NE Proto Meet

posted May 22, 2012, 9:38 AM by Randall Hammill

Well, we're less than two weeks away! The NE Proto Meet is coming up quick and I've got to complete a clinic and get the basement ready for layout tours. To make things more interesting, we have a rehearsal on Friday night for a church concert on Saturday night, so unfortunately I'll be missing the slide shows on both nights.
I'll be manning the True Line Trains table, so stop by and say, "Hello!"
I'm also featured on the Model Railroad Hobbyist and Model Railcast Show podcasts, both of which are available on iTunes.

Layout pictures

posted Apr 20, 2012, 6:05 AM by Randall Hammill

Since I'm still a ways off from having real layout pictures, I compiled some of the ones I've posted and others into a slide show under Layout Construction Photos.

Uh...I don't know.

posted Mar 30, 2012, 9:48 AM by Randall Hammill

Or maybe, "That's never happened before." These are the recurring themes of Operation Session v0.12 (still in beta).

v0.1 was some simple testing by myself here at home.

v0.11 was Joe coming by to test operations with a simple switch list

So last night was v0.12 with six guys (in no particular order - Dick, Pete, Pieter, John, Dave and Tom) with sample waybills, and a theoretically properly staged layout for a simple session.
•Waybills are set-outs only, we're using the tried-and-true pull one car for every one you set out.
•Three trains (OA-6, NY-2, and EA-2) have already dropped off cars overnight.
•Two local crews are assigned to the 44-tonners to work New Britain.
•Passenger service is suspended for the day.
•NY-4 and HDX-5 are expected sometime in the morning.
•Switching crews are Tom and John, and Pete and Pieter.
•Dick and Dave are running the additional freights.

So right off the bat there are problems with the controllers (MRC Wireless, latest firmware upgrades). Locomotives aren't responding consistently. This is never really resolved for the night. I will be in contact with MRC to look into the issues.

Theories - too many locomotives. Although I have had all 4 locomotives (with sound) idling before, I don't think I've ever had them all running. But, issues started with only two locomotives running and two idling. We tried swapping throttles, and I also switched the base from 'All Throttles' to 'Cab #1 to #8".

The answer? Uh...I don't know. That's never happened before.

The majority of the issues seemed to revolve around this. There was one section of dead track, I added two feeders and that was OK.

The Whiting Street Yard seemed to have a lot of control issues. John and I tested the voltage, and it seemed to be a lot lower there (which didn't make a lot of sense). Later testing looked OK, I haven't tested running a locomotives over there yet.

So again, the answer? Uh...I don't know. That's never happened before.

You can tell there's going to be a pattern here, so I'll skip ahead.

So what about the session. Overall I think is was good. I knew going in that sorting cars to be delivered would be a challenge to somebody who doesn't know where all of the industries are. I think the crews worked that out pretty well, although it will improve with future sessions.

Because of the design of New Britain Yard itself as a single-ended yard, and the unfortunate need for the grade and curve at the end of the yard, things got a little bunched up.

My understanding is that there was a long siding on the west side of town where eastbound trains dropped cars, another on the east side for the westbound trains. In addition, I'm pretty sure the Holyoke freights dropped their cars in or near Whiting Street Yard. In the current configuration, these strings of cars are all left in the center of town, which makes things more complicated.

So, for future sessions I will use the two sidings I have for the OA and EA freights, but I'll stage the NY freights in Whiting Street Yard. I'm not sure how I'll manage the Holyoke freights coming into town since the exit from the helix will eventually be hidden track making it impractical to back those trains to the yard. I may engineer a staging track (with an unfortunate lift-out) for the Holyoke freights. This would have the benefit of eliminating the turnout in the helix (and a second one on the Berlin line).

This will also have the benefit of spreading out the switchers at the start of the session. In addition, the first freight to come in during the session is NY-4 which will also drop off cars at Whiting Street Yard. So each switching crew will have two cuts of cars to classify and sort.

In the meantime, I need to work on figuring out the electrical and control glitches and complete the trackwork on the west side of town. 

So work will continue. There will be a lull while a construction crew builds a new bedroom for Emily. I'll have to protect some of the layout from the construction. So it gives me some time to work out the details of the changes and updates, and then to get things ready for the NE Proto Meet in June.


Tank Cars

posted Feb 22, 2012, 9:36 PM by Randall Hammill   [ updated Feb 22, 2012, 9:37 PM ]

Well, inspired in part by some tank castings I just received from modeler Tom Madden, based on an article by Tony Thompson, I've been building some tank cars this week. The other reason I've jumped into these now is that I'm building the P2k ones I had on my shelf, and these are cars I feel comfortable building without making any modifications at this time. Most of the other cars (box cars in particular), I'm finding I want to make modifications  as I build them. Usually running boards, adding missing details, etc. 
While the theory is that I'll build styrene kits as is, to match the RTR versions I have, and I'll make modifications later when it comes time for weathering the cars, in many cases it's tough to do that.
So, in the last four evenings I've built five kits, and have two more about 75% done. The first five were all Time Saver kits, which helped. These two, plus an additional four I plan to complete this week, are full kits.
Not all is perfect, I've found it quite difficult to get the hand rail installed without it being wavy. I'll decide later if it's worth replacing. My guess is I won't do that until I've completed a few kitbashes or resin kits where I have no choice but to do the hand rail myself.
So here they are so far -

Updates? What updates?

posted Feb 14, 2012, 7:43 PM by Randall Hammill

OK, so I haven't posted anything in almost a month. It's been a busy month, and actually quite a few things related to model railroading, but not much on the layout itself.
I've continued testing on the layout, but what I really need to do is complete enough basic waybills to set up a real test operating session. Dick will also probably be helping me create some mockups of the major structures, which I think will improve operations as well.
I'm finding that the track is expanding quite a bit (in an often cold basement). Cutting gaps with the dremel fixes the issue, although it requires installation of more feeders since I haven't completed all of them yet. Bill was telling me he had the same issue when he first built his layout, and that time and cutting gaps resolved the issue.
I had a great time in Springfield, picked up a number of kits and stuff, and saw a lot of great people. I'm looking forward to getting together with Gary soon, he was the final assigned conductor in New Britain Yard for the New Haven, and also grew up in New Britain.
Bill and I went to operate Perry Squier's layout. It's an awesome layout of the Pittsburgh, Shawmut and Northern in 1923. We had a great time, and yet another variation on Time Table and Train Order operations which has given me a number of things to think about in regards to my layout.
Lastly, and what has taken up a lot of my time aside from Emily's quarterly round of routine check-ups with her doctors, is that I am now officially working for True Line Trains. I've been building the website for about a year now, but I'll also be working on getting product out in the US. There are a lot of great products on the horizon, and I'm looking forward to the work. It's part time right now, and not enough to replace unemployment (in fact, we're still working out the details), but I'm excited.
So that's the news, such as it is. I'm really working to get something together for the layout for an update. Hopefully in the next week or so...

Quick update

posted Jan 22, 2012, 6:27 PM by Randall Hammill

It's been a crazy month, along with a bad cold that Emily started with and just about all of us have had now. But it has been too long since my last update, so...
I've finished another P2k flat car, and I'm about 80% done with an IMWX and an Intermountain box car. Since I'm currently just trying to populate the layout, the approach is to complete them as packaged. If there are items that I know are incorrect (like running boards) I'm leaving them off. I'm not adding additional details at this time. Instead, I'll work on the finer details when I pull the cars for weathering, just as I will with the RTR cars.
Along with the few freight cars, I've completed my first 'real' sound decoder installation. I had previously installed the MRC 'drop-in' decoder for the Atlas S-2. I say 'drop-in' because it did require milling a part of the frame and soldering wires to the decoder.
Anyway, John G. offered to install one of the Loksound decoders I got for the 44-tonner for me, he installed one in his W&R 44 tonner as well. Fitting the decoder and speaker was actually the easy part apparently. It needed additional wipers for pickup on all wheels, as well as the addition of more weight.
Since John was installing that, I figured I might as well see if I could install the decoder into the Bachmann 44-tonner. In a recent Model Railroader is an article covering installing this decoder in that locomotive. In that case the author milled away part of the weight to allow room for the decoder and speaker. I wanted to avoid that since it needs to be able to pull as many cars as possible up a 2% grade. So I did it a little differently. In addition to the decoder I installed two(!) speakers without milling the chassis, and I added an additional 3 oz of weight. The next step is to paint both locomotives. I also need to make handrails for the Bachmann one, unless I decide to use the ones that came with it.
I think the next locomotive I'll probably tackle is the I-4, since I need to have a passenger locomotive. The I-2 would be a great choice as well, it's just a question of which one I want to make modifications to first. After that I'll do the T-2-b and I'll have enough locomotives to run full sessions.
Speaking of operations, I've also been working on the Waybills for the layout. The system will be heavily based on Tony Thompson's efforts. But they are coming along nicely. I'm trying to determine what I'll write about here since there is already a lot of great information on Tony's blog.
The other news is that Chris is well along on his layout. I spent two days working on laying track and dropping enough feeders to run a train. We managed to get a lot of work done. What has taken me several years to do we've managed to do in about a month on his layout.
So, there will be a lot more information and pictures on the progress in the near future. This will be a very busy week leading up to Springfield, but perhaps shortly after that I'll be able to get back to more routine updates.

1974 - Where it all began...

posted Jan 1, 2012, 12:01 PM by Randall Hammill   [ updated Jan 1, 2012, 5:10 PM ]

Well, 2011 appears to have been the year of the photo. At least for us. From all of the grandparents we received a lot of old (and some more recent) pictures. Dad found some of the old 8mm films and put them on a DVD and there's a progression from the wooden push train set to a plastic version. I don't recall if it was push or battery powered. The films are fun, and our childhood was surprisingly well documented. For some reason, though, 1974 is missing.
My baby books also have a lot of great photos, but none of the trains. No pictures have turned up in Basking Ridge (c1975-1977) where I know I had my first 'layout' in O-27 scale.
But in my brother Brad's book there's this:
That would be Brad on the left, me in the middle, and Dad setting up what was his Dad's Marx set. I still have it, but for some reason it's missing the just the locomotive as I've got the tender. I might just see what I can find in Springfield this year.
So this was the beginning. It's sandwiched between a picture of talking to Santa and Christmas morning, 1974. If I recall, Brad and I got our first HO scale trains in Christmas 1978 after moving to Ridgefield. Brad received an Atlas B&O cab locomotive, and I got an ATSF geep of some sort. He got Athearn passenger cars to match, mine were Tyco freight cars. Dad built an 8'x8' layout in an extra room in the basement, and I don't know if Brad ever went down to use it. I haven't found any pictures of that yet either.
But here's the first. I'm sure we'll come across more over the years.

ACL 77034 flat car

posted Dec 20, 2011, 6:26 PM by Randall Hammill   [ updated Dec 20, 2011, 8:17 PM ]

ACL 77034, a 50-ton AAR Standard Flat Car, in New Britain Yard. I completed the Proto 2000 model one evening last week (a very quick build). It came with a pipe load which I'll build later when I'm working on loads for open top cars. I didn't make any modifications to the base kit.
In general, I'm building kits as they come, with a few exceptions (primarily running boards and handbrakes). This is basically because they are no different at this point than the RTR versions. When I pull the car for weathering I'll add missing details (uncoupling levers, etc.) and change the couplers and wheelsets if needed.
In addition, there's a new video on my YouTube channel of NY-4 in New Britain. As I continue testing the layout, I ran this train forward both eastbound and westbound with no issues or derailments at all. I'm very happy with my trackwork so far. The Atlas S-2 is a pretty good puller as well, which is good because this will be the regular locomotive for this train. At least until I can get a better quality S-2 model. I may just work on the shell, since the chassis works pretty well. I'll also eventually have to replace the MRC sound decoder. I'm happy that I have sound in it, but from what I've been told, it just doesn't sound like an Alco.

First test session complete

posted Dec 10, 2011, 7:38 PM by Randall Hammill

Joseph came over to run some trains and see how the layout is operating. We ran trains for about 2 1/2 to 3 hours with a quick break in the middle to meet somebody new (more about that in a minute).
I had staged the deliveries from the night before on the siding. I had NY-4 staged to come online during the session. I did not run any passenger trains, but noted when they would come through. Joseph did the switching, with me as a brakeman since I don't have extension panels or wireless yet.
The session went very well. One turnout in the yard derailed a couple of cars. I tweaked it a bit this evening and it seems to be functioning better. Everything was in gauge and I wasn't really able to identify anything specific wrong with it. But I peeled the glued portion off of the roadbed to let it self-align and it seems to be OK.
One track had a loose feeder that I'll need to fix. All tracks worked, although it's clear that I need to power the frogs.
About 2/3 of the way through the session, Gary R. stopped by. Gary bought and RDC I posted on eBay, about 2 minutes after I posted it (I hadn't even received the confirmation email from eBay that I posted it yet). Gary lives in Waterbury, so he decided to come by and pick it up. He's a great guy, just starting to determine what he'll be modeling in and around Waterbury in the mid to late '50s. He's also an avid Trainz (virtual) modeler and has modeled the entire Naugatuck line virtually in the late '40s. Joseph also uses Trainz. So I'm looking forward to seeing what both of them have done in the virtual world at some point.
So I'm sure we'll be hearing from Gary again in the future, and it certainly sounds like his layout will be very interesting too. In the meantime, everything seems to be running very smoothly on the layout, so I'm thinking that I'll be picking up some scenicking supplies at Springfield this year to get moving.

All tracks are operational

posted Dec 9, 2011, 9:35 PM by Randall Hammill

I completed adding feeders to all of the industrial tracks that are currently in place. Everything works (including the crossing I built), and will be tested more thoroughly.
Joseph is coming by tomorrow to run a test session. I have the cars left overnight staged, and in addition to having him run the local switching job I'll bring in a passenger train or two and NY-4 to drop off additional cars.
I will try to get some paperwork assembled for a test run tomorrow as well. So far the consensus is that it looks good, although I think I'm going to go for a larger size than Tony Koester or Tony Thompson uses. Chris and Dick agreed with that direction, Pete was fine with the smaller ones.
We'll see how it goes!

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