Conversion Initiated! (with video)

tl;dr new controller makes for renewed fun, enforces point that old layout is better than new

The Blue Line layout has a fundamental flaw. Well, several in reality. First of all, it is way, way too high. I followed the ‘rules’ online for its height, thinking that the added inches would be good for the kids because they could see what was going on, without being able to touch much of anything. Except, they need to stand on a chair to see anything, and even I have to stand on a chair to reach the back track. And it needs to be against the wall, or the stock falls off when it derails. Ugh. I need to get one of those grabby extender things that old ladies use to get stuff off the floor without bending over, so I can reach the far corners of my layout.

The other fundamental flaw is in the controller. There is a short somewhere in it that is extremely annoying and will eventually cause it to break completely. The connector hookup for controller-to-track will only work when you hold in the connection. I have tried switching DC controllers, but the other controller is broken completely and I’m not precisely sure why. I’ve switched the wire, and that didn’t make any difference.

Recently, we received a very, very nice DCC sound locomotive that I would hate to eventually ruin by running too much on a DC system. In looking at the price of the DC controller versus the DCC one that I would consider (namely, the Bachmann E-Z Command), I managed to find a place with a ‘deal’ price impressive enough to make it relatively within our budget. Finding a really superb deal on another DCC sound equipped engine suddenly made the ability to run two different locomotives a looming reality!

When the new engine and the EZ Command arrived at the same time, I waited until the kids were in bed and sneaked downstairs to play with my new toy! It worked just perfectly on the main line of the Blue Line layout, but I am still having issues with the reversing section. I discovered that I need either a completely different ‘special’ track piece to connect them than I thought I did, or at least one more rerailer piece. I e-mailed Bachmann about it because there was also one piece of the EZ Command missing when we opened it (not a deal-breaker piece, thankfully) but haven’t received a response yet and probably won’t until Monday at the earliest.

Just out of curiosity, I stripped the EZ connector thing off the extra power wire and sort of temporarily wired the Command to the TTFH to see if anything would happen. Bust my buffers, it worked like a charm! (Bust my buffers, haha.) There are a couple of little places where the engines lose power, but it’s not actually a short, coz it doesn’t set off the Command’s short circuit alarm. I called Tim down to watch the fun, and we ended up playing with trains and trying to figure out the track issues for, like three and a half hours. That’s a record for time I’ve gotten Tim to spend playing with choo choos.

While we were at it, I started really examining the wiring under the table, now that I have a little bit better idea what I’m looking at, and I realized that rather than each individual section being wired (like some guides I’ve read recommend) or even periodic feeder wires (as others recommend), the whole table is powered by like one, possibly two connections. I’m not sure if the turnout motors also feed power to the track, but I’m thinking not, since it will run without them being even connected to power.

So! Whoever this mystery donor was, he built a better train table in 6th grade than I’m able to build now. And it has truly impressive forward compatibility, considering how well the DCC system runs on it! I’m seriously impressed. I really wish I could meet the guy and say thank you.

I was very excited to see Olin’s reactions to the new engine and multi-engine capability. We had a fun afternoon (mostly) with the older kids yesterday, playing with engines and cars and figuring out the switching yard. I put the video at the top of the entry, so you didn’t have to read this for for the fun, flappy payoff!

Bonus kudos to Tim, who single-handedly replaced like, five couplers. Brownie point for him! Those things are a serious PITA. I tried it once and was just like:



So now, I’m sort of tempted to just concentrate on the TTFH for awhile, and let the Blue Line lie quiescent. I’m kind of annoyed at it right now, anyway. We shall see. I need to stop spending all my money on train stuff and actually pay my bills/buy food for awhile!


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