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The Randall Museum in San Francisco hosts a large HO-scale model train layout. 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 de-facto layout 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.

2019-03-09 - RDC ATSF & Branchline, continued

Category Randall

Still having some small trouble running RDC ATSF on the Branchline. Two weeks ago I fixed a turnout issue and thought that would be the last of it. Now we have a dead spot, and I’m trying to address that.


RDC ATSF on the dead spot on the Branchline

Looking at it more closely, the track feeder is on the right; next to it on the left is a small 2 inch piece of track then the turnout. Power for the turnout rails comes from the track attached to it.

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2019-02-22 - RDC ATSF, Branchline, and old Turnouts

Category Randall

Tonight’s first attempt to run RDC ATSF 191/192 on the branchline started well. I ran the engine from the mainline to the branchline by using the interconnexion and that worked well. I reprogrammed the automation to use engine 191 instead of SP 10 and that worked flawlessly since they have the same running characteristics. Then the RDC derailed on the way back, consistently at the same location, and this is what I observed:


RDC ATSF 192 approaches Angels Camp station on the branchline.
The branchline feature these complex dual-gauge turnout, being both standard gauge and narrow gauge.

 

Some engines or cars work well here, and some derail. Every. Single. Time. By looking at it more carefully, it’s painfully obvious the bottom point is broken in the turnout, and the top one has a small gap.

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2019-02-16 - New RDC Coming Soon

Category Randall

Courtesy of the nice folks from Rapido Trains Inc., I’ve experimented a bit with this on Saturday:

These are the latest Rapido RDC Santa Fe, numbers 191 and 192. A preliminary run worked fairly well -- I had to adjust the front plow as it was riding too close to the rails and actually binding on some flex track junctions. They need to run a bit more to be broken in, and I still need to do the LokSound “slow crawl” adjustment as well as adjust the volume.

I’m hoping they will be part of the daily automation in a couple weeks at most.

For more history on these unique RDCs, please visit this site: http://atsf.railfan.net/atsfpres/dc191.html. They have a unique story and is quite worth reading and this site actually explains why both cars are looking different.


2019-02-15 - Randall Repairs: Mainline Turnouts

Category Randall

Affected

All non-DCC manual Mainline Turnouts

Description

Turnout toggle T320 was shorting between its inputs and made the non-DCC turnout power supply shutdown.

Summary Fix

Temporarily disconnected Mountain Turnout panel.
The turnout toggle still needs to be replaced.

Description of Issue

A few hours after temporarily fixing T320 on 2019-02-13, the mainline turnouts stopped working while I was trying to switch in the Stockton Yard.

Slow-motion turnouts are powered by two regulated DC power supplies, one for DCC turnouts and one for non-DCC turnouts (there’s a 3rd AC power supply for twin-coil turnouts as used in the yards). Checking them showed that the non-DCC turnout power supply had shutdown. This happens would typically when there’s a short on the power bus and the power supply protects itself.

The power supply has a 10A fuse in serie on its output, so a quick test is to simply open the fuse, and indeed this allows the power supply to start again. Once the circuit was open, with a ohmmeter I checked the turnout power bus and it cleared showed a short.

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2019-02-13 - Randall Repairs: Turnout T320

Category Randall

Affected

Turnout T320 (crossover from B321 to B320).

Description

The point on the turnout on B321 was not throwing completely in Normal position, thus sometimes trying to diverge engines & shorting.

Summary Fix

Temporarily fixed by forcing turnout in Normal direction & disconnected control wires from Switch-8 to prevent activation. Needs more work.

Description of Issue

T320 is a crossover that brings trains from block B321 to B320 in our normal running direction.

After working flawlessly for 2 weeks, the automated trains started stopping and shorting on this turnout last week.

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2019-02-10 - Fairfield Industrial Yard

Category Randall

Right in the middle of the layout is a fairly large industrial city. When visitors walk in, it’s right in the middle visible above the Mountain Panels.

When I discovered the layout back in 2014, this part of the layout was not powered, and it is still not functional today. I had started looking at it back in 2015 and realized there would be quite some work involved in making it fully functional (as in “tedious but not impossible”). But does it need to be fully functional? Since the layout runs as an “automated exhibit” now 4 days a week, I just realized this area has some great potential for some simple but effective automation even within its current state, and that would add great value to the visitors.

This represents the industrial park of the Fairfield, California and includes a good portion of street running. I am not sure what year this represents. This was designed for switching. There’s a dedicated control panel in front of it (see below).

The track plan:

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2019-01-27 - NYC 4-6-4 Hudson pulling the Automated Freight

Category Randall

Courtesy of Tom Eikerenkotter and Jim Evans, the freight train is now pulled by a New York Central Hudson steam engine:


Train 5278 approaches the Sonora Station pulling a short freight.

As usual, computer automation controls the train movement, light, bell, and whistle. It starts when motion is detected in the room. This route works in “shuttle” mode. The train automatically moves to the small station and then reverses to the main station after a short stop:


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

New York Central “Hudson” 4-6-4 steam engines were originally built by ALCO for NYC in 1927-1931 to pull passenger trains. Our operation is unique, pulling a short freight train with an SP caboose! ;-)


2018-12-29 - Visual Guides & Labeling

Category Randall

One of the issues we were having lately was how to explain to the staff & operators where the trains are supposed to be stopped when they are idle at the station.

The automation computer only cares about the train being on the proper block, but there’s no strong indication of where the blocks start and end. There are no road-side markers, and the gaps in the track can be fairly hard to spot for the non initiated.

Jim came up with the excellent idea of placing little HO-sized cars where the trains stop. I further added some labels:

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2018-12-26 - Sonora / Branchline Update

Category Randall

The Branchline mets the Mainline at a point named “Angel Camp”. Although we have the Rapido RDC stationed here, I thought it looked a bit empty. There are interchange tracks and a 3-tracks yard. So I added this today:

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2018-12-21 - RDC Hide & Seek

Category Randall

The RDC stopped working today. Even when looking for it, we could not find it. It wasn’t at the station, it wasn’t stuck at the reversing block, and it was on no other part of the Branchline I could think of. After crawling under the layout and looking under the scenery and not finding it, I went back to the front of the layout and finally noticed this.

There’s a short tunnel at this place. On the other side is the canyon trestle bridge, and it’s nearly impossible to spot the engine in the tunnel from the other side’s angle. The amusing thing is that it fits nicely in this little short tunnel

The good part is that there was nothing visibly wrong with the Rapido engine and it started working just fine once I moved it somewhere else. Issue was just dirty track, as we had not cleaned that one in a little while, so I did scrub that a bit and then cleaned the engine wheels.


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