Welcome to SouthwestTrakers blog. We are dedicated to sharing N-Scale model railroading through the use of T-Trak modules. We are in Lubbock, Texas, USA and currently number 7 modelers, well over 50 presentable modules, with over 24 modules cut out and in some stage of becoming presentable.

Friday, September 16, 2011

The Quadopus Takes Form

It's not finished, but I'm making progress on a box for my DCC
system. It has a Digitrax DCS200 command station and, hidden
underneath, a PM42 power monitor card that provides outputs
for four separate power districts via the blue/white Power Pole
connectors. Two connections for the Loconet cables are also
available for the throttle connections.
The lid will mount on lift-off hinges, so there is no danger of it
slamming shut while in operation, damaging cables.
Not real pretty, but the 3/4" plywood should make it very
sturdy for portable use at shows.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

July 17 - I started the assembly of the new power cables to use with the Digitrax DCC system we (BJ and I) are starting to learn. With help from various people "out there," I made a drawing of the cables and connectors to help get everything straight in the mind before starting the assembly. And, here's a couple of pix of my first (short) cables. A number of long (~8'3") cables are under construction, almost finished. All will have a Kato compatible drop. I call this the 'away' end, as in 'away from the Cmd Stn.'

We (BJ mainly, and I) are looking into easy to apply mid-span taps. More on that later, after our Aug. 12-13 show.

I spent a lot of time looking at the housings and contact pins, and finally was able to 'think through' the issues, including pin orientation while crimping, before starting.

There will be two versions of the Cmd Stn pigtail. One is straight to the Power Pole connectors, and the other is through a PM42 Pwr Mgr card, with four fan-outs.

In addition, there are three special 2' long cables. These have Kato triple blocks on them rather than the single connector. The Rattlesnake Junction module requires additional connections for all the tracks, so these were created to fulfill that need.


20110713-3, 20110717-1

July 7 - I got a bit more done on the new Payne Boxes this morning. These two are the final ones until after the Wolfforth Library show in August.

Unlike the previous box, these have only one shelf in them. However, the shelf is divided, so a box holds three modules. Only one shelf is used to allow for taller scenery and structures in it.
The pictures should make this need a bit evident.

Two things to note: First, the shelf positions are not the same. These positions were determined by the overall height of the sceniced modules on the upper layer. Second, the junction module in the bottom of each box is a bit narrower than the two corners above it. This results in a 5" x 18" open space at one end of the Payne Box. A project for that space has "announced itself" to me. All I have to say about that at this time is "stay tuned."

I still need to cut the hand holes in the top of each end, but that is an easy task. The final item to attach is the front panel. I'm considering hinging it at the top or splitting it vertically and hinging from the sides as doors. Decisions, decisions, decisions . . .


July 4 - It was a bit cooler this morning, so I got a good session in the shop before starting to overheat.

I built my first new generation Payne Box. Almost everything had to be cut today. The front, rear and sides were cross-cut pre-cut to the desired 29" height by the big box store. They are cheap 5mm paneling, but plenty good for this app.

The ~11/16" sq. strips everywhere were ripped from a pair of 2x4's to start the day. Then, based on the dimensions of the modules +~3/8" or so, four strips and four pieces of paneling from another sheet (the bottom of each layer and the top) were cut to size to form shelves. The module nestles down inside the strip frame. The front, rear and sides were cut to width. Then, assembly started.

Really, it went together well. With the sides glued and bradded to the shelves and top, I layed the back on the assembly to check for square. By far, this is the most square thing I have ever built. Maybe I am improving? Ha!

So, the back was glued and bradded in place. All that remains is to attach the door on the front once I get the hardware. Now, the modules will have a home with protection from dust, etc. and security whilst being transported. There are several more Payne Boxes to do, and each is a custom fit to the modules involved, but the basic design is constant.

Why 29" high, you ask? Well, BJ (another module builder here) realized that these table-top modules sit on banquet tables that are 29" high. So, if the Payne Boxes are 29" tall, they can serve as auxiliary tables for shows.

I'm tired, it's time to visit Mr. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzz - - -


Thursday, June 16, 2011

Progress ... always progress is being made by some of us

It's hard to believe that it's been a month since the last blog entry.  Let me see if I can catch everyone up on what's been going on.  If I miss something, feel free to add to this or let me know and I'll let everyone know.

First (and foremost), Lubbock Model Railroad Association hosted the NMRA's Lone Star Region annual conference here in Lubbock at the Holiday Inn.  All of us SouthWest Trakers were heavily involved.  Darrell manned the "Company Store", selling decals, calendars, books, and other LSR conference memorabilia 

Jay kept close eye on the registration check-in table and ran errands as needed.  Frankie helped out where ever she was needed at the time, usually the check-in table or the raffle table. Bob spent the entire four days manning the contest room.  BJ was registrar and main check-in guy.  By Friday, we had turned into a help desk and general information table.

We all had a great time hanging out and visiting and getting to know each other even better than we did before.  Lunches were a good time of fellowship.

Joe?  Well, he had duties in Dallas during the days of the conference,  but he spent plenty of  time prior to the conference scheduling clinics.  His wide corners are  coming together in a very impressive fashion.  they've been in progress for a while, but will be available for display soon.  I guess  these will bring our inventory of showable modules up close to  60.  He has also been busy reorganizing his shop space lately.

Speaking of clinics, I manage to break away from the registration desk to take in a couple of clinics.  We all got to attend a few clinics.

Beyond the LSR clinic we have all been busy.  I have spend several weeks building storage and transport Payne Boxes for the 12 modules I currently have under construction.  Whew, that was a chore.  The shop is a mess, but now I can get on with actual modeling.  Darrell has developed a method to create stucco walls as part of his "Scratch Building on a Budget" series.  Speaking of scratch building, did I  mention that our very own Darrell won a first place blue ribbon in the LSR contest for his Alamo module.

Frankie has completed her first T-Trak module.  It looks great and we'll try to get some photos soon.

Jay, well, Jay need over 100 turnouts for his planned home layout, so he's been busy learning how to scratch build his own.  He gets better with each one he builds.  They are really looking good.

Our next show will be at the Wolfforth Library the third week of August.  More details will be posted  here as they become known.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Good baby steps

The DCC system and I are becoming better acquainted. Over the past two days,
I have re-addressed five locos, and they are now show-ready. There is soooo
much to learn!
These locos are:
1) N&W #165 - F-M Train Master - Atlas 49639
2) NH #598 - F-M H16-44 - Atlas 52106
3) NMRR #108 - F59PHI - Athearn 23709
4) ATSF #3515 - GP-38 w/blue cab - Atlas 53454
5) ATSF #3520 - GP-38 w/yellow cab - Atlas 49873
In addition, there are numerous others, some "decoder ready," some not but
potentially convertable, and some (mainly steam) that will never see a decoder.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Starting up in DCC

It's been an interesting day in DCC-land. Some of it was good, some not so good, but
a lot of discovery.

I spent a good bit of the morning trying to connect a Digitrax PR3 interface to my
computer. It never happened. Apparently, the PR3 and Windows 7 do not like each
other. I needed to program the addresses on some locos, but that isn't going to
happen through the PR3.

So, I ventured to the shop and began to try to learn how to do address detection and
programming on the DCS200 command station (also Digitrax, as is the whole system.)
I had four locos to work with/on. The first came from the dealer pre-programmed to
the road number on the side, 108. No problem, it runs fine, like a champ. I used it to
figure out how to read an address already in a loco. And, no, I didn't mess it up, which
is a small victory in and of itself.

The next loco I bought last year, new and figured it would have the factory address of
03 in it. Wrong. It took me a while, but I finally remembered that it was re-addresses
(with my permission) at the OKC show last December. Wouldn't you know, the
dummy of an owner didn't write it down. What an empty head, he is. Anyway, I
found the address (3199,) then reprogrammed it to its road number, 3520, with a
short address of 20. Runs fine, now that I've quit messing with it.

The third loco was an eBay acquisition. A similar story here, as it had been changed
at some point before I bought it. Again, the number (I forget what it was) bore no
resemblance to the road number, 165. A quick reprogram to 0165 and a short address
of 65, and all is well.

Lastly, there's the little Kato pocket motor chassis to which I had added a decoder. I
programmed it to 1303, and 03.

At this point, I started to test run the beasties, starting with the last one. Nothing,
and I mean nothing, went right.

A thorough track cleaning helped a little, but the Kato just wouldn't go, or it would go
200 mph. And, it finally seemed that it didn't really care what address was being told
to speed up or slow done. I spent a long time messing with it, and finally got it to run
under control, sort-of.

Getting rather frustrated, I set it aside and tried the first three locos.

Aw, sweet. Each responded to the throttle, ran fast, ran slow, and crawled beautifully.
My faith in DCC and Digitrax is being restored. As for me, well, there is still a steeeeep
learning curve ahead.

I have a couple more factory-equipped locos to run through, and a "drop-in" that didn't
to debug. By the time I finish with these, I may want to withdraw and lick my wounds
for a while.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

National Train Day

May 7, 2011 is National Train Day in America.  

The North Texas T-Trak is creating an astonishing 30 MILE T-Trak layout in the Dallas Fort Worth metroplex.  Hear about how they're doing it and the reaction by the rest of the world at the t-trak Yahoo group, starting with message #5356:




Saturday, April 16, 2011

Arts Festival 2011 Show Setup

Here's the diagram and module list of the recent layout at the Lubbock Arts Festival. No attempt is made to show any sidings, etc.

We had to reduce the size of the layout "on-the-fly" since the room was smaller than the one used in years past. As it turned out, the "Colt-45" modules bought us quite a bit of space by folding the upper and lower 'wings' allowing the layout to move against a wall. The top and left corners were against walls.

The layout was open and receptive to visitors, allowing a large number of people to file through rather smoothly. Now, for a goos way to allow close looking by visitors, but minimize the earthquakes that occur, level 5 on the 'finger' scale.

There are videos on You Tube under my posting name, wasunka. Search for the southWestTrakers, TTrak, or N Scale tags.

This makes three shows in 2011, four going back to October 2010 in which we have added at least one new module and used a different layout arrangement, yielding a very different look each time.

I think we are learning just a little out here in West Texas,

S/W Joe

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Day 2 of the Lubbock Arts Festival

We had another great day of running trains.   The visitors today were nearly all families with children.  Although we didn't count visitors, I would estimate we had nearly a thousand folks come through.  It was busy all day but never crowded to the point of being uncontrollable.  I spent most of the day at the entrance of the room greeting everyone with, "Welcome to our little  empire!  Please don't touch anything!"  

Mostly it worked.  We had a couple  of major 5-finger earthquakes, and 10 or so minor ones. I also got to see my very first Coca-Cola tsunami when Joe tried  to open his coke and it  spewed all over his industrial  module.  It shut down the mainline for about 10 minutes as the cleanup crew moved in to contain and remove the caustic spill.  

We also got to show off our work to lots of family, friends, and co-workers who came to see what at times consumes our energy and attention.  And we got to visit with several prospective new modelers and a couple of old-time modelers who need to get back into the hobby (you know who you are!)

Joe took some video of Rattlesnake Junction, the series of modules between the yard and the passenger terminal, through many curves in a short space.  When viewed down the  length of the track, a train really does look just like a snake.

I'll get the  video or a link to it as soon as Joe gets it ready.

Sunday is a short day for us.  We'll just be running for a couple  of hours after lunch before we  begin to tear down and head home.

That's all for now.  We're not done having fun!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Lubbock Arts Festival Day 1 Report

The big news:  we all survived Friday.  I say survived because that's the day the school brings classes to the Arts Festival by the bus load.  This year it was 2nd graders I think.  A conservative estimate is that probably 500 kiddos came through the train room during about a three hour period.  It was quite hectic, very crowded, and the children were surprisingly well behaved.   We only had three known "five finger earthquakes" and resulting derails.  Considering that we do not use ropes to keep the crowds at bay, and the instability of many of the tables, we felt fortunate.

We didn't quite achieve our layout design goal.  The room just wasn't large enough.  So we added 45-degree modules on two sides of the wye, which turned it into more of a tee shape.  The resulting layout was almost the shape of  a big ''M".  It worked  out  perfectly for crowd flow.

Our newest member, Jay, spent the entire day with us.  He brought his trains and ran for a bit early in the day.  We have a probably new member, Ron, as a result of the show.  He is a member of a singing group performing at the Arts Festival, so he could not spend much time  with us, but he came through two or three  times, got to know all of us briefly, and seems like he will probably join us.  

I never got  my camera out yesterday, so no photos of day one.  Today, we will have  more families coming to view  the layout, so it  will be more  peaceful and less busy.  So I will get some photos taken, and  will post  them here and on our yahoo group, http://groups.yahoo.com/group/SouthWestTrakers/


Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Getting ready for the Lubbock Arts Festival show

Here it is the night before setup and I (and I suspect the rest of the fellows) am frantically trying to get everything ready.  The new module, the Wye, has scenery glue drying.  Sure hope it holds the bushes I glued down a while ago.  Here's a diagram of what we hope to be able to set up, using the Wye module for the first time

Printing up business cards while I write this.  We hope to attract new members and possibly new modelers as well.

I've got my tool box loaded.  I'll find out in about 12 hours what I forgot.  The level, wrench and cordless driver ar ethe essentials for setup, and I have those for sure.

I have two new engines that just arrived yesterday.  Bachmann Spectrums, both of them.  One 40-ton switcher and one 70-ton switcher.  Both are DCC equipped, so I can wait to get them broken in, even if it is under DC power.

Joe and I are SO CLOSE to getting our new Digitrax equipment ready to go.  The power supplies are on backorder, and we are using that as our excuse. The Wye module is actually an integral part of our DCC plans.  Joe has mounted a Digitrax Panel into an electrical box and mounted it on top of 7 feet of PVC which will extend up through a hole in the middle of the Wye.  This will be the receiving station for our radion controlled DCC.

I'll post a picture in the next day or two of it in action.

We (Darrell, Joe and Myself) are going to meet for breakfast bright and early in the morning, and then head to the Civic Center for setup.  

That's all for tonight. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5

Yep, I'm in - now to edit the pictures and videos from last weeks' show
We recently displayed 52 T-Trak modules at Groves Library for 5-1/2 days. We had a total of 1,111 visitors during the week.

The layout was generally shaped like a large "J" with walk-around access on all sides. We had three inner loops ranging from 10 to 14 foot in length, surrounded by an outer loop around the entire layout, which we calculated to be about 3-1/4 scale miles in length.

In between visitors, Joe and I counted the number of modules in various stages of construction by our group. We have 24 additional modules which we hope to have on-line by the end of 2011. Some are simple, and some are quite complex, and they vary from simple single modules to sets of modules, like Pinedale Logging complex.

Pinedale logging consists of two 14" deep triples combined with a wide (18") 180-degree curve, with a mountain division track.

We'll get photos and videos of the Groves Library show posted soon.

Thanks for following our progress. Come join us. It's fun!
Welcome to Southwest Trakers, dedicated to sharing N-Scale model railroading through the use of T-Trak modules.

We are located in Lubbock, Texas, USA and welcome everyone interested in N-Scale model railroading.

Follow our progress (we organized in February, 2011) as we begin to grow (there are four official members now) as an organized group of modelers. Right now there are six N-Scale T-Trak modelers in Lubbock (that we know of), and one from just down the road in Clovis, New Mexico.

We can also be found on Yahoo! Groups. Just search the groups for SouthWestTrakers.