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Model Railroading Clinics, Tips and How-To's

General Purpose Flasher Circuit, Alernating Flasher and Strobe Curcuits

Flashing lights can be found in many locations in our neighbourhoods, from the flashing red light over a stop sign, a yellow warning light located over road divided sign, the warning lights on a tower, warning lights on top of a building, the alternating flashing lights at a railroad grade crossing and more. Everywhere we go there are many warning lights flashing trying to get our attention.

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Electronics Made Easy, Part 2, Controlling the Alternating Flashing Lights

A year ago we spend some time and built an electronic circuit that could be used for a railway grade crossing that would cause the lights to flash in an alternating fashion. The flash rate was also adjustable with the used of a potentiometer. The minimum and maximum flash rates could be adjusted by changing a couple of components, namely the resistors and capacitor. If you were adventuresome you could modify the circuit and convert this project into an adjustable strobe light. On its own this project was simple and a great introduction into the world of electronics.
Now has come the time to build an automatic control circuit to activate the flasher board. This circuit will build on what you learnt in part 1 but it is a completely separate project so if you did not complete the first project it doesn't matter and you can decide to build it later on you own.

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Crossing Gate Flasher Project

Over the years the railroads have been concerned about the public’s safety any time that the public is close to rail operations. In the earliest days the railroad police would chase the public away from the trains. Usually this had more to do with protecting the cargo the trains were carrying then the safety of the public. The outcry from the public grew over the years and the railroads had to start reforming the perception of the public and look like they were interested in protecting the public from themselves. The railroads then began the use of flagmen at grade crossings in populated areas but over time this became expensive and the need for automation was making financial sense. As the automated systems improved the governments started to make more and more rules and standards that the railroads were required to follow. The grade crossing flasher was born and is widely used today. Let’s build the electronics that can be used to automate this device on your layout.

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Digital Photography for Model Railroading

People have been capturing images for quite some time now using various medias. At first the images were captured by sketching, drawing or painting. Then the early days of photography were born with Daguerreotype and progressing to silver nitrates on paper, glass and even tin plate, later this moved to cellulose acetate of as it is more commonly known as print film and slides. We have seen the sheer number of images explode as the media became more friendly for the average person. This has never been more true than it is today with the advent and variety of digital cameras that are now everywhere. We use them more and more since we find them on our computers, in our phones, small point and shoots and even full blown professional versions.
One thing that has occurred due the huge growth in the number of images is that the average quality of these images has lowered. This is mostly due to the fact that the majority of the people haven’t taken the time to learn how to capture a better image and secondly this has occurred because people just don’t think of what they are doing as it has become part of everyday life. It only takes a few short steps to become a better digital photographer. Let us get started.

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Digital Photography for Rail Fans

This is an clinic write up for rail fans who want to capture images using a digital camera. Here is a sampling of the beginning of the document.
The world of digital has affected almost everything thing that we use in today’s world and that is very true in photography. Over a hundred years ago images were captured on glass plates coated with a chemical solution. This media was dangerous for the photographer as the chemicals were very toxic and little was done in the way of protecting one self. The use of film helped to make photography easier for many people as the handling of film was much safer to the photographer. In fact the Eastman Dry Plate Company produced the No. 1 Kodak camera in 1888. This camera used a paper roll of film inside the camera body. The camera came preloaded with the film that would allow the user to take 100 images. When all of the film was used the camera was shipped back to the company were all of the processing and printing took place. The prints along with the camera that had been re-loaded with fresh film, was sent back to the user. The company slogan at the time was “You press the button – We do the rest”.

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Layout Lighting

You have been building that layout or diorama for some time now and just when you thought you were finished you stood back and took a long look at it. Something just didn’t seem right. Wait a minute, I’ve got it there are no lights! How is everyone, including yourself going to see all of your hard work when the room lights go out.

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Tortoise Switch Machines, Mounted Horizontally

Have you ever used the Tortoise Switch Machines manufactured by Circuitron™. These are a wonderful stall motor slow motion switch machine that will operate at a low DC voltage. I have found that these units are very reliable and trouble free for many years. Because of this I have been using them for many years on both portable and fixed location layouts without any issues except one. It is that exception that has prompted me into writing this article and include a solution that works for me and may work for you.

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Accompanning instructional videos can be found on YouTube. There are seven in all.
Video 1 of 7, Brass Strip Drilling
Video 2 of 7, Brass Strip Rounding
Video 3 of 7, Assembly Step 1
Video 4 of 7, Assembly Step 2
Video 5 of 7, Assembly Step 3
Video 6 of 7, Assembly Step 4
Video 7 of 7, Testing the Final Assembly