21 December 2009

Happy Holidays

Not much work done this time. Last week and the weekend in particular have been pretty cold. At least for the place where I live. So not very much work done on the layout.

I could only apply the Quickstick ties to my first hand-made turnouts that now are almost completed. Only painting rails and ties remains. Hopefully I'll post few photo soon.

A part from that, the previous weekend I laid down three pieces of flextrack and one turnout, just to give it a try with some locos and cars. I drop feeders to all three flextrack and connected together to the main bus lines. Again, more to come on this as well with few photo of my prototype electrical connections.

So far the loco I tested run quite well except for the GE 44 Tonner that stalls on the frog since it's not yet powered. Longer locos go through the turnout without any problems.

Hope to see you soon and in the meantime... Happy Holidays to everybody.

05 December 2009

QuadP test video

Few weeks ago I received what I ordered from Tam Valley Depot (see my previous post) so I wanted to try the servo decoders, both the QuadP and the Singlet.

This short video shows my first test with the QuadP connected to my PowerCab. Just one servo and its control panel are connected to the QuadP. It can drive four servos, though.

See you soon...

30 November 2009

Benchwork construction, part 18

This time I did some more work on the benchwork construction. I installed the supporting L-shaped metal beams for the second level on the left section. I used 10" metal brackets because they have a reduced vertical footprint and given the very tight vertical space I have available this is a must.
As for the lower floor I used a metal beam for modular shelves on the back side while on the front I used an alluminium L-shaped beam. The latter is clearly less robust and stiff but it's much more light and I think should be enough to support the subroadbed of the upper level.

To this end I'm thinking about using something different from the plywood used for the lower level. I bought a piece of extruded foam about 1" deep and looks like I could use that as the subroadbed for the the upper level. It's twice as deep as the plywood of the lower lever but it's much much more light.

Lastly I installed some pieces of what can be called fascia for the lower level. Actually is a strip of masonite 2" high, not really a fascia. However I'm planning to put turnout controls and socket panels for the DCC throttle on that.

See you soon...

25 November 2009

Digitizing my first loco

One of the last locos I bought came without a DCC decoder already installed. So, in my last order I included a Digitrax replacement decoder for it.
Since the loco it's an Atlas U25B I chose a Digitrax D163A0. There are few other type of decoder that are made specifically for that loco - from TCS and NCE if I remember correctly- but I thought the Digitrax is the best one and has a lot of features more than the others.

So, the last weekend I decided to start my first attempt at digitizing a loco. I was quite scared to damage the loco and the decoder in some way though I knew I had to try if I wanted to know how to do it and if I were able to do it.

The first step was to remove the shell and access the loco's splitted frame. The tank was pretty easy to remove but I had no idea on how to remove the shell. Then, I remembered articles, videos and photo on the internet where people started to remove the loco's cab first. So I begun to carefully remove the cab and after I unplugged the handrails from their holes in the cab it pulled out quite nicely.

The next step was the body shell. The rear side lifted very easily while the front side was a little more difficult. However pulling on the outside the walkway and handrails piece allowed the front of the shell to go up and been taken away. Finally, I removed the walkway from the split frame pulling it to the top o the loco.

At this point I had the factory installed PCB on top of the frame ready to be substituted by the snap-in decoder. To do that I loosen the two screws holding together the two frame halves and removed the PCB. This caused the two trucks to fall off the frame but that wasn't a real problem. It's very easy to put them in place.

Now it was the time to install the DCC board. Actually it was a little more difficult than expected since a had to be sure to put it into the right position and have the motor contact touching the corresponding contact pads on the board. However, I worked it out and put the two frame halves back together and tighten the screws. Don't forget to put the two trucks back in place before tightening the screws.

So, at this point the loco was ready for the very first test. I put it on the piece of flextrack I used for testing and selected the programming mode on my NCE PowerCab.
It worked at the first try. The PowerCab red the decoder type and version and the basic info correctly so I decided to exit the programming mode and try to operate the loco.
Headlights worked perfectly changing automatically from front to rear as changing the loco direction. Finally the most important test: running the loco. I increased the speed and it started moving perfectly slow and smooth. Everything was perfect, at least to me.
The loco moved very smoothly at very low speeds -it started crawling at speed-step 2 out of 128- and increased nicely up to full speed.

Last phase was mounting back the shell and all the remaining parts. It was a little easier to put all the pieces back now that I knew the correct order and how to do it. First the walkway then the body shell and last the cab. I put the handrails back into the cab's holes and that's it.

Now the loco was back on the test track for some more testing. I also reprogrammed few things in particular I added a small amount of momentum in order to have smoother speed transitions. The factory setting had no momentum set and wasn't very nice to see the loco stopping immediately when dropping the speed value suddenly to zero. I also changed the default short address 3 to the long 6702 corresponding to the loco's number.

Well, I'm very happy with the result of my first digitalization of a loco. Overall it wasn't that difficult mostly thanks to the use of a snap-in decoder that made the difficult part of the work very straightforward. A lease one point has to be improved, though. The front LED mounted on the DCC board is not shielded on the sides so the light emitted spreads into the whole cabin and not only through the headlight and number boards on the top front of the loco's cab. In fact the factory installed DC board has both the front and back LEDs covered with a black plastic film on the sides leaving only the tip of the LED free to emit light.

See you soon...

24 November 2009

Railmodeller Mac Fast-Track Library

I was thinking about my track plan and playing with my copy of Railmodeller for Mac and thought it would have been nice to have a railset for turnouts built using Fast-Track tools.

I googled for a while but didn't find anything. So, I decided to build one by myself. I printed out the track templates for N scale #6, #8 and 10# turnouts and started to create a library of symbols with components as close as possible to the templates.

I did a few printouts of the turnouts I created and seems they match quite nicely with the Fast-Track templates. Now, I can start to design my layout with a good approximation of the real result.

The library is still in "beta" and probably I'll have to correct few errors and problems but so far it's not too bad at all.

Contact me if you want to give it a try, it's distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.5 Italy License

See you soon...

18 November 2009

Tam Valley Depot turnout servos

Yesterday I received the stuff I ordered to TVD: one QuadP servo controller, one Singlet servo controller, five servo motors and a bunch of cables and accessories.

At a first sight all is perfectly done with a very high quality. I'm looking forward to doing a first test of the two controllers and servos the coming weekend.

Hopefully, I'll do some photos and maybe a short video. Just for fun.

See you soon...

16 November 2009

Benchwork construction, part 17

Yet another post of the "benchwork construction" saga. This time I completed the lower level with plywood boards. In the meantime, I added a new leg with gussets in the left corner to support the L metal girders correctly.
I tested the lifting system with the plywood in place and seems working rather well. The total weight of each section is growing, though. So I have to be very careful when adding new parts in order to keep the total weight at minimum.
To this end I'm not convinced to use L metal girders (actually legs for modular metal shelves) also for the upper level. Each L girder is quite heavy even if it's rigid and rather straight so I might decide to use something else as, for example, alluminium girders.

Well, that's it for now. Just few photos of the current status.

See you soon...

08 November 2009

Benchwork construction, part 16

Today, I mounted plywood boards of the first lower section of the benchwork. This section is a little less than 16" deep (actually 40cm) and almost 9' and 2" long. (299cm).
Plywood sheets are hold in place by wood screws from the top of plywood into small wood blocks below the metal beams. I know it's not a good practice to put screws from the top of the subroadbed since once scenicked they won't be visible anymore. However, I couldn't find an easier and lighter way to fix the boards to the metal beams.
In addition, wood blocks on the front will be used to hold the fascia panels as well.

I cut a small part of the plywood board in the corner to allow the other section to lift freely with no interaction with this lateral section. The missing subroadbed will be provided by the board on top of the second section.

I also started to build the bencwork for the upper level of the first section. During the week I bought a couple of removable shelf bracket about 14" 1/2 long and decided to try them out to see if it could be a solution to mount the upper level.
Since there will be no metal beams for the upper level I had to place a shelf bracket about halfway of the two legs. So, I mounted an additional vertical beam  in order to support the middle shelf bracket.
The other one is mounted on benchowork leg.

Below the lower level I put a short beam screwed to the angled gussets in order to reinforce the middle beam supporting the shelf bracket.

The distance between the two levels plywood to plywood i 9"1/2. Not very much, I know. Unfortunately I don't have a lot of vertical space and need to accomodate for a convenient vertical height for the upeer level.

See you soon...

04 November 2009

Video: benchwork status by October 2009

Here is a short video of the current status of the benchwork construction. Actually, the status as of today is a bit further toward completion. I did some more painting with a white base coating of the wooden parts a few more details here and there.
However, the video depicts quite well how is my benchwork now. And by the way, I hope this video has a better quality then the very first one. I shot this with a rather old Sony DV camera though much better than my old cell phone.

Hope you enjoy.

See you soon...

03 November 2009

New locomotives and rolling stock

As you can read in my previous post (sorry, older post are in Italian) I ordered three new diesel locomotives and three boxcars.
Finally, last Friday they've been shipped -one day I'll write a post on how good are the Italian Postal Service and the Italian Custom- so I could take few photos and do an intial test.

First, I'm very happy for what I've bought. For me, all three locomotives and the boxcars are very well done, work well and have very nice details. For sure I'm not an expert but... who cares the important thing is I'm satisfied with them, right?

Anyway, without further discussion here are the photo I took last Sunday. I temporarly put a piece of 1/2" plywood on top of one of the completed benchwork sections, took a couple of ME flextrack pieces hooked up to the NCE PowerCab and... voilĂ  let's run some loco for couple of feet.

Bachmann Spectrum GE 44-Ton Switcher unletterd with factory installed DCC decoder

LifeLike ProtoN EMD GP38-2 Low hood, SP #4827

Atlas GE U35B Phase 2A, SP #6702

ExactRail PC&F 6033 Cubic foot, Single door, 50'6" Boxcars, SP #659500, SP #659594 and SP #659655

Boxcar and underframe details

Some more photos of locomotives and boxcars

Actually, the LifeLike GP38-2 and the Atlas U25B Phase 2A aren't DCC equipped and still run on DC. So I had to ressurect my very very old Rivarossi DC power-pack to give them a try. However, I was impressed by the quality of the two locos in DC showing amazingly slow speed performaces and smooth operation. Hopefully, when I'll be able to put DCC decoders they'll run even better.

See you soon...

26 October 2009

First turnouts continued

In the past week I kept on working on my first two hand-made turnouts. So far I completed a left and a right #6 turnout. Still missing is the isolation of the frog -I need a jeweler saw- and to glue the quickstick ties.

Overall I'm rather satisfied with the results even though I have to improve in many of the steps in order to acheive both a good working and good looking turnout. For example I need to make better soldering applying less solder, make less evident gaps in the PCB ties and, most of all, be more precise when soldering the wing rails and the frog point in order to fully comply with the NMRA specifications.

Anyway, these are the lates photos taken.

On the left the first two turnouts with stock rails already filed and in place;
on the right the first completed turnout with frogpoints, guard rails and
switch point installed

Close-ups of the frog area and the point area

Hopefully, I'll do better with the next ones.

See you soon...

20 October 2009

Benchwork construction, part 15

During the last weekend I continued with the benchwork construcion. Now all the three framework sections of the lower level are completed and mounted on the legs with supporting gussets.

Last section of the U-shaped lower lever of the benchwork mounted on two legs with braces and gussets.

On top of the legs are two pulley to lift the entire section. Still missing is one of the two pulley mounted on the ceiling to complete the lifting mechanism. Mounted on the wall you can see one of the two folding brackets used to support the benchwork section when lifted up and the two slides to guide the vertical movement of the structure.

Next step is to apply a base paint to the wooden part of this section, mount the last pulley to the ceiling and start thinking how to build the sub-roadbed. Sheets of extruded foam? Plywood? Open grid wiht splines?

See you soon...

My very first hand-made turnout and few photos

I couldn't resist and wait for another week-end so I started building my very first turnout using the FastTrack material.
Before starting with the building process I took some photos of what I ordered. Here are few shots.

A bag of Micro Engineering code 55 rails and one of PCB ties

A pack of QuickStick #6 turnout ties, a complimentary laser-cut hex-wrench handler as shipped and mounted with a hex-wrench for the points/frog and stock-rail filing tools

Points/frog for #6 and stock-rail filing tools, code 55 #6 turnout fixture and a very nice N-scale FastTrack billboard I got for free in my order

Then I started building a left-hand turnout following (hopefully) the very well-done instructions and videos on the FastTrack website and on a CD included with the shipment.
So far I've cut the PCB ties to the right length then I cut the required gaps in order to isolate the rails and the frog. After that I cut, bent and filed the guard rails and made the frog point using the points/frog filing tool. Then cut the two stock-rails and filed the base of the rail web where the points will touch the stock rails using the stock-rail filing tool. Finally I soldered the stock rails to the ties.

Considering that it's been quite a long time since I used the soldering iron and all the rest I'm pretty happy for what I've done up to this point. Here's a photo of the current status.

Current status of my first turnout

See you soon with my progress on my first turnout construcion...