Doodlebug DCC

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(It’s alive! Click on the image for a larger view)

My recent posts on couplers have generated a lot of great feedback – thank you! While I’ve been digesting your comments and coming to a decision on that issue, I’ve switched focus and over the past two days I’ve made some progress on my recently-acquired model of an EMC gas-electric.

As the above photo shows, I’ve installed a DCC sound decoder and speaker. After much pondering, I settled on an ESU/Loksound decoder. It’s the first time I’ve used this manufacturer’s decoders and I’m quite impressed.

My decoder came loaded with sounds for a GE 44 Tonner. That may sound like an odd choice, but it produces a nice rattle from what is obviously a small engine. It’ll do for now, and the beauty of this decoder is I can reprogram it if/when Loksound produces a proper EMC gas-electric audio file. (I’m pretty impressed by the Loksound audio catalogue. While a European company, ESU has a large and growing selection of audio files suitable for North American prototypes. So I’m optimistic that a correct audio file will be offered in time.)

The DCC board is mounted to the floor with two small pieces of double-sided foam tape – located where the mounting holes are for substituting this board for a lighting board in a variety of HO scale diesel models. As the photo shows, I mounted a fairly large high-bass speaker directly behind the motor – again, using double-sided foam tape. This not only secures the speaker, but dampens vibration between the speaker and the floor. I built a styrene baffle, which completely encloses the “front” of the speaker, so the sound ports up, though the speaker’s “back”.

When I finish the model, I will not add glass to the windows in the baggage compartment. These have safety bars in them anyway, so the lack of glass will not be noticeable – and the sound will exit the body near the location of the prime mover.

I made a couple of modifications to the model to support the DCC install:

I added pick-up wipers to the insulated wheels, so the model now has eight-wheel pick-up. This is vital for sound decoders and I always wonder what manufacturers are thinking when they produce a model that has an “unrealistically optimistic” electrical arrangement. In this case, the model picked up from just four wheels – the two right wheels at the front, and the two left wheels at the rear. Obviously, the designer of this model never thought anybody would actually try to, you know, run it! The pick-ups were fiddly, but well worth the effort as the model has gone from “unreliable” to “smooth” at even a crawl, with no interruption of the audio.

I also drilled out the headlight casting, added an opening in the roof behind the casting and added a “golden glow” LED for a headlight. The Loksound board supports LEDs without the need to add any extra components to deliver the correct voltage, which is a very nice touch. I connected the headlight to the board with a two-prong connector so I can disconnect it when removing the body from the floor.

Readers paying attention will note that the formerly-bare frame is now black. After doing my DCC install, I started painting the doodlebug.

I debated whether to paint it for the CNR or another road (since the CNR didn’t actually have a gas electric of this design). In the end, I decided I would do it for the home team, because it’s highly unlikely that a correct model will be offered in 1:64.

Everything below the body is done in Scalecoat CN Warm Black – a terrific paint produced for the CNR Historical Association. The black will cover just about anything without any prep. I’m betting it would adhere to pizza grease (but I’m not about to try that). I carefully airbrushed the floor, frame and details, including the trucks, then cleaned off the wheel treads.

I then set aside the frame and moved onto the body:

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As the above photos show, for the body I decided to do some priming – mostly so I would not be airbrushing yellow over bare brass on the nose. Again, the CNRHA provided a lovely Scalecoat CN Yellow – and after painting I put the body in a warm oven to help it cure. I’ll leave this for several days to make sure it’s good and dry, then mask the face and spray the green body. Finally, the unit will get a black roof and belt line below the windows. Black Cat Publishing makes S scale CNR passenger car decals, which will supply the lettering.

While photographing my progress, I noticed a challenge: The back of the gas-electric has an enclosed compartment – and the manufacturer has not provided a means to get into this:

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Unfortunately, in my experience this is also a common shortcoming with brass models, such as passenger cars with vestibules. Apparently the same designer who decided nobody would ever run their doodlebug also decided nobody would want to install glass in the seven window openings in the vestibule. I suspect I’ll be doing some butchery on that interior partition to remove most of it – leaving enough to maintain the support for the roof and exterior walls. I can always install a piece of painted styrene in the opening to re-create the partition. More likely, I’ll add lots of window shades and be done with it.

I’m pleased with the progress so far. The masking around the nose will be fairly straight forward although there will be some finicky bits around the class lamps, as the green on the sides will wrap onto the front face up to the first seams. But I’m looking forward to spraying more paint about. Stay tuned!

21 thoughts on “Doodlebug DCC

  1. Whose eye is peeking around the masking tape in the last photo. Looks like eyeglasses to me. Great job so far on that Gas Electric.
    Would a sound file made from a Galloping Goose be right for your loco? If it would, someone in southwest Colorado might be willing to make a digital recording for you.

    • Hi Walt:
      The tape is temporary – it’s holding the headlight connector out of the way while I’m painting.
      Soundtraxx makes a Goose decoder and it’s great for railbuses. But tge Goose is a truck – direct drive, not a prime mover plus generator. It sounds wrong for a doodlebug.
      And the driver grinds the gears…

  2. Looks great – good that you went for the “home team”, anything else would take some ‘splaining on Port Rowan! Art Midwood explained his “warm black” as having some Boxcar red mixed in. I was happy with that when I tried it, definitely not just dark grey, and much better than dead black.

    • That’s an excellent idea, Wes – and I have that “doohickey”. It would be real “ship in a bottle” sort of work though – but darned impressive if I can pull it off…

      • The tricky part would be releasing the glazing once it’s in place. Microscale Kristal Kleer works well, but how do you release the glass from the suction cup without smearing adhesive on the glass? I’d almost consider purposely sticking half a toothpick to the centre of the windowpanes with Kirstal Kleer, then removing the toothpicks and the Kristal Kleer holding them to the glass after the glazing is secured in the widow sash.

  3. As an aside on this, I installed Kadee 808 couplers on the unit today and they look fine. They also installed very easily at front and back. Score another point for the Kadee 808…

  4. I also did some “brass butchery” on the floor to provide access to the rear vestibule for adding window glass. Having reassembled the gas-electric, the hole in the floor is not noticeable under normal layout conditions. That said, I’ll glue some styrene across the hole when I’m finished the model to block light. The styrene will be between the rear steps and well hidden under the body so it will not detract from the finished model.

  5. I’m contemplating my choice of paint scheme.

    Anthony Clegg wrote a lovely book called Self-Propelled Cars of the CNR and while most of the colour images show that by the mid-1950s, most units were painted in the green and black passenger car scheme, there are a few examples of units that retained the solid green scheme right until their retirement. This includes CNR 15824, which was still in its solid green scheme when it was donated to Exporail in Quebec – in 1964!

    From a practical perspective, the solid green would be much easier to paint – although the green and black scheme is more attractive, in my opinion.

    From an operations perspective, the solid green scheme would allow me to run the unit in sessions set in an earlier era – for example, the sessions in which I use 2-6-0s for power. At the same time, I would still be able to run it in later sessions – even sessions set after steam had been retired on the Port Rowan line.

    Decisions, decisions…

    • I like the black and green better too, Walt.
      But I must also decide whether I want the additional era flexibility of the all-green scheme. When modelling a prototype, one doesn’t always get to choose based on aesthetics.

      • Trevor,
        I vote for the simpler all green version for two reasons:
        1. It gives the operational flexibilty you want and…
        2. The simpler design seems more appropriate for the Port Rowan branch.

    • I’m impressed by how easy this decoder is to program too – even the higher numbered CVs pose no issues.
      And I like that it includes the resistors for LED lighting right on the board.

  6. I have an HO Van Hobbies CN oil-electric car model that suffers from not being able to get at most of the interior for glazing or to add interior detail. With all the windows on the 15824, the interior looks pretty barren without seats, etc. What was Van Hobbies thinking? One of the drive gears in the gear tower cracked, requiring either finding an exact match or replacing the gear train to run the model. For now, this all waits…

    It appears that much brass of this era was made to be displayed on a shelf rather than run.

    • Good question.

      I actually have two S scale diesels in my possession – a GE 44-Tonner and an ALCo RS-18.

      I’ve detailed the 44-Tonner as CNR Number 1, while the RS-18 is a brass model of a CNR prototype (although I need to rotate the cab interior 180 degrees: the exterior details are set up for long hood forward operation but the cab is set up for short hood forward. Go figure.)

      I’ve written about both on this blog on the past. See the links above for those posts.

      Both projects are stalled for the same reason: lack of suitable lettering.

      I’m not in a real rush with either of these projects since my steam engines look and run great. I’m more likely to use the diesels with the S Scale Workshop modules I’ve just built. But once the lettering issues are solved, I could run a post-steam session on Port Rowan for variety.

      I would like to resolve those lettering issues, though: The 44-Tonner has been waiting for lettering for about three years now!


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