Monday, December 3, 2012

Train shops in Paris

I use to travel often to Paris because my sister lives there, and I found very interesting posts in Quinntopia about train shops in Paris, so I decided to follow that route and take a look:

Quinntopia Part 1:
Quinntopia Part 2:

The best thing is that the major part of train shops are concentrated in the same street, so you don't have to travel a lot to see all them. Taking the metro to Place de Clichy, go to Rue de Douai street and will see all store fronts one close to the other:

In that map from Quinntopia is clear the concentration of shops, just one important shop is distant from the others:

First on the right is "Les Cheminots". Particulary I liked very much this one because they have a lot of rolling stock in N and HO scale. Also there's a bargains vitrine, impossible to avoid buying something from.

In my first visit I took a chemical transportation tank from the old french company Rône-Poulenc at a bargain price, and the first set of the Venice Orient Express.

Yes, I collect japanese rolling stock.... but I love tank cars from all over the world, and the orient express is a jewel than once arrived to Japan... so why not??

This Arnold set is really wonderful, but I have to admit it doesn't move as smooth as other cars. May be is just a question of oil and roll on some minutes, but just putted on track it's not as smooth as expected.

Next to this shops you can also find Transmondia, Trans-Europ Trains and Decotrain. The first one is also focused on N scale, while the others are more focused on HO and O gauge. If you search for old O gauge trains, don't miss them. Transmondia also has a lot of Kato and Tomix articles.

In my second trip I was searching a cleaning vagon from Tomix, and the owner of "Les Cheminots" sent me directly to this shop. I found a special Tomix kit containing the cleaning car and also a wheel cleaning track. It seems a very good solution for cleaning wheels, not only of the locomotives, I'll write in a special post the tests. Finally I didn't bought only this Tomix set, but also the rest of Venice Orient Express set. Actually the second set consisting in two sleeping cars was out of production and sold out, but there's a 4 car set including the two cars from the old set.

I always miss more room in my suitcase coming back from Paris...

If you walk down to Rue de Amsterdan, there is another nice shop "Au Pullman". The storefront is decorated as a passenger car, and the quantity of rolling stock is also relevant.

And finally, I tried to go to OfferLine. It was my birthday and I wanted to have my own gift, but Saturdays is closed!!!! So I cannot write any review about this shop, but surely next time.

See you!!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Two steps ahead, one back

It's been a long time since last time I showed my layout progress, but once you start with electronics, DCC, software programming and all electrical stuff you cannot see any real advance on the surface. Just one or two more switches and some centimeters more of track.

But down the layout it was crowded of electronic boards and temporary wires. So crowded, that I decided to dismount everything and think in better solution because I was running out of space, and illumination and future sound are still missing.

Sometimes you have to make a step back to be able to continue advancing with a bit more of security...

That's why I planned to create an hydraulic hatch down the most overcrowded part of the layout: the main station. There I have concentrated the major part of current sensors, servo driving modules, frog polarization relay boards.... and working upside down is too stressing!!!!

Here you can see the whole hatch and the hydraulic pistons that support it and open it in a very smooth way and with a cool sound effect, just missing some fog effects!!!! xDDD


Just some details about boards: on the bottom the Loconet interface (using DB9 connectors instead of RJ12), and on the top (left to right) the detection module and a sandwich board with servo controller and frog feeding relays:

 There are still many temporary wires, because I like to test everything step by step, or you can get crazy if some error appears when everything is connected.

Before the hatch, all boards where attached to the sides of the ribs: 

I hope to post soon the final results!!
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Sunday, November 11, 2012


This weekend is the "FUNIFIRA", a hobby and gastronomic fair in Gelida, a charming village near Barcelona  sited in the top of a hill. That's why they have a funicular and once a year organize this event to commemorate "Funi", nick name of the cable car.

There is a gastronomic event in the village square, radio controlled ships and submarines in the public swimming pool, railway layout exhibition in the sports center, and many other activities.

As the village is small, you can park you car in the railway station, or arrive there by Renfe railways, and take the Funi that is for free during all weekend to the top of Gelida. All public spaces where activities are developed are accessible by walk.

That's the main station of Gelida and the funicular that goes to the center of the village:

As I arrived at launch time, I went directly to the gastronomic event. There are cheap tickets to taste typical food of the local restaurants, wines, cava or desserts. Be careful if you buy one of each, because you will eat very well but will finish a bit drunk....

 Radio controlled ships had very good acceptance, and I saw radio controlled submarines for the first time:

But when swimming pool got really crowded was when a ship sank, and modelers started different methods to recuperate it from the depths with no success... cables, long sticks, magnets... and finally diving himself in the cold water of November!!!!! 

Railway exhibition was no very big, but with many interesting layouts. Local railroad model club did a really good representation of Gelida, including Funi in their main layout:

 It was also a good place to get free catalogs from Busch and Faller, thanks to the guys from Marklin.

I hadn't time to go to the slot competition or other hobby shows, and definitely will come back next year: good food and wine and trains. Perfect combination!!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Vickers Wellington MK XIV

Another plastic kit finished, airplane Vickers Wellington MK XIV, 1:72 scale model from Trumpeter.

 That was one of the most important bombers and produced for the entire duration of the Second World War. It participated in the first night raid on Berlin on 25 August 1940. In the first 1,000-aircraft raid on Cologne, on 30 May 1942, 599 out of 1,046 aircraft were Wellingtons. With Bomber Command, Wellingtons flew 47,409 operations, dropped 41,823 tons (37,941 tonnes) of bombs and lost 1,332 aircraft in action.

It's been a nice practice of painting techniques that I plan to use with my recently acquired Star Wars models. But it's a pity most of the hard work will never be seen, because it's in the interior of the plane. I painted radio room, controls, wood panels, dry brushed metallic parts, applied pigments to the floor, .... even the chemical toilet was documented and painted in the right color!!! I found few original photos in internet and a 4+ publication called "Vickers-Amstrongs Wellington Medium Bomber variants" with a lot of information and photos:

I used black Citadel primmer for the interiors and white Tamiya primmer for the external parts. White Insignia was Tamiya Bright White, and camo from Vallejo Model Air colors, all airbrushed. The only difficult part on this is the correct masking of windows. Tamiya tape works perfect, but I did some mistakes because I didn't stick firmly all the edges of the tape and paint sliced a bit under some parts of it.

After the basic color painting, gloss varnish was applied to have a "restore point" if something goes wrong with the weathering. Than weathering consisted in the appliance of washes to accent the panel lines and details. First in black for colored parts and blue-gray for white parts, and some brown general wash to give a dirty look to the wings. I hadn't oil colors for washes and tried water oils (Van Gogh water colors . It's and acrylic paint, in oil form, but water soluble. It gives the benefits of acrylic paint (toxicity, smell, easy to clean, ...) and the benefits of oils (long time to dry, allows to work with effects, correct, diffuse and shade off, ..), but with a surprising effect I will use for many other plastic kits for sure: It's very transparent when diluted just in water. It's easy to use it for filters and control the grade of transparency. If it is already applied, doesn't matter if it is dry, you can thinner it just adding water with a brush and get very good effects.

Around the engine and exhausts I applied black pigments, and light gray pigments to the wheels. Finally the chipping, mat varnish applied with airbrush, and gloss varnish to the windows and chippings with brush.

This model is 1:72 scale, so it's too small for realistic effects, and usually nobody puts the radio cable because there's nothing to use thin enough. But I found the right thing to use as the radio cable (you can see it in the photo above going from the rear vertical stabilizer wing to the front): a hair of my girlfriend!!!!! Thanks she didn't cut it short!!!! xDDD

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

GCA50 Loconet Interface

After some general schematic posts about Loconet and Giling modules and interface, I'll continue with the main Loconet interface: GCA50

Before entering in details, some terminology clarification: Giling page uses the word "interface" referring to both Loconet connection board and I/O boards (those connecting servos, turnouts, current detectors, wheel counters, ....). Sorry Peter, but I find this a bit confusing. I will refer first ones also as Interfaces, but I will call Drivers to the others to avoid confusions. Interface boards connect any kind of Driver board to the communication bus. It can be Loconet (GCA50), or CBus/CAN (CAN-GCA series boards). And Driver boards "drive" servos, turnouts, detectors, lights,....

As my installation began with an Intellibox Basic and Loconet bus, my main board is GCA50. I can insert as many GCA50 boards as I need in Loconet bus. They are fully compatible with any other Loconet modules (now a days I have a mix with Giling and Uhlenbrock modules).

There is just one difference with standard Loconet modules, the connector. Standar loconet uses RJ12, but Giling modules use DB9 connectors (those 9 pins connectors used mainly in RS232 devices).

Quoting Giling words, and I agree with them, the reasons for that are:

1) Units have to be connected / disconnected many times, which is not suitable for RJ12 connectors.
2) GCA would like to have suitable power over the cable, which Railsync is not able to provide.
3) The LocoNet railsync should remain be available.

And I add they are easy to connect as you don't need special grimping tool. Point 2 also helps a lot in wiring because there's no need of more power wires to the modules, everything is embedded in this connector (Loconet signal and power).

Giving a summary: GCA50 is the board connected to your Loconet bus, and you can connect up to 2 driver boards to it for current detectors, switch control, lighting, wheel counter, servo controlling.... And it's also possible not to connect driver boards and use the input/outputs to connect directly switches and leds (to make a control panel). More information on connecting leds here:

But let's see how it looks like (processor is missing):

On the top there are Loconet DB9 connectors, male and female. You connect loconet bus in one of them, and extend to the next GCA50 through the second one.

In the lower part there are two 10 pin header connectors (white). That's the connection to Driver boards, so you can connect two driver boards per GCA50. Each connector delivers 8 Inpout/Outpus (it's configurable).

The smaller header connector in the center is used to direct programming of the microprocessor.

And in the lowest part there is a screw terminal. This contains exactly the same signals corresponding to Driver connectors, but in screw terminal form. Here you can connect directly devices (leds, reed, ...) but taking into account it's low power. Normally a Driver board is used because it hasn't enough power to drive any kind of switch, servo or whatever. I don't solder this connector because I never use it and it's one of the most "expensive" components. Anyway, NEVER solder directly here, and get used to connectors, they can save your life....

That's a GCA50 connected to a servo driver board:

Now, in which ways can you buy this board??

1) I don't have money or I'm really skillful and I like electronics problems: Just download "pcboard and parts position" PDF file from Giling page, isolate your board and assembly. Download also HEX pic file and you are ready to go.
2) I'm not so skillful or I don't have a lot of money: you can buy only board, or board plus preprogrammed pic. But in my experience you will not get a cheaper bill than buying the complete kit
3) I know soldering, I like to build my devices but I don't want much problems: buy the complete kit (board, components and pic).

For more information, go to this Giling page: or surf his web site.

I finish just adding that programming is really easy (from Rocrail) and I had 0 problems in my five operative GCA50.


Friday, October 5, 2012

Connection Bus

For those having Intellibox as the heart of the installation, I'll show you how to adapt Giling modules to your Loconet BUS. I started using Uhlenbrock modules, but due to its price and lack of functionality (mostly in servo modules), I decided to change to Giling Loconet modules.

If you already have Uhlenbrock modules (or other Loconet modules), is possible to add GCA50 as any other loconet compatible module. That's how I started:

You can see GCA50 is just "half" loconet module. It's an interface between Loconet BUS and any other interface module. Instead of investing in electronics in each module giving them a Loconet connection, you plug a GCA50 and combine 2 interface modules as you need: reversing loop module, switches or lighting module, servo management, weel counting....

And the final schema I'll have in my installation is the following:

Intellibox has not enough power to drive more than 5 GCA50 (in my experience), and the solution is to add a GCA101 Ethernet interface + 3Amp power source. And your layout will be connected to the net and you'll be able to drive it from any device connected to it.

Short post, but self explaining hopefully!!! Cheers,

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Museu del ferrocarril de Catalunya (Catalonia's Railway Museum)

Two years ago I visited the Catalonia's Railway Museum, sited in Vilanova i la Geltrú at 50 Km from Barcelona. It's a very recommended museum to visit for all kind of people of all ages. They do a lot of activities every weekend for students, kids, and not so young people. The access is not expensive and they have many promotions including discounts for railway tickets:

Museum was created in an old steam depot founded in late XIX, and keeps the original buildings and facilities like roundhouse, water depots, .... so you will have more to see than only locomotives.

Entering the main building there is a video-projection room where you can see restored films and documentaries, and many railway related artifacts and devices. The following photo is the interlocking table used in Barcelona's "Estació de França" in 1929.

Outdoors there's a huge collection of steam locomotives completing 180º of the roundhouse. It's a huge collection of HUGE locomotives, with some versions of Mikados and Mastodonts with more of 3.000 CV and wheels taller than me.

There are also newer locomotives like 7800 series "Panchorga" built in USA, 7001 series "Chata", Crocodile, and our most charming and nostalgic train in Spain "Talgo":

But there is a very small locomotive well preserved inside the roundhouse which is very special for me: "La Caldes". It's the oldest locomotive built in Spain with its syster 0232 manufactured by "La Maquinista Terrestre y Marítima" for the Barcelona-Sarrià railway. When the "Ferrocarriles de Catalunya Company" acquired, electrified and narrowed the line, both locomotives where sold to the Mollet-Caldes de Montbui railway, passing through my native town. My grandmother used that train and when I was a child she told me very funny stories about its slowness. They were able to jump out the train, pick some blackberries and get on it again. Finally, the bus service provoked that small line to disappear before I was born.

There are also some old maintenance vehicles, like this Landrover ready to run on the railways:

Finally, the activity of that Sunday was the running of Mataró 1-1-1 locomotive that you can see in the following video:

Monday, September 17, 2012

Wiring Peco Electrofrog code 55 turnouts

First of all let me remind you again the fantastic page "Wiring for DCC", here you will find all the information you need. But I'm using a simplified wiring version in my layout that doesn't need cuts nor jumpers in the turnout.

This simplified versions is thanks to the modules I'm using to drive the servos and feed the turnout frog. A typical problem is when polarity is switched when servo movement starts but point rails hadn't enough time to move away of the curren side. This provoques a short circuit, and the same short circuit is produced when polarity is changed at the end of the movement.

I tried also some turnout control modules changing polarity in the middle of the movement (Uhlenbrock), but unless you fix the servo perfectly centered (quite difficult in our scale and the size of servos and turnouts) you will provoque again more shortcircuits.

Finally, Peter Giling servo modules with frog feeders implement a really smart behavior: switches off frog feeder, makes the movement, and switches on the frog feeder when movement is completed with the switched polarity. It also provides an input for each turnout that remains high (on) while is doing the movement and can be used by train software control to block trains from passing through that turnout until movement is completed.

This also affects in the way turnouts are wired simplifying installation, and it's as simple as using isolated joiners in the frog rails and wiring the frog feeder under the turnout.

Peco code 55 turnouts have a frog jumper (the wire you see embedded in a rectangular shape) that you can lift easily from the side, solder the frog feeder in the edge (there is a bit more of room) and embed again in place.
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