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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.

2020-09-27 - State of Projects

Category Randall

Time for a little recap on pending projects, and a vague attempt at prioritizing them. This is an update for my post [2020-02-29 - Pending Work on the Layout]. Not going to make a fancy table this time, yet the same categorization as before is relevant, namely impact on layout running, impact on public viewing, and time/complexity.

The slight difference is that right now I am not prioritizing immediate public viewing since the museum is still closed till further notice. However we have weekly running to keep the track clean, so even if automation is off for a little bit, the layout must be running.

Currently, these are the projects I expect to be working on, in this order:

  • ESP32-CAM for Grade Crossing.
    • Impact: Immediate for running / public.
    • Complexity: High. Lots of uncertainties. Time consuming R&D.
    • Really needs an initial prototype. It’s a two-phase project: validate the concept, then implement the real one. Don’t expect something right away -- thus avoid advertising it before it is known to be functional.
  • Power block for Stockton station.
    • Impact: None for running, none visible for public automation.
    • Complexity: Low. Just time consuming pulling wires.
    • Will open the door for adding block sensors in the Stockton yard and providing more automation.
    • This may help with the stopped automation train being affected by DCC commands in Stockton Yard.
  • Finish 3rd turnout indicator in the Napa approach.
    • Impact: Medium-useful for running
    • Complexity: Low.
  • Complete Conductor 2 software.
    • Impact: None for running, none visible for public automation.
    • Complexity: High. Long term.
    • Will open the door for more automation down the road. I have a partial early prototype, which I never fully finished fletching out. There are still some open questions as to whether the new design can do what I need, then it needs to be fully implemented.

As usual, it needs to be said this list is dynamic. I will adjust my priorities as I see fit. Any maintenance repairs on the layout take priority.

There are other pending projects, which I honestly do not see working myself on in a reasonable time frame:

  • The “train motion video display” project…  This is ready for deployment, except I never heard any strong and obvious confirmation from the museum after my initial demonstration and my written proposal. I outlined the equipment needed and its cost, as well as the help I’d need for installing it.

All the following sub-projects are on the “nice to have” list, and won’t get addressed any time soon:

  • Fixing dead spot at Sultan.
  • Computer monitoring of all Circuit Breakers. On this one, I have completed a hardware prototype so I know it’s doable the way I want it -- using an NCE AIU01 to monitor up to 14 breakers.
  • Finish DCC control Mountain Turnout Panel.
  • DCC control Stockton Turnout panel.
  • DCC block detection on Valley panels 1 & 2.
  • DCC block detection on Mountain panel 1.
  • Automation of Fairfield area.

I’m still interested in completing them though, whenever I get to them.


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