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June 1st- On the Shoulders of Giants- Pt 10.

posted Jun 2, 2017, 7:05 PM by Sue Line RailRoad

We are all privileged to work with manufacturers, hobbyists and though leaders in this hobby.  It is small enough of a pursuit that we get to establish personal relationships with many people.  We draw quite a bit of current information from them with little resistance.  Since beginning the conversion process of our signal system to DCC, I could not have gotten anywhere without the help of another giant in the hobby that I have never had the pleasure of meeting face-to-face. Allow me to introduce you to Dick Bronson and his wife Karen.  

In 2009, we decided to upgrade the electronics on the Sue Line. We were using a homemade signal and detection system which used Pascal computer language code. We designed, made and installed the detection and signal system and it worked as planned, but it was a one of a kind. When I began exploring the alternatives, I ran into Dick Bronson and R-R CirKits. Dick graciously spent time explaining the system to me and how it worked with JMRI (Java Model Railroad Interface). Later he helped me with debugging as the installation progressed. Today we have a commercial signal and detection system which works with off-the-shelf components which was can easily add to or expand upon.

He is another individual who loves to share his knowledge with others.  He has given numerous clinics at the National Model Railroad Association (NMRA) conventions where he has discussed the basics of the JMRI system, CTC panels in JRMI and signal system functioning.  He is also active in what promises to be the next leap forward for layouts: Layout Command Control.  In fact, he already has some components available for the brand new standard.  While he tends to refer to the R-R CirKits system, Dick also gives good coverage on alternative systems and how they can be used. Recently Dick Bronson is currently very active in the Layout Command Control (LCC) aspect of electronics.

I recall that recently we had a problem with our control system in that it responded slowly to commands.  It was late in the afternoon 2 hours before our planned weekly operating sessions when the problem was discovered. The always friendly Karen Bronson answered the phone and when I explained our challenge, Dick immediately picked up on the line, patiently asked several questions and then talked us through a debugging session which led us to the cause of the problem.  This was seven (7) years after I had purchased the products from R-R CirKits. This was the time of day that I could have gotten a recording. He did not have to help at that late hour of the day, but he did and that is just the kind of man Dick Bronson is.

Through my conversations, I have discovered that he has another aspect of the railroad hobby he enjoys.  He likes to restore old passenger cars. I recall one day that I called Dick about a problem I was having with a detection/motor driver circuit and he spent about an hour telling me about a passenger car he and his wife Karen had found in an old barn and how they were refurbishing it to its past glory.  I had a great time listening to him and, as always, he helped me to get the issue at hand resolved.

With the Sue Line, I have had the opportunity to share my experience and knowledge with others.  In our haste to get things done, we should all be reminded that a little patience dealing with a problem someone else has in the hobby is a learning opportunity.  Each time I have called Dick, he has been the poster child for patient teacher.  If we want to foster the next generation, we need to be willing teachers.  I try to put Bronson’s attitude to work in my own hobby efforts.  Teaching, learning, watching, and like the best teachers, help someone work through the problem without actually solving the problem for them.

Like a circuit board, whether it was made from scratch or purchased from a great manufacturer, the best teachers stay grounded in what they know while giving energy to so many different things around them.  Their purpose is often to contribute to the greater good of convenience and information.  It is appropriate that Dick is in the circuitry business far beyond the aspects of his technical knowledge.

As an example, Dick Bronson has contributed to over 300 operating sessions on the Sue Line in just the last 7 years alone providing fun filled evenings for operators.  I’d estimate that is close to 4000 hours of operator time.  For that, I unequivocally stand on the shoulders of this giant.