Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Just a Test

I'm working on a virtual version of Dawson Station so every one can run the puzzle. Here is a very early attempt, just to see if I can get it on the web:

Don't get to frustrated. It still has a lot of glitches. My team of highly motivated programmers are working on it day and night.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Nightfall at Dawson Station

A friend suggested I work on the lighting a bit. Here is what resulted.
[Here is a direct link if the embedded video doesn't show up.]
The Arduino can now control the overhead light with a relay (video here). There are lights in the house and on the end of the loading shed and mill. The star of the show is Ken Stapleton's "Fire" circuit which flickers both a blue LED in the house to simulate TV and yellow LED in a burn barrel.

I also added some nightime audio which plays when the overhead light goes off. The frogs are from a pond near my house, and the dog barking is Mitsty the Wonder Dog, who will bark on command if food is involved.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Do try this at home

From the book "Fifty Dangerous Things (You Should Let Your Children Do)" by Gever Tulley.

First, wait till mom is out of the house. Second, don't go more than 3 or 4 seconds. Third, ventilate the house and dispose of the evidence. Or, just watch the video.

The slow motion looks like the Game of Life pattern. The end result is a work of art:

Friday, April 23, 2010

Kids and Seniors Alike

I got invited to setup in the lobby of the CSME Clubhouse for a senior openhouse. Groups from around the area came in for a layout tour. I got to hear some interesting stories. One lady's brother trained in Adair during WWII. She also remembered, at age 17, being whistled at by German POWs in a passing truck.

The club has an extensive collection of magazines. It was interesting to see the detailed modeling going on in January 1966!

They also have a number of books. I found this likely modeling subject for the next Pacific Model Logger's Conference.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A Day at the Beach

We checked out a new beach this weekend. Ona Beach is about 8 miles South of Newport. A pedestrian bridge over Beaver Creek gets you access.
In addition to a sandy area, there are some interesting rock formation.

Ms. Rivett worked hard on this piece of art.

There was the largest tangle of ropes I've ever seen washed up on the shore.

I took some video in case I need a mini-vacation later, or proof of a sunny day on the Oregon Coast.

Saturday, April 17, 2010


Yet Another Train Show. It was a Divisional Mini-meet for the Pacific Northwest Region of the National Model Railroading Association in Roseburg, Oregon. There were 35 – 40 people in attendance. When people “under 50” were asked to stand, there were only three of us. This is an old man’s hobby.

There was a modeling contest similar to the Pacific Model Logger’s Conference, albeit much smaller. Dawson Station won both its category, “miscellaneous”, as well as best in show, which came with enough cash to cover gas money. After the award, I gave about a ten minute presentation of the layout with a question and answer session. Talk about being put on the spot. At least I was given a heads up, and had a practice run with the cub scouts a while back.

More important than the competition, I had the layout judged for the NRMA’s Achievement Program for Prototypical Models. Think old man’s merit badge. Four of the Division’s senior members reviewed the layout with consideration as to how it captured the look and feel of Hull-Oakes. I had to document every aspect, and provide photos of Hull-Oakes and my layout taken at the same angles. To give you an idea of how thorough they were, they caught a major detail I had over looked, the chip hopper near the lunch shack. You can see my documentation here.

Also memorable was having lunch with probably the oldest member there. He has macular degeneration, and so couldn’t see much of what was going on. When we got back, I gave him the audio tour of Dawson Station which now includes not only the mill sounds, but frogs and a dog barking at night. Prototypical frogs, mind you.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Willamette Cascade Model Railroad Club Train Show

We had a great time at the 22nd Annual Willamette Cascade Model Railroad Club Train Show & Swap Meet in Eugene, Oregon. It was far larger than I imagined and well run. We set up the night before, went for dinner and movie, and then spent the night in a camper in the parking lot.The kids had fun. Everyone seemed amazed I had it hooked to a Wii nunchuk. Younger kids would just run it back and forth. The older kids were given specific moves to make. A couple of kids came back for another turn.
One sharp young man started quizzing me about how the electronics worked. I ended up showing him the actual code. Not only could he read and under stand it, but he wanted to make some edits!

Here is a video showing where we were at. There were three full rooms of this! I'll post another entry about some of the other details.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Another Daddy Adventure

Lane County Fairgrounds

Dinner at Red Robin's
Home Sweet Home

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Disaster and Recovery

The next big outing for Dawson Station is the 22nd Annual Willamette Cascade Model Railroad Club Train Show in Eugene, Oregon, next weekend. I volunteered to let the kids run the layout.

In getting ready, there have been some major setbacks. First, I accidentally applied 12V to the 5V bus and literally melted the microcontroller chips. Miraculously, that was the only damage to the Arduino's and I was able to easily switch the chips outs since they were in sockets. The motor shield, however, was not so lucky.

I ended up replacing both the L293 chips with some pin compatible SN754410s I had on hand, and the 74HC595N chip. I had to cut the chip legs with a dremel, desolder them, and then put in sockets so it wont be so hard if I do this again.
In doing some rewiring to avoid a re-occurrence of the chip cookout, I cause a meltdown of a different sort. I accidentally reversed the polarity of the 12V supply to turnout switching circuits. That supplied continuous current to the coils, resulting in failure in short order. I'm lucky I didn't start a fire. It wouldn't be the first sawmill to burn at Dawson Station (two mills burned down at the site before Ralph Hull built the current one).

The lessons learned were many, but primarily:
It is hard to idiot proof something when you are the idiot.