Archive for the ‘General’ Category

I need to do a better job…

Friday, February 28th, 2014

…of keeping this site up to date.

There really have been a lot of things going on in my model railroading life. I have no idea why I don’t take the time to write about it. I apologize but it will likely happen again.

Last weekend Chris was the instructor at our first of hopefully many Half Nuts Model Railroaders clinics. Chris showed us how easy it is to build a turnout from scratch. We will need a part two to finish them off.

Tomorrow a bunch of us are going to Saint John to operate on and visit some layouts there. We are all looking forward to the trip, some much more than others (hope you can sleep tonight, Chris).

Our operating group has grown in the past year. Most operating sessions have 8 – 10 operators showing up and there’s potential for 2 or 3 more.

It’s been great because I’ve been able to sort out how to operate the BS&T with more than 6 operators. In the past, when we’ve had guests from “away”, I’ve struggled with how to operate the layout with more than 6. It seemed there were always issues with scheduling and traffic. Not saying we have completely eliminated issues, not by a long shot, but there is a little more “logic” to a session. HA!

Time to hit the hay – it’s going to be an early morning tomorrow…

Christmas Wonderland!

Monday, December 10th, 2012

It’s been more than a year since I’ve posted here and all I am doing is making a marketing pitch to have a many people as possible come to O’leary this Saturday, Dec. 15th, for their Christmas Wonderland fundraiser.  The UMG will be there with their layout spreading the word of Model Railroading, celebrating the season, and helping out a fellow member, the Reverend Ewen Moase.  Click the image to the right for more information.

Hope to see you there!

The Van Horne Experience

Monday, October 31st, 2011

Well, as we are heading past Moncton we have only a few more hours until we are home and our weekend trek is officially over. It’s a fitting time to make my last entry of our adventures.

We struck out for Laval to find Van Horne Hobbies. Derwin had been there once before so we knew it was difficult to find. If it wasn’t for the GPS we would have missed it. The building is not what you would expect to house a model train store (see photo below). The sign is also not what most would consider “eye catching” either. I really had no idea what to expect inside such a place.

Let me tell you, I was not even remotely prepared for what greeted us inside the door. The place was wall to wall and floor to ceiling display cases and boxes full of train stuff! Chris related it to something you would see on the TV show “Hoarders”. You could hardly move for all the stuff!

I spent a long time looking through boxes of old Athearn and Roundhouse kits and hadn’t seen them all when Chris said “you have to see this”. So I went to the back of the store and saw several very large display cases FULL of locomotives! Everywhere you turned were cases with what I would guess were hundreds of HO scale locos! Unfortunately there were some completely obscured by the boxes piled around them.

The place is definitely worth a stop. But I have a couple of suggestions if you do go… 1. Don’t bring your family and 2. Plan on a couple hours to browse through the boxes.

I wasn’t planning to buy anything more after our visit to Hobby Junction but I just had to drop a little more cash at Van Horne!

So now we are almost home and I am officially broke after paying for gas in Salisbury. I don’t mind though because our weekend adventure in Montreal was definitely worth it!

ps – the photos of the display cases below were taken as I was standing in pretty much one spot. I don’t think any of them are of the same case.










West Island & Montreal Railway Co.

Sunday, October 30th, 2011

After visiting Canada Central we headed over to Hobby Junction. I thought I had pictures from Hobby Junction but I can’t find them now.

After a lot of browsing, free coffee and donuts, and dispersal of funds the guys at HJ suggested we visit a club only 5 minutes away – they were having an operating session.

So after a quick lunch at a nearby deli we headed over to the club. We were told to ring the doorbell and “tell em Dave sent ya”.

We received a very warm welcome and were invited upstairs. Unfortunately, they had already finished operating and were packing up.

We talked about their layout, their modules and plans for the future. Derwin was star struck when he realized the guys he had been talking to were Ken Goslett and Stan Smaill. He actually felt a little faint as we left the building.

It was a great layout that looked like it would be a lot of fun to operate. It would be nice to organize a trip to operate there some day.

Anyway, they said we really had to go to Van Horne Hobbies. So, with Only a little time to get there before they closed we decided to get on the road quick.

Next post, The Van Horne experience!




A day late.

Sunday, October 30th, 2011

We had a very busy day yesterday. We arrived at the Canada Central very close to opening time and the place was already packed with people. What a layout (but I’ll get to that later).

Just inside the entrance were a bunch of sales tables with a lot of ‘stuff’. We wandered around for a bit to see what was available and get an idea of prices. Some thing were a little more expensive then we are used to but a lot of stuff was pretty reasonably priced. Canadian Express Lines was there so I picked up a sound decoder for my US Interchange locos and also a couple automobiles.

Then we headed into the layout room. All I can say is ” “. That’s right, I was speechless. “WOW!” does not even come close to describing my initial reaction.

The place is huge and it was made for operations. The three of us could have gone there for an operating session and not seen one another the whole time we were there!

The crowd made it very difficult to get around to see it all, and to enjoy the experience, but we managed.

Here are some photos that I managed to grab with my phone. I have others I took with my SLR that I’ll upload later, hopefully, when I am at a real computer. I’m typing this on my iPhone as we ate speeding along Rte 20 heading home.







Next Stop, Montreal!

Friday, October 28th, 2011

I seem to start out posts lately (I use the term “lately” very loosely since I can’t remember when my last post was) with “I know it’s been a while…”.

Anyway, since I have some spare time on our drive to the last open house of the Canada Central in Montreal, I thought I’d share a few of our “adventures”.

We stopped in Edmunston to load up on (and get rid of) coffee. Lo and behold we found a train for Chris to operate with his WiThrottle (iPod)!


The Passing of a Friend

Saturday, October 9th, 2010

I was shocked when I read the email this morning announcing the passing of a very good friend – Dave Thompson of Berwick, NS.

Dave joined our UMG modular group a few years ago.  He fit into the group right from the start with his good natured sense of humour and eager willingness to lend a hand.

Dave enjoyed getting children interested in the hobby of model railroading.  It was rare when you didn’t see Dave operating as a conductor or brakeman for a young operator during a show.

I could only find a few photos of Dave in my collection, but thanks to Dave M. and Doug W. for digging some up and sending them along.

Dave will be missed by all that knew him.


Moncton Visit

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

A group from Moncton are coming over on Saturday for a day of operating.  It should be a fun day and I’m sure I’ll have lots of stories for next week (as long as I take the time to post them).

I haven’t had much time to work on the layout but with the impending visit in mind I did take some time on the weekend to work on some electrical issues.

The track layout in Chappellton has changed many times since the layout was first constructed.  I originally had feeder wires to just about every siding in the town.  The feeders were disconnected to allow for rearranging the track and, although most of them were reattached, apparently I missed some.  So I re-soldered feeders to the passenger track where we were seeing trains slow down for some “unexplained” reason.  I also relocated some other unused feeder wires to the industrial area of Chappellton where we lost power completely during the last operating session.  Hopefully that town will run much better on Saturday.

There was a short section of track in Stevenville, between two turnouts, where we were having issues with locos stalling.  So I ran new feeder wires to that section.  Unfortunately that did not resolve the issue.  I discovered that the locos were actually losing power on the point rails of one of the turnouts.  So I installed jumpers across the riveted section of the point rails and everything works fine now.  However, I was not careful enough when I soldered the fine wires across the opening and actually soldered across the gap.  This resulted in the joint being too stiff for the Z-spring wire I had installed in the turnout’s throw bar.  I had to install a Caboose ground throw.  It’s amazing how one simple thing can lead to so many jobs.

I also started wiring a series of plugs around the layout that will be used for accessory power.  The plugs will be switched from a single location near the door using a lighted switch as a reminder that the power is on.  Since wiring the lights in the passenger station in Chappellton I have left the wall wort power supply plugged in for days.  Fortunately the bulbs do not get so hot that they melt the styrene on the street above.

There are a few more things I’d like to do before Saturday and precious little free time to do them.  As long as we have operating instructions we’ll be good to go.  The other things will just have to go undone.

Anyway, there will be more next week, I hope.  Until then – don’t drive your trains while talking on a cell phone!  It’s against the law now, you know.  You should get a Bluetooth device.


Getting Ready to Operate

Sunday, January 17th, 2010

Being the owner of an operating model railroad takes a lot of work!  Especially when you’ve let things slide and the problems start piling up.  Being the hardcore procrastinator that I am I’ve put off a lot of things for another day.  That day has come for some of them.

I’ve been intending to add contact strips under my lift out for a long time, perhaps years.  It’s always a nuisance to feed the wire that powers the rails on the lift out through the slot and then plug it in.  The biggest problem I’ve had, besides remembering to the put the lift out in place “before” an operating session, is to remember to plug it in so it has power.  About 5 minutes into an operating session I often hear someone saying “You forget to put the bridge in!”  or about 10 or 15 minutes into the session, “There’s no power on the bridge!”.  So today I added some brass contact strips to the framework under the bridge and some brass pins to the bottom side of the bridge so that as soon as the bridge is in place it has power.  At least one of the recurring bridge problems has been solved.

I received a Proto 2000 0-8-0 switcher from my wife for Christmas.  I installed a decoder in it this afternoon.  I have had one of these little steam locos for about a year.  They run very smoothly but without a lot of traction.  I was hoping the second unit coupled to the first would be enough to get the Milk Train over “The Ridge”.  After messing around for about 1/2 an hour getting them speed matched I coupled up to the Milk Train and headed for Derwin’s Drop.  Unfortunately about 1/2 way up The Ridge they both started spinning.  Gutless wonders!   They will still need the Kenville switcher to help them over The Ridge.

I hope to get a power issue in Stevenville resolved this afternoon and fix a couple grade crossings in Kenville.  Then it’s time to make sure all the freight cars are in the proper places, distribute the orders, and clean up!

If things aren’t too hectic this evening I’ll post some pictures this week sometime.




Monday, January 4th, 2010

Don’t think this will be a trend – two posts in as many days.  I just had to tell you about my new throttle!

A few weeks back I read about new throttle software for use with the JMRI suite called “WiThottle”.  The software runs on an iPod Touch or iPhone.  I’ve been itching to get an iPod Touch for a while and this was just the thing to seal the deal.

The “Wi” part of the name means WiFi.  This software connects to a host computer running DecoderPro and the WiThrottle server using a wireless network router.  If you’ve already got a wireless router in your house it’s amazingly easy to set up.  Oh yes, you also have to have a computer interface to your DCC system.

I thought the “throttle” would be difficult to use since there is nothing tactile about it – no knob to turn or button to press.  It is a little different, but quite easy to get used to.  I have mine set up with the speed slider on the right of the screen which is a more comfortable location for me.  It can be set up so that the slider is on the left of the screen.

Instead of tactile responses like a knob or button there are audible clicks as the slider is moved up or down.  This gives a good indication that you are moving the slider.  No clicks means something is wrong.

The function controls are the white squares to the left of the speed slider.  All 28 functions are easily selectable from the throttle.  Direction “buttons” are located at the top of the screen.

To move a locomotive you just tap the direction button and slide your thumb up the screen over the slider.  It is a little touchy (small movements result in large speed changes) even with the sensitivity at the lowest setting.  Hopefully there will be an update soon that will address this.  It takes a little time to get used to how much movement of the slider is required to move a locomotive.

The throttle also features a yard mode.  The idle position is in the center of the slider.  You slide up for forward and down for reverse.  It does make yard operations a lot easier when you don’t have to continually hunt for the direction buttons.  This throttle configuration does take some getting used to.  You have to lift your thumb off the slider before you can change direction.

Using it at Derwin’s this evening brought up a few issues.  I had to be careful lifting my thumb off the slider after bringing the speed slider to idle (center) or the throttle would click and the loco would start moving slowly.  I also had some trouble getting the loco to change direction on a few occasions.  I’m sure these issues will be fixed in future updates.

The best thing about this throttle is that it can be used with any DCC system as long as it has a computer interface, JMRI software running, and a wireless network.  There are no compatibility issues between NCE, Digitrax, or Lenz