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  1. Hi, here is the layout I'm building. It has 2 independent layers, with two independent control panels (placed on the left and right hand side). The idea is that my two kids can play at the same time. Everything will be operated by an Arduino Mega board. Speed and direction of the trains will be controlled thanks to two LR293D IC connected to the Arduino. I will do the coding according to the control panel I've designed. The two control panels have switches for lights and other things like red light or the cable car, but right now I'll go through to the main part that operate the trains. From left to right (as shown on the picture), there is a FULL TOP switch – the equivalent of a hand-brake a HARD BRAKE button – to quickly decrease the speed a SOFT BRAKE button – to gently decrease the speed a HOLD switch – when turned on, the train maintains the current speed, if not it will slowly decelerate (unless the "increase speed" is being pushed). a INCREASE SPEED button – to accelerate a DIRECTION switch – to go forward or backward I've made a little "back door" underneath the layout. The Arduino board and the other boards are fixed to this door. All the cables are labelled and converge there. I try to make it as clean & clear as I can, for maintenance, future improvements and especially troubleshooting while coding the Arduino. Also, the little door is convenient since the layout is stored vertically (I don't have a lot of room, nor a man's cave 😔). Anyway, I can easily work on the electronics and cabling, while the layout is upright against the wall. That's it for now. I'll post more details through the next steps. I'll happy to reply if you have questions. I do have a question for the community tough. I've used Minitrix flexible track nailed directly on the 5mm plywood. I wonder if I should have put cork underneath the track. What's the purpose of it? reduce noise? easy track replacement? On the other hand, some of my turns are tight, and the nails+plywood hold everything in place very well. Bye for now
  2. I decided to have a Kentucky Fried Christmas in Japan this year. While I have been in Japan in the two previous years during the summer, I have never been in Japan in early winter (the last 2 weeks of December). I do not wish to do skiing or any kind of mountaineering sport. My current itinerary is: Tokyo - Nagano (snow monkeys) - <unsure yet> - Okayama - Tokyo (during the 28 december - end of year quiet time). For this trip, we are not going to Hokkaido or Kyushu. Are there specific must sees that I should not miss while I am there? Is there a lot of snow usually in Japan in early December? (I guess, only Tohoku gets lots of snow), and do Joyful trains also run in this time? (I am pretty sure the Oykot train runs, but unsure, about any other Joyful trains, and schedules are not available for this December yet) While I am there, I will also try to go on the 500 EVA and E4 while it is still running. Tips are welcome! Update Is it also possible to book the Sunrise Seto/Izumo in Japan before the start and without having a JR pass? (i.e.: only book a reservation and ticket, without booking the ticket part which is covered with the JR pass?)
  3. The Chuo Line in Yamanashi Prefecture was re-opened today after being shut down for 3 days due to record levels of snowfall, the greatest amount since weather records began being taken in 1894. Scenes of snow-clearing at Yamanashi-Shi Station today; track-gang snow clearing is not normally seen in this part of the country, though it can be seen on the Japan Sea side, such as on the Joetsu Line past Gara-Yuzuwa, especially for clearing snow off station roofs and the like. EH200 on a snow clearing detail somewhere in the Kofu/Yamanashi-shi valley, yesterday:
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