Roadwolf's portal for his random thoughts and ponderings

Hobbies

Lofty Lair vs SVNO Ops

Blog and Journal Hobbies

I sit up in my Lofty Lair trying to find inspiration to do something meaningful. So I decided to write this post to try to sort things out. I am working on two main projects in my life right now. Read more


Refreshed Storyboard for SVNO

Roleplay and Fantasy Hobbies

SVNO: Scajaquada Valley Northern Railway

The Scajaquada Valley Northern is a fictional short line railroad serving remote communities in a Northern and Mountain region in North America. The initial nationality was going to be Canadian, however it could easily be located in the Adirondaks or Northern Maine. The railroad draws a large amount of inspiration from the Ontario Northland Railroad which serves Northern Ontario well, and provides not only the only land link to several Northern Communities which are otherwise inaccessible, but also Whistle Stop / Flag Stop passenger service to remote areas. The Whistle Stop / Flag Stop service is a hold over from the early Steam days when passengers could stop a train anywhere to board or disembark. Read more


Loft Update

Hobbies

My Carriage House's Loft has been neglected for a while. The main chunk of work to make it what it is today, spanned from 2017 to 2019. But it has sat in limbo pretty much ever since. It is a shame really, as it is a great hobby space. The plan for the room changed a few times. A sound studio, for mixing small bands with a nice mixer and effects suite was one such idea. But frankly I am much too old school to keep up with the changes in the music industry. The Lofty Lair was an idea for a private adult lounge. But I scrapped that idea back in 2018. The Model Railroad / Hobby room has been on the table a few times, and is the dominant inspiration behind the room going forward. Read more


2015 Dodge Journey Ball Joint Adventure! (Never buy from CarParts.com)

Blog and Journal Hobbies

One of my not so fun tasks this vacation was to tackle my Journey's front suspension issue. I didn't know what was going on, but ended up being the main cause of my noise in the front end was a bad Left side Ball Joint. I was ready for this! I had already purchased all of the components for the front suspension as I wanted to replace it all anyhow.

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I purchased most of the components from CarParts.com. The Moog Ball Joints they sent were perfect. However they were poorly packed in a simple padded USPS type envelope. I don't believe I got much of a deal on them anyhow. I also bought my loaded struts from there as part of the same order. I ordered SET-TS172509-F which CarParts.com described as Monroe Shock Absorber and Strut Assembly. They were not Monroe shocks.

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On top of that, they promised 3 day delivery. They arrived separately, one after about 7 days and the other after about 15 days. They did however try to bribe me with a $100 voucher for wine. Surprisingly it was valid and worked, so I did end up buying some wine.

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They did however fit and I ended up using them. But I was unhappy and instead of complaining to a company which as far as I am aware is based out of China, I will just blacklist them in the future and let my readers know NEVER to order anything from this site if they actually care about what they are specifically ordering and when they will receive it. I'd just say don't use this site. RockAuto is a great site... I don't know why I didn't go with that to begin with.

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The job began slow. The Left side's ball joint was bad, so I wanted to tackle that first. The Dodge Journey's Ball Joint's are kind of screwed up. Probably designed by people with Common Core math - because you cant properly use a compression tool to remove and insert this ball joint. I am sure there is a custom tool available. But the typical ones you rent or buy will not really fully do the trick.

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My snapring was so rusted in place I ended up saying fuck it and used my cutting disc to cut it off. And like the dummy I am I ended up going a bit far and cut into the actual wheel hub. Was able to get the ball joint out with the help of an air hammer, and then welded the wheel hub back together. Don't pay attention to the lack of safety gear. No chest hairs were harmed in process.

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I inserted the new ball joint and ended up having to hammer it in (using a compression cup over it). Sadly the wheel hub weld fix didn't seem solid so I ran a few more beads over it. I am hoping it holds out and to be sure I actually said fuck it and welded the Ball Joint in place too. But at the same time I ordered a new Wheel Hub assembly (not from CarParts.com) and plan on just replacing that out at the first sign of trouble. I don't trust that fix really. I kinda messed up.

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I like using my cutting disc, and ended up cutting more of the bolts for the items I was replacing off. One of them was the old Ball Joint connecting to the control arm. Again I was a bit dipsy and couldn't figure out why I wasn't able to just pop the cut off bolt out. Well, turns out it is tapered. So a friend who stopped by gave it a few whacks from below and it shot out!. I had tried tapping on it from below prior to that too, but it didn't budge for me when I attempted. So I dunno. He is just magical.

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Aside from those two issues, which were honestly mostly self induced, the biggest pains were trying to unclip the speed sensor cable from inside the engine compartment. That was a long reach for a fat guy like me. The other issue was removing the plastic from the wiper shrouds. I didn't fully remove it, as I didn't want to remove the wipers. But I just hate those plastic anchor 'bolts' or rivets. Otherwise, the stabilizer (aka sway bar?) links and the struts went in fairly easily.

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Having never owned a vehicle with such a loaded strut assembly in place, I was surprised to discover that the whole strut turns and moves as part of the steering. I had previously only owned vehicles with wheel hub assemblies that were the only things that moved with the steering. I can see how this set up had less moving parts to deal with, but I am amazed that this set up doesn't bind up over time. Or does it?

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The other side went a lot smoother, as I was just doing the strut and stabilizer link, which was really about an hour long job.

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Anyhow, I figured I would have to get an alignment, but it seems to be driving nice and straight.

Woo! Good job Roadwolf. You still have it in ya. Sorry for the fat guy pics, lol Tho I have heard some people find it attractive to see a guy working. Read more


T1 !

Hobbies Blog and Journal

It is 2021. T1? What does that mean?

Ha, well.. T1's were something that were popular when I was just getting into the industry in the late 1990's and early 2000's. But they were beginning to loose favor by 2010 as SIP / VoIP options began to become more economical and fiber backbones became more widespread.

But one thing can not be denied. In terms of robustness, a T1 line from point to point is typically VERY solid.

Where I work, we use T1's for several point to point critical infrastructure systems. We were actually still running a Cisco SONET fiber ring 15454 up until April 2021! The T1's would route over that system out to their various locations. Prior to this we used copper hardline and CO repeaters.

This system was Aging. I fully believe the Cisco SONET 15454 was made useless by the Y2K bug fix, as January 1st, 2020 the SONET user interface ceased to be functional, and it corrupted the kernel on our monitoring workstation. For over a year the SONET ran without the ability for us to maintain it or read logs, or do anything. Luckily it was solid enough to do it's job without complaining much. For a system that was 10 years beyond it's useful life, that is a huge show of hardness.

This year it was my goal to work all of the major systems off of the aging SONET system. And my self imposed deadline was April 2021. Now keep in mind, this is a project I started and worked on on my own. My workplace was so caught up in their own red tape and lack of understanding that - while this was on their drawing board, nothing was being done about it.

I disconnected the SONET in the first week of April! My new system, using an ERPS ring with AdTran 8044M's was complete, and all of my T1's were transferred over and functional enough to be useful. I completed my goal, and just in time. As a few hours before the last T1's were to be moved off of the old SONET, that SONET failed, and those T1's went down! Luckily the 8044M was in place as was the cabling to quickly transfer the T1's over to the new system and get it back online.

But then began a strange issue. See I have never really dealt with setting up a CO network of T1's. Usually when I dealt with T1's, I dealt with client side T1's, and the CO side of things was already set up. So yeah I was still learning when I set up this super important critical infrastructure system. I had read that there was only supposed to be one clock source, but I had 2 8044's at my CO location. Each of which handling 8 T1's. The T1's like I said, are point to point, so they all originate from the CO location, and head out to various locations.

I had wrongly set the 2nd CO 8044, to packet timing client mode, off of the first 8044.

So the 8 T1's originating from the 2nd 8044 at the CO all had packet timing issues. But I didn't quite catch that right away. For one, they all seemed to work... Kind of. Every 12 minutes or so, I would get an interruption from one of the Fire Department audio lines, which would unsquelch their radio system.

With several other projects on the go, it took me a while to come back to this issue to revisit it. But I did have a theory it was clock or timing related.

Tonight I was checking the units and saw that the T1 channel banks's all used to have clock inputs but the wire on the wire wrap was cut. So I was thinking okay if the CO T1's had timing at one time, then why don't they now? Then I realized... The SONET was the timing, and then I realized that the packet timing on the AdTran 8044 was also the timing. I don't know why that didn't quite click in until just now. But it hit me like a pallet of falling bricks. Hell yeah.

So I logged in and checked, and sure enough the 8 locations off of the 2nd 8044 were all showing packet alarms. So I fixed that up, by making the 2nd 8044 at the CO it's own packet server instead of a client, and then set up the other locations to point to that unit that they are pointed to anyhow with the T1, to look for packet timing there. And yeah... that fixed it :)

Woo. Fun stuff.

I hope my T1's live for many many more years. lol Read more


Volunteering/Emergency Response: Current Status: 2021

Hobbies Blog and Journal

Many years have gone by since I really wrote about Emergency Response stuff on here. Most of these posts were written before I became employed where I am now.

Currently, I don't really do too much whacking or emergency response, at least outside of work. At work, I am responsible for various systems, including fire systems, across the whole city in a multitude of locations. There are times where I do have to respond to fire calls and assist the Fire Department. And I also maintain the radio systems, and therefore I always have the choice to monitor the radio traffic in the city on any given day. It becomes old after a while. The running joke is that a night in Buffalo isn't complete without a shooting, and a structure fire. When you hear that sort of radio traffic enough, you become numb to it. Yeah I have also worked those scenes sometimes. I've seen bodies mutilated. Believe me I get enough exposure to it without having to go out and seek it out on my own.

I still do install a small lighting system on my vehicles. The purpose isn't for showing off, but rather to use either responding to work incidents, or while at work. But also to stop if I happen to come across something. I no longer respond to calls on my own, or seek them out. But I will stop to assist if someone appears to really need help and there is a dangerous situation.

Sadly I am far too busy to join the local fire hall. But for a while I was heavily involved in a city wide anti-crime group. I worked with the residents and the local police and politicians to try to find solutions to concerns. I however backed out of that due to my job requiring so much of my time. I have to have time to myself. :) Read more


Model Railroad Project update!

Hobbies Blog and Journal

My Goal for 2020, was to get my Model Railroad project, the SVNO, up and running. The first Phase of this project was to build a layout room which would be a finished space in which I could build the layout, and achieve 'finished' results. I had worked on a previous layout in this same space, but because the room itself was unfinished, the overall feeling of never being able to finish the layout was daunting every time I stepped into the room. The solution? To finish the room and start over!

Having a finished space is important. Due to the nature of the space, I didn't entirely finish the outer walls right down to floor level. The room is already a livable space, and due to the way the structure is constructed (old post and beam barn) the idea of cutting into the walls to run electrical conduits just seemed overly dangerous. So I ran conduit along the surface - or rather just upgraded the existing conduit run from 1/2" to 3/4" and moved it down a few feet so it was below the layout.
Read more


Railway Cars: Boxcars

Hobbies

Boxcars were once as ubiquitious as Well Cars hauling containers are today. Most items on a train were hauled on a boxcar. Even bulk grain! Today, shipping containers have taken over many of the roles that boxcars used to be commonly used for. Gone are the days of a 40ft long, wooden boxcar, which was the old standard back in the heyday of rail. Back then, you would see all train cars had walkways on the roof, in order to allow brakemen to walk along the top of the train, and apply the handbrakes on cars as needed.

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image from pinterest.com

After 1978, Railroads made an effort to remove walkways and full height ladders from Boxcars, as there was no need for them, with modern braking systems. And the idea of having someone being able to walk on top of a moving train, was now a liability. Many old wooden boxcars were scrapped or turned into makeshift bulk carrier cars for grain service, with filling hatches fitted to the roof. In this case, the walkways and ladders were left in place, for access to the hatches. Regardless, the AAR (Association of American Railroads) enacted a guideline as of July 1974 which stated that any rail car over 40 years old, could not be run in interchange service unless it has an exception of some sort. The 40 year rule is still considered to be in effect, and many modern carriers still enforce it. So you will not see old, wooden boxcars in actual working service anymore, unless it is running on a museum line.

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50ft boxcar

Modern Boxcars typically run from 50ft, to 60ft, with some larger ones at 86ft. 50ft Boxcars carry a wide range of products, including rolled paper, pulp, newsprint, metals, building materials, appliances, food products, or any bagged and palletized material. They have a 70ton or 100ton load capacity. 60ft Boxcars typically are used for similar items, but often for more bulky, lighter loads, which tend to 'cube out' before they 'weigh out'. There are "Hi-Cube" versions of each Boxcar, which allow for more height. This is useful in the transport of roller paper, and to allow the double stacking of palletized loads.

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60ft High Cube boxcar

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50ft High Cube boxcar

The 86ft Boxcars are typically "Hi-Cube" versions, and are often used to transport Auto Parts, related to the assembly of automobiles. Racks of body frames, stamped panels, interior panels, or doors, wouldn't be uncommon to be found inside a 86ft Boxcar. They are sometimes also used for transporting bulk loads of large lightweight material, such as insulation or bulk shipments of consumer cereal boxes, or consumer tissue boxes. Because they are so big, they are more limited in how much load they can carry, and thus the lighter, more voluminous loads.

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86ft High Cube boxcar

Boxcars do tend to move around between railroads a lot. It isn't uncommon to see boxcars owned by other lines, traveling on a foreign railroad. Many are now run by rail car 'pool' services such as TTX. Which is a company that is partly owned by shares from most of the major Class 1 railroads in North America.

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64ft Reefer

Another common type of boxcar is called a reefer. No, not that kind of reefer... This is a boxcar designed to transport items that need to be kept cool, or even frozen. You will typically notice these boxcars as being brightly colored, or white, with a HVAC unit on one end. The unit has a small generator, and runs all the time. They also have GPS tracking and provide information back to their owners to remotely allow monitoring of the temperature and fuel levels of the generator fuel reserve. Modern units are typically 64ft long, tho some 57ft long units are still in use. Back in the old days, they used to use insulated wooden boxcars, with small roof hatches which would allow them to load cubes of ice into the ceiling of the car. This would provide the cooling needed for the journey. In most cases trains would have to stop several times to be 're-iced'.

That should give the reader a good overview of the differences and types of common boxcars that are in operation today. You should also have some understanding as to the history behind them, and be able to identify them to some extent now. Read more


Railway Cars: Intermodal

Hobbies

This article will introduce the reader to the various types of rail cars. You will learn what they are typically used for. You will also learn spotting features, and also learn how to tell older cars apart from newer ones.
Intermodal Car Types:

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We will start off with one of the most ubiquitious rail cars in current times. The Well Car is the common term for the rail car used to transport shipping containers. It is also known as an Intermodal Car, Doublestack Car or a Container Car. The Well Car is essentially a shallow tub like car, designed for a shipping container to sit inside of it. Often the bottom of the tub is open, with only structural cross bracing spanning between each side of the car. These cars have been made in single car versions, as well as 3 part articulated units, and 5 part articulated units.

Well Cars typically allow containers to be double stacked, which helps decrease train length. Tho, not as common anymore, Containers have also been hauled on top of special Flatcars, and TOFC Cars. But in most cases now always use Well cars.
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Container Service is a type of 'Intermodal' service that railways began to offer to compete with the trucking industry. An earlier type of 'Intermodal' service was the idea of transporting Trailers On Flat Cars, or 'TOFC'. TOFC Cars are a type of 'flat car' which is typically only used to load truck trailers on. These trailers are often lifted, or driven onto special flatcars, and secured for the trip. Many such rail cars, are set up in a similar way as well cars, and come in 3 unit sets, or 5 unit sets.

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RoadRailer was a service offered by a few railroads. They were essentially normal truck trailers, that had hardened frames and special hardware that allowed rail trucks (wheel sets) to be attached directly to them, so that the trailers could be transported as if it were a train, without the use of any special flat cars or loading equipment. Most of the RoadRailer services has ceased operation, in favor of the more economical container service, but there are still a few hold outs on some specialized routes.

Read more


Model Railroad: Electrical...

Hobbies

I am making progress on the layout. Currently in the midst of wiring up the new wall and far side of the room. All in all there are 9 switched 120VAC circuits for the loft. most for lighting.

1. General Shop Lights.
2. Train Room Wall Sconces
3. Train Room Day Lighting
4. Train Room Night Lighting
5. Train Room Accessory Power
6. Train Room Night Scene Lighting.
7. Safety Lighting
8. 'Kitchen' Lighting
9. Bathroom Lighting ??

The "Kitchen" is a planned small kitchen area which will be in the lobby of the Loft. During construction it will likely serve as the workshop. The Bathroom may or may not happen.

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In any case, there will be an overhead lighting system which will enable day and night time operations on the layout. Night time operations will include a horizon which will feature dimmed lights behind hills, which will shine up on the backdrop to give the illusion of distant streetlights. It will also feature building lights and streetlights on the layout itself. These will not be dimmable, but will be locally switchable using low voltage switches. There will also be a MOON light which will shine across the whole layout. It will also be dimmable. The wall sconces will provide an elegant look to the room when the trains aren't being run.

The Safety lighting will be small lights near the floor which will shine on the floor to illuminate the floor for safe walking in the dark room. Kind of like theater lighting.

There will also be 3 1000 Watt baseboard heaters which will heat the main train room. I am also contemplating some sort of fire protection system. Read more


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