Brags: RMC, New Blogs

It’s been a busy time for me over the past few weeks, so this brag post comes a bit late. I’m excited that two of my photos and an article that I wrote have been published in Railroad Model Craftsman. I’ve been quietly published in the past, but this is particularly exciting for me because it’s the first time I’ve had my photos and a humble article about model railroading in print. I encourage you to buy the January RMC because… I’m in it!

Next piece of news: I’ve started a new blog to clarify the confusion between the title of this blog and the content. When I started writing Ontario In HO Scale, I was primarily modelling at the WRMRC layout. Last year, I started building a layout in my house. Writing about my home layout has come to dominate the content of this blog, and it was obvious to me long ago that I would eventually have to change things. To that end, I’ve created The Niagara Branch. I’ll keep Ontario In HO Scale up and running, populated with posts about projects that are relevant to the WRMRC. There’s a third piece of news about my CP Sudbury Division content, but that will have to wait.



Testing Sergent Couplers and iPhone Throttle

A couple of days ago, I visited Trevor Marshall and his Port Rowan S scale layout and had a chance to try out two different pieces of equipment that have piqued my interest of late.


CNR 1560 is working the Daily Effort in this shot from 1955. Taken from an adjacent field, the photo shows a wooden van being shoved down the run-around track at Port Rowan so the crew can begin the process of setting out two cars and lifting two more for the return trip.

Trevor fitted enough equipment with Sergent couplers so that he could run an operating session.   We used the Sergent-equipped fleet to run the Daily Effort to Port Rowan and back.  I can say that I like the look of the Sergent couplers, without a doubt.   Their functionality was very good, but still left a bit to be desired.  I like the fact that the couplers require a stop for alignment, just before coupling.   Some might find that tedious.   The uncoupling process functioned flawlessly, but there were a few instances when the knuckles didn’t lock after the couplers were mated.  This could be a matter of fine tuning, lubricating, or break-in.  Overall, I was impressed enough to consider running some test on my home layout (I’ll have to actually build that layout first). Until I’ve had some time to use them at home, and until Trevor has had the opportunity to work out the bugs on his, I’ll reserve judgement.  I’m very hopeful that this will work out.

It was about halfway through the operating session that Trevor mentioned his iPod app that he uses as a throttle.  I switched from the regular Lenz throttle to the iPod app and thoroughly loved it.  The app is called TouchCab and it only works on iPods and iPhones through a wifi interface to the Lenz DCC system.

I like that the app uses icons to represent the various functions (the whistle looks like a whistle graphic, the bell looks like a bell, etc.) which made me much more confident while running a train.  Speed is controlled by swiping across the screen, and is represented on screen by a graphic showing throttle setting from 0-100%.

IMG_3056The best thing about the app is that it completely removes the need for the user to think about what the different numbers on the throttle mean.  Also, having been a Mac user for nearly two decades, both professionally and for my personal use, I find the interface familiar and comfortable.  For context, I don’t own my own DCC system, so I’m always operating as a guest on another person’s layout.  So far, I’ve used NCE, Digitrax, and Lenz handheld throttles.  I find all three to be different renditions of clunky and alienating.

Clearly, the throttle app is not for everyone.  As I step closer to the major purchase of a DCC system for my home layout, the ability to run a throttle app has become a significant factor for me to consider.


I’m Still Here


I’ve taken a long and unintended break from writing blog updates, so here’s what’s been happening with me.

Firstly, the weather.  I’ve reached, and perhaps surpassed the limit of my patience with the winter that will never end.  We have no control over the weather, so it’s a waste of energy to fret about it.  I try to tolerate or even embrace winter, as much as I can, but I’m ready to move on.  Winter just doesn’t seem to understand that we’ve broken up.  Seriously, Winter,  you need to get a hobby, spend some time with friends, maybe take a vacation, because it’s over between us.  That’s all I have to say about that.

Next up.. the layout.  It’s currently in the full-size track planning state, which means it’s a series of Fast Tracks switch templates tacked to a 12′ long by 14″ wide shelf.  I’m using cardboard boxes as building mock-ups and moving cars around by hand to test the various moves required to spot and lift cars.  I’m on the third iteration of the track plan.  I’ll blog about this soon.

Rolling stock and locomotive projects… I have a number of irons in the fire.  I’ve been waiting for parts and information on a range of projects.  I’ll try to do a roundup of my current projects, which can be categorized as…

  • Penn Central cabeese
  • Greenville 86′ auto parts (Athearn blue-box zombies)
  • Penn Central switchers (SW1500, S2, S3, S4)
  • Rail Yard Models X-58 boxcars

Lastly, I’ve been struggling with airbrush issues.  I’ll write up a blog post all about what’s going on with that.

Yesterday, I brought my friend Steven Lyons along with me to visit Trevor Marshall.  On the way into Toronto, Steven and I stopped at Credit Valley where we bumped into Dan Kirlin, and being a Saturday, Roger Chrysler was working.  After we got caught up with Dan and Roger, I bought rail, spikes, and other stuff from my shopping list.  Now I can get to work on those projects that have been languishing for while.

At Trevor’s place, we ran a three-man crew into Port Rowan with Steven at the throttle, Trevor doing brakeman duties, and me being all bossy as the conductor. Steven and Trevor are both building layouts that depict southern Ontario CN branch lines in the early 1950s, and they are both fine modellers, so there was much common ground there.  That brings me back to the top of this blog post: a photo of a restored CN van at Owen Sound.  The photo was taken from a post on Adam Walker’s blog about a trip he made to Owen Sound in 2011.  I don’t know Adam, but I like his blog.  You should check it out.  Here’s another of his shots of that van.




Paint Booth Repair and Set-up

We established some goals for unpacking our belongings and finishing three improvements to the house when we moved in back in September.  I also set some personal timelines for having my hobby space set up.  We got unpacked pretty quick, and we’re only a few weeks behind with the home improvements.  The good news is that today I finished setting up my workspace, and I’m about five weeks ahead of schedule.

I’m pleased that some of my projects have been moved forward as a result of having my workbench in place, but over the past weeks my paint booth has been quietly nagging at me as it sat with junk piled in its gaping maw.  With all the necessary parts in place, it was time to get it running again.

The first order of business was getting a dryer vent installed into the side of the house.  Actually, I had that done by the guy who installed the central air, three days after we moved in, so step one was as easy as writing a cheque.  The rest of the repair and setup was much more time consuming, mostly because it involved actually doing the work, rather than paying someone else.

Due to a burned out blower and a lack of space, my paint booth had been idle for years.  A few trips to the local industrial supply wholesaler netted a 105 CFM blower that seemed up to the task of exhausting the fumes from the booth.


After I scratched my head and consulted some friends, I was able to devise a way to attach 4″ dryer vent to the rectangular exhaust duct on the blower.  I cut a rectangular hole in a 4″ duct cap, bent back the edges and taped it in with proper metal duct tape.  Then I made a paper template and cut a piece of 3/4″ plywood to serve as a baffle board, and to move the blower far enough away from the back of the paint booth to clear the flange on the exhaust duct.  I attached the fan to the plywood with countersunk machine screws.


Here’s the back of the paint booth without a blower attached:


I used bolts to hold the baffle board to the back of the paint booth, and then got out the tin snips to fit some 4″ duct between the blower and the dryer vent.  Here’s a spooky pic of the paint booth hooked up and running:


Here’s a shot of my whole workspace (ignore the mess on the workbench):

IMG_2763What you can’t see is the compressed air supply line.  I ran a metal pipe through the wall between the garage and the utility room.  On the basement side of the pipe, I attached a flexible air line that I ran along the ceiling to the paint booth.  I’ll attach my filter, moisture trap, and regulator on this end.  On the garage side of the wall, I put a quick-connect to attach the compressor.

I’m about ready to start painting again!