Friday 27 November 2020

RF16 Shark sound install

 Ah the burble of a Baldwin

I have been planning the install of a sound decoder into the ER Models RF16 Shark for some time. I have been following a number of threads on "The RailWire" for a while and found some suggestions as to speaker enclosures and small mobile phone speakers that work well on the Loksound Micro v5.

Once all the parts arrived and with a little down time I set about the install of the speaker and sound decoder into the RF16.

As the ER Models RF16 has a reasonably solid frame, there was a little bit of milling to be done in order for fit the parts near the rear of the loco.

As the loco comes with rapido couplers and I always run the loco with its sister RF16, I cut the front coupler box from the bogie and installed a body mount medium shank microtrains coupler. At the back of the loco, I replaced the rapido coupler with a medium shank unimate on one of the pair and a short shank unimate on the other loco to get a reasonable gap between them.

Here are a few progress pictures and a short video.

The audio from the phone is not as good as the loco sounds on the layout but gives you an idea. 
The burble of the Baldwin sounds great!...

Saturday 24 October 2020

GHQ Dozer build

 Hmm.. Missing parts.

Today, while procrastinating about developing a schedule and the card packs for the layout I came across a GHQ Bulldozer kit that I purchased many years ago and decided to build it.

All was going swimmingly well until I found that I was missing the main front blade and arms from the dozer. After a careful search of the area where I cut over the blister pack, the part, the is probably the biggest part of the whole kit is missing.. Darn it!.

I continued to build the the dozer with the parts I have and have contacted GHQ to see if a part can be sent. If not, then the dozer can be placed on a well car or flat car and be a load (once painted).

Now back to those car card packs.

Friday 23 October 2020

Raspberry Pi - For JMRI

No not a a Raspberry Pie (the type you like to eat).

Have been watching with a keen interest the progress of the Raspberry Pi mini computer.

The Raspberry Pi is a PC on a board that are about $100. The idea is that they are small, simple, solid state and are used for what ever project you can come up with. The Raspberry Pi 4 fits into the palm of your hand and is about as powerful as your average size Laptop these days. Has 4 USB ports, built in WiFi, a wired network port, 2 x HDMI ports etc etc. Is runs a version of Linux called Raspbian. All totally Free..

I had watched a few tutorials on setting one up to run JMRI and had been sitting on the fence for a while as I had a old Laptop that I was using to run Panel Pro on the layout. The issue with the laptop is that it takes a while to start, does not have a battery and was a general pain in the neck. I found a cheap, used Raspberry Pi 4B 4Gb on ebay so thought why not.. Lets have a crack at this.

The guys at JMRI have set up a image for the Pi so that it can just be copied to a SD card for the Pi and it will auto detect the DCC system and connection to the Loconet. Too easy I thought..... and it was..

I have now got the Pi running on the layout in a way so that it does not have a screen, it boots up when the layout power is turned on as I walk in the room. The Pi then auto starts JMRI and the Panel for the layout and then runs the layout initialisation routine to set all the turnouts to a known state for the signals to work.

It is best to shutdown the the Raspberry Pi rather than just killing the power, so I have set up a turnout number that I can operate from the throttle so that it runs the shutdown routine for the Pi. Once done I can then kill the power to the layout. 

As an alternative, I also have an old iPad in the room that connects to the JMRI web server (that auto starts when the Pi starts). I have a panel that has some basic functions on it (per below) so I can enable the staging auto reverse set up so that I can just set a train running and JMRI will set for the selected clear track and then detect when the train is in the loop and auto throw the turnout so that the train can exit safely. It then waits for the train to clear the staging turnouts and a few extra blocks and then rests.

The panel also has a switch on it to shutdown the Pi so that I dont need to use the throttle. All rather nifty.. So now I can do away with the laptop and only drag it out when I need to program a loco.

The Pi has USB ports so that a keyboard, mouse and monitor can be installed if needed, but I can just remote control to it from my laptop or the iPad if needed. So no screen or keyboard is required in the RR Room.

All rather nifty really. That was a nice distraction from buildings. Now back to the buildings.

Saturday 10 October 2020

Fairhaven Glass and power station

More buildings completed

Over the last week or so I have been working on the buildings in Fairhaven.

The town of Fairhaven is dominated by the large glass factory. It also has a power station, pipe unloading facility and a Ball Metal containers. Ball metal containers was built a few months ago and I have been thinking about how to do the modern (that's modern 1970's style) glass factory. 

I finally got around to getting stuck in. After some research into glass manufacturing, I realised that the main commodity inbound is sand and the track I had allocated for the delivery was not very big. I also have a power plant that is more for town power as opposed to the glass facility. I then decided to swap the locations of the sand unloading and the coal unloading to enable more sand cars to be spotted. 

I adapted / changed / shortened a few existing buildings I picked up from Barry and John Fahey and built the power station and sand silo facility. 

The other function of the glass factory is to hide the track that is behind it that comes up from South staging. I made the buildings so that they can be picked up and moved, just in case of an issue or for track cleaning etc.

Here are the buildings about 80% complete as I need to add windows, paint and weather etc.

Most buildings with get a heap of roof details etc.

Here is an overall view of Fairhaven.

This is the sand unloading facility

This is the sodium and recycled glass unloading dock and main part of the factory

Here is the box car loading facility for completed glass products.

Main office building and the power station

Coal unloading facility attached to the power station.

I also completed the unloading dock and cover for the large power station in Plattsburgh.

The roof on the power plant is yet to be completed due to a shortage of materials. More is on order.

Will now do some running to test out the unloading and loading facilities.

Sunday 27 September 2020

Road bridges and a culvert

More bridge work.

I have long been looking at ways to cover tunel portholes on the layout or places where trains enter and exit the main layout. I have been lucky enough to obtain a few road bridges from friends fallen flag layouts over the last few years and have been storing them up.

This weekend I spent a bit of time cutting and modifying them to fit places where I wanted to cover holes in backdrops etc.

First up a bridge on the south side of Cooperville. There is a corner location and I did not put in a curved backdrop. So a bridge at a 45 degree angle should do the trick over the TOFC interchange. I think this one came from John Fahey

Next up I wanted to cover the access to the north creek branch where there is a train usually staged.

Again, I cut a bridge given to me to fit the space. I think this one came from John Fahey

Next up a bridge over the middle of Port Henry. Not prototypical  for the location but wanted to break up the scene a bit. This one cant from Barry Davies. I have set this one back a little bit to stop it from being knocked by operators.

Then a bridge over the North bound main line as the train enters the 1 turn helix. I cut up 1 long bridge to make this one and the next one. This one is from John Fahey.

Then I used a small part of the previous bridge to make this short scenery block.

This is the 1 turn helix heading south to Port Henry.

Then lastly a small culvert is placed on the North End of Fairhaven.

Lots of bridge work both road and rail this weekend. I have found I need more cars.. So need to see what I can find.

Saturday 26 September 2020

More Bridges

Mainline between Cooperville and North Staging

Since the bridge install at Cooperville, I have been planning and kit bashing a few bridges to be installed on the main line between Cooperville and North staging.

The first bridge is an Atlas code 55 truss bridge with a ME 40ft girder extension. I think this bridge was given to me by Barry Davies and came off the now fallen flag Thompson River Canyon built by Rod and Vic.

The second bridge is a new Atlas code 55 truss bridge un modified.

The third bridge is a combination of a ME 80ft girder bridge span, a Kato truss bridge turned upside down and modified and then a ME  40ft girder bridge span.

All bridges have been air brushed with anthracite grey and then with a light dusting of burnt umber. The track and ties have been painted with my usual olive drab colour. With this track I used a micro brush.

The supports are kit bashed from an Atlas stone arch bridge.The supports are the same colour as the bridges (for now). More weathering to come on those. They are all easily removed at this point in time.

I think this makes a large difference to the look of the upper level. I have also reduced the height of the front fascia and the foam to give a better view of the trains.

I'm not 100% complete on the height of the foam base along the back of the track as I want it to look like the part of the line that runs along the edge of Lake Champlain in up state New York. So more thinking to be done there.

With the hot wire cutter in my hand, I decided that the large mountain on the single turn helix between Port Henry and Plattsburgh needed to be reduced in height and cut out the vertical groves. Here is the update to that scene.

 Stay tuned for the next update.

Sunday 13 September 2020

Cooperville Bridge install

 Time to make some cuts

I have been thinking about and planning to install some bridges along the top deck of the layout for some time. The old saying of measure twice cut once also blended into procrastination for some time.

Today I took the plunge and am happy with the result.

I used a 2 track Atlas code 55 girder bridge. As the track levels are slightly different in this area due to the main line being 2 mm higher than the loop track, I had to slightly modify the bridge to enable the difference in height. The mod was fairly simple and it all clicked back together.

I also cut some height off the front fascia and also pruned the foam that sits between the fascia and the track. I also was not that happy with the finish on the foam at the back of the main line. So cut that down also.

I need to get some 3mm MDF to place under the bridge to form the river bed. As we are in lockdown (end of week 7) in Melbourne, I will wait until I can go to Bunnings to get some. I could click and collect, but it s not that urgent.

Here are a few progress shots.

Now to get the brown paint out on the foam.

Now this is done, I will move further along the top deck towards North Staging that is effectively around lake Champlain to add some more bridges.

Stay tuned.

Saturday 12 September 2020

Tour of the layout from a cab level point of view

 Cab rides, well kind of..

I have been messing around with the idea of getting a small camera to put on a flat car.  found a cheap one on ebay and pulled the trigger. The results are not up to GoPro standards but still ok and gives the viewer a feel for the layout.

The signal aspects are a little hard to see from the camera. 

Here is a video from south staging to North staging.

Here is the view from North staging to South staging.

Now starting to plan where to place bridges on the upper level.

Sunday 30 August 2020

Final Signal Install

 Signal Planting Complete

The install of the 46 signals is now complete with the last units being installed in Port Henry and Plattsburgh. The next step is to complete more testing. I think I have ironed out most issues, but with trains on the layout and "real world" testing,  I may find a few things I have missed. I know the dwarfs in Port Henry and Plattsburgh not exactly work the way I had planned but will now test and see.

Plattsburgh entering from the South.

Plattsburgh departing from the South.

Plattsburgh Entering from the North

Port Henry


After installing the signals I set up a newly acquired cheap camera to do a trip around the layout on a flat car. I am having a few teething issues with the camera as it stops recording after about 2 minutes so will do more testing. The instructions for the camera while in english are very poor as the interpreter they employed in China at the manufacture was not very good at English. What can I expect for $20 for a ebay special 1080p camera that measures 2.5cm square. 

During the camera run I discovered that the signals in Whtehall were not working. After some investigation I found that the TC64 was not receiving the messages from the loconet. I reached out to Dick at RR-Cirkits for some support. Even though the TC64 is about 13 years old, the support from Dick is great. Currently working through the issue. As postage back to the US is expensive and takes a very long time, Dick has offered to guide me through the repair that I will undertake to complete myself. As all the components on the board are surface mount, things will get interesting, however, Im confident I can complete the repair.

More to come...