Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Some DCC experience

Recently I've struggled a little bit in getting a loco to behave correctly after converting to DCC.
It involves an Athearn bluebox GP38-2, which I've had for many years, and was converted to DCC using a TCS T4X decoder. I kept having a problem that above a certain speed the loco would just accelerate suddenly. After a long troubleshooting period, with help and advice from others, it was discovered that the BEMF function of this decoder could not fully control the loco at higher speeds.  The solution was to have BEMF cut off at a certain speed, which is done by adjusting CV10. I've set it to a value of around 22. BEMF is now active only on the slowest speeds, and switches off once the loco is moving at approx 10-15 scale mph. I thought I'd share this with you so you can try the same if you've experienced similar problems.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

California Northern

As you may know, I've named my layout California Northern, set in Northern California. There is however also a railroad company by the same name, in the same location, so I've decided that in future I ought to at least incorporate a loco of them in my roster. Athearn recently released a great looking  GP15, which should be a good basis to make one of these beauties! See picture, copyright Trevor Smith.

Airbrushing my CF7

Here's a picture of the CF7 in my garden. It was nice weather so I decided to take the airbrush etc outside, I couldn't get a better ventilated place :-) I've used Tamiya paint which doesn't give off too much of fumes anyway, but it's always better. Here it is after 3 coats of white. I had a very weak mix here so it didn't cover  straight away, so it is going to get another few coats of a stronger mix to make sure the white is covered well. Then I'll be masking of areas that are to remain white, followed by a few coats of the next colour.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Southern Pacific Cab Forward action on the Western Union modular layout.

A slightly different layout this time, as Anson yard was unable to come to the meet, but member Mike Ruby brought his 11th Avenue modules instead. This enabled two SP 1950's reefer trains to be operated each with a cab forward as head end and helper power. this makes for 4 cab forwards on the trains, but a 5th is standing by and can be seen in this video. All cab forwards and reefers are owned by member Brian Moore, and Mike Ruby shot the video. Inspiring stuff! 
UPDATE: Brian has posted another video of the same action on his own web page. It can be found here:  more cab forwards.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Wiring up a loco

In preparation for installing DCC+sound into my loco, I prepped my CF7 today. To kind of organise the inevitable wire bundles inside the loco, and reduce them, I used a small piece of  'vero board', also known as experimentation board for electronic projects. On this I've soldered all the resistors as well as two of the leds (one for the front head light and one for the roof beacon). From this board, two wires run to the rear of the loco to the rear led, and a bundle of 4 wires come down from this board to the DCC decoder. This way the installation is a bit cleaner and organised. In addition this small circuit board (which just fits in the roof of the cab)was covered in black electrical tape, and stuck in place with a bit of double sided tape. This way it will prevent light from the LED's to leak into the cab.

A picture of the installed pcb covered in tape can be seen here. (also one of the see through roof fan grilles is just visible).

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Trains in the Cascades

Beautiful Southern Pacific Cabforwards in action on a great layout. More on the layout can be found at:Southern Pacific in the Cascades. A must if you like the SP in the 1950's!

I believe it's this kind of single track mainline in mountain terrain atmosphere that we're trying to capture too on the new double sided layout of my local NMRA-BR South West division, the Western Union (see links), of which construction has recently started.

Sound, the next frontier.

I've been contemplating building in sound into loco's. The main issue stopping me from doing so initially was cost. A sound decoder cost around £80,- GBP, or around $120,- USD. For that kind of money, you could easily buy another (DC) loco. However, I've seen several sound loco's in operation, and it does add quite a bit to the illusion and fun. Also, since I am at the beginning stages of converting my loco's, I may as well do it right the first time. (any future new loco purchases are likely to include sound from factory, making it a more economical deal).
So I've decided to put a sound decoder into my CF7, currently under construction. This is a smaller diesel, and I think if I am successful in fitting it inside the CF7, then other diesels (I have a few C44-9W waiting to be detailed etc next) should be a lot easier.  For my first sound loco, I've opted for  a QSI Quantum Revolution (see pic). I've gone for the universal model and have the decoder pre-programmed with the correct sounds by DCC supplies, where I've bought it. (see list with links). I am also fitting a narrow bass-reflex speaker system inside for  better sound performance. Stay tuned for more on this in the near future! :-)

Friday, June 11, 2010

Another milestone

Here is my CF7 again, a couple days later, and all the handrails are now completed. Next up will be more details for the roof, pilots, and trucks before she'll hit the paint shop.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

More CF7

Last month I updated you on the status of my CF7 project. Here's a picture on where I'm at now.
Both sides the long handrails have been fitted, along with a few other handrails, and internally, I've fitted the motor and driveshafts. This is a Mashima motor with two brass flywheels, and a driveshaft made from A-line universal coupling assortment parts. So things are slowly moving forward. A few more things to do, and then she's ready for the paint shop.

Turnout control

I've had a change of heart. I have started to build my layout with the intention to throw the turnouts by hand, as they are mostly within easy reach. However, I've changed my mind and am going to use Tortoise switch machines. These give a realistic slow motion action, and have a set of additional contacts that can be used to switch power to the frog of the turnout to avoid stalling loco's , and / or use to switch signals according to the position of the turnout.  To see a tortoise in action , see this short clip.