Monday, November 29, 2010

California Northern trackplan revision

In order to increase operational interest, and in addition, to add some elements of the real CFNR in the mix, I've decided to make some changes to the east side of my trackplan. It has been extended along the right side (east) wall(roofline), and the station in the corner is now situated in the middle of a Wye (although the wye is not connected to the north side but dissapears from view). It is somewhat based on the arrangement in Davis, CA. This station is where the CFNR interchanges with the UP. It is an Amtrak stop (the Zephyr passes through here on the way from/to Sacramento) which will allow me to add some passenger action in the future, the interchange with UP is great as it allows me to add my UP loco's in the mix, and if you look at the real station building (google earth etc) it still has an old SP sign on its side wall, giving away it's heritage, so I could also add SP motive power with a little creativity.  Although I've added a few tracks on the west side for operational interest, I had to remove a few turnouts to the east side, but the general feel is still there. I hope to scratch build the pretty station building to some extend, although I may have to shorten and play a bit with it's dimensions to make it fit, but the aim is to capture it's feel.  The new trackplan can be seen above (click on it for a bigger view), the station building below.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Working with Styrene

Styrene is a great material to use for scratch-building structures and the like. As always, for the best results there are a few things you must prepare.
- Good and bright lighting
- A stable clean work surface
- Decent tooling
To cut styrene, I use a hobby mat, which prevents the material from slipping. (you could use masking tape to stick it down in the corners). Make sure it's clean. Additionally I use a steel ruler, which is much straighter, and will not get damaged by the sharp blade of the knife. If you can find one with a cork backing, then that's great as it will resist slipping on the relatively slippery surface of the Styrene. Use a new or very sharp hobby knife or scalpel (be careful, it is extremely sharp remember?) Be relaxed and patient in cutting, it will result in cleaner cuts, and prevent injuries! (sharp knife, anyone? ). Make sure the work surface is well lit so you can see what you are doing.
I usually make a drawing on a sheet of paper of my subjects, then lay the styrene over the top. Most styrene sheets are thin enough to see through. If not, then draw directly on the styrene with a HB grade pencil, instead of a marker pen. Mistakes can then be rectified.
A few more tips:
- Always put the ruler along the outside of the edge your cutting when doing doors and windows, for walls usually the inside (to protect the wall). This way, in the event your knife slips, it will slip into the material that you are cutting away, and not damage the part you want to keep.
- Put minimal pressure on the knife, and make multiple cuts along the same line. It is sufficient to only cut until it's about 3/4 to 4/5th through the material, the last bit can easily be snapped off by gently bending the styrene along the cut. (this way you also keep your drawing below undamaged, and prevent injuries)
- For windows and doorways, it is best to make two diagonal cuts, and around the edges, then pierce the center of the window. You can then gently 'wiggle' each triangle until it snaps away, preventing tears into the surrounding styrene.
Once again, these knifes are very, very sharp, so be patient, focus, and take your time! Don't blame me if you hurt yourself, you have been warned! (sorry for these rants, but people get sued for stupid things nowadays, and I don't want to be one of them......)
The pictures shows some of my tools, a warehouse wall, with drawing below it (notice the window cut pattern on the left).
Enjoy your modeling!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

New Poncha Yard

While I am working on buildings/structures at present, someone via another railroad forum pointed out this: A switching layout made by some Belgian Modelers. The layout is called New Poncha Yard. The buildings are all build with card stock, no commercial kits, only windows and other small details are commercial parts.
The large buildings really give a lot of perspective and sense of reality.

More on the layout at:

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Structure modeling with Google and Bing

Time to focus the attention to the things we find along the rails, or better those that give reason for it's existence, buildings, industries,towns etc! The scenery on my home layout has been a bit neglected recently with me keeping busy with loco's, but now that I've got a few with sound that run well, it's time to move onwards. I've been browsing in towns with Google earth , and also industrial locations of the area I want to model, taking screenshots from interesting buildings etc, going into street view and try to get a few shots from various angles and now in the process of converting them to scale. This is not an exact process (a lot of buildings are much larger than you could actually afford/have room for) but try to capture their essence.
There are certain things you can use for reference, the size of a door for instance. These are roughly similar in size (an adult will have to pass through comfortably) so get a reasonable size and 'guestimate' the other dimensions more or less, using some 'selected' compression here and there. For example a warehouse with 4 cargo doors for delivery trucks etc, can be scaled down to make a version with only 1 or 2 doors, and still feel realistic.
I'd recommend to try it yourself, it's a very handy tool if you model the modern era!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

High hood GP38-2 switching

When I posted yesterdays video, I came across the below video of another GP38-2 model doing switching duties on a great looking model railroad.
This GP38-2 is a high hood type. Enjoy the great detailing of this layout.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Athearn motor replacement

During the programming of my Tsunami decoder, I was not able to get the slow speed response of my decoder as slow as I would like. It is known that there is a difference in DCC decoders, and while the previous TCS T4X decoder was able to accomplish this (be it with hours of tweaking), spending over 5 hours on the Tsunami did not get me the same slow speed crawl. Yet I like the Tsunami for its sounds, so I decided to re-motor my GP38-2.
I removed the old Athearn motor, and replaced it with a Mashima can motor. While I won't be writing an entire article here, I just want to point out a few points of importance. The Athearn motor shaft is bigger than the Mashima, so you'll have to fabricate bushings for the motor to fit the old flywheel, or get new flywheels etc. You can get these from Proto Power-West, among others. Walthers will stock these too. The other important item is the polarity. While the Athearn motor had the contacts on the front, I mounted the Mashima in the same orientation and stuck it on the frame with double sided tape, and used the top contact for the +, and the bottom for the -, as with the original motor. This had as result that the loco now runs backwards when going fwd. The Mashima has no clear markings for + and -, and it depends on how they put the sticker on the motor on how you view what top and bottom is. In the end it doesn't matter how you fit it, but just be prepared to have to swap the polarity of the wires to the motor if the same would happen to you. Video is included with this, sorry for the poor sound quality, it was made with my Blackberry phone, and it's mic is geared towards voice, the bell really muffles the engine in this vid, but in real life that's not the case at all.

In any case, the loco now runs a lot smoother and quieter than it used to do, and has much better slow speed control. Mission accomplished.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Tsunami decoder programming

I've received my second Tsunami decoder for my GP38-2 and set about taking out the old TCS T4X decoder, and installing the Tsunami. A while back, I found this nice little video about programming a Tsunami decoder using JMRI Decoder Pro, which is what I am doing too. Rather than explaining how I do it, I figured this video explains it well enough to give you an idea. Enjoy the video.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Western Union Meet November 2010

It's been a while, but I finally managed to attend the November meet of my local NMRA division this month in Plymouth, UK. A good time was had by all, and my son who came along this time enjoyed himself too. For a taster of the atmosphere see the picture, showing an Atlas UP 'Geep' doing switching duties at the 11th Avenue yard. Forgive me as I did not pay too close attention to see if it was a GP40 or a different type.. :-) I got loads of inspiration and motivation again, and ended up ordering another Tsunami decoder for my own GP38-2, which I brought along. It's working roof beacon drew some attention, so if I can add sound to it too, it could be a nice little crowd pleaser at a train show in the future perhaps :-)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Tsunami decoder

Okay, a quick update. I've arrived back home and got busy installing a Tsunami TSU-1000 decoder in my Athearn C44-9W, the one I am superdetailing. While the detailing project is not finished yet, I wanted to see if I could get the decoder and speaker in properly. That worked out fine, and I now have my first sound equipped loco on the layout. :-) It did take a little time to get the speed response of the loco to work nice, it's an older loco, with an older Athearn motor, not exactly known for their superior running characteristics, but a bit of tweaking (thanks to some tips from fellow model railroaders) of the BEMF settings worked a treat. BEMF in the Tsunami is configured by CVs 209,210, 212, 213, and 214. They all work in concert together to control various parameters in the BEMF control. If you're not sure I recommend to download the 'Diesel Users Guide' from the Soundtraxx website, and look on page 48, they have some tips on adjusting the BEMF settings. It's a trial and error process, and if you can program in ops mode with your DCC system it will go a whole lot quicker.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Lance Mindheim's Miami Downtown Spur layout

One of the model railroad builders I admire is Lance Mindheim. I've got a few of his books, and they've given me a lot of inspiration for my current California Northern switching layout.
I found a video today that give's you a great overview of his layout, from a great perspective, enjoy!