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Discussion Starter #201
Thanks everyone for the nice comments about the weathering of the Mikado steam locomotive. Its one of my first attempts at doing a serious weathering paint job on my locomotives. I'm pretty happy with the way it turned out.

A question for you, Mark, about the Train Controller software. Are there features in the Gold version that you just can't do without, or would the Silver or Bronze work for you just as well?
You're probably thinking the same thing that I did when purchasing TrainController. The Gold version is very expensive. I did start out with the Silver version, but upgraded to Gold within a month. So yes, there are several features of the Gold version that I found I needed or wanted.

Some are simple, like just being able to pick the right switchboard symbol size so that my track diagram fit nicely on the monitor I have. Some just make it easier to build the switchboard and configure everything, like the various editing extras of the Gold version.

Some things I found I just absolutely needed to have to make the layout function as I want. My track plan is moderately complex, so these things would probably not apply to simple layouts. An example of this is I've got a spur track with a couple of different industries on it. I wanted to stop covered hopper cars at the milling company and I wanted to stop box cars at the manufacturing companies. To do this, I needed train descriptions that differentiated car and locomotive types and I needed stop markers that depended on which schedule was being run. These are features only in the Gold version.

I also make use of probabilities for execution of operations. I've built schedule pieces that move trains from location to location and I use probabilities to pick from these various schedules to run after the current schedule completes. This gives my layout some randomness when its running.

I also do some simple things with COMBI-groups so that my freight trains don't use the passenger station siding unless absolutely needed for passing each other.

As I get into signals and auto uncoupling operations in the future, I expect there will be other Gold-only features that I'll be using.

You should definitely download the Gold/Silver user guide for TrainController. It has about 14 pages worth of features described that are in the Gold version that are not in the Silver. While the Gold version was very expensive, I've found it worth it because of all the capabilities that it has.

Hope this helps.

Mark
 

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Thanks Mark. That helps a ton. When construction begins on my layout I'm sure I'll be picking your brain some more.
 

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Mark, I quietly followed your build over the years.

Sat here this morning and read over much of it again. Beautiful job on the layout and rolling stock and weathering projects.

Any updates?
 

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Discussion Starter #205
Its been a long time...

Hi Everyone,

Its been a long time since I've posted on my railroad built thread. I've been trying to be more active outside, so I've been doing a lot of cycling the past couple of years and skiing during the winters. I've also picked up learning guitar. All 3 activities have been taking my time.

As you've seen, my layout is almost complete. I like the building phase more than just running the trains, so that's another reason I haven't been very active with my railroad.

I just did get some motivation to finish one of the few remaining projects that I've been wanting to do. As you've seen, the river canyon has been a central part of my railroad, but its been lacking a proper background. I've finally gotten around to spending some time on it recently.

I couldn't find any background for sale that I thought would work well, so I decided to make my own. Since my artistic painting abilities aren't very good, I am taking a photographic approach. I shot some imagery a while back of the Columbia river gorge in central Washington state. I brought that into Photoshop and composited in river entry and exit scenes to match up as best I could with my layout itself. After several hours of Photoshop work, I took the resulting image to a local sign shop to have printed. I mounted that to my backdrop panels and then did some painting of the sky with clouds. Here are my results:
 

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Discussion Starter #212
You may remember back on post #184 in this thread that I was scratch building some cantilever signal bridges based off a photograph that I had from the internet. I've gotten back to this project and have completed building 4 of these signal bridges. They're painted black because that's the color the Great Northern Railroad used back in the early 1950s. I've mounted these on my layout using magnets to hold them in place, but they are not lit up yet. That's another project for another day.

Mark
 

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Discussion Starter #216
Continuing to work on adding signals to my railroad. I'm building searchlight signals from kits made by Showcase Miniatures (https://www.showcaseminiatures.net). These are made of metal, rather than plastic, so they are more realistic in scale. The downside is that they take a fair amount of time to build from the many small parts. Here's what they look like after gluing them together and before paint. I have 10 more pole searchlights to assemble. All of the dwarf signals have been assembled and are awaiting painting. Each searchlight head contains a 3 color LED which will be controlled by automation software (TrainController Gold).
 

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Discussion Starter #217
I've continued working on my signals. I've got all the dwarf and pole searchlight signals built now. They've all been painted as well. Here's a few of the different types and a closeup of a couple of dual head signals:

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If you look closely, you'll see steel washers glued to the bottom of the signal posts. I'm insetting washer shaped magnets into the terrain which will hold the signal posts in place, but they can still be adjusted or laid on their side for track cleaning or other needs. Here's a magnet embedded in the landscaping along side the track:

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I've got about a half dozen signals installed and lit up as shown in the following pictures.

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I'm using TrainController software to set the color of the lights. Digitrax SE8C boards are being used to drive the signals. When trains are running under automated control, the signals are set according to the schedules. When the trains are being run manually, the signals are automatically set according to turnout direction and any occupancy ahead of the train.

Its been really tedious to build these signal and wire them up. As I'm sure you all know, I've got the time to do this with the COVID-19 virus going around and everyone having to stay at home. It will probably take a few more weeks to complete the installation and wiring of the remaining signals. I'll then do a video to show everyone what the end result looks like.

- Mark
 

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Mark, as everyone has said you've done an excellant job on the layout. Everything looks great and the working signals will be the topper.

I'm sure not picking but I recently seen an article by a master modeler about our square corners. He used some kind of a hardboard to round the corners and made the backdrop flow better into the scene. Wondered if you had tried anything like that behind your river/gorge? It looks great as is, but it might take the seam out of that corner.
 
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