Thursday, December 24, 2015

Building scenery, last work of the year.

Finally, is time to start building scenery. Track has been tested and works everything ok. I plan to start building all the scenery of the upper part of the layout, from top to bottom.

I had in mind to try to reproduce Yamadera (山寺) which is a temple complex sited in Yamagata prefecture. I was there in Spring this year, and for me is the most beautiful and charming place in Japan despite there are many other places also with a magnificent atmosphere like Osore-Zan.

Here you can see a review of my visit to Yamadera in my last trip to Japan:

First of all I took some photos I did myself as inspiration:

And some more I found on internet to see also the color of the rocks from the other side of the temple. Shape will be different due to the place I have in the layout, but I want to keep the essence of the place so anyone who has been there can recognize it in my layout.

Temple buildings will be also different, as I'm using the Tomytec temple set and not scratch building them.

First of all I placed two terrace made in wood at the height where I want the temple and main gate. Continued making the stairs using PVC Foam of 2mm thickness, cutting step by step and gluing it:

The 2mm steps are a little bit out of scale, but using 1mm PVC foam was too much work and I would have needed 1000 steps as the real temple!!

I'm using the technique of glued cardboard strips to shape the basic forms of the rocks. It's quite simple, just cut strips from a cardboard box and glue them with a hot glue gun and a stapler to fix crossing strips:

Once you are happy with the results, cover it with plaster cloth and add some rock castings in place:

Now fill with plaster the spaces between castings and add plaster in places where you want more thickness. You can model the plaster, but work really fast because plaster dries in few minutes. Don't prepare too much plaster, is better to do work small zones individually. If you don't want a smooth finish, just hit plaster gently with your fingertip and surface will turn in a more coarse aspect. While plaster is still wet, carve some holes or cracks with any sharpened tool or model it with a spatula:

Now wait until it's completely dry and do not try to paint it until next day. For painting I used a mix of different techniques. Some airbrush painting I already know from my plastic models experience, and others taken from Woodlan Scenics or some friends who have experience with scenery.

This is step-by-step of painting my rocks:

1) I wanted some carved zones in an ocher and clear color as it is in reality, so directly airbrushed this zones:

2) There is a zone made with concrete, not natural. This has been also airbrushed in a concrete color. Using some variants of ocher also all the rocks have been slightly airbrushed.

3) Now I changed of technique, using the "Leopard Spot" and the Earth Colors from Woodlan Scenics. You can find very instructional videos in their web site, but basically you tint with diluted colors (proportion 1/16 or a little more) 1/4 of the rock for each color. This is in case you are using 3 colors for this first step (white, concrete and ocher) like me, and leave 1/4 with no paint. If you are using 2 colors, then paint 1/3 of the rock with each.

4) Second step of the "Leopard Spot" technique is to wash the entire surface of the rock with a predominant color, in my case Raw Umber as I feel this is the most similar color of Yamadera rocks in general. In this case the paint has to be diluted in double proportion than the previous, 1/32.

5) I still wanted some more contrast, so I decided to make another wash with Slate Gray. Black is too much strong for the rocks I'm modelling. I had to dilute strongly this color, a proportion like 1/50 or maybe more. At the same time I was applying the was I was removing the excess with a kitchen towel paper, turning the edges of the rock in a much more clear color. I liked the final effect, so no dry brush technique was used.

After this step I used again the airbrush to paint stairs and water. Stairs needed some dry brushing in a light gray color. There's still work to do, like putting water effect resin and all covering, bushes and trees. But I'm really happy with the results at this point, taking into account this was my first scenery:

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!!!!!!!!


Sunday, November 29, 2015

Use of Arduino in digital layouts

I've had the opportunity to make a presentation about the use of Arduino in digital layouts to all the people from "Martorell Friends of the Rails" association.

They were so kind of inviting me, and finally I spent all the afternoon there exchanging ideas and impressions with all members about how to develop the digital system of their new layouts. It was really a funny and interesting day.

I want to share with all you the presentation I did, I hope you find it interesting:

Saturday, November 7, 2015

"Martorell Friends of the Rail" association visit

Today I've been invited to visit the association "Amics del tren de Martorell" (Friends of the Rail from Martorell). Martorell is a small city close to the south of Barcelona, where this 30 years old association is sited.

Joan is one of the members in charge of the association and is now working in some parts of the H0 scale layout. He got in contact with me because he wanted to exchange our experiences in digital rail road modelling and in particular about the use and possibilities of Arduino in this field. Joan is one of the most experienced modellers I've ever meet in person and has been dedicated to rail road modelling during a huge amount of years, but you can see on him the same illusion and vigour of a newbie. I showed him my programs and how I use Arduino in my layout, and Joan told me a lot of anecdotes and funny histories about his extended time dedicated to trains and the association. A short meeting of one hour became three, being totally unaware of the time. And we had to leave because Joan had the compromise to mount his modules for the train fair is held tomorrow in Gelida, and he was already two hours late because of my visit.

The association had to move recently from the previous place they were, and they are building new layouts for the club members. This first one is an N scale layout:

And the following photos is the large H0 scale, including a H0 narrow section and tram:

They have also a very good and interesting collection of old models given to the association by some of the members, and a nice library full of books, magazines and videos.

I hope to visit the Martorell Association soon, and continue talking to Joan and may be run some trains to test their new layout, hopefully "Arduinized".

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Led signals control with Arduino

With the same LNCVSoundOutputs program for Arduino is possible to directly connect a led to each of the free output pins. Pin 0 and 1 are used for the serial communication with an optional MP3 shield, or to activate the Loconet Monitor mode and debug the Loconet communications. Pins 7 and 8 are used for the Loconet communications. So 16 pins are free to use as outputs.

The current limitations of Arduino UNO are:
  • 20mA for each Pin
  • 200mA in total, sum of all pins

That means we can connect one led to each of the pins with no problems, and have 10 of them illuminated at the same time.

I had the following signal bridge. It has 4 light signals of 3 aspect each one:

I connected each of the led (4 signals x 3 aspects = 12 led) to Arduino UNO. On top of Arduino there is the GCA185 Loconet Shield, and on the top of the shield a self development board where I soldered screw terminals to make the connections easy:

And that's all needed to control your light signals through Loconet: Arduino UNO (3€), Loconet Shield (15€), development shield (2€). Just 20€ and you can manage 16 outputs. If more load is needed in each pin, you can always use a MOSFET board and supply the needed current through an external power source.

In my case, the power to light leds comes directly from the Loconet connector.

I hope you liked it!!

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Kato 10-908 Series 167 Tamachi-Accommo DCC Digitalization

This is a 167 Series Tamachi Accommo. Accommo refers to "accommodation", as it received reclining seats from retired 183 series, and was based out of Tamachi depot, being used on various chartered services, most notably on school excursions to Nikko, up until about 2003. It's a simple nice model with directional lights.

First of all, I opened the cab/end cars. It's not as the normal Kato cars in the way the body is clipped to the chassis. There are 4 clips in the bottom and it's not subjected by the lateral parts.

The light board has two plastic covers on it very easy to unclip.

I removed the light board and cut the two legs that take the current from the wheels. In these points, I soldered the grey and orange cables from the LaisDCC decoder and passed the red and black cables through the holes where the legs of the board where inserted. LaisDCC decoder have a very useful feature like some TCS and Lenz decoders. This feature is that you can use motor wires as a function output and it can change the polarity depending the direction of travel. It's also possible to adjust the intensity at the desired level.

In the red and black wires I soldered a short cooper strip that will be in contact with the car strips that take the current from the wheels. In this way the car can be opened with no risk of pulling the wire and break it.

Finally, it's only needed to program the CV61=68 and write in CV133 the desired intensity (value from 0 to 255). Normally a value between 20 and 50 is enough.

The motor car is easy, exactly the same as the normal EMU Kato cars, just isolate the motor plates and solder wires. I use double sided tape to fix decoder in place and keep cables close to the floor.

Here you can see a real one in motion:

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Kato Shinkansen Series 0 50th Anniversary DCC digitalization

I bought the 50th Anniversary Series 0 Shinkansen, from Kato. I found it was a very cheap model. It was cheap as a regular shinkansen, but even more taking into account that it is a 50th Anniversary edition. But when you open it, it's easy to understand: bad motor, bulb lights...

Let's start by the cab and end cars. There is a schema of how to open this car in the instructions sheet, but if it works at the first attempt it will be a miracle. First of all unscrew the bogies. Then you have to lift and push to the front the casing, but I found it was impossible to remove because of the windows. So I had to remove the windows to be able to open it. Closing it will be also a pain...

And opening it is the hardest work. For the light just cut and remove the two diodes. As it has bulb lights, you don't have to deal with the polarity like led.

In the bottom part of the board, solder the red and black wire to the current pick up strips. One of the pick up goes directly to the common of the lights. And white and yellow wires go to the other leg of the bulbs. In the following photos you can see the exact points where to solder every wire, you don't need to make any cut to the cooper paths.

And that's all the work, all wires of the decoder are soldered to the light board. Just mount it again. And there is room enough for the decoder. I used a LaisDCC decoder, it's a very small decoder and fits perfectly.

And that's finished, both directional lights depending on the direction of travel. Motor wires where cut, that makes impossible to read CV, but for this decoder is only needed to write the CV1 with the desired direction and nothing more.

The motor car is also very easy. Isolate with Kapton tape the motor leads, and solder in the right place the black and red wires (current), and grey and orange to the motor:

I hope it has been useful for you.