Month: October 2019

Let there be sound!

I finished installing six small speakers around the layout. Five were installed on the fascia as you see above, and the sixth is embedded into a small river island on the Rock River.

These speakers will play sounds of the Rock River’s spillway with ambient birds,
I-280 road traffic, and random flange squeal from an ISE Arduino module. The spillway and bird sounds have a zen-like quality that puts me in a good mood.

Track cleaning and conductivity

After getting some sought-after advice and reading a very good article in Model Railroad Hobbyist about track cleaning, I purchased mineral spirits to clean my track and Wahl clipper oil to topcoat the rails.

Both the mineral spirits and Wahl oil are what’s called non-polar solvents. Non-polar means that the solvent prevents micro-arcing which creates dark powder-like gunk that inhibits good electrical contact. So, between both products, I should be good for excellent operating performance.

Update on rail conductivity: after using the Wahl oil approach for a while I wasn’t happy with the results. Initially, I cleaned the track and applied the oil sparingly, but over time the engine started hesitating quite often. I discovered there was a large buildup of black on the rails which was hampering performance.

After cleaning the track with a cloth multiple times until the black was gone, I decided to apply a thin coat of graphite by quickly rubbing a carpenter’s pencil on the inside of all the rails. The engine now performs flawlessly. Obviously, I’m going to stick with the graphite!

Creature comforts + fishplates!

I added some creature comforts to the layout: armrests and beverage holders! The armrests were an idea that I saw on a layout tour a while back. Rather than have operators or visitors leaning against the fascia, or draping their arm on the edge, I installed three armrests around the layout. One can comfortably drape an arm or lean against the rest with arms folded while enjoying the action. The beverage holders were 3D printed from a design I found on Thingiverse. Now I don’t have to run the risk of knocking over a drink and drenching the layout!
Final touches to the track are progressing. I’ve added some additional random gray PanPastels to the ties for a more worn look to the branch; painted the guard rails, throw rods, and spike heads; and added Precision Design Company’s 4-bolt fishplates. The plates are easy to add with just a dab of CA.

After the fishplates are done I will be installing non-working switch stands to each turnout and adding random top ballast to the ties. After that the trackwork will be fully complete.

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