Sunday, April 23, 2023

Getting Started with ChordPro

 So after a great event at the Allegheny Ukulele Soiree, I'm working on some updates to that content and will be preparing a video series around the topic of creating your own custom songbook with ChordPro. 

In the mean time as I'm working on that for all of the great Ukulele players out there looking for some handy links:

The Main ChordPro Site

A great website for finding songs, it has the ability to set your default instrument to Ukulele or Baritone Ukulele.

Visual Studio Code. This has become my preferred editor for ChordPro due to the following plugin.

The ChordPro Plugin for VS.Code. This gives you syntax highlighting to help you while building out your song books.

Songbook for Android/iPhone. While I personally don't use this it is an option we discussed during this years session 

Thanks again to everyone who came out to the Soiree and those that attended my session this year.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Inglenook Model Train Games

Inglenook switching or shunting puzzles can be a fun way to spend some time. They can be easily setup with a few packages of model railroad track. You could also set one up with wooden railroad track or just paper and strings.

You can get more information about how the Inglenook puzzle works here:

At it's core a 5-3-3 Puzzle has 8 cars (wagons) and one locomotive. You need to make a train consist up with 5 cars in a specific order, but the pieces of track can only hold so many cars each so you have to work at moving things around to build your train. 

Some people like to just pull tags out of a hat to decide on their final train makeup, while that works I've put together a small web app that lets you save and reload your cars and randomize your output train. It's available on my website at:

So if you're looking for a fun activity for an afternoon or weekend to keep busy, check out Inglenook puzzles and my selector app.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Christmas Tree Layout

So I've settled on a new track plan for around the tree. It's a neat little three time around loop with some tunnels and hills and trees. As I said in my last post I don't plan on this being for realistic operations, it's mainly for display purposes at Christmas time and for constant running. The primary audience will be kids and people who are not really into operations. So if you want to be critical about the track arrangement feel free but remember it's not meant to be realistic just real nice looking.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

New projects

So lots of new projects going on lately. On the railroad front I have two major projects going on. First I'm working on an around the tree layout for Christmas. N scale of course. The track plan calls for nearly 30 feet of "mainline" that will loop around three times. I would like to be able to have one or two trains running on this at a time for display purposes only. It's meant to look good and not necessarily be realistic or operable.

On the operations side I'm still considering a point to point shelf layout for operations. I'm thinking of a proto-freelanced shelf based on Latrobe, PA and the mixture of the Ligoneer Valley Railroad, Pennsylvania Railroad Latrobe/Unity/Hostetter branches and the West Penn Railways lines. This will be a big undertaking so I'm doing some experimenting on the around the tree layout for some additional practice.

I'm also working on converting some more engines to DCC and building a DCC sound car. I have some older life like locomotives that I like and work well and I would like to be able to run on my layout. Since my NCE Powercab doesn't have support for DC I needed to get some more equipment updated.

I'm going to work on some more write ups about all these and I'll be posting them with pictures and links sometime soon.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

A Hobby Mash-Up (aka: You Never Forget Your First Doctor)

So admittedly I haven't done any modeling, railroad or otherwise recently. My little layout has been sitting in the corner mostly untouched for months, and my track sketches for a larger more robust layout have been sitting on a shelf or in my My Documents folder also for months. There are doubtless many reason for it, but a large one is likely that the Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years Holidays all just were here, and I have a nice new TV and Netflix account that I have been enjoying with the family.

One of the "new" things we have discovered on Netflix is Doctor Who. We started with the 2005 Series and have worked both forward and backward in the series. I think we've seen the first, second, third, fourth and ninth Doctors thus far.

Back on the model railroading front most of what I've done has been around operations. I joined OpSig this year in an effort to learn more about operations and maybe even find some local groups that I can guest operate with for a session or two to learn the ropes (if you know of any in Western PA please let me know). While learning operations and building a layout that allows me to run a good session is a goal I have to admit that Structure building really is what I enjoy the most about the hobby. So after breaking all the ice on the drive way and realizing that I was just too sore to do anymore around the house this weekend I thought about pulling out some card stock scratch building supplies and just messing around when I had a great idea. Why not build something that me and the kids would get a kick out of on the layout. Something we had been enjoying on TV currently, say an n-scale TARDIS.

Here is a picture of the mostly finished product on my layout. It's sitting under a tree near the train station. I can't help but think that this just might be the first time the Doctor has been in Pennsylvania. The base needs a bit of trimming and molding to the layout still, but that will come with time as I decide where to keep this piece at.

Here's a close up of the piece. The TARDIS itself came from a Deviant Art site, the sidewalk came from Scale Scenes, one of my favorite sources for card stock modeling products. The figures I bought online from a guy named Jens in a big multipack. They have been custom painted to match the scene as the Ninth Doctor and Rose. If you want to duplicate this Take the Image from Deviant Art and scale it to around 900 DPI. I did some simple math and a bit of trial and error to get that figure. If you want you can do what I did and rotate the page so that it's square to the TARDIS pattern and cut it down and then print it out to the right height. I found that somewhere around 1.6 in high for the pattern was pretty good to make the Doctor's head be at about the right height on the door.
All in all this was a quick project that I just threw together with the kids so that we weren't totally bored this weekend while my shoulder was healing from all the work around the house. It was pretty fun to watch the kids look for it on the layout after I installed it too. Even my four year old was able to find and it recognize it. While it's simple, made of paper and not the greatest it does look nice when viewed from the 2 foot rule. Now let's just hope some major disaster doesn't follow the Doctor to West Forge.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

A Paper Train Part 2

So in case you missed it I built a paper Acella a while back, and today while I was looking around the web I found another very cool paper train paper. a paper GG1 over at a place called Creative Park. Below is a picture of theirs. Once I put one together I'll take pictures and put them up here. In the meantime why don't you head on over and make one yourself.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Toy Trains and Nuclear Fusion

In a really neat way some researches have found a great way to use a normal everyday item for a lot of us in a whole new way. The Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory used a model train engine with some californium-252 on it to test their neutron sensors in their fusion reactor. Being a train enthusiast who has a Bachelors in Applies Physics I find this doubly interesting.

Check out the full artical at

Friday, January 01, 2010

West Forge Layout: Operations!

First off Happy New Year everyone! I hope that everyone has a great holiday weekend.

Now onto the topic of my post. I have to admit that aside from playing with my kids Thomas train layout I've never really operated a layout of any type except for the ones that went in circles underneath Christmas trees. I do recall as kids my sister and I making the train or the trolly car go around a few times and then stopping it at certain spots that we decided were stations to pickup and drop off passengers. However, I've never done anything that I would really consider operations. The club I belong to doesn't do operations yet, and I don't seem to know anyone in the western PA area that does this at home. If you happen to be in Western PA and in need of crew member let me know.

Anyway, having never done this before and using a track plan from a book I was left with trying to figure all this out myself (aren't model railroading books great!). I have to say I was really hoping that I liked it after I went through all the work to build this stuff and get it running well. So today after watching a movie with the kids and my wife I sat down with a notebook, pencil and track plan and tried to figure out how to operate my little module. The very first thing I realized is that this module lacks anything that even resembles a run around. This was clearly another rookie mistake on my part that meant that all my switching moves had to be pre-planned and the cars positioned properly in the consist. Once I got over that problem I was able to come up with a 12 step operation plan that involved switching four locations: Nathan's Warehouse, C & E Hardware, The General Store/Railway Express Agency, and the Lumber Yard.

After my kids went to bed I decided that it was time to try this plan out. My original goal when I started planning this layout was to be able to operate the layout for 15 minutes with a crew of 1 person. I was pretty sure my plan would do that and maybe take even longer. In the end though the operation plan took just over 12 minutes to complete, but that time didn't include using the passenger station at all. I decided that I can either add passenger operations to this plan or change that siding to an additional small industry to add a few more minutes to the operations. Overall though I'm very pleased with the way things worked. I found a few small track issues I need to work on on the spurs, but aside from that I had a very pleasant 12 minutes running my trains in more than just a loop.

I do think that larger scale operations would be a great deal of fun, and look forward to trying those someday. All of this makes me happy as I have a better understanding of operations now, and that just became one more thing that I have learned from this little 2'x3' layout.