Monday, September 20, 2021

Feeders and Exploring DCC for the I-2s

I've been working on one of my least favorite parts of the hobby - feeders. It's really not that bad, especially once I get started. I just have a lot of them to do. I've done about 15 pairs by the time I took this photo. 

Working at Whiting St. Yard.

Another 16 pair or so to go in Whiting St. Then I still have the Berlin Line, some in staging, the east side of town and the west side including Stanley Works. Yep, lots of feeders to go.

I have also made more progress on building the new website. 

In addition to making progress on what I should be doing, I also had my Crown Custom I-2s sitting at my desk, and started planning how I'll install DCC, sound and weight. I have an opportunity to get a couple that have already been weighted and upgraded to DCC. I'd have to sell mine, and hope that I cover most of the cost of picking those up.

Another potential factor is I have different goals that I'm trying to accomplish with my installations, and those wouldn't be set up the way I'd like. They would work great, of course, I'm just looking to do something a little different.

An ESU micro (or a Soundtraxx Tsunami Micro) will fit behind the motor. Both have a Next18 18-pin connector. This means I can do all of the wiring first, and the decoder is removable if I ever need to replace it. As a result, I plan on using these pretty much exclusively, even if the larger version would fit.

Chris prefers the Tsunami decoders for steam. Since he's fired real steam locomotives and understands the most minute details about operating a steam locomotive, I trust his judgement.  I checked and (as expected, due to NMRA standards) the pin-outs are the same, so by installing that wire harness, I can use either decoder.

Why not put it into the tender? Because if the decoder is in the locomotive, I only need to run two wires to the tender (for the reverse light). The power from the tender comes via the drawbar. In my era the lights weren't used during the day, so I don't even have to do that if I don't want to.

There's also space above the motor. Of course, I can't see inside it to tell, but a rough measurement tells me that there's quite a bit. As a test I put two layers of .080" styrene the length of the open section inside and the chassis installed without any issues. So there's room to add quite a bit of weight. I'll need that since these will have to haul as many as 5 passenger cars up the helix.

There are two electronic components (I removed the shrinkwrap) that go to the headlight. I haven't opened the tender to see if there's a similar one to the reverse light. One is a diode/bridge rectifier. I can't find it by searching for the markings on the internet, but I suspect they are for helping to protect the lights and maintain better continuity on DC. They won't be necessary if I replace the lights with LEDs, but I will need to fit in resistors. That won't be difficult, though, there's plenty of space.

I do, however, like the small plugs used for the lights. In this case there's one in the boiler and there's a second one in the smokebox. This allows you to remove the smokebox cover and unplug the light, and the same thing when removing the boiler from the chassis. I may very well consider similar connectors for other installations.

There's also space for the speaker in the front, here's an example of an I-2 that Tony's Trains did with the speaker in the smokebox. In this case there's also a speaker in the tender. I'll consider that, although I may try with the single speaker first, since adding the second one requires more wires to the tender.

I'm on the fence for adding a keep-alive. It's a decent size locomotive with a long wheelbase. It also only has to come from staging, make a station stop, and return to staging. So it's not going to get a whole lot of activity where it is necessary. On the other hand, I kind of want to use them on all locomotives as a general standard. I'll probably order a Tsunami Micro and Soundtraxx Current-Keeper to see how they (especially the Current-Keeper) will fit. Of course, there's plenty of room in the tender if I want to run additional wires there.

By now you're probably wondering why I keep mentioning that. It's primarily about appearance. It's not all that difficult to do, although there's the question of whether the wires are "permanent" or have a connector so you can still disconnect the tender. My goal is to try to make the wires look like the water lines. I'm even considering removing part of the existing lines and replacing them entirely with the wiring between the locomotive and tender. It is possible to get wire with multiple internal conductors, so I could have 4 or even 6 wires going to the tender that still look like two wires/hoses. However, with more wires, it will be harder to hide the connectors if I decide to do a removable option.

If I replace the wire hoses, I will lose some detail (there's a valve on the line), although I have been looking for something similar that is cored to receive wire (primarily at Precision Scale) and hoping I can make that hole large enough to accommodate whatever wire I'm using. I also need to find a way to stiffen the wire for most of the run, but have enough flexibility for curves.

Friday, September 17, 2021

Keep Moving Forward

I generally have two different layout work tracks going at a given time. The first is the stuff that I really need to get done. Things like the lights, feeders, some additional trackwork, etc. A lot of these projects are things that aren't always high on my list of, "things I like to do."

The second track are the things that I do find interesting, at least at a given moment in time. 

I try to make sure I make some progress in the first category several times a week. But for those times where time is short, or I'm tired (especially mentally), I try to just make sure I get down to the basement and find something of interest to work on.

The progress I've made in the basement with the lighting, paneling, and organization has helped a lot with that. It makes it a fun place to be, and I generally do a lot of other work down there as well. The more I'm in the basement, the more likely I'll make progress on something.

Tonight was one of those nights. I was tired, didn't really feel like doing anything, but I had something interesting sitting on the bench.

The KV Models handrail stanchions I got for the S-1s. But as I looked at how they need to be installed, I decided it would make more sense to get a proper bending tool.

So now I'm sitting at my desk/workbench, looking around the room and, when leaning back, the ceiling (because the lights are still very cool). But I still need to finish the (really annoying) job of fitting the (really annoying) fiberglass ceiling tiles that were left. If they hadn't used these tiles when our house was built, I would have used different ones. But they're already here. 

Originally I thought I would need to pick up quite a few new tiles for the Whiting St. Yard, but since I installed so many lights, I had a bunch of spare ones. So I might as well get working on those.

As it turned out, I was two tiles short. I didn't even need two full tiles, but I needed big enough chunks of each that I couldn't get what I needed out of one tile. Home Depot didn't carry them, of course, and the closest Lowe's that had them in stock was about 45 minutes away.

Didn't matter, I was going to finish this tonight. 

The last pieces were the far side of the ceiling over Whiting St. Yard. The great part is that the ceiling is one of those projects that only needs to be completed once.

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Maybrook Mix

With the recent announcement of new FA-1/FB-1s from Rapido (it's about time!), I'll want to be prepared for adding the Maybrook freights.

Modeling buddy Mike Clements recently pointed me (back to) Julian Erceg's fantastic site Moving the Freight. Specifically the Traffic Study of Maybrook Freight in 1957.

While it's a fascinating study, I'd recommend reading the whole thing and I'll be pulling more info from it, the initial use I'll get from it is working out a mix of routes.

For example, Maybrook to Hartford traffic in January '57 through Maybrook was routed via:

  • Erie 31%
  • LHR 34%
  • LNE 8%
  • O&W 24%
  • NYC 2%

Maybrook to Holyoke was:

  • Erie 23%
  • LHR 55%
  • LNE 9%
  • O&W 14%

The Wheel Report data also provides great info. Traffic to Hartford in average carloads from:

  • Maybrook 58 (44%)
  • New York 44 (33%)
  • East 16 (12%)
  • Cedar Hill 15 (11%)

East would be from Boston as well as CV via New London, etc. The Cedar Hill cars probably include transloaded LCL and cars from locals and industries that route via Cedar Hill.

This will be great information to incorporate into the routing information on waybills, and may also impact the mix of road names represented in these trains.

Monday, September 13, 2021


 The main room is done:

The staging lights are turned off here. It is super bright. There are slight shadows in the corners, but these really only show up in photos, not when you're standing there in person.

This is looking over a car, with my arms and the camera between the lights, on the track farthest from the front of the layout. Visibility is amazing.

Here's another angle of the same cars. You can see a bit of shadow, but not much. It's most prominent on the wall behind the Landers mock-up.

The lights are LED troffers for a drop ceiling from Amazon (the 2'x4' units in this section) and Home Depot (the 2'x2' in this section). They are 9000 and 4900 lumens, both 5000k. They are also dimmable, and I'll see what that looks like after installing the dimmer tomorrow. There are six 2'x4' and six 2'x2' lights in this section, arranged in a simple rectangle. There will be two over the Stanley/Berlin Line, and two over Whiting St Yard.

Because they are "daylight" (5000k) the layout looks very different than before. It really brightens things up, and not just because there is more light.

I've been experimenting with different color grass tufts, which is much more noticeable now.

It also doesn't matter what angle I use to take pictures anymore. 

The rest of the basement will be finished tomorrow, including dimmers. Getting this done has been a big part of preparing to move forward on other projects since I didn't want to worry about working on the ceiling this extensively after completing some of those other ones.

Friday, September 10, 2021

Copaco Livestock Chute


What's Copaco? It was the Connecticut Packing Co, located in Bloomfield, CT. The primary livestock they received was probably hogs, although I wouldn't be surprised if they received cattle too. They were known for their sausages.

There's a shopping center named Copaco in the general vicinity of where the company was located, and when we moved to the area they used to have a petting zoo in the front parking lot (including a giraffe, I recall).

Why am I posting it? I've started working for the railroad.

The Central New England (CNZR) to be specific. Eversource is replacing 175 of the high voltage line poles with steel poles, and they need flaggers and don't have enough people. So when Dale asked if I was interested, I thought, why not?

So while I was there I decided to walk down and take a couple of pictures. Training this weekend, and from there I think the "work" will be standing there there to clear the crews from the tracks in the event a train comes through, along with ensuring they don't do anything they're not allowed to.