Modelling the E&N in HO Scale in my basement


Best photo yet!

I think this photo warrants it’s own post.  Cam (left) and I standing beside a few trains (Arrowsmith on top, Parksville – complete with in-progress units 3000 and 3004, and Mud Bay below) and looking quite thrilled at the progress made on the layout.


Photo undeniably by Jason Shron, stolen without permission from Rapido Train’s blog.

Inaugural Ops Session!

A long overdue post, primarily because I’ve been waiting for a specific photo… Figured I’d go without it and post it when I get it.

So Jason Shron of Rapido Trains (a model train manufacturer who makes a lot of passenger equipment, save for the one I need on my model railway…yet) arrived in Calgary on the 30th of July and after his first gig at Chinook & Hobby West (North), we went for dinner with Sylvain Duclos at the Five Rivers. A vegetarian restaurant serving Indian fare. Interesting… About all I can say to that as I’m not one typically for curried anything. But the more important stuff for me was when we got home…

That evening was spent showing off the half-covered layout to both Syl and a really tired Jason. James Powell came by on the late side and had a good look around, but despite his offer to help with the cleaning, figured enough rest for his trip back to Vancouver Island was a better idea. All were really impressed, but I wish I had things a little further along to show them the layout without all the sawdust.

Wednesday was spent showing off the GMD-1’s at Eastridge and CMT. Glad to see a few more friends who have been asking when my layout is going to be on the tours for the CMRS. Likely next year folks… Also did a little bit of cleaning downstairs and finished off the wiring…

Close-up of Cam's work-in-progress on a pair of Atlas GP38AC's Photo by Jason Shron

Close-up of Cam’s work-in-progress on a pair of Atlas GP38AC’s
Photo by Jason Shron

Thursday saw Cam arriving early-ish and we seriously attacked the layout and got it all cleaned up, track polished and all ready to go for Friday. Got most of the Quad-LN’s programmed for basic addresses (the rest will come later) and a few more cars were prepared and the pair of Atlas GP38AC’s were unveiled. Sans paint and handrails but looking really good. 3000 and 3004 will be very special units when they’re complete – thanks Cam!

The first ops session crew - from Left to Right: Murray, Jason, Dave, and Cam

The first ops session crew – from Left to Right: Murray, Jason, Dave, and Cam

And then Friday morning arrived. First ops session and a few great friends made it for the big day. (Thanks Murray, Dave, Cam and Jason!)

Jason expertly pilots CN GMD-1's 1011 and 1021 past the Fletcher's Furniture spur.

Jason expertly pilots CN GMD-1’s 1011 and 1021 past the Fletcher’s Furniture spur.

On account of a lack of working motive power on the island, the superintendent of the E&N made some phone calls to CN and acquired the use of GMD-1’s 1011 and 1012. These locos were dispatched to service the Nanaimo Switch Job. I…err, make that the E&N Superintendent didn’t send them anywhere else on account of the larger trucks.

Joking aside, things went quite well considering the first ops session is supposed to discover all the bad things and after all was said and done (and Jason on his way back to Edmonton), there weren’t that many things discussed which were horribly wrong. Most issues could be chalked up to not having enough time prior to set things up. Yes, there’s still more programming of the Quad-LN’s to do, operations stuff to setup in JMRI (to generate the switch lists), and rolling stock to prepare. This will no doubt lead to a lot of re-numbering and patching of rolling stock, in addition to more wheelsets and couplers to change out. Memo to rolling stock manufacturers: please no glued on coupler box lids, okay?

All in all, Cam and I are really stoked on how well things went.

We’re still nowhere close to being finished though… But that’s enough for now!

July 27-28, 2013

“All that’s left to do is everything” -Jesse James

Probably the best quote I’ve got from The show ‘Monster Garage’ which aptly describes what we have done, and what’s still needing to be done after he cram sessions over the past couple weeks.

To summarize what has been completed:

Trackage in the staging yard is now complete, spiked down (required a trip to the hobby shop solely for track pins! And then another for more #71 drill bits, both account hard, and unforgiving, birch plywood) and (mostly) fed. I say mostly because there’s probably a dozen feeders still needing to be hooked up to the track bus and about as many needing to feed the microswitches powering the frogs in the staging yard. That aught to be fun…

We have servos installed and running on most turnouts, in fact, all the turnouts which must be electrically controlled, are, though I still have a ton of programming of the Quad-LN’s to do, routes to line, etc. I also changed out the accessory bus power supply with a 6A 12V power supply for the entire layout instead of having two running on the layout. I’ve also got a UP5 connected in the staging area too. To finish that bit off requires finding a spot for the Zephyr to live, wiring it in for the programming track at the end of the wye, and other linked tasks.

And then there’s the cleaning needed. This requires a massive amount of vaccuuming of everything, plenty of testing and generally making the basement hospitable. Did I mention that Jason arrives in a little over 36 hours?

July 17, 2013

Spent an hour and a bit last night hooking up previously dropped feeder wires to the bus.

That is all…

July 13-14, 2013

A brief update…even though there was plenty of work done.

Over the course of the time spent downstairs on Saturday and Sunday, I got feeders dropped and secured to the rail for the entire ICG Nanaimo – Nanaimo depot sub-district. Not wired into the bus, but that will hopefully be completed this week. I also gapped the rails for that power district as well.

Cam was over for Saturday and some of Sunday and worked on getting track laid in the staging yard. Made really good progress too, having completed all but a few tail tracks on the southern end of the yard and half of the runaround track. Sunday saw the last bit of staging yard benchwork completed – that is, the reverse leg of the wye into the programming track, and a lot of that track is fitted, though still needs to be spiked down. We also found that cheap birch plywood has another nasty trait – loves bending the track pins! Coupled with the splintering capabilities, I can’t say I will recommend it for benchwork again.

I’ve also been working to get a servo programmed to become the block for errant rolling stock headed to the abyss. Mostly successful, but not entirely positive I can get the Singlet to function as I need it to – that is, having a microswitch operate as a toggle… More to come on that…


July 7, 2013

So it’s been a little while since my last post but I’m still working hard to get things ready for the end of the month.

Yesterday began with some cleaning of the basement – it’s a real disaster down there – and getting things lined up.

Since making the decision to go with servos instead of much larger and more expensive tortoises, I’ve acquired the Quad-LN’s from Tam Valley Depot, the servos, wiring and microswitches from eBay (servos for about $2.50 each, at my door, microswitches for 17 cents each, wires free due to a sharing deal with Dave Bedard) and after all is said and done, I have a DCC controlled turnout for less than the cost of a tortoise bought in a 12 pack… And that doesn’t include the other bits needed like a DS64 or the wiring involved.

Installation of these servos started yesterday and the Quad-LN’s were installed as well. Sadly, I neglected to order an aligner for the Quad-LN’s and the instructions indicate one is necessary to properly set them up. 🙁 I tried a few programming things but in the end, nothing did as it was supposed to, likely because the power supply I was using couldn’t pump enough juice. The Quad LN says it needs about 750 milliamps of power and the supply I used only provided about 300… So I’ve ordered an aligner and a 5amp power supply from Tam Valley. Hope to see them soon.

Meanwhile, Cam was busily getting turnouts laid in the staging yard. We’ve got a lot of track still to lay and I’ve got even more basement to clean up, track to wire and more to do…will get some more done tomorrow.


June 8-9, 2013

Despite appearances to the former, I have been working on the railway over the past while. Just haven’t had much time to actually write about it.

Where to begin:

The track plan for the staging yard has been (almost) finalized. A couple weekends ago, Cam and I were working on the plan for the benchwork and we got to discussing the end of the staging yard. Specifically, how to terminate it. Owing to a lack of feedback from a much earlier post of mine, we decided on a curved turnout ladder and bending the track towards the main helix. The reasons to take this route as opposed to a sector plate or a transfer table, despite their much lower costs and space requirements, are a longer track for the Port Alberni Freight, a longer tail track, and as we discovered, longer storage tracks and a possibility for a couple loco storage tracks.

So with that plan in place, we’ve been building benchwork to make that happen and I’m pleased to say we’re done the benchwork for the staging yard.

Cam said it might be a good idea to just continue making a mess and finish the benchwork for the entire layout while we have the opportunity, and get it done and over with. Can’t disagree with that, so we’re now working on the benchwork for Port Alberni… Another weekend and we should be done!

Also of importance in this work is how I’m going to be powering turnouts in the staging yard. David Bedard has been a fan of using RC Servos for turnout control and showed me a lot of benefits for using them. Prime among them is the cost. These things are very inexpensive compared to the cost of just the tortoises themselves, let alone the time involved in hooking them up… These things are small, plug and play (literally, no soldering required!), and robust. After all, these servos go into model airplanes which means if they fail, it usually ends up with said airplane corkscrewing into the ground with really, REALLY disappointing results!

As a result of the decision to switch to servos, I’ve got a pair of DS64’s for sale. Make me an offer…

And lastly for this update. Jason Shron (of Rapido Trains fame) will be visiting my layout again at the end of July. He’s expressed interest in participating in an ops session or two while he’s here. After hearing of the progress on my layout (which has been really substantial since he last saw it) he managed to convince me to have one.

I agreed to the idea of a partial ops session (not involving any switching in Port Alberni) and then realized how much work is involved… I suppose nothing lights a fire under one’s ass like a deadline like that! Better get to work!

May 26, 2013

Simple update from yesterday’s small amount of work:

Installed six bullfrogs, and trimmed the throwbars to length. Also had to run to get #6 screws as that’s the only size which fits.

Tonight is running bus wire.

May 18, 19 & 21

This past long weekend was a very fruitful session of track building!

Following a lot of benchwork being completed over the previous weeks, we now have track laid pretty much all the way from just south of Bryn through to the Nanaimo depot. Yes, the saying, “we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it” applies here as last Tuesday, we now have track onto the drawbridge separating the staging trackage from the rest of the layout.

In addition to the great amount of trackwork done (which includes trackage into five industries), I’ve got bullfrogs built for all of the switches, though they still need to be installed.

And one last thing. Dan spent a bit of free time and punched a hole through the wall where the staging yard will come through the wall from the utility room.


April 29, 2013

Finished up all the feeder wires and the bullfrogs in Courtenay this evening. Accordingly, I am now able to run freights all the way north… But until I get the layout vacuumed, nothing’s getting there!