Tuesday, October 25, 2011

I'm on YouTube

I just set up a channel on YouTube:


The first video is of the L-1 going through the New Britain Yard crossovers. This was one of the major tests (along with the I-4) to ensure that the layout as designed would work with steam. It does! Not a great video but it works well enough for this. I don't have a tripod for the Droid, but in the future I'll probably use my regular camera.

So I've been gluing down track, adding feeders, and I can now run trains through a complete loop from staging, up the Berlin Line, through New Britain, and back down through staging.

Dick has trimmed the last pieces of the helix, which I'll be picking up this Thursday so I can complete the full mainline. All that will remain is the west side of town, consisting of the Russell & Erwin sidings, Farm Yard, PF Corbin sidings, Fafnir Bearings Sidings, and Stanley Works. I also have to complete the staging tracks and feeders in staging, but all of the key turnouts are installed.

This last week John Pryke, Chris and I pretty much completed our Steam Presentation for the NHRHTA Reunion in November. We still have a few tweaks and work left on it, but I think it's going to be Awesome! It's been a lot of fun, anyhow, and we're psyched. I look forward to seeing many of you there.

Chris and I also had a great visit and dinner with Bill and Cosette Dulmaine. Great stories and fun, and truly wonderful people.

So we've been busy, but it's that time of the year - the fall visit to RPI is the week before the Reunion this year. I wonder if I'll get roped into dispatching again...

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Testing, testing, and more testing...

I know it's been a while since the last update. Modeling time is coming in very short periods right now. But with a few minutes here and there I've managed to complete a full loop. The Berlin Line is in and fully operational, both helixes work, as does the wye at the bottom of the east helix.

Until I get some more feeders installed, I can run a train from Elm Street going east on the Berlin Line and down the helix, all the way through staging, and up the west helix to Main Street.

Testing has commenced, including running a train forward and backward through the entire layout. That works fine. What has found a handful of trouble spots is running the I-4 with two Osgood Bradley cars. Particularly backwards. Fortunately, these trains won't need to run reverse, but it helps determine trouble spots. They even make it up the Berlin Line, which will never see passenger service once the mainline completes the final revolution on the helix.

I have found that the I-4 is a better test than the L-1 due to the 4 wheel pilot truck which can short on the cylinders. I also found that with the J-1 tender I have to use the longer drawbar connection because the cab roof can short on the top of the coal bunker otherwise.

Overall I'm pleasantly surprised at how well the layout runs, particularly with steam.

While I work on completing trackwork, feeders, etc. I will continue to test heavily. The goal is to be able to run every locomotive, with an appropriate train in forward and reverse on the entire mainline and major passing sidings. The industrial areas will be off limits to large steam (as they were on the prototype), but I'll still probably test them to identify the limitations.

The biggest trouble spot, not surprisingly, is the turnout for the exit of the east helix. It wasn't intended, but after I had to rotate the helix I had no other option. After quite a bit of tweaking today it's better, but not 100%. Well, I guess that cars are no longer derailing but I can still tell that the risk is higher there so I'm working to alleviate that.

The biggest issue with this is that I have to work in the tight confines of the helix, with about 3 1/4- 3 1/2" clearance. Had the wye and turnout been planned, it would have been installed before continuing with the next level of the helix.

Once I complete the last revolution of the helix and the remaining small section of the mainline (including feeders), I can also test all of the trackwork in New Britain Yard and the east side of town. Testing can also include small operating sessions with two throttles. I'm hoping to complete the trackwork portion of that by next week.

We'll see...

Monday, October 10, 2011

Next steps

Here are some pictures of the progress so far. The pictures start on the west end of New Britain Yard looking east, the remaining pictures are continuing around the corner, but looking west.

New Britain Yard looking east

New Britain Yard looking east. The passenger cars are sitting on the station track. Landers, Frary & Clark is the track that runs into the backdrop.
New Britain Engine Facilities

New Britain Engine Servicing (gon and T-2-b), Landers Frary & Clark, City Coal & Supply.
New Britain Lumber and Shurberg Scrap

New Britain Lumber (far right siding), Shurberg & Sons Scrap & Coal (two gons), Household Fuel and Carlson & Torrell Building Supplies.
East side switching

The Texas Company (Texaco), Cremo Brewery (maybe), Cohen William Grocers, Household Fuel, Carlson & Torrell, and Shurberg & Sons.
Sooo...I'm about 10 pieces of track away from completing the mainline. It might take a couple of weeks because I've got to find a good block of time to work on it since it includes finishing the helix and the two upper connections. I will also be adding just enough feeders to get power to the whole layout so I can start testing.

I didn't expect to have all of the trackwork on the east side of town completed (since I hadn't even really laid it out). But it's done, and includes 5 industries. Cremo Brewery is included. It was in New Britain, but on the Springfield line. It also includes Texaco, Cohen Williams Grocers, Household Fuel, and Carlson & Torrell Building Supplies. I was hoping the fit Stanley Svea Coal & Grain at the end of that siding with its curved trestle, but it just wouldn't fit and still be accessible.

I could probably fit a little more track, but it would be crowded and isn't really needed. All of the industries from New Britain Yard east can take a total of at least 19 cars. That doesn't include the Berlin line. Not all will be at capacity, and not all will switch each session. But I think that's a good starting point.

So what's next? It might take a little time to pick up the remaining track. I'm estimating at least 20 more pieces of flex track, and 11 more Micro Engineering turnouts, plus a few more hand-built ones in the Stanley Works. But it's hard to believe that I'm posting this exactly one month after the report that I've switched to Micro Engineering turnouts for most of the track work and I'm this close to completing about 75% of the trackwork.

But it occurred to me that with the modeling season approaching (whenever it arrives, it was in the 80's this weekend), that to prepare for initial operating sessions I need to figure out which locomotives and what rolling stock to start working on. 

My eventual roster will be quite a bit larger than I originally planned, since I'll be covering operating sessions over a wide era. But at this point I want to get most of the steam running, with perhaps a few diesels.

So the initial goal will be to shoot for autumn 1947. That means I'll need to get the I's, a K, J, R, and a T-class operational along with a DER-1, two DER-2a/b/a sets, a DEY-4 and a DEY-3 or 5. It will be 14 locomotives and that will allow me to run a full session.

Freight trains would be OK now, if perhaps a bit short. What I'm really lacking are passenger cars.

I've only got two of the Osgood Bradleys, and none with full skirts (I wasn't planning on modeling this early when they were released). I need some more heavyweights too. I will need to complete the two NHRHTA kits (a baggage and an RPO) as stand-ins as I really need to kitbash a 15' RPO and some wooden baggage cars.

A second option would be autumn 1953. If I went that route I'd basically just need DERS-2c and Shoreliners for motive power. And with the Shoreliners I wouldn't need any passenger cars. I'm not sure I have enough RS-3s yet, though.

Until I find a job my budget is basically gone. So these will be good projects to work on over the winter. That's in addition to all of the freight cars I can start (and finish) building.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Quick Update

Sorry for the lack of updates weekly. We've been very busy for the last week or so now that Emily is home. I have been able to work on quite a bit here and there though. The staging, west helix, and mainline are complete and operate up to the first turnouts. I've been doing a little testing before I glue down the track and install feeders on the upper level. I'll be working on the east side as time allows too.

In testing I found that every locomotive made it up the helix and onto the scenicked deck, including the L-1 but not the I-4. The four wheel pilot truck was shorting around the final curve in the helix that leads to the exit curve There was no way to avoid an 'S' curve here. But that wasn't the issue per se, apparently the final track was leading into it was too sharply curved. I just had to pry up the track (it was already glued down), and adjust it slightly. Now everything runs fine.

I also just installed my first DCC decoder. Well, actually it's the second attempt. It's just the MRC 16-bit drop in for the Atlas S-2. Eventually I plan to replace the Atlas S-2 with something that has better detail. It's a relatively easy install. You do have to mill two ridges off of the weight, and there are 4 solder connections. I had one already, and the motor control worked, but not the sound. It was the older 8-bit version. This one works just fine.

I'm well aware of the reputation MRC has for their decoders, and from what I've read and experienced they did have a lot of issues with their earlier decoders, but the newer ones are OK. I have to admit, when I first tested this one I didn't like the sound at all. It's better with the shell on. I still need to find the correct horn and bell. But it will work for this application and I wanted something relatively simple. The speaker is attached directly to the board, and it would take quite a bit of work to fit a standard sound decoder and speaker in this model as there is very little room.

In the process, I also took a look at the rear power truck. There was a rather loud 'click' (actually, more like a thump) in a stead rhythm. My guess was a problem with one of the gears in that truck. I managed to disassemble it enough to take a look and didn't see anything obvious. I ran a thin blade through a couple of the gears that seemed to have too much gunk in them. I'm not sure I really did anything, but I tested it without the wheelsets and it sounded fine. After reassembling it's much better. There is still an occasional click (and it's really a click this time), but it's much, much quieter. So for the time being I'm satisfied.

It will pull 10 cars up the helix without a problem, and it will struggle with up to 15. That's workable, because I'm sure the Holyoke freights that used the DEY-5 locomotives hauled a lot less than with a J-1 (or the later DERS-2b or 2c pairs).

So, a little progress here and there.