Modelling the E&N in HO Scale in my basement


January 13, 2011

Over the past week, spent time downstairs finishing up the wiring to the track laid.

So to date, all the bullfrogs are wired, the track has been wired.

Next up will be the helix up to the upper deck and to Arrowsmith siding and the grade down to Port Alberni!

January 9, 2012

Really quick update: drilled holes for feeders from Mud Bay siding through to end of track on the lower deck, dropped feeders into all of them and then hook up quite a few of them to the track before I ran out of juice…

January 8, 2012

Earlier this morning, decided to go downstairs and do some troubleshooting. Specifically, wireless troubleshooting. Quite a few months ago, came across a deal that I really couldn’t pass up: an older, radio equipped digitrax empire builder starter set, slightly used, complete with a DT400R throttle, DB150 booster, power supply and a UR91 radio reciever. Realistically, I could do without the first three as I already had them, but could definitely make use of them all. The last item was a missing link so to speak for operators who had a DT400R throttle. Without the UR91, their throttles would be missing major functionality.

And our testing of it from prior to the open house seemed to indicate the UR91 was a dud and needing a Florida vacation.

Well, this morning I tried the one throttle we received with the set, and had no luck. Then checked Loconet. All good. Then I tried another throttle and voila. The locos started responding. I relayed the results back to Cam and he brought his throttle (a DT400R) and play…err, tested it as well. No major issues there either. So I’ve got throttles to send on a trip to Digitrax for repairs and the UR91 stays put…well, maybe. I’m still not sold on it’s location for now…

Later this evening, went back downstairs and threaded and spliced in another section of bus wire, under the newly laid trackage between Buckley Bay and Union Bay, planned the feeder locations from Mud Bay through to the end of trackage and called it a night.


December 29, 2011

Today, decided to get the tortoises on the port sub wired up fully, and connected to the control panels purchased for them. While somewhat finicky, I did actually manage to have success with using some unused and relatively old Cat3 cable for wiring up both power and control for those three switch machines.


December 21, 2011

A quick update on the shortest day of the year (even though it’s still 24hours long?)

Last night went downstairs after dinner and worked on wiring the port sub to the bus, which actually had to also be installed.

Also wired in the frog power to the three tortoise switch machines as well.

At some point will need to get some serious cleaning done before the open house next week. hint: if you haven’t got your invite yet, please send me an email ( for the details.


December 12, 2011

With the snow falling pretty much all day yesterday, decided to get some stuff done around the house and then went to the basement to get some stuff done.

Nearly finished getting the bus wires hooked up to boosters, hated the barrier block I was using to transition the 14ga solid wire to 14ga stranded wire, and ripped it out and replaced it with a terminal strip which necessitated crimping on a bunch of fork terminals. In the end, very much worthwhile for reliability. The old barrier block would’ve been prone to wires coming loose and falling out.

Also pulled the bus wires for the accessory bus and wired in the tortoise controllers in the south Parksville industrial area (National Silicates and the team track) and voila. That works now!

It was by this time that Cam had finished a rather grueling weekend of work and he came over to unwind and at this point I powered up all three boosters, making all track runnable. I gave him a throttle, locomotive and sprinkled a few cars around the layout and gave him the switching orders. Was really pleased to see the layout run smoothly and all the switching done!

A reminder for those who haven’t heard, I’m hosting an open house in a couple weeks. For full info, you’ll need to email me ( soon.


December 4, 2011

A quick update tonight before I retire for the evening.

I’ve been taking care of a few little things over the past few days. Not a whole lot of time spent on the layout owing to a few other priorities, but did manage to hook up the loconet on the UP5’s to the command station and booster on Thursday evening, though I’ll definitely have more work cleaning up once a few more bits are finalized. Just need to run power to the panels and all will be good on that front.

And tonight, installed a handful of bullfrogs. I must admit, the install of these things is quite nice compared to tortoii, and can actually be done on ones own! A nice thing happened once the fifth one was installed; all turnouts currently installed now have a positive lock on the points. Might be a bit of a challenge actually changing said points, but still being able to move cars through turnouts without fear of half the car going one way while the other half takes a decidedly different route is a good thing.


November 28, 2011

Been a little while since I posted an update, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been doing anything.

Though admittedly it hasn’t been a huge amount of work, every little bit will help. So far I’ve got a lot of feeders and frogs wired together through the installed bullfrogs, work done on getting the command station and boosters setup on a small shelf on the peninsula wall close to the helix, acquired a UPS for protecting the electronics, and oh yeah, built a few more bullfrogs. I’ve also installed and partially wired in three UP5’s, though more needs to be done for those to be usable.

Once I’ve got a fair amount of work done on cleaning up the existing projects I’m likely going to host an open house so everyone can take a look at the work to date. Probably going to be around Christmas, so I’d suggest sending me an email ( and I will privately advise on the address and time/date as the latter get nailed down.


November 20, 2011

Called Cam and Dan this morning to invite them on a hobby shop crawl (nice this city has several shops open on Sunday!) and then do some work on the layout. I picked up a proto 2000 sw9/1200 for the port alberni switcher, (needs a dip as I don’t think the alberni pacific paint scheme has ever been done RTR.) some decals for when the GP9’s are painted, and the latest edition of Railfan Canada which has an article about the E&N.

When we got back to my place, work progressed on fixing a couple of other minor sunkinks and fixing a short on the layout. Two things discovered through that hour plus of frustration:

  1. The continuity on my layout is freaking fantastic!
  2. don’t use a piece of rail set between the ties as a temporary wheel stop.

Most of the Victoria sub is now fully wired and I’ve also even started installing the UP5’s into the layout, thanks to the silver satin cable and plugs I picked up from active electronics yesterday.


November 15, 2011

Another quick update…

Last night I finished soldering the feeders to the track (not to the bus though) on the Victoria sub north of Parksville and then proceeded to install a few bullfrogs…

Specifically on the superior propane spur, the south storage track in the vicinity and importantly, the junction switch at Parksville. I will admit, having lateral adjustment on the bullfrog mounting is extremely useful. Yet another reason why I love these things so much!

November 14, 2011

Cam was ever so nice to make a side trip on his way to work, stopping at MRO to pick up some hook up wire for my layout. Two 100′ reels of wire for about $22. B&E would extract more than double that for the same thing. And I have to question why?

In any event, I picked it up from Cam after work. After dinner, I pulled some more bus wire, hooked it up to the main bus and the dropped a bunch of feeders, soldering about half of them to the track before heading off to bed.


October 23, 2011

I received a phone call from one of the hobby shops I deal with advising my Intermountain wheels were in.  Goodie…I can take the plastic wheels out of the new boxcar kits I’ve assembled and turn them into scrap loads.  Not that I’m likely to ever do that since wheelsets likely wouldn’t have been changed out anywhere other than Wellcox yard on the island…

Gave Cam a call in the early afternoon, woke him up, and then advised we’d be headed out.  Stopped by Eastridge for the wheels, found they didn’t have any needed Peco track pins and went to Ewok Emporium (aka Chinook & Hobby West – South) for those.  Bought all six bags of them since I’m quite likely going to need that many (and more) for the rest of the layout.

Did a bit of railfanning down at the spot and had a bit of lunch, then back to the house for some additional work on the layout.

Accomplished was a fair bit more wiring/soldering work, cutting isolation gaps between power sub-districts (I’m subdividing the four power districts on the layout to further protect the remainder of the layout from the inevitable shorts) and getting a couple Bullfrogs installed on the siding switches at Bryn.

All in all, another productive afternoon.  Once things get wired into a command station/booster, and bullfrogs installed at Parksville, I can actually do a little switching.  Whoo hoo!


October 22, 2011

A brief update for today. After running a few errands, had Cam and Dan over for a few hours early this afternoon to get some stuff done.

Turns out, mostly electrical work on the laid trackage. Dan dropped feeders on the Bryn section, Cam spiked down a couple feet worth of the trackage south of Bryn, and afterwards, while I was finishing up soldering the feeders to the lower helix, he stripped and prepped all the feeders onto the bus wire. I followed afterwards with soldering all the wiring together. Still more soldering to do, but had other plans this evening. Will likely get more done tomorrow…

Lessons learned

Spent a few minutes (well, okay so it was closer to a full hour) down in the basement and tried to figure out what task to take care of. Figured a few more feeders could be hooked up to the track and found some begging for some long overdue attention.

Months ago, Dan took on the fun task of crimping feeder wires onto big ring terminals and then getting them into position on the main helix. I finally got around to actually attaching them to the track. Well, half of them….more or less. You see, it’s great to have access to both sides of the helix so the black wires can be soldered on easily from the outside and then go into the inside to solder the red wires to the inside rail.

Except for the fact there’s no easy way to solder the black wires to the track when you can’t be on the outside due to a wall. Oops.

So when we start in on doing the upper deck helix, we’ll solder feeders on when the track is more exposed…


October 9th, 2011

So the previously disconnected track around the peninsula end of the middle is now connected! With yesterday’s installation of the two curved turnouts leading to the Parksville team track and National Silicates (along with their associated tortoises), Cam and I got all the trackage laid, spiked down and feeder wires hooked up to the track (still needs to be hooked up to the bus mind you…) and then worked all the way to Bryn. So for the time being, we have trackage from south of Bryn through to the port sub past Parksville.

Excellent progress!

September 27, 2011

Last night saw some free time, decided to head downstairs and see what I could do. After much deliberation between building curved turnouts and dropping feeders, I decided on the latter. All the trackage secured within the Parksville area is now soldered together and feeders connected to the track. Didn’t quite get to connecting them to the bus however…

September 26, 2011

Apologies for the lack of posts over the past little while.

Admittedly, not a whole lot of stuff going on other than things taking up weekends (GETS in Edmonton, Railway Days at Heritage Park, good weather and obviously taking advantage of it before snow flies.) to get stuff done.

However, a few bits to report on:

  1. A restock of Code 70 ME flextrack arrived, so I’ve got enough to lay trackage on the visible portions of the peninsula.
  2. We’ve secured the trackage in the Parksville yard.  I’m also getting a fair number of feeders wired for that trackage as well, including the port sub trackage on the middle deck.
  3. I’ve built a few Bullfrogs, now that I know how to make them work effectively (ie: take some of the spring out, wax the moving friction bits and voila.  Works wonderfully.)  I’ve also installed two of them – one at south siding switch Mud Bay and at the Ballast Spur just south of that.
  4. I’ve acquired and received a few more bits from FastTracks, including an assembly fixture for doing the curved 30″/40″ #8 turnouts and a few more quicksticks.  As a result, getting trackage laid through the Parksville industrial area will be happening soon and we’ll be able to connect a few more bits of trackage together.  (thinking south of Bryn all the way through to where the port sub enters the helix!)
  5. We’ve got another piece of backdrop installed, so most of Parksville has a backdrop installed.  We are learning that the “Murray school of glue” is desirable here.  For those who don’t know, Murray is one who figures that if it’s worth doing, it’s worth OVERdoing.  Thus, his glue applications tended to be quite excessive.  The backside of the masonite is quite rough owing to the manufacturing so the excessive glue is better to ensure a good bond.
Once I’ve got a few things cleaned up, I’ll post some more pictures.

July 31, 2011

Dan called this morning, saying he’d like to come over.  I of course agreed and shortly after noon (only slightly delayed), he arrived and we got some wiring work done.  He works for a demolition company and managed to salvage some good lengths of red, black, blue and white 12-14 gauge solid wire and donated them to my cause.  So after ensuring all the wiring chase holes were drilled, we got to work on installing the wiring into the lower deck and the middle deck (despite the fact there’s no trackage installed yet).

Afterwards, the feeders were installed from the track and hooked up to the bus wire.

Cam arrived during this point and continued working on the trackage towards Buckley Bay.  Mud Bay siding was completed as was a good portion of the trackage between what will be Buckley Bay and Mud Bay (around the base of the peninsula)

Afterwards, I fixed up a turnout – forgot to cut isolation gaps and install guard rails on the turnout at North Siding Switch Mud Bay – and then we hooked up the power pack to the bus wire.  And then began the fun!  Dan got the honours of running a really long train from the helix down to Mud Bay and beyond.  Given the fact the train was way over length for the siding, we had some fun working the train back and forth to get the locomotives by all the cars and then back into the helix with the caboose on the tail end.

I now know that I need to get a fair number of couplers replaced as those crappy plastic couplers just don’t hold up to anything in the way of strain.  Not that was any new knowledge in my opinion…I knew I needed to, but the need for work to the fleet of cars I’ve been acquiring over the years will now need to happen sooner than later…



One of the reasons for going with such short benchwork (depth-wise) was my choice of lighting. Pretty much from the get go, I decided I wasn’t going to use flourescent or incandescent light fixtures. Especially those with 110V AC required! I didn’t want to have to buy and install a sub panel onto my electrical circuitbreaker panel for the sole purpose of running lights. Nor did I want the added height such fixtures impose.

So imagine the smile on my face when I discovered LED Strips packing some 600 surface mount bright white LED’s into five meters worth of flexible material, on eBay for not even fourty dollars including shipping!

The two reels of them arrived on Friday from Hong Kong. Cam suggested we use my DC power pack and a multimeter to test out both voltage and current draw and we are both pleased with the results.

We even setup a few strips of track at Parksville pit our test equipment on them and then taped up the strips in position and voila! We’ll need to run two or three strips for adequate lighting but I did half expect that given Timothy Horton’s layout (he also gets credit for the idea of using LED’s) uses three strips for his n scale BCR Dawson Creek sub layout.

Another unknown off my checklist. I’ll raise a drink to that!