Fun with Stocks… not rolling stocks

Image  Ok, so I was a little bored and decided to try my hand at creating a Stock Certificate for my model railroad.  I think the result came out pretty decently.

I was using Keynote (Apples version of PowerPoint) to do the layout, but it lacks vector text, so I had to do that portion in iDraw (A vector drawing program for the Mac.)  This was needed to do the curved text and other features.

So, of what possible use is this?  I’m not sure, like I said, I was a little bored.  I did think of things though;

  • If my layout ever gets finished, I can use them to give as mementos for people who visit the layout.
  • I can use them as ‘currency’ to determine who has seniority during an operating session (The more shares you have, the higher you are in seniority.)  You’ll get shares for helping work on the layout, building nice things and giving them to me (wow, isn’t that self-serving :) or generally helping in some way.

Here is a download link to the file in my file share, it is a PDF version

P&W Central Ct Sub Stock Certificate

If anyone needs the raw version, with everything layered and ‘editable’, let me know.  I can send it to you, or if enough people like it, I can link to that as well.

Let me know what you think, like I said, it was just a passing thing :)

RailDriver Desktop Controller

Ok, so I recently had a birthday, and that means getting something from the wife that you wouldn’t normally get for yourself.  In this case, I pleaded extra hard and was able to get a brand spanking new RailDriver® Desktop Train Cab Controller.  My wife was able to get it from Amazon from the company, even thought it says on their site that they are sold out.

When it arrived, it struck me that it was smaller than I thought it might be.  It makes up for that by being being BEEFY.  I mean, this thing is heavy.  It will NOT slide around on your desktop.  I also noticed that in addition the to the USB port, it had an audio connection.  In the manual, it tells you that you don’t need to set it up for pass through sound if you don’t want to.  I say DO IT!  More later.  Anyhow, installation is typical, if a bit tricky, but if you follow their directions, you will be fine.  I fired it up with Trainz Simulator 12 (yes, I bought the 10 year anniversary pack – verra verra nice!) which had an even more convoluted set-up, but it was easy.

The result… WOW.  Talk about FUN.  After you calibrate the controller’s levers and switches, you’re ready to go.  (Take the hint and when you calibrate the full throttle position, do not go to the full forward position, back off a tweak to be able to reach Run 8.)  Having the sound go through the box enables the bass driver in the box to vibrate realistically.  Even at idle, the box sits there and rumbles like a real locomotive cab might.

Running Trainz with this thing makes the experience even more enjoyable.  Having the break levers and all the others deepens the immersion into the sim and just enhances it overall.  It is true, the throttle is not “notched” for 8 positions, but you get over this pretty quick, I find.  (I am not a real railroad engineer, so take that FWIW).  Not having to look for keystroke cards and such makes the sim just feel better.  I also installed it for MSTS and found the same thing, it just improves the game.

The levers and knobs feel very solid, I never got the impression I might break it.  All of the buttons are programmable using the software that comes with the controller.  The sound that comes through the box are very good and help make the box more of a value.  The speedometer on the display is a very nice touch as well!

All in all, I have to give this an 8 out of 10.  It would better if the set-up were a bit more user friendly and if the throttle was notched.  Other than that, it’s a GREAT toy.  I realize the $200 price tag might be a bit steep for a game controller, but as I said, it’s an extravagance!

Handlaid Track – Amazing Fast Tracks products

Fast Tracks Logo

Ok, I have said it before, and I’ll say it again.  Sometimes things are just done right and they need to get mentioned!  That describes the stuff from Fast Tracks.  I’m always quick to criticize a company or put something down, but painfully slow to recognize the truly great things.  Fast Tracks turnout building jigs and related equipment are one of those items that deserve special mention!

While I was in my 18 months of doldrums and not building the layout, one of the things I invested in was a whole set-up from Fast Tracks to hand lay #6 Turnouts in Code 55 track.  All I can say is WOW.

As the package arrived, the first thing that hits you is the excellent quality of all the parts.  Nothing is pared to make this hand laying experience easy and useful.  The jig for the turnout is a solid hunk of aluminum that seems durable as hell.  The PointForm tool and the StockAid are also incredibly beefy.  Their heavy enough to use as weights to hold everything on the jig during the build.  Very handy.  What really sets rig apart is the instructions.  Hours of video and hundreds of pages of PDF text, with great photos takes you step by step through the entire process.  Even I couldn’t screw it up.

They have videos and information on soldering for those who haven’t done that before.  I went through it and I’m a graduate of the USAF High-Reliability Soldering school.  I can solder gnats wings together in a pinch, and I still enjoyed the video with all it’s tips and tricks.  The videos, combined with the text will have you building amazingly smooth running turnouts in a few hours.  And that’s just for the first one.  After you have the hang of it, they become easier and easier.

The PointForm and StockAid tools are ingeniously crafted to allow you to file the points and frogs in a way that makes the align perfectly.  As you may guess, this is the most critical part of turnout building and has been the problem with all the other solutions out there.  The guys at Fast Tracks have conquered that problem with gusto and perfection.  If you follow the video/text/pictures, you WILL make perfect points and stock rails.  Just go slow the first time and read it over twice.

They also have a number of “cool tools” that you can buy, and are worth it too.  The Tie-Breaker is an ingenious device made of laser cut wood (beefy stuff too, not balsa) that does nothing more than help you cut the PCB ties to the correct length. Is it required, Nope.  Is it quite possible the coolest tool since the bread slicer?  Yep!  The Frog Helper is another hunk of aluminum that does one thing, hold the frog points in perfect alignment for soldering.  Again, not required, you can do a FINE job on the jig.  Does it make life a little better/easier – you betcha!  All their stuff is like that, they take model railroad problems and engineer contemporary solutions that just plain work.

Do they save money?  Well, yes, I suppose.  Building  turnout does lower the cost, but that is not why bought it.  I have a dream of one day being an MMR and I thought this might help in the future.  I also knew I was going to need a ton of switches in the yard and these will fit that need quite well.  Once they are painted up and tacked down, they look fabulous, and they run smooth as glass.

Overall.  I would have to say, Run, don’t walk to your computer and order the kits from the guys.  Figuring out how the shipping works can be a little strange (they’re Canadiens, eh?) but they do a great job of getting you what you want as soon as they can.

Happy turnout building!  I know you’ll enjoy, because if I can do it, anyone can!