Monday, 12 September 2016

Plug and Pray.

What's the definition of frustration? remember those old jokes of the old days when you were younger & thinks were different, pay to go to the toilets on railway stations, paid a penny & only f*****.   Advance in years & the computer age comes along & a new term called Plug & Play, a time when you could add a device to your computer, sometimes needing to take the case apart to do so, but when you fit the new item into its respective slot it ran --- mostly, worst case you were told was you might have to install a driver from supplied disc, problem was the P&P term changed & became Plug & Pray.  A bit like that now with Model railways, especially with how models perform & made.

After being out of the hobby for years & coming back,  the new fangled thing called DCC & then sound entered the arena, progress has happened to the point where we do not need a masters degree in electronics to install a decoder, so P&P applies in the first instance Plug & Play, whip out the DC decoder from the electonics board in all locomotive models, do some simple???? programing and you run around after your new investment.  Happy days in the model railway realm of toy trains having made a step up. Seriously though, is this more a case with Plug & Pray being the best term for our brave new world, that is if you want to go a bit further than plonking and playing trains?

OK! I've started with a negative so sorry about that, thing is though its more a point of frustration than a distinct negative by itself really.  I set my layout up in a way that I would like to be as prototypical as possible, the hobby in itself is not a cheap hobby, especially when one sits down & does the sums, and its certainly not getting any better with the cost of models no longer creeping up, but jumping up. For me, in order to restrict costs as much as possible I decided on a very narrow timeline to model in order to avoid tempting purchases, so a period of 1955 - 1958 was chosen after a more constrained earlier period, as it allowed me to have some models that the earlier one would not.

I only have one diesel waiting to arrive and it will complete that fleet of models. The last loco purchase was the Auscision 43cl, a model which I have previously provided photo's of and on the scale of how it looks, the attention to detail and the like, cannot, at least from my perspective be faulted.  Up until Wednesday night just passed 7th September, it had not been run as I waited for a sound decoder to be fitted. The ease of being able to install sound decoders these days was a big part of my choice of sound for the 43c, that being a WOW 21 pin with Alco 244 sound in it,

While I did not do the install I watched the process as it was done on the night of our local group meeting, easy enough, get the DC board out, fit the WOW in place, install appropriate speaker into the enclosure, cutting the length of speaker wires then solder to the electrical board.  A minimal initial programing to ensure choices were made and then a test run.  All worked well & some playing with it along with running a few other trains had for an enjoyable night.

The following day, I decided to do test loads with the model & try the various options available with the wow, while the model ran beautifully, as well as performing very much to my liking, there was one area that truly disappointed me with the model, well its not the model itself but really, an example of poor design that does not do justice to modern sound decoders & the features that are built in to them in this day and age.  To many modellers its something that is perhaps irrelevant but for those who desire to run the layouts in some form of prototypical manner it does take away from that aspect that can be easily worked in an operational.

I am referring to the poor lighting arrangements and lack of realistic operating operations available on this model purely as a result of the way the main electrical board is designed. The way it works now is that when the headlight is turned on, it turns on all the lights, that is, headlight, number box, as well as the marker lights, turn the headlight off and all are turned off. The lights are automatically directional, so that on whatever cab is leading, those 3 lights are either all on or off, with white lights at the lead end with red at the trailing end, no independent control of the lights at all.

To many its not likely to be a big deal, but the reality is, at least from my perspective is that it should not have been hard to have the main board designed in such a way that once a DCC decoder, be it a sound or silent type any one with 4 lighting functions available could have readily been able to handle what is correct lighting features of this type & all types of Diesel locomotives, especially the early generation ones as well I suspect modern diesels as well.

Operational requirements for lights basically only changed for diesels in around 1965/66, forget the exact time but it was in that mid 60's time frame that it happened, when a regulation was brought out that ruled the use the headlight on diesel locomotives operating in daylight hours. The regulations that applied to steam locomotives were to be used with diesels, that is the headlight is to be switched on high except inside the Sydney Metropolitan area, inside the border areas, outside those areas the headlights were to be turned off through manned stations, signal boxes when manual changing of sectional staff tokens, when approaching trains running in the opposite direction,

The borders mentioned were Penrith, Cowan, Liverpool, later changed to Campbeltown, Sutherland, inside these areas trains ran under Metropolitan control outside those areas trains ran under the various control boards for the lines.  The rule was introduced so that Fettlers & others working on the permanent way was able to see the diesels at a distance, with steam it was easier to see owing to their being smoke in the distance, not just a black blob.

For Steam, dynamo had to be turned off in daylight hours = no lights of any type working. OTOH with diesels when the battery knife switch was closed in order to start the engine, all lights generally came on, exception being the headlight. Cab type loco's such as the 42, 43 etc had engineroom lights some had step & under body lights that stayed on at all times, staff exchanger lights were manual control when the ring was used. Box & Marker lights were also manual operated by on/of switch on the control stands. cab lights an on/off switch at the light assembly. Headlights had either a single rotary 3 position switch, off - dim - high, or a double switch, one being on/off,  2nd one next to the first high/dim.

For a diesel model, all that's needed is that both ends have on off function keys, 1 for headlight on/off. combined on off for marker & box lights, directional lighting could be directional for running either way. The only way to control the 43cl other than by the headlight is by two switches under the fuel tank, that one turns off the headlight with the other the marker lights, meaning you have to manually turn them off using them in MU operations, but you lose all the lights when they are turned off.

I believe that other diesels have similar aspects with them as well, but surely given the time and effort taken in the various people engaged in the research and development aspects of our models, these days in getting the current range of locomotives to the standards they are arriving in, some small amount of time could be put into getting something simple such as the lighting features correct in readiness for either working under DC or DCC operations, both either motor/lighting or sound.

Rather than a plain dumb DC plug as supplied now, why cannot they have the lighting features on the removable board, working through the pin connections for that mode of user operation. Then for those having DCC, again, be it either non sound or sound the lighting features built in to that decoder is used.

I know of modellers who choose to completely strip models of these factory boards & hard wire decoders in to their models rather than trying to alter these boards in order to get the lighting features working. Much Much easier to do it that way than trying to keep the factory boards & modify them. In reality its a waste of a resource that costs the importers as well as the end user money that is for many wasted.

This may seem small as I have said, but the way I see it is that while the importers cannot satisfy every small whim of modellers, with the striving towards getting details correct, its often the small things that end up being the most frustrating, especially when getting that part of the model right, in both detail as well as to how it applied on the railways scene that we are modelling. With diesels, even the older types we have operating representations of most of them, some rail operators allow access to their loco fleets, many modellers work as drivers &/or assistants, and even own model companies so, it should not be hard for these things to be gotten right, even when a dislike for DCC is or was evident at some time.

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Its pondering time again

Its been a while since the last post, with little if anything happening at Essence, I have taken somewhat of a break from the hobby since Liverpool last year, have had some viral infection for some months that is not shown up in any tests, but seems to have quite a few others up here showing the same symptons of lost of taste, appetite, aches & sweating & not a lot of interest in doing much at all, in other words quite lethargic, & unable to get interested enough to do anything of note, although I did complete 3 trees.

The time actually has been beneficial in other ways though, catching up on some readings in other areas of interest & trying to keep abreast of any happenings in MR world. I guess as I reflect on that point, the happenings to me have not been what one could call positive, & in some ways distressing, in that arena I refer to the Shrike circus that ended as it has. I often still wonder what really is the truth in what happened, aside from several rumours. I admit to being one caught out even though I said no more Early Bird promises & payments after years waiting on some models & still on one, have to keep brushing cobwebs away with that one.  Last year at Liverpool I had a very close look at the production sample of a 30Ts model, to me the weight was good, as was the overall detail of it, so I paid & ordered one, now I still ponder as to next steps in regard to it.

One of the aspects that I liked about the 30T was that what detail was on it was fine, as against some of the course detail found on many start up companies models, although I admit to not liking the molded in oil lines along the boiler side which as per other models lacked some what clear definition of the pipes along the sides. Something that seems to be very common with steam models along with trying to get the right number of them on the model, too easy to leave them off & blame cost, yet put other incorrect detail items in to the mold process.

The book reading over the past few months has been revealing also in that I need to make some additional bits to fit onto the 57 & 58 DJH kits, as well but that wont be a big deal except it may impact on some of the paintwork if I'm not careful.  The same error sightings on RTR models, has me in a position that as soon as I walk into someone's layout room for the first or any number of times there are some models that I can immediately pick as being from a particular source owing to the very noticeable errors on them. Sadly it has become a bit of a turnoff for me in the interest of modeling.

I was once told that being an ex engineman, that knowing what is correct & what isn't is a curse, well while I disagreed at the time, I may actually be changing my view on that, well up to a point anyway. With time on my hands & the aspects mentioned above I did another serious think on my objectives in modeling, especially in regard to what type of running type models I still need, I rechecked my old desire/want/hope sheet again & while I still have enough models to operate all that I need to do, there are a few holes in models I would like to have, & they are basically so the trains have variety of both goods & passenger RS but also with loco's. The primary empty spots for the later are standard goods loco's (aka freighters as were the common nickname applied to them by enginemen) & a non streamlined 38cl.

With the delays that came with the freighters I decided to get a DJH 53cl kit to build up as a start, with the plan to get the amount of freighters from the source. The model is now assembled & awaiting the fitting of sound, but no hurry with that. When I started the build, with chassis in place & time to work on the boiler, it became very evident that something was seriously wrong, I kept going over the instructions & all the holes drilled out correctly but I was stumbling with the hand rail staunchions, pump location as well as the wire piece that was meant for the exhaust outlet into the smokebox, they simply were wrong for a 53cl.  At the same I became aware of what I saw as being very wrong, & that was on the oil lines that ran from around mid high of the drivers side firebox into the cab, & then down to the footplate near the union of the boiler to smokebox.

What was wrong was the oil lines from around mid point through to the cab was a featureless white metal blob molded as part of the whole boiler firebox in one. Not only that but at the mid point down to the footplate rather than a 3 oil line pipes there were 5, as per the 50cl. Thankfully in our weekly model group there is a very good builder of DJH & other models, who I contacted about the problem, when I explained it to him, he replied, OH! I should have realized & given you a copy of the amended plans I did for the 53 & for the 55cl for where to do the drill outs for them, as the boiler unit is set up for a 50cl.

It wasn't until the oil line issue as well as the drill holes were found to be wrong, but the big one was the location of the pump & exhaust lines location on the firebox. The 53 having a higher running boar, had the pump, pipe & all the hand rail, pump line steam pipe & Blower pipe at a completely different spot & higher on the boiler unit.  Its all fixe now, except the wrong oil lines on the drivers side, Oh, its no worries really as you cant really notice them or just ignore them anyway. Problem is, that were other lines I had to attach myself as well, for a 53, that being 2 of them on the firemans side & one over the firebox top down to the pump. But for me the problem is that every time I looked at the model, I saw the wrong drivers side oil lines. Knowing they are wrong, I cannot escape from the them. In hindsight I should have got the 50cl kit as would have been happier with it.

Over the past times I was looking forward to another model, still to come, but having seen the final production run photo's of the model I am no longer interested until I at least see the model in the plastic itself, & my eyes will turn to the areas I have deep concerns over.  This brings me to another specific model that was released last year, & has been just reviewed in  the latest AMRM, that being the Eureka 50cl. I originally ordered 3 different models of them, but had to cancel out early owing to the need of money for medical bills. At the same time I had noticed some photo's of the xome early production samples & there were some very noticeable errors from the start, so I was basically pleased to have not gone ahead with the order. But, having then seen other aspects with the DJH kit I had decided not to go down that path anyway.

After listing the errors that I had noticed I did a fair bit of checking  as there had been photo's produced showing what appeared to be some corrections, I took the plunge & obtained one, so far the one I have has not been run, so have nil idea about that side of things, so far the model has basically been sitting in its box after an initial rough look over. Unfortunately for me I am somewhat both disappointed & it continues my disillusionment in the hobby owing to some basic & not so basic errors with the model.

Which really brings me to another point in the issue regarding the overall accuracy & attention taken in getting a model made. What level of compromise are we expected to make in getting models that are both correct in detail, dimensions reliability & the like within a respectable, price point? At what point does modelers licence from the manufacturing perspective apply in that the purchaser has to accept such licence in the end product?

There is little or no doubt that all models in some ways has to have some compromises to them as its not possible to truly get a 100% correct replication of a locomotive or for that matter any item of Rolling Stock, buildings & other items we need to construct & operate a model scene that we can be both content with & happy with the overall layout. At what point do visibly wrong items end up taking some of the happiness & contentment out of the hobby?

Each question, may well be answered differently for most modellers, with many having similar views in the primary areas especially in those areas they are familiar with.. Its probably easy for the manufacturer/importer to make concessions in bringing out a model, be it for cost, or other areas that make a product profitable & therefore viable to produce, yet with the EB discount offers as well as time payment options available much of the risk is removed. But one of things I find hanging over all of this is not just the errors in a model but also the omissions that they end up arriving with.

While some, or dare I say most have a detail & parts sheet with each model especially locomotives, others have absolutely nothing in that regard, how to take them apart for oiling or some other maintenance need. Then there are the items said in the original blurb such   Our xxx model will come with the following features,... When they arrive, they are not to be seen, but often the price has gone up as well. Less for more, in a more or less way.

It makes things hard when so many have different areas in which they model, times/era's etc & you simply cannot cover every vagary either. It does however make it hard to defend these areas of omission & mistakes when a competitor brings out, or has brought out models earlier that encompass all of the things missing in your latest acquisition.

Its also hard for the manufacturer when they do not know much about the product they are making in the real world, & problems exist even when a prototype is actually preserved in either static or operational condition, as many of them have had modifications made to them in order for them to operate in a different arena then what they were originally designed for & operating conditions they were involved in. Or how many static exhibits have had items removed from them deemed superfluous in such an exhibit, & the likelihood of theft of parts.  Therefore the model comes out with a maybe this was how it was in real life reason.

Another aspect at times is when reading books the amount of simple mistakes come up, even in photo's, especially when it applies to a photo that is showing aspects of the loco, & one sees the wrong caption for the photo. Example is in the book on the 50cl a photo of the cab layout, one with the tender off, is actually that of a 32cl, similar mistake is in the 32cl book. The aspect that makes the mistake is the hand brake. 32cl had the hand brake handle at an approximately 45degree angle on the firemans side down to the brake rigging, Freighters each had them at an almost full vertical position the brake rigging which applied the brake at the rear of the rear driving wheel. A simple error, but noticeable to some.  The average modeler even enthusiast though would argue that the book is correct, yet a simple check with other photo's in the same book can reveal the error.

I guess as its in the cab, its not as noticeable, fair enough so do we not worry about such things & leave them off a model?  Thing is for the modelers who scratch build, or like to modify their models, they are relying on these books to help them identify where the various parts go & how they fit.

Looking back on the DJH kits, I forget exact dates for their arrival but when they arrived they were a wonder, or boon for modelers, generally accurate & cheap if you had the abilities to put them together. But the first I saw as of the 32cl, it was sometime in the early 80's when I was at WCK,  7& wow was the thoughts, of it.  Looking at them now its easy to see how dated they are, while more han acceptable, they really are in need of some retooling, & updating.

Me, I think the deck chair & remembering how things were is maybe more enjoyable than where the wonderful hobby of model railways is falling behind rather than advancing, when there is no real reason why it should be.