Newb from Sierra Nevada

Discussion in 'The Caboose' started by TechOtter, Jan 8, 2008.

  1. TechOtter

    TechOtter New Member

    Howdy all,

    My name is Ed, and my wife Diane put me onto this website with it's variety of forums. We're getting started on our first joint model railroading venture (I used to model N scale in my younger days, and her father left a ton of N and HO equipment behind when he passed away a few years ago). I'm in my early 50s, an IT Systems Administrator, and a Freemason in northern California. My wife is younger than I am, a GIS specialist, and not a Freemason in northern California. As far as model railroading goes, I prefer equipment detailing and operations, and she prefers scenery and building. Nice combination huh?

    Our model railroading plans change every time the subject comes up, but basically we want to have an N scale layout in the play room, and an HO layout in the garage when the time comes. We're starting with an N layout based on a plan in Atlas' "NiNe Scale Model Railroads". We were originally going to build on a 4x8 piece of plywood using cookie-cutter construction for the rises and drops, but we've just decided today to forget about the plywood, and build on a solid-foam base instead. Ultimately, I'd like to run a HOn3 layout representing the Nevada County Narrow Gauge RR (Never Come, Never Go).

    Things sure have changed since I was modeling years ago. New techniques, new materials, new equipment, new technologies... We just came back from the train show at the Sacramento Convention Center on Saturday with a new 2-8-0 Consolidation that we thought we could run with an as-yet-unbought Digitrax DCC control system, and found out that "DCC-ready" does not mean "DCC-run-able". After feeling a little bummed, and just a little like I had been taken, I realized that there's a lot I don't know about model railroading these days. Live and learn... and I guess that's why I'm here. To learn, and hopefully to give back some day. I have already begun enjoying your posts and inputs, and I look forward to joining in with you... as soon as I have something of value to say. Thanks everyone.
  2. CCT70

    CCT70 Member

    Welcome! I had thought about going to Sacramento this past weekend, but the weather was lousy, I had a meeting early Sunday morning and decided to work on the layout instead. Make yourself at home and post away, the more the better. There are a lot of forums dedicated to model railroading, but this one is by far the best and friendliest, so you'll enjoy yourself. There are some GREAT modelers here and a treasure trove of information.

    What part of Northern California are you in? If you and your wife would like to do some 12" to the foot modeling, we can always use fresh meat ( I mean volunteers :mrgreen: )at the Western Pacific RR Museum in Portola. We're a really light hearted, zany bunch, but we have a lot of fun and get a lot accomplished. Our collection is one of the best in the nation and we have a very good model railroad comittee getting ready to build a large double deck portable HO layout (portable as in it is going into a UP 85' baggage car!), so there's something for everybody. Let me know if you're interested in the museum.

    Again, welcome aboard and extend that welcome to your wife to post as well, we always like to meet new modelers. :wave:
  3. TrainNut

    TrainNut Ditat Deus

    Wow, lessee, where do I start...
    First off, welcome the site. Your sure to find answers to pretty much any railroad related question you can think of to ask. GIS specialist - what exactly does your wife use GIS for? My wife employees a few people with GIS experience and they use it for Military work...EE's, BFR's, stuff like that all up and down the west coast.
    I dabble mostly in N gauge but as a true train lover, I've got a little bit in most of the other scales as well. My n gauge layout recently took over the dining room, I'm thinking about putting a G scale garden layout in the back yard, trying to figure out how to add HO below my N scale as well as finding someplace else to get started on an HOn3 layout. I just purchased the new Blackstone Mudhen this last summer and am itching to have someplace for her to stretch out and chuff along.
    Foam - I love the stuff. My dining room layout is my first major layout to use foam as a base and I am very pleased with the results! Check out my thread in my signature for lots of pictures and examples. There is even a picture of my son sitting on top of it, playing, that shows the strength of the foam.
    Don't despair that your new engine is not DCC. Digitrax allows you to run one DC engine at a time using the 00 address. It sings a little (as do all DC engines on DCC) but everything else functions perfectly. I like that feature of Digitrax as I have lots of engines I never plan on converting but with this system, I can still run them anytime.
    Once again, look around, check the place out and remember, there's no such thing as a stupid question (I already asked them all)!
  4. Ralph

    Ralph's for fun!

    Glad you could join us!
  5. TechOtter

    TechOtter New Member

    Well thank you kindly. We live in Grass Valley, work in Rocklin, and I go to Lodge in Yuba City. We met a man a year or so ago at a local model railroad convention meet in Roseville and bought boxes of old copies of MR from him. He worked up at Portola in the museum and was a big Western Pacific fan. Sorry to say I can't remember his name. I just asked my wife where Portola is, and she showed me a Google map of the route from our house. It'll take 2 1/4 hours each way, so we may make it a day trip soon. We'll look forward to seeing you there... and here.
  6. TechOtter

    TechOtter New Member

    Well, she actually has a degree as a botanist, but she fell into GIS when she needed to create some maps of habitat and wildlife locations for the company that we both work at. She is now in the process of getting a second degree, this time in Geography at Sac State and Sierra College so she can improve her GIS skill set and general knowledge of all things geological/geographical. I am, understandably, very proud of her.

    Wow. I didn't know that. I was under the impression that DCC was DCC and DC was DC and never the train shall meet. Thanks for bringing that out. We do have a number of older DC equipment at home that we were planning to sell off and replace with DCC equipment, but I may hang on to some of them now... at least the better quality ones anyway. I did find a website referenced in one of the posts here about how to drop in a decoder into that 2-8-0 that we bought at the train show, so that won't be much of a problem if I can just solder straight. I have ordered a couple of books about DCC from Amazon with a gift certificate my wife gave me, but I digress...

    Bet you haven't :rolleyes:, and here's proof: One of the Digitrax reps at the train show said that it really wasn't worthwhile to mod old locomotives so that they ran on DCC. He said that motors ran much smoother these days on the newer locomotives, and that the older motors weren't really all that suitable for usage with the new systems. I was thinking that might be true with older locomotives that weren't really top-grade, like LL or some of the Bachmanns. But is that blanket statement true, or would some of the old Atlas steam locos be worthy of consideration. We have an old Atlas Big Boy in N scale that I would love to see converted, or we could just run it on DCC and have it "sing" a little (although that does sound like it is stressing the loco some). Thanks for the info regarding 00.
  7. puddlejumper

    puddlejumper Member

    "We"??? are building a layout?!?!? :thumb: Lucky man, you stumbled onto a keeper if she is modeling trains with you! Where can I get me one of those?!?!

    As for the DCC thing it is true that many older locomotives do not lend themselves well to DCC conversion, however if you have a loco that runs well and you like it, it only costs $15 or so to convert to DCC so go ahead and try it. If it fails, your out $15. Not really even that much, since you can take the decoder off and put it into a different loco.

    Welcome to the Gauge!!

  8. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    Welcome Ed. My mother-in-law used to get GIS - Guaranteed Income Supplement.
    Seems to be a little vagueness in how DCC is referenced by the advertisers.
    The basic wiring for DCC (in a loco) is to clip the 2 wires from the wheels to the motor and put a chip in between. (Need to get wire colours right.) The hitch is when the "2 wires" don't exist as wires but include the frame and most of the motor. Examples are old Athearn where the motor is bolted to the frame and any of the diesels where the frame is in 2 halves surrounding the motor. The other trick is finding a place for the chip. (a review a few years ago said that it was nice that they had included the socket for DCC; now if only they had left room for the chip.)
  9. TrainNut

    TrainNut Ditat Deus

    Very, very, similar to my wife and I. If I may, can I ask which company? (PM me if yor not comfortable posting that info here).

    Some systems treat it that way.

    Those who have commented above have given excellent opinons on converting old loco's. In regards to stressing the loco, Digitrax does recommend not leaving a DC engine on a DCC powered track idling for any length of time. Evidently it will damage the motor. There was a guy out at the local club that left a DC engine idling for several hours and learned the hard way.
  10. woodone

    woodone Member

    Welcome to The Gauge:wave:
    Humm- Grass Valley- Ricklin-Yuba City. All very well kown names.( for me) Born and raised in the Yuba City-Sutter City aera.
    Better make that trip up the Hi-Way 70 route to Portola- great Western Pacific views.
    Got DCC questions? take a look at the DCC section= lot of good information.
  11. TechOtter

    TechOtter New Member

    No sweat. We work for Wildlands, Inc. We're the largest Mitigation Banking company west of the Miss, and east of it too, if I'm not mistaken. We're proud of what the company does, and what we do to help it do what it does.

    Thanks for that info. I am now determined to re-examine the N locos we have, and re-evaluate their potential for DCC-rebuild. 60103 brought up an interesting point about some motor contacts being through the frame as opposed to being wired in. That is obviously going to provide a nearly-insurmountable problem in rewiring for DCC. Which brings up another point involving the process of re-motoring locomotives, but I guess I should drag that one over to the DCC section.
  12. w8jy

    w8jy Member

    Welcome to the Gauge, Brother. I think you will find that just about any question you have can be answered by this friendly, knowledgeable group.
    I also model N, and use DCC. I think you will enjoy this - things have changed a lot over the last few years.
  13. eightyeightfan1

    eightyeightfan1 Now I'm AMP'd

    You might want to check around at your local LHS(Gaugespeak for Local Hobby Shop). They might know someone, or even have someone on staff that can convert your old locos to DCC, for a couple of bucks.
    There is a company, that(or used to) called Aztek(I think) that would mill the split frames of N scale locos for decoder space.
  14. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    If you can find space for the decoder, isolating the motor from the frame to convert an old locomotive to dcc is not difficult. The motor will have either wires, or some sort of clip or wiper to contact the two sides of the frame. If it has a clip or wiper, solder a wire to each clip, and then put a piece of heat shrink tubing over the connection to act as an insulator. Then all you need to do is fasten a wire to each side of the frame either with solder or a screw, and put the decoder between the two sets of wires
  15. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    The trick with the older locos is usually to find a way to insulate both brushes from the frame. If you remember the old open-frame motors with the V-shaped spring holding the brushes, one side of the spring had insulation on it and a wire from the brush to the pickup. For those, you just find some insulation for the other side and run a wire from that brush to the decoder.
    Some of them are just trickier than others.

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