Thursday, 15 December 2016

Layout Update - 2016 summary

2016 end of year Update

A lot of detail and tuning has occurred over the last few months. I built car card boxes and developed operating runs and train orders. This resulted in another operating session with 6 colleagues and a number of lessons for improvement. We also now have some signals installed especially around Beauville. More mini LEDs were installed.
Mike Bartlett, the NMRA AP Director came in and on one occasion we built a “fifty cent industrial light”. With no preparation we completed it in about 20 minutes – and it worked!


I converted all my 86 foot auto parts cars to body mounted couplers and added them to the layout. I purchased these from TrainWorks at the last N Scale convention for about $3.50 each – a bargain. The paint scheme was off so they were rejects!!
AT&SF 86 foot auto parts cars
Staging tracks torn up to relay
Originally they had bogie mounted couplers. They looked great and they ran pretty well but in future I may also upgrade the wheels to metal wheels. However I discovered that a curved section of my staging yard had the tracks a little too close when these long cars and passenger cars were next to each other.  So the only solution was to tear up the tracks and widen the spacing.. Well the most time consuming part of doing this was moving all the cars and locos in staging and planning how to do it. Once the track was up, new cork was laid, and the new track wired and laid.


At Beauville most of the switches are controlled by DPDT sliding switches. Hence the extra contacts on the DPDT switches are available to power the signals to indicate whether the switch is open or closed for the facing route.
Beauville Signals
At the eastern end of Beauville I canablised a Bachman overhead signal system and installed a green / red LED. The signal bridge now cantilevers out over two tracks.
East Beauville Cantenary signal
Beauville Yard

Mini LEDs

The caretaker’s cottage at the wind farm was an interesting project to use LEDs. There is one installed under the balcony roof, and I added an interior floor so I could light the second floor only.
Caretakers Cottage

The effect of the warm white lights is very good.

City Upgade:

Work is progressing slowly in the city area. Some lights and signs have been added to the buildings.  I still have the “Sexy scene” to install in JD’s Bar. That will take a keen eye to see.
JDs Bar
There are now lights in Leeville Central Station, and external lamps (mini LEDs) on three sides of the building
Leeville Central Station

The city park has been completed. It has a children’s play area with slippery dip, swings and balance bar. There is a tennis court with players and a photographer.
City Park

Kaye’s Flour.

Kayes Flour is a combination of a kit bashed Cornerstone model plus 25mm pipe and overhead buildings made from scraps. The siding was extended so it now is a line to pick up from “Mine Craft” storage.

Kaye's Flour

Harley Freight Forwarding:

This diorama now has lights for the yard.
HJ Freight Forwarding

Gleeville Church:

Although not complete the church now has a series of grave stones and the fence is almost complete. I plan to add flowers to some of the graves and more detail in the yard.
Gleeville Church

Summit Gravel:

The Summit Gravel office has interior light and a new “office” sign. The store room has an exterior light (mini LED)
Summit Gravel Office and store

Feather River:

The single track through Feather River now has additional trees and shrubs. Boy it is amazing how many trees a layout can ‘swallow”. I must have close to 1,000 trees on the layout and could use many more.
Feather River tracks


I have slowly developed the operations run sheets and rules so that multiple operators can participate and run several trains, and assemble others. Initially I had run sheets but have developed car cards for almost all the cars on the layout. I also built card boxes for each key location with a simple: East, West, or Spot holder for the cards.
Card Boxes at Summit
The run sheets for each train and / or operation are held in A5 plastic holders together with the car cards for that train. The local stationery chain sells A5 holders which hang neatly on the fascia.
Run Sheets in A5 holder
Our last operating session with 6 colleagues used this method. The general feeling was it could be simplified as car numbers are hard to read in N Scale. So instead of dropping off  ADM Hopper number 123456 and picking up Box Car BNSF  654321 the operation could be drop one ADM Hopper and pick up Box car.
Our next operating session will potentially move to this format.
Also with a collector like me the staging tracks and yards are reasonably full of cars and trains. It is the old adage that you never have enough storage tracks on your layout. One colleague suggested a rule of thumb should be about 50% utilization of storage track to enable more movement of trains and I will try that as well next time we run a full operating session. Gee which trains will I have to remove?
OK there is a lot more I could have updated but this is the last update for 2016.
Next year I hope to have a full web page and an easier to navigate design. All the best.

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Fifty Cent Industrial Lights

This article will describe how you can build Industrial Lights for your layout for less than 50 cents.
Here is an example of my first attempt installed on my N Scale layout.
First attempt at an Industrial light

Some background first: I have been buying small LEDs from various suppliers for some time and using them in buildings. There are several commercial model railroad suppliers who wire them with all the circuitry so you can run them on DC or AC from 3-16 volts. They are excellent but work out about US$3 each light. Then on a layout tour at the latest NMRA convention in Indianapolis I saw a layout with building lights that were as effective as anything I had seen to date. The owner used wired SMD LEDs which he bought of “EBay”. That evening I ordered about 50 of them in warm white and bright white and had them shipped back to Sydney. Cost all up was about $20.
I proceeded to add lights to some of my buildings. Here are some examples. It is really quick and simple.
I drilled 1mm holes for the leads in the buildings and inserted the SMD LED. Inside the building I attached the supplied resister and further leads to hook up to my 5 volt DC bus under the layout. I was impressed with the result for so little cost. The LEDs are so small they look like light fittings. You can paint the tops to minimize upward light, but I find you can position the LED so the “globe” is downward. Look at these 3 building I did after Indianapolis.

Laser wood cottage - LED under awning and in top room

3 warm lights over doors and a bright white outside elevator

warm white SMD LEDs under awnings 

So after this effort I thought there may be a way  to make realistic industrial lights.  I used Google to  get pictures and examples of contemporary lighting. Many industrial lights are a pole with a light box on top. Yeah, I know that sounds simple but go have a look.
So the plan was to use plastic tube for the pole and a small section of channel on top as the light cover. The LED would sit in the channel. So here are the steps.


·      Pole – Evergreen 2.4mm (3/32 inch) tube.
·      Pole base: Evergreen 4mm (5/32 inch) tube.
·      Light Cover: Evergreen 2.5mm channel
·      Light: SMD LED – wired with resisters.
·      Paint: Aluminium spray paint..
Here are the materials.
Materials - plus wire and heat shrink


After making my first light, which is  the photograph on the first page, I decided to make a batch of 10 lights. Using a scale rule I made half 30 feet tall and the other half 40 feet tall.
A scale rule helps

Thread LED

Next step is to thread the LED leads through the 2.4mm pole. This is easy as the leads are very thin and there is plenty of room.
Here are the 10 poles with LEDs.
Poles with LEDs threaded

Test LED.

99% of LEDs work but these industrial lights are not able to be maintained once built. Being LED they should last “forever”, but you don’t want a bad one at the finish. I use a simple LED tester but you could use a DC power source.
LED tester

Add Base:

The base will go below ground level to give the pole more stability and it is also there to enhance it’s appearance. I cut the 4mm tube 2.5cm (1 inch) long and super glued it to the bottom of the pole with enough overlap to ensure a good fit. It is important to add the base at this stage as the resister and heat shrink may not fit through the base later.

Add Top:

The top of the pole is a small section of channel to cover the LED and reflect the light downwards.  Start with the first pole. Bend the LED so that it is just out of the pole and at 90 degrees to the pole. Then I add a little super glue in the channel (note a long piece of channel at this stage for stability) and force the pole into the channel with the pole at one end of the channel. Once dry in a minute or so you can cut the channel at the end of the LED and put the pole back in the holding Styrofoam. Then proceed to the next pole with more super glue in the channel.
Gluing pole to channel top

Solder Resister and leads.

The LEDs come with resisters. There are two wires on the LED and one is longer than the other. Be consistent in your wiring as it helps with any later wiring issues. I solder the resister to the longest lead and then add a further lead and heat shrink the entire resister and connections at each end. Then proceed to the other lead and after soldering add some heat shrink.
Solder leads then add heat shrink

At this stage it is prudent to test the LEDs again. I haven’t had a failure but better safe than sorry later.


I painted my poles an aluminium colour using a cheap spray can. Before painting it is advisable to cover the LEDs with some tape. I use Tamirya masking tape but painters tape would work as well. Cut small pieces and attach them to the bottom of the light.
You could  paint the poles by holding each pole by the lower base with a pair of tweezers or even your hand.
I used some clothes pegs to hold the ten poles and anchored them down with some gaffa tape.
Mask the LED to keep paint off it.

Here are the pegs holding the lights.
a practical holder

After painting and drying we have our ten poles ready to be installed on the layout.Yes, the pegs got paired as well.
Painted poles ready to plant


As the base is 4mm round that is the size hole you need to drill to install the lights. As mentioned, I have a 5 volt DC bus under the layout which is ample to power these lights. I attach all the short leads to one side of the bus and the long leads to an on-off switch on the fascia near the scene, which is then connected to the other side of the bus. One reason to be consistent with wiring is that if you used 2 colours to connect the LEDs (I used blue and white telephone cable), then all of one colour goes to one side of the bus and the other colour to the other side.


I may find improvements as I do more lights and share ideas with fellow modellers, but I am very happy with the result. Here is the pulp mill with the industrial lights.
Pulp Mill with 2 light poles

Here is a close up of one of the poles at the pulp mill.
Light pole at Pulp mill.

Give it a go and share your experiences.

Saturday, 25 June 2016

Scenery for Beccy Pulp Mill and Beauville.

I am off to the N Scale convention in Kansas City and the NMRA convention in Indianapolis tomorrow, so there will be no further work on the layout for 3 weeks. I have just finished two areas with scenery and ballasting and weathering of the tracks and felt I should record that. Here is the development and several pictures to show how this progressed. Hopefully this will add more interest for future operating sessions.


I have two trolleys - one for track work materials and tools and one for scenery. This can go with me as I work and keeps the materials relatively tidy. Here is the scenery trolley.
Scenery materials and their trolley
As I started this section I did largely follow best practices in preparation. It is important to mask the track, and structures like tunnel portals. I use painter's tape. From experience do not use masking tape, as it leaves the sticky parts on the structure and track.
Track taped and bare scenery base
For the base I use 100% PVA glue to glue down all the materials. For "wetting" the scenery I use 50/50 alcohol and water. For the top layer of glue once all the talis, weeds and branches are added to the scenery base I use 50/50 PVA and water from a dripper bottle, or applied using a pipet.

Glue and spray ready
I had painted the background beforehand so wanted to protect that. To do so I slipped cardboard down the back of the scenery.  The terrain does not attach to the wall so there is a small gap to enable the cardboard to fit. In places where I had photo backdrops mounted on foam core, I removed these during this process.

Old cardboard was used to protect the background

Layering the scenery base.

Woodland Scenics and others like Heki make some excellent materials. It is important to be consistent in the type and colour to get a common feel to the finished scenery. 
The first phase is to cover the area being addressed with concentrated white glue (PVA). Don't do too much in one go. I work in 30-50cm (1-2 feet) areas at a time.
White glue before spreading
Once the white glue is applied I use a cheap brush to spread it evenly. Then using a sifter apply the base ground cover.

Sifting the base cover onto the white glue
Some of the areas that are vertical will not attach the scenic material from the sifter. The best technique is to put some scenic material on an A4 sheet, bend the sheet and whilst blowing direct the material to the vertical surfaces. I use clear acrylic sheets for this purpose as below.
Blowing scenic material onto vertical surfaces.
Here is an example of just the base covering. It still looks pretty bland.
Base covering
The next stage is to add layers of scenery materials. In this area I sifted on some fine brown - green turf to show some grass growing.
Fine turf being added
As part of the layering of scenery I add talis rocks, small branches (made from small garden pruning),  to simulate a natural ground.
Adding branches
On the flatter areas I use static flock applied with an electrically charged sieve. Note the area where white glue is applied to attach the flock. The grey area will be a gravel base for the old fuel depot.
About to add flock
When all the base is complete it is time to wet it all down with 50/50 alcohol and water and drip on diluted white glue.
Wetting the finished ground cover
After wetting we then apply the 50/50 white glue to all the ground cover. I am using a bottle that drips the glue. Many folks use a pipet to apply the glue. Either works fine. The 50/50 alcohol wetting helps spread the glue through the scenic materials.
Final gluing of scenery base.
As my layout is set in Northern California I then add tuffs of grass bushes. Again I use Woodland Scenics grass tuffs, and some I made from ground foam. I fill a dispenser with white glue - add the tuffs and proceed to place them on the scenery.
White glue and Tuffs

Placing the Tuffs
The next stage when all is dry is to add trees. I have a combination of Woodland Scenics trees, "bottle brush" pine trees, and Scenic Express "Supertrees". All of these need to be made, but once you get the production line going they come together quickly. I must have over 500 trees so far.
Next I ballasted the yard and mainline tracks. My mainline is modern concrete sleepers and a light grey ballast (Chucks Light Grey Ballast). The yard is a darker grey - almost brown ballast over the wooden sleep tracks. I use a combination of "rust" paint and Woodland Scenics rail dispensers to stain the rails and take the shine off the sides.

Beauville and Beccy Pulp "completed".

Here is a gallery of the completed section.
River at end of Beauville
In the overall view of Beauville below it is easy to identify the mainline and yard tracks.

Overview of Beauville

Freight terminal - Beauville

Old station and buildings - Beauville
At Beccy Pulp the buildings are almost complete but the scene still needs people, and the buildings need weathering and signs.

Bercy Pulp - conveyor to be completed

Rear of Beccy Pulp

Highway to Beauville

Old fuel depot - Beauville

BNSF grain train through Beauville