May 062013
 

I haven’t written much on running lately because there hasn’t been much to write about.  It seems every time I step out for a run lately, I tell myself it is the last time I’ll be wearing warm clothing.  Even in South Dakota, snow should not be allowed after May 1st.   But that’s what we had.   Perhaps in spite of it, I logged 31 miles last week.

But that’s about all I’m going to do before Brookings Marathon on May 11th.   Most marathon training plans call for a buildup to a weekly long run of around 20 miles three weeks before a race.  I’ve done that, but with as little training as I’ve gotten besides a couple insanely long runs.  My average during the week run have been varying between 5 and 7 miles a day.  Mostly seven.  I’m at 443.5 training miles since Jan 1 2013, so I feel I have it in the bank to finish the 26.2 mile run at Brookings.

This running has been evenly divided between treadmill and open road miles.   I really don’t mind either one that much.   But when it is cold, dark and icy like it was a lot this January and February, I opt to stay in and listen to podcasts and music MP3s on the treadmill.

The weather is still a little sketchy for Marathon Saturday, so I’ll have to wait a little longer to lay out my race day apparel.  I’m a firm believer in nothing new on race day, so I’ll be only choosing from stuff I’ve run long in during past runs.

BTW, does anybody know what the Brookings Marathon race shirt looks like this year?   If you know, you can tell me, but part of the fun is the suspense that exists before actually seeing it in my packet.

If you are running the 2013 edition, good luck!   And if you see me, stop me and say ‘hello’!

Apr 232013
 

Here are a few snapshots of the TCWR 409 on my Sioux Junction HO Scale Model Railroad.  I plan to weather this unit later on this week.

The GP7 engine is by Atlas.  I cut the shell down to make a low nose geep 7 and applied paint and decals to make it look like the units in use on the real Twin Cities and Western Railroad.

The GP7 engine is by Atlas. I cut the shell down to make a low nose geep 7 and applied paint and decals to make it look like the units in use on the real Twin Cities and Western Railroad.

The GP7 engine is by Atlas.  I cut the shell down to make a low nose geep 7 and applied paint and decals to make it look like the units in use on the real Twin Cities and Western Railroad.

The GP7 engine is by Atlas. I cut the shell down to make a low nose geep 7 and applied paint and decals to make it look like the units in use on the real Twin Cities and Western Railroad.

DSC_4350

TCWR 409 rounds a bend on my Sioux Junction HO Scale Model Railroad.  The GP7 engine is by Atlas.  I cut the shell down to make a low nose geep 7 and applied paint and decals to make it look like the units in use on the real Twin Cities and Western Railroad.

TCWR 409 rounds a bend on my Sioux Junction HO Scale Model Railroad. The GP7 engine is by Atlas. I cut the shell down to make a low nose geep 7 and applied paint and decals to make it look like the units in use on the real Twin Cities and Western Railroad.

TCWR 409 on the Willow Creek trestle on my Sioux Junction HO Scale Model Railroad.  The GP7 engine is by Atlas.  I cut the shell down to make a low nose geep 7 and applied paint and decals to make it look like the units in use on the real Twin Cities and Western Railroad.

TCWR 409 on the Willow Creek trestle on my Sioux Junction HO Scale Model Railroad. The GP7 engine is by Atlas. I cut the shell down to make a low nose geep 7 and applied paint and decals to make it look like the units in use on the real Twin Cities and Western Railroad.

TCWR 409 on the Willow Creek trestle on my Sioux Junction HO Scale Model Railroad.  The GP7 engine is by Atlas.  I cut the shell down to make a low nose geep 7 and applied paint and decals to make it look like the units in use on the real Twin Cities and Western Railroad.

TCWR 409 on the Willow Creek trestle on my Sioux Junction HO Scale Model Railroad. The GP7 engine is by Atlas. I cut the shell down to make a low nose geep 7 and applied paint and decals to make it look like the units in use on the real Twin Cities and Western Railroad.

 

Apr 232013
 

I have been considering purchasing a smartphone for a long time.  In January 2013, our two year contract was ending with Sprint.  So we were free to make a decision regarding our wireless carrier and new phones.   I bought us a couple old used Motorola Razr flip phones.   These were at one time a big fashion statement but are now more of a status symbol of the notoriously frugal.

To make a long story short, we purchased an affordable Android device for my wife for use on our PagePlus Cellular plan.   We can pre-purchase air time and data.   The main rationale for this was her use of the texting features.  And we also have a trip planned to Colorado this summer, so having that as a navigation aide will also be nice.   I’ve decided to stick with my old RAZR for now, but have not ruled out a smartphone in the future.

There are a couple smartphone applications that apply to my leisure time interests.  Model Railroading, Cycling and Running.

Model Railroading

The first is a JMRI mobile interface application.  Java Model Railroad Interface is open-source software that allows pretty much any DCC system on the market today to be connected to a computer.  There is some cheap intermediate hardware needed, but the concept is that any computer can be connected to the command station.   One can do things like program decoders and operate locomotives from a computer without the DCC system’s throttle.

The JMRI people have extended the throttle piece to a mobile app.   The phone connects via WIFI to the computer that is connected to the DCC system.   Then the computer sends out signals out over the DCC command bus to the locomotive.    The result is that you can run trains from your phone.   Nevermind I already have two expensive Digitrax throttles.   But this isn’t such madness to the guys who don’t want to invest in a bunch of throttles for every one of 10 or 12 guys that come to operating sessions on their layouts.   It seems that smartphones are more prolific every day.  So this might work out for guys that operate regularly.

Running

The second application is in running.   A colleague recently demonstrated the MapMyRun.com application to me.   The app tracks your distance and pace by using built-in GPS.   It also has  a neat little feature that allows you to run out into an unfamiliar area.  When you are ready to turn around, it helps you get back to where you started.   Handy for those that want to put their long runs in when traveling in unfamiliar territory.  Of course the runs can be recorded on the user’s account on the MapMyRun.com website.

The GPS piece is a nice feature to have, but I live in residential area that is very close to some very neat and very dimensional mile roads.  It is easy for me to count miles without the aid of GPS.   Of course I am in the dark when it comes to speed and pace  but I wear a heart monitor, which probably is more important than pace anyway.  And my Polar RS300 does keep track of mile splits, so I know instantly at the end of mile, or within the mile where I’m at.

One big drawback I’ve heard from other runners about any GPS-enabled running aide-type device is that they are very hard on batteries.   I’d hate to miss a call because I’ve been on a run and I have a low battery b/c I forgot to charge my phone the night before!

Cycling

Same as running above, but substitute MapMyRide.com for MapMyRun.com.

Conclusion

I don’t really have time for some of the other stuff a smartphone offers, nor do I welcome the added expense.  And to think of running with an expensive phone tied to my arm isn’t exactly enticing either.  So for now, I’ll wait to see what else develops in the market.  It will be fun to find out what my wife thinks of her phone.

Apr 212013
 
I removed the wheelsets in order to weather them and make sure they were in proper gauge.

I removed the wheelsets in order to weather them and make sure they were in proper gauge.

This Atlas GP7 is basically a unit built for Atlas by Kato in Japan.  It was probably built in the early or mid-1980s.  This predates DCC by many years, so special care is needed to install a DCC decoder in this engine.  Fortunately, Kato has made the job quite easy by the way the engine was originally manufactured.  Here’s how to install a Digitrax DH123 in one of these nice-running units:

I began by disassembling the trucks.  This step technically isn’t necessary for DCC installation, but I find it a good best practice for the running quality of the engine and appearance.  I made sure all wheelsets were properly in gauge (they were not) and painted the outside faces of each wheel with Polly-S roof brown.   This gives the appearance of a dirty, rusty wheel.  I reassembled the trucks and moved on.

I cut the power leads from each truck near the copper wire that runs along the top of the gray plastic board inside the engine.  I soldered the red wire to the engineers side wheels and the black wire to the fireman’s side wheels.  Then I soldered the gray and orange wires to the motor.  I later had to flip these around because I found the engine ran backwards.  No extra work is needed to isolate the motor here because the leads from the trucks now go through the decoder.  Unlike in Athearn and Proto2000 units, the frame in these GP7 units does not conduct electricity, so the motor is already isolated.

Installed on my Atlas GP7 with a Digitrax DH123 decoder.

Installed on my Atlas GP7 with a Digitrax DH123 decoder.

I then shortened the blue wire and split it into two wires, one for the rear headlight and one for the front.  I soldered in 1/4 watt 390ohm resistors to the yellow and white wires.  In series, I soldered in two Miniatronics 1.5 volt 30mA 1.2mm incandescent bulbs.  I still like incandescent bulbs in model railroad applications much better than LEDs.    Before doing so, I checked the length of the decoder wire to see that I didn’t have too much excess wire to interfere with the shell fitting over the mechanism.

All that soldered together, I inserted the bulbs into the headlight assemblies.   I secured them with globs of poster putty, which I consider to be God’s gift to us DCC installing model railroaders! Also, I secured all my solder joints with heat shrink tubing, which I also consider to be a great asset to the hobby!

I used poster putty on the front and rear headlight assemblies to ensure that the bulbs stay where they are supposed to be.

I used poster putty on the front and rear headlight assemblies to ensure that the bulbs stay where they are supposed to be.

I replaced the shell, but then realized that there was a glow coming from inside the shell.  This turned out to be the factory bulb on top of the Kato board, which had somehow survived being placed on DCC current without a resistor.  Not wanting the risk of it overheating nor its unsightly appearance, I removed it and replaced the shell one last time.

A test run on my layout revealed that the wheels needed cleaning (because of the earlier paint step, mostly), so I cleaned the wheels up with acetone, applied with a q-tip.  I have a DC powered wire brush at my bench to make the engine run while placed on a foam pad, wheels pointed up for easy cleaning.

The unit runs beautifully now and the lights look nice.

Apr 212013
 

Work continues on my Atlas GP7 chop-nose project.  I’ve painted the nose and cab front of engine Polly-S Railbox yellow.   Then I masked that color off and painted the cab sides and rear and the long hood and handrails Polly-S Rock Island Maroon.

The maroon airbrushes on quite flat, so before beginning decals, I applied Micro-Gloss to the entire model before applying any decals.   This is to help prevent the decal film from being visible in places where it is not wanted.    I also painted the air horn and Details Associates all-weather window before applying them to the model.

Apr 202013
 

I got out for my second insanely long run leading up to Brookings Marathon today.  I did the bike trail loop in Sioux Falls again.  It was 15 degrees when I stepped out this morning, so my body performed MUCH better than last time.   I was able to cover the 19.45 mile distance in a measly 2 hours, 53 minutes and some odd seconds.  I’m pretty happy with that based on how little I’ve trained so far.  I took my Sansa Clip+ MP3 player with me this time, but I played no music.   I listened to three podcasts.

So here’s my playlist for today

Marathon Training Academy – Angie and Trevor reviewed their experience at The Rock ‘n’ Roll New Orleans Marathon 2013.  We can relate to Trevor an Angie quite well as they are raising a young family and are putting on a really good show and helping people to reach their marathon and half marathon goals.   It doesn’t hurt that both Angie and my wife are nurses.  The New Orleans RNR Marathon sounded like a lot of fun.

The Model Railcast Show – Episode 183 –  The hosts talked about some best practices with wiring for DCC.  Most of this I know, but there are always some tips to pick up here and there.   And it never hurts to review stuff I already know about wiring for DCC.  It befuddles me to learn of veteran model railroaders that still insist on skimping on wiring under their layouts, even when running DCC.  I know at least one of them.  20 or 22 ga. bus wires are NOT heavy enough for DCC.  Ugh.

Runner Academy with Matt Johnson – Episode RA019 – Matthew interviewed Dick Beardsley, who was in his time, a dominant marathon runner.  Dick has a very inspirational story of starting out as a back of the packer in high school cross country.  He tells the story of coming from that level of ability all the way to being a elite marathoner.   Dick also tells the story of addiction to prescription drugs after a series of four separate accidents that nearly took his life.

All in all, it was a fabulous run.  The weather was beautiful this morning (the sun went away by lunchtime), the company was great and I learned a thing or two from each podcast.

Apr 032013
 

I have people ask me quite a bit about how I did the decals for the D&I engines that grace the header of this blog and the one in this post.   These are Vita-Cal decals with white backing, custom printed by me a while back on a printer which I no longer have.   I did a write-up for the NMRA Thousand Lakes Region newspaper The Fusee which can be found here.

Now the news has hit that D&I has purchased another SD40-2, the Ex-BN 7285 will become DAIR 3026, according to the railroad’s operations manager.  This locomotive is going to be a tempting project for me because I have everything on hand to do it, as well as an interest in the particular engine from its Burlington Northern coal hauling days and of course in its Dakota and Iowa future.

Mar 302013
 

Those of you who are familiar with Sioux Falls, SD may know that the city boasts and extensive bike trail and greenway system.   Of all the amenities in the city, my wife and I enjoy this one during good weather the best.  Perhaps what you didn’t know is that the bike trail forms a loop of 19.45 miles around the city.   There are a couple spurs also that add even more length to the trail.  The 19.45 mile loop is uninterrupted by traffic in only two places.  Additionally, since the loop essentially follows the Big Sioux River around town, it is more or less a water-line route with only one hill even worth mentioning.

Sioux-Falls-Bike-TrailThe Sioux Falls bike trail offers a place for a reasonably casual bike ride or one really nice place to train for a marathon.  During the past few years, that pleasure has been interrupted by construction on the city’s sanitary sewer infrastructure and flood control projects.   I’m happy to tell you that the trail is now in as good of shape as it has been in the past 3-4 years.

So on to my training run.  Yesterday.  I started out at 1PM and the winds were already blowing out of the southeast at 10-15MPH, which is not a lot of fun, but at least the temperature was in the low 60’s, so clothing was not really a concern.  I started out at Elmen Park Trailhead on the west side of town, heading north, under the Ellis and Eastern Railroad and over north of the airport and through Sioux Falls’ industrial park.

I was unaware that the public restrooms along the trail would be closed.   I rely on these during long training runs to refill my Amphipod water bottles.  By the time I got around to Falls Park, my bowels were in full G.I. distress mode.  Luckily, the public facilities were open at Falls Park.   But I found them closed at all the stops farther down the line.  This meant I carried a total of probably 28 ounces of water that had to last me 19.45 miles.   Didn’t happen.

I always carry my some cash in my Amphipod belt, so I was able to buy a couple two liter bottles of water at Taylor’s on  south Cliff Ave, which is right off the trail.   But by that time, it was too late and my body was already dehydrated.

That resulted in some cramping in my calves a couple more miles down the trail.  But things began to look up as I turned north.   The wind was at my back and the bottled water began to work through my system.

Overall, I’m pretty happy with my outing.   I was feeling down about the cramping, but thinking about that, those conditions won’t exist in a competitive environment, because Brookings Marathon provides water stations every few miles.

Also, a word to those in training int he Sioux Falls area.  Try the bike trail.  But verify about the facilities first.   And to those thinking about trying the Sioux Falls Marathon, you’ll get a good look at this bike trail if you enter this early fall marathon.  A healthy portion of this event is run over the bike trail in Sioux Falls.

Mar 272013
 

DSC_4265Now that I am free of one big Progressive Rail project, I am free to pursue other interests in the hobby.  Tonight, I installed eye bolts (Details Associates) in the holes I drilled in the top of the long hood.   Places to drill were previously denoted by “bumps” that represented the eyebolts molded on the shell.   The older Japan-made Atlas/Kato GP7 had molded on grabs.  This is an example of such, so I shaved them off and drilled holes for Details Associates wire grab irons.

Stay tuned for a future post when I remove the 3M blue painters tape and reveal what colors this unit will be.

Mar 252013
 

O'Gorman Shamrock 5K run finishThe O’Gorman Boosters have done it again. Another fine event is in the books. Mrs. Dakotabranch and I both attended the 5K run and chilli feed.
This event runs like a swiss watch every year. The weather was a little cooler, at around 28 degrees and flurries in the air. I think last year it was 65 and sunny.

We were both pleased with our times. I normally take a few days off before a short race like this, but this time I ran a seven miler the day before. I must be in a little better shape than before, because I still turned in a fairly decent time: 22:26.  That was good enough for a 21/204 overall finish.  Mrs. Dakotabranch ran the 5K in 27:38, which impressed me at least. She’s too hard on herself.   Her run was 90th place overall.

My only complaint was not related to the race organization or course.   I had forgotten to put on my heart monitor strap before the start.  I realized this after about the first 900 meters.  Was probably better I didn’t have it anyway to avoid the distraction.

We’ll be back next year.