M&K Junction Railroad

M&K Junction Railroad
Another train of eastbound coal crosses the Cheat River

Friday, July 15, 2016

Where's Terry?

Where have I been?  The short answer is wrapping up my job and preparing for retirement.  Don't let anyone tell you that retiring, and retiring properly, is easy.  

Because I knew that I would be retiring soon, I spent a lot of time where my company needed me, in Indianapolis.  I was intending to hang it up in April but, when the company learned that I was serious, they asked me to stay on for another month.  When May rolled around they asked that I stay on until the end of June.  Unfortunately I had to decline inasmuch as I had plans (as I will outline below).  I officially retired May 6.

April and May were occupied with getting finances ready for retirement.  Since I had income in May (my last check was on May 13), I filed for social security June 1.  The biggest problem was signing up for COBRA continuation of my medical coverage.  To this day this is still not settled.

Open House

On May 21, I held an open house at my layout.  This was the first session run using JMRI; and it went better than I expected.  All trains were run using throttles on tablets.  Surprisingly, all members of the group accepted this mode of operation. We also tested the operational theme of the railroad and trains were pushed up both grades using the new F7s from Sunset as pushers.  No cars were popped out of trains or derailed.

After the open house, I created a list of things that I had to accomplish before I could hold a simple operating session.  If I can accomplish this list by about October, I can hold my first op session.  So far, I've checked off one item from a list of 15.  I have a lot of work to do.

NMRA National Convention

June was spent preparing for the NMRA National convention where I was scheduled to give 6 clinics.  In addition, I had a major project to finish before the National that would become a race against time.

A couple of years ago I realized that our O Scale group in the greater Washington DC area had some pretty nice layouts that exemplified what can be done in 2-rail O Scale.  Last April at a meeting of the O Scale Kings, as the membership was bemoaning the state of O Scale, I volunteered to produce a DVD video to promote 2-rail O scale; to be distributed at the O Scale Kings booth at the National.  I knew that I had ample material among the layouts in our group.

So filming began June 6 and involved travelling throughout suburban Maryland and Northern Virginia and as far south as Williamsburg, VA.  Video of Jim Canter's P48 portable layout from 2014 was reused.  I developed interview questions for each layout owner to weave a story about 2-rail O Scale.

Editing the video was more of a chore than I anticipated and the final cut was completed just 3 days before I had to leave for Indianapolis.  Two of those days were consumed reproducing 100 disks using every available computer that I could lay my hands on.

Distribution of the disks at the National did not go as planned, inasmuch as the O Scale Kings could not get their booth to the convention.  However the disks were distributed at Jim Canter's layout on display at the convention; and several influential people received a copy.  Whether they watched the video is another matter.

So here is the video for your enjoyment.  Adjust the resolution up if you have a fast computer and internet connection.  Please leave feedback.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

SkyNet is Operational

No, I'm not looking to exterminate the human race (a la the reference to the Terminator movies' "SkyNet").  Last Sunday, Oct. 25 my railroad achieved a milestone - I have JMRI up and running.  From the beginning my railroad was planned with computer automation in mind.  After all, when it reaches a latter stage of completion, I will be operating it mostly by myself.  So I always intended for it to be able to run semi-autonomously, while I sat back and watched (possibly with an adult beverage!).

JMRI is the software that I have selected to make this happen (although I did investigate Rocrail). I have been collecting bits and pieces of the equipment to make this happen for the last several years.  I bought the Lenz serial computer interface when I purchased my DCC system.  As I resolved to run the railroad from a laptop, and laptops do not have serial ports, I obtained a USB-to-serial converter.  Along the way I acquired a wireless router that could be dedicated to the railroad .  A cast-off smart phone has also found it's way into the basement.  Over the last two years I have been buying some inexpensive Azpen Android tablets from MicroCenter whenever they were on sale.

I first tried to install JMRI on a used laptop that was choking on Windows Vista and which I had re-imaged to run Linux Mint.  I was unable to get JMRI running on Linux (there's something about Linux that escapes me).  The project was stalled for the last year and more. During that time I realized that I wanted to have a touch screen interface. But buying a touch screen laptop would deplete the resources needed for other things on the layout.  I then hit on the idea of a Windows tablet.  The WinBook TW802 from MicroCenter was on sale for $99.  Done!

With all of the parts available I set about to get everything hooked up.  JMRI installed and ran easily on the WinBook tablet under Windows 8.1.  About 3 hours over two days was spent tweaking settings to get JMRI to talk to the Lenz LI100F serial interface via the USB to serial adapter and connect to the command station.  Because the WinBook has an full size USB port, I was able to load the Lenz configuration program (which only runs on Windows)  from an external CD drive.  I also used the tablet to configure the router (the network is not labeled "SkyNet", but "M&K JCT" after the railroad).  Windows on a tablet does have its advantages for running real application programs.

With the Windows tablet talking to the command station, I engaged the throttle in DecoderPro.  Nothing happened.  A little more tweaking and finally a locomotive moved.  Success!  Next, the WinBook was connected to the network and Engine Driver was started on one of the Android tablets.  Again, nothing happened.  This time I had to figure out that the WiFi Throttle option had to be enabled in JMRI.  Back to the Android tablet and his time the loco responded. The routine was repeated with the six year old smart phone running Engine Driver.

I had downloaded an app called MRclock onto the Android tablets.  MRclock turns the tablet into a fast clock for model railroad use.  One tablet is set up as a time server on the network and the other(s) are set up as clients.  So I had JMRI and MRclock running on the same network, at the same time and everything was smooth and responsive.  

I have yet to test the web server function of JMRI.   I'm also looking forward to implementing control panels via PanelPro so that I do not have to build wired panels.  I also have to test the functionality of DecoderPro and SoundPro.  But if I get no more functionality then I have today, it will be a qualified success.

That all of this is running on tablets, none of which cost more than $100, is all the more impressive.  Right now the WinBook tablet is hooked up to a keyboard and mouse, as well as the Lenz interface, all via a USB hub. 

Friday, October 30, 2015

September and October Happenings

Whoa boy, it's been a busy summer!  Almost every weekend this summer I've enjoyed some outdoor activity with my wife. Many of these excursions were biking on rail trails, so I guess that qualifies as rail-related activities.  My travel schedule for work has picked up as well, leaving me less time for the railroad as I have been away from the basement.  However, some things have gotten done.  The upgrade of the electrical system is almost complete.  Although there are a couple of more cab bus access points to put in.  LED strip layout lighting has been added to the small section of the exposed lower deck; and that includes dimming circuits and night lighting effects.

Night Effects on the Lower Level of My Layout

On Sept. 5 I held my second open house of the year.  It was unusual inasmuch as that Saturday was during the Labor Day weekend.  Looking at my schedule going forward, including business travel, there was no other open day until November, which would have been too late in the year.  Attendance was slightly down because of the date, but I think that everyone had a good time.

On Tuesday Sept. 8, I drove out to Indianapolis to attend the O Scale National (beginning Friday Sept. 11).  I was able to combine business with pleasure as Indianapolis is where my business travel takes me.  I gave 2 clinics on Friday at the convention and 2 on Saturday. 3D Printing for Model Railroaders and Fun With LEDs were the topics.

"Fun With LEDs" - expand to full screen, scroll up and down to see all of the slides. Use the live links to see additional material.

Here's a video of the first run of my clinic "3D Printing for Model Railroaders".  
Expand it to full screen to be able to read the slides.

Jim Lincoln was in attendance as well and Jim hosted the P48 meeting on Friday night.  Jim attended and contributed to my first 3D Printing clinic - Thanks Jim!

Jim Lincoln leading the P48 Meeting

On Oct. 22, I gave the LED clinic at the NMRA Mideast Region convention in NJ.  My clinic on Thursday night was the lead-off event and I had huge attendance - so much so that I did not have enough hand-out CDs to go around.

My layout project for the winter is to get some more switch machines installed; add LED strip-based layout lighting; get more equipment onto the layout (now that dropping a train over the end of track and onto the floor is much less of a possibility) and make sure that the equipment on the layout tracks well, has proper coupler height, etc. Oh yes, and if I have time, I need to put up photo backdrops.

I've reached what the military calls Initial Operating Capability (IOC) with JMRI up and running, but not yet fully deployed.  And, if all of this is not enough, I'm slowly building my 3D printer kit in my "spare" time.

It's going to be an interesting winter!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Requiem For Weaver Models

Weaver Models has announced that they would cease business on June 27.  Those of you who are not in O scale may not be familiar with of Weaver Models; but for O scalers, and for me in particular, it was like losing an old friend.  As I understand it, Weaver was an outgrowth of Quality Craft Models, a  maker of wooden freight car kits in both HO and O.  You can still find unassembled Quality Craft kits on e-bay and at train shows.  They built up into presentable models in their day.  [Scalecoat Paint was also part of Quality Craft/Weaver, but the latest is that Scalecoat will continue under the auspices of Minuite Man Scale Models]

I believe that the moniker Weaver was adopted when the company ventured into injection molded plastic models in O scale around the early 1980s. At that time, both Atlas and AHM had been unsuccessful at marketing plastic RTR O scale models and the outlook for getting state-of-the art models in O scale was bleak. Weaver's entry into the genre was a very welcome addition.  I remember hearing from Bob Weaver at a clinic that he gave at the 1985 O Scale National that his choice of an open coal hopper as his first offering was very fortuitous.  This was because modelers would run solid trains of these hoppers; that was good for sales.  Bob also told us that every time that he came out with a new freight car he "bought a house" - comparing the cost of having dies made to the (then) cost of a new house.  His second choice of a car design, the modern tank car, nearly put him out of business because it dd not sell well at all.

At that '85 convention he was showing off samples of his newest car, the PS-2 covered hopper.  As a gag, he had painted one up in brass-colored paint and was putting on some of the dealers that he was making brass cars at $20 each.  This was back in the day when the hobby was lousy with guys who were treating brass models as objet d'art and thinking that they were going to retire by cashing in their brass collections for big bucks.  Weaver, at the vanguard of the wave of detailed and inexpensive plastic models that would follow, put an end to those ambitions; and I, for one, think that the hobby is better for it.

The entire instruction sheet to an early Weaver hopper kit

Weaver's early offerings were only available in kit form, less trucks and couplers.  They were very analogous to Athearn "blue box", shake-the-box kits.  For example, the hopper had a one-piece body with all of the grabs cast on, a separate under frame, a brake wheel, brake reservoir/triple valve cluster and two braces for the hopper slope sheets - 6 parts in all.  The kits were originally set-up for 2-rail trucks (Athearn being the logical choice at the time) and Kadee couplers.  Eventually, Weaver realized the size of the 3-rail market and developed a 3 rail truck with a truck-mounted coupler.  At a later O scale convention, Bob Weaver opined that the 3 rail market was about three times the size of the 2-rail market.  Weaver's lack of fine detail was a natural fit for the 3-rail market of that day with it's more casual operations. Eventually Weaver offered their own trucks and couplers in 2 and 3 rail, in plastic and diecast; the latter a 'must' for the 3-rail aficionado.  RTR cars are an imperative for the 3-rail crowd and Weaver eventually offered those too. Soon thereafter, the kit versions were withdrawn from the market.

Weavers early models, and most of their models to the very end, were made in the USA.  Weaver developed their own in-house pad-printing process to decorate the models. And Weaver built models the old fashioned way (probably to it's detriment) by speculating on which models would sell and in what quantity.  As far as I know, they never adopted the build-to-order business model that is now industry standard.  Weaver would also do special runs and, because they had most processes in-house, they could do very short runs. In fact, many of the Weaver boxcars that I have are special runs for dealers, historical societies, conventions, etc.

Weaver near their height in 2006

The next big breakthrough for Weaver came when they offered RTR plastic diesels, beginning with the Alco RS-3 (RSD-4/5 later, too) and the Alco FA-2/FB-2.  Bowing to time-honored O Scale tradition, these were powered by a Pittman motor and all-axle geared drive.  The GP38-2 followed and these were regularly cataloged items.  

Some of the Locomotives from Weaver's 2006 Catalog

Weaver's domestically-produced models eventually included (from the 2006 catalog):

  • Outside Braced (single sheathed) Boxcars
  • PS-1 40' Boxcars
  • Steel Side (generic) 40' Boxcars
  • 40' Steel Side Double Door Boxcars
  • Express Boxcars (repainted generic 40')
  • 50' Plug Door Ribbed Modern Boxcars
  • 40' Stock Cars
  • 50' Modern Tank Cars
  • 40' Modern Tank Cars
  • 2 Bay Ribbed Side Coal Cars (hoppers)
  • 2 Bay Offset Side Coal Cars (hoppers)
  • 2 Bay Composite Coal Cars
  • 3 Bay Ribbed Side Coal Car
  • 3 Bay Offset Side Coal Cars 
  • 4 Bay High Side Coal Cars 
  • 9 Panel Hopper Cars
  • 50' Flat Cars
  • 50' Piggy Back Flat Cars and Trailers
  • 40' Wood Side Refrigerator Cars
  • 57' Mechanical Refrigerator Cars
  • 4 Bay Centerflow Covered Hoppers
  • PS-2 Covered Hoppers
  • 3 Bay PS-2 CD Covered Hoppers
  • AC-2 Covered Hoppers
  • RoadRailers
  • "Northeastern" Cabooses
Many of these car types (e.g. RoadRailers, 57' Reefers, High-Side Hoppers) have not been done before or since in O scale.  Road names for each of these changed from year to year and counting all of the variations would lead to thousands, if not 10,000 or more distinct products.

With the advent of building models in China, Weaver eventually branched out into passenger cars, offering smooth and fluted-side streamline cars in many different road names as well as the unique offerings like the Pullman-Bradley coaches and a Milwaukee Hiawatha with beavertail observation.  The wartime Troop Sleeper, Kitchen Cars and Coaches were offered in both passenger and the postwar express car configurations.

But the biggest bonus in offshore manufacturing occurred in locomotive production.  Plastic versions of the U25B, RS-11/12, E8, SD40-2, Baldwin Sharknose and the VO-1000 (and probably some that I've forgotten) were offered from time to time.  These locomotives utilized the oft-decried "China Drive".  The dual motor drive was what was offered by the Chinese builders and a requirement woven into the culture of the 3-rail community.  At about this time, the domestically produced diesels were transitioned to the China drive as well (which made me question their Made-In-USA advertising).  I suspect that some of these locos were piggybacked onto builds by Lionel, K-Line and MTH, all larger builders; and that the die work was subsidized by the Chinese manufacturers.

Another windfall from China production was in diecast steam locos.  Weaver produced a Pacific (I have one and love it), a Consolidation and a 0-6-0, at least.  Again, I believe that all of these were piggybacked on the production runs of Weaver's larger rivals.

Weaver did not eschew building in brass.  They offered many, many brass steamers, biased towards larger passenger steam, streamlined steam and, the mandatory PRR K4s and T1 and NYC Hudson notwithstanding, representing the less frequently modeled roads (GN, MILW, NH, NKP, CN, CP, LV, etc.).  In addition to brass steamers, brass cabooses, electrics and even brass structures were imported.  

Some of weaver's Brass Offerings - 2006

Most of these imports were one-time offerings.  Imported rolling stock included, in addition to the aforementioned Troop Cars:

  • 50' Wartime Gondola
  • MILW  Ribbed-Side Boxcar
  • PRR H-30 Hopper
  • B&O Wagontop Boxcar

For all of the good things that Weaver accomplished, the current owner is hanging it up and retiring and, apparently, there are no offers for his business.  While this is sad, it is not surprising.  Realistically, while Weaver was a godsend in the '80s, they did not keep up with the times. Their detail is not up to current standards, nor do they offer railroad-specific details.

I'm speculating, but the MLW horizontal rib boxcar, B&O wagontop boxcar and the PRR H30 covered hopper were probably Weaver's attempt to produce cars that were more up to date.  I heard rumors that they were unhappy with all of these cars and swore not to do it again. We modelers did not help; people nitpicked the paint schemes on all 3; and the less desirable schemes are still unsold after 4 years.
Finally, Weaver's business model of building models on speculation of which models should be run and what road names will sell is probably no longer viable. I hate to admit it, but the other manufacturer's build-to-order business model is likely correct for the times.
There were clues to Weaver's demise that you can see in hindsight. The last catalog (Fall 2014) did not list any of the diesels (requiring mechanisms from China).  The only rolling stock listed were a subset of the ones made in the USA; presumably because Weaver owns the molds and can decorate them in-house. The cars that Weaver imported, and probably had to bring in by the container load, were nowhere to be found. 
I hope that some of Weaver's molds will be picked up by Atlas. They could fit into their Trainman or Industrial Rail lines. Weaver's 3 bay hoppers (ribbed and offset), 9 panel hoppers and high side hoppers would really fill out Atlas' hopper offerings. If the molds were upgraded, run infrequently, and built to order these could carry their own weight; especially if the molds are obtained at fire sale prices. Ditto the 57' reefers; and maybe the flats. But for the 2 bay hoppers, box cars and reefers, tanks, and covered hoppers, Atlas already has better offerings.

In recent years I have vacillated on whether I should use the several score unassembled Weaver kits and assembled cars that I have.  I had been in favor of keeping the boxcars, 3 bay hoppers and PS-2 covered hoppers and disposing of the 2-bay hoppers as being too crude.  My last swing on this topic before the announcement was to keep all of the Weaver cars as they are relatively immune to handling and so can be taken on and off of the layout for variation in consists.  The demise of Weaver only reinforces this decision.
Weaver models are still readily available on the secondary market, although you may have to do some painting to get your preferred road name.  They will live on much as the '70s Atlas cars are still found on almost everyone's layouts.
I will miss Weaver; as I lamented the loss of Weaver's and others' kits. Weaver cars were rugged and were inexpensive enough to fill out your layout. But the option of having in-stock models, available when you are ready to order, will be the greatest loss of all.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

N&W 611 Lives!

N&W Class "J" 611 is back in excursion service.  Even though I am a B&O modeler, I think that the "J" was the best streamline steam loco of all time (maybe I'm biased because of my beginnings in Lionel and Lionel's model of the "J").  It's lines are sleek, clean and modern; and the glossy black paint job doesn't hurt either. The NYC Empire State Express Hudson and the Santa Fe Blue Goose are similar in design concept, but not as well executed.  The B&O P7d locos follow suit, but have too much of an art deco look to them.  The SP GS-4 is a good looking engine too, but it's a runner up to the "J".  

So the 611 returned to it birthplace Roanoke, VA this past weekend after being in North Carolina for restoration.  I missed the "J" the last time it was under steam in the late '80s - a father with a young family and all that entails; I wasn't going to miss it this time.  In addition, I have never really seen a large loco under steam before; the Chinese SY class Mikado when it was delivered to the Valley Railroad in Essex, CT and the CP Pacifics at Steamtown in Vermont (before it moved to Scranton) being the largest heretofore.  So I drove down to Roanoke on Saturday, May 30 to catch the 611's return.

I set up initially at ground level in the viewers area but, as the day wore on and the sun rose higher, I decided to set up on the glassed-in overpass over the tracks that connects the Hotel Roanoke with downtown.  This provided an aerial view of the 611 as it came into sight, but the intervening glass degraded the video slightly; to say nothing of the extraneous sound.

You can judge for yourself in this rough cut of the 611's arrival.  I've done nothing with the video except cut out extraneous footage and enhanced the sound a little to bring out the whistle and suppress ambient noise.

611 will be touring around Virginia every weekend between now and Fourth of July weekend; starting in my neck of the woods, Northern Virginia, this coming weekend with three runs between Manassas and Front Royal. I've already picked my viewing spots for these runs and, hopefully, I will be following the 611 until the 4th.  Not much model railroading will get done this month!

Saturday, May 23, 2015

An Electrical Makeover

While I have reduced the frenetic pace that I was applying to building the layout; I'm still moving forward.  I promised myself that I would pause here and upgrade the layout's electrical system.  

As I built the track work, I installed all of the track feeders and buses, plus made provisions for power districts; it would have been very difficult to retrofit this work.  However, there are jobs that need to be done to get to the final electrical/electronic configuration of the layout.  Here's a list of the things that I intend to do before moving on to other, more visible, tasks:

  • Upgrade the layout's power from 16 to 32 amps.
  • Divide the layout into power districts. My current thinking is that 4 districts are required.
  • Install the remaining switch machines and power the frogs; removing the "temporary" hard wiring of frogs that was put in place.
  • Add more plug-in stations around the newly completed parts of the layout for wired throttles.
  • Install more radio throttles.
  • Get JMRI working so that the layout can be automated and WiFi tablets can be used for throttles.

Why, you would rightly ask, would I need wired, radio and WiFi throttles?  Well, I have the wired throttles and, with the Lenz system, they are handy for on-the-fly reprogramming of locos.  My guests "get" wired throttles; but don't like them.

Nowadays, most operators expect to use radio throttles.  Lenz uses cordless phones as radio throttles.  The phone's keypad is used for control. I find this system really slick and I can work the throttle one-handed and without looking; my thumb plays the keypad like a virtuoso. Unfortunately, most of my guest operators have a difficult time with this system.  Almost everyone else runs NCE systems and is familiar with their radio throttles.

JMRI and WiFi throttles are where I want to go.  However, no one in our round-robin group uses this technology and I don't expect that it will be readily accepted.

Also note that heretofore the entire layout was running on a single 5 amp command station.  It's actually miraculous that this system could drive that great a length of track and bus.

This work has begun and I am tackling the tasks in more or less random order, as the mood hits me or as I run into problems or run out of supplies on any given task.  

Below are pictures of the upgraded power.  I added a second transformer to the one that was already powering the layout.  Each is capable of providing, theoretically, 16 amps at 14 VAC.   They are housed in a discarded computer case. The primary side of the transformers is fused and the outputs are ganged together then feed (3) 10 amp fused circuits.  This will supply 3 power districts of 5, 10 and 10 amp capacity. By keeping this in one housing, I can shut down track power with a single switch.  Ganging the outputs together eliminates any issues with common grounds.  While separating the output into (3) 10 amp fused circuits prevents 32 amps from flowing to any booster or through layout wiring.

Why, you could ask, did I use "old school" transformers when, elsewhere on this blog, I advocate for using reworked PC power supplies?  I bought these two hulking transformers before I thought of the idea of using PC supplies and the Lenz command station and boosters, take in AC.

All was in readiness.  I wired the AC to the location of the first 10 amp booster to be added, the control and cab buses had been wired at that site previously.  I disconnected that power district from the rest of the layout.  I triple checked all of my wiring; the Lenz 10 amp boosters are no longer made and it took me years to find some on e-bay - I did not want to blow one out.  When power was finally applied the LED on the remote booster was winking at me.  It seems that the booster was not seeing a signal on the control bus.  Whiskey, Tango, Foxtrot !!!  I checked the wiring again, substituted the other booster; no luck.  I checked the control bus signal at the command station - 12.7 V; at the booster it was 1.7V !!  DUH! I would not have thought there would be that much voltage drop in 40 feet or so.  

The boosters are placed as near to the center of their power districts as possible.  I don't want to move them closer to the centrally-located command station. I spent this morning looking at potential buffer circuits for the control bus.  This is going to be a major PITA.

A couple of weeks ago, I tackled some frogs on turnouts and a curved crossover inside the helix.  I had 2 Tam Valley Depot dual frog juciers on hand.  I put them in a nice plexiglass enclosure so I can see the blinky lights; wired them up (had to pay an outrageous price for a terminal strip at Radio Shack rather than lose time and wait for one to come mail order) and they worked fine.  Except for one loco (a Sunset B&O Q4b steamer with a Digitrax decoder).  This loco would cause the frog to flip to the wrong polarity and then stall in the turnout.  It's not the frog juicer's fault.  I experimented with using a 2 ohm 10 watt resistor to simulate a 4 amp load on the frog - it switched correctly every time.  There is something squirrely (or should that be froggy?) going on with this locomotive.  I have to experiment some more.  I can always revert to relays here to switch the frogs. The Tam Valley quad PIC servo controller supports them and I have some on hand.

(2) Dual Frog Juicers

The installation of the new radio throttles went somewhat better.  Most units on the Lenz throttle bus connect via a DIN plug; but the XPA phone adapter connects via an RJ11/12 telephone-type plug. I had previously figured out how the telephone cables that Lenz provides to wire up their XPA phone adapter work (did you know there is a "data" phone cable that is different from the "telco" one that you buy at the store?).  I wired up some of these to fit the my installation.  I addressed the XPA adapters at XpressNet addresses 15, 16, and 17 - right in the middle of the address range.  

The XPA Adapters

A Phone Throttle

I tried each one of the three cordless phones that I had (2 old, disused phones and a new DECT model).   All worked individually. However, they would not work together! Oh No! Long story short, the old 900 MHz phone was interfering  with the new 1.9 GHz DECT phone and vice versa.  I would have thought that 1 GHz frequency separation was sufficient, but no.  Neither one would work if the other was transmitting. The old 2.4 GHz phone worked fine with the DECT or the 900 MHz.  I'll replace the 900 MHz unit (too bad, this one had been my workhorse phone throttle)

Twice stymied of late, I spent this afternoon at the low tech task of wiring up DIN plugs to extend the wired cab bus.  I caught one wiring error.  I got 3 plugs wired (out of 6 needed) before running out of ring terminals.  Tomorrow I'll get some more and, hopefully, I can finish this task without incident this weekend.

For someone who knows wiring and electronics, this is a pretty low batting average.  As I said in a previous post - nothing goes as quick as expected.

A Pause and A Time for Reflection

With my open house past, real life quickly reasserted itself.  The very next day, Sunday, I found myself readying my tractor for the summer's work.  I was lucky inasmuch as spring was late in Virginia this season and the grass had not grown very high; so I had not had to cut it during the build-up to the open house.  In the weeks since, in addition to the usual yard, car and house work, I've had a hiking trip with the scouts and a week-long business trip.  I've taken time out to catch up on a lot that was sacrificed to make the open house a success and to prevent layout burnout. The moral of this story is to grab every opportunity and make time where you can.

For quite a while I have been considering what is involved in building a basement-filling layout; the push to finish the mainline only put emphasis on this.  There are hundreds, if not thousands, of pieces that go into something this big. Benchwork, risers, cleats, subroadbed, roadbed, feeder wires, buses, lighting, etc., etc. There are thousands of operations to perform in fabricating all of the pieces of the layout.  And, if you are building this solo as I am, it can be daunting.  Also, in my experience, none of this happens as quickly as one anticipates.

In finishing most of the track, I estimate that I am less than 1/3 finished.  Scenery and the models to go on the layout are going to take more time than building the benchwork and track.  I would not be surprised if building the models (to include the structures) will take half of the total construction time.

Would I do this all over again, knowing then what I know now?  Most definitely.  However, if I could have had precognition, I would apply the techniques that I learned in finishing the mainline - making time, working quickly and keeping adequate supplies at hand - which would allow me to make better time that I did.

Enough.  For those of you who could not come to the open house, here is a copy of the handout that attendees received.  In fact, this handout is much better that the one given out on the 25th as I have added much material to the description. Click on the pictures of the pages to get a larger view.