Sunday, April 28, 2013

Talking Detector

When I used to railfan with a scanner, we used to listen to the talking detectors nearby to know when the trains were on their way.  There is one about 8 1/2 miles east of me but just off the visible portion of my layout.  There is one west of Santa Barbara that is on my layout.  It is located at milepost 366.3. Boulder Creek Engineering ( produces a talking detector.  A friend, Jon Cure, has one on his SP Inyo Sub layout.  Another friend Jim Ferenc is the proprietor of Boulder Creek Engineering, so I decided to purchase one and install it.

I ordered it and it was to me in a couple days.  I installed it in an evening and had it working when the local model railroad club came (see previous post).

The location of the talking detector west of Santa Barbara is on a stretch of single track about half way to Goleta.  While I have compressed the distance there is an ideal stretch of single track on the layout that corresponds to thie actual location. 

I followed the directions, installing the two detectors by removing a single tie and a section of the roadbed below to allow for the LED to pass under both rails.  The circuit board could be mounted on one of the cross members at the end of the L-girder benchwork.  In order to work the detector needs a speaker.  It can drive a small 8-ohm speaker but also has an 1/8" connection for powered speakers like those used for computers.  I had a set in an old electronic junk box so I pulled them out and measured in order to figure out how to install them nearby.  I ended up building a small shelf with a front edge to hold them on and attaching the entire assembly to the thin wall under the track.

I followed the instructions and customized the announcements so they sounded like the real SP talking detectors I remember.  Since SP has been gone since 1996 and my memory is getting worse, I turned to the internet and found a site with some recordings of SP talking detectors (

Once it was all set-up, I mounted the circuit board on the benchwork.  I mounted it upside down  so the controls were easy to access, in case I want to change the announcement or make changes in the volume.

Here is the completed installation of speakers and board.

All of this is hidden behind the fascia and the curtains.

Here is a video of a train passing the detector.

It was a lot of fun to install and very simple.  It was a great diversion from getting the bugs out of my trackwork.  Back to work.  

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Almost Operating

I keep trying to have an operating session.  What is holding me back is my trackwork.  I am still struggling with some of my turnouts causing derailments.

I procrastinate as any of you regular readers of this blog know full well.  I had volunteered to have the local model railroad club over for a Tuesday in April in the hopes that that would motivate me to get things done, especially track work.  I did some work on the tracks but not enough.  I had hoped to have two crews working for one train.  Southern Pacific, and now, Union Pacific ran trains to the diatomaceous earth mine above Lompoc.  Empty hoppers are taken up to the mine and fulls are brought down the hill.  I have included the mine on the layout and there is a discussion at an earlier post (August 19, 2010 <>).  I was going to have one crew take the emptys from the Santa Barbara yard west up to Surf and then off on the Lompoc Branch and then up the hill to the mine.

I tried running the train myself and it derailed so badly before it got to La Patera, I gave up.  When the club arrived they wandered around the layout while I gave a tour to one of the new people.  Then Bob Lyon took the mine job and switched the full hoppers to a track so they would be ready for pick-up.
Here is Bob working at the diatomaceous mine at White Hills

Since there was not going to be a train coming up the hill with emptys, Bob took the fulls down the hill to Lompoc.  This included going out onto the extension of Laurel Street and shoving back into the Lompoc yard.
Mine run emerging from behind the helix

Mine run on the extension

Mine run shoving back into Lompoc Yard.
 Note caboose left on the White Hills branch ready to shove up the hill with the next train

I still have hopes to operate soon but we are getting closer.

As a consolation, I set up an N-scale module and an HO-scale Timesaver inside the house, so some of the crew played for a while before watching a video and having refreshments.
Michael R running the N-scale module

Watching Michael

Watching videos