When all Glues have failed you…

Learning, this is at the end of the day, a hobby about learning. Learning about prototypes, how to build things, how things work, how to get things done. There are so many ways people do things out there. I’ve previously written about a side project of an HO Scale police car I was building with LED lights. I’ve had nothing but problems with this project. I’ve mangled two sets of the fantastic LED lighting units from Evans Design LEDs. So what did I do, I recently ordered a third set!!

Hey, we’re looking like a police car again with flashing lights hidden inside the vehicle.

So, when I got the package on Wednesday this week, the LED set has been modified, instead of being pre connected to a giant hub, each string was separate, and once they were run instead of having a giant nest on the end of the wire, I’d have to wire them up myself. I thought, this would make life easier for maneuvering, and I was right. What was still going wrong, was all my technique for trying to install the LEDs and get them to hold in place. I was using LED wax, trying CA glue, just nothing. Then I thought of a product that was on my to try list for a while after seing how useful it was from friends. A product called Bondic, which, as they are quite clear, is not a glue. What it is, is a Ultraviolet (UV) light cured plastic. It comes in a dispenser with a UV LED, and you put a little bit of the liquid out, and hit it with the LED for 4 seconds, and it becomes solid. It may not be a glue, but it works like one when it comes to affixing LEDs inside a model. Now you only get one shot at it, so you need to be sure, but so long as you take your time, it works well.

The Bondic kit, and the inside of the police car with the wires Bondic’d? into place.

Its a product that takes some learning, as you need to build it up in thin layers if you need to fill a large area, as it only cures where the UV light can hit it, you can’t use it in a place where you can’t get the UV light to shine in, and if the layer is too thick, the top will harden and the interior won’t, but it’s absolutely fantastic to use. Saying all that about needing to learn, this lunkhead blasted ahead at 11pm on a Wednesday night to use it on a project after he got home from his Rec Soccer game as he was so frustraited at the project he either wanted it done, or dumpstered. As the short videos below show, the lighting now qualifies as done!! Some cleanup on the model, paint the bright red interior dark like a Toronto police car, and then decals and install. Hurray for progress!!




More Sunday Trackwork

Last week I had friends over and made a big dent in the trackwork. I took last Monday off work to recover from that and clean the house and putter on the layout. In the week since, I’ve made a fair bit more progress in starting to rough in the track beyond what was glued down last weekend.

IMG_9205Working on the complicated crossovers that lead to the sidings on the currently non-existent peninsula.

In the week since, I’ve worked on some little clean ups and starting to advance getting the track ready to complete the primary trackwork between the two ends of the layout. it’s a slow process, and one where making sure the tracks aren’t so sharp or misaligned now will make the layout run much better down the road. A single days help from a couple of friends has set me up with things I can work away at on my own for a half hour here or an hour there when I get home from work, or need to clear my mind while about the house.

The most complicated bit of trackwork left are the switches and crossovers to the peninsula shown in the image above. As I’ve been working on this, I still don’t have the peninsula built, and I haven’t settled on it being permanently affixed or hinged, but as I’ve worked on the track, I definitely need it in place to allow the track work to be properly aligned and cut if it is going to be hinged/removable.

IMG_9226A success, these switches I got adjusted and the holes for the frog wires and throwbars drilled myself and down into position to let me start working on the track alignment at the east end of the layout in the closet.

As I’m roughing out the track, I’m also looking at making sure I am happy with where elements are going, and that I have enough room for acceptable representations of the buildings I want to model that are served by the layout. This has seen me move pieces from the track plan a little, but for the most part what I’ve designed is becoming a reality in the space. Its a good feeling and it is giving me continued motivation to push ahead with work seeing things come together as they have.

Looking to and from the closet, the glued down track stops at the switch in the foreground on the left image. the gap from there to the glued down track in the closet is currently being roughed in.

I have a lot of things to do, I’ve been struggling with my soldering technique, and supplies. The “no clean” flux I have is useless, it just runs away from where I put it and I can’t get solder to do simple things like tin the end of a wire with it. Writing about my adventures in soldering is on my to-do list, but I’m probably going to wait until I actually work out my soldering problems so I can provide some insight on how i finally got competent at it (I’ll settle for competent, capable or good would be outstanding achievements!)

Today Was a Good Day to Lay Track

Just under a year ago, there was no layout in my house. Then, with a lot of help from my friends Ryan, Doug and Trevor, we built benchwork in a day last August. Today, I had a work session booked with friends to work on tricky bits of the layout with many hands and for me to learn things from people with more experience than I have in layout construction, so that I get myself set up to be able to make more progress myself when time permits.

The first task of my day was a quick run to Home Depot to pick up a few pieces of trim lumber. I finally figured out how to get some decent lighting into the closet and the CPR Parkdale Yard staging yard. I made a valance board that is installed onto the shelf using baseboard lattice trim, and glued around the metal shelf frame using No-More Nails caulk adhesive. Then, using a supply of self adhesive LED Strip lights leftover from the set we bought for our kitchen cabinets, I installed a strip of the lights behind the valance. Now, there is ample light for working in staging, and for anyone operating there to see what they are doing. An easy couple of hours of solo work which made wiring in the closet so much easier (didn’t make the space any bigger, but made it brighter at least!).





The two pictures show the new valance board clipped onto the shelf railing while the glue cures, and the second shows the lights on and working and brightening up the staging yard.

Today, I had two friends, Dan and Trevor coming over to help. Both are experienced modellers, and Dan built all the switches for the layout, including the monstrous Bat’leth of track that fills one whole corner of the benchwork that Dan built. It needed some final adjustments before laying, and then filling in the pieces to connect the switches up Mowat Avenue from the staging yard to the first corner of the layout. It took time, but Dan’s meticulous and super skilled, and he was able to make minuscule adjustments to track and locomotives/freight cars that had them running far better than I have managed.

When Trevor arrived, we set to work on installing the layout power bus, the main wire that gets connected to the DCC control station and then to all the individual pieces of track. For the bus, we used 14 gauge speaker wire, its big enough to carry a lot of power and info, but easy to work with, and already paired. Using plastic mounting bases, that you connect zip ties into, the wire is loosely held for now beneath the benchwork but the zip ties can be pulled tight once the work is done to keep the wiring from moving once all the slack is taken out as I move along the layout and connect wiring from each of the pieces of track.

Once the bus wire was run around the room, we (and by we mostly Trevor if I’m being honest!) started to connect the track at the west staging, and figure out how we would wire the sliding traverser shelves so there was enough slack for the shelves to move, but not so much that it would hang or not work.





Trevor working on the less sexy part of layout building, the wiring, but its super important to make a layout run.

Dan built all the individual switches using Fast Tracks jigs and supplies, but before we could install them, one in particular, a large combination piece with five switches and two crossovers we called the Bat’leth because of its resemblance to the Klingon weapon on Star Trek needed some little cleanups and testing with my rolling stock before it could be glued down. Between some fine filing on the points, replacing and adjusting wheels on locomotives and freight cars, equipment now seems to run flawlessly through the switches. With that, we could move on drilling holes for the switch throw bars and the frog wires to drop through the benchwork. After sorting out all the bits of track that go between the Bat’leth and the walls, we were in a position to apply a layer of DAP Alex Clear caulk and get the track glued down into position.





Trevor works on wiring the west staging traverser, while Dan works on adjustments to the switches he built for the layout. On the right, the Bat’leth is now adjusted and glued down in its corner of the layout curing.
Proof I did some work thanks to Trevor. A picture of me working on my soldering skills, and on getting the track glued down and aligned with Dan.

With the day’s work winding down, we had some fun testing that the wiring actually worked, and that I could control a locomotive on both ends where the track is connected, and not short out or blow anything up. After today’s work, about 1/3 of the “visible” track that will have scenery is installed is glued down, and when timer permits, I can move on with installing wiring drops and laying more bits of track. As usual at the end of a good work session, we were stopped by both the time of day, and the running out of supplies!!




The First powered test on the CPR Staging, running over the layout bus (main wiring line) from my ESU Lokprogramer at the other end of the room. Means everything we wired (mostly by Trevor) was done right!


Trevor brought his O-18a, a locomotive which would have been very at home in Liberty Village. The video is a short test on the CNR Staging at the end of the day.

Two Working Staging Yards

As Count von Count would say, I now have two working staging yards ah ah ah…

Image result for count von count 2 hahaha

Too much? Maybe, but its a little bit of an accomplishment that I now have two fully functioning staging traversers, one in the main layout room for the west end of the layout, and one in the closet for the east!

Doing the one in the main room first was definitely easier. Working in the confined space beneath the closet shelf wasn’t fun, and won’t be again when it comes time to drill holes for wiring, but it’ll get it done and be on our way to actually being able to test and see if trains can get on and off the staging under their own power, not just being pushed by hand.

This week after a couple of really long days at work dealing with deadlines and some role transitioning, I came home and the solitude of soldering rails to the brass screws to hold them aligned and in place, and then cutting the rails so the traverser would move was a couple of hours of peaceful time with my mind to escape some work stress and just enjoy the rewards of why I work hard, being able to come home and build a layout and have the luxury to be able to play with trains at night!

CPR “Parkdale Yard” staging for the east end of my layout, in the open and closed positions. There is still enough room for me to comfortably stand between the staging and the closet wall behind me, so it will be possible to operate here.

Now the next task is to start wiring up the staging yards, and laying track to connect them. I have some friends coming over in a bit over a week for a sunday afternoon wiring and trackwork party, which should be a good opportunity to make some progress and learn some new stills. I can’t wait for the next step forward!!

Book Review – Every Tool’s a Hammer


A Book Review of sorts…

I haven’t finished reading this yet, I’ve been taking a lot of books out of the library, and I noticed this while trolling through the list of new releases on the library website (Pro Tip, if you live in Toronto, the Toronto Public Library has a digital subscription to FineScale Modeller and Model Railroader), and instantly placed a hold. I unabashedly loved the MythBusters TV Show on Discovery Channel. I regret not having managed to get to one of their live shows when the came to Toronto.

I haven’t finished the book yet, but already I know I will be buying a copy of this for my library so I can go back to it and re-read it. It’s part autobiography, and part guide down the path of making. There are so many parallels between the “Maker Universe” that has emerged in recent years, and modellers. In fact, I see the future of our hobby as enticing the Makers to see it as a place where they can contribute greatly and both learn new skills and apply the ones they have.

The first page I saw when I opened the book tonight after 7 hours in the layout room (there’s another post on that coming), and proof that Adam Savage is truly a Kindred Spirit!

Honestly, the whole book feels like a guide to my own heart. I wish I was as organized as he was sometimes, and as willing and brave to fail. I fail plenty, and I learn every time I do, but I am also so risk averse, I’m afraid to fail sometimes, yet my greatest successes in modelling have come when leaping in blind with two feet and trying something I’ve never done before. There are all kinds of thoughts and process things that he’s learned that as I’ve read I’ve gone, hey, he’s totally describing my helter skelter workpath.

I can’t recommend this read enough for anyone who has enjoyed the MythBusters TV Show, or who is a builder or modeller of any sort. Its absolutely fantascic,

First Steps into Digital Command Control

My layout will be operated using a Digital Command Control (DCC) system. While to many of my my modeller friends, this seems an obvious statement, to those who are my friends that aren’t railroaders, they don’t really understand how model railroads operate. A very small layout may literally just be a single locomotive and a power pack (like the ones that come in simple train sets), and need no complicated wiring. for my layout, while it’s simple, there is the chance that multiple locomotives will be working and there will always be a number of locomotives in staging. DCC is effectively a computer control system, the locomotives and track are always receiving power, but the decoder, a mini computer inside the locomotive ignores the power unless it receives a computer signal sent with the power through the rail that tells it to pay attention to the command and react. It is a powerful system for running trains, and with new controllers like the ProtoThrottle, you can operate a model railroad with controls that are almost like those in a real locomotive.

IMG_8371ESU LokProgrammer. Its a lot of box for the size of the stuff in it. The environmentalist in me says they really need to work on their packaging.

The LokProgrammer is a tool for updating and adjusting settings on locomotives with ESU decoders. I really have been impressed with the ESU decoders and control system from visiting friends with it, and I see me buying an ESU control system in the near future when they are back in stock. This is a vital tool as it will let me customize sounds and how locomotives behave on the layout. I recently did a full setup at a friends using his after he’d helped me install the DCC decoder into my 7020 model for the layout, now I can use that to help me program my locomotives myself in the future.


CPR 7020 on the test track connected to the LokProgrammer, and a couple of screenshots, the top showing the throttle test screen, and one showing the adjustments of all the Control Values (CV’s) on the decoder to change settings.

If i’m being completely honest, I still don’t understand most of what I’m doing with the DCC and the setup, but I’m getting there, step by step, and having the LokProgrammer means I can now look at how things are configured, and learn what changes when I adjust different settings. Another day, another step on the road to having a working layout.