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2431  Discussion Boards / HO / Re: Lighting a rocker switch on: December 17, 2009, 12:23:33 PM
If there are 3 contacts, it's most likely a single-pole double-throw (SPDT) switch. The off color contact is probably the common contact. You'll actually only use two contacts for a roundhouse stall track "On/Off" switch.

There's a simple way to find out which contacts bring the switch light on. Connect one side to a power supply to the center contact of the switch. Connect the other side of the power supply to either side of the switch. Set the power supply for somewhere around 10 volts. If the switch light comes on in either switch position, those are the contacts to use for turning the roundhouse track on.

If not, move the outside wire to the other side, and flip the switch again. The light should come on in one position or the other. Use the contacts where it comes on for your roundhouse track "On/Off" control.


2432  Discussion Boards / HO / Re: blue box athearn runs faster forward that in reverse. why? on: December 16, 2009, 12:31:08 AM
Speaking of Athearn 'blue box kits', for any who haven't seen the official announcement yet:

Athearn News Special Announcement

October 16, 2009


Effective immediately, we here at Athearn have made the difficult decision to discontinue the production of our Blue Box line of kits. There were several factors that contributed to this extremely challenging decision however, the primary issue revolved around affordability and ensuring that our Blue Box kit pricing remain aligned with what the market can bear. Unfortunately, due to increased manufacturing and labor costs it has been determined that we are no longer able to continue offering kits at competitive price points as compared to our already assembled products.

For over 50 years the Athearn Blue Box kits have been sold worldwide, bringing happiness, joy and excitement to thousands of model railroad enthusiasts. Your passion for these products has allowed us to thrive and grow into the industry leader you still support today, and for that we are eternally grateful. Moving forward this will allow us to dedicate more resources to new and exciting projects in our Ready To Roll, Genesis and Roundhouse lines for another 50 years, or more.

We will continue to support all service and warranty needs on Blue Box kits from our headquarters in Long Beach, California. You can find our contact information here.

The Folks at Athearn

Guess they'll be showing up on e-Bay as "Rare and hard to find" soon.

2433  Discussion Boards / HO / Re: close coupling the sharks on: December 15, 2009, 05:55:41 PM
If you don't want to go the drawbar route, Walthers has a scale dummy knuckle coupler (933-1045) available that gives pretty close coupling. Regular price is $4.98 for a 12 pack, but currently on sale for $2.98.

The sometimes have a burr on the inside face of the knuckle, but it's easy to clean out with a #11 X-acto blade.

2434  Discussion Boards / HO / Re: close coupling the sharks on: December 15, 2009, 12:30:23 PM
Have you tried replacing the couplers with a drawbar made of sheet styrene?

Many of the early cab units came as A-A or A-B sets attached with drawbars. The railroads retrofitted them with couplers to gain flexibility in assigning power to trains.

2435  Discussion Boards / HO / Re: Length of E-Z Track turntable on: December 14, 2009, 12:13:38 PM

The Atlas turntable works fine with EZ Track with some slight modification to the EZ-Track. I would suggest using 2-1/4 or 3in straights as the transition pieces.

Remove the loop and pin from one end of the transition piece. Butt that end up against the turntable, centered in the opening, and mark the height and width of the turntable approach track opening on the end of the EZ Track. Lay the EZ Track on the approach track opening and mark the depth on the EZ Track.

Trim off the marked area of the EZ Track road on each side with a razor saw or knife. Sand or file the cut edges smooth, and install to the turntable. Your approach and roundhouse EZ Track with attach to the transition piece normally.

2436  Discussion Boards / HO / Re: Need help in replacing plastic wheels with metal on: December 14, 2009, 11:25:02 AM
That's why I have both tuners. Tried using the Reboxx on what seemed to be fairly soft die cast metal, and it sort of worked. Problem is it dulled the edge too much for getting the plastic right.

Then I got a Micro-Mark sale notice that included their version, so I got one from them for the plastic trucks, and kept the Reboxx for the softer die cast ones. A hard Arkansas slip stone keeps the edge of the Reboxx tuner shaped up enough for that.

And I'm with Jeryl on the Intermountain wheels. With a few oddball exceptions, that's all I use when I upgrade.

2437  Discussion Boards / HO / Re: Length of E-Z Track turntable on: December 13, 2009, 12:46:04 AM
The deck appears to be the same length as the 9in straight in the picture, which would make it the EZ Track equivelant of the Atlas 9in turntable.
Converting that to HO scale feet would make the deck 65ft 3-3/4in long.

Can't say I care much for the $175.00 price tag for a manual turntable, even if it does include the roundhouse. Especially since the roundhouse is European style, and not much use to American RR modelers. It also bothers me there's no mention of whether this thing can be motorized, or when the motor will be available, and at what price, if it can be.

I realize this is aimed at Thomas fanatics, but there are a lot more American railroading HO folks out there that would love to see the turntable available seperately for a more reasonable price.

Especially considering the MSRP on the Atlas turntable and motor drive is $31.95 each. But they can be had from  Amazon, and other places, for roughly $22.50 each, giving a total of $45.00 + S&H for a motorized turntable. And it's not that hard to trim the ends of EZ Track to match up to the Atlas turntable.


2438  Discussion Boards / HO / Re: Need help in replacing plastic wheels with metal on: December 12, 2009, 12:50:59 PM
Generally speaking freight cars use 33in wheels and passenger cars use 36in wheels, although there are exceptions. Intermodal cars that carry double stacked containers may have 28in wheels to lower the overall height due to clearance issues.

Model passenger cars by IHC have 31in wheels, which can be hard to find metal replacements wheels for. Trimming off the brake shoes provides clearance for 36in replacements though.

A 'truck tuning' tool will greatly improve the rolling performance of your plastic trucks. It's basically a reamer with a 60deg point that cleans out burrs and gives the axle socket proper clearance for the axle end.

The can be had from Micro-Mark:,8241.html

And Reboxx:

I have both, and haven't noticed any real differance in how the work.

You don't need to use a lot of force to spread plastic trucks for wheel removal or replacement. A small screwdriver can be used for a bit of leverage when removing old wheels.

Replacing trucks can be simple or involved. It depends on the type of car, type of original truck mount used, and type of truck mount on the new truck.

For freight cars I normally use the appropriate KD trucks, mounted with 2-56 screws. You can get them in bulk fairly cheap from Micro-Fasteners

On old Tyco, Life-Like, Model Power, etc. cars that have talgo type trucks with prongs that snap into a large hole in the car, I use a 7 step process:

1. Remove the old trucks.
2. Fill the holes in the car with epoxy (I prefer J.B.Weld 4 Minute)
3. After the epoxy sets, file it flat to the bolster, then drill and tap for a 2-56 screw.
4. Install body mount coupler/draft gear boxes of your choice.
5. Install trucks of your choice.
6. Check coupler height and trip pin clearance, adjust as necessary.
7. Return car to service.

I use the same general process for cars with trucks mounted using oversized sheet metal screws.

For Con-Cor, AHM, and IHC passenger cars that use a plastic pin to hold the truck in place, filling in the hole and drilling/tapping as above is the way to go. You'll find the trucks have less tendancy to fall off.

2439  Discussion Boards / HO / Re: Lighting with LEDs - some circuit design confusion on: December 11, 2009, 03:12:04 PM
One thing to keep in mind when using multiple LEDs in a parallel or series combination - make sure they all have the same specs! Electricity takes the path of least resistance (no pun intended), so if the specs are different you get one lit LED and a bunch of dim/dark ones.

If you want to figure it out the old fashion way, the resister formulas for a single LED, and multiple LEDs in parallel are:

LED current limiting resistor formulas:

Note: If the calculated value is not available as a standard resister, use the next

highest value.

Single LED and DC power supply:

    V t V led
R = -----------
      I led


V t = Total Power Supply Voltage
V led = Operating Voltage of LED
I led = Operating Current of LED in amps

Example 1: 12VDC power supply and a 2-volt 20mA LED gives:

R = (12 - 2)/0.02 = 500 ohms
Multiple LEDs in Parallel and DC power supply:

Voltage remains constant, but the current requirement goes up by the number of LEDs

used. The LEDs must have the same specifications and the formula becomes:

    V t V led
R = -----------
    I led x N led


V t = Total Power Supply Voltage
V led = Operating Voltage of LED
I led = Operating Current of LED in amps
N led = Number of LEDs

Example 1: 12VDC power supply and 4 2-volt 20mA LED gives:

R = (12 - 2)/(0.02 x 4) = 125 ohms

If your lazy, like me, use the resistor calculators at:

It even tells you what the next highest standard resister value is when the calculated answer is a 'between' value.

2440  Discussion Boards / General Discussion / Re: round the living room walls... questions on: December 09, 2009, 11:01:27 AM
I get asked this question a lot at my repair shop.

My 'stock' answer is: There is no such thing as too many power feeders.

To avoid problems down the road, at a minimum, use four power feeders. Either one at each corner of the room, or at the middle of each wall, or both! It's a lot easier to install them when you first install the track than having to retrofit it later.

One other point - I would also make sure the screws for at least every other bracket you use to support your shelf go into a stud, not just drywall anchors.

2441  Discussion Boards / HO / Re: help needed with a forum & decoder question on: December 07, 2009, 11:57:11 AM
Since Walthers took over Life-Like, you should contact their customer service dept for a set of replacement gears/axles for the BL-2. They're actually fairly simple to replace.

The contact info from their web site is:

Contact our Customer Service Department at 1-800-4-TRAINS (1-800-487-2467). Because they're real people who have to go home at night, our Customer Service phones are only available Monday through Friday, 8 am to 5 pm, Central Time.

Also, since the motors are already insulated from the frame, adding DCC to Walthers GP9's is fairly straight forward. The trick is finding room for a speaker if you're adding sound.

2442  Discussion Boards / HO / Re: IS IT SAFE FOR KIDS TO PLAY WITH HO SCALE TRAINS SETS on: December 06, 2009, 11:59:13 AM
A decent explanation of those stupid warning tags can be found here:

In short, California has put itself in the positions of regulating interstate trade (which is supposed to be a Federal function) with this rule. Note that it also applies to items that are NOT manufactured, or sold, in Califonia - but that might be brought into the state by a third party.

Those stupid stickers cost consumers and business big bucks, just to avoid what have become known as "Warning Label Bounty Hunters."

2443  Discussion Boards / HO / Re: 44597 Power Terminal w/Gaps Question on: December 06, 2009, 11:50:54 AM

Thanks for the info. If that's the only difference, guess that one goes on my "don't need to buy" list. Sad

Atlas Cd100 terminal joiners, with the wires run down through the table, and insulating plastic rail joiners work just fine.

2444  Discussion Boards / HO / Re: 44597 Power Terminal w/Gaps Question on: December 06, 2009, 01:07:20 AM

The terminal tracks came with some sets. I also use Atlas terminal joiners for extra power feeders, and plastic insulating joiners at gaps.

My question specifically relates to the new $29.00 44597 Power Terminal track with gaps built in shown under the EZ-Track products list.

Does it do something a standard terminal track, or standard track with terminal joiners, combinded with plastic insulating rail joiners doesn't? In short, what makes this worth the $29.00 price tag?

Personally, I think a 4-pack of 2in straights would be more useful. Yeah, I know, the new 'fitter pack' includes 2in straights. But just like with the 90deg crossing, I'm still having to buy pieces I don't need to get the 2in pieces. Only now I only get 2, instead of 4 like the crossing has.

2445  Discussion Boards / HO / 44597 Power Terminal w/Gaps Question on: December 05, 2009, 06:36:38 PM
Just curious, what does this get me I don't get wiring a DCC reverse loop with standard terminal tracks and plastic insulatiing rail joiners??

At $29.00 a pop, I hope is something majorly significant.

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