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The Randall Museum in San Francisco hosts a large HO-scale model model railroad. Created by the Golden Gate Model Railroad Club starting in 1961, the layout was donated to the Museum in 2015. Since then I have started automatizing trains running on the layout. I am also the model railroad maintainer. This blog describes various updates on the Randall project and I maintain a separate blog for all my electronics not directly related to Randall.

2020-01-01 - Happy New Year

Category Randall

Happy New Year 2020 from the Randall Model Railroad team.

A collage of 2019 trains on the Randall Model Railroad.

2019-12-31 - Last Changes for this Year, and Plans for Next Year

Category Randall

Yesterday, I changed the freight train to use the 5278 NYC steam engine for the Polar Express. Jim put some labels on it. Also it’s worth nothing I’m not a fan of the Polar Express thing which I see mostly as a commercial effort, yet again it works for our audience, and that’s eventually what matters.

A NYC J-1 Hudson (4-6-4) pulls our Polar Express on the Automated Line on the HO Scale DCC Layout at Randall Museum, San Francisco.

Of note, I was having some issues with the sound on 5278.

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2019-12-24 - Retrospective for 2019

Category Randall

What got done in 2019, and what did not?

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2019-12-21 - A Lightweight Junior Engineer Day Setup

Category Randall

We have not reestablished the GGMRC’s Junior Engineer Day (JED) at Randall since the re-opening in 2017. I originally had plans for it, and shoved them aside due to two reasons: one is technical, the other is staff involvement.

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2019-11-29 - Freight Automation Change

Category Randall

A few weeks ago, Jim got these two Bachmann SD70, and I tried them on the automation. They work very well, with some nice sound and lights. I was even surprised to see that IL 1072 had alternating ditching lights that come on automatically when the automation slows it down with the bell at the Sonora station!

The other engine he got is Reading 1067:

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2019-11-21 - Passenger Automation Changes

Category Randall

Looks like the Passenger train derailed:

My first reaction was to try the engine with just the caboose, and…

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2019-11-07 - Follow up on Warped Track Maintenance

Category Randall

Back in the “Warp Drive” entry from 11-02, I was mentioning how some of the track from Napa yard had very badly warped.

It is worth noting the warping issue also somewhat affected the Richmond yard. I had also noticed that somehow the front panel of the Stockton Yard panel had a similar issue, the panel no longer laying flat on its support.

Today I got it to work on this, and to my surprise the track had started fixing itself, here’s a side-by-side comparison:

Napa Yard Before

Napa Yard After

Richmond Yard Before

Richmond Yard After

Also the front panel of the Stockton Yard panel was not warped anymore:

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2019-11-03 - Recent Randall Maintenance

Category Randall

I don’t usually blog about all the little things that happen on the Randall Museum’s train layout here. There’s been a few in the couple past months that I did not blog about so let’s compile them here for the sake of completeness. While I get some compliments for the automation running smoothly, I want to keep educating people that this does not happen magically. This is an old layout and it does require quite a bit of maintenance.

Let’s look at the most recent maintenance tasks:


UP Passenger train derailed on turnout T311 during automation. I took the opportunity to switch UP engine 8736 with its sibling 8749 as my goal is to swap the engines every few months to give them a rest.


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2019-11-02 - Warp Drive

Category Randall

I’ve noticed this in the Napa yard last month:

First time I noticed was on 2019-10-12 and that was definitely new.

It reminds me of the Earthquake Trail at Point Reyes, yet I am sure we are not modeling the San Andreas Fault here. And viewed from the other side, it isn’t any better:

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2019-10-06 - Layout Electrical Complexities and Surprises

Category Randall

Last week, Saturday Operators ran their trains, and overall had a good session. I’m being told though that when Allen ran his UP Challenger #3977, it did a couple loops fine on the layout then he had it sitting in the yard and for some reason it would not run anymore.

Rather than relying on random conjectures, yesterday I had him bring the engine back on the layout and we investigated methodologically. First we tried the programming track, and his engine ran fine there. Then we placed it on the mainline at the Stockton Yard and it… did not run. Which is what he experienced the week before. We tried several combinations to try to isolate something. Maybe due to the NCE Controller? Nope. We placed the engine on the layout one the Napa yard and it was working fine. We then brought it back to the mainline at Stockton Yard and it would not run.

By “not running” it was interesting to see the engine cab internal light would light up, and it would make start/stop sounds. Some smoke was generated so clearly the heater element had power. But no movement and no corresponding chuffing sound.

The engine was sitting on block B21, controlled by the Valley Panel 1. Out of curiosity I turned off that block and… surprise, the engine still had lights on. Wait, what?

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