Winter weather means model trains

Since moving house I’ve not had much time to spend preparing the attic for my model railway. At the weekend I finally finished the flooring necessary to walk around and set up the baseboard (largely thanks to a great mini-saw from Mac Allister).

In preparation for an enjoyable winter getting my trains up and running I decided to gather all of the boxes (moved or purchased) into one corner of the attic. It looks like Christmas has come early!

As you can see from some of the boxes I’m trying to move to DCC – I’ve grabbed a few decoders for the analog trains too so I should have a good fleet of digital controlled trains before the sun returns next year.

Installing XTrackCAD on OS X Yosemite

The open source track planning software XTrackCAD is a fantastic tool in anyone playing with model railways but without a stable release in 5 years it’s lagged a little behind Apple’s operating system updates. Installing on OS X 10.10 does not work out of the box but if you follow these steps you’ll have a running application in no time.

  1. Download and install the latest XQuartz

    You can get it from http://xquartz.macosforge.org.

  2. Download and install XTrackCAD as with earlier OS X installations

    The files are hosted on the project sourceforge page.

  3. Make sure you have allowed access to applications from any developers

    There are various instructions but try this walk through.

  4. Replace some out of date libraries in the XTrackCAD bundle

    Open a terminal and execute the following commands:

    cd /usr/lib
    cp libxml2.2.dylib  /Applications/XTrackCAD.app/Contents/Resources/lib/
    cp libiconv.2.dylib  /Applications/XTrackCAD.app/Contents/Resources/lib/
    cp libz.1.dylib  /Applications/XTrackCAD.app/Contents/Resources/lib/

There you go – everything should be working correctly after this. Thanks for the hints from tynewydd962 in the XTrackCAD forum.

Dinner was a train crash – literally!

Actually our Burns supper went very well. Michelle managed to feed 12 people and we fitted them into the dining room too. Unfortunately someone found the speed controls for the trains inside the dining table… A couple of fast corners later and see what happened… Thankfully everyone survived

Compiling XTrkCad from source on Mac OSX

Well it’s railway time and I’m finding that my plans are far more elaborate than ever before so I need a way of planning the layout so I can test various turnouts and track combinations before I have to start cutting track etc. No bother when there is great software out there to help you and XTrkCad is just such a great (and open source) piece of software – but why would I ever need to build it from scratch?

My problems seem to be related to 1) Apple OSX Lion changed a lot of the underlying libraries and it breaks XTrkCad and 2) I want to tweak the software and generally fix it up on Mac. So, if you are interested in this too please follow along!

    1. If you do not already have it install darwin ports to help manage various unix packages on Mac – head to http://www.macports.org/install.php and follow their instructions
  • Ensure that you have X11 installed on your Mac (comes with the install DVD but may not be installed by default)
  • Install some required software using ports:
    sudo port install mercurial gtk2 webkit-gtk
  • Get the XTrkCad source code
    hg clone http://xtrkcad-fork.hg.sourceforge.net:8000/hgroot/xtrkcad-fork/xtrkcad
  • Now we want to compile…
    cd xtrkcad
    cmake .
    sudo make install

    You can now run the program by executing /usr/local/bin/xtrkcad on the command line. If you would like to create a more familiar looking .app bundle then you should:

    make package
    sudo cp -r ./_CPack_Packages/Darwin/Bundle/xtrkcad-setup-4.2.0beta1-i386/XTrackCAD.app /Applications/

    Now you have the latest XTrkCad on your machine you can have a little fun. If this does not work out give me a shout and I will update my docs. I hope to get the app build updated on the website soon so this is not necessary by all users of XTrkCad in OSX Lion.

A shiny new live steam engine

Being a member of the OO Live Steam Club was bound to rub off eventually and it seems that it has, manifesting itself in a brand new “Silver Link” A4 Live Steam engine. This really is a magnificent beast and is a fine addition to my collection.

Silver Link

I steamed it up for the first time today and was surprised at how well it ran. The A4s give a much more pleasing pilar of steam from the chimney than the A3 line of models and the safety valves seems somehow more realistic.

Whilst the controls were a bit sticky at first they did improve once the oil had made it’s way round. The moving off was smooth from the outset which was a pleasant surprise and the top speed increased as the session progressed.

The only strange thing appears to be that it moves faster in reverse than forward but this is, I think, A timing issue and only a problem on a rolling road – on real track I could probably invert the action by pushing the engine in the direction I wish it to move off in.

Overall a great model which I encourage anyone interested in OO gauge trains or live steam to buy. Now to tidy off the oil spatter and put it back in the box until next time…

Flying Scotsman all steamed up!

So I unpacked the boxes and assembled the equipment to steam up my new Flying Scotsman for the first time. Oil and water added, switched on and the steam began to build. So many funny noises that we all stood back at first. Once it was up to pressure a reassuringly familiar steam valve sounded and the room started to fill with the nostalgic aroma of afternoon runs on a steam railway 🙂

Unfortunately it was not entirely straight forward from here – there were a few adjustments to be made as the regulator would not open when commanded to from the controls. A few brain storms later and a peek under the lid found the problem – a loose circuit board – which was easily fixed.

Once back together a new head of steam was built and the resulting video shows how realistic the model is. I will need to run it a few more times to get the hang of the controls and “run it in” before it gets near a real track.

I am looking forward to my attic filling with the reassuring smell of a seam locomotive!

Hornby Live Steam

The next step in model railways – Live Steam! Yes, a real steam powered engine in OO gauge – incredible engineering from Hornby. Unfortunately the line has been discontinued and the stock was all sold a little while ago. However the great guys at 2ktechnologies received a little extra stock that was found in the factory and offered a great price on these last chance packages and I snapped one up.

I am hoping to get it steamed up this weekend and if I manage I will post a video to show how these models work. Until then check out these shots of the set – a real collectors item!