Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Update to the yard sequencer

About 2 years ago I added some automation to the Southern Pacific staging yard using some Azatrax IR detection modules. The idea was to have a train enter the yard and stop on one a particular track and another train automatically leave on another track.   The post I made on this in November 2020 is HERE.

This has worked well but occasionally when after coasting to a stop the space between 2 locomotives lands right over the receiver that is under the track.  These particular Azatrax units close a relay contact momentarily but will continue to show detection as long as the beam is blocked.  When the beam is no longer blocked, the circuit is reset.  When it is time for the train to go out again, as soon as it moves the beam is blocked by the second locomotive and the circuit thinks the train has just arrived and switches to the next train in the sequence. 

After giving this problem some thought over a period of time I came up with some ideas on how to overcome this and recently I put those ideas to the test.  First I removed the IR transmitter stand and carefully bent both the 1/8 inch rod and the 1/8 inch tube near where they go through the deck.  This would hopefully prevent the beam from passing through between the locomotives.  After re-installing them I re-tested by slowly pushing a pair of flat cars over the IR receiver.  This helps as but did not totally correct the problem.  Next I pushed the IR receiver down deeper into it's hole between the ties.  This again was an improvement but did not totally prevent the beam from passing through to receiver.  Last, I made a lens from .250 wide by .010 Evergreen strip with a hole of about 1/16 inch.  The hole was aligned over the spot where the receiver is.  This seemed to do the trick.

To test the arrangement I was using a Kato SD40-2 and an SD40 set back to back and slowly pushed them across the path of the sensor.  These have the most open back porch and when running back to back provide the largest path for the IR signal to get through.

While these adjustments seem to have corrected this issue, the real test will come when the upper helix and return loop are finished.  Then I can setup several trains to run in continuous operation.

Sunday, November 13, 2022

Finishing the railroad rooming house

Last February I presented an assortment of structures that had been gathered for Carlin's main street.  It's time to see what has been happening with some of these.

We will start with the American Model Builders railroad rooming house kit.  Some time ago I had assembled the walls, base, and stairs.  This was necessary to be able to create the pit in the scenery that the building would go into.  Then I had finished the roof and added a few doors.  After that it sat in a box while I worked on other layout projects.   The photo below shows it how it was left.  Now I am going back and finishing this building, adding the rest of the doors, the windows and any finishing touches.

The kit models double hung wood windows.  The design of this kit allows for the lower, open-able section to be placed in any position so I have included some opened at various heights and others closed.  

Inside the building a center view block was added from .030 styrene and painted black.  Notches were made on the bottom to go around the two small magnets.

Some lighting was added to the outside of the building using a Miniatronics 1.5 volt lamp.  The wires were bent into the shape of a support arm and painted silver. 

Inside the building the tiny wires from the lamp are soldered to a Kato 77A board where I had removed the LED.  The board has a 270 ohm resistor on it.  Larger 22 gauge wires have been soldered to the input tabs of the board and those will be fed through a hole in the base of the building to connect to the 12 volt DC buss under the bench work.  Also in this photo the window glazing consisting of .010 clear plastic sheet can be seen.

This is the finished building planted into it's pit and held in place by the small magnets.  There is still more to do with some details around the area but the basic structure is now finished.

Friday, November 4, 2022

3D Printed Wheel Stops

Almost a year ago I learned about some 3D printed wheel stops from The Little Rock Line blog.  So I ordered them from an Etsy seller.  This was my first purchase on Etsy and have noticed that it seems to be a good source for N Scale 3D printed items and more reasonably priced than items on Shapeways.  I have since ordered a few more items on Etsy from this same seller and others.  Selection is not a large as Shapeways but hopefully will expand over time.

So just recently I got around to painting and installing these.  They come 12 in a pack consisting of 3 groups of 4.

Each wheel stop is mounted on 6 of the little posts that are common on 3D printed items.  I painted these with a brush before removing the wheel stop from the posts.  There is a little channel at the bottom where the wheel stops meet the posts so care was taken not to damage the channel.

After cutting the posts off with a spue cutter, I filed smooth any nubs left on the edges of the channel.  Installing these just took a small drop of super glue on the rail and then the channel fit right over the rail.

These wheel stops have been installed at the ends of 6 out of the 9 spur tracks on my layout.  The other 3 have some end of track bumpers that I scratch built from brass

Sunday, October 30, 2022

What's in Lovelock ?

From my study of the line I am modeling I know the local that went west from Carlin Yard was called the Lovelock local.  Lovelock is another small community along Interstate 80 between Winnemucca and Sparks.  Recently I got to thinking for the Local to be named that it must go all the way to Lovelock and there must be some sort of industries there.  So checking on Googlemaps I found out that just east of Lovelock there is one major rail served industry called EP Minerals.

EP Minerals appears to be processing center and truck to rail transfer site.  In the satellite view I can see as many as 14 covered hopper rail cars and at least one open hopper tractor trailer.  Some further internet research discovered the product processed there is something called Diatomaceous Earth.  This is used in many products and processes including filtration, paints, rubber, and dynamite.

The western end of this layout is at Winnemucca so Lovelock is well outside the modeled area.  However when I run my version of the Lovelock local I run it back to the staging yard.  So, I got to thinking why not simulate the industry there in the staging yard.  That would add to the interchange traffic between the local and the manifest freights in Carlin.

I have a number of Southern Pacific covered hoppers that could be appropriate for this industry.  Most of these are Delaware Valley cylindrical covered hoppers that I have had for almost 30 years. So I made car cards for all of these and made a car holder for the siding in the staging yard that will represent this industry.

For the waybills I decided to focus on the paint industry for now and found a few paint factories around the US.  Again on Googlemaps I was able to verify the presence of covered hopper rail cars at 3 different paint factories and made waybills with these industries being the customer.

Saturday, October 22, 2022

The Carlin foot bridge - part 2

Way back in May I had started a model of the foot bridge over Carlin Yard.  The link to that post is HERE.  I finally got back to this project recently.  I ended up using Plastruct railings for the bridge and a left over support from the Walthers Glacier Gravel kit was used as mid span support.  The prototype has more than one so I will want to add another whenever can I find another similar support.

The entire bridge was airbrushed a flat black color and a little dry brush weathering was applied.  Side walks were added to the bottoms of each stairway.

The areas of the stairway bases that were not painted concrete color got some scenery applied to match the scenery in the surrounding area.

Monday, October 10, 2022

Fall 2022 layout update

This month marks the 8th anniversary of the layout.  A lot has been completed over that time but still plenty more to do.  Over this past year or so most of the attention has been on the 11+ feet of Carlin over two bench work sections.  I have also been operating the layout and developing an operating scheme using car cards and waybills.  Recently I have added car card holders to all of the spurs as well as for the arrival / departure track in Carlin yard.

The scenery is continuing with the back edge of the Carlin section has being finished and blended in with the back drop shown in the photo below.  The area around the river between Carlin and the Palisade tunnels is in progress now.

With all of the track work in Carlin now done, next will come finishing industries, structures, and adding details.   Recently I added some 3D printed wheel stops to the ends of all of the spur tracks in Carlin.


Sunday, September 11, 2022

Home made uncoupling tool

This is another post in what seems unintentionally to be a series of "home made" posts.  As I work with the layout these things just come to me.  In this one I will show how I made an uncoupling tool from scraps of styrene.

Over the years I have purchased a few packages of the RIX uncoupling tool.  They come two to the package and do the job.  The tips are a bit fragile and I have broken several off.  I was down to my last one and about to buy another package when it occurred to me that I might be able to make something similar and perhaps sturdier. 

Shown below is one of the ones I built next to my last RIX tool.

Here is a list of the materials used:

  • Evergreen 214  (.125" OD rod) 
  • Evergreen 226  (.131" ID / .197 OD tube)

One end of the rod was shaped into a flat point with sandpaper.  A short section of tube was glued to the rod to act as a stopper when the tool was placed in a holder and a larger section was glued to the other end of the rod to be a handle.  I also make holders for the uncoupling tools from the same size tube.  These are simply glued into position with E6000 adhesive.


Saturday, September 3, 2022

Home made car card holders

As the Carlin section with it's small division point yard is now part of the layout, I have become more interested on operations.  In a previous post I explained how I made up car cards and waybills for the industries at Battle Mountain.  At that time I was just clipping them to the lighting valance above the location of a particular industry.


With the Carlin Yard being operational I was ready to take the next step and arrange the cards into holders along the fascia near each industry. Also I wanted to have card holders that represent the arrival / departure track in Carlin.

There are some nice car card holders available on line but I decided to make my own with plastic materials I already had on hand.  I had this old control panel that I had made almost 30 years ago for a friend's large layout.  When he moved into a retirement home and tore the layout down about 20 years ago he gave the panel back to me and I have been salvaging things from it ever since.  The panel is made from a 1/4 inch plastic material that is really nice to work with.  With all the holes from switches and LED's there's not much in the way any large areas left.  But cutting it into strips gave me the material I needed to make the side and bottom walls of the car card holders.

The front and back of each holder is made from .030 Evergreen styrene.  The strips are glued onto them using ZAP super glue on edge which is 1/4 inch.  By cutting the strips in several different widths, the depths of the car card holder could be sized for the expected amount of cards it will be required to hold.  For example, a track that can only hold 2 cars gets a 1/4 inch deep holder.

After evening up the edges and rounding the bottom corner with a belt sander, the holders were painted with Krylon smoke gray spray paint to match the color of the fascia before being glued in place using E6000 adhesive. 

Monday, August 29, 2022

Home made mini track level tool

This is a small level that I keep in my train show tool box to check the front to back level on modules during set up and also on the home layout. There is usually room to place this across the tracks but sometimes there is not.

One day the frame fell apart and I could see that the individual bubbles could be removed.  The 45 degree bubble served no purpose in my application so I removed it to make a special tool.

Attaching a small strip of styrene to this with adhesive keeps it from rolling.  Now this can be placed across the rails anywhere along the line to check for level even in those places where the spaces is tight.