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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 project.

2018-11-22 - More Automated Routes

Category Randall

Based on last week experimentation at Randall, here are a few more idea of automated routes, with a focus on what would be needed to make them happen. To be clear, none of this will happen any time soon, or even at all.

1- Trolley

Jim got this little trolley a while -- it is the Atlantic City from Bowser streetcar. We’re not using it yet and I can see two automation options:

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2018-11-13 - New Power Coming Soon

Category Randall

The current mainline route is automated using an Amtrak Dash 8-32 for the passenger train and Santa Fe Dash 8-40 for the freight train. We have new power and I’m working on using it for the passenger train.

The original intent was to replicate the UP Special Train as they use it with Operation Lifesaver. However I am no longer keen to deal with the headaches of a push-pull setup so I’ll probably start with a very conservative and minimalist setup with just one engine and an UP coach. Jim got the dome car so we can expand later if it proves reliable.

In an ideal world, I’d place this train on track #2 in the station and we could alternate daily or so between Amtrak and UP for some variety. Unfortunately that turnout T311 that joins the station to the mainline has been giving me some troubles, which is the reason why our 3-coach train currently only has only one coach in automation.


2018-11-11 - Stockton Passenger Station Power, Continued

Category Randall

The Stockton Station is certainly the most visible feature of the layout when visitors walk in the room and approach the middle of the room.

Last week, I wondered “Where does the power from the Stockton Passenger Station come from?

Resolving that question took a full week, and was accomplished with the help of Mr. Perry who provided his extremely well detailed original schematics of the power routing to the station, which I turned into these schematics:

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2018-11-04 - A Mountain of Wires

Category Randall

Here’s an example of wiring under the layout. The next picture shows the block power leads out of the Mountain Panel. A bundle of red wires come from the panels, and another bundle of red wires goes to power the blocks on the mountain, and they all meet at this… thing. I’m going to call this an “interconnection board” for a lack of a better term:

The picture above doesn’t strike me as the best job ever. Now that would not seem too odd, except there are two issues here: first, one of the bundles of red wires just goes nowhere on the ground nearby, and second there’s a bundle of black wires coming in the picture. And do I see the black wires connected to the red wires? Yes I see that clearly.

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2018-11-03 - Stockton Passenger Station Power

Category Randall

So here’s an interesting problem: where does the power from the Stockton Passenger Station come from?

On this picture, the two rightmost tracks are mainline. Everything on the left is the Stockton Passenger Station. The Budd RDC is on the mainline whereas the Amtrak is on a passenger station track.

And then when the T03 turnout is set in reverse position on the mainline, the station loses power… Why?!

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2018-09-29 - The RDC is back

Category Randall

The Rapido RDC SP-10 is back on the layout.

The engine had stopped working a month ago and it took some interesting amount of work to make it functional again.

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2018-09-22 - Automation Motion Sensor

Category Randall

I’ve installed the motion sensor with the AIU:

  • Modified the AIU to have 4 terminal outputs.
  • The 2N2222 is stuck between terminal pin 14 and one of the outputs (ground).
  • The 3 remaining terminal output match the motion sensor pins: ground, signal, 5V.

More technical details can be found on this blog post.

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2018-09-09 - Richmond Panel & Yard

Category Randall

One more thing that happened this week-end is starting to look at the Richmond Yard, the track connecting it to the mainline, and the associated yard panel. As usual on this layout, the major issue is a crucial lack of labelling. I’ve started by applying notes with blue painter tape, and I’ll figure out better labels once everything is understood:

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2018-09-09 - New Train on the Line

Category Randall

With Jim, we’re trying a new train in the Mainline to replace the Doodlebug. This looks like it should provide some interest to our public:

Leading engine is Santa Fe 804, and this model has some interesting sound. Since it’s running in alternance with the Amtrak Passenger train, I suggested we use these two interesting freight cars. Jim added a nice caboose to complete this train.

It runs in a back-and-forth shuttle mode on track #2 between the Stockton Station and Sonora. I run it at a conservative speed 16 (on 28) going forward and then speed 12 coming back.


2018-09-08 - RTAC Update

Category Randall

RTAC is the software running on the Android tablets. I’ve made some modifications these past two weeks and I just finished enough to deploy the first changes at the museum:

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