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Puckdropper has scored 283 goals and 346 assists in his lifetime.

A few bugs

Erik found a few bugs and needed a new post that had commenting turned on. Not that anyone ever reads this blog anyway.

Even I post to my Facebook Page weeklyish (I'm out of new material at the moment) instead of here. If all your readers are in Rome, go to Rome.

Do I need another booster?

"What size layout do I need before I need multiple boosters?"

"I'm a single operator, but I've got a 10x25 layout. How many boosters do I need?"

If you're asking those kinds of questions, you probably don't need another booster. Let's look at things a different way: Your booster has a certain amount of capacity, usually expressed by its current rating. For example, the Digitrax DB150 has a 5A current rating. It will power any combination of track until its current capacity has been used up.

Each locomotive, lighted passenger car, detected wheelset, etc... draws a certain amount of current from the track. Locomotives usually draw the most, with 1/4-1/2A being normal for HO Scale. That allows you to run (and have moving) 10-20 locomotives on a 5A booster. A single operator, or even two or three, is going to find it difficult to move that many locomotives at one time.

When you added lighted passenger cars and sound locomotives, you're likely to see more current draw. I don't have any rules of thumb to offer, but chances are good a single operator won't ever use all 5A of capacity at one time.

"How do I know?"

Measuring would be a good way. You can find designs for DCC ammeters that are inexpensive to build online, or you can purchase a meter like the RR-Ampmeter.

You can measure from the 120V AC side of the power supply, but that gets tricky. It will have to wait for another post.

Another way to know is just to watch your booster. It'll start shutting down or funny things will happen when you've got a lot going on. If your booster is getting hot, it might be time to give it some help.

"If I don't need another booster, what about power districts?"

The smaller they are, the better. If only one operator can't run his train, there's a good chance he caused the short and knowing this can check his train for incorrectly set switches or derailed cars.

It is much easier to wire around insulated rail joiners than it is to install them later. So, if you go overboard on the track divisions but still run everything off one or two circuit breakers you still have the benefit of being able to split the bus if you have to track down a track short.

The $5 Thermal Wire Stripper

I'm working on signals for a model railroad (the ice rink posts are done for the year), and one of the signals has traditional insulation on the wires but uses much thinner wire than my finest wire stripper will strip. This posed a problem, as the wire is so thin and delicate that it was difficult to strip without nicking.

So, I got to thinking... What is a thermal wire stripper but a thin piece of metal that gets hot and melts the insulation? A piece of Nichrome wire is exactly that... A thin piece of metal that gets hot enough to melt insulation. I had some in my parts box, but you can buy hot wire cutter wire from your local hobby shop for about $5.

Building the stripper is straightforward. I drilled and tapped 3 2-56 holes in a triangular pattern and drilled a larger hole in the middle of the triangle. Then, the Nichrome wire was looped and twisted on one end, so the screw would hold the wire securely while the Nichrome formed a tight angle over the larger hole. The ends of the wire were then attached to a wire from a model railroad power supply.

I realize now that it may not be necessary to do such a fancy loop and twist move, and simply installing two strips of Nichrome in an X pattern might do the same thing.

The stripper is used by turning on track power then waiting a few seconds for the wire to get hot. Then, the wire is lowered into the hole next to the Nichrome wire and moved against the Nichrome wire and twisted. (This is easier to do than say.) The wire can now be removed and the insulation pulled off.

In the case of heavier wire, it may be necessary to increase the voltage to melt through the heavier insulation.

Build this if you want, share it by linking back to this post. If you decide to try to sell this commercially, let's talk first. I'm not protecting a patent, I simply don't have that kind of cash. This is, to the best of my knowledge, an original idea.

Parts list:
Nichrome Wire
Copper Wire
Power Supply, variable voltage is best

Netting tips

Rink Netting

1. If you have two pieces of netting joining at a corner, put the netting up at that corner first. That will ensure the netting is tight to the post at the point it needs to be.
2. A center support is needed for spans over about 12'.
3. Regular rope will sag, but wire rope can be tensioned so it holds the netting straight across the top. If the netting sags, it's much easier to shoot a puck over it.
4. Netting should be stretched out, but not taut. It should catch a hockey puck and not reflect it back at you.

Goal netting
1. Tip the goal onto an object so the netting doesn't make contact with the ground if snow/ice is expected.
2. Goal netting should be fairly loose. You want the netting to catch the puck and not send it back at you. This is especially important if playing at night, where you could be hit with the rebounded puck.
3. Even if you build your goal from scratch, a commercial replacement net will finish it off nicely. Just use rope to hold it to the pipe. (Despite wrapping around to the front, I haven't seen any breaks from where I've hit the post with a puck.)

Mosquito Netting
1. If you need this, the weather's too warm for rink building.

Big Lesson of the Year

I went wider this year, out to 28' from my old 24'. Because of the new rink location, I did not know how far the liner would reach up the berm that made part of my boards, so wound up with too little liner on one side. The mud allowed the boards to shift, stretching and breaking the liner and causing a drop of approximately 2" of water depth.

The big lesson of the year is to make sure you have enough liner over all parts of the rink. The boards didn't shift much, only about an inch, but that was enough to cause problems.

Normally, I wouldn't give up halfway through the season, but the forecast is awful. Temperatures in the high 30's, with some up in the 50's. One fellow suggested a replacement liner, and while it would work I just didn't see the water freezing up again.

Experiment 3: Rink Lights

A friend and I were playing hockey, and we noticed how dark it was on the shooting end.

Rope Lights on the netting will increase the brightness of the area and be worthwhile.

Rope lights put out about the same amount of light as Christmas icicle lights, and since I already have them, I might as well use them. Attaching the rope lights will require something other than the netting to attach to, as the netting is already sagging under its own weight. It will be necessary to run some sort of wire rope line to support not only the rope lights but the netting.

A wire rope line was woven along the top "squares" of the netting. It was pulled as taught as possible, which resulted in the netting sagging much less. The rope lights were then zip tied to the wire rope. An extension cord was attached to one end.

The icicle lights provided a soft glow and festive atmosphere, but did not provide all that much extra light on the shooting end. Light spilling out on the outside of the rink may make it easier to track pucks that have been shot out, so the icicle lights were left up.

Ultimately, a halogen light head was screwed to the top of the net post and the light was pointed towards the net area. This provided the needed illumination.

The Sword in the Stone

Thinking it'd be handy to have my shovel nearby to clear off the ice, I left it leaning against my fence. I didn't think too much about it when we went on a trip, but got home to find that annoying warm spell had melted all my beautiful snow, then refrozen, and left my shovel frozen solid in the mud.

What was I to do?

Sadly, this is not a tale of a heroic struggle of good vs evil, the mighty vs the weak, but simply another annoying warm spell.

Another warm spell came, bringing rain and making much mud. It left my rink a mess, so I went out and picked up my shovel and cleared off as many sticks and leaves as I could. The boy who pulled the sword out of the stone went on to be king. Me? I flooded my rink and had a good skate. I think I came out ahead, as I never wanted to be king but I always want a good skate!

The moral of the story is:
Don't leave your shovel on the ground.



When just playing around on the rink, it's easy to get into the habit of shuffling around and not really skating hard. When I get back to playing hockey, this habit seems to follow me for the first few shifts. So, this little game is intended to prevent that.

With the net at one end, stand behind the net in a corner and pass the puck towards the opposite corner. Chase the puck and catch it, then turn around and skate back hard for a shot on goal. For more challenge, pick a corner of the net to shoot at before you start.

Chase - D-zone

Dump the puck. You want to come in towards the fence or net hard, pick up the puck and look for an open man. An alternative is to stop behind the net (it can be imaginary) and get your head up to take a look. Take a few quick steps and either skate the puck out or make a pass. Practice looking around as you're skating for the puck, just as you would during a game.

For added challenge, pick a pass/shot type and keep doing it until you hit your target.

Four Corners

This is perhaps the game I play most often. I pick a corner and a shot type, and hit that corner with the shot. I vary locations to shoot from and after a successful shot I move to the next corner. I keep score by setting a goal like 10 in a row or 10 of 10 shots if close or something more reasonable if further away. This game can be played either stationary or moving.

Hitting the post only counts if the puck goes in!

Do you have any favorite games or drills? Feel free to answer in the comments.

Experiment 2: Fencing Update

When I secured the fence posts to the boards, I did not count on how much pressure/force the end posts would have to handle. The last post on the south side had to deal with strong winds and that post eventually failed by having the support screws pull out. Therefore, I cannot recommend this the two-hole pipe clamp technique as the best way to support a rink fence. Perhaps a third clamp will help?

The problem I face now is that the fence has frozen into the ice and I cannot lift the post to fix it.

Long Range Forecast

I thought I'd share this long range forecast with you guys. It's pretty accurate, I didn't even need to enter my zip code:

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