Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Miscellany or what to call a dock tank with no roof...?

Well we're now nearly unpacked, so much so that we had an outing on Sunday to Ryton Pools country park - which has a miniature railway.  £1 a go around a decent loop, great fun (especially when we derailed just before the bank, so the little engine [with Hackworth valve gear] had to struggle up the 1:100.

My study now has a modelling 'zone' including a new IKEA desk and other additions...

and there's even room for a small test (programming) track along the bookshelf...

Dad has made sterling progress with the double fairlie 'Merddin Emrys' (see below) and I have finally managed to ream out the coupling rod holes so that the crankpin nut fits back to front on Taliesin to help with clearances around the slidebars.  However in doing so I lost a 16ba brass washer (so small there's no chance of finding it!).

and finally, I have ordered my DCC equipment - a whole load of ZTC decoders (diamond 255s) and the MRC prodigy advance2, these arrived today but I was in Burnley and my wife was at playgroup so they are sitting in some postal sorting office tonight!  

Hopefully I'll get to play tomorrow, which is why I did my first DCC conversion yesterday - a minitrix 0-6-0 (eventually for the Kerr Stuart diesel 4415, which as a prototype was tested on the WHR and FR and now resides at Minffordd awaiting restoration.)  The chassis is live and insulated from the chassis are wiper pickups for the other wheels.  So isolating the motor from the chassis was easy, except that in the very small space available the EMC suppression devices got in the way.  I figured that no-one adds these to kits they build themselves anyway and they are of questionable use other than to allow a RTR loco to get the necessary EU certification, so they were chopped off.  Apparently they can interfere with TVs and even pacemakers, but that seems to be pretty alarmist to me.

Then the decoder (an old style Hornby R8215 that didn't matter if I blew it) was attached - red and black to the track, orange and grey the other way (to the motor).  But there was no room in the dock tank to house the decoder, so I chopped the cab off (obviously the loco body will get chucked anyway!)...  so what to call it....?  Shaun??


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Heading West

Hi all,

Well we have moved, and I'm writing this from my new study/work from home office/'modelling room' in the West Midlands.  Bye bye East Midlands.

The garage is rammed with stuff from the move, so there's no chance of getting the layout up until I can get the shed erected and move a load of stuff there and I also need to sell a few bits (like the other dining room table and chairs we have!).  However, in addition to my small study, the 2nd bedroom has a nice little area where work can be done on at least one board, and probably two, and all in the warm!  All is not lost.

Will update the blog when I've had time to set stuff up...I suspect the next step will be purchasing my DCC control equipment and playing with a couple of DCC equipped locos on a test track - happy days.


Sunday, September 14, 2008

Activity Media aka Right Track

A quick review of some DVDs that I really think are worth watching...

The right track series has 7 current incarnations:

1&2 deal with loco kit building (in OO only - no narrow gauge here - shame on them!) and is very informative and useful.  I have watched part 1, with part 2 in my DVD player waiting a chance to appear.

3 is about painting and lining and includes some 'professional' advice from Ian Rathbone - a bit over the top sometimes, but very useful indeed.

4 is about detailing and improving RTR models (no real help to us narrow gauge lads and lasses, so I haven't purchased this).

5&6 are well worth it (they were the first 2 I bought) and deal with scenics - Barry Norman is the maestro this time.

7 covers building buildings and although I haven;t got this once yet, I plan to buy it.

8 (soon to be joined by 9) cover DCC.

It is understood that others are planned including track building and other topics.  Perhaps a narrow gauge programme could be next?


Friday, September 12, 2008

so, what to buy then?

Please do comment on the decoders I've featured and indeed let me know if you have others in mind that I've missed...

My strategy will be as follows (as one only has so much cash to play with of course):

Coreless motors (e.g. Linda) - ZTC diamond
High use engines requiring extras such as dither and lighting effects etc - ZTC diamond or TCS T1
Low use engines that just need a cheap decoder - Hornby R8249
Engines requiring a very small decoder - digitrax DZ125

and what about engines with two motors (Garratts of which I have 3) : here there is an option:

1 - power both motors with one bad boy decoder like the zimo mx68L at 4A.  £20 is likely to be a slightly cheaper option maybe and it will require less messing about.  There may however be slight differences between the engine units causing one to run faster than the other and this couldn't be fixed in the decoder.

2 - add a decoder for each engine unit, match the speeds by altering the CVs and then give them the same address so they work together.  Slightly more expensive and a lot of messing about. Also it may be necessary to turn the back EMF off on one of the units, otherwise they may start to 'flight' each other!

ummmm, choices.


009 Decoders part 2

So, onto Lenz and their silver (£25) and gold (£30) minis.  Each has just 2 function outputs but measure in at just 11mm x 9mm x 3mm.  The gold supports high frequency PWM for my coreless motor in Linda, but the silver is pretty basic (800mA peak, 2 functions only) and is therefore expensive in comparison with other makes.  In fact I think you pay quite a bit more for the Lenz name and I'm not going to invest in that, so in 'Dragon's Den' parlance - 'I'm out'.  Lenz stuff is here.
LokPilot v3.0 8 pin DCC Decoder 52611

This £20 decoder is good for coreless, has 4 functions, back EMF and all the usual 'good stuff'. It's a bit bigger though at 23 x 15.5 x 6.5 mm and only handles just over 1A maximum.

The manual is here.
Zimo mx68L

20 x 10 x 4 mm, support for coreless motors and 4 functions, 4A total load and for £20 - now you're talking!  Manual here  

Thanks to a commenter, I have noticed that this is a function only decoder, the equivalent with a motor function too is around £30 and out of my price range anyway.  But if interested click here.
ZTC Diamond 255

But the award for the mother of all decoders goes to ZTC's diamond 255 decoder.  This comes in at a super £11 via their ebay sales (£13 direct).  It has 4 functions, 2A max, variable frequency PWM, back EMF and dither.  It's 20mm x 12mm, so small, but not tiny. The manual resides here

Decoders for 009

I've been looking at decoders for 009 and here are a selection of what I have found:
Hornby R8249

The successor to the 8215, this bad boy is now fully NMRA complaint and appears to have got over the problems associated with resets to address 0003 that the former chip was prone to.

The good news is that it's cheap (£8-9), small (it measures just 17 x 10 x 3.5mm) and has 4 functions (for lighting etc) and back EMF support, the bad news is that it has limited functionality in programming and although 500mA peak is ok for 009, this may be an issue for motors that need a lot of current, or indeed where you are powering 2 motors from one decoder (Beyer-Garratt anyone?).

For more info on the few CVs it does support click here 

Digitrax dz125

At £17.50 this is a step up (most of the below are really).  It measures just 10.6mm x 8.7mm x 2.86mm, which is even smaller than the hornby effort, but it delivers a peak of 1.25A and huge array of CVs to play with.  Prototypical lighting effects like fire glow and strobes are also possible. However there are only 2 function outputs, so not much more than front and rear lights are possible anyway!  It doesn't appear to support high frequency Pulse width modulation (PWM) so use with coreless motors may be difficult (like my Linda which has a faulhaber 1016).

The manual is available here

Next up is the TCS M3
At £17 this is a very good deal - 3 functions, much of what I mention above - special lighting effects, back EMF etc but also... dither (for improved slow speed running) and a 2A peak.

It measures in at 14.5mm x 9mm x 3.4mm.

The manual is available here

If you want even more functions, then check out the M6 - 6 functions, but larger at 18mm x 10.4mm x 4.8mm and £18.30.  Neither appears to support high freq PWM though.

and for a cheaper alternative (but on 2 function) the T1 at £11 is great value.  see here

TCS also provide a one-year 'goof proof' warranty - no questions asked - sounds good for a beginner, just in case!

Please feel free to comment, I'll be back with more decoder options in the next post.


Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Somewhat damp, but fun nonetheless

So we went to the top left hand corner of Wales for the gala - Garratt 50 - and it rained, and rained and...

We camped at Bryn Gloch. There were no FR or WHR(C) leaflets there so I assume they are still somewhat 'anti' the railway, which is a shame. Our pitch was great though - right next to the line...

To show how wet it was, this was the sight at Pont Aberglaslyn!

When it dired up a bit on the Sunday I had a look around Rhyd Ddu and here are some observations: firstly the area of rough ground between the yard and the road is much wider than I thought, which is helpful actually.

The yard point levers should be easy to model.

The platform plant beds have started to mature.

and the ground frame is in, even if it does say 'Waunfawr loop points' on the lever!

They have filled in the drain at the front edge of the water tower - damn - I had just bought the etches for that!

and the signalling has gone up - here is the shunt token protecting signal.

and finally the loos are back behind their special screen.

The gala was great fun - little and large pose at Dinas...

Prince leaves Dinas for Waunfawr on the shuttle...

The funkey passes Bryn Gloch - I just must have working DCC lights on my model!

K1 was adorned with flags and a special headboard to mark a presentation from the IMechE.
The PW tool van was used on the weekend too - quite an odd beasty to model really.

and finally Dad fixed it so I could drive the Perrygrove K1 - top stuff.


Tuesday, September 02, 2008

News from Mercian Models

I enquired recently as to why the Ffestiniog (or Festiniog if you are modelling in the olden days) Railway England Loco model that Mercian Models had made was shown as unavailable on their website:

Trevor from Mercian wrote back:

"We are aiming at doing another batch but are exploring the possibility in having a ready to run chassis built for it [ the project has been started] and we would like to aim for October for the prototype, and hopefully end of year for sales. The price target is the same as the kit [£90.50].  The kit will be designed with a compromise wheelbase to accomadate both the longer and shorter wheelbase locos. The body tops already do the variants. "

cool eh!