Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday


I’ve just finished some notes for work and maybe it’s this nice pen I’m using or another example of my “work on computer but think on paper” style but I had all these scraps of journal entries that probably are unlikely to germinate. While enjoying first coffees this morning I was thinking about a thought from last night’s walk:

This blog, the layout, my time trackside; doing one informs the others the same as how diversity in any part of my life enriches the mix. They are members of my band but they are capable actors on their own. I was in a very deep rut…I make this blog as a form of expression and I had stopped seeing its independence. Allowing it to be, without harnessing it to a particular project, establishes a space to experiment in expression and how trains is sometimes a way to communicate through. Life is an exploratory work in progress. It’s length, in time, governed by the health of our curiosity.

Sunday. “Coffee in the city?”

A couple things to drop off at the library and a few more to pick up. It’s never an even balance but a good problem to have too.

But it don't snow here
It stays pretty green
I'm going to make a lot of money
Then I'm going to quit this crazy scene

Work at home; live at home; we need to get out of here. I love the bookends of winter and the way snow highlights our world. Concentrating on its forms, I think I have a few techniques to model it that I like, for the grass and snow laying with it, but it’s track that’s going to be an interesting study: snow stays on the ties long after its melted from the ballast. Wet or cold? We’re both.


I loved seeing Cheryl Sassi’s article Making tall field grass in this month’s Model Railroader. I’ll confess, mostly for the header image of that Sandy River Forney stood footboard-deep in the grass. I have some new ideas, inspired by this article, I can’t wait to be more comfortable with and it’s tough to not dream of a Maine two foot-ish layout. I’ve over-worked On30 in the space I have and it doesn’t fit. Luckily, daydreams eh?

Finished Lucy Mangan’s Bookworm. Over the past few years I’ve been lucky to read a lot of books about, well, books. This was another random find at the library and a beautiful coincidence of time since Krista and I were fondly remembering the books we shared with our children. We didn’t share The Rats of Nymh (I’d forgotten how much I enjoyed reading it all those years ago) but in Bookworm I remembered titles we did enjoy.

Will has built a simply stunning RSC14 in HO. I’ll see him in a couple of weeks. I’m already begging him to bring the model along.


Finished sketching an Arduino-based “radio control” prototype I will build this week that is both “knob and switch controller” and “battery-powered RC” for those 16mm scale models I have.

Youtube suggested that film, from the OO9 Society’s channel, about John Wilkes’ Coleford layout. It’s some very fine modelling but their conversation was beautiful to listen to. I could listen to someone who sounds like that all day long.


Speaking of “could listen to all day long”: I’m now convinced I could listen to Giles Favell explain anything to me. So much so, I’m also convinced I could never talk to him because I’d be too distracted.

Grant Eastman was the first channel I bought a subscription to and it’s still, consistently, some of the best money I’ll spend. His current series is summarized in that short film and discusses his theory and technique on backdrops. It makes me want to paint and I love it.

I missed my ferry and, with it, 509’s return from Autoport. They’re already in the yard and I’m in no rush. While waiting for the GP’s to finish dropping their train in the yard time to enjoy the sound of the waves on the rocks behind me and explore what’s also in the yard. 511’s power is tied down and there’s a broken autorack here too. This composition reminds me of the limits of the iPhone’s camera at night. Maybe it’s time to move on from version 6?


I quoted from Joni Mitchell’s River. I love it and it’s been stuck in my head all morning. Kettle’s just about boiled and time to get back to work. Thanks for making it this far with me. I appreciate it.

Categories: How I think

8 replies

  1. “Wish I had a river, I could skate away on………..”
    “Skating away…..on the thin ice of a new day…..”

    Really enjoy reading your stuff……even if I sit quietly in the corner……..tom

    • The imagery in either is as captivating isn’t it?

      I love walking. Anywhere. Certainly, there’s always this moment of rest found in that motion where things soften to a calm. I can imagine skating so far on a lake, on a cold clear night, and how complete it would feel. It sounds so perfect.



      Your connection from Joni Mitchell to Jethro Tull makes me wonder what other songs connect back to this image?


  2. Oh yeah……speaking of 16mm……..I would love to hear a bit more about RC control of your 16mm. I don’t have a computer background, but would love to have some help in figuring our how to battery control my 3′ Irish locos (45mm gauge)…….tom

    • I tend to lead with a curious nature and tend to serve that with enough knowledge to…wonder.

      Giles Favell’s video, linked above, is a nice overview of his approach explained in the context of an O scale, 14mm gauge, tank engine. He’s using the Deltang receiver and transmitter. It’s an attractive option and it looks like it just works very well.

      Another YouTube, this a channel, is the Peckforton Light Railway’s, which includes some nicely done overviews of various options including the Deltang and LocoRemote systems:

      I actually have a Loco Remote “Mini B” here now. This simple board mounts in the engine as the receiver and is controlled from a cell phone based controller. They were super fun to work with and patient with my questions. More info on this here:

      A final link reference is this video I saw the other day:

      That last one really validated my scheme. It’s oriented to model airplanes but looks like a full four channel control system, based on the Arduino platform.

      A thing that Giles Favell does that helped me see a different way of looking at the challenge was his use of three volt motors. These smaller motors work in the small models he’s making and I think will work as well in my small scope too (one engine plus maybe four, four wheel, wagons). I remember Tamiya and Stomper toy vehicles I had that were powered with single 1.5V AA batteries and little Mabuchi open frame motors and how torque-y they felt. Mainly dropping my motor down to something smaller should reduce the size of the battery too. Plus, it reduces the hardware to translate the Arduino up to something heavier that can handle traditional model railway power.

      I’ll confess that I have used phone-based throttles for model trains and like them. I have WiiThrottle installed on this phone and have no complaints. I like the phone throttle for the way it subtracts one more thing from my life: I already have a phone; do I need a throttle too? One more thing to find a place for.

      However it would be neat to have a nice small “knob and switch” throttle for this. We know we can easily command an Arduino board wirelessly and we know we can transmit from an Arduino board just as easily. The model airplane controller is an example of how this works and what we need, to control a simple train, is really that much simpler.

      I picture, in the locomotive: the small motor and gearbox plus battery plus the Arduino board to receive and process the control commands and pass them to the motor.

      I picture in my hand a small box containing an Arduino board to encode and transmit what I want to do to the locomotive directly. The Arduino board in my hand is talking to its mate in the engine.

      I’m at that point in writing this note where, at work, I’d say something like: “Don’t worry. This is a lot to take in. We’ll talk through it together.”


    • My friend James Hilton has used both the Deltang system and also a hybrid system that uses familiar model railroad DCC decoders and simply plugs in one more board so the decoder can talk through the air. He talks about it in this blog post and it’s a fascinating idea since it makes use of familiar DCC technology with only a simple add on layer.


    • Worth noting I’m exploring this Arduino-based system because I’m curious and just want to make use of stuff I have here anyway.

      It’s about nourishing my curious nature. A chief attraction to these larger scales is how they exist away from a hobby shop-centric existence. My nosing around in this is part of that exploration too.

      That Irish engine you’ve made is one sharp looking machine and I can’t wait to hear updates on it.


  3. Is it just me, or in that first photo, does the dead straight track look like look like roadbed track dusted with a scenic snow powder and the line side foliage look like Woodland Scenics clump foliage? It hit me that first time I looked at it a couple of days ago, and I’ve come back to the picture a few times since, and it still feels like that’s what it is. Perhaps sometimes we try too hard…

    • Funny you say that.

      When I look at it I think about how my layout looks when I’m ballasting. I believe in fully saturated ballast and flood the glue on until it pools. Just like here. A river of glue between the rails and, invariably, some puddling in a stream alongside.

      Exploring around Burnside Industrial Park yesterday my thoughts were close to yours. CN is working through a lot of track upgrading so the new track is clean, straight, and the grey ballast runs deep. Modern industrial parks aren’t often overgrown fields of field grass so most buildings are surrounded by well groomed lawns. Some basic landscaping is seldom well established so trees and shrubs are small, almost model-like. It’s all very model railroad looking.

      Maybe we were more prototype than the prototype?

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