Sunday, May 29, 2011

Improvements Following Running Day Suggestions

Last Tuesday night I popped around to old Mike's place as I had some HO and O Scale printouts of a few structures for him. During the visit a conversation we had reminded me that I needed to install some automatic magnets in the track at Murwillumbah for uncoupling purposes. It is too difficult to use the uncoupling tools (skewers) at this location, as the track is set back a good 2 feet from the facia and is under the top level of the baseboard and it is hard to reach. This was a suggestion from the last running day. I just happened to have about 7 magnets that I purchased at a model railway exhibition some years back.

On the Wednesday after attending the school sports carnival and helping setup, pull down and cooking hundreds of snags and hamburger patties all day I retired to spend about 45 minutes in the shed in the arvo. I found the loose wire that was causing the Rocla Signal panel to not work. That was soldered back on very quickly. I created a box of stuff that will have all the gear for a Cassino Running Session in it. I also added some bulldog clips to the top of the 3mm foam board I had cut up.  I will this as a mini clipboard for all operators to take with them when driving a train. They will fix their timetable to the front of the clipboard with the bulldog clip. Under the timetable will be some blank paper for them to right notes on and there will also be a pen on each clipboard. I can also thinking of having a plastic pouch on the rear of the clipboard when on a pickup or shunting train, so teh wagon cards can be carried around and dropped off at the particular destination.  I then set about testing the operation of the magnets for under track uncoupling. I found that if I used two of them the operation was acceptable. But I decided to try and orientate then in different planes to see if I could get away with just one. So I did and below is how I ended up installing them. I put one in the track and tested it with my cement wagons and they worked very well. So I put two more in on the adjacent tracks.

The uncoupling magnets in the cement siding, main line and Norco siding at Murwillumbah

Coming home from work slightly early on Friday, I headed over to the hobby shop and picked up a new NCE Mini Panel and two Digitrax DS64's. The DS64's are 4 point motor controllers. Yesterday I installed these onto the layout. One DS64 is located at (under) Kyogle and the other is located at Murwillumbah. It replaced the old Hornby level switches that control three Peco points at the entry of Murwillumbah. The fourth control on this DS64 will control another point motor at Kyogle where I need 5 points to be controlled.
DS64 mounted on the layout ready to control the point at Kyogle directly above

The old method of control at Murwillumbah

The new method of control at Murwillumbah

As I had the three lever switches already in use at Murwillumbah, it was easy to just mount the DS64 near to where the wires currently run to. So these were connected and the DS64 was connected to the track power. It just needs an address, as well as all 4 point controls getting their own addresses set. But that is something for next week. I tried to wire in the NCE Mini Panel, but on start up of the NCE system, it hung. That's not good. I know that it is always the last piece of kits that has been installed and piece of track worked on. So I disconnected the Mini Panel and the system started up. So I looked at the cable I used to connect the Mini Panel to the cab bus and it is an absolute shocker. The plugs are wired randomly, not pin 1 to pin 1. It is not even wired pin 1 to pin 6 in cross over fashion. I'm not sure who wired this cable up, but whomever it was their fired.  So that able is off to work tomorrow to get the guys to cut off a plug at one end and put a new RJ12 plug on that end. Lucky I have a few more RJ12s left at work.  I then installed two more uncoupling magnets at the entry to Murwillumbah station. I have two more to install at the other end of the platform next weekend.

NCE Mini Panel up under the top deck of the layout at Border Loop - Directly above Murwillumbah

Last night I installed the push buttons in three new control panels I'm making. These control panels will interface with my Mini Panel and drive the DS64s.  One panel will be installed near the Murwillumbah DS64, so a driver of an arriving train, or someone shunting in the banana siding or the yard, can set the relevant points. I then created two panels for Kyogle. These panels will be for the same section of track, but will be controlled from seperate ends of the crossing loop. The 4 points at the other end of Kyogle (the Brisbane End) are right next to the facia and are currently controlled by a push-pull wire through the facia. I see no immediate need to make these controlled by point motor.

Today after spending about 4 hours at the school working bee, I went down to Big-W and picked up 4 more headsets for my crew to use when our phone system is eventually operational. I now have access to 8 headsets. That reminds me Hey Brendan - how is the system testing going? I think that 8 headsets will be enough for any operating session that I will ever run. Even if I have more crew turn up (one North Coast Controller and 7 drivers), I don't think I will ever have more than 7 trains in operation at any time, so the headsets can be passed around between the active operators. At $8.77 each headset, they are a bargain. I did see that Aldi had 4 CB radios for $49 on special this week. That is the only other alternative to the headsets, but the battery charging process before each running session would be an absolute nightmare, or it would keep me poor.

Tonight while watching TV, I plan to solder the jumper wires onto the control panels, so all the push buttons are live.
Last week I mentioned that Mike provvded me with the great factory that I will use as the Veneer Factory at Kyogle. Here are two shots of the front and back. It is lacking the scenery around it and workers cars and a fence, but that will eventually be installed. Currently no trains stop at Kyogle and do any shunting. But that will change in later revisions of the timetable.

The front of the Veneer factory

The rear of the Veneer Factory  The track on the left is the Dairy Siding.

Next week I will post on Saturday night or early Sunday as I have to fly to Melbourne with work on Sunday evening.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Running Day # 2

Tuesday this week, was Tuesday Nighters. We went around to Geoff's to have a look at this Splitter Swamp Creek layout and Darren actually had a run with his 49 and 32 Class. Shelton had a GY wagon (I think) that he built from a kit with fine scale wheels. A small amount of shunting was undertaken to give the pointwork, the locos and the few wagons on the layout a check out.  We got to see the scenery up close. It looked good, but when you see those photos Geoff put up on his blog, it looks like the water is actually running down the creek. Well Done Geoff! It does look great.

I came home early on Friday for a last minute tidy up in the shed. I also had to run train number 11 to Murwillumbah, run around and run back to Grafton Yard for stabling for the timetable run. Upon closer inspection I found that a couple of trains were staged in the wrong order in oneof the loops. So I swapped them over. I gave a couple of tracks a rub over with the track rubber and ran a loco back and forth over those areas. This was to generally sidings that don't get trains over them that hopefully were to be run over this weekend. I randomly tested a few loco to ensure they were still in consists - and everything was.

Just before I left work for home around lunch time, I received a call from Old Mike. He had completed the factory he was building. I arranged to come over that afternoon to pick it up later that afternoon.  Sorry I never got around to taking a photo.  Maybe next week.

On Saturday morning I placed the factory in its chosen location in Kyogle at the end of one of the sidings. It will become the Veneer Company's building. Might be renamed to Boyde's Veneers. I set up the tea, coffee and spoons and washed up the coffee mugs again. The fridge was stocked with Beers and softdrinks. I also got the boss's clear nail polish and hit most of the diverging frogs on the Peco large radius insulfrog points were I get occasional shorts from the loco wheels.

At 1:00pm, I had just one attendee. But soon after we had the rest show up. I had three guys sign their indemity form and acceptance of the layout rules. I wrote my rules during the week, from some info that I found discussed on a yahoo group - Ry-ops-industrialSIG. Mine start off serious, but go down hill pretty fast. The first draft was circulated on Tuesday Night this week and got a few chuckles and two signed copies returned. Unfortunately, for the running session we only had Shelton, Barry, Darren, Brendan, Rob, Greg and myself running. One was OS (PK), one has just returned from OS and had his family over (Peter), one was working on his new exhibition layout (Geoff) and one intended newbee was under the thumb from his boss - hey Darryl - and wasn't allowed out to play with the boys. I had also asked a couple of others and they also could not attend. So, Darren assumed the position of North Coast Control and Shelton was the Yard Master at both Grafton Yard and Acacia Ridge Yard and the running began.

Well we still had a few uncouplings - between locos in consists, or between wagons in a train. We still had a few derailments during the day. Feedback was consistant throught the day and some really good suggestions were made. A number of miniature clipboards the size of the timetable sheet will be made up, with a notepad behind and a pen allocated to each driver. This will assist the drivers in running their trains and making notes on the timetables when required. I found a few trains had the departure and arrival times on a crossing loop reversed. These will be fixed in the timetable this week.  It was amazing how close a lot of the trains ran to the actual timetable time.

We had drivers reporting to North Coast Control when they had a an issue - derailed, breakaway, etc.. Control then marked on the train graph the location of the issue (the section) and the train number so these can be looked at later - well done Darren. The first 10.5 hours went well, but we were about 2 drivers short to operate the full list of trains so a couple of trains were not run.  After the 10.5 hours, we had a refreshment break (chips, crackers and dip, fruit cake and anzac biscuits with their guys choice of liquid poison) and then after the break, we were slow to start back up again - too much talking going on about stuff - the current AMRM - Brendan's 38's or his FS and BS cars, Rob's Layout plans, etc.. Then a couple of the guys had to head off.
Some of the Crew caught looking at Rob's Plans when they should have been working - We have a railway to run you know!

Brendan's 2 x 38 Class Locos which he put together from Ron's pieces he was selling from the Brisbane Show 2 weeks ago.

The 38's hauling a trains of Austrains coaches towards Brisbane on Dusk.  The interior lights in the coaches was turned on.

So those remaining eventually got back to running trains without a North Coast Control and a Yard Master.  I further culled the number of trains to run (all the conditionals were scrubbed). A few more of the crew left and then we finally finished running for the day.
Overall, the comments were positive. There were certainly less issues than last time. There was no train stealing! The comments were that the trains ran better. For some reason the control panel for the Rocla Siding was not working. I will have to check that out. I did a very quick test on Saturday night and the DS-64 was accepting its throw commands but for some reason the Mini Panel was either not getting an input or not issuing a throw command. Other inputs on the Mini panel are working and points are being thrown. I will test some more during the next week.

Last Tuesday on my way home, I went to Big-W in the city and picked up two more headsets. On Saturday Brendan brought over his amplifer setup for our future Intercom system and he thinks he may have solved it. He has wired up two pairs of plugs for two headsets to be tested with a 9V battery. We plugged in two headsets and there is a push to talk button and by-George I think the man has done it. I gave Brendan a second pair of headsets to take home and continue testing. We will see what the final solution is when he puts a diagram or post up on his blog. There is certainly interest in our group about these headsets - basically a party line back to North Control Control. This way you don't get everyone hearing what is occuring between all crews and North Coast Control.

The Amplifer on the bench with two headsets and other junk.

Today I had another modeller from the next suburb come over for talk about his layout.  I think he went away convinced that the way he is heading is in the right direction.  See you all next week.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Club Activities Rule this Weekend

Saturday was Club Meeting day. So I headed over to the Club after watching my son play his soccer game. They were down 2-0 after a few minutes but came back to win 5-2 in the end. These kids certainly don't run out of steam like most other teams in their comp.

When I got to the Club just after midday, I spent some time talking to the club's resident Electronic gurus about my headphone intercom system. They said that the transformer amplifier system I was going to use would not work. I had no idea if it would or not, so I guessed they saved me from blowing up a few things. But they said my amplifier method would probably work. Upon closer inspection, as I started the assembly of the components while at the Club down in the workshop area, I had a 100micro farad capacitor instead of a 10micro farad capacitor. So I had to fix that. Also I never know what lead on a transistor is the Base, Emitter and Collector. The guys said it depends. So I needed to check the schematics on the web. Last night I checked that out and today I purchased the correct capacitor on the way to the Club again so hopefully later tonight I will complete the build and give it a test. If you don't here from me next week you will know that it didn't work and I blew myself up.

Yesterday at the Club after the normal meeting activities completed and afternoon tea was enjoyed while loosing money on the monthly raffle again, we adjourned to the HO shed to have some good discussions about the new HO layout again. Some good and sensible suggestions were made to the concept plan that I sketched previously. I think they will make for a better layout. We plan to lay out a 2' grid on the floor of the shed on the meeting day in June. Two weeks before then we will be painting the walls of the shed to which the layout will be attached on a working bee day. There is still some enthusiastic discussion about how far the layout will come out into the shed. Some say it should not extend past 20' or half way. Others say it can come out to 23 and even 24 feet particularly for the return loop blobs. Initially I thought the most members wanted double track on the bottom deck and single track with crossing loops on the top. That meant that helix and spiral at each end of the layout, that allowed transition from top to bottom deck, could be built as single track. This had a number of benefits like reduced cost in track etc., but at operational complexity - how to co-ordinate trains onto the single track and between crossing loops on the top deck. I know I have done this, but this is a club environment so it needs to be agreed by the majority. However, there were rumblings that 'if it was to be double track it should be double track all the way'. In reality I can't fault that logic, however, it just added about 2" - 3" radius to the helix for the second track and caused lots of issues with the spiral at the other endof the layout as the second track will add lots of space - actually 6 additional tracks at over a foot in extra space needed. This additional space may need to be countered by having one or even two circles of the spiral be converted to a helix with a spiral still being built on top for teh remaining circles so the we do not narrow our entry passagway into the layout area.

Sunday was a Buy and Sell at the Club. When I got there about 20 minutes before book in time, everyone but two or three sellers were already booked in. I set up and and put some Club stuff on the other half of my table. Today had to be the most money I've ever walked away with at a Buy and Sell. That was even though I also purchased a HOn3.5 CLX wagon for $40 and few other bits and pieces for the home layout, including some buffers, some cheap Peco point motors and some LED's (that's all I'll say). I did have some nibbles on about 10 NSWGR grain wagons that don't fit my area, even though I do remember seeing some standard gauge grain wagons being unloaded by auger at South Brisbane Station into a truck when I was young. I also had some nibbles on my old Lima B and S class locos and some XPT coaches, but no dosh exchanged hands - at least not yet.

I've also found out that some other Club members want to come over for a visit.  I might have to set aside a date in late June for that activity.  This coming Saturday is a running day at Cassino and I still need to do lots of work on my wagons cards.  It looks like these will not be ready for this weekend.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

The Week After the Train Show

Monday this week meant that I had a trip back to the Brisbane Train Show with Geoff from Splitters Swamp Creek. This is Labour Day in Brisbane and the last day of the Train Show.  What a great day we had. I made a few more picnic tables for the HO layout and then moved to glass outdoor table settings for the back of a few houses on my layout and anyone else who wants one. Packup was really quick and we were home at Geoff's place by 5:00pm, and back at my place by about 5:10pm. Then to unload the car. Most of my stuff then sits inside the house until the following weekend to take it back down to the shed.  I did not buy anything on Monday - that has to be a first.

Tuesday was our Tuesday Nighters session at Mike's Place. Numbers were down, but those that turned up brought along what they purchased from the recent show for a Show and Tell session. Just as we were about to start, Old Mike brought out what he had been working on. OMG! First up was HO factory from a 1996 Model Railroader that Mike found in a box in the garage. While not finished, it looked great. Next was a HO double track through girder bridge, followed by an O scale log cabin diorama, with water tank, chopping block and old fashioned prop up clothes line. Next was a model in O scale of the QR out of shed that graced the cover of the May 2011 Semaphore magazine (the RMCQ newsletter). This was followed by an O scale raised water tank kit (on wooden frame) with some of the frame built in underneath to form a room/storage shed. Then came an O scale shed, with some Rusty Stumps detail items inside the shed. Then there was another O scale shed with more Rusty Stumps detail items inside. I just wanted to give up. That man is 80+ and produces some fabulous models. I hope I can be half as good at 50.  Mike did ask if anyone wanted the HO scale factory and my imagination started thinking about the Veneer Siding building needed for Kyogle. I was not sure it would fit. But me being forgetfull, I forgot to check the required space available and it was not until Friday afternoon when Mike rang to remind me that I gave him the go ahead to say yep it will fit. I said if you want to complete it, I would be honoured to have it on my layout. So Mike will spend the time over the next week or so and work on this model.  That will fill in a large whole on my layout in an area that I will spend some time on scenicing in detail this year.

Now back to Show and Tell. Brendan picked up a not-quite-right model of 3801 from Ron on Saturday and when he came back on Monday to the show, advised that after fixing the quartering of the front wheel, it ran like a charm. Chalk one up to him. He purchased another on 38 class on Monday, with 3830 mainframe and 3801 tender. He advised on Tuesday that he could not sleep on Monday night so he put the new combination on the track and low and behold it made a noise. A rather bad noise but a noise. So he took the tender apart and found a small screw next to the speaker. This was removed and the model retried on the track and brilliant sound eminated. The cheapest sound loco you could get - what a lucky bugger. This will end up with the 3801 mainframe from Saturday's shopping safari. The tender from that loco and the 3830 mainframe will go together and be painted up by Brendan into another combination. A great win. He also picked up a couple of B's and an EL class from Auscision. Other purchases were an O scale S wagon in 7mm from O-Aust. The detail on this kit just has to be seen to be believed. He also brought along his 59 Class loco that he entered into the modelling competition. Very nice.

Next up was Geoff. He had a few packets of scatter from Railco, and some other scenic stuff in bulk packets for his layout. He also wrestled some Mini-nature scenic clumps from another shop. Geoff also picked up a long awaited sound chip for one of his locos order from one of the shops.

Darren ended up the book worm of the group, with a couple of NSW books. Raymond's big purchase ended up being a live steam loco that I saw steaming the previous weekend from the Narrow Gauge Convention. This I think runs on O gauge track - absolutely amazing.

I think the Loco on the Left is the one that Raymond purchased

Talk at the end of the night turned to communication between Dispatcher and loco crew at signal boxes for our various running sessions. It was a great discussion.  Here I talked about how I wanted to use  cheap headphones because I don't have room for phones on my facias. Darren will use phones as he will have the room. I asked Brendan if it was possible to talk to some of his work mates to see if they could come up with a simple amplifier circuit so the microphones on the headsets can be heard in the headphones. On Thursday I actually found a couple of circuits that looked like they may work. On Friday I purchased the required components from Jaycar and I will try and put these together this week and next weekend - but I doubt I will get it to work properly.

A couple of hours was spent in the shed on Saturday moving trains into place for the running session in 2 weeks time. I think about 6 trains were put in place. Today the rest were put into place. While most of my trains could be classed as block trains, travelling from Yard to Yard, there are couple of actual shunting movements - with pickups and drop offs. Attention then turned to how a couple of my shunt trains would actually work. What wagons were to be dropped off at what crossing loops or siding? Will the train fit in the loop? Will the shunt loco from Cassino be able to take the dropped off wagons and get it ready for the next shunt movement up the main line, as this train is heading down the branch. Is there enough time allowed for this to occur between scheduled trains?  Do the other timetables of the trains being crossed say to take the correct tracks at the crossing stations? This was all manually checked by reading the timetable and having a walk through so to speak.  It looks like it might work - but the proof is in the actual running day.

There is going to be bedlam at both Cassino and Old Cassino while this shunt train is doing its thing. There will also be bedlam at Murwillumbah later in the day as well as there are about 4 trains there at the same time. I bet that never happened at the real Murwillumbah station - even in its heyday.

While moving the trains about, some wagons had some issues.  These were addressed by loosening a few bogie screws to help the tracking of the bogies around the curves and through the pointwork.  See ya next week.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

2011 Brisbane Model Train Show

Saturday I spent the day at the 2011 Brisbane Model Train Show.  The layouts looked good, the crowd was excellent and bank account was not too damaged - well yet!  I did get two people come up to me and say G'day who follow my Blog - well one was a follower and one a lurker.  We ran into the usual people with the same smiling faces as always.  Brendan from Gundagai Model Rail Layout fame entered another nice loco into the Modelling Competition.  He picked up a few bargains as well - the bugger.  I also saw Darren from Nimmitabel Extension many times during the day.  I also had a good talk to Ron from Eureka and the fabulous guys from Auscision.  It was a real shame that the Auscision show specials were all Victorians B's and a few EL's.  I was tempted but could not buy one as they didn't run on the North Coast.  I also purchased a few cradles and coils.  I had to compare their cradles and coils against mine.  I was amazed how close mine were in scale, as they worked off plans and I worked off guestimates.

I set up a netbook behind my display and was running the driver's view of my layout.

On the Friday while setting up my stand and helping the Club's HO layout come together, I caught up with Ian from Muswellbrook and Merriwa Railway who was working on the Coffs Harbour layout.  I could not believe the number of members our Club had in attendance at setup.  There had to be close to 15 or even more there.

Today I went back to the show, for a few hours, with my Son Kyle.  He had his first look around at a large show, having attended quite a few small local shows previously.  He was most interested in the Lego display and wanting to control a train on one of the couple of U-drive layouts.  While there I ran into old Jim, Peter from the Tuesday Nighters.  Peter was travelling in a pack from the Sunshine Coast.  I also ran into a few past members of our Club whom I had not seen for a couple of years.

Tomorrow Splitter Swamp Creek Geoff (aka the Train Stealer - you thought I had stopped calling you that hey Geoff?) will pop over and I will take him to work on the Structure Building stand.  I have a few wagons all scratch built from styrene on display as well as a number of details items, picnic tables, outhouses, table and chairs, screen doors to name a few.  I expect to further damage the balance of the bank account tomorrow.

On a sad note, during the week on Thursday we received some sad news that one of Club's longer serving Members Richard McTaggart passed away that day, after a very long illness.  His Funeral will be held next Friday and I hope to be able to attend.