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The Chicago and Nowell Wisch Railroad
May 2010

Finally! Wisch Mountain is almost complete.


December 15, 2008

Train Overview - Long Term Plan - DCC digital control system -  

Yet again, some progress. December marks the beginning of the end of the operational issues. We are starting to hook up the switch control panel. Life is good. Don't try this at home. Happy Holidays.

After six years, there is finally progress. On May 27, 2007 the track was completed. We ran eight locomotives on the layout on every track and siding. The crossing track reversing circuits worked and the trains made it across without uncoupling cars. It is finally a working train layout. There were times when I thought of just sawing it into little pieces because it was going to be "The Never Ending Story." I started the layout in 2001 and thought it would be completed in a year. Six years later we are starting on the landscaping and building. So far, only one area of the eight geo-regions is finished... the coal yard. 

2003-2005 was a very difficult period. In 2003 I was only able to work on the layout for six days during the year. We did a little work in 04 and 05 but 06 saw some real progress. Now, the story of the Chicago & Nowell Wisch Railroad is very simple... we'll build it when we can and it will be done when it is done.

Because I didn't want Alex to suffer, I made a small layout for him to use. He has outgrown it and is now running DCC and analog trains on the big layout. He is having a ball. You can see his formerly small layout is viewable by clicking here but it is now retired to the rafters.

2007 will find us wiring the layout for remote switches and lights. We plan to complete Wisch Mountain and the Coal Yard this year but who knows? Keep posted here!

(As usual, click on the little picture to see the big picture)

December 2008

The control panel is taking shape. The original one was too big for the space so I've designed a compact version and will attach it with some expensive bit interesting hinges that will allow it to fold flat against the layout when not in use.

Click here to see the progress.

Try the Flash Viewer Beta



Too many photos for this section. Click on the link to see the full page. It is pretty impressive.




January 20, 2006

The first significant progress on the C&NWRR occurred this weekend. Of note is that the entire layout is now interchangeable between DCC and Analog operations. I updated the DCC system and had all the necessary repairs made to allow programming and train operations, now. Also, we wired in a crossing track that does not work completely but it did prove the concept until it blew up the power pack.

Since 2004, you will see the progress on Wisch mountain (although the Cohen's are still living in a motor home) and some progress on the rest of the layout. We now have a Marine Corps Reserve Center and have graded the area for our Shotgun Sports Club.

A momentous occasion when Alex did the first complete train operation on the big layout.

He built two freight trains from scratch using a switch engine and two road engines.

He had to maneuver three engines and twelve cars across six tracks and three sidings. Here are the two trains meeting at the bridge.

This was a very big lesson for both of us and the layout performed at about 85% reliability.

He is learning to be a real big-time train guy.

We even have construction equipment to help with the grading.

The depot and hotel are lighted and the lights work!

The Marine Reserve Center has better buildings than the ones I lived in thirty-five years ago.

Rachael's house.

Jeannine's trailer.

Wisch Manor.

The red blob is the DINER sign that is lighted and works.

The start of Downtown.

Oh, thank heaven...

Our gas is $0.37 cents a gallon.

TradeNet has grown into a nice big company.

The coal yard.
August 2004

After almost a year's hiatus, construction has resumed on the CNWRR layout. This month features the first look at the new track layout, the new mountain, tunnel and the home sites. Lots of work in a short period of time.

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I had to rip up the back track because it was built on too much of a grade. I couldn't run my steam engines with more than four cars or they would get stuck going up the right side grade. The scale rise was almost 6 degrees, a little too steep.

At the top of the photo is where the tunnel will go. 

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This is really on Alex's layout. I gave him some of my cows and one of my new John Deere tractors. 

I have the photo here because I want you to see the cows and the tractor since they will appear on my layout at the feed lot.

The C&NW was a big mover of beef and coal. That's why I will have cows on the line.

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Finally, I have a tunnel. Whoopee!

I didn't want a mountain but if you want a tunnel you have to have a mountain. I resisted the mountain because I didn't know what to put on top of it. I finally decided it would be the family homestead. 

The near house is the kids. The far house is DJ and mine. The black squiggly line is the ride-on garden railway that Alex and I will build.

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The tunnel is coming along pretty well. The homes on top will have a commanding view of the entire valley.
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I have to build up the approaches to accommodate the preformed tunnel portals. 
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The road will go up the hill from the valley. It will be pretty steep but that's why they make 4WD vehicles. Since we live in a No-Snow Zone it will be no problem. I may asphalt it anyway. 
June 2002

I've decided to start work at the far west corner and build my way to the near east corner. It will let me finish parts of the layout along the way and as a plan, works for me

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The Coal Yard
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The Coal Yard

C44-9 crosses the bridge with 24 cars.
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The Coal Yard
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The Coal Yard

The Never Ending Story

So far, we invested about $15,000 in the Chicago and Nowell Wisch Railroad

Oh, don't get excited, that isn't how much the railroad cost... it includes the garage remodel so Diana can get her car in and I can have a play area. And yes, I freely admit that there are inequities at work here. But remember, a violin takes up very little space while model trains, guns, reloaders, photo backgrounds, recording equipment and the normal household paraphernalia takes up even more. One needs a garage to store all manner of things if one is a schizoid like me. 

The Long Term Plan

The scope of this project is as yet to be determined. It has been in the work for over two years and shows no signs of completion. 

The C&NWRR is being constructed on a 6 foot by 12 foot base, with a double main line in "left hand" configuration, as the real C&NW was, and METRA still is today. 

Ultimately, I will have a passenger terminal, complete with the double deck'er commuter cars the C&NW pioneered, a cattle siding, a six track coal yard, a four track freight yard, and an industrial siding. This will model the diverse industrial base the C&NW cultivated. There will be two crossing tracks complete with automatic reversing switches and the entire layout will eventually be computerized, as it is a DCC controlled system. 

The layout will let me model the important diversity of the C&NWRR system in a small way. Of course, since I recently returned from visiting the Granville Island Model Train Museum and studying its stunning layout has started me thinking along an entirely different track for the back of the layout. Therefore, as of now, I am tasked to finish off the front of the layout and the eastern side of the lake.  

DCC System Overview

In olden days, model trains were controlled by variable voltage from a power pack. Goose the voltage and the train goes fast. Reduce the voltage and the train goes slow. Track was divided into "blocks" that allowed operation of different trains at different speeds since two trains could not be individually controlled on the same track at the same time, at the same voltage..

Lately, the move in large layouts (of which mine is not) is toward Digital Command Control (DCC) which keeps a constant voltage on the track but uses a digital decoder (a computer chip wired into the locomotive) to control the speed and direction of the train. DCC allows up to 99 trains to operate at the same time and allows several loco's to be tied together into a "Consist" so really large trains can operate on the layout. (Heavier trains require more locomotives to pull them.)

Mostly, DCC gives me a way to play with trains and computers. Operation is just an excuse. DCC is cooler than block control... get it?


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