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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.

2021-06-29 - Pending Work on the Layout

Category Randall

There’s been a multiplication of small-to-medium tasks recently, so it’s worth making an inventory of what needs to be done on the layout. These are more or less in the order I plan to address them.

Task

Impact

Work Load

Building Lighting: Install / power Jacker Jack sign

Want

High

Medium

“Train Motion” Project (cameras display for public, ongoing)
        Status:
Proposal / Demonstrator Project

Want

High

Very High

Adjust Grade crossing lights at Fairfield Station

Need

High

Low

Bridgeport ballon track: Install the new DCC Auto-Reverser

Need

Medium

Low

Bridgeport turnout: Replace the Fulgurex turnout

Need

Medium

High

B91 Siding: Wall sign & turnout LED status.

Need

Medium

Medium

Fix the Fairfield-Lodi approach

        Status: Replacing turnout motor for T905

Need

Medium

High

Fixing dead spot at Sultan

Need

Medium

High

Automation of Fairfield area
        Status:
Powered via DCC power district. Cleaning.

Want

High

Very High

As usual tasks fall into two categories depending on their “impact”, meaning how visible a task is. “High impact” tasks have the most impact on the layout as a museum exhibit, from a public/visitor point of view -- these can be either scenery improvement, automation improvement, or anything that enhances running for the Saturday Operators and public view.

On the other hand, we have the “medium impact” tasks. These are all these “behind the scene” maintenance tasks that enable the layout to work properly. These are the little things that operators take for granted and do not notice till they stop working (and then ask me to fix it). Ironically that’s also the category of tasks where I get push backs in the sense of “why am I spending time on this task”, and I’m often offered armchair unhelpful comments to take shortcuts or plain ignore them. A little bit of support and less incentive for taking shortcuts would go a long way here. After all there’s a reason why half of this layout is fully non-functional, due to the previous years of accumulated deferred maintenance. That list is overwhelmingly long and growing faster than I can address it.

Anyhow… there are more tasks which I have not reported on this list as they won’t happen any time soon. The Pending Task list shows more and then there are even more tasks on the Known Issues list.

Here are a few details on some of these projects / maintenance tasks:

“Train Motion” project: this is my ongoing semi-large project. It has numerous steps.

  • Prototype demonstration had been completed last year (link).
  • In between, I got the laptop that will power this project.
    • Task: Finish setting up Linux on it.
  • Hardware cameras will start with the 3 I have over wifi.
    • Task: Install them on the layout, first for trying, then later more permanently.
  • Software is mostly there. I can reuse the demonstration software almost as-is.
    • Task: A more robust handling of the cameras’ connection (e.g. handling disconnections and reconnections, delayed startup).
    • Task: Redo the CSS-based chromium display. It’s quite crude.
  • Performance is going to be an ongoing issue. For example, the camera/laptop will initially rely on wifi for connection, and that may not be a proper long term choice, so I’m ready to change it as needed. The project displays my Youtube videos when idle, and that also may be an issue as the room wifi tends to cut off under heavy attendance, and that’s not something I can measure or test right now due to the pandemic limitations. So I fully expect issues to develop under normal usage and I will have to address them.
  • Simulation mode… Right now I develop everything at home. Once I install it at Randall, I’ll need a way to simulate the behavior when I work on it at home before pushing updates to Randall.

On the other hand, I also have a myriad of small-to-medium maintenance tasks to perform on the layout to keep everything running smoothly, plus the occasional incremental improvement. That list is overwhelmingly long and growing faster than I can address it, here’s a sample:

  • Building Lighting: Install / power Jacker Jack sign.
    • There’s the whole subtask of understanding and labeling the building lighting panel / buses. Not getting done any time soon though.
  • Bridgeport ballon track: Install the new DCC Auto-Reverser.
  • Bridgeport turnout: Replace the Fulgurex turnout, current one shorts the entire turnout power supply.
  • Fairfield-Lodi: Finish replacing the T905/T110 turnout with a Tortoise. I did not have a proper Tortoise at hand yet I found a “half dead” one leftover from GGMRC and I repaired it. Needs now to be installed. Then need to wire the B905 block to be powered properly without shorting.
  • B91 Siding: This was cleaned and “reactivated” recently. Print a proper wall sign, print proper toggle labels for the Valley panel, wire turnout status LEDs and have them visible on the wall signage.
  • Fairfield: Continue cleaning. Work on the future automation on the software / ESP-32 side.
  • Adjust Grade crossing lights at Fairfield Station.


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