check, please!

If you decide to use commercial track products for your layout or modules, BEFORE you start laying these on the baseboard and pinning or gluing them down, CHECK the gauge of each and every piece with a proper NMRA (or other regulatory body's) measuring tool.


I have experienced at least a half dozen separate instances where the commercial product's rail are not in gauge, and can't be corrected. The latest instance involved removing a turnout from a ballasted right of way while making a minimum of mess. Not fun.

Every turnout, every crossing, every piece of sectional or flex track needs to be checked before it is installed. Items that are not in gauge need to be returned to their place of purchase as defective. These items are produced in batches and can vary as enviromental changes and mechanical wear occur.

While you're at it, verify the electrical arrangements of each turnout's point & stock rails with a continuity tester. This is especially important in DCC applications where the optimal situation is to have each point rail the same polarity as its adjacent stock rail to prevent shorting when wheelset's back-to-back distance might be a tad tight. I have had two turnouts where the short rail section after the frog had become isolated from the rest of the route (the wire bond underneath was broken) creating a dead spot.

Save yourself some pain and check first.


a-musing rehash

I've been meaning to update my series of posts "modular musings" on this blog for quite some time.

Recent events and discussions with other modellers reveal that portable layout design, DCC systems, and electrical wiring (in general) are all topics that could stand some review and discussion.

Over the next few weeks, I will try to update these posts with more observations and links to relevant information.

Stay tuned...

timing is everything

Lots of stuff going on lately.

Model Railroadish stuff, mostly.

A trip to the Amherst Railway Society's big train show in Springfield, MA offer ample chance to blow one's mind with possibilities. Add to that a heaping goodie basket of new things from the various vendors...

Travelling with local traction modeller extraordinaire Roger Chrysler was a real treat; I'd be more than happy to repeat the process for any train show I can think of.

However, unexpectedly, I had to debug the S Scale Workshop's layout on Friday afternoon. Due to time constraints, I was attending the show for Saturday only, and had not anticipated being able to enter the show grounds ahead of time. Through sheer luck & good timing I was in the same building as the layout late in their setup phase. Workshop member Andy Malette of MLW Services spotted me while I chatted with Jeff Adam of Motrak Models. Andy hauled me back to the layout to see what was going on.

The DCC system was giving the group fits. I found several things wrong over the course of the next hour or so:

  • three custom made, twisted-pair (Cat5?) LocoNet cables were causing the throttle buss to spasm
  • one LocoNet UP5 panel was not daisy-chained correctly
  • a rail gap had closed up at one turnout, shorting the track buss
  • a damaged Tortoise had been replaced but the frog power routing had been compromised, shorting the track buss when the points were aligned for the main.

The first three issues were isolated and sorted out fairly quickly by halving the layout's busses until the faults revealed themselves. The last item could not be readily repaired as that Tortoise is part of a complex control panel comprised of momentary pushbuttons and LED route indicators that doesn't lend itself to tracing wires unless that module set is laying on its side; which was not practical at that point in the setup.

One issue I should have dealt with was to ensure that the Command Station was centrally located along the track buss. The layout was about 80' in length this time around thanks to some excellent new modules built by member John Johnston. Our habit has been to hook the Command Station into the buss about 8' from one end. Not such a big deal when the layout is in the 40-50' range, but it gets much worse as track buss lengthens. Next time...

In the end, the layout was operational for the weekend. I was able to come back on Saturday after lunch and, while the rest of the crew ran trains, chat with the general public and other modellers who viewed the modelled scenes and trains. Some great questions were asked and many compliments were made.

It came as a pretty big surprise to the crew when the Amherst Railway Society's committee stopped by at about 4 PM and awarded us "Best in Show - Layouts" for 2013. We are certainly honoured to be recognised in this manner. Needless to say, spirits were running high for the rest of the weekend.