Thursday, November 22, 2012

HO Oil Tanks in O

Was at a hobby shop sale a few months back and went exploring the HO aisles to see if there was anything I could use in O scale.

Found some nice tanks by Rix Products.  It took a few hours to put together the separate layers.  You have to pay attention to the rivet detail and be a real rivet counter.  It looks good...supposedly the 60' tank is roughly 30' tall and 12' in diameter in O.

Definitely something worth looking at if you're planning on doing an oil tank farm like I am doing.

I ended up painting mine oily black...almost a brownish color when the paint dries.  That is not reflected in the photos below.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Layout Construction - Control and Wiring

So I kind of never documented how I constructed my small L shaped switching layout that is nothing more than pretty much 2 4x8 boards put together.  It's basic design has 2x4s for the legs and a frame of 1x4's topped with plywood.  A few cross beams also go through the center of each 4x8.  The left-bottom 4x8 shown in the diagram below is set lower than the rest.  I wanted to do L-girder, but figured I can still achieve that with some extra wood and not have to worry about losing the space under the layout.  It will just be a little heavier than the 3 other pieces.  All 4x8 sections have been bolted together with the same bolts used to hold the legs to the frame.  This will make it easier to dismantle the layout when its time to move out of my current location and actually move it up stairs to get it out.  Since its going to be a mostly industrial area, plywood made sense as I will not have really any hilly scenery except for by the power plant region.

I'm using AtlasO track right now due to its ease in putting together, despite the requirement to have to rewire every switch of theirs due to a handy, but flawed design.  See a previous post on some of that work.

Here is overall layout design:

I used Atlas' RRTrack to do the design and wrote on it with my text editor.  I think I used the 3R library, edited to only have the 2R pieces that are currently made.  There are a few sections where some curves won't match up, but those will be done by cutting flex track.  With much of the track laid in the right 4x8 section, I wanted to go ahead and get some of it wired, so I could run my engines back and forth.  Below will show a photo essay of the work it took to get those wired and what my control area currently looks like...

The control point is at about 2 feet from where the 2 4x8s connect to make the L.  The picture shows all of the various components I have to run my 2R DCC.  I decided to go with Digitrax after learning more about it and getting a good deal on a system from Jerry Davis and George Lasley.  It also came with a 20A power supply that Digitrax makes.  So here is how it all works...

The 20A supply supplies power to the 8A DCS200 Booster.  This booster then supplies the DCC signal to everything connected to its Loconet port and from the track output.  That track output goes to two places.  One is to the PTB-100 (more on that next).  The other is to the DCC Specialities RRampmeter, which is specially made to read the square wave AC DCC signal and gives an accurate measurement of the current and voltage being used by my layout (I have no blocks).  From there, the power is fed to the PSX-1, which provides my extremely quick short circuit protection.  That device is also made by DCC Specialties and is customizable for amperage settings.  The PSX feeds to both of the 10AWG barrier (terminal) strips from Home Depot.  I had to get the jumpers from Digikey and they cost more than the strips...sad I know.  The jumpers for the 18AWG strips also cost more than those strips, but are readily available from Radio Shack.   I had gotten a deal on 10AWG wire from an OGR Forumite (along with the 18AWG wiring I am using for all the feeders and other needs), thus my usage of 10AWG wire.  I selected several feed points to run the wire to and have wired a bunch of feeders.  More on that after the PTB-100 info.

Looking back again at the picture, you can see a UR92, which provides the wireless signal from the DT402D. It is connected to the booster with an RJ12 cable.  It has its own power supply.  The lights on both the UR92 and the DT402D can be used to ensure that my signals are reaching the booster and vice versa.  A locobuffer2 is also shown wire-strapped to the leg.  That is used to connect my macbookpro with JMRI DecoderPro to my booster via the loconet terminal on the UR92.  This is used to program all of the decoders with a custom easy-to-use interface.  It removes the need to memorize and understand hundreds of CV settings across the different manufacturers.  It is a must have for DCC (I personally think everything in my control setup is a must have (ie - PSX, RRampmeter).  Last, I screwed in a screw to hold the voltmeter I regularly use on I will always know where it is.

So here's the PTB-100 setup.  The PTB-100 is made by soundtraxx and is necessary to program sound decoders that cannot be normally programmed with just the programming output of the booster.  PTB stands for programming track booster.  The PTB is wired from the booster, 20A supply, and is fed to a terminal block, which I will then eventually wire to a piece of isolated track on my layout that will be used to program engines.  Currently, I added a DPST switch that cuts the power on/off to the PTB100.  I was going to use the other prongs to control the power direction to the programming track...will design that later.

Another part of my control board is to use the Tam Valley Hex Frog Juicers (in the bottom right of the above photo).  I have about 11 switches on my layout and I have ran separate feeders to all of the frogs.  The first 6 I laid have been connected to one of these boards.  This board is used to instantly change the polarity of a switch, so that I can have all of my frogs powered and is especially needed for all of those little switcher engines to give an extra ability to safeguard against power failure.  It is wired from my track bus.  They are available from here:

So I added a cheap light from Home Depot to under the layout...where I also have an extra workbench setup.  You can see the 10AWG wire coming from the right and swinging around to the ends of the track on my layout.  It goes directly through the wood beam at the left as I drilled a 1" hole in there, which is an easy way to get wiring held up along the layout.  Thinking back...I should have ran it across the middle of those tracks instead, but its okay, since my layout is so small.  You can see from white wire, red and green 18AWG wires that are my feeders to the track itself.  I ran the bus wire (10AWG) first and then soldered to the bottom of the track, the feeders that I knew would be long enough to reach the terminal/barrier strips.  I wire.  I then took the bus wire and used my wire strippers and an x-acto to remove sections of the bus and wrapped a feeder from the bus to the terminal in the correct polarity.  I then soldered that feeder to the bus wire.  I could have used suitcase connectors I guess, but soldering would have a 100% success rate.  Terminal strips made it easy to run multiple tracks to the same bus location and will make it easier to reuse wire if/when I decide to retire this layout. 

I double checked all of my work by taking my multimeter and ohming out the 2 rails to ensure there were no shorts.  I noticed I was not consistent in color coding the wiring from the track feeders and had to fix only one of the connections at the terminal.

Also, the red hangers were found at I think Lowes and were IMHO one of the better options for running wire as the top opens up and you can keep adding more wires into the channels when need be.  A very flexible option that is not ruined everytime one wants to make a change or replace a failed wire.  They take 2 drywall screws to anchor in place.  A 1" one at the top and a 2" one that goes in at an angle from the bottom.

This last photo shows the end of one of my bus runs.  It is wired to a terminal strip that has a snubber wired in parallel to the last feeder connection.  The snubber is used to cut down on issues with over-voltage that one can see, which has the potential to fry decoders.  Here's a website on more info on this topic (and many others)  It was basically a 150ohm 2W resistor soldered to a .1uF capacitor.  The leads of those were then put in the terminal strip and connect the 2 bus wires.

The last item of interest here is that you'll also notice the bus wire is twisted a lot.  Several times per foot.  This is to reduce the inductance caused by the pair and hopefully reduce interference with other wiring on the layout.  This is also discussed on the previous website, among other sites that deal with DCC.  I'll end this with a photo of one of my snubbers:

Monday, November 5, 2012

MTH 2R Scale SOU F7 ABA Review

I received my set of Southern Railway F7's a few weeks ago and while there is a lot of work to do to make them right, they are a great base model and I felt they were worth a basic review.  I think John Sethian is working a really detailed review in OST, so I didn't bother asking Joe to review these.  There are also some cool things John will be doing to upgrade his and I will be too, but outside adding the new-style Kadees, I haven't modified mine.  So here we go with my photo essay (captions underneath each CLICKABLE high-res photo)

What the box reads on the outside...

Paperwork that is inside the box on top of the styrofoam.  The quick guide on the left is bare bones and tells the DCC operator to go look up the product online and find the DCC guide.  As of now, 20-20191-2 still doesn't have a detailed instruction manual and I never received a response from MTH on why.  Instead, I had to go view the HO instruction manual and the DCC section there appears to mirror exactly the HO version as far as I can tell.  You will need that to get the listing of the CVs, etc, but as a favor you reading this, I took a screenshot of the 29 functions and list it below:

So you never bought an MTH F or E ABA set huh...well this is what they look like brand new from the factory.  Now try to wrap them back exactly like that each time you put them away...

On my unfinished small switching layout, here is a look of the slave A unit with the kadees installed.

Side profile shot with that newly tooled blomberg truck.  Pretty nice.  I just wish they made it easy to change out the bearings used on their trucks and sold those as a separate detail pack as these trucks only have roller bearing on all 8 spots.  Often many roads had mixed bearings on their units...

A close up of the pilot detail.  They shrunk the hole for the kadee.  Less huge gap for it.  I like it.  The screws for the kadees didn't come in the box like past 2R MTH diesels.  I had to tap the holes for 2-56 screws. Obviously a freight pilot.

A closeup of the newly tooled blomberg trucks.  Feel free to rivet count to your hearts content.  Look good to me other than being stuck with the roller bearing sections.

An angle nose shot.  I like how they added these service grabs, but these particular units never had them from what my references show.  The font of the numberboard is also wrong.

The exhaust vent on both units came with the paint scraped off.  Very odd...

So this is probably MTH's only 5-chime horn that comes close to an M5.  The M5's were popular on many roads, so I am confused why they never made the casting.  It must be replaced on both A units.

Here is the end of the slaved A unit.  Rubber diaphragm/door along with rubber MU hoses.  Not very realistic but I understand the desire for rubber airhoses.  I will have to replace, along with putting the tether through the door.

The door on both A units open for the controls.  Shown is the slave unit.  Not much to select, but plenty of openings to get the tether through (or enlarge the openings...either way...

Here's what the main powered A unit has.  Still room to get the tether through, but the current settings show that it is set for 2R DCC with the option to go to 3R (pickup rollers in box) or to DCS.  I keep the smoke turned off, but these do supposedly smoke.  I have no interest until after I do all the detail work.  The sound POT does not work in DCC.  Instead it is controlled by using the F6 key and can change it up 10 levels or so.

The lead A unit has this nasty creature for the tether along with the non-functional kadee and rubber air hoses.

Here's what the truck blocks look like.  Can easily screw in the 3R pickup roller.  Look at the huge space between the 2R wheels and the frame.  Supposedly easily fixable by John Sethian.  I will await his detailed article at some point to proceed.

Added my Kadees with 2-56 screws.  Tapping required I believe, but taking off the pilots was not.

Here's what the only speaker in this trio looks like.  Comes with PS3 freight sounds and inspected by #1?  Will look to expanding sound to the B and slave A unit.

Close-Up of non-function kadee between units.

A glimpse at the wiring mess of the tether...

Proof that these close couple as-is, but the tether is hideous.  It will be completely hidden by the diaphragms once I get around to moving them.  Wish MTH thought to move them first.

Now that the model is shown in detail, here is info on the prototypes MTH chose:
  • Southern had 76 F7A units.  Most were originally SOU with 9 from the CNO&TP and AGS.
  • Southern had 72 F7B units.  Most were originally SOU with 27 from both CNO&TP and AGS.
  • These were all equipped with 567B engines.
  • 4242 was built in 5/49 with Dynamic brakes installed in 23Oct53 at Spencer, NC shops..  Retired in 1969.
  • 4228 was built in 6/49 with Dynamic brakes installed in 25May55 at Spencer, NC shops.  Retired in 1973.
  • 4400 was built in 5/49 with Dynamic brakes installed in 22Apr53 at Spencer, NC shops.  Retired in 1969.

Using photos from both my physical and digital would appear the following needs to happen to bring these closer to the prototype for my time frame(though all photos I have are only within my time frame, so I'm curious how MTH screwed up the service grabs...)
  • Remove the service steps on both A units.  They were not installed on these 2 particular units.  
  • Add the obviously missing MU and air hoses to the pilots.
  • Add roof coils and spark arrestors to both 4242 and 4400.
  • Replace the horns with brass Nathan M5 castings
  • Add speed recorder and ATS shoes to appropriate trucks.
  • Re-tether the ABA units through the diaphragm instead of through the truck.  
  • Redo MU hoses on rear of both A units and on both ends of B unit if feasible - Installed rubber ones may be required due to 36" radius curves
  • Maybe try to add sound to the B and other A unit if feasible.
  • Numberboard Font is off.  Need to check Microscale decals to see if replacing is feasible.
  • Potentially body mount kadees if feasible
  • Potentially body mount side truck steps to frame if feasible
  • Move the truck sideframes in if admittedly...John Sethian's way of doing it turns out to be easy.
  • Get inside the nose lights/cab and paint the LEDs with orange translucent paint to make the bright white turn more warm white.
  • Weather to 1968 conditions
End of my review.  You're bound to see my changes when they eventually occur as I finish them.  So many other projects I am more motivated to complete first.

Here is a video of my units to show a few of the functions easily achievable with my Digitrax DT402D.  The video shows flickering of the lights, but it is entirely based on the camera's shutter speed seeing faster than our human eyes can and I can't easily fix it.

My final thought is that I wish MTH made some of these F7A units as dummy 2R units.  Would be nice to run these elephant style as in the prototype.