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!

Digital Comand 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.

Taking Project Inspiration from a Friend

My friend Trevor Marshall is a very accomplished model railroader.  You can read about his S-Scale Port Rowan layout on his blog. If you dig around on his site, it has sub-blogs on all kinds of fascinating things like Achievable Layouts and his ongoing dalliance with changing prototypes to the Niagara St. Catharines & Toronto Railway Interurban owned by CN.

This post however, is a bit of self motivation. Once my layout prototype and era became crystalized, Trevor went out and bought and has completely repowered, added DCC and painted a Van Hobbies Brass CNR 0-18a switcher. These small 0-6-0’s were the backbone of switching in Toronto, and would have been seen in Liberty Village.

IMG_7350Trevor’s O-18a #7456 at a get together a few weeks ago at a friends HO Scale layout.

Trevor wrote about his project to prepare his 7456, so I won’t get into the details, I’m mostly writing this for two reasons, to say how great a job he did, and to inspire me to do as good a job with mine, so that some day we can have competing O-18a’s switching in Liberty Village!

IMG_7353Looking like it belongs on a layout set in 1970’s Niagara Frontier, well, at least the trackwork is suitably industrial looking!

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!!

Lynton & Barnstaple Railway “Taw”

I love it when a new purchase arrives, in this case, its a new purchase that I’ve been waiting on for almost two years. Such is the way of things with the Model Railroad Industry and Pre-orders nowadays, you order then wait what feels like forever to actually pay and receive it. Though this model was in some ways, extra cursed. I placed my order January 20, 2017, so almost two years ago, and after an initial delivery from the factory in China to Denmark where Heljan is based, some making it to market in the UK where the prototype is, and being panned with failing motion and a variety of problems, they were sent back and heavily modified at the factory and re-shipped. Fortunately for me, my order didn’t ship the first time they were delivered, by the time the version I’d ordered was arriving, it was abundantly clear that the whole batch needed to be recalled and reworked.

The locomotive I am talking about, is Heljan’s “Lynton & Barnstaple Railway” Manning Wardell 2-6-2T in OO9 (British Narrow Gauge). I don’t model the L&B, but at some point I was exposed to it (and the efforts to re-open the line and rebuild the locomotives which were all scrapped), and thought its a cool prototype. In later years, it had become part of the Southern Railway, and there was a cross platform connection at Barnstaple Town between the narrow gauge and standard gauge. I have thought for a long time this would make a cool diorama/cameo layout, and had bought some apropriate Southern Railway OO Gauge models, but never had access to any Narrow Gauge, and kits were out of my budget/skillset. When Heljan announced they were doing it as ready to run, it was around the same time Bachmann was releasing Skarloey in their Thomas line, which I bought and re-detailed back into the locomotive Skarloey is based on and which Bachmann 3D scanned, Talyllyn.

So, after all the missteps and waiting, my model of Taw, one of the three original locomotives finally arrived on December 23rd, and through being out of town, Christmas and work, I finally picked it up this weekend. My afternoon today was spent unboxing, checking it out, looking to see if it looked ok, and then running it for about half an hour forwards and backwards and with/without coaches to see if any problems exposed themselves.

IMGP0945RawConvNothing like a present to yourself at Christmas Time, then again, It has been on order so long it’s already missed being a Christmas Present once before and two birthdays!

As it is, even the new version has apparently had some of the same issues based on the comments on RMWeb, a major UK model forum (worth checking out even if you aren’t into british trains and models, lots of discussions on technique, and an active North American section). So I’ve been awaiting the opening and running in with some trepidation, knowing this time it had been shipped to me, and getting dinged for $36 in tax and service charges by CBSA, means if it doesn’t work, it becomes a hassle in sending it back for warranty repairs or replacement.

So, in narrow gauge, the couple of models I have are effectively display pieces. I am allegedly building a mini layout/shelf display for them (I say allegedly as I haven’t touched it in months).

My L&B “Taw”, in its later Southern Railway Paint as No.761. Looks gorgeous out of the box, but how will it run?

Turns out, as far as I’m concerned, it ran perfectly. I have a loop of 12.25″ radius Bachmann EZ Track in N-Scale specifically for narrow gauge british (N Scale Track is the same width as OO9, very handy!) I put the loop of track out on the hardwood floor, and spent an enjoyable hour with the locomotive running around the circle both ways, pulling coaches and on its own to look and listen for problems. It ran smoothly, stayed on the rails, and no bits fell off. Given that most of this locomotives life will be spent in the display case, having nothing explode in an hour of test running, probably means I’m safe for the future on the rare occasions it gets an outing, it should be ok. If a manufacturing defect was to appear, based on what I’ve seen from others on the forum, it seems it would have done so in this early running in period.

Videos of the running in:

Yes, it was just like being a kid, the only place available to me to set up my loop of N-Scale/OO9 track was on the floor of the office/layout room. There is something to be said for sitting on the floor watching a model run around in circles somtimes!!

IMGP0964RawConvNothing says having fun with trains like a loop of track on your floor!!
OO9Display.pngTaw and Talyllyn in my display case. A pretty solid if small collection of Narrow Gauge Locomotives!

A Canadian Pacific Railway S-2 for Liberty Village

With the Liberty Village area my layout is set in being served by both Canadian National and Canadian Pacific Railways, and it being set in the late 1950’s (specific date TBD, closing in on 1956/57, probably will leave some leeway by choosing a year/season vs a specific date), I need both steam and diesel locomotives.  I have previously touched on projects to provide small steam 0-6-0 switchers from CNR and CPR, and my CNR diesel needs are met by ready to run models from Rapido Trains (I’ll be using an SW1200RS and a GMD-1 as the CN diesels, both could have been seen in Liberty, long term, slightly earlier models like an NW-2 or S-2 would probably be more regular sights).  But, back onto topic, for my primary CPR Diesel, I am going to be using an Alco S-2.  These were the first diesel switchers delivered to the CPR in Toronto, and in fact, my model will be the first, which is preserved today in Toronto, though I won’t be painting it in a “normal” paint scheme.

IMG_6289.jpgI forgot to take pictures before stripping it down. Here is the body shell ready to have all the paint stripped off it after taking off all the separate parts and glazing.

I recently picked up one of the newer Atlas S-2 models, which is DCC ready, but doesn’t have a decoder.  It was painted for CPR, but in the “wrong” paint scheme, it was in Maroon and Grey with script lettering.  If it had been “block” lettering, I maybe could have used it, but I am going oddball and going for an intermediate scheme between the as-delivered black with Maroon and Gold Trim, and the introduction of the Maroon and Grey paint scheme that is classic Canadian Pacific.  In between, there was an overall maroon with yellow trim paint scheme applied to some Alco and Baldwin locomotives, including 7020 and some other S-2’s assigned to Toronto.  As such, to be different, I am going with this scheme.  There is a collection of pictures of different early S-2’s in schemes including the “Smiley Face” at this link.

CP7020-27020 and 7027 in the “Smiley Face” (which is on the other end) scheme on the turntable at John Street. Photo by Dom McQueen, 1952. From the Bill Sanderson collection. Scan From Here.

This scheme would have been phased out starting in 1954 or so when the Maroon & Grey became the standard.  I don’t know when 7020 was repainted from this scheme to Maroon & Grey, but applying Rule 1 of “Its My Layout”, I’ll have a very dirty and weather worn 7020 in this scheme clearly ready to be repainted switching Liberty Village.

IMG_6313A picture of the locomotive after the paint had been stripped off it. It’s now been primered and is ready for applying CPR Maroon over the entire body.

This is when compared to the steam locomotive projects, a pretty simple one. Strip off the old paint, spray on maroon, decal, seal, weather, and install DCC decoder.  To strip the Atlas factory paint, I used my preferred first choice of 99% isopropyl rubbing alcohol.  It’s cheap, readily available at pharmacies/grocery stores, and compared to a lot of other paint removal techniques, relatively begnin.  That doesn’t mean you don’t take precautions.  Use it in a well ventilated area, and wear gloves when handling, the isopropyl softens the paint when the shell is submerged in it, but the paint comes off in the alcohol and makes a mess if you aren’t careful, and you don’t want the paint/alcohol mix getting on skin or all over your desk.  I find that soaking for about half an hour softens the paint that a first pass with a toothbrush gets off a lot of paint, then you can look for areas where the paint is holding tight to soak and scrub more vigorously.  In my experience, it hasn’t softened the plastic, but I also don’t leave the model in the alcohol and ignore it.  It’s in and out and scrubbed and when I’m done, into soapy water to wash off any loose bits of paint and left over alcohol.  After a chance to sit and thoroughly dry, its then washed and dried again, then painted with Tamiya Fine Surface primer to look for any issues and give a good clean surface for the new paint to attach to.

The real 7020 at the Toronto Railway Museum, and my other model of 7020, an older non DCC Atlas S-2, part of my Toronto Railway Museum collection of models that I take to Train Shows a couple of times a year for the museum. I’ll now have a pair of 7020’s from different eras in my collection!

I suspect, that the painting of the maroon will happen in the next couple of weeks, time and such cooperating.  Given its going to be some time before my layout has a DCC system or is running, buying the decoder and getting the right sounds installed for the locomotive aren’t going to be a rush, but will get done when it gets done.