Tuscarora Railroad

The Tuscarora Railroad is a 1:20.3 garden railroad located in suburban Denver, Colorado. The railroad is based on the East Broad Top RR which still operates today as a tourist line in Orbisonia, PA (south-central PA). Be sure to check out Garden Railway Basics , Kevin's book on building and maintaining garden railroads for information on how the TRR was built.

Location: Denver, CO

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Night Running

Since last summer, I've been experimenting with using Lithium Ion (Li-Ion) batteries for my trains instead of the Nickel Metal-Hydride (Ni-MH) batteries I had been using. They're a bit more expensive (around $45 per pack or more for higher capacities), but they're much smaller and lighter, meaning I can squeeze them into much tighter installations. I bought a pack for EBT #1, and since last year it's been wonderful. It's a 4.4 amp-hour pack, and I'm getting 7+ hour run times with it. So, this spring, my dad wanted to buy some batteries for his railroad, so I piggy-backed on his order to get a "volume discount" (a whopping $2 per pack!), and decided to completely switch my entire fleet over to the new technology. This wasn't too terribly difficult, as the packs are smaller than the Ni-MH batteries they're replacing. I just had to go in and re-wire the power inputs.

The biggest advantage (besides size) of the Li-Ion batteries is that they hold their charge for a long time. They don't go flat between charging the way other batteries do. That means I don't have to "plan" to run my railroad by charging batteries 4 hours in advance. If I want to run, I just grab a locomotive off the shelf and put it down in the garden.

More often than not of late, this happens when I get home from work, which is usually around 11pm or so. I've always had party lights strung along the fence for night running, but it was usually just something I did if I'd been running all day. They cast a rather dim, warmly lit glow over the railroad which is quite nice to look at. (The photographer in me would prefer the cool look of the blue-ish LEDs for the overall light to mimic the moonlight.)

Anyway, running at night was a rarity, so I never really planned the railroad to accommodate night running. Only one of my cabooses has lights, none of my passenger cars do yet, and my buildings aren't lit, either. (None have interiors.) And all of a sudden, I find myself running more at night than I do during the day. It's really brought the lack of lights on the trains to my attention. I just bought a new caboose at a swap meet today, and it's going to have a rudimentary interior and lights. I gotta figure out how to get lights into some of my buildings, particularly my stations. I've got a bunch of "warm white" LED Christmas lights which are ideal for the warm glow of kerosene or oil lamps. (I model the early 1910s. Electricity had not yet made its appearance.)

So now, I'm contemplating ways to correct that. It's got to be simple, that's the issue. I don't want to have to turn on a bunch of batteries for each building. I want a "flick of the switch" solution. The rolling stock will get lights over time, but the buildings need something. (The flashlights shining in the back windows work great for photos, but...) I don't have a lot of buildings, either, but I can definitely see my scenes being brought to life by a light inside and a signal lamp on the outside casting a green and red glow down the line.