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March 16th- On the Shoulders of Giants- Part 6

posted Mar 16, 2017, 2:35 PM by Sue Line RailRoad

This time I want to share with you a “Giant in the Hobby” that I have never met but who has had a tremendous influence on me and a large portion of the hobby: Dr. Geoff Bunza. 

Dr. Bunza is a master in animation of planes, trains, vehicles, cranes etc. on the layout.  He has had over 20-years’ experience in electronic systems and software development, management, and entrepreneurial experience. He is also currently serves as Director of Cambridge Engineering and a former General Manager and Vice President of Mentor Graphics and Synopsys.

You probably have read one of his numerous articles in Model Railroad Hobbyist.   In each article, this master animation specialist shows the project in detail.  I have read and re-read so many of his published pieces gleaning new information each time. Dr. Geoff Bunza is a soft-spoken, extremely patient, and helpful person who I have communicated with numerous times by email as he patiently helps me through a project. Dr. Bunza loves sharing his techniques and tips in making the non-rail aspects of a layout come to life.

Some of his projects include any animated crane, building animation with a cool party, animating a sea plane, animating a conductor, virtual rooms for models, animating a passenger car, building a 17 feature DCC decoder for about $5, building micro-scenes, animating a grade crossing, building a TV set for a model building, eliminating car light flicker, DCC control for random building lighting, a working HO scale helicopter, an updated rough car handling system, Low cost DCC Controller/Function generator, working scale dynamometer car, and additions to DCC base stations. His most recent project is Bob’s Barber Shop which appeared in Railroad Model Craftsman of March 2017. Most of these projects can be found on YouTube.

In addition, Dr. Geoff Bunza has presented such articles as Harry’s TV in which an OLED is converted into a TV screen playing shots of TV programs from the past, battery powered models in HO scale. Personally, one of the most enjoyable projects was the conversion of a keychain mp3 player into a Jumbotron for a softball field on the Sue Line.

That brings me to a couple of key points that I would like to share with you that Dr. Geoff Bunza reinforces through his projects.  Animation comes in two forms: repetition and randomness.  The proverbial circle of track around a Christmas tree is animation that is repetitious.  The turnouts, meets, yard work, etc. are the randomness that make our operating sessions so much fun.  One of the keys of being able to maintain a commitment for weekly operations on the Sue Line has been the randomness by which the story unfolds.  It is organized, it is recognizable, but nearly impossible to recreate two sessions alike.  That makes the railroad feel alive.

Animation on your layout should attempt to the same.  When one cannot recognize a pattern, then the action is always a surprise.  Dr. Geoff Bunza, through the ingenious combination of the use of Arduino technology, applies the same theory to layout animation and I suggest you do the same.   Just like an operating session, as we deploy lighting effects, animation of motorized vehicles, etc., we have attempted to avoid recognizable patterns.  Thus, at no time is the animation on the railroad “in sync” with everything else.

The second item learned is to be judicious with the application of these items.  At the end of the day, the animation of non-rail events on the layout should serve as background to the movement of the trains.  It’s easy to overdo.

Personally, what I’ve most enjoyed is being inspired to learn something new in the hobby.  Time has taken its toll and I am not able to crawl as easily under the layout as I might have been a couple of decades ago to do maintenance.  I suppose I could be mad about that fact, get bored, and drift away from the hobby.  However, Dr. Geoff Bunza’s projects have presented me with a new challenge that I can do and enjoy doing.  Perhaps you can find a new aspect of the hobby that will keep you from being so stiff about where your railroad and skills are.

In short, Dr. Geoff Bunza has again made me feel animated about the world’s greatest hobby.   So I stand on his shoulders, just in a random way.