“Sun” day Motivational Vibes

Many modellers work and have their layouts in their basements, it’s a natural place for them. I’ve been in some that are nice, and some that are dark (and lived in houses with both growing up). I’m lucky that I have a layout room/office that is on the 3rd floor of a three storey townhouse, that has no basement. I got this bedroom when we set up the house because instead of a window in the wall, it has a skylight and doesn’t limit the opportunities for benchwork. I walked into the office literally ten minutes before posting this, and took the panorama below with just the huge amount of natural light coming in the skylight. It’s nice to come into my workroom and feel cozy and some light from the sun, vs. many of my past workbenches/workrooms growing up or in previous apartments that were dark corners of the home.

IMG_7740Sunny day through the skylight in the layout/office. As nice and bright as it is, it’s also kinda snowing outside. Getting the light and not seeing the snow’s kind of nice win!

Alco S-2 DCC Quick Update

After forgetting to take a video at Trevor‘s of the working locomotive after doing the DCC install, yesterday Trevor loaned me an old Lenz entry-level DCC system, not nearly fully featured by todays standards, but enough to control a locomotive to start-up, move, and trigger some basic functions.

IMG_7696A ghostly primered S-2 with a Lenz Digital Plus throttle being put through its paces.

While I can’t do much with the Lenz other than stand test locomotives, at least it let me play around with a few other DCC locomotives in my collection to check if they’ll respond to commands. Whenever I have my own system and get some track laid, I can see I’ll need to do a round of locomotive tuneups as well!

Video of the test run, Alco’y turbo’y goodness!

Tuesday Train #143

IMGP1264RawConvEastbound GO Train at Long Branch, viewed from the Browns Line Road bridge over the tracks. Look closely and you’ll see there are two locomotives, an unusal situation that occurs after a locomotive has either had repairs or is newly delivered with Metrolinx for GO Service. A new/repaired locomotive is run with a second just in case something goes wrong in the break in period so as to not disrupt service.

Springish Sunday

It was the first sunday of Spring today, and to celebrate, the thermometer hit double digits. I still haven’t gotten around to setting up a spray booth now that we have a house, and I can actually get set up to paint inside (it’s coming though). As such, projects are still hitting airbrush/spray paint limbo where I can’t go any further as I can’t paint. I’ve held onto one of my old cardboard box paint booths for painting outside (it’s basically just a backstop to catch paint. I couldn’t do a lot today between available time, and lack of desire to drag out the compressor and airbrush and then have to clean it, but I did rattle can on some flat black onto two parts of a project that’s been gnawing at me for months as it needed paint. Now that at least the underbody bits are painted, It looks like something and that will hopefully help motivate me to get the paint booth sorted so I can paint the more care required visible bits of the model!

IMG_7681.jpgQuick hit of paint from a flat black rattle can. Nothing fancy, but feels good to do something paint wise!

Digital Command Control for an Atlas S-2

IMG_6290.jpgStarting Point for a Saturday, one Atlas S-2 mechanisim, ready to have its electronics removed and DCC Installed.

Yesterday I got together with my friend Trevor Marshall, an accomplished model railroader. He recently did a DCC install in a Walthers Southern Pacific SW-1, a similar small switcher with a tight body for working in to my Alco S-2 for Liberty Village.

IMG_7655After stripping out the Atlas Board, and unclipping the wires, there is lots of room to hard wire in the decoder.

As the only DCC Install I’ve done was a plug and play into my CNR D-1, for this install, even though the Atlas board had an 8 pin socket, in discussing with Trevor, he advised that removing the factory board would allow for a better install that can better use the features of the ESU Decoder than plugging into the Atlas board. I was game, but I’m not the best solderer, and there is a lot going on in rewiring a locomotive. As Trevor is experienced, when I asked if he’d be interested to do/show/help me on an afternoon, he generously agreed. We started out session out with lunch at his local The Harbord House, and then retired back to his basement to his workshop to work through the install.

Installing two speakers, ESU Sugar Cubes, one in the front where Atlas left space for a speaker, and one in the cab along with an ESU PowerPak Keep alive.

For the Install, I had an ESU Loksound Micro decoder, two sugar cube speakers, and the ESU PowerPak keep alive capacitor. This last unit means for a short locomotive like the S-2, any small gaps in power from electrical shorts or dirty track are not likely to shut the engine down while the layout is operating, a nice feature.

IMG_7664About half way done, moving on to the rear to complete the speakers and PowerPak Keep alive.

One thing I learned is how important it is to think your steps out before you take them. For the most part, we didn’t have to undo anything, though a couple of wiring runs and hook ups we definitely managed to make harder than they had to be. Watching Trevor work I now understand how everything can go together, the challenge will be making it all happen when I get to the point of doing an install myself.

While the sound files loaded, we looked at a bunch of projects Trevor has on the go, including one where I can apply some 3D design and printing to help him get something done that he hasn’t otherwise been able to do, but that’s a post for another day.

One of the things I like about ESU is that their decoders come without sound, and you can download the sound files for a huge variety of locomotive types from their website. With the help of a LokProgrammer, a tool which connects a computer to a track for programming, you can set up and test all the functions of a locomotive. Buying one of these is high up on my shopping list.

IMG_7665Success, loading sound files. The locomotive was successfully programmed and running. As usual, I neglected to get any video of the sound once we had the body back on and everything adjusted.

It ran fantastic, nice and slow, the sounds were great. All in all, a successful day. I was able to watch and learn from someone who understands what he is doing, and hopefully for the next time I’m doing this, I can work on my own now that I have a sense of what all goes into doing the job and doing it well.

Now to get a paint booth sorted out so it can get some maroon on the primer and let me move this project further on to completion.

Tuesday Train #142

IMGP1390RawConvFirst, there was no Tuesday Train last week as I forgot, and by the time I remembered, it was just too late to do it!

So this week, something special and rare. An Amtrak GE Dash 8-32BWH leading Amtrak Train 63/VIA Rail Train 98, the “Maple Leaf” from New York City to Toronto. It’s seen here at Sunnyside in Toronto from the Footbridge connecting King/Queen/Roncessvalles to the Martin Goodman Trail on the waterfront. While the Amtrak Dash 8’s have been rare sightings in Toronto, this arrival on Saturday March 16, 2019 was its third consecutive appearance in Toronto. The equipment for the Maple Leaf is on a two-day cycle. One day the equipment runs from New York to Toronto, the next day it does the return trip, and so on. This week, 514 arrived in Toronto on Tuesday (I found out after it had left), Thursday (where I tried to get a shot but chose a location where the light failed and the monsoon started before it arrived), and Saturday, where I didn’t know for sure it was coming, but had enough free time in the evening to take the shot at going out to see if I got lucky. On the night before St. Patrick’s Day, I guess the Irish side of my background was working and a little bit of railfan luck came my way!

The reason these are rare is Amtrak only owns 18 (2 have been transfered to the State of California from the original 20), and generally they are used for switching yards or on longer distance trains as emergency fill ins. Generally when they have appeared in Toronto, its been a one-off because of a failed locomotive and the need for an emergency replacement. The fact that it has stayed on the route for 3 complete cycles now, means either Amtrak is really short locomotives, or the crews have been happy and there hasn’t been a reason to pull it off the route. Either way, it’s another rarely seen locomotive in Toronto. The Dash 8’s are a variant of the Dash 8 freight locomotives built by GE, the biggest being the ability for the locomotive to divert power from propulsion to provide Head End Power to power the passenger coaches.

IMGP9434RawConvThe Maple Leaf in June 2017, with the normal Amtrak motive power, an EMD P42DC.

The shot below shows Dash 8 514 powering along the Gardiner Expressway from an angle that shows off its freight locomotive design heritage much more than a traditional passenger locomotive.