Monday, April 26, 2010

Making your own etched parts

There are 1000's of small detail parts available on the market today, but there are still situations when you may want to make your own. One way of doing so is by using the photo etching technique.
Rather than explaining that myself, here is a video that describes the process very simply and effectively.
One note, there are sprays available that you could spray onto any brass or other metal plate so you don't need to use a plate as shown in the video per-se.

Traveling Modelers

Not sure if any readers of this blog are in the same situation as me, but I can't help thinking there must be others out there, that have a job that requires a lot of travel, spending time in hotel rooms etc.
In any case I do. So what can you do if you travel, and still want to do some modeling?
My solution to this 'problem' is to take along a small set of basic tools, (no more than fits in a small shoebox or lunch box, a bit like the picture (not my set)) and a small project. My current one is building  a CF7 locomotive. I use a railpower shell, various detail parts etc.
So I spend my free time in hotel rooms to sit at the desk (I've also got a small hobby mat to protect the desk surface) and do some drilling and cutting (with a small pin vise, scalpels etc) to my shell, and fit some of the details that can handle the travel. A small corner of my suitcase is reserved for these items and a few bits of additional foam or bubble wrap protect that corner from all to eager airport luggage handlers etc.
Basic tools I travel with are:
- small screwdrivers set
- Needle file set
- precision file set
- Scalpels
- Pin vise
- set of miniature drill bits
- cordless Dremel
- detail parts + locomotive shell
- masking tape
- ruler and vernier caliper
- desk hobby mat

All of this takes up fairly little space of my suitcase.(I try to pack cleverly, put items inside shoes etc to save space)
If any of the readers here have similar experiences I'd like to know, perhaps I can pick up a few tips :-)

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

My first DCC session at home.

After I got home from work today, I wired up the SPROGII to my laptop and layout, and after 10 minutes or so of experimenting (I don't find the manuals of either JMRI and SPROG very clear, but a bit of common sense prevailed) I had JMRI talking to SPROG and saw communication messages flying by on the screen of my laptop. I also got my iPod to talk to JMRI and had Withrottle working. Then I got my only DCC equiped loco ( a Bachman GP35) out and see if I could run/control it, using default address 3. Indeed, I could switch the headlight on off etc but had no movement, doing this from either a JMRI on-screen throttle, and also from the iPod. Then I realised that the last time I used this loco on DC, it didn't run very well. I took off the shell and turned the drive shafts with my fingers while the loco was on the track, and off she went. Controlled by the Withrottle I could run it fwd reverse, and turn the lights off /on etc. Slow speed operation was not brilliant , but I read that these simple Bachmann decoders are not very good for that anyway. However, this loco keeps being tempramental, after 10 minutes or so, it stalled again, and when going to reverse direction, the headlights/rear lights flickered erratically and independent, in fwd direction the fwd headlight is on, but no movement. Until the motor was encouraged again. It looks like I need to take that loco apart do some maintenance (even though it's brand new) and see why the stalling happens etc. unfortunately, I have no other DCC loco yet to continue experimenting and getting used to operating in DCC. I'll keep you posted...

SPROGII has arrived

I'm a happy modeler.
My SPROGII has arrived, together with the 1.25A powersupply I ordered at the same time.
The nice thing is that the powersupply came with the plug already attached and terminated, so the remaining terminals are to go to the track. It should make the whole installation a breeze.  I'm going to try that tonight if I get a moment.
SPROGII comes together with a CD-ROM with all the software needed to get it working, but it is always a good idea to see if updates to the software are available to make sure you install the latest versions.
Also shown on the picture is my iPod running  WiThrottle software, which I will use as my wireless cab.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

CP Rail action

My local NMRA division held it's monthly meet last weekend. Unfortunately I couldn't be there due to work commitments, but here's two pictures by fellow member Brian Moore, taken of the action. Plenty of modern CP Rail power in the form of 4000+hp GE locomotives. The top picture shows several being serviced at the Anson depot, while the other picture shows three hauling a string of hoppers past the grain silos and signal bridge at the other side of the yard, while the sun has set behind the mountains, and the crew change for the night  has taken place ....Rumor has it that they controlled their loco's with an iPhone running Withrottle software while nobody was watching...

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

JMRI software 2.9.5 test version released

JMRI software is continuing to get developed further and further. April 12 saw the release of version 2.9.5v of Decoder Pro software. It should be stressed that this is a developer/test release, and therefore bugs could be expected. However many previous bug fixes are included and the software has (among others) the following enhancements:

  • Many improvements and fixes to throttles

  • You can have more than one LocoNet connection, for example one for signals and another for throttle connections

  • A new preferences dialog that's simpler to use

  • AutoDispatcher script now included

  • Easier dialogs for adding sensors and turnouts

  • You should note that the official 'production version is still version 2.8.0. The current release is the next step towards the upcoming production version 2.10/3.0 this summer.

    Saturday, April 10, 2010

    NMRA BR spring meet April 17th 2010

    The below message is reposted from the yahoo NMRA-BR group, in an attempt to make more people aware.

    The NMRA British Region's Spring Meet and Train Show will be held on Saturday 17th April 2010 at Felpham Community College, Bognor Regis, West Sussex. PO22 8EL

    Featuring 16 American themed layouts and trade support, the Meet will be sure to be of interest to all who model American Railroads.

    Open to NMRA members only from 10 a.m., the show will open to the public from 11 a.m. until 4.30 p.m.

    In addition to the trade stands, NMRA members are invited to use the 'bring and buy' stalls to buy and sell their used unwanted items. PLEASE NOTE; Bring and Buy is only available to NMRA members as sellers
    and will NOT BE AVAILABLE FOR ANY PUBLIC PURCHASES UNTIL AFTER 12 noon, providing another NMRA members benefit.

    Felpham Community College is situated near the Butlins Bognor Regis Holiday centre with plenty of parking.

    Admission £4.00
    NMRA members £3.00
    Under 12's free

    Mike Hughes
    Marketing Co-ordinator NMRA British Region

    Thursday, April 8, 2010

    DCC and computers

    For some time now I've been researching DCC systems, and as I'm currently on a very tight budget, trying to find the cheapest solution possible, that still leaves many features found on the more expensive systems.

    I initially settled on a NCE Powercab , but then someone suggested to take a look at the SPROGII.
    This little device was designed to be used with JMRI software (which is FREE), to program decoders. However, partly thanks to the power of the JMRI software you can use it as a DCC system throttle, powering a small layout, which is what I have. What's more, I already own an iPod Touch, and there's a nice little app called WiThrottle that through JMRI turns your iPod touch or iPhone into a wireless DCC cab.
    I am very intrigued try this out as it would mean minimal investment for me ,just get the SPROGII, (I have all the other soft and hardware already), and a few decoders and I'm up and running in DCC. Should I get a bigger budget available in the future, then I will invest in a decent DCC system, and continue to use the SPROGII to program my decoders on a separate programming track.

    Tuesday, April 6, 2010

    More Links

    I've added a couple of links to the growing list of what I regard as useful websites of manufacturers, modelers etc.  It is not a complete list, and I do not get sponsored by any of these, it's just stuff I personally (would) use and recommend checking out at the very least.
    If you have anything that you feel I should include, drop me a line or post a comment and I'll check it out!


    Sunday, April 4, 2010

    background sound effects

    Sound is ever more a part of modelrailroading. The advances made in sound decoders for locomotives are ever greater, with prices coming down slowly, and the first surround sound systems are becoming available too. However there is more you can do of course. How about sounds of railroad communications? A friend recommended the following: Railroad Radio has several data streams that can be played through winamp, iTunes, real player etc. When played through a set of separate speakers located near your railroad, it will add to the atmosphere.
    Have a listen. You may have to try a few different streams as they are not always busy all the time.

    Snowplow action

    In one of the first posts on this blog, I showed you the snow plows build by fellow modelers.
    One of which was a Jordan Spreader. I discovered footage today of the real thing today, be it from a different railroad.  I've included the footage below.

    Friday, April 2, 2010

    Another railroad blog

    Just by chance, I came across this blog. I've read through some of it and it's really entertaining. I recommend it to anyone interested in (north american) model railroading. :-) Don't forget to book mark mine too though :-)