Yearly Status

A Quiet Year

As you can see, I’m hard at work…

You may have noticed that things have been a bit quiet here this year, or at least the last half-year. I noted back at the beginning of the year that I had several projects I planned to work on. These were microprocessor-based systems for the planned layout. Those projects all stalled out for one reason or another. Not abandoned, but I ran into problems I couldn’t easily solve, and set them aside for other things, not all related to the railroad. One of them was a software project unrelated to the layout that ate all my spare time this fall. If I can get any of my railroad projects actually advanced next year, I’ll report on them.

I am still planning a “new” Sumida Crossing that’s more directly based on real-world urban Tōkyō. I have lots of ideas for what I want there, but it’s centered on JR East in the vicinity of the Sumida River. Which, honestly, doesn’t really narrow the scope all that much.

New Plans for a New Year

I'm going to usher in the new year with a new project, and try to get back to doing more frequent but smaller posts than I've done of late. I'm not quite back to railroading yet, although this is ultimately in support of that. But for the moment, I'm still playing with microelectronics. And today's post is just a summary of where I'm going and what I've done so far, which doesn't amount to much when you put it down in words.

I'm still thinking about and planning the next layout. Control systems are a big part of that, because I was never happy with the DCC-throttle control of turnouts I used on Sumida Crossing, and my attempt at a single big computer-driven system never got off the ground, and would have had some of the same issues if it did.

As you may have noticed, I've spent a lot of time looking at control bus systems over the last two years. I'm still on the fence about what to use, as I don't particularly like any of the current systems. LCC has promise, but so far that's all it has, and I'm not expecting much from it in the next couple of years; it's too new.

Sumida Crossing at Five

Five years? It’s really been five years since I started this layout? My how time has flown. But it has: five years ago this month the layout was just a pile of boards and 2x4 plywood panels leaning against my workbench, awaiting cutting and assembly.

I’d become interested in Japanese trains a couple of years previously, and had been playing with a few of them on my Kitchen Table with a loop of Kato Unitrack. My first two trains were a Yamanote Line E231-500 (six car basic set) and the original Narita Express (253 Series, also six cars). By the spring of 2009 I had a half-dozen trains and I was thinking that it was time to retire the old HO layout, which had been collecting dust for a number of years, and build something in its place. Planning began, and by late July I was taking the old layout apart.

Then one weekend in late August, I decided that my plans were solid enough to take saw to plywood. An afternoon at the local home supply store and I was equipped with the lumber I needed to start making my 2x4 “tables”. They went together even faster than expected, eight of them in a bit more than a week, and soon I had them spread out over the basement floor on sheets of plastic, being painted with gray latex primer.

August 2013 Status - a Retrospective

And not only another month, but another year has passed. Not much happened in August; as I mentioned last time I’ve mostly been working on the Arduino project. So this month’s post will focus on the past, but will also look forward to the future.

This month marks the fourth anniversary of Sumida Crossing, dating things from the start of construction. Planning actually started earlier, around June of 2009 in earnest although there had been a lot of thought prior to that. And the first real train didn’t run until early 2010 (unless you count a test on a loop of temporary track). And actually, although the first post in this blog dates from September 16, it wasn’t actually online until the end of November. Prior to that I’d been working on the initial version of the website offline, and hadn’t bought the domain name or space on a server until I judged it ready. I don’t think it even had a name before November; I’m pretty sure I made that up when I bought the domain name.

August 2012 Status

It’s now three years since the start of work on Sumida Crossing (if you date from actually applying saw to lumber, and not the earlier design work). The rate of change has slowed over time, and virtually come to a standstill this summer, although that was largely due to external factors. At lot of the apparent slowdown is that the easy stuff is done. Assembling the whole supporting structure of the layout and building and painting all the tables took a couple of weeks of “layout time” (time I can spend working on the layout, which is somewhat limited). I can spend more than that painting and detailing one little plastic building. It’s also because right now I’m in a phase that mostly involves electronics work, and that’s really not the stuff that excites me. But I’ll slog on through it to get back to having running trains and be able to put my efforts into detailing the layout, and playing with trains.

August 2011 Status - Looking Back, and Looking Forward

It’s been about two years since construction started on Sumida Crossing, eventual replacement for the old Kitchen Table Layout (KTL) seen in the photo above (which itself had served me for close on two years, although that overlapped the later construction somewhat). The old KTL is gone now, broken down into its component elements and reused on the new layout, or stored away on shelves and in bins awaiting reuse.

The old layout was constrained to running two six-car trains (and a small freight branch/yard that couldn’t do much), plus others on sidings. Not much, but aside from one or two glitches (one bad unijoiner caused problems for weeks before I found it), it mostly worked and provided hours of entertainment for very little investment of time (the cash investment was much higher; all those pre-built buildings were expensive, and back then I was still buying from overpriced importers so the trains cost an arm and a leg (now that I buy direct from Japan they only cost one arm).

After two years of building I have a layout that looks fairly good and (when I don’t have it apart) lets me run two trains, and will shortly let me run six or more (I really have to finish up the rewiring of the commuter and subway loops and start converting more trains to DCC). And I’ve derived a lot of enjoyment from the research that went into it, and the construction. Not to mention having an excuse to buy more trains. Read More...

2010 in Review - A Year of Construction

It’s been an eventful year. Last December the website had only been live for a month, and I’d just finished the subway tracks atop a layer of unpainted pink foam, with no scenery at all (and they’d be pulled up and put back a couple of times before they went live for real in June). In that time I’ve created the big curve around the village, built the elevated station and expressway, and begun work on the Riverside station. I’ve also largely finished the DCC electronics (except for switch controls and occupancy detectors).