Feb 2011

The Humble Boxcar

The boxcar is one of the earliest types of railway car, and they were in use in the U.S. in the 1830’s, almost as early as the first railways here. The earliest railway cars were probably flat cars or gondola cars, as the use of the latter to carry coal over rails predated the invention of steam propulsion (they were horse-drawn) by over two centuries, and possibly by much longer. But it didn’t take long for someone to realized that fully enclosing some cargo was important to protect it from the weather, or to keep it secure in transit.

Originally boxcars were used for both “less-than-carload” (LCL) shipments originating at freight stations and for whole-car shipments originating from private industry sidings. As LCL traffic shifted to trucks, or express baggage cars on passenger trains (essentially a specialized type of boxcar if you want to be pedantic) they were left to carry whole-car shipments that for one reason or another weren’t better carried in some other kind of car. Often a cargo first carried in boxcars would later have specialized cars developed to better meet its specific needs (automobiles were first shipped in boxcars, before multi-level autorack cars were developed).

Plans for an Arduino-based Tram Controller

Today I want to mention one of my other projects: the control system for the Tram line of the Urban Station scene. Now this is a simple, short, out-and-back line, which exists mainly to give me an excuse to buy some of the Tōkyū Setagaya line light-rail vehicles (see the Tram section of my Roster) and to experiment with Tomix’s mini-rail Finetrack. So far I’ve run this manually, with a Kato powerpack. But I want to automate it, since the trams are just supposed to be background activity to make the station look busier, as I concentrate on running my commuter and express EMUs and freight trains.

The problem I had was that I wanted to replicate a two-track line with unidirectional running, and a single track station at each end that let the trains switch between the two tracks, and I wanted to do this with more than one tram running at a time. The track I’m using has slip switches, which allow a train to run through them even with the switch set against it. This lets me leave the switch in one position, and have a train enter the end station from one track and leave on the other, without any switch-control needed. Read More...

Almost There - January 2011 Status

January went primarily to the backdrops and the risers/inclines of the Riverside Station scene commuter loop, and now the Riverside Station scene begins to come together. The tables themselves are not yet connected to each other or anything else, as I’m taking the opportunity to work on the wiring with them stood on edge, which is much easier than working on it from below.