Sunday, February 25, 2024

Ground Lights

One development in the past few years has been model locomotives equipped with step lights and especially ground lights. This has been a feature I've wanted to see ever since I first went railfanning. A post on the Model Railroader forum explains what they are:
The lights above the truck under the cab are actually called ground lights. They were controlled by the same switch that controlled the gage lights on the engineer's control stand. The switch was labelled "ground & gage lights" They were of little use for locomotive inspections. They were useful when starting a train in the dark. They enabled the engineer to see the ground to tell when the train started to move.

Before radios became common they allowed the trainmen who had to pass lantern signals to the engineer know that the engineer could see their signals. If the trainman could see the ground light he knew that the engineer could see his lantern.

ScaleTrains has addeds ground lights to its HO releases over the past several years. Here's a Tier 4 GEVO:
Here's a UP GP9B:
Here's a Rapido UP high nose U25B:
Ground and step lights always illuminate on ScaleTrains units when you press F8 for startup. They're controlled with a sepatrate function key on Rapido units.

Sunday, February 11, 2024

T-TRAK Update

I've been playing with two relatively new Kato products, a "generic" LRV that they market as Mytram, and a 4-5/8" radius curve in their Compact Unitrack line. The Mytram is loosely based on cars in Hiroshima, Japan. The earliest reference I can find to Mytram models is 2021, but they've become popular much more recently. The 4-5/8" radius curves seem to be newer.
As far as I can tell without disassembling the model, the truck under each section is a power truck driven by a coreless motor. There are several obstacles to DCC conversion, starting with the lack of space for a decoder, but continuing with the need for two decoders, one over each power truck, and this leaves out the question of lighting. However, the model will run on address 00 using a Digitrax controller (an NCE will not run a DC model on any address). On DCC, the car emits a slight whine. It's very smooth running on either DCC or DC.

The Mytram will take the Compact Unitrack 4-5/8"curve, and as one photo below shows, it will negotiate an S-curve with no intermediate straight section. This will allow a trolley-style balloon turnback loop within the depth of a single standard T-TRAK module and the width of a double wide.

I've mocked up a trolley-style balloon return loop that conforms to T-TRACK double track standards, so far just on a set of books stacked up to module height at the end of a T-TRAK module. I've ordered a pair of single-wide modules to connect together permanently for one balloon return loop to test the idea further. As it stands, the ability to run a barbell-shaped traction layout via interchangeable modules in a straight row seems to give more flexibility than a small roundy on a single baseboard.