Friday, 15 December 2017

Rebuilding 470Router to suit me

As I have mentioned, I have been working on a software project to complete my Open University degree. This project was named 470Router - 470 after the code for the OU course - TM470 - and Router as it was intended to be used to create freight car routings for my model railroad. Well, I finished the degree (got a 2.2 and was awarded a B.Sc. Hons) and went off to do other things (mostly building some plastic scale model cars - Gentle Scale Modelling).

Now, I am back onto my model railroad I thought that I would review what I was doing for the software now that I wasn't under time pressure and the need to meet the OU module project requirements. It turned out that, although the software worked, it didn't do a very good job of building way freights. This is quite a complex procedure which has to take account of industry requirements in the towns, collecting empties, delivering loads, gathering everything back up and delivering empty cars back to their home roads. The software that I had developed didn't even look at that last element.

I spent a few days pondering over the state of the project and decided that the logic was way too complex. I had to think of a solution and it came to me - Car Cards! What, you say, back to bits of paper? Not quite. What I had in mind was to develop a set of virtual car cards. The basic problem of the existing software was that everything was run off the car and the industry. There was nothing that summarised the situation for any one car shipment. This is what a car card does perfectly. Therefore, I expanded the database to include a set of car cards. They look like this:

carType boxcar
town Sunset
target Creamery
State e
waitTime 2
destination home
id 1
timeOnSite 0
currentCarID PRR:81146

All of the above data is static (doesn't change) except for the currentCarID which records which car, if any, is using that car card currently and the timeOnSite which counts down the holding time at the industry.

Changing to Car Cards meant that I could implement some of the logic for the routing in a simpler way. I no longer had to deduce what was going on by looking at the industry data, the car data, etc. The whole picture could be deduced from the card. Most of the fields are obvious. However, a few need some explanation. The destination being designated as "home" means - refer to the actual car to see where it gets sent after this card is complete. For an NYC box car, this would be Hartford - as this is our nearest access point theNew York Central (although you could argue for Boston, given that the B&A was wholly owned). A Canadian Pacific car could be sent to either Hartford or Boston as both would give access to the CP system. This field can also be used to hold the ID of another card. This provides for a double trip - a reefer goes to the ice house and then, in this field, it gets redirected to a user of a loaded refrigerator car.  We know that the car is currently at the Creamery because there is an entry in the currentCarID. PRR:81146 is a Pennsylvania Railroad boxcar currently being loaded (we know this because the State field is "e" indicating that the car events are started with a delivery of this car, empty to the Creamery).

The timeOnSite field gets set to the wait time on arrival at the Creamery. There is a cycle of trains representing a single day. At the end of this cycle, the timeOnSite fields for each car is reduced by1 until it reaches 0, in which case the car is regarded as ready for collection.

On collection, the car is assessed for its next move. I, currently,  make no provision for multiple destinations. Loaded cars are collected by the next way freight and shipped in the direction of the train. Hence, loaded cars can go to Hartford or Boston depending on the route of the freight train. Empty cars are assessed against their "home" designation. All SNE (home road cars) are placed in the Sunset yard for further allocation. All other empty cars are shipped to their "home" as described above.

So far, this is meeting my needs. I accept that there is much more that I can do with this but, having spent a lot of time on this, I want to run some trains before hitting the keyboard again.

Friday, 13 October 2017

Building JMRI Routes

As I now have a system for car routing and train management, I need to move on and get JMRI working for control of the track. Ideally, I would like have JMRI controlling all of the points and then, as I have a defined set of trains, a route set up for each of those trains.
First step is to layout the track on JMRI and hook it up to the Digitrax system. I have a Digitrax Evolution wireless set up with a Digitrax PR3 connecting it to my iMac. As the run is a quite long, I have a powered USB cable connecting the PR3 to the iMac, which is on the other side of the room.

This video gives a good idea of the layout (sorry that it is a bit out of focus but you can see the essentials).

I have laid out the track in JMRI and allocated Digitrax IDs to all of the switches. The PanelPro panel looks like this:

(Suggestions on making this prettier would be appreciated).

As part of my 470 Router project, I have a defined set of routes to which trains are allocated. This is the 470 Router output for those routes (still work in progress so needs prettying up).

I went through each of these routes and built a JMRI route for each one. As it happens, NH1 (a Budd RDC that shuttles between Hartford and Boston) has the same route as BMP2 (which is a B&M passenger train that does the same trip) so I only had to define eight routes through.  There are 20 trains in the schedule for a single day and each of them has one or other of these routes.

Remembering that I can't stand up for too long so operate by wheeling an office chair around the railroad room, this saves me having to check that everything is set up for each train. When I am doing switching, it doesn't matter if the Boston bound freight is switching in the middle of the run or I am just preparing the next S&NE way freight. As soon as a train has to move around the layout, I can reset the route and know that I haven't missed anything.

Monday, 9 October 2017

Major reconstruction on the staging

Having finished with the routing software, I found that single line staging at both ends, although it seemed to be OK, wasn't going to work. I decided to make both staging to be double track. This involved the following:

  1. Purchasing 2 new switches
  2. Purchasing 2 extra switch motors
  3. Taking down the old track
  4. Replacing the top layer of the boards with wider panels
  5. Relaying the track.
  6. Fitting the new switches
  7. Fitting the new switch motors
  8. Wiring up the switch and the indicator LEDs
My chosen switch motors are DCC Concepts Cobalt IP which I find work perfectly for me - plus they have route/frog switching built in.

Boston Staging

OK, so the first step was to take down what is known as the Boston Staging. This runs across the front of my scale model display cabinets so this has to be removable. I have had some trouble with the stability of this and even more trouble with the rail join across the gap, so something better had to be done.

First off, the staging needed to be lengthened as it was always going to be more stable when connected to the shelving unit beyond rather than stopping someway short. The base for the staging is a box girder made from 5mm foam core. I have a special foam core cutter that cuts a V-shaped channel which enables me to fold the material up and make a box girder.

I lengthened the box, fitted some foam core to sit the free end on the shelving unit and covered the top with a wider board so that I could now get two tracks along it.

The next step was to lay the track. Now, there is a problem fitting a switch onto the box girder - the switch motor hangs down (of course) but I can't get into the box to fit it or to wire it up. I have faced this problem before when having a switch motor issue on the normal layout part - again the base is foam core and I can't lift the layout to get underneath. What I do is make the switch and the motor into a single unit and wire the motor up from the switch rails. This way, if needed, I can lift the switch out at any time to work on the underneath. All I need to do is to pull the rail joiners back and free the switch. Here, you can see it in the process of being created.

The hole in the girder is large enough to take the switch motor. However, there was a problem when first installed - the switch is an "electro frog" and thus has insulated rail joiners attached. You can't slide these back so I had to increase the size of the hole to enable the switch to be slid backwards to free them up. Remember that this is on staging so the gaping hole doesn't matter.

the next task was to fit the indicator LED. The DCC Concepts motor has a built in connection for managing the polarity of the frog. This connection can be taken off and used to drive LEDs. I like to fit bi-coloured LEDS - red and green. Normally, these would be run out to a display panel such as this one:

Lights-on is a bit overwhelming but you can see how it works.

As it is, I will just place the single LED at one end of the staging. I have problems walking for any length of time so I spend my railroad time wheeling about on an office chair so using these display panels avoids me having stand up to check the switch settings.

I made up a little circuit board for the LED as follows:

Here it all is, ready to go:

The last thing to do was to fit a clip so that the right hand end couldn't come detached from the main railroad board. I have used foam core clips for these when putting the railroad together but these would normally be temporary. This needed to be more robust to hold firmly and be able to be taken off and put back on. The only suitable material that I had handy was a sheet of PCB. Here is the way that that works (and you can see the LED indicator in place as well):

So, what does it all look like when complete?

This image is made up of about 6. The camera was fitted to the tripod and a stream of images was made with the focus moved along the stretch of track. I then used Helicon Focus to patch these images into one with a constant focus across the whole length of the board.

Once this was complete, I started out on the staging at the other end - Hartford, CT.  This staging runs along the back of my trusty iMac. The process was exactly the same, but went quicker of course. I made one mistake. That was to put the LED indicator at the same relative spot as with the Boston staging - wrong! This ended up behind the iMac. I had to extend the wires by about 36" and mount this under the girder, using masking tape. I then ran them out where I could see them.

This is the Hartford staging finished.

One last little detail. Again, as I can't get inside the box girder, the wiring for the two staging tracks is managed by using some self-adhesive copper tape across the top of the box. 

That's about it. Now, I can get back to sorting out industries, configuring up my car routing software for the new industry plan and then, hopefully, running some trains!


Sunday, 23 July 2017

Back to setting scenery

I have been very busy with my Open University project (470Routing) but I have managed to keep going on the home railroad. I have now ballasted the yard (with Woodland Scenics (WS) cinders) and the rest of the main town (Sunset) with WS N scale fine ballast. I have also set up the two-LED routing indicators. There hasn't been much running but the scenic work has been fun.

I have also managed to build two laser cut industries. One is the Branchline Trains Creamery whilst the other is the final part of the Ice House from GCLaser.

Using some WS lightweight Hydrocal I have put down some basic ground cover around the Creamery and the Ice House complex. It isn't finished yet but is starting to look quite good.

Here is the current situation:

(Click on the image for a full sized version)

Shortly, I will be completing the ground cover and the roads, along with the grade crossing.

Thursday, 8 June 2017

SNE Wired up and ready to go

I finally have an SNE that I like and that will probably work! I spent a lot of time drawing layouts and  posted quite a few iterations on the forums. The plan went through a lot of changes. Not only that but the boards have been built with extra bracing so they shouldn't suffer the dips that appeared in the last one.

The layout is at a much lower level so that I can get to everywhere whilst sitting in my chair.The switches are all controlled by DCCConcepts Cobalt Digital switch motors so all of the live frogs are wired up. I have, also, installed two-colour LEDs on every point so that I can see which way they are set without standing up.

The boards were built in sections but they are now held together with strong tape so that there is no movement between them. This tape will be covered by the scenery as it goes down.

Here are some images of the current state of play.

I have staging on both ends. This staging is build on foam core that has been turned into box girders. I have invested in a set of foam core tools and one of them is a v-cutter. This runs down a channel on the special FoamWerks straight edge and cuts a v-channel whereby the board can be folded with a 90 degree angle. This is extremely string and can span at least 5 feet without any flex. here is a shot of the end of one of the girders. as you can see, the v-cutter makes an excellent job of the cuts (such that you can hardly discern the "V" cut at all.

I have fitted a small level on the end and you can see the screw for the levelling foot, which is an M6 bolt with some foam core glued to it screwing into a T-nut. The other end is fixed to the base board. An added interest is that the desk is electric (in that it has a power lift and fall) which I use because of my arthritis - if I sit at it for any length of time my joints seize so I change the level on long sessions. This means that I then have to adjust the staging to get it back  to level as I never get the electric lift back to exactly where it started. The other end of the railroad is the same except that I have more space soI have fitted a wide base with two adjusters to get the levels right in both directions.

All joints across all boards are fixed with PCB sleepers and the track soldered in place. The sleepers are then glued to the foam board and we have joints with zero movement.

As you can see from the images of the layout, I have filled all of the spurs to get some idea of the capacity of each. With this information, I can incorporate this layout into the test phase of my university freight car routing project.

I am still getting used to my new DCC controller - I have one of the new Digitrax Evolution Duplex Starter sets (with the wireless controller). So far I am very happy with the set up. I have also got it integrated with JMRI. The eventual hope is to have the trains run from my phone and the routing software on my tablet. We shall see.

Next step is to mess about with the resistors on the LEDs as they are very bright and need toning down. 

Thursday, 4 May 2017

SNE Track design works

I put my track design on theModel Railroader Track forum for comments and had lots of help sorting out what would work and what wouldn't. There were concerns that I had done the usual trick of overestimating how much track that can be got onto a board and one commenter thought that I had used #2 turnouts to make everything work. In fact I had been a little ambitious but, with a bit of reorganising,I was able to get the basic layout to fit.

This is the "current" final layout.

I had to swing the runaround over so that it ran from one end of the main board to the other. To make this work,I had to move the passenger station onto the runaround. I also removed a couple of industries. Apart from that everything went in OK. here are some pictures as it went along.

The track is now down, wired up, had the turnout motors fitted and everything has been tested.

Here are all of the point motors laid out and pre-configured to their correct addresses. Little did I know what was to come!

 It wasn't until I tried everything on the board that I realised that motor No. 1 didn't work. I had done the classic Cobalt motor stupid error - put the two power wires in at the wrong end of the wiring panel. This is guaranteed to blow up a motor. Later versions have a little film cover to stop you. This is the second time that I have done this. So, a quick trip down to my friend Kevin at Coastal DCC and another £17.00 pounds spent. With that replaced, there was a further problem. Point #9 was the wrong way round. Sending close made it turn out and sending turn out made it close. Also, it was still self-centering at startup when I had switched that off for all the motors. Whilst I was with Kevin, I asked him about this and it seems that, very occasionally, the set/run switch gets a dry connection and, thus, programming the motor doesn't work. Fortunately, this is covered by their guarantee so Kevin will swap that over - hopefully tomorrow. In the meantime, I have swapped in #14 so that I could keep going.

The last activity that has been taking place is to put the wiring in for the switch display panel. To do this, I had to add a second wire into the frog polarity switch on each motor and run it out to the front. I have carefully numbered each one and wired them into a choc-block connector.

Here is a shot of the underneath with all of this in place. The red and black are the power bus wires and the yellow/green are the LED feeds. (I ran out of yellow!).

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Joining the Foam Core together

I have spent the day today connecting everything together. I have planned out the new layout. This has been amply discussed on the Model Railroader Magazine Forum.

I have been through four iterations of the plan and I think that I have got it close to where I want it.  However, the first thing to do was to connect the various boards together. The layout is like this:

I have connected 8,1 & 2 and 4, 5 & 6. The boards were hot glued and kept straight. The separate boards need to be connected together so that they don't move. I do this with foam core clips. I have used these before and they work very well. They look like this. There is a clip at the front and the back.

They sit right down and hold both sides together.

Tomorrow, I will start laying out the track to make sure that my design works. The design is as follows:

More photos tomorrow.

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

All the foam core is down.

I have now laid out all of the foam core. It all fits very nicely and very tightly. It is 80mm high to accommodate the DCC Concepts point motors.

Here is a video of the layout as it stands. I hope that you like the music ( see my note at the end).

The next step is to start laying out the track. I have tried in the past to design the railroad on paper or on the computer but I never seem to get the spacing correct. This time, I have set my Givens and Druthers (fine old American expression that we don't have over here in the UK. I picked it up from the John Armstrong books and then heard it in a duet between Bobby Darin and Johnny Mercer  on "Two of a Kind" called "I'd Rather Have My Druthers" (a CD I heartily recommend!). Anyway, I will start sliding points around along with some of my industry buildings so that I get the spacing correct.  I am looking forward to that.

The music is, as you probably guessed, "The Little Red Caboose Behind The Train" as recorded by the Pickett Family sometime before WWII. YouTube picked up on the song and they have a claimant to the copyright so you may find an ad appearing! Sorry if that happens:-(

Monday, 17 April 2017

New Boards

Further issues with my arthritis have caused me to dismantle the layout that I was building on the kitchen units. There were two problems with it. Basically, the return curves were too tight and I was getting a lot of issues with stock coming off the track. Secondly, it required that I stand up to build the railroad and also to do the switching. I can only stand up for about 3 - 4 minutes at a time (I then sit down and recover) so I wasn't getting much done.

My wonderful wife (who puts up with so much from me given my health issues) told me to take it down and reduce the height so that I could do everything sitting down. That had two effects.
  1. I had her support for the mess and work involved and
  2. She could hardly complain about the budget when it was her idea - well, I might not get away with that for everything - smile.
Reducing the height was easy. We just had to lift the kitchen units and take the legs off. This would drop them by about 8" - perfect. I am left with two nice long runs, with potential for staging on each end that is removable. I am thinking about what to do. I have recovered 14 points but little of the track so I have bought a box of 25 yards of Peco Code 83. I will cover this in a later blog entry.

Well, my friend Mark came around and helped me take down the old and put up the new. We took the kitchen units down and took the legs off. Mark moved the glass cabinets across the room (without emptying them). He also moved the steel industrial shelving unit that I had on the left hand side of the door (which had my kit stash on it) across to the other side of the door - commenting that, although it was full of kits that they didn't weigh very much. A younger and fitter version of me would have done all of this on my own but my arthritis prevents me from doing much.

All the new units (from Hobbycraft and John Lewis) all moved up into the left corner and my study desk (the nice electrically power one) was moved back to its old position. This left a clear area under the window. All in all, it gave me a lot more space - but no chance of a roundy-roundy - boo.

Mark gets my eternal thanks for all of his help. We managed it between 9.15 and 12.00. Since then, I have done the following:
  • Bought the 5mm A1 sized foam core from Hobbycraft (they have a special on - 4 sheets for £10.00. That is the same price per board as Amazon but with Amazon you have to buy 10 sheets and I wanted 12 so that was much better. 
  • Made a click and collect at Maplins for the wire and set of wire strippers.
  • knew that Tool Station does a nice line in screws that act as their own drills so I bought a box of 40mm.
  • Went to Travis Perkins and bought 20m (65') of 2"x1" (funny that lengths are in metric but wood sizes are still imperial ;-) (incidentally, I bashed the back of the car against an iron girder which will cost much more than I was planning to spend on the railroad!).
  • Went to B&Q and got a nice assistant there to get  a couple of 48" x 24" 6mm MDF (still confused about units?). into my car.
  • Decided that 40 mm wast't long enough for some of the joints so went to Screwfix (just around the corner from B&Q) and bought some 50mm drill tipped screws.

Now having everything I need, I got going. It was a long holiday weekend so I didn't have any interruptions. I got on nicely and here is the result.

Three boards ready for laying. I put extra strengtheners under to stop the sag that I suffered last time. Tere are 3 more to go plus some faffing around at the end.

I cleared off the top of the units so that I could make the open frame bit.

Here is the open frame. It fits very nicely between the units and the wall. The legs are fitted with t-nuts. I then insert a bolt, glue the bolt head to a castor cup. I can then level each part just by rotating the cups.

Finally, I have it all made up ready for the rest of the foam core to be built.

I hope to finish the foam core tomorrow. I will then plan the track layout by moving actual points around. I intend to have removable staging at both end but we will see how that pans out.

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Here we go again

It's my blasted arthritis. I set the railroad up onto kitchen units on the basis that I could sit down and operate whilst it would be at a good height to build the scenery, etc. My arthritis has developed faster than I can work on the railroad. I am now in the situation whereby I can't stand up long enough to do anything (4 - 5 minute bursts don't leave enough time to get "stuck in"to anything!

There was another problem with the railroad as constituted. As I wanted a roundy-roundy, I had to accommodate the curves at both ends within the space between the wall and the door.  This gave me a board which, at its widest, could be 32". With some space for the longer stock to travel around, I was down to about 12"curves. This has been causing problems with various items of stock not liking various parts of the curves. The problem is that there are not any specific spots that can be fixed. One loco doesn't mind one end whilst another comes off every time going round it.

I was talking to the wife about what to do when she suggested that we lower the railroad to make it possible for me to work on the boards as well as run trains sitting down. Trust her to see an obvious solution. She suggested that we take the feet off the kitchen units and sit the cabinets on the floor. This would drop the whole thing by about 6" and everything would then be accessible.

This would kill two birds with one stone because I would have to take the railroad down to carry out this operation. The reason is that the baseboard is constructed of 5mm foam core boards of about 2' length but that are all hot glued into one long board:-( I jumped at this because, knowing what I know now, I would have to forgo the roundy-roundy but would no longer have the problems of the curves at each end. Additionally, as she suggested it, she could hardly complain about the budget. (Aside to self: best I put as much into this as I can as it is an approved expenditure - grin).

So, yesterday morning, we had this:

and now we have:

I expect to have the whole thing down by close today. We have worked out a new room layout which moves the desk back to where it was and shuffles everything else around to give me more space. I will be building down the left hand wall and across the back, making sure this time that we can open the window!

Other news since I last posted. 
  • I have acquired another two locos - a Pennsy GP9 and (as a Christmas present from my friend Dan in the US) an Amtrak SW-7. Both of these have gone off to Kevin at Coastal DCC to have "proper" sound decoders installed.
  • I have bought two SP coaches which I intend to re-decal as Boston & Maine. I had to carve off steps and some underbody stuff to get them to go around the old curves - which has ruined them really.
  • All change on the DCC front - out goes NCE and in comes latest Digitrax radio. More on that in another post.
  • The OU course is going well. Check out the web page and the blog

So, I need another 10 yards or so of track; lots more rail joiners; more feed wire and, oh,about 15 sheets of foam core!

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

The Open University course has started

I am now underway on the actual Open University TM470 course - The Computing and IT Project. The idea of this course is to prove that I can define and deliver a complex IT/Computing based project to a timescale set by the OU. I don't have to produce the software to prove that I have done the work. The main deliverable is a 10,000 word essay that describes theproject in detail.

A lot of the students have been searching around for a project theme and many ideas have been rejected as either not Computing/IT or not deep enough to warrant the work. However, my project was accepted immediately and without change.  The project is called (snappy title this)

Freight Car Routing On US. Outline Model Railroads

I have outlined the project before so there is no need to do that again. However, I now have to organise myself and get myself together for doing this properly such that I can finish my B.Sc (Hons) with a flourish. I have managed to get myself a few little assistants. One is a web app called Wrike! This is an only project planner. They do a free student version but were only clued up for .edu e-mail addresses. In the UK our student bodies issue accounts so a couple of e-mails bounced around until I got access to their professional version. That works very well. I also signed up for a thing called Toggi which lets you monitor the time that you spend on anything. However, I stopped using this when I let it run overnight on one task. I also started using Evernote for my notes but that didn't last either.

I decided that I could treat myself to a special item to do both of these tasks. I am a great user of Moleskine notebooks. I always have a few of the little A6 ones to hand and have three of the A5 ones for various purposes. I have always wanted to have a reason to acquire an A4 notebook and this was my chance. I now have a time record in the back of the book and a blow by blow account of my work, thinking and planning in the front.

I have to say that I am enjoying this greatly. This is the first time that I have had to detail my ideas, etc. on paper before going ahead and it is working very well. Not to say that my previous efforts were not so easy - I have always managed to write good software with few bugs. Mostly because I write tests at each stage and carry these tests out often to make sure that everything is going the way I want it. 

The project is spilt into three iterations. These are designed to fit in with the last two Tutor Marked Assignments TMAs) and the final End ofModule Assessment (EMA). I have the main part of the first iteration working, in that I can now deliver a full day's timetable with indicative trains created. For the time being there is no proper allocation of freight cars. This happens in the next round. What I am building at the moment ids the basic infrastructure of the system - there is a diagram at the end of this blog entry that shows the first iteration targets.

There are two ways to follow what is happening with the project - follow this blog or go to my project web site where I put all of the "techie" stuff.

The following diagram shows the "logical" setup of the system. Currently, I have the Data Controller working along with the Riak KV NoSQL database. I now have the main decision engine within the Web Controller working. before the next TMA is due on 11th April I have to have the Web Server in place and talking to the Web Controller. I then have to complete a 4,000 word report on my activities!

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Assistance with my current Open University Project

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I was starting the OU course - TM470 the Computing and IT Project. I am now into the first few days and have been asked by my tutor to go looking for "clients" to assist me. When they speak of clients, they mean people who will assist and comment on my proposals as time goes along. I have just joined the NMRA (National Model Railroad Association) at an expensive cost! I have placed the following request on their Operations forum and on a US Forum. Perhaps there are people reading this blog that could give a hand. The message explains it.

Hi there.
I live in the UK and am currently completing the last couple of modules for my OU Honours degree in Computing. The main one of these is the TM470 Computing and IT Project. For this, I have to develop a project that incorporates much of what I have learned at the OU. 

Background: I am 72 years of age and started my OU course in 1974 but dropped out in 1982 as a hectic job in the City, four kids and a dog all got in the way. Since 1985 I have worked as a programmer both for myself and others so I have many years coding and project management under my belt. 

In 1956 I was given a Triang Transcontinental train set for Christmas and since then I have been a dedicated model railroader.

My project for the OU is entitled "Freight Car Routing for US Outline Model Railroads".

The intention is to develop a specification, detailed analysis and working prototype for a system that would be:
* Internet based
* multi-user
* operated by a tablet/phone
* data stored "in the cloud"

The software will deliver (after configuration for your specific railroad) the next train to run and its composition, taking into account a large number of parameters to decide on individual car routing (and on-line collection at stations en route). 

I have a long experience of running my own model railroad and a good knowledge of how freight cars are routed and the decisions required but my course requires that I have some outside "clients" that can comment and advise. I have to say that this is set up for younger people to obtain more experienced mentors but I am what I am - smile.

If you feel that you could be interested in the project please let me know and I will give you a more detailed description.

It is unlikely to get from the prototype stage and will not become a commercial product as I am too old to get into that game so there is not bait and switch in this at all.

I need two or three kind people to give me just a few hours reading over the next few months - the project has to be completed by late September.

I hope to hear from you.

Main man on the Sunset and North Eastern R.R.

Please contact me at if you think you would like to join in.

Monday, 23 January 2017

Blair Line Sam's Roadhouse

I needed a "seedy" building just outside the gates of the freight yard and Blair Line's Sam's Roadhouse seemed to fit the bill. Their description is:

Found at roadside in rural areas or along the outskirts of town this type of roadhouse is based on juke joints that would have offered drink, food, dancing and maybe even a few groceries or "recreational" gambling in the back room. Sam's is located far enough off the beaten path that an outhouse is provided. Build it without the signs and use it for a house."

I have made a Blair Line kit before so I knew what to expect. This time, I knew that parts were supplied with double sided tape already fitted - this affects the window, door and corner trim - and makes it easy to fit. In fact, I have learned from this and use my own double-sided tape quite often to fit small wooden parts. I have also learned from making the GC Laser Ice House to use marker pens for the general colouring. This time, I used  a Letraset Promarker Caramel pen for the wood and a Staples DuraMark dark green pen for the trim. The inside was coloured black to mask the fact that there was no interior detail. For this I used a Letrset Promarker black pen. Here are the main walls already coloured with the windows fitted.

The whole kit goes together very quickly and easily. The next step to show is when I had the walls up and the trim fitted.

I was a bit eager in colouring the trim as I should have coloured the Z bracing on the door with the caramel rather than the green but once it was done, I couldn't change it. The next shot shows the roof in place along with the foundation supports.I have also started to place some of the posters.

There is a whole sheet of posters in the kit and it is difficult to choose which ones to use. I fitted some that were in the wrong place, so at the the end I had to tear some off and refit them. From this point, things went really quickly so that, suddenly, it was all finished. I did manage to lose one of the light hangers so there is only one fitted. I have left the screen door and the privy door open.

I have lightly set it in place with the privy out the back and the road sign, sort of, in place.


I think that this looks just the ticket and I am very pleased with the result. I like these laser kits.

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

GC Laser Ice House

My next project after working on the yard area was to get the layout moving again. I hadn't cleaned the rails since I laid the ballast so I knew that there was going to be some issues. I had a cash Christmas present so I spent it on the Woodlands Scenics track cleaning andloco wheel cleaning equipment.

These both worked perfectly and I had everything running except the Budd RDC. This is an indulgence of mine as I really like to see a Budd running around the track. However, it is, strictly speaking, way to long for the curves that I have. This came home to me when it came around the left hand curve. First off, it hit two trees. Then it stopped as it had run its pilot against the scenic bank. Lastly, it stopped because the Kadee uncoupler was fouling the track! I cleared all of these obstacles and then had to tweak the track a little and it was now running OK.

OK, so now I had the railroad running again. I then coupled up JMRI and started moving some points. Acouple were still gummed up from the ballasting but these were easily freed up. Next, it was back to some building for the next scene.

I had on hand a couple of GC Laser kits. One is the extension Icing Platform and the other was the Icing Office for the Ice Shed. What I didn't realise was that the platform was an extension to the main one and that I had missed getting the actual Ice Shed! Humm. So me quick thinking was in order. Anyway, off I went. The Office went together first. They recommend using marker pens to colour the model so I dragged out a red and Sepia marker. This went really well. They also recommend buying some needle tip bottles for apply the wood glue. I have some Titebond here which I bought years ago because that was what Norm Abrams used in'The New Yankee Workshop'. Norm is my hero. I even made oak furniture for a living (well not much of one) some years ago thanks to his programmes. Anyway , I had a look on EBay and bought one for £3.50. When it arrived, it turned out to be 10 of them for the price. 

This works brilliantly.You can put down a single spot or a really thin line. Off I went. The construction was very simple and the instructions were a little on the complex side but it all made sense in the end. here are some intermediary images.

Here is the Office complete (sorry about the fence bending buy it is only card so it is a bit flexible).

Next came the icing platform and here is where I realised that I had made a mistake. This is designed as an extension so has a part of the platform extended to reach out to the platform proper. This makes the trestles work in place. Without the other platform it looked stupid so I had to do a bit of cutting and shutting to get everything to look right. It was all I could do anyway, as I didn't have room for the main, long, platform.  Well, here it is completed - the construction went so quickly that I forgot to take any in-progress shots.

Finally, I have placed them in their intended location. Firstly the air shot which shows the placement.

Then, the moody, low shot to give a feel for the siting.

I think that it looks the part and will look even better when the real Ice Shed arrives. It gives me the opportunity to close off the area between it and the freight house.This will enable me to make a couple of scenarios rather than just one large on.

BTW, I know that the freight house is missing some roof supports. That is one of my next jobs. They are in a pile around the back!