Sputtering start to a new layout

Stephane Savard May 24, 2018

  1. Stephane Savard

    Stephane Savard TrainBoard Member

    One of the funny things about building a layout is where I can't quite decide what to do next. So in my last post I said I'd go work on ballasting the yard. And I prepared for just that! I took out all of the ballasting materials I have, some new, some old (I used to make wargaming terrain using woodland scenic products), and laid it all out on the table. Then I stared at the yard for twenty minutes trying to decide what colours to use where.

    That got me thinking that really, I should plan where the road and parking lots should be placed. Now, to decide on those, I really should figure out where the buildings are going to be! I already have a good idea for those, based on the track plan I posted much earlier in the thread where I had plunked down a few Pikestuff buildings around the yard.

    Right, so turns out that just didn't feel like tackling that ballast just now, but several months ago, I did buy an engine house kit. Aha! That's what I'm going to do next!


    So why not, I took everything out of the plastic bag, and started looking at the stuff. That's a lot of parts. Yikes. See, I haven't built a model kit since well, I was a kid really. Back then, my model kits, given to me by aunts and uncles, were messes of plastic cement and plastic parts. However, compared to all those years ago, we now have the Internet, and Youtube. So after reviewing a few choice videos, I got to preparing the kit.


    So first things first, I cut out all of the wall parts and fitted everything as nice I could. A few different files, some 600 grit sand paper, some cutters and a brand new #11 blade were all I really needed. The kit has a lot of small wall sections, meaning you can build it pretty much like you want. I opted for pretty much a stock configuration.


    On the backside of the parts, we can see the cutouts where doors can be added. I'm also much better at using plastic cement. As a kid I never realized that I'm supposed to coat both sides, wait a bit, then touch the plastic parts together. That would lead to frustrating times where the plastic parts would slip and slide together and make a mess of fingerprint marks all over the plastic.

    The biggest downside of all these little sections of wall meant that some of the sections didn't quite come together as well as I'd hope, leaving some seams. For this I used some Tamiya plastic putty. It's ummm, interesting. First time I use it and I'm not sure I got the hang of it yet.


    I thought the putty would be easier to smooth down, but it becomes clumpy very very fast. I've since washed the walls, windows and door in some warm soapy water and next step is to paint it. I'm not sure whether I should apply some primer first, or just go right to airbrushing the colours.

    As for the colours, I used one of the countless metal building manufacturer websites that provide color selectors, and came up with this light tan/charcoal trim look:

    light tan.png

    Note that my layout is not based on any real location, so colours and planning are really just from imagination.

    Gary: the cattel car was printing in sections, however the sections with walls were printed flat.
    RailMix, Sumner, gjslsffan and 3 others like this.
  2. gmorider

    gmorider TrainBoard Member

    Looks good.
  3. Mr. Trainiac

    Mr. Trainiac TrainBoard Member

    I find that Tamiya filler to be interesting as well, but it is much better than Squadron putty. I don’t use it often, but it is good for filling in ejector pin marks and other surface gaps. I usually put more on than necessary and then sand it down. Your corrugated surface was probably a difficult first-try for it, but it looks solid. Once you paint it, you probably won’t even see where the filler is.
  4. gary60s

    gary60s TrainBoard Member

    Go to ebay Joe.
  5. Stephane Savard

    Stephane Savard TrainBoard Member

    On to the roof before getting to paint.


    Even more pieces than the walls!


    The parts fit better than the walls, and no need for the filler. Up above we can see one roof half is completed, and the second still needs trimming. Takes a while to assemble, but in the end makes a nice roof with an integrated gutter.


    And now the parts were all cleaned in some soapy water, rinsed off, and let to dry.


    And now getting ready to airbrush. I used a combination of frog tape and tamiya masking tape. Basically, I'm masking off all parts of the plastic where I will be using plastic cement to assemble the parts. Since the windows and doors glue into the frames from behind, that means I mask off the lips. Taking a break right now since I have to drive the kids to their aunt this afternoon. But when I come back, I should start painting.
    BNSF FAN likes this.
  6. Stephane Savard

    Stephane Savard TrainBoard Member

    I got some painting done this afternoon, but not as much as I had hoped.


    I started with a basic white on the doors and the fiddly bits that go on the roof, presumably these let the exhaust escape the building. With that done, I did apply some more tamiya masking tape to the doors so I could paint the trim. Lucky me! the tape was the perfect width for the doors! Then it was a simple matter to spray the roof and trim. I wanted a warmish charcoal, so started with twenty drops of Gunship Dark Grey, then a drop each of Yellow Orche and White. It's not an exact science here, I just tried it and liked the result.

    So now, had to wait for paint to dry, so I figured I could work on the floor. That's not included in the kit, so I took out my reserves of plastic sheets. I had .5mm and 2mm. Both of which were not what I needed. So off to the local train shop for some more.


    I settled on using 1.5mm; that seems to be the perfect thickness. Took a piece of scrap flex track and started cutting and shaving until it fit perfectly between the "track nails" molded in the plastic ties.


    Seems to fit, but this is time consuming. I guess the inner piece should butt up to the rail, but it make it easier I just fitted it just shy of the molded track nails.


    And finally, made sure I could run the locomotives with power without snagging on the plastic (it's not glued down yet). So far so good! I'm done for the night, time to help with supper!
  7. Stephane Savard

    Stephane Savard TrainBoard Member


    I completed the main assembly and painting of the engine house. Turns out I painted those walls three times! The first time, I noticed that an not insignificant amount of dust spoiling the surface. I thought I had washed the walls well enough, but results indicated otherwise! So I cleaned off the paint with a soft toothbrush and warm water. The second time was good, but I mixed light brown with only a few drops of white. The end result was darker than I wanted. So I finally mixed equal parts light brown and white, added two drops of yellow ochre and ended up with what I wanted.

    I assembled everything with gel type CA glue (gorilla brand).


    I didn't want to produce an interior, but I just wasn't liking the insides as they were, even once painted. So I quickly assembled some wall overlays and stuck some 1mm thick "posts". These really only exist to hide the window and door cutouts.


    Quick coat of paint later (just straight dark gunship grey), and now waiting for the paint to dry. Notice I also painted the floor strips with concrete gray. I should be close to weathering everything lightly, but first I want to experiment with some tiny LED lighting. It's the first time I try, so we'll see how it goes.
    RailMix, FlamesFan, BNSF FAN and 2 others like this.
  8. Stephane Savard

    Stephane Savard TrainBoard Member

    Two weeks off for the holidays is now over, and back to regular work and activities with the kids means I've got less time for the layout. But, I'm still trying to get things done!

    Actually, since the last post, I've been waiting on stuff to arrive in the mail. I finally ordered the Peco turnouts to fix the staging area, and I was also waiting on LEDs, wire and stuff to continue the engine house. Well, today, that last bits finally arrived and I finally got to try out some LEDs.



    Well, lets just call this little attempt "version #1" :whistle:

    I don't have any background in electronics, and really all I know about LEDs was read online and from some experimentation some months ago with an Arduino kit (going through the starter set tutorials). So all I knew is that I wanted really small LEDs, resistors, wire, and JST connectors. A little shopping on Amazon, and I ended up with...

    • A pack of 0603 mystery LEDs. Basically these are 1.6mm x 0.8mm (teeeeny!!!). I got 40 each of nine different colours. I didn't know how much light these would produce, but while I could have ordered from Digikey or something, I figured these were really cheap and really just for experimentation (i.e. version #1). From these I would decide if I wanted smaller or bigger LEDs. Now, the reason these are "mystery" LEDs is that the package contains no information about how much current they can withstand or their forward voltage. Should of thought of that before I ordered, heh!
    • Resistors. Just a bunch of SMD 1608 resistors, 1/4W. Nothing much to say about that.
    • Magnet wire. I initially bought some 38 AWG wire. I think my hair is thicker! After playing around with it for an evening, I then ordered some 32 AWG. It's good to have the option of both.
    • Crimper and JST connectors. More on that later.

    So as you can see in the photos above, yay, I got something working! At this point I just used masking tape to hold the light string of three LEDs to the inside roof of the engine house. Immediately I know that I don't want the LEDs right against the roof, and would rather have them lower so that they produce a more pleasing light spillage from the doors. I also want to see if I can find a way to make a diffuser to increase the size of the light source. Need some light blocks inside that roof. I also definitely want to buy some warmer lights. These are much too cold.


    So this is what the light string looks like, it's really simple, three LEDs in series using 32 AWG magnet wire, and two resistors at the base connecting to 26 AWG wire, with a JST plug soldered to the end.

    For power I use a Woodland Scenics "Just Plug It" power supply. I had it already because I accidentally bought it last year. The store did not label the part correctly and I thought I was buying a 16V 1A power supply. Turns out it's a 24V 1A switching power supply. I never bothered sending it back, figuring maybe I'd use the just plug it system from Woodland Scenics. Now the power supply uses JST connectors, so that's why I bought the crimper and connector package. Works perfectly fine that way!

    Ok, so something is a bit weird though, and I thing I'm either measuring wrong, or my math is wrong. So, from looking online, I figured that I should be driving these mystery LEDs at 3V and 20mA as a first guess. So I ended up with this math:

    • power supply: 24 V
    • forward voltage of LEDs: 3 V
    • number if LEDs: 3
    • required current: 20 mA
    • resistance: 750 ohms
    • power required: 0.3 W
    I only have 1.4W resistors, so I used this:
    • 330 ohms + 470 ohms for a total of 800 ohms (with power going through them calculated as 0.12 and 0.15 W respectively).
    So I connected everything, and yeah, they light up, but using the multimeter, I found something weird, and I hope someone can explain to me where I went wrong (either using the multimeter incorrectly, or my math is wrong).

    So with the whole circuit under load, I measure the voltage at the power supply plug as really close to 24 V (it is a regulated supply). I think the exact number was 24.1 V.

    Then, if I probe the positive and negative terminals of each LED, I can see that they are using 2.9V each (I think that would be their forward voltage).

    I then disconnected the power supply, and measured the resistance across the resistors (from the JST plug to the terminal on the first LED) and it measured exactly 800 ohms (I was surprised that it was exactly that!)

    But here is the measurement that has me confused. I put the multimeter inline on the positive side between the power supply and the JST connector... and measured the current to be 26 mA!!! I don't understand how that can be, I thought I should be getting much closer to 18.75 mA! I mean plugging in I = (Vs - Vf) / R, that's the number I'm getting: ((24 - (2.9 * 3)) / 800) * 1000 = 18.750 mA.

    So how am I measuring 26?

    Anyhow, this first experiment is still a great success, and now I'm ready to order some better LEDs and make a second version that fits much better than this!
    BNSF FAN likes this.
  9. Stephane Savard

    Stephane Savard TrainBoard Member

    Ha! I figured it out, I wired the LEDs in parallel instead of series! :whistle:
    BNSF FAN likes this.
  10. french_guy

    french_guy TrainBoard Member

    "Ceci explique cela"........................:)
  11. Stephane Savard

    Stephane Savard TrainBoard Member

    french_guy.. Ouin, ca explique pas mal de choses en tout cas! :)

    Went through several little LEDs in trying to figure out how I wanted everything wired, but I think I finally have it figured out.


    I finished the interior; the walls and ceiling are in place. The light string, much shorter than before is taped to a 'C' channel piece of polystyrene. The beam itself is not glued in place but rather a friction fit. That way I can easily remove the lights should something go wrong. In any case, the ceiling and actual LEDs and wiring cannot be viewed at all from outside the building, especially when the building is placed on the layout.

    The crimper kit I bought came with dupont connectors as well as the JST connectors - so I decided to make use of them. The light string is connected to a dupont connector, making it easy to connect and disconnect. The other end is a JST connector that will live under the table.


    Not installed yet is this piece of C-channel that will hide the wire as it goes down the wall (inside). At this point, I used just enough resistors to drive the three LEDs at 20 mA, which should be maximum (safe) brightness. I find them too bright as it is, BUT, I couldn't decide on an actual brightness that I wanted. The solution? Well, if all goes well, the next update I will be showing a "Hub" I'm building where each light string will plug into under the table (to hook them up to the 24V power source). To adjust brightness, each connection on the hub will have a 10K ohm potentiometer and I should be able to adjust brightness. At least it worked on the breadboard prototype I wired up. Anyway, once I have yard lights and each building is lit up, I'll be able to play with the brightness until everything looks nice. I may have stolen this hub idea from woodland scenics's own just plug it system :)

    Oh, and I started shopping for warm LEDs, and I couldn't find them at digikey (at this size). But using the first prototype string of lights, I figured that dabbing the LED with yellow ocher paint pretty much solves the problem. Dab a little for a neutral white, and dab a lot for a warm white. Note that I did not yet apply the paint in the above photos.

    So it's going very slowly, but I'm having fun with these lights. I should be placing it on the layout soon!

    Oh right, I need to weather and varnish the building!
    drbnc, gmorider and BNSF FAN like this.
  12. Stephane Savard

    Stephane Savard TrainBoard Member

    I did much less than I was hoping to finish this week, but time for an update anyway.



    What I did complete was my little light hub idea (blatantly inspired by Woodland Scenic's Just Light it hub :whistle: ). This is the first time I solder anything to a PCB board, and while experts will most likely cringe at this, it seems to work! The 24V 1A power supply plugs into the left side port, and lights from various buildings are meant to plug into the middle five ports. Each of those has a 10K ohm trim pot in order to dim the lights as needed. This way, whatever light string I produce in the future, I just add enough resistors to run the LEDs at the nominal forward current, and the trim pot dims it further if needed. At the top of the layout, I use a dupont connector to make it real easy to connect or disconnect a building or string of lights.

    As for the last port on the PCB board, that's for expansion. If I need more ports, I build another board exactly like this one, and daisy chain them together.


    So on top of the layout, I dug out a hole big enough for the plug to go through, and permanently attached the engine house base to the layout.


    Also notice that I installed a "curb" all around the edges. These act to hold the building quite firmly in place, but also acts as a light block, preventing the light from being seen at the seams. Those took me longer to do than I care to admit!


    And finally, the above is the final result (sorry for the crappy mobile photos, the colours are completely off, but I don't want to spend all my time on photography :) ).

    When I ballast the yard, the ballast itself will reach to the top of the "concrete" pad. I've not yet weathered the engine house nor the concrete base, but they are varnished with matt clear coat. I'll get back to finish the weathering much later; I've had enough fun with this small kit for now, and I want to get back to the track work!

    I've received my four replacement PECO turnouts, and the next updates will likely be centered around those replacements.
    drbnc, Jacekts, Joe Lovett and 2 others like this.
  13. Jacekts

    Jacekts TrainBoard Member

    Wow, lovely work indeed.

    Also love that your doing CN, all the others just seem wrong to me living here and only seeing CN.

    What are and where did you get the little work lights on stands?

    Cheers, Joe
    Stephane Savard likes this.
  14. Stephane Savard

    Stephane Savard TrainBoard Member

    Thank you Jacekts, it's very kind of you!

    I'm going a little CN crazy honestly, possibly to the point where it may not be realistic, but eh! In my fictional part of Canada where my railroad is located (probably somewhere northwest of Montreal - that's the sort of terrain I want to model), all the locomotives are CN (I really like the colour scheme!)

    Living in Montreal, so I tend to see a lot of different locomotives, though I'm not railfan enough to really know what they all might be. Every Tuesday and Thursday, I leave work to make my way to my daughter's diving practice; along the short distance I can usually see VIA Rail (an F40PH at one end and a P42 Genesis at the other!) , a local RTM commuter train, CP and CN trains, sometimes with blue locomotives (no idea!) thrown in with the CN or CP. I stopped once just to watch one freight train pass by, mostly made up of autoracks. Was surprised to see so many road names passing by in one single train - including both CP and CN in the same train.

    Anyhow, I think you mean these lights?


    These are from my other hobby - amateur photography (though you wouldn't know it from my pictures in this thread :D). I bought these lights for macrophotography, and they are Godox brand LED64 lights. The arms are so-called 'Magic Arms', to which I grafted magnets to the base. Weight at the bottom is a 1-2-3 block, I think is usually used by machinists (no idea - I just saw several model kit builders using these and they looked handy).


    Here are all the parts separated. Everything can be bought off Amazon, where I got all of this. Oh, the lights are usually battery powered, but I did buy some 5V power supplies to save on constantly recharging batteries.

    They do give off a lot of light, and even have a little dial at the back to adjust the intensity. Haven't been doing much photography lately, so I repurposed the lights for my workshop/layout!
    Jacekts and Joe Lovett like this.
  15. Jacekts

    Jacekts TrainBoard Member

    Yes they are the lights, they caught my attention in your pictures from the good looking output for detail work.

    I also do not railfan, even though i have lived aside tracks most of my life. If its something catching my attention generally a nicely done secondhand paint job (graffiti).

    Indeed i noticed the Blocks, i was surprised to see them then figured maybe it was for you main job. Can't beat the uses they present being milled to exact angle and sizes.
  16. Stephane Savard

    Stephane Savard TrainBoard Member

    I got home from work today and took a look at my staging area turnouts. The first thing I did was to assemble together a PECO turnout, a PECO remote switch, a small SPDT momentary switch and a PECO capacitive discharge unit I bought at the beginning of last year (still in it's box, never used!) Everything worked nicely together, so that was easy. It was just bugging me that I had never actually tried it all together!

    So then, this is what I started looking at...


    The Atlas turnout leading out of the tunnel is the main problem, and is not reliable in any way. I have two locomotives that derail when going through, and I checked that their wheels were correctly in gauge. While I will have a large access hole for maintenance, the "ceiling" above the turnouts will be 3-4 inches high. I want those turnouts to work flawlessly - hence replacing them with the PECOs.


    Now, above is a picture that shows how I could make the replacement with the least amount of track changes. The footprint of the PECO is much different than the atlas (longer before the frog, and shorter after the frog). I would need to put the end of the turnout inside the tunnel should I make the direct replacement. And I really could, the turnout throw bar clears the tunnel wall with enough space to fit the switch machine.

    But no. I was hoping that I would simply dremel some cuts in the track and pop the new turnout in place, but I do not want the turnout starting inside that tunnel. So I will most likely be tearing out some amount of track that follows after the turnouts to make it right. I have not yet decided exactly where to cut and what to remove yet, but that will be this week's project. Well, more like this weekend - kid's activities and work means I never get to work on the layout Tuesdays to Thursdays.
    Joe Lovett likes this.
  17. Stephane Savard

    Stephane Savard TrainBoard Member

    I've seen them used as weights while gluing stuff, mini straight-edges and used to assemble walls perfectly horizontal and with perfect corners. Plus being steel, you can even clamp plastic pieces to them with a magnet. That's why my "magic-arms" have magnets, I can easily take off the blocks to use them for other things.

    I've been meaning to buy another pair, but they've gone up in price since I last bought these.
    Jacekts likes this.
  18. kingpeta

    kingpeta TrainBoard Member

    Just wondering - could you cut back the tunnel a bit instead of removing track?
  19. Stephane Savard

    Stephane Savard TrainBoard Member

    Oh no, I definately don't want that. The walls are already plastered and painted, and in line with the cutout at the back of the layout for access.

    I did have some time just having a good stare at the problem and i think i have a solution that will reduce the amount if surgery required. I'll post an update soon with my idea.
  20. Stephane Savard

    Stephane Savard TrainBoard Member

    Well, turns out I had not stared at it nearly enough! :)

    I thought I could just move the two turnout further down, but doing means the geometry doesn't line up with the three tracks. However I don't want to mess with the tunnel. So I will likely just put in the turnout as seen in that last picture I posted, starting just inside the tunnel. What makes it a bit difficult is that the tunnel ceiling is already in place. Maybe I can get the work done without having to cut it away. At least I have a flex attachment for the dremel, so cutting the track in the tunnel should be relatively easy.

    In any case, I still have plenty of time to think it over until this weekend!

    Here's an old picture from an earlier post, shows a more clearly how the area/tunnel is built.


    The two turnouts are just visible at the top of the picture. We can also see the large cutout in the backboard that will let me have access to the staging area. A mountain/cliff will cover the staging area, and after plaster cloth, the plan is to carve out inside the mountain to the size of the opening to give maximum access.

    Happy to say though that kingpeta's idea of cutting the tunnel back is of use for the other end of the staging area. I have the same problem at that end, except that the turnout's throw arm will not clear the tunnel. So no choice but to fix that tunnel. Thankfully, there is no ceiling yet!

    (edit: deleted an extra photo attachment)
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