My last report in November 2012 indicated that I had built a second tree using the Gordon Gravett books. Well, I have finished it. I had painted it gray, but I didn't like the way that came out, so I repainted it this mixture of dark brown with some dark green thrown in. The trunk and branches were then dry-brushed with white and light gray acrylic paint. I had purposely made this tree shorter, but with a lot of main branches. As I stated in the last report, I wasn't happy with the way the foliage came out, so I tried a different experiment this time. It seems to have come out better. I used the same fake hair, but this time I made the individual pieces 1/4" long or thereabouts. Using lots of hairspray, I sprinkled the fake hair slivers over a large bowl. At first almost none stuck, but I kept spraying hair spray. After a while the hair started to stick and started to build up. When I was done with it, I used the same hair spray and put a layer of two different Woodland Scenic fine ground foam on the fake hair (trying to stay away from the main branches). The final step is to spray the whole tree with Testors Dullcote to hide the sheen and to permanently fix the foliage. The tree is in the right position, but I have not yet "buried" the roots into the scenery.
I have recently converted one of my engines to using the S-CAB radio control decoders and their battery-powered system. This is great, except that, should I completely get rid of my Digitrax DCC system, I won't be able to control the Tortoise switch machines. These are currently being controlled via the Digitrax throttle; there are no fascia buttons. I don't want to use hand-thrown manual switch controls, because that would lead to too much damage to the scenery. I found an electronic circuit on the Internet that allows me to use a momentary push-button on the fascia to flip the direction of the Tortoise (i.e. flip the turnout). I am now getting ready to install that system. I am also going to take this opportunity to install bi-color LEDs in the fascia so I can see what direction the turnout is thrown to from the front of the layout. Since I already have basic scenery installed, I had to cut pieces of it out to drill the holes and to install the push-button switch and the LED at each turnout location. I decided to line up the push-button with the throw bar, and the LED is to the left or right of the button depending on the direction of the turnout (left of the throwbar, or right of the throwbar).
This photo shows four sets of buttons and LEDs installed. Since I carefully cut out the scenery sections, I was able to replace them and you can't hardly tell. Obviously, later when I have to install the circuits and make new connections to the Tortoise switch machines, I am going to have to do more drastic surgery to the scenery.
Well, I built the circuits needed to control the Tortoises via the fascia-mounted pushbutton switches, and the LED indicator lights. It is time to install them. I cleared away a section of layout scenery and put the circuit board in the space. I had superglued the nylon spacers to the bottom of the board, but the bottom-mounted capacitors are a bit taller than the 1/2" spacers I had bought. It was then just a matter of carefully tracing each of the inputs and outputs and soldering wires between them and the Tortoises, LEDs, and buttons.
This is the damage done to rewire the Tortoise control in an existing layout. In the upper center of the photo you can see the pieces of scenery I had cut out. I'll attempt to replace those with some glue and cover any visible seams with some more ground foam bushes. By the way, Rob's circuits worked great right away. If the turnout position doesn't match the color of the LED, just flip the wires at the LED's leads. It is so neat to be able to push a button and flip the turnout. There is a discussion on Rob's page about controlling the initial position of the turnouts. I am powering my circuits from my 12 volt accessories line (it actually shows 14 volts on the line), but when I turn that line on, the position of the Tortoises is somewhat arbitrary. I don't care, but if that bothers you, you might look into the "reset" input of the LM556 IC that Rob mentions on his page.
This overall view of the right-hand side of the layout shows the LEDs lit up, indicating the turnouts' positions (green for straight, red for diverging).
On the left-hand side of the layout, the surgery was even more dramatic, because one of the Tortoises is under the O'Brien factory, so it had to be removed. I had installed that with only some Sculptamold squeezed in between the seams, so it was relatively easy to remove.
I put the circuit board in this bigger opening. There are a lot of wires here, as well as a horizontally-mounted Tortoise. Quite a mess!
Well, that is easy to get rid off, now that all the re-wiring work for the pushbutton switches is done. This is going to be a lumber mill/hardware store scene, so I took this opportunity to make a flat base for the scene. The actuating rod of the Tortoise required a bit more clearance, but I will hide that eventually when the hardware store is built and installed. I also connected a pair of wires near the Tortoise to provide power for the interior lights that I will mount to the structure. The completed lumber storage building does not yet have a light, but I am planning on putting an exterior light on it, so there are also two wires coming up "out of the ground" under that building.
The back-of-the-layout area on the right-hand side had to be completely ripped up, because four of the seven Tortoises are installed there. After reflection, I have decided to bring the passenger station I had started to build back. So, in this photo the flat "ground" is being glued in place (some heavy hand tools provide the weight). I also routed two wires up from under the layout to provide power for the lights that I plan to install in the station.