Playing Around with a ProtoThrottle

If you read this blog, odds are you have some interest in prototype modelling, and may have heard of something called the ProtoThrottle. Its a new system neutral DCC handheld controller from Iowa Scaled Engineering – It will work via an adapter in some cases with Digitrax, NCE, ESU, Lenz, JMRI and and MRC DCC systems. What it is, is really cool, especially if you were, oh, I dunno, building a small switching layout, maybe of say, Liberty Village in Toronto in your spare bedroom.

IMG_7341A ProtoThrottle in the flesh, as I operate at Hunter Hughson’s Niagara Branch.

I know a couple of people who have them, but I hadn’t had a chance to hold or use one until a get together last weekend at a friends layout. Its a nicely designed and built piece, which replicates the standard controls for an American Association of Railroads (AAR) control stand. A reverser (direction), 8 notch throttle and brake valve. Theres a button for the bell, and a horn handle at the top. It was interesting to operate with compared to a traditional DCC throttle. I’ve been in plenty of locomotive cabs, and operated the simulators at the Toronto Railway Museum which use AAR Control Stands, but I have never driven a real diesel locomotive. Using the ProtoThrottle is much more like being in a locomotive than a normal model layout. There was a lot of discussion about how operating a model with this is very different from doing so with a typical DCC controller that has 128 speed steps. On a real locomotive, if you watch them operating while switching, they throttle up to get moving, then cut the power and coast. That’s something you can’t do with a traditional DCC system as easily, but you can with the ProtoThrottle. Its much closer to operating a real locomotive based on some actual railroaders who were at the operating session/get together. I have to take them at their word, but they are right that the majority of modellers have never actually operated a real locomotive, and some of the subtlety of how you actually do so is lost translating from full scale to model scale.

I understand it takes some work to adjust the DCC settings on a decoder for it to work right with the ProtoThrottle, but once you’ve got a file set up, I understand that you can use the base settings on other locomotives if you are using something like an ESU LokProgrammer to do your customization on the decoder. I don’t have an LokProgrammer yet, its on my shopping list as It would be nice to be able to program my own locomotives and adjust sounds at home instead of relying on going to others houses!

ProtoThrottle1Doug declines to operate with the ProtoThrottle, while I mostly mess about instead of making any actual effort to use a switch list or switch cars.

While it won’t be the first throttle I buy to add onto whatever DCC base station I wind up going with, it will definitely be added on as I love the bit of added realism in operations, and being that little bit closer to driving the way a real engineer would that it gives.


Barrie-Allandale Train Show 2019

This weekend, February 16 & 17th is the 49th annual Barrie-Allandale Train Show at the Bradford Greenhouse just west of Barrie. I will be there with some of my models of the Toronto Railway Museum collection and the museums display. If you are in the area, come by and talk about the museum or the models, I’m happy to discuss both!!

The show flyer is below with a map and more information. Hopefully see you there!

Tuesday Train #138

IMGP6254Given the amount of snow in the Toronto forecast today, Today’s Tuesday Train is the sunniest shot I could fin from the warmest spot I could find. The Walt Disney World Railroad Main Street USA station at the entrance to the Magic Kingdom in Orlando Florida. Locomotive #3 is named “Roger E. Broggie”, and was built in 1925 by the Baldwin Locomotive Company for a 3′ gauge railway in Mexico.

Tuesday Train #137

p1140334An oldie, but a goodie, and one with a story. Way back when I had just started my career, back in those bygone times of 2003-2006ish, long before Google Maps or anything else, when we needed aerial photographs for a client, we had to charter a plane and a pilot, and go fly. This shot is some of my personal shots taken from one of those flights after we were done for the client and we were sure the batteries in the digital cameras of the day wouldn’t die! This is a CN GP9 7255 or 65 (picture isn’t clear enough to tell) and Slug 279 in Windsor Ontario, in the Van De Water yard near McDougall Ave and Oulette Ave.

Wiping out Safety Stripes

With my layout being set in the 1950’s, I’m working on collecting or modifying models to be accurate representations of what would have been seen in Liberty Village. Back in the fall of 2018, I picked up an Atlas S-2, it was already in CPR paint, but paint for an era that was just a bit too late for my still not quite pinned down 1955-1958 ish layout era. The shell for the locomotive has been sitting on my workbench for months waiting on me getting a paint booth set up at the house so I can airbrush. Haven’t gotten there yet, but the 1950’s being the way they were, there was one more aspect of the Atlas S-2 that I realized had to go, the bright yellow safety stripes on the pilots at either end.

IMG_7305Safety Stripes on the pilot, recommended for a switcher to help it be seen, but not there in the 1950’s in the paint scheme i’m applying.

Fortunately, I’ve discovered that paint on Atlas locomotives is easily removed using 99% Isopropyl Alcohol. Which is great as it’s readily available at the drug store, and compared to a lot of other chemical paint strippers sold in hobby stores, or things like brake fluid that some people swear by, its paint removal qualities on models its relatively benign. Relatively benign doesn’t mean don’t take any precautions. Well ventilated spaces, gloves, masks and the like are all still important when working with any chemical for any length of time.

In this case, a little bit of alcohol poured into a paint mixing cup, and some Q-tips and toothpicks are the tools needed. Applying the alcohol with the q-tip and gently rubbing will start to loosen the paint from the cast metal pilot, and as you rub, you can eventually see places where the paint is holding tighter in corners and around details. This is where the tooth pick comes in to gently rub at more stuck on paint, then go back at it with the q-tip moistened in alcohol again.  It took me maybe 20 minutes total to do the two ends.

More or less finished project to remove the stripes. Because the locomotive will be fairly heavily weathered representing a hard-working locomotive at the end of this paint scheme, it doesn’t need to be perfect, just good enough. (right photo of 7020 by Dom McQueen, 1952. From the Bill Sanderson collection. Scan From Here.

This was another of those I need to do something projects where I was watching car racing this afternoon, and realized the only reason I hadn’t gotten rid of the safety stripes was because I was being lazy. Another check mark on this project. Now to finally get around to sorting out that paint booth!!