Model Trains

Here is my latest project – Protothrottle Dead Rail for a USA Trains NW2. Somehow I managed to squeeze everything into this little fellow but I did have to skimp just a little on the battery, it’s only 1300mah. But that’s fine for a switcher in my tiny little industrial yard.

It has a SoundTraxx TSU4400 in it, which is a good 5A sized DCC decoder. I don’t think it sounds quite as good as the TCSWow but it’s ease of programming and the function outputs make up for that. It also has some neat sound features in it including a 7 band EQ and reverb effects. One other thing it lets you do is ‘detune’ the engine sounds some- I took it down 100 ‘cents’, adjusted the EQ a bit and now have a good solid bass ‘thrum’ sort of effect. Pretty cool.

For this install I also did some software development to finish off the coupler mode for the servos. I have these set up on the Protothrottle so that the Aux button controls them. If the direction is set to forward, the aux button controls the back coupler, if it’s in reverse, it controls the front one.

Above are a couple of shots of the interior, I had to build a special little ‘cradle’ to get everything to fit. On one side is the Soundtraxx Decoder, on the other is the 10A motor driver. In the center is the Xbee Receiver. The battery is a 1300Mah 14.8v Lipo. There is also a small buck converter to power the Receiver and Servos at 5v but it’s under the battery so out of view here.


This one shows the servo and couplers. I 3d printed a servo/coupler sort of mount that came out quite well.

Good shot of it out on the layout with my 3d printed guy on the front.

Above is a quick video of everything all setup and running. Took me a while to tweak all of the parameters and sounds and assign them to the PT buttons but I really like the result. I have the acceleration and deceleration dialed in and enabled the brake. The couplers are triggered by the aux button and I’m using F12 for that so it already has the coupler sounds paired with the servo movement (more or less). I forget the actual horn sample I’m using but I watched a couple of youtube videos of NW2s and this one was pretty close. I mapped the engine start (F5) to the bottom LCD button and ‘radio chatter’ (F22) to the top one. It still needs a bit of tweaking but I’m very happy with how it came out.

New Bridge





Got the new Burnley Bridge installed. Also did some concrete shell work on the mountains. Patched the one big hole Sophie put in the side when she wanted to sniff the moss. Cured up pretty well, now for some color, concrete grey is a bit boring. Lots more work to do, I will probably tear down Gilbert and rework that, I need to find a better way to make a small city street and I also need a deeper layer of soil.

I seem to have a lot of time on my hands so I decided to construct a country store for my little town of Burnley out on the Layout. This combines the basic construction method I’ve come up with using the CNC with some 3D printed detail parts I got off of https://www.thingiverse.com/

Everything is colored with rattle can spray paint and the details and sign were printed on my good ole HP Photosmart ink jet. Generous amounts of matte spray (clear) finish were applied to the structure and each of the posters and signs. It got it’s first steady rain last night and still looks crisp, we will see how hard the weather is on it over the next few months.

I did some more work on my servo controls for the Protothrottle over the holidays. I wanted to fine tune the live steam mode a bit more and clean up a few bugs. There are three servo modes- couplers, ESC and Steam. In the Steam Mode, Channel 0 is the throttle, Channel 1 is the direction. Both of these follow the direction and throttle controls on the PT. You can adjust high and low limits and reverse each servo. Here is a screen shot of my programmer:

The electronics are very simple, one board and a 3.7v lipo.

Here is a quick video of the servos on the bench:

Here it is fired up and running outside:

And a video of a complete run around the layout loop:

Rail Truck

Picked up a used rail truck for $75. Nice little fellow, all metal. Looks like it was modified by the previous owner to look like one of the old ‘goose’ rail cars from the 20s. I think that’s a bit of an overkill so I took it all apart down to the motor and cut out a new back end from sheet styrene.

I’ve been working on some repaints and touch up for my growing fleet of used locomotives. First shot is an old Aristo F1 unit. It started out as a Southern Pacific, I disassembled it down the the gears and stripped the paint off the shells. Did the same with a B unit (it used to NH paint)

I’m trying to get at least close with this paint scheme on the cab units and the Chessie scheme of mostly orang-ey kinda of yellow on the others. I also like the all blue with yellow letters like this S4 scheme. I have an S4 new in the box but that is a future project.

For the paint, I am a rattle can sort of person so a quick trip to Lowes got me very close I think. Here is a list of what I’m using:

Strip 91% ISO alcohol in a very big plastic bin
Primer Rusoleum Universal Grey
Yellow Nose Paint Krylon Gloss Sun Yellow
Light Blue Krylon Matte Vintage Blue
Dark Blue Krylon Satin Oxford Blue
Chessie Yellow Rustoleum Caterpillar Yellow
Flat Black Krylon Flat Black

Finally finished. Well, more or less. Needs a bit more stain on the back and a porch. That’s later. For now, all the junk in my main Shop is going to go in here, then I’m going to do a deep clean on the Shop, then by spring, this will become the train display/storage/staging shed.