Burlington northern - Marais Division

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Joe Kasper's Burlington Northern, Marais Division

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About the Layout

Operation so real that you can almost smell the diesel.

Rivaling many Class 1 railroads for entertainment and enjoyment, this mind-blowing, ego-bruising, juggernaut of a railroad will bring even an elite operator to his knees! Just consider:
  • Eighteen scale miles of fully signaled CTC main line.
  • Train jobs that take a full 30 minutes of non-stop running to complete.
  • A division yard that would rival many prototypes.
  • Hand-laid turnouts that make Swiss watchmakers cry. And none of that fasttrack stuff, either. These are full-blown Kasper MK VII Rev 2 custom-built engineered marvels, that are assembled with solder augmented with the sweat of Nobel Prize winners.
  • Trains that run so smoothly, you’d swear they were lubricated with unicorn tears.
And we haven’t even mentioned the best part: Theresa’s midwest-famous operating session snacks!

You think you have what it takes to run the “Mighty Wurlitzer”, the three-panel behemoth CTC console that makes all the magic happen? Well, give it a try, big boy. As Homer Simpson once said, “Trying is just the first step toward failure.” That dispatcher’s job once made a Navy Seal weep and abandon his post.

You call yourself a yardMASTER? Well, grab the clipboard, Bub, and belly up the fascia, because you are about to conduct a two-man orchestra in a pressure-packed performance. Whether it is sweet music or a cacophony, it all depends on you.

You like to switch? How about a local job that is NEVER finished! Three industrial zones, fifty industries, and all the butt-rubbing through-train rail fanning you can dream of.

Yes, the Burlington Northern Marais Division has a little bit for everybody. Come for the trains. Stay for the treats.

Oh, and did I mention that it’s N-scale? Can it get any better?

But don’t take our word for it. Here is what Joe’s good friend, visiting from California, recently said after an operating session at Joe’s:

Running trains at Joe's was AWESOME! I'll be back! Hugs and kisses, Arnie

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Layout at a glance
  • N Scale
  • RailCommand
  • Fully Signaled
  • CTC dispatching schema
  • Basement stairs access
  • 50 ft by 50 ft layout room
  • 600 ft of mainline track
  • 16-20 Operators (typical)
  • 0.05 percent sceniced!

Labor Day 2015 Op Session

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Bill nails the 10th Street Job!
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The joys of being a layout owner
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Hot train leaving Murray
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Massive derailment at the MKT Glen Park Yard
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Mike smells something funny at the elevator yard
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Theatrical set design 101 - paint it black if you want it to disappear
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Paul ponders potential pickups
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Rick and Steve discuss their upcoming conversion to N-scale
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This is what an 0.05 percent sceniced layout looks like
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Steve gets his fingers stuck to the ice-cold beverage can!
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Well-hung wireless receivers
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Rick moves a caboose telekinetically
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A contemplative Mike Porter thoughtfully envisions the perfect operating group for a lively session on the Marais Division.

More Layout Photos (click to open)

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Elevator Yard

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Lenexa looking south

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Lincoln, Springfield, Tulsa staging

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Murray Yard Bowl

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Murray Yard Ustick End

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North Kansas City

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Murray Yard north end

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click to embiggen

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Spring Hill

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Ustick Junction

Jobs on the Layout 
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Jobs on the Layout
Jobs?! Jobs sound like work. Not at my house. I hope you're coming here to have fun.

Chief Dispatcher – you will be the communication point of the RR to all road crews and Yard Masters. The mighty Wurlitzer will transmit your will, or your assistant’s, via three US&S-style panels to the 600 feet of mainline and 155 signals under your control. Assigning road crews to trains will be another responsibility. That allows you to control the pace of trains out there. Multitasking is a must. Prior CTC panel knowledge and experience is also a must for the enjoyment of everyone. If you're up to the task, I would love for you to come and touch my knobs. Radio required.
Job difficulty is high.

Assistant Dispatcher – usually a learning position on my RR. This will be another previous CTC knowledge and experience job during PR 2016. Under the direction of the Chief Dispatcher, you will be assigned one or possibly two panels to direct the flow of traffic. Depending on the road crew size and flow of the session, things can be relaxed or intense. Relax! We're here to have fun. Besides, the CTC makes trains cross the RR almost too efficiently so any delays are still minor. Yes, you get to touch my knobs! (That's so wrong)
Job difficulty medium to low

Murray Yardmaster – you will be in charge of the Bowl and Ustick jobs. There are 20 bowl and 8 A/D tracks at your disposal. There is also a mini panel at Block 4 that you will use to control the movements in and out of your yard at the West end. Constant communication with the dispatcher, road crews and 10th St. Yard will keep you busy. In the battle of wills, your desire wins out. Don't be afraid to hold trains out if things are busy. There's 600 feet of mainline parking available. If your Bowl and Ustick jobs require little direction, this job may actually be relaxing. If that wasn't enough to entice you, you also get a clip board! Radio required.
Job difficulty medium to high.

Murray Bowl Job – you work the west end mostly breaking down all terminating trains. You also work the car shop, time permitting. If you should happen to get all trains broken down, the Yardmaster will probably have more for you to do. It's important for you to stop and take a break when you want one. There's plenty of tracks to hold trains while you're gone. No radio required!
Job difficulty medium.

Murray Ustick Job – this is the lower stress end of the yard. Your primary job is to block swap trains passing through. You will also assemble trains for departure. Interaction with the 10th Street guys will also happen to swap cars with each other. No radio required!
Job difficulty medium.

10th St. Yardmaster - if you love Intermodal, you're going to love 10th St. You will have an assistant and you control the largest territory on the entire RR. All Intermodal trains come to you for block swapping, termination or origination. Pay attention to each train’s direction. You are located on one leg of a wye. Trains may go east, west or south after arriving. Some engine consists must be turned on the wye to continue on, so get that going early because it will require the dispatcher to make that happen. If that sounds dull and boring, you also have multiple industries to work, spread out over 60 feet. But wait, there's more! You also have an elevator yard at your disposal. Use it for storage or just hide cars you don't want clogging your main yard. Communication is required with Murray Yard, dispatcher and your switcher crew to accomplish your needs so play nice! Radio required.
Job difficulty medium to high

10th St. Switcher – your job is to make the Yardmaster look good. Typically, you work the auto ramp first to pull racks needed for the day’s trains. There are industries located on the BN and NS mains that need to be worked. The Yardmaster will tell you where to start. He may also ask you to help work Intermodal trains with him, depending on the blocking needs. If you like switching with no responsibility, this is your job. You will need to communicate with the dispatcher occasionally so radio is required.
Job difficulty low to medium.

Lenexa Local (Train 91850) – this job never ends. You have 90 feet of double track mainline to work so constant communication with the dispatcher is a must. Mainline trains will constantly be passing by so you must be “aisle friendly” to those operators. You will be working zones in an order given to you by the superintendent. Pulled cars can be set up for pickup by mainline trains or you can bring them to Murray Yard if you wish. Warning! Murray Yard will always have more cars for you to take back. Trains may also drop off cars for you from Murray, if you wish. During PR 2016, this job can be worked by a two man team if desired. Radio required.
Job difficulty medium

Omaha Local (Trains 15605/15606) – this local runs Murray Yard to Omaha. You will work Napier and Armour only. Sounds simple enough but, usually takes 1 ½ to 2 hours to work. This is on the lower level so if you don't like low level switching, you may want to pass on this one. Located at the busy Napier Jct., you will get to see many trains pass by as you switch. Radio required.
Job difficulty low to medium.

Ft. Scott Local (Train 91670) – this local runs the upper level from Murray to Ft. Scott. You will feel the heat from the dispatcher and road crews as you tie up the mainline at Spring Hill. Just ignore them. This is exactly what happens on the prototype for two real hours. Let's see how good the dispatchers are at stacking up trains. Again, there's 600 feet of mainline parking available so don't sweat it. Going Southbound, this job turns at Ft. Scott. You will need to block your cars for Southbound pick up by Trains 702 or 781 at Ft. Scott. Northbound cars can be blocked for pickup or taken with you back to KC. If you wish you can go on, or you can tie up for the day. On the Northbound run, you have the option of tying up in the center siding at Moss or continue on to Murray Yard. Warning! Murray will have more cars for you. Radio required.
Job difficulty low to medium.

Road Crews – you are the heart, the soul, the backbone of the operation. You must take orders from everyone else in the room and carry them out to the best of your ability. If your signal shows any color other than red or dark, keep going. If you're color blind, just ask someone near by what you have (for my buddy Bret). If you feel forgotten at a signal, call the dispatcher and remind him where you are. Pay attention to your train orders. Dispatchers sometimes send you the wrong way. Just hold at the wrong signal and politely mention to the dispatcher where you should be going. Radio required.
Job difficulty low.
About the Owners 
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About the Layout Owners

My father was a relentlessly self-improving boulangerie owner from Belgium with low grade narcolepsy and a penchant for buggery. My mother was a fifteen year old French prostitute named Chloe with webbed feet. My father would womanize, he would drink, he would make outrageous claims like he invented the question mark. Some times he would accuse chestnuts of being lazy, the sort of general malaise that only the genius possess and the insane lament. My childhood was typical, summers in Rangoon, luge lessons. In the spring we'd make meat helmets. When I was insolent I was placed in a burlap bag and beaten with reeds, pretty standard really. At the age of 12 I received my first scribe. At the age of fourteen, a Zoroastrian named Vilma ritualistically shaved my testicles. There really is nothing like a shorn scrotum, it's breathtaking, I suggest you try it.

I dabble in American politics. I was United States Secretary of State in the administration of President Barack Obama from 2009 to 2013, a United States Senator representing New York from 2001 to 2009, and, as the wife of Joe Kasper, First Lady of the Vulcan from 1993 to 2001.

As a native of Illinois, I was the first student commencement speaker at Wellesley College in 1969 and earned a J.D. from Yale Law School in 1973. After a stint as a Congressional legal counsel, I moved to Kansas and married Joe in 1975. I cofounded Kansas Advocates for Children and Families in 1977, I became the first female chair of the Legal Services Corporation in 1978, and became the first female partner at Rose Law Firm in 1979. The National Law Journal twice listed me as one of the hundred most influential lawyers in America. During my tenure as First Lady of Krypton from 1979 to 1981 and 1983 to 1992, I led a task force that reformed Krypton's education system and sat on the board of directors of Wal-Mart and several other corporations.
More about the Layout 

More about the layout

Thanks to Chark, we call the bathroom The Right Right.  Top of the stairs go right then right
Yes! My wife was awesome that day. We found the flood at 6:30am. She called around and found four huge fans, and two wet vacs to dry up the water. We finished with an hour to spare.
My friend, Rick McClellan, decided to unleash his unknown and retina damaging pole dancing skill. Sorry ladies. There was no camera running that day.
Yes! At the time of the merger, the BN was 25,000 miles of sweet green.
Yes and no. All of them are hand laid by me but I do not use the Fast Tracks method. I have many complex track arrangements that jigs could not provide for. I place turnout templates on the RR and arrange them the way I want. I then tape them together in groups and build them at the work bench.
Ahhhh no. My friend truly appreciates the quality of my turnouts and I truly enjoy his creativity to embellish how well they work. Thanks buddy!
No. But, Hiroshi Kato, of Kato Trains, did come and operate my last RR during the 1998 NMRA convention.
CTC Panel 

More about the CTC Panel

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St. Joseph Subdivision Panel

This is the former CB&Q line west out of Murray Yard to Omaha and Lincoln, Nebraska.
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St. Joseph Subdivision Panel

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Kansas City Terminal Panel

This is the connection to the Ft. Scott Sub to the south and the Brookfield Sub going East. 10th St. Yard and Bedford Yard are located here. Connections to ATSF, KCS, MKT, NS and SP are also made here.
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Kansas City Terminal Panel

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Fort Scott Subdivision Panel

This is the former Frisco line south to Springfield and Tulsa. The MKT has trackage rights on this line to Paola.
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Fort Scott Subdivision Panel

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Computer/Model Railroad Interface (C/MRI)

The CTC panel is powered by the Chubb CMRI system. The CMRI system is celebrating it's 30th anniversary this year.

Behind the panel can be found 12, 24 bit input ports and 20, 24 bit output ports providing the 764 bits needed to drive all three panel's lights and commands.

There are six smaller nodes, located around the railroad room, connecting the signals and dispatcher controlled turnouts.

The program to drive the system is written by me using QB 4.5. Connection to the CMRI is by a serial port at 19,200 baud. The program can read and write to the RR about eight times per second.

Detection of trains is achieved by resistor wheels added to every freight car on the RR. The Chubb detector is sensitive enough to see a wet finger across the tracks.
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Computer/Model Railroad Interface

For those of you who are familiar with US & S style panel operation, I have made some programming changes to accommodate model RR operation.

When an OS is coded up properly, I flash the stop indicator light for that OS to let the dispatcher know his code was accepted. If it's a simple request like clearing the route, the code takes 4 seconds to come up. If a turnout change is also required, the code will take 8 seconds before displaying request.

If the dispatcher attempts a route that is not allowed or results in collision, I make an audible tone so they realize there's something wrong with their selection and can rethink their move. I do this because things happen at a much faster pace in the model than the prototype.

Many new dispatchers sit in the chair and I don't want their learning to cause too much delay for the train crews.

Fleeting is programmed into several busy OS points. Call on is programmed into the 10th St. section of mainline.

All OS points have an alarm that can be set to remind the dispatcher of a meet occurring.

If the dispatcher knocks a route down on a train already in the approach block, a 30 second panel lockout will occur. The stop indicator will go dark during this time to let the dispatcher know the route is locked during this timeout. Any turnout in the locked route is also locked out during this time.

The prototype lockout times are several minutes long to allow for stopping time. In the model, 30 seconds feels like an eternity.

More about the Signals

I'm using all new signals from BeNscale. They provide a true red, yellow, green and lunar aspect. There are 17 different variations of signal mast and color combinations used on the layout.

All of the signals were hand built and painted by me. I choose the target color combinations from BeNscale and assemble them individually.

Certain color combinations were not available so you will see a few dark aspects. Treat those as a red. For those not familiar with lunar, it's a bluish white color permitting entry into a yard limit or non-detected track at restricted speed. You will also see yellow over yellow or flashing yellow. That indicates a diverging approach.

There are two locations where you may receive a flashing red indication at 10th St Yard. This gives you permission by the signal to get your locomotives back on your train. You will find a total of 155 signals around the RR.

Here are a few of the 17 unique signal configurations found on the BN Marais Division:
Approach Block Signal
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Lunar Signal at Block 4
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Cantilever Signal
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Dual Block Signals
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Napier Junction Triple Signal
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True Green and Yellow Aspects
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Structures on the Marais Division

The layout is slowly, but steadily, getting scenery. But there are a multitude of detailed structures on the layout that provide the switch crews with interesting industries to work.

Here are a few of them:

Map and Directions to the Layout

You can click on the “show directions” tab to print directions from the host hotel to the layout. Or you can download them in Apple Maps or Google Maps on your portable device.

It ain’t easy being’ green…

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