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1  Discussion Boards / N / Re: What happened to upgrade DC power packs? on: August 25, 2012, 05:43:39 PM
DCC is still relatively new, even if it hasa reached the age of 21. How mature were you at 21?

Like automatic transmissions and digital television broadcasting, it promises advantages but also has unpublicized drawbacks. For some of us, the one outweighs the other, and for some of us, it's the other way around. To each his own.

A lot depends on how you run your pike, just as the type of car you own depends a lot on how and where you drive. Some new technology seems to be perfect, like indoor plumbing (remember Hilton's "Shangri-La"?) but there are pros and cons to them all. Let's hope that the model industry doesn't decide to dump the old and make the new the only -- as the record business did with the DVD -- and leave us with a Hobson's Choice of DCC or nothin'. That would be unfortunate.

2  Discussion Boards / On30 / Re: Bachmann Figures on: August 25, 2012, 05:28:03 PM
John in Oz who cannot find 91% isopropel alcohol..............

1.   try medical suppliers..................

2.   go buy a bottle of vodka .......(no, I'm serious, mate)..............

3  Discussion Boards / HO / Re: LED lights used inside engines and trolleys?? on: August 25, 2012, 05:14:51 PM
...resistors or maybe put the LEDs in series, if you want/need more than one in, say, a passenger car.

Here's how that would work: if each LED uses 1.5 volts, eight in series will eat up 12 volts. Just to be safe, wire nine in series and you have plenty of light for a coach or a trolley-car. Hang them inside the roof. You can get yellow LEDs that give a warmer light than the vivid blue-white of most white ones.

CAUTION: you have to be very sure that you polarize them correctly. The longer lead is by convention the positive (+) lead. Connect this to the shorter (-) lead of the next one, and so on, and the ends to wipers on the wheels. You will need to check to make sure that the + end of the string goes to the + rail and the - end to the - rail. Just one backwards will turn off the whole string.

If you are using DC control, then the lights go out in reverse and when you power down to stop the engine (the dimout is the same for conventional incandescent bulbs, although the older type will stay on in reverse).

DCC eliminates both these problems, since the track voltage remains on all the time and the DCC "turns it down" inside the engine itself.

ANOTHER PRECAUTION: I would check the actual track voltage during operation to be sure that it really is 12 VDC. If it's higher, you may need to add another LED.

If you only want one or two LEDs to illuminate a car or engine, then you will need to put a resistor in series, computed to deal with the current you are actually using.

There is also a way to wire two LEDs "back-to-back" so that when the input DC reverses polarity, one goes out and the other comes on. You'll need double the number of LEDs (buy 'em in big packages!) because you still have to deal with that voltage-drop equation. But they will light when the train backs up, if this is a consideration.

This will also work if you want to power LEDs from a low-voltage AC source. Most small power packs give you 16 VAC for accessories in addition to the DC track power. Remember, though, that with the higher 16 V you need to string 10 or 11 in series. And because they are LEDs on AC, they will flicker (at 60 cycles a second, looking like a neon sign). This might be a clever way to produce the effect of neon, in fact. I've never tried it, and the mechanics of building a box with black photo negative on the front  and scratched lines could be taxing. Has anybody tried it?

4  Discussion Boards / HO / Bachmann Historical train models on: July 23, 2012, 09:59:05 PM
I have several of these great little models, and I would like to build a module in the 2' x 4' format that will include a working display for them. Because space is very tight, I want to "cheat" on standard radius (using flex-track) so I can put a small demo loop with, interchangeably, the DeWitt, the John Bull and the Lafayette, on a loop that will have to be crammed into about 16" diameter, or 8" radius. There are other details, but I won't clutter this post with them just now.

I'm going to set up a trial loop to see if the shorter cars will run on something that tight (they also need some weighting to stay on the track). My question is, has anybody else already done this experiment, and can I learn from it what will or what won't work in practical terms. Of course, I know and respect the standards for turn radius, but because these are such tiny cars, will they run successfully (at slower speeds, I'm sure) on tighter curves?

Thanks for any data someone may have already accumulated...............

5  Discussion Boards / General Discussion / Real water in scenery on: June 29, 2012, 10:41:07 PM
OK, I know the conventional wisdom is "don't" ... but I'm just enough of an experimental iconoclast to want to break that rule. So please don't cite it in this thread.

The big problems, as I understand it, are electrical shorts and the damage water does to scenery made of artificial materials. So we carefully avoid all such things. Also, water sitting there gets stagnant, stinky and unhealthy. So change it frequently, which means have a system to do this.

I have a decorative pump-driven waterfall that turns out to be precisely N scale, and in fact has a resin-cast loco on a bridge going over the falls. I will have to drill out the ends of the track section, grind the ceramic (waterproof) material down and lay track to integrate it into a layout, but the water does not splash anywhere close to the tack. I plan to have a drain-hose at the bottom so I can clean it out every session and add clean water regularly.

Has anyone tried this? and what did you learn?

I have seen several articles about real-water seaside and harbor scenes in hobby magazines. Nothing is really quite as realistic as the real thing, apparently.

Another plan is an HO swimming pool made from a plastic blister-pack. A scale swimmer with a small chip of rubber magnet glued to the chest floats in the pool. Underneath, out of sight, a magnet swings back and forth from one end of the pool to the other, dragging the swimmer on continuous laps. I fill and empty the pool with a squeeze-bulb syringe.

Animation is a sort of sub-hobby within the WGH with me, and I'd like to hear from others similarly afflicted.

6  Discussion Boards / General Discussion / Re: Circus Question on: June 29, 2012, 10:06:14 PM
I think the circus trains did much the same as many other specials going all over the country. When operating on XRR trackage, they "rent" a loco and crew fro XRR to haul over their tracks, then transfer to ZRR motive power when they move on ZRR territory.

And, several have pointed out here, the circuses were/are in the circus business, not the train business, so they didn't get involved in all the maintenance and support issues. Owning you own cars makes sense, since you can customize them for your purposes (not many railroads have a ready supply of elephant cars ready to go at a moment's notice!). But locomotives just pull whatever is coupled behind them.

7  Discussion Boards / General Discussion / Re: Lighting for HO Scale layouts on: June 29, 2012, 09:56:23 PM
I have LED nightlights that have glowed for years in the hallway of my house.
I have picked up several strings of LED tree lights (after-season half-price sales!) that I plan to use as interior city structure lighting. The orange LED strings, sold at Halloween, are especially good as building lights.

We're probably all waiting for LED-based streetlamps to become standard items. At 2-4 volts DC each, they could come in sets of 4 to 6 to run from a 12VDC wall-wart supply. The drawback for LED lighting is that (A) you have to run them on DC, and (B) they have to be polarized. You can't just hook 'em up to the 16VAC "Accessory" terminals and forget about them. But the advantages outweigh that: power consumption approximately zilch, once you invest in a wall-wart and plug system; replacement bulbs totally unnecessary, ever (that is, lifetime longer than the operator's!).

I would not be surprised to see longer strings of LED streetlamps, with wall-wart power supplies on the order of, say, 32VDC (a common electronic-equipment voltage) and about a dozen or 15 lamps in a string. Also, because of the incredibly low current, a single power supply should be able to run several such strings in parallel. They would need to have polarized plugs-and-jacks. but that should not be hard to do. I toss all this out there hoping that some manufacturer will pick it up, develop it and put it on the market for us all. Yes, of course I would be willing to volunteer to test them out!

8  Discussion Boards / General Discussion / Re: Model Railroad Clubs on: September 30, 2011, 09:09:59 PM
More thoughts.......................

November is "National Model Railroad Month," and clubs all over hold Open Houses as guys show off their home pikes to all comers. Contact Bachmann, other makers, Kalmbach Publicatiojns, etc. (google "World's Greatest Hobby" or "National Model Railroad Month") and start your own.

One is the minimum you need to do this, and the maximum necessary to get some attention.

Go for it, train guy.

9  Discussion Boards / General Discussion / Re: Model Railroad Clubs on: September 30, 2011, 09:04:10 PM
First requirement to have a club is people. Forget about finding a location for the club's imagined giant layout. Just get a couple of people together. If you're the ONLY model railroader in town, build your layout (however small it may be) and show it to other folks.

If there's a rule one here, it's "Be a nice, likable guy -- who happens to like model trains". If you, the personable nice guy, attract friends, some of them (not all, don't expect that!)  will be train people, eiither looking, as you are, for kindred souls, or latent modelers waiting to be discovered and encouraged by you.

The "club" may be two guys visiting each other's layouts and enjoying them. Keep smiling, and you'll find some more -- or turn on those potential ones by being helpful, supportive and sharing your hobby (and your skill, maybe even a little spare rolling stock) and encouraging them.

If you have a reasonably large stock of stuff, offer to set it up at Christmas at the local bank, or a local department store, school or anyplace where other folks will see the trains and maybe fall in love with them. Share coffee with these new friends, and pretty soon the club will almost form itself.

All because you kept smiling, and showed everybody in town how happy train guys are.

Happy Rails to you!

10  Discussion Boards / General Discussion / Re: Big Bang Theory on: September 30, 2011, 08:48:44 PM
Didn't somebody famous once say that any publicity is good publicity?

The program doesn't depict model railroaders as homicidal maniacs, or even trainicidal crashers.  If you are too busy to laugh at yourself, brother, you are TOO BUSY. Chill out, as the children say.
11  Discussion Boards / General Discussion / Re: EZ Track the only Bachmann track? on: September 05, 2011, 05:37:57 PM
A lot of us "grown-ups" (note the quotation marks) sneer at the Brio wood trains, including Thomas, but that's the kind of thing that draws kids into the hobby. The woodies are designed for kids to push and pummel, without breaking, while they learn about life -- and that includes that things will breaks if you handle them childishly (a lesson some big people never do seem to learn!).

Thomas the Wooden Engine is a great nursery introducer to the fun of trains -- but take the kids (or grand-kids) out to see real, full-scale trains, too. And let them see Dad's or Grandpa's "real" layout, hands off for the first time. If the fever develops, then they can try a throttle, and slowly ease into the edges of the hobby, while still banging about that wooden Thomas.

Once the kid learns that things break unless you're careful, and learns to be careful, it's time for the "real" HO Thomas set, if the spark of model train excitement still burns (you can never predict, it just happens, or doesn't, depending on the child's intricate little individual personality: live with it).

Then once the Thomas infatuation goes by the wayside, replace it with "real" trains (but not expensive ones, not yet). Let the kid have some, but not all of, the input about which train to buy: steam, diesel, passenger, freight. But kkeep it simple, still. Add scenery, then simple building kits. Stress simple, and let the kid do most of the work, regardless of how bod you think the final building looks. The kid (and remember, this could be a boy or a girl!) will see the shortcomings of that first attempt soon enough, and will do better with practice. Just like you did, Dad, long years ago.

At some point, the young engineer will be ready to make his or her own decisions, and if you've done this right, will still ask you for advice and wise counsel. In less time than you imagine, you will have a seasoned model-railroading colleague working with you, and perhaps, if you have taught well, doing better than you, and mzking you so proud you'll cry -- in secret, of course.

12  Discussion Boards / General Discussion / Re: foldable track on: September 05, 2011, 05:15:04 PM
Modular technique might be helpful (contact an HO, N or O scale module club to see what they do). In as much of a nutshell as I can, here's show it works: sections are standardized so that tracks meet, with about a 3" (sometimes 4.5" or more, but always standardized within the system) gap at the end of each section. You set the sections up on legs, then push them together. Use pegs or bolts in precise holes to line them up. Once they're all set up and leveled(with power connections plugged together underneath as well), you put in bridge tracks to span the gaps. A 9" standard HO section works with two 4.5" end gaps. Ordinary sectional track works just fine, but it may help to use re-raler track sections, just in case there's a tiny mismatch, usually in rail height. You just slide HO or N railjoiners back, put the track in place, and push the joiners into place.

As usual, do not rely on track to carry power long distances; connect eacah section to a 10 or 12 AWG power buss running under the system (with plugs, of course). Storage is easy: place two legless sections face-to-face (i.e., top-to-top) with enough clearance to prevent damages to scenery and structures, and lock them together with a set of bars from one to the other. HO moudkles at 4' long x 2' wide carry comfortably singly or in pairs, and the delicate scenery is protected by the facing pairs.

Standardization is your key. When it's done right, any module matches any other one at either end (kinda like playing dominoes with the same spots on every tile). Pegs and holes make line-up quick and easy. Adjustable-length legs compensate for wavy floors. Folding, I think, would be harder than pushing pieces together, because it's hard to adjust a hinge by 1mm. The bridge track, though, does let you put in a tiny side-shift correction that won't derail most cars.

O-scale modules actually don't need bridge tracks; careful alignment with precision hardwood ends and matching pins, is close enough (with maybe a 1mm gap) that the big wheels roll right along over the joint. HO and N, of course, have tighter tolerances, so bridges work best.

P.S. (Plug, Shameless): If you are in the Santa Fe, NM, area over the Columbus Day weekend, all this will be on display, free, at the XIV Santa Fe Model Train Show at 3229 Rodeo Road. You're welcome to come by and say "hi" Oct. 8-9-10.

Happy rails to you!

13  Discussion Boards / On30 / Re: Rigid Foam Fire Hazard? on: June 17, 2011, 02:24:17 PM
Good idea maybe to have an all-purpose fire extinguisher at hand. Check to make sure it will handle the type of material you use in building your layout.
And be careful, just on general principles.
14  Discussion Boards / On30 / Re: Ballast size on: June 17, 2011, 02:14:06 PM
Remember, "ebt" ... we're talkin' O-scale here ...  On30 is still 1:48, with NG track that just happens, by chance, to be 'zakly the width of HO standard track. For that reason, a lot of us poor boys use HO track. But don't forget, the rest of the scene -- buildings, people, cars, all that -- is still O-scale. This includes the rocks and trees and ballast, too. All 1/4 inch to a foot.

15  Discussion Boards / General Discussion / Re: Engines making noises on: June 17, 2011, 01:47:39 PM
Another thought:  after long storage, the lube may have congealed and become thick. A good cleaning with TV tuner-cleaning spray first might be good, then add fresh lube.

Always be sure to use model-train lube marked "plastic compatible" and don't over-oil stuff. Run your engine for at least several minutes after you lube it to spread the stuff around.
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