Saturday, May 30, 2020

Adding tail lights to the Amtrak Superliner

I wanted to add working tail lights to the last car on my Amtrak California Zephyr train like the ones in this prototype photo.

So I decided to make my own working tail lights on one of my Amtrak sleeper cars.

The stock lenses are solid red plastic so I replaced them with my own made from .040 fiber optic.  I mushroomed one end by holding it close to my soldering iron.  This helps the fiber optic capture more light.  After cutting to the right length, the cut end was sanded smooth.

The openings left by removing the stock red plastic lenses needed to be slightly enlarged to fit the new fiber optic lenses.  Then the fiber optic lenses were installed from the inside.

Using some small LED's from one of my boards, First I tried to paint them red but when gluing them in place the red paint dissolved so I made filters from disks punched from a sheet of .010 red translucent polystyrene sheet.
A simple circuit of bridge rectifier, 5 volt voltage regulator, and super capacitor are attached to the bottom of the upper deck with E6000 adhesive.

Some of the interior walls had to be notched or removed from the floor section for the circuit to fit. 
So that the circuit components would not show through the lower windows, those windows were painted a gunmetal color from the inside giving them the look of being darkly tinted.

Once the windows and upper deck were re-installed the circuit was tested for a couple hours to make sure the components would get hot.  They don't even get warm because the current used is very small.

And this is the result was looking for.

Because DCC power is always on the track, the LED are always lighted.  And with the super capacitor in the circuit acting like a "keep alive" circuit they don't flicker with interruptions of contact and will even stay on for several seconds when the car is removed from the track.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

First working signals on the layout

I have always enjoyed railroad signals on a layout but have also found them to be one of the more challenging things to accomplish correctly.  In the past either on modules or on friend's layouts I have installed a few signals that were animated with either a connection to a turnout or a detection and timer type circuit.  This time I wanted to try some actual occupancy and the helix seemed to be in need as I had a couple of occasions recently where I have lost awareness of which track in the helix a train was on.

For detection I was thinking of using the occupancy outputs on the PSX-1's but found that they would not drive my low current relays so I instead used NCE DB20 block detectors.  Check this recent post to see how these work.   These were mounted under the helix.

Where the lower yard goes into the helix this is the searchlight signal that indicates occupancy on the inner loop of the helix.

The pole and mounting bracket were made from brass, then a #6 washer was used for the target and the hood was made from polystyrene tube.  The LED is bi-color and 3 mm size.  Magnet wire was run down the brass tube pole.

Where the upper yard enters the helix I made the same type of searchlight but without the pole.  Instead it was attached to a bracket that was mounted to the side wall of the helix.

This signal indicates occupancy on the outer loop of the helix.
Both signals are mounted near where the gap is between the helix PSX-1's and the yard PSX-AR's.

Here the signal has turned red as the train has crossed into the helix.  In the case of this Amtrak train the entire train must clear the helix because of the wheel contacts on the Kato passenger cars.

These signals would be close to O scale in size but since they are in the staging yard that is not an issue and it has given me a chance to get into some signaling.  The next step will be to buy or make some signals closer to N scale for the top of the helix.  

Monday, May 18, 2020

N Scale roots - cast resin vehicles

There was a time when very few mass produced motor vehicles were offered in N Scale and most of those were models of European prototypes.  Because of the small size, cast resin vehicle models were practical and several smaller manufacturers developed cast resin kits for the N Scale market.  I had purchased and built my share of these in the 1990's.

As time went on some great ready to run plastic and metal N Scale vehicles became available and my box of yet to be finished cast resin kits got neglected.  Every one in a while I get the itch to pull one or more of those old kits out and finish them.     Recently I finished two more kits to create some trucks I wanted for the layout.

I chose this Lineside Models cast resin kit to make a Western Pacific Maintenance of Way truck.  In the past I have had some problem with wheels coming off when just attached with adhesive so I made axles for these which should give them a bit more support.  I used the metal front wheels that came with the kit and some cast resin wheels I had for the rear.
The yellow I painted this model with was not much different than the raw casting.  The windshield and window were painted gunmetal, the tires weathered black and the hubs engine black.  The Western Pacific decals were from and the license plates from Microscale.
As even in my earliest layout era this early 1960's model would have been in service for quite a few years it got a good amount of weathering.  From my details bin I found a barrel and a stack of ties and then glued together a stack of scrap code 55 rail for a load.
The second vehicle project was using the back end of a Cars N Scale fuel truck and mating with with a cab from an Athearn Ford C cab tractor.  This makes the model fit more closely to my earliest layout era plus I like the detail on the Athearn model.  That 54 Mack cab from the resin kit is great too and I'll use it somewhere, someday.

So here is the finished fuel truck that will serve the diesel distributor in the 70's - 82 era.   I am working on some other trucks that better fit different layout eras but I won't have to use the TomyTec model of an Isuzu milk truck as a stand in anymore.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

The latest in track cleaning

Recently I came across a YouTube video about using something called NO-OX to clean model railroad track.  After looking at a few more videos and also finding some other references to it on the internet I decided that I wanted to give it a try.   Turns out that this has been around for years and I was quite surprised that I had not heard of it before.

Shopping for NO-OX I found that it is used in a wide range of applications to prevent corrosion and to promote electrical conductivity.   

I ended up buying this 8 ounce tube on ebay.  Considering the tiny amounts used to clean track and how long the effects of an application are supposed to last this tube may last me for a very long time.
Because this is a paste like substance I was concerned about loose ballast getting stuck to it so want to keep the application very thin.  The way I applied the NO-OX was to smear a thin layer onto the pads of my Woodland Scenics track cleaning tool.   Did not press hard, just slid it around the track.

I still use my Aztec track cleaning cars with the frabic rollers and my home made Masonite wiper car.  I may also be able to use one of the wiper pads on my Atlas motorized track cleaning car to get into the spur tracks.

It has been about 3 weeks now since I have started using this product and the results have been quite noticeable especially at slow speeds.  The one application 3 weeks ago has not been repeated except for a few areas where I had leaned on the track while working on the layout.