Monday, December 28, 2015

A Project So Nice I Did It Twice

Yet another project I had been dragging my feet on was installing power indicator lights for all of the blocks on my control panel. A few days ago, I finally sucked it up and got it done. When I saw the results, I was quite proud of myself.

But then I got a look at the ammeter on my power supply and it was nearly maxed out.

I quickly realized my incandescent indicator lights weren't going to fly.  I still had indicator lamps for the inside loop to wire up and that alone would have overloaded the power supply. I new I would have to replace the lamps with LEDs. But the thought of adding resistors and all that soldering sent chills up my spine. Never the less, I ventured to Radio Shack to see what they had. I got very lucky and the had similar LED lamps with their resistors preinstalled. Needless to say I snapped up enough for the outer loop and spent this evening installing them.

While certainly not as bright, the LEDs serve their purpose. I plan on buying similar red LEDs for the inside loop at some point. 

And, as you can see, the load on the power supply has been drastically reduced.

Now on the subject of wiring and projects I've been dragging my feet on (two things that seem to go hand in hand around here), I've been slowly but surely getting all the remaining sidings and yard tracks wired up and operational. All four tracks in Johnstown yard have been wired up, as have all sidings on the Southfork branch. With that done, I've moved to the Altoona shop complex and gotten several of those tracks wired up too. Hopefully I can get all the wiring knocked out before school starts again.


Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Down to the River...

Having temporarily exhausted my supply of things to do in Gallitzin, I decided to start on something I've been wanting to tackle for a while now, the Conemough River near Johnstown. This involved digging a channel through the foam base down to the plywood. Once again my hot knife proved its value, slicing through the foam without making a mess.

Now, you may notice the river stops short of the PRR main line. Eventualy, I plan to construct a magnificent stone arch bridge at this location as per prototype. But I'm not really looking o tackle that at this time.

I did however build a bridge to carry the Southfork Branch. This seemingly simple project actually required a bit more work than first anticipated. As you can see, the bridge is simply a pair of Atlas warren truss bridges set atop a Chooch Enterprises pier. The pier was easy, I took it out of the package and hit it with a brown wash. The bridges were a tad more problematic. Each came with a piece of Atlas Code 80 track attached to it. I thought it would be a matter of removing said piece of track and replacing it with the Peco c55. Well, no such luck, the ties on the Peco track are just a hair wider than the Atlas ties. So I had to spend a good bit of time filing the bridges to get the track to fit. In the end though I think the bridge looks pretty slick.

On the subject of the Southfork Branch, it's short but will ultimately serve about four industries and keep an operating crew fairly busy. Now, when I'm running Pennsy equipment, this line will most assuredly be a PRR branch. But when I'm running Conrail or NS, I'm thinking the line may be operated by RJ Corman, giving me an excuse to add yet another railroad to the fold.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Added a Programming Track

A separate programming track has been a long-overdue project since switching to DCC.  Before, every time I wanted to do something as simple as address a new decoder, I had to remove every other locomotive from the layout. Needless to say, that's kind of a pain.

This was a very simple project. I took the wires leading from my DCC system to the layout and routed them to a DPDT switch. I then ran one set of wire back to the layout and the other to the programming track. Not only can I switch between the two easily, but I can kill the power to the layout quickly if I have to. 

The track itself is nothing more than two pieces of Kato Unitrack that came with my Broadway Limited set.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Finally finished Alloy Forms' "Yard Office Shed" kit

This is one of three kits from a defunct company called Alloy Forms that I picked up at a train show a few years ago. This kits are made out of pewter and as suck require CA to assemble. And we all know what a pain that can be. As such, it's taken me years of tinkering on an off to get this tiny little kit done. 

At any rate, I painted the walls and roof Floquil "Tuscan Red," the awning, tool box, base and lamp post "Roof Brown" and the chimneys "Grimy Black." This kit comes with a clunky metal base, which I feel cheapens the look of the structure. I ended up coating the base with matte medium and sprinkling on some Woodland Scenics black ballast. 

For weathering, I hit the building with a coat of weather wash, a coat of flat finish and then hit it with a mix of black and grey chalks. Then I sealed it all up with more flat finish. Not a bad way to spend an evening.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

About time I posted on here

Wow, over a month since I last posted any progress on the layout. Well, I certainly have a ton of reasons for my recent layout building inactivity. First and foremost, my wife and I hosted Thanksgiving so not only was I busy with getting the house ready, but I also wanted to keep the layout and train room neat and clean for visitors. After that, it was finals. In other words, layout was on the back burner.

Now that the semester is over, I've manged to take on a few long-overdue projects. First among them was moving the track lights around to better illuminate parts of Horseshoe Curve and Altoona.

I'm still fine-tuning things but the new setup seems more effective. Ultimately, I'd like to replace the CFL bulbs with LEDs, since the latter are dim-able and put the track lights on their own circuit. 

Another item I crossed off my to do list was installation of more Digitrax UP5 panels. I added an additional panel near the entrance to Johnstown yard and the other near the Gallitzin industries.

While I was at it, I also added a cup holder near Gallitzin too. After all, a stable place to set one's beer is always a must. Now, I am ultimately planning  to buy a UR90 panel, which will let me go wireless. So why the UP5s? Well, they are there as a backup. If for whatever reason, the wireless isn't working, I still have the panels at all the main switching areas and the layout can still be operated.

And speaking of DCC and operations, I decided it was time to acquire a few more throttles. I opted for the Digitrax UT4. Unlike the "Super Throttle" that came with my system. These feature only basic functions and can't program decoders.  But that's really all you need for operators anyhow. 

The last project I tackeled was getting one of the Gallitzin switching areas, glued down, wired up and operational.

This project required an handful kludges to get done. Foremost among them was covering up the short section of incline that brings the siding down from the main line. Normally, one would use plaster cloth for this task.However, I hadn't any on hand and didn't want to go out. For mountains, I usueally use paper towels dipped in plaster of Paris, but I was out of plaster mix too. Undaunted, I remembered something from elementary school art class and diluted some Elmer's glue. I dipped the paper towels in this mixture and let it dry over night. That was the ticket, the flex gaps in the riser were covered and I had a firm place to lay my track.

The next problem I ran into was I was out of cork roadbed. Since the one hobby shop in my area is never open when I'm off from work and I didn't ant to buy a whole case for a handful of sidings, I took a throwback to my early N Scale days. On my first two N Scale Layouts, the Table Rock diorama and the PR&Y, I fashioned my own roadbed from foam sheets sold at my local Michael's. I decided to do the same thing here. All told, it's the same amount of work as the cork stuff, and for a siding, it's more than adequate. 

It also turns out, I was out of Peco insulated rail joiners. However, I had a pack of Atlas Code 80 joiners. Good idea in theory, but in practice, not s much. Turns out the Atlas joiners are a tad too narrow for the Peco rail. So I had to spend a good bit of time gashing the joiners wider with an Exacto knife until they fit. 

So despite all the kludge jobs, I was able to reliably back my L1 down each siding without the slightest hiccup. With that result, I'm calling this project as success. I'm kind of excited to have more operating opportunities.


Friday, November 20, 2015

Take a model train to work day 2015

This has nothing to do with the layout, but it's still fun and gives me a chance to run a lot of my non-Pennsy equipment guilt free. Each year on the Friday before Thanksgiving, the publisher of Model Railroader magazine and the World's Greatest Hobby campaign hold Take a Model Train to Work Day. Since I work in customer service, this is a great oportunity to share the hobby with others.

I have a small portable layout that's base on the John Galt Line form Ayn Rand's novel Atlas Shrugged.

Here's the layout at the entrance to our lobby.
Since I work at a South Carolina Welcome Center, I tried to tie things in with our mission by putting out information about our state's railroad-related attractions.

Given the display's location, I decided to feature motive power from railroads that served the Palmetto State. The real Hmapton & Branchville #44 lives at the state railroad museum in Winsboro, SC. Since being built by Baldwin in 1927, she's only left the state once to be used in a TV show.

Monday, November 9, 2015

More Progress at Gallitzin

It is definitely full steam ahead at Gallitzin. I started thing off by getting the piece of foam in between the Gallitzin and Portage Tunnels to the correct height. The I set about hacking away one end of it with my hot knife to form a gradual slope down to track level. I also test fit some of the structures I plan to use there including Model Power's Railroad Hotel, Cornerstone's Jim's Repair Shop, Woodland Scenic Filler' up and Fixer'up and a few DPM buildings.

While I was at it, I situated another Rix Early Highway Overpass across the westbound tracks. Again, this is merely a mockup at this point, but I think it looks darn good. Rather than use the supplied pier, I opted for a pair of Chooch Enterprises stone abutments. These will need to be weathered before being situated.

On the subject of weathering, I weathered the Route 53 overpass. I mainly used black chalk, since this thing would be covered with cinders and soot from passing steam locomotives. It's hard to tell from the above photos. Also hard to tell from the photos is that I painted the rails underneath bridge. Always a laborius process, yet it yields awesome results.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Mocking up Gallitzin

These past few nights I've been busy slicing and dicing pink styrofoam and mocking up the two ends of Gallitzin.

The first area I worked on was the area around the tunnels. I started by taking all those Model Power house kits I've assembled and cutting some foam steps for them to sit on. In Gallitzin, many of the houses are set into the hillside. While I'm trying to take a more impressionistic approach, this was something I definitly wanted to recreate.

At present, I'm not sure if I will keep the two rows of houses coming down the hill or go with just one. But that's why I do a mock up first. After I live with it a while, I can change things.

The slab of pink foam in the foreground of the above photo will be raised up so the buildings are about two inches aboove the tracks and a Rix "Early Highway Overpass" will carry the road across the tracks. 

The second area I started working on was the western end of Gallitzin, where PA Route 53 crosses the tracks on an overpass. Aside from being a popular railfan location, the bridge provides a very nice scene transition. 

Rather than try to model the prototype bridge exactly, I used another Rix kit, well two of them actually. The bridge itself is still a work in progress and needs to be weathered. However it's a very nice fit for the area and even mocked up looks great in the setting. The Rix kits themselves are quite nice. They go together in about five minutes, the pieces have very little, if any flash on them and they are quite flexible. You can build a bridge to just about any length. 

My next project will be to get the rails painted, ugh. Then I will start making things permenant.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

2014-15 Layout Progress Report

I can't believe I've been at it for two years now. I must say, I like how the layout is turning out. At this time last year, I updated you on the layout progress and set some goals for the next year. So in that spirit, here's this years progress report:


Yard Tracks: 100% Complete

Industrial Sidings: 50% Complete. All that remains is to lay the track in Gallitzin. The Johnstown sidings and Southfork Branch are in.


Last year I set a goal of completing Horseshoe Curve and the Altoona Shop complex. I'd say Horseshoe is about 95% complete and the Altoona Shop about 75% complete.


Main Lines, Altoona Yard, Southfork Branch and Johnstown Industry sidings 100% Complete

Last year I also set a goal of installing additional cabs for operation. As you well know, I decided to dump cab control in favor of DCC, rendering last year's goal a mute point. So on that note...

DCC Conversion:

System Installation: 95% Complete. I would like to add additional UP5 panels at various points around the layout and eventually go wireless.

Locomotive Conversion: This depends on the fleet.

Pennsy Fleet: About 70% complete. All road locomotives have decoders. the switch engines still require them.

Conrail Fleet: 0% Complete. These are older locomotives that are hard to convert.

Norfolk Southern Fleet: 80% Complete, all but three locomotives equipped.

Goals for Next Year:

My primary focus for the forseeable future will be on Gallitzin. I'm confining the area of focus to between the Western Portals of the tunnels and the Route 53 overpass. I would like to have all structures in place, lighted and general topology in place by this time next year.

I would also like to get on with the DCC conversion and get the rest of the fleet equipped as time, money and patience allow. I also want to acquire more throttle.

Another goal I have is to finally start planning the operating scheme of the railroad. As mentioned elsewhere in this blog, realistic operation and the ability to host operating sessions were two of the original design goals. 

So that's about it for this year's progress report. Let's see how things shake out over the next 12 months.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

On to Galltizin!

Hurrah hurrah hurrah! Horseshoe Curve is largely done. I finally girded my loins enough to make a trip through the access hatch to finish with the ground cover. Yes, the area still needs some more trees, but I'm pondering the whole situation. So until then, I feel the curve is in enough of a state of completion that I can move on. So yay, I  finally get to scratch the whole "I want to do something else on this layout" itch.

It turns out that "something else" is going to be Gallitzin. Gallitzin is a small town and home to the famous tunnels of the same name. Now, up until this point, the area I've been modeling has been rural with few structures. Well, that's going to change in a big way as I start modeling an actual town. All of those Model Power house kits I've put together over the past year or so will find a home here. 

Adding to the challenge of modeling Gallitzin is the topology. Nothing is level. In fact the whole town kind of resembles San Francisco only without the cable cars and hipsters. Each of the aforementioned houses will be set into the hillside. 

Now, as with previous parts of the layout, I won't be trying to duplicate Gallitzin exactly. Rather I'll merely attempt to capture the flavor of the area. This will also allow me to add some industry to the area and give my local freights something to do.

One of those industrial areas will be served by the eastbound tracks and will include Model Powers Brewery, which I've expanded with American Model Builers Transfer Building kit and Cornerstones "Medusa Cement." The westbound tracks will serve a metal fabricator and a feed, seed and implement dealer.

I'm setting the boundary for this section of the layout at PA Route 53, which is where the center peninsula returns to the walls. When this section is finished, about half of the layout will be sceniced.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Sound-Equipped Locomotives

Up until just recently, the idea of sound-equipped locomotives never much appealed to me. Admittedly, my previous experience with them was in O-Gauge and they made such racket that the novelty wore off pretty quickly. Also, when I started converting my fleet to DCC, I decided to splurge and add a sound decoder to my N&W J. I have to say, I way pretty underwhelmed. I mean how much sound could you really get out of a dime-sized speaker?

Then, a couple of weeks ago Bachmann surprised us all when they announced a sound value K4. Needless to say I snapped one up. Unlike my J, the sound on this loco was impressive. It's just loud enough to be heard but not deafeningly so. Just yesterday, I finally took delivery of my Broadway Limited E7s, which also are equipped with sound. These two are impressive with sound at just the right volume. Suffice to say, I'm hooked. I can't wait for my BLI M1 to get here so I can further increase my stable of sound-equipped locos.

Here are the BLI E7s leaving Johnstown:

The K4 Rounding Horseshoe Curve:

In other news, I haven't done much of anything on the layout itself lately. But I really need to get myself motivated to finish Horseshoe Curve and move on.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

The Bachmann K4 Has Landed

I took delivery of my Bachmann K4 Pacific today. All I can say is wow, this locomotive is awesome. The paintwork is crisp, the detailing is incredible. It makes my Minitrix K4 look pretty crude by comparison.

My K4 Pacific fleet. The new Bachmann model (right) makes the old Minitrix (left) look completely dated.
If looks weren't enough, the model also comes with a factory-installed Soundtraxx decoder. Up until this point, I've been pretty underwhelmed by N Scale sound. I mean come on, what kind of sound are you going to get out of a dime-sized speaker? Well, I can tell you the sound on this loco is amazing. I could hear clearly anywhere in the train room and even down the stairs!

My only minor annoyances with this loco are the whistle, a very high-pitched European-sounding one. This "banshee" whistle may be accurate for PRR freight steamers, but passenger engines had a much deeper three-chime whistle. The another annoyance was the trailing truck was out of gauge and would consistently hop the rails on a few turnouts.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Tree Trimming at the Curve

I finally took on a project I've been dreading for a while, redoing the trees at Horseshoe Curve. My first pass at the foreground trees was a product of my desire to finish the scene before my son was born. And the more I looked at it, the more I decided it just didn't look right to me. The trees were too tall and as such made the curve look too small. Also, some were the wrong color

The "Before" picture with oversize trees.
Unfortunately for me, pulling the trees wasn't that easy. It was no longer possible to climb up on the layout to get to them, necessitating going in through the access hatch. Not pleasant but survivable. I removed the trees, repainted some of them and trimmed them down to size and started replanting them.

The "After" photo. Much better.

I had another "ah ah moment" came when I was thumbing through noted railroad historian Don Ball Jr's excellent book Pennsylvania Railroad 1940s - 1950s. Back in the 50s, trees at the curve were much more sparse than they are today, owning no doubt to the constant procession of steam locomotives spewing cinders into the air. 

With that in mind, I'm keeping the trees clustered into a few distinct stands and kept further back from the tracks. Anyway, other than trees, all that's left for the curve is turfing a small area. Then I finally get to move on.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Hell Freezes Over

If you've been following this blog since its inception, you're no doubt aware that the lack of Pennsy steam in N Scale has been a perennial favorite topic for rants. So imagion my surprise when I log onto Facebook and see this posted in the PRR N Scale Modeling Group:

That's right, Bachmann has announced a K4 Pacific in N Scale with DCC and sound less! Now how can I pass that up? If anything it makes me feel a little but foolish having spent all that time and money to upgrade my old Minitirx engine, but oh well, two K4s are better than one right?

If that weren't enough, Broadway Limited, no doubt feeling some heat from the recently-lit fire under their fannies released this:

Yup, that's a painted prepoduction model of BLI's much-anticipated M1a. While still scheduled for a November 2015 delivery, it's somewhat reassuring to see them update their delivery schedule and not push this thing back another two months.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Back to the Curve

The new access road for Kittanning Point Station. A pair of Cornerstone crossing gates guard the crossing.

Overall view of the valley. The brown area at left will require going through the access hatch to finish.

Note the reservoir spillway at left.

After what seems like months, oh wait, it has been months, I got back to work on Horseshoe Curve. Anyway, I was in a mad rush to get the area around the Curve done before my son was born. And I came quite close. But towards the end the "I wanna do something else on the layout" bug bit me hard. As a result I ended up doing some work at the Altoona Shop (which I am currently redoing) and started the switch to DCC. 

At any rate, I started things off by painting most recently installed plaster in preparation for turf. I have to say, it was nice to see the area look a bit more natural after looking at grungy white plaster all this time.

The next thing I did was finish the road from the Curve to the front of the layout, along with a short access road for Kittanning Point. As usual, I used Woodland Scenics paving tape and patching plaster. Now, here's where the fun starts. I grabbed my cheap poster paint and mixed some white with the black to create a nice dark grey color of a faded road. But not only did I not get an opaque coat, I got a weird blue color! I tried going over it with straight black, still the white bled through. 

Eventually, I tossed in the towel and went downstairs for the night. Today, however, I went out and bought some acrylic paint, and that was the ticket. For my next trick, I went about applying the Woodland Scenics turf. I stared with green fine turf, then moved on to patches of yellow and finally coarse turf. For application, I brushed the area with a coat of matte medium, applied the turf and sprayed it with more, diluted matte medium. 

While the glue was drying, I went ahead and added some grade crossing gates to Kittanning Point station. Next, I have the whole tree issue to ponder.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Finished two more houses

I knocked out another two Model Power house kits. The first one I took on was "Moving In."

I've come to the realization that these kits look better in darker earth tones. The last time I painted this kit, I used Floquil "Antique White" and I think it ended up looking a bit toylike, akin to a Plasticville building. Anyway, this time around, I went with Floquil "Tuscan Red" for the walls, "Antique White" for the windows "Grimy Black" for the roof and doors and Testors "Flat Olive Drab" for the shutters. 

As threatened, I only placed shutters on the front windows. Most of the houses I see only have them on the front, so this is prototypical. Also omitting a large portion of the shutters made the project go much faster. assembly took maybe 20 minutes as opposed to 90. All in all, I'm quite happy with how it turned out.

The next kit, "The Grabitski's" proved to be a bit of a challenge. The kit is a house that's having an addition being built. Therefore it would take more than a coat of paint to differentiate it from its earlier incarnation.

After a bit of head scratching, I decided to do some kitbashing. My brilliant idea was to turn the under-construction addition into a carport. I started out by taking the side wall of the addition and chopping it down to one story. Next, I used some Plastruct styrene pieces to fashion a footing for the wall, rafters and a roof. 

Now, the addition also comes with a wood floor and its own foundation pieces, I assembled these and stuck them to the back of the house, creating a back deck. I finished it off by adding some Woodland Scenics figures.

For paint I used "Grimy Black" on the roof, "Roof Brown" on the carport supports and deck and "Concrete" on the carport footing. As for the walls and windows? I wasn't in the mood to brush paint them. But the only model paint  had in a spray can was silver and Olive Drab. But then I realized "Who says I have to use model paint?" I grabbed two cans of Krylon spray paint and knocked the walls and windows out in seconds. I used some unnamed shade of maroon for the walls and "Meringue" for the windows and doors. As advertised, it was dry in 15 minutes. 

I omitted the shutters entirely on this house. Honestly I don;t miss them. They don't really add a lot to the building and are a tedious pain in the ass to put on. 

In other news, I have begun purging my locomotive fleet of non-PRR, Conrail, PC, NS equipment. I originally thought I would keep it to run once in a while, but the switch to DCC has made me rethink that. After all, I never ran these engines before the switch, why would I install decoders in them? Besides, DCC is expensive and I could use the cash infusion.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Finished Model Power's "The Sullivan's" Again

I bought another bunch of Model Power house kits at the last train show I attended. They'll help populate Gallitizin. Now, I've already built this kit once. But most houses in a given area are usually built to similar designs so I figured I could get away with repeating myself as long as I painted them different colors.

Anyway, assembly didn't exactly go smoothly this time around. First off, I decided to paint the walls Floquil "Coach Green," which is usually a big pain in the nuts to work with. It's quite watery and runny and as such, you have to slather on coat after coat to get it somewhat opaque. The result being the walls took nearly two days to dry thoroughly. 

This kit also comes with a bright red roof. Since this is a house in a small Pennsylvania town and not a pet-friendly budget motel, that had to go. So I used, you guessed it, Floquil "Grimy Black." I finished things off by painting the foundation Floquil "Concrete." The windows and shutters stayed in their stock colors s did the porch and chimneys.

Let's talk about the windows and shutters for a second, all 26 and 52 of them respectively. What a tedious slog these things are to put on, especially the shutters! In fact I damned near left them off and think I'll do just that on subsequent houses. Not only will it speed assembly but also differentiate them further.

Things really started getting hair when I started assembling the walls. This house is essentially two perpendicular rectangles. You glue one to the other, slightly off center. The roof of one rectangle has a cutout to accommodate the roof of the other. Being an idiot, I glued the one rectangle in the wrong spot relative to the cutout and had to pull the whole thing apart, leaving a nice bit of glue schmootz all over the wall. 

All in all, this house didn't turn out too bad, Wicked Witch of the West color scheme aside.

In other news, I got my two Pennsy geeps equiped with DCC decoders. Being older models, they required TCS "CN GP" decoders. These are basically two small PC boards interconnected with wires. They're actually kind of a pain to install, requiring complete dis-assembly of the mechanism. No, not terrible, but kind of a pain. But that said, it is nice to have another key piece of road power back. That just leaves my L1 mike and my PAs and the entire PRR road fleet is DCC.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Finished Model Power's Brewery Kit

First off, let me apologize to the entire world for the ugly color scheme of this particular structure.  Truth be told I this kit wouldn't have been my first choice but my wife saw it at a train show we went to together. Since my other hobby is brewing beer, she bought it for me. As such it's going on the layout.

Now, as delivered, this kit came in a horrifically ugly paint scheme. Mustard yellow walls, gray roof and chocolate brown wood work. 

So yeah, that had to go. The first thing I did was chuck the elaborate base, which I thought looked cheap and cheesy. The next thing I did was break out the paint. I brushed the walls Floquil "Depot Buff," the wood work Floquil "Roof Brown," the roof  "Grimy Black" and I sprayed the walls Testor's Olive. 

Next I did the usual song and dance of filling the mortar lines with grey poster paint. This ended up making the walls look filthy. At this point I hit the walls with some weather wash (probably overkill at this point), sprayed it with Dulcote and called it done.

All in all I don't think the kit looks any better. But then again it doesn't really look worse either. Let's call it a draw. If anything, the yellow walls and black roof kind of make it look like a Fitch Barrier:

In fact I may need to make up a "Fitch Brewing" sign.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Oh Brave New (To Me Anyway) World

As threatened, I got the last UP5 panel hooked up and installed in Johnstown. Now I actually have a degree of walk around operation and I'm pretty damned excited about it. Let me tell you, when it comes to DCC, I have seen the light. I can't believe I seriously thought I would have operating sessions using cab control! And speaking of realistic operations, I got a little taste of that last night too.

H16-44 #8807 brings the Broadway Limited into Johnstown

When I rigged up the new system, I hastily pulled all locos off the layout, leaving their consists behind. The main lines resembled a scene out of Atlas Shrugged. So before I could run some trains I had to clear the tracks. H16-44 number 8807 was assigned to the task. At first I had he hook up to a consist sitting on the outer main at Johnstown and back it onto the inner main and then pull it into the yard. Next, it was a move up to Cassandra to fetch another stranded cut of cars and bring them back to Johnstown yard as well. The final move of the night was a run up to Gallitzin to retrieve the Broadway Limited consist. This will probably be the little FM's only shot at pulling the Broadway.

To be able to follow my train around the layout and take full advantage of my yards and staging tracks was awesome. I am very much looking forward to full operating sessions

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Major DCC Upgrade

Well, after getting bitten by the DCC bug a few months ago, I've finally gotten enough of my locomotive fleet upgraded to warrant upgrading my system. After much hemming and hawing, I opted for Digitrax Super Empire Builder starter set. The set features a five-amp command station/booster a throttle and a UP5 Jack for tethered operation. The system can also be upgraded to support wireless operation as well. The system supports 22 addresses and 22 throttles, more than I'll ever likely need on this layout.

In addition to the starter set, I also ordered up an additional pair of UP5 jacks and have begun the process of installing them around the layout. This is part of Digirtax' "Loconet" system. All of the various components are connected using Loconet cables, which are really nothing more than 6-wire telephone cables with six-pin plugs. They're quite easy and cheap to make.  

I've installed one UP5 Panel at the main control panel, one in Altoona and plan to install one in Johnstown. I plan to install at list one more at Gallitzin.

I've yet to actually run any trains as I'm just getting the feel of the new system. It seems to have a bit of a learning curve. But I'm sure I'll figure it out.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Finished Three More Buildings

Wow, almost three weeks since my last post. I have been working on some layout-related things but unfortunatly have not been able to blog about since my wireless router started acting up a little while ago.Well that problem seems to be resolved, for now anyway. That said, I've got a nice backlog of stuff to tell you about.

First, I finished Cornerstone's Medusa Cement Company kit.

This is relatively simple kit to assemble with a small number of pieces. Unfortunately, some of the silos didn't fit quite right, leaving noticeable gaps. Well, this was nothing some Testor's airplane glue and some masking tape couldn't fix. 

As is usually the case, fixing one problem caused another one. The excess glue and the silo seems caused a good bit of shmootz on the outside of the silos. This nixed my plan to leave them in their stock color. My hand forced, I had to tap into my dwindling supply of Floquil "Concrete." For the roof, I opted for my go-to color, Floquil "Grimy Black." For the dust collection bins and other metal parts, I used Tamiya "Gloss Aluminum." For weathering, I went with weather wash, Dulcote, chalks and more Dulcote.

The next structure I knocked out was one that I've had my eye on for a while, Cornerstone's Vulcan Manufacturing. This just had Central Pennsylvania written all over it.

For the main building, I started out brushing the walls with Floquil "Boxcar Red," my go-to brick color. Next, I went to coat the walls with grey poster paint to simulate the mortar lines, only to discover I was out of grey poster paint. So with further progress on the walls blocked, I went ahead and painted the roof sections, the crane supports and crane roof Floquil "Grimy Black and the crane base Floquil "Concrete."

The next day I swung by Wal Mart for some poster paint. However, they didn't have grey. "No big deal," I thought. "I'll just buy some black and some white and mix them." That's exactly what I did. Only, I didn't get grey, I got some weird shade of turquoise! So now I'm starting to get a little ticked off. Finally I mixed the black poster paint with white acrylic paint. This finally resulted in the desired grey color. So I brushed it onto the walls and wiped it of with a paper towel. Normally, this resulted in filled-in mortar lines. But not this time!

Usually my method of filling in brick mortar works like a charm, But this time none of the poster paint adhered. Now I'm getting annoyed. I figured the walls were too smooth for the paint to stick and tried spraying some Dulcote on small spot to see if that would help and it didn't. Eventually, I brushed on the paint and let it set a few minutes before wiping it off. This worked but not as well as I had hopped. 

After the building was assembled, I hit it with a coat of weather wash, which did bring out the mortar lines, and then a coat of Dulcote, followed by chalks and more Dulcote.

The final structure I tacked was half of Model Power's City Substation kit.

This kit allows you to build either two small substations or one big one. I opted to build one small one for now. It's a cool-looking kit and since it doesn't need a road or a rail siding, it can be plunked down anywhere. Now, this was kind of a tedious kit to assemble. It comes with a bunch of brass wires, which are to be bent into all kinds of shapes. Well, after about a minute and half of that, I gave up and stopped following the instructions and just tried to make something that looked like the picture on the box.

For paint, I kept things real simple. I painted the pad under the transformer Floquil "Concrete" and left everything else as is. I did coat the base with matte medium and pour on some buff colored ballast. I finished it off with Dulcote. So all in all, not a bad little structure. 

So that's what I've been up to. I have more structure kits and plenty of engines in need of DCC decoders. So a lot of little projects here and there for now. 

Friday, July 3, 2015

I1 Upgrade Complete

I finished upgrade ding my I1sa by adding a white LED for the headlight. Running the wires and getting the shell back on proved to be a bit of a challenge. But, other than some light leakage around the smokebox, I think the project turned out pretty well. 

Sunday, June 21, 2015

DCC Doings and Train Show Haul

This past weekend was a productive one. On Saturday, my wife, son and I attend a train show up in Charlotte. Among the items in the haul were five decoders, enabling me to upgrade my K4, I1sa, H16-44, Trainmaster and C628. With DCC installed in these locos, I've been running DCC on one loop, DC on the other and running five trains at once. 

More good news is my little one seemed to really be intrigued by the O-Gauge layout they had set up at the show. Hopefully I got him hooked early.

Also in the haul was about eight freight cars and two Bowser N5 cabin cars.. Combine that with the four Broadway Limited PRR H32 covered hoppers I received for Father's Day and I've got enough to run several good-sized trains.

If that weren't enough, I also picked up some structure kits and heavyweight passenger cars.