Paul A. Romsky Jr. - Model Trains

This page contains documents related to model railroads.

Here is our basic layout as of January 2016. I work the trains and Stacie is in charge of the scenery.
Trains Run 1
Trains Run 2
Trains Run 3
Trains Run 4

Here is a tip on the Lanterns that are a part of Lionel O-Gauge FasTrack Switches
O-Gauge - Lionel - FasTrack Switch Lantern Colors

This is my prototype version of Speed Detect 1 Beam. It uses a single IR LED pair to measure the pulse width of an IR beam. When using a Cross Track Detector, the cars of a passing train break the beam, or when using a Through Rail Detector, the wheels of a passing train break the beam. It uses a Parallax Board of Education (BOE) Prototype Board with a BASIC Stamp 2 (BS2) microcontroller chip that measures the pulses in real-time and then sends messages over USB to a PC where the Speed Detect 1 Beam GUI displays the scale speed of the train (in MPH or Km/h) or axel/car count. I am still in the prototype stage but the proof of concept works. Speed Detect 1 Beam can measure speeds from 0 MPH (Stopped) to over 1000 MPH at scale speed. I am also creating a version that will reside in a box car and will have a 3 digit 7-segment LED on the top that will display the speed continuously as it rolls along the track. I hope to have that complete in late January 2016 (when I find more hobby time). I also have plans for a version that uses 2 IR LED pairs (2 beams for better accuracy), and can actually measure the weight of locomotives/cars. The BS2 Program, the GUI, and notes on installing the IR LEDs (for either Cross Track or Through Rail Detectors) are posted below. They are provided for download free of charge. The BOE with BS2 Microcontroller and USB cable come in a set and costs about $76, a 9VDC Power Supply is about $10, and an IR LED Pair is about $4 (all from Digi-Key). The BOE with BS2 microcontroller is very popular in educational robotics (FIRST) and can even be used for your own projects since you can download P-BASIC free from the manufacturer of the BOE and BS2 (Parallax). The BS2 has 16 I/O pins that can be programmed as inputs and outputs using the simple but very rich P-BASIC command language. You don't have to do any programming with Speed Detect 1 Beam as I provide the program that runs on the BS2 - but the BOE and BS2 are nice things to have around your train room for prototyping electronics beyond what Speed Detect 1 Beam offers. Please send me an e-mail if you have decided to try Speed Detect 1 Beam. If I get a good number of responses, I may add more features. Here is a crude video of the protoype version in action.
O-Gauge Speed Detect 1 Beam Controller and GUI (Video)
Download Scale Speed Calculator (Windows Spreadsheet)
Speed Detect 1 Beam User Manual V1.0.0 (Pdf)
Download the Speed Detect 1 Beam GUI V1.0.0 (Zip Archive)

The following are some notes that I developed when I purchased two used locomotives that would lock up (or bind) when they got hot. From what I understand, this is a common problem with some train motors. The corrective actions that I have taken worked on both of my locomotives; and a year later they are still running very well.
Lionel Motor Binding Repair

Here is a Lionel O-Gauge Snoopy and Woodstock Handcar that I had to modify. These are collectables and usually go for about $150. It was missing the Snoopy, so my wife got it dirt cheap. So I made a new Snoopy from a Hallmark figurine. The new Snoopy is larger and in better proportion to Woodstock than the original. I had to cut off the arms and extend them 13mm with cut off baby pins and 5 minute epoxy, then I had to square up the shoulders with 5 minute expoxy, drill holes in the paws and in the sholder sockets, and then use #2 screws for the arm pivits. I put springs into the feet near the toes (not seen in photo) so that he can lean into the pump and not bind up. My painting needs to be redone, but as a prototype, it works. Now that this proof of concept is done, I can make another one that will look just like it was factory made. My wife's intent is not to sell it - she just wants to see Snoopy and Woodstock go around the tracks.
Snoopy and Woodstock Modified Handcar

These are some photos of my train display/storage tracks. I just started these so I plan to have display track all over my train room. To save room, I mount standard tubular O-gauge track to the walls on wooden mounts that I made. There are aluminum wall mounts that do the same thing but they are very expensive. I made these displays for about $2.50 per foot (including new track) - or less if I find used track from e-bay. I like this better than the off the shelf wall mounts because the rails give a nice apperance and you can see under the cars as well. For extra safety, I twist-tie locomotives/rolling stock to the rails that are on display above doorways. If I lived in an earthquake prone area, I would do this for all items on display. I could actually run trains on these mounts because they are very strong and rigid, but right now I have only static items on display. These mounts are easy to make. The back board (nailer) is 3/4 inch x 1.5 inch select pine, and the outliers are made from 3/4 inch x 3.5 inch select pine that I rip to 3 inches wide, and then cross cut into 2 1/8 wide pieces. I set my chop saw to 28 degrees and slice each piece to yield 2 triangular outliers. These outliers are slightly longer than 1.5 inches on the side that mounts to the nailer. This gives a slight underhang that adds a bit of dimension to the mounts which also hug the trim above windows and doorways. The outliers are mounted by gluing and countersink screwing from the back of the nailer to allow extra stength and flush mounting to the wall. The visible surfaces are painted flat black. Then the tubular O-gauge straight track is screwed to the outliers. I then place a small brad nail at each end to catch the axels of cars to keep them from rolling off the ends. I then screw the mounts to studs in the walls (or use molly screws between studs) to provide a very strong mechancial attachment to the wall.
Display Track 1
Display Track 2
Display Track 3
Display Track 4
Display Track 5

Modify Fastrack for Roof Walker Operating Cars: Using a hot knife and a Dremmel tool, I cut slots in the fastrack as shown. The trestle had to be slightly off center becuse there is a stiffening rib in the middle on the underside of the Fastrack - clearance is needed for the Retaining Bar. My wife purchased a Giraffe car. The spring loaded dropdown bar (shoe) that makes the Giraffe drop down was a bit intrusive. I read on-line somewhere that a guy used a brass rod for the shoe, so I did the same thing to my modified track.
Modified Fastrack For Roof Walker Operating Car Trestle
Roof Walker Trestle and Fastrack
Cut Slots in Fastrack Slightly Off Center
View of Slots on Underside of Fastrack
Retaining Bar Placement
Assembled Underside View
Roof Walker Trestle with Giraffe Dropdown Bar
Roof Walker Trestle with Giraffe Dropdown Bar Closeup

Modify Fastrack for Milk Operating Cars: Lionel Fastrack Operating/Decoupling track has Snap Pieces on both sides of the track to allow adaptation to various accessories. One side has a slight overlay with hidden ties underneath. This is the side furthest from the platform (Outer Track). I unsnapped both Snap Sides. Then, on the Inner Track, I sliced off the two Locating Tabs. Then very carefully I sliced off the protruding Snap Tab. I saved this piece as a filler for the adjacent Snap Hole that remained on the Inner Track. On the Outer Track I sliced off the two Locating Tabs and the protruding Snap Tab. I then layed the track (with the hidden ties on the outside, away from the Platform) in the Platform Track Base and centered it with equal lengths extending off of each side. Using a Dremmel tool on the Inner Snap Piece, I cut off the ends to hug around the Platform Base with about 1 mm clearance. I saved the remainder of the Inner Snap Piece for future use if needed. On the Outer Snap Piece, using a hot knife and a Dremmel tool, I cut away a groove in the plastic so that the Outer Metal Platform Tab slips between the Outer Track and the Outer Snap Piece, Trimming and testing until the track fitted perfectly over the Platfrom Track Base with all modified Snap Pieces snapped in place. I didn't like the original painted metal grass, so I glued some artificial grass to give it that fresh sodded look. It looks better in person than in the photo because the camera flash in closeups brings out all the normally unseen imperfections. I also added a piece of woodgrain flooring with a small lip to keep the milk cans from rolling off the platform onto the track or down the stairs. Then I added some screen inside the platform railings that looks like chain link fence (popular trick with O-Scale modelers) to keep the milk cans from flying out. I like the chips in the paint as it gives it a real-worked look.
Modified Fastrack for Milk Operating Car Platform
Underside with Modified Snap Pieces Unsnapped
Inner Track Side - Locating Tabs and Protruding Snap Tab Removed
Outer Track Side - Locating Tabs and Protruding Snap Tab Removed
Outer Snap Piece - Groove to Accomodate Metal Tab on Platform Track Base
Underside with Modified Snap Pieces Snapped Together
Milk Operating Car Platform Sodded
Milk Operating Car Platform Sodded and Fenced

Modify Horse Corral for Fresh Sod Grass Look: Just like with the Milk Car Platform, I didn't like the original painted metal to look like grass, so I added some artificial grass. After cutting the artificial grass to fit (before placing in the corral), in put a small bead of super glue (cyanacrylate) around the perimeter to keep the grass from falling off the edges. I am going to add some fine crushed glass (help together with super glue) and some fiberoptic fiber to make the center watering hole look more like a water fountain. I will post more photos when that is done.
Horse Corral Grass Original
Horse Corral Grass Sodded

I purchased a locomotive that would not operate in reverse. It was tough to find schematics for the Lionel E-Unit so I reversed engineered the E-Unit so that I could determine what was malfunctioning.
Lionel E-Unit 00-0103-00 Schematic and Theory of Operation

I am going to build this to help me get access to all points on the tables. I may make it foldable so I can store it under the tables.
Track Gantry

My first bridge. Made from scrap wood and left over stone from the shower we put in last year. I still need to grout it, but it is functional.

My second bridge. Made from scrap oak I had laying around - finally found a worthy use for it. I need to add more trusses for a more realistic look.

I have found that Fastrack electrical connections are not very relaible. Rather than soldering the rails, I use brass rods that I can get from any hardware store. Not only does this provide superior electrical continuity, it also helps to keep the track together. I do this for 6 foot sections as I can flip those tracks over. Then I join the 6 foot sections using 16 AWG solid wires (soldered in a similar fashion) that I can twist, solder, insulate, and tuck under the track. Care must be taken not to apply too much heat or the rails will lift from the platic road bed. I use a 40 Watt Pencil Tip soldering iron.
Ground Strap Soldering
Hot/Ground Rail Soldering

Here is our MTH Delaware & Hudson train (that we just bought used) running on my track's inaugural run. There is only one feeder on this line (at the transformer) - all power is through the rails from that one feed (see my rail soldering tips). It gets slow on the raised loop because am missing a traction tire and I have a serpentine section of track it pulls through - this makes it challenging, and it is cool to see the cars wind through the curves. I temporarily connected power feeders every 6 feet but they were not needed! My electro-mechanical "bonding" works better that I expected.
MTH Delaware & Hudson on a 1.875% Grade

This is my homemade track cleaner. I get these "Majic Eraser" pads from the Dollar Tree store (2 for $1.00). I cut the pads to fit under the car. The car's angled doors on the bottom hold the pad in place. I soak the leading 1/3 edge (direction of travel) of the pad with 91% Isopropyl Alcohol. Then I fill the car with stones for ballast and place it on the track. I then make one pass around the track at 1/4 speed. So far I have had no issues using alcohol as the cleaning solution - I get no residue at all. The pad will reamined soaked for about 2 minutes which is long enough to cover my longest track circuit (about 50 feet). At a later date, I will post a drawing showing how to cut the pad and a video of the Cleaning Car in action.
Track Cleaning Car
Dirty Pad (Virgin pad, one pass, 50 feet of track, 4 hours of track use)