Trix Mobile Station Woes

I've installed the JMRI Decoder Pro and have a Sprog II on order. The reviews of this combination seem to be good, so I'm looking forward to actually being able to edit, read, and write CV's on my decoders in a manner that will not make my hair any more grey than it is.

I've obviously been able to read/write CV's to my other 10 or so locomotives with decoders, but I've had this problem in the past (and have somehow mysteriously been able to solve it...those 'tricks' aren't working now of course). The two installs I'm trying to program now are a pair Lenz and Digitrax decoders.

Of course, any other Trix Mobile Station owners out there who know how to get around this, please let me know!

Trix, nice 'design', but you need to work on your UI / computer programming skills my friends.


Who has the right of way?

Some fun and games on the layout today. While the 'downtown' on my layout is under revision, the tiny citizens of Quinntopia seem to have a dispute over which vehicle should have the right of way. Its hard to believe that some of these people probably just came from the church in the background and still act like this!

The tank is a Micro Machines vehicle. Typically those vehicles are too large for N Scale, but amazingly, their tanks seem to be just the right size (thanks to my son for loaning the armor!).


Locomotive Roster: Kato Series 787 Relay Tsubame!

My roster to date has been filled with locomotives and trainsets from Germany, Switzerland, France, and the Netherlands. Now add Japan to the roster. "Unprototypical" you say? Yes, but this is Quinntopia... where I control the people, the roads, the buildings, and even the trains. :-)

The fact is, the country of origin of each of my trains is almost as interesting as the various designs, schemes and histories, and its my enjoyment of all these assets that allows me to enjoy and appreciate the world of model railroading so much.

And there is a lot of fantastic design (in my mind) with the Series 787 Relay Tsubame. Additionally, there is a level of quality, value, and care in the model created by Kato that is almost equally amazing.

This is a seven car set of very high quality, and yet it cost at least half of what I would pay for an equivalent set of a European outline. The set also comes packaged in, what I am sure to the Japanese is the 'standard', a very nice case that allows you to easily store or display your set (in Quinntopia, however, we demand that all of our loco's earn their keep! There will be no slouching on a shelf for this railroad!).

This set was also my very first actual DCC installation that did not either already come with DCC or merely required the installation of the decoder via a NEM 651 adapter (the Kato Thalys is something of an exception, it required the replacement of the stock DC light board with a ESU light board which has an NEM 651 adapter).

Needless to say, I was a bit intimidated. We've all read the posts and horror stories of decoders getting fried, the work required to 'mill out' enough space to install the decoder, etc, etc....

Fortunately, the good people over at the JNS Forum were able to assist me with valuable photos and their experiences with similar installations.

The experience was not too bad, owing more to the fact that there is plenty of space to install the decoder for the motor - plus the 2 decoders for each of the end cars (for the lights) - than any skill I have! I made a couple of stupid errors...not only getting a bit sloppy with the solder (I'm still learning!) but initially soldering the decoder leads to the wrong side of the electrical contact strips! See photo at right...this is NOT how to do it!

Well, that error was fixed and probably wouldn't have done any damage, because once I finished that part, I realized there was no way the contacts would fit back in the shell! Cleaned it up and repaired it, and no damage done.

I was also overly generous in the length of my decoder wires, and thus have more wire than I need. Sounds like a good thing, right? That is until you have to try and figure out how to stash all that excess wire so it doesn't look like the interior of your passenger cars is consumed by some large multi-colored octopus.

Other than some decoder programming issues with my Mobile Station (more on that in a future post), I am now able to enjoy a very cool, sleek, and tough looking electric train set from Japan. This will be the first of many trains from the other side of the world.


5 Months ago....

Wow. I was just looking at some photos from a few months ago, and I was amazed at how much work I've been able to get done in that time. The above photo is the layout last November (November 17 to be exact), the below photo is from early March. Comparing the two...I get exhausted! I am glad that part is behind me! The cool thing is its been a lot of fun and now I find myself 'inventing' new things to work on (like my 'urban development' program currently underway in Quinntopia). What a fun hobby!


Fleischmann and Trix Warranty Woes and Cheers

A quick post to share my (limited) experience with warranty service from the two main German N Scale manufacturers. I write this as I just shipped off my Kof II back to the dealer who will likely send it back to Germany for warranty service (unaccountable stops and stalls, which I think are more than just a symptom of the locomotives limited electrical contacts and dirty track issues). I am somewhat optimistic, as my one other experience with Trix was very positive.

And since these manufacturers do offer at least a one year (I see most are moving to two year) warranties, I intend to take advantage of it!

Trix / Marklin: "CHEERS!"
My Trix Mobile Station stopped working late last summer. Unable to resolve this through the manual, I took the somewhat intimidating step of collecting my reciept, composing a mail, and shipping the Mobile Station off to the Trix repair address in Germand.
Within a couple of weeks, I recieved an email notification that they had recieved my item and were working on it.
Less than 5 weeks after sending it, it was returned to me and has worked perfectly since then.
In my estimate, excellent service and responsiveness from Trix / Marklin.

Fleischmann: "Jeers"

I purchased a Fleischmann digital starter set last year, but had some problems with the Class 64 steam locomotive that came with it. Apparantly, it seems like it could be the drive rods are binding up, or something is wrong with the motor. I returned it to the dealer, and after an intial attempt to repair, I still experienced the same symptoms (jerky movement, stopping). The dealer then sent it back to Fleischmann in Germany for repair. Unfortunatly, this was back in late September, and as May is approaching, that means over 6 months with the manufacturer.
As my dealer explained to me, the Fleischmann/Roco merger is not going all that smoothly and a lot of things are delayed and not going entirely well. Be that as it may, 6 months for a warranty repair? Seems very excessive.

Again, neither of the above are representative examples given the small sample, but clearly my confidence in getting back a repaired Kof II from Trix (however, there's obviously the bankruptcy issue with Marklin / Trix at this time!) is much higher given their fantastic performance with the Mobile Station.


"The Man Cave" (aka Train Room)

To complete my overview of my process to build a layout (see this post...WARNING: I'm an amateur and just trying to have fun...the clinic on L-girder construction can be found elsewhere! :-) ), here - at last - is where all the action happens: My garage! I'm fortunate enough at this point in life to have a home (and a wife who supports!) where I am able to carve out the 3rd stall in our 3 car garage for my 'train room'. My father-in-law helped me build a wall to separate the 'train room' from the cars and other stuff, which means its a relatively nice space for the trains. We don't live in the driest climate here in the Pacific Northwest, but winters are moderate and a couple of space heaters help to keep the garage warm and the local electric utility in the black through the winter. Like a lot of folks, I dream of a basement or other 'real' space, but I've actually come to enjoy the 'solitude' and peace that comes with having a place to do 'train stuff' away from the home (plus, I can leave my junk out on things I'm working on and not worry about any complaints about the mess!)

Here's another photo...about two years after the photo above in the midst of the expansion of what I call "Version 4.0"
Another change since the photo above was the addition of the viaduct which is actually on the end of the layout which faces 'outside'.  One advantage of this is that on nice days I can open the garage door and let the bugs in, err..., let the sun in!


MORE Amazing buildings and Japanese layouts!

Having obtained permission (this time!) to use the above photo, I also wanted to share another inspirational site. Some really amazing, and very Japanese, layout work from Australia on the Setagaya layout. His urban scenes are a treat for the eyes! My regret is that Australia is so far away that this is as close as I'll ever get to seeing it!

He's also done a wonderful job of providing a good summary and photos of some of his custom work on many of the commercially available buildings - primarily Japanese (Kato, Tomix, Greenmax, but some Vollmer/Faller and others as well)- which I've found to be a good visual reference to find new buildings that I may want to add to my layout.

Apparently the above mentioned "Setagaya" layout is no longer with us, but he's begun work on a new layout!

Hope you enjoy these links (here and below) as much as I do!


AMAZING Buildings in N Scale!

Wow! If you're interested in N Scale skyscrapers...if you're wondering if the modern Japanese buildings I've talked about elsewhere on my blog look good next to more traditional American brick buildings....if you'd like to feel like your 'tall' 4 story structure is actually kind of wimpy....check out this guys post, his FlickR photos, and the related posts on the nScale.net site. Check out at least the first two links. Stuff way more cool than the above photo.

Amazing stuff. Quite inspiring, but I know that I'll never be able to afford the space, time, or resources to come even close to what he's done! By the way, the photo above is his from from his posting on Skyscrapercity.com, and as I could not find his contact information to get his permission to use, I am feeling a bit guilty about it. If you are the owner, please contact me and I will gladly remove the photo from my site, but your work really does need to be promoted!