The Model Railway Show – Episode 0035

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The future is now

In this episode…

Duncan Mcree, owner, Tam Valley Depot.
René Gourley, modeler and author.

Future layout and train control

Many modelers are holding onto the old ways, but it’s pretty clear that Digital Command Control has become the new standard for train control in the hobby. So what’s next?

Duncan Mcree has some ideas about that – including cutting the wires to your track.

Duncan operates Tam Valley Depot, a specialty manufacturer of micro-controllers for DCC-powered layouts. His many products include servo-based switch machines and sempaphore signal contollers and systems to automatically manage the polarity of turnout frogs and reversing sections such as turntables and wyes. As he tells Trevor, many of these products were developed to solve problems on his HO scale layout, the Tamalpais Valley Railroad.

Duncan views servos and microcontrollers as a gateway for electornics hobbyist, including many younger people, to discover the many pleasures of the model railway hobby. But he recognizes many hobbyists detest wiring and has a solution for them, too – in the form of a new DCC overlay that replaces track power with a small onboard lithium polymer battery, and control signal transmission through the rails with a wireless system. Duncan and another noted hobbyist, Craig Bisgeier, have created a video to demonstrate the system, which Duncan expects to hit the market later in 2012.

For those tired of cutting rail gaps and crawling under the layout to chase shorts, this could be just what the doctor ordered.

3D Printing

It’s also known as rapid prototyping and it’s been around for a while, but 3D printing is starting to make inroads into the model railway hobby. The concept is simple: draw what you want, hit “print” and a special machine creates your object in three dimensions. Of course, in reality it’s more complex than that but some modelers are working hard to push the technology to create production ready details, components and even entire models.

One such modelers is René Gourley. René favorite prototype is an obscure 19th Century Canadian railway and as he tells Jim, 3D printing has made it possible for him to design and fabricate many of the essential items he needs to build a layout in Proto:87 (Finescale HO). René manages the Proto:87 Special Interest Group, blogs about his adventures – and in the March 2012 issue of Railroad Model Craftsman magazine, he wrote about the use of 3D printing to create a passenger car for his railway.

3D printing has some limitations – but then, so did laser cutting when it first hit the hobby. So modelers should expect great things from the technology in the years ahead.

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Episode 35 (mp3)

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Next time on The Model Railway Show:

Jim speaks with Australian modeler Professor Klyzlr about the big ideas on his exhibition layout, Brooklyn: 3AM.
Trevor talks to Dave Owens, one of the organizers of the New England/Northeast Railroad Prototype Modelers meet.

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