Welcome to My HO Model Railroad Blog

My AC-9 Kitbash

The AC-9, SP 3805 above is the end product of a Kitbash Project from a Rivarossi Cab Forward.

It is the second of three AC-9 Yellowstones that I rebuilt from AC-10 Cab Forwards. I am a devout 1950s era Southern Pacific HO Model Railroader. I have a fleet of 39 steam locomotives of which 18 are articulated and 34 diesels.

My layout is set in the mid 1950s in the Southern New Mexico/West Texas area. I grew up in El Paso Texas during the end of the Steam Era and lived in Alamogordo, NM during the 1960s & 70s. My wife and I are both retired and now reside in Bakersfield California. We have lived on both ends of the Southern Pacific Cab Forward Southern Route.

This Blog is about my HO Model Railroad Hobby and how I model the Southern Pacific from my memories of the mid 1950s era as a teenager. I wrote a short synopsis of my back ground that can be found by going to my About Me page.

Mel Perry, PMFE  (Professor of Miniature Ferroequinology Engineering)

1.  ferroequinology  Literally "the study of the iron horse." (ferros = iron, equine = horse, -ology = study of)

2. The study of the history of railroads and railroad trains, especially for the purpose of model railroading.

3. What a railfan practices.

This is a simple track layout drawing of my Model Railroad.

You can click on the colored text to follow the links.

I moved the About Me & My Layout articles to their own page because they seldom change.
Updated December 5, 2014

To go to my current Locomotive Inventory click here.
Updated September 14, 2015

To go to my additional pages scroll down to the bottom of my Blog to My Pages Menu and click on the links.

My first post was October 13, 2009. 

As of August 23, 2017 I currently have 123 Posts and 17 Project Pages on My Model Railroad Blog.

September 1, 2017 Hickory House Scratch Build

Having to spend several weeks convalescing in my recliner I decided to attempt another scratch build of a 1930s home for my layout.

I searched the Antique Home Site and come up with the Hickory House.  It has three bedrooms on the second floor and I modified the storage area to become a large model railroad room.

The numbers in the circles are the room/bulb numbers.

My wife and I really like the wrap around front porch and I even added a porch above the rear porch as a veranda off the Train Room.  As we no longer have our kids living with us we will use bedroom 3 as a hobby room also with access to the veranda.

The study on the first floor can double as a guest room.

I made full size HO drawings on my CAD to use as templates to make the walls.

Cutting the Midwest basswood siding was very easy using the templates.


I really like the Campbell/Northeast Scale Lumber corner posts for wood construction and Midwest basswood siding.  I make my own corner posts on my Dremel Router using 3/16" x 3/16" basswood strips.


I have Tichy windows and doors on order. 

This house has 14 lights installed, nine 4mm 12 volt 70ma bulbs and five 2.5mm 35ma bulbs.  I will drive the lights with a Arduino UNO Random Light Controller 
The construction has gone very smooth.  I'm going with basswood for the interior walls.  I the past I've used card stock for the interior walls.
By using basswood for the interior walls they are much firmer and more precise as well as easier to work with.  That works out much better when using micro connectors for the wiring.  The basswood wall inserts are easily removed and the connectors work smoothly.  Using card stock the walls couldn't be removed because they had to be glued in place.
The connectors on the porch roof worked out extremely well.  The 2.5mm 35ma bulbs work very good for the porch lighting, I went with 4mm 70ma bulbs for the interior lighting. I operate all my 12 volt lighting at 8½ volts for longer life as well as at a lower voltage they look much more realistic.

 I had a problem with the veranda light, I didn't want to mount it the the roof and the .01" wires are puny at best.  My solution was to fill the gap between the wires with 527 glue shown in the picture above.  That took care of the flimsy wire mount.

I have a problem preventing my wiring from looking like a bowl of spaghetti, honestly it looked much better before I fixed my first screw up.  

My first go-round with the power connector wasn't very good, I used a 16 pin single row micro connector.  The screw-up was it calls for a large hole in my layout to pass the wiring.  Rather than remove the single row connector I added a second double row 16 pin connector in parallel.

Now instead of a 1¾" oblong hole in my layout a ¾" round hole will pass the connector from the Arduino.  I can still use the single row connector for testing the bulbs.

This picture is the lighting connector wiring for my homes wired for the Arduino controller.

The numbers are the room/bulb numbers 1-14, switched ground.   15 is lamp voltage (8½ to 9 volts), 16 is ground.  The Red connector is for connector alignment.

I use a 16 conductor flat ribbon cable between the Arduino Expansion Driver board and the house.

I had to install the door in the picture above because it took up the entire wall section and the wall was too frail without the door in place.  The reason for the large areas without windows is it's the kitchen and bathroom area and I will make custom windows for them when the Tichy parts arrive.

One problem with lighting up structures is eliminating light leaks.  I use 1/16" x 1/8" basswood strips under the inside edge of the roof to prevent light leaks.  The basswood also gives the roof some additional stability keeping it in place with out any glue leaving the roof easily removable. 

The roof is made from two layers of .02" thick card stock to hold the shingles, at this point I'm undecided as witch type of shingles to use.  I have both Campbell 800 shingles and Plastruct embossed Styrene shingle sheets on hand.

I use "EcoSwift" Chipboard off eBay for my card stock.

I decided to use the Plastruct Stryene shingles.  The Styrene is much easier compared to the Campbell shingle strips.


I ruffed up the Styrene shingle roof with 80 grit sandpaper to put some grain into the shingles then shot it with Rust-Oleum Grey Automotive Primer so that the Crafters Acrylic paint would adhere to the Styrene.

I'm still struggling with making the Styrene look like wood.

Next is some detailing work.  I used Tichy railing for the front porch and Grandt Line railing for the veranda porch.  


 The upper railing on both is Evergreen .08" square Styrene strip.  I glued some short .02" round Styrene rod to the back side of ends of the .08" strips as a stability pin to anchor the top railing to the walls.  The .02 rods slip into .02" holes in the walls.

Everything is removable in this build to make modifications easier down the road.  With all the new high-tech goodies available now days I'm leaving my new projects open for upgrades.



I used Tichy Turned Wood Porch Post for roof supports.


I'm back to waiting on parts to finish the windows and railing. 

I use .02" Styrene rod as pins to anchor the trim in place. By using pins to slip into holes the railings are easily removable.  The Tichy railing posts have a .02" pin in the bottom of each post making them removable too.

 This shows the pin that holds the upper tailing in alignment.

Here it's Styrene to Styrene joint.

I will continue this post when the Tichy parts arrive

August 23, 2017 More Arduino Stuff

Having found how many things I can use the Arduino processors for they are constantly in my model railroad foreground.  I normally use the Arduino UNO & MEGA for my projects but the NANO has the same processing power as the UNO with a much smaller footprint.

Because of the Gadget Guy in me I need expansion boards for interfacing and circuit components.  I haven't been able to find an expansion board that fits the NANO so I make them myself.

I went with double side prototype PCB 5x7cm tinned universal development boards and cut them to fit the NANO.  Full size they will also fit the UNO.

One 5x7cm board will make three NANO expansion boards.  The 5x7cm PCB Perf Boards can be found on eBay doing a "double side prototype PCB 5x7cm tinned universal development board" search.

I cut the boards using a #11 Xacto blade down a row of solder holes.  I score the board on both sides about five time then gently bend it back and forth several times.  The board will break leaving a rough edge but they clean up nicely using 100 grit sandpaper.

The picture below is the NANO interface / 5 volt regulator for my camera car. 

The expansion board works out very well to hold miscellaneous parts and connectors for the Arduino micro computer.

February 15, 2017 Another Project Mod

If you follow my blog you know I'm never really finished with any of my projects.  Ten minutes after I "finish" a project I see where it could be improved or done a different way, maybe more efficient or something I missed.

This post is about mods needed to make my Arduino micro controllers compatible and adapt them to my last project, my Arduino 8 slot card shelf.  The Arduinos need a rear connector to adapt them to the card shelf, a right angle connector will make it easy to connect to the cards.

The Random Lighting Controllers will be the easiest to convert only needing a single row 20 pin 90° right angle male connector.   The UNO 20 pin female connector consists of two connectors, a 16 pin for the structure lighting and a separate 4 pin for Arduino power.  Pins 1 to 14 will be the high current outputs or in this case negative/ground switching, pins 15 & 16 will be for power to the structures.  The remaining pins will be for Arduino power.  Because I operate my 12 volt incandescent structure lighting at 8½ volts, one pin will be used for the isolated high current input a second pin for high current common or ground.  My Random Light Arduino controllers will operate from the 5 volt DC to DC converters connected to the board at the USB 5 volt board connection.  The 5 volts will also power the TTL circuits in the seven channel driver chips.

I simplified the wiring by using two separate female connectors to mate up to the male 20 pin angle connector.  One with 16 pins that will connect directly to the structure and a 4 pin for input power in to the Arduino.  That will eliminate the need for a secondary terminal block.  

The Arduino MEGA mods will be a slightly harder task to adapt to the card shelf.  At this time my Arduino MEGA is using dual expansion shields (boards) and each board will need a 40 pin dual row 90° right angle male connector.  My Arduino signal controller uses 68 pins to control 16 signal blocks plus power,  That will require a rebuild of both expansion boards.  This mod will also allow for any DC voltage up to 50 volts @ 500ma to be switched by the controller by using separate pins for power.  The Arduino MEGA power will be the same as the UNOs operating from the 5 volt source.

After a lot of thought and planning I decided to mount the DC to DC convertors to the top of the card shelf.  I need easy access to adjust the current and voltage adjustments and as I was planning to use a small fan to remove heat from the compartment, this arrangement will work out much better. 

Now I will have easy access to the Arduinos and the DC to DC converters.

The DC to DC  converters will be used to convert 12 volts to 1.4 volts for the 1½ volt micro bulbs used in my vehicles, 5 volts for the Arduinos and other miscellaneous electronic devices and 8½ volts for structure and street lighting.  The DC to DC converters will easily handle 8 amps each, with the help of forced air cooling they can supply up to 12 amps each.  My 12 volt power is a 30 amp switching power supply, very efficient and small, almost no heat from switching power supplies. 

A secondary venture in this mod will be to remove the on-board LED indicators, once the Arduino is up and working, the indicators are not needed and can't be seen when the Arduino in in the card shelf.  An external test plug with LEDs can be plugged into the test connector for testing if needed. 

 These are the components for my Random Lighting Controller.  The Arduino connectors come in 40 pin Breakable strips.  The 40 pin male connector needs to be cut with wire cutters to fit the Arduino UNO female connectors.

The Arduino Expansion Shield circuit board comes without connectors so I stock single row 40 pin Male and Female as well as a 90° angle Male connectors.  I also stock the dual row 2x40 pin (80 pins).

Because my structures were built many years ago using 12 volt Grain of Wheat incandescent bulbs my controller will need high current outputs.  The Arduino outputs are limited to 20 ma.  I use TD62304AP seven channel driver chips with 500 ma outputs per channel.  The driver chips have 16 pins so my expansion board will have two 16 pin IC sockets to accommodate the drivers.

I use a male 20 pin 90° angle connector on the rear of the board for power in to the board as well as the outputs to the structure lighting.

The driver chips have switched low outputs with 50 volt capacity.  The 20 pin female connector actually be two connectors, a 4 pin for power in and a 16 pin for the structure power.

The 4 pin connector will use two pins for Arduino power and two pins for structure lighting power. 

The 16 pin connector will use two pins for structure power out, the remaining 14 pins will be used for switched low outputs to the 12 volt bulbs.   

I have installed the Arduino shelf and the DC to DC converters in my control panel frame.

The far left converter is set to 1.45 volts to power the micro bulb headlights in my 80 plus vehicles.

The center converter supplies 5 volts for powering Arduinos and other solid state controllers.  The far right converter is set to 8.5 volts and it will power building/structure lighting and street lights.  The converter are powered by a 12 volt 30 amp switching power supply.

The two Arduino UNOs are programmed as Random Light Controllers, the UNO on the left powers Susie's Mansion and the one on the right powers Doug's "Psycho House".

I've been working on a camera car to be either pushed or pulled by one of my locomotives.  It will be integrated into my control panel in the Arduino portion.  I will be using an Arduino Uno as a wireless Blue Tooth remote servo controller.  The MD91S Camcorder will be mounted on a depressed center flatcar.  The servo will rotate the camera 180° via Blue Tooth.

This is my proposed Arduino panel layout.

I'm planning on using a 7" Tablet as a viewfinder with WiFi between the Tablet and the MD91S Camcorder.  The MD81S will function as a WiFI camera as well as a camcorder with a capacity of 60 minutes of AVI recording.

Drawing Updated April 1, 2017

The drawing above shows my camera car plan.  The camcorder is self contained with a 32Gb Micro SD memory chip and Lithium battery.  I will use track power for the Arduino Nano, Blue Tooth and servo power.  The flatcar has all wheel power pickup.

My new Arduino card shelf is in and working as planned.