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Not much in the way of a layout update.  I’ve been enjoying running trains mostly, though I have been reading up on LCS and completed a side project or two.

I think I understand LCS enough that I can start setting it up.   I need to confirm that most of my switches have IDs assigned and hook everything up in the right order.   Before getting started, I have to figure out where to mount the modules.   Also, I’m not sure I want to use the block control.   Something about using traditional toggle switches is appealing.  I suppose I could do both.

Today I learned I hate soldering.  Not sure if it’s my technique or I’m not using the iron correctly but I had a helluva time soldering practice wires.  I did make the rookie mistake of heating the solder, not the metal.   Once I figured that out, things got better but I was still inconsistently hitting my target.  

I got good enough that I completed my first upgrade project.    I was able to add a diode to my 40 yr old DC engine and convert it to AC.   Felt good about that.  I had the diode backwards at first but luckily I used wire bullets to temporarily hold everything together while testing it.  Flipped the diode around, the test runs were successful, and buttoned everything up.


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First LCS module installed with no issues and it’s awesome!

I first took the time to test the switch tracks, sort out their IDs and set up the LCS app to be in sync with the switch IDs.  There are 4 switches that I haven’t programmed into LCS yet.  3 need an ID and 1 I’m having connectivity issues with and I think it might be another bad control board.  I have to sort it all out and possibly exchange a bad one.

Once the LCS app was set up, setting up the actual LCS WiFi module only took a few minutes.  It was literally plug and play.  The LCS WiFi module plugs into the CAB base via the data port and also has it’s own power cord.   I connected the iPad to the LionelXXXX WiFi and within a few minutes I was controlling the command switches from the iPad.

Next I need to program the remaining switches and add them.   After that I have the STM2 (switch throw monitor) to connect (monitors and ensures the switch position is accurate in the LCS app).  That will involve disconnecting the track to wire the STM2 leads to the switches.  While I have the switches up, I might connect some phone wire leads in case I want access the terminals later.  I still have some connectivity issues I mentioned earlier that affects 1 or 2 switches so I’ll consider installing the ASC2 switch throw module at some point.  But, if for some reason I have issues with assigning the remaining switches an ID, I’m not sure the the ASC or STM will work.   If they don’t work properly I should exchange them but I might just connect the original OEM toggles and keep those switches in a yard.

The LCS app is awesome for a layout overview and controlling the switches but it was a little cumbersome for controlling the engines. The Lionchief app felt more intuitive and was easier to use overall and gave you access to control individual volume settings for the horn, bell, etc.… I didn’t see where I could do that in the LCS app.   Also in the LCS app, I do not see where you could turn off or adjust the smoke volume.



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I made some minor progress today.  I slightly reconfigured the passing siding on the outer loop to incorporate 1 3/8” track sections. I also added a couple of extra feeders and tied them in to the main bus. This section of track is ready to be wired as a separate block.  I also drilled holes underneath the other sidings but did not drop any feeder wires off of them yet.

I’ve decided to go with toggle switches instead of using LCS to control power to the 6 blocks.  In tandem with that, I have to decide on how to arrange the toggles, a couple of LCS modules, and a few other things on a panel so it looks neat and is accessible.

I still have to mess around with the 3 or 4 switches to get them programmed or hook up the standard Lionel toggle switch. I need to do that sooner than later because I will want to incorporate the switches on the control panel, so I need to know how many to make room for.

The other thing I want to do is add uncoupler tracks to the sidings. Some of the eBay purchases included a section or two. They need to be tested to see if they work.   The standard Lionel buttons look a little big so I will probably want to consider an alternate switch/button and then include them in the control panel.  I’m open to suggestions if anyone has them.

Finally, today I reached a milestone. I have no more room to store rolling stock. 🤣 Soooooooo ……. I need to cool it with the eBay purchases and the trips to the local hobby shops. The two filing cabinets I purchased are filled up except for one drawer. That drawer has to be reserved for the engines I have on pre-order. Besides, until I get the bigger layout, I can’t even fit half of the rolling stock I have on the current layout at once.

Here’s a very brief video from today’s run session…


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@VJandP posted:
Besides, until I get the bigger layout, I can’t even fit half of the rolling stock I have on the current layout at once.

Here’s a very brief video from today’s run session…

I have a bigger layout, but I can't fit even a fraction of my locomotives and rolling stock on the layout, even with 500+ feet of track!   Tons of stuff I can't fit on the shelves, and my staging tracks are filling up.  There a ton of stuff still under the layout, in two closets, and on a bunch of shelves in the garage!

Don't stop now, keep visiting eBay.

Not much more space on the TT either.



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Last edited by gunrunnerjohn

Time flies when life happens but the past couple of weekends I've finally been able to squeeze in some quality RR time.

A new Lionchief 2.0 + Pennsylvania RS-3 has been added to the fleet.  Neat engine. Love the features, power and quality for the price.  I've had some fun programming it and running it around the layout.


Speaking of the layout, a few updates.    I decided that I don't want to pursue adding LCS for now so I disconnected the WiFi module.   In the long run, I'm leaning towards a hard button control panel(s).  The graphic interface on the iPad was nice and worked great but I want something more tactile and permanent.  It worked great but wasn't - forgive the pun - pushing my buttons.  For anyone interested, the modules are for sale.  Also, part of the reason was the difficulty dealing with a couple of switches that were not programming properly.  Trying to get the STM and the ASC2 modules to sync with a switch that I couldn't assign an ID to was frustrating.  I ended up connecting the factory toggle switches and have been enjoying those more than using the iPad.  And the factory toggles are reliable and easy to connect.


It’s looking like a real railroad under there … 🤣🤣


In the interest of time, I did a quick wiring job for the sidings. Ultimately I wanted a control panel and to have each siding individually controlled with a toggle switch.  For now, I opted to add a second bus terminal and power them all together from the 4th channel on the ZW-L.  This more than meets my needs for now.  I don't leave engines or rolling stock on the layout so no need to power a single siding at a time.  But I do have the option of cutting power to them.  Perfect for temporary storage of an engine during a run session or the ability to add rolling stock on an unpowered section and not accidentally cause a short.

The most time consuming exercise has been trying to design a layout for the ever-changing space in the new house.   First, the bonus space above the garage was going to have an entry point via stairs in the middle of the room.  I've had plans for an around the room layout based on my previous basement layout that I was refining for the new space.  Life changes . . . the bonus room needed to accommodate an office and extra bedroom in addition to my train space.   Now it only needs to accommodate an extra bedroom and the office space will be integrated into the train room.   

As the available space changed, the design had to change.  As the design changed, the purpose and story behind my RR has changed.  Larger room, larger freight trains with multiple engine lash ups.  Smaller room, smaller layout, a 30 car train would have the engine sniffing up its own caboose.  So instead of modeling loosely on a mainline, I started to focus on a branchline or shortline with some interchange switching and a few small industries to service.  The plans attached are mostly a "loop running" layout the formed from the original around the room layout.  There's a small interchange track / passing siding and room for a small yard in the lower right (didn't finalize a configure for the yard track and engine facility), but that's it.  The top most loop would have been a connected branchline by it's a stand alone loop now which is fine and gives me a space to run conventional engines.

If you're looking at the SCARM file, keep in mind I use SCARM to size up the real estate to see what will fit in a given space.  I'm not exact with perfectly connecting every piece of track.  On a larger layout there will be plenty of give to fudge the spacing and piece in the 1 3/4" and 1 3/8 track pieces".

I'm currently working on a design with less track and more room for industries.  It'll have at least one 072 minimum loop and the ability to run 3 trains at once but other than those requirements, I'm rethinking from scratch.  There will be a lower level with staging so I can keep as much rolling stock on the layout as possible.  The design will have entry and exit points for the lower level and possibly a reversing loop.  We'll see where it goes ...

VJandPRR 3VJandPRR 3D Snapshot


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Vin, the RS3 is a nice looking engine.  I wired my switches to the DCS AIU and DZ1000 pushbutton switches.  I prefer using the pushbuttons even thought I got all the switches working via the hand held remote. 

Yes, it seems available space for a layout is often in a state of flux until the layout is built claiming the space.  Mine changed too.  The decision is ultimately yours whether you want a layout where there is a little more room for industrial tracks or using that space for another track for another train running.

Not much new… just running some diesels in circles. 😝

We’re supposed to meet with the architect and finalize the blueprints for the new house. Once that happens, and I know the space available for the new train room, I can start revamping my plans again.

Otherwise, I haven’t done much except enjoy running the trains. Have cleaned up some wiring. And of course watching lots of videos for scenery and industry ideas.



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Was it me that said that I don’t really have any more room to store new engines and rolling stock?  😝

A couple of quick pictures of two new acquisitions. I stumbled across a set of 7 MPC Amtrak passenger cars for a good price. I decided to pair it with the newer LionChief 2.0+ engine.  Prototypically speaking, a silver and black, snub nosed F40 would have been more realistic but I like the semi-scaled LionChief colors and proportions better with these cars.

A few more pictures and maybe a video of the entire trained forthcoming.



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A few videos of this morning’s run session…

Amtrak passenger train overtaking an Erie train as it comes onto the mainline.  In my world, the Erie branch line will be bringing equipment and products from Bucyrus Erie and Erie forge and Steel Inc to central PA.    The original Bucyrus Erie was mining equipment and later specialized in steam shovels, but for my railroad they will be making miscellaneous earthmoving equipment.

I love the recent Amtrak cars that I picked up. They’re in awesome shape.  Family from Chicago and California would visit us in Erie and I remember countless times waiting on the platform as these huge shiny boxes pulled up.   The super liners weren’t back then, at least not on the routes that came through Erie that I recall.  On my railroad, there will be a way point station on the mainline where passengers can get off and then take a separate train to their final destination in Central PA.

And they are heavy!  When I first put them all on the track together and gave the entire train a tug, I was thinking… ****, I hope the single engine can pull it.  I think I want to convert these to LED. So, I’ll have to do some searching because I know others have already done this.

I’ve never been into the passenger trains that much but this set has me really interested.  I fear that I’m now going to start collecting passenger trains… God help my bank account

The LionChief 2.0+ engine is really nice.  I like the semi scale proportions and the color scheme with the MPC cars.  For a little more money I could’ve went with a Legacy F 40 but I really like the looks of this one. It ran great right out of the box. Sounds great. Love it so far.

And the Erie train coming onto the main line with mixed commodities, steel, and construction equipment …


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@Mark Boyce.  Thanks, Mark.   Yes, I grew up in Erie.  Tracks crisscrossed the city at a number of different places. The house we grew up in was only a couple of blocks from one set of tracks. I remember when I would hear the horns blowing, I would always run down to watch them pass. I still have a few flattened coins that we put on the rails.  We could never find the nickels …. I always wondered why that was. Maybe they stuck to the wheels? Ha ha

Erie isn’t the huge manufacturing location it once was but in the day there was Hammermill Paper (became International paper before they closed) , GE locomotive which still might be there in a reduced capacity, Bucyrus Erie, Lord Corp, Zurn and many others that no longer exist.

The big layout update is that the future space for the layout has changed again. We have removed it entirely from the upstairs bonus room, which is now bedroom space, and added it to the first floor. We had originally planned for a two car garage but expanded that to a three bay garage with the additional bay being an enclosed room for the layout. Waiting for the architect to get back with the plans to see how this will look and if it works out,  that will give me approximately a 15 X 25 foot permanent space. Having it on the first floor is actually a win. Thinking 15 or 20 years down the road, that’s a flight of stairs that I will not have to go up and down. Also, just building the layout it will be super convenient to have it right off the garage so now we are not dragging lumber and tools through the house.

I‘m playing around with layout ideas for the proposed space now. I don’t know why I have an aversion to a lift bridge but I think I’m going to consider it. Having to do a turnaround/reverse loop for 072 curves in a “ folded dog bone” takes up a huge chunk of space.  If I can run my mainline around the circumference of the room that will save a ton of real estate and allow me more space for additional sidings, industries, and scenery.

I love the new Amtrak passenger set I picked up. This is actually the first passenger train I’ve ever owned and I’m really enjoying it. A lot of nostalgia tied to the set seeing the real thing pull in and out of my hometown station.  To help reduce power draw, I changed out the incundescent lightbulbs to LEDs. But I’m thinking I do not like the bright white. It looks kind of sleek but in my eyes it looks a little awkward. I ordered a set of the soft white LEDs and I’m going to swap them out. Let me know what you think.

The other thing I was thinking of doing is wiring the two light sockets in each car in series. The single roller makes the light “wink” as it and passes over a switch or a crossover. I’m thinking if I wire them in series and the rollers on both ends of the car power both lights, it will keep the light consistent. I need to do some research but any thoughts on that would be appreciated.


Me: I don’t have room for any more purchases.

Also me: Hey, look at the Conrail engine I just picked up.  :-/


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Last edited by VJandP

Had some fun running trains this weekend.  I recreated different trains that I would often see intersecting Erie, PA.   The big blue Conrail engines were a common sight pulling mixed freight through the area on the main lines just south of downtown and over 19th St.  To the west of downtown, earthmoving equipment from the Bucyrus plant would cross 12th St towards the mainlines where I’m assuming they were picked up and transported elsewhere.   East of Erie, gondolas were common, more often than not filled with scrap. which in retrospect, I wonder if any of that came from the GE Locomotive plant located right there in Harborcreek.

This run session had me contemplating modeling more Erie specific industries.    I need to do some research, check out maps from the 70s to see where all the rails were (many of the tracks have lone since been removed or rerouted), and considering modeling the industries from that area.   This would be a big shift away from the fictional area I’ve been considering in central PA.  In the end, it will probably be a combination of both. But ultimately, it’ll be fun getting there regardless. :-)

As far as layout updates, there really hasn’t been much other than what I had previously mentioned about defining the new space. I have some tentative track plans that I will post. I do want to try my hand at building a control panel so I‘ve been reading up on that and checking out some YouTube videos.  I’ve been trying to be better about maintaining everything… Keeping the track clean, servicing the engines, going back and double checking some of the electrical work they have done.

The only small hiccup that I’ve run into is with the new Conrail engine that I picked up. The box car that was coupled directly behind the engine kept derailing on curves, even the 072 curves. I thought maybe it was a problem with the kinematic couplers or the pivoting pilot… which it still may be but I swapped it out with another box car that had a metal frame and trucks which was a bit heavier and the issue went away. You would think the weight of the entire train would’ve put enough force on the coupler to get it to pivot but maybe it was that particular box car and the way its coupler was aligned.  

i’m going to Google and read up on feedback about the coupler set up on this engine but if anyone else has any experience they want to share, I’m all ears.


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Have been doing odds and ends and also ran some trains this morning.

There’s another thread about  “design fatigue” … I can certainly relate. Now that I have the dimensions for the space in the new house, which is most likely still a ways off, I’ve been playing around with ideas. Going back-and-forth between folded dog bone and around the room plans. Have been leaning towards around the room but trying to avoid great big loops. Have been playing around with ideas for peninsulas to break it up. I’ll be posting some examples and asking for input at some point. But to that end…

SCARM vs Anyrail …. I have been using SCARM but decided to try Anyrail this past week.   I like Anyrail much better.  They both have comparable features but what I like about Anyrail better is the overall interface.  It’s easier to find specific features and settings and adding/moving track is more intuitive.  With Anyrail it’s much easier to grab track, scroll around the screen and select sections versus single pieces.  That alone allowed me to build some test plans much more quickly than if I used SCARM.  I’ll be posting some plans and thoughts about the new layout soon.

I had previously replaced the halogen bulbs in my MPC Amtrak passenger cars with LED bulbs.  But, they were a cool blue white.  They looked off and the lighting didn’t match the engine.  I opted to order more bulbs that were a soft white and replaced the bright white bulbs.  I had issues with the new bulbs immediately.   They would flicker erratically even when the train was standing still.  Some of them died right away.  When I went to change them out, they were HOT.   The other LED bulbs I but in ran cool but these new ones seemed to be a mess.  I decided to remove all the lights for now until I figure out something else. I might consider something GunRunnerJohn mentioned about updating the lights with an LED strip and computer control.  We’ll see …



The first picture with the square LEDs exposed are the bright right ones which worked really well. The second picture, ”Vehicode”, are the bulbs I did not like and did not work very well.


A couple short vids of today’s run session …

Passenger train overtaking the Erie freight waiting on a passing siding.  You might notice that the passenger cars are running without the interior lighting for now.

Running them circles 😝

Bird’s eye view …


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