Friday, June 29, 2012

Amusing photos

A couple of pictures from the Around Hornell web site of Erie E unit that almost ended up in the river outside the Hornell engine shops. I'd hate to have to explain this to the superintendent.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Quick update

Two quick updates. First, the Stanton drive and unpowered companion truck arrived quickly. Perhaps too quickly, as I haven't had time to get a chassis ready for them. I tested the drive on a DC test track, and it zips along really well. I'm excited. I didn't get a second powered truck as I am not going to be pulling more than a few cars at a time in the pocket terminals. These are for my box cab scratch building project

Also, the overheating in the 44 tonner seems to be motor-induced and not decoder-caused. There seems to be some binding, so I'll be disassembling the motor enclosure and investigating. It may be a wire routing issue, as I could have crammed the motor wires into the frame causing problems.

Pretty much a total work haltage on everything at the moment with my starting a second week of jury duty and working in the evenings to make up the lost time. Should just be one more week...

Friday, June 8, 2012

Form Friday | Pennsy Coal and Empty Cards

This week's installment is form C.T.1030 from the Pennsylvania Railroad from 1962. This form is geared towards coal trains with special marks for type of coal, Anthracite or Bituminous and whether or not the car is loaded. Could make an interesting substitution for a pack of car cards or a regular switch list if you are moving bulk commodities in unit trains. I am guessing, but I bet that most railroads had something similar for various types of freight if they moved a lot of it.

There is also a mark on the form (I think it is supposed to be a double dash like an equal sign = ) to indicate if it is moving on a C.T.212 Empty Car Instructions card which was placed directly on an empty car (as seen below). There are a lot of instruction cards that go directly onto cars, and, in addition to chalking cars for sorting, is an area that would be interesting to try to translate to a model railroad.


Thursday, June 7, 2012

HBS no.500 Shell Arrives

I received a well packaged shipment from Shapeways 3D printing service Monday night as scheduled.

Right off I am both pleased and disappointed with my first Shapeways print job. Overall, this is quite the rush to materialize an object that comes from a personal desire to create it out of thin air. More on the differences of modeling satisfaction later...

Being a little more critical, the roof is rippled with regular lines running lengthwise. This must be do to the resolution coupled with a slightly curved and pitched section. The ends of the roof are just fine, and I can easily sand the ridges flush. I thought I had opted for the polished option, but alas, I did not, so I'm not sure if that would have taken care of the roof or not. As a result, the model is a little chalky, and the polished option is supposed to be silky smooth like a molded plastic part. There is also a little deflection at the bottoms of the long sides which results in a curved bottom edge. I can probably sand this level. Part of the learning curve, this may be due to the length and narrow wall thickness.

Some of the confusion with the polished option occurred because I had to revise my model several times to fit within the tolerances of their equipment and ended up re-ordering several times because of its being rejected when it went to printing. The last time I ordered, I must have forgotten to add the polished option.

Resolution for the material I chose, "White Strong & Flexible", which is PA 2200, a selective-laser-sintered (SLS) process, was listed at .2mm and wall thickness at .7mm. I had modeled the mullions for the windows to the .7mm tolerance, but I found out this doesn't work for unsupported elements. These I will add with the details, which I can actually get printed as separate items, or simply use styrene or brass which will produce better results anyway. The windows and end doors have an inset of about .2mm to test that detail. It seems perfectly acceptable. Walls were modeled at about 1 mm. A different material may yield even better results. The minimum thickness and detail level is very comparable to injection molded locomotive shells. In fact, I think I will beef up the wall thickness on the next one.
I had to remove the mullions from the final version to get it to pass pre-printing inspection.

I opted for the standard plastic material that is "White Strong & Flexible" which is the least expensive at $1.40/cm3. The cost is based on amount of material used, not the overall size of your object, so my total was about $24 for a 4.5" long locomotive shell. There are many other materials you can print with ranging from this basic plastic to stainless steel, an elastic plastic, silver and now even ceramic. I will probably try the "Frosted Ultra High Detail" Multijet Modeling (MJM) material next at about three times the cost, but the resolution is .3mm for the walls with a .1mm tolerance for details. Maximum size is 12x18x15 inches. This is not as strong as the SLS material, but with some increased wall thicknesses, I think a locomotive shell would be just fine. This will allow me to model the roof detail parts on the main model. If this is successful, I will be very excited...

Not to say I am not now. I am thrilled with the project so far mainly because it allows me to take advantage of my virtual 3D modeling skills to create something that is exactly what I draw. This is not always the case when my human hands start cutting styrene or wood. The precision is a seductive element, plus the magic of creating something on a computer screen and having it show up at your door a few days later in physical form is unreal. A very similar (and dopamine induced) feeling as seeing a building I design emerge from the ground into reality. That is the rush a designer works so hard for. 

This process of 3D printing speeds up the satisfaction while reducing some of the pain of physically crafting an object. Because of this, the satisfaction is different than crafting a model by cutting, assembling and painting. Modeling in the computer is a much more intellectually satisfying transformation from concept to realization while the completely hand crafted process is a little less of the intellectual (maybe because the design is usually rendered two dimensionally for assembly purposes rather than three dimensionally with a full realization of form and spatial qualities?) combined with the visceral activity of hand manipulation in scratch building. 

Now there is still plenty to do in hand finishing this particular model, but I imagine this will feel more like detailing a store bought item than truly building something from scratch. Not necessarily a better or worse thing, it is just a difference that is worthy of thinking about.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

44 tonner finally in service - sort of

Looks like it was poor electrical pickup in the long-running saga of the Bachmann 44t (single motor). To get to this conclusion, I have dealt with 2 decoders and multiple install/re-installs of each, plus multiple disassembly/re-assembly events. While each one of these events has taken its toll on man and machine, it has led to some new understandings of micro-decoders and Bachmann locomotives. 

First, the .75 micro Tsunami and .5 micro LokSound amperage ratings seems to be plenty for the small switchers in my roster. At first I thought the hard re-starts were due to an overloading limitation. Not so. 

I've also learned that the design of the power pick-ups on the 44t doesn't work for sound decoders - I guess it isn't consistent enough? What gets me, though, is that I haven't heard this from anyone on the Intertubes. There have been a few references to difficulties, but nowhere have I found that modification was necessary. Modelers such as Wolfgang and Rich seem to have no problem in there decoder installs. I must mention that the factory installed decoder works fine, which is why I thought it was an amperage problem with the micros.

During the time I was working on the 44t, I installed the LokSound in a Roundhouse cab (Erie no.20) that was re-motored by Ron Lafever as a way to narrow the possible problems. It works just fine - letting me know it was the 44t and not the decoder - but if the boxcab gets going more than about 10 mph, the sound of the gearing drowns out the decoder sound. (I'm close to buying a Stanton drive from North West Short Line for the boxcabs in my roster. BTW, the 3D printed HBS boxcab shell should show up Monday evening. More on that as it develops.)

The fix for the 44t was simple using some spring wire donated by Tom Pearson. A touch of solder and bending into place, and the pickup problem was gone. The locomotive, however, still has a problem.

A truck on the Bachmann 44 tonner getting a wiper pick up wire to help supply constant current to the decoder.
Now the problem is apparently the well documented overheating of the micro Tsunami. After about 10 minutes of running, the locomotive came to a dead stop. The decoder light was still on, but no sound nor motor control. Lifting and replacing the locomotive on the rails reset the decoder, but it shut off after a few seconds again. So next move is to find some metal to make myself a heat sink. 

Definitely not a productive way to spend my modeling time, nor worth the headspace that this problem has occupied for the past couple of years. I think I probably could have scratch built all the structures at Harlem Station in the time I have wasted on this project. *sigh* I have learned quite a bit along the way, however, about decoders, motors and finally solving a pick up problem. I call this collateral knowledge, which I do appreciate, but I still can't help but feel cheated out of a lot of quality modeling time.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Form Friday

After following Tony Thompson's and Mr Car Floater's posts about translating to a layout waybills and other paper work for a while, I thought I would post a couple of forms from the Erie that might be of interest.

The waybill in question is for a three-part prepaid freight bill that has copies for the shipper and cashier as well as the original. This seems to be of common configuration and information set, and it can easily be transferred to a format for modeling as in Tony's illustrations. Would or could the "prepaid" nature come into play for modelers? Probably not likely, but hardcore enthusiasts who would dare follow Doug Gurin's ideas on modeling operations more prototypically may find a gem here.

Left to right is Keith Robinson, Riley Triggs, Tony Koester and Doug Gurin at 2011 Tulsa Op/LDSig meet.

At the Tulsa Op/LDSig meet a couple of years ago, Doug (seated far right) suggested that there are many, many, (many) possibilities for getting serious about modeling operational features of train movements. One suggestion was to have paperwork for less than carload pickups from the passenger depot platform. The slip of paper/waybill would represent this pick up and have the usual effects on the operations of a layout. It would give passenger trains more to do, physically engage the operators, slow train movements, etc. The prepaid waybill above may suggest another one of these possibilities.

I don't know how this was handled (feel free to jump in here, anyone), but I assume that Cash On Delivery items would have been handled by conductors in the field? So in addition to the stack of waybills, the conductors would need to return with cash and then reconcile their day's collections with the waybills before turning everything over to the clerk. So having a stack of regular and prepaid waybills would add a layer of complexity Doug is looking for.

I'm not considering doing this, but I think the idea that the physical manifestation of a characteristic of the prototype being modeled is a good thing. One should pick and choose these items from the operational landscape just as carefully as one would pick scenery for a particular location along the tracks. For my own interests, I am seriously considering a flaky idea - to model the tug boat/car float operations. More on this as it develops...

More forms that may be fun not necessarily as operational feature of your layout, but more likely paper scenery that can extend the modeling experience beyond the layout.

Need a form to log the newbie's basic contact information? How about an application to be an employee of your railroad?
Have a wreck? How about getting your conductor to report any impacts to the Dispatcher or Trainmaster and make a note on the Record of Impacts form? As much as a fine system relies on the good natured owning-up to mistakes as part of the game, this might be a little harder for crews to enjoy, as it means railroad property was put in physical jeopardy. A certain level of understanding would have to be achieved that although property damage is undesirable, it is accepted as part of the game, and to deal with it in the game is actually fun...

Another one in the category of Doug's LCL activity is the Stop-Off Car form which is used for similar actions. I like the illustrations depicting proper readjustment of car contents. This gave me an idea for a visual bad order form where you could mark locations of problems on the car or locomotive rather than trying to describe them. Could be similar to a rental car diagram showing prior damage.
Finally, a more detailed form for interacting with the customers. Categories include lost items, billing info and other conditions that might affect a delivery. Again, not something to be modeled in my opinion, but maybe it will spark some other idea.

I've always enjoyed ephemera, and any way to include such characteristic bits of paperwork is welcomed - as long as it adds to the flavor of the layout experience and is not just busywork that detracts from the fun of operating. This may be hard to nail down for your crew as the sweet spot could be anywhere from a Dungeon and Dragon's mounds of character and adventuring paperwork to no paperwork at all.

The key, in my opinion, to making any decision about a layout including operating procedures is to make anything you do on the railroad essential and inevitable so that when you don't do it, it seems like there is something missing about the operating session.