Wednesday, October 1, 2014

A Suspension Bridge!

The Flying Plank RR is operational!
Most of the track is down, and in its final positions.  I still have some wiring do to, and some fine tuning on the track.  However, I can run a long train thru the whole layout without any drailments or odd behavior.
And (insert drum roll here) the suspension bridge is open for traffic!  It is made from roughly 600 Lego bricks, two blinking red leds, and several yards of 80 pound braided fishing line.  The cables (fishing line) actually support the weight of passing trains.  Before I tensioned the cables, a train would cause enough sag in the bridge deck to loosen the electrical contact with the track at one end.  Now, there is no movement on the deck at all.  The cables run underneath the layout, and are tied together below.  That way I can adjust the tension later on, or as the cables stretch out over time.  The cables on one end of the bridge go into the ground far too close to the tower, so I will be moving that back soon.  The blinking LED tower lights are powered by the track power circuit, so anytime the track is on, so are those lights.  As I wire up the lights in buildings, I will be adding a second circuit on a switch so that interior lights can be turned on and off.
Now I move on to touch up paint, then trees and turf and some silly things I have in mind.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Flying Plank Updates:

Not much to say on this railroad update.  Lots of painting, carving foam, and making a gigantic mess in the garage!  However, the end result is looking pretty good.  Once I do some touch up, I can finally lay track for the last time, and run trains on it again.  Also the lego bridge is built and load tested!  With every locomotive I currently own sitting on it, it did not sag at all.  Once I released the tension on the cables, the bridge span sags a bit under its own weight, but it is stable enough until it gets permanently mounted and tensioned.  The marker lights on top of the bridge towers are installed as well, although not visible without their clear lego covers.
On with the pictures!


Sunday, September 7, 2014

The Flying Plank RR gains a bit of color

    After much toil, sweat, and backing up to fix mistakes, the new layout is beginning to show progress.
This weekend I painted 1/4 of the area, including Mt Boulder.  The mountain is designed to lift off the layout easily in case of a derailment in the tunnels.  This seemed the most straightforward approach, and was kinda fun to build up.  The basic structure of everything is pink Foamular board from Home Depot, and cans of ‘Great Stuff’ expanding foam.  The spray foam was applied very carefully, and sometimes I used plastic sheets to cover everything I didn’t want to get foam on…
The middle layer is simply lightweight spackle compound you buy by the tub at any hardware store.  After that I used a coat of white latex primer and the spray cans of grey primer, rust primer, black primer, and a couple of different browns from a camouflage line of paints

Obviously, there is touchup remaining on this section, and some adjusting of track positions, but its good to see some progress after much tinkering.  I will have to restrain myself from applying grass, shrubs, and trees until the whole layout has been painted. 

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Sennheiser HD 380 Pro–The Best Headphones I Have Ever Used.



   A few months ago, I was given an opportunity to rescue some headphones that had been used as part of an audio display at a big box electronics store.  I was surprised to find a pair of Sennheiser’s in the box.  They were a bit dusty, and the cord was a tangled mess, but I knew they at least deserved a chance.   The offer on the table was to pick one of the sets of headphones in the box, and let the others go on so somebody else could have a pair as well.  I immediately untangled the Sennheiser HD 380 Pro and gave them a shot.

    To be fair, I have never owned a pair of headphones in this performance class.  So I had no idea what to expect.  Simply put, I was blown away.  The sound is crisp and detailed, while still having plenty of bass.    The sound isolation from the environment is near complete.  These are not noise cancelling, yet they insulate to the sides of your head to an extent that you may not need noise cancelling technology anyway.

     They do require more power than the el-cheapo cans I have used before, and anyone looking at going to this type of headphones should also consider grabbing a small headphone amp to go with it.  I am currently watching the market to find such an amplifier that I can afford.  A point of caution about this,  closed in earphones are more likely to cause hearing damage when cranked way up because all the energy from the driver is pointed right down your ear.  If you power something like this with too much juice, or crank the volume all the time, then expect to invest in hearing aids in the near future.  Instead, you should view the isolation from outside sound as an opportunity to enjoy the fine detail in your music without the need for eardrum shattering volume.  Adding more power should not be done simply to get the noise levels up, but should be done to improve the quality of the signal being rendered.

  The earcups are slightly angled and frankly, gigantic.  That is one of the best parts of the design.  They completely surround my ears, and hold in the sound quite well.  I can listen to whatever I want, and my wife seated at her computer next to mine cannot hear a thing.  They are circumaural, closed back headphones, and the cord (attached to the left ear) measures at 56” lying on my table.  The 380’s are not heavy, and only slightly bulky when wearing them.  Sitting at the computer, riding my bicycle, or outside working in the garage, I have not yet found an environment unsuited for these headphones.  I have been told I look silly, with big cans on my head.  I don’t care!  The sound quality is plenty to make up for any perception of silliness……

                          hd380 hingehd380 folded

These headphones also fold down fairly small, and Sennheiser sells a nice little flat zipper case you could store them in.  I have found that simply folding the earcups up against the headband allows them to sit in the corner of my desk and be totally out of the way.

The Final word is simply “Excellent”.  These headphones are a bit pricey, listed on Amazon for $135.00 as I write this review.  However, the next time I am looking to buy headphones, this is my starting point.  I never would have expected to own headphones worth more than $50 or $60, but now I understand.  I still do not believe that I would ever agree that headphones could be worth thousands, but with the HD 380 Pro at it’s price range, Sennheiser has made a believer.  And if the pair I got sound so good, and came to me as a used display model, how much better is a new set?

     That box of headphones rescued from the store display had two pair of Sony and one set of “Beats by Dr. Dre” cans.  I did give each of them a brief listen, but there was no contest.  If you are looking for headphones, these should be on your short list.  Near the top of that list.