Roving Garden Railway Blog

  • 12/06/2010 8:16 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    For this project we wanted a train with a simple, inexpensive control system capable of operating on no-powered track. The solution we adopted uses a 9.6-volt NiMH (nickel metal hydride) rechargeable battery available from Radio Shack and other sources. This battery fits into the engine cab and operates our small LGB locomotive for over four hours on a single charge. The battery uses a standard hobby connector making it easy to install a fresh battery when needed.

    While there are many radio-control throttles available on the market, we did not need speed or directions control for the display layout train.  A small ON/OFF radio-controlled receiver with relay similar to those used for automotive alarms gives us the ability to start and stop the locomotive with a small remote control. Our remote control is catalog item number RC-10 from All Electronics Corp., This firm sells manufacturers production overruns and surplus inventory so we can’t guarantee that this particular item will be in stock in the future. However, similar remote controls are designed to operate on 12 volts DC, but the RC-10 receiver works on the 9.6-volt battery.

    Figure (photo 1) shows the circuit arrangement. The mating connector used to connect  to the battery is also available from Radio Shack. Since these batteries can deliver a high current when short circuited, we included a resettable circuit protector, sometimes called a polyswitch, to protect the battery. This circuit protector is available from All-Electronics as item #CPX-100S. A two-amp fuse could be substituted for the circuit protector.

    The locomotive motor must be disconnected from the normal connections to the wheels and current pickup sliders. For our LGB locomotive, we removed the gearbox bottom cover plate and the removed the sliders and brass strips that carry current to the motor leads. This disconnected the motor from the rails. LGB locomotives include small sockets on the cab rear that connect to the motor brushes. We used these sockets to connect the output of the remote relay (battery positive) and battery negative to the motor.

    Now, pressing the remote’s ON button operates the relay and makes the locomotive go forward at full speed. Pressing the OFF button releases the relay and stops the locomotive. In our case, the locomotive speed is fine with the 9.6-volt battery. If the speed were too fast, we could have inserted one or more silicon diodes (All Electronics #1N4001) in series with the motor leads to reduce the voltage by 0.7 volts for each diode.

    Kermit Paul

  • 12/02/2010 11:55 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    Hello BAGRS Roving Garden Railway volunteers,

    Next Wednesday, December 8, 9AM, weather permitting, we will start applying Bragdon's resin rocks to the 10' trailer sides. Please go to the link below to do some reading homework so the whole, very complicated, procedure isn't a complete mystery. There is a lot of reading on the steps, videos to view and a list of materials.

    Check out:
    For thorough instructions and a complete list of stuff we need.

    Edward is donating a quart kit of resin and other supplies that come with the kit and I am donating everything else but what's on the list below. Unfortunately, we have no funds left to buy some of the materials needed so we will have to work with what we have. I am asking you to look through your cupboards and donate anything from the list that you can spare.

    2. Cast Satin™, white, odorless polymer casting resin. - Bragdon Enterprises.
    4. Petroleum jelly (grocer) or mold release from TAP plastics, or silicon spray- grocer or hardware store
    5. White gloss spray lacquer - hardware or paint supply.
    6. Plastic drop cloth or tarp - hardware or paint supply.
    7. 3/16” thick poly bubble wrap in sheet or roll - packaging supply.
    8. Fiberglass bug screen - hardware supply.
    11. Disposable gloves - paint store
    12. Stir sticks or plastic spoons - grocer.
    13. 1 oz. plastic measured disposable cups. - restaurant or party supply.
    18. Hot glue type glue sticks - Bragdon Ent., hardware or craft supply.
    22. Black powdered tempera paint. - art supply.
    23. Rubbing alcohol (optional) - grocer.

    This will be the first of several such clinics, so if you want to make it to another let me know and I'll try to schedule you into a date that's good for you, but come to work, not just watch. Lunch around noon.

    Rain date is Thursday, Dec. 9 and the following Wednesday if Thursday is also a wash. I'll send updates. Email me if you want to get on the list.

  • 11/23/2010 2:40 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
      As you can see, we have many of the parts roughed in for the lower loop. On the far left is a steel suspension bridge built by Jim Daly. It needs to be mounted by bolts to the wooden trailer side. Bill already fabricated  a mounting system. Front right is a benchwork style curved bridge made from ripped lengthwise bend R board, donated by Edward. Now we need help mounting it all and making the connections accurate for track. Next meeting is Wednesday, Dec. 1.
    Soon we'll be covering the sides with fake rock scenery from Bragdon geodesic molds and resin. Wouldn't you like to learn how to do that? We'll be having a clinic on it here, probably the second Wednesday  in December. Email Nancy for the latest news:
  • 10/30/2010 1:15 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    Even in the rain, the trains ran! Because this is a garden railway, we've made every effort to place structures where soil & plants could not live. On the tongue over the battery box a hinged plywood platform, called the town square, holds two steel buildings built and donated by Eaglewings Ironcraft. They are open to the wind and view when we travel. On the left is an Eaglewings theater, still in need of signage on the marquee. Bill's battery-powered truck runs great and now BAGRS owns a battery-powered train with sound for one of the loops (thanks to Terry's donation from the BAGRS swap meet). This toy train will show viewers that it doesn't have to be expensive to be fun.

    On the right Grandpa's fancy house by Terry Hurley snuggles up to the mountainside with the newly painted boxcar to its left. The columned house is only a few inches deep to allow trees behind it and shrubs in the front yard. Eventually the trees on the mountain will grow another foot or so and obscure the viewers on the other side. We still need to ballast the track. We have glue but no ballast material, as yet -- we need a donation for it.

    Please help (even one time is fine) as there is still much to do before the next set-up at the annual meeting in February. We need carpenters to build bridges for the lower loop and we'll start covering the plywood with lightweight resin scenery, like Bragdon's geodesic rockwork. This is your chance to get some experience working with craftsmen or helping others in a team effort. The public sure appreciates all your work. Some people walk all around the trailer and study all the details. We meet Wednesdays -- call Nancy at 925-408-9402. The next work party is Wed. Nov. 3, 9AM - noon with lunch at noonish.

  • 10/30/2010 12:13 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    October 9 and 10 we put the battery to a test while running the pump and the mine train for over 15 hours on one charge. We backed onto the sidewalk in Pleasant Hill for their annual Art, Jazz and Wine Fest. Many viewers had never seen anything like this, maybe because it is unique! Kids were running around it while parents asked questions of our docents, Terry Hurley, Joe Winkle, Bill Swindell (here running his battery-powered red railtruck on the upper loop) and Nancy Norris. We handed out over a hundred BAGRS cards. Three other BAGRS members came and answered questions, too: Kermit, Moe and Frank Lucas. The trailer was locked overnight, but the town provided security people all night, too.

    This is a kid's-eye view of the point-to-point silver-mine line. The HLW mine train runs into an 8’-long acrylic box under the mountain featuring Dave Hartwig's detailed facades. The track was wired to the 12-volt battery that is housed on the trailer tongue. We had to allow the wire to be disconnected when not in use, in order to pull out the 8’ “drawer” to access the stored mine facades and mine trains.  To step down the voltage on both the water pump and the point-to-point reversing unit, a DC dimmer switch was installed in each electrical circuit, and then we dialed in the correct "speed" to slow down the water flow and train speed. The intention is that this type of resistor will not just reduce the electric flow but also prevent wasting the battery so that we can set up the trailer for more than one day (as we did at this event) without recharging the 12-volt battery. Our resident electrician, Eric Moe, figured we could run our equipment for 24 hours, while the battery is relatively fresh/new. Our other electrical guru, Kermit Paul assured us that resisting power to the pump would not reduce its life expectancy, provided that it has enough power to push the water uphill.

  • 10/30/2010 11:47 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    We towed the trailer to Just Trains in Concord on October 3 for the first test of the mobile garden railway. Trains ran non-stop on the two finished railroad lines for over 6 hours. The upper loop runs through a tunnel at the rear and onto a curved steel bridge in the front. The lower point-to-point line runs into the tunnel under the layout and onto the tailgate. Most all of the landscaping was completed the day before, after a daily, week-long work marathon by a devoted crew. Here’s what we had to do.

    The water feature, lined with pond liner material, began as a stream on top of the mountain, then flowed through half a drain pipe, which was screwed to the frame then mortared with Thinset, thin flagstone and pebbles. The pondless waterfall fell into a 10-gallon Rubbermaid tub with a hole cut in the cover for the water to splash and drain. Thin flagstones rest on the tub cover for appearance and easy access to the DC bilge pump in the tub. The water feature and mountain structure both traveled well with no cracks in the mortared rock waterfall.

    The left lower loop has been graded with a beautiful set of retaining walls, bridge and hand-laid track by Daniel Smith. We'll be working on the rest of this loop next week.

  • 09/19/2010 7:34 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    Soil has finally been added to the trailer. Plants are positioned but not planted yet. The mountain needs some more mortar work and the water feature is prepped for mortar. All  mountain feather rocks have been drilled and screwed to the pressure treated 2x4-frame that holds the mountain together as it bounces down the road. A few mountain trees have been stuffed into the feather rock holes which have been hollowed out to plant with trees. We still have some blue masking tape around the town square because we still need to paint one last coat to make it look like a road. One more building will live just behind the railbus. Track needs to be laid. Help! We have a venue Oct. 3 if we can get it together. If you can help.
  • 09/09/2010 12:19 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    The railway has to have an industry and it just happens that the wealthiest man in Silver City owns (you guessed it) a silver mine. On the trailer gate, about 4'x5', the Silver City Mine and it's buildings are false fronts against the hillside. The point to point mining engine and car kits have been ordered from Hartland and will need to be built by one of you. Please call Nancy or email her if you'd like to put together some easy kits and paint them. Thanks, Dave Hartwig, for the nicely detailed mine offices and double portal!
  • 07/28/2010 6:43 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    George of San Leandro Historical RR
    Society fabricated the steel box mounted to the tongue. The battery box is bolted onto the steel box. To the left of the deep-cycle marine battery, a charger is mounted through the left side of the box, so the lid doesn't need to be lifted to charge the battery. Just plug'er in (see orange cord). The back side of  the tongue box has a hole for wires to the water pump and other electrical items.  The town square fits around the tongue jack and is hinged to the trailer for lifting to access the battery.
  • 07/23/2010 10:16 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    Daniel is in the process of building the structures necessary to carry the trains across one side of the hinged trailer gate. Here's the progress pictured, left. More wooden retaining walls will be built, then faux stone cliffs will cover the plywood. Although he took the side off the trailer, we figured the angle while it was on the trailer and he replicated that angle at home to work on getting the roadbed level.