Thursday, January 26, 2023

An automated point to point system

It's been a long time since I've posted here and a long time since there has been a chance to set up and run the AsiaNrail layout.  The last setup we had was at the Narrow Gauge Convention in Sacramento back in the fall of 2019.  During all this time with the pandemic my energy has been directed toward my American Prototype home layout.  But AsiaNrail now does have an exhibit scheduled for April, more on that in a future post.

Having something on the schedule has motivated me to get the modules out and get them ready.  There is one project that I have been thinking about for a long time and thought now would be the time.

The AsiaNrail layout always has several stub end branch lines and often there are not enough operators to have them running along with a continuous running loop.  I thought it would be great to have something that could automatically do a point to point run on one or two of the branch lines.  My experience with the Azatrax IR train detection products on my home layout lead to to try out their point to point controller. 

First step after I got the controller was to try it out on a temporary Unitrack setup.  The control circuit itself is the green circuit board to the left of the track.  I made some temporary holders for the IR sensors from wood scraps.  I had this running two different trains that would alternately go out from one of two spurs, go to the end of the single line and stop for about 10 seconds before returning.  The controller took care of the turnout and also has an adjustable momentum feature built into it. 

Being satisfied with the results of the test setup, I went about making this into a setup that could work on a modular layout.  The Hot Springs Junction module would be the base and would have the IR sensors permanently installed under the tracks next to the station platforms.  In this mode the detection is caused when the IR signal is reflected off the bottom of a train.  The sensors would be behind the platforms at the station so would be almost totally hidden when viewed from the side.  The overhead view below shows these sensors pointed out in green.

The sensors at the remote end will need to be on whatever module is at the end of the run.  I made up a fixture from brass to hold the sensors at the end of a 25 foot long cable.  In this photo it is shown in it's storage box along with other layout electrical hardware.

The controller board was mounted in a plastic box with a clear lid so the indicator LED's could be seen.  This will hang on the leg cross brace under the module.  In this photo the lid has not been installed yet.  Connections to this control box are for power, the remote sensor and the main cable connection to the module.

This small test layout using the Hot Springs Junction module and the two small single track modules was used to further test and experiment with this control system.  Because the turnouts on the Hot Springs Junction module were not wired as power routing, I was not able to make make this setup work the same way as the Unitrack test setup.  In the interest of having something ready for this next show, for now this is going to run just the one train point to point.  Later, when I have more time I will redesign and wire things to use the full function of the controller. 

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Report from the Narrow Gauge Convention

Last week was the 39th annual National Narrow Gauge Convention in Sacramento where we had our biggest yet AsiaNrail layout.  This was a great, well organized convention which included contest room, 2 vendor rooms, many clinics, and of course a large layout room.

In the layout room besides our AsiaNrail layout there were several other really great layouts in several scales, all narrow gauge.

Just one example is this great scene is from an On30 layout called "Storm King".

One nice feature of this convention was that the layout and vendor rooms were opened from 8:00am to noon and from 6:00pm to 10:00pm.  So everyone got a chance to get out in the afternoons to the California State Railroad museum and to the many home and club layouts that were on a self guided tour.  Our crew visited 9 layouts including 2 garden railways.  While I have seen many G scale modular layouts at shows and a few at botanical gardens, this was the first time I had ever seen one in some ones yard and can see why it has become so popular.

This is an overall view of our layout.  It was a triangle of 2+ meters on each side with Paul's wye module in the foreground feeding long branch and the 4 way junction feeding a pair of short branches.  We set the layout at the 51 inch height.

My new highway module was part of the long branch line.  With the magnets holding the vehicles on the highway I was able to put different vehicles on the highway every day.

Paul has also been working on some new modules.  With this new port module we now have inter-modal operations including a container crane and Kato container trailers.

For this new port module Paul came up with a way to make the water that I had never seen before.  He used obscured acrylic sheet bumpy side up with smooth color sheet on the bottom.

Paul has also been working on a car card traffic system for the layout and built some card boxes with a clever little table that folds out.  Here he is explaining to the crew how the system works.

Sam did not have his new module ready for this show but still made the trip up from the Los Angeles area and brought a nice table top display of items including an old steel herald from the front of a Japanese passenger train.

This was another successful outing for the modules.   I don't get to as many N scale conventions as I would like and after attending this narrow gauge convention I know I will attend others in the future.  It gives me more options to attend an event without too much traveling.  I may even be interested in attending a garden railway convention if it's close by.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Final checks before the convention

It's now down to less than 2 weeks before the 39th Narrow Gauge Convention in Sacramento where we will be running the AsiaNrail layout.  I have now stopped further scenery work on the modules to work on the other things that I need done before then.

All three modules that will be part of the convention layout were put together in my train room in every possible configuration and thoroughly tested both for track and electrical.  I am satisfied that these will work correctly.

As we will be setting this layout up at the 51 inch height, the 40 inch width of the roll of table cloth material we have been using as a skirt will be too short.  So I have cut the roll into 25 48 inch lengths so we can use the longer length vertically and pin them to the bottom edge of the module frames.
From a scrap of plastic I made an alignment tool  by cutting a pair of grooves that match the rails. 

Here the block is shown with the grooves up. 
Here is the block how it is used with the grooves down over the rails while the modules are being clamped together from underneath.

This does seem to help get the track aligned between modules when I was setting up the modules by myself.

And I have been running all of my trains back and forth over the 3 modules which total about 11 feet in length.   No derailments at all anywhere and I ran all of the trains I am bringing to the show.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Details for the Tomix condo building

The Tomix condominium building has lots of potential for adding details and scenes within the building itself or around it.

There are 2 units on each floor with all but the top floor having a balcony.  The top floor are smaller but have a good sized patio area instead of the balcony.

Each unit has planter box.  I suppose the inner wall could be cut away to make the balcony larger but I wanted to try to represent some plants.

I found that some left over beams from a RIX Products bridge kit cut to the correct length fit right into the planter.   The tops of the beams were painted brown and some scenic material added.  Then grass tufts were added to represent some plants.

Here is one of the completed planter box units inserted into a planter box in one of the top floor units.  The patio furniture for comes from Preiser set 79554.

On the other top floor patio I used one of the laundry line parts from an Preiser unpainted figure set that I have had around forever.

In reality a more modern building like this one would likely have a washer and dryer in each unit.

In the raised area at the front corner of the building I added some grass, shrubs, and a Woodland Scenics tree.  Some school children from a Kato set bring some human life to the scene.

There is still much more that can be done with this building but for now I need to stop and get other things ready for the convention layout.

Monday, August 5, 2019

Using Kato DioTown detail parts

Kato offers several sets of street and utility details as part of their DioTown series.  These are primarily meant to model a Japanese scene but many of the pieces fit in just fine on an American prototype layout.

In this scene I am going to use parts from sets 23-213 and 23-215.  Some guardrails from set 23-213 were already used on the highway module.
These are meant to be plugged into specific holes on the DioTown bases but can also be adapted to use anywhere.  This photo shows holes I have drilled in the sidewalk outside the Tomix condo building.

The utility poles are square on bottom where they would plug into the DioTown base.  These can easily be rounded with a file.

Most city utility poles in Japan are steel so I painted these a light gray and added a couple of the optional transformers provided.
So here is some of the fence, a utility pole, and 2 street lights painted up and placed in front of the Tomix Condo building.  Another utility pole was finished and is just to the right out of the photo.

Monday, July 29, 2019

The Tomix condominium building

I have had one of the  Tomix # 4034 condominium buildings on the left end of the module bolted down but left unpainted since 2011.  It was time to finish and and make it something more unique.

This is a really well designed building model and additional kits can be used to make it as short or tall as you want.  It holds together without glue and can be taken apart for painting.
I air brushed the building sections with Testors sand and wrote the color and part number on the inside of the 1st floor in case I want to add more sections later and need to match the color.  All the patio areas and the roof top were painted concrete and the entry doors dark gray.
The base was brush painted with concrete colors on the sidewalks and building foundations. Reefer gray was used for the parking area.  The gate to the parking area came from the Green Max fence set with the lamps added from a TomyTec festival figure set.

The stairs are separate pieces that stack on top of each other and match the walkway on each floor.  These are another well executed part of this model but my only complaint would be that they don't include some sort of cap piece to go on the top of the column.  I went through all my scraps and found something to make my own.  The blue arrow in this photo points out this piece I added.
The top part that is above the elevator shaft got a coat of Testors dark green and the entire building was given a wash with Testors brown weathering wash which helps to bring out the brick detail.

Several sign stickers are included in this kit and I chose to use the one that did not have any English writing.

This model has lots of possibilities for details and I will get into that in the next couple of posts.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Meanwhile on the other side of town

A lot of my efforts on the Musashi-Koyama module set over the past few years have been in the center and right end areas.    It's time to turn some attention to the other end.  Since 2011 I have had a number of buildings on the Musashi-Koyama module set that would be set in place for a show then put away in a box afterward.  I have decided it was time to start mounting these buildings on the module for an easier setup.  Also some of them are rather un-decorated so some painting and detailing would also be in order.

The first building I am going to work on is this one that I picked up for a couple of bucks at a train show years ago.  It is European looking but I thought it could be made to fit in on the module.

This photo shows how I created a way to mount it on the module so it could be removed later.  This view also shows a side where the first floor would make a great spot for a Japanese convenience store but for now I am going to use the other side.

For years I have been mistakenly calling this building the "Faller building" but have now discovered from the writing under the roof that it is actually Vollmer model # 7721.
This is how the building now looks after a bit of touching up.  The advertising poster covers up a scar the original model had.

Some vending machines were made up from some stickers I had from various kits.  I do plan to add quite a few vending machines through the module and will feature that in detail in a future post.