Again, it’s been some time since I last posted. It’s been busy, and there’s not been a huge amount of time for actually working on the layout or playing with model trains. Which is a bummer.
With that said, I’ve been busy with a couple of projects.
Cool Controls for Turnouts
First, I’ve been working with Kevin at Berrett Hill on a new system for turnout control. The goal was to replace the toggle switch with something easy to install, wire and configure. It’s very cool, and the first phase of products is available now, for folks using Tortoise and other 12V stall-motor switch motors. Next up will be a control board for people like me who use servo motors. Also on the way are versions for twin-coil switch motors. Keep an eye on the Berrett Hill web site for information.
The Bridge at Mount Harris — Common Hill
I finally got around to ordering a bridge for the end of the peninsula. Hunter Line sell an 81′ trestle, and while the kit is for a straight trestle, I have been assured that it can also be built on a curve. The S-scale version is appropriately sized for On30 (or On2 or On3, for that matter). I should get it some time next week, and will start on construction pretty quickly.
Modules and DCC
After the last couple of train shows, I came to the conclusion that if I never setup another modular layout, it would be too soon. I think it’s mostly because of late, there have only been two of us around for setup and tear down. Really, it’s just too much. Subsequently, I no longer have a “portable” DCC/programming system. My NCE Powerhouse Pro system is now permanently installed over my loco and rolling stock bench, along with a nicer Dell computer system for decoder setups and programming. I’ll have a programming/test track there as well.
For the layout itself, I have a pair of Digitrax DB150 boosters that, in “dumb booster” mode work fine with the NCE command station. And, while I’ll certainly be running a throttle buss out for NCE cabs, I’ll also be taking full advantage of the capabilities of J/MRI to allow people with smartphones to operate the layout. There are two ways to accomplish this — there are Android and iOS apps available for free or cheap. For those who don’t wish to install the apps, I can define custom web-based throttles for each locomotive. Slick.
More DCC — Sound Decision
I also decided that, going forward, all new locomotive sound installations are going to use ESU/LokSound decoders. There are several reasons behind this move, which include great sound quality, excellent pricing and a great feature set.
Some of the key benefits to the LokSound decoders are that the sound set can be changed. For instance, today I ordered two of their Select Micro decoders. One is a generic small steam loco set, and the other is for a diesel using an Alco 6-cylinder prime mover. The steam sounds will be fine as-is, but I know that I’ll probably want to use a “Galloping Goose” sound set in the other one when it becomes available for the new series of decoders. When the time comes, I’ll buy their programmer (or borrow a friend’s) and download the sound file.
In addition to changing out sounds, I can “roll my own,” if I want to. That includes things like changing out the whistles for recordings of the exact whistle from a prototype engine, if I want. I know full well that’s not exactly trivial, but having done that kind of work for several years, I got pretty good at it, if I do say so myself.
Another advantage is that there is no modification required if I want to add “keep alive” electronics. A keep alive will keep the engine moving and making sound over dirty track and dead switch frogs. Unlike Soundtraxx, ESU provide handy solder pads on the decoder circuit board to ease the task.
New Passenger Equipment
At the recent Mid-Hudson On30 Meet, I picked up a new passenger car shell kit for the railroad. The Mount Blue Model Company has issued a few new kits recently, including this really nice RPO designed to fit on a Bachmann coach chassis. They also have a “private” parlor car kit that I wish I had picked up, but I thought I was running a little short of cash. I’ll probably order the parlor car in the next couple of months.
“New” Addition to the C&S Locomotive Fleet
I’ve been waffling about adding one more locomotive to the C&S roster, and after a little more soul-searching (and a little drooling) at the Bunker Hill Model Train Club show last weekend, I finally decided to go ahead and pull the trigger on that project.
I have had sitting around a Bachmann outside-frame 4-4-0 for some time. It’s a Mexican prototype, and as such, has an overly-tall cab profile. It’s a neat loco, but I have no idea why I bought the thing (except that it’s a neat loco). Anyway, some time ago, I saw pictures on the web of a model modified by Don Mason (I think it was) that had much more of a “Maine look.” The gist of the conversion was moving the cab back about 1/2″ and lowering it by a bit over 1/4″. Since then, Alan Carroll has been making similar models for sale through John Weigel’s Peterboro Railroad. John had one at the recent shows, and I had a good chance to look at it (and also, to talk to Alan at the Mid-Hudson meet). I decided that this would be a pretty easy conversion. I already have many of the parts on hand, so it’s mostly a matter making the time to do it.
So, that’s about it for now. As we settle into late fall and winter, I’m hoping that there will be more time for modeling — and more regular updates here.