Tearing things down…

Project

Earlier this week  I started tearing down my shelf layout. In short the room that is my home office and train room needs to be re-purposed as a bedroom which means I need to put the closet back in… the one I removed to accommodate the shelf layout.

As I’ve been packing things up I’ve found a lot of started but not finished projects so maybe it’s a good opportunity to try and get some of these projects done before I start thinking about figuring out another layout.

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Not a Weekend Update

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It’s been a long time since I’ve updated, and it’s not a weekend and also not a specific topic so I’ve decided to be a little cheeky.

Primarily I’ve just been too busy with kids activities and work. At the end of August and beginning of September my wife and I had a trip to the UK. We didn’t really see much train related stuff because I more paying for it than planning it 🙂

There were a few things that were tangentially train related that I also managed to get pictures of (and a bunch of things I couldn’t/didn’t for various reasons). To start if off we were in Oxford briefly (on our way to Highclere Castle which was cool) and as we were walking to Christ Church College (which was also cool) I saw a sign for Pembroke Square which made me think of Pembroke:87.

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We took a train from Edinburgh to London and there was plenty of cool rail infrastructure and trains but where I was seated couldn’t really take any pictures but one day in London I looked up and saw a “CANADIAN PACIFIC” and I thought that was pretty cool.

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The only other train related pictures from that vacation are of Waverly and Kings Cross station.

I’ll also included this picture because I think it is one of the best ones I took, and this was just a quick shot with my phone.

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In more local news I got a ScaleTrains.com SD40-2 I ordered back in January. This one is a rivet counter EMD Leasing unit. Unfortunately like my last ScaleTrains.com SD40-2 this one also arrived in not perfect condition.

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I was able to get the truck re-attached fine and it seems to run well. It’s a DCC ready one so I added a LokPilot 4.0 decoder to try and get all the lighting effects possible without having to pay for sound. I’ve got the colored class lights working which is pretty cool but have yet to get the strobe light to turn on at all yet.

It would be nice if the cool lighting effects were available on the operator edition because I don’t really need all the easily breakable detail pieces (like the ones I broke trying to get the shell open to fix it and install the decoder) but I guess we can’t have everything.

In other news Jeremy Dummler’s WordPress blog was compromised and he basically lost the content of his blog. He has a new blog setup at http://trainmodeler.com/ so check it out if you were following his blog before and hadn’t heard… or just check it out if you are looking for a good model railroading blog.

Weekend Update 29

Trains, Weekend Update

First off, yes posts 3 days in a row… it’s been a crazy snow storm.

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You know it’s bad when your snowblower turns into a tunneling machine

Most of my weekend was converting cars to Sergent couplers and making more. I ended up putting together some 64 couplers with only 3 not making the cut (one I forgot a ball bearing, two glued shut but they are soaking in acetone to be redone) I only got 8 cars converted so I’ve got a good stash of couplers ready to go.

I also dug out some long languishing projects, I’m hoping being visible will help them get a little more attention to get done!

More Coupler Assembly

Trains

Right now I’m in the middle of “snowmaggedon” (ice, a lot of snow, and blizzard conditions) so to stave off a little cabin fever I worked on some coupler conversions. I’ve been reorganizing my home office/train room and found some cement hoppers in what I thought was a repair drawer but I can’t find anything wrong with them and can’t remember what was broken so maybe they’ve been sitting in the drawer a couple years for no reason.

I ended up running out of couplers, and it’s still snowing, so I there was nothing for it but to make some more.

I ended up making 32 more, 30 standard ones and 2 narrow shank ones. The narrow shank ones belong to cars that have been half converted, that is a Sergent on one end and Kadee on the other. I’m also planning on finishing some scratch building projects I started a while ago and doing Accurail scale coupler boxes and narrow shank couplers.

Some Scratch Building Part 3

Trains

I was going through my paints to see if I had anything on hand to use for my speeder shed (not that it’s done by any means, just had a few minutes). I settled on Vallejo Model Air 71.105 Brown, it looked pretty good brushing it on a test piece so I thought to myself “once I get my airbrush working I’ll have to start painting it”

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Then I realized, that’s how I tend to not get things done so I pulled out a brush and started on one side. Being fairly thin airbrush paint it takes several coats to brush it on but it’s something I’ve been able to spread out over short painting sessions with good results so far.

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I still haven’t figured out what I’m going to do for shingles yet though I’m open to any suggestions.

Some Scratch Building Part 2

Trains

When we last left our scratch building project I’d gotten the basic shell built up. I ordered some smaller styrene to trim wood and this weekend got a chance to continue work.

I think I should have gone a little smaller on the trim, especially on the small window but it’s what I had it and just went with it. I was able to straighten out the windows and doors with the trim pieces which does make it look quite a bit nicer so that’s a plus.

I’ve got some scraps in my styrene stockpile that should work for the roof and doors so I’ll have to try them next. I’m also going to take some of the cutoffs of the siding to test paint colors and see what looks good.

Trying Some Scratch Building Part 1

Trains

I realize I’ve done scratch building before but I’ve never built a building before. Since my layout will require almost entirely scratch built buildings I thought I’d start with something simple.

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This is not something I scratch built, this is a card stock building I made a couple years ago. I like it, it looks awesome… but keeping things straight is a hassle and it weighs nothing so it doesn’t like to stay put. But most importantly it’s a simple building so it seemed like a good thing to try replicating (and it’s handy not having to convert any measurements).

I started with some clapboard siding styrene, once I got the walls all cut out I went to glue the walls together. I had even gotten some Plastruct specifically for styrene and that’s when things went wrong. I used some magnets to try and hold the first two pieces and ended ruining the siding.

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After that I switched to CA glue because it works reasonably fast and doesn’t melt the plastic.

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Overall I’m pretty happy with how it’s turning out so far, I need to dig through my styrene to find some pieces for the doors, roof, and trim pieces for part 2. I also need to determine how dilapidated I want to make it look once painted. I didn’t really have a choice with the card stock version as that’s how it printed out. I’ll probably go with a better maintained look as my diorama’s era is more contemporary to when the building would be well maintained.

I’ll also note this progress has been the result of small bits over several weeks. It’s been a nice project where i can come spend a couple minutes on something and put it away until I have time again (so don’t necessarily expect part 2 to be published tomorrow 🙂 )

Weekend Update 28

Trains, Weekend Update

In my last post I alluded to an issue with my second ScaleTrains SD40-2, rather than detailing it in the post I sent off a note to ScaleTrains support line and ended up in an email conversation with the VP of Product Development well after normal business hours. Huge kudos to ScaleTrains for the great support. That locomotive is still waiting on a decoder but in the meantime I had a friend point out that I had managed to get two BNSF SD40-2s with a number ending in 21. Wasn’t intentional… just made sure I didn’t do the same number.

My friend Mike had an operating session this last week and I took 6821 and it ran exceptionally well which is always nice. I managed to grab some photos of it in the wonderful scenery Mike has done.

On a more local note I’ve been doing a little bit of work on my layout, it hasn’t been much because of being busy, seasonal illness etc but finding some little things to do when I can. I had the idea to 3D print some knobs for my PDC switch machines… and then my imagination got the better of me. First I thought it’d be cool to have a representation of the turnout on the knob. Then I took it to the next logical step, put LEDs in it that light up to show the current route.

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I’m sure it would have worked but I’ve come to decide it might be too fiddly and I should probably take a step back and go with something simpler for now at least.

ScaleTrains SD40-2 Update

Trains

As an update to my previous post I did find the biggest problem I had was related to layout issues not electrical pickup (dirty track and a failing power routing switch on a turnout). The next issue was a fuel tank issue that I was able to easily fix so I wanted to update because I realized after the fact I might have come across a bit more negative than I wanted to and don’t want to leave my readers with an incorrect impression.

I also received a second SD40-2 (though this one doesn’t have a DCC decoder yet) and a buffer service hopper. I’ll have more on this in a later post as there was a slight issue with this order and I am going to wait until ScaleTrains responds before I post on it.

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Progress on the layout is going well, I’ve been installing ties on the turnouts and have some found some electrical faults that need to be fixed but after a long drought work is getting done.

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(Sorry for the poor lighting, the layout lighting messes with my phones camera and the room lighting is positioned such that I could only get a picture with my shadow in it)

ScaleTrains SD40-2 first thoughts

Trains

Today I received my ScaleTrains Operator edition SD40-2. I had pre-ordered this one back in July of 2016. Originally these were supposed to ship January 2017… so a little late. Now you may be thinking ScaleTrains has been shipping SD40-2s for a while, which is true but not the sound editions which I understand was delayed in at least part because of the new sound decoder. It did come two days after my birthday so it makes up some points there as a birthday present for myself I bought a year and a half ahead of time. I don’t really fancy myself a reviewer and my intent was not to write a review but I have some initial thoughts that I thought I’d share… so this is kind of reviewish I guess.

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To start off with it was very well packaged and looks great, and once I figured out the decoder (more on that in a bit) it sounds great too. This is my first experience with Loksound and it definitely sounds great.

I also ordered the details pack, since this is the operator version it doesn’t have the separately applied details like grab irons but ScaleTrains offers a set of detail parts so you can add them later. I pre-ordered these at the same time and at the time ScaleTrains had no details on what this would mean, including no price. I had hoped at the time these would be painted appropriately for the model and would just be an installation…

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… but nope. It is a very comprehensive set though and I’ll need to do some practice mixing paint to get things to match properly. I wouldn’t count this as a knock against ScaleTrains, I get why they are unpainted but it’d have been nice to have them painted to save a step.

Decoder

I can’t find much information on this decoder, hopefully just because it’s so new. It’s called the ESU Essential Sound Unit and all I know for sure right now is it does not have a keep-alive… at all. I’ve also not found any documentation on the decoder, if anyone knows of any I’d appreciate if anyone knows where to find it. When I first plopped it on the track I got nothing, which ended up being an electrical pickup issue (more on that in a bit) and after some fettling I got it moving but no sound.

After more messing about I figured out you had to hit F8 first which is completely different than any other sound decoder I’d used… probably some useful information to document but maybe it’s a Loksound standard behavior. Again, wouldn’t be a problem if there was any easy to find documentation, either in the box or on the ESU website. I also haven’t figured out how to use the horn, maybe there isn’t one but that seems unlikely. I could say something about documentation but I don’t know that I need to keep repeating myself.

Electrical Pickup

This has been the biggest letdown, and it might not be the locomotives fault. My shelf layout has been pretty dormant for a while and likely dust buildup is an issue. That said my Kato SD38-2 with sound ran over it without a single hesitation but it also has a keep alive (which to me is a shocking absence on a sound decoder). Pushing things around I did get it to move pretty well on it’s own getting to the point where there are minimal stalls. This could be related to issues in the track work, wiring, or dirty track I’ll have to do more investigation to find out for sure.

UPDATE: I did find the poor electrical pickup was related to the layout not the locomotive, it doesn’t seem to have a keep alive but some track cleaning mostly fixed the problem and I found some failing switches causing deadspots

Running Qualities

When it’s working it runs really well, it has quite a lot of coast programmed in which is probably pretty realistic but on a shelf layout with tight quarters something that’ll need to go so I don’t go over the edge or push cars off. Aside from pickup issues I found the fuel tank is extremely close to the track. So much so that it got caught up on a very small vertical rail misalignment. I did later get it to run over that section so not sure what was going on. Maybe it was something else causing the issue…. I at least hope so.

UPDATE: I figured out the fuel tank issue, there is a spacer on the 4000 gallon tanks and if it’s not installed properly pushes down the front of the tank. All it took to fix is pull a single screw and press the spacer in. If you have the same problem hopefully this note helps you quickly fix it yourself.

Closing Thoughts

Overall it’s a nice model that looks good and sounds good and feels quite solid. I can see why ScaleTrains expects this tooling to be a revenue generator for 20 years. That said I’m concerned by the pickup issues and I hope I can get them sorted because a model that looks good and sounds good doesn’t do any good sitting in the box unused or on the display shelf. I also have another decoder less one coming that I ordered before this arrived with some unexpected birthday money and pre-ordered a rivet counter version in EMD lease paint. I’d really rather not have three brand new display only SD40-2s.