We have a new resident upstairs, a Netherland Dwarf rabbit named Rocky, so I moved my half of the office downstairs and created a hobby room. Along with that finally came space for my son Ethan’s model train which has been on hiatus for about a year. We had an old spare antique desk to set the board on top of so we were instantly up and running since all the track wiring was completed a year ago. We haven’t done landscaping and probably won’t until we figure out where the buildings go. In the meantime the surface looks UGLY (and I mean UGLY!) but the main thing is we can run the trains.

The top draw pulls out to reveal the controls.

The top drawer pulls out to reveal the controls. (Tire marks on the side are from a toy tractor mishap)

One of my son’s first purchases was a water tower complete with a blinking light on top. We put it together over break and it still needs to be sanded and painted, but that didn’t stop us from installing it today.

Water Tower Mount

We made a trip to Hub Hobby in Roseville for more wire and connectors. Instead of doing straight runs to the power unit I’m using block terminals for accessories and track. For accessories this will allow for expansion, easy removal and fixes, and even grouping and regrouping of accessory on/off switches. For example, we can have an always on circuit, a night-time (Dusk to Dawn) circuit, and various interior circuits that are grouped together so we don’t have hundreds of switches, but can make it look like room lights operate independently by not having all the houses come on at the same time. Groupings can be spread out and intertwined.

Eventually we’ll just hook up an Arduino to manage the accessories.

Now, I mentioned we went to the hobby store, and what’s a visit to the hobby store without at least one impulse purchase? My son thought he needed some trees to spruce things up (no pun intended). As for myself my N scale train case is pretty full so I limit myself to “rare” items that I may never find again without resorting to a catalog (but catalog shopping would annihilate my bank account). I came across the N scale Union Pacific North Platte Service Unit Caboose #400. I have the HO scale version of #401 already.

N Scale UP North Platte Service Unit No. 400

For the water tower I installed two posts within it’s column to mount it to the foam board. I’ll trim the base at a later time as the installation is somewhat temporary, as I said it isn’t yet sanded or painted. We hooked it up to the regional terminal block serving that corner of the layout which is fed a main terminal block connected to the switches. I use one common (ground) wire for everything.

Accessory Wiring Diagram

Individual lights can be sorted into different groups corresponding to switches. Maybe the lumber yard office and dime store lights go on and off with the same switch, they don’t have to be in close proximity to each other, there is a main set of wires that feeds the entire table and all its groupings. Accessories can be plugged into different circuits whenever we choose to change it up.

Regional Power Hook-Up

Right now the water tower (red and black wire) is hooked up to the Dusk to Dawn (D) circuit. The colored wires coming in feed the various groupings managed by the switches. When we add street lights to the area we’ll hook those into the Dusk to Dawn circuit as well. (I used scrap Cat5 cable from my home network project to feed 8 wires at a time.) If we decide to have the water tower warning light always on, we just move the wire one position to the left. Always On is fed directly from the power pack and by-passes any switches.

Each “regional” terminal block can serve 9 circuits. Right now Dusk to Dawn is wired in for the water tower, but there is an Always On circuit as well as the ability to plug into other groupings. The first hook-up is reserved for ground. Multiple accessories can be connected to each terminal screw.

So now the town has electricity, water, and rail service!

Water, Power, and 3 Trees!

Water, Power, and 3 Trees!

About Chad Leigh Kluck

Chad Leigh Kluck
Originally from Nebraska, I am a history and railroad enthusiast currently living near Saint Paul, Minnesota. I enjoy trains, photography, and nostalgic memories, as well as the history of transportation, agriculture, eateries, breweries, and railroad towns. More...

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