Tracks-05-21 -- Model Railroading Newsletter
Articles in This Issue:
WELCOME to the May 2021 issue of Tracks - a monthly newsletter published by Building Your Model Railroad, devoted to providing breaking news and tips to model railroaders of all ages and all gauges in a quick and easy-to-read format. Resources are always credited where appropriate.
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Simulations of arc welding can make a machine shop or roundhouse really come alive. There are several types of circuit boards commercially available to help create this effect:
• Circuitron AW-1 (with small lamps) or AW-2 (with larger lamps) utilizes blue and yellow randomly flashing lights. A small “whiff” of cotton can be used to suggest smoke coming up from the welding area. Requires 10-18 volts AC or DC. (www.circuitron.com)
• GRS Micro Liting uses blue and rose-colored lights and contains controls to change frequency and intensity of light. Requires 12-20 volts AC or DC. (www.grsmicroliting.com)
• Ram Track circuitry contains a randomly flashing white LED for a realistic welding effect. (www.ramrcandramtrack.com)
• Miniatronics uses 2 LEDs for a scattered effect. Requires 2-12 volts DC. (www.miniatronics.com)
Adding a scale-size welding worker√ to the scene will add to the realism if you can see inside the building where the “welding” is going on.
Scratchbuilding (making model buildings from scratch) is the art of creating structures or other models out of raw materials – sheets or strips of plastic or wood, glue, paper, cardboard, etc. Some fantastic buildings, locomotives and railcars can be built very inexpensively and without requiring much more time than it takes to build and paint a kit.
Making buildings, locomotives or stock-cars from scratch may seem a little intimidating at first, but if you start with small projects, you will see it can be very satisfying and will inspire you to do more. It may end up being one of the most fun parts of the hobby for you.
There are many benefits to scratch-building as previously outlined on the “Buildings” page. But how do you get started. As with any project, you have make a plan first.
Things to think about...
What type of model railroad structure do you want to build and why?
After you answer these questions, draw the model building out on paper, or with your CAD program if you have one. If this is your first scratchbuilding project, start with drawing a very small structure - perhaps a small loading dock or a crossing shanty.
The beauty of small layouts is that you can make them fit in almost any space, they don't cost much to build, they don't require a lot of time and you can get the satisfaction of completing a really cool project (near-instant gratification). Plus it's a great way to get started in the hobby. Here are some videos that might inspire you...
This is a project that I am currently working on, so I can't guarantee that it would work for you, but I think it has potential. So, I'm presenting it here to see if anyone has any ideas to make it better.
I started with Atlas remote turnouts many years ago mostly because they were readily available to me at the local hobby shop. I have 44 of them on my N scale layout at home. Each one is connected to an Atlas push button slide switch on the fascia near the location of the turnout and also connected to a momentary toggle switch on my main control board so I can control them remotely. My goal is to attach a red-green signal to certain critical turnouts so that during operation, I can see at a glance whether the turnout is lined up properly for the direction that I want my train to go. This is different than block signaling, in which case you have isolated blocks of track with sensors that go to a relay switch that activate the signal. I wanted to find a simpler way to attach the signal wires to the mechanical arm of the turnout, so that when I activate the turnout to change direction the signal would automatically change from red to green or vice versa without requiring a relay switch.
So here's what I have come up with so far...
When you click the above link you will see a video showing an Evemodel red-green signal changing from red to green and back whenever the turnout is thrown remotely from one direction to the other. When the signal is green, the turnout is lined up for the mainline. When it's red, it's lined up for the branch instead.
This was accomplished by connecting the black wire with the resistor from the signal to the far rail to start with. A red wire (a separate wire - not from the signal) that has been soldered to the near rail is attached to the top of the mechanical plastic rod on the turnout by looping it loosely around the rod and then applying a small drop of glue gel on the top of the rod to keep the loop from slipping off. The red and green wires from the signal are glued to each side of the opening where the rod travels. As you can see, when I throw the turnout remotely, an electrical connection is made from the track rail to the red or the green light alternately. It is critical to not get any glue inside the internal mechanism of the switch and if there is any glue residue on the wires where the electrical connections are made, it has to be filed off. The wires from the signal are very small gauge - probably ~ 30G or smaller - and a little difficult to position correctly. After gluing with CA glue and removing any glue residue from the wires, I also applied some electrically conductive copper tape over them to increase the surface area of the connection.
Mountain railroads in years past needed a way to get up and down mountains without requiring lots of expensive tunnels, bridges, and changes in landscape. Many of the coal and lumber hauling locomotives couldn't climb steep grades. The shay locomotives were made to handle steeper grades than other steam engines, but even those were not able to climb more than about a 12% grade. So, mountain railroad workers uses a zig-zag track formation to get their locos up and down mountains. This would require the formation of ledges on the mountainside where tracks could be laid on a reasonable grade for a few thousand feet, then the train would stop, a turnout would be thrown that would allow the train to back up onto a new track with a similar grade that would allow it to go up further along the mountainside in a zig-zag fashion. In fact, they were called zig-zag railways in Australia. One of the most famous of these switchbacks in America is the Cass Railroad in West Virginia, now a tourist train, but once an active lumber-hauling line. Other switchback railways include the Mount Hood Railroad in Oregon, the Oregon, California and Eastern, the Mauch Chunk Switchback Railway in Pennsylvania (a coal-hauling railroad operating from 1828 to 1932), the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway in India (which climbs from 328 ft to 7218 ft above sea level using six switchbacks and five loops), and the Australian Zig Zag Railway in New South Wales. Other zig-zag railroads are listed here.
If you want to use switchbacks on your model railroad, check out the Azatrax website that shows how to automate the operations. You could of course operate the switches manually, but I think it would be awesome to have the option to operate it automatically.
Having a model railroad yard incorporated into your layout certainly adds a lot of action and provides a much more prototypical experience to your operating sessions. As you design your layout, if you’re not planning on having big, multiuser operating sessions, you probably don’t need a huge sprawling yard, unless that’s your main thing, of course.
But even if you’re the only operator, having a small yard will certainly enhance your own operating experience.
The yard is often the center point, or hub, of the layout. It’s where most of the action is. Trains come into the yard, get rearranged, and then leave to various destinations. The yard is often the means by which the purpose of the railroad is fulfilled.
Hope you enjoyed this issue of Tracks. Feel free to pass it on to your friends, family and other model railroaders. If you have a great tip or article that you would like to publish on the website, please let me know - The more, the better. Any comments or suggestions are always welcome. You can either go to the Comments/Contact Page and enter your suggestions there or contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
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