Sunday, May 17, 2009

All the fascia and roof supports are installed on my model of the Campbell (California) depot, and the dock assembly has been glued onto the station. Now I just need to finish details - assorted clutter on and around the station, signs, and other details.

To get some ideas about what to add, I took a photo of the model and compared it to photos of the actual depot in the 1930's. So far (except for some crooked walls and broken windows), it looks pretty good. A closer look at some power lines near the station showed that the back side of the station had the old San Jose and Los Gatos (aka Peninsular Railway) interurban train tracks. This was a streetcar-like railway that ran from San Jose to Los Gatos, Saratoga, and eventually all the way to Cupertino and Palo Alto. The trains used to head west out of San Jose, wind through the Willow Glen neighborhood, and cut through the orchards to Campbell. There's space behind my station for the tracks; now I just need to figure out how to model them (and the trolley wire), and figure out how to make it all removable for operations.

Looks like some heavy planning to do.

I needed a break from the structure-building, so I ended up turning back to the signals. I've installed semaphore signals along the upper deck of the railroad (just like the prototype), but getting them work smoothly has been a challenge. At first, I used Tortoise switch machines with a homemade plastic crank to move the control wire that raises and lowers the semaphore arm, but found that getting the arm travel correct was a ton of work. Next, I used some of Circuitron's signal actuators for Tortoises; those work better, but only work for two indication (red/green signals). If I want to get a yellow signal from these (indicating that the train should expect the next signal will be red), I either needed some fancy electronics or I needed to hire some gnomes to sit under the layout and move the signals as needed. The Tortoises are also a bit big; they're great for switches, but when I have two signals located across the track from each other, the actuators under the layout get in the way of each other and make adjustments difficult.

Luckily, I saw that Team Digital was selling a new circuit that will control signals using model airplane servos, and also correctly handles three indication signals. I spent a good part of Saturday in a very hot garage ripping out the old signal machinery and replacing it with the new servos. The servos are amazingly tiny; the picture shows one next to a Tortoise controlling a switch.

So, easy installation for the first two semaphores, and I'm just waiting for the mailman to arrive with a couple more signals so I can get another two signals working. There's still lots to do; the photo of the current setup shows what the layout can look like when I'm still trying to test new electronics.

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