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This blog is limited to articles; random photos or quick updates are posted to the FaceBook page.

Blog entries from August 2017 and earlier have been migrated from a former site and many of the images are incorrectly linked. These may be repaired over time.

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The control panel under reconstruction.

Well, it's been a month since I reported the lightning strike, so I guess I am due to provide an update...

To add insult to injury, Hurricane Ida came through three weeks later. The sump pump worked its butt off, but for a very brief period it could not keep up and the well overflowed. I ended up with a mere 1/4" on the basement floor, but that still requires moving everything and scrubbing with a strong bleech mix to prevent mold. The logistics of moving everything requires scrubbing areas in patches. I just finished today.

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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:

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As evidenced by the many articles I have written about Pennsy TrucTrain service and its successor, Trailer Train Corp. (now TTX), I've always been a fan of intermodal. Many don't realize that the Pennsylvania Railroad was the primary party behind the formation of Trailer Train.

During my stint in N scale, I worked with Alan Curtis Models to develop the F30D flat car kit. This was the initial flat car used for TOFC service on the Pennsy, in 1954. Alan retired, but the kits are still available through N Scale Kits and the decals from MicroScale.

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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.

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.

New CTC Screen

This past week I had the pleasure to participate in remote operations on Dave Abeles' Conrail Onondaga Cutoff. While remote dispatching is nothing new, remote control of actual trains is leading edge. Dave probably wasn't the first, but he is definitely at the forefront and has gained a lot of visibility over the past year.

I met Dave through Lionel Strang's A Modeler's Life podcast. He's also been featured in Railroad Model Craftsman and Model Railroader over the past few months and, this coming month, has a feature on remote operations in Model Railroader... look for it!

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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.

It's been another very productive quarter on the Middle Division. The "missing link" -- the scale track at Lewistown -- has been installed. The yard is now connected with the Lewistown Secondary and, subsequently, the Milroy Secondary.

The Mechanical Department has gotten back in the practice of posting news of new rolling stock acquisitions. The fleet has recently grown by nine tank cars. In addition, the Pennsylvania Midland has received three hopper cars.

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