Privacy and Materials

This week I have two things to tell you about and although they are not directly related to trains they are both things which affect my website and 3D printed models.

Firstly I have updated my Privacy Policy and you can read it by clicking here or on the drop down menu below the ‘Contact’ button.  The primary reason for this change is the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) comes into affect on May 25th.  This law is fairly complex but put simply it means that no business or organization can hold any personal data of an EU citizen without their permission.  So I have updated my policy and added a tick box to my contact form as a confirmation that people are happy for me to have this information.  I do however have several contacts for fellow modellers and customers on file, which I only use as contacts for model railway purposes, but if you think you are on the list and would like your details removed then please let me know and I will do so.

My second announcement comes from Shapeways who provide the bulk of my 3D printed models.

They have had a reorganization of the materials they offer and more importantly they have rebranded or rather renamed several of them;

White Strong & Flexible (WS&F) and Black Strong & Flexible (BS&F) are now simply called Versatile Plastic which is available in several colours, including black and white.

Frosted Ultra Detail (FUD) and Frosted Extreme Detail (FXD) are now called Fine Detail Plastic.  This is available in two finishes: Smooth and Smoothest.  Sadly this means the acronyms will be exactly the same so identifying them will be a bit longwinded but they are still FUD and FXD as we know them.  And I can also confirm there is no change in price.

Shapeways have also changed other materials but none which I currently use so I won’t cover them here.  I’ll be working through my products updating the pages for the new material names so please bear with me if you see the old names on any of them.

Next week I’ll have some 3D printed parts to share with you and some advice on how to see if your model was printed correctly.

Installing LokSound Select Direct Micro DCC Decoders in Kato Locomotives

This week’s post is a guest post; I had one of these before from fellow N Scale modeller Mike Musick who wrote an article about improving Con-Cors N Scale U50s, Turbines, and my C-855 by replacing the wheel sets.  This time the article has been written by N Scale modeller Chris Hatt who has written about installing ESU LokSound Select Direct Micro DCC decoders into N scale Kato Locomotives.

So without further ado, I’ll hand you over to Chris.

LokSound Select Direct Micro DCC (part number 73100)

So, ESU recently released to market three new decoders designed to fit in N-scale “Narrow Hood” locomotives. These are locomotives such as the EMD “SD” locomotives (SD40/50/6070/80 and 90 series) and the GE Evolution (ES44 series), AC4400 and Dash-9 type models which have an external walkway down each side rather than a full-width body shell. The body shells on these models are typically around 10mm wide inside.

The LokPilot V4 Direct Micro OEM (#54650) and LokSound Select Direct Micro OEM (#73199) are both designed to partner recent locomotives from InterMountain and Atlas and are available factory fitted or aftermarket to retrofit DC models. The one of interest to me is the LokSound Select Direct Micro (#73100). This is designed to “drop into many pre-2016 Atlas and InterMountain locos, (and others with minor modification)” ( Many people have been asking on-line if they will fit into Kato N-scale models and there have been few answers. As most of my locomotives are Kato and I favour using LokSound decoders to install sound, I decided to find out.

So what do you get?  In the blister pack is the decoder, two 3mm golden white LEDs and two lengths of fine brown-insulated wire for connecting a speaker of your choice. The card backing of the blister pack is a fold-out instruction sheet (the LEDs and wire are between the halves of the card in a zip-lock bag, not in the blister).

Figure 1: The 73100 from the top. The front-end is to the left.

You will note that there are five pairs of metal pads along the edges of the 73100. The two pairs nearest each end of the decoder are frame power pickups, red to the top of the photograph and black below. The pair nearest the center on the narrowest part of the decoder are not labelled on any documentation but careful investigation with a continuity tester showed that these are duplicates of the motor power pads on the underside of the decoder. The pair of pads inboard of the seconds power pick ups from the right are the speaker connections. The tiny yellowish rectangle on the centre-line at the left end is a surface mount 0402 LED connected to output AUX1. This LED is around 1.0mm x 0.5mm!

Figure 2: The underside of the 73100. The front-end is to the left.

The two big pads under the decoder are the motor drive outputs. The front-most is the “orange” output touching the right-hand side of the decoder. Near the back of the decoder are a +ve supply (DCC “blue”) pad and pads for the AUX3 and AUX4 function outputs. At each end of the decoder are a pair of pads spaced for soldering the LEDs for the head- and tail-lights (F0F and F0R). According to the instructions, there are current limiting resistors installed on all the outputs and standard LEDs can be soldered directly to the pads. The supplied 3mm LEDs are not attached so that you can cut the leads to the right lengths to position them appropriately for the model that you are installing the decoder in.
The tiny yellowish rectangle on the centre-line at the right-hand end is another surface mount 0402 LED connected as AUX2. It will be very difficult to desolder the AUX1 and AUX2 LEDs and reuse the pads, so while this is technically a six function decoder, two of them will be nigh on impossible to exploit unless it is possible to pipe the light using optical fibre.

How does it compare to a Kato lighting PCB?

Figure 3 shows the 73100 alongside the lighting and power PCBs from several Kato models.

From top to bottom:
• The PCB from an SD80MAC (also used in the SD9043MAC).
• The 73100.
• A PCB from an SD70MAC (also used in the early-SD70M, ES44AC, AC4400CW, and several others) .
• The revised PCB used in the “screwless” later-SD70M and the SD70Ace. This board has sideways-facing surface-mounted LEDs in place of the 3mm discretes on the SD70MAC board.

All four have the front-end of the board to the left.  Putting the decoder in my micrometer, it measures 0.75mm thick compared to the 0.5mm of the Kato PCB.

Fitting the 73100 in a Kato early-SD70M frame.

The 73100 is closest to the early SD70M/SD70MAC/ES44AC/AC4400CW part so I started there.

Figure 4: The 73100 offered up to a Kato SD70M frame.

Offering the 73100 up to the frame, it becomes obvious that the increase in width of the board at the rearmost but one pair of power pickups means that the decoder will not fit between the frame halves without easing back the blocks indicated in figure 5 below.

Figure 5: Easing the fit of the waist of the decoder.

Shaving off about 0.5mm from each side with a file, Dremel or milling machine ensures clearance. It does not matter if the fit is snug enough that the pads touch the frame because the exposed pads are frame power pickups.

Figure 6: This nub needs to be made smaller.

The slightly thicker board of the 73100 means that the rounded end of the nub shown in figure 6 that presses on the contact pad at the front of the decoder needs to be trimmed slightly. While the decoder will not drop-and-slide-in like the PCB, it can be trapped between the frame halves as they are assembled and it make good contact and is firmly fixed fore-and-aft.

However, powering up the decoder in the frame caused it to go into a rapid short-circuit/shut-down cycle as shown by blinking of the AUX1 LED. Oops!

Careful inspection showed that there were a number of surface-mounted components that could foul the frame halves and pass track power into the decoder by unwanted routes.

Figure 7: Easing the frame around the front of the decoder from above.

Figure 8: Easing the frame around the front of the decoder from inside the frame. Note the trimmed nub on the right.

Carefully trimming back the frames as shown in figures 7 and 8 removes this contact and everything works nicely. Note that the trim is above and below where the decoder will sit to clear components on both faces of the PCB.

Figure 9: Test fitting the decoder.

As you can see, there is a gap under the decoder at the back into which a speaker could fit, but I prefer an alternate location as shown later.

Adding LEDs and the motor connections

Next, head and tail-light LEDs are soldered to the undersides of the decoder. I think that the supplied LEDs are a bit too “golden yellow” for a modern locomotive so substituted “clear white” ones:

Figure 10: Supplied (left) and replacement (right) LEDs.

Figure 11: Head and tail-light LEDs fitted, AUX3 ,AUX4 and “blue” wires attached and motor feeds in place. The headlight is on but dimmed under “Rule 17”.

I have fitted green (AUX3), purple (AUX4) and blue (+ve supply) wires to the underside of the decoder in preparation for fitting separately controlled ditch lights later. I provided feeds from the decoder to the motor brushes by using strips of phosphor-bronze 1/16th of an inch wide and 5 thousands of an inch thick (1.6mm x 0.12mm) soldered to the appropriate pads on the decoder. These are pressed against the motor brush tabs by the body shell very much like the connections of the original lighting PCB. To prevent these from contacting the frame-halves, yellow “Kapton” tape has been wrapped around the frame rails under their path. In addition, I placed a strip of Kapton tape under the headlight and under the rear of the decoder to ensure that nothing touched the frame there. This is particularly important at the back as the solder joints attaching the purple, green and blue wires would otherwise rest on the frame.

And, of course, a speaker

My preferred location for the speaker is at the back of the frame. By trimming off the shaded area in figure 12, space is made for an 8mm x 12mm “sugar cube” type speaker (although I buy mobile phone spare parts on eBay rather than commercial “railway modelling” speakers).

Figure 12: The bit of the frame I remove to make room for a speaker.
A suitable baffle can be constructed from plastic sheet, purchased commercially or 3D printed (James does some). I attach the speaker baffle to the end of the frame with an adhesive “sticky dot as in figure 13.

Figure 13: The speaker installed.

The baffle provides most of the insulation needed to keep the speaker from contacting the frame but a short length of Kapton tape on the shelf underneath adds to the protection.

And that’s it, bar loading a suitable sound project and configuring the decoder:

Figure 14: A short video of the installation using the “Drive Hold” feature of the decoder to stop it moving while changing the throttle setting. Still got the ditch lights to do!

That is certainly easier than milling out the fuel tank to take a LokSound Micro V4 or LokSound Select Micro and also leaves the locomotive somewhat heavier as less metal is removed:
• With a Digitrax DN163K1C non sound decoder 116g
• With an ESU LokSound Select Direct Micro and speaker 114g
• With an ESU LokSound Micro V4 and speaker 105g
and weight equals tractive effort.

Figure 15: The same kind of frame with a pocket milled in the fuel tank to take a LokSound Micro V4 (or Select Micro), with channels through the back of the fuel tank, across the bottom of the frame and up the sides to get the wires to the lighting PCB to hook the decoder up.

Where next?

Next, the SD80MAC/SD9043MAC and the late-SD70M/SD709Ace.

I leave you this week by saying thanks to Chris for his post and I look forward to his how-tos on fitting LokSound Select Direct decoders into other locomotives.

A Little Holiday to the Dean Forest Railway

This weekend, as it was a Bank Holiday here in the UK, I decided to take off and visit the Dean Forest Railway in the Forest Of Dean, England.  I’ve written posts about the railway before and you can find one about their 2016 steam gala here.

This visit was not for a particular event but they did have a steam locomotive running and it was an old favorite of mine.  The Great Western Railway small Praire tank number 5541.

Below is a bit of history behind this locomotive (Taken from the Dean Forest Railway Society’s website

5541 is a 4575 Praire tank engine built by the Great Western Railway. The 4575 class were a popular engine on the GWR, they were versatile and well liked by crew. They were an improved version of the 4500 (or 45xx) class steam engines, the main modification being the larger, sloped tanks.

5541 was built in 1928 at Swindon Works as part of lot number 251. Her original boiler number was 5546. Between June and August of 1930 she was allotted to Swindon shed; however by September 1931 she had moved to Bristol (Bath Road) where she stayed until the middle of 1938. Between December 1935 and March 1936, she underwent general repairs at Caerphilly Works, where she received a new boiler (number 5526). At this time she had covered 237,985 miles.

During the summer of 1938, 5541 moved to Machynlleth where she spent most of the rest of her working life. In the early months of 1945 she underwent general repairs at Swindon where a second new boiler (number 5519) was fitted; 482,639 miles now having been covered. Similarly, over Christmas of 1949 she underwent heavy general repairs at Swindon, necessitating another boiler (number 5505), after 616,385 miles. Another heavy general repair was carried out at Stafford Road, Wolverhampton in July/August 1958, after 839,123 miles. The new boiler fitted was number 3902. During 1960 she moved from Machynlleth to Laira, where she stayed until being made redundant on the 10th July 1962, after completing 921,589 miles.

She was sold to Messrs. Woodham Bros of Barry on the 4th September 1962 as part of Lot L03011/1. Various items had been removed from her between 1962 and 1971, but she had not been moved until being properly prepared for her move from the scrap yard out into the dispatch siding at Barry.

5541 was moved by rail to the Dean Forest Railway at Parkend from Barry, arriving on 10th October 1972 in time for the October Gala Day. Restoration was undertaken by Fund members on the siding behind the down platform at Parkend and was completed, and first steamed on 29th November 1975. On 16th January 1978 in light steam, she joined the movement of stock from Parkend to Norchard and was a regular performer on the short track constructed at the Steam Centre.

On 17 May 1983 she made an historic run over the A48 level crossing in Lydney town centre to collect a large train made up of wagons delivered to Lydney by British Rail. In 16 August 1985 she again went to Lydney Yard to collect the GWR150 exhibition coaches for a weekend display at Norchard.

Following another overhaul and boiler change at Norchard she returned to steam in August 1994. 5541 has made a number of visits to other preserved railways including Bodmin & Wenford, Llangollen, and the Gwili.

The loco boiler certificate expired early in 2004, and the loco undertook a major overhaul until it returned to service in April 2014. During the overhaul, its third on the Dean Forest Railway, the boiler was sent to the LNWR works at Crewe, and the rest of the loco was overhauled at Norchard by our own dedicated crew. The boiler ticket is due to expire in 2023.

Recently 5541 has been overhauled and repainted professionally by Western Steam Engineering at the DFR and I must say she looks amazing.

Here is a short video of 5541 running round its train at Lydney Junction, which is the southern terminus of the line.

And again running round its train at Norchard Low Level platform.  Norchard is currently positioned roughly in the middle of the line, although plans for extension are in hand.

Later in the day I also filmed 5541 doing a little bit of shunting in Norchard yard.

The shunting resulted in the collection of an impressive diesel crane which was built in the late 1950s.  And as this crane, also beautifully restored at the DFR by Western Steam Engineering, is from the western region, seeing locomotive 5541 working with it is very prototypical. Although I don’t think it would have shined as much as this back then!

5541 is regular performer at the DFR and it was a pleasure to see her running again through the forest, even if it was just a short trip over a Bank Holiday weekend.

Union Pacific Rotary Snow Plow 900081 – Part 4

To start this week I’d like to apologize for the lack of a post last week.  It had been a busy weekend at work and I simply ran out of time.

But the good news is I’ve made some, albeit small, progress on my UP Rotary Snow Plow project.  If you are new to this project you can start reading about it here.

Most of the body section is now drawn, although there is plenty of detail to add.  The one big space left to do was the rear of the unit.  And as most of the attention is drawn by the large fan at the front, the rear is often overlooked by photographers. This causes a problem for me to get information, and there’s a lot going on back there.  However thanks to Flickr and the photos of Dustin Holmes I have some great resource material to draw from, as you can see below.

Apart from the door, which is not centered on the body, and all of the grab irons and pipes, there are two lifting points which frame the door and the large fan at the top behind the grill.  This 48″ fan is a Dynavane blower, which delivers clean air to the motor, and traction motors which drive the cutting fan on the front.  This is necessary when the snow is falling hard and the air supply gets congested!

In order to model this and make sure the fan could be seen I’ve decided to make the mesh from etched brass. Below you can see the mesh closing off the rear of the body.

Behind the mesh will simply be the fan and a recessed area.  The sides of the body extend into the void as I need to alow space for the grab irons to run into and to give structural integrity to the body.

The actual fan will be printed as part of the body and therefore unable to rotate, but I don’t mind that, after all this is N Scale.

I will look at making the actual mesh as fine as possible so the light can get in and show the fan but from the render below you get the idea.

I’ve also added a coupling pocket for a Micro-Trains 1015 Body Mount coupler.  There will be a screw hole printed into the body to hold it in place.

I’ve also finished the directional cover which forces the snow either to the left or right.  This again will be made from etched brass as I want to be able to move it from side to side.  If I made this as a 3D printed part it would be too bulky and not look very realistic.  There will be a pair of holes on the cover which will clip over two pegs 3D printed onto the side of the exit chute.

Now I really need to get back to the chassis and finish working out how to modify it to fit in.  Once I have done that I’ll have another update for you.

Bridging the Gap Between Kits and Production Models

As you may have read on my blog before I often do commission work for companies allowing then to mass produce models using 3D printed parts.  And in this week’s post I have the latest release to share with you.

Three good examples of other projects which have been created this way are:

The Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR) F22 flatcars & naval gun load.

The 4 vat open pickle car.

And the enclosed tank pickle car.

All three of these were drawn for the N Scale Architect who sells them as kits.  However, sometimes the projects are only sold as ready-to-run models and this new project is one of these.

My brief for the project was this photo of Pennsylvania Railroad gondola G26 #440375 taken around 1951. (Andrew J. Hart collection from “Pennsylvania Railroad Gondolas,” PRRT&HS).

The concept is to have a bridge girder load carried on or in a gondola car with the ends removed.  The overhang spans over flat cars, or idlers, at each end. I found it particularly interesting that the girder is not symmetrical;  I have seen this type of load modelled before in HO scale but never as an asymmetric girder.  This makes it unusual as the center of gravity will not be in the center of the car.

As well as making the girder I also had to work out how it was supported and strapped down in transit, taking into account the offset center of gravity.  And, as with all my projects, this work is all done in a 3D model.

The red parts are separate, allowing easy painting, and represent wooden blocks which brace the girder.  The black bars are just that, bars which clamp the girder between the blocks.

All five bottom wood sections will be fixed to the gondola car deck.  The two sets of vertical timbers prevent the girder from rolling over.  Two of the timbers clamps are positioned either side of the largest part of the girder, each one pulling towards the other, preventing the girder from sliding up and down the gondola.  The third clamp simply holds that end down.

And just to make sure it all fits I also modeled in the cars with just enough detail.

The next step was to order a test print to see how well it all worked, and I think you’ll agree from the pictures below that the actual girder looks good.

The supporting wood blocks are hard to see without any color, so the girder and the wood blocks took a trip to the paint shop and now they looks like this.

And here is a video of the train crossing the road, just as if you had stopped in your truck!

So where can you get one from?  These are on sale as a special run in limited numbers from the N Scale Enthusiast.  They have been painted and assembled by The N Scale Architect as a Union Pacific load from Kaiser Steel as shown below.

All three cars are made by Micro trains and include the shipping crates on the flat cars.

This was a great project to work on and really shows how 3D printed parts can help ‘bridge the gap’ between kits and production models.


When Schedules Go Off The Rails…

This week’s post will be a short one as I have lots of Ready-to-Run projects which need my attention so the drawing work, particularly the Union Pacific rotary snow plow, has taken a little bit of back burner while I get on top of things.  However I will have some more to share with you from the drawing side soon.

On a separate note, as some of you may already know there are new compliance rules for the use of personal data, or GDPR, coming into effect this May. I’m in the process of auditing my own process to ensure it meets the new rules, and will be updating the website and contact form accordingly, but in the meantime please keep an eye out in your inbox in case I send an email touching base with you.

I will leave you this week the information that my American N Scale group, from the Gosport MRC, and I will be at the Fordingbridge model railway exhibition this Saturday, the 14th April 2017, with a fair portion of our layout should you be in the area and want to stop by and say hello.