Monday, September 23, 2013

Lights, Sounds & Details for Thunder Mesa Depot

Well, I think I can safely say that Thunder Mesa Depot is now finished. Of course, there are always more details to add and little things to tweak but the project has now reached that point where I'm ready to move on to the next thing.

The platform is detailed, the signs are hung, the roof is weathered and the lights are on. Yup, looks finished to me.

Details, Details, Details

I like loads of detail in my structures, both to give them character and to help tell the story. This last week was spent creating lots of little details for the depot.

Platform details. These are mostly resin and white metal castings from various sources, painted with artists acrylics. I use an airbrush to get even coverage and some variations in the color. The tinier details were painted with a tiny brush. 

More platform details. The big trunks are castings from Wiseman. Some of the smaller suitcases were made from bits of strip-wood with music wire handles.

You can paint just about anything with acrylics, but wood, metal and plastic all need to be primed first. This batch of details has just been primed with a rattle-can enamel. 

Pot-bellied stove and coffeepot for the depot.

Stove and other details installed inside. 

A broom for sweeping up. 

Signs and smoke-jack ready to install.  The signs are made from paper, wire and wood. The smoke-jack is from Grandt Line.

Lights and Sounds

With a detailed interior like this, it's nice if people can actually see it. I decided to add LED lighting to the structure, along with some digital telegraph sounds with an ITT Products sound module.


LED lighting. One of the bulbs provides a lantern-like flicker.

The interior is lit by one 5mm yellow LED and one 5mm flickering LED. The covered waiting area has its own 5mm LED. The yellow bulbs are very diffused at 360º while the flicker bulb is more focused. Wiring for LEDs is pretty straightforward once you figure out that they are polarity specific and every bulb must have its own resistor. The resistors in this case are 510 ohm to match up with a 9 -12v DC power source. The tricky part is soldering all of the tiny components without burning out the LEDs. I tin all of the pieces to be soldered beforehand and use a heat sink (wet paper towel). Tinning with solder beforehand means you only have to touch the components with a hot iron for a second or less to get a good bond.

The LEDs provide a nice warm glow.

Only one flicker bulb was used because a little flicker goes a long way.

The wires run down through the walls, through the platform, and beneath the layout. Since LEDs are polarity specific, it was important to keep track of which wire was which - red for positive, black for negative. A mini-plug connector was used to hook up to the effects control panel. This allows the structure to be easily removed from the layout if necessary. The white dots insure proper polarity alignment. The sound unit is hard-wired beneath the layout and not physically attached to the depot.

Here are the components of the ITTP sound system, a 9v DC transformer (also used for the lights) the sound module and a 2" speaker. Hook-up was super easy and the sound is great. I can highly recommend ITT Products.

The sound module was mounted below the layout with 3M foam tape. It doesn't really matter where this goes, what's important is the placement of the speaker. I put mine directly beneath the depot platform (the pink foam makes a great resonator). I had originally planned to cram the speaker in under the roof along with the lighting but there was no need and it actually sounds better where it is. 

And here is my hi-tech special effects control panel! Actually, the real panel is yet to be built and will control all of the lighting, sound and animation effects in Thunder Mesa. In the meantime, this good old, well used, highly temporary Atlas Connector performs the necessary on/off duties.

Okay! I think that covers it for the Thunder Mesa Depot project. It's amazing how much can be packed in to such a small structure. Thanks for stopping in! Here's two more for the road.



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