Thursday, August 16, 2018

A Couple Quick Bluepoint Tips

My layout focuses on operating four local freight trains and most of the turnouts over which they operate are thrown manually, just like the prototype (well, if by "prototype" you're ok with moving the switchpoints with your finger - click here for all the different ways I manually operate turnouts). By contrast, down on the Shoreline (the big mainline through Saybrook), all those turnouts are thrown by the guy in the tower manning a control board which controls a bank of Tortoise switch machines (though I'd started out with Micro-Mark's machines).

But when one of my operators suggested after a recent ops session that I provide some sort of remote control for a turnout under the Rt. 1 overpass in Saybrook, I wasn't quite sure what to do. The turnout was already installed and had been thrown using the included center-over spring (I use Micro-Engineering turnouts). I didn't want to install a Tortoise machine there, since that would be inconsistent with their use elsewhere (i.e. just on mainline turnouts), and the turnout's points would get increasingly difficult to reach as the overpass actually gets installed the scenery develops in the area.

So I decided to go back to the solution I used for the turnout at the north end of the Saybrook wye and installed a Bluepoint switch machine. But of course, given the turnout's location and the fact that it was already thoroughly installed (and ballasted!), adding a new switch machine was a bit complicated. Here's a few tips on how I did it:

The completed installation - you can just make out the turnout/points where the "#25" sign is. Yup - this turnout is in a wall, behind the backdrop, and a bridge will be going over it. No wonder somebody suggested I do something about that!

As I mentioned, I installed a Bluepoint. Fortunately, I had the foresight to have drilled a 1/4" hole under the throwbar before installing the turnout (in anticipation of powering it sometime in the future). Unfortunately, the hole wasn't quite big enough (since the throwbar actually ended up a little off-center) and I had to drill it out a bit. BE CAREFUL if you do that - otherwise you risk the drill bit going right up through your turnout! Yeah, that almost happened to me. Fortunately, all it did was rip out the center-over spring I no longer needed!

I used a regular coat hanger through a slightly-reamed-out hole in the machine for control. Note the four holes - yup, I'd mounted the machine there at first (turned 180) and then realized that the coat hanger/actuating rod would be going right through the adjacent Tortoise machine! Don't be like me. Check first.



This view shows how the actuating rod cleared - once I'd turned the machine around!
The Bluepoint installation instructions are pretty straight-forward. As I mentioned above (and in my previous install), I used a wire coathanger as an actuating rod. It was threaded through a hole drilled through the fascia and then bent into the machine. And I used a yellow wire nut for a knob.

Thankfully, it works like a charm. Now crews switching Saybrook don't have to worry about reaching this turnout - or knocking a bridge, or scenery, over in the process!

Monday, August 13, 2018

Modeling Monday: Rt. 15 Overpass - Trimming & Cleaning the Castings

If there's a downside to operations, it's that it can take up all your hobby time. Between all the paperwork, setting up, the actual session itself, and the inevitable punch list afterwards, managing an operating layout can quickly become all you do in the hobby. In fact, I've discovered that the Plywood Pacific is all-too-typical among round robin operating groups.

But there really is nothing that can compare to having your railroad operate through finished scenes - so that it looks like an actual railroad as well as it operates like one. So I've been itching to get back into some modeling with a view to making more progress on the Wethersfield area of the layout. Dave has graciously offered to help me over a major hurdle at the north end of Wethersfield - namely, the distinctive concrete abutments for the Rt. 15 overpass.

Way back in April, I finally got around to duplicating some very cool Shapeways girders my friend MikeR had made for me from prototype photos of the actual bridge. In fact, creating additional girders was my first foray into resin casting. Unfortunately, after all the excitement of successfully casting additional girders from the Shapeways masters, they've just been sitting around. But now that I may be able to solve my abutment problem, it's high time to get back to this project.

Overpass looking northbound to the Hartford/Wethersfield line. This was originally built as part of the Hartford Bypass over the Charter Oak Bridge during WWII. It allowed workers to get to Pratt & Whitney in East Hartford without having to drive through downtown Hartford. Note the distinctive steel girders.

Looking southbound from the other side, showing abutment & girder detail.

Southerly view looking at the north side of the west abutment. While my layout views only the south side, this is the most unobstructed view of these distinctive abutments nowadays.

Mockup of the overpass on my layout. View looking "north" but obviously compressed. Valley line is on the left, but instead of going over the Middlesex Turnpike on the right as the prototype does, I have the Berlin branch coming through there. Ah - the joys of selective compressing and modeler's license! The bridge itself is a Rix "Vintage Highway Overpass" which is my best guess not having a prototype photo of the original bridge. But at least I plan to get the girders right! The carved pink foam block on the left is my attempt at the abutment.

Here's how I left things after duplicating the girder masters.

To give Dave a sense of how tall the abutments would need to be, I test fit the master parts. Total height from bottom of bridge shoe to top of girder: 3 11/32".

Today's project was a baby step of progress - but progress nevertheless. Trimming and cleaning the castings.

A couple of Xacto blades (#11 to score & snap, #17 chisel to trim more closely) and a coarse sanding stick made for easy work, but it did take some time and patience..

But patience paid off - they look really good.

I'd primed the masters before (last October - yikes!), so needed to remove the paint from where I'll have to glue them. In addition to the resulting sanding dust, there was trim & sanding residue on the castings as well. A quick wash with some Dawn, water, and a brush got everything nice and clean. Now they just sit and dry. I'm trying to decide whether to paint everything first, or glue them together first before painting. Any recommendations?
It's nice to be making progress of any sort lately, but going back through some of my posts and photos I see how long this (and other) project(s) has been lingering along. I'm certainly not getting any younger, and life is short. Gotta keep moving forward. Hopefully I can get the north end of Wethersfield - if not that entire section of the layout - done by Thanksgiving! #gauntletthrown

Saturday, August 11, 2018

WW #227 & Another Reason Model Railroading is the World's Greatest Hobby

In case you didn't guess already, Wordless Wednesday #227 was supposed to be a quick few videos showing "typical Shoreline passenger trains" running through Old Saybrook. Well, video 1 and video 2 went fine. And for video 3, I figured I'd shoot at "eye level" for more realism. So far so good. Until I realized - too late - that my elbow was across the track. BOOM! The engine ran right into it and rolled over and the train stopped dead. I should have included a photo of the wreckage - it actually looked pretty realistic. Well, as much as a 1:87 scale steam locomotive does when it hits a 1:1 scale elbow(!) Thankfully, no actual damage or harm done. Except to my pride, of course. . . .

In other news.... here's reason #742 why Model Railroading is, in fact, "The World's Greatest Hobby" - you can easily adapt the skills you learn to everyday household repairs. Not only do you learn some carpentry and electrical skills (hopefully, not just enough to be dangerous), but you also can get some good practice with taping and topping. And today, I discovered another use for my handy, dandy gluing jig:

It's just the thing for gluing a picture frame back together. I just wish it was a bit bigger.

Unfortunately, that's all the "modeling" (well, the using of modeling tools anyway) that I've been able to do lately. The Missus and I got some discouraging news about her dad this past Tuesday. The skinny is that he has to go back in the hospital next week for a week and then has two months of additional treatments before the doctors can reassess. We're hoping & praying for a Christmas miracle, so your continued prayers are much appreciated as well.

Thankfully, yet another reason this is the greatest hobby is that it provides a very welcome distraction from real life and a chance to recoup and keep going. But I suppose that can really be said of any hobby. So with that in mind, the Missus and I are going to take advantage of this rainy Saturday - she to her art room and I, hopefully, to the basement.

Friday, August 3, 2018

Friday Fun? When Realism Goes Too Far . . .

Mentioning my next-door neighbor Bill in the last post reminds me of another funny story that happened a few weeks ago (click here for the first funny story - how I discovered that Bill actually used to work in the real Saybrook tower).

It's been months, literally, since my the January session, and, as typically happens with neighbors, we didn't see each other over the winter (weather) and spring (work) except to wave to each other as we passed by. But I was out working in the yard early one morning and saw him walking his dog down the street. We yelled "Hi!" to each other and, instead of letting it go at that, I put down what I was doing and met him at the end of my driveway.

After exchanging the usual pleasantries concerning the weather and general health, the conversation that followed went something like this:

Me: "So, I'll be starting up operating sessions on my layout again pretty soon - want me to keep you posted so you can join us again?"

Bill: "Um, actually, I'm not quite so sure. It's gonna sound funny, but I gotta admit - it was a little traumatic. I'm not saying I got PTSD or anything, but it was an awful lot like my old day job, with all its stress. I couldn't get it off my mind for a few days after."

Bill operated the Saybrook tower during Penn Central and Amtrak days - certainly the twilight of railroading on the Shoreline, but still on the Northeast Corridor. And he did it with equipment that hadn't been maintained much at all in an environment that was, shall we say, less than ideal (the tower was little more than an elevated shack at that point, with little - or no - amenities).

Sure, he'd operated on the prototype, but when I invited him to operate on my model railroad he was probably expecting something more like trains running around the Christmas tree, not an actual late 1940s schedule of trains (71/day - and 33 during the course of the session) operated on a 4:1 fast clock!

No wonder he was a little stressed.

And therein lies (lays?) a lesson: As a prototype modeler, it may be possible to carry the realism a bit too far. We've all debated how much prototype paperwork to include in our operations, but it's clear the more you include the more it can be like actual work. And actual work isn't really what we're looking for in our hobby. I think the best balance is having just enough paperwork to convey the sense of realism - to maintain the illusion that we're operating an actual railroad - while at the same time readily jettisoning the more mundane - and often more stressful - aspects of the job that were probably the reason railroading was actually a paid job and not done just for fun.

Thankfully, even as prototype modelers, we can strike the balance between realism & fun where it suits us (and hopefully our operators) best. This is supposed to be a hobby after all. "Model Railroading is Fun" should be a fact, and not just a catchy slogan.

I did what I could to try and boil all that down and convince Bill to come back and give it another try. And I think he will at some point. But this was all a reminder that sometimes real railroaders might appreciate a change of pace from what they did for a paycheck. Remember to give them - and us - a chance to do some railroading for the sheer fun of it.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Throwback Thursday - Ops Session: January, 2018 (a.k.a. October 4, 1948)

Typically, "Throwback Thursdays" tell you about something that happened a long time ago. Well, this one is more in the way of making up for not having posted something in the past - namely, a report on my January, 2018 ops session.

Which is really too bad, because in a lot of ways it was a banner session:
I took advantage of the new year to start a new "week" of sessions. Even though I can run 3 different eras/years (1947/1948/1949 - each with different motive power) I've been focusing my era lately on October, 1948 for the best mix of steam (still have moguls and mikes) and diesel (PAs were delivered in September, 1948 & I can use my RS-1 and RS-2). During this era, the Valley Local operated on a Monday through Saturday schedule, going to East Berlin on M/W/F and to East Haddam T/Th/Sa.

So, I figured I'd start the 2018 operations year on the first Monday in October, 1948 and, according to my handy prototype (and original) calendar, that would be October 4.


Unfortunately, as is too-often the case with ops sessions, I didn't get to take as many photos as I would have liked. Fortunately, other attendees were able to fill in some gaps.


Calm before the storm. Saybrook Junction, 8:36am Monday, October 4, 1948. There's one car on the bulk track, and cars waiting on tracks 5 & 7 for the eastbound and west/northbound Shoreline local freights.

Husband/Wife duo Mike & Mel operating PDX-1, the eastbound Shoreline local. They've worked the Saybrook house & bulk tracks (tracks 10 and 8, respectively) and crossed over the double-track main and are now working tracks 5 & 7. BillS looking on, enjoys a break from operating one of the many eastbound Shoreline passenger trains to New London/Boston.
Overview of Saybrook Jct and PDX-1 working the swap tracks.
James works the Air Line local in Somerset while Mel looks on.

A special treat this session was that Bill-from-next-door, who actually operated the real Saybrook tower before it was closed (and which I didn't even know until we delivered Christmas cookies one year, but that's another story...), agreed to operate my model of Saybrook tower, including the model board. He thought it captured his job pretty accurately, despite the fact that I have easy-to-throw toggles controlling the switches rather than the unwieldy Armstrong levers he had to deal with. His insights and stories, one of which he's probably relating in this photo, were a highlight of the evening.

Mike R, who developed the spreadsheet I use for freight car forwarding, operated PDX-2 - a.k.a. the westbound Shoreline local, a.k.a. The Haddam Local. Here he is switching cars in Essex.

The last of the four local freights, The Valley Local, was ably operated by Kaylee Zheng, who appears here to be working Rocky Hill/Dividend. James is working Middletown on the Air Line local.

While the local freights are out of the way on the branchlines doing their thing, the Shoreline continues its parade of 71 trains per day. Here's a westbound through Saybrook sometime during the late afternoon.
Ah, a late, Indian Summer afternoon in October, 1948, sitting down by the station, watching the parade of trains going by. Could there be anything sweeter?

That feeling is what I'm trying to capture on this layout. Sure, I need to do a LOT more scenery and build/install a lot more structures in order to complete the illusion. But, thanks to Mike, Mel, Mike, Bill, James, Bill, and Kaylee, operating the trains, the layout comes to life for a few hours every month (or so) and, with the use of a little imagination, we can all enjoy a nice trip back in time.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Wordless Wednesday #226 - New Power

PDX-2? a.k.a. The Haddam Local, northbound along the Middlesex Turnpike near the Essex/Deep River town line.













Tuesday, July 31, 2018

ProtoModeling Fun: Photo Forensics

If you're reading this blog, you're probably a model railroader. But what about being a "railroad modeler?" What's so attractive about modeling a prototype railroad and becoming a prototype modeler? I suspect, for most, the chance to build a time-machine of sorts is the strongest attraction. For others, it's the challenge of recreating a real-world scene in miniature, including all the research and detective work required.

As you may have guessed, for me it's a combination of all those things. I could sit and stare at some old railroad photographs for hours, noticing all the details and thinking of ways I can recreate the world captured in that photo. One of my favorite photos - and the one that provided the strongest inspiration to model the Valley Line - was a shot of the southbound Valley Local taken by Kent Cochrane from the Arrigoni Bridge in Middletown, May 1947.



This shot was actually the subject of my very first "Wordless Wednesday", and I talked about it some more in a subsequent post (and here, and here). I'm not alone in my admiration either. None other than Tony Koester "unpacked" this photo in the May, 1980 issue of Railroad Model Craftsman. His power of observation and his ability to convey the essence of the scene through his writing really puts you right there as the local pulls into town. I highly recommend you read his essay - it's the sort of thing that could inspire many a modeler. The fact that he (unwittingly, preceding my interest by about 30 years) wrote about a scene from my chosen prototype is a huge bonus.

It's all very right-brained and evocative. What he didn't do is provide much in the way of prototype information. As an admitted left-brainer (just look at my layout - the wiring and track is great. The scenery is mostly done by others...) and prototype modeler, I see a hopper. And wonder how to model it.

Thus the journey begins . . .

The NYC hopper right behind the engine is a 908000-909499 series 39' 3 bay steel self clearing hopper, #908255 to be exact.  These cars were built in 1923 with shallow type middle hoppers but later rebuilt with sawtooth hoppers when shopped for repairs (increasing capacity by 10 cu. ft.).  Originally numbered 425000-426499, they were renumbered into the 908000 series when rebuilt.  The original configuration lasted until 1948.  The rebuilds started in 1936 and lasted until 1961.

And according to my buddy Randy, these were USRA triple hoppers, lot 466-H. The rebuilding replaced the center clamshell hopper with a sawtooth hopper. There were originally about 20,000 of these cars owned by the NYC and the P&LE.

Here's a photo showing the hopper as-built:




And a plan showing the differences:


Some additional research revealed that Westerfield makes both the as-built and rebuilt versions.  The rebuilt version is the one I need - kit #2153.

Ok, admittedly, all that information isn't quite as enjoyable to read as Tony's piece. But if you want to model the Valley Local - at least as it appeared in the spring of 1947 - you're gonna want to include a NYC hopper. And if you want it to be prototypically correct, well, now you know what you need.

All I need now are "a half-dozen or so freight cars" to model the rest of the train, but at least I can be pretty certain they're "more than likely bedecked in nothing more spectacular than standard boxcar red paint accented with weathered white lettering." Maybe not enough information to model from, but most definitely enough brain-candy to want to try.

And maybe that's part of what makes this hobby so fascinating and satisfying. To do it well, you really need both the right and left sides of your brain fully engaged. The technical side of modeling isn't as much fun without the evocative side to inspire your efforts.

Thanks to Kent Cochrane for taking that beautiful photo so long ago, thanks to Tony Koester for helping me see all the fine detail that's there to recreate, and thanks to Westerfield models for producing a kit for the first freight car in my own recreation of the Valley Local in HO scale.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

First Run! July 29, 1871

Yikes! I can't believe I almost let this day end without realizing that it's the 147th anniversary of the Very First Train on the Valley Line! Yup - that's 147 years ago today July 29, 1871 - the first Valley Local polished the rails.

I'm embarrassed that I wasn't able to put together a proper post, but that's ok - the fine folks over at ConnecticutHistory.org did it for me, as one of their "Today in History" listings. I've pasted it below for your convenience, but a link to the article on their site is here. Be sure to visit - there's LOTS of great stuff there.

Connecticut Valley Railroad’s First Train – Today in History: July 29

Connecticut Valley R. R. schedule
Connecticut Valley R. R. schedule
Fenwick Hall, Fenwick, Old Saybrook
Fenwick Hall, Fenwick, Old Saybrook – Connecticut Historical Society and Connecticut History Illustrated
On July 29, 1871, a ceremonial train ran along the new 44-mile single-line track built by the Connecticut Valley Railroad. James C. Walkely, the president of Charter Oak Life Insurance Company in Hartford, received a charter in 1868 from the State of Connecticut to build this independent railroad from Hartford to Old Saybrook. Built along the west bank of the Connecticut River, it competed with steamboat service by providing a quicker overland route to Long Island Sound and connections to the steamboats that ran regularly to New York. The daily schedule on the Connecticut Valley line in 1871 included four round-trip passenger trains and one train that combined passengers and freight, making 15 stops along the route, excluding Sundays. In 1872, the service was extended a half mile past Old Saybrook point over a trestle bridge to the village of Fenwick and Fenwick Hall, a resort hotel that had opened in 1871. Traveling from Hartford to Saybrook at the time took 2½ hours. Connecticut Valley Railroad was taken over in 1880 by the Hartford & Connecticut Railroad and eventually  leased to the New York, New Haven, & Hartford Railroad Company.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Friday Fun: Air Line in East Wallingford - Then & Now

While I focus on the New Haven's Valley Line along the Connecticut River, the Air Line - which intersects the Valley at Middletown, CT - figures fairly prominently as well. I don't model the Air Line as faithfully as the Valley (I've only modeled two fictional towns), but it's pretty close operationally in that the Air Line local provides the New Haven (Cedar Hill Yard) to Middletown traffic and swapping (interchange) with the Valley Local.

The Air Line itself, as the original & fastest route between New York and Boston until superceded in the late 19th century, is itself very interesting and modelgenic. Alas! - you can't model everything, but that doesn't mean you have to ignore the attraction of other lines.

Case in point: East Wallingford, CT. Typical of much of the traffic along the Air Line (and one of the reasons it assumed secondary status after the fast passenger trains left) is this little wayside local industry:
New Haven Local Freight (Air Line Local) at East Wallingford, looking southwest. Dick Otto collection
See what I mean? Isn't that a scene that just begs to be modeled? A couple of RS-3s, a local coal silo, and the boxcar is probably destined for the bulk track. This being farming country (in fact, if you panned left you'd see a major farm at trackside), my guess is that the boxcar either has feed, fertilizer or some other farm supplies. Since it looks empty, maybe it's being spotted there for loading. The Air Line main is at the far left, with the siding obvious in the weeds. The old station is in the far background, across the road. It looks like it's already been raised up on its new foundation (as it remains today).

And this here's a shot I took of the same location yesterday morning, looking back toward where the photographer of the photo above stood those many years ago:

East Wallingford, July 26, 2018, looking northeast. Chris Adams photo.
Different era, for sure, and not quire as "railroad-evocative" - but that's in the eye of the beholder (naturally, I prefer the older, more railroady look of 70+ yrs ago). As you can see, East Wallingford retains its modelgenic quality, but now for a modern-era modeler. Bulk track appears to be gone, as the covered hoppers are sitting on the old siding, now truncated at the road. But there's still a farm here - and farms in the surrounding area - so it's no surprise that feed of some sort(?) is being unloaded here for trucks to distribute around the area. This entire scene would make a quick and easy - not to mention operationally interesting - layout design element. And with the crossbucks, signal cabinet, and modern day conveyor, there's still enough "railroady" details to please the eye and scratch the model railroad itch.

Thanks to Dick Otto for unearthing and sharing the old photo. And thanks to anybody that saw me taking this picture for not calling the cops on me.

Hope you found this little "then & now" comparison inspirational - and, if so, I hope you'll let me know in the comments. Bonus if you share some of your own "then & now" inspirations!

Happy Friday & here's hoping you can get to some modeling this weekend!

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Fun With Decoders: DL-109 Default Startup & Decoder Repair(! oh my!)

I mentioned a couple posts ago the critical role Alco's DL-109 (New Haven RR class DER-1) plays in Shoreline operations. What I didn't mention is an annoying habit they have of shutting down when they're acquired, at least when equipped with an ESU decoder.

But before I get into that, here's a quick tip:

Before you go buying something new like, say, a set of underset couplers, be sure you check your supplies first - even if you don't think you have what you need.

Why?


Yup - you guessed it. I went through all that rigmarole of not wanting to wait to get underset couplers for my DL-109s, then making a special trip to get them, and then trying them out not only to discover that they weren't going to work out after all but also that it turns out I already had some on-hand that I could have tried.

And worse - they were right in my coupler drawer(!)

Sure, they're #27s rather than #147s, but the only actual difference is that the 27s have the old centering spring and the 147s have the centering whiskers.

Ah well. Anybody need underset couplers? I have a bunch. Apparently.

And now for some DCC fun!

All of my DL-109s are equipped with ESU sound decoders. Not only do they have excellent motor control, but the sounds are very customizable, especially when using the Lokprogrammer. In fact, I've even programmed each decoder in each separate loco to have slightly different engine speeds/sounds so they haven't any chance of phasing together. Trust me - that's no small feat when each DL-109 has two different engines under its hood.

So, the sound in these engines is really amazing. But there's a problem. My Shoreline/mainline operations require a staging yard operator at each end of the line. When a train is ready to go through the Saybrook Scene - say, westbound from New London staging to New Haven staging - the New London operator calls the New Haven operator to tell him what engines are on the train that's going to him. The New Haven operator then acquires those engines to operate the train - "bringing" the train toward himself through Saybrook. I figured that's the best way to make sure the train noses into the correct staging track at its destination and stops safely.

But the acquiring is the problem. Every time the operator acquires the locomotives, the sound shuts down. It doesn't just turn off, but it goes through the whole (and very cool, under other circumstances) shut-down routine. Then the engines have to be "started up" again (another routine). All that takes time - which is none too plentiful on the Shoreline.

At the last operating session though, someone - I think Roman - came up with the solution: "Just change F8 to 'not F8'"

Huh?

Actually, all that means is that you're changing the default on the ESU decoder from "sound off by default when layout is powered on so you have to hit F8 to turn on the engine sound (i.e. "start the prime mover")" to "sound on by default when the layout is powered on" Since the sound is on by default, acquisition of the locomotive by a subsequent operator won't shut it down.

But it's a bit counter-intuitive. Reprogramming F8 to "not F8" is how you turn the sound on by default. Fortunately, this is all easy-peasy with the ESU Lokprogrammer . . .


First step is to go into the "Function mapping" section:


On that screen, go down to F8 (I'm assuming the decoder has its factory setting of F8 turning the prime mover on and off).


The factory setting for F8 is to be "On" as you see above. Just change it to "Off"


Note that F8 now says "not F8" and write the change to the decoder:


You may need to wait for firmware to update as well.


And that's it! No more annoying prime mover shut-down when my Shoreline operators acquire their power. Happy Day!

Well, so it was until I realized why one of my DLs decided not to work allofasudden...

I would get sound, but no movement. This unit had acted erratically before so I thought the decoder might need a reset and reload. That helped, but after a little bit the engine refuse to move at all  (though the sounds all still worked flawlessly).

When I removed the shell and checked out the decoder, what I'd feared was what I found . . .


The orange motor wire had broken off of the decoder. No wonder the engine wouldn't move!

After a LOT of hemming and hawing over how difficult - if not impossible - it would be to resolder such a tiny wire in such a tiny space (without frying, melting, or otherwise destroying the decoder in the process), I figured it was high time to tackle the job and not wait for when a more-experienced friend could help me out. I'd just done my first hardwire decoder install last fall, and that was soldering lots of wires to a harness. Not this:


Yeah - the orange wire had to be soldered to the third pad from the left. But I stripped the insulation back a bit, fluxed and tinned the wire, and then fluxed the pad as well as the tinned wire.

I really wished I had a smaller soldering tip, but I secured the decoder with self-clamping tweezers, used another pair of tweezers to hold the wire and used my remaining hand to get the iron in and out quick.

Thankfully, after sweating a few buckets, it all turned out well - as you can see above (I cleaned off the flux with denatured alcohol). I put everything back together and - Voila! - the engine runs again.

It's super satisfying to be confronted with a problem and figure out a way to solve it. And it's especially nice when your skills start developing to the point that you have to rely less and less on others.

I look forward to the day when I can say that about scenery. %^) In the meantime, I'll trade the skills I have with someone who needs them - and who hopefully has some expertise *I* need. That sort of collaboration is yet another reason this hobby is one of the world's best.

(mostly) Wordless Wednesday #225 - Luchini's Saybrook

My friend Pete is working on a layout depicting the New Haven's Shoreline between New Haven & Boston. Of course, that has to include Old Saybrook.

Here are a few quick grab shots of a local freight, presumably PDX-2, coming off the Valley Line onto the Shoreline using the east leg of the wye behind the Saybrook Tower on its way back to Fort Yard in New London. (btw, in case you're curious, yes Pete hand painted the very effective backdrop)

Enjoy this not-so-Wordless Wednesday!





Monday, July 23, 2018

Miscellaneous Monday: Register & Couplers

Thanks to Stanley and Roger for commenting on my paperwork post. I'm still trying to figure the best approach here, but in the meantime at least here's a copy of the prototype NHRR paperwork my form is based on:

Now, granted, I think this is a form used by station agents/tower operators to record passing trains (as Stanley described in his comment) and I modified it for use on my railroad. But it probably is overkill.
* * *
Thanks also to Dave who, while not posting a comment to the blog, did weigh in on the DL-109 coupler conversion - suggesting that I try using one of KD's underset couplers to raise the coupler height while saving me some work. While I'd mentioned in the post that I thought an underset coupler would look bad, I was too impatient to wait for one to be delivered, and it would probably end up too high anyway, I picked up a package of #147 couplers at Centerline Hobbies in Hyannis on my way home from vacation this weekend.

So at least I wouldn't have to wait for them.

Unfortunately, when I got them home I realized that I didn't get the "scale" head couplers but the old "standard" head (i.e. like the old No. 5s). The one consolation was that I made no mistake - KD doesn't even make a "scale" size underset coupler. In fact, they actually say so on their website:

We do not make "offset" scale head couplers only center set because an offset scale head coupler is simply too ugly.

I figured I'd go ahead and try the 147s anyway since, if they truly just dropped in as an easy replacement, it'd save me some drilling & tapping.


Turns out - they did end up too high. No worries. As they say in the scientific field: "A negative finding is still a finding." I did the experiment and it proved my initial hypothesis. Back to drilling, tapping, and installing a "proper" "scale" head coupler:

A little bit of work, but so much better