Milan Branch of the Iowa Interstate RR

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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.

Staging extensions

I had a burst of motivation late summer to complete ALL my trackwork which includes the three staging extensions. One extension is located on the Rock Island end of the layout. This staging will be where a train is made up at the beginning of an operating session, and obviously where it will terminate as it leaves the branch. The other two extensions include one at the start of the Eagle Sub. just past the Milan depot. This staging will accept cars for the lumber dealer and food distributor. Finally, on the Andalusia Sub. the third extension will take cars bound for a chemical dealer, landscaping company, box factory, and major steel manufacturer. The steel company has a runaround, so I needed to incorporate a runaround on that extension for the engine to face forward for the return trip. Below are some photos…

Two of the staging extensions are stored at the entrance to the layout room on the Rock Island side. The extension on the left is the Andalusia Sub. staging, while the right one is the Rock Island extension.
This is the Eagle Sub. staging which is permanently affixed to the layout fascia.
I used three retractable brackets for each extension. This one is for the Eagle Sub. There’s a release on the end of the bracket, so it’s easy to fold back with the spring-loaded feature.
I decided to use Atlas code 100 flex track and turnouts because of its bullet-proof reputation. Because I use Micro Engineering code 70 on the layout, I fabricated the set up you see here to align the rails for a smooth transition between the sections. The Eagle Sub. extension is hardwired to the layout, while the other two extensions use audio plugs to power the rails.
Finally, I found a neat 2-piece picture hanger connector at my local Menards that works great to friction fit the two separate extensions when in use. I simply drop the staging into place, press down slightly and align the track, and plug in the audio jack for power. Done!

Final solution for the switch stands

In a flash of inspiration, I came up with my own design for switching my turnout points using components all available at my local Menards with the exception of an RC cable kit. I decided I needed a spring in order to get enough tension on the stock rails. The attached photos will give you a good idea of my approach. It works! I’m sure it cost more than if I would have gone a more traditional (ie: easy) route, but at this point, I don’t care. 🙂 Spend the cash and get the darn things done!

Normal position. You can see the RC cable with yellow sheath.
Diverging route position. Once I have everything working properly I cut off the screw extensions and paint the connection rusty brown.
Here are the components for the switch mechanism. The spring provides tension on the far side of each turnout point to keep the point snug against the stock rail.
One thing I discovered is I needed to solder another piece of music wire to the existing wire to add more stiffness. This provided needed rigidity to throw the points and hold them in position.
Here is the final setup. I made some additional modifications from what you see here by assembling each throw on a piece of pine for ease of handling, and I enlarged the access hole to the points to give the throw wire more space to move.
Note that the brass RC pin holder screws onto a threaded brass rod (obscured by the buss wires) to allow for adjusting the tension. This made it easy to get the best throw distance between the switch stand and the mechanism.
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