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106  Discussion Boards / HO / Re: A new layout! on: May 14, 2014, 11:26:51 PM
Got another DCC-equipped locomotive!

Bachmann FTA Santa Fe Warbonnet diesel.

I also upgraded my Proto 1000 Santa Fe F3A loco with a TCS A4X decoder, and it so far works pretty well! (But I need to replace the bulb though...)
So now in total I have three DCC-equipped locomotives on my layout. Now I'll probably get set to work on upgrading my Walthers Trainline locomotives (need to get the decoders for them first!)
107  Discussion Boards / HO / "How to Run a Railroad" by Harvey Weiss on: May 10, 2014, 10:08:12 PM
My local library has a pretty interesting vintage model railroading book from 1977: "How to Run a Railroad," written by Harvey Weiss. It was apparently written with children and teenagers in mind whom are starting out in model railroading.

It is definitely an interesting read. Being from 1977, this means you won't find any DCC systems, roadbed track, sound modules, or anything other typical modern model railroad entities. We also see the stages of the author's model railroad layout he builds, using mainly AHM and Tyco equipment, custom-built structures out of cardboard and balsa-wood, and an interesting trackplan designed in a 3-1/2x7 sheet of plywood! The book primarily seems to work with HO-gauge, but also mentioning O and N-scales at times. However, a lot of this is still relevant today, and is why my library is still keeping it.

There are some interesting things worth mentioning. The book mentions in starting out:
"It is possible to buy all the parts separately, choosing the amount of track and the type of cars and locomotives you want. But there is such a wide variety of sets on the market you can usually have a large choice, and at the same time get a somewhat cheaper price, by buying the complete, packaged set. In some cases, the store may let you substitute one part for another. The set I bought came originally with a diesel engine. However, I preferred a steam engine. The store was able and willing to make the swap for me."

It appears his layout started out with the 1973 version of Tyco's "Twin Diesel Freight," going by the rolling stock utilized, and replacing the F7 Santa Fe diesels (powered and dummy) with an AHM Chicago & Northwestern 0-4-0 Shifter steam locomotive and tender, along with a couple of AHM switches.
He also advises to not get a passenger train, saying that freight trains provide more opportunities for railroading action. (I prefer freight trains on model railroading anyway.)

Two vintage pieces of Bachmann rolling stock are shown here, along with a Tyco caboose.

LOT of AHM and Tyco stuff in the background of the hobby shop there.

An older Bachmann terminal track with the early "Simplimatic" plug-in receptacles.

Stock photo of the Plasticville freight station.

Elaborate is right! I would recommend starting out with a single train myself. This is the 1975-1976 version of Tyco's "System 200" train set; complete with remote switches, blocking control, a "Spirit of 76"-themed locomotive and caboose on one of the two trains, and various classic Tyco operating accessories (some of which I actually have on my layout!)

Stock photos of the long-discontinued Plasticville Auto Body Shop (the N-scale version is still available) and the Plasticville Barn.

Now some pics from the layout!

Pretty interesting stuff!
108  Discussion Boards / HO / Re: A new layout! on: May 09, 2014, 07:37:06 PM
Some more updates, in time for tomorrow's National Train Day!

This locomotive's body was a little beat, so I thought I'd swap it out with a different shell...

Now it's been updated with the BNSF "Heritage" paint scheme! I may probably upgrade this one to DCC.

Amtrak comes to the layout! The Amtrak Dash 8-32BWH in the "Pepsi Can" paint style of the early '90s is also a Walthers TrainLine locomotive. I'll probably upgrade this one to DCC as well. The passenger cars are mostly Life-Like, along with a Tyco coach.

Train parked at the station.

From another angle.

Several of the locomotives in my current roster. So far only the BNSF GP40 is DCC-equipped. I plan to upgrade one of the Walthers GP9Ms, both Dash 8s and the Proto 1000 F3A. I'm also getting a Bachmann Plus Santa Fe Consolidation steam locomotive!
109  Discussion Boards / HO / Re: Ideas to improve the Bachmann crossing gate... on: May 03, 2014, 06:24:21 PM
I never thought about it but they do look way out of scale. I wonder how N scale ones would fit with HO.

That was another thing I noticed about it.

Or how about Bachmann keeps that dual crossing gate as is, but also releases their own line of operating crossing signals that are of a more accurate scale and can be wired to a controller, sort of like NJ International's offerings. So anyone who wants a nice railroad crossing from Bachmann can get such signals!
110  Discussion Boards / HO / Re: A new layout! on: May 03, 2014, 06:22:14 PM
Here's a few more updates!

Life-Like Mt. Vernon Manufacturing Company building kit. It's designed in a modular way so you can build it any way you want; I just simply reversed how it appears on the box/stock photo.

The new school campus! The front building is a Life-Like Union Avenue School building kit from the 1990s (it seems to have used the same mold as Life-Like's Mainline Station kit from the same era), and I put the Plasticville schoolhouse behind it for additional classroom space, and the playground in between.

Late '70s Life-Like semaphore. It has the bulb in the bottom, and uses fiber-optics to light the indications, and has a lever for moving the banner. After this photo was taken, I wired it up and it is now active.

Early '90s Tyco Chattanooga Choo-Choo locomotive, tender and rolling stock. The loco and tender are actually made by Mehano (it's a modified Mehano Mikado 2-8-2 that AHM/IHC used to offer), and it ironically runs much better than Tyco's own Chattanooga locomotives did (the way it's built and powered reminds me of a newer base-line Bachmann locomotive, with the weights and the can motor.) That second boxcar (red white and blue one) has one of those rollers with little rock-like materials that simulates a "chugging" sound when in motion, just like those older Lionel "chugging" tenders. Tyco made an electronic "chugging" boxcar in the '80s that was battery-operated and sounded more convincing (it had speed-synchronization too), and I am trying to find one of those to use.

Yes, on my layout, steam and diesel locomotives run together!
111  Discussion Boards / HO / Re: A new layout! on: May 02, 2014, 12:12:07 AM
one thing i've noticed in your overview photos is that your entire layout is built on unsupported plywood sheets. do you intend on keeping it this way or building some support framework underneath. unsupported plywood has a tendency to warp and sag, which would quickly render your layout unusable.

I did put some supports under the plywood to keep it all at the same level, actually.

And RAM and Doneldon, with some of the buildings, I do paint the interiors of some buildings black so far when I plan to illuminate them. I also did that with my Life-Like flashing storage tank, as I wasn't too thrilled about how the whole tank would blink on and off. So I got out my black model paint, and now only the very top blinks like it's supposed to.
112  Discussion Boards / HO / Re: A new layout! on: April 30, 2014, 10:02:02 AM
Are you bummed over the news about Model Power?

Yeah I heard; it does stink. I'm hoping someone else will pick up the Mantua line, like maybe Walthers. (I was thinking of getting a DCC Mantua GP-20.)
113  Discussion Boards / HO / Re: A new layout! on: April 29, 2014, 11:51:58 PM
So far things have been running smoothly with my upgraded layout.

An action shot.

The old Roundpost Junction school house, which has been closed for a long time due to it being too small for public school standards. A new school building will be built in front of it, and the old school house will be reopened as an annex to the new building (it will be a Life-Like "Union Avenue School" building kit.) The playground equipment will also be moved.

A grade crossing with Bachmann Plasticville crossing signals as a temporary setup. I will eventually replace them with working crossing signals of some sort.

The downtown section again.

A couple of structures on my layout that I fitted with lights. I will be illuminating a few more of my structures, to enhance the layout.

Trying out some two-train action. The second train is powered by a Mantua Burlington Northen GP-20. I plan to soon get a second DCC locomotive (probably a Bachmann FT-A Santa Fe diesel.)
114  Discussion Boards / HO / Re: A new layout! on: April 24, 2014, 12:31:36 AM
Finally made the big upgrade to DCC!

It arrived in the post right before I left for work, so I brought it inside, then opened it up after my shift and tried it out! Here's the locomotive it came with:

I am actually impressed by it. It seems as detailed as a Bachmann Plus locomotive from the 1990s, but with a typical mid-range motor (sort of like the Model Power all-wheel drive can motors, but with a better chassis.) It runs very well anyways.
Plus, it's the first BNSF locomotive on my layout! (Though the BNSF is my main railroad on the layout, I have mostly used separate ATSF and BN locomotives prior to this.)

And for the heck of it, I also took this pic:

Newer Bachmann GP40 next to its' 1980s equivalent! Sure has come a long way, hasn't it?

My new control panel. The E-Z Command unit will only run the trains, so I pulled out a TYCO power pack (1970s style) for the switches and other AC accessories.) I'm keeping the MRC 280 power pack for if I ever need it again (and I'm sure I will, for any future DC runs and whatnot.)

The train's all hooked up!

I'm going to do some more toying around with the system pretty soon, and I will also soon set up an electrically-isolated siding for running a DC locomotive on the layout as well.
115  Discussion Boards / HO / Re: Ideas to improve the Bachmann crossing gate... on: April 22, 2014, 11:28:16 PM
There have been several articles in recent months regarding  the "how-to' issue with this.  My thoughts are to replace the dummy lenses with red LEDs-the "water" type.  You can find them in several supply houses, like Mouser.  As far as the gates go, a mechanical linkage consisting of a tortoise machine and a length of phosphor bronze wire should do the trick nicely.  Sensors could range from using reed switches in a "start-stop" configuration using a triac.  to using proximity sensors.
Rich C.

I'm thinking of doing that actually with my Tyco crossing gate, and then installing a second signal and gate on the other side (maybe a cantilever signal with a separate gate, like I see at many real-life railroad crossings in my area.)
116  Discussion Boards / HO / Re: A new layout! on: April 19, 2014, 10:48:53 PM
Here's another overview from another angle...

A big update is that this layout is finally going to be DCC! I ordered a Bachmann E-Z Command controller pack that comes with a DCC-equipped BNSF GP40 locomotive, and I will soon order a second DCC locomotive (eyeing a Bachmann Santa Fe FT...) and then maybe upgrade a few of my other locomotives, except they aren't DCC-ready, so I'll need to learn to solder first...

I figured E-Z Command would be the best way to start out before I eventually move up to a higher-end system.
117  Discussion Boards / HO / Ideas to improve the Bachmann crossing gate... on: April 16, 2014, 11:25:37 PM
I noticed that the Bachmann "operating dual crossing gates" first offered in 1976 are still being sold today. So far the only differences between the original:

...and the current version:

The new one uses nickel-silver track, has a more green base, and the gates and signals are painted in more prototypical colors, but that's about it.

Though it does look nice, I will admit it's a rather dated accessory now. But since technology has improved over the years, then I am thinking maybe the company should have a more updated version to compete with other companies' crossing signal and gate offerings (like MTH, NJ International and Walthers.)
Maybe they can replace the fake red lenses in the signals with red LEDs, have the gates motorized (or if not, make motorization optional but keep the old-style pressure sensor) and maybe include track sensors so an approaching train can trip the signals.
This would be better than Bachmann's attempt at such a product in the 1980s...

(It did have pressure sensors for activating the signals, but they only work with conventional track, and the lights simply blink on and off unconvincingly and the bell dings extremely fast.)

Maybe even make a dual-track adapter of sorts for those who want a two-track crossing, like Kato does for their N-scale crossing gate.

Sure, it would probably look out of place on a professional layout, but it'd be good for the beginner or novice, and would be rather easy to install, even with some wiring involved (maybe the controller for the lights could be built into the base!)
Since this accessory has been available for 38 years, I think such an update would be good for it.
118  Discussion Boards / HO / Re: A new layout! on: April 16, 2014, 11:10:12 PM

Just installed this Life-Like flashing light storage tank...

...along with a Bachmann swimming pool for the Tyco Colonial House!

Plasticville split-level house. I still need to paint the figures (I have to get more colors of paints, for that matter!)

Grade crossing. It's not hooked up yet, as I need to get a good controller that's somewhat easy to use and will be DCC-compatible. The nonoperating plastic signal I will replace with a Griswold-style crossing signalfrom NJ International.

Another overview showing the new stuff...
119  Discussion Boards / HO / Re: Bachmann EZ DCC system on: April 12, 2014, 12:13:42 AM
I am thinking when I upgrade to the E-Z Command system and build Stage 2 of the track on my layout, I will have one siding be connected to an Atlas Connector switch so I can power it on and off when need be, and put a standard DC locomotive there, while I keep the DCC locomotives running in most cases.
I have a BUNCH of standard DC locomotives, but my Life-Like Proto 1000 F3A is DCC-ready!  Grin
120  Discussion Boards / HO / Re: A new layout! on: April 12, 2014, 12:11:11 AM
Update time again!

I've done some more detailing on the layout.

An entrance to Roundpost Junction!

The Dickerson Station and Honest Larry's Cars are in business now!

Life-Like Supply House in the background, with the Tyco Crossing Gate and Atlas Gateman Tower.

Farm with apple orchard. I thought the Plasticville barn was going to be large, but it's in perfect scale!

Trees growing around the tunnel.

Tyco operating box car dump station and freight unloading depot, and Life-Like dumping station and lighted yard tower.
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