So Quiet around here…

Hi Train fans, I have to apologize for being dormant on the ol model railroad blog.

I have not lost interest, in fact I am jazzed to get out there in Spring and start working on the ol railroad again.

I was working on a huge project, a display of sorts, for our Christmas lights. I took a dream and computerized our lights this year, and it was a huge project, and it does not look like it is getting smaller any time soon!

I will be back soon with more model train tips, tricks and my journey with the Santiam Cascade Railroad.

If you are interested in the light display, I do not have videos up yet, but I will have them up soon.

Check out the videos and website at

and the blog at

I wish you and your family a Merry Christmas and see you soon!


Speakers for Sound are Installed and They Sound Awesome


It has been a long time since I have been out in the shop working on the layout. It was getting a bit cluttered, so a few weeks ago, my brother came over, and helped clean things up.

I have been working on some small things, mainly the control area where the DCC Cabs plug in and the two Switches on the panel. I was able to get that all done.

I ended up installing a small stereo jack for DC operations later when I might want to run some DC engines on the layout, that way I can just plug a DC controller in, and flip a switch in the back (hidden for safety so not to blow out a DCC Decoder).

Today I was out working and was really stuck, needing some extra help, and my buddy George showed up!

We were able to get the second switch on the track finished, and it works great.

The speakers were next, and with some case modifications on one, we were able to find nice homes for them inside the hills. We covered them with chicken wire and then one layer of plaster cloth.

It worked really well, you cannot see the speakers, and the sound is super. There will be buildings in front of the one speaker, and some plant material like lichen in front of the other.

Overall, it was a really fun and productive day, and I really needed that, I was really working too much and needed to get out, get some fresh air, and enjoy a little time away from computers!

A little more plaster, and then I should be on to painting & landscaping! I am really looking forward to that process.

Progress on the Layout the Past Two Weekends

More of the non-photogenic stuff the past couple weeks. I was able to get the turnout switches wired, tested and working on the mainline, and one left to do in the yard.

I got some little areas finished up for plastering, and there is not much left to do as far as plaster, just a couple areas, one where the last switch is located and the other is near the plugs for the MRC DCC Controller.

I also cut holes for the turnout switches which are located next to the DCC controller plugs on the side of the layout. I need to get some really small screws and nuts to connect the switches, then I can button that area up.

I have been playing with the sound system I am putting on the layout. I am using a Dream Player System that allows 4 sounds to be recorded on a simple SD memory card. It allows me to have 4 switches or “triggers” to start sound 1-4. One sound at a time plays. It is really a slick system.

The optimum system uses a 2.1 computer style set of speakers. 2 side speakers with one subwoofer. I got a fairly inexpensive set of Logitec speakers and worked on setting up where the speakers are going to go.

I am trying to go for “Scale Sound” which is a really interesting concept, and I learned of it from the folks who make the Dream Player. Click here for more info on the Dream Player

And finally I worked on a couple electronic kits that I bought. One is a slow flashing light for the top of my water tower, and the other is a simulated campfire. I built those tonight, and they are really cool. Here is a link to the Bakatronics site where I got the kits.

Here is a sample video from their site of the campfire

Progress on the Layout Continues!

I was able to get quite a bit of work done on the layout this past weekend.

My goal was to get a lot of plastering done, but when I started that, I realized there was stuff I needed to do, before I covered everything over.

One of the areas I worked on was the turnout. I needed to get wires to it, and make sure I had the physical idea of how the switch was going to work.

I was going to use an Atlas under layout switch to activate the turn out. I really like the idea that it is hidden. I thought about it, and it is just going to be too hard to adjust if needed, and just not going to work out.

I opted to go with the original near the track Atlas Switch, which sits on top of the layout, right next to the turnout. It does not look as nice, but it will do, and sometimes you just have to let it go, and move on.ATLAS%20860[1]I also realized that I plastered over some of the wires that need to go to the other turnout in the yard. Thankfully it is not fully covered, so I can take care of that now, before I go any further.

I will get some photos this weekend of the progress. I am still fighting this sinus infection, now for a couple months, and it stinks! (actually it would if I could smell…)

Finished Plastering the Mountains, Road & Town area

Mountainplasterfinal1 Today I was able to get out in the shop and with the help of my buddy George, we were able to get a lot done on the layout.

The part I really needed help with was the area up on the mountain above town, and the area around town. It needed a long reach, and there were even a couple times we were trying to figure out if reaching or doing it from over top on the other side.

Reaching won out, because on the other side, reaching over the mountain, you just can’t see what you are doing.

We were able to get the road, the mountain above the road, and above town, and the town area, all plastered.


I was also able to get the Styrofoam set up for the area where the Santiam Travel Station will go, and also the area where the Scroggins Feed will go.


It is looking great, I was able to finally feed the wires through where the buildings will sit.

I also created a template of the round area of town, on a large piece of packing/butcher type paper. This really helped to get a physical layout and see how big the actual buildings will be, and how they will be laid out.


Things are really coming along and looking great. It was a fun day and a BIG thanks to my buddy George for all the help. I didn’t even charge him for the extra plaster he took home on himself!

The Model Railroad sits idle….

It has been a while since I have been working on the electronics or the layout. Things have been busy, and we went on a short vacation, so I have not had the time or energy to get out in the shop.

I am planning on cleaning up out there, and getting some work done this upcoming weekend! I figure if I write it here in the blog, that sort of holds me accountable… we will see :)

Working on the Crossing Gate Setup & Electrical Wiring

Crossing Gate_instructionsI have wanted to post more lately, but most of the things I have been doing are just not that interesting, as it is trying to figure stuff out.

I have been working on the crossing gate setup that I want. I am using the following items:

  1. NJ International Crossing Gate and signal
  2. Grade Crossing Pro with Infra-red by Logic Rail Technologies
  3. Grade Crossing Pro Bell sound module (same page as above)
  4. Circuitron Tortoise Switch Machine
  5. Speaker
  6. 12 VDC power supply

It looks complicated in the picture, mainly because there are so many wires. But when it all comes down to what is going on, it is not too complicated.

The Crossing gate itself is really nice looking and has 2 LED lights, and a gate that lowers and raises with a wire that is pushed up or down. So the gate by itself does nothing.

To make things work, you have to have a gate controller, which I am using the Grade Crossing Pro. This is kind of like the motherboard, everything starts here.

The board gets the power, and the infra red sensors all get wired into the board. The sensors will be buried between the rails and between the ties. There is one infra red light, and the other is the eye or receiver.

The way they work is both the infra red eye and receiver are next to each other, pointing up towards the train. When the train goes over the sensor and light, it is reflected off the bottom of the cars, and it “senses” there is a train! Then all the action begins, the gate goes down, the lights and bell turn on.

Here is a great explanation and diagram in the instructions for the sensors.

Then there are a set of sensors on the other side of the crossing, and guess what they do? They detect when the train has passed, and they put the crossing gate back up, and then turn off the sound and lights.

There is a photocell option which is a bit cheaper, but infrared work better in situations where bright lights might be, the photocells do not work well with bright ambient light.

The rest of the devices all connect to the Grade Crossing Pro, and the cool thing is, everything is clearly marked, and the instructions are fairly clear.

The Bell module to make it ring, the Tortoise Motor is the slow moving motor to bring down the gate mechanically, and of course we need a speaker for the bell.

The main problem with this whole process is that there is not one manual or instruction set for doing this whole process. You are piecing it together, that is why I am writing this to help those that are interested in doing this, some idea on what it takes.

Actually the bulk of the wires are for the sensors, everything else only has a couple of wires. It looks messy in the photo, because this is called breadboarding, and that is just getting everything hooked up into a prototype, so we can test it before we build the real thing.

I am going to do a detailed, step by step video on Youtube, and I will post it here also.

I have made the parts above in the list all links if you want to go look at their company websites!

More good news, even though nothing on the layout out in the shop is getting done, Gavin was over for the weekend and we had “guy time” and spent a lot of time on the layout running his cool little Steam Engine and some of mine.

What is great about this, is I am seeing the areas that are going to be trouble and might be causing issues, and it has been fun, just running trains around and enjoying them. I brought out a bunch of Boxcars I have never shown him, and of course that was fun trying them out.

Visit to Willamette Cascade Model RR Swap Meet!

paulelement_0002Since I got back in to trains about a year ago, I have wanted to go to a train show/swap meet I have read and heard so much about.

I finagled Dawn into going with me to this Train Geek adventure, and she was game, anything to get out of the house and office, and away from the kids!

What, no kids? Gavin is the train nut, and with Gavin’s Autism, he has a very hard time with the overstimulation of something like this, so I thought it would be best to go sans Gavin. Well, after going, I was right on the money.

The event was held Today, Saturday, and tomorrow, Sunday at the Eugene Fairgrounds in Oregon.

I was stunned, shocked, whatever to see the volume of stuff. I thought there were these two huge halls full of trains, and when I thought we were done, there was a third hall. WOW!

Everything you could ever want, and lots you would never want was available!

What a fun time we had there. Dawn blew me away. We saw these historical photos at at booth that she fell in love with. She wanted one or two of them so badly, I have never seen her want anything so much.

As we went out to the van to leave, I told her if she really wanted, she could go get both of them. She ran in there to get them.


It turns out I bought some T-shirts and those photos, and no train stuff. I really have enough right now, but it was fun to look, and Dawn and I came to a bright idea.

We are going to decorate the living room in Historical Train memorabilia. Crazy, nuts, psycho, sure, but really cool!

Stay tuned for future blog posts about the new stuff we will be working on here!

More work on the Plaster Cloth on the Model Railroad Layout

I was able to get some more work done on the Santiam Cascade Lumber Lines this past weekend.

Dawn and I worked on the plaster cloth, finishing up the upper stream and waterfall and bottom stream area. It was another fun filled, but tiring afternoon. But we made some good progress.

Here is an other video, part 2 of the plaster cloth application to the layout. If you cannot see the embedded video, there is a link also.