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Kimberton 2016 Meet “Report”

I’ve just returned home from this year’s Mid-Atlantic Narrow Gauge Guild Module Meet (affectionately know as “Kimberton”), and thought some of you might want to know how the meet went. I enjoyed seeing many long-time friends, and shooting the breeze, both at the fairgrounds and on the porch at the French Creek Inn.

Attendance was down a little over last year, which was disappointing, and most dealers reported slow sales. As usual, since I go into a show with no expectations, I consider that I did quite well — I was able to go to the show and sell or barter off a number of items that I’ll never use, come home with a few items of higher value that I will use, and also bring home the same amount of cash I left with. Aces!

Wes White Spends Money!I didn’t take any pictures at the show — except for capturing this rare occurrence:

For those who are not sure what you’re looking at, I can understand. It’s something most people have never seen. It’s a rare sighting of Wes White spending money at a train show. Even I, The On30 Guy™, have only witnessed this three times in the past 16 years. Do notice, though, how tight a grip he still has on the cash!

2016-05-22 17.09.11In another news flash, the French Creek Inn has remodeled, and also increased the number of non-smoking rooms available in the process. The new decor borders on swank! They did, however, retain the strange, square toilets, and internet access there is still pretty bad.

I mentioned above that I picked up a couple of items at the show, both of which will find homes on the layout. First, I acquired another structure from the bench of Al Judy. This building will mostly finish out the collection of structures for a small town in a corner of the layout.

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The arrangement features three structures built by Al — a “general store”, a re-purposed sawmill structure, and this new business (I’m not quite sure what it’s going to be just yet). With all the buildings built by Al here, I’m thinking this town may get the name “AJ’s Corner”. The town still needs a structure or two between the tracks and the wall. I’m thinking that they’ll be low-relief buildings, probably the backs of one or two residences (Al, are you reading this?), and I’ll need to add a loading dock or shed to the back of the general store building.

As part of the same deal with Al, I picked up an old Madruga Model Works kit for an SR&RL flanger. It’s designed to be an On2 kit, so it will require a little modification for On30. As with a number of the kits I’ve picked up recently, it’s anything but a “shake-the-box” kit. It’s not even a laser-cut kit.2016-05-22 17.49.09 “Box of sticks” is a more apt description. But, it will make a perfect companion to the much-more-recently-released Portland Locomotive Works snow plow on the MOW track in Corinna.

One thing I’m struggling with is what to do with a couple of high end HO-scale kits. These were expensive, Micro-Scale Models craftsman kits, that build into beautiful models. I’ve got them priced very fairly, and yet I’ve been dragging them around from show to shows for at least fifteen years now. I really can’t believe that no one wants them. I’ve snapped some pictures of the box labels, which you can see below. If any of these look interesting to you, contact me. The prices are what I’ve been asking (all are discounted, some significantly), and some may be a pain to ship, but I’m sure something can be worked out.

Bachmann EZ-App / BlueRail Trains RS-3 First Impressions

EZAPPRS3I picked up one of the Bachmann EZ-App HO RS-3s to assess its suitability for a dead rail conversion. The plan, overall, is to use the mechanism and electronics to power an On30 “doodlebug.” For my use, I didn’t really care about the roadname, so my Bachmann pusher got me a Pennsy unit like the one shown here.

My initial tests have been on powered track, using an MRC Tech III power pack. The pack has reasonably accurate meters for voltage and current, and can reliably deliver a couple of amps to the rails at up to about 14V, so it’s a decent test supply for model trains.

2016-01-22 08.38.47For my initial tests, I followed Bachmann’s included instructions closely. I downloaded the app to my iPhone 6s, powered on the loco, and launched the app. And … nothing. It took several attempts to get the app to recognize the new loco. Once the app found the RS-3, I was able to change the loco name, and it recognized it every time I powered up the loco.

When everything’s powered up, and you first launch the app, you’ll see a list of your locos, and options to connect or disconnect. Locos that you’ve accessed in the past, but are not currently powered on will read as “not available.”

2016-01-22 08.37.31The app allows for standard, single train control, or a mode which allows control of multiple locos from a single device. So far, since I only have a single EZ-App loco, I’ve just used the standard control. By default, the throttle layout is what Bachmann refers to as “classic.” There’s a big slider for speed, and buttons for direction, long horn blast, short horn blast, bell, and lights. There’s also a little fly-out menu for some additional sounds.

Speaking of the sounds … The sound implementation is a little strange. Instead of coming from the locomotive, the sound is produced by the phone. And frankly, they’re horrible. The diesel sound is a generic EMD prime mover, and sounds to me like a turbo-charged EMD 645. There are loops for the throttle notches and sounds that ramp between the notches. Unfortunately, the loops don’t match well to the transitions, and there are often gaps in the sound when ramping up and down. The horn sounds sort of like a 5-chime Wabco, and while the short sound is passable, the long horn is one of the worst jobs of looping I’ve ever heard. The bell, if you can call it that, is reminiscent of the old PFM sound system bell, only worse.

2016-01-22 08.37.41 2016-01-22 08.37.49Moving back to the app, there are two other versions of the throttle display available. I prefer the one called retro.

In order to move the train, you need to first tape the start-up/shut-down control. The noise will begin, and after the startup sound finishes, you should have control of the train. Sliding up the throttle control will cause the loco to move out smoothly. Control is reasonably good, and the loco seems to run well. Tapping the “gear” icon reveals an advanced settings screen which allows adjusting momentum effects and maximum speed. What I don’t see are controls to change the interpretation of what “forward” is. This is important for locos like the RS-3, as some railroads ran them long-hood forward, while others ran them short-hood forward. I also don’t see any provision for consisting.

My next tests were to see what the lowest acceptable operating voltage would be. The results were certainly not optimal for 2-cell LiPo packs. At full charge voltage (8.4v), operation was fine. However, as I decreased the voltage, performance degraded rapidly. At 7.4v, the loco would run about 40% of the time, and a 6v, there was no response at all, except that the head and back lights would flash indicating low voltage. Simulating a 3-cell pack, the results were better. I quickly realized, though, that there is no low-voltage cut-off for LiPo batteries! A 3-cell pack should never be allowed to drop below 9V, and as noted, the loco still runs with the voltage below that minimum.

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I opened the model up to access the board and see if there was any indication of a way to remedy this. The BlueRail board, while very large, is well labeled, mostly. There are only a couple of mystery connections (one, labeled “+ SC -“, and a series of jumper positions). The board looks well made, but is much larger than it needs to be, leaving plenty of potential for miniaturization. The only part that can’t be changed is the Rigado Smart Bluetooth module, which handles all of the communications and control functionality. The external parts are for the power supply (left 1/3 of the board), high-current switching and motor drive (middle of board), and LED drivers for up to 4 LEDs.

BlueRailThere has been indication from BlueRail Trains that future boards will feature provision for battery connections. Hopefully, low-voltage cutoff will be a part of that functionality.

I will be continuing with the conversion project, and will post updates as I progress.

 

 

All in Another Day’s Work

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More work today! There’s roadbed now all the way around to the Searsport yard throat, and track has been laid or filled in all the way up to that weird, tricky little corner. What’s more, a train can run and stay on the track the whole way — when it doesn’t run into a tool…

 

Sorry about the wonderful hand-held iPhone video. But hey, it is HD! Here’s another slideshow. I could’ve sworn I took more stills. Ah, well. Tomorrow…

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Tomorrow sometime, we’re going to go see the new Star Wars: The Force Awakens movie again, but I’ll also try to get track in as far as I can. I should be able to finish the run all the way to Searsport. That’s when things will really start to get interesting….

Back to Working on the Railroad

It’s been a busy couple of days on the railroad! Thursday, Kevin came over again and we got some benchwork in, and yesterday I went down and finished those projects up. There’s now continuous benchwork from Corinna all the way around to the upper yard throat at Searsport! Here’s a collection of pictures of the progress …

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Next order of business is to get some roadbed down on the new sections, and then some track! I’m down to my last few sections of roadbed, and my local hobby shop was just about out, too. I’ve ordered a couple of boxes. Hopefully, the mainline can be completed in the next week!

At some point soon, I’ll also need to tackle the modifications to Corinna which will make the yard function better as a terminus — the current arrangement only really works as a mid-line facility.

The Millennium Falcon Flies Again!

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Kevin came by today to drop off a large lateral file cabinet and to play the part of Chewbacca to help get the end of the peninsula (which I dubbed the Millennium Falcon because of it shape) back up on legs after its mysterious crash landing a couple of weeks ago. We actually managed to get it back into exactly the same position it was in before the unexpected landing.

We used the same legs again, but this time, we were smart enough to use a piece of wood to tie the peninsula in temporarily so that it won’t fall again between now and when we get the benchwork filler in place.

And, with that, we’re back on track….

Receiver Wiring Diagram for New On30 Guy™ Starter Sets

Effective immediately, starter sets are shipping with the pre-made battery packs and simplified wiring components. And new components in the set require a new wiring diagram. It’s finally ready. The new scheme requires fewer connections, and is less complicated. This wiring diagram replaces the one in the Primer, and is part of the Dead Rail Primer download package in the shop.

DELTANG RECEIVER WIRING V.15.12.08
DELTANG RECEIVER WIRING V.15.12.08

WW&F #9 Is Running!

Boy, was I ever in the wrong place yesterday!

Yesterday, at 2:45PM, WW&F #9 made her first moves under steam since June of 1933 at the Wiscasset, Waterville & Farmington Railway Museum in Alna, Maine. Unfortunately, I wasn’t there, but a couple of other fans were, and shared some video. I hope you enjoy these as much as I do!

Thanks to YouTube user bunky41058 for those clips!

Eric Schade put together this nice video. It’s about 20 minutes long, and is a good look at yesterday’s festivities.

Eric posted the following on his YouTube page, along with the video:

She was built in 1891 by the Portland Company in Portland Maine. She served the Sandy River Railway as #5 then Sandy River and Rangely Lakes RR as #6 until 1924 when she was purchased by the Kennebec Central wearing the number 4. when that line closed in January 1933 she was purchased by the Wiscasset, Waterville and Farmington RR and served for a few months before that line closed in June. She was rescued from the cutting torch by Frank Ramsdell and William Monepenny and spent the next 60 some years in a shed on the Ramsdell farm in Connecticut before heading back to Maine and the WW&F Railway Museum. Restoration work started in 2006 and is largely the result of volunteer labor.

This is very exciting, and Donna and I are thrilled to have been able to participate in the project to, as donors whenever possible. If you’re at all interested in the Maine 2-Footers, we encourage you to join the Wiscasset, Waterville & Farmington Railway Museum.

Big changes coming to the Corinna & Searsport

My, but it’s been quiet around here, especially where the layout is concerned. There’re a few reasons, but the most important is that I’ve found that I am just really unhappy with a very large portion of the layout — the peninsula that encompasses Plymouth, Mount Harris/Common Hill, and Brooks. The shape of the peninsula forced awkward track arrangements and its position in the room won’t make the visual impression I’m after.

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So, very soon, I’ll be removing the peninsula. Corinna Mill we remain where it is, and Corinna itself will also remain largely unchanged. Also, all of the new benchwork constructed for what are now Swanville and Waldo will remain. A new section of benchwork will be built to bridge the gap between the remaining benchwork. I’ll try to re-orient the peninsula so that it faces the other way, but I’m probably going to have to build a new peninsula to replace it.