Thursday, 26 February 2015

Jinxed - Bringing the 45 class into service

There are times in this hobby when things just don't go right and one feels that a jinx has been placed on a certain model or piece of equipment. I had this feeling as I was attempting to bring my Auscision 45 class into service.

As I mentioned in my previous post, both outstanding orders for Alco locomotives recently arrived in the space of three days. The two locomotives were given a bit of exercise on a test track using DC prior to the fitting of DCC decoders. I haven't yet made the jump to sound so I anticipated that both decoder fits would be fairly simple.

As events transpired, I was able to purchase a decoder for the 48 class first and so this determined the order of the work. Fitting the eight pin decoder to the locomotive was very simple and that locomotive was quickly on the painting table for its weathering before entering service.

The focus then turned to the 45 class. I purchased a TCS non sound decoder with the appropriate twenty one pin connection and settled down to install it. The body came off reasonably easily but the dummy plug as a little difficult to remove. It finally came off with a bit of wiggling. However, as this was happening, I bumped one of the air tanks on the side of the locomotive and it separated from the chassis. I wasn't too worried; I had read that they were very fragile and I knew that it could be repaired. I put the air tank aside the time being.

Now it was time to fit the decoder. Something didn't seem right and my first attempt to fit the decoder failed. I stuffed up! There is no other way to describe it. I had put the decoder upside down. When it didn't operate on the programming track, I removed it and attempted to restore the DC plug to check all was still ok. As I was doing this, I realised that I had bent one of the pins, the number one pin as it turns out. I attempted to straighten the pin when suddenly, the pin and surrounding plastic separated from the now 20 pin connector as shown in the adjoining photo.

At this point in time, a lot of things went through my mind, most of which are unprintable but a paraphrase of the slogan from George Orwell's 'Animal Farm' seems appropriate:

"Eight Pins Good, Twenty One Pins Bad!"

As I pondered how to fix this, I decided that the best solution was probably to 'hot wire' the connection for the missing pin directly onto the decoder. The trouble was that I couldn't determine which wire was connected to the missing pin. About 30 minutes fiddling with a multimeter seemed to confirm that the wires on the circuit board were connected to other pins.

I sought advice from Hobbyland at Hornsby and their guidance was that it was a spare. So with some trepidation I returned home, inserted the decoder into the now 20 pin connector worked!

Great, that was fixed and it was time to do a temporary refix of the body just to make sure nothing was fouling. Somehow, something snagged and there was an audible twang as one of the front handrails launched itself into space. It has yet to be recovered. More choice words!

A new handrail was fashioned from brass wire and fitted to the locomotive. Similarly, the dislodged air tank was also reaffixed to the chassis. The final photograph show 4512 now part way through the weathering process. The replaced front handrail is the closest to the camera, slightly misshapen and missing a brace.

So, all's well that ends well, but I can't escape the feeling that there was something more to it than just a simple unfortunate coincidence of random events. Only time will tell.

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Last Week, It Rained Alcos

Ok, the title is a bit of an exaggeration but with the arrival of two Alcos (the 48 and the 45) in one week, it seemed certainly seemed like it.

First to come was the overdue Trainorama 48 class. It is about six years since the locomotive was ordered, so it has been a long wait. A glitch in their database meant that I had to wait a little longer before my order was dispatched. This was cleared up just before the Australia Day long weekend and the model arrived last Wednesday. Because I had chased them about the delay, I knew when it was dispatched and was awaiting its arrival.

The 45 class was totally different. I was aware that the models had arrived in Australia but had no idea when I should expect my particular order. Consequently, on last Friday, the arrival of a note from Australia Post telling me that I had a parcel waiting came as a surprise.

Thus in the space of three days, my Alco fleet has increased by 50%.

Interestingly, my reaction to the arrival of both locomotives was a bit 'ho hum'. Both were put on the work bench until other priorities were addressed, and time allowed me to unbox and place each on the layout. I suppose, I had waited so long for the orders, the 48 in particular, another few hours wouldn't make too much difference. From the comments on other blogs and chat rooms, it seems my reaction was not unique.

Both models look great and others have provided interesting photos so I won't duplicate their effort. For example, Bob at  South Coast Rail has some great photos of each locomotive. (

To date, I have done some limited test running using DC. When I get time, I'll run both locomotive on a test track for a while before fitting decoders and weathering. What I did notice was that when running on DC, the 45 class was considerably faster than the 48 so double-heading will be interesting. I understand that this can be addressed with the fine tuning of each locomotive once the DCC chip has been fitted. However, it's not something I have tackled before, so another learning experience coming up!