Interview: A Working Wigwag

Excerpts from a recent interview between Keith Waddell and Gerry Nelson on developing a working wigwag railroad crossing:

Keith: Now we’re going to talk a little about the wigwag that’s been installed by Jerry Nelson and by Louis Frank. So, Jerry do you want to tell us how this was installed.

Jerry: We decided that when people first come in and look at the layout they could see a road crossing right there on the layout (its the first thing people see when they enter the room), but we had fake road crossings, just x’s there. So we bought the machines including the electrical board, and Louis got it all set up for me and I went and drilled the holes and installed everything. Initially we had flashing red lights, but we had no bell so we got a hold of a guy in Nevada who built us a bell system, and I just installed it. So that now when a train comes the lights flash and the bell dings and its really nice.

Keith: Great! I do have a question : for the flashing lights, is this a commercially available board?

Jerry: The board that makes the lights flash is commercially available and made by Circuitron.

Keith: And the board for the bell was made specifically by ….?

Jerry: a guy in Nevada, his name is Werner Vinson of Vinsons Custom Electronics.

Keith: The system is automatic, so how does it work?

Jerry: There’s two lights and eight little light sensors. The light sensors are in the track, two when it comes on, two when it goes off, that’s four, then there’s two tracks so that makes eight sensors. Then an electrical circuit board for the lights, and an electrical circuit board, another one, for the bell. (Ed: a light sensor normally detects light, when a train passes over the top of it, the light dims and this triggers the circuit to turn on. Another light sensor on the other side of the crossing detects dimming light when the train has passed it and turns the circuit off.)


Interview: The Tunnel Office

Excerpts from a recent interview between Keith Waddell and Gary Soler:

Keith: Gary, you and Chris Roberson worked on the tunnel office.  Could you describe what you did on this part of the layout?

Gary Soler: Chris had a problem when the switchers were located inside the tunnel ( Ed: the tunnel by the roundhouse is very close to the switching yard, so when switching locos were in use they would sometimes need to enter the tunnel as part of their switching operation) so he had to make a lift out. While he was making the lift out he decided to put these portals in.

(Ed: there are three windows that allow viewing into the tunnel – see photos).

Keith: These are the gaps at the front?

Chris’s three tunnel portals so he could view the switchers.
Chris’s three tunnel portals so he could view the switchers. (Click to enlarge)

Gary: Yes, the three openings. So Dave brought in a picture of an office that used to exist in the snow sheds up on Donner, and Chris wanted to duplicate that office, but didn’t know how. So I built it for him.



Keith: OK. So you scratch built this?

Gary: Scratch built it, to fit the opening he gave me.

Keith: So what were you using, basswood?

Gary: This is all styrene. The outside wall was made of, they call it, metal roofing, because it has all the lines and scribes in it. I used that as the outside wall, a positive/negative thing. So I just cut it, put a bay window in it, from Grandt Line Products, put them in, painted them green.

The tunnel office as based on the one in the snow sheds at Norden, Donner Pass.
The tunnel office as based on the one in the snow sheds at Norden, Donner Pass.         (Click to enlarge)

Painted the whole thing with grey primer, just came in with a little brush and painted the windows green. So in the picture there was a hose against the wall and the light, I couldn’t duplicate the light, but I did put the hose by it, so it kinda adds that little ambience to it. I did put people inside and the original idea was to light up the whole tunnel, but I didn’t like that. So, my idea was to backlight the office so that when you looked in, the light was coming from behind the little figurines in there.  Well, I put another light in there to light them so that you can actually see the detail in the little people, plus you get the backlighting shining out into the tunnel.

Keith: OK, Cool!

Gary: And the club seems to like it!


Interview: Short Line Project

Excerpts from a recent interview between Keith Waddell and Gerry Nelson:

Keith: We’re going to talk a little bit about the North West Short Line that the club have put in, and Gerry Nelson here did the wiring to enable DC and DCC operation. So Gerry, do you want to tell us about what you achieved?

Gerry: Well, we were building the short line, a separate line, so you can come from the main line on to it, then back on to the main line. However, a lot of the guys in the club would bring DC engines, but they couldn’t test them out on our layout because it’s all DCC. so i wired the short line in with a switch that way you could shut the power off on the short line, make it either DCC, or straight DC. So you could do anything you want, but you can’t go from that short line (in DC mode) into the main line while you are running DCC

Pins were installed that rise when the DCC mode is switched to DC as indicated by the photos below:  (Click on image to enlarge)

Below are photos of the DC to DCC switch and the associated wiring at the rear of the switch: (Click on image to enlarge)


New Full Length Backdrop Behind HO Layout

For a number of years, our club has had prints in frames mounted on the wall behind our large HO layout. Eventually, we decided to take them down and paint the wall a nice sky blue color. After the wall was painted, a number of our members painted clouds on the wall and several attempts were also made to add clouds made of cotton wool. The final result still left something to be desired.

Then, a new member, Dick Eddinger, joined our club. He had a great deal of knowledge about Model Railroading and suggested that perhaps his wife, Nancy, might be able to paint murals on the wall to tie into our present scenery. As it turns out, she was a highly skilled artist. Nancy painted and Dick mounted murals large enough to cover all the open areas on the entire wall between support posts. Nancy then came back and painted all the posts and electrical conduit to make the wall one continuous scene. The results were absolutely fantastic! Our club is extremely grateful to Nancy and Dick for their amazing contribution. Thank You so much!

Model Railroad Club