Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas

Just a short post to wish everyone a very happy christmas and a great new year. I have met many great people through this blog and with that have learnt so much. Thanks to all those that have helped me out with DCC, DCC sound stuff, track building techniques, historical information and most of all inspiration.

Catch you in the new year,


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

3818 Makes Noise

While I am a fan of German engineering, I am lucky my PSM 38 only required a decoder and not a boiler. This was the easiest DCC install so far. The beauty of these locomotives is that the chassis is not live, nor the tender. The driving wheels have separate electrical pick ups and the tender bogies are insulated from tender and eachother. All that was required was to add a few connectors, throw the speaker in the boiler, wire up the power pack and off she goes.

I love Zimo sugar cube speakers however when I received the last couple in the mail they looked different. The quality was not as good as usual. I have since ordered some more from another supplier so I can see if there is a quality issue or they have in fact changed them a little.

Once installed the speaker didn't seem to sound as good as usual. I don't know if the large boiler makes it sound different as all my steam installs so far have been in little locos. If the new batch of speakers look like the previous lot I will swap it out.

Another factor which is probably more likely the problem is that I created the sound file. I used 38 class chuff, whistle and relief valve sound recordings and manipulated them in Audacity. The 30 something wav files I was left with were transferred into my favourite ESU project file. I have not run 3818 on a layout yet so have not heard it having a proper go. I am quite happy with the cylinder beat sound however the whistle still sounds funny. Whistles are horrible things to do! At this early stage in my DCC sound interest, whistle editing just doesn't seem to work. I have listened to so many 38 class whistle recordings. What I came to realise is that it has the worst sounding whistle of all NSWGR locomotives. It is however very distinctive and that means it has to be right. It seems when being recorded the sharp blasting noise effects recording systems all very differently.

I am a little chuffed (ha ha I know, I crack myself up) with my sound file. It's not the best but its cool to hear your efforts playing along in a loco. I have learnt a lot about the individual ESU driving sound files by doing this. I took the Lokprogrammer software into work the other day to show one of our Avionics Design Engineers. I think he was amazed at the level of programming flexibility when It came to adding sound to toy trains.

As you all know I buy locomotives to use. This brass pacific is sure to rack up a few miles now. Sound makes it more fun. You would not have heard me say anything like that in regards to sound this time last year! All this fan dangle electrical gibbers.

Here is another really bad video. I need a radio cab ha ha.

Friday, October 18, 2013

One Snotty 50 and 3/5s of a Layout


As usual I have been busy but not really getting much finished. Layout base board construction continues slowly (1.5 years now) and the DCC bug is still biting. I have now equipped five locomotives with sound, with a sixth, a 42 class waiting for its install. The latest sound candidate was my Classic Brass saturated 50 class. I bought this loco a few years ago from a fine modeller fellow but have hardly used it. I think the sound aspect creates more enjoyment while running. I don't know what it is but I really enjoy watching sound equipped steam locomotives. With the little saturated 50 now making sounds, it will be getting quite a work out.

I have found many people involved with DCC, whether selling or simply installing very helpful. People like Gary from MRCC, Mike from DCCSounds, Ray Pilgrim and many others have been guiding me through problems. I have overwritten my 422 sound files not once but twice with my Lokprogrammer. I felt like an idiot , especially the second time when I had to request the file again from Mike. A second blow to my technological prowess came while talking to Ray P at the MRNSW convention. I was talking about the Lokprogrammer and he mentioned that it was idiot proof. Feeling like a goose I had to admit that maybe it was not 100% idiot poof, there will always be that one guy. Unfortunately that guy was me.

Me and the Lokprogrammer are becoming better friends. No longer do I cross my fingers and toes hoping that after a write data to the loco, it will once again have a voice. Ray helped me out with a sound project for the Z13 class. Loco 1311 has undergone four sound project versions since its last appearance on this blog and I am quite happy with it at the moment. The project architecture is very good and allows for great coasting and driving qualities. The whistle still needs work but I can live with it for the moment.

I have had a few conversations regarding converting brass steam locos to DCC. There is the chance of short circuits occurring due to the nature of the material used. I have heard of the insulation material in wheels melting due to brake rigging shorting on the insulated wheel. For me, I feel power districts should be current limited to avoid damage.

When converting the 50 I switched the tender bogies around so as to make tender and locomotive the same polarity. Extra pickups have been added to the tender for the left rail. The decoder and power pack are mounted in the tender with speaker mounted in the boiler. This means that there are four wires required between loco and tender. Two for the speaker and two for the motor. The locomotive draw bar now electrically connects the locomotive and tender. I used a TSC four pin connector and have found it to be quite unobtrusive. The Loksound V4, 21 pin decoder is mounted to an ESU adapter board. I like the idea of being able to neatly mount the decoder as well as remove it easily.

Still to add Power Pack

For me, one of the biggest draw cards to DCC is the stay alive, keep alive or power pack option. For the 50 class I used the more expensive ESU power pack option in lieu of my normal TCS fit. The TCS units are very good, with the KA2 having more storage capacity however they need to be disconnected while programming with the Lokprogrammer. For my converted 422 and CPH I have simply converted the built in switches so I can turn the TCS keep alive on or off. For the 50 class I  the ESU power pack is a good fit and for the extra $20 has been worth the hassle of not having to fit a switching method.

Once again like the Z13, I wanted the speaker in the boiler. I cut a small section out of the boiler weight, cleaned it up on the mill and mounted the Zimo sugar cube speaker to it. It makes for a neat install as the whole assembly is simply screwed back in. I am still amazed by these tiny speakers. I actually think they sound better than the large oval speaker supplied with the 422!

For the 50 I wanted to use the same project in my Z13 however didn't want it to sound the same. After a little research using the helpful bunch on the Loksound yahoo group, I started to experiment with transferring drive sound .wav files. I downloaded many different steam files from the ESU website and played around with the a, d, ad, da files. These files contain a single beat of chuff noise. I was finally able to find the right chuff sounds and transferred them across into the  new 50 project. So far so good. The 50 performs really well, has a nice coasting ability and doesn't sound too bad. I took it up to the Illawarra club room last Friday night for a run around our new DCC layout. It sounded good and didn't miss a beat. All I need now is a better whistle.

Below are two short videos of the 50 in action. Sorry about the quality.


The Layout

Three of the five built base board modules have been finished off. The front garage floor is now blue and four litres of Estapol has disappeared. Spraying is very messy but has saved a lot of time. The modules are sealed around the back and underneath. The front upper and lower fascia will most likely be clad with Laminex once the scenery form is completed.

The reason for sealing the layout was mainly to keep it all clean and free of splinters. I am sure it will help with environmental changes also. I am very happy to have it at this point. The turntable module is next to do and will take a little more time, as like the viaduct module, its back scene is more complex. I can now start to build track on the completed modules which will be a huge learning curve however I am very excited. Having the 50 running on it today really starts the imagination racing.

Six Metres Finished

Viaduct Module

Rear of Layout

Under Viaduct Module

Turntable Module - Next to Finish

Last Module - A bit to do here

Other Stuff

I have once again made progress on my MMM LFX. The body is just about complete and I am still impressed with how the kit goes together. Although pricey they are good to build and I recommend anyone contemplating a purchase to just do it. I am still wishing/hoping for Mike to release a HCX. As Picton and the area relied so heavily on the HCX for transport it really is a must for me to get right, and for you Rob if your reading this!  Ha Ha.

Anyway that will do me for now. Hope you enjoy the pictures and Video. It has been a while since I have posted anything on here and feel a little guilty as I am always left a little disappointed when there are no new blog posts written by others. Reading peoples blogs these days is as exciting for me as receiving the latest AMRM.

Catch you later,


Sunday, June 30, 2013

Always Learning Something


For a while now I have been contemplating hand laying the track for Picton. After bugging a lot of people for information and then trying to convince myself that Peco code 83 is perfectly fine, I decided to take the plunge and ordered three No.8 point kits from the Proto 87 Store. I am not modelling in P87 however Andy (Proto 87 Store) offers high end 'Ultimate' point kits suitable for RP25-88 & 110 wheels.

Rob (Picton Blog) has built quite a few of these point kits and offered much advise. One of his tips was to utilise strategically placed copper clad sleepers in lieu of only using timber and glue. If anyone has built one of these only using glue and timber I would love to hear about your results and how robust the assembly ends up being.

The kit comes with a million etched tie plates which need to be cut then positioned between the sleeper and rail. These tie plates were soldered to the rail and sleeper very carefully so the spike detail was not lost in a pool of solder.

Using a Greg Edwards data sheet I found constructing the point fairly straight forward. It is not yet complete and not 100% perfect however for my first attempt I am pretty happy. I am having difficulty with gauge narrowing around the point blades. A set of wheels with properly set back to back dimensions have no problem tracking through however I still want my track work to be fairly universal. Maybe this is asking to much? 

Well, am I convinced that I need code 70 and 55 track? On one hand I think it looks better and having prototypical NSWGR track work is a plus but on the other is it really worth the amount of effort? Hopefully I can answer this for myself after building a few more.

I have included a few photos of the build so far along with a comparison shot of a Peco No.8 code 83 point. I am glad I have had a crack at this as I have always put building track in the too hard basket. Still to go are all the timber sleepers, check rails and throw bars, still a few hours in it Arrrrrrrg!

While on the subject of learning something, I attended the Modelling the Railways of NSW Convention yesterday. I had a great day and caught up with many people. One such person was Geoff, author of the Splitters Swamp Creek Blog. Geoff's scenery display was outstanding, I can only imagine how good the rest of his layout looks in the flesh! I will have to get up to Brisbane one of these days.

All the presentations I sat in on yesterday were very interesting. The military equipment lecture by Rohan Ferguson was impressive! I think Rohan probably knows more about armoured military equipment than the Army themselves! Very knowledgeable.

I think the operation lecture by Mark and Ben was very important. I don't think a lot of railway modellers have an appreciation of just how long operations take on 1:1 railways. It was great to get a run down on older era operations and an insight into marker light illumination meanings.

All in all a very good day and one I recommend to everyone. Thankyou to all the organisers, presenters and commercial stands for making it a great day.

Well that's it for now. Back to bashing my head on a wall in regards to track! If Micro Engineering made a No.8 point the decision would already be made. I used to be happy with code 100. What happened to that sensible bloke?

Thanks for reading this crap,


P.S. If I spelt anyone's name incorrectly in this post I am sorry. Your welcome to change your name so it reflects this post more accurately.

Friday, June 14, 2013

10100011111 - In a Different Dimension

G'day Blog Readers,

I have seen the light! No longer am I an analogue DC supporter.

With the release of the Auscision 422 class I decided to venture out and buy a DCC Sounds Loksound decoder. About two years ago I bought a NCE Power Cab with the intention of running computer controlled analogue throttles with the hand piece. This bright idea didn't work as the communication set up was only one direction, but this is another whole story. Anyway I decided to pull the NCE set out of the cupboard and installed the Loksound chip in the 422. I was hooked! Not so much with the sound but with the way the loco ran. I have never seen anything like it. I realise I am not breaking any ground here and you may be thinking this bloke is about twenty years behind the game, but for me this was unreal. Place the 422 in speed step 1 and off it crawls, very very slowly.

Now I had a problem as my main modelling era does not include big 12 wheeled boxes. Rather I would need to convert small steam locomotives particularly the  Z13, a local Picton resident servicing the Loop Line.

Ray Pilgrim in one of his "Bylong" blog posts described that he had fitted sound into a Protype Z13. After a few e-mails to the very helpful Mr Pilgrim I was able to source an appropriate decoder, it being a Loksound Micro V4.

While up in Mittagong I stopped in at  All Aboard Modelbahn. Brendo "On the Goods Lines" Blog put me into some small sugar cube speakers. I chose the 15mm x 11mm x 8mm unit. I can't remember if they were made by Zimo or CT Electronik although looking at there websites they do seem to be the same item. The speaker is strange as it is completely enclosed in a box with a flexible membrane around the perimeter. I was a little sceptical at first but then started reading a few very positive reviews.

On to 1311,

I have three Trax brass Z13 class locos. I painted and lined 1311 a while ago. As I didn't want to destroy my painted running model I used one of the others that still required a paint job for all my prototyping work. I removed the brass plate and lead weight from the rear bunker. This was quite easy and was achieved by just scraping the solder away until the assembly came loose. I also removed the small round lead weight from the boiler by simply unscrewing it.

After the modifications required were successful and not really that drastic I moved on to modifying 1311. I have to say that one of the hardest aspects of a DCC install for me is not damaging the model your working on. You really have to take a great deal of care.

I added two extra pickups to the loco. One on the lead driving wheel and the other on the trailing set of wheels. I switched the wheels around in the lead pony truck. This was done to prevent the possibilities of short circuits occurring between lead truck and the loco body/

I decided that the sugar cube speaker would be installed in the boiler just behind the smoke box but clearing the gearbox. I cast a small lead weight matching the boiler diameter but with a flat on top. The speaker was then stuck to the top of the lead weight with double sided tape and the whole unit installed using the screw removed from the original lead weight.

As the 13 is a small loco I wanted to add a TCS stay alive. I went for the KA2 model which has five 1 farad capacitors on board. The stay alive was actually too long to fit anywhere in the loco so I ended up cutting the fifth capacitor off including the PCB. As the capacitors are simply wired in series I attached fly leads to appropriate positions on the PCB and remote mounted the fifth capacitor in the smoke box. Its all very tight ha ha.

The Loksound decoder is installed along with the stay alive in the rear bunker. This combination just fits in the bunker and there is hardly room for the wiring.

I wired all the body to chassis electrical connections through a four pin micro connector. I wanted to be able to separate the body from chassis easily.

The loco is still not complete. I need to remove the weight from the brass plate and refit the brass plate into the bottom of the bunker so the chassis will screw down. The wiring still needs tidying up in the cab and then the crew may be able to resume their positions.

I am quite happy with the sound although I need to sought out the whistle. Here is a small video of the Z13 in operation. The Stay Alive is brilliant. While filming the video the loco actually ran off the end of the rails and preceded down the piece of timber still chuffing away.

This project was a bit of a tester for myself. Decoder Pro has opened up a whole new world and I am amazed at how adjustable the Loksound decoder is. Just another dimension to Model Railways!

Looks like Picton 1955 will be swept into the digital age. Now another 2 Z13s to go and 40 odd others. Sounds like fun...maybe not so much ha.

Now on to finishing this and building some points.

All the best,


Friday, May 10, 2013

TAM Pictures - So Far

Hi Ya'all

It's been a long time since I have posted anything. I am having trouble posting text on Blogger with the iPad. Here are a few pictures of the TAM, still under construction. As shown in an earlier post 'How to turn a RTR model into a kit' I split this coach down the centre and milled the windows out. The crown lights are further recessed giving two different planes of glass from the outside. Now glued back together I have built working diaphragms and started on a new under frame which i would like to have cast. Hopefully I can get these finished before the eureka model is released. 

I had a great time in Texas. I met up with Blair and Lance while in Fort Worth. After visiting both their Aussie layouts we went out for dinner in a restaurant opposite the railway line...naturally. 

Thanks Blair and Lance. Next time you in Australia please let me know. I will show you around Nowra ha ha.

Just a quick post while I contemplate moving into 7mm modelling. It's on the cards.


Sunday, March 3, 2013

Why is the Sky Blue?

Hi All,

Not much progress to report on the layout or modelling in this post. One thing I did start was to clear coat the modules and paint the curved back drops. It is a messy job spraying estapol and the blue paint. By the time I am finished I think I will look like a power ranger, the blue one anyway (is there a blue one?). My skin and clothes will end up with a nice hard wearing clear/blue exterior coating!

I owe it to Rob  (Picton Blog) for offering advice on blue (sky) back ground colours. I have completed one module so far but don't know if I should darken the top and lighten the lower half? The Sky has so many shades of blue, grey, white and brown. When you look through others blogs and their layout pictures its hard to tell if the backgrounds have been photoshopped or not. My curved back scenes are large at 2000 mm x 1100 mm. I have plenty of room to create a varying sky colour but have no idea how to do it? If any one has a clue I would to hear how and what colours you used.

On the modelling front the Bergs 48 class is almost finished - just need to add a crew. The 57s tender has been primed and is ready for colour and weathering.

I received my 422s in the mail last Friday. Very nice indeed. Have not run them yet but I am sure they will operate as nicely as they look. One thing I have found with Auscision is that their customer service is probably the best I have come across in regards to model railways. I had a small problem with my 422 order however the guys at Auscision were very helpful and resolved it straight away, thanks.

I am actually writing this post from Fort Worth Texas. I am in the U.S. for three weeks with work but managed to take a not so good photo of a Union Pacific train this afternoon. Sorry I have no idea what the locomotives are (I live in a NSWR bubble), all I know is that they are huge! I thought the 81 class was big.....wrong! I don't really photograph trains so I apologise for the average photo.


Well that's it for now. Time to go and find some food that isn't sandwiched between two buns.

Take care,


Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Traction Motors

Three posts in one week! Very bored at the moment.

Spurred by a forum post I went searching for model, individual traction motor bogies. This is all probably all old news but here is the link:


I don't know anything about the product but it looks like they are P87 friendly. 

With the single traction motor option any wheel spacing is achievable. They are a little expensive
but what does a Hollywood Foundry mech cost?

Food for thought. I would love to get my hands on one and try it out. Leaves heaps of room for 
sound I guess!

Thanks for looking 


Monday, January 7, 2013

How to Make Girls Like Trains

I have been with my missus for the past 7 years. Danielle doesn't like trains but I drag her around to most of the exhibitions so she can experience, firsthand the awesomeness of model railways ha. Apart from the constant crop dusting she receives, she puts up with it fairly well.

Anyway for the past few years, I have had enormous amounts of pressure placed on me to ask Danielle to marry me. Many have said I am punching above my weight (I am slowly getting fatter so I am not sure if that evens things up or makes things worse) and that it is probably about time to pop the question before she makes tracks out the door.

On my white board 'to do list' sandwiched between securing pelmet lighting and sealing the baseboards was a note reminding me that I need to get down on one knee before the end of the year. I kept explaining to Danielle that I had not even completed most of the jobs above the end of year dead line!

Long story short, I sought some advice from some of my fellow co-workers and devised a plan. With the diamond in hand I set about changing the way Danielle thought about trains.

On the track went a PSM 38, a few S and D trucks and a KF at the back to carry the goods. I covered it with a piece of back scene material and coerced Danielle into the shed. We were actually running late for a Dinner reservation so typically Danielle could not understand my ridiculous timing. I placed a wire on the track and thanks to all wheel pick up, the brass 38 hauled that special piece of coal out in front of Danielle. She quickly asked if the whole thing was a joke, but I assured her that the 38 is correctly portraying pre 1955 green.

After she said yes (now I can really get fat) I walked her over and ticked off the white board. All done and now she really loves trains, well sought of.

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