Tuesday, September 15, 2015

First Rides Behind an ACS-64 City Sprinter

Did an up-and-back trip from Washington, DC to Stamford, CT over the weekend, and this ACS-64 was on the point. It was a smooth and uneventful ride, and my first ever ride behind a City Sprinter

Northbound Acela approaches Stamford while waiting for the train to take us home. Dig those tangles of track and catenary!

And this ACS-64 got us home, on time and without incident. These locos are growing on me . . . Kato announced one in N scale, maybe an HO version isn't far behind

Monday, September 7, 2015

Sighted During a DC Brewery Hike: Amtrak's Ivy City Facility

My wife Rachel and set out on a little urban hike in Washington DC's Ivy City neighborhood to find craft beer and fancy food. Our route took us on an overpass spanning Amtrak's Ivy City facility. Here are two Acelas warming up for runs up the Northeast Corridor later in the afternoon.
The whole facility, early in the afternoon. By late afternoon, this staging yard was full of Acelas as well as other trains destined for the NEC and points west.

A switcher pushes Amfleet cars into the shops while Acelas await their runs north.

More of the staging yard. Note the Superliner cars between the two Acelas on the right.

Another view of the staging yard.

Northbound Acela on the main line passes the Ivy City facility.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

More Reporting From the Road, Including Photographic Evidence

My road warrior summer continues, and I've been all over the south east with my new work responsibilities.

But still, the trains, I cross paths with them.  I even found some energized overhead wire! Woo hoo!
Yours truly at Railroad Park in Birmingham, Alabama, photo courtesy of my wife. Birmingham has become my alternate base of operations.

Meet in front of the tower near Sloss Furnaces in Birmingham. This is truly a 'hot spot', with many trains from Norfolk Southern, CSX, and Kansas City Southern moving through.

The Sloss Furnaces visitor center is nestled in the actual junction trackage. Here's a view to east/south east . . . 

. . . and a view west as the junction track curves to the north

Outside of Sloss Furnaces also looking west.

If there is energized wire, I will find it or it will find me. Was doing executive nonsense in the executive lounge of the Hilton in Charlotte, North Carolina, when I looked up and caught this view of the light rail.

More of the Charlotte city vista, with another light rail train passing through.

Monday, June 8, 2015

On the Road Again . . .

Sorry for the paucity of posts over the past month or so, but my work has put me back on to the road again. The good news: my projects and my team are growing, and I'm lucky to have an awesome team with whom it is a pleasure to work and travel. Unfortunately, being on the road with a growing and active work project leaves me with precious little time for my railroadly pursuits.

But I'm getting by! I couple of weeks ago I managed to sneak in a trip up to Philly for the East Penn Traction meet . . .
. . . which involved a Toaster-driven ride up to Philly on Amtrak. . .

. . . and seeing the modeling handiwork of and hanging out with Bill Bolton, Australian gentleman and regular on Facebook traction groups . . .

 . . . as well as a-building heavy electric modules. 

Friday, May 8, 2015

American Electrics: South Shore 700-Class Boxcab

19660529 09 South Shore Line 703 @ Michigan City Shops.jpg
"19660529 09 South Shore Line 703 @ Michigan City Shops" by David Wilson - Flickr: 19660529 09 South Shore Line #703 @ Michigan City Shops. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

The 700s were the other hand-me-down freight engines in the final years of electric freight operations on the South Shore.  They began life on the New York Central as R-2s, where they drew power from 660VDC third rail in the tunnels and suburban lines around New York City. Diesels were able to work the tunnels in NY, thus saving the NYC time and money by eliminating the need for engine changes. South Shore picked up seven R-2s between 1955 and 1967, added pantographs, changed other carbody appurtenances, and rewired them for 1500VDC operations.

Nickel Plate Products CSS&SB 700 in HO.
The 700s were usually MUd in pairs. They could handily pull long freights but were limited by South Shore's antiquated power distribution system--both the 700s and the 800s (Little Joes) maxed out substation capacity when pulling long trains. The increasingly heavy freight traffic on the South Shore in the late 1960s and 1970s--particularly with the rise of unit coal train traffic--exacerbated these weaknesses in South Shore's power distribution system. The 700s were eventually supplanted by plain blue GP7s, and were out of service by 1977. The 800s hung on for another five or six years, and were primarily relegated to less taxing industry switching in East Chicago and Gary.

Nickel Plate Products imported a Japanese model of the 700 in brass in HO during the mid 1970s.  It is a notoriously bad runner with a tendency to crack its gears. Its minimum track radius of 22" is somewhat surprising, given the model's short overall length and wheelbase.  The pantographs are also typical 1970s fare--not intended to actually contact wire, barely stay retracted/folded, and look not quite right. The small 'footprint' of pantographs may necessitate actually scratchbuilding replacements. Still, it's a beautiful, chunky model with a lot of butch, gnarly detail. I have one in my collection, and I plan to eventually re-work its drive, install DCC and lighting, and paint it. Maybe another will come along to join the Dunes Junction roster.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Pantograph Mounts for Old-Style South Shore Coaches

Evergreen styrene strips, rod, and square tubing, plus some insulators from the scrap box make up the mounts for the ConCor pantographs.

The whole shebang, ready to be place back on its floor.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Marty Bernard's Treasure Trove of South Shore Photos

The "Chicago, South Shore & South Bend; The Last Interurban" group on Facebook is a favorite part of my Facebook feed, always providing nuggets of South Shore goodness amidst the cat pictures and memes.

Marty Bernard is frequent contributor to this Facebook South Shore group, posting his original South Shore images from the 60s through 80s. He recently posted a link to his Flickr gallery, which has two albums of his original South Shore photos. South Shore fans and modelers owe Marty a debt of gratitude for making these pictures available.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Surfacing Primer on the IHP Nippon Sharyo Car

The IHP Nippon Sharyo Body with a light coat of Tamiya Surfacing Primer. This will help show flaws that need filling and correction; will let it dry for a week or so.  Body details such as grab irons, bells, and ditch lights go on after any corrective action, and body will get another coat of primer. 

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The International House of Pantographs

International House of Pantographs: If you spend enough time around HO heavy electrics, you might end up with a motley crew of pantographs like this. Most of these are Sommerfeldts from Germany but there're others in there, salvaged from old heavy electric models or acquired outright for various projects. Modern single-arms tend to look okay for North American prototype models, but some of those old-fashioned diamonds on the right side of the picture really look foreign.
Must look good folded: this is a modified Con-Cor MP54 pantograph. These are swell-looking pantographs, in either the up or down position. The photo-etched arms are especially well-done. The very well detailed base, which is very accurate for the MP54, has been removed via a very scary unsoldering process. The insulator and bottom support beams are lovely and large lost wax brass castings that absorbed all the heat my best 60-watt soldering iron could produce, thus a very uncontrollable and imprecise process. I've since acquired a resistance soldering rig for 'next time'. Will now fabricate a new base and insulators to complete the South Shore look. Did I mention it looks good folded?
One up and one down. New bases will be fabricated from styrene, or of I'm feeling frisky, from brass. 

Friday, April 17, 2015

Freelanced S Scale Electrics: Dick Karnes' New York, Westchester & Boston

Photo courtesy of Model Memories
Dick Karnes is well known as a leader in the S scale community, but he's also a serious heavy electric modeler. His New York, Westchester & Boston layout is inspired by Northeast Corridor electric roads, particularly the New York Central and the New Haven. The S Scale SIG web site has a re-published Railroad Model Craftsman story by Dick that gives a good overview of his layout and modeling. There are a few more pictures of the NYW&B at the Model Memories site.

Dick's locomotive fleet is particularly intriguing to me. He has prototype electric locomotives, but also a number of freelanced electrics. Dick modestly describes his freelanced electrics as "plausible"--but to my eye they blend a keen eye for the lines and the technology of 1940s and 50s era and excellent modeling.  The NYW&B's electrics indeed look like they belong among EP5s, EL-3As, W1s, E2Bs, E2Cs, E3Bs, and other streamlined electrics of the postwar era.

As noted here previously, freelanced railroads and models seem to be somewhat out of fashion of late. But as I think back on some of my favorite formative model railroading influences--Bob Hegge's Crooked Mountain Lines, Bruce Goehmann's Midland Electric, Eric Brooman's Utah Belt, Tony Koester's Allegheny Midland, and many others--I realize that freelanced railroads and models are a big part of my model railroad outlook. Dick's work just reminds me that smart freelance modeling is still alive and, well, and cooler than ever. 

(And I'm already thinking of electric road switchers, like this or this.)

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Some Dude Built His Own Version of a Model Railroader Project Railroad and It's Awesome

The NYC/PC Hitop Branch layout, courtesy of Steve Campbell.
Wait'll you see the close ups!
A link to Steve Campbell's NYC/PC Hitop Branch Model Railroad turned up in the Model Railroad Hobbyist community blog one recent morning.

What caught my eye was the MRH blog headline, "Originally MR's "The Virginian " build"--I always wonder about the lives of track plans and project railroads from the big model railroad magazines.

Naturally, I clicked through and was treated to Steve's inspired rendition of Model Railroader's Virginian 4x8 project layout from several years ago.

Steve kept the Virginian track plan but changed the prototype and the era to a New York Central branch during the Penn Central transition era. Click through the links to see excellent vignettes of beautifully weathered rolling stock against a backdrop of convincing scenery and structures. The overall effect is an improvement on MR's Virginian, and a rare example of a state-of-the-art small layout. The result is some truly inspirational and exciting model railroading.

If I sound a little overexcited about the Hitop, it's only because awesome small layouts seem to get so little attention in the mainstream model railroad press. There are a lot of ways to do model railroading, but sometimes the big magazines make it seem like prototype-focused basement-sized empires and large operating sessions by schedules and train orders are the only, normal way to be in the hobby.

The conspiratorially minded among us make a compelling argument that big, sprawling layout stories with their attendant gigantic rolling stock fleets, miles of track, and complex arrays of DCC and sound gear and overpriced switch machines are favored by model railroad magazine advertisers (Tom Barbelet lays it out in this Modeler's Life interview), and that's why little shelf layouts and 4x8s don't get more attention. To be fair, I think there is an element of self selection in the mix as well--serious model railroaders probably do tend to build bigger layouts. But Barbelet is on to something: it's kind of hard to believe that the magazines can find a couple of dozen or so room- or basement-sized layouts per year for feature stories, but only a few story-worthy shelf layouts or 4x8s.

(The 4x8 project layout I've always wanted to see is Wingate, Indiana as featured in "Small-town railroading, Midwest style" in the first ever MR's Model Railroad Planning annual back in 1995. Staging behind a backdrop, and a modest bit of switching of 50's-era light industry. I'd like to see it built up, populated with state of the art modeling, and then watch an operating session)

Anyway, I'm delighted to have come across Steve Campbell and the Hitop. I'm looking forward to seeing more of his work and hope my small layout can eventually capture a look, a time, and a place as well as his Hitop Branch.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Further Notes on Brass Remotoring and Customer Service

Hollywood Foundries Bull Ant drive and TCS KAT22 decoder
fitted to floor of NPP South Shore Combine
Remotoring of old brass South Shore cars continues. The latest remotoring effort used a Hollywood Foundries Bull Ant drive.

Hollywood Foundries serves up the Bull Ant in a nearly infinite number of combinations of mounts, wheel size, wheel profile, wheelbase, gauge, motor size, and wiring. The Bull Ant is an above-the-floor design that uses Mashima can motors.

Hollywood Foundries is run by Geoff Baxter amd is located in Australia, but don't let the distance fool you. The Hollywood web site has an exemplary interface for ordering the customizable Bull Ant and other products, and the e-commerce transaction is a breeze. Geoff is extremely helpful and responsive if you have any questions or concerns about Hollywood's products or your order. My drive took about three weeks to arrive, and Geoff was extremely accommodating about a last minute change to my order.

My initial attraction to the Bull Ant was that it has a flywheel and decent-sized motor, and is also very ruggedly engineered. Also, the mounting appeared to be somewhat more elegant than the raised floor mounts required by the NWSL Stanton Drive.

I ordered mine with a 37mm 'end mount'; technically, it's probably a cantilever. Mounting was very simple: I located and drilled two 2mm holes in the in the center sill of of the car and the Bull Ant's nickel silver end mount and used the included 2mm screws and nuts to fasten to the drive to the floor. A bit of .030" styrene sheet between the end mount and the car floor ensured that the car sat level.

After following Hollywood's run-in instructions, I attached the truck sideframes to the Bull Ant with epoxy. Next time, I will use styrene blocks to build out the Bull Ant's sideframe mounting surface to give the sideframe more mounting surface.

A TCS KAT22 decoder was wired in and programmed.

In comparison to my Stanton-equipped NPP cars, the Bull Ant-equipped South Shore car is noticeably noiser, owing to the gears and location of the larger motor. Side-by-side with the Stanton, the performance is comparable, save for the gear noise of the Bull Ant. The flywheel does impart some smoothness to starts and stops, but it's so small that it does not help the model glide through dead frogs or dirty track, the way old All-Nation and Hobbytown flywheel drives did back in the day.

Meanwhile, I had concerns about the performance I was getting from my earlier Stanton re-motoring projects. I had heard and seen that Stantons ran smoothly, but both of mine were troublesome. I posted some queries to a couple of the Yahoo traction groups, and got more confirmation that I should expect smooth performance from the Stantons. A proper break-in was miraculous for one of my Stantons, but the other had a hitch in its get-along.

During the discussion I initiated on the topic of Stanton Drives on the Yahoo forums, NWSL honcho Dave Rygmyr, the maker of Stanton Drives, joined the conversation. He invited anyone with a problem Stanton to contact him, so I did. He asked me to send him the troublesome Stanton, and it came back a week later, running flawlessly.

One of my TCS KAT22 decoders also developed a glitch, and TCS also promptly arranged to service and/or replace it.

TCS, Geoff at Hollywood, and Dave at NWSL are exemplars of customer service and quality manufacturing. It turns out they collaborate in real life--NWSL produces some components for Hollywood--so it's not surprising that they share a similar customer service orientation.  They are also examples of old-school craftsmanship harnessing the power of the internet. I would never have been able to hear directly from Dave if not for internet forums, and Geoff and I would still be sending snail mail and dealing with international payment methods were it not for his excellent e-commerce interface.

All signs, I think, that model railroading is thriving in the 21st century.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Stamford Connecticut Action

We traveled up to my in-law's place in Connecticut this past weekend, and a railfanning highlight was an action-packed ten minutes in Stamford.
Acela meets a Metro North train at Stamford on 3 April 2015, with another Metro North train in queue in the distance.
Metro North train departs Stamford.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Dunes Junction Track Plan Updated

The current Dunes Junction track plan, rendered using RailModeller and RailModeller Pro.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Andy Gautrey's "Wiley City" on YouTube

Andy Gautrey's work floored me the first time I saw it.  What a tremendous combination of elements at work here: excellent wire work, great running models, and the great look of it all. I've watched it on the 'big screen' in my living room a bunch of times now. More here and here.

Friday, March 27, 2015

On My Workbench: Thrall Coal Gondola Assembly Line

Taking a break from motors, decoders, and washers.  Those are 80s era MDC Roundhouse Thrall coal gondola kits in the NORX paint scheme. The detailing is a little long in the tooth on these kits, but the reporting marks and data are right for 70s/80s-era unit trains on the South Shore. These have been renumbered with dry transfer lettering and are now in assembly. I'm looking forward to putting a string of them behind Little Joe 802--there's a great picture of an 800 dragging a unit train of these Thrall coal gondolas through Burnham yard on pp. 98-99 of Middleton's South Shore book.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Demise of Model Railroading Will Always Be Greatly Exaggerated

One thing model railroaders have always loved to talk about is the demise of the hobby. Go look through letters to the editor in 40- or 50-year-old Model Railroader magazines (easier than ever now, what with MR's new paywalled archives) and you'll see how the unstoppable menace of plastic ready-to-run locomotives or slot car racing or whatever was killing the hobby.

Nowadays, lamentations over the decline of the hobby take place on the internet and assume the form of a variety of recurring concerns:
  • The gradual extinction of the local hobby shop
  • The move of manufacturing to China and attendant uncertainties due to insuperable market forces and long distance logistics
  • The increasing trend of pre-ordering, short runs, and direct sales for new products
  • The disappearance of good old fashioned solvent based paint, lead in solder, and whatever other hazardous material we used to use
  • The high price of everything
  • Greedy, profiteering manufacturers who routinely choose to dupe earnest and serious model railroaders with deeply flawed and inaccurate models
  • Mediocrity and/or decline of flagship model railroad publications
  • Aging/dying model railroaders
Joe Fugate, publisher of Internet-based upstart online model railroad magazine Model Railroad Hobbyist, took on that last recurring concern about aging model railroaders in the magazine's latest "Reverse Running"column. As the name implies, Reverse Running typically features an unusual, unconventional, or unpopular take on some aspect of the hobby.  Joe's March column, titled "The End of Youth in the Hobby", takes aim not at the number of old dudes at your typical train show or club, but at the closed-mindedness of many older model railroaders when it comes to new-fangled tech things.

In particular, Joe chastises the old guard for not being more receptive to innovations that might interest younger tinkerers and nascent model railroaders, such as mobile phone apps for controlling trains or using mainstream social media like Facebook to connect and share with other model railroaders. The comments about Joe's column are, as is often the case with good internet-based opinion writing, as interesting as the column itself.

A significant part of the problem Joe points out is internet manners. The internet allows people to express all kinds of regrettable things one would never say face-to-face to other humans. The internet also allows one to find oneself in an online community or mob of like-minded ignoramuses who make hostility or studied stupidity seem normal. It's hard to imagine model railroaders of a certain age at a public layout exhibition, club, or hobby shop actually saying something confrontational, insulting, or dismissive to  directly to a young or new model railroader, though I wouldn't rule it out. I've known some anti-social and combative modelers and model railroaders over the years, but they are a rare exception rather than typical or dominant--warmth, encouragement, and geniality are more the norm among model railroaders.

But Joe's main point is that the anti-technology stodginess of model railroading's old guard is (potentially) killing the hobby. By my lights, it's self-evident that our hobby has been slow to join the internet and digital revolution. We still have a few holdout manufacturers who steadfastly refuse to have an internet presence. A significant number of suppliers have web sites that are so poorly designed that they do their own fine and wonderful products injustice, and they miss an important sales and marketing opportunity by not offering e-commerce. There are clubs and associations that only take personal checks via snail mail, and don't avail themselves of any of a variety of electronic payment methods. The Android and iOS app stores have a tiny number of model railroad-related apps available. Model railroad-specific uptake on the big social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter is tiny. We have only one native digital model railroad publication.

And as Joe points out, for all the wonders and capabilities of smart phones and the rising 'internet of things', there is a persistent digital divide between model railroading and the general direction of tinkering and making things in the real world. Why aren't we controlling trains or programming DCC decoders with our smart phones or from a web browser? Why aren't our operations and planning gurus regularly modeling and simulating on computers to determine how long that passing track should be, or how much staging is needed, before ever building benchwork or laying track? We can print a whole HO scale interurban, but not a white or yellow decal? Why isn't anyone building super lightweight benchwork from some new resin fiberboard or plywood material cut in a CNC rot or laser cutter down at their local community maker center? (I think I might look into that last one . . . )

I agree with Joe: model railroading should catch up to the 21st century. In the last century, our big magazines and associations helped bring seriousness and legitimacy to our hobby. This century is different and we need to make sure we evolve our media, technology, and organizational tools to keep our efforts contemporary, modern, and resonant. I've always imagined that the presence of Model Railroader or Railroad Model Craftsman on newsstands in the sixties and seventies as a kind of ambassador to the public that put our hobby's best foot forward.  Our 21st century digital presence should also be a worthy ambassador, and how we make and control our trains should be as well.

But I don't think model railroading is dying. Some old standby institutions are changing, but the hobby is not dying. I'd rather be model railroading today than any other time I can think of. Connecting, sharing, and transmitting knowledge between modelers across the miles has never been easier thanks to online communities, blogs, podcasts, social media groups. The latest RTR offerings compare very favorably to even the best, factory painted brass of two or three decades past. Local hobby shops may be fading away, but the new commerce of model railroading favors model railroader consumers in many key respects. An ecosystem of online hobby dealers--many associated with Ebay and Amazon---make sourcing materials and supplies even more convenient than ever, in some particular ways. Ebay also gives individual model railroaders a way to connect supply and demand for the rare and specialized that had previously not been possible--I can't imagine how I would have built a roster of South Shore passenger equipment without Ebay to provide a more or less safe and reliable way to buy and trade across the miles.

The demise of model railroading will always be greatly exaggerated. But we could do a better job of welcoming new ideas and putting the hobby's best foor forward.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Electric Railroads of Italy . . . Who Knew?

My wife and I traveled to Italy in November for a rainy visit with our younger son, who was in Florence on a study-abroad program. The trip was a minor rail adventure--Italy's trains were a pleasant and civilized surprise. Here are some photos of electric railroads we encountered along the way . . .
Ancient cathedral in the background at the Florence station

The Italo high speed train that brought us from Rome to Florence,
next to a local commuter train. Best train ride, ever--smooth, clean,
comfortable, and fast.
That's not the fastest the Italo was going--
it crept up to 300km over several stretches
between Florence and Venice
An Italo snakes through the main Rome train station. An old-school steward/stewardess service brings red wine to your seat. Civlized, or what?
More action at the Rome station, easily one of the busiest hot spots I've ever experienced. Train watching was interrupted
by visits to various ancient ruins, medieval and renaissance architectural wonders, awesome food, and other distractions
that litter this city.

Suburban train sporting the national colors in Rome. The colors of the equipment as well as the right-of-way caught my eye--note that the rails are actually painted grey, I suspect to assist in track inspection and maintenance. 

Rome tram lines crossing in the shadow of an ancient wall in the Porto Maggiore neighborhood. The white and yellow cars on the right are meter-gauge; the green cars on the left belong to the main standard-gauge Rome tram lines.

Rome trams meet near the Circo Massimo ruins, where an excavation is underway.

Rome tram stop. The tram system is extensive and somewhat complex in comparison to Rome's subway system. Our hotel
concierge tried to dissuade us from riding the tram, but we found it to be reliable, safe, and fairly easy to use.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Brass South Shore Coach Remotoring Progress

The Nickel Plate Products South Shore modernized coach remotoring project has completed successful initial testing, including integration of a late-generation DCC decoder with 'keep alive' technology.

Adapting the NPP coach for installation of the Stanton drive required some cutting of the main floor and the vestibule floor in the body shell, and installation of a new raised floor section for mounting the drive. The Stanton's profile is 1/8" or so higher than the original NPP power truck. After cutting away enough main floor and vestibule to allow the Stanton to swing, I made a new floor section from 1/16" (.0625") brass strip, and offset it from the main floor using 2-56 screws and nuts and a stack of seven #2 washers. I also drilled new mounting holes in the main floor and and drilled and tapped new mounting holes in the body shell to ensure that the floor attaches securely to the body shell.
Side view of the new raised floor section for the Stanton drive truck. The offset is created by a 2-56 nut and a stack of seven #2 washers. The Stanton drive is in the background.
Bottom view of the main floor showing cut to accommodate truck swing, new body mounting screws holes, and four 2-56 screws.
The remotoring project uses a North West Shortline Stanton drive. During DC-only tests, the Stanton performed fairly well after a break-in of 30 minutes in each direction. The Stanton picks up power on all wheels, but consistently stalled on turnout frogs. One of my next steps is to install pickups on the trailing trucks will get pickups; the materials are enroute.

Meanwhile, I have been seeing increasing references to DCC decoders featuring 'stay alive' or 'keep alive' capabilities. 'Keep Alive' decoders use a capacitor to compensate for interruptions in current caused by dead frogs, dirty track, or otherwise inadequate contact. Several DCC makers are offering variations on this capability. 

In addition to seeing references on the bulletin boards and Yahoo groups, Trevor Marshall mentioned the technology in his blog posts on installing DCC in an S scale doodlebug and then in an Overland S scale RS18. Trevor's motive power features sound, and the Keep Alive decoders also ensure that sound doesn't suffer any 'skips' or unprototypical interuptions.  

Testing ain't pretty: the floor of the model and DCC harness
resplendent in electrical and drafting tape used for temporary
mounting. Once the trailing truck pickups and lights are
installed, I will make permanent splices and neat and
functional harness.
Bernie Kempinski's recent post on the topic discussed how Keep Alive decoders added new enjoyment to his modeling by imparting new reliability on his Civil War-era 4-4-0 steam locos, and removing the tedium and expense of powering frogs either via switch machine/throw contacts or DCC frog juicers.

Keep Alive DCC decoders seemed almost too good to be true, but I wanted to experiment with one for the NPP South Shore coach repowering project. I acquired a Train Control Systems KAT22 decoder for this project and temporarily wired it into the model for a test. Other DCC manufacturers offer comparable DCC decoders. I ensured that my test rig wouldn't short or foul the running gear, and then got it on the track.

The results of my test of the KAT22 decoder in the South Shore car did not disappoint.  The car moved smoothly at low speeds, and straight through dead frogs and patches of dirty track--all without the addition of new pickups on the currently dead trailing truck. Its overall performance on DCC vastly improved on my DC tests, which probably says more about the quality of my DC test controls than anything else.

See for yourself: check out the YouTube video below for the test of the coach under DCC control.

With DCC installation under control, I turned back to cosmetic features of this model. I added styrene mounting pads to the Stanton drive for truck side frames, and mounted new, functional pantographs to the roof. Next steps include fitting pickups to the trailing trucks and working out LED lighting.
Evergreen .060" x .250" strip cut cemented to the Stanton mounting pads with liquid styrene cement. The Stanton case is ABS and thus glue-able.

Functional Model Memories pantographs mounted to the roof with 2mm screws. They sit a little high to my eye and some detailing will be needed for the bases--these pans are intended for a Northeast Corridor prototype that mounted with a bit of standoff from the roof. But better than no pans, or non-functioning pans!
New pans reaching for the sky, just like they're supposed to do.