March 7, 2019

The Model Railroading Hobby is a Big Tent

Last night John Socha-Leialoha visited. John is a brilliant engineer who currently works for Microsoft. However, he also is involved in numerous other projects as you will see if you keep reading.  I first met John years ago while on a  trip to the Tacoma area. Back then, John was helping Mark Bridgewater build a large N Scale layout.  I liked Mark's layout when I visited, but I liked his Cobra 427 replica even more. IIRC they were developing the Bluepoint switch machine back then. If you use Bluepoints, then you have used one of John's ideas.

Mark has since moved to the Atlanta area and John has transitioned to being a tool junkie that supports model railroads.  John is notionally modeling the RGS in HOn3, but what he really enjoys is building stuff for the model railroad hobby. And he has a serious set of tools to do that in his shop. The hobby is a big tent!

John demonstrating his throttle prototype
Interestingly, John's first comment on seeing the layout, was "Nice crew lounge." Too bad I plan to make it much smaller.

When I asked John if he wanted to run some trains he said, "no thanks. I could care less about operations." What he did show me was a new Wi-fi throttle that he is developing along with two other engineers for TCS, the DCC company.  You can learn more about the throttle here.  John went on to explain how he likes TCS decoders because of their high fidelity sound. Now it was my turn,  I said to John, without rancor, "I could care less about having correct sound in my engines if it means more complexity. To me diesel sound is just industrial noise." I referred him to my now classic DCC rant previous posted on this blog.  I love complaining about DCC.

The throttle did have a nice feel to it. John designed and produced the throttle case with 3D printed plastic. The plastic had a slight grain that made it non-slip. The wi-fi throttle uses JMRI and a wifi net. Unfortunately, I was not set-up to run it, even though I do have JMRI.  For now, I'll stick with my EasyDCC system.

Fusion 360 demo, my dispatcher's desk is proving handy for multiple
tasks. 
Next John gave me a short demo/tutorial on using Fusion 360 to make 3D drawings of parts. Learning 3D drafting is on my bucket list, so it is a skill I want to learn. The demo blew me away!  John was able to draw quickly some parts, in this case a wagon wheel. I need to budget some time to get that program and learn it. It is free if your business makes less than $100K a year! Great for a cottage business like mine.

John also showed me some of the videos he did using injection molding machines. He was a CNC router that he can use to make aluminum molds. He has two injection molding machines, so he can make styrene parts.  It goes on, he also has tools to rapid prototype printed circuit boards, including some machines, such as a pick and place machine, that he built himself. I now have some serious tool envy!  We really need to convince John to move to the DC area.

To follow more of John's work see his blog https://trains.socha.com  and his youtube channel.

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