I Juiced a Frog…

No actual frogs were harmed in the making of this post!! A frog in railroad parlance is a part of a switch. it is the location where the tracks cross. When you hear about a switch being a Number 4 or a Number 6 or the like, its referring to the angle of the frog. I’m not going to re-invent the wheel in trying to explain switches, if you want to go down that rabbit hole, check out here and here! On model railroads, the frog on a switch is isolated, otherwise as metal wheels drawing power from the track cross over, it would create a short as the two rails are different polarities (one positive, one negative). A “Frog Juicer” from Tam Valley is a little circuit board that on DCC systems, detects the polarity faster than the system can short out, and automatically switches the polarity of the frog so a train will keep going over it. The point is to keep power to the locomotive at all times so they don’t stall on the frog if it isn’t powered. I have three to install. Two which can handle six switches each, and one single switch juicer for the peninsula. Working under the benchwork alone without a second set of hands is a bit of a pain, so I decided I would install the Mono Frog Juicer tonight just to get a feel for it, and worry about the other two for the remaining twelve switches later.

IMG_1316Mounting the Frog Juicer board on a bit of double sided foam to stick to the layout

First, I started organizing the wiring runs on the peninsula into a batch that I can connect to the end of the DCC Bus wire. With this done, I figured out where I was going to mount the juicer, and put a purple wire on the frog wire from the switch (colour coding the wiring for future repairs). My layout wiring is pretty simple. Red and Black for power, purple for the frogs. I will eventually run a secondary power bus for building lighting, and I will pick two other colours of wire for this so they stand out. That’s a down the road task, I haven’t even really thought about that beyond knowing that I want to be able to light buildings, which means they need power!

IMG_1317Frog Juicer in place on the peninsula, with red and black wires to the DCC bus, and the purple to the frog. Now we see if it works when I get the wiring connected to the bus!

This was another simple project that I haven’t done before that I could tackle on my own. It also was a nice half hour project that I could do after dinner and feel like I’ve accomplished something on the layout today. Given how much I have on the rest of my week, I don’t expect to do anything till the weekend, so it’s always nice to feel like I’ve gotten something done when a few minutes were available.

Tuesday Train #180

The way we were – Retro Shunting in Toronto

P1000645CPR 1578, a GMD GP9u, originally built as a GP9 in 1955 and its “slug” 1013, a depowered SW900 at Lambton Yard in Toronto in 2005. In the late 1990’s and 2000’s, older locomotives like this were rebuilt and used for yard switching duties.

The image below, shows CPR 1684, a GP7u originally built in 1950 as Toronto Hamilton & Buffalo Railway #74, and CPR 1002, an EMD SW1200 originally built for the Milwaukee Road in the US and also depowered as a slug to 1684. They are seen switching at Agincourt yard in the northeast of Scarborough.

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Fascia Covering for the Layout Part 2

Another day, another step forward. Following on from yesterdays post, I have now trimmed and glued on the majority of the fascia styrene. There are a few spots around the peninsula hinge where some detail work is needed, otherwise, its done. You can see yesterday’s post for details of the work, but today is just a quick post showing the difference a simple sheet of styrene cut up and glued onto the subfascia hiding the wood and foam, and instantly making the layout look like it belongs and is a part of the furniture, rather than something that doesn’t belong.

IMG_1060IMG_1307December 31, 2019 top without the black styrene, January 19, 2020 bottom with, the layout to me at least now looks like it belongs in the room!
IMG_1305IMG_1308Similarly, the closet and CPR staging (both taken today), now the lighting valance attached to the closet shelf looks out of place, no worries, plenty of styrene left to quickly cover that and create a window box effect for staging.

Yesterday’s post generated some really insightful discussion on the styrene and preparing it for painting. The task of painting is well down the line for me, but its a discussion worth having now. I know at least one other modeller whose layout I’ve visited uses styrene on the fascia. I’ll have to ask him when next I see him what paint he uses on it, and if he did anything to the styrene to prep it. I’m also curious now if his results are different because he used white styrene vs black. The learning continues!

Fascia for a Finished Look

With the the track laid, it means I can make some progress on other areas, the first up is the fascia of the benchwork. I had left it unfinished as I worked as it wasn’t an area that was impacting on getting track laid and the layout built. I’m now at a point where I can start looking at next steps beyond wiring and testing the track. Before I install the switch machines to control the switches, I needed to get the fascia done, as it needs to be ready for drilling the holes for the control rod pulls.

IMG_1277Taking my model railroading back to the kitchen table, just like where I started with my grandparents running trains on their kitchen table!

For my Fascia, I am using the same material I used for my backdrop, styrene sheet. This time however I am using black 0.060″ (1.5mm) styrene. I made a trip mid week to Plastic World in North York, where I bought the large sheets for the backdrop, and picked up a sheet of black. I am using styrene for a couple of reasons, I know how to work with it, its easy to use, and I can paint it. I suspect I will certainly want to paint the fascia closer to when I am done with the layout. I am already planning on painting along the bottom of the fascia black as I did on the peninsula to help it blend into the room.

With today being a snow day in Toronto, I had everything on hand (or so I thought) to get the fascia installed. I started the day on the kitchen table, cutting 4′ long slices off the 4’x8′ sheet of styrene. Its the only place in the house with enough room to manoeuvre around a sheet that size now that the peninsula is in place.

Test fitting and cutting the fascia for the CNR staging traverser.

Once I had my strips cut, I started with the CNR staging, the two staging areas are the most complicated bit of the fascia, as they need cutting and fitting around for the sliding traversers. After a series of back and forth checking measurements, I got it up. I then proceeded to start working along the layout from there. The styrene is flexible so it rounds off some of the harsher corners of the benchwork to have a cleaner, more finished look. At this point, I realized that the tube of No More Nails adhesive I had was almost out, and that I had forgotten to buy another tube of glue, so my progress on that project came to an unexpected halt. Running out of supplies is a risk. I tend to buy things as I run out, and it had actually been on my shopping list, and I just completely forgot to buy another tube.

IMG_1281Its not as clean as it looks in the picture, but you can see the difference the black styrene makes in terms of “finishing” the benchwork.

While I’m out of glue to move forward, that hasn’t stopped me from getting the other pieces trimmed and starting to make smaller pieces for any spaces where there is blending at corners or covers. I’ve already made the parts for the latch which holds the peninsula in place, so that it is also covered. Conveniently, the 0.060″ styrene fits around the latch bolt without me needing to remove it or adjust it.

IMG_1282Not glued in, but the cover parts around the peninsula latch are in place and ready to go.

Sometime in the next week or so whenever I have time to swing into the hardware store for another tube of No More Nails, I’ll be able to finish the job. Even just the one corner really helps make it look more finished. The bare appearance of the benchwork had been starting to bother me, as my layout room is also my office and its on the same floor as our bedroom, so anything unfinished I’m constantly staring at, its good motivation to keep on going with little projects like this.

Helping a Friend with a Side Project

A friend and co-worker Adam who is also an N-scale model railroader had been asking me for some help with a project, as he doesn’t have any experience airbrushing, or facilities to do so. Ordinarily, I would suggest for teaching I would have gotten together on more than one occasion, but he has a bit of a rush to finish this, so I told him if he dropped the parts off to me at work last week, I could prep and prime them, and he can come over to do the finish airbrushing of colour next week and take everything home to assemble.

Micro Trains N-scale Tie Crane, a part of a 3 pack of service gondolas they sell. The small print on the purchase is the crane is a “multimedia” kit. The largest part is 3D printed, but comes complete with the print raft attached still.

The project is a small crane that rides above gondolas, and can walk its way between cars that is used on MOW service. Its actually a pretty cool model, but when I was searching online after he told me about what he needed to work on, it wasn’t clear in any of the marketing material that part of what you are buying is a kit, along with the three weathered gondolas it comes with. I think this caught out Adam’s dad whose model this actually is too! Eventually, I found the instructions online, its pretty simple assembly. The parts are actually quite nice once the 3D print support material is removed, and the flash on the resin castings cleaned up. It even has a really nice etched claw for the tie grabber.

Conveniently, the only N-scale car I have is the Rapido Trains Mike McGrattan Memorial Car (RIP Mike). The Micro Trains tie loader fits it to check everything is ok after cleaning up the parts.

Since its snowing like crazy in Toronto today, and I was doing train stuff, I pulled out the spray booth and painted a few sets of wheels, and put a quick coat of primer on the parts for the crane. As I said, in a perfect world, Adam and I would have been able to schedule a couple of get togethers so he could prime and paint, but at least I can work with him on the painting, and of course, as Maintenance of Way equipment, he wants to paint it yellow, so he’s at least picked a hard colour to get right for his learning!!

IMG_1283Hit with primer, my work here is done other than to show Adam his way around my airbrush Monday night.

The “Last Spike” on Liberty Village

Last night I reached a fairly major milestone on my layout. I laid the last piece of rail. I say the “Last Spike” as that is the railway vernacular, but there are actually no spikes anywhere on my layout!! All my track is glued to the benchwork, no spikes for handlaid rail or holding the track down! Maybe I should paint an HO Scale spike gold and put it in as a reminder (though where it is will be buried in a road eventually!)

The last piece before and after gluing down and sliding on the rail joiners.

After the Saturday work session with some friends, and follow up on Sunday, this was actually a fairly short and sweet task, but no less important. From bare room in June 2018, to benchwork in August 2018, to track complete in January 2020, its been a journey. I’ve learned a lot about track planning and translating that from a computer to the real world, about installing track, wiring, and soldering.

Academy Award winning content…or not, but I tried!

To capture the video, I set my DSLR up on a tripod on the benchwork and pointed it down at where i was working, it was a rather ungainly looking setup, but I couldn’t figure out another way. It was a one and done thing, if the video had been much worse I wouldn’t have posted it, but its just bad enough that I’m ok sending it out to be foisted upon the world!

IMG_1241DSLR on a tripod with an LED work light wrapped around the camera strap for lighting.

Tonight, to follow up I started to get track feeders soldered onto the rest of the rail that was laid but not ready for wiring. I drilled the holes and placed the wire last night after the Last Spike Ceremony (me standing by the layout with a dumb grin realizing that I’ve actually hit a pretty awesome milestone). Tonight I got down to two pairs of feeders that I couldn’t easily install without moving the bookcases beneath the layout again, as I need to be able to fiddle with the wire from beneath to get the tinned end bent into an L shape beneath the rail and to push up while I solder that to the bottom of the rail. They will only take about 5 minutes to do whenever I pull the bookcases out to connect all the new feeders to the DCC bus.

Feeders and connectors going in for the peninsula now that the track is laid.

The rest of my week is fairly busy, so I probably won’t get much layout time for the next few days, but the weather forecasters are saying 20-25cm of snow on Saturday, if that doesn’t sound like a day to stay inside and work on models, I don’t know what is!