Introduction

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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 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.

2019-05-18 - 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:

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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:

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2019-05-03 - May Mainline Automation Update

Category Randall

An update on the automated mainline on the layout at Randall Museum, San Francisco: the UP passenger train now has two coach cars, and the freight train now has a Santa Fe F7A engine on the point. In the back of this picture one can see the special engine waiting May 10th to commemorate the 150th Anniversary of the completion of the American Transcontinental Railroad.

Previously the automated freight train was pulled by the NYC 4-6-4 Hudson. This engine has worked flawlessly and superbly. It will likely return after a well deserved break.

Video of both automated mainline trains in action:

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2019-04-09 - Branchline Interchange

Category Randall

I’ve just completed recreating one of Mr. Perry’s hand-drawn schemas, this time explaining the power routing for block B322, which is the interchange track between the Mainline and the Branchline near Sonora:

Let’s look at what’s going on.

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2019-04-07 - RDC Santa Fe on Branchline Automation

Category Randall

The Rapido RDC Santa Fe has been working nicely on the Branchline with the automation for a few weeks now:


Click on player above to play full video.

These are the latest Rapido RDC Santa Fe, numbers 191 and 192. I had to adjust the front plow as it was riding too close to the rails and actually binding on some flex track junctions. I also did their “break in”, and performed the LokSound “slow crawl” adjustment as well as adjust the volume.

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.

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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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