The Collector – Exercise #19

First off I would like to apologize to all who read my blog as soon as it comes out. I have discovered that the quickest and easiest way to proofread anything I have written is to just hit the “publish” button. Same probably works with email. As soon as you make the work public you will begin to notice all the small spelling errors, incorrect word choices, and mixtures of tense. I try to go back and correct these as quickly as possible, but those of you who get immediate notice of the posting or are Johnny-on-the-spot and read it as soon as I post it online will get to see all my gory and glorifying errors. Really quite shameful. Especially for an English major. We all know that spellcheckers and other such grammar tools cannot find all little errors. It takes time, it takes reflection on what you wrote, and  it takes rereading with a keen eye and ear. None of that seems to happen until I hit the publish button.

Catherine CollageWell, enough of that apologizing and self flagellation. Today’s exercise, number nineteen of thirty-one, is something that is near and dear to my heart, something that drives those who live with me nuts, for today I am asked to describe, “what do you collect?” That is both a dangerous and a broad subject.  We can start with the fact that I am a collector of all things involving around British cars. Not just the cars themselves you understand, but books about the cars, emblems from the cars, models of the cars, publicity posters, videos of the cars and car races, well I think you get the idea. Basically if I run across almost anything that has to do with old British cars I will collect it and try to find some spot for it in my home or office. The more esoteric the better.

If that’s not enough on the large side, I am also a train and trolley collector. Unfortunately I have no actual prototype real-size trains or trolleys (not that I haven’t tried), so I have to make up for that by collecting the same tonnage in model trains. Next week in fact I will be at the NMRA (National Model Railroad Association) convention in Atlanta for four days. My wife is going with me, and boy is she thrilled. And as is inevitable with a collection like this, not only do I collect the model trains and track and scenery and buildings that all go together to create a scene, I also collect the aforementioned books, movies, posters, belt buckles, and anything else you can think of that has to do railroading. Continue reading “The Collector – Exercise #19”

Z Scale Brought to Life with Arduino

MAKE Magazine, a mainstay of the maker and hacker communities, has posted an article on their blog site by Jeff Faust on how he built a small Z scale layout for use at a party. The excellent thing about this little railroad is how he automated it, including motion detection of the observers, using Arduino. Hey, and he did a fine job on the scenery and entire display too.

Z Scale With Arduino

A Gift of Trains

What a great way to begin an otherwise dreary morning. Walk into work and find out that a caring coworker has brought you a gift of trains! Yup, a nice collection of N Scale trains to go with my collection. Of course I had to play with them for a while. Darnit, why don’t I have any track at work!?!

These were brought to me by my buddy David Geddings – of running fame. He is a good friend who is trying to help me lose some weight and get at least a little fit. Well … when he isn’t having us go by cupcake restaurants on our lunchtime walks. Anyway, he used to do a bit of N Scaling a while back, but now between his dog and cat rescues, running, wifely devotion, helping run the kids program at his church, and a myriad of other things he just doesn’t have the time. So. much m surprise and excitement, he decided to pass along his collection to me. Oh happy day!

There are some very cool locomotives in there – like the CSX and Chessie Systems ones. I am a love of the Seaboard Air Line and all predecessor and descendent lines. These fit in perfectly. And there are the CSX boxcars, L&N cars, and even a Southern Railway car or two.

I tell ya people, a thoughtful gift like this goes a long way to helping a train guy have a great day. Of course I guess this means I really do need to pick up the check for some of those lunch and cupcake stops we make. And I might even be able to dig out a few more tradable Disney World pins for him. What? You didn’t know that I used to be a Disney pin collector? And now most of that collection is passing on to … David.

I Sensor a Disturbance

IR SensorWell, Terry Terrance has done it again. After watching a video he posted recently and reading his description of the circuits he used to create a Back ‘n Forth Shuttle, I had to rush out and buy some photoelectric sensors. The idea, of course, is to position these at ends of tracks to sense when a train gets to the end of its run. Combine that with the relays mentioned in an earlier post and either the Raspberry Pi or some other controller, and I should be able to completely automate a small shelf switching layout. Such as my EuroNook.

What I need to do now is get building. The programming really shouldn’t be very hard – just sense the train when it crosses the sensor, set the switches to whatever desired position, and then send the appropriate power to the tracks to make the loco move. My problem is that I am much more comfortable with that programming and electrical part of the build than with the actual creation of the little layout. I am sure it would be exactly the opposite for a lot of folks, but putting knife and glue and paint to wood and such is a whole lot harder for me than programming.

If only all of life was as easy as just hooking up a few sensors and then reacting to what they tell you. If “train” then “buy”. If “cat” then “pat”. If “wife” then “apologize”. See how simple?

TI LaunchPad, Relays and Rail In Action

More fun with the Texas Instrument’s Launchpad! But sorry, but not mine. This belongs to Model Rail Radio contributor and great RR guy Terry Terrance. Terry has been working late tonight to put together a diorama for he Streetsville Junction NMRA Regional this weekend. He has a TI LaunchPad controlling the back ‘n forth shuttle of an On30 loco across the diorama. Pretty simple, but it could be expanded to arbitrary complexity to include automatic routing, etc. Terry saus he made one error in the narration – the relays are SPDT not SPST. The two SPDT relays are wired as a DPDT and are thrown simultaneously by the LaunchPad. Here’s a video of it in action.


I am hoping to build something like this soon, and I will update this blog as I make some progress. Basically I would like to automate the EuroNook that I started building in an earlier post. Whether I will use the LaunchPad to control it or maybe the Raspberry Pi has yet to be seen. Actually I was thinking that if I design the interfacing correctly I could swap the control mechanism between totally manual, LaunchPad, Arduino, Raspberry Pi, or maybe even JMRI just depending on what I hook up.