Tag Archives: hobby

Trains: First DCS Lesson

51j4po-rq1l._sx385_bo1,204,203,200_How many of us throw money at a problem in an effort to get it resolved?  I’ve been there and done that!  On this occasion surfing the Internet seemed to yield a solution to my problem. I  purchased a couple of highly recommended DCS (Digital Command System) resources. They were a DCS video from OGR (O gauge railroading) and a book, The DCS Companion.

The first lesson learned from these resources had to do with sound boards.  MTH (Mike’s Train House) locomotives are equipped with Protosound boards.  These enable features such as lights sounds and functions such as couplers and smoke.  I learned just because the box says “equipped with Protosound” it doesn’t mean it will work with the DCS system.  Only “Protosound 2” and “Protosound 3” sound boards are compatible.  So what I thought was a defective DCS system or damaged engines turned out to be a system incompatibility issue.

ogr-dcs-productThankfully, I can still use these engines but I will need to run them on a separate track not hooked up to DCS.

I have one engine with a Protosound 3 board in it.  It should have worked but it didn’t.  After consulting my resource materials again, I learned much of the trouble model train hobbyists have with DCS are bad batteries powering the Protosound boards.  My engine had been boxed up for at least 3 years.  I ran my Proto-3 engine around the track with DSC unhooked to charge the battery.  Magically, the DCS remote later found my engine and the DCS starting working.

*** Warning, while it is possible to charge a ProtoSound 3 sound board by running it on the track while trying to use DCS, DO NOT try to do this with ProtoSound 2 engines.  The battery in Proto-2 engines must be charged using a charger or replaced with a new battery before attempting to run the engine with DCS. ***

After charging the battery in my protosound-2 steam engine it, too, could be loaded into the DCS remote.  Now that I have two engines running DCS, the system is everything I imagined it would be.  I’m amazed at how slow I can make the engines crawl.  The sounds, lights, smoke come alive with the push of a button.  Having my couplers work by remote control will greatly enhance my plans to have an operating layout (being able to pick up and set out cars according to a train schedule).

 

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Digital Command System for Trains

IMG_0555Last month I attended a local model train show for some much needed inspiration.  I hadn’t touched my train layout for almost three years due to Mom’s declining health and dealing with her affairs following her death.

At the train show, watching what others had done to their layouts stirred a passion lying dormant inside me.  I spent the balance of December clearing the accumulation of boxes and other debris off my train layout.  Since I consider my layout under construction, I have little to show to company should they ask to see it.  I vowed to change that this year.

When I first set out to build my railroad empire I dreamed of having a DCS system (digital command system) to run my trains.  I wanted to be able to walk along side an engine pulling a string of cars as it visited various industries and control the action by remote control.  Additionally, with DCS installed I could run several trains at the same time on the same track.

Before I started laying track down on the benchwork, I researched the recommended method of wiring my layout should I happen to acquire a DCS system someday.  For the technically inclined this involved dividing up the track into blocks and insulating each block from the others.  Several blocks are grouped together into power districts.  Each power district is fed by a transformer.  It would take 3 transformers to power my layout.  Enough about wiring.

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This Christmas Santa brought me a DCS system.  Imagine my excitement as I rushed to the basement to hook it up.  (Yes, I was as giddy as a child.)  Over the years, I accumulated a number of steam and diesel engines sold by Mikes Train House (MTH).  I unboxed one of them and set it on the track. When I powered up the DCS system nothing happened!  I set another engine on the track, and then another, still no response.

Stay tuned…

The Value of Attending Model Train Shows

IMG_0555The weather has been very warm for December, making it difficult to commit to spending hours at a time in the basement with my trains.   One Saturday morning, however, as I was walking by a table in my living room, i spotted the corner of a bright orange flyer peeking out from under a stack of books. I knew what it was because I put it there. Still, I felt compelled to pick up the paper and glance at it.

The model train show it advertised had started an hour ago. Instead of being infused with excitement, I found myself balking at the idea of attending.  Was it bad timing to attend a train show right before Christmas?  I couldn’t classify it as going Christmas shopping, since I was the only one in my immediate family bound to model trains. What to do?

The next thing I knew I was standing in line, waiting to plunk down five dollars for the privilege of taking in the R.I.T. Model Train Show. Judging from the number of cars filling the parking lot and crowds of people milling around, I’d have to say the model train hobby appears to be alive and well. Once inside the arena, my heart stirred as I observed fathers and mothers escorting their young children around the venue. This brought back fond memories of interacting with my own kids, who have now grown into men.  I found it invigorating to mill about with so many fellow enthusiasts.

IMG_0556Because I was alone, I didn’t feel pressured to linger at places deemed not relevant to my particular interest. Come to think of it, what was my stated interest for being here? I didn’t have an immediate need or a grocery list to shop from.  I decided to look for one good bargain.  Isn’t that what we are supposed to say when we are out shopping for no apparent reason?

While in the process of looking for the ultimate bargain, I took some time to watch trains passing by me on the F.C.T.T. HiRailers layout. As you can see by my photos, it was inspiring to look at.

Eventually, I did find my bargain. I encountered a guy who was getting out of the hobby altogether. His wife was positioned beside him, apparently offering a strong arm of encouragement. My eyes were drawn to his table because it featured one of kind, O-gauge buildings. The structures he built were of high quality, and his prices were reasonable. I settled on a meat-processing factory, determined to give it a home on my layout.  I tried to negotiate the price down but he wouldn’t budge (despite his wife jabbing him in the ribs).  We both knew his price was a bargain. IMG_0566

It is difficult to explain to people the inspiration that comes from placing a building, such as my newly purchased factory, on the bare plywood surface of my train layout. There is no apparent connection between the track and the building yet. However, when the time comes, livestock pens and scenery will surround the meat factory. A flurry of cattle and refrigerator railcars will visit the site. Imagined life, spurred on by a hint of realism is what I find compelling about model railroading.