Friday, February 27, 2009

Just a quick correction

The other day, I wrote something about DCC, and made a mistake right off the bat. I referred to DCC as Direct Command Control. Sorry, I meant Digital Command Control.

The other option for operating most model trains is DC or Direct Current, which is using a traditional model train transformer.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Back to trains!

I thought it was about time to get back to talking about important stuff....model trains! The topic of the day is Direct Command Control, or DCC.

DCC is cool because you can independantly control several locomotices on the same track. This means that if I want to recreate the model train wreck from the Adams Family show, I can.

The controller puts a steady voltage (around 14 volts) to the track, and lays a digital signal on top of that. Each locomotive has a decoder chip installed, which is programmed with an address. The chip, and hence the locomotive, will only respond to signals addressed to it.

The system I am using is a fairly simple and inexpensive controller, put out by Bachmann, called the EZ DCC controller.

This controller will control ten locos, including one analog (DC) engine. While this system isn't sufficient for a basement empire, it works very well for small layouts where you're only runnning a few trains at a time anyway. The EZ DCC controller costs about $100 retail, but is easily available for half that, especially from some of the EBay model railroad stores.

Bachmann also markets the decoders for the locos. They are available for about $20 each, and come with either a standard NMRA 8 pin plug or pigtail ends for soldering the connections yourself.

Of course, if you want to spend more money, and you will, there are other manufacturers and systems available. There have been plenty of reviews, so I won't bother doing it here, but will mention that Lenz, MRC, and others all make good products.

Don't forget that moving to DCC brings you into the realm of onboard sound! That will be a topic for another entry.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

*SIGH* Family

I spent the better part of today composing a letter to some relatives. After bringing them up to date on our doings, I finally got into the major subject, which was why none of my kids or their spouses want to have much to do with them.

I expect childish, self-centered, and occasionally silly behavior from 20-somethings, but from those three or four times their age, not so much. I tried, as kindly as I could, to explain what had caused the situation, and what I felt ought to be done to remedy it (ever have to tactfully tell someone to pull their head out?).

I tried to use positive things I had seen these people do as parents as examples, and pointed out how they had influenced me. Hopefully, once they get over their (predictable) anger, they will give the situation some thought and consideration.

Does anyone out there have any suggestions for tactfully correcting relatives they would like to share before I send off my letter? Comment if you do.

Monday, February 23, 2009

A Little Bit of Religion

I got to thinking that maybe I should "raise the bar" a bit, so here's some religious thinking for you.

As I understand it, there is a gospel principle in every verse of scripture. To test the theory, let's try what is probably the shortest verse in the scriptures:

John 11:35 Jesus wept.

Before looking at the verse in context, let's just consider this single verse. In these two words, I see the concept that Jesus Christ, the Son of the Living God, a God in His own right, feels sorrow and compassion, though from this one verse, I don't yet know why.

If we look at it in context, we see that the incident was where Lazarus had died, and both Mary and Martha had told Him about it. Jesus saw the women crying, and the others, I would assume family and friends, all grieving, and was troubled and saddened. The Savior was moved to tears by the grieving of others, even though He was there to raise Lazarus from the dead.

So, in context, the verse still teaches us that the Savior has compassion for us and feels our suffering.

Pretty neat for two short words, huh?

Friday, February 20, 2009

Road Trip!

We're going to San Antonio to visit some friends this weekend, and I have to admit that I'm really looking forward to getting out of town for a couple of days.

Since the San Angelo Stock Show and Rodeo is going on this week, I would normally be spending my evenings helping the Boy Scout troop with concessions. I've been to almost every rodeo show for the last 14 years, and have never seen it yet! It's a good fund-raiser for the troop though, and I enjoy helping out.

Anyway, instead of that, we are going to spend a relaxing weekend visiting some good friends. I may even make it to a big model railroad show that will be in town this weekend!

I'll let you know how it all works out.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Just some pondering...

What to blog about when you don't know what to blog about? That question has been on my mind for the last several days. I need to get on some new model railroading projects, maybe document the process of scratch-building a structure or explain a scenery technique or something.

I want to try and stay away from politics, since it just makes me mad, and I don't want to be "that blogger".

Not wanting to be "that blogger" is the reason I don't delve into religion either, though I could certainly expound on some gospel topics at some length. Some one send me a comment if you want that...

I'd tell you about my work...but then I'd have to kill you. Let's just not go there. Besides, if I mentioned half the crazy stuff that goes on around here, no one would believe me.

I will say that it disappointed and saddened me to find out when called in for an interview that was part of an investigation by the Air Force Office of Special Investigations (AFOSI) that they were as interested in what rumors and gossip I had heard as anything else. The guy actually accused me of being "shady" because I didn't want to share gossip and rumor!

I'm excited about an upcoming family reunion this summer. I haven't seen any of my cousins since I was a kid (I'm almost 50 now), so this will be interesting. We're all going to meet at my aunt and uncle's farm in Midway, Utah. A beautiful place, if memory serves me right. Midway is just down the road from Heber City, Utah, where I spent many summers as a kid. In Heber, you can find the Heber Creeper. Check out the link here.

And, here is a picture of the Heber Creeper in Provo Canyon.

I've come to the conclusion that I'd rather drive on a trip than fly. At this point, it's probably cheaper, and takes about the same amount of time. We're going to drive to Utah for the family reunion, and I've already worked out that it's a bit over 15 hours driving time. Call it a day and a half, with stops. We might even make the side trip to Chama New Mexico to see the Cumbres and Toltec Railroad. Here is a link to their site.

Enought rambling for now. Maybe I'll come up with something worthwhile to write about next time...but then, maybe I won't!

Monday, February 9, 2009

A Thought on the Stimulus Package

I know I should stay away from politics, but I have to say something...

The idea of "spending our way out of debt" is the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard of. My personal experience has always been that when you spend your way into a hole, the best thing to do is tighten your belt and stop spending!

I've never paid off a $1000 credit card debt by charging another $1000, only by paying off the original debt, which meant I had to actually manage my money and exercise some self control.

I think it would be a nice thing if my government would actually make an attempt to rein in spending and live within its means, much as we common citizens do. I doubt it will happen though....

Thursday, February 5, 2009


I guess my final thoughts on the micro layout project ought to be on what it cost me to build.

The substructure and pink foam was already on hand, so didn't cost me anything. Matter of fact, the only reason I used something as massive as 1X4 stock was that it was hanging around in my shop. I also had the foam adhesive on hand.

The track was already on hand, and the CD-based turntable was already built. No cost there.

I spent $6 for three 75 foot spools of wire at Radio Shack. Most of it will be used for other products, since I only used about 12 feet of wire. At about 3 cents per foot, I used $0.36 worth of wire.

I spent $2 on a toggle switch, and $1.50 for a power connector.

I already had a 70 pound bag of general purpose sand, which only cost about $3 anyway. No appreciable cost there.

I bought a quart of paint, tinted to match the sand, for $8, but have enough left over, for other projects, that I can say I used less than $1 worth of paint.

Buildings, trains, figures, greenery, etc, were all on hand. I'm not counting the cacti that I haven't bought yet. They will be $7 for a box of 60, and I doubt I'll use all 60.

Let's see.....looks like I spent a total of......mmmm....about $4 (actual cost of materials used) from start to finish. Not too bad!

Next entry will be about something different.....

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

A bit of greenery added

I'm still taking pictures of the work train on my micro layout, and thought I'd post a few for others to see. These are just some shots of the train working around various areas. I've added a bit of greenery, though most of it isn't glued down at all. I'm planning on ordering a box of scale cacti, now that they are approved, and am looking forward to how they will look.

Anyway, enjoy the pictures...

Bums in the arroyo.

Coming out of the tunnel

Engine heading to the turntable

Heading into the tunnel

The powder shack

Passing in front of the powder shack

The blacksmith shop