Thursday, January 29, 2009

Barry at Railway Recollections has updated his web site with pictures of new Maine HOn30 box car, gondola and flat car kits. Click on the link at left to go there. If you model the early Sandy River or Billerica and Bedford these will fit your layout perfectly. The box car/baggage cars are unique and would add interest to any model railroad. I have several of Barry's kits and they are nicely detailed and easy to build.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

DCC Options

Here are some decoders that could work for HOn30 locomotives because they are small enough. As you'll see 3 decoders from 3 different manufacturers can fit into a typical HOn30 locomotive. The locomotive shell in all these pictures is a Chivers Forney. The picture are right shows that a Digitrax DZ143 decoder will fit inside the shell though it might preclude the use of a flywheel.
Here's the DZ143 inside the shell.

Below is a Lenz Gold Mini W decoder. Lenz offers an additional power module that would keep the loco moving over dirty track but it's too large for an HOn30 Forney.

Lastly we're showing a Train Control Systems M-1 decoder. Their website is While I have not operated any of their decoders they look promising.

Added on Feb 2 :
TCS ( has just released a new Z scale decoder (catalog number Z2) that is rated for use with N scale mechanisms. This is the smallest decoder I have seen yet. But may I just need to get out more. :)

This one might be useful for those really tight spaces.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Another view of the transition module with Linekin Bay in the background. The boards over Linekin Bay are for storage of another module.

Lightweight Module Construction

Here are some photos of a transition module that I have built to transition from the standard 6-7/8" setback from the back drop to a 12" setback. This will be the standard for modules for my home layout. The transition modules will allow the layout modules to conform to the HOn30 standard and be used at meets with the Great Lakes HOn30 Module Group (GLHOn30MG). The 12" setback arose as I found that many of the Wiscasset, Waterville & Farmington Railway station were located on the west side of the tracks and since the defacto GLHOn30MG standard has been right is north the station must sit behind the main line. Because the WW&F ran through rural areas this often leaves a field in the front 2/3 to half of the module. Moving the main line 5 inches forward provides more room for detail such as vehicles, figures etc around the station. My plans for Monson Village and Strong also work better with a 12" set back.
The construction was inspired by Sam Swanson's Windes Inlet module, built mailing from foam core. He has detailed the construction techniques in the latest issue of Light Iron Digest. Construction was done from memory so read the article to learn best practices.

Materials include 1 20" x 30" sheet of 1/2" thick foam core, 6" x 48" x 1/4" poplar, 2' x 2' x 7/8" bead board, aliphatic resin (carpenter's yellow wood glue) or Gorilla Glue.

  • Cut 2 pieces of foam core 6" x 24" for the front and the back with a sharp utility knife and a framing square, making cuts with 3 or 4 passes . Try to make the cut edges as square as possible so that the pieces mate well for gluing and the frame will be easier to keep square. Cut 1/2 of the foam and paper surface from the end of each front and back piece to from a "rabbet" of sorts, leaving the paper on one side intact. The poplar ends will be glued into this rabbet.
  • Next cut 2 pieces of foam core 23" x 4" for the center bead board support.
  • Cut 4 pieces of foam core 4.5" x 6" for corner blocks.
  • Cut 2 small strips of foam core at least 12" long as supports for the top surface.
  • Cut 4 square pieces of foam core about 4" x 4" as supports for the center bead board support.
  • Cut the poplar into 2 24" long pieces for the ends.
  • I waited to cut the bead board until I could them them to fit the less-than-square frame.
  • Draw a line on the inside of the front and back foam core panels parallel and 7/8" away from the top edge to mark the space that the bead board will fill. All supports must stay below this line.Draw the same lines on the poplar ends.
  • Glue the 4.5" x 6" corner blocks to the ends of the front and back foam cores panels keeping them below the 7/8" line.
  • Glue the 2 23" x 4" center support pieces into a "T" beam.
  • After the front and back panel assembly have dried glue each to a poplar end using a framing square to keep them square.
  • After the glue has dried, glue the two end/side assemblies together to form the complete frame (looks like a box).
  • After the glue has cured, glue the center foam support in the middle of the frame running from front to back and below the 7/8" line but flush with it.
  • Glue the long foam core strips on the inside of each poplar end, below and flush with the 7/8" line.
  • After the glue has dried place the bead board into one corner of the top of the frame, mark it to fit inside the frame and cut it. Dry fit it and trim if needed. The bead board should fit into the frame so that the surface is flush with the top edges of the frame.
  • Glue the bead board into the frame using Liquid Nails for Foam Board or latex adhesive caulk. I used the caulk because I've used it before to glue down Woodland Scenics foam track bed.
Now the module is ready for track wiring and scenery. My module weight about 3.5 pounds without track, wiring and scenery.