Raildig.com https://www.raildig.com Model Railroading Digest Mon, 23 Mar 2020 01:40:07 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.3.2 USB Powered Vacuum For Model Trains https://www.raildig.com/useful-tools/usb-powered-vacuum-for-model-trains/ Mon, 23 Mar 2020 01:40:07 +0000 https://www.raildig.com/?p=3624 USB Powered Vacuum For Model Trains

On one of my late night shopping trips on AliExpress (or it might have been eBay, I do these shopping “trips” way too much!) I picked up an $8.00 USB powered vacuum. I thought it might be a useful little gadget when building my small scenes and layouts. I’ve had it in its box for about a year or so and thought it would make for fun video.

Not overly powerful but I’d say it’s a good deal more powerful than the dedicated vacuum, or track cleaning cars in HO or N scale. Sadly they don’t yet make vacuum cars in Z scale. I can see this vacuum being useful when you want to remove loose debris buildup from the track but don’t want to use a dry brush (that just pushes the debris down the track) or a small shop vac, as they can do damage to your scenery by sucking up too much stuff!

I also picked up a small USB battery bank designed for charging phones on the go, this cost $13.99 (with coupon) over at Amazon. So for around $22.00, I have a little portable manual track cleaning system, plus I have a battery bank for the phone too!

Build A Diorama In Z Scale | Step By Step https://www.raildig.com/raildig-build-projects/build-a-diorama-in-z-scale-step-by-step/ Wed, 12 Feb 2020 02:45:41 +0000 https://www.raildig.com/?p=3607 Build A Diorama In Z Scale | Step By Step

Here’s a great project for getting away from the TV for a few nights, build a Z scale model train diorama! All the techniques and materials used here will of course work for any diorama. At the center of this build is our use of OrthoTape plaster cloth.

This is a great alternative to some of the hobby plaster cloths currently on the market. A project like this is perfect for those new to the hobby or for the more experienced modeler looking for a cool way to display some trains and to try some new scenery techniques.

I really like projects like this as it gets your hands dirty and you get to see a finished piece in a relatively short period of time. Plus of course, you then have a nice display piece once you’re finished!

And here’s a brief follow-up video where we do a little dressing up of the fascia and add a background piece to this scene!

Proxxon Thermocut Hot Wire Cutter Unboxing And Setup https://www.raildig.com/useful-tools/proxxon-thermocut-hot-wire-cutter-unboxing-and-setup/ Tue, 28 Jan 2020 23:09:19 +0000 https://www.raildig.com/?p=3596 Proxxon Hot Wire Cutter Setup

I recently went shopping for new utility knife to cut foam with and ended up with a Proxxon Hot Wire Cutter… and the utility knife too! I was watching a video here on YouTube on a channel called Black Magic Craft (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC2Rlv-ug-mtnXuMwlpcqFgg) where the owner, Jeremy, writes “I build terrain and models for Tabletop RPG’s and wargames”.

He does some terrific (and fun!) work and he also recommends the OLFA utility knife and the Proxxon Hot Wire Cutter. Yep, I bought both. I know there are DIY videos and articles out there on making your own but I’ve heard nothing but good things about the Proxxon for years and was intrigued enough to take the plunge.

It’s a little pricey compared to a DIY solution but it’s still pretty reasonable at around $125 delivered. Overall it’s a heck of a piece with just a couple of caveats I talk about in the video. I can see picking up some accessories to really make this an even more valuable tool in the future.

Stripping And Repainting | Rokuhan Shorty Locomotive https://www.raildig.com/raildig-build-projects/stripping-repainting-rokuhan-shorty/ Sun, 12 Jan 2020 01:57:43 +0000 https://www.raildig.com/?p=3587 5:28 6:30 / 7:54 Stripping And Repainting A Z Scale Rokuhan Shorty Locomotive Shell

I had a little free time last weekend and a couple of Z scale Rokuhan Shorty locomotive shells kicking around, what else was I going to do but try my hand at stripping and repainting them? This is both a sad (well, not too sad really) and happy tale about my first attempt at this kind of repainting work.

At around $9.00 per shell, this is actually a pretty good and cost effective gamble with the upside being I come out of it with a cool new Rokuhan Shorty shell in a color not available from the manufacturer. Also, I get to learn what not to use to strip loco shells in the future!

I also got to do a little shell modification on this Shorty that was inspired by another YouTuber, this and other related links are in the video description over on our YouTube channel.

If you’re into Z scale, this is a cool project to play with for a small investment. Have fun!

Using A Purple Coin Cell Holder For A Model Train LED https://www.raildig.com/raildig-build-projects/purple-coin-cell-holder/ Thu, 02 Jan 2020 20:37:57 +0000 https://www.raildig.com/?p=3579 Purple Coin Cell Holders

In our last video project we used several of the purple, LilyPad style 3V battery holders with a built in on/off switch. I like these so much for small projects I thought I’d make a video talking about them a bit more. These really are idea for spots when you don’t want to get involved with more complex wiring but you still want some LED flavor.

These holders were originally designed to be used in textile projects where the holder can be sewn right into the fabric using conductive thread. Even the mounting holes are actually called “sew tabs”, though with a little hunting we found metric screws that are an ideal substitute when mounting these holders on solid material.

As most hobby white LEDs are 3V 20mA, a typical 3V 220mAh coin cell can be used without a resistor and last for up to 11 hours. Your mileage may vary of course depending on the battery brand, but we’ve found this to be a pretty accurate estimate.

Rokuhan Shorty Christmas | Z Scale Model Train Christmas Layout https://www.raildig.com/raildig-build-projects/rokuhan-shorty-christmas-z-scale-model-train-christmas-layout/ Wed, 18 Dec 2019 08:44:22 +0000 https://www.raildig.com/?p=3571 Rokuhan Shorty Christmas LayoutThis is one of those projects I’ve wanted to build for a while now. A tiny little battery powered layout on a basswood round I’ve seen in craft stores. I finally got to it this year and couldn’t be happier. This really does remind me of the old Marklin Z scale Fun Sets, a tiny oval of track and a loco.

Those little Fun Sets were the launching point for lots of model railroaders, we all have to start somewhere after all, why not have fun on the first step? As a nice bonus, pieces like this can be tucked away with the Christmas ornaments in January and brought out again and remembered and rediscovered each and every Christmastime in the future.

Looking for a first layout for your children or a fun weekend project for yourself? Why not build one of these micro-layouts now!

Trainini Magazine https://www.raildig.com/introduction/trainini-magazine/ Wed, 04 Dec 2019 08:06:15 +0000 http://www.raildig.com/?p=60 Trainini magazineLatest Issues: October 2019 Issue

Beginning in January 2018, Holger Späing, Editor-in-chief of Trainini Magazine, has let us know that Trainini will be released in an English language International Edition as well as still continuing to be produced in German. WOW!

Here at Raildig we are thrilled that Trainini has found the people to do the German to English translation and for the first time, we are very happy to present these English language versions to our readers in the Trainini International Editions. A big thank you to all on the Trainini team for making this happen!

Trainini 2019


Trainini Magazine 2018


Trainini Magazine 2017


Trainini Magazine 2016


Trainini Magazine 2015


Trainini Magazine 2014


Trainini Magazine 2013


Trainini Magazine 2012


Trainini Magazine 2011

Bad Bayou Halloween 2019 Video https://www.raildig.com/raildig-build-projects/bad-bayou-halloween-2019-video/ Tue, 08 Oct 2019 07:12:25 +0000 https://www.raildig.com/?p=3546 Happy Halloween 2019 everyone! Just a short follow-up piece on the Bad Bayou shadowbox (or is it a diorama?) we’ve featured over the past 2 years here on Raildig. No real changes to the piece this year but I have shot a short video with the LG G6 and a motorized dolly.

I’m probably one of the last adults on the planet to get a smartphone, as I wrote in a previous article, and I thought I’d show off the flashing lights of the Bad Bayou this year. I still have miles and miles to go until I produce “good” video, but we all have to start somewhere.

Most of this video was shot using just the LED lights in the box. I got a little carried away with sound effects layers, but it IS Halloween after all.

Enjoy, and have a very Happy Halloween (and spooky of course, always spooky!).

Smartphone Video In Model Railroading https://www.raildig.com/useful-tools/smartphone-video-in-model-railroading/ Tue, 01 Oct 2019 02:28:45 +0000 https://www.raildig.com/?p=3536 Smartphone Video In Model RailroadingAs a rule, I tend not to write articles on topics I’m unfamiliar with but today I’m breaking this trend as I talk about getting our model train work captured on video and shared online. Not only am I unfamiliar with video work, but smartphones too. So this is sort of a double “I’m not sure what I’m doing” article. What could go wrong?

Until a short time ago, I had never owned a smartphone. I work from home and never really saw the need for one. Recently though the idea of the phone did appeal to me for the camera as much as the phone itself. Being able to take quick photos for my train related social media accounts seemed a good idea. I’ll spare you lots of the decision making process I went through on which phone to buy, but as I wasn’t even sure if I’d keep the phone activated, I wanted to keep it very low cost with no contract.

I decided on a used and unlocked LG G6 phone. This was, according to most online sources, a flagship phone in 2017 with a solid, if not spectacular, camera. It cost me under $100 and arrived without a scratch on it, so there’s a win.

Now I’m very comfortable with traditional DSLR photography, and I shoot most of my photos tethered to my computer. This means I rarely look at a tiny camera LCD screen as all of my camera controls and images appear on a pair of 27” monitors on my desktop. Nice. Phone cameras are just a bit different, aren’t they?

I’ve been playing with this phone for about a week now and the first thing I realized is that due to the tiny camera sensor, low light is not your friend when shooting photos or video. Newer phones are obviously better in this regard, but low light work will always be a struggle, regardless of the camera. Going forward I believe I can improve my results in a number of ways such as more manual camera control, third party camera apps, very careful lighting, post processing and noise reduction, etc.

What I’d like to talk about today though is camera motion, specifically through the use of small motorized camera dollies to add visual interest to my videos. With model trains, we already have the motion of the trains running but I’ve always liked interesting dolly shots too. As a result, I’ve ended up with a pair of these dollies and I’d like to now touch on both of them, and why I bought these two specific units.

First up is the Kingjoy PPL-06S Electric Camera Slider, I just call it a dolly. I believe this this is one of the earlier designs in the market and it got very positive reviews when it was first released. It comes with a mini ball head camera mount, spare rubber wheels and a USB cable for charging up its internal battery, which is housed in the axle. A nice little package.

I popped my camera in to a phone mount (not included with either of these dollies) and got started. I was less concerned about the actual content of picture quality of the video (as I’m new to video and have appropriately low initial expectations!) and more concerned with just how smooth the picture looked when the dolly was rolling. This Kingjoy dolly has 5 motor speeds and I found all of them worked well and the video looked good. I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised!

One note, I run both of these dollies of a sheet of scrap glass to give me the smoothest results possible.

This Kingjoy dolly can also be made to run in circles, so to speak. The front wheel can be adjusted to let the dolly turn while running. This is where I ran in to an issue with this design. Anything more than a very gentle turn radius will cause the unit to shudder, shake and not go in the direction you intended. This dolly has one powered wheel on its main axle and as a result (I’m assuming), smooth tight turns were not possible for me. Ok, so we’ve got great slow speeds, “iffy” at best on tight curves.

Having a slightly obsessive nature, I looked around at dolly alternatives and came across the NEEWER Motorized Dolly. This, I thought, had a much more interesting design as all three wheels can be adjusted independently. As a bonus, it comes with remote control for speed and direction. I’m always a little wary of these tiny remotes on many devices as, in my experience, they can just stop working for no apparent reason. Still, the three adjustable wheel configuration won me over and I ordered one.

LG G6 | Dolly Video Test
No trains, just some cardboard and a dolly.

Much like with the Kingjoy unit, I popped the phone on top (using a separately purchased mini ball head mount) and let her rip! Great news, this unit can make incredibly tight turns without a hint of shake or shudder. Bad news (you knew this was coming, right?), the slowest speed on this multi-speed dolly is much faster then I’d like, especially for close-up shots. Things in frame tend to zoom by a little too quickly and lose that nice, slow quality of movement.

LG G6 | Dolly Video Test
Not terribly exciting, just another test!

Since I can’t combine the best qualities of these two dollies together in one unit, I’ve decided to keep both of them. I can see the need for both slow gentle dolly movement on slight curves, as well as sharper curving shots and overall higher speeds.

I’m really just at the very beginning of my video life here, so these seconds-long tests are naturally rough. Rather than use Final Cut Pro on my Mac to tweak the videos, I just used iMovie to assemble the clips quickly and tack on some YouTube royalty free music to begin to get a feel for the process.

For being the little “toys” that they are, these little dollies are actually kind of fun and more important, I can see real value to them in creating some nice videos. On the phone camera, before too long I can see myself picking up a little 4K mirrorless camera for superior low light video performance. It makes more sense however to learn a bit about all the things that go in to producing a good video before I look to replacing my tools!

Using Solder Paste https://www.raildig.com/useful-tools/using-solder-paste/ Tue, 28 May 2019 07:32:02 +0000 https://www.raildig.com/?p=3486 Using Solder PasteI’ve been using more loose, small LEDs lately in various projects recently and soldering them can be a bit of a trick. While it is possible to use regular solder from a spool, I thought I’d give solder paste a try. Solder paste is a thick, sticky material made up of small (very small!) solder balls suspended in flux. If you look closely under magnification, the solder balls almost look like microscopic fish eggs.

In the example shown here, I’m using 0805 LEDs with solder pads. The 0805 LEDs measure 2.0mm x 1.25mm x 0.8mm. In these photos we’re using 28AWG twisted solid wire. This is small wire, but next to these small LEDs, it almost looks beefy!

A good technique for soldering these LEDs is the use of double-sided tape on a ceramic tile. This is ideal to hold the wires, as well as the LEDs, in place while working. The tile can act as something of a heat sink, though your soldering iron will only need to touch the solder paste for a fraction of a second in order to melt it. It’s actually pretty simple to do this soldering, the only real trick is to get used to working small and keep your hands steady.

Here I used a toothpick to apply the paste to the ends of the wires but you can just as easily put a small amount of paste on the tile, and then run the wire ends through the paste. I’ve used a little more paste in these photos than necessary to better show off this paste.

Depending on the thickness of wire you might use, the double row of tape that I have here holding the wire may not be necessary in your case. This is actually pretty thick wire for these LEDs, and the double row of tape is useful for holding the wires. If you’re using magnet wire, this extra tape to hold the wire may not be necessary. It’s really about personal preference and what works best for you.

From here you just want to determine the anode (+) and cathode (-) of the LED. On these LEDs, a green arrow points to the cathode, this is where my black wire will go. Next, you line up the wire ends on top of the solder pads and with a fine tipped soldering tip, just touch the wire for a fraction of a second, that’s all the heat needed to melt the solder.

Even though this is an incredibly small amount of solder, the hold it provides is surprisingly strong. In the last photos here, I actually have a bit of unmelted solder next to one of the solder pads. You can usually just wipe this off with your finger or something like a small toothbrush. For being so small, these LEDs can actually be pretty forgiving when soldering!

Of course you’ll still need to use a resistor with any LEDs or all of your work will likely result in either a small “poof” or a very brief flash of light when hooked up to your power source. Exciting, but not really what you want. So if you’re looking for something to play with on a Sunday afternoon, you can always try a little solder paste and some loose LEDs!