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Monday, May 30, 2011

Pacific Electric Red Cars Weekend

This Fathers Day weekend! June 18 & 19th at the Orange Empire Railway Museum in Perris, California.

Two of my Niles cars (#105 & #107) will be on the Southern California Traction Clubs layout in the OERM's Town Hall. So stop by and say "howdy".

From the OERM website:

Join Dad for ride into the past on the Big Red Cars of the Pacific Electric. Although we operate selected PE cars throughout the year, this is the weekend when we have the largest group of them out to ride and photograph. Once again this year we'll also have the Southern California Traction Club on hand with their giant HO Scale model trolley layout.
On Sunday we'll also have a family barbeque from Noon-2 pm. Admission to the grounds is free, regular prices apply for train ride tickets ($12 adults, $8 children 5-11).

I'll be there all weekend and you should too. Yes sir! You should be there too!

Monday, May 23, 2011

To Trolley Pole Reverse Or Not To Trolley Pole Reverse.

That is the question.
Exploring the two methods of wiring a trolley. The "cool" method or the more practical method.

(NOTE: This post was written when when the layouts were wired for standard DC (Direct Current). But with the advent of DCC (Digital Command Control) Trolley Pole Reverse is no longer an issue. Cars are wired for "Trolley Pole Forward" as shown below. -Dandy 2020)

The question we get the most when the Southern California Traction Club displays its modules is "are the trolleys getting their power from the wires?". Not only are the guests pleased when we inform them that indeed they are, but we will also do a little demonstration of "Trolley Pole Reverse" that guests take a delight in. It doesn't take long for a trolley to come by. So I'll put my finger lightly under the overhead wire so that as the car comes by, the pole will disengage the wire and the car will roll to a stop. I'll stow that pole under the hold down hook and explain that "one pole is wired to one pole of the motor, and the other pole is wired to the other pole of the motor". Lifting the opposite pole to the wire, the car jumps to life and continues on its way ~ in the opposite direction. Guests are thoroughly impressed.

But lately we at the club have been discussing reliability. As all model railroaders know, the toughest electrical continuity to maintain is the contact between rail and wheel. The slightest obstruction will cause a stall. Stalls are no fun. With traction modeling not only is that problem made double with the tiny contact between the trolley shoe and overhead wire but triple so with the just as critical contact between the stowed pole and the hold down hook.

When a car stalls, its usually the tiny connection between the trolley shoe and overhead that's been compromised. A gentle tap of the overhead is usually enough to reengage to shoe to the wire. If that doesn't work then its probably the wheels, nudging the car forward a tad should fix that. If that doesn't work then a wiggle to the front pole might invigorate that contact. If that doesn't work... well, you get the idea. It gets a little frustrating. So eliminating weak spots like these just makes things run a little smoother. But eliminating the contact between the rails and overhead isn't feasible. But that connection between pole and hold down hook can be addressed.

With Trolley Pole Reverse, one trolley pole is wired to one pole of the motor while the other trolley pole is wired to the other pole of the motor. Whichever pole is in contact with the overhead will supply the positive charge to the motor. The other pole is in contact with the hold down hook completing the circuit by providing ground. This method requires good spring tension to press the pole up against the hold down hook and a clean connection between the pole and hold down hook. A little contact cleaner fluid is helpful here as well.

Though I've never heard it called this, I'm calling this method "Trolley Pole Forward", as opposed to Trolley Pole Reverse. This method eliminates the contact between the pole and hold down hook, providing a bit more reliable operation. This is particularly useful in a DCC environment where a car can be reversed without reversing the polarity of the rails and overhead. We simply tell the decoder to run the car the other way.

I think it all comes down to preference. On a point to point operation, Trolley Pole Reverse might work best. For a "roundy roundy" operation, Trolley Pole Forward might be preferred. On a DC layout, I think Reverse could be the way to go. On a DCC layout, Forward could be it. I don't know. But I think once my layout gets rolling, time will tell which I prefer. Yes sir! Time will tell!


(Edit- Time has told! Yes- on a DC layout, "Reverse" is a good way to go. On a DCC layout "Forward" is the way to go. -Dandy 2020.)

Monday, May 16, 2011

Real Men of Genius ~ Mr. Miniature Train Modeler

Congratulations to all of us model railroaders. We have finally have been recognized for our true genius:


Bud Light Presents Real Men of Genius
(Real Men of Genius)

Today we salute you, Mr. Miniature Train Modeler.
(Mr. Miniature Train Modeler)
Yours is a perfect magical world wedged neatly between your furnace and your hot water heater
(Keep on dreaming)
Your mini town has a mini ice cream store complete with a mini soda jerk guaranteeing there will always be at least two jerks in your mini world.
(You'll never be alone)
Woo-woo, all aboard? First stop, Nutsville.
(Chug-chug, woo-woo)
So crack open an ice cold Bud Light, Master of your mini world, you're koo-koo about choo-choo's and that's fine by us.
(Mr. Miniature Train Modeler)

Kind of makes it all worth while, doesn't it? This Bud is for you. Yes sir! This Buds for you!


Monday, May 09, 2011

Niles Project ~ Brainz

The TCS M4 Decoder

The TCS M1 decoder is doing an outstanding job on the Birney car. So naturally I would use it with the Niles. But I have all those interior lights whose total milliamps exceed the limits of the interior lighting function of the M1. So...

It was determined that with the M4 (four function) decoder, the interior lights can be split between two functions. That way, the total milliamps of half the lights are within the limits of one of the functions. And the total milliamps of the other half are within the second function. So the M4 is what I ordered. And the M4 is what I got. I named it "Abby someone... Abby Normal".

LinkSo come on up to the lab and see what's on the slab. Then we'll install its braaaaainz. Yes sir! Install its brrraaaainz!


Niles Project ~ Running Cost Tally

Model Railroading can get expensive. I'm going to try to keep a running tally of how much it costs me to rebuild these Niles cars. But don't blame me if I don't follow through with this. I mean, how do I factor in the use of Butane used for soldering? Or the use of tools (including Photoshop for designing decals)? And labor isn’t being factored in at all. etc.

Suydam PE 414 & 1300 Niles Cars Rebuild Cost Tally



Point Loma RR


Original Car Purchase 1













TCS M4 Decoder $41.80








1. Today's (2009) going rate for these cars (some were purchased for more, some were purchased for less, but they averaged out to today's going rate).
2.$2.50 ÷ 6 cars= $0.42

Ka-ching! Ka-ching! Ka-ching! Yes sir! Ka-ching! Ka-ching! Ka-ching!


Monday, May 02, 2011

Niles Project ~ Resistification

Because LED's are diodes and don't behave like a resistor, a current limiting resistor is needed to prevent the current from exceeding the operating limits of the LED's.

Determining the size of resistor to use was simple enough. John McWhirter and I soldered the 4 LED's together in series. Then we attached a best guess resistor in series with them. Then we gave the circuit "the juice". 15 volts DC. We then carefully considered the results. If the lights were too bright for what I wanted, we would then replace the resistor with a" stronger" one. If the lights were too dim, then we replaced the resistor with a "lighter" one.

Actually, it was easier than I'm letting on because John has built a box with an array of resistors in it. A rotary switch switches from one resistor to another. So all we had to do really was connect our LED assembly to it and with a simple flip of the switch, find the the setting that gave me the illumination I was looking for.

Eventually we determined that a 1000 Ohm resistor (brown, black, red, gold bands) provided the right amount of juice to the 4 LED's to achieve reasonable illumination for the interior compartments of the trolley.

For the one headlight, we determined that a 15000 Ohm resistor works best (brown, green, orange, gold bands).

My next objective was to determine the most unobtrusive location to mount the resistors. I can't mount the resistors on the circuit board because they would interfere with the ability of the circuit boards to slip between the bulkheads and the ceiling. It would also be nice if the resistors weren't someplace visible through the windows. So this is where I got clever...

I need a jumper from the blue wire (lighting positive common) bus on the bottom of the circuit board to the LED leads on top of the circuit board. So why not have the resistor fill that bill? The leads to the resistors were bent so that one lead solders on top and the other lead solders on the bottom with the resistor itself on the front edge of the circuit board. Works for me. Yes sir! Works for me just fine!