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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.

2022-01-06 - Automation Maintenance

Category Randall

On the software side, while traveling during the xmas break, I have spent time cleaning up the Conductor source code, which is my script-based software that drives the entire model layout automation. I have not changed any functionality, just done maintenance on the code base; I have modularized the code to split the parser and the script engine into an engine module, and I have updated all the dagger components to make it easier to write tests for just the scripting engine.

I have remotely deployed the new version on the layout, and as desired this update was totally silent and unnoticed.

On the train model side, we’ve had issues with the Branchline for a little while.

Last month, the 2-car Santa Fe RDC from Rapido stopped working. I “solved” that by just running it with only one of the two RDC cars. The unit is also not doing sound anymore, at least not in a consistent manner.  That’s unfortunately the second Rapido RDC unit that developed similar problems. The small motors they use for each truck is apparently the weak link, and since they use two of them, the unit can’t run well once one of the motors fails. For the RDC SP 11, I worked around that by disconnecting one of the motors, making it single-truck powered, which is fine on our flat branchline. I could do that too here, however it won’t solve the sound issue (it does make sound from time to time IIRC so it’s not a speaker/wiring issue, maybe more like a decoder issue).

The other way I “fixed” the branchline automation is by thoroughly cleaning the engine wheels and then scrubbing the track where it was losing power with the Walthers hand cleaning tool.

But at some point we need to just work around the problem and address it. Time for an engine/train change on the branchline.

There’s a similar issue on the mainline. The trains were not stopping at the right spot, and that got solved by cleaning the engine wheels. But more importantly, we’re going to have to swap the engines at some point. Out of the two UP SD70ACe engines, one is out of commission, and I’m currently running with the backup UP 8749. There is no backup for the backup so we’ll need to deal with that.

The easy solution here is to try to get yet another UP SD70ACe once available. Currently Walthers or TrainWorld have none though. In any case, one of the many pending tasks I have is to look at what’s wrong with the first unit and fix it. What I have done in the past that worked well is get any similar unit from the same OEM and just do a shell swap.

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