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.

Turnout knob.png

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


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.


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.


(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


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.


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…


… 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.


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.


Finding the groove again


2017 was not much of a year for my modeling and blogging, it was a busy year for me and not one for inspiration. In fact my shelf layout was more of just a shelf.

I did print some cool stuff like this RC car.


Everything except the nuts/bolds, tires, and electronics were printed (and the gear that exploded after some test runs). It’s a blast knowing I can easily print any parts that break (which has already happened) because this thing is basically guaranteed to crash at speed. (which might be related to me test driving on snowy/icy sidewalks)

More recently I’ve started cleaning off the shelf again and getting back into things. In the corner I’d put a box in as a mockup for a building but it never really felt right and then one day I took out what of my early prints off thingiverse which was for a large HO scale propane tank. The source model wasn’t great and the printer I used wasn’t great and the filament I used was pretty crap. On a whim I put it in the corner and imagined a couple others (better printed) and a security fence around it.


I have some Alkem Scale Models fencing that I wasn’t entirely sure how I was going to use but would work perfectly for this.

A little something on Saturday


I haven’t had time lately to do much modeling, and by much I mean any. So I made a point to sit down and do something so what better to do than assemble some couplers. That turned into installing them on yet to be converted hardware and got these converted and a couple extra couplers ready to go.


Over course I had help from my youngest David as evidenced by the presence of his trains. I do have to say those ore cars look really nice with the Sergent couplers!


Lumber Loads


For quite a while I’ve wanted to make some lumber loads like Chris van der Heide detailed on his blog here. He makes them from scrap wood cut to scale and wrapped in a printed cover. One of the impediments for my was my table saw was in storage and it wasn’t a big enough project to justify getting it out of my garage attic. Well I finally got it out of my attic for another project so I thought I’ll whip a couple of them out quick… Well I got close on a couple but decided it wasn’t safe enough to do on my table saw. Perhaps with a better one or a cross cut sled it’d work better, or even a band saw (which I don’t have) but I gave up before I ended up hurting myself.

So back to the drawing board. I decided to see how much filament it would take to print a hollow box on my 3D printer. It turns out if I do the bottom, a couple perimeters and no top layers it’s only about 5-20 cents each (including electricity) and you get a little box like this (I changed filaments for a larger project between these two which is why the color difference)


If you want to print them you can get them here on OnShape. It’s parametric so if you want to adjust measurements you can easily do this. I just used the sizes from Chris’s blog. For printing I’d recommend doing no infill, you may be able to bridge the top to make it a solid box but I just didn’t do a top. This way if I want I can add weight later if I need to.

I printed out one of his PDFs (Yes I’ve combined 2D AND 3D printing for this. If it becomes possible to print another dimension I’ll have to try to incorporate that too!) and glued it to the box and viola:


I have to say it turned out pretty well, much better than my crappy cell phone camera* conveys. I will have to track down at least one lumber car as I don’t have any to put these loads on.

*Yes I technically do have a decent Nikon DSLR that was my wife’s until I bought her a nicer one but she’s since run off with the kit lens for her own use leaving me without a lens.

Decal Time


A few days I go a friend had some decals, or as the Canadian’s call them “decals”* he had gotten from someone else he didn’t need so I took a bunch of them with hopes that I could find what I need for at least a couple of my otherwise stalled projects


Since I’ve never done decals before this is a bit of a motivator to try something new and get some stalled projects moving. Since most of the decals were BN I knew just the project to start with. I have this basic Bachmann 40′ gondola that ironically was originally BN but I repainted it several years ago and in the last year stripped and re-painted it BN green (The Good, the Bad, and the Masking Tape).


Prior to this it was painted entirely in flat Vallejo paint, but since a glossy surface is, as I understand it, better for decals I needed to make it glossy. I have had Vallejo gloss for a while but as I detailed in “I hate airbrushes” my airbrushes are all broken so I broke down and bought a cheap one at the local big box hardware store. And when I say cheap… it’s like a $10 single action. At that money it’s basically disposable and something I can practice with until I decided to take another stab at fixing my other ones or break down at get a quality airbrush.

*Yes I know the decal/decal pronunciation joke only works if it’s spoken but I did it anyway.

Printing Bricks

3D Printing, Trains

I’ve wondered for a while if it’d be possible to print walls, such as brick, for HO scale models. Not because it’d be the most efficient way to get brick sheet but because I didn’t have any brick sheet, and have some brick buildings I want to build, and I have a bunch of filament and a 3D printer why not try.

Live has kept me busy but I finally got around to it and modeled a parametric brick sheet in OnShape. My first attempt was using a 0.4mm nozzle which is the stock size for my printer… it was so bad I disposed of it immediately. I more recently tried a 0.2mm nozzle and had a little better results.

My first attempt exactly off standard dimensions as I found them online. This looks good in cad but just didn’t have enough definition. It was so hard to see straight off the printer I painted it white and then covered in a red. The hope was to catch just the brick faces and leave the white mortar.


That didn’t really work, a wall of it might pass as brick but just didn’t feel detailed enough (and would be nearly impossible to try and lighten the mortar lines as they are just too shallow and narrow.

The next attempt increased the depth and width of these lines (which was really easy thanks to parametric CAD!). This had better results in my quick paint test.


It was definitely an improvement* but I didn’t like how the gap was narrower on the horizontal to ground lines but bigger on the vertical (and this maybe a printer belt issue that’s too small to have noticed previously) and the inconsistency with the brick face bugged me a little so I made the bricks a tiny bit shorter and the horizontal gaps the same amount bigger.


Pulling it off the printer immediately showed the improvement* but painted it really seemed to pop a bit more, especially at a distance. If you get up really close the mortar lines look a little big but I’m thinking that looking good at 3 feet but maybe not 3 inches is better than looking good at 3 inches but not 3 feet.

Certainly there will be more experimentation but looks promising for printing larger wall sections than say Walthers modular system, and with details like doors and windows exactly where I want them… and without having to run to the hobby shop for supplies 🙂

For my quick tests I also found another use for my printer, specifically the part cooling fan. It makes a great small part paint dryer


* I typed this post up as I was printing and painting these tests but since it was getting a little late I called it a night with the intent of taking pictures the next day and finishing up the post. The next afternoon I didn’t really have time to finish the post but decided fairly quickly that my opinion from the night before was wrong and that the first batch looked better just with a little under extrusion problem on the bricks. I ended up comparing it to a commercially available brick building and the second two attempts ended up looking fairly bad in comparison with giant gaps between the bricks.

So from here I’m going to try and adjust the model back to what I had originally and change my painting method. Rather than painting red on white going to paint them red and then use a white wash to try and get the low spots which might work better with the smaller gaps

Teeny Tiny Pallets

3D Printing, Trains

Earlier this week I posted a teaser on my model railroading facebook page (which you can find here) on a 3D printing project I was working on asking if anyone could guess what it was that I had on this small pallet.


I was being a little bit cheeky in that the pallet these things are stacked on isn’t HO scale, it’s actually O scale (roughly).


Here they are painted and side by side (HO scale on the right and scaled up to 200% on the left which makes it basically O scale) and finished painting so it’s much easier to make them out. You may be thinking, why pallets and it all comes down to Luke Towan’s recent video on making pallets. Just to see if it’d work I made a quick model in CAD and took some stabs at printing it. These are a bit of a challenge to print because they are so small and because there is a lot of bridging. They don’t look as good from the underside and require a bit of cleanup before painting but I think they are pretty nice. This was another project I was able to use my Vallejo Old and New wood paint set to good effect.


This is a very small sample of the ones I haven’t finished up yet, I’ll probably be working on these for a few years.

I hate airbrushes



I was trying to do some airbrushing this evening to use my new spray box but just had a heck of a time trying to get it to spray. What I inadvertently discovered was that if I left parts 1 and 2 off (no idea what they are called) it would spray just fine. Obviously that’s not ideal since that leaves the needle in the open unprotected. If I put part 1 on the air feeds back into the paint reservoir. I have a second identical part 1 that does the same and even tried one for a larger needle but the exact same result.

I’m at a complete loss as to what to try next, if possible I’d like to avoid replacing it again since this is my 3rd airbrush. Do any of my readers have any ideas?