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An Old Man Contemplates an Old Man's Layout

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  • Changing the sound of the rail bus.

    With the Econami now providing critter sounds, the SoundCar unit for the rail bus needed some "retuning" to make it sound more like what it is supposed to be. As was done with the critter, the sound levels are set to simulate riding inside the bus, perhaps in the coveted railfan's seat.

    While the critter and the other layout locos need to be run in a prototype manner, the rail bus is set up to be semi-autonomous, which makes for a laid-back operating session. With the controller throttle set to running speed, the bus can be operated realistically by using just the F7 brake function switch and the direction switch. Optional is the use of the bell and horn controls.

    As there is no train to haul around, the value of the CV3 acceleration feature was reduced, so the bus reaches running speed rather quickly. Historically, various forms of period constant velocity transmissions were available, so the sounds of shifting gears are not needed. I had previously heard the SoundTraxx audio file for a Galloping Goose, but it wasn't what I had in mind.

    The CV4 deceleration value and the CV61 braking value were both set so when F7 is actuated, the running rail bus will coast for a bit, losing speed as it goes, and then comes to a gradual, but nonetheless screeching halt. This all happens in a fixed distance, which makes for predictable station stops.

    A small rail bus would be equipped with either mechanical or hydraulic brakes, so there is no air supply to blow the horn and ring the bell. While the SoundCar audio files provide a gong sound, as on a city streetcar, there were only loud, locomotive air horn sounds. It was found that the Wabco AA2 sound file, when played st a low level, mimics the battery powered, electric horns that were used on period busses.

    The bus motor sound is simulated by the F9 actuated audio file for a small, diesel engine powered refrigeration unit. The sound is an unchanging drone, so it is reproduced as onboard background noise when the bus is operating. Whenever the sound is turned on and off using switch F9, it goes through realistic startup and shutdown sequences, which provide a nice effect.

    Another effective background noise is a programable clickety-clack rail joint sound when the bus is running. It starts of slow and soft at the beginning of a run and then subtly as well as rhythmically clicks away the miles, thirty some feet at a time, when at running speed, which is about 20 mph. When F7 is actuated, the tempo slows down proportionally and then the sound ceases just as the run ends.

    All in all, this is a nifty setup, that is fun to run.

    Comment


    • One more technology issue.

      The previous three entries have dealt with the majority of the remaining technology issues for the layout. It is now time to get back to doing something that needs no programming, doesn't move and makes no sound...and that is scenery. However, there is still one issue that needs to be addressed. Because of its remote location at the rear of the layout, the resolution of that matter will be lumped in with a future scenery project.

      That problem has to do with how the Bachmann Dynamis system interacts with the NCE Snap-It DCC control card for the Peco turnout. The card works reliably with the Dynamis, but now that I am elderly, there are times when I do not. Beguiled by the Siren's call of DCC, I use the card in the standard manner and the layout is wired accordingly, with just a DCC power bus, but problems are now showing up.

      Before the turnout can be thrown, the operations page on the handheld controller display must be manually changed to the accessories page. The controller must then be manually set back to the operation page and that is a big part of the problem. If the Dynamis throttle is changed while still on the accessories page, the displayed Snap-It address will be subtly altered. Although the icons on the controller display will show a change in the turnout setting, the card on the layout will not respond. The correct address must then be manually entered back into the Dynamis to make things right.

      Furthermore, while the trains are running, the operator must look down at the handheld controller to find the appropriate icons and activate their buttons or to reload the address. On a layout this small, a few extra seconds of distraction can, quite literally, derail an operating session in a prototypical manner. Such age related situations are annoying, to say the least; nevertheless, a way has been found to work around them.

      Going back to basics, the ideal setup would be a single, fascia mounted pushbutton that would directly control the DCC powered Snap-It card, thereby bypassing the Dynamis. Because of the above turnout icon problem, a grade crossing signal, currently installed at the front of the layout, is set up to give a positive visual indication of the setting of the turnout and this will be put to good use.

      With the desired setup, whichever way the turnout is currently set, when the pushbutton is actuated, the turnout will reverse, with its position immediately noted by the grade crossing signal. As I am still capable of multitasking, I can find and actuate this fascia mounted pushbutton by feeling with my hand, while my vision is devoted to the layout and the trains, promoting their much desired smooth operation.

      As it so happens, the Snap-It card will support this new setup by programming its CV548 from 0 to 1 and running a pair of wires from a terminal strip on the card to the fascia pushbutton. When the rear panel of the layout backdrop is removed for modification in the near future, the extra wiring will be installed and connected, resolving what I hope is the last of the remaining technology issues.

      All the best to everyone.

      Comment


      • AAAARRRRGGGHHH!!!

        Once again my attempt at circumventing the aging process ends in frustration due to technological misinformation and incompatible technologies. Despite these annoyances, I am still committed to DCC, as long as old school ways can be found to get around them.

        The Accessory Program feature on the Bachmann Dynamis should allow me to change CV548 on the NTE Snap-It from 0 to 1, thereby giving a single pushbutton control over the turnout, but for whatever reasons it won't work, so it was back to the drawing board.

        A big fan of ergonomics for the elderly, I wanted to have a single pushbutton for the turnout control. As the Snap-It is already set up for remote control by the usual two button method, I added a single pole, double throw, miniature toggle switch to the single pushbutton.

        As the toggle switch selects normal or reverse for the turnout and it takes a fair amount of force to reset its position, the turnout will not be inadvertently changed by accidentally bumping the new controls on one of my clumsy days, which is something that the previous method did not guard against.

        While setting the toggle switch adds an extra step to throwing the turnout, the toggle and the pushbutton are very close together and both can be sensed by tactile feedback.

        However, instead of a simple pair of wires, I now needed three, so it was off to the dollar store to find a solution that was both cheap and available. For a buck, I bought a six foot long, micro usb cable.

        By chopping off the connectors on the ends, I have a sturdy, four conductor cable, about an eighth inch in diameter, with insulated wires that are rated at two amps each. It is run under the layout from the terminal strip on the Snap-It card to the new and expanded fascia mounted control panel.

        Comment


        • Hooray!

          All of the technical stuff has been installed on the layout and it sounds and works fine.

          Now (I hope) back to the scenery.

          All the best to everyone.

          Comment


          • Bashing An Eighteen Foot Heavy Duty Flatcar.


            When I was cleaning off the layout, it quite literally looked like a train wreck, prior to working on the scenery, this project manifested itself. It is not so much a classic bashing as it is the recycling of left-over parts.

            I had the body from a Bachmann 18' flatcar, minus the subframe which contained the trucks, couplers and truss rods (this went under a modified Bachmann streetcar body to fabricate a crew car). I also had a pair of trucks from under a Bachmann 25' car and the bolster and coupler pocket assemblies left over from experimenting with a Bachmann 25' truss rod underframe. When mixed with a dollop of serendipity, this became a quickly completed, shake the box (or shake the layout) project.

            The bolster and coupler pocket assemblies dropped into each end of the hollow 18' flatcar body. As there are no truss rods in the middle of the car, it appears that there is a steel underframe (I added a bit of quarter inch square styrene to simulate a steel underframe, but it isn't necessary from the normal viewing angle). While adding the large trucks puts the overset couplers (the same as used on the 25' cars) at the right height for On30, the top of the car is now riding at the same height as a 25' car.

            The reporting marks on the 18' car has it rated at seven and a half tons. In theory, the bash should double that, making a somewhat stubby, heavy duty flatcar. Now, if only I could find that rattle can of brown primer to spritz it with.

            While my layout may be small, it is never boring.







            Comment


            • Dan the flatcar is very nicely done. Must look great on your layout. Keep up the good work.
              Owner, General Manager, and all around "chief cook and bottle washer" of the Caz Coal-and-Wood Railroad

              Comment


              • It looks good. Do you have an interesting load for it?

                Mike
                _________________________________________________

                Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced. James Baldwin

                Comment


                • Thanks Larry and Mike,

                  Here is the car, painted and equipped with a proposed load. It will eventually get a bit of weathering. While the load is, technically, on the light side at about seven tons, it is, physically, about as big as practical.

                  It is an O-scale Tamiya kit for a Komatsu G40 Bulldozer, with the dozer parts left off to make it look like a smallish American tractor. It is accompanied by a molded resin crate of spare parts.

                  I built the kit some fifteen years ago for my first attempt at building an On30 layout. The entrenching tools that I now have on the ends of my arms will no longer allow the assembly of such finely detailed kits, so a use was found for this one on the present layout, where the car and load will be delivered by the railroad to the quarry, whenever the mood strikes. In the meantime, this heavy duty flatcar makes an effective spacer car for use between the big locos and the smaller freight cars.

                  As an experiment, the car was painted with the trucks still attached. Only the wheelsets and couplers were removed. A regular loose leaf paper hole punch, courtesy of the dollar store, was found to be the ideal tool for making small and easily removable, adhesive backed dots from masking tape.

                  These dots went on the truck kingpins and on the inside of the journal boxes to keep the spray paint off of them and this worked very well. The same method will be employed when dulling down the plastic sheen on the other Bachmann rolling stock.




                  Comment


                  • The Bulldozer is what I had pictured. It looks very appropriate.

                    Mike
                    _________________________________________________

                    Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced. James Baldwin

                    Comment


                    • Nice job on the flatcar.

                      Good choices for the load too.
                      Follow along as my dog and I travel the country in our van.
                      FaceBook link: https://www.facebook.com/A-Dog-A-Van-and-A-View-108345371976229

                      Comment


                      • Thanks guys!

                        It was a spontaneous as well as fun project.

                        All the best to everyone.

                        Comment


                        • Neat load!

                          Comment


                          • Thanks Tyson.

                            As it is a highly visible flatcar load and not a part of the background, such as the diecast metal trucks at the factory loading dock, it had to be detailed and that one filled the bill!

                            Comment


                            • Dan nice job on the load. The dozer looks like it belongs in a quarry, old and well used. Keep up the good work.
                              Owner, General Manager, and all around "chief cook and bottle washer" of the Caz Coal-and-Wood Railroad

                              Comment


                              • Thanks Larry.

                                Older looking dozers are very hard to find in O-scale. HO - not so much.

                                This was the only old looking dozer I could find when I built it.

                                I don't think that any have shown up in the meantime, but I hope I'm wrong!

                                Comment

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