Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Sea Trials #2 - Results


First of all, I had every intention of posting this update sooner but the events on and around the Washington DC Navy Yard dominated the week and frankly made the hobby seem pretty insignificant in the overall scheme of things. Please keep the victims and their families in your prayers and thoughts. I for one have grown weary of these types of events. This one hit very, very close to home as I work in that building almost every day.
As far as the “Sea Trials #2” op session last Sunday - I'd give it a C-. <g>
I meant to take some pictures during the session, but frankly got so involved in trouble shooting and responding to questions I didn’t have a chance. I did manage to grab a short video of no. 20, the WASHINGTONIAN, crossing Williams Creek bridge. It's shown above.
Goals for this session were to test the entire schedule, see if the Passenger Terminal Operator position was interesting enough to be a dedicated job, and ensure everything was ready to go for the op session scheduled during the MER convention next month.
We only had three crew members who'd operated before - Bob, Steve and John. The remaining crew members have seen the layout but never operated on it! In addition, last time we ran only the freights. This is we tried running the entire schedule. I knew we weren't going to set any on-time records. We did encounter some performance and electrical issues.
On a good note, as always it was fun to see everyone and catch up.
What I've learned -
  1. I need to get some specifics into the "intro brief" - keep it short and to the point but there still needs to be some very basic information covered. Next time I'll try making myself some notes.....
  2. Need better explanations of things like the waybill routings, the train descriptions, etc... so the YM has some idea what cars go in what trains, etc... oh, and a line up of trains and what engines go on which trains might help the YM as well.
  3. There are a few trackwork/wiring issues to be addressed before the next session. Each session seems to turn up a few of these. Thankfully, the vast majority are straightforward and easily fixed. 
  4. I was truly puzzled by the radio throttle issues we started having about halfway through the session, especially since the last session had absolutely zero issues with the throttles. When thinking through what was different from previous sessions to this one, the only thing I could come up with was three engines with QSI sound systems were on the layout. These all ran fine prior to the session, but I never ran them all at the same time. Removing them from the layout and resetting the DCC system immediately cleared up most of the issues. The "why" remains to be determined....
  5. I suspect one or more throttles have mis-set frequency numbers. I need to check ALL the throttles and make sure they're assigned to the right channel.
 On the operating scheme my takeaway is:
  1. The Passenger operator position has the potential to be an interesting job and is worth pursuing but we need to figure out the best way to integrate that job into the op scheme. I suspect one issue is I designed the trackwork one way, and it was being operated another. Better job description paperwork would certainly help.
  2. Some of the passenger cars were jumping the rails a lot more than I want to see. Need to isolate the problem - is it a certain car, types of cars, or specific brands. Some of the Rapido cars were fine, others were extremely troublesome for instance. Need to extensively check the passenger cars and see what the issues are. Offending cars will remain off the layout until they can prove themselves in test running. Update – Checking the wheelset gauge on some of the passenger cars shows several have out of gauge wheelsets.
  3. One of the locomotives was displaying some bizarre behavior - the lead set of drivers kept "creeping" up over the rails, even on tangent track. This needs some study as well.
  4. I think the timetable is stabilized enough that we can use it for the next few sessions. Perhaps we flew a little too close to the sun by trying to run a number of extras but I wanted to stress the layout. We succeeded in doing just that.
Considering the locomotive and throttle issues we were dangerously close to running out of locomotives, so getting more decoder equipped power is a very high priority. I'm also getting tired of seeing locomotives lettered for the C&O, Reading, and Western Maryland!
I still need more cars on the railroad - Ben brought by some cars (15 or so) which really helped fill a few trains out. But we still need more, so I need to get building!
Update – Have spent time over the last week getting some “basic” freight cars (Accurail/Bowser and the like) and getting all the cars cleared off the “RIP” track (mostly coupler/wheelset repair/replacement). So I’ve added a total of 22 more freight cars to the fleet in the last few days. They aren’t weathered, but at least they’re on the railroad!

First of all, I had every intention of sending this note yesterday. Obviously, the events on and around the Navy Yard dominated the day yesterday and frankly made the hobby seem pretty insignificant in the overall scheme of things. Please keep the victims and their families in your prayers and thoughts. I for one have grown weary of these types of events. This one hit very, very close to home as I work in that building almost every day.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Progress(?) Report

I've been working on two scenery projects at once - the White River scene and the peninsula farm scene. Last night I test fitted the barn in place on the farm scene that dominates the center of the peninsula. The tree is made from a twisted wire armature with Supertree branches covered by Noch leaves and some fine ground foam for "highlights."
But, considering this is how the White River Junction scene currently looks, and I have an op session on Sunday, I guess it's time to start cleaning up!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

MicroLux Hobby Acrylics

A couple of months ago many model railroaders were dismayed to learn that Testors was discontinuing production of Floquil and PollyScale acrylic paints. These paints had been a mainstay of model railroaders for years, and based on the reaction to this news in various model railroad forums and blogs many model railroaders were ready to jump off tall buildings.  
Rather than getting overly upset about it, I opted to look for an alternative. One of them landed, quite literally, in my lap as I was flipping through latest Micro-Mark catalog.
In that catalog I noticed MicroMark was coming out with a new line of hobby acrylic paints called "MicroLux." 
The are prethinned for airbrushing just like regular artists acrylic airbrush paints (from manufacturer's like Golden). 

I also noticed Micro-Mark was offering Vallejo "Model Air" airbrush paints in "railroad colors" matched to the now defunct PollyScale and Floquil lines. Vallejo is well known to military and figure modelers as one of the best acrylic paints for model building available anywhere. In the list of the Vallejo and MicroLux colors you'll find many of the old names like "Tarnished Black," "Boxcar Red," etc....
So I went ahead and ordered a few colors of both the Vallejo railroad colors and the MicroLux paints.  

I just got them, so I haven't used them yet. The Vallejo paints are actually Vallejo's line of military colors - and come in the familiar 17 mil "eye drop" bottles. Micro-Mark has determined that Vallejo "Rust" is a color match for Polly Scale "Boxcar Red" and labeled it as such. 
The line of MicroLux paints come in larger bottles - 2 oz of paint in each and are specifically matched colors. I was thrilled to read the "Made by Vallejo" labeling on the Micro-Mark bottles. 
I haven't tried airbrushing with these paints - yet - I will report back with the results, but if these spray half as well as "regular" Vallejo paints but we may have a winner.