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An Old Man Contemplates an Old Man's Layout

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  • Dan, nice job on those.
    Follow along as my dog and I travel the country in our van.
    FaceBook link:


    • Thanks Guys,

      At least I found a good use for that horrible looking part.

      All the best...


      • I went to the BIG train show at the State Fair Grounds on Sunday.

        Three acres of trains under one roof and nothing to buy! The only used On3 was a Cola-Cola collectible set to which I said no thanks.

        There wasn't even any good bash bait stuff.

        Nevertheless, there was lots to look at and it was all trains, so it was enjoyable.

        All the best to everyone.


        • Hey Dan just getting caught up here. I like that MOW set. As always you come up with some nice finished products.

          "And in the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years." A. Lincoln


          • Thanks,

            It helps to have had a mostly armchair interest in On30 for the past fifty years to supply ideas and a box of bash bait on which to draw for parts.

            All the best,



            • A Convenient Source Of Unadulterated Critter Chow

              Over the decades, I have acquired a number of now antiquated forms of HO loco drive assemblies for use as bash bait and I recently developed an urge to see some of them run again.
              However, as many of them cannot be converted to DCC, a way was needed to supply the layout with a convenient source of unadulterated critter chow, or in other words, traditional DC power.

              Serendipitously, the layout’s current NCE Power Cab System, with its the interconnecting Power Panel and its DC power supply makes the project easy as well as practical. The DCC generating, hand held unit of the Power Cab is simply replaced with a homemade, hand held unit that supplies a suitable DC voltage.

              As it fits comfortably in either hand, the homemade DC unit is built into an approximate three and a half inch long by two inch diameter empty plastic pill bottle (I am acquiring quite a few of these in my dotage) with a length of the now unused, six wire straight flat cable that came with the Power Cab. It is to be connected to the conventional left hand jack on the Power Panel.

              Due to size limitations, the current layout is run with one loco at a time. On the regular On30 locos, I program CV29 on their decoders to ignore the optional DC (Analog) operation, so they respond to DCC only. Therefore, any inadvertently applied traditional DC power associated with this project should have no effect on them.

              In the world of modern electronics, there are a few dinosaurs that are still viable and one of them is the LM317. It is an adjustable, voltage regulator with a current limit of about one amp. The resulting output voltage is a manually varying, smooth DC.

              I used a cheap, but well done DIY parts kit that was bought on eBay. The only modification was mounting the speed control on wires that are long enough to allow it to be mounted to the cap of the pill bottle, instead of directly to the circuit board supplied with the kit.

              One thing intentionally left off this project is a reversing switch. The handheld DC unit output is wired to comply with the old NMRA Standard, with the power assemblies wired accordingly; “Positive potential applied to the right hand rail shall produce forward motion.” It is then a simple manner to “manually” reverse the direction of any critter sized power assembly.

              All the best to everyone. Questions and comments are always welcome.


              • Dan, I have not heard the word LM317 in a really long time. Thanks for the memories and keep on bashing. ~mike


                • The Little Engine That Couldn’t

                  Some fifty years ago, when I first started working in On30, I picked up an old locomotive for use as bash bait. It was a Penn Line D-2 Midget Whitcomb switcher from the nineteen fifties, one of the smallest HO locos of its time.

                  Having a one piece die cast body, made from printers lead, this diminutive, four wheel loco weighed in at a hefty 7.8 ounces. As a comparison, the larger Athearn Hustler of the time, another piece of bash bait, was a rather svelte 5.2 ounces.

                  The wheelbase of the HO Midget is 6’ 6”, which is 3’ 6” in On30, making it rather small, while the wheelbase of the HO Hustler had a somewhat ludicrous length of 13 feet, which is 7’ 3” in On3. At that time, the wheelbase of the standard EMD prototype freight loco truck was 9’ long (5’ in On30), which made it a better size for a critter bash.

                  The Midget was driven by a Pittman DC-70, open frame motor through a spur gear and worm gear system with a total ratio of 17:1, which gave it a poor slow speed performance and a top speed of a rocket. Nevertheless, it was noticeably slower than the notorious hypersonic Hustler.

                  Despite its desirable size and weight, the operation of the Midget just wasn’t good enough for my small switching layout of the time. Many such layouts in HO and O were run at fairly high speed and were abruptly controlled by a double pole, double throw, reversing center off toggle switch, but that was not for me. What I wanted was prototypical, gradual acceleration and deceleration and fitting locos with flywheels generally helped, but there was not room for one inside the tiny body of the Penn Line Midget.

                  Although the Midget was never converted into a critter, it flies around the present day On30 layout thanks to the recent conversion of the NCE Power Cab DCC supply into a suitable DC supply.
                  As it had not been run for many years and having been completely won over by state-of-the-art technology, I had forgotten about the unique odors that were produced by the old style open frame motors. There was the smell of warm “3 in One” oil (that was all there was back then) emanating from the motor bearings, plus the heady smell of ozone, generated by the rather crude and ever arcing brushes rubbing against the commutator.

                  When combined with the whirring noise of the square cut drive gears, this once failed critter bash, now resurrected in its original form, has become a time machine.

                  All the best to everyone.


                  • WOW........I'm lying on the floor, it's early spring, and the clunk clunk, 'whir' of the Lionel 0-4-0 hauling the standard consist of a tank car, gondola, flat car and caboose chugs its' way around the oval and past my 'ground level one eye squint' (it looks more realistic from there), and I smell that same smell. You're exactly right, that smell takes me back to a simpler time; before I started school, before the JFK tragedy (I grew up in Arlington Tx.), Vietnam,and the whole 60s' thing. This year I'll have finished my 70th trip around the sun. That smell, and it's like yesterday, every single time. That smell..............................
                    Thank you very much, you made my day...............................................

                    KYLE CREEL
                    SUPT., GM, BLDR.
                    G&D Ry.
                    (an On30 project)
                    Last edited by kyle_creel; 1 week ago.


                    • Mmmmmmm Oooo-zone….
                      Karl Scribner-Curmudgeon

                      Cedar Swamp
                      SW of Manistique, MI

                      Avatar image by Savannah Lyn Burgess 7-15-2022


                      • Does Anyone Remember The Lionel Husky?

                        Another potential piece of old bash bait was the Lionel Husky. On the outside, it was a near clone of the popular Athearn Hustler.

                        The Husky had a working headlight at the top of the front of the hood (I don’t believe that the Hustlers ever had working ones) and the front louvers were modified to remove the vertical, molded on HUSTLER name. It was on the inside that things were really different.

                        Inside there was a small, odd-shaped, open frame motor with worm gears installed at the ends of the long motor shafts that mesh directly with the drive wheels, which are spaced far apart, as on the Hustler wheelbase. The gear ratio is only 5:1; therefore, much like the original Hustler, it runs like the wind, once it gets started.

                        One reviewer related that its occasional refusal to start was due to defective armature windings, but it utilized skewed pole pieces instead of straight ones, which was a rather poor design for such a small, three pole motor. Depending on the stopping position of the armature, the Husky is sometimes reluctant to start unless it should get a good jolt of voltage, as from operating it with the aforementioned reversing, center off toggle switch.

                        Various Hustler re-gear kits were available and among them was the Ernst, which was particularly fussy to install and only worked with the final version of the Hustler. As mine is a middle version, it has remained rubber band powered.

                        Louis Marx and Company also marketed its own version of the Hustler, which I never tried. It has a somewhat different body and used a self-contained, EMD Blomberg type of F-unit truck for its power unit. It was similar to the unit in the Penn Line Midget, except the Marx loco had more teeth on the motor gear than the one installed on the worm gear shaft, which made it run even faster that the speedy Midget.

                        When the opportunity arose to work with some really big trains, 12 inches to the foot, the critter bash project was put on a shelf.


                        • Industrial critter rule! Are you planning on bashing a few? What was that Athearn HO job critter driven buy a rubber band? Tiny lil fellow...


                          • Yes…the HO Athearn Hustler had the rubber band drive and hypersonic speed.

                            It was a very different time in model railroading when high speed running was the norm in every gauge. I can remember when model railroad clubs and even hobby shops held competitive Hustler races to see which was the fastest. They were often held with an auto drag race format with side by side races. Needless to say, I declined to participate.

                            I bought new replacement drive belts for my old Hustler and got it operational again. I often wondered why the Lionel Husky was geared so low and, out of curiosity, I held my own Hustler vs Huskey race around my oval layout and they run at about the same ridiculous top speed, so it seems that the Husky near clone was designed and marketed to appeal to period customer desires.

                            Most of the model motors of the time were proudly advertised as running between ten thousand and sixteen thousand rpm. With a gear ratio of about 20:1, the model loco axles would turn at 500 to 800 rpm. Prototype steam locomotives would max out at about 300 rpm, with the top speed governed by the driver and cylinder diameters, with 100 mph being the practical operational maximum, so the models of the time really zipped along.

                            When I was in high school, I joined the local model railroad club, or should I say that they, begrudgingly, let me join. While us young’uns were after prototypical operations, the old guys were maniacs when at the controls. During a typical operating session, the trains would speed around the O-scale layout until there was a thunderous crash, usually at a spot that was hidden under the scenery, when either freight or passenger cars (sometimes both), in an effort to escape the confines of the layout, would go scooting across the floor, after a vertical fall of about four feet. As a result, most of us young’uns moved over to the HO layout, where train speeds were inherently slower and most “wrecks” were just derailments.

                            Eventually, much slower motor speeds, along with pulse width modulation train controls and now DCC, allow true prototypical operations in HO as well as in On30.

                            No…I do not have plans to build more critters, but one never knows. I plan to keep my old bash bait examples as they are and to run them on DC whenever I get the urge.

                            All the best to everyone.


                            • Dan, great that you're staying busy with the hobby and sharing with us what you are doing.

                              My eyes are getting old.
                              Can you please post in font a little bigger.
                              Thank you.
                              Follow along as my dog and I travel the country in our van.
                              FaceBook link:


                              • Rick,

                                Thanks for the reply and per your request I shall endeavor to use a larger type font in the future.

                                When it comes to on-line work, I usually go with whatever comes up on the screen, but in this case changes can be made.

                                This is in Times New Roman, one of my favorites, which is a book and newspaper font and the font size is 18.

                                This is in the Default font and the default size of 12, which is what I had been using.

                                This is the Default font and the size is 14.

                                For my long-winded diatribes, does anyone have a preference as to font style or size?


                                • Rick
                                  Rick commented
                                  Editing a comment
                                  Dan, I use the default font and it looks bigger than what you've been using.
                                  The default 12 that you used in this comment looks easier to read than your previous posts.
                                  The size 12 or 14 are much easier to read.
                                  Thank you.