December 13, 2017

Down to the Waterline

The newly cut waterline hull alongside the wharf at Aquia Landing. It's hard to photograph as it is so big. 


Tonight, I glued in the plywood deck to the styrene hull. I used a combination of CAA and Wellbond. Before I did that, I reinforced the area of the hull where the deck meets the hull sides with a strip on 1/8th by ¼ inch basswood. The area near the paddlewheel in particular needed some stiffening.

Marking the waterline. 
Once the CAA glue had a few minutes to set, I marked the waterline using various thickness boards to get the hull at the right attitude with respect to the nearly flat bottom keel. The deck at the bow is about 1/8th inch higher than the stern.  Before cutting, I double checked the dimensions along the hull with my calipers. I needed to re-mark one side. It was easy to wipe off the incorrect line with an alcohol soaked rag and then carefully redraw it.

With both waterlines the same,  I then  used a utility knife to cut the styrene hull  along   the marked line.  I made multiple light passes with the blade and eventually the styrene snapped open.  I actually had to change blades as the knife edge quickly wore away.

With the bottom cut off, I had access to the interior.  I ran a thick bead of Wellbond along the deck hull joint.

Tomorrow I'll add some lateral stiffeners inside the hull, but I was pleasantly surprised at how sturdy the hull was even now without them. Then I 'll sand the cut edges and get it all squared up.

This was the toughest part of building this model. The rest of the ship is not much  different than building a land structure.   Using the styrene hull saved a lot of time. So far I've worked on this hull about 4 hours and it is nearly done. If I had cut my own bulkheads and planked them, it probably would have taken me about 30-40 hours of work.

It really looks cool sitting alongside the wharf as it dwarfs the trains near it.

December 11, 2017

The Crown Jewel?

Several steamers at Aquia Landing


So it begins. After sitting for seven years in a box under the benchwork at Aquia Landing, I finally started building the Mt Washington. I purchased this kit from Dumas Models in the fall of 2010, see this blog post. This is a large paddle wheel steamer that may well be the crown jewel at Aquia Landing.  It is craftsman style kit intended for radio control (R/C) use on ponds.  Internet reviews of the kit from R/C oriented modelers say that it is not a great pond boat as it is top heavy and unstable. Many of the folks that run the model on water use detachable keels with ballast.  Most of them opine that it is better suited as a display model.  To further scare off modelers, the instructions say to devote 9 months to constructing it.


Whew, that is scary. Fortunately, I do not intend to make it a pond model. In fact. I will cut it at the waterline like I did to the Deans Marine Danica Marie R/C conversion I did for the PoLA layout.  Having built a Dumas kit in the past, I know that the construction techniques they recommend are overly complicated with the aim of providing ample room in the hull for R/C electronics. They also have to design the kit to allow the topsides to be removable and watertight to allow access to the mechanisms.  The kit instructions come in three booklets, with text in one, drawings in another, and photos in a third. There is a lot of head scratching as you read textual descriptions of parts without a drawing nearby to look at.  You end up flipping between the booklets as you read through them. To further confuse the instructions, the drawings are not numbered in the sequence they are called out in the instructions.  So I plan to essentially ignore the kit instructions and treat the top side as a scratch build project.

Another time consuming aspect of the kit is the cutting of the windows on the main deck and the vents on the waterwheel housing from the supplied vacuum formed parts. I will use my laser cutter to make these parts more accurately and faster than by hand.

The kit comes with a lot of  die cut frames for the decks. I don't plan to use any of them. I will laser cut the superstructure using the plans as a guide. In effect, I treat the kit as a vacuum formed hull that came with a set of detail parts and lots of strip wood and styrene. I find that when trying to build ships that are correct for my era and locale, it is more cost effective to buy a kit that is close to the desired model, and then use it as a consoldiated source of raw materials. When you go to buy individual detail parts the cost adds up very quickly. The savings can be enhanced if you get the base model on sale, like I did with this kit.



The first step was to trim the excess plastic lip around the vacuum formed hull. This model has a styrene hull and it is easy to cut with a hobby knife. Once the lip was mostly removed, I was relieved to find that the beam  is about 4 inches less. The narrower hull fits in my harbor scene much better and  it looks much more streamlined too.

Next, I used the drawing in the kit to cut a single piece of plywood to make the main deck. Here again, if you follow the instructions, you will be gluing dozens of pieces together to make a two-piece removable deck and super structure. I plan to use the deck like I would a foundation on a ground structure and add the superstructure to it. Only a small portion of this deck is visible near the bow and the stern. I will plank those with a layer of laser cut basswood.

Tomorrow I'll add braces to the interior and glue the deck. Then I cut it at the waterline, and add any necessary braces from the inside. Stay tuned as I hope this will be fun.

December 10, 2017

The Transfer Bridge at Aquia Landing





Barges and rail cars on wharf at Aquia Landing
I was unable to find any prototype photos of the transfer bridge at Aquia Landing.  The photo at the left the shows the end of the wharf where the transfer bridge should be, but the transfer bridge  is not visible.  It may be obscured by the railcars, or it may not be present. The photos do show clearly that there are two tracks on the wharf.

With no prototype photo of the actual transfer bridge to guide me, I made a two-track transfer bridge using the photos from similar facilities at Alexandria and City Point as a guide. There was also a transfer bridge at Manchester, VA at the end of the war, but that one was much different from the other two and was used to load cars to ships as cargo and not on rails.



Transfer bridge at City Poin

Triple transfer bridge at Alexandria, but only the center
ramp has rails. perhaps it is still under construction when the
photo was taken,
Overall, I based my transfer bridge on the structure at Alexandria, but with 2 vice 3 tracks. But I used the block and tackles from the City Point transfer bridge instead of the lever arms of the Alexandria facility.

The model blocks and tackle are home made and they actually work, though the blocks will break if you tug the lines too hard. I broke three in the construction process.




The sloping access deck was based on the Alexandria
transfer bridge


The biggest difficulty with this project was the track spacing. I set it 2.63 inches to allow 8 cars on the float track.  But that made for a very tight clearance for the central post of the transfer bridge gallows. It took some careful work to provide clearance for the post and lifting ropes. In retrospect, I should have made the tracks about 2.75 or 2.8 inches apart.

I can shift the  barge to load each track. I am not sure I will do that in op session. But I can do it for photos.
It's a tight squeeze










A few more details on the barges and this project will be wrapped up.

December 4, 2017

Barges? We don't need no steenkin' barges!



What, he said, "badges?" Oh, OK, never mind.

The individual barges are named after my
mother and mother-in-law. Rudder and tiller
construction is in progress.
I have been working on the barges for the car ferry this week. I have the basic hulls done, including the frame work to support the rails. I'm in the process of adding the final details. Once the barges are done, I'll build the transfer bridge.









The USMRR had several sets of rail transfer barges. Most appear to have numbers instead of names, but in photos names on several barges can be seen. So I named mine after my mother and mother-in-law.

The transfer bridge will be about 4 inches long.
I still need to add some detail parts to the bow area.
The rails on the barges ride a little taller than the rails on the wharf. So there will be a slight incline up to the barge from the wharf. This is not un-prototypical. The tide at Aquia Landing is about 1 foot under normal non-flood conditions.  The transfer bridge is designed to move up and down to accommodate the tides.

The slight up ramp might help prevent cars from running off the floats. We'll see.

November 30, 2017

More on Flexible Beam Locomotives

Recently John Ott completed another fantastic drawing of a flexible beam locomotive to add to his collection of early locomotive drawings. If you haven't seen his work, then please check this website, a sample of which is at the right.
The new drawing depicts the engine  Iron City.

I asked if John could do a version of the drawing showing the flexible beam 0-8-0 engine Washington, as used on the USMRR Aquia Line. John quite correctly pointed out to me that the Washington was likely an older and smaller design. He would need to do more research before he could do a proper drawing.

I have never seen a drawing or photo of the Washington. So I contacted my friend Nick Fry, curator at the  John W. Barriger III National Railroad Library  and Vice President-Operations, BORRHS
for help. Sure enough he hit pay dirt. He sent me this scan of by Edward Wiswesser's book,  "Steam Locomotives of the Reading and P&R Railroads."  Nick believes  that the USMRR Washington was probably of the same class as the Baldwin built P&R Pocahontas, which is similar to the Princeton in the photo below. Although a flexible beam locomotive, it is quite up-to date in appearance for an ante-bellum locomotive.  I suppose the loco had a standard tender behind it.  Such a loco would make a good scratch building project for me.


November 25, 2017

New Train Bulletin Sign at Falmouth

The laser cutting work station is complete and the laser is back in operation. The first task was to engrave a new train bulletin sign at Falmouth. The previous train bulletin was recycled from McCooks and showed trains Eastward and Westward. That caused some confusion for my boomer operators, so I made a new one showing Southward and Northward, the same as in the time table.

For material I used some left over masonite that was finished for chalkboards. Marty left some of this material here after I did a small cutting job for him (actually it was for his wife, but the reason is Christmas confidential).  The material engraved nicely and made a good sign.



November 24, 2017

A Laser cutting workstation

   

The current work station is inefficient and disorganized
All tools must fold up and be put away to fit the car in the garage
The new design work station 
After years of using a simple plywood and 2x4 based work station for my laser, I decided to build a better one.  The current work station is inefficient as there is a lot of wasted volume, and tends to get disorganized as there is no good place to store materials.

The new design would have places to store materials,  a sliding shelf for the laptop,  and a place where the compressor sits on the floor to minimize vibrations. I am using this project as a self training exercise to learn how to use some new tools I purchased.

Since I have no room for a table saw in my garage, I bought a Festool Track saw and rail, their matching router, and a multifunction table. I also picked up some accessories to help cut things square and parallel. Those included Parf dogs, Seneca Woodworking parallel track guides, and Festool router guide stops.


























It took awhile to learn how to use the various accessories (yes, I did read the instructions), and I made a few mistakes, but the basic frame is done after day 1.  Tomorrow I'll add the sliding shelf, cubby holes and  face frame. I'll also drill out the hole for the air line and electric power to the compressor. I may try to add a master switch for the all the electrical components too.


November 19, 2017

NJ-DC Interchange 2017


Trains 3 and 4 meet at Brooke.
Bill and Henry pass Brooke
This year it was the Washington DC area layout owners turn to host the annual NJ-DC interchange. It is an annual event that has developed over the past few years where layout owners from each region host the layout owners from the other region.  We had a whole weekend full of events and op sessions planned for our northern visitors. Alas, I was not fully recovered from my cold, so I only participated by hosting an op session on Sunday morning.

My gallant crew of boomers included Henry Freeman, Bill Raymond, Tom Piccirillo, Andy Busgard and Jim Schweitzer.  Since the op session had to start in the morning to give the visitors time to drive home, we ran the morning session on Aquia Landing. This was the first time we ran the morning session.

Andy and Tom switch Falmouth
Henry and Bill ran Trains 3 and 6, while Andy and Tom ran Trains 4  and 5 back. The initial trains got off to a slightly late start, but they were able to make their meets on time. After a brief learning curve on the couplers and Stanton throttles, both crews did a great job and the trains ran extremely well.  Whew!

The commissary provided their usual great snacks, this time dark, double chocolate Ghiradelli brownies, coffee and tea. Thank's Alicia.










Jim has the right whiskers for operating on Aquia, but he took
PoLA for most of the session.
Meanwhile, Jim Schweitzer ran PoLA as a solo operator. He is an experienced operator so I knew he could handle it. I used the revised switchlist that listed hold cars as well as pick-ups and set-outs. I also added an extra task by requiring the out-bound cars to be classified according to destination railroad, UP and BNSF in this case. Jim liked the railroad and remarked that it was a lot of work for 5 sidings. He also felt that he could have used a 2-man crew as the job has a lot work for one person. At the end of the session, Jim ran the General's special from Falmouth to Aquia. It was actually easy as there were no scheduled trains on the road when he ran

Prior to their arrival I added two more box cars and a new conductor's car to the Aquia layout. So now all scheduled trains have a conductor's car to run in their train.

Jerry and Jim
On Saturday Paul Dolkos, Tony Koester, Perry Squire, Jerry Albertie and Jim Leighty visited my house after operating on Paul's Baltimore Harbor.  They got to tour the layout, but did not operate.

Later on Sunday Mike Willegal and his wife, Christie, stopped by to see the layout on their way to South Carolina for Thanksgiving. Mike is planning an HO version of City Point.

All in all a great weekend. Sadly, I was not the only one that got sick on the Detroit trip. Several of the NJ guys also contracted colds, but they toughed it out to operate this weekend.
Christie and Mike







November 16, 2017

Coal and Caboose



A few weeks ago I sifted through the conductors reports that I copied at the National Archive several years earlier. One of the reports listed coal as a commodity being shipped to Falmouth. I am really not sure why they were shipping coal at this time. One possibility was to refuel steam boats that landed at Falmouth. But I don't believe the Union forces were sending steam boats up the Rappahannock to Falmouth at this time because the southern shore of the river was in rebel hands.  

As far as I know, no locomotive on the Aquia Line burned coal. I have message traffic that talks about locos getting wood and water.  The USMRR did have some coal burning locos in 1862 that they borrowed from the B&O in service on the O&A, but those locomotives did not make it to Aquia.

The amount of coal shipped on the Aquia line was small. So it was unlikely a major fuel source. However, they may have stockpiled coal at Aquia Landing to refuel ships, so some coal might have been available. Perhaps the coal shipped to Falmouth was for use in tent stoves, especially at Headquarters.

As I was wondering this, I found a flash news reel from the USMRR Aquia Line that explains the situation . I've included it below to allow the widest dissemination.

I made the coal load with a piece of foam painted black and covered with real crushed coal . Like all my loads, it is removable so the car can return empty.

To improve the tractive effort of Osceola I filled its firebox with cubes of tungsten. I was able to get about 3 ounces in firebox void. It does seem to improve the pulling power of the small loco.

I added another caboose to the inventory this week. During a typical op session we have two trains running at one time, so now each train will have their own conductors car, also known as a caboose.

November 15, 2017

Great Lakes Getaway 2017

I spent last weekend in the southeastern Michigan area attending an event called, "Great Lakes Getaway." It's a round-robin layout operations weekend hosted by several layout owners from Battle Creek to Northern Ohio. That area is blessed with numerous fantastic layouts and some of the friendliest people you will ever meet. Among the many highlights of the weekend was getting to run the steel mill job on Jim Talbot's WL&E layout. I had so much fun, I spent the weekend wondering how I could fit a steel mill in my layout. Jim asked me to do a video as I operated and I did. I posted it on Youtube here.


The new coal dock temporarily in place on the layout
The next day I delivered the  coal dock model that I built for Mike Burgett's C&O layout. It is an honor to be able to contribute to Mike's layout. His layout is a tour de force of realistic model railroading. It is easily in my top 10 list of model railroads.  Aside from the beautifully finished layout, he has a separate room up stairs for the dispatcher, and ND Cabin operator in the garage. Both are fully equipped with authentic vintage railroad equipment.

My weekend continued with operations on Bill Neale's Pennsy Panhandle layout set in 1939. I had a series of interesting jobs on his impressive layout.

I also got a chance to visit Scott Kremer's GN layout. It is an absolutely gorgeous layout with over 5,000 hand made trees and beautiful painted backdrops.

I spent a good part of the weekend driving around and having dinner with guys that work for the real railroads. It is always interesting to get their prototype view of industry and how it applies to the hobby.

Below is a summary video I shot of the various layouts I visited. All in all a great weekend, except that as usual, I caught a cold. Airplanes and I don't mix.


November 5, 2017

Dual Op Sessions (11th on PoLA and 3rd On Aquia)

Brad and Paul are all business on PoLA
Ed and Eric spotting cars left from train 5 at Falmouth
The Aquia Line and PoLA layouts hosted dual (dueling?) ops sessions today. Paul Dolkos and Brad Trencamp ran PoLA. That was the 11th session on PoLA.

 Meanwhile, four newcomers ran the Aquia Line for its third session. Eric Payne and Ed Kapuscinski took Train 8 out of Falmouth. But first they had to spot the cars that train 5 had left there.  At the other end of the layout, Bob Sprague and Scott Wahl ran Train 7 out of Aquia Landing.  Ed, Eric and Scott are N Scale modelers. Bob, Brad and Paul have HO layouts. Eric's N Scale  layout uses TT&TO, so he was able to jump right in to the ops scheme. Ed models Conrail in the York PA area.  Scott builds modules and has a N Scale home layout. Bob is building a new Ma and Pa layout in HO scale.

Cornfield meet at Potomac Creek Bridge?
Scott and Eric sort out who will get to go first
The General rides the Special to Aquia Landing
Train 8 was late leaving as they had a lot of switching to do at Falmouth. Meanwhile, Bob, the conductor on Train 7, was waiting at Brooke. He realized that 8 was late, so he advanced from Brooke, his scheduled meeting point, IAW a special rule on the Time Table, which is verbatim copy of an actual rule used by the USMRR.

Unfortunately,  Eric, the conductor on 8, thought they could work Potomac Creek before 7 arrived. Meanwhile 7 was barreling down on them. Luckily they were able to stop on the bridge before crashing,  where they sorted out the meet. After some arm wrestling, Train 8 ended up backing up to Stoneman's to let 7 pass (7 was the superior train). You got to love TT&TOs.

Eric and Ed also got to use the working brakes on a car spotted at Potomac Creek.

Meanwhile, Paul and Brad got their work done on PoLA in about 1.5 hours. They were the first operators to spot the newly weathered auto-racks at Chase Marine Terminal for use by the US Army to take wheeled vehicles being unloaded from the ship. Afterwards, Brad showed Paul and I his design ideas for his new basement, a beautiful 12 by 34-ft space with room for staging in a adjoining utility room. Then Paul took off for home, while Brad stayed around to watch the rest of the session.

Scott and Bob switching the wharf at Aquia Landing
The crews on the Aquia Line were busy switching and doing a great job. Since they were such good operators, we decided to have Brad run the Generals' Special from Falmouth to Aquia.  It was simply a light engine, Osceola, with the general riding aboard. It got priority on the road. Fortunately, it did not disrupt operations too much, as both 9 and 10  were  waiting for  their scheduled time to leave, so the General's Special had a clear shot at Aquia Landing.

This was the smoothest op session yet. The new link design seemed to work quite well. The new way bill system also worked well. I  modified it a bit so that each car now has a car card that fits in a small plastic pocket. The waybill is a separate slip that also fits in the pocket. The waybill stays with the load, while the sleeve with car card stays with the car. No more tokens. An empty car has no waybill in the sleeve, a very intuitive system.

Two-part waybills in plastic sleeves on the left. On the right is the telegraph message Train 9 received to clear up the line for the General's Special.
I also swapped out some stock coupler's (McHenrys?) from some Atlas HO scale tank cars that drove Paul crazy. I also used JMRI to lower the volume on engine 30, though Decoder Pro was buggy in the process (but no this will not be another DCC rant!) Paul has complained about  both these issues before, so I finally took action.

I learned that I need to get another throttle for the Easy DCC system. I have two now, but will need a third for full ops. Also, we learned that 6 people plus me roving around is a good number for an ops sessions and for the basement in general.  It's not too crowded, and everyone gets to stay busy.

The commissary (my mom) provide some delicious three-layer Venetian cookies for snacks.

All it all it was a very satisfying day. Both op sessions went well. All the crews really did a great job.   Op sessions really make the layout come alive.  As I add cars to the Aquia Line and features (such as the General Special), the operations are proving quite interesting and rewarding.

More weathered cars for PoLA

I weathered 7 more cars for PoLA today, including some with hand painted graffiti. When I do graffiti on a model, I look at actual graffiti on cars to get ideas, but I don't copy it exactly. It's more fun that way. Here are 5 of the 7.









October 31, 2017

The Inmates Are Running the DCC Asylum


DCC Comics Latest Story

Anyone that reads this blog knows that I have a love-hate relationship with DCC.  This week the DCC relationship needle is swinging toward the hate side.  Here is why.

The prototype photo at the left shows the scene that inspired the PoLA layout. I wanted a layout that featured heavy duty, six-axle locos switching freight cars on wharves alongside massive modern ships and cranes.

For the Waterfront Terminals and Operations book I borrowed some of Ramon Rhodes's BNSF 6-axle diesels to use as photo props on this layout. Thanks Ramon, those were very helpful, but I always planned to get some large BNSF power myself to operate on the layout. Thanks to Matt Gaudynski at Fox Valley Models, I did get some BNSF GP60s for the book.  But those were 4-axle locos and the GP-60M is probably not correct for Los Angeles, though the GP-60s did frequent PoLA.

So over the past few weeks I have purchased some new HO scale 6-axle locos. The first was a  BNSF Gevo Tier 4 from Scale Trains in the Rivet Counter spec. It has a Loksound V4 Select decoder. I got it via a Facebook sale, as they were out of stock by the time I looked into getting one. The model arrived and I put it on the track. It looks fantastic, runs beautifully and sounds great, although way too loud. My wife could hear it up stairs. The decoder in this loco has a keep alive circuit, which is a nice touch.

A short while later, I received an Athearn ES44DC from Mainline Hobby Supply (a fantastic shop with great service) that I had advanced ordered a few months ago.  It has a Soundtrax Tsunami decoder. It also looks fantastic, runs great and sounds realistic, although also too loud.

So now I am finally able to recreate the scene that inspired the layout. Well, maybe, as long as I don't try to run locos together.  The locos have different speed characteristics and the function buttons control different functions. Some of the functions on one are not available on the other.  So it's time to reprogram. No problem I've done this in the past using my EasyDCC. I'll just program new addresses, remap the functions and consist them together.

Like all DCC locos with decoders, these come programmed to address 3. It's a simple matter to reprogram the address, right? Just put it on the programmer track and push a few buttons. Nope, for some reason my programming track would not work, even though I purchased a Sountraxx programming booster for it. Not just for the new locos, but I also tested some of my others, where it previously worked, and now it didn't. I checked the wiring and power. All seemed OK. I cleaned the track and checked the solder joints. All were OK, but still no programming track capability.  Fraking DCC.

With the programming track inoperative, I looked to Ops Mode programming. It worked, but you really can't change loco addresses in Ops Mode  (it is feasible but a pain in the petunias). Also, remapping functions with Easy DCC in Ops Mode is an exercise in hexadecimal hell. Consisting is somewhat easier, until you try to customize the function buttons. Then you're back in hexadecimal hell. Fraking DCC.

Being unable to figure out what was wrong with my EasyDCC programming track and dreading the hexadecimal torture that is Ops Mode programming on EasyDCC, I looked for options. After a few hours of internet searching, the best shot seemed to be JMRI Decoder Pro. I was able to download Decoder Pro and it worked on my iMac.

So I ordered a SPROGII v4 from Mountain SubDivision Hobbies to create an independent programming track. It arrived a few days later.  I went with a SPROG II as I didn't want to try to interface with my EasyDCC system with a serial to USB adapter cable since I was having trouble with the EasyDCC programming track. Also, my computer is not in the same room as my layout and my laptop is too old for the latest versions of JMRI. OK, I admit I have extra computers laying around the house, but they are all old and I didn't want to go through updating them all.

Did you notice how this is evolving into a discussion of computers and software and not model trains. This is part of the hate side of the DCC relationship.  I get enough of computers at work and just about everywhere else. When I play with my trains, I want to play with my trains. I don't want to use computer software, update drivers, look for USB ports, attach serial buses, and check Java versions.

The SPROGII v4 comes with Mac OS X USB drivers installed, so setting it up was fairly simple. The manual is a hundred pages long. A quick scan shows hundreds, maybe thousands, of possible options. Lets look at that later. I'll just follow the quick set-up.  I put the Athearn ES44DC on the track and asked it to create a new loco in Decoder Pro. After about 5 minutes, the software said, "No decoder detected. Error 301." I had to google that.  It is either a bad decoder, bad wiring (it's two wires for cripe's sakes), or dirty track.  OK,  check all and try again.  Still no luck. After a few more tries, including making sure the loco still worked on the layout, I resorted to the classic debugging technique. I rebooted the Mac and SPROGII.

Still no luck, error 301. OK, maybe it's the decoder. Lets try another loco. I put the Gevo Tier 4 on. Whoa, wait a minute - DecoderPro worked. I was able to change the address. Lets test it. Back on the layout, I can't get the loco to respond with the 4-digit address, but it will work with the 2-digit address. Fraking DCC.

Fine, 2 digits it is. Now, maybe I can remap the Loksound functions to match the Soundtraxx decoder using Decoder Pro. Hmm, that's not working either. Lets download the Loksound manual. Over one hundred pages later of electrical engineer gibberish with a slightly Germanic twist (BTW I am a big fan of German technology as I drive a Porsche and have a bunch of Festools, but you have to admit they have a certain way of describing technical things. Alles ist Ganz Ordnung, Ja? I supposed it could be worse, as it is not translated from Chinese or Japanese) I find out that function mapping for LokSound V4 Select decoders is not really compatible with Decoder Pro. Loksound recommends you get their programmer device. That costs $120 and you need a Windoze 10 computer. So add another couple hundred to the price as I am a Mac user.   Oh well, I guess I'll live with the functions as mapped.

Fortunately, when the locos are consisted you can disable certain functions. But even with Decoder Pro this is a trial and error procedure as the effects of disabling a function don't work the same on each loco. Fraking DCC.

So, where am I now? I have been able to get both locos programmed to new 2-digit address. I don't know why the 4 digit addresses didn't work. I was able to get them consisted. The lights work almost as intended, but still not the way I want. I won't bore you with those details. Fraking DCC.

I was able to lower the sound volumes using Decoder Pro. OK, now the big challenge, can I get them to run at the same speeds. After about a hour of tweaking in Decoder Pro and testing on the track the answer is no, but they might good enough. Fraking DCC.

One of the things I like to do when switching is to use the brakes. Because I haven't been able to figure out function mapping, this consist will operate without the brake function. Fraking DCC.

Finally, one bit of good news. My PHL66 SD40 , an Athearn model with a Wow sound decoder and keep alive, was acting up. I sent the decoder back to the manufacturer and they said it checked out. But it still acted funny when I reinstalled it in the loco. By funny I mean the sound was dropping out and the throttle  was losing control. Fraking DCC.

I put the loco on the SPROGII programming track and used Decoder Pro to do a decoder reset. That seems to have fixed that problem. Now, I need to reassemble the loco and reattach the lights. However, I am considering swapping the decoder for a Tsumani. That will simplify things as it will mean I have two and opposed to three types of decoders no the layout, as I only have one TCS Wowsound decoder.

In conclusion, I think the DCC sound manufacturers in their arms race to "out feature" each other have gone too far. In an effort to make their locos sound and act more realistic we have lost simplicity and ability to work interchangeably. When I play with my trains, I want to play with my trains. 

I walk every day along the former RF&P main line to get to metro. I often hear trains coming. I try to guess what they are and how many units. I can never get it right. To me they all sound the same. So all this effort to get exact prime movers, air compressor sounds, etc. is lost on me.

Let's be honest, it's basically industrial noise. Most of my visitors, operators, and wife prefer the DCC sounds system be at a low volume anyway. DCC sound is trying to attain sound fidelity well past the point of diminishing returns. Now, they are making things worse.

I hope the DCC manufacturers take a step back from their oscilloscopes and EPROMs and take a look at what model railroaders want. And don't just look at it from your own stovepipe system. They need to consider the whole technology ecosystem of operating model railroads. A ecosystem where old and new components from different manufacturers have to work together. That was supposed to be the NMRA's job, but right now I'd say they failed. So now we have the inmates running the DCC asylum.


PS.  Added Nov 2. 

My wife asked me if I felt better by writing this "rant."

I replied, "yes, because it was nice to know I wasn't the only one having these issues."

Anyway, having thought about it, I decided to throw good money after bad, and I ordered a second Scale Trains Gevo to run as a matched set. These locos are just too nice and smooth running to not use on the layout. The cost of a second loco with the factory decoder was less than trying to get a laptop and proprietary programmer.  The Decoder Pro software  can handle most of the functions I need except for remapping.

Now, I need to decide if I will sell the Athearn ES44DC or keep it and  get a matching unit for it too. One can never have too many locos, right?