Sunday Afternoon Thoughts

This is weird and rambly. I apologize in advance.

The gig today with Chasing Grace went well. It was in a very reverberated space, and very loud (not that I am one to complain about that). Good times were had.

What I’m listening to:

I’m planning a replacement/additional desktop computer to allow further self education on important IT principles.

This mattress is very comfortable. Thanks to the family who gave it to us! (I wasn’t sure if you wanted to be named or not, so erred on the side of privacy)

I am rather sweaty, and probably stinky.

I visited the train show in Harrisonburg today, and picked up a number of items. It’s still quite a culture shock compared to the model shows in New Zealand which were more about layout owners showing off their models and less about vendors. Here it’s all about Vendors selling their wares with only a couple of small layouts.

As a side note to the above, I also want to check out the local model railroad club, as I’m working during the day and might be available to attend – I just need to ensure it won’t conflict with other commitments.

Crash is doing really well at obeying commands, though he isn’t perfect. With one attempt at running away out the front door, he seemed to follow the instructions to wait, and go back inside.

I should look up Hulu and CBS and see if I’m caught up on Fringe and NCIS.

Top Gear is a fun show. Which reminds me, there is an episode we were watching the other day that needs to be finished.

Earlier this week we went out to see the circus train come through town. It was a guess as to when it would show up, but it worked out in the end. And much earlier than initially predicted. We’d been estimating as late as midnight (with unhappy looks from Kelly, with us having to be up early the next day and a 30-45 minute drive home). It showed up around 10pm where we were, and I got some bad video and unusable photos of it by the crossing we were sitting at (Look for Lynnwood on my Flickr for daylight photos from the place) then chased it North to Island Ford, filming it again poorly, and then we were alongside it (he was doing about 50-55mph, and we were creeping alongside at 55-60mph). His head end got to Elkton first, but with a more direct route and slightly higher speed limit we got to Shenandoah first (and even then, only just). Lots of waves exchanged with circus cast and crew, and generally a good time had by all.

People are coming over to watch Sherlock tonight. I’m not sure how social I feel like being, but Sherlock should balance that out.

My allergies have been bad lately. It’s annoying.

I enjoyed driving the truck today, it’s been a while. Even though I did accidentally try changing from 4th gear into (non-existent) 5th. Pretty sure it was a safety thing, but I ground a little putting it back into 4th, realized I was a little too far over still, and slotting into “R” instead. It does the same when trying to slot either into first or reverse when moving. Quickly corrected without any damage, and continued on our merry way.

Running out of things to say, probably a good thing.

A Range of Updates!

So, there are a few new things worth reporting.

Firstly, my performance review at work came in, and I scored a fairly solid 3/5. Not bad, considering I’ve been there just coming up 6 months (was 4 at the end of the 2010 calendar year). I have a few things to work on, but don’t we all?

Also work related, there is a full time position opening on day shift, which I think I will at least apply for. There are several others in the lab that are interested, all of whom have been there longer than I have and so I don’t doubt that they would get it over me. Still, if I don’t try I can’t ever hope to succeed.

I’ve been to Charlottesville a couple of times in the last month or two, and had a great time. I’m sure there must be more, but so far I’ve only found one hobby shop that was where the maps and information on the internet told me it would be (and even then, I’m not sure it’s one of the ones on the list!) It was near Kroger on 29, not marked very visibly but big “Thomas Trains Here” and “Lionel Trains Here” signs in the windows. I have also spent a fair amount of time sitting around near the Amtrak station near down town, as this is where two fairly busy railroads cross. The Norfolk Southern running North-South to Manassas and Lynchburg sees several trains a day. The CSX running North-East-West (the division, leased by the Buckingham Branch Railroad) connects with the NS at Orange to the North, CSX to the East and through Staunton on to Clifton Forge to the West). There is also daily Amtrak traffic (though I’m not usually there early or late enough to see the majority), in the form of the New York to New Orleans train, the New York to Chicago train (three days a week) and the Washington DC to Lynchburg train.

I’ve also found that US-250 is a great alternative to I-64. The interstate cannot be matched for speed at all, but it’s still a great drive over Afton Mountain. At some point I’d like to visit Afton and explore the area a bit more, but for now I’ll settle for having driven past it.

Last but not least, is the model situation. I’m still waiting for my ATX cables to arrive (hopefully they didn’t get lost, or not sent..) so the sections are still leaning up against the wall, same as they were last time I posted. I do have updates, however. A couple of months ago I found that Ollies, a discount store that lives on buyouts and the like, has a fair stock of IHC products. The range isn’t great, a couple of buildings and a few vehicles, a LOT of MoPac RPO cars ($5.99 each, if anyone is looking for some..), but they are CHEAP. I picked up a Factory/Office building kit (constructed over the weekend!), a set of Algoma Central passenger cars (I have plans to model a kind of historic railroad running on a Class I/II when I get around to modeling big), and a few trucks and such. I have a greenhouse which will need some modifications to be realistic enough, and a bunch of “village” accessories which will need some attention before they are considered suitable (by me!).

In the Factory/Office kit were some molded people who I finally got around to painting today. I’m not entirely happy with them overall, but considering I’ve never painted anything in HO before, I’m pretty happy with my first try.

I don’t have any photos to post today, but maybe next time. Trainspotting photos from C’ville will be up on Flickr soonish.

Brief Update – Model Railroad

Yeah, it’s another one of those.

My terminal strips came in, and I’ve now completely wired the track blocks on both sections. Now I just need the other ATX extensions to arrive so I can wire the connections between the two sections and start running trains again.

A week or two ago I pulled out a scrap piece of plywood (roughly 1’x8′) and laid out the track work for a time-saver layout. At some point I think I’ll get things together to build frame work and put that together as well – I like the game aspect of it. I already have a short list of things I’ll do differently – for one I plan to lay cork under the track. I want to try different wiring techniques like soldering to the bottom of rail joiners – we’ll see how that works out. Once track is laid and wiring is done it will certainly take a back seat to the slightly bigger project (the one I’m working on now).

The current layout doesn’t have a name yet… I haven’t come up with something that I like that I can enjoy. I thought about “Dufflyn,” because it is a location at the end of a branch line, ie “End of Line” -> “[En]Dufflyn” but I still think it’s a little too cheesy.

Model Trains Update

It’s been a while since I posted an update on where my model is at, mostly because it’s been a while since I did anything really observable.

Recently, however, I brought the two sections inside from the garage and did a lot of work on wiring them properly. I’ve also bought some cheap parts to finish the job, and I should be set to finish putting wires underneath some time next week. Then it will be on to building a control panel to tie it all together.

The left section is fully wired for track circuits underneath, and this is where the main connection with the control panel will be. The two sections will be electrically connected using 20-pin ATX cables – one side will have a male connector and the other will have a female, and a small extension cable will connect the two together. Connecting to the control panel is another story – a 24-pin ATX connection is being used to begin with, but it won’t be enough on it’s own. This is still to be decided..

The right section is primarily wired for track circuits – I’m awaiting some terminal blocks to arrive so I can wire them all the way to the end. Also, once terminal blocks arrive I can really get moving on wiring turnouts – at present I have one pair of turnouts (a crossover on the left section) wired to a terminal block, but then I ran out of terminals, and so it stalled.

I’m shortly expecting a set of couplers to arrive, ordered for my 4 IHC passenger cars to bring them ‘up to standard’ (IE, have knuckle couplers..). They should be here tomorrow! I also have a bunch of LEDs and resistors for an upcoming project to change the way my locomotive lights work. Hopefully it will also be easily transferred to DCC when the time comes.

I was surprised to find a train set at Gift and Thrift in Harrisonburg a week or so ago, and I bought some parts of it. A Great Northern box car which will end up as scenery, a Chessie System caboose which will also be scenery, and three small Bachmann hoppers (two N&Ws and a Southern). These are on my list to replace with knuckle couplers too, however I need knuckles with a mounting hole smaller than that of a #5 Kadee, but larger than that of a typical Tyco model. I suspect further research is required!

So, hopefully by the end of this coming week I may be able to run trains again! We’ll see.. Here are some photos. I apologize for the lack of quality, I used my cell phone camera!

This is the underside view of the wiring for the first pair of turnouts to a terminal block. This will eventually be wired to the main terminal block (to the left in photo).

And this is the top view.

This is the left hand module, to the left is the main terminal block which has all 8 blocks of track circuits wired for both sections plus common. To the top is the connection to the right hand section, which is yet to receive the remaining turnout wiring.

This is an overall underside view of both sections.

And an overall top-side view of both sections.

This is the underside view of the wiring for the first pair of turnouts to a terminal block. This will eventually be wired to the main terminal block (to the left in photo).

Diary, Model Railroad, 7, etc..

This is really stretching out! Anyway, since the last post I’ve done little but prepared much. Or at least, that’s what I’m telling myself.

What I’ve achieved: Completed painting both sections.

Yes, that’s all.

That said, I have ordered more ballast (since I have one pack of light and two packs of dark – not very close to meeting my requirements), I have ordered more terminal blocks (so I can rewire the second section much more cleanly), I have ordered a 20->24 pin ATX adapter and a 24->20 pin ATX adapter – this should give me both male and female sockets for 20 and 24 pin. I’ve also ordered DPDT switches and momentary on switches – enough to build a control panel. I’ve also printed onto paper some cardstock buildings, and I’ll be gluing those to the poster board that I also acquired at some point in the near future.

My coming plans involve forming a road (I’m thinking a paved road and a dirt/gravel road or two) through part of a section. The problem I’m having is deciding where. I thought I had left space in the track layout, but it seems there are some tight spaces where I’m thinking of putting buildings. It would also be cool to have a rail-in-road space somewhere, I’m thinking along the back where I was planning on putting a one-car container terminal, and building a fence around the facility for security etc. Lastly, I realized that I hadn’t made any account for uncoupling magnets, and I don’t like the idea of them being incredibly visible (unless they can be disguised as something else in some way?) Therefore I either need to lift pieces of track just enough to squeeze magnets in underneath (perhaps thin magnets?) or use stronger ones under the baseboard.

These problems and more to be found and hopefully resolved, soon. Here are some photos.

The messy module is seen above a Lighting Direct box (all the way from New Zealand). It is also the one with the least paint (although it is now finished – no photos as yet.) The other module is facing the wrong way, but is otherwise ready for the next step, whatever that may end up being.

Diary of a Model Railroad, part… 6?

I think I’m up to part 6, at least. Anyway, there was a long period of no-development on the layout mostly due to finance. I now have a job (cheers, applause, etc, etc) which means in addition to being able to pay all our bills, we have enough spare money that I can devote a little more to the trains.

A while back I picked up a cheap terminal block on eBay, and will likely need another one soon for the other half. Also, I bought a sampler-sized pot of brown paint yesterday and I utilized both the terminal block and the paint this morning.

So today there were three things achieved, albeit small. Firstly I replaced a section of track that had been bothering me for a while, ever since I laid it and it didn’t really work out. So today it was removed and replaced with a better job. I’m yet to test it, but it looked fine to the eyes.

The second job was rewiring the underside of one module using the terminal block. It now looks a lot tidier, and I just need to run the master feeds back to the end and work out how I’m going to connect the two modules electrically.

The third and final task completed today was painting around the track with the brown paint. The idea behind this is that when I put down grass or whatever other scenery, if it becomes chipped or I miss a spot, it looks more like dirt than just a piece of real-sized hardboard. It probably needs a second coat, but that will have to wait.

That leaves my to-do list rather short: I need to figure out the electrical connections (20/24 pin ATX connectors?), I need to figure out how I’m going to cover or otherwise hide the turnout motors (long ones, sitting along the straight-leg of each one) and I need to actually wire the turnouts, even if they don’t go anywhere. I’m also planning on ballasting track soon, so my t0-buy list is slowly growing again: another pack of lighter colored ballast, another terminal block, some DPDT switches and some momentary switches for the atlas turnout motors.

Diary of a Model Railroad, Part One

For all of you who thought I couldn’t get any nerdier and didn’t know of this hobby, I guess I’m about to get nerdier (in your books, at least).

Over the last couple of months my dreams of creating a layout of some description have started to take shape – from expanding my rolling stock collection to buying track. Tonight the benchwork was laid – somewhat literally. I bought a 4’x4′ piece of plywood, and marked it up for cutting and made the first cut. I also began the mental planning for the surrounding benchwork to hold it up.

The plan is for two 5′ sections bolted together to form a 10′ long by 18″ deep shelf layout. A modified version of Atlas’ Southside Connecting layout (see here) is the trackplan – I’ll be using #4 switches instead of #6’s, I’ll also be replacing the turntable with a turnout. I need to start laying the track before I buy any diamond crossings – lest I buy the wrong angle. Although mostly using set-track as laid-out in the plan, I’ll be replacing sections with flex also.

Because I’m still too poor for DCC, I’m intending to wire the layout for two DC controllers (although it’ll also be just one controller for now). Further, I plan to wire for electric switches – whether they get used up front or not remains to be seen.

I have some ideas for scenery, I’d like to have a chicken-wire style fence with an opening gate (slow-action point motor is most likely, maybe something more custom) and a road crossing in my bustling industrial area. I’m thinking a container terminal would give purpose to my husky stack cars, an oil refinery almost seems to cliche for my tank cars, a warehouse holds an obvious purpose for box cars, perhaps a grain silo for my covered hoppers. I also have some open hoppers which could see some form of purpose, and some passenger cars which most likely won’t run on the layout (except for a push up and down to make sure they roll acceptably).

The ends of my run-arounds will need to be big enough for my long 6-axle locos – prototypically used as switch locos in my area. I’ll also then be able to run the small switch locos back to back or almost any other number of switching possibilities.

Still to be thought about is the placement of uncoupling magnets. I also haven’t decided on how I’m going to do backboards (or even if I’m going to do backboards). In terms of connecting the two sections together I’m probably going to do the traditional bolts, but I’m also working on a reliable way to ensure accurate lining up every time. I don’t want to deal with D-sub connectors, but 24-pin ATX plugs may work. The biggest flaw will be the number of sections I need to switch on and off as well as the number of switches I need to cater for. Also, I need to work on legs, and I have an idea for a case which all the parts will slide into securely for transportation and storage.

So to sum up, once again, I have all the engines and probably rolling stock I need, I also have most, if not all, of the track that I need, and I’ve finally started working on the benchwork. The next steps are to finish putting the lumber together to form a solid table that can join and separate reliably, and then finalize the track plan based on the finished benches.