The Harbor and the Smit Rotterdam

One of the features I wanted to add with my 3rd revision to the layout, was a small harbor area.   I think its part of a common temptation all layout builders have to want to add some water feature to their layouts!
The actual bench work on this took place well over a year ago.  In the above photo you can see the extension of the layout which was to create the 'cut' in addition to more buildings.  The area in the foreground is where the harbor would now be located.  Below you can see basically the same area from the opposite direction.
There were a lot steps to create the water area and how it interacts with the land and city.   Building the shore with sculpt-a-mold, adding gravel, Woodland Scenics talus and sandy-looking ballast took some time.  Then painting the sea color. I purposefully chose a muddy-green/brown look for the water which seems more correct for a sort of 'still water' near a wharf.
The water application was really easy using Woodland Scenic's Realistic Water. Just pour a few thin layers at a time and you have water!  I spent a lot of time trying to ensure the 'bottom' was level and leak-free before painting it or pouring the Realistic Water material.

I had looked at buying various commercially available quay's and wharf pieces, but ultimately went ahead and scratch-built my own using styrene and sintra.
The ship that I ultimately decided would be cool to be anchored in the harbor was this rather large model from Heller of the Smit Rotterdam.  It was fun to build a maritime model (I've never built a ship model before!), and of course I tried to add enough lights to make it look right!

There's still lot's of details I need to add, in addition to weathering.  I also want to do a bit more cosmetic work on the edge of the layout where the 'water' meets my fascia so its not so obvious, but this is something for the future.
So this was my first real 'water feature' attempt and I'm pretty happy generally with how it turned out.  Ignoring the fact that it probably makes no sense at all for a ship like this to be docked in a situation like this, I still like how it looks and adds a bit more interest to the layout I think.


Train Show! The Great Train Expo in Puyallup!

Yesterday I made the drive an hour south and attended the Great Train Expo in Puyallup Washington (a bit south east of Seattle).  I haven't attended this show in several years, but I have to say it was huge!  The venue was great as well...a  very nice, clean and open center at the state fairgrounds.
The video captures much of the site and sounds, although it focuses on several of the large N Scale layouts (so apoligies to those in other scales!).

There were plenty of vendors at this show as well....particularly (and somewhat typically) if your into 3-rail O Gauge and old tinplate/toy trains, but I thought N Scale was very well represented by the retailers.  In fact, like the UNW show I attended in February, N scale seemed to be a very dominant scale!

Of course, other than a few exceptions, most of the materials are all North American/US models, so at least my wallet didn't get too much damage, although I did pick up a TCS decoder and some miscellaneous scenery bits.

Bottom line, a really great show!  I don't have any idea of what the attendance was, but it seems like these shows get bigger and bigger each year!


Locomotive Roster: Düwag Tram; Kato 14635

Another video review...the time we'll review a much slower and smaller model than the ICE 3, the Kato Duwag tram! 

I'm going to leave most of my comments and insights for this 'review' to my video, but here are a few photos of the tram on the layout:


Playing with trains

Sometimes I spend all my time working on the layout that I don't stop and take time to just run trains.  So that's what I did today!  The above photo shows a new addition to my fleet (review coming at some point in the future) which also represents my first Italian locomotive!

Here's another shot:
An old friend, the Minitrix Class 1800 is shown here approaching the Hack Brucken (bridge), and the prefabricated Faller (?) marshes down below.  It turned out quite nice after all!
Here's the same locomotive passing over one of the Busch laser-cut paper underpass model.  This was a pain to install (easy to build), but its coming along.  I still need to do some work on that roadway obviously.
And finally, I love to watch the CC72000 bring a rake of coaches alongside the Kato station platforms 'downtown':
That's all for today! Well, not really....I also attempted to repair, fix, or finish about a hundred little things that were left unfinished earlier or were not done propertly the first time around, but too tedious to write about - much less read about!


Locomotive Roster: DB ICE 3; Minitrix 12197

You'll notice something a bit different with this review post, a video review!  I've been inspired by a couple of video channels on YouTube to do something a bit more productive than blowing up buildings, so I'm going to try and do a bit more video!  So a tip of the hat to EWS 60008 and NGaugeUK for their instructive and enjoyable N Gauge reviews!  Of course, I have more of my overly verbose commentary and thoughts on this model below for those of you who prefer the written word!

A very recent addition to my fleet is the Minitrix 12197  8 car ICE 3 set.  This set was a complete impulse buy that I picked up at H.P.A. Schellhaß in Hamburg, Germany.  It was hard to pass it as it looked great in person and - being in Hamburg that day, I was surrounded by ICE 3's!
This set is probably one of the best values that Minitrix has produced in years.  You get an 8 car set (2 power cars and 6 coaches) for around 199 Euro or $280 USD.   That's not a bad price for European trains.

The biggest drawback with this set is that it lacks of any sort of lights in the power cars.  Not sure why this was the economy measure that Minitrix chose to go with...it does make me wonder what the additional cost of all of those PCB boards and wire adds to the cost of locomotives today.  But really, a locomotive without lights seems quite odd when all the others are lit.

So one of my first projects upon returning home was to install some LED's in the cab cars/power cars.  I'll  quickly add my process to how I did this in this post.

Step One was to get power from the axles to the interior of the locomotive.  To do this I used some extra brass strips that are typically used to add lighting to passenger cars.  These worked perfect for this job as the below photo shows.  The axles on the bogies are insulated, so be careful to put the insulated sides back in together on the same bogies, and have them on the opposite side on the rear set of bogies.
The brass strip now conducts electricity up through the pole shaft that holds the truck in place.  This shaft is held in place with a locking washer that can be (carefully!) removed (with some pressure).  Below is a photo of the shaft with the locking washer removed. 
I applied a piece of copper tape to the floor of the chassis, re-attached the locking washer and - viola! - I now have a contact pad to connect my decoder to (well, I have one pole, I repeated the process on the other side of the car for the opposite electric current).   You'll notice in the below photo an area in the front that is quite open: this is where the LED would go.  I used red/white SMD LED's from LED Baron.
I initially installed an 850ohm resistor, thinking this would be more or less adequate to protect the LED from the track voltage and dim the light enough so there would not be too much light 'bleed-through'.

Well, nice idea! But 850ohm was not enough for these LED's and my track voltage (17v).  Here's a few shots of what it looks like with way too much luminosity! :-)
It almost looks like the front end is on fire!
You can be sure that the train would be very visible if the prototype was that bright!
I eventually went back and installed 1.5k ohm resistors to replace the 850 ohm.  They helped, but there is still too much light (and the truth is, the white plastic is pretty thin!).  I may someday add in more resistance, but at this point I can almost live with it.
A final comment on the lighting of the power cars; I also recommend adding some additional weights to each of the power cars if your going to be using the power contact method I describe here. I put in a couple of tiny lead model weights, and it helped with consistent power pick up immensely!

Okay.... what about the model?

Really great model.  One feature it does have is the NEM651 socket for easy installation of a NEM651 decoder for quick and easy conversion to DCC.  I have to say there was no problems with installing the decoder at all!  I hope this represents some improvements with the NEM651 sockets from Minitrix as they tend to be a bit fiddly.

I was also pleasantly relieved to find that opening the shell to install the decoder was not a war of nerves to see if the shell would come off before the plastic crumbled from my attempts to remove the shell.  I'm sure we can all agree that removing locomotive shells should be easy, not too easy, but certainly not something that makes you panic!

In operation, the motor has the high quality, low noise, smooth running I've come to expect from modern Minitrix stock.
All in all, I'm really pleased with this set.   A great running set, with simple to install DCC, and fantastic operation and at a relatively good price for an eight car set!

For some nice photos of the Arnold version, check out "Spur N Modellbahner's" post here.


Video Tour of Quinntopia

A video tour of the layout known as "Quinntopia"!  No monsters, explosions, or fast edits on this one....rather a calm walk-through of my modest attempt at building an N scale layout! Hope you enjoy this!