2018: the Year of Hiatus

As I did back in June, I’m here again to report that I haven’t done anything substantial on LSR for about four months. Honestly, I haven’t even been thinking much about it. Last night I met up with a friend and he asked me about the project (13 years ago he lent me a few model rail magazines which inspired me to finally start my first model railway), which got me thinking about it again.

I hope to spend a bit of time this weekend working on LSR’s goods shed, and maybe doing a bit of detail work on the station. If I’m not in the mood to build structures, perhaps I will start weathering the rails!

Hopefully, I will have another post up early next week showing a bit of progress. Stay tuned. In the meantime, here’s a really, really cobbed-up track plan with structures. (I made it a few months ago and intended to keep it to myself, but here we are.)  There will likely be a few more buildings when complete, and these will probably be situated in the vicinity of the engine shed.


LSR Station V

I stayed up a bit too late tonight, but I made some headway on LSR’s station platform. This was a daunting step, and it took me a while to muster up the courage to begin.

I started with Metcalfe’s Red Brick Platform kit:

Then I made a template for the center platform:

As you can see, the platform takes up most of the space between the rails. This was not the case with Hemyock’s little platform, but Metcalfe’s station house is based on a building that is much larger than Hemyock’s station house.

After a bit of testing and trimming, I transferred the template to the “asphalt” surface of the platform and cut to size. Then I added spacers for the platform’s edge before constructing the walls.

Next, I will need to add some support beneath the platform (it holds the station house, but it bows a bit), glue down the ramps, and finally add the brickwork around the edge.

As you can see, the “face” of the station house is turned to the wall (compare with photos in my previous posts). I gave this a bit of thought: the building looks much more appropriate facing this direction, as the shape of the structure is tapered toward the tip of the platform. Also, if I ever bring LSR to model train conventions, the facing side will be toward the spectators, which is much more agreeable.

LSR Station IV

Just a quick update: LSR’s station is nearly complete. I have only to add chimney pots and a rain gutter, and then I will start working on the platform.

Most recently I added the windowsills after painting them. That was a particularly tedious process, especially because I noticed an off-colored gap where the brick print shows between the sill and the window casing. I used acrylic paint to backfill the gap, which made a small but noticeable difference.



I also started work on a small platform station, which Metcalfe included as a bonus in the station kit. I will not be using the platform station opposite the main station building, as suggested. Rather, I will be including it in my next module as a halt station. Maybe I’ll start on that module in 2019!

LSR Station III

Not much to explain: the Metcalfe models sort of speak for themselves. This one’s coming along nicely.

As I build, I am rethinking the configuration of the station platforms a bit. More on that later.

LSR Station I

I spent a few hours today prepping Metcalfe’s N Scale Country Station. “Prepping” means opening the packet, reading the directions twice or thrice, spray painting the laser-cut pieces, and spraying Testor’s Dullcote over every sheet and piece (to protect from moisture, but also to give everything a dulled-down appearance).

After prepping, I started putting together the first building: the Station Master’s House.

This consisted of cutting the pieces away from the sheets, then folding the scored lines to create corners. While folded, the corners expose the bright white card under the printed layer. To blend the corners, I painted them with watercolors. I also painted the white edges around doorways and windows.

Then I layered the window and door frames behind the walls, and the windows and doors behind the frames. There were also other structural components that will be hidden after the model is complete.

For most paper and card projects I use Aileen’s Tacky Glue, and this is no exception. I used to do quite a bit of bookbinding and I found that Aileen’s dries much faster than Elmer’s, although it is almost identical in every other way: it is water-based, can be applied with a brush, and it dries clear. I used Roket Card Glue a couple of years ago, which is what Metcalfe recommends, but the shipping cost was steep (it is only sold in the U.K.) and in my opinion it didn’t perform any better than Aileen’s.

So far, so good. Metcalfe models are fairly user-friendly in that they are well designed and don’t require much painting or detailing after they are built.

I will work on more of the station over the course of the next week.


I’m ashamed to report that I haven’t done anything substantial on LSR since February. I have been periodically toying around with structures, and have a few Metcalfe cardstock models in various stages of completion. Otherwise, I’ve been either too busy, or squandering the time that I have. My plan for this weekend is to complete a significant portion of the Metcalfe station, and then I can work on building a platform to suit.

I finished a Peco station and platform, which I was pretty happy with, but I didn’t really enjoy the process of building it. I started work on a Peco goods shed before coming to the conclusion that plastic just isn’t my medium. I scrapped the goods shed and donated the station to our workplace layout to give it a little of that old English charm (it is currently running BNSF diesel locomotives).

So, hopefully, I will have another post up early next week to document some of the station build.


Turntable VIII: Microstepped

Trying to get the turntable to rotate more slowly while remaining smooth turned out to be a challenge. When slowed down, it began ticking like a clock with enough torque that it would likely have flicked an engine off the deck. My brother-in-law and I spent a couple of hours last night trying to figure out a solution, to no avail. After that I stayed up way too late digging through Arduino forums, trying to figure out how to add a microstepping sequence to break up the “tick-tock” movement into much smaller waves. I went to bed thinking all that research was for nothing.

When I woke up this morning, though, I had the sudden idea that maybe the Adafruit motor shield has a library with a microstepping sequence already loaded. This would save us from having to make calculations and then pull in (or invent) strings of compatible code from other sources. So, after a quick reread on Adafruit’s informational website I verified that, indeed, the Adafruit is already programmed to run a microstep sequence.

Lo and behold, all I did was replace instances of “Single” with “Microstep,” uploaded the code to the Arduino, and suddenly the turntable is slow moving and smooth.

Here’s a video of the turntable moving slowly and smoothly.

I think we can adjust the code further to give the turntable a more realistic appearance by accelerating and decelerating the deck every time it moves. For now, though, I am happy with how it functions, so am posting the code here in case anyone else can make use of it:

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

#define DCC_ADDRESS 6 //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(“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()

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”);

//loop(): If the DCC function detects a signal, it will call notifyDccAccTurnoutOutput on its own.
void loop()
if (firstloop) { Serial.print(“First Loop\n”); firstloop = false;}
Dcc.process(); //Calling this method makes the DCC shield check for new communications. It must be frequent or a message may be missed.
//myMotor->step(200, FORWARD, DOUBLE); //Move 180 degrees in the specified direction.

Turntable VII: Motorized!

The stack is in place and wired up.

Initially I had some issues loading the code into the Arduino, and finally worked it out with my brother-in-law’s guidance. I’d been loading it correctly, but a command was missing that caused the motor to remain unresponsive. Once that was sussed out the turntable started working without much of a problem, at least while it was powered via USB.

An issue arose when I powered the Arduino with 12V DC. When the motor was running on that voltage, it got sizzling hot and moved erratically when activated. However, when I switched back to the USB cable (which is regulated at 5V) it worked perfectly fine.

We are working on that, and then we will be keying in a slower speed. Ideally the deck will rotate at 1 rpm, but it is currently closer to 4-5 rpms. Overall, though, I am very excited and relieved that it is able to run!

Here’s a video of the turntable in action. You can see both the 180-degree rotation as well as the 0.9-degree nudge (just in case the deck goes out of alignment).

Edit: I think I’ve pinpointed the issue with the DC supply. While the motor indicates that it is a 12V motor, to be safe we should have calculated Ohms Law, which tells us that a  source should never exceed I=V/R (or “Current” equals “Voltage” divided by “Resistance”).  Any more than that and the motor will draw too much when idle (it draws the most voltage while holding). My brother-in-law and I both assumed that the motor shield would regulate the voltage.

For my motor (as per the specs listed on the packaging:

R=17 ohms
I=8.5 volts

Thus, according to Ohm’s Law we don’t want the voltage to exceed 8.5 volts. I guess that is what the motor specs mean:

“Each phase draws 500 mA at 8.5 V, allowing for a holding torque of 7Ncm(10oz.in) … Rated Current/phase: 0.5A … Phase Resistance: 17ohms.”

To be honest, that’s mostly Greek to me, but the numbers align with my math.

I’m not too concerned with torque (because there isn’t much weight or resistance on the turntable) so 5 volts should be plenty. The motor has been working just fine on the 5V USB, but I would prefer a straight DC supply because I may decide to add a USB extension between the USB port and the fascia.

Turntable VI: Programming the Stack

Between random Saturday chores, I soldered the pins of the Adafruit Motor Shield. Prior to that, I had to squeeze the shield sideways for the Power light to signal. No big deal; just a bit more soldering than I expected.

From the DCC shield, I also pulled off the vestigial jumpers and those that would route power differently than needed. A few of the pulled jumpers were educated guesses, and (given the “educated” bit) I followed my brother-in-law’s lead.

The Arduino and both shields are now fully powered using either DC or USB. I had the option of powering it all from the DCC bus via the DCC shield, but I’m nervous about how much it would draw and possibly affect the performance of locomotives and switches. Thus, there will be two DC cables powering the layout.

My brother-in-law also had a great idea: I could add a USB extension that would lead to a panel on the front of the module, so I can simply plug my computer into that to program the turntable. In the future I may do that.

Anyhow, I loaded my brother-in-law’s sketch_turntable document into the Arduino library, so as far as I know the Arduino is now programmed.

Theoretically, choosing “Accessory 6” on the PowerCab should select the turntable; then pressing 1 or 2 will move it clockwise or counterclockwise 180 degrees. Choosing “Accessory 7” will also select it, but subsequently pressing 1 or 2 will only prompt it to move a single click.

We aren’t too optimistic about it working at this point, but I plan on wiring it up tomorrow to find out.

Edit: Once we have the code finalized, I will post it on this blog for safekeeping, and to share with others who may be interested.