Sunday, November 16, 2014

The ROCK 3.0: Capital Rebuild Program

Lately, I have been working with my buddy Allen in Nebraska regarding speed matching my locomotives to make the fleet run flawlessly.  Mainly, I want to run any brand loco with any other brand loco to mix up the fleet some.  This article by Allen is what really sparked my interest.

The problem we faced in our discussions back and forth was the large number of Bachmann GP7s I own.  We feared that we wouldn't be able to modify the speed tables as the factory decoder installed has only the basic of features.  I picked the GP7s up cheap quite a few years ago.  They run well, a little loud, but pretty awesome slow speed runners.  I manually matched up the locos with other Bachmann GP7s that run at a similar rate.  I would like to mix up my fleet some and match the GP7s with other locos (like an Atlas GP38-2 for example).  There isn't a good drop-in decoder replacement. for these units.  Some have replaced with a Digitrax DZ class decoder, but it took quite a bit of work to get it done.

So, I shipped my locos off to Allen at the Little Rock to test further.  He was able to read in the decoders using his JMRI Decoder Pro software.  Unfortunately, it was confirmed what we thought that we can't modify the speed tables on the locos.

So, then we looked at re-powering the locos with an Atlas chassis.  Allen asked about just replacing with an Atlas chassis and shell.  I'm ok with replacing the chassis, but not the shell.  The shells were custom painted by my friend Larry Keller of the Lehigh & Hudson River layout.  They have tremendous sentimental value and I would not want to get rid of them.  Allen found if you look hard enough, you can score an Atlas replacement chassis for around $40-50 each on eBay.  I listed one of my spare Bachmann chassis with decoder to test the waters and managed to sell it for $38 plus shipping.  I believe I have a total of six more that I can sell.

Allen was kind enough to procure some Atlas chassis and decoders for me.  He re-powered my locos and speed matched them per his procedures outlined in the linked article above.  I have received reports back from the shops on the Little Rock that the locos run flawlessly.  You can read more about the process of rebuilding the GP7s on Allen's blog.

Here are some photos of two of the rebuilt Bachmann GP7s with the Atlas re-power roaming the rails of the Little Rock Division.

A special thanks to Allen for helping me with this project!  I will continue seeking out replacement Atlas chassis to rebuild the rest of the fleet.

A side note about Allen and myself.  We have never met in person, but found each other through the blogs and our common interest in the Rock Island.  We have become really good friends learning from each other and discussing ideas for both of our layouts.  I'm truly fortunate to find a good friend like Allen.  Our friendship makes the hobby even more enjoyable.  Thanks Allen.

In other news, nothing has been done on the layout.  And, I do mean nothing.  I had considered operating in December, but the the number of available weekends in December are very few.  It appears I will operate next in January or February after the dust settles from the holiday activities.  My intent in rebuilding the layout smaller was to share the room with family.  

Less layout equals less stress and allows me to spend more time with my family.  I have been doing just that.  My daughter 's interest in Legos has really grown recently.  Instead of working on the layout, I have been spending time with my daughter building this mega Lego Technic kit.  There is some debate who this kit actually is or my daughter.  You know, I'm a big kid too.  Anywho, we have been working on it just about every night for over a week now.  Here is a pic of our project so far.

While not productive on the layout currently, I wouldn't trade this time spent with my daughter for anything.  We really enjoy building the kit together.  


  1. You're very welcome Steven! I also appreciate what you've done for me and my wheel report as well as other things to numerous to mention!
    I feel very fortunate to be included into your circle of friends. You're certainly included in my circle, and we know what our wives think! LOL
    Maybe someday we'll be able to run one or both of our layouts side by side instead of via the internet!