Eurobricks Citizen
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About Toastie

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    Good Spirited
  • Birthday 02/17/62

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    LEGO, electronics, micro controllers, lasers, making things work


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  1. Santa Fe Super Chief MOC

    Wow!!! I thought that on the 6 wide scale TLG really came up with the best design. But: No. Not even close ... Your design is as much EMD F7 as it possibly can get! Congratulations. On the 6-wide scale, your design is topping everything I have seen. Regards, Thorsten
  2. Functional Coach Corridors (Technique)

    I tried to find a solution for this "issue" for (no kidding!) >decades<. This is it! Marvelous. Thank you very much for sharing! Best Thorsten
  3. Thank you all for your kind words! I am kinda surprised (although I surely hoped for!) that so many people do have their RCX' close by ... Well, that was part of the motivation for the entire install-frenzy: TLG never released a 64 bit USB tower driver. And their 32 bit driver does of course not work on 64 bit OS'. Which is really really bad, as this tower had some handy settings available (3 ranges, and more) plus, it also had a VIS LED that allowed communication via VLL and thus access to Code Pilot and MicroScout bricks. I was very frustrated when I learned that. But: The old serial tower is the work around. As new computers are hardly equipped with RS232 interfaces - particularly laptops - the USB2serial converter is the work around. The Mindstorms communication DLL VPBrick, which installs correctly with the Mindstorms SDK 2.5, is capable of talking to both 32bit USB as ports well as plain vanilla RS232 COM ports, I believe. And the FindPort command of VPBrick simply tries to first find any USB towers connected and then continues to find any serial towers - again I only believe from what I tried out. In short: The USB tower won't work on a 64 bit OS. Which original LEGO software are you referring to? The graphical Mindstorms software that came with the RIS1.0/1.5/2.0 sets? No, I did not try that simply because I had the impression that slightly more complex programs are hard to compose within this environment. This is why I used NQC from the very beginning. This is a little different with NXT-G; however, the GUI has serious issues with long spaghetti-like code (not the compiler) - that is taken care of by organizing the code up using MyBlocks. See for example here (links to the NXT-G software further down). Thanks again and all the best, Thorsten
  4. Dear All, LEGO lasts forever – assuming “forever” is exceeding 6 decades – which surely will happen (or has happened already?). I still have bricks from 1965 (my first LEGO set was #323 – a push along steam train running on rubber tires …) – that still have very good clutch, colors only very little faded – and seamlessly fit into 2017 sets. Almost as long as I live, LEGO has been part of my life. True, there were dark ages from the late 1970’s to 1996 – but then it instantly came back – everything: The excitement about a new model, just another LEGO box, new bricks, colors … and it never disappeared since then, in contrast. 1998 was the ultimate rush back into the LEGO world: The Mindstorms RIS system – the RCX (at that time without the “1.0” extension) – it blew my mind. And since then a somewhat larger collection of all themes has assembled over the past 20 years. Building over multiple themes is my brick-philosophy. During my dark ages computer technology became my favorite hobby. The “IBM PC” was lightyears out of reach but other miracle machines came up: The C64, the Sinclair ZX81 – and that one was within reach of my limited budget! 1 kByte of memory and a 16 kByte dynamic RAM extension I built myself. “Tri state TTL bidirectional bus drivers”, the 74LS243 – and no internet, that remained to be invented. And it went on – the ZX Spectrum with 16 kByte of on-board memory got a 64 kByte memory “upgrade” – switchable in two banks. It was fun. Today, TTL chips are fading out and 64 kByte would result in the worst digital “photo” ever … I am not whining – so many wonderful new things have emerged! What really shocked me though was when TLG did not even think about making a 64 bit driver for the “perfect” Mindstorms USB IR/VLL tower. That beautiful communication hub for all RCX1.0, 1.5, 2.0, Scout, Spybotics, MicroScout, CodePilot bricks one is truly dead since 64 bit operating systems have taken over. At least this is what I have learned from the internet after years of searching. The next shock came around 2002, when .NET came up and Microsoft said “no more VB6 development at all”. VB.NET was so different from what I knew. In the following years I stuck to VB6 … my fault, sure. But I am moving slowly as time for LEGO is rather limited. XP vanished, 32 bit OS came out of fashion – and all that cool stuff – the Mindstorms software, the NXT software, NQC for RCX, RobotC for RCX … and all my VB6 programs – almost “gone”. Well, I kept of course my Dell Latitude E6500 laptop running WinXP SP3 with all that stuff installed and I still have it! Carefully backed-up everything and there it is, slowly aging. I hardly like to play with that thing – I don’t want that it gives up, which will eventually happen of course. Yes I know: “Install XP within a virtual machine” – but that did not work to the extent I would like to use a “LEGO programming and playing workspace”. The one thing that changed everything were internet rumors about the old Mindstorms RS232 tower working well with NQC/BricxCC on a 64 bit Win7 machine. So for the past couple of days between Christmas and New Year’s I was browsing the net, installing this and that, copying stuff from my old XP machine … and: BINGO. It all works! Everything works on my rather new DELL Precision 7510 with Win10 Professional as OS. All the old-back-from-the-late-1990’s stuff! OK, I know, not everybody will be as excited as I am. But I believe LEGO lasts forever – and now all the software I love so much, as well as all my old-fashioned programmable bricks (there are currently 9 RCX1.0, 6 Scouts, 10 MicroScouts, and 1 NXT PBricks doing work on my train layout) are directly accessible from this laptop, and they are programmed/operated using NQC/BricxCC, NXC, NXT-G, RobotC, the Mindstorms SDK 2.5, and most importantly VB6 SP6 programs – all natively running on a Win10 64 bit platform. A dream came true. And for all old or old-fashioned Mindstorms PBrick heads, for all who never managed to get their head around .NET stuff, for all who still believe that RCX’ and Scouts are miracle thing: Here is how I got it to work: Assemble some software from the internet: BricxCC (free, latest version from 2011) The Mindstorms Software Developers Kit (SDK) 2.5 (free on Philo’s homepage) RobotC for RCX 2.03 (which is free as well). Don’t download the 32 bit tower driver. It won’t work. The NXT 64 bit driver from TLG VB6 SP6 from Microsoft VB6 cumulative update for SP6 from Microsoft Get out the original CDs for: VB6 (SP5 or higher) The NXT-G 2.0 software suite – if that is not at hand, TLG’s Mindstorms website has it Assemble some required hardware The Mindstorms RS232 tower. They came in 1998 with the original RIS system – and they are widely available at BrickLink for about $5. Don’t forget to put a fresh 9V battery into the battery compartment on the back. Slide the range knob on the front to the left (short range). An USB2RS232 converter – I tried a (randomly picked) LogiLink converter, which works just fine. A PBrick of type RCX, RCX1.5, RCX2.0, Scout, or Spybotics. The next steps are for proper tower access: Plugin the USB2RS232 converter into the computer and let it find and install the driver (either shipped with the converter or on the internet). Open device manager (Windows key + X, select “Device Manager”), expand the “Ports (COM and LPT)” section, find the “USB Serial Port (COM X)” entry, double click it, choose “Port settings” then “Advanced” and make sure the COM port for this device is in the range between 1 and 8. Otherwise BricxCC and other old programs will not find the USB/RS232 converter = IR tower! It cost me some time to figure that out. When all COM ports in this range are taken by other devices, move one of them to the next free COM port far up and then manually (modern hard/software has no issue using COM ports in the range exceeding COM 8!) assign the converter to the now free COM port in the 1 – 8 range. Plugin the IR tower cable into the USB2RS232 converter. Next is getting access to RCX, RCX2, Scout, and Spybotics PBricks via BricxCC – this will also let you download the latest RCX firmware is case it is “gone”: Install BricxCC (full install) – this comes with NQC and many more things, e.g., the RCX firmware downloader. Put a PBrick from the list above into the IR tower range, a couple of inches away. Start-up BricxCC – it will try to connect to an RCX PBrick and most probably fail (“Cannot find brick. Switch it on or move it closer and press OK”). Press “Cancel”. Select “Tools” in the menu, go to “Find brick” and in the window that opens, select the correct COM port manually. Also select the correct PBrick. An RCX, RCX1.5, or RCX2 without firmware will correctly reply to the “RCX-type” in this window. The LED in the tower should come on and the program should connect to the PBrick, which is shown by many of the menu icons now being enabled. Download firmware to the PBrick (RCX, RCX1.5, RCX2) and that is done. Next is RobotC – this very straight forward: Install the software and run it. Select menu entry “Robot” and then “Platform type”. This should be “LEGO Mindstorms RCX”. Select menu entry “View”, then “Preferences”, then “RCX communications port” and select the COM port you have the USB to serial converter on. Download the required RobotC RCX firmware – and done. Next ist NXT-G – again very straight forward: Install the NXT-G software. Install the 64 bit NXT driver – done. Finally VB 6 – this is a little more elaborate: Install the Mindstorms SDK 2.5 – this will register one essential DLL correctly (vpbcom.dll). I don’t know how many times I tried that manually – I am too old I guess. Don’t install any USB tower software – it won’t work. You can test a PBrick connection using the “ScriptEd” program – upon starting it, the IR Tower LED should come on. This program also lets you download firmware or monitor the IR tower. Very handy for checking things. Install VB 6 from the CD. Now the trick here is that a full default install won’t work. Follow the instructions of this youtube video. There are many others, but this worked for me. I did the install directly from the “VB6 Professional CD” I still had (the video assumes you have an enterprise version but that makes no difference). The single most important point is to uncheck either the entire “Data Access” check box during the preparation steps for the installation or select “Data Access”, click “Change Options” and uncheck the “ADO, RDS, OLE DB Data providers” entry. The let the install program do what it has to do and be patient at the end, when it attempts to register all sorts of things. That may take several minutes, at least on my machine. I had a cup of coffee, did some other things and when I came back, it successfully finished the install. Install VB6 SP6 in case it is not already on the CD. Install the cumulative patch for VB6 SP6 in case it is not already on the CD. Right click on the new VB6 icon in the start menu, go to “Properties” and select “Run in XP SP3 compatibility mode”. Run VB6. Open or start a new project, then select “Project”, “References” and then tick the “LEGO VPBrick 2.1 Type Library” – and access to the above PBricks is established! The Mindstorms SDK has a PDF explaining the calls to the routines you need for that (e.g. ”FindPort” or “OpenPort”. This is it. At least on my computer. There may some other things to do on other machines, but it really appears to be doable. Just in case you want to program with VB6 “forever” or more importantly run all of TLG’s miracle PBricks from the latest Microsoft OS … as I do. And Yes I know, neither Microsoft nor any decent programmer will endorse this, in contrast. But then: It wasn’t my fault that TLG never published a 64bit driver for the Mindstorms USB tower. Nor did Microsoft ask me whether or not it would be OK to abandon VB6. All the best Thorsten
  5. Lego Train 9V Extreme - ready!

    Thank you very much for your kind words. And I see what you mean by "not worth the effort" of additional wiring: With HC 1 in straight position, the yard can be operated properly! Very nice. So you scheme works very well upon paying attention to this little "extra". I don't know about opening a separate thread though - I guess the professional folks around here may have discussed that already somewhere buried in the endless pages of TrainTech. I did not search for that and felt safe, because my reply was relating to your specific - and for me very interesting and challenging - question. A new thread always means: I have something new. And who knows ... Good luck with your documentation. I always find it at least as hard to properly document complex things as to actually come up with such ideas. I guess creating and putting together something like this is an entirely different brain activity than documenting in a way that all still make sense after some time. Maybe after years. And it is so boring ... but I agree: Absolutely necessary. All the best and again thank you for sharing these beautiful pictures, movies and background information. And congratulations that you made it into public TV!!! Thorsten
  6. Well, has been around for a while - China stuff. Here's a website in German: There must be other sites as well advertising this thing. Comes with "PBrick", motors, sensors - and is dead cheap. No idea how this stuff behaves. I don't like clones. Best wishes Thorsten
  7. Lego Train 9V Extreme - ready!

    I am sorry that my final comment was unclear. All I am trying to say is, that there is no "fixed 0 V potential", or reference potential, as you know. When I was tinkering with the regulator I actually thought there is a "ground" or "0 V" fixed terminal and the other goes from -9 via 0 to +9V (I had hoped to read the voltage in a simple setup with an RCX input). But of course no, way too expensive: The electronic ground of the regulator circuit is simply flipped around when going from forward to reverse - in the drawings above, blue becomes red and vice versa. That is all! Best regards, Thorsten
  8. Lego Train 9V Extreme - ready!

    Thank you very much for the additional details, @Haddock51. I don't want to be a smart megablocks - here are just a few thought on your issues. I am also pretty sure that you have done all the math already. This is just an attempt to shed some light into the mysterious things that happened. Please ignore all that in case you have been there, did that and so on ... The LEGO points are - as far as I am concerned - weird, but I guess all metal rail systems do behave like that. Figure 1 shows the electrical layout of a 9V LEGO point - as far as I can tell from opening them up to remove the little nasty piece of ABS that makes the points hard to change direction: Figure 1: 9V LEGO switch point wiring, straight position. Note a) the permanently powered lines b) in straight the red line is switched, in branch the blue line. Figure 2 shows a simplified section of your layout and illustrates the case 1 scenario, along with the information you gave on the switch box and regulator wiring. (Please excuse my stupid drawings - I am using PowerPoint - this is all I know with regard to drawing stuff electronically). Just in case you have wired the "DD -" line as in the figure (and only then, i.e. blue is wired as shown, i.e. on the "inside" at feed T1, then only the train on yard 1 has power. Figure 2: Case 1 - only train in yard A is moving, as it should be. Figure 3 illustrates your case 2a - both trains are moving although only switch "Yd B" is closed. The thing is (provided wiring is as shown) that yard A gets power through the "DD -" common terminal (blue line) and the permantely powered red line via HC 1 L whereas yard B is powered through the "Yd B" switch and "DD -" Figure 3: Case 2a - both trains are moving although the "Yd A" is open. Figure 4 illustrates your case 2b. However, this one does not correctly explain the behavior you observed. What should happen is that both trains are moving. Figure 4: Case 2b - only yard B is powered although HC 2 is in branch position. Actually both yards should be powered. I believe you can rather easily take care of these issues (at least for case 2a) by switching both power lines with "2 x on/off" switches "Yd A" and "Yd B". Of course you'd need to do additional wiring ... With regard to 175 level layout - this is a reversing loop, right? The outside power line becomes the inside power line and you may create a short, depending on the S175 feed polarity with respect to further T-type feeds located somewhere else (???). Finally, things may even become more confusing when changing directions on the regulator. As far as I remember, the dial hardware (the "coded" copper conductors of the dial and the copper conductors on the printed circuit board) of the regulator actually reverses the entire power ("+" becomes "-" and vice versa). In the "stop" position power is completely removed from the outputs (both, "+" and "-"). In this case the common power block changes polarity as well in your setup and depending on the permanently powered lines of the points, this may create further issues. This is all pure speculation though and as I said, you may have been there already for a long time! All the best, Thorsten
  9. Lego Train 9V Extreme - ready!

    Not really, not with this complexity. 4 pages of dense information is simply too much. But maybe we can get closer to the mysterious behavior: Could you draw up a simplified Trackdesigner layout highlighting the problem? And the secondly: How are your power feeds wired to the power source(s) within this simplified scheme? There are certainly not as many feeds as there are sources (i.e., the 9V train speed regulators) so the feeds are probably bunched up and are connected to one source. Both wires? And: Do the switches you used interrupt both, the ground and +9V line? Or just one? A schematic would surely help. Best Thorsten
  10. Lego Train 9V Extreme - ready!

    When going to the extreme - and I have the impression this thread id fostering new powerful and current hungry solutions - you should also pay careful attention to the power delivery system for the tracks. As @Haddock51 has pointed out before, he distributes the power feeds very carefully and rather densely over the entire layout. Switch points as part of the entire circuit need particular care; I believe it is advisable to mount pairs power feeds not that far way from the switches in the main power consuming directions. The internal mechanism is sometimes a litte oxidized and this constitutes rapidly a "hot spot" as the heat production roughly scales with the square of the current. I have melted down a switch point upon accidentally producing a short. The LEGO regulators take (partly) care of that but when you go to custom power supplies (my layout is permanently powered by a 12 V / 10 A supply as I use 9V train motors for both, as power pickups and motor, which is operated by PF or RCX) for operation at high amperage, you should address this issue carefully. The same holds true for the original train track power feeds; when these are not having good contact (low resistance) to the metal rails, same thing may happen (and has happened to me - the feeds may actually deform to an extent that they don't have any contact at all to the track). If you don't mind using a soldering iron and don't have that many original power feeds at your disposal, I'd solder a custom power wire directly to the metal rail (on the outside). Works nicely, safes a lot of money (and trouble ...). Best whishes Thorsten
  11. LEGO Train Bogie Problem

    I haven't - could maybe work, but there are some doubts ... I believe that the difference with regard to the shopping trolley is: 4 individually pivoting wheels instead of a "two fixed-axle arrangement" in addition to "no rails in the supermarket". I believe that the two wheels on one axle may "jam" or better lock-up in the angled position when the friction forces (caused by the still pushing driving motor) overcome any realignment forces. SwengX said that this often happens when the train comes out of a curve, which then easily locks-up the axle position (due to friction). Man, all wrong nomenclature, and all just believes - where are the physicists or mechanical engineers when you need them? All the best Thorsten
  12. Lego Train 9V Extreme - ready!

    What I like so much regarding your approach when I saw your initial post, was the finesse of the finish of the wooden structure you built for the LEGO track. It takes so much time and skills to arrive at this finish. The whole wooden structure alone is a beauty in many regards: Your manifold skills, the perfection, the idea. The latter is the most important thing, but sometimes the artwork simply pushes into the front. Now hearing about your motivation, the believe in the 9V system pretty much makes me believe we both think entirely along the same lines: The potential of this system has - none what so ever - never been pursued in an appropriate way by TLG. But then: Cheaper, making millions - I guess they had to do it that way. Well they chose it that way. I truly believe in what you are saying: Pushing the limits. The thing is: Limits are set by yourself. And then may also appeal to others. Everyone has individual limits. Push them - I guess this is what you are saying. With the tools, capabilities, money, thoughts, ideas you have. It does not have to be insanely expensive - it just should be beyond and above - your own imagination. And that may be done just with a bucket of 2x4s ... With great pleasure I have followed this thread. Initially I thought: Pushing technology. Now I believe your are pushing imagination. That is my world. Honestly: When watching your (breathtaking) video (congratulations to you all!!!) the most impressive thing to me was seeing you: Carefully adjusting power, always watching the train ... with ease, sincere fun, and silent alertness. A wonderful project. And a masterful solution. Congratulations. Best wishes Thorsten
  13. LEGO Train Bogie Problem

    Entirely true! The options are quite subtle though: There are 4 different types of original LEGO rubber bands, red, yellow, blue, and white. And there are 1/2 stud lengths to adjust the "strength" of the forces exerted by the rubber band. And then there are the €3 boxes with myriads of rubber bands ... I don't know anything about the fixed axles of the real train - but I really believe that this train does not have to negotiate the real world extrapolation of LEGO curved track Regards Thorsten
  14. LEGO Train Bogie Problem

    Hi there, welcome to Eurobricks! that is the same problem people have with long freight or passenger cars when using only two axles. Without pivot point for each axle friction becomes readily too large. With pivot point as in your case you need some "restoring force" once the axle is not perpendicular to the tracks anymore (i.e. coming from a curved segment into a straight). This may be done with a rubber band - if you have any chance you should get hold of a copy of Holger Matthes' "The LEGO Trains Book", where he addresses exactly this problem. However, this is exactly true for cars only - since then the 1 axle front bogie is also forced (against the restoring force) into the curved position by the coupling to the train or preceding car/engine. I bet other people here have much better answers! Best wishes, Thorsten
  15. LEGO train bridges

    Thank you All for your very, very kind comments! It is so nice to be a part of this wonderful community. I really would like to make sure that I am nowhere even near a "master builder"!!! I take stuff that I have at hands and then use it. Hardly, I do Bricklinking - but sometimes. So colors are all off (I am terribly color blind, which makes life so much more easy); individual LEGO sets from "Traín", "Starwars", "The Lone Ranger", "Advent Calendars", "Toy Story", "City", "Mindstorms", LEGO stores "Pick-a-brick", bulk system bricks, whatever I find in normal and weird places on this planet, are all meaningless mingled ... Freestyle is my style, which is not any style at all, I guess. When there are "so many" yellow DUPLO bricks allowing me to make 4 bridge pylons - check (there are no yellow brick pylons in the world ...) and so on ... You know what? In the beginning I was not very pleased with that space. But: I volunteered. So live with it ... then I soon realized that nobody of the family really cared what I was doing up there - which gives you a lot of freedom Further on, I began to like building "through" furniture. Actually it is really interesting to structurally challenge - well and then reinforce - IKEA stuff After a couple of years it was and still is pure fun ... Thank you very much! I bet there are better means of using Monorail pieces - I just never really got into it. @JopieK used the curved pieces for a turntable construction, which is much more appropriate than this ... OK, checked in with mission control: No chance ... man, there is so much space in the living room - and so many pieces of furniture I could cut through ... on the other hand: It never came to my mind ... cutting through the roof - hmmm - doable - very doable - very, very, very doable ... I will begin construction drawings soon. Stay tuned ... Emanuele - you are always too kind. You build things I can't even grasp - and have no clue how you do it. But as always: Thank you very much for your - again as always - very kind words. Yeah, when I started to really like it, it was exactly as you said! Thank you for your kind words. I should put some more images of the "behind shelves wood-work" on Brickshelf. Was fun. Oh, the lift. No it wasn't a teaser. It actually is (for the moment) just the "landing post" for the bridge. It works though. What it could do is "connect" a floor level consisting of two parallel tracks with the "traffic level" I am using currently - as well as connect to an elevated track level consisting again of two parallel tracks. It features a very low gear ratio driving mechanism, which allows an PF-M motor to move all that stuff, two PF-M motors driven "clamps" to secure the lift position, so derails become rather unlikely. I am very happy to post more on this, but it has been sitting around unused for almost 4 years: No space for the lower/upper level tracks. But when I open up the roof and expand into space ... Thank you very much! Oh, it does not depend on the size so much. It is all about the pitched roof area. On one hand that restricts what one can put in, on the other hand - you always have a ceiling nearby where you may want to attach things to. Should maybe post a couple of images on this as well: Planes, pod racers ... Best wishes, Thorsten