Public Relations Blog

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On Monday, August 9th, 2021, at 6:30 p.m., disaster struck the PRR Middle Division! A bolt of lightning struck a 60 foot tree located about 50 feet from division headquarters.

The outer skin (bark plus a half inch of wood) of the tree literally exploded off the core of the tree. Pieces were found up to 100 feet away. Just inside the outer band of wood of the tree is where the water and sap move through the tree. The lightning superheats this moisture and creates a steam explosion. Pretty massive amount of force.

The surge went through the ground and impacted a number of homes, mostly ours. On the first floor, it fried a cable model, TiVo box, an Apple AirPort wireless router and backup device, an external hard drive, and a 55 inch television. My wife was holding her iPhone, which was plugged in, and she got shocked, The breaker for our septic system tripped, but thankfully it was operational upon reset.

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As the COVID lockdown winds down -- for those who are vaccinated -- opportunities in model railroading are slowly coming back. I made my first visit to a shop (White Rose Hobbies) in over a year, participated in an op session (Dave Trone's West Penn), and look forward to shows this fall (Great Scale Model Train Show), and undoubtedly November open houses (modelrailroadopenhouse.com).

I had a very successful quarter on the Middle Division, with the only distraction being surgery for a miniscus tear in my left knee. Not too much trouble though. Here's a recap:

Middle Division CTC

The Middle Division is crawling closer and closer to operations!

The stand-in 1980s-style dispatcher panel is fully operational (above). It was constructed using CATS, which rides on top of JMRI. Putting together this panel was a snap -- with full interlocking controls -- versus an era-correct US&S panel which will come later. The main line is at top and practices CTC; the branches are below and practice DTC.

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Boy did I miss an opportunity on April 1st! No, I am not changing eras! I've always been a fan of intermodal and planned to have a modern intermodal train for kicks. Won't be on the layout regularly. I went on a binge the last few weeks and filled out a train with 12 wells and four flats. I have a ScaleTrains ET44AC Tier 4 GEVO coming this summer.

For some time I have also had a RoadRailer train hidden from view. Though RoadRailers left Pennsylvania in 2015, I always thought they were pretty cool. Eventually I'll do a short Amtrak train to represent the Pennsylvanian. If I ever get there, I may model the original AutoTrain; all of the correct cars are available.

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Over the past few weeks I have encountered some "bizarre" power and LocoNet issues, without having changed anything on the layout. I have multiple LocoNet segments, and I could not keep them all connected concurrently. Even my LocoNet repeater wasn't working properly.

At one point I wondered if it might be the CMOS battery in my DCS 100 command stations. I replaced them; no help.