could use some discussion

Greg Elmassian

I thought there were more computer-savvy people in San Diego that
have garden railroads.

Oh well, I'll ramble.

Decided to go with DCC because I want to run multiple unit diesels.

At first there was some difficulty determining which manufacturer to
go with.

Well, the solution is simple if you use USA trains locos, you MUST
go with NCE equipment, since they are the only people who make a DCC
decoder that is over 4 amps.. Some of the USA trains geeps can take
up to 15 amps at stall.

Wireless DCC

Greg Elmassian

I also wanted to run wireless throttles, since I intend to ring the
house with track.

You can buy wireless throttles, but they are clunky, expensive, and
they do not have 2 way communication (not all of them).

Enter Kam Industries. They make a software package that runs on a
pc, sends the commands over a serial cable to your control module
(the box that puts DCC commands on the rails). The package receives
commands via 802.11. So you can use any Windows CE handheld that has
802.11. Very cool.

Will be installing a DCC receiver in a Bachmann loco this weekend,
and then will try the wireless software.


ok so I got a decoder and opened the bachmann loco

Greg Elmassian

wow, what a lot of wires! 2 sets of power wires from a hole between
the motor and drivers (i.e. can't see inside) that come up into the
boiler. There are 2 switches that are behind the smokebox door, one
does the on off of the smoke unit, the other sets the default
direction (nmra is different from standard g scale)

trying to figure out if I should go to extra care to be able to
restore the stock dc wiring or not.

got a 4 amp decoder from NCE, came with the DCC system (10 amp

asked some questions on the forums, waiting for some answers.

more dcc!

Greg Elmassian

Got the 8 amp NCE D808 decoders installed in the USA Trains F3A and
F3B... ran a consist, really easy with the NCE controller pro...
definitely the nicest way to do this.

Want sound, but really want the sound to vary with the engine load.
Only a couple of ways to do this, either a motor decoder that outputs
the back emf data to a sound decoder or a combination motor sound

I was kind of stuck with the USA trains F units, since NCE only
warrants the 8 amp decoder with USA trains stuff... There are no high
current decoders that output the back emf data, Lenz makes a 1.5 amp
decoder that does this, using a serial interface called SUSI. There
are some SUSI sound decoders, but they are all european sounds as of

The Soundtraxx people will release the Tsunami combination motor and
sound decoder that modifies the sound based on locomotive load.. very
cool... even cooler, they plan for an 8 amp decoder!

OK so I'm a happy guy, just have to wait for a while...


Went to the Queen Mary show yesterday

Greg Elmassian

Drove up yesterday. Only took 1-1/4 hours from Carlsbad.

Got there right about 10am when it opened. Stayed until 3.

Made 2 laps of the show inside, and spent time at the outside

For those of you who haven't been there, it is in the actual ship.
It's freeway all the way there, easy trip. $8 for parking.

The exhibition hall is 3 stories inside, you enter on the top floor,
which is open in the center. The "big boys" are on this floor. One
floor down is more exhibits/dealers/manufacturers, and is likewise
open in the center. The bottom floor is "normal" and has the big
modular layout in the center, with a few exhibitors around the sides.

If you hang out on the stairways just above the bottom floor, you can
see the entire layout which is quite large. The layout is a big oval
with a smaller oval in the center that connects to the large oval at
each end. A small train runs in the center, and the large trains run
on the 2 outer ovals which have broad curves in the corners. The
outer loops ran passenger trains and longer freight drags.

There was everything from the Accucraft 1:20.3 narrow gauge engines
to an MTH Big Boy. Interestingly enough the MTH looked fine with a
string of Aristo heavyweight passenger cars.

There were passenger trains with USA trains aluminium passenger cars
and PA's or F units..

Overall the show was fine, but was hoping for more new stuff... Nice
to see the MTH actually on a layout, new roadrailer from Aristo, but
that was all I saw new.

I was disappointed with the layout inside. It's big enough to run
quite a few trains at a time, and an Amtrack 3 unit passenger running
mindlessly on the inside loop, and 2 trains running equally
mindlessly on the outer loops.

You would think that breaking the main lines into 3 blocks could do
it easily. I know that manning displays at the show is a pain, but I
think something could be done to run more than 3 trains on such a
large exhibit.

I did have a good time talking to a few exhibitors, which I will
detail in further posts.


Soundtraxx - Tsunami update from Queen Mary show

Greg Elmassian

I stopped by the Soundtraxx booth. Talked to Nancy (I'll get her last
name) from Soundtraxx. I had called them about 2 weeks ago asking
about what the proper horn was for my USA Trains F3 units. She was
very helpful on the phone, knowledgable, friendly, etc.

So it was nice to meet her and introduce myself in person. We talked
a lot about the Tsunami. Here's a number of points:

(For those who don't know what this is, it is a DCC combination motor
decoder and sound decoder, with the 2 parts linked so the motor load
information gets passed to the sound decoder)

1. The back-emf issue. The motor decoder still uses back emf as I
posted in the gscale group. The patent garbage makes it so they
cannot put it in their ads. As I said before, and Nancy confirmed,
the concept of using back emf for motor control has been around
forever, but somehow a patent was issued.. It does not matter, their
decoder uses it, and most importantly it is the key to changing the
motor sound (and others) dependent on load. For me this is a big
deal, locomotives sound very different on and off load. Nancy
confirmed this info.

2. The decoders will come in G scale sizes, in terms of amperage, a 4
amp and a 8 amp. I would not recommend anything smaller in G scale.
In fact, the USA trains GP9, and some others can even exceed the
capacity of the 8 amp unit. You might have to use 2 decoders in these
units (the units have 2 motors in parallel, thus you could break up
the 2 motors, but it could have difficulties... more in a subsequent
post)... Nancy confirmed my opinion, that many modellers
underestimate the amperage of their locos... in short measure full
stall amperage, which can be WAY higher than the running current.
I'll expound more on this in a subsequent post.

3. Soundtraxx has never announced a delivery date. Unfortunately some
of their dealers have "guessed" and these guesses are sometimes taken
as an official Soundtraxx announcement. Nancy indicated that they are
hoping for August, there are some component delays, but as soon as
the components are there, they are ready for full production runs,
i.e. the floodgates will open. There is no waiting list, because they
are already geared for production, and it's so close.


Goodie from Queen Mary show: rerailer

Greg Elmassian

Last large scale train show I was at I saw a long piece of abs
plastic that was a "railer" for putting trains on the track. Looked
like a nice idea, but I said to myself "self, the wheels are real
big, so why do you need this"

Well, since then, I have put down a large test loop in the back yard,
and I can't tell you the number of times I have got down on my knees
to find I don't have the wheels quite on the track. Not a good idea
with DCC!! (shorts the track, and I have a 10 amp supply!)

Well, on my second lap through the show I found them again, at the
splitjaw booth. It is item #10332, called the E-Z Loader. $35 sounded
high, but it is a thick piece of gray abs plastic precision milled to
sit on 332 rail, one end straddles the rails and elevates the ramp,
the other end is milled to guide the trucks onto the rails.

Very nice for locos as well as cars. I put a picture in the photos


How does the MTH big boy look on 1:29? Wait for Aristo Mallet?

Greg Elmassian

Well, I, like many G scalers have been drooling over "big iron". I
had a hard time trying to decide between 1:29 and the more pristine
1:32 1 scale.

After looking at 1:32 offerings, which were primarily really nice
scale models which cost thousands of dollars, and looking at the
size, which seemed noticably smaller than the 1:29 stuff, I have gone
to G scale.

Imagine my surprise when I saw the MTH big boy running a string of
Aristo heavyweights on the big G scale modular layout at the Queen
Mary show.

After visiting the MTH booth (which was outside next to the entrance)
and the Aristo booth with the mallet up on rollers, I kept coming
away with the impression that there was very little difference in

I finally went up to the Aristo booth, and used a piece of paper to
measure from top of the rail to the top of the sand dome on the
mallet... zip to the outside, and ask the MTH guy to stop the train.

There was only about 3/8" difference in height! Now, of course I know
that the big boy is bigger in real life, but if I am to spend $1,000
on a compound loco in the near future, that MTH is hard to beat! The
sound system sounds great, the loco looks great, it is able to cope
with 4 foot radius curves (looks awful, but on 5 foot curves, no
problem).. and the smoke unit, wow. It puffs!

I'm seriously considering getting the MTH unit, and converting it
over to DCC... although they have a remote control system, I think it
is not DCC.

Now, a big boy in 1:29 would be great, and bigger, but how long will
that be?

Something else caught my eye... the operating cars. It might be fun
to get a few for the kids visiting...

It gives pause.

Of course, I think the compounds are the exception.. If I look at the
rest of the loco's available in both scales, I can get a Mike,
Hudson, etc. for $300-$400 in G scale, and I'm up at $800 to stay in
1:32 even from MTH.




Air powered turnout control.

Greg Elmassian

At the Queen Mary show, I visited the California & ORegon Coast
Railway booth.

I was interested in switch machines that can take outdoor weather.
The test loop outside my house has shown that all kinds of bugs like
to live in the electric "motor" of my switch machines, and corrosion
is a problem.

They have a line of "air motors" in the E-Z Motion Control line.
Basically a little plunger that easily screws on to the 2 ties either
side of the throwbar. I played with them, they have a little toggle
switch that applies air for one direction, and the air motor
apparently has a return spring inside for the other direction (no air
pressure)... worked very nicely, and looks more prototypical.

There is a small plastic housing that covers the motor so you are not
looking at a shiny brass cylinder. The deal is that it is way smaller
than an electric switch machine. You use small diameter tubing to run
the air, just one line to the motor. They even have the tubing in
multiple colors.

So what does a guy like me do who has DCC? Well, they also make
electric solenoid valves that work from 9-14 or 15-24 vdc. I'll be
trying this stuff out real soon, and will publish the circuit that I
use for the DCC accessory controller. They will even "manifold" the
valves together, so that keeps everything neat and tidy. You can run
the tubing hundreds of feet.

Oh, if you buy the air motors 12 at a time, they are around $10 each.
The electric solenoids are about $38 each.


Inexpensive bridges for outside.

Greg Elmassian

I met the people at Econobridge: (but
seems the site is under construction) seems to

A series of inexpensive bridges, basically custom built to your
order. They are in Visalia, CA at 559-635-2889.

The bridges are made from square oak with "zigzags" bracing the sides
made of round oak.

They are not real fancy looking, not a lot of extra detail, but solid
construction, brass hardware, and they will stain or paint to suit.

They come in single, double, and triple track, and by changing the
height of the "Zig zag" bracing, your trains either ride inside or on
top of the structure, and if the bracing is half height, it's sort of
a "deck girder"... sorry I don't know all the right terms!

The very cool thing is that you get them up to 12 foot long straight
or curved. It's $20 per foot straight, and $30 per foot curved.
That's really inexpensive. They also make them in O scale.

I posted their "shiny sheet" in the photos section, until they get
the web site up.


Misc. neat stuff from the Queen MAry show.

Greg Elmassian

Found a pair of pliers cut out to reach over the railheads and
tighten rail joiners, I think they were $10 or $15 at the show... ... $20 on the web site. Very neat.

Great Big Trains sells ball bearing kits for
rolling stock, including the USA Trains extruded passenger cars and
the new Aristo 4 wheel diesel motor truck with open face bearings.

I'm going to outfit my USA trains passenger cars, they do not roll
very well, and are heavy to boot. They have a way to preserve the
electrical pickup, by going through the ball bearing itself. The kits
look easy to install yourself, but if you are shy about drilling your
sideframes out to fit the bearings, you send them the sideframes, and
they only charge 50 cents a hole.. Great.


Tsunami decoder info

Greg Elmassian

There was a question from a member on the audio output on the
Soundtraxx Tsunami decoder scheduled for late summer.

The audio output will be one full watt, and that will be at 8 ohms
impedence. I think that will be enough for G scale.

It might be fun to think about a subwoofer in a G scale unit, or make
the tender in a steamer a sealed enclosure with a port, like home
speakers, would be fun to have some bass also!


Garden railroad progress.

Greg Elmassian

Well, maybe I'll use this as a blog...

I had my landscaping updated at my house. The original landscaping
was designed to accomodate a garden railroad, but there were still a
few tweaks needed. I'll list up some of these things here in hopes
it may help others avoid mistakes.

One part of the backyard is a patio that has an oval grassy area
next to it. The idea was to put the train track on the edge of the
patio around the grass. There was a nicely poured contour S curve of
5 foot radius. WRONG! I had the 2 curves back to back. So I had the
concrete extended to be 2 curves with a straight section between
them. S curves with no straight in between will literally throw the
trains off the track. I'm intending to use the long USA trains
streamliner cars, so this was a necessary event. I don't have a lot
of room in the backyard, so this was as tight as I dared.


Garden railroad progress - "mobile plants".

Greg Elmassian

My intention is to have a small loop around the grass in the back
yard. The part that is not the patio is a planter that varies from 2
to 4 feet in width. I went to the local Walter Andersen nursery (in
Poway, CA) and picked up a number of cypress, pine and other plants
grown for garden railways. I transplanted them to 1 gallon pots and
put them in holes in the ground, and used cedar bark a mulch between
them. This way, as I continue to lay out the track, I can move
plants as needed. If a plant dies, or becomes too big, then I can
replace it easily. As the railroad gets more "set" then I can plant
things right in the soil. Keeping them in 1 gallon pots makes it so
I can't put them too close together.


Garden RR Progress - First loop of track

Greg Elmassian

I got my final approval from the homeowners association for my
landscaping changes.

First order of business, a simple loop around the back yard, sort of
a square, one side is an s curve on the edge of the patio (1 foot
straight between curves) the other 2 sides are in planters.

I am so happy I left the plants in 1 gal pots in the ground. 4
plants were in the right of way, and I merely pulled them out of the
ground. I shoved the cedar bark away from their new homes, and used
a post hole digger to make new holes, put the soil in the old holes,
covered up with bark again.

I have all stainless Aristo, except I need some 1 foot sections.
Used some old Aristo brass, connects fine.

I just laid out the sections and screwed it together. No track
planning software, nothing.

Took out the NCE system I put together, 2 alligator clips on the
track and away we went.


Welcome N6RY !

Greg Elmassian

Welcome! We need to get this group on it's feet. I'm guessing you are
a ham, and so am I! N6RGZ.

I have a web site showing some of the progress on my garden railway.
Go to

I'd also like to get the Garden Railway community into some forum,
there is so little discussion, and there seem to be a lot of us!

One question I have is does anyone know which "stacks" should be used
on my ATSF F3's (USA trains)?

They came with 2 sets of exhaust stacks, short ones and long ones.

Also, I'm running SS rail and DCC and I'm a real happy camper. I'm
using NCE equipment, and happy with the choice.

I'm also available to help others, especially in the electronics
side, I've found DCC to be very easy, and can help install decoders.

Regards, Greg

where to buy crusher fines in san diego?

Greg Elmassian

I live in north coastal San Diego.

Anyone know where to buy crusher fines?

I've laid my track on some bark that is in my planter areas, and
think I'll try to remove the bark under the track and put crusher
fines down. I think it may be stable enough, and level the track by
manually moving the track and adding or subrtracting the amount of

New pictures on my site:

Regards, Greg

Updated web site.

Greg Elmassian

I went to the model train expo at the Queen Mary last weekend.
Pretty nice show, and it was dominated by G scale. There were a
number of operating layouts, although none were G scale!

Aristo had a small booth, and showed a prototype of the new E8.

Go to my web site,, then select the train page,
and then g scale photos.

While you are there, browse the site, I've added a number of
pictures and more pages.


Web site conversion complete

Greg Elmassian

I've completed my new web site, incorporating all the original
stuff, and have expanded the plants section, with many pictures.

Comments are welcome.


Queen Mary Train show

Greg Elmassian

Anyone going?

I'll be driving up one of the weekend days, and may have room for
one or two people.

I live just off 5 and poinsettia.


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