Saturday, December 29, 2012

Hello Old Friends..

Back while I was building the layout with an eye towards running with battery power I felt funny.. It seemed surreal laying track and not doing all the wiring that goes along with it.  When I was building my N Scale L&HR layout, I had gotten quite good at wiring, and it was second nature by the time I finished with that part of the layout building process.  And when it was time to start a new layout in my new home, the East Broad Top based one just before this current layout, I was comfortable in the knowledge I would have no problems wiring it.  The funny feeling I was having with this current layout was almost a guilty feeling, crazy as it seems.  This was way to easy, building without wires.  All of my friends were still using the tried and true system of wiring for DCC.  I was somehow cheating.  I know.. it's crazy, but if the battery system would have panned out for me, It would have saved all the work of wiring.  It just didn't feel right though.

But now that I've finished dropping all the feeders ahead of schedule, I took out the crates that contained all of my DCC components, and all of the bus wires that I set up for the EBT layout.  As I spread everything out on the floor and took inventory of what I have on hand, a warm feeling came over me as I remembered the struggles of putting these components together for my last layout and everything I learned building that layout.  All the memories of the guys coming over and working on the layout with me: the fun, the camaraderie, the constant flinching every time I heard something bang or crash and the words that followed- "Don't worry.. it's only Ted's layout!"  It all brings back happy thoughts of times past.  Maybe it's just that time of year but as I looked at all my DCC components I felt like I was seeing old friends again.  A comfortable, but also exciting feeling came over me that things are moving quickly now, and soon this layout will be up and running. :)

It was like friends who I haven't seen in years.  I was feeling happy as I took inventory of what I had on hand for DCC components.

An idea taken from my friends who are involved in N-Trak is to use Power Werx, Powerpole connectors between modules/sections.  N-Trak had been using what was called Cinch-Jones connectors for many years.  But as they become more hard to find and expensive to boot, they needed another easy way to connect modules at shows.  The answer has been the Powerpole connectors.  I had set up a bunch of 4' plus long bus wires with these connectors on each end for the EBT layout that never got built.  I'm leaning towards keeping this setup, but I'm worried about them accidentally getting disconnected during a session.  I might also just run new bus wires and if the time comes to move just cut them. 

Power Werx Powerpole connectors.

Easy connect and disconnect makes it simple to isolate a section of the layout if needed and also makes it easy come moving day.. if that ever happens.

I think the relief of finally knowing which control system I was going to employ on the layout has given me the inspiration to move quickly, and get more accomplished.  Feeders are all in, bus wires going up, DCC system is being installed, I found the 4 Frog Juicers I misplaced (with two more to come shortly). I'm in a happy place.. Till of course the first time a train stalls out on dirty track.. ;)

Happy New Year everyone!  The best from my family to yours!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Installing feeders Gangnam Style...

We're on Christmas break this week so I've been making the most of my time and have installed feeders on all of the main sections of the layout.  I also started getting them installed on the helix and should have that done by the weekend.  After that, the only section left to add feeders to would be the York Station section.  But there is no track on it yet, so that makes it very hard to add feeders, but I digress..

By the beginning of next week I should be able to start installing the bus wires and start connecting the feeders to them.  I also need to figure out where I will put my DCC system and circuit breaker boards.  I have everything already mounted on Masonite (from my previous layout) so it's just a matter of finding the optimal spot under the layout to locate and install everything. 

As most of you who have been following this blog for awhile know, I do get distracted by iPhone Apps from time to time. Angry Birds Space (how could you resist birds with light sabres) and Bad Piggies (The Pigs from Angry Birds and the whole saga from their point of view.. Oh and Rovio.. UPDATE PLEASE!!) have been the most recent time killers, but the latest App to waist my time, in a fun way of course, has been the Gangnam Dance Booth.  Gangnam Style is taking the world by storm, so instead of boring you with more pictures of dangling feeders I give you:

Hey maybe I'll follow George Dutka's lead and make it a weekly feature if you like it!  I can have one of my friends each week dancing Gangnam Style.  It could be called Gangnam Style Saturdays!  I think the Commodore will be up first. ;)

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year to Everyone!

You know Rudolph, if you had a Hex Frog Juicer you wouldn't be having these short circuit problems...

Friday, December 14, 2012

"Along the Black and Blue.."

Darel Leedy has been posting some interesting historical newspaper articles on his blog: 

that describe, sometimes in gruesome detail, events and accidents that occurred in Dickey CO during the time frame he's modeling.  Some of the more recent posts have talked about brakeman who were killed and mangled while working.  

These stories brought back horrible memories of a series of incidents that all happened one day on Perry Squier's Pittsburg, Shawmut & Northern RR.  I had always admired Perry's layout and this day was to be the first time I ever had to chance to operate on it.  All was going well, and the layout ran as smoothly as everyone told me it would.  That was until about two thirds of the way through the session when I heard a loud uproar of guys yelling "OHHHH NOOOO!" and then hysterical laughter ensued.  I went around the other side of the peninsula from where I was working on a local, and spotted what all the commotion was about.  It was awful!  The engineer of the train working that area had run over a brakeman flagging another train which was just up ahead!  All you could see was the poor brakeman's arm (still holding onto the flag BTW) sticking out from underneath the front pilot truck of the engine!  The engineer (who will remain nameless, but he does get excited over feeders for some reason) was fifty shades of red and all the witnesses were making comments like "OH MY GOD YOU KILLED HIM!" and "OHHH the humanity!"  Luckily I had the presence of mind to take pictures for.. um.. let's just say evidence, just in case the superintendent ever wanted to blackmail him. ;)

Poor fella.. Still holding onto his flag.  Doing his job till the bitter end..

Amazingly, after the superintendent conducted his inquiry, he allowed the engineer to stay on the job!  Tragically, the same engineer was involved in another accident later in the session, which resulted in livestock being killed.  While working a stockyard, the engineer was backing his train into the siding and for reasons unknown to anyone, part of the stockyard pen fencing was snagged by a moving boxcar.  This caused the cattle inside the pen to panic resulting in several of them being hit and killed by the train with one actually being run over!

Ground beef...

A very eventful and tragic day on the Shawmut.  Luckily, I've attended several more sessions since then and I'm happy to report I haven't witnessed any more deadly accidents. :)

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Feeder Frenzy..

"Hey DiIorio! I thought you said way back when that you were going to use battery powered locos so you wouldn't have to do all that tedious wiring?"  Well.. Um.. I did say that I wanted to do that but.. well I changed my mind OK?

Actually there's more to the story than that.  A few months back I started to have some reservations about the LiPo battery powered wireless systems.  As I researched the LiPo batteries, I was finding out that under some operating conditions, and during recharging, they give off a lot of heat and if you do a search on YouTube of exploding LiPo batteries you will see what can happen if you are not careful charging them the right way!  Maybe it's the shop teacher in me, but I'm always cognizant of safety issues and potential hazards.  

On my old layout in my former home I made sure there were egresses to exits from every point of the layout.  It amazes me how little thought is given to getting your crew members out of the layout fast and safely in case of an emergency.  I remember operating on Cal Winter's FEC layout in Miami during the Fort Lauderdale NMRA convention and feeling very uneasy about being in the layout room.  There was one door only and when all the operators were in the layout room (up to 20) 3 bridges were put in place across the doorway and the door SHUT.  If there would have been a fire we would have been toast.  It didn't help that Cal was outside keeping an eye on staging and not in the room with us.

On this new layout, I worry about anything that could cause a hazard to my guests, or my family.  The potential for at the very least, melted plastic steam engine tenders, or in the worst case, a fire started by a LiPo battery, had me weighing these hazards against the benefits of wireless battery operated trains.  In the end, the logistics (fitting all the hardware into the small steam engines I have, designing an accessible quick disconnect to get batteries out of the engines to charge them in a safe place i.e. outdoors) along with the potential safety concerns finally sealed the argument against the battery system.  I still think it's a neat system, but I'd maybe only revisit using it in a larger scale, like O-Scale narrow gauge. That's not going to happen anytime soon, though.

So.. I now have started dropping feeders and thus began the process of wiring the layout.  This doesn't bother me as much as it does other people, and I don't really mind putting in feeders and wiring in general (NO I'M NOT GOING TO COME OVER AND DO ALL YOUR WIRING FOR YOU.  I said I don't mind it on my own layout.  I don't LIVE to do wiring. :P ) and I already in the past two days dropped feeders on 90% of the York yard sections.  

One night I put on my Ben Harper Pandora station and sat at my work bench and stripped and prepared a large bunch of feeders.  I stripped one end and then bent and flattened the end to look a little bit like a spike head.

The underbelly of York yard and a bunch of feeders installed.  3m Scotch Lock connectors will be used to tie them into the bus line.

The topside of York yard with feeders ready to be lowered and soldered to the flextrack.

My goal is to drop 15-20 pair of feeders each time I work on the layout (which is exactly what I did in 1 1/2 hours tonight) and I figure I'll have the bulk of this done within the next two weeks along with running the bus lines for the DCC system.  Now, if I could only remember where I stored all those Frog Juicers I thought I wasn't going to need...

Monday, December 3, 2012

This progress report is made possible by Black Friday and the number 10,000...

The lines at the mall started around 7pm in anticipation of it opening at 12 midnight...There were people camped out all week at Best Buy... There were near riots at Victoria's Secrets over under garments.. I love Black Friday!  Not because I go out to fight the crowds to get the big bargains, because I don't.  No, I love Black Friday because the girls head out in the wee hours of the morning to go shopping for the entire day, and I get some honest to goodness me time!  Which this year I put to good use working on the layout.

My Black Friday dinner.  Does it get any better than fine wine, and awesome thin crust pizza from Ciro's in Matawan NJ?  I don't think so. :)

So starting on Black Friday on through to this past weekend I made a major push to try and get all of the sub roadbed and track laying completed.  I glued down all the track that still needed it, I glued down the Styrofoam base on the removable York Station scene and built the two removable active staging modules. I also glued down Styrofoam and cork onto the modules.  This past weekend I also picked up two Atlas wye turnouts at the Greenberg Train Show in Edison NJ to use on the staging modules.  

All the pieces are cut for the two staging modules.

Staging module framework is finished in this picture and is just waiting for the Styrofoam base to be glued on.

Ready for roadbed.

Here are the two staging modules with the cork roadbed glued down.  Behind them is the York Station area module with its foam base glued on. 

The staging modules are active fiddle type staging areas with each track able to hold 7- 40' boxcars.  The longest trains anticipated to be run on the layout would be trains number 31 and 32, the two manifest trains that ran between Baltimore and York each day. They each will be about 12-14 cars long.  Most of all the other trains that are run during a op-session will be either short locals, or the two car passenger runs, so I anticipate the staging modules will be more than big enough.  The two staging modules along with the York Station scene are portable and are not connected to the layout when there is no operating session.

Lower deck with staging module shown at the end of the York Station scene.

The upper deck showing the staging module at the end of the Red Lion scene.

I have to get around to revising the plans shown above because what I have built to date has varied in some areas and is no longer accurately portrayed on the plan.  Mainly this is because of acquiring accurate track maps of the areas being modeled which caused me to modify the track arrangements on the fly while building the layout.  Notice that the staging modules show one track instead of the two actually being laid down.  I originally wanted to use something I saw on quite a few Ian Rice track plans, staging cassettes, but decided against it and went with a simple two track fiddle yard arrangement instead.

Sometime this week I'm going to try and get the York Enginehouse and York Station modules up on their legs and attached to the layout along with the staging modules.  I need to get roadbed and track down on them, then I'll disconnect them again while I work on the rest of the layout.

On a final note: Sometime within the last week, the blog had its 10,000th visitor.  I was so busy dealing with family issues that it quietly slipped by me.  Thank you again to everyone who has taken the time to read this blog!  I'm not, nor ever claimed to be, a professional writer and I know it probably shows quite often.  But I hope you will forgive me for the occasional butchering of the English language here and hopefully you enjoy the blog and sometimes get something useful out of it.  Thank you again from the bottom of my heart!

Tune in next time for:


 Oooooooo.. He said Feeders!

I'll explain it in the next post.