Model Train-related Notes Blog -- these are personal notes and musings on the subject of model train control, automation, electronics, or whatever I find interesting.

2020-03-15 - Dwarf Signal for Turnout, Continued

Category Train

Here’s a concrete example that shows how to wire LEDs directly to a turnout frog, as explained here, and makes it obvious how trivial this is:

Resistance used here is 1 kΩ, that gives good brightness for both the green and red LEDs.
A 2.2 kΩ resistance also worked well enough for the red LED yet made the green one too dim.
In this example, the frog polarity is switched between rail A and B by a microswitch using the EZ-Track coil mechanism.

Another variation of this that I plan to use on the Randall Model Train layout is to only have the red LED, to make it clear when a turnout is left thrown/divergent. Especially for mainline turnouts, it acts as a “warning” signal. There is no need for the green LED in that case. I will likely embed the LED directly next to the turnout in the ballast. These LEDs are small enough that they could even be placed between the ties. The LED and the resistance can be wired to the existing terminal connected to the auxiliary contracts of the Tortoises.


2020-03-08 - Dwarf Signal for Turnout

Category DCC

Here’s an idealized turnout, showing the polarity of the frog based on whether the turnout is normal or reverse:

The frog is directly connected to rails A or B via the switch points of a slow-motion turnout motor, be it a Tortoise or a Fulgurex (in the case of the Randall layout). This works for any turnout which has a metal frog which polarity changes based on the turnout position. Examples are turnouts powered by a Tortoise or Fulgurex where the auxiliary contacts from the slow-motion motor are used to change the frog polarity. Another example are the EZ-Track turnouts with a metal frog.

We can directly wire two LEDs, green and red, with a resistance, to the frog and the A / B rails to get them illuminated to indicate the position of the turnout, as follows:

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2019-09-29 - NCE AIU and NCE EB1 Circuit Breakers

Category NCE

One issue I have on the Randall layout is that operators or automation sometimes short the layout. Then the NCE EB1 circuit breakers take over and of course shut down their corresponding power district. Then operators or staff ask me why things do not work, yet a lot of them fail to check the circuit breakers to see if they are shorting.

One idea I had a while ago was to use an NCE AIU01 to monitor the NCE EB1 circuit breakers. Then I could feed that into my automation software and get reporting of actual shorts right on my status web page.

The proposed solution is to use dual-channel optocouplers to connect the EB1 LED output to the AIU inputs.

Here are the details, as updated on 2020-02-04:

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2019-09-21 - Searchlight Car conversion to LED

Category Train

I’ve just finished this project:

The car itself is a Model Power HO Scale “Safety First #624 Searchlight”. It’s a depressed flat car with a nice & sturdy die cast metal construction. It’s really well done.

Jim got it for Randall and when we tried to use it, somehow trains started crawling when pulling the car.

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2019-06-15 - Cotton Belt 9389

Category Train

Jim gave me this engine, with the sole purpose of changing the horn. How hard can it be?

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2019-06-03 - Jupiter Steam 4-4-0 Engine

Category Train

Jim got this engine for Randall in commemoration of the 150th Anniversary of the Transcontinental Railroad.

My first attempts at doing that video were miserable as the engine would stop constantly at slow speed and I tried a few things to see if I could improve the power pickup.

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2019-01-20 - Mini Wifi Camera and Train Layout Usage

Category Video

I’m continuing my exploration of what we can do using these cheap small mini cameras when it comes to train layouts, and today’s subject is this mini pinhole wifi camera. How well does it work and what can we use it for?


Mini pinhole camera compared to an HO-sized gondola

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2018-12-09 - SQ23 Mini Camera for Cab Rides

Category Video

After trying the SQ12 camera, I moved on to its newer sibling, the SQ23. The goal is to use it to record cab rides. As this one has wifi, a secondary goal is to see if it’s suitable as a “live camera” e.g. to broadcast a ride view to a screen.

Cab ride filmed using SQ23 Camera

This is the SQ23 Camera I got from Amazon (can be found cheaper elsewhere, e.g. on Aliexpress), compared to my  Mobius Action Cam and the SQ12 camera:


From left to right: SQ12, SQ23, Mobius compared to an HO-size engine + gondola

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2018-12-01 - SQ12 Mini Camera for Cab Rides

Category Video

I’ve been doing all my “cab ride” recordings using a Mobius Action Cam. A few months ago I tried the RunCam 2 for comparison.
This time I decided to try one of the SQ “mini” cameras series for a change.

Cab ride filmed using SQ12 Camera

I got this SQ12 from Amazon:

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2018-10-12 - CMRS Touch Panels, continued

Category CMRS

This is a follow up on that proof-of-concept I made at CMRS about touch panels for the mainline.

I'd like to elaborate a few points, with some pros and cons, which I had been thinking about when I started the project. Upfront I want to make it clear I am not advocating for one solution or another. I am offering "food for thoughts", pros and cons, and matter of discussion. Some of the discussion involved industries or city names which are specific to CMRS’ layout. A map of it can be found in the link above.

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