Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Um.. What was the question again?

OK, I'll admit it..  I'm a little OCD.  I get an idea into my head that I need a certain thing on the layout and I'll spend days, weeks, months sometimes obsessing over it till I've either found what I wanted for the layout or completed the task I felt HAD TO BE DONE before anything else could progress.  Case in point?  I give you exhibit number 1: the manual turntable I absolutely had to have for the fiddle staging module at the Red Lion end of the layout.  Handling freight cars on and off the layout by hand was acceptable, but handling brass engines, especially to turn them at the end of the run for the return trip was definitely not!

So, for close to 1 year, I researched making my own manual turntable.  Then I figured that would be another one of those never gets done projects so the next best thing?  Buy a ready made one.  The Atlas turntable has been around almost longer than I have and it's manual (though there is a motorization kit for it) and there had to be some out there for the taking, cheap.  New ones cost over $30 so buying one of those was out.

After looking on and off for over a year on eBay, at train shows etc. I found one in Springfield at the Amhearst Show for $8.00, after a little haggling.  Joy and jubilation!  Now I could put this one obsession behind me and finish building them damn staging modules.

First the modules needed to be wired.

I built the turntable part of the staging module from a frame I had on hand from when I had a machine shipped to my shop at work.  It was just the right size.  I cut some plywood I had on hand to fit the top of the frame.  BTW, yes that turntable has brass rail.  That's how old it is.

The turntable portion of the portable staging module completed.

And finally.. The whole thing assembled together, ready to be put to work.

After I finished building it, I sat back feeling smug and gave myself the obligatory pat on the back for a job well done.  Feeling the relief of getting this monkey off my back I had time to reflect on just how my new creation would fit into my operations scheme.  Then it hit me..  the Ma & Pa didn't run out and back locals or manifests or passenger trains.  Everything that started in York ended in Baltimore.  Everything that started in Baltimore ended in York.  Theoretically, nothing needed to be turned in Red Lion staging except for the helper engine that was part of each manifest freight till it got to Delta, PA where it would be turned to help the next train in the other direction.  I still have the hand print on my face from the face palm I gave myself.  

So with the turntable being semi useless, and the engines still needing to be handled to take them on and off the layout, I'm back to square one figuring out what to do about handling engines.

For now I'll just deal with other things I've been obsessing over: Where am I going to get the ingredients to mix up Ground Goop? Can I use black sanding grout for cinder ballast like I've seen reported about online, and which brand?  I see another building construction site has extruded Styrofoam, and I wonder if they have leftover scraps?  But them guys in the hard hats look mean, and they'd probably look at me like I had two heads when I tell them what I want it for. And I really want a pickle car but did they ever run over the Ma & Pa?  To be continued...

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Visit The Ma & Pa RR during upcoming GSD/NJ Div Joint Meet

 New Jersey Division MER-NMRA

The Garden State Division is having another dual meet with the New Jersey Division:

Saturday, May 17, 2014
90 Kings Highway
Middletown, NJ Clinics & Meeting 9 Am - 12 Noon
Contest is detailed Diesel Locomotives
Layout tour 1 - 5 PM

My Maryland  & Pennsylvania 1943 layout will be open for the tour starting at 1pm, so if you attend the meet, please stop by and check it out in person.

See you at the meet!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Moving Forward...

First off, I want to thank everyone who has sent their condolences and well wishes, either through this blog, or by private message.  It's been hard, very hard, dealing with the loss of both my parents in such a short period of time, but all the love and support that I've received from my friends and family have meant so much to me.  Thank you. :)

Keeping busy is one of the best ways to help cope, and I have been moving along with some pressing projects that needed to get done on the layout.  The most urgent thing turns out to be a problem that popped up recently.  Two of the three power districts dropped dead, and would not power up at all.  At first talking with some friends we thought maybe we had a Frog Juicer go down and take out the section it controlled.  After testing each Juicer in the districts affected, I determined it was not them.  I then turned my attention to the power control board where the circuit breakers, and power supply was.  If you remember a while back I had two of the four DCC Specialties (Tonys Train Exchange was actually the manufacturer at the time) circuit breaker boards crap out, and I had to do a quick fix by combining two of the 4 districts into one, making the railroad a three district railroad.  Money was tight so I bought a NOS older single Powershield and reused the remaining TTX 2 circuit breaker board.  This worked for a time but when the current problem popped up, I checked voltage going into the board, which was the full 14v and then checked the outputs which were showing 2-4v fluctuation on both breakers.  Basically, they were toast.  The boards were old, from my original L&HR layout, but I felt that layout, along with the current one, was never run that much so the boards shouldn't have crapped out.  Last week I had to bite the bullet and order new DCC Specialties PSX4 (4 circuit breaker board)  from Yankee Dabbler (who had the best price including shipping) and install it.  Now everything is back to normal.  I probably should have done that to begin with, instead of trying to salvage the older breakers.

The old power board with the older TTX circuit breakers.

I had to remove the power board to work on it at the workbench.

Panel at the workbench ready for the transplant.

DCC Specialties PSX4 circuit breaker panels.

The new PSX4 installed on the power board.  It actually looks neater since I did not need the terminal strips anymore.

It lives again! :)

So far, the layout is running like a champ again, so I'm happy about that. 

I have more progress to share, but I will leave that for the next post.