Milan Branch of the Iowa Interstate RR

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 the inhibits good electrical contact. So, between both products, I should be good for excellent operating performance.

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.

ISE Reverser installed

After sitting on a storage shelf for several years, I was finally able to install my Iowa Scaled Engineering reversing module. The module was custom built for me so that I could have a train running on the point-to-point branch without having to control it. The system consists of an Arduino and keypad that ties in with two ISE infrared sensors on each end of the layout. It works separately from my ESU CabControl, so I have the system isolated from the regular DCC when in use.

It works great. The train moves across the layout at a speed I designate, then after tripping one of the sensors it slowly decelerates and changes direction. It’s enjoyable to work on the layout with a train moving.

The reversing module is set into the fascia with a 3D printed faceplate. The two toggle switches on the right control power to the unit and to the track.
The IR sensors were easy to install and wire. This one is on the Andalusia Sub. side. You can see I wedged part of a wood tie to the left of the sensor to snug it in the hole. I will eventually hide the sensors with some added ballast (see below) and perhaps some grimy PanPastels to camouflage even further.
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