Monday, November 13, 2017

Single turnout control panel

It if often said that a higher layout height gives a much more realistic view of the railroad.  While agreeing with that concept I am also aware that it makes it more difficult to see the position of the points on any turnouts compared to a layout that is lower especially if the turnout is not close the the edge of the layout.   On the Battle Mountain section of the layout I have a long siding and 4 industrial spurs for a total of 6 turnouts.   These turnouts will be controlled by push / pull rods and all are toward the back about 12 inches from the edge.  So I decided I needed some indication of the point position near the control for each turnout.

There will be 6 acrylic panels sized 1.5 x 3.75 inches.  They will be distributed along the front edge of the layout in line with their turnouts.  A paper drawing can be placed under each panel.

A 7th panel is the master for hole locations on the panels and in the front frame of the layout.

I am using a bi-color Red / Green LED connected to contacts on the slide switch that holds the points in place.  A hole was drilled in the front frame large enough for the LED to pass through. 

The panel can then be placed with the LED fitting snugly into the hole made for it in the panel.  The paper drawing is on the outside now but in the final version will be behind the panel.

This pair of photos shows both the aligned and diverging conditions on a temporarily installed control panel for testing.  Once the knob is installs it covers the larger opening made for the 1/8 inch head of the control rod.

I have since added "Pull = Diverging / Push = Aligned" or "Pull = Aligned / Push = Diverging" at the bottom as the positions can be different depending on if the turnout is right hand or left hand.
This is a diagram of how the LED is connected through the slide switch that holds the points.  The resistors are of different values as the red seemed brighter to my eye than the green with the same voltage so I gave it a larger resistor.

I am using a common anode LED.  When using a common cathode LED the voltage source polarity would be reversed.  These LED's will be powered by a 5 volt regulator circuit under the bench work which gets it's power from the 12 volt bus that runs through the layout.  The bi-color LED's are readily available on the Internet.  I get mine from  They have a great selection of items for model railroad controls.

Monday, November 6, 2017

The layout's first buildings are taking shape

Battle Mountain will include the first actual buildings on this layout.  A start has been made on the first two.  They are both shallow relief flats and both are being scratch built.  I wanted to represent some good sized industries and am only modeling the parts that interface with the railroad.

The first industry is a large warehouse that is a scale 360 feet long.  It is intended to ship products by box car and can handle up to 4 at a time.  I plan to also have some interior detail visible through the open doors.

I tried something new with this one.  Because it is very close to the siding I did not want it loose but at the same time I wanted to be able to remove it in case of future maintenance needs.  So I am using two small magnets attached to the underside of the roof contacting long flat head screws.  It was easy to adjust the screws to get just the right height.

The second industry is a company that manufacturers industrial sized plastic pipe.  They ship their products by truck but receive plastic pellets by the car load.

This has been just a quick overview of these two industries.  As progress is made with these I will fill in more details and the story behind each of them in future posts.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Hand throws for turnouts

For the Battle Mountain industries I want to have a hands on operation so the turnouts will be controlled by push / pull rods from the fascia.  This is something I had done on the Los Angeles Terminal District layout and saved all the components for use some day.  That day is here.

The control linkage goes to a DPDT slide switch that has a hole in it for the wire and another for another for a wire that goes up to the turnout.  The switch will hold the turnout points in position and provide electrical switching for frog power and for a turnout position indicator on a panel.

On the LATD layout and Ntrak modules I had first used glass beads attached to the end of .040 piano wire.  Then I switched to using push pin heads with the pin part removed.

Because I am adding a finished fascia to the front after installing the section into the layout this was going to require a different solution because I was going to need to remove the knob to put the fascia on.

One of the common sizes for the shafts of electronic controls is 1/8 inch.  A short length of 1/8" brass tube was mounted at the end of the .040 music wire by notching one end of the tube, making a bend right at the end of the wire, then sliding the tube on from the other end until the bend stops it and rest in the notch.

Super glue can be used to attach the two metals securely and small set screws on the knob will hold it to the brass tube.
A knob was borrowed from a Digitrax throttle to test this.  After confirming that this would work, I visited an electronics surplus store in my area and picked up 20 similar knobs so I will hopefully have enough for the whole layout.

The knob can be removed to allow for the installation of the finished fascia and a small control panel after this section is installed in the layout.

Enough space is left between the know in it's pushed in position and the frame to allow for the thickness of the fascia and control panel.

More on the control panels and indicator lights in a future post.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Three year anniversary for the layout

It was about this time in 2014 that actual construction started on this layout.  Years of research and planning had come before that.  As this third anniversary passes I reflect on what has been accomplished this past year and make some realistic goals for the next year.

  • Complete Gloconda section including scenery - Done !
  • Build and install the upper return loop above Wesso - Done !
  • Install LED lighting under upper return loop to light Wesso - Done !
  • Install photo backdrops - Done !
  • Mount Wesso and Gloconda sections - Done !
  • Add the bottom LED panels to Carlin section to light staging yard - Done !
  • Build temporary return loop for east end of Gloconda - Done !
  • Start bench work next section after Gloconda - Done  !

It was another good year.  I was able to accomplish everything I had set out to a year ago and then some.  The  section east of Gloconda ended up being called Battle Mountain and already has the track and wiring done and is ready for basic scenery.  Also the scenery in Winneamucca is beginning to take shape.  To me one of the biggest changes is actually being able to run trains on the layout that is completed so far.

Below is a crude drawing of the layout as it is right now.  The Battle Mountain section had been temporarily fitted in to the layout to check bench work and track alignment but is now again on the saw horses in the middle of the room to complete the wiring and start the scenery.  Not shown are the Carlin section above the staging yard and the east end return loop above the Wesso section.

So what is my plan for the next 12 months ?  Being careful not to be over confident but at the same time maybe be a little more ambitious with the building schedule.
  • Complete the Battle Mountain section including structures and scenery.
  • Begin the bench work for the Harney section that will be to the east of Battle Mountain.
  • Continue to fill in details and scenes at Winnemucca, Wesso and Gloconda.
  • Add the last of the cabinets in the train room to clean things up.
  • Add the additional work bench using a Maple top I bought at a garage sale. 

Of course I'll continue to post regular updates as this layout grows. 

Friday, October 20, 2017

Update on the Battle Mountain section

The bench work for the 8 foot long Battle Mountain section was completed at the end of August.  Since then the track plan was finalized, Fast Tracks turnouts built, cork roadbed and track laid, and now wiring and turnout controls have started.

This is a view of the track layout at Battle Mountain.  There will be a siding on the west bound track long enough to accommodate any train that fits in the staging yard.  And there will be 4 industries served from the west bound track. The eastbound track runs through at a slightly lower level as it's not part of the same scene.

The space under the module is getting filled with wiring and controls. Manual Push / Pull turnout controls are being built and installed on each of the 6 turnouts.  More on that in a future post.

Again I am doing all of this work prior to installing the section into the layout as it is so much easier this way.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Finishing the cattle ranching scene

I already had some un-decorated cows and decided the simplest paint scheme on a cow would be Black Angus. So I picked up a set of Woodland Scenics Black Angus cows at my local hobby shop as a reference.

Checking several shades of black paint I found Floquil weathered black to be the closest match to the reference set.  I did not try to paint the eyes, hoofs and noses.

I added one of the Woodland Scenics built-up windmill sets at the end of the pasture that has the gate in the fence.  The area around the windmill was given a tiny bit more green and soil colored ground foam and a few grass clumps to show some dampness there.

Once the cows were all painted they were placed in several groups around the pasture and secured with adhesive.  I ended up having 16 adult sized and 4 calves for a total population of 20.   These are the first figures on the layout. 

Here is an overall view showing most of the ranch scene as an eastbound Western Pacific TOFC train passes by.  Still plenty of little details to be added to the area but overall I am very happy with the results.

Monday, October 9, 2017

On the road again - Hill City, SD - CB&Q trail

One more post from our September trip to Montana and South Dakota.

Not far from the 1880 train depot and the rail museum in Hill City I spotted a trail shelter.  It was part of the 114 mile long trail that had once been the CB&Q / BN line through the Black Hills.

I photographed two of the signs at the trail head shelter in Hill City.  The images should be large enough to read when viewed in full size.

This trail also ran right next to the RV park we were camped at so that was my starting point for a little exploration. There was a mile marker post where I started that was marked 58 so that would put it almost in the middle of the old rail lines 114 mile length.

The RV park had lots of space for tent camping near the trail so I suspect in the warmer months those riding bicycles the length of the trail may make camp here.

I was on foot and with a limited amount of time so I only walked about a half mile or so in each direction from our camp.

In the southward direction I came upon a bridge.

The trail bridge was built upon the old railroad thru girder bridge that goes over US highway 385.

I was able to get under the bridge to look and take some photos.  It appeared that the railroad ties were still in place and that the deck for the bridge had been built on top of those.

Click This Link to find out more about this trail.