Sunday, September 26, 2010

He's Baaaack!

Well I have just spent an enjoyable(?) week in Sydney. Last monday morning we boarded the Sydney bound XPT from Roma Street and while raining in Brisbane in the morning, the further south we went the less rain there was.
Our XPT at Roma Street Station

The sun was out by the mid afternoon. Monday night we arrived in Sydney. On the way down, I took lots of notes on the scenery on the north coast coupled with some photos through the train windows and I have some photos to assist with my modelling. We also crossed a few freights, saw a few wagons in sidings here and there and the trip was rather enjoyable, although boring for the kids at times - all they wanted to do was eat.
The kids in the train

The kids were tuckered out by the time we arrived in Sydney, but with a couple of hours of sleep after dinner from just before Newcastle, they awoke to assist with the pulling of their own kids suitcases to the local hotel a couple of hundred metres from Central. We then did 3 days of touristy things over the next four, with three-quarter of a day on the other day allocated to me to visit the train shops alone. With two young kids with not much to do in the hotel room, between their early 6:00am rise and us hitting the road (or track or busses) around 9:00am each day and they were pretty noisy and kept doing things that annoyed the boss and myself - but then again they are kids and I suppose they were not that bad. They enjoyed the various sights, the trains, busses, ferries, the trips to Manly and Bondi.

Just outside Kyogle.  The road underbridge (The Summerland Way) and Pratt Truss bridge I have modelled in the distance

Luckily as it turned out we came home on Saturday on the 12:00 noon Virgin Blue flight. It appears that all Virgin flights have been delayed today (Sunday) for long periods of time due to a computer issue. It was the first flight for the kids and they enjoyed it. My son wants to fly next time, but my daughter in not so sure as it was a bit bumpy with all the cloud while descending into Brisbane. We used the train to the airport in Sydney, the train to the airport from Brisbane Airport to the Roma Street station in the city followed by two busses home. By the end (3:25pm) the kids were pretty tired, but not too tired as about 1 hour later two of their cousins came over and they were very happy running around again. The kids got a free trip home as none of the Bus drivers wanted to charge them on the busses we caught home as the wife and I had Go Cards and just tagged on and off from the airport on the train and bus all the way home - certainly a lot cheaper than a $100 taxi fare home but at the expense of an extra 30-40 minutes travel time.

While in Sydney we were able to catch numerous trains from Central to Circular Quay and back again, as well as other city stations. On Thursday morning, I hit the train and visited, Casula Hobbies, with a train trip to Liverpool. From here I caught the train back to Granville before heading back to Parramatta to visit Bergs Hobbies. From there I caught another train to Strathfield before getting on a Hornsby service to West Ryde to visit Tom Hobbies. So on my way home I just caught a train to the city and went back to the hotel and bedlam and tried to have a rest.

So Joe had a great range of detail items and kits and is certainly a true gentleman and very welcoming in his shop. I picked up a few bits and pieces for my modelling including the windows and water tank detail parts for his station building. I thought Bergs had lots of nice second hand models that were just slightly over priced for my liking, but who knows they might be getting a good turn over. That sort of thing is certainly lacking in Brisbane. At Tom's there are some real bargains in the bits and pieces area with lots of containers in pairs for $5. I did purchase a 44 Class shell and I will build a dummy mechanism for it so I can add it to the shafts of my loco combinations. I also visited Hobbyco as it was just down the road from where we were staying. I like looking at their display of miniature figures from the various brands at what I consider a good price.

I have already downloaded my and my daughters photos from the trip, assembled a 20,000 gallon water tank a got from Joe's, and caught up with my email. Hopefully I'm ready for a week of modelling.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Realistic Operation of a Layout

I certainly enjoy reading all the updates in the various blogs that I follow from my blog. Last Monday, Bob from the Coolah Branch, posted about his new method of staff control that he had devised for his layout. I always wanted to do something similar, but I was wary of how the real staff instruments worked and the issue if we had a single staff and I had two trains following in the same direction and the staff for a section was at the opposite end of the section. I also know that the railway had issues with this at times. 

So I got thinking. Now on my layout, during operating sessions, we have had the situation occur where we had corn field meets. Two drivers had left their particular loops at the same time, and met half way. So someone then needed to back up to the previous crossing loop - very interesting indeed. On most of my loops you cannot see the next loop, and you have no idea if a train is heading towards you or not. In a full operating session in the future, if I have enough people, someone will be 'North Coast Control' and track and authorise all train movements over this allocated territory (my layout). It is possible that if I have enough people I could have two controllers - one for the Main Line and one for the Murwillumbah branch. However, at every session we have had so far, we have only had drivers and no controller. I have not completed the wrap around control panel for the controller. I have diagrams for each crossing loop, a first draft timetable, a metal panel that the pictures of the track plan will be stuck onto and lots of magnets to represent each train number in use, and its direction of travel. Besides, I may not have enough people sometimes to even have a controller, so everyone may just work themselves through the loops until they get to their destination.  This will be the case when one to guys come over to run a train.

So I thought about taking Bob's idea just that little bit further. I wanted to simulate a staff machine at each end of the section. In my DCC world, a train can go anywhere, I just hope the driver follows the rules of my railway and ensures he has the correct permission, either from the Controller or the staff machine for a section, before he enters it. When looking at a staff machine, you could determine if the line was 'Clear' or 'In Use'. So in my signal boxes (or the layout facia), you would have two LEDs; a green one for 'Line Clear' and a red one for 'Train in Section'. Each staff machine was actually a double pole double throw switch. When the switches at either end of the block were either both up or both down, you would get a green LED at each end of the section. When a driver wished to leave the loop, if he had a green light, he would throw his switch to simulate 'removing a staff' and the LEDs at each end would turn red. He they had authority so he could then start his journey. If another train arrived at the loop at either end of the section, and saw that the red LED was lit, he knew there was a train in the section that he wished to enter. So he would have to wait until the LED turned green, when the staff was returned to the staff machine. So the driver of the train 'with the staff', when he got to the other end of the section, he had to sink his staff in the staff machine. This occured by the driver flipping the switch at that end of the section, and both LEDs would go from red to green. The section was now trafficable by another train, and it did not matter what end he wanted to travel from.

So I have made a basic model of two sections of the line on a piece of styrene. The only issue I have is that at the moment, without using basic logic, i.e relays, Logic chips, etc. I need four seperate power supplies for each section. I will try and see if I can get away with less. So at the end of each operating session I need to turn these power supplies off - easily done by inserting a switch in one power supply and ensuring the staff machines are set to this combination (e.g. both switches up). Now that is fine with one section, but my layout has 11 sections. That does not include the various intermediate small shunting sidings, I'm not sure how I handle these - maybe cut these in from time to time, so that via a master switch, the sections can be divided.  That is something to think about in the future.

Below is a sequence of 5 photos showing a train running from the right most loop right to left most loop through the two single line sections.  This is just an experiment at this stage.

All switches at top position - 2 blocks showing 'Line Clear'

Staff removed from block on the right.  Switch moved up.  Lights indicate 'Line in Use' on right hand block

Train arrives at the central loop.  Staff returned and switch reversed to top position.  Both sections showing 'Line Clear' again

Staff removed again, this time for the left section.  Switch placed up and 'Line in Use' shown on left hand loop

Train arrived at left hand loop.  Staff returned and switch reversed, and 'Line Clear' is shown again

I will run this by the boys at the next Tuesday Nighters get together. That will not be until 2 plus weeks as almost everyone except 3 people will be away with Qld School holidays. I will be in NSW catching a train around Sydney and visiting the 4 major train shops.

Can anyone advise how to simplify the power supply situation?

Sunday, September 12, 2010

It Works!

So far this week I have had only one quick visit to the shed and it was this afternoon for about an hour.  I ran a couple of trains across the new Upper Richmond River Bridge.  It works!  The bridge could sustain the weight of a triple header of 44 Class locos and ten ballast wagons with a guards van.  Next weekend I may have to try a few heavier locos like an NR and the Garratt.


Tuesday this week gone was Tuesday Nighters. We visited Lefty & Son's house (the next suburb up the road) and discussions were many and varied. It was not unusual to have 3 different conversations occuring around the table at the same time, while "& Son" was replacing drive gear in a bachmann shay. After this operation, the loco ran very well. It was sitting on the layout in speed step 1 just with the driving gear turning over. If you did not see the gears turning you would not have known it was moving. However, if you looked in a few minutes it was 6-12 inches down the track and you thought that was strange, wasn't that somewhere else last time I looked.  So "& Son" did a good job.

Yesterday was Club meeting day. So on my way to the Club approx 50km from home (depending upon which route I take), I visited Greg's place from Greg's Railway Modelling Musings. Greg has his two layouts that are currently under construction in his shed out the back of his place. One is his son's and the other is his.

When we got to the club, conversation turned to the new Clubroom layout that will go into the new clubroom extension currently about to erected this week or next. We currently have the new slab laid out the back of the current clubrooms. The slab is approx 15m x 12m. This will support a 12m x 12m shed and a 3m lean-to out the back for weather and sun protection. This new shed will be dedicated to the HO guys. The current HO layout will be relocated from the first shed, and put along one wall. It is nominally 2.4m x 9m in size. It will be about 0.6m from the wall, taking up about a quarter of the the shed. There is one slight problem with relocating the layout.  It is actually 2440mm, while the two doorways it needs to traverse are 2400mm wide.  That will pose an interesting conundrum. The next quarter of the new shed will be basically a continuation of the walkway/breeze way right the way through the clubrooms. The last half of the shed will be the new HO layout. The discussion currently revolves around should the new clubroom layout we built against the three sides of the shed with peninsulars into the middle, or should be built about .6m to .9m off the three walls so another 20m of track run along the back of the layout can be added. So if the layout ends up being two levels we could get 40 m of extra track run. However, this extra track run will be at the expense of layout length in the front peninsulars as we still have to but go past the approximate half way point in the shed. It may also cause us to loose one of our peninsulars altogether if we cannot fit in with nearly 1.5m of length lost in the layout width.

I am doing up some basic plans to see what will fit into the available space using my layout squares paper, which is basically graph paper drawn in EXCEL with an approximate 1cm square equal to 300mm of layout. For the metric illiterate (Hi Mike) that is approxiately 12 inches. The paper is 40 squares wide by more than enough squares deep - about 28.

I can see the logic behind the "access all around access" idea, as we may want to cater for up to 20 people running trains in the future, as well as lots of people exploring the layout with a about a half dozen running trains during a Clubroom open day. But we will draw two example layouts and measure the trackage to see if one is potentially better than the other.

This wednesday I will be heading back over to the Clubrooms, as a few of us will be cutting up a few of our storage trays. We use 4.5mm or 4.75mm MDF and produce a tray that is approximately 32cm x 42.5cm and 5.5cm high. They fit quite nicely the foam inlays that we buy in bulk from the local manufacturer that fits either longways or crossways in either HO or N scale. We have approximately 40 foam inlays for HO in the Club Shop (20 of each orientation) but only 2 crossways inlays for N scale.
A selection of trays made up

We will try and cut up approximately 120 trays. This should last us about 12 months. We have done this about three times before and all just get eaten up. We sell the storage trays for $2 each in a kit form - a base, 2 sides and 2 ends. Members have to glue and tack them together themselves. We also make a large carry case (again selling it in kit form for $20), that can fit 5 or 6 of these storage trays in it, and publish a worksheet (available free to all members) on how to make your own and put this together. You just need some sort of hinge for the front door, a couple of cupboard handles to carry it and something to keep the door closed - e.g. a couple of hasp and staple locks. However, if you store a lot of locos in your box, it can get very heavy. I have about 8 carry cases inside my shed spread all over the place. The storage trays can hold tools, books, plans, rollingstock and locos. They are just the exact size to hold our NCE foam inlays that our Procabs or Powercabs come in so members can take their NCE handhelds (which our Club has standardised on) to the Clubrooms or to exhibitions. Quite a handy little piece of railway kit.
Darryl's version with 5 trays and he joins two together with suitcase clips.  He also has a cutting mat on the top.
My version with 6 drawers.  I use plasterers angle to slide the trays on.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Happy Father's Day

This week the kids had a Father's Day stall at school. My Son got to go on the Wednesday and Daughter on the Thursday. On Thursday morning, I asked my daughter to make sure she picked up a NSW train at the stall. She gave a look that resembled "What the hell are you on dad?" She said there will not be any trains at the Father's Day stall. I said, you never know what someone could have donated and if there was anything there to make sure that she buys it for me. Well you can always dream.

Friday I came home from work early and went to school to assist the boss pick the kids up. After bringing them home and switching over to my car, I went and got my hair cut, came back home, and went to the shed to do some work on the Upper Richmond River Crossing for an hour or so.

I started at the southern end and attacked the first pier across the flood plain. The pier was attached at the top with a 1" file. I got this to the correct height and then went back and readied the abutment at the start of the bridge. I then inserted the girders. They looked fairly level. Then I turned my attention to the next one, the next and so one on for the the next 4 piers. There were filed down so they looked pretty well level across the opening. I used a length of 42 x 19 pine that was spanning the whole bridge opening behind the bridge piers as my level reference. I realised that the pieces of styrene that I had previously painted up to support the track across the two open truss sections were the wrong ones. These ones were too small. I found the correct ones on my portable workbench on the dining room and gave them a coat of grey paint.

I then did a bit of terra forming for the river section and another bit for the road at the northern end of the Bridge. This is the Summerland Way that makes its way under the northern end of my bridge opening.

Just before I got called in for dinner, I was installing the road under the northern most opening. This is a concrete bridge. I might try and make one from styrene over the coming weeks. We will see.

Photo of the Summerland Way underbridge

On Saturday morning I went to the LHS to buy some bridge track for the Upper Richmond River opening. I thought this would look better than standard track. What made me think of bridge track, is one of the newer modellers at my club has built an approximate 5' bridge opening in N scale. I think this is for somewhere on the N scale club layout but I could be mistaken. This guy scratchbuilds code 40 points in N scale and I think they look better than anything you can buy commercially. They are just magic.

Well when Ray at the Hobby Shop said it was going to cost me over $30 I nearly fell off my chair. I thought I'll just cut up some Peco track and move the sleepers closer together. Then Ray mentioned about hand laying the track. Bing! The light went on. At home in the shed near my still unfinished workbench I had some bridge transoms in a packet that I bought years ago. I could lay these and then hand lay some Code 83 rail on these. I spent some time on Saturday arvo in the shed doing more work. I found my packet of transoms and discovered that I had already stained a few hundred or so. So I stained the rest - another couple of hundred. I then attacked the layout. I glued the transoms to the 4 girder pairs at the right hand (southern) end of the flood plain, the through truss bridge, and started on the main scratch built bridge as well. I then got greedy and decided to lay the transoms on the second through truss bridge, and then layed it across 4 spans I had completed about 3 years ago that are the start of the Richmond River bridge at Cassino. I have one more girder to lay the transoms on (at the northern end of the Upper Richmond River bridge) - that will have to be next week I think.

Sleepers being laid across the bridge

The bridge across the Upper Richmond River with sleepers and track laid across it

Sunday dawned and after an early trip to church, home for pancakes, I received my presents. Damn! I didn't get a loco from the school Father's Day stall. I must have a word to the Principal next time I see him about improving the presents for the Fathers - I bet the stall was run by women!

Anyway I did get out to the shed a couple of times today and finished laying track across the flood plain.  I just need to fix the track down before I run a train across the bridge and hope it does not collapse under the weight of the train.
The view across the whole flood plain