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About the Model Railroad

RTAC Software


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.

2022-10-08 - Cleaning the Napa Balloon Track

Category Randall

I was cleaning the balloon track on the Napa yard this morning, and realized the “DCC Dead Spot Detection Car” I made was very useful: the LEDs come on or off when the track has no conductivity. When the train runs, they sort of “blink”, and that can give us a real sense of how dirty the track is.

I tried a few variations on the train composition. What works best for normal cleaning is:

  • Roller car goes first,
  • Followed by engine,
  • Then the DCC detection car,
  • Finally one or two pad cars.

When the track is really dirty, both the roller car and the pad car go in front of the engine.

To clean tracks that haven't been cleaned in years, I typically use several freight cars as buffers between the cleaning cars and the engine, and I try to even avoid the engine getting on the track to clean if possible.

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