Category Archives: Uncategorized

New Display Case

Progress has been quite slow, and I haven’t had much time to write.  I do have several “irons in the fire” that should bear fruit in the near future.  I am holding off on writing about them because I want to write complete articles.  In the meantime, here is a nice thing that I picked up for a song at our local NMRA club’s monthly meeting: a display case.

Display Case

It’s a cleverly simple design, utilizing a pegboard and hangers to support the wood shelves. Not exactly a museum-quality backdrop, but it’s pretty well made for what it is, complete with the sliding plexiglass doors. I haven’t mounted it on the wall yet, but I have found a use for it.

Continue reading New Display Case

Con-Cor / Rivarossi N scale 4-6-2 “Pacific” Decoder Install (Part I)

I was recently asked by a friend to install a decoder in an N scale Con-Cor / Rivarossi 4-6-2 “Pacific” locomotive. It seems that install instructions for this model are scarce, so I will share how I managed.

DCC decoder install in a Con-Cor/Rivarossi 4-6-2
(shown with the steam-dome shell screw partially removed)

This locomotive model has an odd (really, just old) method of pickup. The fireman’s side (left, going forward) rail is picked up through the drivers, while the engineer’s side (right, going forward) is picked up through the tender. Power is transferred from the tender to the engine through the drawbar and a stiff bit of spring-wire that contacts a peg sticking down below the cab.

This is actually the trickiest part of the install. The drawbar peg on the engine is directly connected to the lower motor brush, and the drawbar itself is conductive. So in order to isolate the motor from the rails, you have to somehow insulate the drawbar and provide an alternate path for the tender pickup to the decoder. More on that later.

For this install we chose the Digitrax DZ126T as the best balance between cost and size. The TCS Z2 (also a good choice) is slightly smaller but more expensive. The Lenz LE077XF is only a little more expensive than the Digitrax, but is the largest of the three. Any of these would work, though, and would follow the same basic install process.

The first step is to locate a good spot to fit the decoder, and do any necessary milling or other modifications to make room. Another install page showed installing the Lenz decoder under the cab roof, after some milling to the inside of the roof and to the top of the frame. On looking at the frame design, I decided to fit the decoder into the boiler where the upper headlamp contact is. There is room for the DZ126T at that location without any frame modifications.

DCC decoder install in a Con-Cor/Rivarossi 4-6-2

Remove the shell by taking out the screw in the top of the steam dome on the boiler and then spreading the firebox sides slightly. It is a tight fit, but with some shaking the frame will drop out. Next, remove the two headlamp contacts from the center of the frame and disconnect the black wire running from the upper contact to the rear of the locomotive. Keep the lower contact. You will need it later. Also remove and keep the spade lug on the back end of the black wire. The upper contact and the wire itself can be discarded.

Next, I test-fit a pre-wired T1 white LED that I had handy. It fits nicely into the brass slug that previously held the headlamp. I went ahead and used this pre-wired model, but next time I would probably custom build a T1 LED and resistor to make it as compact as possible and make a little bit more room for the decoder. The shrink wrap on this LED assembly got in the way.
DCC decoder install in a Con-Cor/Rivarossi 4-6-2
Pre-wired T1 LED in the boiler

DCC decoder install in a Con-Cor/Rivarossi 4-6-2
Test fit of the pre-wired LED

After test fitting, I trimmed the LED assembly as short as I could and wired it to the decoder. The decoder Blue wire (common +) goes to the current limit resistor (connected to the LED’s anode) (red wire) and the white wire (forward headlight function) goes to the cathode.

DCC decoder install in a Con-Cor/Rivarossi 4-6-2

The upper brush contact of the motor contacts the frame through a brass spade lug. We must remove that lug, turn it around to face away from the frame, and attach the decoder grey wire to it.

To remove the motor, you must first remove the lower brush contact. Pull straight down on the white plastic ring around the tender pin until it comes loose. Be very careful. It is a tight fit, and when it comes loose it is likely to fly off, taking the spring and motor brush with it.

Next, pull the motor out of the frame by pulling (or pushing) straight back firmly but gently. Remove the spade lug tab from the top motor contact and solder it to the grey decoder wire. Solder the spade lug removed from the lighting tab wire to the orange decoder wire.

After measuring for proper length of the grey and orange wires (they’ll reach back from the decoder position over the top of the frame), I cut and soldered the wires to the spade lugs away from the loco to prevent overheating the motor brushes.

Aesthetically, it would be better to solder the grey wire to the bottom contact and the orange wire to the top contact, so the orange wire is hidden from view. This would make the motor run in reverse, but that can be corrected by programming the decoder.

I lined the inside of the back of the motor mount hole in the frame with Kapton tape to ensure no contact between the brushes and the frame. This might have been overkill but I wanted to be extra-safe.

Reinstall the motor in the frame and reinstall the lower brush contact and tender pin. Slip the spade lugs back onto the motor brush contacts with the tab pointing back away from the frame.

DCC decoder install in a Con-Cor/Rivarossi 4-6-2

DCC decoder install in a Con-Cor/Rivarossi 4-6-2

Once the motor is back in place, bend both spade lugs flush with the back of the motor.

Now, we’re almost done.

Cut and solder the red decoder wire to the lower headlamp tab and re-insert the tab into the frame. Secure the decoder to the top of the frame where the upper headlamp tab used to be. Tuck and secure all of the wires. The black wire should run back along the Engineer’s side of the frame where the black headlamp wire used to be, and will stick out the back of the cab for some length. The yellow wire can be cut short and tucked.

DCC decoder install in a Con-Cor/Rivarossi 4-6-2

Bend the red wire tab up a little past vertical. This will ensure the red wire is not sticking down where it can be seen when the shell is re-installed.

Slip the headlamp into the hole in the boiler slug, then carefully reinstall the shell. It is a tight fit, so you may have to do some “encouraging” to get everything in. It helps to take a small screwdriver and tuck the black wire under the lower edge of the boiler to hide it, much the way one would tuck a cable beneath the baseboard of a house wall. Be careful not to damage anything.

At this point, you should have a complete, running locomotive, except the black wire is sticking a few inches out the back of the cab. To test the locomotive, use an alligator-clip test lead to connect the black wire to the engineer’s side rail of your test track. The locomotive should power up, respond to DCC commands, and run (at least as far as the test lead will reach).

Now is the time to fix anything that is wrong.

In the next installment, we will see how to connect the black wire to the tender and complete the installation.

Big Steam

  by BGTwinDad
, a photo by BGTwinDad on Flickr.

I spent some time this weekend on Ray Grosser’s Soo Line Nostalgia Trip layout. He had asked for a hand with tweaking the sound features on these two big steamers, and given the chance to visit his fantastic layout, who was I to say no?

WVR655 Wandering Caboose

WVR655 Wandering Caboose by BGTwinDad
WVR655 Wandering Caboose, a photo by BGTwinDad on Flickr.

Over the holidays, the CH&FR railroad (and dispatcher Mike McConnell in particular) has played host to WVR655, a “wandering caboose” from the website. On board were 18-year old twins Thomas and Jacob Wallburg and their 12-year old sister Ashley.

The Wallburgs enjoyed Christmas with Mr. McConnell’s family, and are staying through the New Years Eve festivities before traveling on to nSn user Mill-Bay’s Kettle River Railway in Vancouver, BC.

Central Valley Truss Bridge

Central Valley Truss Bridge by BGTwinDad
Central Valley Truss Bridge, a photo by BGTwinDad on Flickr.

Work nears completion on the new CV Truss Bridge for the layout. I painted it last night (black, of course). I’ve got a few tweaks to make, and I need to set the piers in place and level, and then we will be back in operation.

This is the taller version of the model, made to accommodate double-stack container cars.

The piers shown in the picture here are just holding the bridge up off the table. When in stalled, the piers will be in their proper positions at the ends of the span, not in the middle.

2013 Christmas Train


The 2013 CH&FR Christmas Train pulls out of Nolan Yard. At the head is the CH&FR’s own GP40, followed by the 2013 FVM boxcar, an Intermountain TTX flat with a 50 foot pine tree for the town, and the CH&FR caboose bringing up the rear.

I mounted the tree and did the tie down cabling myself. The boxcar is, of course, store-bought. I’m hoping to add at least one car each year going forward.

Merry Christmas everyone!!

‘Tis The Season

Christmas tree by BGTwinDad
Christmas tree, a photo by BGTwinDad on Flickr.

The CH&FR handled some special cargo today as the town Christmas tree arrived at Nolan Yard. The 50′ pine was shipped by rail because… well, because.

The CH&FR shipping department reports that the tree will be delivered to Glover’s Bend in a few days, and will be set up and decorated in the town square by the end of the weekend.