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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.

2020-02-01 - Work Updates

Category Randall

Lately I have been tackling several small tasks. In the category of “nothing to see, move along,'' I've been working on the Napa yard to prevent the track from warping again. I’ve made expansion gaps at the end of each yard track with a dremel tool. For the first three tracks that had the most warping, I have also made gaps next to the isolating rail joiner by the turnout ladder, at the other side of the track. No pictures to offer as these changes were rather anti-climatic.

I’ll continue another day as I need to similarly fix the Napa balloon track, and I need to fix a dead solder in the Napa yard track #3 while I’m at it.

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2020-01-19 - Arduino/Servos Turnouts

Category Randall

Here’s the next thing to for Randall: explore creating turnouts using servos + arduinos, to replace the old twin-coils that fail in the yards.

Let’s take the example of the Stockton yard. The ladder has 8 tracks, and about 9 twin-coil turnouts. At least 2 of them are failing -- they do still throw, but they short. The panel uses route push-buttons that align the track turnouts and the two lead turnouts. There’s a diode matrix on a panel below the yard, and I have a schema for it somewhere in a piece of paper, although that one is simple enough to just recreate the matrix by hand.

Let’s say hypothetically I’d want to rebuild the turnout machines in that yard. What are the options?

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2020-01-18 - DCC Flag Man

Category Randall

I’ve got a set of DCC Flag Man and started using them on the layout, for example here on the siding for Sultan:


A DCC Flag Man protects the entrance of the tunnel siding at Sultan

On the other side of the tunnel, the crew is working on repairs:

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2020-01-04 - Scenery Updates

Category Randall

I found some time to use more of the vehicles and houses we got from Judy’s collection:

The buildings in the mountain and to the bottom left of the picture (next to the hotel) are from Judy’s collection, and they neatly fill some empty space. Technically the mountain has an access road, yet honestly it’s not visible from the visitors’ point of view. I believe I have seen some “shrubbery” green foam around that that I ‘d like to place around the buildings’ base to make them fit better. Gaps are very obvious from up close, not so much when seen from 5 yards away.

We also got this Amtrak train from Judy’s collection. I made a video which I have yet to finish editing. In the meanwhile, the train is stopped at the Fairfield station for everyone to look at:

Some people may want to snobbishly point out this train is not prototypical; I both fully agree and would ignore that. It’s a nice setup and I’d rather have it visible that sitting on a shelf. I also think the paint scheme nicely fits together. The train runs nicely too.

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2020-01-01 - Happy New Year

Category Randall

Happy New Year 2020 from the Randall Model Railroad team.


A collage of 2019 trains on the Randall Model Railroad.


2019-12-31 - Last Changes for this Year, and Plans for Next Year

Category Randall

Yesterday, I changed the freight train to use the 5278 NYC steam engine for the Polar Express. Jim put some labels on it. Also it’s worth nothing I’m not a fan of the Polar Express thing which I see mostly as a commercial effort, yet again it works for our audience, and that’s eventually what matters.


A NYC J-1 Hudson (4-6-4) pulls our Polar Express on the Automated Line on the HO Scale DCC Layout at Randall Museum, San Francisco.

Of note, I was having some issues with the sound on 5278.

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2019-12-24 - Retrospective for 2019

Category Randall

What got done in 2019, and what did not?

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2019-12-21 - A Lightweight Junior Engineer Day Setup

Category Randall

We have not reestablished the GGMRC’s Junior Engineer Day (JED) at Randall since the re-opening in 2017. I originally had plans for it, and shoved them aside due to two reasons: one is technical, the other is staff involvement.

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2019-11-29 - Freight Automation Change

Category Randall

A few weeks ago, Jim got these two Bachmann SD70, and I tried them on the automation. They work very well, with some nice sound and lights. I was even surprised to see that IL 1072 had alternating ditching lights that come on automatically when the automation slows it down with the bell at the Sonora station!

The other engine he got is Reading 1067:

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2019-11-21 - Passenger Automation Changes

Category Randall

Looks like the Passenger train derailed:

My first reaction was to try the engine with just the caboose, and…

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