Tuesday, June 2, 2009

On the Road with Jarrette and George, Blackstone Models Update, and PTB-100 Tech Tip

Jarrette and George's Excellent Adventure (by Jarrette and George)

With the “Trains on the Plains” train show and the Rocky Mountain Region NMRA meet in Greeley, CO, we decided that a road trip was in order so we could see the old D&RGW narrow gauge right-of-way and the C&S line south of Denver. That weekend also marked the official grand opening for the Greeley Freight Station Railroad Museum.

On the way, we would be passing the Colorado Railroad Museum located in Golden, CO. We decided to leave at 6 a.m. Thursday morning to give us some time to visit the museum. George had not been to the museum since he was around 10 years old; Jarrette hadn't been there since December. On an overcast day, it still was an enjoyable time. Among the large amount of narrow gauge equipment they had was a D&RGW Long Caboose # 0574, one of the numbers we are producing in our Blackstone Models line.
The C-19 #346 was put away, but fortunately we did get to see it. There were a few diesels there, but George enjoyed seeing the steamers too. Overall, we had a good time at the museum -- Jarrette even got to pull handles and twist knobs. Next, it was off to check in to the hotel, because we had another activity taking place soon.

One of the treats of our trip was to operate on John Parker’s BNSF Fall River Division layout located in Longmont, CO. The operating session started Thursday night about 6 p.m. and lasted till about 11 p.m. We were handed a multitude of jobs and everything ran flawlessly.
The layout was a mushroom-style linear walk-around that made it feel as though we were in remote locations and traveling great distances on his layout. A run that traversed the layout took about 20-30 minutes depending on whether the dispatcher liked you or not. The dispatching was done via radio communication and full operating CTC signaling. If the layout looked this good partially scenicked, we can’t wait to visit again when he has done more scenery!
Overall, we had a great time. We want to give a special “Thank You” to Mr. Parker and his regular operating crew. They were hospitable, friendly and helped make the operating session fun and enjoyable. The crew and layout from top to bottom was first-class all the way. Visit his website, www.bnsfrr.net, to see the track plan, more photos, and what it took to create this great model railroad.

We did not want to travel near Denver without visiting Caboose Hobbies. Friday afternoon, we looked around and shopped a while, and then we presented a Tsunami programming clinic. Attendance was great and we want to say "Thank You" to those who were in attendance. A Tsunami-equipped locomotive was given away to one of the attendees.

After the opening night of the "Trains on the Plains" show on Friday, we were able to visit the Greeley Freight Station Museum, located in Greeley, CO. Some of you may remember the museum from articles in magazines such as the Model Railroader December 2008 issue. With as much as there is to see there, they could fill the entire magazine with pictures and still miss some things! We were looking in awe of the sheer size of the layout, then someone handed us a throttle. We ran a train around the layout, following the working CTC and radio communication with the dispatcher. It took us about 3 hours to get through the entire run!
We want to give a special thanks to the Greeley Freight Station Museum personnel for their hospitality throughout the weekend. Many who attended Friday night were able to run trains on this extensive layout. Be sure to stop in and say “Hi!” when you are in the area. You can also visit their website at cmrm.org.

With all the fun we were having on the trip, the highlight was Randy’s Chicken Coop’s dancin’ chicken. This was too good to pass up, so we decided to get a photo with him to share with you.

Overall, we had a great time and a productive trip. We were able to meet and talk with many of our customers, which we enjoy doing. If you are at a show that we are attending, come on by and see us. Visit our "Shows" Web page to learn more about our upcoming appearances. 

Blackstone Models: High Side Gondolas are Here!

On a side note, excitement hit here this Thursday. The much-anticipated Blackstone Models High Side Gondolas finally arrived! Everybody was outside checking in the shipment and inspecting the cars to ensure they exceeded our standards. Shipping to our customers has begun this week.

Tech Tip: PTB-100 Programming Track Booster

PTB-100 Programming Track Booster
The PTB-100 Programming Track Booster is designed to help boost the power signal on your programming track to give the decoder enough power to fully “wake up” the processor and accept the programming.

Back in the early days of DCC, there were many manufacturers in the marketplace, but all had a different way of doing DCC. They all came together under the watch of the NMRA to decide on a standard to benefit the modelers. At that time, sound decoders did not even exist, and even motor decoders did not have the features that Tsunami has today. Without the foresight to see the future of sound technology, the power to the programming track was set very low.

Today, Tsunami has so many features that we have incorporated a powerful 16-bit processor that needs a little more power to be able to accept changes in CVs. We have designed the PTB-100 to help program your decoders, give visual 2-way communication so you know your decoder has accepted the programming, plus short circuit protection for suspect or faulty installations.

By wiring in the six wires, you can be ready to program the decoders reliably. There is a green LED on the board for signifying proper operation and the presence of a DCC signal. The yellow LED illuminates when the decoder has accepted the programming. The red LED illuminates when there is a problem, and the PTB-100 immediately shuts down the power to protect your locomotive, decoder, and DCC system. Other programming boosters on the market simply boost the signal. Using our PTB-100, you can program non-sound decoders as well with the same acknowledgement. Using the PTB-100 with any DCC system available will help ensure you can program Tsunami sound decoders, as well as many other decoders on the market.