Wednesday, June 21, 2017

More Website Additions!

For a "wordless" Wednesday, a whole lot of words (and pictures, and files) got added to the Valley Local website today...

  • Divided & reorganized the "Operations" section into "Prototype Info" and "Modeling Info & Ideas"
  • Added "Deja Vu" under the "Trains of Thought" section
  • Added a whole new "Clinics & Presentations" section
  • The "Modeling" section really got a workout:
    • "Photos" section got filled in a bit lot
    • "Projects" section now includes some of my modeling, including articles on:
      • Building the Saybrook Tower Control Panel
      • Modeling the New Haven's DERS-2b (RS-2) #0510
      • Modeling the New Haven's DERS-1b (RS-1) #0669
      • ProtoFreelancing the coal tower/conveyor at Valley Coal in Wethersfield
      • Modeling the Mattabessett river bridge on the Berlin Branch
I'm trying to add content as much as I can, but it's a pretty daunting task. In a lot of ways, it's just a duplication of what's already on the blog - but it is more organized and user-friendly, and represents the "best of the best" from the blog. So even if you've been following the blog from Day One, you should be able to find the most important info without having to dig around too much (that's my main reason for maintaining the 'site, after all). And, assuming you haven't been following the blog from the beginning, you'll see some stuff at the website you probably haven't seen before.

So check it out when you get a chance and let me know what you think, what you'd like to see added, and whatever other suggestions for improvement you might have.

Wordless Wednesday #175 - Hart Seed Co., Wethersfield

Need to know what kind of truck this is - and whether there's an HO scale version. Then "all I have to do is" figure out how to do the decals/lettering.... This wonderful image came from the Hart Seed Co. website. Too bad it's not in color - even if I had a truck I'd have no idea how to paint it.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Adding to the Website

I expect many of you come directly here to the blog. But did you know that I have a website as well?

All along, my goal in doing the blog was to be able to update frequently and easily - keeping track of my progress for my own records and enjoyment, and hopefully for your information and enjoyment as well. But the blog has always been intended to be "fleeting" - which is to say, it's organized chronologically rather than thematically (though the "Topics" links on the right hand side do a fair job).

The website, on the other hand, is where I archive/organize/store the real meat of my research and the most favorite of my blog posts - all organized and laid out for ready reference. The only problem is, it's more of a pain to update and change.

So lately, I've been trying to remedy that. To wit - if you haven't been there in a while, you'll see recent changes to the "Layout Tour" section (I added pages on Old Saybrook and Shailerville Bridge), the "Operations" section (added "Crew Call"), the "Choosing an Era" section (how I settled - at least temporarily - on the Fall of 1948), and added a brand new section called "Trains of Thought" (with apologies to Tony Koester and Kalmbach Publishing) where I hope to collect some of my more wandering/wondering ruminations.

And if you've never been to the website, hopefully you'll be pleasantly surprised by all that's there - including a track plan (which, given my recent expansion, really needs to be updated), particulars of the layout, and all the other topics I mentioned above.

Whether you've been to the website before or not, be sure to stay tuned. I plan to add content there much more regularly (and before I forget, again, how to go about updating it!).

So go on over to and check it out!

Monday, June 19, 2017

Monday Mail Call: Mockup, Mini-Scene, 1948 Calendar

Turned out to be a fun day in Valley Local land today, but first, a quick progress photo of mocking -up Valley Coal in Wethersfield:

PeteL graciously loaned back to me the mockups that BillS made for Chapman's in Old Saybrook and they turned out to be nice stand-ins for the bins, shed and tanks at Valley Coal. Unlike Chapman's, though, these mockups are nowhere close to or as extensive as what was actually at Valley Coal, but something along these lines may be all I have room for. And I don't even have the rear of the Webb Theater in the scene yet (it'll be right behind the office/scale house).

Since I've been working in Wethersfield (and the progress is, admittedly, painfully slow...), DaveM has been encouraging me and firing my motivation by supplying exactly the sort of detail I want to be sure to include as the scene finally finishes...

This crew - along with their truck - came in today's mail and will be placed near the Gra-Rock siding just south of the Wethersfield station (freight house). They're unloading onion seeds for Hart Seed Co. Just need to get an appropriate reefer (or boxcar?) from a RR that serves onion producers and spot it at the bulk track just south of Church Street in Wethersfield. Thanks Dave!!

Also in today's mail, my latest "prototype" acquisition arrived - an authentic, complete 1948 calendar!

Since I won't be all-steam any time soon (brass locos still need to be painted and decoder-ized), my "official" era of the moment is October, 1948 - right after the PAs arrived on the Shore Line, RS-1 0669 is on the Haddam Local (PDX-2), and RS-2 0510 is brand-new (and plausibly being tested on the Air Line). So, of course, I needed an era-appropriate calendar! The graphic actually has a story as well. I've often mentioned to the Missus that my dream house is a Cape on the Cape (Cape Cod) coast with a picket fence and rose trellises (don't tell anyone). Well, when I found this on eBay - and saw that the caption was "My Dream Cottage" (really! zoom in to see), I just HAD to get it.

And, let's just say, it's a just a bit less - ahem - risque than all the other 1948 calendars I saw and considered purchasing. Suffice it to say, while what I have now is an authentic 1948 calendar, an Esquire calendar would probably be more era-appropriate in a RR Agent/Operator's office!

ANYway.... speaking of the RS-1 and RS-2, here they are in Saybrook going through some testing yesterday (Chapman's Coal & Oil is there back left)....

I've been trying to dial-in the Loksound decoders and have the RS-1 pretty well there. But the Proto 1000 RS-2 still has a pretty low top speed, no matter where I set the trim and momentum. The DL-109s in the background need no adjustments at all - they're dialed in pretty nicely already (though I do plan to change the pitch of each of the prime movers slightly so that they don't sound exactly alike).

There's just So Much To Do - but all good and all fun. I guess that's why it's called The World's Greatest Hobby!

Friday, June 16, 2017

Friday Fun: The Valley Local on Model Rail Radio

I mentioned a couple months ago how big a fan I've become of model railroad podcasts. They're a great way to pass the time when you're doing something you'd rather not be doing (long commute, mowing the yard, etc.).

Well, as it turned out, the day after I posted that post I ended up being on one of my favorites - Model Rail Radio ("The Internet's Only Live Recorded Radio Show Where the Topic is the Hobby of Model Railroading"). I'd first called-into MRR on our way home from vacation back in August, 2014, but being in the car at the time wasn't ideal. I've been enjoying listing to this podcast for a while and - after going through an 18 month expansion of the layout - I figured I had some new news to share. So I called in again this past April and the show was just recently posted.

You can check it out by clicking here (my report starts at 39:00 - and even Dave Ramos chimes in at 50:00).

And, for the contrast and to keep these 'casts together, the one from 2014 is here (starts at 40:10 and the connection drops - heh, or Tom just got tired of hearing me ramble - after 6 minutes or so).

So if you're looking for a distraction from cleaning your pool or unloading mulch this weekend, check'em out. And be sure to look at the list of other model railroad podcasts and listen in. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised at how enjoyable and informative they can be.

Happy Weekend!

Thursday, June 15, 2017

New Fast Clock & Foam Core Project Box

Life on the Valley Local involves running a meandering wayfreight, serving the industries along a scenic branchline along the Connecticut river. When you're on the Local, you pretty much own the railroad - you may, occasionally and rarely, have to look out for a speeder or a work train. But you get done when you get done. No need for a fast clock with this kind of layout (though I played around with an app, just for kicks). In fact, until recently I didn't even realize that my NCE DCC system had a fast clock built in.

But since I started incorporating the Shore Line trains into my operating sessions, and especially since Randy developed a cool train register for the Agent/Operator to use - it's become obvious that I needed a clock at the A/O's desk. I researched a number of options, preferring an "analog looking" clock (for you millennials, that's the one with the hands and numbers :^) in keeping with my era. And I really liked the system that Jim Dufour uses on his layout. But they all involved more work and money than I was willing to do/spend - especially since I already had a fast clock system with NCE.

Unfortunately, the NCE fast clock only reads out on the hammerhead throttles. That's great for the two mainline operators, but for the A/O I needed a desk clock that would tie-into and synchronize with the NCE system.  Fortunately, Logic Rail Technologies makes just what I was looking for - provided I didn't mind a digital readout. I figured that was a small compromise to make for the convenience and ease of installation. "All I had to do was" extend a branch of my cab bus to come out behind the A/O desk for the clock to plug in. And besides - the mainline operators are using digital too.

Conveniently, my wedding anniversary was coming up about the same time and the Missus was looking for gift suggestions . . . so she ordered the LRT fast clock and some decoder install supplies from Litchfield Station and had them sent to work (she worried later what the Capitol police would think when they scanned the package and saw a digital clock and wires.... but I digress).

When I opened the package (after security finally released it), I was a little surprised to discover that there wasn't much to it - basically a PCB with a cover plate.

What you see is what you get - the PCB is, of course, behind the cover plate
Now, this makes sense if you're mounting it to your fascia, but I wanted it as a desk clock. I could jsut prop it up, but that wouldn't look very finished.

Mounting instructions
Fortunately, LRT designed the clock to be mounted inside a Radio Shack project box. Unfortunately, Radio Shacks are dropping like flies around here - hard to find one still open, and those didn't have the project box I needed. Even my new favorite store didn't have anything suitable.

And then I remembered the cool NCE PowerCab Mount/Box I built from black foamcore a few months ago. I figured I could do the same here - and so I did.

It's really just a matter of marking out the board, using the mounting instructions that come with the clock, figuring the overall dimensions you want, cutting the board, and gluing it all together with hot glue. The photo above shows the tools I used (the glue gun is just out of the pic), with a couple additions since last time: I found my XActo foam board cutter (better than the freehand #11 I used before), and I used the Micro-Mark magnetic tray to hold the board pieces at right angles while the glue cooled. And, yeah, cuz I have OCD, I used my dial calipers to measure everything out (actually, those points are pretty handy for marking the board for cutting...)

And here's the result:

I angled the bottoms of the side pieces a bit to provide a stable backward lean - and mounted with #4 screws right into the board, secured at the back with hot glue.

The PCB, showing the screws secured with hot glue.

At the desk - and much more attractive than just propping up the raw/unboxed unit there, IMO.

An overall view of the Agent/Operator's "office" - now complete with NCE-synchronized fast clock to help with Shore Line train movements
Since the clock plugs directly into the NCE cab bus, an unexpected - but very welcome - benefit of having this clock on the desk is that I'll know immediately as I go up the stairs if I forgot to turn off the DCC system. If the clock is on, so is the DCC.

It took me more time agonizing over how to go about boxing this clock in than it did to finally do it. Once I gathered the tools and materials, it just took one evening of listening to Philip Marlowe on the "radio" with the Missus knitting on the other side of the room. And now I have a handy-dandy clock to use for the next operating session!

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Wordless Wednesday #174

This is how the engines of the Valley Local got from the East Hartford roundhouse across the Connecticut river to the Hartford Yard to pick up cars for points south - taken today during my lunch time run.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Tuesday Trailer

Movie trailer, that is. . .

I was honored to be part of an ops session at Jim Dufour's beautiful Cheshire Branch layout this past April (click here to read more about the spiritual dilemma this creates for me) and Jim & David Haney put together a fun little trailer for the video they're producing of that session.

Check it out below:

And click here for more of Mr. Haney's great video work. Trust me - watching his channel is a great way to spend an enjoyable evening!

Monday, June 12, 2017

More Monday Motivation: NER Convention & the Rt.15 Overpass

A few weeks ago, I posed a question about hosting ops sessions for folks previously unknown to me (aka "strangers) which had been prompted by an invitation to host a session for the NMRA/New England Regional Convention this November. Well, after much thought - and not a little discussion (both here and on the Model Railroad Hobbyist Forum) - I've decided to take the plunge and accept. Though I've hosted a number of sessions over the past few years, having so many new folks at once will be a new experience. But I'm only dipping a toe/foot in - I still plan to have my regulars "pilot" the newbies-to-me over the RR. Not only is that prototypical (you don't send unqualified operators out on the line by themselves), it's more helpful (a number of folks are on-hand to answer questions), and a bit safer (many eyes can help make sure the equipment makes it through relatively unscathed %^)

Consequently, I have a New Goal: Get Wethersfield done by November 9. Now, that may not seem like that ambitious a goal - we're only talking 18-19' of layout, 18-24" deep. But this area has been hanging around in various stages of UNfinish ever since I started the layout in the Fall of 2011. I've worked on this area in fits and starts over the years, but getting it to at least a level of "done-ness" will be quite an accomplishment indeed.

The south end of Wethersfield is defined by Goff Brook and the bridges there. Bill had been working in that area and it's a little complicated there anyway. So I decided to make some progress at the north end of the scene, which is defined by the Route 15 overpass.

This is the view looking north - "into the backdrop" on my layout

Panning left, to show the girder detail, and especially the concrete abutment

View from the other side, looking southeast, to give an overall view that's impossible from the south side (due to the trees)
In addition to the backdrop challenges at this location (which may be on the way to a solution), modeling this overpass has been a major roadblock. I can see (in my mind's eye at least) how I'd go about doing it, but the skills - not to mention the materials - have been elusive. So this area has laid dormant - literally for years.

However, that's all about to change. Along with my new-found motivation, I'm deciding more and more that I should not make the perfect the enemy of the good. While I have high personal standards for my modeling (and do pretty well, provided I have enough time), I'm confronting the fact that I simply can't maintain that standard throughout the entire layout - at least not initially. Allowing myself to do "good enough for now" gets me a step above mock-ups, and a step WAY above plywood alone. And instead of plowing through doing the "perfect" scene (which in reality almost never gets done), I'm becoming more comfortable with doing things in "passes." Not only does that relieve a lot (or all) of the perfection pressure (and its cousin, analysis paralysis), it gives me the freedom and comfort to try things I might not have otherwise - and I've discovered that's where a lot of the learning happens.

So, despite knowing how the prototype Rt. 15 bridge actually looks, I'm doing a "mid-level mockup" for now - something that's truly a model, but only a stand-in which hopefully conveys the impression of what's supposed to be there until I get the time/skills to model it perfectly prototypically.

The scene above is pretty much the same as it's been for years - just a lowly Rix old time concrete overpass on blocks (with the Hartford skyline postcard tacked up for a temporary backdrop).

Unless/until I scratchbuild the steelwork/piers, that Rix bridge will suffice for now - supported by foam blocks carved to look like a reasonable facsimile of the concrete bridge abutments in the prototype photos (lines still need to be carved in and paint still needs to be applied).

Certainly not perfect, but getting there. I plan to glue sections of sheet styrene at the ends of the bridge and on top of the foam to form the rest of the road.

Tools of the trade - 2 different hot glue guns, a Woodland Scenics wire foam cutter, and steak knives (off scene). LOTS of trial and error (and glue) was needed - not to mention time - but at least the Rt. 15 overpass is further along now than it was before, and I've taken the first step on what I hope isn't quite a thousand mile journey!

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Back to the Basement - Messer Motivation

Well, I finally made it through another legislative session. We adjourned this past Wednesday at midnight, per our state constitution, but we failed to accomplish the one thing we were supposed to during this long/odd-numbered year: setting a state budget. So we'll be in (")special(") session for the foreseeable future. That's the bad news. The good news is that special session shouldn't have nearly the amount of nonsense work as the last couple of months,

So, I'm able to get Back to the Basement. It's been a solid month since I was able to post any progress, but in the meantime, I have been able to get the odd thing done here and there. I finally finished the cab bus, having moved a couple of plug-in panels to what I hope are the final locations. And I installed one final "branch" plug-in, made from a telco jack (as here). Lastly, I branched off the cab bus one last time to run a line to behind the Agent/Operator's desk for a fast clock(!) The Missus got me one for our anniversary this past weekend and I have only to make a little box/mount for it before putting it on the desk. It'll come in super handy when trying to keep track of all the Shore Line trains...

Despite being distracted by the Shore Line & DCC stuff whenever I've had a few moments these past couple of months, it's time to get back to working on Wethersfield. And my friend Dave Messer sent me the perfect motivation to do so:

There's a scene both he and John Wallace recall from their youth in Wethersfield - I'll let Dave tell it from the note he sent with the truck and figures above:
"Coal for the prison was unloaded at the Church Street siding directly opposite the Kel-Strom Tool Company [across the tracks from the station] by prisoners called "trustees" who were allowed outside the prison with only one guard without a gun."
The coal was for the power plant at the state prison in Wethersfield, about 3/4 mile away. And it was unloaded from the freight cars by hand. When I first heard this story, I'd planned on replicating this scene with "typical" prisoners in striped garb. But John remembers them being in all denim - and Dave has the "trustees" appropriately dressed. I've placed them where they'll eventually end up - right at the north end of the bulk track (Kell-Strom wasn't built until after my era - 1952?). The truck is carrying era-appropriate "stop" signs, another gift from Dave.

With these cool details on-hand, not to mention that it's been almost three months since I was last in Wethersfield, it's high time I get back to it.

But first, I have to confront and clean up the mess I left from last time...

The state of affairs - Wethersfield, looking north

Southward view

Sunday, June 4, 2017

On the Valley Line Today - Saybrook Special Northbound

At the risk of repetition, this is my busiest time of year at work so nothing much has been going on at The Valley Local. I missed the NEProtoMeet this weekend since I was working - and due to all the late nights, I even missed posting a Wordless Wednesday last week (first time ever, I think).

But today, my first and only day off in a while, I was able to get down to the RR crossing for a few minutes to record the June "Saybrook Special" And I even tried a little video editing for the first time, creating a title screen and cross-fading four different clips. I just wish I knew why the video quality itself was so poor. Guess I need a tripod...

In any event, I can see the light at the end of the tracks - and that's the End of Legislative Session and the Return to Normalcy. I've been chomping at the bit to get back to the basement and have the guys over again for Photo Library nights - and I'm looking forward to sharing my progress here again. Hope you're able to come along for the ride.

In the meantime, enjoy this little video - which could have been taken in 1948, but was shot just a little while ago . . .

And here's the southbound run (much better video quality, and unedited - maybe I shouldn't have YouTube perform "video enhancements")

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Wordless Wednesday #172 - 100mph Steam

(thanks to Jim Lincoln for - perhaps unwittingly - providing me with this week's Wordless Wednesday. Especially appreciated this time of year. While not Old Saybrook - or even the USA - this is about how I imagine the Merchants Limited might've looked while standing on the Saybrook platform back in the day....)

Monday, May 22, 2017

Monday Musing: Ops Session Hosting - Pro/Con?

Given the time of year at work, there hasn't been much progress on the layout lately, but the long commute does give me lots of time to think. I won't regale bore you with all my mindful wanderings, but one topic I've been thinking about lately is hosting operating sessions for strangers folks previously unknown to me.

Now that I have an operating layout (though it is presently un-operable as some areas are under additional construction), I've been approached by folks who would like to participate in an operating session. Up until recently, these are folks I know or friends of friends and the resulting sessions have been fun - any stress being totally of my own making (wanting the layout to operate well, making sure guests have all they need and have a good time, etc.), and I'm sincerely flattered when everyone enjoys themselves and wants to come back.

Even so - still being relatively new to this ops session thing - it does sometimes occur to me that the session host is essentially inviting folks over to use his railroad, handle his locomotives and rolling stock, operate the electronics, etc. And that's the point - as a layout owner, one of the coolest experiences you can have is seeing your layout come to life, which only happens effectively during an operating session. And when you have a good crew of trusted friends over, it probably doesn't even occur to you that you're literally placing a lot of your valuable stuff their hands.

But what of the apparently increasing number of operating weekends, "ops til you drop" and such, when you're putting your layout in the pool for all and sundry to come over? Clearly, there are many good souls out there that are willing to do that - otherwise such events wouldn't be so popular. And these events certainly expose more folks to the joys of railroad simulation (aka model railroad operating sessions), even - or perhaps especially - folks that don't have a layout of their own with which they can reciprocate.

So I guess the questions is - what do you do? Have only friends or friends-of-friends operate on your layout? Open it up to anybody that wants to come? Do you use different equipment depending on who's coming over? Maybe have unknown folks paired with your regular operators?

I certainly hope that those who know me know that I'm generous with my time and what I've been blessed with (or at least try to be), but at the same time, I've put in a not-insignificant amount to time and money into this project. So I'm just trying to get a sense from the more experienced among you how you go about approaching this topic.

So please feel free to leave a comment - or you can contact me directly offline if you'd rather. Really interested in hearing the different perspectives and approaches.

(Bonus if you have any funny stories to share involving Bright Boys and/or peanut butter sandwiches . . .)

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Wordless Wednesday #171 - On Thursday

(sorry 'bout the snafu with the pic for this week's Wordless Wednesday - tried posting from my phone and it looked like it worked, but apparently hadn't. So here it is... again-ish)

Monday, May 15, 2017

Weekend Progress - Staging Yard & Cab Bus Mods

Haven't been able to do much with the layout lately due to work (both office and yard), but I took advantage of a stormy Saturday afternoon to make some changes requested by some of my operators (well, mainly Tom, but I'm sure he speaks for a future many).

One of the recurring problems he was having in the Cedar Hill (West End) staging yard is that cars would occasionally, randomly derail as trains were leaving. Knowing how experienced an operator Tom is, I knew it had to have something to do with the track, but I just couldn't figure it out. Until it happened to me - then I realized that the center-over spring in the Micro-Engineering turnout right at the throat of the yard was a little too sensitive in one direction. That is to say, the points would lock in both directions, but sometimes as cars were rolling over the points, the points would snap back in the other direction.

I tried different ways to adjust the tension, but nothing worked as reliably as I wanted. And being installed right at the yard throat, I didn't want to rip everything out and replace the turnout (especially since it was fine in all other respects). The solution turned out to be surprisingly simple:

Just needed to widen the hole in the throwbar to .052" to accommodate the pin on a Caboose Industries ground throw. Problem solved.

I'd also received some complaints concerns with the fascia in this area being a bit too high - it was obstructing the view of the cars' wheels and preventing a good roll-by inspection of departing trains. Even more importantly, the 33-train schedule I run (using so few staging tracks) requires a lot of swapping of equipment - and I too discovered how difficult it is to rail a car or locomotive when you can't see where the wheels contact the rails.

Unfortunately, I don't have a good "before" photo, so the above will have to suffice. As you see, I'd already cut back the staging lid last month, but you can see where the masonite fascia meets the plywood sidewall there, which resulted in a 3" high wall/obstruction along the front track.

So, out came the saber saw and down came the wall - well, cut down anyway (you can see the original height on the left end). There's still enough of a "lip" on the fascia to keep anything from falling to the floor, but now you can easily see to (re)rail equipment in this area. Hopefully, Tom will agree :^)

I also took his suggestion to move the UTP (Universal Throttle Panel, a.k.a. cab bus plug-in) from the far-right end of the yard to the throat where the staging operator spends most of his time. No more unnecessary cord stretching. Note also the handy-dandy throttle holster and radio for the operator here.

Moving that UTP started me rethinking some of the locations of my other panels. Now that I have a bunch of ops sessions under my belt, more-convenient UTP locations have become apparent. Thus....

I'm installing one at the left end of the Mill Hollow module (on the Air Line) and at the end of a long aisle. This is an "end-of-run"/branch of the cab bus, so I can get by with an inexpensive phone jack here.

Eventually, I plan to branch the cab bus again to go to an NCE fast clock repeater at the Agent/Operator's desk. With the Shore Line ops becoming more prominent, knowing the precise time that the staging guys are seeing on their throttles becomes even more critical. So I installed another UTP at Deep River where the cab bus branch will begin and make its way to the desk.

Not bad for an afternoon's work. Now I just have to wait for the final UTP to be delivered and wire up the remaining jacks, and I think the cab bus will finally be really and truly done. I've certainly come a long way from being totally wireless (for good reason). While wireless is still my preferred ops method (no tethers to get in the way!), it sure is nice having some extra throttle security. Even better, the bus lets me rely on NCE's built-in fast clock - a feature which, as I mentioned earlier, has become critical with the Shore Line ops.

Speaking of ops, I can't wait for this busy time at work to be over so I can get back to regular, monthly ops sessions. I've made a few important physical improvements since the last session, and have really dialed-in the schedule through Saybrook, so I'm eager to see how everything works out - and what new punch list items Tom and the rest of the gang will come up with!

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Wordless Wednesday #170 - Hartford Skyline Backdrop

(Busiest time of the year for me at work right now, so everything else has gone to the far back burner - but I haven't missed a Wordless Wednesday yet and didn't want to this time either. And I even managed a few words!)

So, I found this image on the internets (see WW#168) - which would be an ideal start for the backdrop north of Wethersfield. It's even the right era. But it's B&W.

Fortunately, my friend Bob's friend Al is very talented at colorizing old photos and very generously reworked the image into something I think I can use (despite it's being a postcard - hope it doesn't pixelate too much when enlarged...)

Friday, May 5, 2017

Inexpensive DCC Connectors

Seems I've gone down so many rabbit holes lately, I feel like Elmer Fudd.

This latest excursion, like a few others, is DCC-related. I plan to install decoders in some engines soon and have been researching and collecting supplies. While the decoders themselves, and even wire, are pretty straightforward, I've been having a hard time figuring out what connectors I want to use - not only between decoder and speaker, but between tender and engine as well.

Unfortunately, the interwebs have only been marginally helpful - at least so far. Much of the problem is that I don't yet know what I don't know. So I don't really know what all to get.

Fortunately, though - despite Radio Shack's disappearance - I discovered a huge electronics supply store just off my commute route. Appropriately enough, it's called "Cables and Connectors" and I've been visiting there a lot lately . . .

My latest try-outs. And if you're not local, C&C ships!
I bought a variety of different, um, "cables and connectors" to see if any of them would be useful. BONUS: these things go for pennies on the dollar compared to comparable parts you'd get from a DCC-specific supplier, so I figured it'd be worthwhile to do some experimenting. Just one example: the 40 pin/socket packages there together (lower left hand corner) cost $2.48 compared to $17.95 (plus s/h) for a 32 pin set here.

But lest you think I'm totally cheaping out thrifty, I did order some supplies from my favorite DCC store as well (despite having to pay shipping). Unfortunately, they didn't have in stock one of the things I really needed: an 8-pin NMRA socket.

You see, one of the decoders I want to install is a LokSound Select:

And as you can see, it comes ready with an 8-pin plug. I could of course just snip the plug off and wire everything directly, but before doing that, I figured I'd look at my stash and see if I could come up with an alternative . . .
Click to enlarge image
C&C sells a 10-wire jumper with sockets on each end ($2.49 item# 49920). I got one of those and removed the sockets from one end, using a small screwdriver to gently pry up the little retaining clip in the housings which holds the wires. Then it was just a matter of inserting the wires into an 8 pin female terminal housing (that little cube to the left of the pile of discarded housings), making sure the wire colors matched the NMRA standard.

Here's a close-up of the decoder plugged in:

This was just a test to try things out - I'll of course cut the wires to length and separate them so they're not all twisted. But I think this solution will work.

And wow - the wire ESU uses for its decoder is TINY! The wires on my made-up socket are 26 gauge, the smallest available at C&C. Hmmmm.... maybe getting supplies - or at least wire - from a DCC-specific supplier would be worth the extra cost.

Seeing as how I'm brand new to this whole new rabbit hole world of DCC decoder installations, I'd sure appreciate any thoughts or helpful-feedback you could share about your own experiences - as well as what you think about my experiments here. Am I being penny wise and  pound foolish? Weigh in in the comments!

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Wordless Wednesday #169 - Shore Line Schedule

What I've been working on lately - dialing in the schedule of trains through Saybrook during a typical ops session, taken directly from the prototype documents and working within the limits of my staging. Click to enlarge.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Tuesday Tip: Widening the Mole Hole (modifying benchwork)

Some time ago (March of last year, AAMOF), it became apparent that the access in the back corner behind the New London/Boston staging yard could use some expansion. See photo above. Fortunately, Dick and I are thin enough to fit between the joists there and get full access to the other side of the yard, but when I was reworking/relaying this yard earlier this year (and it became even more apparent during recent Shore Line Shakedowns), I decided I really needed to widen that mole hole.

So here's how I did it.

It's quite a crawl/duckunder to get back there, so I wanted to avoid as much obstruction as possible. So I opted for a simple large shelf bracket, for support, rather than another leg or angle brace. Unfortunately, even the largest bracket wasn't quite long enough, so I added a 2x2" piece on top. This is then screwed into a new 2x4 leg/support that's in turn screwed into the end joist.

Since the pressure on end of the bracket would tend to push the bottom of the leg toward the wall, I inserted a scrap piece of 2x2 at the bottom as a brace to firm things up.

Once all that was finished and everything was supported, I cut out the section of the joist that was in the way, and then used a rasp to round off the sharp corners (my back thanks me .... now....)

And there you have it! A much wider space for the moles to pop up through. I can't believe any of us fit in between those joists before. The flexibility and "modifyability" of L-girder benchwork shines through and shows once again why it's become the default standard.

Now, if I could just find another short rolly office chair to make getting back there a bit easier . . .

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Last Run of Steam - 65 years ago today

The New Haven dieselized relatively early, but if its many "last" runs of steam were any indication, it still had a soft spot for the iron horse (or at least the business acumen to recognize that railfans did).

The last of the last runs of steam took place 65 years ago today - April 27, 1952. It was a gray, rainy day, fitting for the sad occasion. Fortunately, there were some who braved the weather and recorded the event for posterity . . .

All images courtesy NHRHTA, Inc. Photo Library