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Messages - Kevin Strong

Large / Re: 3-Truck Shay Firebox & Ashpan Circuits?
January 09, 2024, 11:34:12 PM
David, when I did my 4-6-0, I just hardwired the firebox LEDs to one of the function outputs on the Blunami decoder. I'd expect if you can trace the wires, you could do the same with the Shay LEDs. The Blunami has a firebox flicker lighting output setting which negates the need for any external flickering circuit. What I should have done was to wire the firebox directly to the power output since the firebox would have to be glowing for a steam locomotive to have power to move, but I just used one of the function outputs and have to remember to turn it on to see it. Which you can't if the firebox door is closed anyway, but that's another story.


Large / Re: What's (Really) Old is New Again
January 09, 2024, 11:30:00 PM
It will be dead rail. I've been using the Blunami control boards from Soundtraxx lately. I'm quite pleased with them. Great sound and motor control, and the range is better than I get with my Airwire-based controls.


Large / What's (Really) Old is New Again
January 07, 2024, 11:57:34 PM

If you have Bachmann's venerable outside frame Consolidation, you have probably seen the video that came with it. That video was filmed on the Woodland Railway (my parents' railroad) outside of Washington DC. Recently, I was gifted the locomotive used in that video--a pre-production version of the 2-8-0. Anyone who knows me knows I can't leave well enough alone, and since I already have an outside frame 2-8-0 on my roster, it seemed fitting to turn this ancient loco into something new and exciting. Drawing inspiration from an O scale conversion kit for Bachmann's On30 version of this loco, I rebuilt it into a 2-8-2T.

It was interesting diving into this loco from a historical perspective. First, the loco was made from either blue or white plastic--apparently whatever the manufacturer had excess of to test-shoot the molds. It was then painted to the appropriate colors. Second, the cab did not have any rivet detail on it. Apparently it was added to the production models after this one was done. Also, the dreaded "split gear" syndrome did not strike this loco despite it being the first (or among the earliest) models of this loco made. Having said that, the gear is also made from a different material--black plastic of some variety as opposed to the white. And while it had not split, it did slip on the axle, so I replaced it with the new brass gear/axle replacement set. It runs very smoothly now.

Paint will be forthcoming, but it's winter and if I do any painting, it's with an airbrush, which requires me to clear a spot in my basement which is currently filled with Christmas decoration boxes awaiting return to our crawlspace.

I have a post on Facebook with more photos and descriptions. It's "public," so you shouldn't need to have a Facebook account to view it.

Facebook Link


General Discussion / Re: Bachman's C-19
March 21, 2023, 09:13:10 PM
Street price was $800 plus or minus for the C-19 when it originally came out. If you look around long and hard enough, you can find someone selling some version of it for $700 give or take, but they seem to be going for a lot more than that on eBay and the swap-and-shop Facebook groups. I'll sell you mine for $12,572. It's customized with BluRail and Tsunami2. Don't low-ball me. I know what I have!  ;D


If you pull the retaining pins, you have to restrict the lateral play of the center axle. Insert 1/16" (ish) spacers between the bearing block and the eccentric cranks on both sides to keep the center driver from moving side to side within the frame. That will keep the blind drivers in contact with the rails on curves as tight as 5' radius. Somewhere on the interwebs I have a photo of this, but darned if I can find it right now. I used slivers of (I think) 1/2" diameter Evergreen plastic tubing.


Large / Re: Connie Outside frame current draw
August 27, 2019, 12:52:18 AM
The loco runs fine with a light load, but stalls on a heavy load? When it stalls, you say it's not drawing any current, which doesn't make sense. If the motor is stalled under a load, the motor should be drawing "stall current. If it's not drawing any current, then it's not getting any power.


Large / Re: 4-6-0 big hauler
July 23, 2019, 09:06:45 PM
Check how far the front truck hangs down relative to the drivers. It may be that it is at the end of its up-and-down travel when it's even with the rails. If that's the case, all the weight in the world won't do much since it can't go down any lower. Ideally, it should be able to hang down 1/8" or so lower than the rails so it stays in firm contact on uneven track. The solution to that problem is to lengthen the post which holds the truck in place. Some folks use washers, others cut a short length of plastic tubing the same diameter as what's there already. The stock screw should be long enough to hold the extension firmly in place on the truck.

Note that the latest generation 4-6-0 (the one with the brass gears) has a different support mechanism for holding the front truck in place.


Large / Re: Tractive pulling power
July 20, 2019, 11:22:10 PM
Drawbar pull is usually measured for the reviews in Garden Railways magazine. They use a rough estimate of 1.25 ounces of drawbar pull per car, so a locomotive with a drawbar pull measured at 2 pounds would be (by their estimates) able to pull 26 cars on straight and level track.

A quick survey of some of the Bachmann locos based on GR reviews:

C-19 - 2 pounds = 26 cars
K-27 - 2.5 pounds = 32 cars
2-truck Shay - 2.5 pounds = 32 cars
2-6-6-2 - 2.5 pounds = 32 cars
Climax (early version) - 1.1 pounds = 13 cars
4-4-0 - 1.4 pounds = 17 cars
2-6-0 - 1.4 pounds = 17 cars
0-4-0 - 1 pound = 12 cars

Now, about translating that to the "real world?" We need to consider a few things, but first and foremost is the weight of the average cars being pulled and the grades being climbed.

Here's a link to the 1885 Baldwin catalog, which has photos and builder's data for many narrow gauge locos.

Consider the Baldwin 8-18D, which is the Bachmann "centennial" mogul. (The fancy one in the pretty colors.) On the flat and level, the loco is rated at 895 tons. On a 3% grade, that drops to 70 tons.

The 10-26E is the C-19. On the flat and level, it's rated at 1630 tons. Get that same loco on a 3%, and it drops to 130 tons.

Note also that the introduction of just a half of a percent of grade reduces the tonnage by over half.

That's the numbers, so how does that translate into cars? That depends on the weight of the car. Early freight cars (c. 1870 - 1900s) were low capacity, so maybe 10 - 20 tons each fully loaded. Later cars could weigh upwards of 40 tons each.

Let's look at the C-19, then, and take an average car weight of 25 tons (the capacity of a D&RGW box car).

"By the book"

Flat - 1630 tons = 65 cars
0.5% - 655 tons = 26 cars
1.0% - 395 tons = 15 cars
1.5% - 275 tons = 11 cars
2.0% - 205 tons = 8 cars
2.5% - 160 tons = 6 cars
3.0% - 130 tons = 5 cars

Here's the mogul:

Flat - 895 tons = 35 cars
0.5% - 335 tons = 13 cars
1.0% - 215 tons = 8 cars
1.5% - 150 tons = 6 cars
2.0% - 110 tons = 4 cars
2.5% - 85 tons = 3 cars
3.0% - 70 tons = 2 cars

When you compare the numbers for the prototype compared to the models, the prototypes can outpull the models on the flat and level (based on GR's estimates), but with the introduction of even half of a percent grade, the models can outpull the prototypes. Consider also that the model locos are all "geared locos," so they are not nearly as affected by grades as the prototypes. A model loco that can pull 15 cars on the straight and level can handle half that up a 3%.

So, the question for the modeler is whether we tailor our trains to reflect how the prototype would respond to those grades, or whether we just want "typical" trains regardless of the terrain on our railroads. Two car trains may look ridiculous, but they may be prototypical.


Large / Re: Plug in boards for newer Spectrum
July 19, 2019, 06:56:47 PM
If not, just get a strip of SIP plugs and solder your own leads to the pins. (Google SIP Socket, and you'll come up with a bunch. Pitch 0.10".

They look something like this:


First, with DCC, there is always power to the track, and the system is designed specifically to allow independent control of multiple locomotives on the track at the same time. As such, there's no reason to have switches to control the polarity of the power going to the motor, or to turn the motor on and off independently. So don't worry about that. The biggest challenge with DCC is installing (and programming) the decoder.

Each locomotive has a unique address, and the lights, motor, and sound are controlled by various function keys and knobs. For example, the headlights are commonly tied to the Function 0 key. When you hit that, the lights will turn on or off. On steam locos, you may also hear the sound of the steam dynamo spin up when you turn the lights on. The handheld controller will only control the specific locomotive whose address is dialed up on the handheld controller.

With respect to the decoders themselves, the decoders that typically plug into the 8-pin sockets are low-current (usually 1 - 2 amp) decoders. I would not recommend these for most Bachmann locos. They'll be fine for the small 0-4-0s and such, but not the 4-6-0 or C-19. For most large scale locos, you'll want to use decoders with at least a 3-amp capacity. Manufacturers include Sountraxx (Tsunami2), TCS (WowSound), Zimo, ESU, Massoth, and QSI. Phoenix (the sound system folks) also just introduced a plug-and-play decoder designed specifically for Bachmann locos. It's pricey compared to the others, but you literally plug it in and you're off and running. (ESU, Zimo, and I think Massoth also offer plug-and-play forms for some of their decoders designed to fit in the 23-pin socket in Bachmann's locos.)

I'd definitely recommend getting a book on DCC. I wrote a 4-part series for Garden Railways a few years back which you can download. (I don't get any residuals from those sales.) This is geared towards large scale applications. For general information, though, I'd recommend getting a more general DCC book. These are going to be more tailored towards small scales, but the technical information is certainly applicable.

GR Articles:



On30 / Re: 18 foot Caboose and Cattle Car
June 29, 2019, 10:52:12 PM
Quote from: p51 on March 29, 2017, 03:38:13 PM
18 feet would be comically short for a cattle car...  :-\

18 feet would hold 4 and a half cows. ;)


First thing--the Soundtraxx Tsunami2 does not have a trigger input for the chuff. It's all done by the motor's Back EMF. It's VERY accurate, so no worries on that front. (I was skeptical, but they've made a believer out of me.) So, that's two wires you don't need to worry about between the loco and tender. You will need at least 6, though. Two for the headlight, two for the motor, and two for track power pick-ups from the loco back to the decoder in the tender. If you want to use the firebox flicker and smoke unit, and control them from the DCC decoder, then you'll need additional wires for them between loco and tender. Otherwise, you can run them off of the track power input. They're powered off of the main board in the boiler. Just take the track power input, run it through a bridge rectifier, and hook the output of the rectifier to the PC board in the boiler. The firebox will flicker so long as there's power to the track, and the smoke unit will be powered if the switch in the smokebox is set to the "on" position.

For the connectors between loco and tender, you can find multi-pin connectors at, or you can solder your own from SIP socket strips.


June 29, 2019, 10:17:46 PM
You'll need to connect the battery to the Convertr, then the output of the Convertr to the battery input on the Bachmann board. If you hook the battery directly to the battery input on the Bachmann board, then you can't put the Convertr into the circuit, as the battery input is tied directly to the power pins on the socket (J1, pins 1, 2, 11, and 12) That will in essence feed full DC battery power to the Phoenix plug-in decoder, and if the Phoenix is programmed to run on DC, the loco will take off like a shot at full battery power.

The advantage of wiring things like this is that you can then use the track/battery switch to select whether you're going to run the loco from battery powered DCC or track power (DCC or analog DC).

One caveat--if the Phoenix board is programmed to run on analog DC, then you must make sure your Airwire transmitter is turned on whenever you power up the loco for battery power. The Convertr will only pass valid DCC instructions to the decoder if it receives them from the transmitter. If it does not, it passes full DC to the decoder. If the decoder is programmed to run on DC, it will take off like a shot.


Large / Re: Long caboose
April 27, 2019, 06:06:56 PM
Lee Riley was responsible for a lot (all?) of the product development in the 1:20.3 and On30 lines. His passing took a lot of the wind out of the sails for those lines.

If you're looking for a long caboose, try Star Hobbies. I think I saw one there when I was there a few months ago.


Large / Re: Heat in a little Big Hauler
April 05, 2019, 08:40:41 PM
Quote from: RkyGriz on April 04, 2019, 05:47:36 PM
...You don't need those boards unless you have a locomotive that is set up for DCC and you are planning on upgrading a loco to it.
You don't even need the boards for that. I was told they are there primarily for EU noise suppression laws. Most electronics installers will tell you just to pull them, as they're not needed and sometimes (as is the case here) get in the way of proper operation.

Glad things got sorted out.