My friend Chris Abbott visited last night after work, and we worked on the sector plate that represents Simcoe, Ontario and points north. By the end of the evening, we had our first trains running across the entire railroad.
To keep rails aligned, Chris cut and installed large pads of copper-clad printed circuit board material. This photo shows the four tracks of the sector plate plus, in the upper right, the mainline to St. Williams:
(Chris also cut plates for the other end of the sector plate tracks, plus the two ends of the locomotive cassette. We didn’t get those installed last night, but we’re that much further ahead for the next work session.)
Meanwhile, I continued to work on the wiring for the staging area. Having already installed drop feeders, I decided I wanted a way to route power so I could turn off tracks where trains are stored between runs. I’m still pondering my options for this, but in the interim I installed a temporary panel with four mono 1/4″ audio jacks, arranged to correspond to the four staging tracks:
I ran a common wire from the track bus to one contact on each of these jacks, then individually wired the leads to each track to the other contacts. Finally, I connected the two contacts in a 1/4″ plug with a short piece of wire.
When the plug is inserted into a jack, it completes the circuit to the corresponding track – and only one track can ever be powered at a time. In the photo, the plug is in the jack for track 1, and the headlight is lit on the train on that track. Easy peasy. I’ll play around with this for a while, enjoying running trains, while I decide what form of track power assignment I want to install on a permanent basis.
Now that I can run trains in and out of staging, I am thinking about how I’m going to disguise this non-prototypical but necessary area on the layout. I do not like hidden staging – not in the least – so it’ll remain visible. However, this photo illustrates two techniques that will help minimize its presence during operating sessions:
First, I designed the lighting system so the light would fall off as staging is approached. Note how bright the closest tobacco kiln is, compared to the one in the distance. That bright side also draws the eye, so I’ll emphasize that when I build the structures – perhaps by doing full detail on the closest kiln and making the other four less visually busy.
The second technique involves the addition of a wind break of trees across the layout at the entrance to staging. I’ve temporarily installed some evergreens and I’m pleased with the effect. I think a row of deciduous trees will work even better.
Having a working sector plate means I can clear the tracks in St. Williams – and that means I can start holding real operating sessions!