N1GY- The simple Approach to Ham Radio

and My Model Railroad Hobby


UPDATES From The Radio Room Page 12

February 17, 2020

            My son-in-law Gabe has agreed to join me soon and assist with the new benchwork on the West side of the room. This will require a "bridge" of sorts to connect the new part of the layout with the old part of the layout. It does seem strange to be calling a layout that is less than 5 months old, the "old" portion of the layout. With the addition of about $40 worth of 1x3 lumber and a few bits of hardware everything is in hand to begin work on the "new" portion. I am still having second and third thoughts aboput how to connect the two parts across a doorway. Initially I was consideering a gate type of bridge. Then I found as very simple flip-up arrangement. Now however, I am considering a simple lift-out section for one very simple reason. The number of people who come through the front door is minimal. Also, I am probably the only person who will be operating the railroad. Thus the need for a complex system to provide accessis not there. A combination of a screw-eye and a hook on the fascia will be enough to provide for storing the lift-out when it has to be "out" and the use of Powerpole Connectors will suffice to provide track power to the lift-out. The decision is not final yet but we will see what the final answer will be when we are done.


February 8, 2020

          Over the past few days I have been adding small details to the layout. I replaced the "field expedient" pushpins with proper Hayes end of track bumpers, I created a few speed limit and stop signs for the roads (still awaiting a second coat of paint on the posts) I also replaced the 7 foot coil cord on the new throttle with a 14 foot one from the hobby shop. Otherwise, I have been very busy planning and re-planning the next phase of construction. All I need now is about 8 or 9 8' 1 x3s and a couple of bits of hardware. The plywood is already in hand and the track is being held for me at the model railroad club. I already have all the roadbed and most of the structures needed for the final phase of the layout.

January 31, 2020

             More of the scenery is now in place on the newest part of the layout with one more building and the scenery around it to go. The island for the lighthouse has been created and scenicked and I extended the yard in the previous module a bit more to take advantage of some empty space on the new module. The pictures are on page 8 of My Model Railroad. By the way, it may appear that I have abandoned amateur radio with all this emphasis on the model railroad, but rest assured I have not. Beginning any new hobby results in a kind of crash course in the new hobby but sooner or later that slows down and the time devoted to each field kind of evens out. 

January 20, 2020

                 A lot has been accomplished over the weekend. My son in law, Gabe came down to assist with the new benchwork (and a new home for the TV). Within a few hours much was done and the layout is now 4 feet longer in the East-West direction. Track is laid, the car float is glued in place and after a few anxious hours any problems with the track have been tracked down and resolved. I had a very nice lunch  with the Manatee ARC this noon time. We had 15 people show up for burgers at Gecko's. I only wish that many had shown up to last nights information net. 

January 15, 2020,

                 Today, I did some painting of the car float (barge) and the tugboat that is associated with said car float. I also ordered a few pieces to expand the NCE DCC system to the next level. As I mentioned yesterday I will not have to upgrade the power to the layout but merely add another plug in panel and another throttle. The original throttle or cab as NCE likes to call them will stay in place on the fascia near the center of the original layout to provbide the power to the system but the new cab or throttle will be able to move from one panel to the other while the train it controls merrily carries on chugging down the track. THe new position of the plug in panel will enable me to stay close to the train as I run it through it's paces at the far end of the layout. 

January 14, 2020

                A railroad tugboat has been constructed and minor bits of trackage assembled in preparation for ther next phase of expansion of my model railroad layout. My fingers are covered in super glue (all dry now) but things are going well. I have added lighting for the first phase of the expanded layout and they are controlled by a light switch built into the fascia of the layout. As soon as I can scrape together the funds I am going to expand the DCC system that operates the layout and add a second throttle. I had a very illuminating discussion with someone at NCE (the manufacturer of my DCC system and it turns out that I will not have to upgrade the power to the layout at all. He said that the system I have now can handle the expanded layout easily so the 5 amp smart booster I was planning on buying will not be necessary. Great news!


January 6, 2020

                 Today was a very good day. I completed the shaping of the car float from a 1 x 6 pine board. I ordered the fittings for the car float from a company that specialises in marine and port or dock models. The cost was less than $35 including shipping. Just now I ordered a railroad tugboat on Ebay which came at the lowest price I have seen all week. On another note, I took delivery on a small postage scale and have now adjusted the weight of almost all of my rolling stock to the NMRA suggested weight using stick on wheel weights that I got at Harbor Freight (very inexpensively I might add), The postage scale is digital and was delivered in less than 12 hours, Thank you Amazon. These are all preparations for the next extension of the layout, a 5 foot section which will contain the TV and be somewhat maritime operations oriented. THe new section will have a car float and tugboat, a dock and several buildings associated with a port like a seafood cannery and dockmaster's office along with a railroad office associated with the car float operations. The benchwork itself may have to wait until I can get some assistance but most of the parts are being worked on even now.


January 5, 2020

                  The preparations for the next phase of construction of the model railroad layout have already begun. Over the last evening and this morning I constructed a car float apron (or approach ramp, if you like). The next project will be the car float itself for which I will use a flat wooden board suitably shaped to the contours of a car float with two tracks and all the usual  fittings one would normally find on a car float. Luckily, there is a company out there who has already done all the work. They sell a complete kit of all the bitts, housing and hatches for a car float. All I will have to do is paint them and install them on the hull of the barge. THe dock area is also a fairly easy job as the front edge of the dock can be duplicated by gluing a few hundred dowels to the edge of the plywood and covering the ties of the track on the dock with plaster or sheet rock mud otherwise known as spackle. The hardest job is going to be assembling the benchwork to create both the surface to match the previous benchwork and the surface of the water 1/2" below that. After that it will mean building the scenery around the dock and in the water. Think small boats and the tug boat that hauls the car float around. Lots of fun,


January 3, 2020

             A few upgrades have been accomplished on the layout. THe engine house has been rebuilt with a peaked roof and some gaps in the walls of the theater have been closed. The Theater walls have also been painted as have the sidewalk around it. I had company over for dinner tonight and they both seemed impressed with the layout. And with dinner if I must say. Italian sausage and ziti in tomato sauce. I must say, I liked it so much I had a second helping after my guests left. 


December 30, 2019

               The current layout is now finished it's initial construction. No layout is ever really "finished", instead it enters a stage where improvements will take place while the planning goes on for the next expansion of the layout. Such planning has already begun including cost analysis and equipment aquisition. The next phase will be a port scene with a 200+ scale foot long car float and the accompanying float apron. There will also be a long dock or pier area and the usual buildings one finds around a port. After that we will see. There is a doorway to be crossed and about 9 feet of shelving to add at the correct height to make everything work together. The crossing of the doorway will be accomplished with some form of "lift-out" section that could take the form of a gate or a section that lifts up or down to accomplish entry past that point. Time will answer all of these questions.  THe shelf on the other side of the crossing will be relatively narrow at 12 inches for most of it's length, expanding to 18 inches around the engine terminal at thefar end of the layout. This will put a locomotive turning facility at both ends of a point to point railroad. I see no way to create a complete loop of track to just let the trains run around and around, and anyway that is not prototypical in any way. Real railroads run from point A to point B. the This all assumes that I will remain in good enough health to accomplish all this construction, but I am noticing a significant improvement in my blood pressure since I started "working on the railroad". Sound like a plan to me!


December 27, 2019,

              Work to finish the current layout is ongoing. THe empty spaces on the extension have been filled, The theater has arrived to be placed on the town portion of the layout and plans are afoot for the next section of the layout. I have begun Page 5 of the section on My Model Railroad and I am just waiting for the glue to set before I start installing trees. 



Christmas Day 2019,

             Scenery installation on the extension continues unabated. Two more structures have been added to the area and turf and vegetation now covers most of the layout. One area remains to be done behind the three track yard. I am still trying to decide what to put in that area but it will get done. Then it will be on to the next 4 foot section and moving the TV to accomodate the addition.


December 20, 2019

                  The scenery installation of the extension has begun, albeit slowly. Page 3 shows a couple of photos of the initial work. Much remains to be done. Roads must be installed, crossings built, structures installed. It is slow work partly due to my age but also because so much still needs to be decided. Anyway, with the hotel in place and the tank farm installed at he North end of the original shelf layout, that section is now complete and it is time to get going on the East-West extension. 


December 15, 2019

                 The scenery on the initial portion of the layout is now virtually complete. The only remaining areas to be done ate one area in the "town" which will be getting a hotel and a small area behind a small tank farm which may simply get a biggger tank. Then it will be on to the extension and get that scenery done. After that we will consider how best to procede. I.E. more locomotives, more cabs, more layout or what. All options are open at this point but that will have to wait until after the holidays. I was building some coax jumpers for a friend of mine when I discovered that my coax crimper never came back from it's last loanout. I have ordered another but it will be a few days before it gets here. In the meantime I soldered the center conductors. Ah well, the risks of loaning your gear out.


December 1. 2019

              Scenery has been added to a small section of the layout around the locomotive servicing area. I am deliberately holding off on the back area of the layout until the backdrop is in place and painted. I have also added a photo of the display locomotive installed next to the Station in the center of the layout North -South section.

November 30, 2019

             The next phase of the railroad has begun. The addition of scenery and things like grass, bushes, trees, etc. has started. I picked up 3 jars of woodland scenics materials today from the club store, at  a much reduced price I might add, and started using some of it almost as soon as I got home. I am very pleased with the results so far. The page 2 of the Model Railroad pages has some pictures of the results.

November 29, 2019

             Ballasting is completed on my model railroad. On to structures and scenery. THis is a major waypoint in the development of any model railroad and heralds major progress on the layout. No Golden spike but the thought is there.


November 21, 2019

            Today, a ham radio operator sent me a notice that apparently came from the FCC announcing in effect that radios like the Baofeng and Wouxson units that are capable of operation both inside ands outside the 2 meter and 70 centimeter bands assigned to radio amateurs in the US, are now tobe considered illegal with major fines for merchants who sell these radios and enforcement actions against anyone using such a radio. I have no idea whether this announcement is true and actually originated with the FCC or is a case of "fake news" being put out by someone with an "axe to grind". I will say that in my experience (35 years of using amateur radio equipment) I have found these radios to easily overheat  subject to bleed over into adjacent frequencies and difficult to program without access to a PC that has not yet been upgraded to Windows 10. I am of course speaking of the software that comes from the manufacturer, not the software from Chirp. I would caution anyone contemplating the purchase of these extremely cheap radios (compared to the prices of the big 3) to make darn sure that the radio you purchase has an FCC ID number before purchase. The FCC ID number attests to the fact that the unit has been tested by the FCC and found in compliance with all pertinent FCC rules.


November 19, 2019

           There have been several things going on on the model railroad over the last several days. First I screwed up and broke the connection between the cranking mechanism and the turntable bridge. I fixed that with a dollop of 5 minute epoxy and now the turntable is running outstandingly well. I removed the third storage track that I had added to the turntable because once I added the single stall engine house, there was not enough room for the new storage track. At the model railroad club today I picked up several new to me freight cars to expand the fleet and a maintenance of way heavy duty crane car. One of the other new cars, a flatcar was kitbashed into a boom car to go with the big crane. I also added protective metal railings (read wide U-shaped drawer pulls) on either side of the crank handle to keep the big ape that builds the railroad from bumping into the crank mechanism and further damaging it. Another item added was a duplex AC outlet mounted in the fascia at the front of the layout. It will be much easier to use some of my power tools when I need to. Well, that's about all for now, enjoy the rest of the day.


November 16, 2019

           My model railroad layout has received an extension. It is now an L-shape 11 feet north-south and 7.5 feet east-west. Both legs are 18" wide. The extension added about 27 more feet of track, 6 more turnouts and at least 3 to 4 more industries. Of course there is nothing but track on the extension now but all in good time the industries, scenery and structures will be built and added. We, my son and I only started on the extension Friday afternoon and by Saturday night all the track and roadbed was down and functioning. I call that pretty good progress for an old fogie like me. See the new photos on the Model Railroad page to see what I mean.


October 27, 2019

           It has been over a month since my last entry on these pages so I think an explanation is in order. A visit to a Model Railroad club in my town awakened a desire to return to a hobby that I last was involved in over 40 years ago. When my son came down to visit, the tool table I mentioned last time took a back seat to the construction of an 11 foot by 18 inch shelf layout for some model trains. The hobby of model railroading has changed markedly since I was last involved with it. Locomotives and rolling stock (freight cars and passenger cars) are much more detailed now. THe locomotives move prototypically and make all the right noises. They are also much more expensive that htey were back in the day. A good locomotive in HO scale now costs about the same as a Yaesu FTM-400 digital radio. I have not left amateur radio although I am cutting back on my duties as Section Technical Coordinator and Assistant Section Manager. This new hobby is taking a fair amount of my time to get everything built and operating smoothly. I still plan on being Editor of our club's newsletter and the radios are still in my car and my office. I note that I am not the only ham operator with more than one hobby, so wish me luck.


September 23, 2019

            My son, the expert woodworker (among other things he is very good at) is coming to visit for a few days, along with his spouse. We have been discussing how we can improve the usability of the new nibbler tool. The main thought is to add a table, kind of like a router table to the current setup so that I can use things like fences to keep the cuts straight and smooth. He has offered to assist with the project which is great. When we get it finished I plan on adding a new page to the site so everyone can see just what I hav e been writing about.


September 19, 2019

         A few new additions have been made to the workbench in the last few days. A power nibbling tool has been assembled and works very well. It will take a bit of practice to get my skill level up to what is needed to make it work truly smoothly for me but that will come. I have obtained an empty reel from Harbor Freight and after much struggle have loaded about 180 feet of the new cat 5 cable onto the reel. When this stuff arrived it was very neatly rolled up and contained by a couple of wire ties. Of course, as soon as the wire ties were off, the neat roll exploded into a snarled up mess. Now that it is on the reel, hopefully some semblance of order can be maintained. I have not even unpacked the other 200 feet of the cable in hopes that we can keep the snarled up mess in the past.


September 16, 2019

         I received a shipment of CAT-5 cable from Amazon a few days ago. It has worked out well with a few snags along the way. This cable is somewhat thinner than what I was used to, using 7 foot jumper cables before. This has made getting the thinner individual wires to make solid contact with the punch down positions at the back of the CAT-3 jacks difficult to say the least. I have had to redo the punchdowns several times and in one case actually had to substitute larger gauge wires which were then soldered to the corresponding wires in the CAT-5 cable. I should explain that when I have to build an extension cable for a mike that uses a 6 pin modular plug, I generally use CAT-5 cable and simply ignore the extra pair of wires, usually the brown and brown/white pair. I guess that mainly the problem is one of frustration at having to redo a job several times to get the proper connections. I have almost 400 feet of this thinner cable, so I guess I will have to get used to it. 


September 8, 2019

         Recently, I ordered and received supplies that will now allow me to construct cables for the FTM-400XDR. Both the mic extension cable and the control head extension cable will be available custom made to the exact length the purchaser requires. The mic extension cable can be supplied with a mounting bracket at slight additional cost. Just another way to keep the old man busy or at least busier.


September 2, 2019,

         As I write this I and my fellow Floridians are waiting for Dorian (the Hurricane) to decide whether it is going to turn North and away from us or continue West and take a big bite out of Florida. Personally, I think it will turn and rip up the East coast of Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and points North and leave us on the West Coast of Florida relatively unscathed. Lets hope I am right. As far as things around the workbench are concerned, I have ordered some supplies of Cat 5 and Cat 3 cable and some RJ-9 modular connectors. These supplies will allow me to construct extension cables for the FTM-400 and the FTM 100. Time will tell if there is any demand from my fellow hams.


August 17, 2019

       A new page has been added to the site detailing the latest radio installation on a mobility scooter. At my age I need the scooter to get around hamfests, any kind of ARES deployment, in fact anywhere that would require me to walk long distances or stand for an extended period of time. I could of course use an HT for communications but I figured that 10 watts is better than 5 watts especially when it can be cranked up to 25 or even 50 watts should the need arise. I normally leave the radio at 10 watts. At his level the radio will stay nice and cool and the 12 amp hr battery will power it for plenty of time.


August 8, 2019

       Recently, I removed the dual-band transceiver from my mobility scooter because it was acting intermittently. My son is sending me down a Yaesu FT-90R that I had given him some years ago. It will eventually replace the Jetstream 10 watt radio that I removed. I am also making some significant changes in the layout of the new rig. The radio will be mounted in front on top of the steering controls of the scooter. The battery will be changed out for a 12 AH unit  that I have already test fit to the scooter in the same place as the 7AH used to be. The antenna was tried in several different placements but eventually it was decided to place it mounted to the right hand arm rest mount. That way only the "stinger" of the antenna needs to be removed before storing the scooter in the back of my van. Hoppefully, the radio will arrive next week and I can have everything ready before the start of Hamfest Season here in Florida.

August 1, 2019

       I just added this page the other day and one of my friends called to say that the page was empty. I told him there was nothing wrong, I just hadn't gotten around to writing something on it yet. It is good to know that people are reading what I write. Just to bring the page up to date, I am getting back one of the radios I gave my son a few years ago when he got his license. The little 10 watt radio I mounted to my mobility scooter seems to getting a bit erratic so I am going to replace it with my son's FT-90R. I will of course turn the output down to 10 or 20 watts as I do sit a bit close to the antenna. Of course, I am 76 years old so what can a little RF do that I haven't already done anyway. I probably will change the location of the radioas well as I find that the current location on the right armrest is a bit unwieldy. Enough for now, 73