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And so it begins...

Last night we took the first steps towards having a functional train and village display for our holiday shows through December and beyond at the historic Redford Theatre in Detroit. For those that don't know, the Redford Theatre is a 1928 neighborhood movie theater that has been just about fully restored by the all volunteer staff of the Motor City Theatre Organ Society who's owned it since the mid 1970's. They purchased the building to preserve its original Barton theater pipe organ in its original home, which is a very rare thing in the theater organ world. A Christmas train display has been a tradition that goes back to the late 1980's. I've been doing it for nearly 10 years now with O gauge trains, although the previous display was G gauge.

Here's our display in its setting in the theater from two years ago

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Last night we put down our masonite panels over top of the 4x8 foot stage platforms we have ganged together to build on. Although we took steps last year to ensure a nice smooth surface across all of the platforms, there are a couple of bows that cause issues with track laying, so the masonite helps smooth that out a bit. We also are able to paint the masonite white to give a better backing for the snow material we lay down versus the black tops of the stage platforms.

It's not much, but it's a start. The next step will be figuring out the track plan and deciding if anything will change from last year in that area.

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Sorry Gary, I just saw your messages now.  I'm up in the air on using other scales this year.  I had an On30 (HO track) loop a couple years ago, but the equipment didn't hold up very well to the amount of running it was put through.  A couple years ago I also had a Kato N gauge set that I had doctored up to represent a ride on park train in O scale.  I couldn't fit it last year, but I may be able to squeak it in this year.  Surprisingly I had no issues with that set when it ran other than dirty wheels/track.

We finally made enough progress on the layout that I felt it was worth an update to this thread.

Last night (along with a couple others) we worked on getting the track plan roughed out and then installed the many LED light strings on the tabletops that illuminate the snow material from underneath. These lights really help make the details of the village and trains show up in the dim lighting of the theater auditorium. I may have gone a bit overboard with the lights this year by adding a couple more strings adding up to 270 more bulbs... but I think it'll look really good once the snow material is in place. That's our next step, and then final track wiring and installation after that.

 

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Last night the tracks and upper platforms were removed from the main platform and the snow material placed down over the light strings.  The tracks were reinstalled and feeder wires run to the terminal blocks beneath the table.  My Lionel TMCC 2-6-0 did the honors as the test locomotive and ran perfectly around all three main level tracks.  Later this week we'll fasten the track down and install the last few pieces of the Christmas light strings where needed around the table edges.  The upper level tracks and lights are left in place from year to year, so those just need to be hooked back up and will be ready to go.

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Last night we did most of the work on outfitting our new control/power cabinet. I bought an unfinished kitchen cabinet from Lowes, a couple of stick on LED under cabinet lights and went from there. When it's finished there will be the two CW-80's and the ZW-C will have four 180 watt bricks connected to it.  The track is also secured to the main platform.  We're hoping to get some test runs in on Sunday before we start unpacking the village items.

 

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Moonman posted:

Coming along nicely, Jake! I always enjoy your post abut this each year. 

Do you still give the theatrical folks in the control area the ability turn the layout on and off?

Thanks!  And yes the layout power is run through the lighting control board a the rear of the auditorium.  Although we have a Legacy base installed, we only use it when we're there wanting to run some of our nicer trains on the layout.  Otherwise it's all relatively low cost/donated conventional equipment running when we're not there to supervise.  The whole thing is actually programmed into the pre-programmed lighting cues for our normal shows so it comes on automatically when they cycle through the lighting changes.  The trains and village have their own circuits so they can be controlled separately.  That way we can leave the village lights on but not have the noise of the trains when the MC is talking on stage as one example.

SantaFe158 posted:
Moonman posted:

Coming along nicely, Jake! I always enjoy your post abut this each year. 

Do you still give the theatrical folks in the control area the ability turn the layout on and off?

Thanks!  And yes the layout power is run through the lighting control board a the rear of the auditorium.  Although we have a Legacy base installed, we only use it when we're there wanting to run some of our nicer trains on the layout.  Otherwise it's all relatively low cost/donated conventional equipment running when we're not there to supervise.  The whole thing is actually programmed into the pre-programmed lighting cues for our normal shows so it comes on automatically when they cycle through the lighting changes.  The trains and village have their own circuits so they can be controlled separately.  That way we can leave the village lights on but not have the noise of the trains when the MC is talking on stage as one example.

It has come a long way since you have been involved - a worthy endeavor! Congrats! I was thinking of when you started on this and had to split your time to about three or of four efforts. 

Moonman posted:
SantaFe158 posted:
Moonman posted:

Coming along nicely, Jake! I always enjoy your post abut this each year. 

Do you still give the theatrical folks in the control area the ability turn the layout on and off?

Thanks!  And yes the layout power is run through the lighting control board a the rear of the auditorium.  Although we have a Legacy base installed, we only use it when we're there wanting to run some of our nicer trains on the layout.  Otherwise it's all relatively low cost/donated conventional equipment running when we're not there to supervise.  The whole thing is actually programmed into the pre-programmed lighting cues for our normal shows so it comes on automatically when they cycle through the lighting changes.  The trains and village have their own circuits so they can be controlled separately.  That way we can leave the village lights on but not have the noise of the trains when the MC is talking on stage as one example.

It has come a long way since you have been involved - a worthy endeavor! Congrats! I was thinking of when you started on this and had to split your time to about three or of four efforts. 

Thank you!  It's always fun to look back on pictures of the first few layouts and see how it's evolved.  Looking back now, the first couple were extremely plain, however they got just as many views as the current one will.  It's definitely been a bit more enjoyable to work on this year.  Although I've still got a full time work schedule to deal with, I finished my bachelors degree last year.  It's been nice not pushing through a full time work and full time school schedule all while trying to finish the layout on time.

We finally buckled down and got the village installed and the lamp posts/lighted billboards wired in over the past couple days and nights.  Overall I'm very happy with how the layout is turning out so far.  I think it'll end up blowing last year's layout out of the water in some respects.  I still have to go back today and try to get all the figures, lighted trees and unlighted trees installed before wrapping up some final wire management tasks and finish details.  For once it should be pretty much finished by the first movie on Friday.  I do have another 8 lamp posts on order to add at a later time when they arrive, but the majority of the layout will be finished.

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SantaFe158 posted:
Moonman posted:
SantaFe158 posted:
Moonman posted:

Coming along nicely, Jake! I always enjoy your post abut this each year. 

Do you still give the theatrical folks in the control area the ability turn the layout on and off?

Thanks!  And yes the layout power is run through the lighting control board a the rear of the auditorium.  Although we have a Legacy base installed, we only use it when we're there wanting to run some of our nicer trains on the layout.  Otherwise it's all relatively low cost/donated conventional equipment running when we're not there to supervise.  The whole thing is actually programmed into the pre-programmed lighting cues for our normal shows so it comes on automatically when they cycle through the lighting changes.  The trains and village have their own circuits so they can be controlled separately.  That way we can leave the village lights on but not have the noise of the trains when the MC is talking on stage as one example.

It has come a long way since you have been involved - a worthy endeavor! Congrats! I was thinking of when you started on this and had to split your time to about three or of four efforts. 

Thank you!  It's always fun to look back on pictures of the first few layouts and see how it's evolved.  Looking back now, the first couple were extremely plain, however they got just as many views as the current one will.  It's definitely been a bit more enjoyable to work on this year.  Although I've still got a full time work schedule to deal with, I finished my bachelors degree last year.  It's been nice not pushing through a full time work and full time school schedule all while trying to finish the layout on time.

I think you left out volunteering for the railroad - Good to hear you are accomplishing some goals 

SantaFe158 posted:

We finally buckled down and got the village installed and the lamp posts/lighted billboards wired in over the past couple days and nights.  Overall I'm very happy with how the layout is turning out so far.  I think it'll end up blowing last year's layout out of the water in some respects.  I still have to go back today and try to get all the figures, lighted trees and unlighted trees installed before wrapping up some final wire management tasks and finish details.  For once it should be pretty much finished by the first movie on Friday.  I do have another 8 lamp posts on order to add at a later time when they arrive, but the majority of the layout will be finished.

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I think we need to come up with the chaser light effect for what looks like the line with lights under the rails - project for next year

This afternoon we added in the huge collection of figurines, trees and other details to the layout. I always forget what a huge task that alone is, but we did it. The layout is just about ready for tomorrow evening's unveiling. We still have a big mess to clean up in the background and I have a few loose ends to tie up on the layout, but it's pretty much there as it sits.

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I figured it's time to make a post in regards to this year's Redford Theatre Christmas display, or the lack thereof.  As many know, I have been constructing an increasingly elaborate Christmas train and village display at the Redford Theatre in Detroit, MI for about the past 10 years.  This past weekend, our theater hosted its first movie inside the building since we shut down in March due to Covid with a full house at our current reduced capacity.  We had a couple of reasonably successful outdoor shows in our parking lot to keep some cash coming in before then.  During our discussions about the reopening of the building, I began pondering the feasibility of this years display and decided that it's going to be the first year I've had a "break" from doing the layout since I took over the task way back in 2011.  Between difficulty staffing the theater's normal volunteer positions, the ability to route patrons through for viewing a layout with social distancing, and also the fact that I'm moving to a new apartment during the time that I'd normally be building the layout while also working full time, it just seemed like a good year to take a breath and prepare for next years display.



All that said, depending on how my move goes, this will likely be the first year that I'll have a somewhat more elaborate home layout for the holidays since much of my village and train collections are usually in service on the theater display between December and the end of February.

@SantaFe158 posted:

I figured it's time to make a post in regards to this year's Redford Theatre Christmas display, or the lack thereof.  As many know, I have been constructing an increasingly elaborate Christmas train and village display at the Redford Theatre in Detroit, MI for about the past 10 years.  This past weekend, our theater hosted its first movie inside the building since we shut down in March due to Covid with a full house at our current reduced capacity.  We had a couple of reasonably successful outdoor shows in our parking lot to keep some cash coming in before then.  During our discussions about the reopening of the building, I began pondering the feasibility of this years display and decided that it's going to be the first year I've had a "break" from doing the layout since I took over the task way back in 2011.  Between difficulty staffing the theater's normal volunteer positions, the ability to route patrons through for viewing a layout with social distancing, and also the fact that I'm moving to a new apartment during the time that I'd normally be building the layout while also working full time, it just seemed like a good year to take a breath and prepare for next years display.



All that said, depending on how my move goes, this will likely be the first year that I'll have a somewhat more elaborate home layout for the holidays since much of my village and train collections are usually in service on the theater display between December and the end of February.

My son manages a theater.  Unfortunately without any new release worth mentioning they shut down again after opening for about a month and a half.  They just can't get butts in the seat when everything is streaming or being held back.

I always looked forward to your posts on the display.  Have a nice break but we expects some helix's, running water, lift bridges, and the whole shebang next year.  LOL!

@MartyE posted:

My son manages a theater.  Unfortunately without any new release worth mentioning they shut down again after opening for about a month and a half.  They just can't get butts in the seat when everything is streaming or being held back.

I always looked forward to your posts on the display.  Have a nice break but we expects some helix's, running water, lift bridges, and the whole shebang next year.  LOL!

Thankfully for us, we haven't been a first run venue since the mid 1970s when it was purchased by the Motor City Theatre Organ Society.  We've been showing classic films pretty much since that time to keep the building restorations moving forward and the lights on.  It's also probably the first time since the first multiplexes filled with small theaters started putting large single screen theaters out of business that it's to our advantage to have a large auditorium.  Although our capacity is limited (20% of our normal 1500ish seats), it's still a somewhat larger capacity than many modern theaters can hold at this point in time with the current safety restrictions.  Not to say it isn't a tricky business to be in for us, but we're pushing forward.

I've had it in the back of my mind that I'd like to connect the upper levels of the layout at either end of the main platform with a large bridge.  Now I might be able to find some time to finally do it

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@Hugo posted:

That's a fantastic Christmas display, Jake.  I'm sure it will be missed this year.

The LED lighting under the snow blanket is an awesome effect.  What material is the snow blanket made from?

Thanks!  I'll certainly be missing it myself, although a year of not having the stress of trying to get it all done in time will be nice too.

I originally used the store-bought Christmas village blankets but switched to large rolls of quilt batting acquired on Amazon a couple years ago since my layout platform is rather large.  I never did a price comparison so I'm not sure it was more economical, but I can cover the entire main platform in two strips of batting running the full length instead of piecing it all together which doesn't look so great in the end.  I use a thicker coarse batting on the bottom layer to mask the table and light strings and a finer thin layer as the "finish coat" on top.  I'm sure there was some sort of designation for how the types of batting were categorized, but I can't recall what types they were offhand.  A couple years ago we purchased enough masonite sheets to cover the entire platform (made up of black painted stage platforms used for other purposes) and then painted those sheets white to give the snow a better backdrop than the plain black tabletop.

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