So it’s been a while since I posted an update on my model railroading progress. I’ve been dabbling with a host of side projects but the two main accomplishments of the last few months have been 1. the organization of my workbench and 2. the completion of my staging area.
It can be hard to motivate yourself to put work into the space where you do your work, rather than devoting that time into actual projects themselves. But my overly-cluttered railroad workbench had reached an overpopulation of ridiculous proportions. I don’t have any “before” images to provide for contrast because taking a photo of how it used to be would be an embarassment. At Home Depot I found one of these 30-drawer organizers meant for screws and washers and that has worked out positively brilliant for the bulk of my small objects which need to be kept in sensible order. It’s been one of those upgrades to your work situation that makes you say to yourself “geez, why on earth didn’t I do this sooner?! I’ve been languishing in the dark ages and this thing only cost me $20!”
The desk itself is fairly primitive; constructed of spare 2×4 segments left over from benchwork construction and half of a cheap ikea desk surface I sawed in half. There’s a power strip screwed into the base which provides juice to lamps and the soldering iron. Sitting on the tabletop is a stack of white paper which I use to keep greases/glues off the actual green desk surface and a spare piece of foam for setting down delicate engines while I work on them. It’s nothing impressive but it’s been functional. I guess the main takeaway here is that maaan, a little organization sure goes a long way to making life easier.
The second, more exciting bit of progress I’ve made is to complete the staging yard–which is a short sentence to say but a lot of work to accomplish. Laying track is time consuming work when you want it to operate well. I added more work by deciding to have the whole yard hooked up to an autoreverser. It’s an “AR1″ from Tony’s Train Exchange which monitors its (electrically isolated) track section thousands of times per second to see if there’s a short circuit compared to the main. If it detects one, it flips the polarity on its track to match, and does it so fast that the DCC system can’t detect that a short ever happened. It’s actually a pretty impressive little piece of technology if you stop and think about what it’s doing. The practical function here is to allow trains to enter the yard from either direction and never short anything, which allows me to turn long trains around. Very handy indeed! I chose the AR1 model specifically because it draws power from the track and therefore doesn’t need an independent power supply. It also has the capability to use the polarity flip to trigger a switch machine. So far I have zero switch machines on my layout but if I decide to add some in the future I could use that functionality.
Speaking of switch machines, I installed a whole bunch of Caboose Industries ground throws and I learned something I wasn’t expecting; when using curved turnouts, you need to make sure that your passenger cars or autoracks don’t smash into the throw! If you position it even somewhat close to the track, it’s almost surely going to cause a problem. I ended up having my throws mounted all the way at the end of each switch throwbar. And it turned out that there was one curved turnout with a parallel curved track next to it which had zero possible placements where a throw wouldn’t cause crashes. I didn’t even think of this when I was coming up with the track plans! Fortunately my local hobby shop had a cheap mechanical solution which I could mount underneath the layout. It’s a Rix hand operated throw which doesn’t have any spring or tensioner in it so I’ll need to keep an eye on it if I use it repeatedly, but I think it ought to work well enough for that particular track.
And speaking of underneath the layout, I was also surprised at the amount of work it took to add wire drops from each section of track and make sure everything was getting powered. Long stretches of flex track are pretty forgiving when it comes to conducting the signal but add in a bunch of switches and wow, all sorts of connection issues start appearing, even though I was using brand new, snug rail joiners. I had to go back an add more connections once I thought I was done. Now that it’s all complete though, it sure is nice!! I can have several long trains all on the tracks at the same time and choose which ones I want to take out and run, which is the whole strength of DCC afterall. It’s a milestone to now have a yard that allows me to take greater advantage of this.
Back with another cool wine bottle. These things go on forever. Just like the intricate swirls in this design, or the stars inside a galaxy.
There’s a place downtown Houston called Bombay Pizza Company and they serve Indian themed pizzas with everything you might expect. Shown here is Tandoori Chicken, Onion, & Spinach. I prefer basil instead of Spinach but this was still very flavorful. Best part about the place is the super duper thin sesame seed crust. It’s real crunchy around the edge as well.
I did not take this, I am just highlighting how awesome it is. It’s a long exposure of some double stack container cars in Canada. You could do this same exposure trick pretty easily on a model RR although you need a neutral density filter to get this effect in real life. Anyway it is NIFTY.
Check out this cool downtempo track:
ok, and also, it is past high time that I give a shout out to Groove Salad internet radio from Soma FM. I heard the above track there, as well as the mind-blowing downtempo masterpiece Music for Space Tourism. I’ve been a fan for nearly 10 years now and they hold it down. Microcosmologist Official Recommendation tag for them!
They also make pretty good drum n bass, look it up…
After a long hiatus, I’m dusting this thing off of and posting some nifty new stuff. Here’s an awesome new player on the RR, a GP-30 with a sweet sounding turbocharged prime mover inside. The high pitch whine of the turbo is a very cool new sound on the tracks, especially with two of them going. Also, this photo is actually 5 photos stitched together in Photoshop for a composite focus.
On a totally different note, since I’ve been out of the blogging loop for a while it appears that I need to relearn some things and dang it if flickr didn’t completely get rid of their embedding slideshow features! That was the whole reason I ever got an account there. Pfffft. Just goes to show what’s new isn’t always better.
There’s been several leaks recently concerning the existence of something which has never formally ‘confirmed’ to exist. After seeing it online, I had to recreate this poster IRL to show solidarity. . .
I’ve been a busy man over the last months, planning for my wedding in a few weeks! That’s going to be a lot of fun and I’m really looking forward to catching up with friends whom I don’t get to see like I’d wish.
Over the last week I did get a chance to put some time into the model railroad and I thought I would post some progress pictures:
It’s been a while since I did a model train post. One thing I’ve been working on lately is a set of blank 45 foot trailers which I’ve been decaling for the Milwaukee Road’s trailer service. They have a number of neat paint schemes which had caught my eye, namely the “Preferred 45″, “Preferred 102″, and “Preferred Pool” trailers. One of each is on display here:
The decals are by Micro Scale and although they have been out of production for probably 10 years, you can still find them floating around (pun intended?). Old decals can be tough to work with, since they like to fall apart on you, but with some patience I think I nailed it. The trailers are also out of production models, from the Promotex line by a Canadian company called Herpa. I went with these simply because I liked the amount of detail on them. The reflective stripes on the sides are probably an anachronism, but eh, whatever, I think it looks neat so let’s run with it.
It was actually really tough to find reference photos taken of the prototype (aka the real thing for the non-modelers out there). Below are two which were shared with me from the slide collection of Mr Nathan Dahms. Thank you for these helpful images Nathan! And thank you for permission to post them here so that others in search of reference images will have something to use :
I got this first image after decaling mine. Although I followed the decal sheet instructions (which are consistent with the image below), this trailer is a bit different. I think for the next ones I do, I will mimic this photo instead…
And lastly, in the process of searching for images, I rediscovered this dude who goes by the handle Mellow Mike. I had seen his stuff on weathering forums years and years ago, then lost track of what he was up to when those forums closed. This guy is seriously god-like with an airbrush (and whatever other secret alchemy sauces he uses). If this kind of thing interests you, his website will totally blow your mind. Anyway I randomly found a trailer he had done via google image search. It’s a Milwaukee Road Preferred 45 trailer which was sold and painted over, although the original scheme remains faintly visible, a state referred to as ‘ghosted’. He said he based this off a photo. So my little decaling project is neat and all, but check out the real master at work: