CNR 3737 :: Piping

A muscular face

For many sessions now, the work on CNR 3737 – my S-3-a Mikado – has involved removing piping from the boiler, to the point where it was starting to look like a tube. On Friday, Andy Malette and I started adding piping – and already it’s a definite change for the better.

CNR 3737 Piping

CNR 3737 Piping

We started by removing the rest of the handrails (but keeping the stanchions in place), so they’d be out of the way. Then I bent up and added the exhaust pipes from the Elesco Feedwater Heater. This required a fair bit of trial and fit to get the pipes to hug the smokebox. We then installed the cold water supply pipe from the feed water pump. Next, we added the Hancock check valve on the top of the boiler, then fitted the hot water pipe from it.

I still have to add the condensate pipe, which runs from the side opposite the water supplies, down the smokebox, under the boiler, and back along the length of the locomotive towards the tender.

Before wrapping up the session, we managed to add the four sand lines, too.

While there’s a lot to do – and still some stuff to remove/reshape – it feels like we’ve turned a corner in this project. Thanks in part to its piping, this model is going to have a lot of character – and a very different look than it did when I bought it.

(Thanks for another great work session, Andy!)

ESU CabControl on TMTV

TMTV - CabControl pt 1

As mentioned previously on this blog, I recently hosted Matt Herman from ESU on TrainMasters TV, to discuss the company’s new DCC system. CabControl is a based on the ECoS 50200 that I use on my layout.

You can click on the image, above, to view* the first of two parts about CabControl. Enjoy if you watch!

(*TrainMasters TV is a subscription-based service, but subscriptions are quite reasonable. For example, as I write this you can subscribe for as little as 83 cents (US) per week.)

Wickham Car

Wickham Car

My recent post about the lovely speeder that my friend Stephen Gardiner printed for me reminds me that at some point I want to model a Wickham car, like the one shown above.

I believe the railway museum in Smiths Falls, Ontario has examples from both the CNR and CPR (at least, they did about a decade ago, but I don’t know if they’re still there*). I think it’s a handsome piece of non-revenue equipment and – in S at least – it would be straightforward to motorize it.

I’m a member of the Wickam group on Yahoo so I’m already doing my research. But if anybody has information about these cars – especially drawings – I’d love to hear from you!

(*UPDATE: Thanks to Guy Papillon, who shared a link to the museum with more information about the Wickham cars in its collection. It appears the museum has CP M-297 and CNR #23.)

Roll-by inspection

A member of CNR’s section gang pauses on the siding in St. Williams to give a roll-by inspection to a passing freight:

Roll-by

Roll by

Roll by

On Wednesday, my friend Stephen Gardiner visited for an operating session – and left me with a nice present. Stephen had drawn up a speeder for a 3D print job in HO scale, and wondered how it would turn out in S. So he revisited his drawings and the result is what you see above. While I’ve posed it on the siding in St. Williams, Stephen’s modifications for printing in 1:64 included providing pockets for extendable wooden handles so the speeder can be posed with a figure hauling it on or off the rails, if I so desire. Thanks Stephen – what a great little detail!

The ops session went well, considering that I haven’t run the layout in a while. Stephen took on the conductor’s role, while I clambered into the engineer’s seat on CNR 80. We had one derailment – possibly due to the freight car truck seizing up a little since it hasn’t been moved in many, many weeks.

Our biggest problem came from misaligned couplers – my fault, for not stopping ahead of coupling to let Stephen do a visual inspection. I don’t use the centring spring that comes with the Kadee 808s – I don’t like how it makes the draft gear bounce in and out, and I don’t really mind that the couplers sometimes need to be aligned manually. I just need to remember that all-important and most prototypical pause before attempting coupling.

Of course, I also need to run my own layout more often: I was pretty heavy-handed on the throttle and was guilty of some pretty hard couplings as a result. I’m sure that the conductor is going to give me a proper dressing down for spilling the coffee in the van!

A few days earlier, I’d updated the files in the LokSound decoders I use – from a beta file to the full production file for SOO 1003, which is my current sound file of choice. The 80 sounds better than ever, although I need to tweak a few volume settings and substitute a different air pump sound file. All in good time…

Stephen is currently planning a new, prototype-based switching layout for his home office space, and is writing about it on his blog. You can following the link to his latest post on the Liberty Village layout – and I highly recommend that you follow along.

Stephen and I have been talking about traffic density a fair bit – specifically, about finding the right balance between realistic appearance and sufficiently engaging operations on a small layout. It’s often tempting to fill a small layout with track, but there are other ways to boost the play value – which is something I’ve been demonstrating (I hope) on my model of the line to Port Rowan. It’s a medium-sized layout, at approximately 14×30 feet, but has just eight turnouts and lots of space devoted to a single track running through the landscape. It doesn’t work for everybody but it does for me.

Ops paperwork and throttle - 2017-11-08
(The work desk at St. Williams: The switch list shows there’s a lot of traffic today)

Because of these discussions, I set up the layout with a bit more switching than I normally do. In addition to several cars to drop and spot, I placed an off-spot car on the run-around in Port Rowan, which added some complexity to our switching duties. I’m pleased that even with the extra work, the session went smoothly and we had a fun time.

Afterwards, my wife joined us as we retired to Harbord House for dinner and drinks. The newest item on the menu – dill pickles breaded in cornmeal and deep fried – are out of this world delicious.

Great to see you, Stephen – and thanks so much for the speeder!

Reviewing Portraits

I was in the mood to mess with this blog today, so I’ve managed to transfer all photographs for posts from today back to the beginning of November of last year into my own servers. It’s been fun to review the posts over the last 12 months – and satisfying to make progress on this unwelcome, but necessary, task.

While I was at it, I also transferred all the photos in the series of “Equipment Portraits” postings I’ve made – in which I share photos and information about the locomotives and rolling stock that run on my layout and/or on the exhibition layout built by my friends in the S Scale Workshop. If you’re new to the blog and you’re not familiar with those – or if you just want to revisit them – click on CNR 79431, below…

CNR 79431 - Portrait

CNR 3737: Test of Wisdom

On Friday, Andy Malette and I returned to working on our CNR S-3-a Mikados. With other commitments we had taken the summer off, and much of the autumn – our last day in the workshop was in mid-May – and it was time to get back at it.

Andy had cut and filed some sheet brass for us to fold into the covered steam turret located immediately in front of the cab. (Thanks, Andy!) I removed the exposed turret and the various lines that radiated from it, then bent the shroud and soldered it into place. It took some doing, and some cleaning up afterwards, but it’s in place.

CNR 3737 turret shroud

The next step was to start plumbing the turret (and the air pump, and the feed water heater, and…) … but I looked at the photos and looked at the model and nothing was making sense. We still had an hour set aside to work on things, but I realized that due to a combination of things (including lack of sleep the night before), I just didn’t have the focus to tackle the plumbing on Friday. So, we called it a day.

It was hard to do that – it has been months since we worked on these locomotives and I’m enjoying the process as much as watching new models come together. But I realized that I could do more damage than good if I kept at it. Upon reflection, it was the wisest decision I could’ve made.

I reminded myself of this today, while revisiting the model in the comfort of my own workshop. I again took a look at plumbing and, after installing one pipe between air pump and turret, pushed back from the bench and called it a day. Again, a hard decision to make – but the right one.

CNR 3737 turret shroud

I will look at the project later this week. Meantime, Andy and I are planning another day in his shop, later this month. I’ll do my best to get more sleep beforehand!

30 days to broken links

Photobucket just sent me the following message:

This message is to inform you that we discontinued the Plus 20 plan in June of this year. We have grandfathered your expired plan for several months as a convenience.

In order to keep your account current and all of your content available, we are asking that you migrate over to one of our current Plus plan offerings.

Failure to do so within 30 days will result in your billing to be suspended, and your account will be reverted to a free account.

If you have any questions about your account or which of our current offerings is right for you, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

This basically means that in 30 days, all of my photo links will be broken. I will NOT have the site migrated over in the next 30 days: sorry about that. And I’m not paying US$400 per yer to maintain the links.

(Thanks to the many people who have offered suggestions in the past about how to deal with this problem. I think we’ve covered the waterfront on the issue, so I’ve turned off the “comments” feature on this post. Let’s move on…)

When Photobucket announced its decision to axe 3rd party hosting, those with free accounts were immediately cut off. Since I had a paying plan, I’ve been given a grace period. At the time, it sounded like I would have until the end of next year to complete my migration, but apparently that’s not that case.

I understand Photobucket’s decision – they are losing money and needed to change to become sustainable. I don’t agree that they’ve made the right call – US$400 is just too steep for most. But frankly, if everybody who used it for free had purchased a modest annual plan from the start (as I did), the company might not have had to take the actions that it did.

While I sympathize with their plight, it doesn’t change the fact that in a month, most of my photo links will be broken. I will not lose the photos themselves – I’ll be able to view them on the Photobucket site, and I have copies of all of the images on my own hard drive. But it’s going to take time to transfer them to the same server that hosts this blog.

Sorry – that’s life online for you!

Matt and Me at TMTV

Matt and Me - TMTV
(State of the art throttles – in their eras)

I spent the day yesterday at the TrainMasters TV studios with Matt Herman from ESU (the “Loksound” people). Matt and I shot a number of segments together for future episodes, including two that will focus on ESU’s CabControl – a new DCC system designed for the North American and Australian markets. (I wrote more about this system in an earlier post.)

In the photo above, Matt is holding ESU’s Mobile Control II throttle. This is essentially an Android-based tablet, enhanced with a throttle knob and some physical buttons. I use a pair of these with my ECoS 50200 system from ESU and they’re the nicest throttles I’ve ever encountered. They combine the flexibility of a software defined throttle with the tactile feel and convenience of hardware-based controls to access the most commonly used functions while running a train. What’s more, the feel of the throttle itself is quite high-quality – like a high-end smart phone. They’re just nice in the hand.

The CabControl system has many attractive features, which we will delve into on upcoming segments of “DCC Decoded” on TrainMasters TV. But here’s a sampling:

– Support for at least 32 mobile throttles. (The system can probably handle more, but as Matt said, “We gave up opening packages at 32.”)

– An incredibly intuitive user interface based on common smart phone gestures. Swiping left or right lets you switch locomotives from your stack. Swiping up or down lets you scroll between the function button screens for the active locomotive.

– Artwork for decoder-equipped locomotives and rolling stock. The user can choose from a selection of stock photos, or create and load their own. It’s a great way to confirm, at a glance, what locomotive is active on the throttle.

– Icons that may be mapped onto any function button. Need to know where the headlight is? You don’t need to remember it’s at F0 – just look for the lightbulb symbol.

– Custom menus for each decoder-equipped locomotive or car. If you have a model that doesn’t have a bell, you can hide the bell function button from the menu, keeping more of the function buttons that you do need on the first menu page.

– A motorized throttle knob that automatically resets itself to the last-set speed when switching between locomotives. This knob also has built-in reverse (by rotating counterclockwise past the zero speed point) for true one-handed operation.

– Four physical buttons that may be assigned to any function. I use these for the functions I access most frequently during an ops session, such as the whistle and bell.

– The ability to load other apps onto the throttles. For example, one could load a fast clock app, a car forwarding app, and so on. The throttles could even be loaded with Skype, and used for radio communication between crews and a dispatcher – who does not even have to be in the same country! (The throttles include a jack for headphones/mic.)

– Easy programming via the throttle, using menus written in plain language instead of CVs – and full compatibility with JMRI/DecoderPro, of course.

If it sounds like I’m a fan, it’s because I am. If you’re in the market for a DCC system – or looking to upgrade the one you already have – then CabControl should definitely be on your list.

I’m really happy with my ECoS 50200 from ESU, although it has a number of features that I will never use – for example, support for command control protocols from Marklin, Motorola and others in addition to the NMRA’s DCC standard. But the new CabControl system does everything that I need for my layout, so I would’ve gone with this one had it been available.

I know some friends are already looking at CabControl, and I’ll be happy to bring along my two Mobile Control II throttles to future operating sessions.

ProtoThrottle

RDCS-IowaScaled
(Click on the image to visit the throttle’s discussion page on the MRH Forum)

I’ve been following the development of the ProtoThrottle – a realistic diesel control stand designed for DCC – since Michael Peterson of Iowa Scaled Engineering and Scott Thornton first floated the idea over a year ago on the Model Railroad Hobbyist forum. Today, I had the opportunity to get my mitts on one for the first time – and I think it’s great. I didn’t even power it up – just played with the levers and buttons – and I’m already sold on the concept.

For those unfamiliar with this project, I suggest you read the forum thread – which you can find by clicking on the image, above. But briefly, it’s a wireless throttle designed to interface with any DCC system via a receiver that’s connected to the DCC system.

While this throttle does not emulate every control in a real diesel, it does a much better job of representing the controls than a standard throttle with push buttons and/or a knob. The best part is, a number of DCC sound decoder manufacturers are working with Michael and Scott to figure out how to configure their decoders to work with this control stand. For most, it’s primarily a matter of figuring out the best values to program into CVs governing acceleration/deceleration, braking, speed curves, throttle notching, and so on.

The throttle is not yet on the market – look for it, hopefully, early in 2018. It’ll definitely bring diesel fans closer to an in-the-cab experience than anything on the market to date. I’m looking forward to it – and even though my layout is set firmly in the steam era, I do have a few diesels (including an MLW RS18 and a GE 44 tonner), plus many friends with diesel-era layouts where such a throttle will be a welcome addition.

As the saying goes…

Shut Up And Take My Money