It's time to RE-ANIMATE!

Discussion in 'HO Scale Model Trains' started by Dave Flinn, Feb 12, 2001.

  1. Dave Flinn

    Dave Flinn Member

    George et al:

    Just to let you know, there IS movement out there in layouts. I've seen quite a few animated layouts, or portions thereof, over the past few years. Some of the best seem to be N scale modules.

    Maybe you and I just haven't been going to the same shows <G>.
  2. Drew1125

    Drew1125 Active Member

    Hey, George!
    Thought I'd relate this little story -
    A couple of years ago, I stopped in a hobby shop, & this guy had an N scale display layout with an airport as kind of a central feature. Hidden in the scenery, was a little electric motor with a length of fairly stiff blackened brass wire attached. At the other end of the wire, a tiny bi-plane slowly circled the N scale hills & valleys. I thought it was a cool idea.
  3. Railery

    Railery Member

    Yep animation and mechanization. My first HO set was made by Lionel. They had a rocket car (which fired a rocket at a dynamite car, which if it right would explode), a helicopter car that would send its heli up into the air, wood and coal dumping cars that dumped their loads, rotating beacon light. I still have these cars, there not proto but for kids they are fun.

    Animation that i use today is a gas pumping well, flashing lights for signs, the fair grounds with it's rides, a frieght car on fire, harbour beacon, a lift bridge and many sounds around the layout played by individual walkmans.

    i looked into moving cars and there is a german manufacturer that sells a system but it is expensive. i think it makes use of an electro magnet system.

    i like animation in a layout. One of my reasons for going to model train shows. SuperTrain 2001 will have many exhibits and layouts and some are animated. One last year had a plane going around in a circle on a layout. One of my favorite exibits is the Edmonton modular HO layout. Its huge but the modelers incorporate everything. Its just great to see.

    Nothing wrong with drawing a horse drawn cariage along a belt or wire system. To me animation gives life to the layout. But thats why i like freelance [​IMG] i'm just a big kid when it comes to trains [​IMG]
  4. George

    George Member


    Regardless of your chosen scale, it's what makes a scene of plastic, metal and wire come to life. Of everything we read on this site, as well as others, there's an acute lack of information being shared regarding moving objects in layouts.

    Animation seems to have been sacrificed in the past twenty years in favour of more highly detailed scenes. For my taste, it would seem there's a fair degree of overkill in this area, with excessive garbage and detail crossing the line to clutter. I find clutter makes the scene unrealistic to the point of being almost surrealistic. Look in the pages of the magazines and you will see excessive numbers of people in strange parts of town at a strange time of day, or garbage in the streets of what might be an upscale neighbourhood. Some of this over detailing seems inspired by pseudo Spielbergian set designers, rather than anchored in any semblance of reality

    Now I'm getting away from my intended point. Yes, clutter is a problem, but people have gotten so wrapped up in it, that NOTHING EXCEPT THE TRAIN MOVES ANYMORE.

    Some years ago, the magazine pages catering to this hobby were filled with mechanized ideas. Concepts wre driven by everything from small motors to rubberbands triggered almost by magic to move something. I don't think I've seen a mechanized mine or even a turning windmill on a farm for at least 25 years. I wonder what happened?

    We used to read, and see ideas on layouts that were almost unique, and indeed ingenious. There was the small motor used to agitate the wire in the hands of an "HO" figure in a field. At the other end, a kite lazily wafted in the wind high above the ground. On another layout I saw people ascending and descending an escalator on an endless belt. Some rush hour! I've mentioned the use of "HO" scale slot cars in another thread which has virtually fallen on deaf ears. Moving cars on layouts was widespread in the 60's, and they were'[nt being raced. Then there was my all time favourite sight. At a local layout, the host called everyone's attention to a platform (sans roof) with a sizeable crowd of passengers awaiting, facing the direction of an oncoming train. Once the train pulled in, blocking the view of the platform, a button was pushed and a small motor spun the platform around to an identical structure fastened underneath. When the train departed, the large crowd facing the direction of the arriving train was gone, replaced by a virtually empty platform with a few figures heading towards the station. Now that was REALLY NEAT to see!

    Most animation is unexpected. That's what helps make a layout memorable.

    Not only electrical motors were used, but there were all kinds of projects using magnets to move objects from unseen sources as well as hydraulics. One article years ago told of using simple doctors syringes and plastic tubing filled with water to simulate a working auto mechanics lift.

    These days, commercially animated kits are available from Faller with revolving signs, a working gravel belt and mine, amusement rides such as bumper cars and even a swimming pool filled with moving swimmers. From the states, IHC has a large selection of amusement park rides with a generous offering of midway booths. These are all very nice, but most people do not want to devote large segments of "real estate" to unsightly industries, or the circus.

    People have become far too involved with the CMRI (Computer Model Railroad Interface) while trying to fully automate train operations, or exploring DCC. These innovations to the hobby are technologically revolutionary, however we've become far too dependent on them. This facet of the hobby is not only taking us away from running a train as it is, but from what makes a layout magicllyunique as well.

    I'd like to hear about what you have done, and what you've seen. You can't make the little guy on the observation platform wave, but the multitude of possiblities for animation are endless.

    Let's get back to basics and get things moving again! [​IMG]

  5. George

    George Member

    Hello Guys!

    Dave brings up an interesting observation. He's right about a greater abundance of attempted animation in "N" scale. I wonder why that is? As for flight, I've always wanted to get a model of the Hindenberg and have that floating over the trains.

    Railery, that Faller auto system isn't as expensive as you think,(but with GST it is!).
    The price has come way down as it's popularity doesn't seem to have been what they had hoped. The only trouble with it again is the vehicle offerings are solely European and contemporary. Now the problem if you invest in the system is , how long will they support the product?

    When will they learn?

  6. Shay2

    Shay2 Member

    Hi George!
    I couldn't agree more.
    I built and installed a Tram on both my O and HO layouts. They take up very little room as I run them from Mountain to Mountain with only a ski shack at each end. They are tripped with a timer to run every 20 seconds as long as a loco is running.
    I plan on moving a Log Dozer, in my lumber yard, hooked to an under-table linear slide.
    Always interested in ideas and animation.
  7. BobMcD

    BobMcD Member

    Great ideas! Even one small animation can really delight viewers because it is unexpected, as George pointed out. If it takes a couple of moments to spot, so much the better.

    Humans are very good at seeing motion (from our hunting days long ago, I suppose), and it will draw attention. So put some of your best work around the animation, because it WILL be looked at by all.

    By the way, I see DCC as HELPING animation rather than taking time away from it. For me, DCC makes wiring much easier, and lets me focus on the train and scenery when operating, rather than throwing switches at a furious pace.

  8. George

    George Member

    Hello Bob!

    TAG! YOU'RE IT! I admit to being a DCC-o-phobe, but I'm not a technophob. Sell me on why I should go with DCC, everyone needs to hear more from people already involved in it.

    DCC scares the hell out of me. All I see is a major $$$crash$$$ occuring while someone's babbling in your ear, or you're looking at something else. With CMRI, you can program everything including switches so you don't have to do anything at all. If you're going to do that, why not go and watch a movie channel? CMRI is probably the way to go for shows, certainly any form of industrial expo.
    Has Microsoft developed any specific Sfw. for this activity as far as anyone knows?

    Hello Shay2!

    You're "moving" in the right direction. The tram is a great tool for adding diversity to a layout.

    What are you modelling around the tram?

  9. BobMcD

    BobMcD Member

    Well George, I'm no expert at DCC, just studying and considering it for my own use. I like the idea of using wireless controllers so I can follow my train around the layout. That way I can control it while standing next to it, without me or someone having to throw electrical switches for track blocks it'll travel through. I find that throwing the electrical switches tends to take my eyes off my train, and for newcomers it's almost impossibly complicated. As a result, operations are a little helter-skelter, and sometimes a train runs over a block boundary into another block being controlled by another engineer, at which point I've lost it and can't control it any longer.

    With DCC, the blocks, the block wiring, and the block switches aren't necessary. My throttle just controls my train. Yes, I can pull up behind another loco or train, and I must stop my train to avoid a collision. But that's part of what operating a train is all about. Just like driving a car, I must pay SOME attention to what I'm doing, or else stop my train and hold my conversation.

    Getting rid of that impossibly complex wiring behind a block control board is a major plus, for me. I'd like to hear other opinions, though.

  10. George

    George Member

    Good logic Bob! I guess for a larger layout where you need several people to run it, DCC is a positive.

    For me to equip my inventory at this stage is cost prohibitive. Plus, I can't solder worth a skunks tail, and until recently, only ROCO was ready for it without a major project evolving out of installation. I won't sell everything and go with new gear either. Too bad DCC wasn't around 30 years ago.

    I agree with Bob about hearing more about DCC, but HEY!! We're here to talk about ANIMATION! [​IMG]

  11. Railery

    Railery Member

    Well guys i have a digitrax system. And yes it is very very expensive. Two years ago i bought the system and only installed it August of last year. The components for the system are reasonable. Its the converting. 60 engines at an average price of $30 and if u have someone else do it because u may be too busy add another $30.

    Installing decoders in the new engines is still a pain. Half the time they don't fit or the wires need to be cut or u have to hard wire the trucks. So be prepared to solder, it ain't plug n play.

    The manufacturers can't make up their minds either. To plug or not to plug. But now most of them are and like atlas, including the decoder.

    Those are the common gripes.

    The good news, once u have the system and some engines wired; Your in heaven. i find it to be so musch fun. The engines seem to run better and the realism is too much. Your engines can have multiple lights. Ditch, becons, flashing or not, all at the same time. Its great.

    The bus wiring makes the system easy to install and if your really into it u can hook up your switches and computer to the system.

    My only suggestion is to convert or start buying decoders now so that by the time u do convert the cost won't hit u all at once.

    DCC all the way [​IMG] [​IMG]
  12. Virginian

    Virginian Member

    Hi, Y'all
    I'm not modeling HO, but the DCC conversation is of interest to me. I'm a 'newbee' to model railroading. Though I've been interested for many years, and had my first train at about 6, I've kinda kept up by browsing hobbyshops over the years, but there's a lot of tecnical inovations, esp. electronic, that I'm terrribly behind the times on. So..
    I'd like like to find out more about first loco is DCC ready (not a consideration when I bought it; prototype,Road, and availability were the only's an undecorated Trainmaster,Nscale,Atlas, by the way.)
    Can anyone recommend books and/or magazines for the basics? Of course, if anyone out there wants to reply by 'the-gauge', I'll be checkin' back! I think I'll post a new topic on the 'tech. Q&A' page also, reply there if you want.
    I'm sure there's bound to be a few other electronically backwards old farts readin' these pages! [​IMG] [​IMG] so maybe whatever anybody wants to say will be helpful to others besides me.
    Virginian [​IMG] (no sun today!)

    [This message has been edited by Virginian (edited 02-20-2001).]

    [This message has been edited by Virginian (edited 02-20-2001).]
  13. George

    George Member

    Hello Railery!

    I have to agree with you that anyone getting started probably should go with DCC from the beginning. Like you, most of the people I now of who have purchased DCC have gone with Digitrax, however I have also heard favourable opinions of the LENZ system which is prevalent in Europe. Do you know of anyone using LENZ?

    Regarding your price of $30 for the decoder per unit, I've got to ask you this. Do you mail order them from the states, or is that the price you're paying locally including GST?

    All The Best,

  14. George

    George Member


    Start with DCC so the cost isn't crippling in the future were you to make a sudden switch.

    Look for literature from Digitrax and go step by step. I'd recommend MRC, but I think their system is severely limited to only 12 loco's (I could be mistaken) and over time, you're going to probably accumulate more than 12.

    Does anyone out there remember the Hornby Zero-One System from 1980?

  15. Dave Harris

    Dave Harris Member

    George, are you from Las Vegas? The station you describe sounds like the one Linn Austin built on the Toole Springs & Western. Since then we have added a Fish Cannery with an operating wall clock in the office. A terminal/warehouse/railroad ticket office with an operating 4 blade ceiling fan, a window vent fan, and 3 rotating cyclone style roof vents. The window fan cycles on
    & off, when it is on the ceiling fan runs a bit slower. There are also 2 operating lift bridges on the layout,& soon to be a operating auto lift (grease rack) We are thinking about animating a figure (HO)of a man who turns his head to watch one of the bridges raise or lower. I plan to do this with some of the wire that expands when a small current is applied & contracts when shut off. Oh yes ,I forgot there is also an operating R/R car ferry. L.V Dave

    L V Dave
  16. shamus

    shamus Registered Member

    Here's an idea for you, I just bought Model Powers smoke generators and smoke oil. When I got indoors, I thought - wait a minuet, this would make a great animated effect for my sawmill. So I set about making a chimney out of brass, painted it, then installed the smoke generator into it. Coupled up a 6volt transformer and switch - put a couple of drops of smoke oil into the generator and flicked the switch. WOW, I now have a sawmill with a smoking chimney.
  17. George

    George Member

    Hello Dave!

    No, nowhere near Vegas. You're certainly on the "Right Track" [​IMG] with your animation efforts. The best interior animation I've ever seen was a barbershop interior where the chair made a half turn occasionally.

    Hey Shamus! Did I ever tell you about the time a friend and I ran out of Bachmann smoke oil and this guy offered a substitute? He squirted a blast of WD40 into the mechanism of my Bachmann Niagara and it belched smoke like the real thing and it lasted significantly longer than the Bachmann smoke oil does! I'd strongly recommend it for photography, except you MUST do it outdoors.

    We couldn't get the stench out of the apartment for a month! [​IMG]

  18. Dave Harris

    Dave Harris Member

    George, I just reread your post , guess one you saw went a little further than we did. We did not rotate the whole station, only the platform. It has a self leveling device & the joints fit tight enough you almost can't see the separation even knowing it's there. Your guys went to a whole lot more work to do a whole station. WOW! The barber chair sounds neat. If I had a scanner I would show you The Toole Springs & Western decorated for Xmas. I found a picture of The Cartier Jewelers building in N.Y. "wrapped for Xmas" about 1937. It had a big red velvet ribbon & bow around the entire bldg just below the top & down the front, nutcracker soldiers on the ledges between all windows , wreathes in all windows. Two of us decided to surprise all the rest & the day before our Xmas party, We "DID" the Toole Springs Bank Almost identical to the picture, We even added a 1-1/2in. decorated & lighted Xmas Tree. If somebody would like I'll snail mail pics & they could post them. Anybody? LV Dave

    L V Dave
  19. Railery

    Railery Member

    George i get my digitrax stuff from, The Dispatcher, in Calgary,AB. If i buy five decoders at a time it costs 130 including gst. But individually they run 30 ea. including gst.
  20. Railery

    Railery Member

    George i get my digitrax stuff from, The Dispatcher, in Calgary,AB. If i buy five decoders at a time it costs 130 including gst. But individually they run 30 ea. including gst.

Share This Page