Feb 13, 2021
Grogu is more of a turquoise green IMHO
Yeah, thats what I was going for but it came out darker than I expected. Decide I needed to watch The Mandalorian again to get it right.
Finally finished wiring up all the lights and coding the Arduino to control the PCA board, for some strange reason everything is inverted with OFF being ON. Dunno what I did there.
Wiring the little flood lamps was a challenge, such tiny led's and so easy to break solder connections and if you accidently connect the power lead to the wrong side of the resistor - they go poof! Must have gone through at least 5 or 6 leds to make the 3 that I fitted. Decided to use a yellow colour as that looks a bit more light a sodium arc lamp. The end result was just what I was looking for, with the Castle Keep (built in the 12th Century) highlighted. The street lights do their thing and each building can be turned on (or off at the moment) to add to the effect. I do need to patch up some of the black painting inside a couple of the smaller ones as there is still a bit of leakage. Now I can move on to weathering the buildings, adding some detail to the rock faces and building up the grassed areas.
Looking good Chris...
Castle Branzoll! In Tyrol I believe. I like what you've done with it! I have the same one, I found at a train show a few years ago. Thinking of covering it with snow for a small Christmas layout.
Twas a busy weekend here! We had some beautiful weather so made the most of that with some big rides up into the mountains near us, plus plenty of BBQ action as well.
Also spent some time working on the castle. Did some painting of the stonework - slowly building up a base layer of grey mixed with some browns and a wash of black. After that it was a lighter shade of the grey/brown mix (although that came out a big green somehow) alternated with a burnt Sienna. The final coat was a dry brushed beige colour, this is when everything seemed to just pop. Overall was really happy with the result. Gave the roof a good wash with the watered down black, along with some more burnt Sienna highlights. Once everything looked good and dry it was a coat of matt varnish to lock it all in.
Then it was time to move onto the greenery. I've never used static grass before so it was a bit of an experiment. Also I've never used the DIY static grass applicator I made, so I was quite nervous firing this thing up for the first time on the castle. Decided to try it first by making some grass weed tufts that I will stick around the walls and on the rock faces. Everything seemed to work ok, the grass applicator is quite a beast and certainly flung the 3mm static grass at the tray with gusto! I'll add another post soon detailing how I made the applicator - if anyone is interested?
Then it was time to have a go at applying the grass around the castle - this is where things went a little haywire.
Firstly - don't do static grass in the living room, or the dining room, or any room that you don't mind it going everywhere - because it does.
Secondly - don't do static grass on your desk with a computer in the corner. Apparently an LCD screen and laptop produces a small amount of static, and when combined with an applicator that produces 14kva of Ion's, this throws static grass at the computer, the screen, the desk and any other surface apart from the model you are trying to apply it too - despite earthing said model with the negative lead.
Thirdly - don't place the applicator too close to the hand holding the negative lead. Doing so causes rather large sparks to fly from applicator to the negative lead via your hand/finger resulting in instant spasms, involuntary swearing, hair to stand on end, and your wife to laugh so hard she nearly pee's herself.
That said, I finally worked out how to do it without suffering any of the above issues and the end result was pretty good.
Once the glue has dried I'll get the dust buster out and remove the errant strands off the model (and my computer and desk) and then it will be time to add the final touches, some vines on the walls, shrubs and bushes and maybe a tree.
It looks great.
Thanks for the info on static grass. I haven't tried it yet.
Whoa! A museum piece!
Sorry, I know it's at your expense but I'm with your wife!
So far, my conclusion is it is not as easy as they make it look in the videos!
In retaliation for laughing at me when I electrocuted myself whilst applying the static grass I brought the layout into the house last night to do some work on it (Wife was not impressed). Several reasons for that - it was freaking cold and I didn't want to drag it all the way back down into the dungeon, I needed my laptop to log into the R-pi and didn't want to disconnect everything from that and lastly I wanted to see how the castle looked.
TL-DR (Too Long - Didn't Read - for those like me who had no idea what that meant!)
Castle looks great! and I f@$ked up.
The long story;
So yeah, the castle looks great in the position I want it in, now I just need to modify the surrounding landscape to get it to fit. I have some foam that I will use to fill in the gaps and some plaster cast rock faces that I might add in too for some added realism.
The following rant will probably not make sense to anyone not using Arduino's, CMRI and JMRI.
After fitting the servo's a couple of weeks back I haven't done much to the layout, but for some reason the servo's were not working as advertised. So I dragged the layout into the dining room (next to my work desk) so I could access the R-pi on my laptop and work out what was going on. Everything seemed in order, the R-pi booted, JMRI loaded and the CMRI nodes were communicating, but still no joy with the servo's working.
I decided the start afresh and recreated the CMRI connections (I have two). The first CMRI connection is for the small layout control panel. I got this running, configured all the sensors and lights for the Trellis and it worked! Very happy. Now when I push buttons - lights come on indicating which turnout is in which position. super stuff.
The second CMRI connection seemed to work ok, the TX/RX lights on all the Arduino's were flashing and the current sensors are doing their job of detecting loco's on tracks, or so it appeared. Problem was I still couldn't get the servo's to move. Flash forward, after 3 hours last night and at least 2 hours this morning, I was almost at my wits end and the layout was super close to getting heaved out the sliding door. I decided to pull the offending Arduino from the layout and bench test it. So I undid all the screws, removed the plugs and connected it to the laptop ready to go.
Hang in there - I'm almost done.
So in order to connect the Arduino to a multiple CMRI node network using a 485 bus instead of the USB cable, you have to add a few libraries and definitions into the Arduino's code and tell each Arduino what number address it has, what I have found is that when you want to do the reverse (use the USB) you have to remove all those lines of code. It was during this code change that I noticed something, a pair of "//" in between some important information. This is when I realised I had messed up and promptly gave myself a swift upper cut for my stupidity.
When originally bench testing the PCA6985 cards to connect all the servo's I used my wifi Arduino Uno, which is super handy but as it doesn't need the node code I added a lot of // (simply put anything with a set of // is not read by the code). When it came time to put it all on the layout, I made the changes to the code to include all the 485 stuff but in my haste I forgot to remove a simple set of //. This little mistake meant that I had two Arduino's both using the same address of 0. Hence why nothing worked. I deleted the offending //, uploaded the code, reinstalled the Arduino and plugged everything back in. After booting the system up (and smiling to myself about how cool it looks as it loads) it all worked. I now have all the block detection system working correctly (woohoo) and the servo's now control all my turnouts (big WOOHOO!)
The castle is going to look great up there! But, will we have a catapult with a cow on it and a few french knigits on the walls???????? And it seems like a typical electrical troubleshoot, 5 hours of hunting and 5 seconds to fix! Spent a week on an old GE-7 for NdeM once, turned out to be a bad card holder, which the foremen could not believe.....a couple of hours later, all better and bad card holder on the workbench. About the same ration, and frustration levels. FUN stuff!!
I will have some cows up on the hill but a trebuchet sounds like a fun idea..... As for the french knights - they're there, but you can see them - they are hiding in the cellar
I'm no electrician, hitting stuff with big and bigger hammers is my background so chasing random lines of code and mythical electrical beast has me confused quite often. I found another gremlin hiding in the code this morning. For some reason one of the turnouts was switching when I hit the button for another. Eventually found a 1 instead of a 2. grrrrrr
Another super productive weekend here in Switzerland.
I finally managed to ride my bike up (the hard way I might add) the local mountain, all 1577m of it (5173ft). In total I cover just over 120km over the weekend so to reward myself I did some work on the layout.
Speaking of layouts, it currently still sits in the dining room, don't think the wife is impressed but I'm sure she is slowly getting use to it so if I leave it there long enough, maybe she will just forget about it.......
I made some huge progress around controlling the turnouts, after finding and fixing all the coding errors. I was having an issue around using both Panel Pro on JMRI and the mini control panel to thrown the turnouts. Each one worked ok on their own, but when I tried to combine them both through linking sensors, turnouts, lights etc everything just seem to go a bit haywire. Some worked, some didn't and some just started to do their own thing. I thought I was going to have to write a script to solve the problem but discovered Logix. Wow. I am definitely using Logix to control a lot more of the layout now.
Now the JMRI Panel directly control all the turnouts, so when I am using either my Laptop or iPad I can control all the aspects I want. When I want to run a headless version (no laptop) the Logix listens for sensor inputs (the buttons) from the mini control panel and then switches the turnouts when pressed. I also included a script on start up to automatically move all the turnouts from unknown to thrown then closed, this way the system will know what position each turnout is in.
By having the layout where it currently is I've also been able to set up some trains to just run around the track whilst I've been working away on the code. The great thing is it has helped clean the track along with the loco's so they are starting to run nice and smooth. I have discovered a few parts when they stall a little (slight kink in the joints of the Fleishmann track) or catch the frog's but each time I've been able to get the file out and solve the issue.
Beautiful! Both the layout and the top of the mountain. Switzerland is on our list once we feel comfortable traveling again. We are fully vaccinated and are waiting for the world to do the same.
Its a lovely place, so much to see an do - but sooooooo expensive!
Expensive to live or expensive to visit? Photography is one of my many (too many if you ask my wife!) other hobbies and I drool over Switzerland 's scenery.
I would say it is more expensive to visit as the salaries are representative. Its a bit of a shock when you find a coffee in Geneva can set you back over $7 and a beer can be more than $15!
Its been almost a month since my last update with how the layout is progressing an a lot has happened in that time.
Firstly we are heading back to New Zealand in August - which is about a year ahead of when we had planned to head back. Got a pretty sweet job offer so we bit the bullet and decided now was the time. So we have been busy organising shipping of some of our stuff (no furniture as we have that back home) but plenty of boxes, also organising getting our two dogs transported back - which is a long and complex procedure! On top of that its working out when I can fly to meet the dogs (my quarantine is 14 days - theirs is only 10), when we hand the house over, selling cars, selling furniture - its been busy!
The down side to heading back down under is the layout will not be travelling with me - which isn't a bad thing. I always had planned this to be a bit of an experiment and learning layout rather than the large module type I plan to fill my shed back home with. But I now have a bit of a time constraint to get it to a working state so I can sell it, I've come to the conclusion I won't have the time to fully finish it - which is a shame.
Never the less I've been busy sorting out the electrical side of the house. First up was getting the track working properly. I had a couple of idea's on solving some issues I had around a couple of dodgy rail joiners that (as always happens) lurked about as deep into the tunnel system as they could get, along with the Fleishmann turnouts which are notoriously fickle. The turnout problem was solved with some paint which worked wonders, now all my locos roll over with no stalling in the middle. The track got a good clean and then a treatment of No-Ox (it arrived! and will last me for years! ) and now the loco's run continuously with no problems at all. The dodgy rail joiner was not a simple fix. I ended up having to modify the base board somewhat - in other words I attacked it with a jigsaw. I ended up cutting the panel so I could get an arm inside, along with the soldering iron and, with the aid of a wireless borescope and my phone, was able to solder the offending joiners via video. Not easy.
Before cutting - adding in some extra supports for the base board
After cutting the base board - now I had just enough room for my hand and the soldering iron between the two track boards.
Next was sorting out the signalling system. I ended up using a set of Brawa signals I managed to find as New old stock for a bargain price. It was a bit more complicated than the original system I had before the infamous fried turnout situation but I knew this lot would work with 12v DC. In total I ended up with 24 relays to control all the various light setups that they provided, a couple of the lights don't work but that is down to late night bad crimping of the earth wires. I know it's not exactly prototypical with home signals, distance signals etc but it gives the layout something extra, now I just need to program that all into JMRI.....
I also have finally installed the fuse panel for the computer power supply (which was a good thing as I blew a fuse the next morning!) Ended up using micro blade fuses for cars on a custom built PCB, running 5A for the 12v and 5v supplies and 2A for the 3.3v and 12v supply to the DCC++ system.
So plenty of work still left to be done, at some stage I need to wire up the 3.3v bus around the layout and properly terminate the 485 bus plus reprogram one of the buttons on my JMRI panel to turn the track power on/off. fun times!
Well, unfortunately this will be the final post I will be making about the layout. Made the hard decision today to advertise it for sale as there is no way I will be able to finish it now - I broke thumb on my dominant hand and also took the tip off another finger (epic mountain bike crash coming down Mt Tamaro in Ticino during our holiday) and I have no ability for the next 5 weeks to do anything with my hand.
So I stuck it up on the swiss version of eBay and hopefully someone will buy it and finish it off. If it doesn't sell I will strip it down of all the electrics and pack those for NZ and just give the base and track away.
I'm a little gutted. I had just finished all the track work, it was running great (no-ox is brilliant!) and I had all the turnouts working and the signals were all linked in through JMRI using the CT block detection. The crossing was working and the IR sensors in the tunnels worked so the lights and barriers activated at the right time. I had also got the reed switches working and a basic script up and running that would shuttle a train around the layout. All I had left to do was the scenery, installing the buildings, building roads etc.
I thoroughly enjoyed this little project, learnt so much around Arduino's, Raspberry Pi's, programming, scripts, wiring, etc so definitely looking forward to building a new layout when I get back to NZ, although it will be around 6-8 months before all my stuff in the shipping container will arrive.
I'm definitely NOT going to use a prefabricated layout board next time - what a nightmare they are..... but probably some sort of module based layout, either that or go into Dioramas.
Anyway. Thats me out, I'll see you on the other side.
Well that really sucks! Hope you have a speedy recovery!