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January 5th- On The Shoulders of Giants- Part 1

posted Jan 11, 2017, 5:54 AM by Sue Line RailRoad

With a new year, I will be taking a new direction and discussing some of the many people who have influenced me as I have traveled in the great wilderness known as model railroading.

One of most familiar expression in the English language is by Sir Isaac Newton in 1676: "If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants”. This is certainly true for me. I have been fortunate enough to know many of the true giants of model railroading and it only by “standing on their shoulders” that the Sue Line Railroad is what it is today.

My first person is my best friend, my mentor, my confidant and my strength when I am weak- Keith Gutierrez of Dallas, Texas. Keith Gutierrez has retired from a career at Texas Instruments. I first met Keith Gutierrez during an open house in Dallas, Texas. Keith Gutierrez had a N-scale railroad in a single bedroom of his home. I was impressed with the railroad layout, but more impressed with its owner and builder Keith Gutierrez.

The first electronic project that I built with Keith Gutierrez appeared on page 76 of the November 1976 Model Railroader “Build a Digital Fast Clock” The clocks shown on page 78 were on the roof tower of a building on my Sue Line layout.

Shortly after we first met two electrical engineers Chuck Balmer and Dick Robbins from Ohio, in 1972 introduced a model train control system- Digitrack 1600. After reading about this system in Model Railroader, I contacted Russ Larson, the editor at that time. Russ Larson acknowledged that Model Railroader had bought the rights to the system, but was unsure what they would do with them. I subsequently called Russ Larson about once a week for several years about the project. Finally, in 1976, Russ Larson agreed to send me the information with the provision that I tell no one about the contents. What a delima I created, I now had the information which was like having an ancient Greek document and a fiend who read and was fluent in Greek, but I could not get the two together. I struggled along trying to learn about electronics (I was certainly Greek to me). Finally, in 1978, Russ Larson relented and showed the information to Keith Gutierrez. As is his style, Keith Gutierrez carefully reviewed the information, analyzed the information and formulated a plan.

The system of course worked, but by then the electronic devices were almost five years old. Keith Gutierrez then set about to improve the system.  I heard nothing for several months and then Keith Gutierrez contacted me with great news, the system had been updated and was functional. Keith Gutierrez called the mew version of the system CTC-16. Several prototype boards were produced and Keith Gutierrez sent me along with Jason R. “Bob” Moore, then in Austin, Texas Mose H. Crews, then in Minden Louisiana, and Jay Thompson of Dallas, Texas, a set of components along with instruction on how to assemble the boards. As usual Keith Gutierrez was going to teach us how to build the system, not just give us a completed system.  This was going to be something a modeler could build at home with minimal knowledge of electronics and have for themselves.

In his column At the Throttle, Linn Wescott, then Editor of Model Railroader, indicated that “Most of the promoting of command control has come from electrical engineers; and, many of the systems were developed by such men too soon after they had become interested in model railroading. They had not yet learned the practical aspects of the hobby and so did not consider them in their design work.” (Model Railroader, page 31, December 1971.). This is a landmark article for command control and should be read by all who have any interest in command control.

Keith Gutierrez was an electrical engineer who had an extensive background in the hobby of model railroading and was extremely well versed in the practical aspects of the hobby and the needs of the modeler. In the December 1979 issue of Model Railroader, Keith Gutierrez presented the beginning of a series “Introducing the CTC-16: A 16 channel command control system you can build”. (Model Railroader page 64, December 1979). The next issue of Model Railroader, in typical Keith Gutierrez fashion gave the modeler all they needed to finish the project-, complete schematic, pc board layout and a complete parts list. Also there were step by step instruction of assembly and testing of the project. The series concluded in the April 1980 Model Railroader with an epilog on page 132 in the December 1980 Model Railroader.

In his column At The Throttle, then Model Railroader editor Russ Larson said “I believe Keith Gutierrez’s series has laid the groundwork for tomorrow’s command control systems. In fact, I look forward to the day when command control with be available installed in ready-to-run locomotives at readily affordable prices.” (Page 53, August 1981 Model Railroader)

On page 85 of the April 1984 Model Railroader, Keith Gutierrez presented a new series “The CTC-16e: The Next Generation of Command Control.” This series concluded on page 86 of the August 1984 Model Railroader. This was later published as a booklet by Model Railroader Magazine through Kalmbach Publications.

Keith Gutierrez also authored the article “Build the Wireless Throttle:1” (page 86, March 1986 Model Railroader). This series was continued on page 68 in the April 1986 Model Railroader. As previously, Keith Gutierrez used the same format, explain the purpose, give full schematics, give full parts lists and instruction to build and test the project along the way.

In February 1997, Keith Gutierrez along with Lee Rayburn updated the system with “The EasyDCC Command Control System: 1” (Model Railroader page 86, February 1997) This was a six part series which ended in the July 1997 Model Railroader.

I find Keith Gutierrez is an amazing individual with exceptional insight. On several occasions I have face problems and Keith Gutierrez always gives the same advice- “It is something simple.” I have no background in electronics, but Keith Gutierrez has guided me through several projects with a gentle hand and a sharp mind.

I recall one weekend we were visiting Dr. Bruce Chubb at his famous Sunset Valley Lines in GRand Rapids, Michigan. It was about thirty minutes before to guests were scheduled to arrive and Dr. Bruce Chubb had a failure in his control system. There was Dr. Bruce Chubb in a undershirt with shaving cream on his face trying to find the problem. Keith Gutierrez took his usual approach and several minutes later Keith Gutierrez had found the problem, replaced the defective part and all was working again.

Keith Gutierrez and I have had numerous discussions about many facets of the wonderful hobby of model railroading and it is truly due to his input that I am were I am today in the hobby.