Monday, October 24, 2016

2015-16 Layout Progress Report

Well folks, it's that time of year again when I recap what I've done over the past year. Boy it's been a productive year too! Let's start with the basics.

Track: 100% complete

Wiring: All main lines and yards wired up and operational. Only four Industrial sidings remain to be wired along with part of the Altoona shop.

DCC Conversion: System Installation 100% complete, Fleet Conversion: PRR: 99% complete, Conrail Fleet 0%, NS: 80%.

The goal for last year was to complete Gallitizn. I managed to do all that and more. In fact I've moved into Cassandra and am making good progress there. I've also completed the crossing of the Conemaugh River.

Another goal I set for last year was to start working on the operating scheme for the railroad. Well, I still haven't made any progress on that front. At some point I will need to install a signal system, an expense I'm not looking forward to.

So let's talk goals for next year. My main area of focus will be the area from Cassandra to Johnstown. This leaves only the urban areas of Johnstown and Altoona to finish up. Whatever else I get done this year is gravy. And you know what? I'm in no hurry to get it done. While it's nice to start seeing an actual model railroad emerge from the swath of pink styrofoam, after finishing Gallitzin, I kind of felt like Ahab at the end of Moby Dick.

That bare styrofoam is a non-renewable resource and for me model railroading is very much about the journey more than the destination. There's still plenty to do after the scenery work is finished, like the aforementioned signal system and then serious detailing.  But what will I do when the layout's done? There's that old cliche about a layout never being done. I imagine I'll focus operating for a while. Once my kids get older, I may well end up sharing more of the space up there with them. Until then however, all aboard!

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Bachmann Ten-Wheeler Restoration: New Headlight

This has absolutely nothing to do with the layout, but since I need more materials before I can move on, I thought I'd share it. As you all know, I once had a garden railway and as such have lots of G Scale equipment. One loco is this Bachmann 4-6-0 lettered for the South Pacific Coast Railroad. I received it for my tenth birthday and, being a 10-year-old boy, I played rough with it. I dug her out of storage and she wasn't a pretty sight. So I decided a full restoration was in order.

Tonight, I started that restoration by replacing the headlight. The original filament bulb burned out decades ago. Seriously, I hasn't worked since Hootie and The Blowfish "I only wanna be with you" was in the top 40! Anyway, instead of another fillament bulb I opted for an LED. Here's how it went down:

The LED is a bright white 3mm with presoldered resister. These can be scored off eBay usually from Chinese seller for dirt cheap prices.

The headlight bezel needs a larger hole to accomodate the LED. Bother wires and the resister can fit through the existing hole in the top of the smoke box.
The wires from the headlight lead to a small switch on the back of the smoke box front. I clipped these wires about an inch or so from the end and stripped them. Then, I used a pair of alligator clips to temporarily connect these wires to the leads from the LED. Since polarity is crucial with LEDs, I applied power to the locomotive and made sure the headlight illuminated while the locomotive was running forward. With correct polarity determined, I spliced the wires, soldered them and covered the joints with Kapton tape. I reassembled the locomotive and called it done.

The headlight is quite bright, perhaps maybe too bright. But still, it's nice to see it lit once more. What's more, despite sitting in storage for nine years and having the crappy white plastic gears Bachmann used in all it's mid-1990s models, she still ran. She will need her gears greased and moving parts oild before I really run her for any length of time, but I think I'm on the right track.