Monday, December 17, 2012

The Flying Plank gets color and texture!

Welcome back to the Flying Plank RR. P1010908 

Recently I removed all the track, most of the wiring, and painted the whole thing.  The plaster casting material I used dried with a mesh texture, so the first coat of paint applied was mixed with plaster dust to make a thick brown paste.  This smoothed out most of the grid texture and also provided the base color for parts of the landscape.  For the rest I picked up a quart of sandy beige on the discount rack at Walmart and coated everything heavily with that.  Then while the beige was still drying I took a spray-can of brown primer and randomly sprayed it all over it.  This resulted in a nice uneven range of colors from streaks of beige to some large patches of chocolate brown.  The peak of the volcano I simply wetted with a spray bottle and sprinkled more plaster powder over it like a snowstorm.  As the whole mish-mash dried cracks formed here and there where the “sandstone” shows thru.  I also took the opportunity to eliminate all the Atlas snap-track in preparation to lay down Kato unitrack throughout.



As you see, the left end of the layout will be a rocky gully running through hills.  The outer (lower) loop is complete and running.  So I grabbed some rocks from the driveway and hot glued them in as giant boulders.  I then spread around a bag of ballast and a bag of tan rocks.  Basically I dumped them into the canyon and then used a paintbrush to clear the track and mound it up.  Once the upper loop is running it will get the same treatment.






Also visible in a couple places is the patch of green turf spread out on one of the hills.  Instead of bothering to glue it down I just shook it out up there to see how it looks.  Its pretty bright, so maybe it needs to be mixed into some darker green turf. I will suck it up with the little shop vac and reuse it elsewhere.  I mean to spread glue all around the trees and then sprinkle a mixed up batch of various green turf varieties.

This side of the layout is intended to represent a Japanese suburban train stop.  The outer loop of track is setup to accommodate a bullet train set.  Someday over the rainbow when I can afford one, I hope to be able to park it on the siding that runs through the inner side of the passenger station.




Here is the Small town on the other side.  This provides an opportunity for me to use up the old buildings I had in the box of random n-scale junk.  I’m thinking an old industrial town that has seen better years.  The bank building has seen better days, as has the coal elevator.  But they could afford a modern fire truck at least.  And somebody in town is loaded, as you can see their Lamborghini parked behind the warehouse.  =)


The cars on the layout will all be Micro-Machines.  Maybe they are not perfectly to scale, but they are fun!



P1010907[4]When this whole thing is done, I may well have the first inter-continental, time-traveling railroad! 

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Redonkulous Speaker Project

Having overdone it with my little sound system at the last party I did the DJ thing at, it is time to re-equip.DSC_0555
   Enter the Cerwin Vega DX-9’s!
(note: these completed specimens are not mine)
Bob bought himself a pair of DX-9’s back in 1994, and blew the walls out of his living room for about 15 years.  Then he retired them into storage until last week when I took them off his hands.  They were in pretty good shape, the cabinets were easily cleaned up and the electronics seem to have tested good.  The only real problem they have is that the bright orange foam surrounds on the 15” woofer have disintegrated.  Fortunately the re-foaming process is not complicated, and the parts are cheap.  It is a really messy project though!  I neglected to take any pictures of the tear down process, but imagine that orange foam having turned into gritty, sticky paste.  Any bit of it that gets touched falls off and immediately clings to the nearest thing that you don’t want to be smeared with orange!  The easiest way to clean it up seems to be with rubbing alcohol and lots of elbow grease.
dx-9 restore-1
  Here are my woofers, cleaned up and awaiting the arrival of the new foam rings, glue, and center dust caps.    Those bits of paper are shims, slipped in between the magnet pole and the voice coil to keep them aligned while I was monkeying around with them and while I get the foam rings glued into place. The centering of the voice coil is critical to good sound quality and longevity.  These speakers are almost 20 years old, out of production, and nobody makes anything like this nowdays.  If I get this restoration project right, I can expect them to last another 20 years.  Today, all the manufacturers focus on home theater systems, small speakers, and rely on a separate subwoofer to handle the low frequencies.  Nobody tries for epic 2-channel stereo anymore.  =(

Human hearing goes down to around 20hz, and as high as 20,000hz.  The frequency response of this speaker runs down to 35hz, very nearly subsonic.  Put enough power into these things, and you could jiggle all your internal organs around like jello!               dx-9 restore-2
Lets all say it together, “We Don’t Need No Stinkin Subwoofer!”
I think that if you look up “Woofer” in the dictionary, you will find a picture of these humungus things.  That frame is massive cast aluminum, and solid as a rock
dx-9 restore-3

dx-9 restore-5They stand 40” tall, and 18”x18” square. 
The cabinets are basically perfect.  A couple of small nicks and one of the port tubes needs to be re-glued in place. I may also need to replace the 1.5” stand underneath each cabinet.  Also coming my way is a new amplifier to drive these monsters, a used Behringer A500 that I got a good deal on through eBay.  Plus a small mixer board, Behringer Xenyx 802, that can handle a couple of component inputs and a couple of xlr mic inputs.

    Bob’s only condition for giving me these speakers was that I invite him over after I get them fixed up for a “test run” as we attempt to set off car alarms half a mile away.  =)  Maybe I should get some earplugs too…………

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Return to the Flying Plank!

It’s been a while, but I have been spending some time here and there with the Railroad.  I got my hands on a box of casting material (mesh fabric with plaster worked into it), used wire mesh to shape the landscape, draped the casting material over it and sprayed it with water to set it.  So far, I have rock hard terrain with a nice amount of randomness and its fairly lightweight.

flyingplankmountain-2flyingplankmountain-1flyingplankmountain-5flyingplankmountain-8  flyingplankmountain-3flyingplankmountain-4flyingplankmountain-6flyingplankmountain-7

Also, I invested in a box full of Kato Unitrack, an additional pair of switches, and a Passenger Station!

       The Unitrack runs as smooth as butter, and its switches are equally nice.  the Atlas track that makes up the upper section and the white arch bridge is not near as dependable.  Someday I hope to go ahead and upgrade that to Unitrack as well.      Two engines pulling together are able to move that load up the hill, but it does slow it down significantly.  I guess that makes it more realistic.  For now the spur line that runs on the inboard side of the passenger station has no power, I cut the power feed to it in preparation to install a cut off switch at that position.  I want to be able to park a passenger train there while the freight train is operating.


   This passenger station is also made by  Kato.  It is quite similar to stations that I saw while visiting Japan.  The passenger service on this layout will be based on those commuter lines running in the Kobe – Kyoto area that I rode on on those visits.  Hopefully I can also get my hands on a Shinkansen (bullet train) though I don’t think I want the whole 16 car set.  Tomix and Kato both sell Shinkansen sets of 3 or 4 cars, capable of plenty of speed!  Interestingly, those sets don’t use a powered locomotive.  Instead the center car is the one with the motor, and the others are simply weighted for balance and speed.

The Horrible Retreat from Wordpress

    Once again I have moved my blog from one platform to another.  This time it was harder to accomplish, as I was leaving wordpress behind and going back to Blogger.  My reasoning for this was fairly simple, I want to stop paying for the webspace that the wordpress blog was living in, and I already have all my other services running through google anyway.  So back to Blogger I go.  Getting the structure of my posts and the text moved over was not that big a deal, I found a nice guide and conversion utility for that here.  The larger problem was getting my pictures out of the wordpress structure and stored in Google’s deathstar server farm.  The solution to that problem turned out to be very effective, but kind of time consuming too.

I use Windows Live Writer as my blogging platform of choice, it is the best desktop publishing software I have yet to encounter, and it does exactly what I want it too.  What I discovered was a plugin for WLW that allows you to open old posts and re-edit them.  Here is the link.  Once that plugin is installed, all you have to do is navigate to the post you want to edit using Internet Explorer, the change the “http://” to “wlw://” and hit enter.  The page will then be imported into Writer and you have full control over it.  This assumes that you have already setup WLW to make posts to your blog and it has been able to import the style settings and background. 

It blows my mind that there is no standardized format for moving data from one blogging platform or host to another.  This should be a simple and straightforward operation that requires a nice detailed FAQ at the most.  Instead there are loads of articles and discussions of people painfully slogging through the problems and often simply giving up in frustration.  Why cant the wordpress people make a decent export function that includes the images?  Why cant Blogger make a decent import function that does the same?  I am lucky that my blog had only 9 or 10 posts put on it since I switched away to wordpress the first time, but the whole process still took an entire afternoon!


-- end of rant --

Friday, March 16, 2012

The Flying Plank RR moves along

Having made some progress on the train set its time to put up some new pics.  I have replaced the mess of switches at the control yard with a pair of Kato Unitrack double crossovers.  I had to replace the 12v controller, so I went with the Kato speed control that hooks up to the switch controls for the double crossovers. 

train-set-march-4train-set-march-10train-set-march-7At one point I also suffered a total failure of my little switcher engine so the obvious choice was the dirt cheap Bachmann GP50 wearing a Union Pacific dress.


I am particularly proud of the arch supported bridge. That arch is made from 3 strips of 1/16th balsa bent around the rim of a 5 gallon bucket and glued. The concrete (grey 2x4’s) foundations will eventually be surrounded by the scenery


Saturday, March 3, 2012

HOTROC–Asa Saturday March 3 2012

Here are the pictures that I got Saturday afternoon.  Certainly not all the good launches for the day, but I think these are the best of the pictures I took.
If any of the participants want the Hi-res versions, just let me know through the hotroc mailing list.


And here is the big finish!  This is a succesful L2 cert after much effort.  Clean launch, straight flight, recovered between the launchpad and the control table.  Only with a tiny bit of inconsequential damage to the fuselage.  This guy flew right over my head, landing in the field about 15 yards behind me.  Beautiful flight!


Monday, February 6, 2012

Introducing “The Flying Plank RR” (beta)


Adventures in unemployment such as they are, I have found that I have extra time on my hands.  Enter the crate of N-scale model train parts that has been sitting in the shed for 6 years!


The name “Flying Plank” refers to the construction of the train table.  It has no legs, instead it sits on sawhorses in the middle of the garage.  It is suspended from 4 steel cables run through a series of pulleys on the ceiling that allow me to lift it about 9 feet in the air.  So now I have an open workspace, and with a few minutes setup, I have a train layout ready to go!  It is challenging to work out how to complete each step on the smallest possible budget, but when I powered up part of the track today and had it running It was worth it!

Flying-Plank-RR-3  Flying-Plank-RR-5 Flying-Plank-RR-13

Note:  the ropes shown in some of these pictures have all been replaced with steel cable.  the rope stretched too much and made me worry about gravity.








Obviously there is still a lot of work to do, but when complete this will be the culmination of a dream I have had since I was a kid.  And like any good 21st century nerd, the finished product will be controlled by a computer, and include Android App throttle control for the engines and as much automation as I can manage.


next steps:  finish laying track, build up the landscaping, build the bridge over the center section, then tackle the digital command system.