Been some time since an update, so I thought I would post a blurb or whatever. I’ve been on vacation and out of town for a while. Nice relaxing beach situation on a small island off the NC coast. Ocracoke Island. Really enjoyed it. Anyhow. I’ve got way too much going on it seems, I’m set to remove my sliding glass door tomorrow and replace it with a nice set of French Doors. Not really hard, just lots of time consuming labor. My airplane has also just gotten a new overhauled engine in it so it will need to be flown hard for some serious hours to break that in. Obviously to a train show eh? Nevertheless, electronics, trains and software are still on the agenda. Winter is coming.

trackbase

track2track1

I’m attempting to come up with a standard 4 foot elevated unit that I can lay track on. So far I have this- a design based on 2×4 treated lumber, deck screws, staples and wire mesh screen. I have tons of this as scrap from various deck and garden construction I’ve done over the years. The idea is to put these together in ‘units’ then secure them to 4×4 posts at a little less than waist high.

As shown in the above 3D design, these are built like a planter- a basic trough formed with 2x4s with short scraps holding these together. Hardware cloth screen wire is cut to fit the open bottom area and 1×4 strips are screwed on the side for the walls. I put landscape fabric in and then fill it with screened paver gravel. The track is laid on top of that and more paver gravel is applied. That is smoothed out with a paint brush (like the small scales) and then I spray it down with the hose.

This leaves the sides of the trough to staple wire hardware cloth too that will form the base of the ‘ground’. The idea then is to cover the mesh wire with a concrete shell to create the ‘scenery’. In effect, the same sort of idea used to build the small scales using plaster cloth and screen wire but with cement instead of plaster.

I have grand plans for this unit structure if it turns out to work ok. I’ll expand it a bit and then let it go through the winter as a test. I’m sure my methods will change as I research this but for now it’s working quite well. The track seems quite secure in the ballast yet easy to remove if I wish.

With luck I’ll build a layout design element (LDE) with a passing track and a spur for a small industry or two.

RS3Finished

Finally have all of the connections wired and (more or less) tested. I’ve added LEDs to the running lights and servos (not shown) to control the couplers. Just need to add about 11oz or so to the fuel tank and put it all back together for final testing. I’ve attached a programming cable to the microcontroller board so I can download new builds or tweak the s/w if required. Phew. This has been quite a bit of development. The control widget itself went through many interations (see controlwidgets.com) as did the power board. I’ve settled on the Pololu 18v7 programmed to only give forward motion with a relay switching between forward and backward. Anyhow, soon we will be doing some real world testing.

This is a quick project I’ve been working on to test the feasibility of using wifi to directly control something.

It uses a slider on an android app to control the position of a servo in real time using my widget and the Sparkfun WiFly Module.

pygame

There are three parts, the hardware, which is the widget and the Wifly module, the microcode that goes into the widget and the app code on the tablet.

(This is a rather lengthy post so I’ve moved this to a page of it’s own)

You can find it here- Simple Wifi Servo control with Android

As far as conclusions from this, I don’t particularly care for 802.11 for control. In my case, the primary objection is well, it’s not really meant for that sort of thing and I don’t like all the complicated message transactions this entails. Your mileage may vary on that. The other thing is my cheap tablet doesn’t have a very good wifi range so at 30 ft or so I start to loose control. Granted, much of this could probably be resolved with an improved algorithm on the app side, or perhaps a better device (I’ve resisted getting a smart phone). But for me, I prefer the Xbee series mentioned elsewhere on this blog so I will be sticking with that project before I come back and put any more effort in this one.

switch

Building a turnout. Something different.

Thanks to a post on the largescalecentral forum by Bob Hyman, I found this site: handlaidtrack.com

You can download scale pdfs of various turnouts, crossings and other track stuff. By sizing that up by 280%, you get G scale turnout plans! Very cool.

Here is how I have gotten it to work. First, you need to download a free drawing program called InkScape. You can find it HERE

You will also need another program to chop up the finished file into letter page sized printable ‘parts’. It’s called ‘posterrazor’ and you can get it HERE.

Once you have these installed, open inkscape and choose ‘import’ from the file menu. Find your pdf (that you downloaded from handlaidtrack.com) and select that to import. Takes a bit, InkScape isn’t a speed demon.

Once it’s imported, go to Object->Transform. It should look like this:

inkscape

Click on the ‘scale’ tab at the top of the window to the right and then click ‘scale proportionally’. Change the width and height to 280 percent (It should be 300 strictly speaking but I’ve found that’s off just a bit so I use 280 instead). Click ‘Apply’ and the image will be resized. At this point, click the little selection on the right that has a percent in it (%) and change it to px so you know the dimensions of the image.

Now go to the file menu again and this time choose ‘export bitmap’. In the ‘Bitmap size’ area, enter the sizes from the step above. Choose an appropriate destination and file name and click ‘export’. I always use the ‘png’ format although I assume bmp would work as well.

Now open up the other program ‘posterrazor’. Load the png you exported in the above step into posterrazor. It should look like this:

pr

Click next and select ‘letter’ for the paper size and ‘landscape’ for the orientation. Click ‘next’ and just take the defaults presented there. Click ‘next’ again and select ‘size in percent’ and make sure that is set to 100% This should show you an image of how the large image will be broken up into several (many!) sheets of standard printer paper. Click next again and then click the little button under ‘save the poster’ This will create a new PDF sectioned off into the pages you need to print and then tape together to get a complete, full sized plan.

Note that for some of the pdfs on the handlaidtrack site, they are broken up into sheets already. You will have to load each of these sheets into inkscape and process each one like this to get a complete plan.

Also, I just print ONE page to test to make sure that the guage is correct before I print out the whole thing.

powerboard

Main power board I’m working on for my Aristocraft RS-3. I removed all the old radio R/C gear and the nimh batteries and am replacing it with a new control widget, this board, the pololu motor controller (on the right) and a big 5000mah lipo. Should be interesting.