Friday, March 29, 2013

Houston, we have a problem...

Green lights good.. Red lights BAD.  I was seeing nothing but glaring red LED short indicator lights burning on my main power control panel and it was giving me fits. 

Houston.. We have a problem..

Each and every section I brought online showed a short and I started eliminating possible causes one by one.  Checked under the layout for cross fed feeders, looked for shiny metal objects laying across the tracks, checked the inputs and outputs to the breakers from the bus lines.. Nothing fixed it.  In a moment of despair I reached out to the guys in our round robin group for answers and possibly a visit to have extra sets of eyes to look for the problem.  Both Dave Ramos and Craig Bisgeier told me to recheck the PC ties on the Fast Tracks turnouts to make sure the cuts in the ties were complete with no traces of copper connecting both rails.  I had already gone over every single one with a file but still was getting shorts in each block.  Finally it dawned on me to pull up the PDF file of a Fast Tracks Turnout template (you can get these for free on the Fast Tracks website) and make sure I cut every tie that needed to be cut to prevent shorts.  Low and behold I saw one tie, right above the frog, that needed to be gapped and when I checked each turnout on the layout I realized I did not do this.  Every single turnout had the same mistake.  At least I'm consistent.  So after going over every single turnout to correct the mistake, I got what I was looking for.. All green lights on the power panel. 

All systems GO!

Ah.. The sweet smell of success!  Or is that just the smell of PC tie dust from rotary tool grinding?  Anyway, below are two short videos of both #6 and #28 running on different parts of the layout under DCC control.  :) 

Thanks go out to Dave and Craig for helping figure out the fix.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Helix Calculator Redux..

As I started to prepare a clinic on the trials and tribulations of designing, and building the backbone style helix on my layout, I found out that doesn't exist anymore and the helix calculator is gone.  It's a shame because had a lot of great tools for the model railroader on it.  I found another helix calculator online at :

I will put the new link up on the blog links section to the right.  Sorry for not catching this sooner. 

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Bill the Wonder Dog Says...

"Look into my eyes.. you are getting sleepy.. SLEEPY.. you will make more progress on the layout.. you will update your blog.. you will drop that pizza crust for me to eat.."

Bill, who normally lives just outside of Washington DC, is up for a visit this weekend, (he brought his human with him, my sister Salina) and he's always a welcome sight because he's a funny dog, and will always bring a smile to your face no matter how you're feeling at the time.

It's a good thing he's here this weekend, because I've been in a funk lately, and there has been good reason for it.  I almost lost my God Son Joe two weeks ago to a drunk driver who ran him down while he was stopped on his motorcycle waiting to make a turn at a stop light by where he lives in Ft. Myers, FL.  It was touch and go for awhile but he's now on the mends and he went home today from the hospital and is staying with his Mom (my sister) who is a nurse.  I felt helpless here in NJ while my sister had to deal with this all alone in Florida.  I'm thankful he's still with us, and this is a big relief for me knowing he's out of the hospital and getting better.

Needless to say modeling took a back seat while this all played out, and it's been hard for me to get back into it.  I have made it down to the basement a few times in the past week and worked on making more progress on the layout.  I had reattached the T-section that connects to the layout at B-Yard in York a couple of weeks ago, and I started to install roadbed and track this week.  I also needed two curved turnouts in this location so I built them with a hybrid method of Central Valley #6 turnout kits and components fabricated on a Fast Tracks #6 jig. I might make a clinic out of how I do this and if I do, I'll publish it here in the future.

Here is one of three hybrid curved turnouts I built using Central Valley Turnout out kits and Fast Tracks #6 turnout jig. 

Here is an overview of  T-section that takes the tracks out to where the York passenger station will be located on the portable station module.

The two Central Valley curved turnouts test fitted in York.

I'm trying hard to make a push to get the layout up and running within a few weeks and hopefully a few more of the cosmetics too (finish up installing fascia, get the backdrop installed) before the joint GSD/ NJ Div meet in May, so I might just call the guys and try and get a work session together.  I'll make sure to stock up on snacks and beer. ;)

 Bill says:

"Make sure you come back and visit again!  And bring me treats too!  Woof!"

Sunday, March 17, 2013


"May the road rise to meet you,
May the wind be always at your back,
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
The rains fall soft upon your fields,
And until we meet again,
May God hold you
In the palm of his hand."

Today is the day I celebrate my Irish Heritage ( My Mom's side of the family, in case your wondering because of the Italian last name and all ;) so I raise my glass and say to you and yours "Sláinte!" 

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Nothing But Smoke and Mirrors..

I was asked by Chuck Diljak from the Garden State Division of the NER (NMRA) if I'd be willing to open the layout up during the joint GSD and NJ Division meet to be held in Jackson NJ, in early May.  I said I would, but told him there is virtually no scenery, and I wondered who from the local divisions would be interested in a layout without scenery.  Chuck assured me that a lot of people would like to see a layout that's under construction (being a member and former officer in the LDSIG I know what he's getting at) and he asked me for some pictures with captions that he could send along to the NJ Div. guys for their website and publication.  So I posed some of my equipment on the layout with some strategically placed building flats, grass mats, and a white board as the backdrop, and took some photos.  Below are the results.  Not great, but better than bare Styrofoam.

      #6 is passing through York, PA with train #8, the Baltimore Mail.

#26 a 2-8-0 consolidation, switches the Hoover Truck Body Plant,
in the same location in York.

 #43 switches the scale track at B Yard in York. 
The scale track is an operating gauntlet track.

 #43 pauses in B Yard in York, PA.

I also sent Chuck photos of the Helix with a description, but I won't bother everyone with yet ANOTHER photo of the HELL-LIX. ;)