Friday, August 20, 2021

Friday Fun - Scale Sound Systems Speaker

Toward the end of my post on the non-shake down shake down session, I mentioned that I'm actually short on some diesel locos. I have more than enough DL-109s (NH class DER-1) to cover the Shore Line trains, but don't have enough diesel power for my local freights. So allofasudden, my Alco switcher projects moved to the front burner . . .

One of those two projects is to convert a c.2003 undec, non-DCC Proto2000 S-1 into DEY-3 #0967 - the main diesel loco on the Valley Local during my era. I have a Loksound v5 decoder on its way for the "decoderization" and in today's mail - just in time for Friday Fun (and a Weekend Project, if Hurricane Henri doesn't screw us up) - I got the speaker for the "soundification."

Up to this point, I've either accepted a loco's stock OEM speaker or used iPhone4 speakers for my sound installs. But ever since I heard of Scale Sound Systems speakers on my favorite podcast, I've been curious about them - and once I heard that Mike Rose is now using them exclusively in his installs, I decided I had to try one myself.

Now, I'm no audiophile but I know that there's a lot of science that goes into making good sound. And I know what I don't like (e.g. the old MRC sound decoder/speaker in my other Atlas S-2), so I figured the flagship diesel on the Valley Line would be the perfect excuse opportunity to try an admittedly "premium" speaker.

I just ordered the speaker this past Tuesday and - despite a warning on the website that all speakers are made to order and require a 3-14 day lead time - I got it today. If speed of service is any indication of quality of product, I'm sure to be a very happy customer.  Of course, the free lollipop didn't hurt ;^)

I'll post a full review once I get it all installed. For comparisons, the Atlas S-2 I'm working on (which will become DEY-5 #0604) has a Loksound Select decoder and an OEM speaker, as does my Atlas RS-1. My RS-2, as well as all of my DL-109s, have Loksound Selects and iPhone4 speakers. So I'm very interested to see hear what, if any, difference I can discern. 

If it sounds only marginally better to my ear, I'll probably just stick with the iPhone speakers. $17 vs. $2 per speaker is no joke - and the huge price difference is definitely a consideration when equipping a large fleets of locos. But I have a relatively small number of engines to "soundify" - in fact, other than a couple more brass steamers, this P2k S-1 is the only one on the horizon - so an SSS speaker is certainly worth a try.

Have any of you used Scale Sound System speakers yet? If so, let us know your experience in the comments below!

Monday, August 9, 2021

On the Valley Line - TODAY!

It's been almost two years since I've heard the whistle of a steam locomotive going past our house, but shortly after I got home from work I heard it's call & confirmed that the southbound was backing down to the Junction.

Which of course gave me plenty of time to catch it coming back northbound . . . Enjoy!

Friday, August 6, 2021

Admiral Farragut would be proud...

A few weeks back, July 15 to be exact, I held my first operating session since January 23, 2020. Given how long it had been since I've had others operating on the Valley Line, it was intended to be a "shake down" session to see how the railroad has fared over such a long period of inactivity. As such, I should have checked my expectations at the top of the basement stairs. If I had, I probably would have had more fun.
My co-crewmember on the Valley Local, PieterR, before things started to devolve...

It all started out typically & innocently enough. I did my usual ops session setup (a process I'm really trying to streamline) and invited a small group of my regular crew over to run the trains. One of the nice aspects of my railroad is that I can operate with as few as one or as many as 13 people, so I knew I'd get a session in no matter how many showed up. As it was, I only had to annul the Shore Line trains and the short local (PDX-1), opting to have 2 man crews on the Airline & Valley Locals and just TomD on the westbound Shore Line local (PDX-2).

So far so good.  But then I did what turned out - perhaps - to be the equivalent of poking Fate in the eye . . . I decided all the trains would be steam powered(!)

Yup, three New England Rail Service New Haven Railroad K-class moguls - all brass - ran at the point of the three locals. I've run them all before and they run as beautifully as they look. Bur for some reason, about 30 minutes into the session, they all took turns shorting out the layout. ARGH!

Now, more reasonable folks would have taken that opportunity to remind themselves that this was supposed to be a shake down session - to see what inevitable glitches may have cropped up over the year-and-a-half of idleness - to create a punch list of items to address - to, even perhaps, actually address those items as they cropped up.

But no - not me. With every irritating, incessant beeping of every short circuit indicated, I just became more aggravated and determined to Keep Going At All Costs, trying to WILL the layout into behaving.

Yeah. That didn't work so well.

Thankfully, my crew is not only good humored and patient, but it turned out they had much more reasonable expectations of the session than I did. And, as a result of cooler heads prevailing, I got the punch list I'd sought by scheduling the session in the first place (and that I, apparently, subconsciously sought to avoid by plowing ahead):

  • Reset and Reprogram the decoders in all the steam locomotives.
    • All the shorting may have affected the electronics, so best to do a "clean reboot" to remove that variable. See the videos below for some of what I'm experiencing.
  • Run all the steamers in the dark to check for any arching.
    • While they've run fine in the past, brass steam locomotives are notorious for developing short circuits over time as paint wears and parts come into contact with each other.
  • Run some metal wheelsets through all the turnouts/frogs.
    • One of my COVID projects was to do a thorough cleaning of all the rails and apply graphite.
    • Despite my efforts to apply it very sparingly (a little goes a very long way), I may have been a bit heavy handed in some places and any rough spots - typically at rail joints and frogs - may have knocked off more graphite causing more to be applied. 
    • Too much graphite may have caused some bridging of electrical gaps. But once it burns off, it's fine.
  • Reintroduce just one steamer at a time at future ops sessions.
    • In the meantime, I'll be running all-diesel sessions.
On that last point, I've been surprised to discover that I actually don't have enough appropriate diesels to run a full session(!) I have DL-109s (New Haven class DER-1) up the ying yang for all the Shore Line trains, but precious little internal combustion for the local freights. In 1948/49, the locals were powered primarily by DEY-3 and 5 class switchers (Alco S-1s and 2s). Unfortunately (depending on your perspective), the New Haven's Alco S-1s and 2s had a special low-profile cab.

Fortunately, my friend MikeR has created a kit for that unique cab, and my friend JoeS has blazed the trail in building one (and shared his process with us all).

So, I have an undec Atlas S-2 on my bench, ready to be converted into NH DEY-5 #0604, and a Proto2000 undec S-1 waiting for a decoder and Scale Sound Systems speaker (been dying to try one out) before being converted into the Valley Local's #0967.

Though it's on my bench, the 0604 may have to wait until I straighten out her teakettle sisters. If you have any thoughts/suggestions after watching these videos, be sure to let me know in the comments. In the meantime, I'm planning the next shake-down session - and planning on keeping my expectations in check.