 3x SW7 switchers and 1x E8A. However I will test the E8A separately and probably with other “E” units as a separate batch. I now have 201 locomotives, of which 110 have DCC decoders either factory fitted or hobby shop installed. I have about 20 3rd party decoders which i will attempt to install in my older DC only units. I do plan to sell a lot of the older DC locos as I have enough new units to make many of them superfluous and it is not worth the trouble and to a degree an extra expense. Furthermore my skill level stops at drop in replacement decoders.

The luck of the draw has meant that my last half dozen purchases have been Broadway Limited units fitted with Paragon 3 decoders. Consequently Batch 1 is made up of the following:

  • #2898 Diesel Switcher EMD SW7 Broadway Ltd #3885 Purchased 06-Jul-2020. UP #1800
  • #2899 Diesel Switcher EMD SW7 Broadway Ltd #3886 Purchased 06-Jul-2020. UP #1824
  • #2883 Diesel Switcher EMD SW7 Broadway Ltd #3879 Purchased 16-Jan-2020. CBQ #9255

As you can see from the following photo I have had to print, with my Brother P-touch labelling system, a clear 1/4″ 6mm label of the loco road number. I plan to do this for any loco that has a small unreadable number. With E and F units the number can be affixed to the side (and looks as if it belongs there) but with switchers the only choice is the roof. However the process is quite neat – and a lot quicker than decaling – and the number is removable if necessary. I am considering a similar practice for unreadable freight car numbers but that’s a subject for another day.

I have installed an NCE USB Interface board and have successfully connected to JMRI Decoder Pro. The biggest challenge was getting the jumper settings for a PowerCab Version 1.65 correct (they are ON OFF ON ON) and the Router Baud rate set as 19200. JMRI Decoder Pro is able to directly drive these locomotives and ring the Bell from my laptop but no matter what I have tried  I cannot get Decoder Pro to write CV values to the locomotives. One day I will succeed but in the meantime I am quite happy directly setting CV5 and CV6 via the PowerCab throttle/command station. The following picture is of the 10 40′ freight cars and one caboose used to test the locomotives pulling power.

The first decision to be made was the top speed. There is quite a bit of literature and videos on the web about speed matching. The best videos are by the DCC Guy at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCuj_3CIjTM2ZCfCkDuICRqA but I also found an article by Jim Betz on Tony’s Trains Xchange (https://tonystrains.com/news/locomotive-speed-matching-made-easy/) very useful.

After much thought I have decided to limit the Top Speed of the Locomotives to a figure close to the prototypes.  I hate seeing trains going too fast on layouts that I visit and I think slower speeds are more realistic. Jim Betz in the above article does not agree! The top speed for an EMD SW7 switcher was 65mph. Using my Accutrack II Speedometer I have determined that setting CV5 @ 105 and CV6 @ 50 will result in a Top Speed of 68mph at speed step 126 and a speed of 34 mph at speed step 66 on the CBQ #9255 loco. I set CV2 @ 2 on all locos.

CBQ #9255 is able to pull the 10 40′ freight cars and one caboose around the test track – which is a 9.8″ tight curve with a slight increase in elevation – without stalling, but with a lot of strain. I changed the settings as follows and the loco performed much better:

  • CV5 set to 130 giving a Top Speed of 80mph at speed step 126
  • CV6 set to 60 giving a Speed of 41mph at speed step 63

Denver’s Railroads: C&S Leadville/Kato Test Track Layout — Progress Report

I actually finished constructing the Kato Test Track Layout some time in November 2020. Originally I was going to finish the layout as the C&S Leadville branch and as you can see from the control panel (which is actually a printout of the track plan created in CADRail) there were to be 3 switching industries, a small yard and a passenger station. I even went as far as to paint the rails and ballast some of the track.

Unfortunately no matter what method I used – and I watched a number of different videos on Ballasting Kato track – I could not satisfactorily hide the Kato plastic simulated ballast. The exercise was useful in my being able to practice different ballasting techniques but by then it became clear that to build the layout up to a semi completed stage would take some months and I would not be able to complete the layout before the home was finished and I could work on my main Denver’s RailRoads layout, after the storage boxes and furniture currently filling up the layout area were removed.

However the layout is an excellent test layout, having two parallel loops of track and a number of sidings.

The layout, as in the following photograph, is set up to test run my 4 newest locomotives and, using a scale speedometer (the Accutrack II – highly recommended), to speed match using CVs 5 and 6. More on speed matching in the next blog.

C&S Leadville Branch line and Denver’s RailRoads Photo Update

C&S Leadville Branch line with the track all laid. The wiring is also complete. Just needs the testing of the BUS and a new control panel diagram for the toggle switches to control the Kato turnouts.

At last they have laid the earthworks as a start to the house to accompany the Denver’s RailRoads layout (see shed at back of block). I need the house so that I can get all of the boxes and junk (aka furniture) out of the railway room and I can start to rebuild the layout.

C&S Leadville Branch line: Final Trackplan Arrangement

Finished adding the extension and laying the track. As a result the trackplan has changed considerably. The following is the trackplan drawn in both AnyRail and CADRail. AnyRail is great for providing a comprehensive Kato library that snap together. CADRail on the other hand provides more features, such as colours and kit pictures. I am in the process of testing the power to the rails and once that is done I will create the control panel with toggle switches to control the turnouts.

Note that there are only three industries, but they have enough track length to create reasonable train lengths. 12-15 Hopper cars to the Climax Molybdenum Mine, 12 Reefers to the Mountain Meat Packing Plant and 6 tankcars to Acorn Petroleum Inc. Leadville station can accommodate 4 coach passenger trains. For now the loops will have to act as staging tracks but a staging yard could be added to the 12 car mine lead.

C&S Leadville Branch line Trackplan Update

I have been giving a lot of thought to the Leadville Station spur and realised that what was required was the ability for a locomotive to run around it’s train and couple to the rear. The following change to the trackplan – the addition of a second crossover on the right – provides that ability with a minimum of track changes. I have ordered the two extra right-hand #4 turnouts which hopefully will be received by the end of next week.

As can be seen I have started work on the 6″ extension to the layout to make room for the Leadville Station spur. Next stage is the installation of the 2″ deep foam roadbed and filling in the gap between the old and new foam, which could be challenging.

Kato Test layout (aka C&S Leadville Branch line) Update

Back on 20th May 2019 I introduced the test layout on the Blog page and detailed a number of objectives, mainly relating to using the test layout to test a whole raft of electronic options. Initially as part of the layout build I installed a number of NCE BD-20 block detectors and DCC accessory control boards. At that time I did learn a lot about using such devices.

However now that I am going to build the layout as a functioning switching layout I do not think it is worth the effort and cost of installing a lot of electronic devices on such a small layout. Signals would look nice but along with block occupancy lights they are quite unnecessary on such a small layout, where you can see at a glance where all the trains are.

Consequently I am going to remove all the BD-20s and save them for the Denver’s RailRoads layout, which I hope to restart early in 2021. That layout will need a lot of electronics to function as planned. The Kato layout only needs a number of of SPDT or DPST spring toggle switches to change the built in motors in the turnouts. It has a single circuit breaker which should be adequate for such a small layout. The Wye/reversing section could cause a few challenges, but we will see.

Making the electrics simple will free my time up to build a complete operating layout before Christmas (2020) that will provide interesting switching challenges. Furthermore there are 3 or 4 kits to build and some interesting mountain scenery to create. I have already installed the two #6 turnouts between the red and green lines which will improve operations considerably. The next task is to make a cut along the white dotted lines (on the updated track plan below) and raise the 3 tracks at the back by an inch or two. That will improve the scenic look of the layout and maybe also raise the track level equal to the back board of the layout making it much easier to add the 150mm (6″) extension to the layout.


C&S Leadville Branch line


As indicated in my 24th May 2020 blog post I felt that having a Reefer based industry on the layout instead of a Timber based industry would be easier to operate and more in keeping with a small layout based on a railroad set in 1934. The significance of the year 1934 is that it was before 1937 when the use of “billboard” advertising on freight cars was banned by the Interstate Commerce Commission, and thereafter cars so decorated could no longer be accepted for interchange between roads. It was also a year after prohibition ended in 1933!

Unfortunately I could not find a meat packing industry that had existed in Leadville at any time, so I have had to invoke ‘modellers license’ and move the Mountain Meat Packing company from Craig to Leadville. So I have dropped the Smith Lumber company in favour of the Mountain Meat Packing company. I have also moved Acorn Petroleum Inc. to the shorter siding previously allocated to Smith Lumber company.  Mountain Meat Packing will be represented by the Woodland Scenics “Clyde & Dale’s Barrel Factory” and placed on the long siding. This should allow for quite a few reefers, boxcars and stockcars. I have also removed the Resurrection Ore Mine as there really was no room for that industry and we already have a Hopper based mine at Climax. The new track arrangement is as follows:

Layout Operations

Trains need to be made up on the front 3 tracks and then be sent around the layout for a few laps and then brought into one of the sidings and switched accordingly. The train then makes a few more laps before going into staging and being reconfigured.