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Friday, 7 June 2013

Thompson River Route Blog 5

It has been quite some time since my last blog and the layout hasn't had many updates either. There is, however, enough to continue where I had left off. In this issue I will be discussing track weathering, the new- but no longer a town section, and wrapping up with a description of my simple signaling project.  

With all the ballasting work complete and glued down solid and the rails painted, weathering can begin. To weather the track I have used powdered chalks. These will go on light enough per swipe that they can be easily worked to get the right look. I start with powdered charcoal (black), applying streaks parallel to the rails to replicate oil drippings.

 Next, I use powdered rust to run along either side of the rails. The pure rust colour is rather intense compared to most of the colouring seen around the prototype, which is why I only apply it beside the rails where the effect should be heaviest. The track almost always has a coating of rusted steel dust (assuming that is what it is) which is not quite as bright as the pure rust colour, to fix this I mix the rust colour with some brown and tan powders. 

Once I’m happy with the shade of dust (by testing it on a hidden section of track) I will dust it between and on either side of the rails. The dust should spread out just past the ties and settles rather evenly all along. The dust should not create a clear line on the edges though, it should only be lightly applied so that the transition between ballast and dust is smooth. That’s the extent of my weathering, not an awful lot to it but it adds a nice touch to the realism. 

Next I would like to talk about my new development which sits past the east end of the tunnels. I was originally planning to place a small town in this area, however, I changed my mind after viewing some other mountain layouts. They made me realize I need some more dynamic landscape to go with the mountains right next to it. There wasn't a lot of space for large hills but there was enough to raise up from the bottom level to the top level seamlessly. Plus I now had a remote helper station at the bottom of either grade, perfect for operations.

 I started out with some old hill pieces I had laying around, cutting them and gluing them into place. I then filled in the openings with thick packaging paper which will eventually be coated in plaster and painted to match the existing pieces. It is still in rough stages but has a nice look to it with the sheds and helpers sitting aside with some trees and steep grassy hills behind. 

The last point to be discussed in this issue is the signals on my layout. At the moment I have seven signals automatically controlling the junction which either bypasses the mountain route or heads down one of the grades. The signals are mainly scratch built, made to resemble typical CPR signals. 

To automate them, I have taken the easy way out for the time being. I have taken advantage of a Circuitron road intersection signal system. This board has outputs for two directions, just enough for a simple intersection. The timings between light changes can be easily changed, and the yellow light outputs can be used as another route separate to the red and green outputs. I wired it so that there is four points which can get clearance over the others. I wired the less used directions into the shorter length yellow output, and then used the other two sets of red/green outputs. 

The key to this wiring layout was to not think of the red/yellow/green outputs as colours corresponding to the signals, but rather as outputs that will turn on and off automatically. This little board can control a good number of LED signals, so I didn’t stop at the main junction signals, I added some intermediate signals which copy what is displayed ahead of them. 

Now, while this is not a detection based signal system, it is a nice way to make the signals change on their own and add some interest to your layout. In an operations sense, my layout will likely only ever see one operator so detection signaling is not necessary, these automated signals allow me to have to watch the signals and occasionally stop for a signal. It is a cheap and easy way to add a little more excitement to your layout. 

That concludes the fifth installment of the Thompson River route blog. There is not a lot left to do on the route with only one more tunnel to plaster, paint, and scenic. Beyond that I will complete the east hill section and helper station. There will be a blog showing the completion of this project with some good train action along the way. ~~Tyler Fedoroshyn

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