Painted Track

I finished painting all track today, and started painting the turntable. The well of the turntable, which was a sandstone or khaki color, is now gray (I simply used Rust-Oleum Flat Gray Primer).

Once the primer dried, I used a Testors Rail Brown enamel paint marker around the turntable rail:

I also used the same paint marker on the rails, spikes, and plates of my track to differentiate the color from the rail ties. This took several applications and almost four hours! I am pleased with the result, though!

Reprogramming the Turntable

Tonight I began painting all of my track using Rust-Oleum Satin Espresso spray paint. I sprayed about a foot of track at a time, masking points as needed and wiping down the railheads with an old tee shirt to remove the paint while it was still wet.

However, I posted a question on Reddit earlier today asking about where I should place a coaling stage (I haven’t been able to find a picture of Hemyock’s coaling stage, although I’m sure it had one), and one of the responses suggested that I add another “slot” from my turntable, citing realism and wasted space.

It’s something I’ve been considering for a long time, but I was kind of hoping the consideration would just go away because actually adding another slot would mean reprogramming the Arduino that controls the turntable.

Well, it wasn’t too difficult. I simply reloaded the old sketch and added another DCC address to create a ~15-degree turn (18 steps of the motor) clockwise or counterclockwise. Then I loaded this into the Arduino, and bashed my head against the wall for a couple of hours wondering why it wouldn’t work. As it turns out, the NmraDcc library that I was trying to load was an updated version, which “causes the sketch to silently stop working” if certain call-back functions are used. So I loaded an older version of the library, and it worked immediately.

Here’s the new sketch:

#include <NmraDcc.h>
#include <Wire.h>
#include <Adafruit_MotorShield.h>

#define DCC_ADDRESS 7 //Change accessory address here.
NmraDcc Dcc ; //Declare DCC Shield.
Adafruit_MotorShield AFMS = Adafruit_MotorShield(); //Declare Motor Shield.
bool firstloop = true;
//Comment: getStepper(steps, stepper#)
//Stepper# is which port the motor is connected to. If using M1 and M2, indicate port 1. If using M3 and M4 indicate port 2.
//NEMA 14 Stepper Motor has a 0.9 degree/step. 360/0.9 = 400.
Adafruit_StepperMotor *myMotor = AFMS.getStepper(400, 2);

//This function is called whenever a normal DCC Turnout Packet is received.
void notifyDccAccTurnoutOutput( uint16_t Addr, uint8_t Direction, uint8_t OutputPower )
{
Serial.print(“DCC Turnout Packet Received\n”);
if ((Addr == DCC_ADDRESS) && OutputPower){
Serial.print(“Move 180 degrees\n”);
myMotor->step(200, Direction, MICROSTEP); //Move 180 degrees in the specified direction.
} else if ( (Addr == (DCC_ADDRESS + 1)) && OutputPower){
Serial.print(“Move 15 degrees\n”);
myMotor->step(18, Direction, MICROSTEP); //Move ~15 degrees in the specified direction.
} else if ( (Addr == (DCC_ADDRESS + 2)) && OutputPower){
Serial.print(“Nudge 1 step\n”);
myMotor->step(1, Direction, MICROSTEP); //Move 1 step in the specified direction.
}
delay(200); //Wait 200 ms for debounce.
}

//setup(): This is executed first and only one time.
void setup()
{

Serial.begin(115200);
while(!Serial); //Wait for the USB device to enumerate.
Serial.print(“Start Setup\n”);
AFMS.begin(); //Create with the default frequency 1.6KHz.
myMotor->setSpeed(0.025); //Set speed for 1/2 rotation per minute.
Dcc.pin(0, 2, 1); //Setup external interrupt, the pin it’s associated with that we’re using, and enable the pull-up.
Dcc.init( MAN_ID_DIY, 10, CV29_ACCESSORY_DECODER, 0 );//Call the main DCC init function to enable the DCC receiver.

Serial.print(“Setup Over\n”);
}

Just when I thought I was completely done laying new track, here’s the new length of track with the glue still drying (and the foundation of the engine shed to ensure proper clearance):

I still need to add feeders to power this length of track, and you can see in the second photo where I added a facing bit of track on the far side of the turntable, which has no other purpose except to hold a buffer stop so engines won’t fall off. That will not be powered, for obvious reasons.

Laying Track IV

Bit of a slouch’s idea of progress today, but I made a couple of slight alterations to the track which I’ve been planning to deal with for a little while. Namely, I straightened the section of track behind the station platform (I ended up simply replacing the Flex Track, as I destroyed a few ties when pulling up the old length). Then I trimmed the ends of all the sidings on the layout with a pair of Xuron rail nippers, and now these are flush and “clean-looking.”

I’m quite certain that this will be the very last track-laying project that I will need to do on this module. My next track-related project will be painting the ties and rails so they look grimy and rusty, and then I will move on to painting the well of the turntable!

I also updated my plan. I’m still trying to decide where to place the “service” items such as the water tower and coaling stage, but this covers most of the layout:

Little Snoring Station

 

Goods Shed I

Started cutting pieces from the sprues of the Peco Goods Shed NB-6 kit, and trimming, filing, and sanding as needed. Test fitting all pieces first, then I will start the painting process.

This model will have open doors, so I will be adding some interior detail, likely using printed cardstock for the floor and walls, and plastic miniatures for crates, barrels, etc.

I’m considering interior lights for my structures, which would showcase the cardstock interiors. Seems silly to put so much detail in only to hide it in the shadows. We’ll see…

New Platform IV

Tonight I used an acrylic wash on the platform’s brickwork to represent mortar. For the wash, I diluted FolkArt Wicker White acrylic paint in water then added a few drops of dish soap to reduce the surface tension. Then I painted several coats over the brick. Most of the acrylic ran into the spaces between bricks, but some remained on the surface, which gives a nice “chalky brick” appearance.

Photos never do the mortar justice–it practically disappears in just about every photo I tried to take, but here goes:

New Platform III

I painted a single stripe of Rust-Oleum Blossom White, and it suddenly looks like a British platform:

The white strip along platform edges was introduced so passengers could determine the platform edge during the blackout period just prior to WWII. (Blackout regulations were imposed on 1 September 1939, before the declaration of war. These required that public lighting be shut down and all windows and doors be covered at night to prevent light that might aid enemy aircraft.)

New Platform II

Did some spray-painting on the new platform today. Rust-Oleum Flat Gray Primer over all but the brick (to allow for some of the molded plastic “brick” color to come through). Krylon Satin Brick, then Rust-Oleum Chalked Charcoal for the “paved” surface and Rust-Oleum Stone Gray for the edging. Lots of painter’s tape for masking:

New Platform I

Inspired after the success of my frog-powering project (yes, all frogs are powered now—see edits in my last post for details) I decided to start working on a new platform for the Peco station.

Using bits and pieces left over from the two Peco Setrack ST-90 Platform kits that I used for the former “generic” platform, I put together a “bespoke” platform which I hope will be more fitting for the station area.

The most difficult task was beveling the edges around the backside of the wider “station” section. For that, I used my razor saw and a plastic mitre box. Here’s a couple of cuts:

Once the sections were bonded with Testors plastic model cement, I used Testors contour putty to fill some small gaps, then did some sanding with 400 grit. Next step will involve priming and painting.

In the last couple of photos I am bothered by my the curved track behind the platform, which will eventually service a goods shed. When I originally laid the track I was aesthetically—not pragmatically—driven, and I liked the look of gentle curves. Now that I’m planning to add sidings, a goods shed, and other trackside structures, I find myself wanting to straighten sections (as I did to accommodate the carriage shed). That means de-soldering feeders, lifting up (and hopefully not ripping up) the track, straightening, re-gluing, and then re-planting and re-soldering feeders. Oh well…

Feeding the Frogs II

Well, I finally have a single turnout with a powered frog! It wasn’t all that difficult, really.

I cut a couple of lengths of green 22-gauge wire and connected each to terminals 2 and 3 on the SMAIL, in addition to the wire already connecting the frog itself with terminal 4 (see my last post).

I cut two more lengths of the same wire and suitcase-clipped one to a red bus and one to a black bus. Then I twisted each pair of wires to connect them and tested the turnout. It didn’t short, so my guess at polarity was accurate. The SPDT switch inside the SMAIL was now active, and routing power/switching polarity as needed.

I soldered the twists of wire, then isolated them with shrink tubing.

Testing the engine was a complete success. The Bellwether, my little 0-6-0, can crawl very slowly over the turnout even if the points aren’t touching the rail.

There is one drawback:

When an engine reaches the fouling point (the short section of track between the frog and the isolated rail joiners), if the turnout isn’t already thrown in its direction, the engine immediately shuts the layout down because the metal wheels bridge the polarity gap and cause a short circuit.

Before, when the frog was dead, the engine simply stopped when it reached the fouling point, without shutting the entire layout down.

The benefits definitely outweigh this drawback. Engines shouldn’t approach close to the fouling point anyhow unless the switch is thrown in its direction. That’s just good prototypical operation. Entering the fouling point is the railway’s equivalent of nosing your car into an intersection when cross-traffic has the right of way.

Anyhow, I will post a video of the engine crawling over the turnout once I reclaim my YouTube account, for which I’ve forgotten the password. Maybe tomorrow evening.

Edit: I stayed awake later than I planned and powered another frog. This time, my guess at polarity was wrong and caused a short. No worries; that’s why I simply twisted the wires. All I had to do was swap the pairs and test again, then solder and heat-shrink.

Edit II: After another six hours or so, all the frogs are powered! I wish I could say I found a groove, but in reality each SMAIL and turnout had its own quirks and challenges. Also, I was in kind of a gloomy fog this weekend, but it was like a ray of light when I retested all the turnouts and each worked perfectly.

After briefly cleaning the railheads, the Bellwether can crawl at a very slow speed which appears to be roughly the equivalent of an N-gauge walking pace, and it doesn’t get hung up on the turnouts.