by Allan "Need Another Locomotive" Gartner, AE2V
Modeling the Clinchfield, the ET&WNC, the Little River, steam in the garden, rail photography, and remembering N&W #611 and #1218.
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Unless you are an attorney or on the fast track to becoming a VP, you probably have a better shot at winning the lottery than getting a real office. So why not put a train around your cubicle? Your coworkers will love it! It makes a great landmark in a sea of cubicles. A cubicle train easily installs in minutes and does not permanently mount to the cubicle. So if you get a bigger cubicle (aren't you lucky!), you can easily move it - or move it just because companies seem to like to rearrange people in cubicles all the time.
The train runs back and forth along your cubicle walls. It stops briefly at both ends of the track, and then runs backwards in the opposite direction. You can build my control circuit for about $10-15 or you can buy a controller from LGB or Aristocraft (They will work with your HO trains, too.) Control is simple and does not require any wires running along your cubicle walls.
I have installed cubicle trains in HO and in G. So read about them both and pick the one that’s right for you. Both of them can use the same controller. That is described below. Then visit the HO or the G page to learn how you can install your own cubicle train!
Before you start, be sure you ask permission of your neighbors. I have never had anyone refuse my request. Usually they just want to be reassured that it will be quiet. Your neighbors will probably love it. My G-scale cubicle train now spans ten cubicles!
In both HO and G installations, I took a minimalist approach. I haven’t added little towns on top of my filing cabinets, but you certainly could. These things can get in the way of cleaning the track. I also built ultra simple bridges to carry the track around the curves. I have avoided building big, elaborate, curved bridges for two reasons. One, because I didn’t want to have anything that was delicate and expensive. Two, a bridge carrying a sharp radius ends up being almost as wide as it is long. It would look odd.
Installing a cubicle train is easy!
Installing a train in your office:
There are several things you need to worry about when installing a train in your office that you don't have to worry about in your home.
First, your company probably has policies on safety. Most corporations do. So if you choose to cut rail in your office, be sure you are wearing safety glasses. If you are using an abrasive cutting disk and it injuries your eyes, your company will be very unhappy with you. They will probably have to report this as a on-the-job injury - even though this is not technically a job related function. So expect them to be very unhappy with you - perhaps to the point of firing you. It is best to do your rail cutting at home.
Second, your company's safety program no doubt includes chemicals. Make sure you company has a MSDS sheet for your favorite track cleaner like Goo-Gone and make sure you are complying with your company's safety regulations regarding the use of chemicals. You will need to make rail gaps. You may use epoxy to do this. Do this little project at home.
Third, if your company has a union labor, you may not be allowed to pick up a tool much beyond a screwdriver. This is another reason to do your track cutting at home. Don't risk upsetting the union doing a non-work related manual task. In the end, you will be the one that is upset!
Finally, your company may have a requirement that everything plugged in be UL listed. Most power packs and LGB's transformer are. Don't forget your extension cord must be UL listed as well.
How the train is controlled.
How is this done? It couldn’t be simpler! All you need is a couple of diodes and a timer! At each end of your track, create a block. When your locomotive crosses the gap, it stops. At the end of the track where your locomotive is running forward, your block is short – just long enough for the locomotive. When it runs backwards, your block is longer to hold your entire train.
The trick is to bridge the gap for each block with a diode. The diode is installed “reverse biased.” The reverse biased diodes blocks power from each end block. When you reverse the power to the track, the diode becomes forward biased and allows power to your train so that it can move in the opposite direction. For less than a dollar’s worth of parts, it couldn’t be simpler.
Now all you need is a timer to periodically reverse your track power. I put the power pack and the timer circuit in one of my enclosed cabinets. Most cabinets are open in the back you can run wires to power your train without drilling any holes.
Low cost, do-it-yourself timer.
You can build my timer for about $15. If building electronics isn’t your thing, you can buy a controller from LGB for about $150 or one from Aristocraft for $80. Why are theirs so expensive? Beats me! My controller has an adjustment so that you can set how long the train stops at each end of the track. I also include forward and reverse override buttons. This allows you to force the train to come back to your desk so that you can put it away without having to wait for the timing cycle to bring it to you. Dallee Electronics has back-and-forth timers that you can use starting at $40.
The circuit is simple and can run from your AC terminals on your HO power pack. If you are using an LGB starter set, you can run the circuit from the output of their transformer. If you buy the LGB or Aristocraft controller, you will need to follow their directions. The directions in this website pertain to using my circuit.
* Radio Shack does not carry the NE555. They do carry the LM556. You can use that. Only the pin numbers are different. The Radio Shack p/n for the NE556 is 276-1728. The pin outs are as follows:
Radio Shack also carries the TLC555. This is not 100% directly compatible with the NE555. I will redesign the circuit to use the TLC555 if there is enough interest.
You can make all sorts of changes to Ra, Rb, and C1 to get different ranges of time. But rather burden you with equations, I have picked values that should provide an adequate range of times for everyone. I suggest you leave Ra as is. The lower value ensures a nearly 50/50 duty cycle. Rb1 can be lowered if the minimum time is still too much. Rb2 can be lowered to give you less total time. Rb3 was selected because that it what Radio Shack sold. Radio Shack's next smaller potentiometer is 100k-ohm. That is too small.
The forward and reverse buttons are not required. They are there for convenience. Pushing either button will interrupt the timer and force your train to come toward you so that you can put it away at the end of the day. If the train does not move forward when you press the forward button, reverse the wires going to the track.
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