30 July 2010

Post #100 !

Warning: rather long post this one

I just realized this is going to be my post #100!
So, I decided it might be interesting to take a break and look back in the past two and a half years of this blog to see what happened so far. This could also be a chance to translate a little part of my older posts for those not understanding Italian.

So, let's start.

My very first post was in February 2008. I just started again interesting in this hobby and was browsing and reading the Web to get up to date with what happened in model railroading in the last twenty and more years. Two of the three assumptions I made in that post were correct: to build my layout in the garage and use NMRA-DCC. The scale, however, changed along the road from HO to N.

March went cleaning up the garage and working on the electrical power lines to have them suitable for a layout. I had a good idea of laying two separate electrical lines one for the room lights and one for the power sockets. This revealed to be a good choice. In the meantime the crazy idea of a liftable layout begun to take shape.

Work on the electrical plant continued in April. Also, I could make to visit perhaps the most important Italian model-related show. It was very fun to see a lot of very nice layouts, models and a lot of people and groups involved in modelling from RC airplanes to boats, from trains to slot cars.

An unexpected problem came out, then. Humidity coming off the ground would damage the bottom part of the walls and the stucco would come down to the ground creating a lot of dust. I decided to take away the damaged stucco and put terracotta tiles I had left from previous work to resolve the problem. This took a long time to complete since I never did something similar in the past by myself. I had to learn how to lay the tiles and to work with the special glue -actually it's like cement not glue- required to apply the tiles to the brick wall.
That work took all the summer, fall up to the end of November when I finally completed laying tiles on the walls.

In the meantime surfing the web I discovered the two model railroad podcast I'm still following now: The Scotty Mason Show and the Model Railroad Podcast from Ryan Anderson. That begun to put new ideas in my mind and while learning a lot about model railroading I also started to like US railways and their model more and more.

In fact, in December I posted my very first version of the layout project. Many things have changed since that initial project, however some points are still valid today. By the way, that project already saw the "switch" to N scale and the decision to model a US railroad.

January 2009 was dedicated to designing the benchwork initially thought as a set of sections made out of wood beams kept together by means of nuts and bolts. At that stage I didn't know it couldn't work because the entire structure was too flexible and couldn't stand the stress when raised from the floor to the ceiling.

Then I started to build the benchwork and fixed the guide rails on the side walls. By the end of February I reviewed my layout project and posted version 2 with many more details about era, prototype, locale, etc. I also decided I wanted a layout oriented towards realistic operation even though most of the times I'll be the only operator to play with it.

Benchwork construction continued while I found a pulley set that would fit my needs to lift benchwork sections to the ceiling. Actually the pulleys were designed to lift and hang bicycles but I thought that they would serve my needs. I then started to fix them to the ceiling and did the first test to lift the sections.

During May I bought my very first piece of N-scale rolling stock. A pair of wonderful Intermountain Southern Pacific EMD SD40T-2. They come from Denny Turani, a nice guy I got to know on the Internet who decided to sell most part of his collection. The locos are equipped with DCC decoders from Zimo and are nicely weathered. I was very excited when I first saw them and could appreciate the very nice level of details an N-scale loco can have.
During that period I also bought the whole series of DVDs from Joe Fugate's website and one from Scotty Mason's on Dick Elwell's Hoosac Valley Lines. Great DVDs, very well done. I could learn a lot from them and still learning.

Construction and assembly of benchwork continued in the next month. I also discovered a very interesting group of guys: the Italian FREMO N scale group. On June they held the annual meeting and I planned to attend for the first time as a visitor. Unfortunately I couldn't go to the meeting because of family problems. However, I got even more interested in realistic operations and started to think to be part of the FREMO group building one or two FREMO modules.
My second purchase was some Microengineering code 55 and code 40 flextrack pieces. I bought them online from Model Train Stuff and since then I never had a problem and they offered a great service with good selling prices.

In July I stared my personal YouTube channel. Not very much to post there yet, though. I also continued my shopping season with a DCC system: a NCR PowerCab and few accessories I bought online from Litchfield Station. I'm very happy for my PowerCab. It's very easy to use yet powerful enough for my needs, at least for now. And it came also at a very interesting price.
At that time I realized that a sectional benchwork made of wood wouldn't have never been strong enough to stand the stress of raising and lowering. So I changed idea. Thrown away all the wood sections and bought 10 feet L-shaped iron beam usually used to build metal shelves. I also used gussets to keep the benchwork square to the legs.
I realize now how my way into this hobby is to jump here and there maybe to keep my interest alive. In fact, after a lot of benchwork re-contrstruction I tested my DCC system for the first time with the two SD40T-2. I was really amazed how they worked thanks to the programming of Danny. Excited by that I bought a bunch of other locos from LifeLike, Atlas and Bachmann as well as the first batch of cars.

Layout designed continued refining the second version thanks to a lot of very useful info from Byron Henderson. So, the plan begun to take the current shape. In the meantime benchwork was still my main focus and continued to replace wood sections and to attach pulleys to the ceiling. At the end of September another big change: I switched this blog to English, so since then you can follow what happened directly.

I've always been interested in Fast-Track's products and thought they were very good, so I decided to give them a try and in October I did my first order of everything needed to build code 55 #6 turnouts.
As soon as I received all the stuff I made my first attempts at building turnouts and was rather surprised to see I could build quite good turnouts. I really liked Fast-Track's jigs and all the rest and more recently I bought what's needed to build #8 turnouts as well.

I shot a short video of the status of the bencwork constructions and posted on my YouTube channel along with photos of my growing rolling stock collection on my Picasa albums.
I also purchase plywood pieces for the "by then" lower level of the benchwork. During November I received my order to Duncan McRee's Tam Valley Depot for some servos and DCC controllers to move turnout points automatically. Then, I started another completely different kind of project: digitizing a loco. I used a drop-in replacement decoder from Atlas for the Atlas U25B and I liked it a lot, so much I decided to digitize the LifeLike non-DCC ready loco by myself. A much more complicated project.

In December I did a short video testing my TVD servo decoder and nothing more while my rolling stock kept growing. In fact, beginning of the new year I received two new awesome Kato NW-2 that I then digitized using drop-in decoders from Digitrax again. I also shot a longer video of me digitizing the loco.

My set of self-made turnouts kept growing with #8 and #6. In February I posted the next to last version of my layout project, called version 2.1. Then I felt ready to digitize the GP38 following a very good tutorial found on the internet. It wasn't so easy but it's been fun and the final result is rather good, I think. Version 2.2 of the layout project was posted thanks again to some very useful suggestions from Byron and few other guys on the ITA-USA Model Railroad forum. I also taped together a 1:1 scale print of the layout did a test fit on the real plywood. Not too bad so far.

Following a very good post on the DIY Photography blog I built a very simple light tent and started using it to take picture of my cars and locos. Photos started to be much better than those taken directly on the plywood.
Then, It was the time for backdrop. Having discarded the idea of a double deck layout backdrop installation and painting was the next step in line to be done.

Again another jump into a completely different project, I laid down the wires for the DCC bus all around the three sections of the benchwork. In May I continued backdrop preparation and started experimenting how to paint a realistic sky with clouds. I looked for some tutorials on the web and YouTube and started my first attempts. I've never been very good at painting or drawing and this was a hard project for me.

By the end of June I completed the required set of turnouts and kept trying to paint the sky and clouds. I was improving my skills but not quite done yet.

And finally here we are at the end of July. Still a lot of work to be done, a lot of completely new projects to face and a lot of fun. It's been about two years and a half since a started again this hobby and it's been a great fun. I learned a lot of new things, from building benchwork to painting skies, from shooting videos to having a blog and a twitter account.
I also knew a lot of new guys -at least electronically- and hopefully shared and helped someone to know and enjoy this hobby.

So, that's it for now and really looking forward to post #200!

See you soon...

05 July 2010

Well... I did it!

I've been thinking when I would have made my first mistake. Well, I did it.
Actually, I made a lot of mistakes so far, building wooden benchwork sections to be connected together is an example -I replaced them with metal L-shaped beams.

However, this is the real first error I made because I felt to confident in my model railroad knowledge and went on without double checking my steps.

Recently I purchased a very nice Atlas EMD GP35 along with a DCC decoder: a Digitrax DN163A0. Well, that's the wrong drop-in replacement decoder for that loco. It's too long to fit into the split frame of this loco. In fact, the right decoder is a DN163A2.

Not a very big problem, I just have to wait to purchase a new decoder and hopefully recycle the wrong one on a new loco. At least now I have a reason to buy me another new loco.

See you soon...