Sunday, February 8, 2015

Operations begin!

 Chris Palmieri, left, and Chris Atkins, right, shunt a wheat train at Buggardine with a pair of 48-class

Quite a lot going on with Buggardine the past few weeks. My trio of Trainorama 48 Class finally arrived. Through a little bit of geographical luck, they quickly were equipped with DCCSound's LokSound decoders. And with locomotives in place, I was finally able to launch operations on the layout.

 They'rrrrrreeee Herrrrrreeeeeee!

The 48s
 Yep, they've arrived, and they're everything I'd hoped for in terms of detail and performance. I really have nothing to nit-pick about them, and they operated quietly and smoothly right out of the box. Was the wait since October 2008 when I plunked down full $$ for them "worth the wait"? I certainly would've liked to have had them a year ago, or three, or even six. . . but in the grand scheme of things, getting them six years ago may well have kept me from experiencing a lot of good family time I'd otherwise spend working on the double-decked Narrabri railway, so from that respect, the timing of their arrival in early 2015 with the more-manageable single deck Buggardine fully in place and ready for operations worked out pretty well.

I did purchase one of the "new" Powerline 48's during the intervening years, and with the Traino's in place, it'd be a good opportunity to compare the two. THAT had to wait, because lazy me here had paid for a local hobby shop to replace a blown decoder board, and THAT process took a couple of months (Christmas holidays, you know) and several false starts because the loco continued to blow decoders up. Finally, after waiting long enough, I just asked for the damned thing back; they'd repaired a short in the Powerline motor, however, that was causing the decoder-smoking shorts.

The Powerline 48 is slightly heavier. Their version of "indian red" is quite orange; the added detail to the basic shell is considerably clunkier than on the TrainO model. The underframe detail is comparable, though the Powerline seems to have some sort of representation of a staff exchange mechanism, which weren't included in nearly all of the 48s past the first few original examples. The handrails are molded plastic on the Powerline, much larger in diameter, and while initially flexible, more prone to damage in my opinion. I'll give the nod to the Powerline for the etched steps--those that the model still has, as I've lost a majority of them in the processes of removing and reinstalling the very tightly-engineered body shell.

For now, my Powerline 48 is in storage pending the need to rewire, repair, and replace broken or missing parts. I can't say the money spent on this model was "well spent" compared to the TrainO version.

 Ready for Service: 4883, 4858, 4867

LokSound with DCCSound's project
I've not often been a proponent of sound-equipped locomotives. Many layouts I've operated in the past have had many, many locomotives, all roaring away with too-loud sound--headache inducing! I DO think operating with sound, however, subconsciously makes operators run more deliberately, more slowly, and makes them take their time in their switching operations. Far less run-and-gun, how-fast-can-I-get-this-done sorta thing.

I previously had two NSWGR locomotives equipped with sound, the Trainorama 44 and 47 class (there would've been a third, a 49 class, but I kinda toasted the decoder during install!). Both of these are equipped with Tsunami decoders. They sound good enough, I guess, and are reasonably priced. I don't presently have Decoder Pro in my arsenal to manipulate CV settings on decoders, so missing the ability to program speed curves in a reasonably simple and straightforward way on the Tsunamis (Soundtraxx doesn't support the CV5 and 6 variables) somewhat has hindered their operation on the layout (and that's my fault).

But the prospect of having REAL 48 class sounds and the Cadillac of decoders, the LocSound v4.0, in the 48 class was too good to ignore, given the good things folks had written about DCC Sound in Melbourne. The prospect of going overseas for a digital project seemed a little excessive, however, but a happy coincidence has one of DCC Sound's engineers living a dozen miles from me in Texas!

I couldn't be happier with my experience visiting Phil Dunlop, DCC Sound's "western United States" representative. Phil spent a lot of time with me explaining LokSound's open architecture in its v4.0 decoders; showed me the digital flow charts that go into making these sound projects, and made sure my decoder's throttle functions were mapped just how I wanted them. A fine asset to the operation. And I'd recommend DCC Sound to modelers of U.S. Prototypes as well--they have an expanding line of North American prototype projects.

The install was relatively easy, involving plugging the micro v4.0 decoder into the 8-pin, and replacing the stock TrainORama speaker with a smaller but throatier Sugar Cube 11X15mm speaker sourced through Streamlined Backshop (superb quick service in the US).

Sure, the LokSound decoders are around 25% pricier than the Tsunamis, but that's a relatively small financial hit when you consider how much locomotives, rolling stock, and the materials it takes to make a layout cost. There's a HUGE difference between the sound a real 6-251T Alco prime mover makes installed in the 48 class compared to the "close but no cigar" sound offerings from Tsunami: a 12-cylinder 251, 539T or 244-series alcos do NOT sound anything like the little in-line 6-cylinder 251T. . . nor are the whistle offering in the Tsunamis anything like the WABCo 4-chime horns found on the 48s. Since I'm starting from scratch with sound locomotives, and I don't have that large a fleet to equip, it just makes sense to get the sound right if the opportunity is there. And I've been able to make all the momentum and speed curves I need with the LokSounds right on the layout without supplemental hardware and a computer. I'm sorta thinking at this point that the 49 Class will soon be outfitted with a DCC Sound decoder as well.

Loco 4716 takes a spin on the Buggardine turntable. . .

First Operations!
A couple of days ago, I invited a couple of Chris' over to be the first to operate on the railway. It wasn't supposed to be a "real" operating session--that is, with train lists, a program of trains to run, etc.--but my obsessive/compulsiveness dictated otherwise. I was ready to make it just a 'shake down' cruise, looking for feedback on the track plan, operating scheme, and most importantly at this point electrical, trackwork and rolling stock gremlins.   I'm happy

So thanks to Chris Palmieri and Chris Atkins for burning a part of a beautiful late-winter Saturday afternoon to come over and play trains. It'd been quite awhile since I'd spent much time with either of these guys--Palmieri not too long ago returned to Fort Worth from a railroad assignment in Lincoln, Nebraska; and I've been remiss in not hanging out with Atkins in the past few years since we were part of the "Pie Night" crew here. Chris Palmieri has a very nice blog/website on his freelanced Meridian Speedway railroad group, and he brought one of his very attractively painted C40-8 locomotives over show it off--very nice, and HUGE compared to the smaller Aussie rolling stock. I swear I could hear the light rail strain under its weight!  Chris Atkins is just getting started in putting a large double-deck layout in a former Texas & Pacific bunk house (formerly owned by Shane Murphy, who had his own double-decked layout in the building earlier).

A switch list made up on proper paperwork. . .

We operated far more than a "usual"schedule of trains into sleepy old Buggardine, to wit:
  • downbound stock-extra with seven sheep/cattle wagons for loading;
  • 12-wagon wheat extra with a pair of 48-class for loading at the silo and departure;
  • 620/720 diesel motor train arrival and departure;
  • regular goods train ex-Dubbo and return
  • upbound extra with the livestock wagons and four OCY/OCX with containerized cotton
Whew! That was quite a few hours of operations, but no mishaps and few miscues. Thanks to the two Chrises for helping me out.

Something's not right here! We closed out the session with Chris Palmieri's Texas & Great Northern C40-8 leading a pair of tiny-by-comparison 48 class out of Buggardine. Rumors of the T&GN's interest in the Buggardine line as an acquisition are unfounded. . .


Towelly said...

G'day Blair,

It's great to see the layout up and going! It's looking very good. I too am a fan of Loksound decoders and the DCC Sounds 48 class project is one of their best, in my opinion anyway ha ha. Your lucky to have Phil so close. He is very helpful on the Loksound yahoo group.

Hope you and the family are well. I am looking forward to my next Fort Worth visit. Hopefully within the year.


B. Kooistra said...

Linton, do let us know when you're coming again. I'll try to get some time off and show you about the place.

Ray P said...


Good to see the layout up and running.

Those 48s do run nicely, no sound decoders in mine yet. I might wait and listen to a DCCsounds version and see if I can get over my issues with the Loksound 4 momentum problem. I also must investigate the 'suger cube' speakers you put in them as not all of those size speakers are created equal.

I see that you are using the supplied knob to turn the turntable. I found it a problem as you have to keep stopping to adjust your grip. I replaced the knob with a crank I made which allows a continuous rotation, much smoother.

Ray P

Unknown said...

Nice report.

James McInerney said...

Looking good, Blair! That green S scale loco looks very strange on the layout... ;) I already have two DCCSound decoders (49 and 422) and they are lovely pieces of work. I just recieved an email this morning informing me that my 48 chip is on the way, looking forward to receiving it very much! It is about time LF had a 48... Keep up the good work (I see the Bugardine is still in the grip of that severe drought... ;)

Jim Eager said...

Hey Blair, been a while. I just stumbled in here thanks to the link on Chris P's site. Always wondered what had happened to the WWV. Now I know.
I see you connected with Andreas Keller when you visited Australia. I used to operate on Andreas' Guelph-Cambidge CN layout until he moved to Oz. Always liked the innovative stacked vignette version he built after the move.
Look forward to following your current adventure.

Anonymous said...

I finally caught up with your blog thanks to Chris Mears. I've featured it on my blog as well. Hope that you've been having fun in Texas, and not getting water logged like Centex is at the moment.

All the best and hope to hear from you soon.

Andrew Martin