Not-so-modern Pulling Power

After my normal perusing of eBay and, I found a few locomotives that peaked my interest (although aren’t on my short list). Despite my attempts to keep myself to a “short list,” I did find a deal I could not resist – so welcome to the fleet an MTH NYC 2-8-2 Mikado:

The downside of my “eBay special” is that for some odd reason the drawbar was missing from the locomotive. I followed up with the seller who was not able to locate the drawbar, so I had to fabricate my own.

I used another similar generation PS2 locomotive and pulled the drawbar to measure and came up with the following using my digital calipers:

78mm Long
7.55mm Wide
2mm Thick

I went to Lowes to look for some brass or metal to make my drawbar but the best I could find was some ~1/16″ thick “welding plate.” I used a chop saw with a metal cutting blade to cut my plate into a rectangle (took far longer than I had hoped – chop saw was not ideal for the application but it’s the only heavy duty metal cutting tool I have as I didn’t thing the dremel would cut it (pun intended)). I then used my vice and a dremel to grind down the bar to the shape close to the MTH part, then I drilled my two holes in my drawbar, before giving it an even coat of black metal spray paint.

End result worked the charm, can’t even tell it’s not the original piece unless you pull it off the locomotive and inspect it.  That being said, all told it probably took me about 1.5 hours worth of effort (not including the time spent milling around Lowes looking for materials).

Would I do it again, I’d probably use ABS plastic from Plastruct or Evergreen… alternatively I do have a jig saw with some metal cutting blades, but I’m not sure the jig saw blade is substantial enough to cut through 1/16″ steel.

Modern Pulling Power

Slottown residents can observe the latest in locomotive pulling power with the recent acquisition of a CSX ES44DC.  Modeled after what we used to see almost daily in real life by our apartment near CSX’s Hulsey yard in Cabbagetown (Atlanta), we can double-head the latest GE ES44DC along with an EMD SD70ACe to pull our modern freight trains.

Purple Mountains, Magesty

Some good progress on the layout as of late, I’ve been derelict in my duties posting updates.  Most of the work has been focused under the layout or securing supports:

  • Applied Appalachian Mountain Backdrop from Backdrop Warehouse
  • Glued down elevated table supports to Homasote using LiquidNails
  • Added a second AIU to the layout
  • Wired all 16 Fastrack switches to MTH DCS AIUs so they can be controlled via the DCS Wifi App (I got tired of having to pull out my 90s-era Cab-1 remote every time I wanted to throw a turnout and I like the ability to set up routes)
  • Ensured track power drops are all connected correctly (with track shifting during adjustments, the spade connectors often disconnect)
  • Painted remaining BridgeBoss supports as well as scratch-built truss bridge supports flat black
  • Mocked up final locations for buildings

Here are some photos of the layout as it is today:

York TCA 2018 Recap

Life achievement unlocked! We attended the TCA York meet in York, PA this past week which was my first (and likely not last) York TCA meet.  We flew up Wednesday evening and attended the meet Thursday and Friday, and we had an absolute blast. It was certainly an experience, never have I seen so many O gauge trains in one place across all walks (new / used / pre-war / post-war).  Highlights from the show include:

  • Met and had a chat with Mike Wolf from MTH
  • Met and chatted with various vendors, forum members, other hobbyists that I’ve gotten to know over the years
  • Deals on locomotive and rolling stock
  • Ideas for layout scenery and buildings

All told, we stayed within budget and ended up coming home with a moderate take:

  • JT’s MegaSteam Smoke Fluid
  • Replacement Bulbs for MTH passenger cars
  • Pewter Figures
  • Lionel Standard Gauge #312 Observation Car
  • MTH Premier Continental Grain Covered Hopper + MTH Club Membership
  • MTH Premier Southern Tank Car
  • MTH Premier Savannah & Atlanta Caboose
  • MTH Premier BNSF SD70ACe

Here’s a few photos of the new rolling stock:

The Opposite of Congress

We’ve made a fair bit of progress on the layout since the last update:

  • Removed all track, bridges, and accessories and painted homasote and plywood to seal and prep for scenery
  • Painted elevated bridge sections in flat black
  • Cut Gargraves track sections to connect track to switches
  • Installed Ross O-54 switches and wired up the DZ2500 Switch Motors for non-derailing operation
  • Wired up first two drops for the elevated section

We painted the homasote and plywood to seal out moisture and give it a more dirt and stone look. Given that homasote is a compressed paper product, we want to ensure as we’re adding scenery and gluing it down with white glue and water, the homasote doesn’t swell.

The elevated section is coming along nicely, we’ve been able to run a test train around to test connectivity and the non-derailing features of the switches.  We still have the following to do for the elevated section:

  1. Extend insulated rail section for non-derailing operation to allow for faster trains on the upper loop
  2. Wire two more power drops for the elevated section
  3. Cut, paint, and glue track support girders under each switch curved section
  4. Glue down bridge supports in their final locations
  5. Figure out how we want to wire up the DZ2500 switch motors for remote throwing

One “lesson learned” from the Ross switches, or rather the Z-stuff DZ2500 switch motor, is that unlike the DZ1000 motors, the DZ2500s throw at a prototypical speed (read: slow).  While I’m sure it looks great for switches closer to the observer, it’s not really needed for our elevated section since the switches are at the back of the layout and we’re really aiming for fast performance rather than prototypical operation.  What I may do is wire up the non-derailing wires (green and yellow) rather than the Thru and Out wires (blue and white) so the motors will always throw at their fastest speed.

Once the elevated section is complete, we’ll have all tracks operational and be able to run four trains simultaneously with no operator intervention (and five trains if we keep an eye on it).

Yes, we realize there’s some odd consists running on the layout (a 2-10-4 Texas with Intermodal cars and an O-27 Lionel 2037 with a scale Superliner), but that’s just to test overhead and curve clearances 🙂

Lastly, we added a new locomotive to the roster – an MTH Premier Southern PS-4 Pacific.  The purchase was a bit impromptu – we were at Legacy Station picking up our Ross switches and scenery and we saw the Pacific on the display shelf – after seeing it run on the test track and hearing the sound system, we couldn’t leave without it!

The Build up before the (temporary) tear down

We’ve made some more progress on the layout this week – the elevated section is mocked up with what Gargraves track we have (we’ve ordered some Ross #115 and #116 O-54 switches with DZ2500 controllers from Legacy Station that haven’t arrived yet):

I also built some custom bridge supports using ABS H- and I-beams from Plastruct. It was an interesting exercise – we spent a good 3-4 hours on the whiteboard dusting the cobwebs off our High School trigonometry and geometry knowledge to ensure our angles and lengths were correct. SOH CAH TOA was quite handy and we were able to calculate all of our sections lengths and angles.  We’re pretty happy with the end result – the bridge height is perfect and it clears double-stack intermodal cars:

We were originally was using a Lionel ZW-C transformer with two 180 watt power bricks to power the layout, but given that we’re using DCS Wifi/WIU for most of train control, we didn’t really have a strong need for the throttles or buttons on the transformer and we don’t need the TMCC integration since track power can now be controlled via DCS – it actually became a bit of an annoyance since with throttles 1 and 4, every time we’d power the transformer up, we’d have to use the TMCC Cab-1 to “soft throttle” the voltage up.  Furthermore, when I went to run some old PS1 locomotives, I found there was what appeared to be a DC offset where the horns would blow constantly, as described in this OGR Forum Post. I considered splicing my 180watt power supplies directly into my DCS TIU as Eric notes in this YouTube video, but doing so would forfeit any traditional throttle control of the track power, and we found the MTH DCS Wifi App to occasionally require “refreshing” to control track power, so having a physical “fail-safe” would be beneficial. Additionally I’d lose accessory outputs, which means I’d have to rig up another separate transformer somewhere like Eric does on his layout, which is not what I wanted to do (we’re all about minimalism in Slottown). So after a bit of hemming and hawing, I decided to build a small shelf for an old MRC Dual Power O-27 I had in storage.  The benefit of the dual power is it’s low profile, still gives us the option of manual throttle control, and it has both constant 12v and 14v output for accessories.  At 270 watts, it should be sufficient to power the whole layout, including accessories and trains. The only downside is there’s no easy way to wall mount it like my other control packs so it requires a shelf. I had to temporarily disassemble the control board to secure the shelf, but ultimately I’m happy with the end result.

Lastly, I purchased a used MTH DCS AIU at a local train show this weekend, so I created a new mounting board for it and mounted it. I did have to purchase a new TIU to AIU cable, since the included one from the factory was missing from my train show purchase, so I purchased a 6P6C reverse cable on Amazon. In retrospect, I wish I had just bought a new one at the store rather than save the ~$20, but it was an impulse purchase.

Next up, we’ll be removing everything from the table top and painting the homasote with brown latex paint to help seal out moisture and prepare for ballast and scenery.  We’ve ordered 5 bags of Brennan’s Better Ballast. We will also be painting the BridgeBoss bridges and the ABS supports I built using black latex paint.

Tunnel/Mountain Platform Built

Made a bit more progress this week with the elevated platform that will soon become the base for Mount Krog and the Krog Tunnels.  The section is cut from 1/2″ plywood and supported by 7.5″ 2x4s and 1x4s. The elevated section can easily hold my weight. I plan on further testing the tensile strength of it by consuming more beers this weekend

Elevated Line

A quick layout update – we’ve begun building the “EL” line using laser cut bridges from Bridgeboss. I’ve worked with Jim from Bridgeboss to spec out the bridges and supports for our elevated line.  It’s definitely both an art and a science to ensure that the bridge supports clear the underlying track plan and overhand from long rolling stock and locomotives navigating curves. The plan is to use Jim’s bridges, along with a 40″ Atlas O truss bridge for the majority of the line, while building a mountain and tunnel platform on the North side of the layout.

All curves on the EL line are O-54, using Gargraves track and Ross switches.

For the most part, Jim’s plan has cleared the underlying track well, but for the few columns that don’t, Jim offers a “support exchange” where I can ship him back some of my column supports for different sizes. Currently, we look to only need to swap out two of the supports and I may need to order one straight section to support the Ross turnout that will “live” on the North side of the layout.

My hope is to get the plywood elevated section that will eventually become the mountain/tunnel complete this weekend before I revert back to Jim regarding which columns I need to swap out or add.

Here are a couple photos of the progress so far:

A brief history of the Universe

The Book of (P42) Genesis

The Universe of Slottown is confined to a space of 16′ x 7.5′ in the living quarters of it’s two deities, Phoenix and Mattrain. The devout 1:48 people of Slottown subscribe to a polytheistic religion where all that exists has been created by the hand of either Phoenix or Mattrain through intelligent design.  While both deities are firm believers in natural selection and Darwinian evolution, they found the progress of development of Slottown proceeding at pace far too slow for their liking.  Until The Divine Intervention, only airborne bacteria and perhaps the occasional fungi spore occupied the space that is known as Slottown – and while bacteria and fungi are very impressive organisms in their own right, they are not particularly adept at building model railroad infrastructure, at least not within the time horizons acceptable to the creators.

Slottown was first conceived in the minds of its creators in August of 2017 and plans were laid forth via computer-aided-design software to establish the bounds of the universe and the Divine Track Plan. Upon a number of iterations (speculated to be about five), a final plan was confirmed in October of 2017 that balanced the available space within the dimensions of the universe while maximizing the number of trains that can be run simultaneously:


And so on the date of 18 November, two-thousand and seventeen in the Common Era (C.E.) of its creators, the first 2×4 was laid and construction began:

Shortly thereafter, the base for Slottown was completed and ready to begin hosting it’s tenants – namely the trains

Let there be light!

The initial tenants of Slottown are primarily railroad engineers, conductors, and passengers within passenger cars, as there are no living quarters yet available in Slottown, as the second level is still yet to be completed, which is a prerequisite for establishing roads, buildings, and vehicles.  Quick Slottown attributes are documented in the table below:

  • Table Dimensions: 216″ x 84″ x 37″ (5486mm x 2134mm x 940mm)
  • Scale: O Scale (1:48)
  • Gauge: O Gauge 1.17″ (30mm) 3-rail
  • Minimum Diameter Curve: 48″ (1219mm)
  • Maximum Diameter Curve: 72″ (1829mm)
  • Number of Independent Lines: 4
  • Train Control: MTH DCS / Lionel TMCC / Conventional



Welcome to – a site documenting the construction and operation of “Slottown,” an O-Gauge model railroad set sometime between 1920 and 2018 located somewhere between North America and Australia. We here at Slottown embrace anachronism, creativity, and above all, fun – that is to say we don’t take ourselves too seriously. We hope you enjoy our website and our trains

Phoenix & Mattrain