Brass Steam projects staring me in the face

I have previously written about my two brass steam locomotives for Liberty Village, a Canadian National O-18a and Canadian Pacific U-3e. Both are small 0-6-0’s that worked industrial areas and yards in Toronto in the 1950’s. While not projects that need to happen soon, both need a lot of work to be re-motored, re-wired for DCC operation, and painted/repainted before they are ready to work on the Layout. I don’t need them anytime soon, but they sit in the display cabinet above my layout/desk where I now work from home and taunt me daily. I honestly don’t know that I have the skill or desire to do the work myself, fortunately, I have friends who do have the skills to make these great runners. I suspect, sometime sooner than later I will be asking one or more of them to take on these projects, as even if I don’t run them much on the layout, I want the option eventually to do so when the layout reaches a stage where inviting friends over for an operating session happens.

Decalling an S-2 to give it an identity

A couple of weeks ago I posted an omnibus update that had some pictures of my second Atlas Alco S-2 for the Canadian Pacific Railway fleet on my layout. CPR S-2’s were pretty much ubiquitous in Toronto from their introduction in the 1940’s through the decline in local freight service in the 1980’s. As such, having two made sense for my layout, but I wanted them in two different paint schemes, the short lived early 1950’s “smiley face” maroon that I have with 7020, and the 1955 on “Block” lettering scheme in the more familiar CPR Maroon/Tuscan and Grey (I do not get as pedantic as some on what CPR’s red colour was actually called!).
A pair of CPR S-2’s in Toronto in 1955. These are the two schemes mine will reflect. I am modelling 7043 in the block, and my “smiley face” is 7020 (though mine doesn’t have eyes. Even in the 1950’s people anthropomorphize trains! Picture from Mountain Railway CPR Roster, originally via Bill Sanderson Collection

After I started decalling my 7043, I noticed I had made a painting error. I continued the grey band around the back of the cab. This was wrong, the back of the cabs were all maroon. So I had to carefully mask and re-spray the back of the cab so it was the proper colour all the way around. With this done, applying the decals was pretty much standard stuff.

In the booth and after correcting the back wall of the cab

This paint scheme has another challenge for me that I wouldn’t be sure I had gotten right until I started Decalling. There is a yellow stripe separating the maroon and grey. When I masked to paint, I had the decals to use as guides, but until the masking was off, and the decals were going on, I wasn’t 100% sure I had gotten the curves and angles right. It turns out, I was pretty much close enough that its not noticeable where there are issues. Most of the issues are on the radiator grills at the bottom, and can be hidden by weathering. You can just see it in the pictures, and its less noticeable in person.

Putting on the stripes separating the primary colours.

For those keeping track, this project has been a little bit electrically cursed, and it has been daunting me in terms of actually getting to making a second attempt at installing the DCC. Fortunately, thanks to a friend who runs a business producing resin kits and building models for others, I am going to send out the locomotive for the DCC installation to someone more competent than I. I want to continue building my skills, but at the moment, the right option is to send it out to someone who can get the job done more reliably than I can. Before I send it down, I am going to finish the body work in terms of getting the decals on, clear coating them, adding some light weathering and then getting the clear glass and such back in, so that when I send it down and the DCC is done, the body can go on and it hopefully doesn’t have to come apart again for a while.

7043 decalled and ready for clear coat and weathering.

I am quite pleased with how it looks. I just haven’t had the motivation to get the paint booth out and put on flat coat and start some weathering. I will hopefully find that motivation this week, but as it seems spring and nice weather is finally sprung here, sitting outside enjoying the warmth and going for bike rides after work has become more appealing than staying inside working on trains!

Thing’s that go “POP” on the Workbench…

Sigh, so today was one of those days. I went from feeling ecstatic that something I was doing that I haven’t done before was working, to thinking “Trains are Stupid” and wanting to see how far an HO Scale locomotive can fly in the time it takes you to hear “POP!!”. I decided that I wanted a second Alco S-2 for my Canadian Pacific Railway operating fleet. These were the main Toronto diesel switchers in the 1950’s, so having two different ones along with eventually a steam locomotive would be appropriate. I bought a second Atlas S-2 and decoder supplies in the Credit Valley Boxing Day sale, and curbside picked up the order while out to go to the dentist yesterday morning. I then spent all afternoon into the evening last night starting the decoder installation process. I came back to it this morning to finish wiring the speakers, and after some messing around with software updates, I had a locomotive that responded properly on the test track, moved back and forth, and as you can hear in the video, had sounds.

30 Seconds of glory on the test track for my decoder installation.

Then, with me satisfied everything was working, I reassembled the body onto the locomotive, this, is where it all went sadly wrong. Something, somewhere in the wiring was shifted in this process, or came into contact. I still haven’t figured out where, largely because after I turned on power to test after putting the body on and heard the loud “POP”, most of what I had to say isn’t printable on a civilized internet, and I spent the next chunk of my day trying to calm down and not throw things around or smash things.

It is, at the end of the day, not fatal to the locomotive by any means, the decoder itself is likely shot. I will talk with ESU’s rep in the states and see what they suggest if it is even worth sending to them to look at, I expect, it will really come down to when someone local has the right decoder in stock again or placing an order for another new one, which frankly, having just blown up some cash, spending more is not in the cards for a bit, so back to other layout projects. For tonight, I have cleaned my workbench, worked on blog posts, and ran a train on the layout to remind myself that my hobby is fun, and I do enjoy it, just some days more than others!

Finishing the Wiring, Gremlin Hunting & Layout Visitors

In my last post I alluded to having wiring problems, and I did, but before I can deal with the problems, I want to touch on the “finishing” of the wiring. First up was to install a pair of HexFrog Juicers, each of these can handle auto reversing the power on six switch frogs to prevent short outs. As my layout has 13 switches, the two of these with the one single Frog Juicer on the peninsula covers the entire layout with live frogs that automatically switch polarity before the layout shorts out.

Prepping and installing the hex juicers. Preparing a base to screw into the benchwork, shots of the hex juicer mounted, and in place, wired up with LED’s lit.

Along with the hex juicers, I was finishing the task of connecting the track feeders to the power bus, to get to the point where I was ready to try and connect the ESU Cab Control DCC base station. For my ongoing testing, I was using my Lokprogrammer running from my computer to check for shorts by running a locomotive along the tracks every few wiring connections. As I went, it generally seemed to be going OK, I wasn’t finding shorts, things seemed to be going OK and I appeared to have successfully managed to connect red wires to red and black wires to black.

Watch for the brief short flash, and then bottom left LED’s flipping colour from red to green.

With the wiring I thought at a point where things seemed to be working, I thought it was time to actually set up the DCC and run the layout the way it will hopefully be run for many years. Again, the setup is simple, connect two wires from the back of the command station to the layout power bus wires.

IMG_1424ESU Cab Control DCC System, finally ready to come out of the box.

And, after I started testing with the Command Control, chaos… the track would not stay on at all, the second I put a locomotive on the tracks, the power light on the handheld control flashed from green to red. Sometimes, pressing the start button wouldn’t even turn the power on. It appeared, that despite everything…the Gremlins were back!!!

GremlinsGremlins!!! And not the cute gremlins like Mogwai, but the nasty monstrous kind that show up when you get them wet and feed them after midnight…

By this point, I had been working for almost 10 hours mostly at awkward angles reaching beneath the benchwork to do wiring. It was time to quit before I lost my temper and did anything I’d regret later. It took a few days to figure things out, and the breakthrough could probably have been found sooner if I’d turned to the internet, but the proverbial “a-ha” moment was when I tried to turn on the CabControl connected to a single piece of flex track just to make sure the base station was working, when that shut down immediately, I realized I wasn’t necessarily searching for a wiring short on the layout, but something else. I had set the ESU power supply set up and the variable voltage know as advised in their manual for HO Scale, my findings from that are, the supply as instructed doesn’t deliver enough juice to run even a small layout like mine. Turning the power supply up a little bit, and almost all my short outs disappeared.

Testing a variety of motive power across the layout. Finally some success. And achieving one of my goals, running a train across the layout on its own power without it shutting off (derailments are another story)

I was still finding little shorts and issues on the frogs with the layout shorting out, it appears that this has been solved by just turning up the power a little bit more from the supply. The best part of this, is that I was able to get the railroad re-wired up after cutting connections when Gremlin hunting, have it powered up and going to host visitors on Saturday morning, which I completely forgot to take pictures of! A friend was hosting an operation session/party/modellers meet Saturday afternoon/evening, and two out of town visitors were in Toronto for the weekend. Chris Mears from Dartmouth Nova Scotia, and Matthieu Lachance (and more here) from Quebec City were over along with regular visitor and layout building helper extraordinaire Trevor Marshall. We didn’t run any kind of scheme, we just talked about the layout, the prototype, the design concept, and banged some cars about, mostly without problems. A nice feeling, and the opposite to a lot of “Trains are Stupid” evenings of the past week or so trying to make sense of the wiring side of the hobby. Now, onwards with running trains back and forth looking for anything that causes derailments, power offs or any other unexpected behaviour for the next few weeks. During this time I’ll get some work done advancing the start of the structures to be ready for doing scenery once I am satisfied with the tracks operation.

Electrical Gremlins

Wiring and Electronics, two things that have never been my strong suit, despite taking Electronics/Computer Tech classes all the way through High School, but the mid 1990’s were a while ago now!

With the layout progressing, wiring and getting ready to have the DCC system set up have been getting closer to top of mind, and with them, the requisite search for electrical shorts, despite about as simple a wiring scheme on the layout as you could have. Red and black wires. Connect the red to the track closest to the front edge, and black to the back. So simple, even a caveman could do it according to the car insurance commercials… So of course, I have electrical shorts!!

Uh oh, No Short..Short, the search for the short begins!

I have been trying to be dutiful and test as each wiring drop gets connected to the bus, looking for anything shorting out the layout. It’s mostly gone well, but in the past few days, its become a nightmare.

Highly technical gapping, a piece of paper after the rail joiners are slid away to isolate a section and look for the short. Success eventually…

This time, the short was something stupid, really stupid, two feeder wires that weren’t soldered to the bus, hanging beneath the layout making contact…sigh, that only took an hour of frantic searching and filing gaps on switches and losing my mind over what had happened.

IMG_1410It’s hard to see, but important lesson, don’t take the insulation off wires until you are ready to connect them, inevitably they will touch and make you think you’ve shorted something out!

At this point, I was back up and running test trains using my Lokprogrammer for command. As they say, to be continued…

Some Days are more fun than others

IMG_1331Just a freight train at the corner of Liberty Street and Mowat Avenue. Nothing to see here…something that will just be ordinary on my layout.

This is a fun hobby, I do it as an escape from work and stress and everything else that we have to deal with on a day to day basis in life. I get to come home, and I have a project that I want to work on, and where I see progress happen because I make it happen (with a little help from my friends). In my last post one of my blogs followers commented on the enthusiasm for what I’m doing in building the layout in my posts. Sometimes, I’ll be perfectly honest, I don’t feel the enthusiasm when I’m working on the layout (but that’s a future post on something I’m struggling with on the layout). Today is a happy post. After last weeks progress, I took a couple of nights and hooked up my Lokprogrammer and ran a variety of tests up and down the Mowat Avenue trackage which is the only part fully connected to the DCC bus. Just running trains, testing switches, seeing where things are shorting out (which isn’t really a good test with the Frog Juicers not installed and the switch machines not holding the tracks in place, but, it makes me happy!). I ran the three layout locomotives I currently have, but I only took video of the one as shown below, a bit of running at Mowat Avenue and Liberty Street in the future intersection, and leaving the fully sceniced layout onto the staging traverser (which will just have some generic scrubby yard scenery).

So, to end, some ridiculousness, I decided to test something that would never have ever been seen in Liberty Village (and which can’t make the turns on my layout even if I want to!!).