Nov 2011

DCC Power II

The DCC Power work continues, but it’s still not done, as I have to do the power panels for the urban scene and the unsceniced return loops, but with the panel I built and tested back in September/October finally installed under the tables of the River Crossing scene, I’m at the halfway mark (having done the Riverside Station scene back in March).

To recap, the board contains a PM42 DCC circuit breaker that provides four separate circuit breakers and a BDL168 occupancy detector that can provide up to sixteen occupancy detectors and eight transponding sensors (see my pages on occupancy detection and the BDL168 for more details). This board provides occupancy detection for six electrical blocks, two each on the commuter tracks and one on each subway track where it loops below the expressway. Although I’m also wiring up the transponding sensors, as mentioned previously I’m having doubts about them due to problems in testing and the anticipated low power draw of my trains being borderline to register on them.

Hybrid Design and Temporary Scenery

There’s a “right” way to build a model railroad: build some subroadbed structure (often plywood screwed and glued in place, sometimes foam held together with glue), add roadbed (paperboard or cork are typical, a type of foam rubber is also used) held in place with wood glue or similar, attach track (held in place by silicone caulk, or temporary nails), and apply ballast (crushed stone or artificial granular substances) glued in place with diluted white glue. Make sure the track works, protect it with tape, wax paper, and other things, then add scenery of carved foam, plaster cloth or other material, paint it, glue down ground scatter, shrubs and other scenery, and plant buildings in places prepared for them.

This approach produces everything from the basement-filling layouts typical of North America, to the smaller layouts found in Europe, right down to the switching layout-on-a-shelf more typical of the space-constrained builder (common in the U.K., but hardly limited to there), as well as modular layouts that only get set up at club meetings and shows. Smaller layouts often use a box structure for the subroadbed rather than the more material-efficient approaches (like L-girder) used in larger layouts.

It is, effectively, the collective wisdom of decades of western modelers (North American and European in particular), promulgated in books, magazine articles, and today web postings. And it’s not a bad approach; it’s the collective wisdom because it works and has proven itself capable of producing long-lasting and reliable model railroads. Read More...

Kato's "New" Coupler and Oct 2011 Status

When my Ginza 01 series train (Kato 10-864) arrived last month I put it on the track to break it in, then took it off and separated the cars as I usually do with commuter cars, levering them up until the couplers are nearly at a 90-degree angle, just as it says to in the brochure that comes with the train. This time, to my surprise, instead of uncoupling, one coupler assembly exploded into three parts (coupler, bracket, and spring). Attempting to re-install the spring led to it departing over the horizon (or at least into the depths of the basement), never to be seen again. A quick look at the brochure, and it was clear Kato had changed something. It showed the cars being separated by pulling apart rather than the levering up procedure I was used to from earlier commuter models.

This was a bit of a surprise, because the coupler looked just like the usual commuter coupler, with a square, pyramid-tipped spike and a matching socket, with a hook underneath, all designed to mimic the standard Japanese coupler used on many narrow-gauge trains, a type of multi-function close coupler known as a Shibata coupler after its developer, Mamoru Shibata, although often called more generically a “Scharfenberg” coupler, after the original European close-coupler it was modeled on. I decided it must be a new type of coupler developed for the new subway trains (which the Ginza is assumed to be the first of) and ordered a replacement. That turned out to be an incorrect assumption.