Introduction

Blog & News

About the Layout

RTAC Software

Videos

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.

2019-08-31 - Auxiliary Power Supply

Category Randall

The “Auxiliary Power Supply” is a gray box that used to be located on the other side of the wall behind the automation computer.  It has now been moved next to the fascia, just on the other side of the wall where the DCC Power Switch is located. This will make it easier to reset when it trips, which it sometimes does.

It has 3 outputs which provide:

  • 24 V DC for the DC / DCC relays.
  • 12 V AC for an accessory bus going under the layout, powering various little things (example: tortoise from the branchline, ac-dc converter for the Sonora signal bridge, etc.)
  • 6 V AC for … definitely some lights.

The next step is to put a green LED on the front of the power supply. This will make it even more obvious when it has tripped. Also replace the blue painter tape by a proper label. I added the LED but instead went for a contraption like this:

Click here to continue reading...


2019-08-26 - Repair for block B350

Category Randall

I finally repaired block B350 and this time it should work properly. This picture shows where two flex track segments were soldered together yet I was able to move the rail with the multimeter probe. The solder joint had simply failed so I removed the old solder and put some new one to make a good joint.

I was barking at the wrong tree before, and I only found the culprit by sheer luck.

Click here to continue reading...


2019-08-06 - Track Cleaning

Category Randall

How do we clean the track on this layout?

Turns out it’s a bit of a complicated subject. Take any model train magazine or forum and you’ll get hundreds of different replies, everyone claiming to know better.

I, for one, don’t know any better. I only know what I’ve seen done, and what I tried, with either success or failure. Let’s do a list. Sit down, that’s going to be a long story.

Click here to continue reading...


2019-07-28 - Elusive electrical issues with block B350

Category Randall

Lately the automation has been partially stopped due to this:

The automated UP passenger train stops in the middle of the grade going up to Summit. No electrical power.

Click here to continue reading...


2019-06-18 - Turnout T06 “Repair”

Category Randall

Recently turnout T06 had been out of commission. When throwing it, it would short the mainline. On the layout track plan, this turnout is part of a mainline cross-over in front of the Stockton Yard, which is fairly frequently used by the Saturday Operators -- they can build their train on mainline track #2 and then use that turnout to get it out on mainline track #1, for example.

Usually when I repair something, I made a protocol of documenting what was wrong and how it was fixed. My goal when doing so is to build documentation over time, as well as document changes to the layout. We really lack up-to-date documentation on the technical aspects of the layout besides the few schematics I got from Mr. Perry.

Click here to continue reading...


2019-06-15 - Work Update: Cleanup, and Future Plans for Napa

Category Randall

Today was another cleanup day. Mr. Morgan was here and helped me clean Napa quite a bit.

While he was doing this, I was trying to get this running for Jim, as detailed on my train blog page:

Click here to continue reading...


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

Category Randall

Jim got this engine for Randall in commemoration of the 150th Anniversary of the Transcontinental Railroad, and he ran it on the layout multiple times:

I had some issues with power pickup with this so I decided to toy a bit with it.
You can read the details on
my train blog page.


2019-05-31 - Back Room Electrical Outlets

Category Randall

The other day the back room had no power, while seemingly the rest of the layout had some. I don’t know if there are electrical schemas around -- I certainly don’t have any -- so I decided I’d document that and make a schema myself. Since I’m not an electrician, I need to look up how these folks draw their schemas first. In the meantime I compiled this:

Click here to continue reading...


2019-05-18 - Work Update: Napa and Sultan

Category Randall

Last week I spend most of the Sunday cleaning the Napa yard and its ballon track. The goal is to eventually be able to get a train out of the Napa yard and on the mainline. There’s still a number of challenges.

This Saturday, I did install a Frog Juicer Auto-reverser on the Napa balloon track. I simply put it in serie with the reversing toggle, which means power can still be cut simply by using the “A power” 3-state toggle (yard, N, valley). Usage is thus simplified, one just needs to select the A or B push-buttons to align the entry turnout and the yard ladder.

I ran a train from Napa to Sultan to understand the various issues. I was running the TGV in MU with two opposite “head” units. That was sort of required as, although I spent a lot of time cleaning that track last week, it’s still kinda rough. It needs to see more usage before it gets smooth. A single engine will typically lose power at the most inconvenient places.

Let’s look at the track schematic on how to go from the yard to the mainline. The “normal forward” direction on the mainline (when operators run in a continuous loop) on this schema is from right to left:

Click here to continue reading...


2019-05-12 - Napa Yard Cleaning

Category Randall

This week I’ve changed from my regular “fix something that’s broken” schedule to deal with a long postponed task: cleaning the Napa yard so that it can be used. This yard has not been properly cleaned since 2015. I’ve somewhat asked others to take care of it and I didn’t get what I expected so I’m just doing it my way. I’m halfway done and to make the task more interesting I made a video:

Click here to continue reading...


 Generated on 2019-09-07 by Rig4j 0.1-Exp-febf662