Saturday, July 6, 2024

Rooftop details for houses

Depending on the layout height, the roofs of model buildings are often more noticeable than they are in real life.  In a recent post, I showed how I used some available 3D printed parts to detail the roof of a commercial building.  Link to that post HERE.  The roofs of houses can also have some detail added although they are somewhat more limited and different.  Here are a few things I've recently done to the roof of a single story 3D printed house kit.

If the model has a simulated shingle roof made from plastic, a weathering wash will help bring out the detail.  Even if the rest of the outside of the house is not weathered, the roof should be.  Something that can be added to the roof of a house are plumbing vents.  I made these using .035 styrene rod and glued them into holes of the same size.  In the photo below I decided that all of the plumbing was toward the back of this small house.

By the late 1950's most homes had some sort of television antenna on the roof.  While that is a tiny and you would think very delicate detail to have on an N scale building, a nice sturdy product has been available for over 30 years from Gold Medal Models.  I bought a set like this when they first came out and recently purchased another set as I had used up all 20 antennas over the years.

These antennas have a tiny hole to insert the mast into.  .010 wire works well for a mast and a drop of super glue will bond the antenna and mast.  I placed the antenna on this house next to the chimney as often these antenna masts are mounted with straps to the chimney.   In the photo below the antenna is mounted and the plumbing vents have been painted a dull silver color.  If the house is more modern then the vents can be painted flat black as this pipes are now mostly ABS plastic.

Monday, June 24, 2024

Summer 2024 layout update

We are already almost half way through 2024 and June 20th marked the first day of summer this year so here's a summer layout update.

I have been working on finishing the occupancy indicators for the east end staging and return loop.  Going to be using the last 2 of the 8 channels of the Azatrax MRD8 unit that I never thought I would fill.  With a total of 32 input wires and the small spring type connectors used on the board, I have found it difficult to get a reliable connection for the last few inputs especially when more than 1 wire has to connect to a terminal.  So I have installed a 25 screw terminal strip to make it easier.

I needed some more Azatrax IR sensor pairs for that project and when ordering them I noticed the Azatrax also has a dual track occupancy detectors so I ordered that as well as I am also going to be adding signaling to the upper helix.  I noticed that these have a sensitivity adjustment on the board and am looking forward to seeing how that works.  I'll post more detail on both of these projects as they develop.

And I have been working on finishing another 3D printed house for Carlin.  All three of the houses got a primer coat at the same time last year. This one, the 2nd one recemt;u got a base coat of white and I am now working on hand painting the details.

Thursday, June 13, 2024

Lumber loads for center beam flat cars

There are a number of sources available for lumber loads for flat cars in N Scale.  Something I have not liked about most of them is that the core is made of Styrofoam or soft balsa wood.  The corners tend to get rounded when wrapping the paper covering over them which to me ruins the effect.  Back 20 or more years ago I decided to make my own wrapped lumber loads for the few of these type of cars that I had.  I used actual wood for the core, cut and sanded carefully to retain the sharp edges and corners.  A photo of one of my Red Caboose 72 foot cars with one of these loads is shown below.

Of course the disadvantage of using wood as the core is the weight.  Since I only had 3 of these cars it did not matter too much but recently I acquired several more center beams and now also have a number of bulkhead flats that I would like to have loads for.  So with a goal of creating a lightweight core for these loads I purchased some Evergreen styrene square and rectangle tubing.  They were cut to length to fit inside the bulkheads of the Micro-Trains 60ft center beam flat car.  This combination measures just over 8 scale feet tall.

To make these loads easily removable but secure when installed, I used of some small 6mm x 3mm magnets in the middle inside the rectangular tube.  I marked the center of the rectangular tube and also marked a rod to measure the distance between the edge of the tube and where the magnet should be inside the tube.  The magnets are oriented so that for each pair of loads the magnets will pull them together through the center beam.

The magnet is positioned inside the tube with the aid of the rod then another magnet is placed on the outside to hold it in place.  Then the rod is removed and some adhesive is added inside the tube to hold the magnet.  The magnets are place in the proper polarity so that they will pull together once placed on the rail car. 

Stick lumber such as 2 x 4, 2 x 6, etc. is packaged in plastic wrap and arranged so that the package is close to 4 feet across.  Of course a stack of any 4 x 8 sheet material would also be 4 feet across.   The .250 inch width of the styrene tube was just under 4 feet so a sheet of .020 thick styrene was attached to each side to make up the difference.

I make the graphics for the wraps using Microsoft Visio.  Some experimenting was done to get just the right size.  The graphics for many lumber products can be found on the internet and added to the design.  I use Avery stick glue to attach the wrap to the styrene tube.

The weight of a pair of finished loads for the 60ft car is 14 grams.  Much of that weight is in the magnets so if weight is a primary concern the magnets could be left out and the loads could be mounted with adhesive as is normally done.

The magnets in the pair of loads hold the loads in place against each other through the center beam but can easily be removed to allow for empty running.  This will work with either open or opera window type center beams.


Friday, May 17, 2024

The Overland Hotel

The building that hides the speaker for the Carlin yard switcher sound is now finished.  This was a Design Preservations Models - Hayes Hardware kit.  The building itself was not modified as it fit nicely into the space I had for it.  

The theme of this building is that of an older hotel which has seen it's better days pass when the interstate highway was built.  It has been refurbished and has had a large neon sign installed on the roof that can been seen from the interstate highway in the hope of attracting business.

I had recently purchased a 3D printed set of 180 roof top details and used 9 of those on the roof of this building.  The animated sign if from Miller Engineering with the support structure being scratch built from styrene.  

The electronics for the sign clip into a plastic cap from a prescription bottle which is glued under the roof of the building.  The power wires for this go down through a hole in the bench work and are connected to a voltage regulator from Miller Engineer specifically for these signs.  The wires for the speaker also go through the same hole.

Thursday, May 9, 2024

DCC Sound my way - Part 2

After doing a bunch of experimenting with DCC sound over several years I had decided that instead of installing sound decoders in my N scale locomotives I would use just a few as stationary sound decoders in choice locations addressed to the locomotive working in that area.

To start with, I wanted to have the sound for the yard switcher in Carlin yard.  One of the small speakers was placed inside of one of the buildings across the street from the yard about in the middle.  It was glued down to the base as shown here.

The building that will go here is a Design Preservation Models Hayes Hardware kit shown here half finished.  It will be a hotel when it's finished.  Look for a future post on that project. 

Because I sometimes change locomotives assigned to the Carlin yard, I would need to be able to program the sound decoder to an address matching the address of the locomotive.  I installed this control panel on the fascia which allows for this.  Thinking ahead, I also included control for the road switcher assigned to the Carlin yard as that will be a future step.  A cable for the programming output was run around the layout from the command station to this panel.

The Digitrax SFX0416 decoder is quite small and was placed within the bench work behind the control panel.  It is pointed out with a red arrow in the photo below.

Saturday, April 27, 2024

DCC sound my way - Part 1

While I have DCC decoders installed in nearly all my locomotives only 1 has a sound decoder.  It's this Atlas SD7 which has an early MRC sound decoder.  The frame was milled to be able to get the speaker in.  Something I really did not like was how with any brief interruption of pickup from the track, the sound would cut out then start up again, plus the sound quality was not very good with the tiny speaker.  So this loco ended up sitting on a siding with it's idling sound running.  

At some point the technology of electrical capacitors developed into what are called a "super capacitor" which has a large amount of capacitance in a small size.  Adding such circuits to a DCC sound decoder installation eliminates this problem of the sound cutting out but it's still a challenge in N scale to find room for decoder, a speaker, and a super capacitor circuit.

For my next attempt at DCC sound, I chose to build a sound car.  This was built around an Atlas covered hopper car and used a Soundtraxx decoder and a "keep alive" super capacitor circuit from Train Control Systems.   Here is a LINK to a short Youtube video demonstrating this project.  And here is another LINK to this project on my DCC blog.

I ran this sound car as the first car behind the power after programming it to the same DCC address as the locomotive consists.  Sometimes when switching cars at either Battle Mountain or Carlin, I would park this car on a siding and with the address again programmed to match the locomotive doing the switching. This car worked well in both of these applications but the sound quality still left something to be desired.  An unexpected take away from the experience with this sound car was that I realized I got the most enjoyment from the locomotive sound when I was doing switching.

When I installed the grade crossing signals in Carlin, I used an 8 ohm, 3 was speaker that I found on Amazon for about $6.00 and was small enough to fit into a house that was next to the grade crossing.  Here is a LINK to the post I made on that project.  I really liked the sound quality from this speaker.

About the time I had bought the Soundtraxx decoder I had also purchased a Digitrax SFX0416 sound only decoder with the idea to build a sound dummy locomotive with a Kato SD40.  I never got around to this project but one day was wondering if this decoder could drive one of the 3 watt speakers and how that would sound.   The decoder was able to drive this speaker and sounded better than anything I've heard from a speaker in an N Scale locomotive.  So it was decided that I would use this sound decoder and this speaker as a stationary setup to add sound to the Carlin yard switcher.  The next post will cover the details of how I did that.

Saturday, April 20, 2024

Glitter Gulch moves to Carlin

Over 5 years ago I modeled a roadside casino in Winnemucca.  It was made from a kit bashed building kit and included a Miller Engineering animated sign.  Here is a photo from that post in February 2019.

Problem with that scene was that it is in an out of the way location and the sign was not very visible to operators and visitors to the layout.  My version of downtown Carlin is somewhat freelanced but based on some buildings that had been there at one time.  I decided that one building would be a casino and moved the sign to this new building.

The building is a Design Preservation Crestone Credit Union kit.  A hole was cut into the roof of the building and a scratch built rooftop structure was added for the electronics that run the sign.  The Miller Engineering sign was mounted on the front of the building over the center 2 second floor windows.

The sign's electronics were mounted to the inside of the roof of the rooftop structure.  The switch on the circuit board sticks out  of an opening on the back so is accessible to turn the sign on or off.

For now the ground floor is empty but the building and it's base are removable so in the future I plan to add lighting and details to the interior.

Saturday, April 13, 2024

Spring 2024 layout update

After a long wet winter, spring is finally here.

Some of the layout projects that I've been working on have been presented here as posts of their own but here are a few other things I have been doing.

Finally finishing the GHQ crane kit for the scrap yard in January motivated me to add some final touches to the scrap yard and call it finished,  One of my friends from the Ntrak club I belong to sent me a weathered Golden West gondola to add to my fleet of cars that will service this industry.

After finishing the messy scenery work on the east end of Carlin, I gave the layout a good cleaning and have been returning to operations.  Some additional covered hoppers were purchased for the Halliburton barite processing plant in Battle Mountain including a pair of the new Micro-Trains PS2 models.

Additional car cards for these new cars and more freight waybills for the industries that have been recently added to the layout.

We have already had a couple of Ntrak layouts this year and I had modules in both of them.  The most recent one was at an air museum and included the AsiaNrail extension.  This layout was set up for 4 days. 

And I have been continuing to work on structures in Carlin and will be posting on some of that work individually in the near future.

Sunday, March 31, 2024

A microwave communications tower

The Southern Pacific Railroad was an early adopter of the use of Microwave communications in it's operations.  During my modeled eras this would have been in use with microwave relays on many mountain tops along the line and towers at important stations.  I wanted to include this on my layout and decided that the operations center at Carlin yard would be an ideal place to start.

To make the microwave antennas I punched a bunch of disks from .020 thick styrene scraps.  Then stacked them together until I got the thickness I wanted.

For the tower itself I had originally planned to use the kit from BLMA but those are no longer available. Then I remembered I had an old Miniatronics light tower from a past layout that had burned out lights and one of the shades missing so I used it.  This tower is about 40 scale feet tall.  The existing plug in structure on the bottom was used to secure the tower to a styrene tile base.

The tower actually looked better with the lights removed as the wires filled the inside and now the tower in more see through.  The middle two vertical supports at the top of the tower were cut off. The disk stacks got a .035 hole drilled into one side and a .035 styrene rod cemented into that hole.  That rod fit nicely into the existing holes on the remaining outer vertical supports and that is how the disks were mounted to the tower.  A small equipment cabin was scratch built out of styrene and glued to the base next to the tower.

Here is what the assembly looked like after a bit of painting and weathering.  I also added a radio antenna on the top of the tower.  This would be for the VHF radio communications between the operations center and road crews and MOW crews.  For antennas like this I use cat whiskers.  We have 4 cats and every once in a while, I find a fallen whisker on the floor while cleaning house.

And here is the Microwave relay tower installed on the layout next to the operations center building in Carlin.  I scraped away a bit of scenery and glued the tower base in place.  When the glue had dried, I touched up the scenery around the tower base. 

This was another one of those little scratch building projects where everything came from the scrap box that I enjoy doing.