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Rick Allen’s Railroad with Berrett Hill Touch Toggles, Digitrax DS64 and Train Buddy custom designed electronics for massive staging

Ok, so I don’t expect every railroad to use this technique to run their staging yard, this railroad is SO big and expects to have SO many locos on the track at the same time that it makes sense to power down those sidings that are not in service. The alternatives to this include separate relays to power down each siding. You could do this without the assistance of a smart stationary decoder like the DS64’s but you would still need to push at least two buttons in order to power down the other sidings and power up the one you needed. While we (there are many buddies working on this railroad) are closer to finishing this monumental railroad, things have changed, even from this video. More to come, enjoy.

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HO scale EMD NW2 full wire DCC decoder installation

So, this is as hard as it gets. While this is one of the best designed and manufactured models in the business it leaves little room to add a DCC (Digital Command Control) microprocessor decoder.

There are times when the decision process takes as long or longer than the installation. This is one of those times. The first part of this series deals with those options and a discussion of the alternatives.

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HO scale Stewart model of Baldwin VO-1000 plug-in DCC decoder installation

This is about as simple as it gets. Even the shell removal was quick. The Train Buddy shows how easy it is to install of a DCC (Digital Command Control) decoder (microprocessor) in an HO scale (1:87) working model of a Baldwin VO-1000 series railroad locomotive manufactured by Stewart Hobbies. Notice that, sometimes you have to use some common sense, even with the true “plug in” decoders for placement. Sometimes the “decoder selector” is not quite right as sometimes the manufacturer has multiple runs of the same engine type.

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HO P2K EMD E8/9 installing a NCE D13W decoder

The Train Buddy installs another decoder but this time it is “full wire”. No plugs, no connectors, no room for error as the decoder does not have any plugs. This is one of the more difficult installs and is usually scheduled for 1 hour of work. Spoiler: it doesn’t always go as planned, even for the simpler ones. There is another engine very similar, the EMD E7 by Life Like Proto 2000 that is available on this channel just a few short months ago. Similar but it was a sound decoder install with more intricate lighting.

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HO Genesis repair wheel/rail pickup

This is a saga about troubleshooting and fixing an engine that has had an issue with picking up electricity from the rails through the wheels and eventually to the electronics. While this is a common problem, as the trucks are in constant motion while running and the wires are being flexed and eventually break, the solutions are not always simple. This series deals with a reputable manufacture, a new engine and a new design that may, or may not be the best solution to this common problem.

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HO Athearn SW1500 DCC Install

While this install was completed over a year ago, it demonstrates a thorough installation of a Digital Command Control (DCC) decoder/microprocessor into an HO scale model from the Athearn product line. This particular version of the chassis was introduced in 60’s. It is similar to other engines produced by Athearn since 1963. The drive train and body style was so successful that it was later copied by Life-Like Products in their Proto series model locomotives. If you ever decide to add DCC to an old Athearn model, this may be your reference. Not in our usual format, this is as close to real-time install as it gets. A 6 part series, each part has been selected to run about 30 minutes in length. WARNING: While the first 3 parts show a DH126D decoder parts 4,5 &6 show that this was not a wise choice and the final decoder was Digitrax recommended DN136D.

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HO Life Like Proto2000 (old) EMD E7 DCC and Sound Install

This video involves some unique perspectives in decoder (microprocessor) installation. The subject engine was undecorated and had to be painted and decaled before installation of the speaker. The chassis and mechanism were available for the electrical work and so this project was split over a very long time. It came in on 1/25/2019, work started on 7/24/2019, restarted (post COVID after painting) 9/17/2020 and was finished on 10/15/2020. This is not typical but what is typical this year? For those who want to be critical of the paint job, please help yourself. I am virtually hanging my head in shame as this was not something I am real proud of, but then again, you can probably count on one hand the items that I have painted. The customer asked me to do this since it was such an “easy” paint. The real difficulty was in the bottom striping believe it or not. 3 installments. Enjoy.

click to go to the Train Buddy channel> https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCl4j4n8ziub6blV4PoZyxIw/

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Reinventing Retail … Still here! Working through the next Phase!

New Hours

In order to keep the business available for walk-in traffic we will try to keep a few open hours. Our new normal hours will be:

Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 1:00PM until 3PM

These are usually our busiest hours anyway. All other times are by appointment as we cannot predict when we will be called away to doctor’s appointments that we must keep. New associate, John Janosko is joining us to help keep these hours available, see his bio at the bottom of this post. Thank you for your understanding in this matter.

Safe Retail

In compliance with North Carolina COVID-19 through Feb 28th, 2021 we have changed our status to Open protocol with the stated NC stated objectives being:

  • Lessen restrictions for vulnerable populations with encouragement to continue practicing physical distancing [continue same as our clientele are generally elderly and vulnerable]
  • Continue rigorous restrictions on nursing homes and congregate care settings [not applicable … but some may say that our business is a close resemblance to a nursing home!]

Under these guidelines the following will be observed during your visit:

1. x’s will be on the floor to guide you in maintaining a 6 foot perimeter between possible virus breading entities.
2. Masks will be worn by staff at all times.
3. You may elect to have your purchase brought curb-side. Hands free curb-side checkout is available.

If you don’t want to fool with this then we will still ship or you can pick up at the shop either through the above or pickup in the drive. We will have curb-side delivery upon request or, if you wish, we will ship to you. The shipping cost will be whatever the post office charges. We will not charge any handling fees unless it is through the website which has ship charge rules based on value of the product, not actual.

Sanitation – Your health is our top priority

We have maintained a sanitation level that most other retail facilities envy. Since our clientele are typically older and have other health related sensitivities to the virus, our concerns have dictated the following state-of-the-technology changes:
1. All “shared” touch surfaces are sanitized with 70% alcohol after each customer. This includes, exterior door knobs (coming and going), check out counter, counter stool (note the singular), and bathroom door knob, all with appropriate signage. Bathroom has available wash facility with disposable towels and soap with appropriate signage.
2. CHECKOUT. I believe that this is the most under sanitized area and that most businesses and clients have overlooked the obvious “shared” surface in the credit/debit card or payment process.
a. NO-TOUCH. The machine itself should not be touched if possible. Our checkout machine accepts cards that have been set for all major touch-less systems like Android Pay, Samsung Pay, Apple Pay (NFC technology), EMV (chip and pin) technology and MTS (Mobile TeleSystems).
b. Sanitize your card. We have the capability upon request to sanitize your card before and/or after use with UV-C (256 nm wavelength) light. This is hospital-grade sanitation. We also, sanitize the chip slot, if used, and the keypad, if used. We also provide sanitized touch-free stylus pens in the store for those that don’t have their own personal stylus.
We have backup sanitation for these methods if required.
3. AIR. Yes, we are even cleaning the air. Even if you do not have, want to use or forgot a mask, we are cleaning the air with 3 stage HEPA and carbon filter with UV-C light to mitigate even a hint that there might be viruses lingering in our shop. We also have disposable masks available to customers upon request.

A Few Changes to our schedule

1. We will not be accepting new “projects” until our backlog of promised projects has been completed. This, with our current backlog, will extend past the summer and into the late autumn as a minimum. We started taking in decoder installs, painting projects, electronic projects, mechanical and electrical repairs as a service to our good customers. We have logged well over a thousand installs of DCC decoders both sound and non-sound over the years. In recent times this capability has been challenged to do things that were never intended. The main issue, allowing otherwise good customers to utilize my good nature to troubleshoot and fix a product not purchased at the shop. I must stop doing this, at least without adequate compensation. The rates for this service (not available until at least late autumn) will be dictated by time and my previous rate, since 2010 at least, was $49.95. Our revised rate (for new services or projects) will be $80.00. Minimum bench fee for a “look see” will now be $40.00 to be applied to services needed if appropriate.

2. We have, in the past, allowed customers to pre-order large purchases, usually engines, without a deposit. We will now require a 50% deposit on all products that are considered non-stock items. Usually engines but also most detail parts, buildings, vehicles, electronics and figures are non-stock. We will not purchase for a customer any item from eBay, Amazon or other manufacture that is not already a Train Buddy partner. We will also not entertain new vendor partners as we have in the past. We hope this is a short-term policy because …

3. We are entertaining new partners to our business model as we grow. I am looking for one or two other model railroad enthusiasts to partner with me to expand, help, move and ultimately to enjoy the business with me. This is my 16th year in the business and I am ready to “Share the Joy of Model Railroading” with anyone who is willing. Believe it or not, I am not looking for a financial stake at this time but only a lessening of my ever-expanding time demands that have drained my soul to the point of not enjoying my customer interactions. Several familiar faces are already helping out in this time including my good friends John Janosko and Chris Numa recently. Dave Mellor, Bill Bernecki, and Royce Lacey have been very helpful in the past and continue to offer their assistance, of which I always appreciate, even when I don’t mention it, when they can. All three of these are either out of town or soon to be and cannot help on a regular basis. Felix Martinez and Grif Bond continue to help when they are not otherwise working.

4. Unfortunately, and I kinda knew this was coming, we are going to have to discontinue the Friday get-together or open house, at least until vaccines are prevalent which could be as much as a couple of years if the predictions hold out. My wife and I have had to give up a few other regular social interactions that may never be resumed, ever.

New Associate

John Janosko has begun to help in the shop and will be the Train Buddy when I am not able. John and I go back some 20 odd years (and yes, they have been odd!). He was the one that helped me at shows when we were still doing them so he is very familiar with the stock and the products. Of course he is an avid model railroader with years of experience. John is also knowledgeable with Digital Command Control and his past work experience with telephony which includes troubleshooting, wiring and electronic equipment makes him more than just a seat-warmer. He is a past president of the National Model Railroad Association, Mid-East Region as well as past superintendent of the local Carolina Piedmont Division 13. John is a valuable asset to the Train Buddy and we are more than pleased to have his assistance.

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2020 Assessing Our Obligations

COVID-19, riots and now curfews are reasons that many retail stores are failing.  The Train Buddy Shop has been doing ok but several additional factors have created a situation that has changed our operations.  Our family is addressing  some non-COVID medical issues and we cannot be open to the public on a regular schedule.

1. We will continue to complete our service obligations.

2. We will be contacting those that have items that have been purchased in the past and are waiting in our pick up area.

3. If you are waiting for items that you have ordered then we will continue to insure that those items are received and delivered.

4. We will continue to entertain visits to our showroom as time and law permits.

Please stay safe and keep modeling.