Monday, December 22, 2014

ECos, CPH, BLV and More Gears


I hope everybody is having a good lead up to Christmas. I have had a few days off, so like usual I have been fiddling around with a few bits and pieces.

Last month I purchased an ESU ECos command station. I have been on the fence for quite a while regarding which full DCC system I should purchase. My NCE Powercab has been doing  great job however I have always been a little disappointed in its cheap like feel and clumsy function buttons. I know I may of just offended a few NCE users, and I agree the NCE system is good however as I was in need of a full system all avenues had to be explored. After owning the ECos for a month now all I can say is wow. Its easy to use and the graphical function representations are great. I used to have to print out the function maps for each loco as I would always forget. Now I just have to look at the screen. Another nice feature is that I can still use my Powercab. The ECos has what they call a 'Sniffer' input so the output of any other DCC system can be connected and the ECos will direct it to the rails. As for wireless control functionality, I have had it operating with the Apple 'TouchCab' app. You do not have to run it through JMRI however you do need a wireless network. One nice feature of TouchCab is that all those assigned function button symbols are also transferred to the wireless controller. Next year ESU plan to release their own wireless controller utilising an android based device with a rotary control knob. This will be very interesting.

The locomotive pictures are a great feature.

When time permits 44 class gear cutting continues. I have fitted one bogie out with the homemade gears and 88 thou wide wheels. The model runs well however I do need a better way of pressing the stub axles in straight as a couple of wheels have has a slight wobble. More on this later.

I have been working on my Eureka CPH now for quite a while. I have separated the front and rear headlights from the markers. As I am using a Loksound V4, which has only four amplified function outputs, I had to use one of their 21 pin adaptor boards. The adaptor board has two amplification circuits included, making the Aux 3 and 4 decoder outputs load switchable. This gives you six usable function outputs which has allowed the separation of all CPH external lights. Along with the install I started to create my own sound file. I cheated with this one and used the motor sound from one of the available ESU files. I have no idea if it sounds like the real deal as I can not remember for the life of my what a prototype CPH sounds like! One thing I did do though, was use a genuine recording for the horn. Unfortunately, I had to use the ESU speaker as I could not fit a Zimo Sugar Cube in the model along with a Stay Alive. I still need to seal the speaker but will wait until everything else is finished. All in all I am happy with it. I may need to lower the braking volume a little but until I can actually record a CPH this will do. One interesting feature of this project is that you can coast the rail motor by decreasing the throttle one step, much like how I set my steam sound files up. Increase the throttle one speed step and off the motor goes again. The little Eureka model looks great cruising around. I have included a video. The video is crap and you cant really see what's going on, sorry.

Finally, I decided to do some kit building. I have had a couple of AndIan Models BLVs tucked away in the cupboard for way to long. After reading some history it seems that they are a little early for my 1955 period. Ian Dunn did a presentation on the 36 foot vans at the 2012 Early Days convention. I grabbed the notes out and found a picture of a BLV modified into a MLV, riding on different bogies (2AE) and missing the lower paneling for ventilation. As I do like milk trains, I decided to build one of my kits to represent this MLV, No. 5285. So far I have removed the lower paneling however will have to close the gap up by half as per the prototype. I removed the whole panel as I thought I would be able to achieve a squarer cleaner hole. I will use styrene to replace the half panel. The cantilevered underframe is still a mystery as I am not sure exactly what they looked like underneath. I am hoping they had some sort of bracing down the center. This will make the model more interesting.

Still plenty of cleaning up to do.

Milled recess for new underframe 

Anyway, I hope everybody has a great Christmas and a good start to the new year. Thanks to all those that have helped me out and offered advice. Next year is promising to be a busy (expensive) year for us model railroaders. Plenty of interesting stuff heading our way hey.

See you soon,


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

44 Class Gears - Part 2


Today I had some spare time so I drove up to Moss Vale and met up with my mate to cut some gears. He very kindly had been working on some mandrels along with a indexing plate for both ten and eleven toothed gears.

As an improvement on the original gear we made the gear 3mm wide. This may help the meshing problems a little. Another improvement, for myself was to bore the axle hole out to 2.35mm rather than 2.4mm. I have been wanting to change the wheels on my 44 class models to 88 thou wide sets. NWSL wheels (P/N 37241-4) are not a bad replacement however the axles are slightly smaller in diameter than the Chinese originals, resulting in a looser fit when mated with original muff. Drilling the muff to 2.35mm creates a nice fit with the narrower wheels.

Gear made today.

Top - Austrains Gear (C CLass)
Middle - Traino 44 Gear
Bottom - Home made, 88 thou NWSL wheels.

After a bit of trialling, we produced one gear. which we fitted to my 44 class model. The gear fits well and runs nicely. The actual cutting of the gear is quite quick however machining the blanks is a little time consuming, mainly due to not being 100% set up properly yet.


A slightly longer, non threaded section mandrel is required for placing the gear on when cutting teeth. This will provide a little more support.

A modified collet will have to be used for blank turning.

If the blanks were cut by a CNC lathe and the teeth simply cut by hand in the mill, the process would be quite fast. Next time up in Moss Vegas we will start a production line and try to knock a few out.

The 88 thou wide wheels look better, however some may need a little trueing on their axles. Not half as bad as the standard wheels though!

A good little experiment and I have learnt a lot.

So long,


Sunday, November 9, 2014

Armidale and a Garratt Sound File


Over the past few weeks I have been very busy. Last weekend I got married to my beautiful, now wife Danielle. I always thought it was a cliché thing to say but it was actually one of the best days of my life. After my Liverpool spending spree, I count myself very lucky that she actually turned up on the day! Good times.

I am heading up to the Armidale Convention this Friday, something I have been meaning to do for years.

For the convention I have been fiddling around with a few sound files. Although I am not one hundred percent sold on the throttle drive mode (see previous blog post), I ended up modifying my Z13 class file along with a new AD60 file to behave in the same manner. For the life of me I can not get the 3 cylinder file to behave the same. For some reason it just doesn't want to play the game.

The Garratt sound file (video recording below) has been created using a lot of sound recording taken from 6029 in Canberra. There are still a few things to change but I thought I would share its current progress with you all. This example uses a single ESU V4 decoder, utilising the secondary drive function to create the articulated out of sync chuff beat. This is the much cheaper option, rather than using two separate decoders. The one downfall of using the secondary drive function is that it can become a little repetitive with its out of sync rhythm.

The video below shows the ESU LokProgrammer software, running an ESU LokTester fitted with a single V4 decoder driving a 15mm x 12mm Zimo sugar cube speaker. Unfortunately I am still struggling with the cameras audio auto gain settings. It corrects the varying audio levels a little too much.

I was hoping to have this file installed in my brass 60 class by now for the convention. Unfortunately my brass Garratt is still brass in colour, with no hope of this project being completed in time. The Mansfield brass model has so much space in the boiler section, leaving plenty of room for two Zimo sugar cubes, two V4 decoders and two ESU Power Packs. This will be an expensive install but fitting for such a grand locomotive. I am looking forward to hearing the two engine units running separate files, hopefully creating a more natural out of sync beat. Will have to wait and see hey.

I am looking forward to seeing a few friends, along with meeting many others at the convention. Should be a good weekend.

Thanks for looking,


Sunday, October 12, 2014

ESU - Decoders - Throttle Response


While at the Liverpool exhibition, I was talking to Ian Phemister about an ESU ROD sound file that he had purchased. While I have not heard the ROD sound file, Ian explained that you could 'drive' the locos sound using throttle speed step inputs.

While most ESU users are aware, when you drive the loco, you set a speed setting and the locomotive sets off. In most cases when the locomotive is accelerated quickly, depending on how the sound file is set up, the locomotive will usually start to chuff louder, simulating a hard working engine. Once the difference in requested speed and actual locomotive speed closes, the locomotive automatically transitions into a quieter chuff sound. When I say 'in most cases' I mean that not all ESU sound projects are the same in how they behave. There are many steam projects available on their website and many have slightly different drive architecture.

A few blog posts back I came up with a method to push the drive sounds into the acceleration sound (hard working chuff) area using a function button. This does work well and allows the locomotive to move at a constant speed working hard (does not automatically revert to quite chuff sounds). While this option is good, some people do not have spare function buttons available to use as a drive sound modifier.

While I have not heard Ian's ROD file, I decided to have a play around with my C38 sound file. I have modified the drive sound transition settings to allow the locomotive to remain playing the acceleration sound files, even when the speed requested equals actual locomotive speed. The acceleration threshold has also been lowered to make it more responsive into the acceleration area. This could probably be relaxed just a little so the locomotive can be more easily crept up to speed quietly, perhaps in the case of a light engine movement or a descending start. More refining required.

Once the locomotive has reached the user's desired speed they can leave it there and let the loco work hard or they can pull the throttle back one speed step and relax the chuff sound into a quieter beat. Once quietly chuffing along, if wanted the throttle can be moved back one more speed step and the locomotive will coast along with no chuff sound, simulating a shut off regulator setting.

While this method works well, one negative is that you need to reduce the speed of the locomotive one speed step to affect the sound change. While it is not to big a change in speed you can still detect the slowing chuff rate.

Moving ahead with this, I would like to have this option selectable. With the press of a button you could select between the two drive modes. I know this would also use a function button but this could be moved to a less used number.

I have made a short video of the C38 running. Would like some feedback on this, especially from those that have used the ROD file.



Sunday, October 5, 2014

Points Please


Just a quick update, well actually more of an advice seeking post. Point building has been going slow, mainly because I have been trying a few different methods and ideas while trying to come up with a standard building process. The time has been spent mainly on the switch rails, both on hinging them and also coupling them together by stretcher bars (I think that's what they are called?). The method used for stretcher bars is probably nothing new however I like the idea of easily removable switch rails for future repairs. I didn't want the switch rails soldered to stretcher bars or connected in too a complicated fashion. The switch rail hinges are stainless Proto87 store items and work very well. The switch rail can simply be pulled out of the hinge.

The method of stretcher bar fitment involves drilling two holes in each switch rail web and pinning to pieces of PCB strip with phosphor bronze wire. My intention is to camouflage the PCB strips and add decretive prototypical stretcher bars made out of styrene and brass. I made a small jig out of brass to aid in drilling the holes in the PCB strip. This keeps the switch rails at the exact distance part. At this point I may have to use a slightly thinner bronze wire as I feel they are a little bulky.

If anybody can see huge errors in this design please let me know. Ballasting may be an issue as well as not being able to disguise them well enough. I have been thinking about thinning down the PCB strips in width around the centre. They do move very nicely and the switch rails close up nicely onto the stock rails.

You may also be able to see that I have added a few stock rail support chairs. These are of the Stephen Johnson Models variety and have been chopped up so as to fit the sleeper plate etches. Not sure if they look that great at this point. Perhaps after a good clean up and paint they may look better.

Yesterday I enjoyed the Liverpool exhibition. It is always good to catch up with everyone and also meet new people. I was in the bad books when I got home as I bought another PSM 38 class without prior finance minister approval. The wedding is still on, so I can safely say I got away with that one! Still looking for that all green non-streamliner though ha.

Well that's about it for now,


Thursday, September 25, 2014

BMTs, Helicopters, The Ghan and a Dog


Yes I am still alive and kicking. I had a few emails actually asking if I had dropped off the face of the planet. It has been a while since my last blog post. I have been in a model railway low for the past twelve months and other things have been consuming my time. I am so close to finishing the MMM LFX now. If I can keep my interest levels high enough for a few more hours it should finally be finished.

It's funny how much pressure you put on yourself to complete models. It has almost become choir like. This is suppose to be a hobby and last time I checked, the term usually goes hand in hand with enjoyment.

On a positive note, I acquired some SDS BMT milk tank wagons. These are officially my favourite RTR model to date. They are beaut little models. For a while now I have been after a few BMTs and have constantly been outbid trying to buy the Lloyds kit on eBay. Lucky for me SDS has produced a superb model, lucky I didn't win any on eBay hey!

Between arguing on Rail Page, track building continues and the 57 Class sound file has been completely revamped. Not sure if its for the better yet? The beauty of sound loadable decoders is that the projects can constantly evolve. I really hope there is no limit to how many times you can write to these decoders. The 57 must have been re-flashed at least 50 times so far! She's holding in there!

I was suppose to head down to Melbourne for the Caulfield exhibition with the guys from the Illawarra club. Unfortunately for me work got in the way and I had to fly to Darwin. Hats off to those blokes for making the effort. It paid off as I heard 'Waterfall' picked up an award.

The Darwin work trip was not all bad, in fact its probably one of the best work trips I have ever been on. Flying to Darwin takes along time in a helicopter and my rear end had quite enough after three long days. I was able to photograph the Ghan on our last day of travelling while it was heading north, just outside of Darwin. Between cockpit banter, working out riddles and flying around Uluru I was able to reflect on just how lucky I have been in my working life. I have been lucky enough to land on American aircraft carriers, fly around most of Australia, fly a PC9 at 4.5 g's, drive freight trains for a living, been involved with aircraft testing, steered a Navy ship and have met so many brilliant people along the way. All in all I reckon I am a pretty lucky guy ha ha.

Back to trains hey. I have been after a PSM 3830 with green smoke box for a while now. If anyone knows of one lurking around just itching to be sold please let me know. While on the PSM 38 subject I would also love to get my hands on a streamlined 'in service' version also. If you hear of anything I would love to hear from you.

Well that's about it for now. I have to get cracking on a few of these lingering projects. I must say thanks to Rod Kelly (Laser Rail Bits) for cutting me some sleepers. I just turned up on his door step asked him about sleepers and next minute I had a box full. Thanks Rod, you are a legend.

That's it. I know pretty boring.



Thursday, July 10, 2014

Planes Trains Automobiles and Sound


I have had quite a busy few weeks, not so much in regards to model railways but mainly to do with work. I have just returned home from a work trip to Townsville, however before I went, I finished modifying the C38 and D57 sound projects to include a shift mode function. While different Loksound projects seem to use varying architecture for steam drive sounds they all seem to include an acceleration set of sound files and corresponding transitions. Generally when the locomotive is accelerated up in speed steps, beyond a threshold set in the transitions, the drive sound will move up into these acceleration files. These files are louder and sometimes give a more full sound creating the affect of a hard working engine. Once the actual speed of the locomotive has reached the user speed setting the chuffs quieten down again. This is a good thing, however I have been looking for a method to simulate a hard working engine during constant speed settings. From what I have read, if your layout has grades these can be used to force the drive sound into the acceleration files thus making the loco sound as if its working harder.  I have not tried this personally as my home layout has been built with no gradients. I am not a fan of gradients on model railways but that is just my opinion.

What I needed was a way to use a function to force the drive sounds into the acceleration files or simply just increase the decoder volume with the press of a function button. I posted on the ESU Loksound yahoo group about the possibility of using the sound fade function to increase speaker volume. The Loksound V4 manual implies that this is possible by adjusting CV133 to a value greater than 128. In real life this doesn't work as 128 is the highest possible value able to be inputted, hence why it is called a sound fader! Really!

Another suggestion I received was to use 'Shift Mode' as the trigger to drive the chuff sounds into the acceleration files. I had a few attempts at this with not much luck. I ended up speaking to Mike Walters (DCC Sounds) about what I was trying to do and something must have clicked in my head. I ended up adding the shift transition commands correctly this time over and it all worked.

One other thing I did was to add Switching Mode along with Shift Mode to the same function. This drives the sounds into the acceleration files as well as halving the locomotive speed. It gives the impression of a heavy load being added to the locomotive.

I have now replaced all the acceleration files with louder more full sounds. With the press of F3 the chuffs slip into the acceleration files. Once F3 is de-activated the sound returns to the normal drive sounds. By pressing F4 the chuffs go into the acceleration files and Switching Mode is activated halving the speed. As with F3, once F4 is de-activated the locomotive speeds up and the chuff sounds return to normal drive sounds.

I have added two videos. The first is the C38 class project and the second the D57 class project. Both utilise a Zimo sugar cube in the smoke box.

These projects are almost finished now. The rolling road has made videoing a lot easier. Highly recommended.

On a slightly different note I thought I would share a few pictures of my trip to Townsville. I was able to do some aerial trainspotting on the way home, something that was quite awesome as we cruised at 140 knots down the North Coast Line. I wonder if the drivers were aware of our 500 foot wingovers passing over the top of their trains? I cant remember where the shot of the other Bell 429 and the train below was taken? It was taken somewhere on the way up north, perhaps Gunnedah?

Not a train but this was why we took the trip.

Hope you enjoy,


Saturday, June 14, 2014

Making Tracks

My blog posts have had a common theme over the past few months. The sound bug has bitten hard. I have copped a little flack (thanks Rod ha ha) for concentrating on locomotives too much lately and not getting on with important things like track work. If only trains could run on my paper templates! With a well deserved kick up the backside, I made a start on the first crossover for Picton. I am sooooo slow at building points. It doesn't help that I decided to add sleeper plates to all main line track work. These little etched plates are a real nightmare. I think I have more of these plates stuck to my clothes and scattered on the floor than actually soldered to rail.
I am using OO-SF standards for my track work. I received a set of very nice gauges from DCC concepts and they have been a pleasure to use. I am not too sure how many people in Australia are using this standard but so far it seems to work. The OO-SF standard uses a 16.2mm track gauge, a 15.2mm check gauge and 1mm flange ways. The idea behind it is that you can use wheel sets with a NMRA compliant 14.5mm back to back with no problem. The 1 mm flange ways help the appearance of the track work and aid in smooth running of 88 thou wide wheels. This all sounds good in theory and I hope the theory works in reality, so far so good.
Initially I was going to use proto 87 store etched frogs, the code 88 friendly versions. After some persuasion, I have ended up building my own frogs out of rail. The proto 87 store frogs while easy to use do not have tight enough flange ways for the OO-SF standard and for me I like the look of formed rail frogs better. That's just me though.
I have included a few pictures of my half built crossover. Still a lot to do along with a lot of cleaning. The high quality track gauges have made the task easier. I am still very slow though. It seems like a never ending mission. Hopefully in the next video I will have a locomotive running through it, hopefully.

When I say tracks, that did not just apply to railway line tracks but also to audio tracks. I have wanted to re-do my 38 class project for a while, so I sat down for a few hours the other day and modified the original project. The sound files are still taken from a 38 class recording but this time I have specific files for all three drive sound levels and differing files for acceleration files. I have not been able to give it a good run to hear it properly but initial short runs seem to sound ok. I like it better than the old file anyway. I don't think any of these files will ever be 100% finished. My life story ha ha. More video.
I was able to make it to Epping for the long weekend exhibition and had a great day. I actually spent the whole Saturday there. Bolivia is a very, very nice layout. There has been some discussion on its height. I loved its viewing height, similar in height to Bowen Creek (maybe not quite as high). I like the fact that trains were running through the scenery very much like how we humans view them in 1/1 scale. Picton is on the higher side and a lot of its track will be hidden by a cutting, station building and viaduct sides (not sure why I am building my own track to be honest). For me though, this is how many of the English layouts featured in the Railway Journal appear to be. I have always loved those English layouts and because of this, Picton was the perfect choice for me. At the end of the day the person that builds the layout has the ultimate say in how they want to make it. We should feel lucky that these people bring their layouts out into the public arena.
There were many other great layouts on display also. Gary from the Model Railroad Craftsman sure knows how to knock gum trees up! The lighting and electronic wizardry behind the layout was very interesting.
Well that's about it. I wont be going to the MRNSW convention next weekend but hope to make it the Early Days convention later on in the year.
Thanks for having a look,

Sunday, June 1, 2014

The Big and the Small

Its raining here today and a good opportunity to update the blog. I know I have been flogging the 57 class stuff to death lately, but I thought I would share some installation pictures, a tweaked sound file and the latest sound file installed in my Trax 13 class.

This particular 57 class model, as you all probably know by now is my Uncles. For this install, one of the requirements I set for myself was to make it easy for him to connect the wiring between locomotive and tender. I like to keep brass locomotives in their original boxes, so being able to separate the locomotive and tender is important. Other requirements included having the speaker in the smoke box (where the sound is suppose to come from) and the fitment of an ESU power pack.

The first version of the install included a Loksound V4 decoder, adaptor board and Power pack in the tender. A six wire loom transferred sound output to the Zimo sugar cube, power to the motor and track power to the decoder. This meant the need for a six pin connector between loco and tender. Not the best way to keep the loco tender connection easy to handle.

Heading back to the drawing board, I happened to remember a comment made by Colin Hussey in regards to placing the decoder in the boiler. After once again pulling the loco down, I discovered that there is a fair amount of usable room in the boiler/smoke box area. I pulled the lead weight out of the boiler and weighed it. After weighing up my options (yes I know), I decided to make a brass weight which would house all the components for the install. This meant that there would be no wiring between loco and tender. Measurements were taken and my trusty lathe was put into action. What resulted was a cylindrical brass block, exciting stuff!

Slot for ESU Power Pack

Add caption

From the picture you may be able to see the milled recess where the ESU Power Pack will reside. The capacitor was removed from the Power Pack and then remote mounted in front of the speaker. On top of the Power Pack is where the Loksound V4 sits. With the speaker mounted the whole assembly fits nicely into the boiler and is held in place with two tapped 10Ba screws, utilising the original lead weight mounting points. Once assembled it weighs four grams more than the original lead weight.

I was not completely happy with the sound file shown in my last blog post. I have been slowly trying to develop a more full chuff sound throughout versions, however the last attempt lacked some of the rhythm that the prototype portrays. As the decoder sound files are directly taken from a 57 class recording, I was unsure as to why the rhythm was not quite right. When the 57 class prototype sound file is imported into the audio editing software, you can graphically see all six chuff sounds. This makes it easier to work out the timing and amplitude levels of the individual chuff beats. When splitting each chuff sound up, I happened to shorten the distance between the sixth and first beat. It is sometimes hard to pick the point exactly. I went back into the first chuff sound file and adjusted the beginning by 0.1 seconds decreasing the time to 0.07 for the high speed chuff files. I feel that it has regained the correct rhythm, but that's just how I hear it. This sound stuff is very subjective. The rhythm varies subtly due to speed and sometimes acceleration changes. It can be a hard to pick the first beat sometimes which then throws you off the rhythm also.

I have also included another video of my Trax 13 class. Since its first appearance on this blog it has received a new motor and has had progressive sound file updates. It is a beaut little loco and runs around the club layout very nicely. For this video I placed a plastic glove across the track to demonstrate the ability of the installed TCS Keep Alive. Sorry about all the bird and rain noise! I don't even remember hearing the bird, I think its an owl?

That's it for now. I am heading to the Epping exhibition on Saturday. Its going to be an expensive weekend. New RTR stuff released includes SDS NPRX/Y/F cement wagons, OTM TRCs and the Austrains ultimate S truck. I might have to slowly withdraw money out throughout the week so the missus doesn't notice the huge spending spree on Saturday ha ha.

Hope to catch up with all those going,


Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Sound Obsession


Once again I have been glued to the computer trying to improve the 57 class sound file.

Danielle thinks that there is something wrong with me and she may be right! On occasion I have been staying up until two o'clock in the morning messing about with sound files. After hours of chuff..........chuff............chuff..............chuff with the occasional whistle mixed in, Danielle came in to the study asking me why I was still up and didn't hold back letting me know that steam engine sounds don't invite a good nights sleep. I just presumed she was sleep walking/talking so I cracked on. Turns out I was wrong!

Anyway, now armed with a few 6029 sounds from the recording session in Canberra and a genuine 57 class recording I have come up with this.

I have ditched the DSLR for shooting video as it doesn't automatically focus. This time I used my crappy phone which unsurprisingly also resulted in crappy video. The sound was captured with a Rode IXY microphone fitted to the phone. Hopefully, through the phones mis-focused haze and etch-a-sketch definition quality you will be able to get some sort of idea of the 57 running.   


Thursday, April 24, 2014

Improving a Tank Engine


After having spent twelve years in the Royal Australian Navy and now being a civilian, it felt strange not having any ANZAC day commitments. I watched the Canberra services on TV and felt a lot of admiration for those that have seen or have been affected by conflict. I was lucky, being Navy aviation orientated meant that most of my time was spent safe and sound in Nowra. I volunteered to join the Navy, I could not imagine how some people felt being conscripted. It would have been very hard. 

Instead of marching I spent the day finishing off my Trax Z13 for this evenings club meet. As this was my first real DCC conversion a few things needed tidying up. One such thing was the extra driving wheel pick up method. As standard the Trax model is fitted with a plunger type pick up on the non driven driving wheel. Previously I simply added a bronze wiper for current collection on the driven driver. I was not completely happy with this arrangement and wanted to add another plunger pickup in lieu. The positioning of this plunger pickup comes very close to the brass gearbox. With some measurement and purposely built parts it all lined up and fitted quite well. I had a large piece of Teflon type material which I made the shouldered bushes out of on the lathe. The Teflon piece was around 40mm in diameter so unfortunately a fair bit was wasted turning it down to around 3.5mm! NWSL make some nice little shouldered bushes so I may order some of those for the next Z13. Luckily a spare spring is included in the locomotive spares kits. With a turned washer, spring, bushes and pickup rod it was all added to the chassis. So far it has worked very well. I may carry out this mod on future models.

Existing plunger on left, new plunger on right.

Along with this mod, 1311 received a new Mashima motor. I was having some erratic running problems when the loco was first used. As the motor warmed up it tended to come good. I noticed while running the erratic motor on the bench that it did not hold a constant speed. You could hear it sort of hunting whilst running at higher speeds. The commutator was quite dirty and grooved but even after a clean up it didn't really improve things. With the new motor I was able to use two screws for mounting. The old motor was held in by two brass straps, these could be seen quite easily in the cab. Now with the new mounting method the motor takes up less room in the cab. The only issue I have now is that the new motor makes a little more noise than the previous power plant. I am hoping as the brushes bed that this noise decreases.

On other fronts, I took a trip to Canberra last weekend for the ARHS Garratt steaming. I went there with the intention of recording some sound for use in ESU decoders. As this was my first attempt I learnt some valuable lessons. Next time I will be better prepared.

In regards to my track laying mission, I have decided to use the OO-SF standard and have ordered the track gauges from DCC Concepts. These can only really be used with code 70 rail so I may have to take up one of my mates offers to build some code 55 suitable gauges. The OO-SF standard has been used for a long time in the UK. Interestingly the AMRA fine track standard is basically a carbon copy. I like this standard as it enables the use of 1mm flange ways without the need to modify the back to back of wheel sets away from already established standards such as the NMRA standard. This means that models straight of the box should only need minor tweaking to make sure the back to back is within tolerance and also means that I will have no problems running my models on other peoples layouts. Sounds good. Just have to build the track now ha!

Well that about it. Not very interesting I know!


Friday, April 4, 2014

Three Cylinders are Better Than Two


I have been working on a NSWGR D57/58 ESU sound project for a few months. After a few attempts, some bad and some ok I think I have finally come up with something that sounds accurate.
My second attempt used only three chuff sounds in four drive scales. While this was ok it seemed too clean and repetitive. Thanks goes out to Colin Hussey as he pointed this out to me after I sent him a recording of the project playing through the decoder. This made me go back to the drawing board where I decided to use a real recording using all six chuff sounds. A lot of audio modifications were made and I ended up with 24 different chuff sounds which were loaded into their corresponding drive sound slots.

While the 57 and 58 most likely sounded a little different to each other, due to various design reasons, I am at this point happy to live with the models sounding the same. I may modify the sound files again to improve the 57 class project, however at this stage it is not very high on the to do list.

After seeing how DCC can improve the running ability of a model, my Uncle decided to bite the bullet and asked me to install sound into his second run Bergs D57. The 57 is pretty much fully converted now and performed nicely on the Illawarra clubs DCC layout last night.

I still need to come up with an easy method for disconnecting the micro connector so as the tender and loco can be separated. While it is not too bad at the moment, I want to make it more accessible and less fiddly.

Anyway here is a clip of my Uncles 57 on my four meters of track. Still can't get the DSLR to take good video. Sorry about the focus.


Sunday, March 23, 2014

A Dogbox and Templot Track


For the past month I have been cracking on with one of my Mike McCormac Models LFX kits. I have enjoyed building this kit. Things seem to fit together without too much adjusting or fiddling. I have to say that having the window recesses cast beautifully, ready for etched window frames is a real bonus, as I absolutely hate cleaning the flash out of windows. I don't know if its just me but I really struggle to file windows square. I still have a little to finish off on the bogies, need to bend up a few handrails, fix a few parts more permanently to the underframe, paint and add interior lighting. All in all this is why I like model railways. I do not complete many kits throughout the year but when one is nearing completion, it really is satisfying. I cant stop staring at the thing, the work gone into producing this kit is second to none. I just don't get the same satisfaction with RTR stuff.

While on the RTR subject, I completely think plonking down a RTR wagon has its place and some of the models these days are very good. I have found though that I do not have the same love for my RTR models as those that I have built. I recently dropped one of my Trainorama BWHs. Things fell off it everywhere. While I should probably care more, I don't have any real attachment to it apart from spending some money. All I have to do, like everyone one else in the world is give somebody some money and they will give me another one! If I dropped my modified Silvermaz NGTY or god help me, my LFX you would most likely hear me screaming from here.

Running in parallel with the LFX has been the TEMPLOT saga. I have finally printed the layout out onto a continuous 10m long piece of paper. While I was mainly concerned with having all the point work templates correctly drawn on the very large radius curve it has also provided reassurance that the whole thing will fit correctly. I have a second print which will be cut into point group sections and then the track built directly on top. I have this vision of sweeping point work, including the single slip flowing nicely around the curve. Actually getting to that point will be a very big challenge, I hope it does work! I have drawn the points and track as close as I know how to so as they replicate NSWGR 1950 practice. I have used my Greg Edwards track manual and translated that into the constraints of TEMPLOT. These constraints are not TEMPLOT induced, rather my inability to master the very powerful track drawing software properly. I could spend a life time drawing the thing trying to get it 100% correct, but for me its time to move forward with it. As I am modelling Picton during the Government owned days the old saying applies "good enough for Government work".

With the recent purchase of a Bergs, second run D58 Class I have been trying to build an accurate D57/58 class ESU V4 sound file. So far I have been using a three cylinder ESU file and modifying the various sounds. I still have a lot more work to do on the project as I want to use six separate exhaust noises rather than repeating just three. After looking closely at a D58 class recording with audio software, each beat is slightly different in amplitude and shows slight variations in noise. Some beats have secondary type sounds. While I am no expert in regards to this stuff it sure is interesting trying to come up with something that sounds right. More work to go. Hopefully I will have a 57 and 58 chuffing along in the near future.

Along with the D58 I acquired another PSM C38. This one does not really fit in with my modelling era as it portrays 3830 after its 1990 something restoration. While I know there are a few modifications which totally give this loco away, I really love the dark green and black smoke box colour scheme and will run it as an in service C38. Although 3830 first saw service in all over dark green, my modelling license will permit me to pretend that it received a black smoke box sometime between it's introduction and it being painted black. I have no photographic evidence to back this up but many of the others received black smoke boxes throughout their lives so why couldn't have 3830? I am sure somebody out there will tell me it didn't ha ha. I am still on the search for an all over dark green PSM 3830 along with green 3805. Maybe one day these rare models will show up.

Now that I have talked myself into that, I have decided to be less pedantic about this hobby. I am finding that I am spending too much time thinking about things rather than actually achieving much. I want to run some trains on my layout, not just think about doing it.

Thanks for reading, take care,


Sunday, February 16, 2014

One More Step


I thought it was about time to update the old blog. I hope everyone had a good Christmas and the new year has started on a positive note.

I do not really have much to show, even after having a five week break over Christmas. Layout progress has been non existent over the past few months as the weather has been just a little too hot and has kept me out of the shed.

During my holidays I was lucky enough to hitch a ride on the cement train out of Berrima. It was a great day and I really miss the train driving gig. Sometimes I wonder wether I made the right decision to go back and deal with unreliable flying machines? I guess everything happens for a reason. I really like machines of all sorts but the train is still one that amazes me, if only I could drive a steam loco.

I am still working on the MMM LFX kit and have the running boards complete ready for attaching to the underframe. I lost one of the double step brackets but with a quick email to Mike that was all fixed up.

I have still been plodding away with creating more ESU NSWGR steam sound projects. I have replaced the recording of 3801s whistle in my 3818 with that of 3830s. Since my earlier post with the 3818 video, much information in regards to 38 class whistles has come flooding in. There is a pronounced pitch variation between 3801 and the other 38 class whistles. I was amazed at how well a few people can pick sound variations. Phil one of the club members amazed me with his audio prowess! As soon as the video was seen by him I had an email questioning the whistle. With Phil's comment came a more accurate whistle.

I have lost a fair bit of hair recently. I had to vacuum the keyboard before writing this post. Templot is to blame. If anybody has used Templot you may know what I am talking about. I have slowly got my head around the track template design program and now have my layout fully drawn with NSWGR sleeper spacing and point design. The problem I am having now is getting the layout printed in one full 10 meter long sheet. I can print the layout off using A3 sheets and then sticky taping the whole lot together however this annoys me. When I took the PDF to Office Works the track gauge was printed at around 25mm rather than 16.5mm. Not sure what is going on with it? I am about to begin my first hand laid crossover and after that will be the two cross over formations including a single slip. Should be great fun........NOT ha. One thing that I must say about Templot is that it is very versatile and with versatility comes complication. One saving grace is that the Templot user group is very, very helpful. The bloke that wrote it is always there to answer questions and the user knowledge base is great. I was recommended this program by a club member and I also recommend Templot if your wanting to build custom track work. Its free, do I need to say anymore!

Also on the work bench is my turntable. This thing has had more make overs than Michael Jackson but unlike Jacko the TT can still spin. I am in the middle of building the ultimate bridge and a new drive line. I say ultimate as I will not be liable to show you any photos and it will ultimately be inaccurate. I have learnt a lot from a certain manufacturers business model. It seems if you say it's the best everyone will just believe it, sight unseen. This is the best sellers turntable you will never see.

That was a bit of a low blow. Of course I have a photo, I even have another crappy video!

The turntable drive is now just a bipolar stepper motor directly coupled to the bridge. I am using a micro step driver which allows for tiny angular displacement values. One improvement over having gearing is that there is no need to compensate for driveline slack. Another is that the motor is quite quiet during operation. It makes some funny noises, almost sounds like it is driven by high pressure water.

The drive line includes an optical isolator for power up calibration. At this point I am using a blank CD with a notch cut out to trigger the optical Isolator. Like my previous stepper drive the brains behind it is a programmable controller that memorises step positions and all motor pulse frequency commands. I am limited to only two inputs with this controller so multi tracked turntable indexing is a no go at the moment.

I cannot fault its indexing ability. Time and time again it aligns perfectly. On the negative side the motor does not run as smooth as I would like. Every now and again it will react sharply. I am considering buying a precision geared bipolar motor and seeing if running it at a higher speed will smooth things out. The beauty of this set up is that it is very simple and the bearings used in the motor are highly accurate resulting in no motor shaft play.

Bipolar stepper motor and calibration optical isolator

I still need to finish the bridge and the stepper motor mount needs building out of something more accurate than wood. I really enjoy playing around with this stuff. A multi input controller would make it very interesting however for Picton this set up is more than adequate. One avenue I would like to explore is having the TT well constructed out of acrylic. I think this material would offer more accuracy and more environmental stability.

In the video you can see that the TT bridge is not aligned to start with. On power up the calibration move aligns it to the track. Once the bridge completes 180 degrees a relay is energised switching the bridge polarity.

On other fronts I have just added sound to a Trainorama 42 class, but still have a few things to sort out in regards to the lighting. I have separated the markers from the headlight however the markers illuminate the headlight quite a bit due to there being no separation. Another little problem to solve is how to add a screw link coupler to the front of the 42. I could just glue it on as it will never be actually used however I am not a fan of just gluing things on. If any one has achieved this simply, I would love to hear how you did it.

Well that about it.