York 2016 Show Report
The York show always presents additional challenges beyond our typical local venues. The distance involved the commitment for 4-5 days, and the scrutiny of our peers for starters. Last December when Jack asked me to be Trackmaster for the event I welcomed the challenge but was also very much aware of the difficulty of the task ahead.
Design: The first question was which hall at York? The White and Black halls were both considered, but TCA opted to give us a smaller space in the White hall so the Black hall was our choice. Since we had already successfully displayed two levels at York the thought was why not three levels, could it be accomplished? After dozens of sketches and input from Steve, Justin and Bill and Bear discussing the feasibility of the design, we finally decided on a track plan featuring the Triple Crossing (Richmond), the Hell Gate Bridge, the X crossing and the 6 track yard all incorporated into a 28 X117 foot layout. The designed layout was very complex to say the least. The Richmond required both a 40 inch to 31 inch grade and a 40 inch to 48 inch grade while the grade that went under the Hell Gate Bridge was 40 to 31 inches. To keep it in perspective the date was Feb 2016.
Construction: Several new modules were needed. .Four foot corners, 45 degree corners, 6 track modules for the yard and the actual Triple crossing module were all new construction for the show. Justin, Steve and Matthew designed and built the 4 foot corners, the 45 degree corners and Triple crossing aka Richmond with Justin adding 6 modules for the 6 track yard. Bill and Bear added two additional 6 track modules for the yard.
Scenery: The scenery for the show needed to be exceptional and it did not disappoint. Bernie held scenery work-shops and assisted with the design and actual construction. Every module was innovative and attracted the attention of everyone. A tour around the layout was a feast for the eyes.
Jack’s Washington DC monuments with Cherry Blossom trees, (You could smell the blossoms.), Bear’s beautiful mountain, Richmond led the way as you entered the hall. A spectacular downtown scene, Bill H’s city scene, Craig’s train stations, Bill R’s mountain scene, Jim’s Halloween theme, Matthew’s engine yard theme, Steve’s (9) diamond crossing with an outstanding industrial scene plus the time saver, The Pittsburgh Steel Mill, John M’s Oil Distribution theme, Bill. C incredibly detailed mountain, Bernie’s Civil War scenes (smell the gunpowder), Bob E’s American Heritage, Ed’s industrial scene , Allan’s detailed rural scene, Chuck’s Circus, Joe’s new town and detailed buildings, Rich’s Old Faithful, Bill K’s industrial scene, and Justin’s Yard. Scenic Express provided two fully decorated additions to our new 4 foot corners. Absolutely beautiful! An outstanding example of their products used to perfection. Special thanks to Justin and Steve for coordinating this effort with Scenic Express.
The total setup time required 8+ hours on Tuesday to get the critical pieces in place for the Wednesday general setup, and 14+ hours of work on Wednesday totaling about 22 hours. To complicate matters the bathroom wall moved on us and required some on site redesign to make things fit. We used every special make up piece planned for plus a few extras. At 3:30 on Wednesday afternoon the entire layout was connected and in place ready for track checks followed by skirting and scenery. .Not any additional pressure, we learned Monday that Fox News would be on site at the Black Hall at 8 AM Thursday morning for live TV coverage. In the end they did not show due to covering a College Teachers strike in the Harrisburg/York/Lancaster area, but we were ready for them!
Technical Issues: To say we pushed the envelope goes without saying but I believe we ripped it apart!
- We used two power cabinets (Richmond side and HGB side)
- We also discovered you can only use one TMCC base or conflicts occur. The Base in the Richmond side powerhouse was used. Trackers had to be aware of their distance from the base when operating trains.
- The HGB presented some ground interference issues that were mitigated by moving the ground wire from underneath the bridge to a long-side the track on top.
- Since the longest loop that traversed the entire layout ended up close to 400 feet of track we exceeded the DCS channel output. To resolve the issue the track was isolated at the X crossover into two sections. The section on the Richmond side was powered through the TIU in the VA cabinet and the HGB side was powered though the MD cabinet TIU using a 18V power brick for power. This configuration proved very successful.
- DCS engines experienced start- up problems in the 6 track yard. As a temporary workaround we used mainly Legacy and TMCC engines although DCS operations were successful in some instances. After troubleshooting, some success was achieved but not 100%. Steve spoke with the MTH people in the Orange hall and they (MTH) graciously sent their DCS engineer (Jason) to the Black hall to give us a hand resolving the problem. The suggestions offered by the Jason proved on target. Steve and Justin reconfigured the 6 track yard wiring configuration and improved the DCS operation by a 100%. A simple explanation was isolating the yard with its own power and TIU.
Kudos to both Steve and Justin for their tremendous help on all the technical issues encountered.
Logistics: Chick coordinated delivering both trailers on schedule. Besides hauling numerous modules in his own van he also was responsible for all the refreshments and keeping them supplied throughout the show all while providing yeoman work and direction during the install and takedown.
Steve and Justin actually rented their own U-Haul truck to transport all the modules that were specially constructed for the show. John Z’s Hell Gate Bridge also found its way on to the truck.
Clem was welcomed sight on Wednesday morning toting 4 dozen “Maple Donuts” for everyone’s enjoyment. They all disappeared before the show ended. Thanks Clem. Not to be outdone Justin and Chick also added to the sweet delight. We were in donut heaven!
Public Relations and TCA Coordination: Mike Fistere and company provided publicity on social media and the OGauge RR Forum, major magazines plus TCA publications and the sandwich boards displayed outside of the Black Hall. Mike was the primary interface with TCA (Eastern) and coordinated all the building access and items required for the show. (Tables etc.)
Operations: Justin’s 6 track yard functioned perfectly with switch motors controlled via an IPAD using a WIFI connection. The Yardmaster function was filled by John Masiyowski, Bill Creech, Bear Bailey, Rich Colton, Jim McDermott and George Tsakiris. Hats off to these guys for a smoothly running operation. Track cleaning was a must chore to keep trains running at peak performance. Our President, our VP, and just about every tracker pitched in and helped out, including yours truly very early every morning.
As expected keeping the tracks filled with running trains was a challenge. The plus side was the member timeliness while adhering to the runtime schedule and removing trains once run times were completed.
John also provided some interesting facts about our operations.
- Elapsed time to travel (MTH scale speed of 35 mph)
- Triple Crossing side (Richmond) = 4 minutes 56 seconds
- Hell Gate Bridge side = 2 minutes 54 seconds
- Entire Outer Loop (Traverses Entire Layout) = 7 minutes 50 seconds
Take-Down: At 1:30 on Saturday a meeting was held to review the take down sequence. At 2 PM trains were shut down and the process began, at exactly 5 PM. Justin and Steve’s U Haul truck was locked and ready to roll, the last one loaded… Unbelievable considering a 28 X 117 foot fully operational layout was functioning perfectly a mere 3 hours ago.
Summary: I can’t thank everyone enough for the tremendous support in building and operating the York Layout. The layout was very ambitious and required many hours of planning and construction to be a success. Everyone doing their part made the show an overwhelming success. Special recognition and thanks are extended to both Justin and Steve. Without them this show would still be a dream on a piece of graph paper.