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About benshell

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    Sacramento, CA

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  1. Sounds great, but I'm getting an error on the video: "We could not locate the item you are trying to view.". Could you post to YouTube and link that here? That's what I do as it's easy to post and easy to view.
  2. Very nice. Looks like it's in pretty good shape! With all those trees (pine?), I can imagine the effort getting to this point!
  3. Great thread idea. Chuck, I'll have to second your first item: Hakko soldering station An old Window desktop computer in the garage dedicated to trains/electronics projects (JMRI, QSI software, Arduino IDE, quick Google lookups, etc) Little Machine Shop Mini Mill (mostly for 7-1/2" gauge projects, but comes in handy for G-scale coupler adapters, etc) Logan 10" lathe (also mostly for 7-1/2" stuff, but I do use occasionally for large scale) Automatic wire stripper (it's easier to think of the bigger tools, but here's a small tool I sure appreciate)
  4. After a nearly two week wait for the new motor (FedEx has seemed especially slow lately), followed by some other priorities, I'm back to working on the K4 for the moment. Today I did a test run with the new Pittman GM9236S020 motor, hooked up to the QSI Titan. Before going through a lot of effort to modify the locomotive and/or motor, I figured I should make sure I'm happy with the speed and power draw of this motor. I used a lot of electrical tape and rigged up quite a contraption, with my multimeter measuring the current. The test was mostly successful. I'm quite happy with the top speed (maybe not prototypical for a passenger train, but faster than I normally run trains). And the current draw was only about 1 amp, pulling 8 cars on level track. Although I'm not sure I'm measuring the amps accurately, considering PWM/BEMF, however I am using an RMS meter if that makes any difference. If I hold the locomotive back, the drivers just spin, pulling about 1.5 amps. If I also push down on the engine, I was able to see power draw up to 2.5 amps, while the wheels continued slipping. I'm sure I could force a stall if I really tried, but I put more pressure on the locomotive than any amount of weight I could possibly add! The problem today was that at low to moderate speeds the engine wasn't running smooth at all--worse than I've ever seen. I will have to put the engine back on the workbench on rollers and see if I can improve this. I have to admit that I really don't understand motor PID settings at all, so there is certainly room for improvement. It doesn't have to be perfect, but it has to be better than the start you see in my video! (My kids picked the cars--but they are more prototypical for the era than a boiler-less, cab-less steam locomotive!)
  5. Hi Bill, I think you may be confusing DCC and DCS. They are very different and incompatible systems, although Protosound 3 decoders (or whatever they are called--I use DCC) are also compatible with DCC systems. Protosound 2 is not DCC compatible, so you will need to stick with MTH DCS to use them.
  6. That's great Bill! I appreciate hearing stories like this. What's especially impressive to me is that they took the time to help you troubleshoot it so thoroughly over the phone and enable you to fix it yourself. A lot of companies today just want to you set it back without a second thought. Best of all, now you have some experience with electronics troubleshooting.
  7. Congrats! Sorry they are out of the most important piece, but I'm sure it'll come back in stock very soon (within a month, probably less, based on my experience). Also, re-reading my post above, I have a few updates: 1) They've redesigned the USB interface so it's much better (and cheaper!) than the old one. However in the meantime I've been using their RS-232 serial interface which has also been great. 2) I was completely wrong about the issue I had back in early 2014... the CAN bus needs to have terminating resistors! That was the issue. From the docs I read at the time I was thinking the resisters were only necessary when using the CAN-CAB throttle, and that just between the USB interface and command station I could just wire the CANL and CANH terminals together. That is not the case and it's amazing that it worked for me anyway--up until open house day, anyway. 3) A third issue I also had in April 2014 was that trains were mysteriously coming to a stop even with plenty voltage on the track. The issue was my DCC signal was getting corrupted so far away from the booster. There's a problem with inductance when you have two parallel rails carrying a digital signal. I had just barely finished my mainline in April 2014 and more than tripling the length of my track brought this issue to the surface. I did three things to solve it: I installed three MERG boosters in weatherproof enclosures in the yard, close to the tracks, I added more jumpers to the track, and I twisted the wires to minimize inductance. I haven't had any other issues. The system has been working perfectly for almost three years now. But I have an extra command station on hand just in case, and I use it for my programming track. I also bought a CAN-CAB recently and have used in on my workbench and also to run HO trains.
  8. Good tips, Chuck, thanks! It's good to hear from someone who's worked on these engines! I did run on DC on my workbench and it does feel really fast. I suppose a quick and dirty DCC install would be easy now that I've opened it up (I don't have a way to run DC on my layout). I do want a lot of power though. I have a long 2.5% grade, and I like to pull long trains. In fact, I've also ordered some additional lead weights! Do you know which 19.7:1 motor you used? If it was the GM9413-2 then it has a no-load speed of 142 rpm, compared to the stock GM9234S017 speed of 424 rpm. The GM9236S020 motor I've ordered is rated at 236 rpm, so I'm hoping it's a good compromise. But in any case, I prefer power to speed, and when I'm running multiple trains on one continuous loop the freight and passenger trains need to go the same speed. (I also don't have any PRR passenger cars yet, so for the time being this will have to be in freight service.) I also thought of one more potential way to fit the bigger motor in there: I'll have to open up the gearbox to verify, but I opened the factory gearbox and there's a lot of extra space! It might be a pain, but I could potentially shorten the gearbox. Machining down the housing would be easy on my lathe, but removing the shafts to shorten them might be tricky.
  9. Two years ago I bought an electric AML K4 Pacific at a swap meet, as an open-box item without factory smoke unit or working lights, knowing also that these locomotives are known for running too fast with a motor than can burn out with too much load. Now this locomotive is finally on my workbench, and the first thing I want to do is upgrade the motor. Greg Elmassian has a documented some possibilities on his site, as well as providing some tips on disassembly which were very useful, however none of his suggestions seemed perfect. The stock motor is a Pittman GM9234S017-R1, 24 VDC, 11.5:1 ratio. One suggestion on Greg's page is a GM9413-2, with a 19.7:1 ratio. This sounds perfect and it's the same physical size, but in studying the specs for torque and current it appears to be a less powerful motor than stock. Perhaps the gearboxes would be interchangeable, since it's the same physical size, but that's a big risk considering the cost of motors and the factory motor isn't exactly ideal either. So after much research, including other brands and sizes, I've decided to try a Pittman GM9236S020. I found it on eBay for only $30 + $7.50 shipping. It appears to be ideal in terms of the specs: 19.7:1 ratio, speed of about half the stock motor, and about 2.5x the torque of the stock motor. The current requirements are a bit high with a stall current of 9.64 amps, but I've got a 10 amp QSI Titan DCC decoder for it, and the continuous current requirements should be much less, with the sweet spot of the speed, current, and torque chart at about 5 amps: The downside is that this motor is 0.65 inches longer than the stock motor, and I don't think it's going to fit without some additional work. There is a little room between the motor and the backhead (although difficult to measure), but I'm estimating more in the 0.3 to 0.4 inch range. However, I can't see any reason why I can move the motor forward a little. I think I can modify the motor bracket, and cut off a little of the shaft to the axle gearbox which has a universal coupling (and I don't know why, since the motor and axle gearbox are both fixed, unless it was just to made the design of the motor mount easier so it didn't have to align perfectly.) The new motor will arrive sometime next week, so I will resume work on this then.
  10. Thanks for sharing. It's crazy to think that #1218 was operational so recently, and yet may never run again. But it's a great reminder to take advantage of the opportunities we have now to experience currently operational steam locomotives. I'm considering going to chase UP 844 again when it comes to Boise next month--that's "only" a day's drive for me. Of course I've seen it before, a few times. I really need to go east and see #611!
  11. Haha, yes, I wasn't going to admit that I've been checking that frequently as well. I'm hoping this means everything (2015 and 2017 catalogs) is lined up at the factory for now through summer, and we won't have to wait so long after all! Now let's see if they get the Big Boys out this month as currently scheduled.
  12. Okay, I took a video and have your answer...
  13. Yeah, that's a USA Trains part number and locomotive. Fortunately, the GP9 is still in production and USA Trains / Charles Ro is pretty good about stocking parts. Call them at 781-322-6084 and describe what you need.
  14. Hmm, good question. I can try next time I run my Big Boy... I have a branch loop with 10 foot diameter. The centipede axles have a lot of play, but I would be concerned with the front truck hitting the tender body and pushing it off the track. That's a problem I had early on in a couple places (on 20 ft diameter), until I noticed the tender was leaning forward slightly. Adding a few extra washes between the front truck and tender body fixed the issue.
  15. Awesome to see an ad for the FEF-3! Where did you find this, Ray? Last summer a USA Trains employee at the NGRC show told me they'd be shipping by this summer. Of course, that's very hard to believe in this hobby. Nevertheless, to me this indicates that they have actually been working on this for awhile. It's not like they are just putting out a flyer for something they may or may not build someday (e.g. Accucraft AML GP60, Dreyfuss Hudson, etc).