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Oh... that's so good! So, here's the deal. I could get this or get the DCS/Legacy control systems the layout needs... I can't get both... at least not this year.


I finished the gluing today, worked for close to five hours. Much to my horror, some of the new Loctite glue was gluing to the tracks great, but was releasing from the Flexibed. Judicious use of super-glue got things under control, but it freaked me out. I went back to using the DAP adhesive.


I made a couple of wood gauges to properly space the yard tracks to 3.5 center-to-center, and I used a string line to set up the long run from the outside yard switch to the engine service tracks. Everything came out pretty well and the last "s" curve piece that connects the yard to the inner mainline at the swing-gate pretty much dropped in with no correction. All in all, the track really fit well and other that problems with the very first tracks we laid down, it went according to the RRTrack drawing.


I'm letting all of tonight's work cure for 24 hours, then I'll clean everything up for another overall status shot. Then it will be on to wiring.


Gluing down the tracks 10


Gluing down the tracks 9


Gluing down the tracks 8


Gluing down the tracks 7


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  • Gluing down the tracks 10
  • Gluing down the tracks 9
  • Gluing down the tracks 8
  • Gluing down the tracks 7



Before you go to the trouble of taping the backside of your control panel think about this.  This idea was mentioned on the forum several years ago.  Use your favorite software package to layout your track plan.  Add on the lettering and other ID info you want.   This takes care of the visible side of the panel.  If you reflect the image right-to-left will take care of the backside.  You can add all the necessary notations for wiring and drilling holes.


When you have completed the masters drawings go to a graphics print shop have them print the front and back on poster-sized paper.  Hopefully, they can register the originals and do it two-sided. 


You can use spray glue to sandwich the plexiglass and prints together.



I put all the stuff away, found the bag of extra ties that I was unable to find for weeks, and took some final pictures of the track laying. I also stopped by the tracks of the Norfolk-Southern RR to take a picture of rail to get the right color for the rail painting, and picked up a few pieces of real railroad ballast to measure it and then scale it down to 1:48. I want to know just how big (or little) the ballast particle size should be to look right. A little obsessive you say? Yes!


I inserted some of the extra ties in gaps between cut rails. Sometimes the cut rails came out leaving a tie missing. Inserting them in afterwards closed up the gaps.


While this looks very similar to the last status portrait, everything is tied down and ship shape. Everything is as straight as I could get it. No perfect, but close enough for O'gauge. There's one track right in the center that's just touching the one opening in the platform, but instead of using more OSB I'm just going to fill it with Styrofoam since it's not going to be load bearing. I'm just tired of screwing in OSB, and having the screw points protrude through the top, and then have to grind them off with the Dremel. That phase of this project is over.


 Progress Shot Glue Complete


Here's a close up of hinge-side track joint for the swing-gate. The trains roll over the gap without a whimper.


 Gluing Complete 5


The yard tracks came out nice and straight, but if you look closely, there seems to be a hump in the middle of the runs. It's a panel joint that didn't come out dead flat. It's only in the yard, is very slight and shouldn't cause any operational problems.


 Gluing Complete 4..


Here's the back side track. It came out nicely.


 Gluing Complete 2


And here's another view of the yard from the left end. You can plainly see the roadbed just coming to the edge of that opening. Can't wait to get this thing wired up and have some trains running. My MicroMark heavy-duty Styrofoam cutter arrived today. Can't wait to try it out on some blocks of the stuff I have lying around. What problems are there with fumes with something like this? I really can't ventilate the basement very well.


Gluing Complete 3


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  • Progress Shot Glue Complete
  • Gluing Complete 5
  • Gluing Complete 4..
  • Gluing Complete 2
  • Gluing Complete 3

Cutting in the garage makes sense. I do a lot of the heavy spray painting there too. That is as long as I remove the cars. I painted a freezer with Appliance paint from a rattle can, but didn't take my Acura out of the garage. I was halfway through when my wife stuck her neck into the garage seeing the fog and said, "Shouldn't you have taken the car out of the garage?" The answer was YES! And she was too late. Even though I had the door wide open the car got a fine overspray all over it. It was an epoxy-bearing paint and was a pain in the butt to get off. It got all over the windshield, which I cleaned off. But during a rain I turned on the wipers. They were still coated with dried paint which then abraded the glass and left radial streaks that are there to this day.


To get the spray off the car, the car wash suggested clay. It's a clay that the car restorers use to put a final polish on the surface. It took hours and lots of elbow grease, but I restored the car back to original shine (except for the windshield.) I learned a lesson that day... the hard way. It's said that good judgement is the result of experience which is the result of bad judgement.


Taking my reader's advice, I redesigned the graphic for the control panel specifically so it can be printed commercially. Since I wouldn't be using masking tape to lay it out, I didn't have to worry about having curves; therefore, I changed the display on RRTrack to a single line, made a screen capture of it and then traced over the image in CorelDraw with a 4mm line. I thought about using a white background, but felt that the spray adhesive may leave a tint that would be objectionable. So I'm using a light yellow which would neutralize the tint (I hope).


I then changed the scheme to place the switch controllers somewhat near the switch images on the track plan. Here's what that now looks like. The dotted line is a future expansion leading to the coal mine tipple. There should be room on the panel for more stuff too.


New Panel Design


I think it will be easier to operate the layout when you have to line up 6 or 7 switches to make a move. Let me know what you think. The image I give to Kinkos (or whomever) will not contain the images of the switch controllers, but the small black circles are going to stay. The larger, middle circle is the hole location and size for the DPDT switches for cab control, and the smaller flanking circles are for the lights that indicate which transformer throttle has the track. If I go digital, I will not need all these block switches since DCS doesn't like passing a signal through this many switches, but I will still need them for the yard tracks which need to be de-energized most of the time.


I've also been thinking about another way to get power to the swing gate without running leads all the way around the layout after crossing the middle bridge. I was thinking about getting a set of pickup rollers with the springs and all. Then mounting the roller on the door side and brass contact plates on the jamb side. When the gate rolls closed, the rollers will glide into position and make contact with the two brass power connectors. The microswitch which controls the power relay would also be in this area and would shut power off to the bridge and approaches to both sides far enough away so any train highballing to dead-man's gulch would be de-energized in time to stop the train. Using rollers would give a sliding contact that would be spring-loaded to maintain contact. Should work... right?


Clem, how do you energize your gate?



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  • New Panel Design

Good morning Trainman


I just run jumper wires from the track on the hinged side to the track on the gate. This powers the gate track all the time. Train can't get to it when open. Leave a little extra wire and keep it closer to hinge side. I also have switches and lighted buildings on my gate. Basically I just treat the gate as another module. 



That would work for me except that the hinge side is away from the transformer, and the only way around is across the bridge in the middle of the layout adding about 25 feet of wiring to reach the bridge. Building a contact system would reduce this about 15 feet total. I could have put the hinge on the transformer side, but it would have been a disaster getting through the darn thing.


On another subject: I printed out three color schemes for the control panel using the "stick it to the back of the plexi" scheme. I sprayed it with 3M 77 and stuck it to a piece of scrap plexi. Clearly, the black background...which is much cooler... looks the worse since the spray glue shows up. The lighter backgrounds look better and the tan with the blue is the best. I'm going to change the background color for the text because the spray glue discolor the white areas.


 Graphics Test 2


Now all I have to is change the scheme and send it off to Kinkos. I hope the adhesive doesn't let go with age... it probably will. Replacing it would be ridiculous since all the switches and lights would be wired ON TOP of the graphic...oh well.


Images (1)
  • Graphics Test 2

Thanks! And thanks for the heads up. What's the electrode made out of? If it's carbon, I can understand why it's so fragile. I haven't even unwrapped it yet.


Here's the re-colored control panel design. Since I'm doing all the graphics on the computer I embellished it a bit like drop shadows under block numbers.


Panel Graphic - Production


Notice that the pictorials of the switch controllers are gone. Only the crosshairs for the drill operation is on the graphics. The diameters are equal to the drill diameter so any evidence of the black circle should be covered by the lights or switches. This is the image that will be printed full-size.


Images (1)
  • Panel Graphic - Production

Thanks Jim! I'm sure we're going to need them especially since my grandson really wants to try it out.


When I made the first control panel 13 years ago while in Germany, I attempted to drill the acrylic with a standard jobbers drill with very touchy results. A standard 118º drill tip grabs acrylic on the way out and tends to crack the material. It's very hard to control. A drill for plastic has a sharp, 60º tip angle and has negative rake installed at the cutting edge. You do this by grinding a small flat at the cutting edge on the flute side. This is similar to a drill for brass since that tends to grab also. The negative rake results in a scrapping action rather than cutting as with a regular bit.


I looked up prices to buy these drills and, with shipping, would have cost me another $35. Since the components I'm using are German, they have metric-sized threads. I have a nice set of metric drills so I decided to try my hand at re-shaping the tip. I have a very old, but very nice Dayton bench grinder and, as an old metal shop teacher, have no trouble hand sharpening drill bits. I even taught teenagers how to do it.


The plan worked. The reground drills cuts the plastic smoothly without grabbing upon exit.


So I have a design, I have plastic, and I have the tools. Let's make a control panel.

Last edited by Trainman2001

No... you said it perfectly. What you don't understand is what is shown in this diagram. Getting power to that end of the layout entails crossing over a bridge and coming at it from the other end. If I use a contact system on the door opening section (the left side on this drawing), I could greatly reduce my wiring runs to that end of the layout. Then I could use your idea only coming at it from the front, not the back.


The wire is shown in red. Remember, the entire middle is open so wires can't cross there.


Wiring Challenge


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  • Wiring Challenge

Drawing on a computer is like anything else. You start simple and build on it. There are programs like Visio by Microsoft that's called "Drawing for Dummies". It very easy to learn. Coreldraw is much more sophisticated and therefore takes much more time to learn. I am still learning things on it. RRTrack, on the other hand, while it is technically a drawing program, lays track really well, but is a terrible graphics program. It is 3D capable, but limited. You can elevate something off the platform base and you can extrude an object to a thickness, but you can't then tip that object relative to the base.


For the ultimate 3D experience, download a free copy of SketchUp and start having fun. It's the most clever, powerful drawing program for free in the world. They have many free video tutorials to learn how to do most everything and it's fun.


I did some checking and to have the poster-sized graphics printed by Kinkos would cost upwards of a hundred bucks, so Plan B is now in effect. I printed the whole thing tiled over multiple pieces of paper which I will carefully cut and put together and then adhere the whole thing to the back of the acrylic. If I do this carefully, the seams should be unobtrusive (not invisible, just not to noticeable). All of the electrical hardware fastened through the panel will keep most of the sheets from delaminating. Tomorrow I'll give it a try. This way it cost the price of the ink in my printer.

Trainman, My 2 cents on the gate issue:

I have to agree with Clem, its only another 40 or so feet.  wire is not that expensive. at compared to what contacts and future issues with them are going to cost.  


on my layout, to save wire, I buils a raised trough on the floor, about 1.5 inches high with 5/8 OSB on top and plywood on each side as a "Ramp" so you wouldnt trip over it .  The top screws on for easy removal to add wires.   In the future, you will have WAY more than two wires at that end of the layout


Good morning Trainman


I purchased RR track, had a computer geek install Windows and RR. Took him awhile to do that.I played around with it and never could figure out how to do anything, I did notice my computer was slower. I am on a four year old Mac book,with latest operating system. After trying for three weeks I gave up and drew my railroad expansion in one afternoon with pencil and paper and ERASER. I was in over my head. I really am computer challenged. touched a computer for the first time four years ago, the way I see it this is a different language and non of the buttons mean what they say. Took me over thirty minutes just to type this. That is why I don't post much. However my little railroad expansion is doing well. Thanks for listening. Got to get back to the railroad, have to be done by April 20th big 2 day open house for the village Railroad Days weekend.


Good points! So I'll run the wires around from the far end and avoid the complication of the contacts. But, there's still the shut off circuit. As I planned it would be at the latch end therefore, making more long wire runs. I could actuate the microswitch from the hinge end and have all the circuitry there. But then there's one more wrinkle. I also wanted to shut the power off one block on either side of the gate, which brings the latch end back into the equation. I may scrap the whole interlock concept and just pay attention to when the gate is open. It's not actually trains on the gate that I'm worried about, it's trains approaching it. Nothing's ever easy...


Clem, you've got to get a good teacher. Computing is not hard... it's just different. I taught myself all I know about computers when I was 40. That includes learning how to touch type. I couldn't even type my name in college and had all my papers typed by someone else. I learned computing out of necessity... I was sharing a secretary with my boss and having nothing done by her. When offered a chance to get time on the mainframe to produce my own work, I jumped at it. Subsequently, I became the first manager at my next company to produce his own documents directly on the PC. At the same time, I started to learn how to produce my own graphics. It made me very productive and much more powerful. I had my admin staff do much higher level stuff, as well as producing more substantial production things.


Computing multiplies our intellectual powers in much the same way as the steam engine multiplied our physical powers. The analogy holds true on many levels. Not only does the computer allow us to do some things more quickly, it enables us to do many things that were either extremely difficult or impossible without them. Try building the Panama Canal without the steam shovel... you could do it, but it would have taken generations, not years.


Just for fun, look up SketchUp on Google and see what it does, then we'll talk about this some more.


I woke up this morning wondering how I'm going to fasten 12 pieces of paper together so I can then glue them to the back of the acrylic sheet. I can't overlap them as I usually do when putting together a multi-page image since the overlaps will cause gluing problems. They'll all have to be butted together so they are flat after assembly. I have a big paper cutter which I'm going to use to make the cuts since they have to be dead straight or the seams will look poorly. Once they're all adhered to the plastic, the tape holding the seams isn't needed any longer so I may remove it. I will also spray the back and front of the image with fixative to stabilize the image, seal the ink, make it more moisture resistant, and give the paper more body. This whole thing is quite an experiment that many others can use going forward.


I'll document all this in pictures and post tonight.

Had sort of a milestone today! After some more prodding by #1 grandson, we decided to fully power one loop, the outer one, and run a train. He promised that we'd be back to work once we did this. It meant running jumpers from one insulated block to another assuring that every block was captured. We did midway up the grade yesterday and I finished today. I pulled out another engine, the Lima Center Cab, since it was a two-truck engine with only two motors unlike the Veranda which is a pain in the butt to re-rail if something goes awry and it has four motors.


I put the power to it after making the last connection and got 11 volts, but a huge amperage, and then the overload light started blinking. I started troubleshooting and one hour later had a running engine. The problem was we switched which was hot and ground about halfway around. The transformer doesn't like that. 


Now you ask, "How the heck does an experienced model railroader who's been around circuitry for 55 years make a bone-headed mistake like that?"


Let me explain. I was using cable that was from my German layout. Some of the cable was two conductor with blue and brown conductors. The other cable was a three-conductor with blue, brown and green/yellow striped. The first cable we attached was the three conductor and I used the blue for hot and the green as common. But shortly after we started we switched to a 2-conductor and the brown became hot and the blue ground. We even had one where the blue was ground on one end and the green at the other. In other words, it wasn't even conducting. I was using the black 2 position barrier strips with a buss bar on one side since we needed to pass the lines through each block while tying the block leads to each strip. It took every strip I had to make this run.


Jerrry Rigged Running 1


The longest leads I had are 8 foot. That's not a coincidence. I had to make a junction at every subroadbed panel in Germany so the railroad could be taken apart and moved stateside. So in addition to making a place to tie each block into the main, I had to splice together a whole lot of cables just to stretch around the room.


I videoed this maiden run. It's plenty boring! Just one engine and a passenger car going around in a circle... a great big circle. At 17 volts it took 45 seconds to complete a loop. Since nothing else is powered on layout (including all the switches) for the moment this is all the running that's going to happen. Here's links to the two videos.


On the second video I ran the engine at a slower speed and filmed it transitioning the swing gate. I'm a little concerned about one rail on the opening side that needs some J-B Weld to stabilize since the spikes are a bit loose and it needs to be a bit smoother on transition. But as you can see, it runs nicely through it. Next I'll bring out a big steamer and see how that works.


What was gratifying—beside having a hundred feet of track that didn't have any operational problems—was the way both my Veranda and the Lima Center-cab came out of their boxes after almost 4 years and ran like tops. I hope my 3rd Rail stuff does the same. I really missed seeing them around!


I also finished stripping all the old control panels, and started building the frame for the new one. Here's the two side frames showing the angle that the panel's going to sit.


Control Panel Frame 1


I also mounted my old transformer stand. I needed to splice on some added length to the support bars since this layout is wider than the old one. It's tied into front and rear L-girders. That rats nest wiring IS NOT the way it's going to look when I'm done. The white 2X3 serves two purposes. It fills out that area where the track was perilously close to the edge and adds a attachment surface for the panel that's to come mounted on the near side of the transformer transformer stand.


 Transformer Mount 2

 This week between work assignments I'll finish up the control panel structure and start building the control system. I want to wire it for cab-control AND DCS/Legacy. I haven't quite figured out how to do this without creating parallel wiring systems and 2,000 feet of wire. As it is, to do star wired cab control will take close to 600 feet of two-conductor twisted pair wire. It's all part of making a layout BIGGER.



Images (3)
  • Control Panel Frame 1
  • Jerrry Rigged Running 1
  • Transformer Mount 2

Work was very short today since my client has just moved to a new location and didn't need a consultant hanging around. I just checked in to see if things were going as planned and left. That gave me some serious time to continue working on the control panel.


Here's the panel frame clamped onto the braces that are in turn assembled to the joists under the layout.


 Panel Creation 10


The top rail will be held with SPAX screws, but the lower section will be held to the braces with carriage bolts. All the braces are screwed AND glued with Titebond.


Here's the suspension structure. It's 1 X 3s with a 2 X 2 hanger. There will be two points of suspension.


 Panel Creation 12


The back, bottom and sides will be sheathed with 1/4" ply to which all the circuitry will be fastened. 


Here's an artist rendering of the ply installed


 Panel Creation 14


and another artist impression of the final job with the panel in place. Aren't graphics programs cool?

Panel Creation 15


I hope someone can help me understand how to power all the indicator lights with LEDs. I understand they're DC and that polarity is important and that you must limit the current to each one. But is there a way to feed all of them so that you don't need the resistor at each LED. I've got 74 of them on this panel. There's a green and red at each block and there are 37 blocks. I think I'll pose this question on the electrical forum too.


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  • Panel Creation 10
  • Panel Creation 12
  • Panel Creation 15
  • Panel Creation 14

Like yesterday, I got done with work early and finished up the control panel installation. So here's the finished unit. Compares very closely to yesterday's "artist's impression". 


Panel Creation 19


Panel Creation 16


Here's a shot from the back showing the robust bolting that holding the lower section to the layout structure. The upper part is secured with five long screws into the white 2 X 3 that's secured to the layout edge. I can pick myself up from the scooter so it's pretty strong.


 Panel Creation 17


The last thing I did was drill the three holes on top to secure the plexi to the frame. I use a oval-head screws with dress-washers. I modified a small drill for plastics work as before, and the drilled the holes. I was rushing! I forgot to reduce the DeWalt's speed to the slowest and it drilled the holes very fast. So fast that on the 3rd hole the drill buried itself in the wood structure beneath the panel and enlarged it too big. When I put the screw in the hole, there was no wood left for any threads to grab. 


After dinner I went down and filled the hole with J-B Weld and tomorrow I'll re-drill with a pilot-sized drill and thread the screw in again. I also took some of the epoxy and reinforced the one rail at the swing gate that was a bit shaky. J-B Weld is some powerful stuff. It's a steel-powder filled epoxy that is drillable after it cures. It cures very slowly (24 hours), but it's worth the wait.


Tomorrow I will fit the piano hinge that goes across the entire bottom of the plexi and will secure the lower portion. I haven't decided if I'm going to mount all the hardware and wiring with the panel on or off.  I see advantages in doing it in either way. 


I have another opportunity which is to mount the MTH DCS TIUs vertically on the back wall of the box. This would make running wires from the TIUs to the block toggles. I would have to drill vent holes in the top of the box's back so there would be convective air flow from bottom to top. I know that the DCS book says to minimize the length of wire runs from TIUs to track, but my toggles all reside here in the panel. I would rather have the TIUs here and accessible than buried under the layout tied to a leg or something. Since I'm also planning on adding Lionel Legacy, the power brick would have to go outside of the box, but it doesn't have the multitude of wires emanating from it.


I would like to paint the unit, but I haven't decided on what color. I was going to paint the fascia boards a hunter green, but that seems to dark for the panel box. I was also thinking about a UP Armour Yellow or gray, or maybe Pennsy Tuscan Red since both are roads that I feature.


I'm still researching the LED lighting question. I can get the LEDs themselves for very little money (80 of them for like 10 dollars), but it's the power supply and the current limiting resistors that may cost more money. I also have to find out when running a panel full of them if you need a resistor at EACH LED or can a resistor that feeds the bank of them. Help is always needed!


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  • Panel Creation 19
  • Panel Creation 16
  • Panel Creation 17

Trainman, I dont know where your shopping, but generally resistors, in 100-200 quantity shouldn't be more than 5 cents each for 1/4 watt units. You can get LED's with the resitor build in to operate on 12Vdc but they are pricey.  you can also get LEDS with the resistor and a nice mounting benzel (not sure if thats the right term here) but they are upwards of 1.00 each.  Do some online research, and dont fall victim to Radio Shacks over priced stuff, you'll be lucky if they have 5 in stock any way


Trainman.... was sitting here reading your last post about the plunger and all and thought wonder if a simple infra red detector a simpler approach to gate opened or closed? 

I'm no electronics guru so forgive me if i inject something more involved or?


I have enjoyed your build so far thanks for sharing it with us.


I do have to comment from the photo of control panel it appears high and looks to hide the layout some? had a crazy thought of if it could be raised and lowered below layout height when using command control via DCS or? or do you intend to use the control panel to change the track switches?

have fun with your two Grandson's and train layout work and better yet running some trains with them.



I'm glad everyone is enjoying the build. It's fun to write about it and it lets me learn at the same time.


Infrared might be a way to go. I'm stuck in a mechanical paradigm...


I could use an MTH infrared track detector and reflect it off a target on the door. You'd still need a relay to switch the main power, but the IR could probably switch the signal lights all by itself.


Panel Height:

The panel is going to control all the switches. I'm not planning on using an AIU (at least not now) although "scene" feature would a useful function to line up a half dozen switches when doing some of the moves. I ran the trains from a panel like this before and found it to be fun.


So the height was a compromise between "not block too much view" and "reaching the switch controllers at the panel's bottom". Also, I wanted the kids to be able to reach everything, but also have it convenient for me. It's in front of a section of all straight track without any switches so there's nothing much to see at that point. The panel's too wide to lay horizontal without really cutting into the aisleway. Actually that was a section where due to my panel cutting errors, had very little free space beyond the track. It was so close that it would have been difficult to ballast the track there. By adding the 2 X 3 mounting rail, and the the panel frame, it really closes this danger spot off. I will fill that area and landscape it up to the panel. The location is also an area where I have the most floor space around the panel, but also have a view of most of the yard tracks.


Clem, were you thinking about "Hall Effect" switches when you mentioned magnets? If not, you'll need to explain more. I already have the micro switch, the relay and the time circuit, so I don't want to spend too much more money on this.

Yes, there are magnet switches which are mechanical and then there are Hall Effect switches that are solid-state devices that change state in presence of a magnetic field. I'll let you all see the microswitch plan when it's finished. It should work okay. I want to trip the circuit the minute the latch is no longer latched rather than waiting for the gate to actually start moving. That way if anyone leaves the latch unhooked while the gate looks closed the indicator will be red and the trains won't go through this section.

Here's my attempt at the schematic. I'm using an RC bellcrank to transfer the vertical motion of the plunger to horizontal motion to the microswitch. I'm doing this only because it will allow more flexibility in aligning all the parts. There are extra contacts in the relay so I'll be using most of them.


Swing Gate Interlock


I'm using the normally open (NO) contacts for the track power. This way when the microswitch closes it energizes the relay coil and closes those contacts energizing the swing-gate blocks. Meanwhile the other set of NO contacts will energize the green signals at the dwarf block at the gate and the panel indicator green. When the gate latch is lifted sufficiently to release the microswitch, it de-energizes the relay coil and the contacts open breaking the circuit to the track blocks. It also opens the green indicator contacts turning the green off and the normally closed contacts make energizing the red signal indicating the gate is not locked and track power is off. This will be the first time I've ever designed and installed a relay circuit. I know some of the guys on the forum use them for all sorts of things. As I get more comfortable I may do that also. 


Please critique. For example, I'm not sure if using the NO contacts for the track power is the best approach being that the relay coil is continuously energized in this mode. If I used the NC set, the coil would only energize when the gate opens (also by selecting the NC contacts on the microswitch which passes current when the switch is in the non-activated position). I've been told that the relay doesn't mind being energized all the time; they're designed to do this.


This graphic was produced on Microsoft Visio which is a great program for knocking stuff out quickly. I've been using it since version 1 in the early 90s.


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  • Swing Gate Interlock

I was supposed to work today, but #1 grandson was off from school so I took the day off too. I finished up the Panel construction with the additional of the piano hinge at the bottom and some picture wire to support the panel face when it's open.


 Panel Creation 20


My grandson, meanwhile, was unpacking more locomotives and again, right out of a four-year hibernation, they all ran superbly. He got the coal turbine running which he claims is one of his 5 favorites. We even smoked the place up a bit with the engine smoke generators (2) all fired up. It was an engine that my wife selected at the train store in 2000. She saw it sitting on the shelf and thought it looked cool and said I should buy it. When your spouse says you should buy a huge locomotive, the only word you should then say is, "Yes!"


 Coal turbine




In case anyone ever gets the idea to run this engine on anything smaller than O88, take a look at the overhang coming around this corner. You have to be very careful what scenery and signaling is put trackside.


 Coal Turbine overhang

We also ran my 3rd Rail Pennsy T-1 Demonstrator, which is one of my favorite engines. Most of the engines are my favorites since I bought all of them.  


Grandson then suggested that I paint the new control in Union Pacific and Pennsy colors. So I took a nice Pennsy Bobber caboose and a UP caboose to The Home Depot and had them match the colors. They were able to get a good read off the UP caboose because it had nice smooth sides, but the bobber gave them some trouble but they found a very similar shade in their computer already. 


I painted the yellow first. Tomorrow, I'll mask the yellow and paint some the unpainted external areas Tuscan red. Should look nice.


 Armour Yellow 1


While out, I stopped at Radio Shack and ordered 10, 8 position barrier strips and buss bars to make the input section from the DCS TIU. I've got the wiring figured out. I'm going to be able to select whether I'm driving from the fixed voltage output from the TIU from the left channel on the Z4000 or from the right variable channel. This will be done with all those DPDT toggles on the panel. In this way any section of the layout can either be digital or analog by operators selection. This doesn't negate being able to use the Z4K DCS feature, but lets me run the railroad with cab control before I buy the digital equipment. I will have two terminal connections in the digital run... to the barrier strips in the control panel, and where the track pigtails join the run below the platform. I will directly splice the lead from the output of the toggles all the way to the track so I won't be using another barrier strip. When originally wired, all these leads went through a barrier strip so the panel could be removed and shipped. This layout's not going anywhere.


And I bit the bullet and ordered 250 feet each of 14 and 16 gauge twisted pair from OGRR. I will use that avionics wire to power all the switches and other power users on the layout, but not the track. It's only 20 gauge. It's also shielded with a very-difficult-to-remove insulation that I didn't want to mess with any more than I have to. I may need a bit more than this, but for the very short runs near the panel I can use other wire that I have.


I still have to drill the cooling holes on the box. Forgot to that before I painted it. Oh well...


So the LEDs are ordered along with a power supply, the terminal strips are ordered as is the wiring. I already have all the DPDT switches I need. All that's left to buy is the digital equipment.


BTW: What is the current production version of MTH's DCS? I keep seeing them on eBay and I'm a little squeamish about buying one on-line. There's good train stores in town that should get my business.


Images (4)
  • Coal turbine
  • Coal Turbine overhang
  • Panel Creation 20
  • Armour Yellow 1
Videos (1)
2nd Train

Put some final touches on the control cabinet. It's painted Tuscan Red and UP Armour Yellow. I cobbled together some logos from both roads and decorated the sides with them. Later this week, when the supplies arrive, I will start doing some actual wiring. I'm getting bored running trains only around the outer loop.


Panel Box complete 04

Panel Box complete 03

Panel Box complete 02

Panel Box complete 01\


I pulled the 3rd Rail, J1-a out of it's long slumber. Oiled it up and it ran perfectly. I love this engine and like how it looks elevated at eye level. It's old technology, now 16 years old, but it works nicely. I suppose someday I'll upgrade its electronics so it will have more bells and whistles — after all, it's a steam engine... it already has SOME bells and whistles. I have the drawbar set on the closest hole. With my curves I think it could even be a bit closer.

J1 on the highline 1


Images (5)
  • Panel Box complete 04
  • Panel Box complete 03
  • Panel Box complete 02
  • Panel Box complete 01
  • J1 on the highline 1

Now you tell me... Unfortunately, that train has left the pun intended. Since I already have a brace of red and green 5mm LEDs, I will slog on. I also realized that the resistor doesn't have to be physically connected to the LED, just somewhere in series with the LED, power and ground. So I can put the LEDs in the board run leads down to the terminal strips and install the resistors there...whatever's easiest. The less stuff physically hanging on the Plexiglass, the better I like it.


I also realized in yesterday's operating session that I better build that ^%#(@) interlock on the swing gate. I turned on the H-8 and had it running down the front tangent only to look down and see that the GATE WAS OPEN! Since I was closer to the gate than the throttle, I walked very quickly, got to the gate when the engine was 2 feet away and got it closed in a nick of time. TOO CLOSE...WAY TOO CLOSE! It was real "Casey Jones" moment.


This was not the first time that the gate was open when the trains were moving. I have the interlock scheme all figured out and should build it as soon as I can. Having a $1,700 brass engine hit the concrete is more than I could handle.

I built the mechanical parts of the interlock. I went to the Hobby Shop and got some RC components to go with the microswitch that I bought at Radio Shack. It seemed like the best way was to mount the components on brass and then attach them to the layout. In these pictures, the wood block is not yet fastened down. I need to grind the trigger stem flat since the latch can ride off it and not engage the power.


 Interlock Trigger


I had to play with the spring location so it pulled up properly without binding. There's also a plastic sleeve in the layout structure to provide a running surface for the trigger. This is also a model aircraft component.


Here's the "closed" state:

 Interlock Closed


When the latch is raised, the relay will cut the power to all the blocks butting up to the swing gate and switch the indicator LEDs on the panel from green to red.


 Interlock Open


When closed, a timing circuit will hold the power off for a period of time to give the operator(s) the opportunity to make sure everything is okay before energizing the circuit. I'm going to add a stop on the trigger shaft so it doesn't rise too high. This will also help keep the latch from overriding the trigger.


Just as a memory jogger; here's the design drawing I made.




I will wire it up next session (maybe tonight...definitely tomorrow).


Images (4)
  • Interlock Trigger
  • Interlock Closed
  • Interlock Open
  • Interlock
Last edited by Trainman2001

Started to officially wire the layout today. Did a little this morning while grandson #2 was building a space alien with modeling clay, then got involved in building the Motorized Marble Madness Machine by K'nex. It's a monster project which gets built and torn down every couple of years. The kids love it. But, I did get back down to the shop this evening and got a little more done.


I fastened all the barrier strips to the cabinet floor based on this schematic I drew yesterday. 


Buss Wiring Schematic


Barrier strips alternate being 'hot' and 'common' with the throttles (green and red) down each side. I have enough hot terminals for one wire at each since some will come off the interlock strip on the right side, but some of the commons returning from the field will be doubled up.


Here's the barrier strips screwed down to the base. I doubled the ply in the base since I was using a 3/4" screw and it would have poked through the bottom. Doubling made this problem go away.


Barrier Strips


The barrier strips all have jumper bars so they each have 16 screw terminals all with the same voltage. The center strip in the right end with the 6 terminals has a split jumper forming two 3-terminal strips. This is where the interlock blocks will get power. It's interrupted by the relay circuit. The interlock leads are fastened in this view.


Here's the power wiring in place. I went around the layout and replaced some of the "American Style" barrier strips with "Euro-style" ones, and of course I ended up reversing the polarity.


Power Wires 2


When or if I go with MTH's DCS digital control, I will substitute the power feeds from the red throttle with the feeds from the DCS. The rest of the wiring will remain exactly as it is since I'm already using "home run" wiring with heavier gauge twisted-pair as they recommend. If I didn't intend on ever using DCS, I wouldn't have been as particular with the barrier strips and would have used a ground loop for the common returns instead of bringing every common back to the control panel. But this gives me flexibility and I can add the control system whenever I want.


I turned on the transformer to make sure that all was okay. The idea here is to install one circuit, test and verify it and then move onto the next one. So I turned it on, the engine on the track made some funny sounds and didn't move, the other channel on the transformer was showing voltage and current loads, and then the overload light lit. I pulled on the leads from the "Red" channel which was NOT going to the track and the short still existed. So I realized it must be something out of the panel. I checked each of the places where I exchanged the strips and there it was.


I put the blue wire into the hole with the brown wire on the other side and vice versa. Dead short! Exchanged the wire locations and there were no more shorts. I'm not colored blind, but screwups like this make me wonder...


I have more meetings tomorrow, but I may get some more time in the shop. I have to buy larger lead ends for the 14 gauge wire I bought for the long runs. The ferrules and spade lugs I have are not large enough.


Images (3)
  • Buss Wiring Schematic
  • Barrier Strips
  • Power Wires 2

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