Thursday, July 9, 2015

Two Times GP30

My next project:

Build two models of a GP30, one Cotton Belt, one Southern Pacific, using the Lifelike / Walthers GP30 HO model.
A good friend of mine recently asked me to build / detail a GP30 for him. In return for my efforts, he'd give me a second GP30 model, to keep, as long as I detail that too.
I had to think very hard for the next 2 seconds, and then accepted.

So here are the locomotives, one is a Lifelike, one a Walthers (one is B&O, the other KCS). I will try to take my time with these, but enthusiasm may well get the better of me.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Southern Pacific GP9E

I still had another Lifelike Proto 2000 locomotive in a drawer that I intended to turn into a Southern Pacific locomotive.
I decided I try to make a reasonable representation of a phase 3 GP9 (recognised by it's 3 large fans on the long hood, as opposed to 4 small and 1 large) after rebuild , turning it into a GP9E, and this one was equipped with a Farr filter housing on the long hood.
The other 'unusual' spotting difference is that it never had the typical SP light package. 3816 was delivered to the T&NO subdivision and had a standard light package, and later in it's life received a roof beacon. This is how I modeled it.  It is almost done. I still need to install Kadee couplers, numberboard lettering, and weather it, but everything else (including ESU loksound decoder, Sugarcube speaker, and LED lights ) has been done.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

TCS WOWsound decoders

Below a quick review/first impression of the TCS Wowsound decoder (diesel version).

I recently completed a Lifelike SD9, in which I installed such decoder (bought mine from Coastal DCC), my version had keep alive attached, as a longer loco like this has more space.
The irony is that small locos benefit the most of it, but they haven't got the space, but that's life..

Back to the Wowsound. After installation, I did my usual thing, set the loco on a programming track and fired up Decoder pro, to do some of the set up. It turns out that is not the best thing to do, as the decoder definitions available are not yet completely bug free, and struggle a bit with all the indexed CV's that this (and other) decoders use.
I ended up messing the decoder up a bit and it didn't respond as I wanted it to, so I performed a factory reset. I then used my DCC system (Lenz) in programming track mode and programmed the basic settings in the loco, such as it's address.

I then proceeded to try and set up the rest using the audio assist function. I have to say, listen carefully and it all makes sense. It is very, very easy to do and very powerful.
Using this, I was able to assign the desired combination of function button, output wire, lighting effect , and conditions (fwd, rev, both directions active) etc.
I then followed the instructions to calibrate the locomotive for prototype operations. This is an easy two step process too.

The powerful thing is that you can toggle the function buttons to perform different tasks, they are divided in light mode and sound mode.
Lets say the decoder is in light mode, pressing F2 would activate a roof beacon if that's what you have programmed it to do. A double press on F8 will toggle it to sound mode, and then F2 will operate the bell for example. (The toggling does default give you audible feedback on which mode you select, but turns out this can be disabled, and I prefer that. Leaving this on initially, is probably good until you get used to the way it works).
This is useful for throttles that have a limited amount of function buttons available, and/or saves you trying to scroll down to higher number functions.

In prototype mode, the loco behaves more like the real thing. Leaving the controls in light mode therefore will mean that when you increase the throttle , nothing happens..
Why not? That's because you haven't released the brakes, and they are tied in with a sound effect, which in turn is in sound mode..

So switch to sound mode, press F6, hear the brake release hiss and presto the engine revs up and smoothly departs to the speed you have set. The Engine Notches will respond to the load, so a light engine, will not rev up as high and as long as when it is trying to move a long heavy train. Very nice!

The sound files in the decoder are of very good quality, and at least on a par with the newest loksound files. Very clear, very realistic.

Is there something negative to report? Depends.

I am not a fan of 'directional lighting'. I want independent control of my lights. (when switching in the yard, I want both lights to be able to turn on, no matter which direction I travel). With the exception of the white and yellow output wires , all is free programmable, but these are default set for front and rear lights, which are activated by pressing F0.
However there is a work around. I connected my headlight to the white wire , activated by F0, but was able to set that effect for 'BOTH directions'. I then did not use the yellow output (as it would have worked at the same time as far as I can figure out at this time), so I used the next (GREEN) wire for the rear light. I gave that the constant bright light effect too, for both directions, and assigned to F1, with F2 assigned to purple for my roof beacon.
It means that I've lost one output wire, but with the decoder having 8 function output wires, I don't miss it, I still have spare capacity.

What remains to be seen is how well I would be able to speed match this loco through it's speed range with other decoders, but that would also mean switching it to 'traditional' throttle mode, which makes the decoder respond like any other decoder, turn up the throttle, the loco moves, turn it down it stops.
In prototype mode, as mentioned above, it works like the real thing, with throttle (engine notches depending on load) doing the speed, but only when the brakes are released. Switching the throttle to 0 means the loco keeps on going, very slowly losing speed, but it doesn't really begin to decellerate until you apply brakes, and how much brake force you apply. One press is 20% braking, and subsequent presses increases it by 20% until it comes to a hold.
Dynamic brakes (if the loco has these set up, on by default) also work, the engine can be heard reving up, as is the dynamic brake fan, and the engine slows down too. But be careful. Releasing it without turning the throttle down means the engine will speed up again.

All in all, it brings a new dimension to operating your loco, and one I wholeheartedly recommend you try out for at least one of your locomotives.


Friday, May 15, 2015

Downtown Deco

Fancy something different from the usual DPM, Walthers city buildings?

Want to build something a bit more challenging, and realistic looking.

Have a look at Down Town Deco buildings. These are made of Hydrocal / Gypsum, and when finished look very realistic. What's more, they offer some designs suitable for more run down areas of town too.  I really like these.

I've added a link in the list to the right too.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015


As you know I also model the California Northern.
I'm always on the lookout for models, and now found one online. I have another SD9 myself that I need to repaint and detail in similar colours, but here is no 202.  Painted and detailed by Sean Bartlett.

The CFNR had 4 of these, two were ex Southern Pacific (numbers 202 and 203), and two were ex DM&IR (numbers 200 and 201). The SP's are recognised by the remnants of their light packages, while the others can be recognised by the remaining nose bell, and smaller fuel tanks.
They left the CFNR roster by the end of 1997 after they were no longer needed due to a downturn in traffic from Willits (Lumber) and the closure of a pipe manufacturing plant. At least two still survive, but were repainted, and had their short hoods replaced by low noses, working for an industrial customer.  The fate of the others is unknown to me at this time.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Lasercut Structure finished

It's done.

Eventually it will be mounted on my module or layout , but I made the deadline of the building challenge, and I have another finished structure. :-)

Friday, February 6, 2015

Building a laserkit structure

One of the (too) many projects I've got going on at this moment is the construction of a laser kit wood crafstman structure. It is Grantham's by JL Innovative Designs.

I am building some structures for a module board I have, and it ties in nicely with a modeling challenge I'm participating in.

Here's a picture:

I have to say that the construction of a wood kit is not much more difficult than a plastic one. It just requires some different tools and glues.

Also painting is different in that wood , being a natural product could warp if you use a water based paint. Solvent based works best. Once you know this, no problems.

Here's the structure as it is currently, still a lot to do, but the deadline for the challenge is in a few weeks, so I should be able to complete it relatively comfortably.

I play with trains

I like trains.

In particular I like American trains, and even more specific, I like American model trains. It’s one of my hobbies and pastime as far as my memory goes back to the age of 3 or 4.

Why am I ‘coming out’ and let you know?

I recently was discussing with a work colleague the lack of skilled labourers and engineers coming out of schools and into the workplace. It appears most of them seem not know how to handle a screwdriver, let alone be able to put up a shelf ‘plumb’, or are at the very least, very uncomfortable with it.

I concluded that this must be due to the fact that they are not really exposed to that type of technology from an early age.

Computers is another matter, they all know at least the basics of IT skills, and many know how to write programs, develop apps etc. Develop virtual worlds on game consoles etc.

That’s all very well, but that shelf is not going to put itself up, that wiring is not just magically there (believe it or not, but wireless technology needs wires to work) , and that engine is not going to get its head gasket replaced with the press on some touch screen. It needs a pair of hands, a good eye, skills and the right tools to complete that job.

It is my belief that our children are not exposed to the right toys that may spark an interest in engineering and technology to the same extend as I was when I was growing up.

Walk into the average toy shop, and you will often struggle to find things like Meccano, wooden ships , model railways, technical Lego. Plastic kits, RC modelling supplies , etc. Part of that is due to the fact that the likes of Toys-R-Us are big chains, interested in volume and quick turnovers. Toys like the above are often on the shelf longer, and that is not what they want, that’s not good for their business model.

So you have to find speciality shops, and that is not somewhere a parent would walk into with their children, they are hardly ever in the high street.

When was the last time you walked in a shopping mall, or high street , passed a toy shop, and saw a train running rounds on an oval track, kids glued to the window watching it go round, a big Lego or Meccano crane in the corner etc etc.

Instead, it’s a big bundle of ‘toys’ which are heavily promoted on the TV, Disney channel etc. They leave very little to the imagination, and the staff walking around in these shops often have no knowledge of the type of toys I’m referring to.

It’s time that is turned around, to show children there’s more than ‘My little pony’ ‘transformers’ ‘Disney toy story’, and game consoles.

My example, model railways, is an extremely diverse hobby. It is multi facetted, it can involve woodwork, electrical engineering, fine mechanics, digital technology including computer control, and creative work such as painting and sculpting etc . In the US it promoted by a model railway organisation and publishers as ‘The Worlds Greatest Hobby’ , due to the many aspects involved.

The ‘toy trains’ spark an interest in the real thing, and as children grow up, they will start to wonder how they work, and from there an interest in various engineering technologies may be developed.

Playing with ‘toy trains’ gradually evolves in the desire to build a more and more accurate model of the real thing, it could involve railway automation, digital sound and lighting controls, logistics (time tables and freight routing), and realistic looking landscapes, all the while developing their related skills.

Similar development will happen with other types of technical toys, and it may through play, lay the foundation for a future career in an engineering profession, or a related professional skill, the likes of which are currently in high demand (and seemingly under valued by society, but that’s another topic).

All of this won’t happen if children do not get exposure to ‘technology’, ff adults remain ‘secretive’ about their hobbies for fear of being called a ‘train spotter’ a ‘foamer’ or ‘nerd’.

It depends a little on the country but in the UK it seems when you have a model railroad, you have a ‘train set’, have no relationships, you live with your parents , and spend your times on a railway platform wearing an anorak, and wielding a notebook and pencil. While those types exist, the vast majority is not like that.

Being interested in model trains actually means that you are in good company: Rod Stewart, Elton John, Frank Sinatra, Tom Hanks, Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young, Tim Berners-Lee, Donald Sutherland, Pete Waterman, Roger Daltrey are just some famous celebrities and scientists involved in that hobby, and are generally looked up to or admired.

So if you are too, let the world know.

Once the interest is there, the demand will grow, the toy shops will start stocking it again, and future generations will have sufficient electricians, carpenters, mechanics and engineers in place to help build a prospering economy. At the same time, they might just have gained a great hobby that brings a distraction from demanding jobs.

And me, I can say ‘ I play with trains’, what’s your secret?

If you have a technical hobby, do you dare to share?