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.