Sunday, November 24, 2013

Busy Weekend Partying

This weekend was pretty busy as we had a number of parties to attend.  It all started with me attending a Work related Christmas Party on Thursday afternoon.  This was followed by Divisional Christmas Party on Friday lunchtime.  Saturday was a family get together for a surprise birthday party for my Great-niece.  It was a wonder I was not pickled by last night.  While at yesterday's party in the early evening, we could see a huge thunderstorm approaching.  As it turned out, it was lots of rain and not much else.   in our area.  Some party goers sat on the large outdoor deck and watched it pass, while I went inside.  Today was an early birthday party for Kyle at the local 10-pin bowling alley.  He got some very nice presents from his class mates and I think everyone had a ball.
So this weekend was not a total wipe out.  Before yesterday’s family outing, I did spend some time in the shed.  This was to connect up the new NCE mini panel into the cab bus.  I did get a small six-inch cable made up at work on Monday this week and that was added to the cab bus between a pair of RJ12 splitters that I get from Harvey Norman for $6.95 each.  That works out cheaper than a PCP for about $20.  That is a simple method of creating short branch in the cab bus.
Standing next to Cassino and looking toward the corner of the shed we can see the work area.  The DS64 on the left beneath the 44 class loco, the Mini panel and the two control panels Clapham Yard North control panel in the middle of the picture and Loco Pilly control panel on the right.  On the left of this control panel is the intermediate staff machine for Loco Pilly.  This staff machine services the section Clapham Yard to South Brisbane.  On the level below we see Glenapp Crossing Loop.  On the facia below that is a plug in point for the headphone system used by drivers to communicate back to North Coast Control when crossing trains in the timetable run.

Now a view from up above.  This view shows the point layout of the northern end of Clapham Yard.  Again we see Glenapp Loop on the level below and on the bottom level we see the southern entry into Cassino.

Next I fired up the NCE system and set the mini panel’s address to 60 on the cab bus.  This was followed by entering the commands for the 6 buttons on the Clapham North control panel.  Next I entered an address for the DS64, and logically entered the four addresses into it:- 1211, 1232, 1233 and 1234.  So I then undertake a test on the DS64 from the Clapham North Mini Panel.  I expected that when I hit a button that a point motor might throw in the opposite direction.  However, I did not expect the wrong points to throw.  Then I realised that while I numbered the four addresses correctly on the DS64, I wired then 4,3,2,1 instead of 1,2,3,4.  That came about as the DS64 was turned upside down under the top level baseboard.  That was easily fixed by swapping the four outputs into the correct order and then after another test from the control panel, swapping the various outputs so the points threw in the correct direction.  Silly mistake, but I always make them and it is easy to fix up.
A close up of Loco Pilly control panel.  There is a standard on/off switch on the bottom right hand corner to isolate the control panel from the mini panel.  The black push button controls the Main Line into the northern end of Clapham Yard.  The rest (red) are for the various tracks inside the loco staging area.

This is the Clapham Yard northern panel.

A photo of the Clapham Yard southern panel.

With a few minutes left before I had to get ready for our party on Saturday, I decided to connect up the 7 pushbuttons from the Loco Pilly control panel back to the local Mini Panel.  That also was easily accomplished.  I will eventually have to get around to moving all the various wires currently laying around under the various levels of the baseboard so they are tidy up under the baseboard and out of viewing range.
I still have lots more activities to undertaken before the next running session.  Apparently my next 2 lots of DS64 point controller are very close to being delivered.  Once they are installed under the layout, I have to run wires to the various point motors and give them a test.  The plan is to do that next weekend.  The next major task to complete is laying the third rail in track three within Clapham Yard.  Work will then turn to fixing the yet to be found back feed issue between power districts 3 and 4.  I might need to call in some assistance for this as generally a fresh set of eyes coupled with a walk through of my wiring logic will almost make the cause of the problem stand out like the proverbial dog’s appendages.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Northern end of Clapham Yard Takes Shape

Well my plans for building my control panels (for the Northern end of Clapham Yard and Loco Pilly) during the week did not eventuate.  However, on Saturday after returning from a trip to Austral Modelcraft to pick up a Club order for 15 x DCC decoders for the Club Shop, I drilled the holes in the two control panels for the Northern end of Clapham Yard and Loco Pilly.  I then fitted the push buttons.  Following this I made a trip to Harvey Norman and picked up an RJ12 splitter, as I need to put a fork in my NCE Cab bus to connect the new NCE Mini Panel which I also picked up this morning at Austral Modelcraft.  This mini panel will be located at the northern end of Clapham Yard.  I will create a small 8 inch RJ12 cable at work on Monday from a small length of Cat-5 cable.  This will allow the Cab bus to be spliced with a short fork to the Mini Panel.  I also went to Jaycar to pick up some more wire and an extra couple of push buttons as I did not have enough to complete both control panels.  A couple of my push buttons just seemed to have self destructed, with them splitting in half.  This makes them unusable.
The mini panel was mounted on the facia of the top deck, where I can get access to the screw in terminals for the various input buttons from the two control panels.

This morning I soldered up the common power supply for the push buttons on the control panels this morning while watching a replay of last night's Rugby Union on TV.  My darling wife was heading out this arvo so she picked a small hinge from Bunnings.  What a women!  This hinge allows me to mount the Loco Pilly panel to the layout facia.  I use a hinge to allow access to behind the panel and the wiring.  This afternoon, while watching the Golf, I mounted the two control panels, and attached the common power supply to both panels from the Mini Panel.  I then laid the 6 wires from the push buttons on the Northern Clapham Yard panel and connected them up.  I also cut another hole in the baseboard for a Peco point motor in the Loco Pilly area.  I have one more point to lay in the loco area.  When I get it I will also cut the last whole in the baseboard for that point's point motor.  Four point motors were fitted to various points in the Loco Pilly area, and the wires that I laid from the DS64 point motor controller which was installed last week, were soldered to four different point motors in Clapham Yard.
So the last few tasks to complete the Loco Pilly area and Northern end of Clapham Yard are coming to an end.  I dearly want this area fully operational before the next running session on the 27th of December.  I still need to wire up quite a few point motors back to two DS64 point controllers (that I'm waiting on delivery), connect the Loco Pilly Control Panel push buttons back to the mini panel and code up the mini panel.  These tasks should certainly be completed over the next 2 weekends.  I still need to lay the third rail on one of the tracks through Clapham Yard.  That is not such an important task as I still don't have a 12mm loco to run.  I'm still waiting for Southern Rail Models 2300 class loco to be delivered.

The cricket starts this week.  Hopefully we will give it to the Poms at the Gabba.  I'm not sure if I will head out to the Gabba on Thursday or just watch it on TV.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Some Decisions Made

Well what occurred this weekend?  Saturday was Club day across the other side of Brisbane - a one hour drive each way - I must be a glutton for punishment.  So while at the Club I installed two NCE N14IP decoders into a 44 Class loco and a 42 Class loco for one of the club members.  That is a very easy job.  It takes longer to remove the shells than it takes to install the chip.  Both tested OK.  I was also given a small British Loco (0-4-0) to install a decoder into.  Over the next few weeks, I will obtain a Z scale chip from the loco hobby shop and install that for another club member.  I’ll have that done by next month’s meeting. 
Our Club HO layout continues to have track laid and progress.  Various suggestions are made via a Yahoo forum and constructive comments are made and final decisions are made by the members present each meeting day.  We made a few decisions on the Clubroom HO layout in regards to the point work design at either side of the main station.  I think as soon as that is done, we will have the bottom level of the track complete and we will theoretically be able to runs trains.  Attention now turns to the location of the various power districts and a numbering standard the various blocks for future point automation.  I think that will be ratified at the next meeting in December.  Others will be working on installing droppers over the next four weeks or so.
What about on the home front?  I had a school working bee this morning and came home and eventually mowed the grass after my temperamental mover finally started.  I finally got to the shed after the first storm from the south hit this arvo.  We were on the outer edge of that and it did not cause us any issues.  We also were on the outer edge for the second storm, that time to the north.  This was only about 5 minutes worth of light rain.
The first railway related task was to install a piece of bracing under the Loco Pilly baseboard area as this area has sagged a bit.  It certainly had the desired effect.
So the plan today was to work on the control panel at the northern end of Clapham Yard - actually I did not touch this at all.  I first installed my remaining Digitrax DS64 4-point controller under the baseboard.  I drilled a few holes in the various layout supports to run the various wires for the point motors.  This DS64 point motor controller will control one point at the southern end of Clapham Yard and three points at the northern end.  I ran wires to all the point motors and ran wires to connect the DS64 to the track bus.  The wires while attached to the DS64 have not been soldered to anything at the other end as yet.  I have two more DS64's on order and that will complete the point motor control for the layout.  While I was looking at the control panel for the northern end of Clapham yard, I was contemplating creating another separate control panel for the Loco Pilly area, instead of having everything on a single panel.  All the push buttons in this area 13 - need to be connected back to one of my Mini Panels located quite some distance away.  This mini panel has a number of free wire inputs.  I would have to run 14 wires (including the common) each about 12 meters back to the mini panel.  These wires have to follow the baseboard around a rather long 'U' around the second level of the baseboard as the Mini Panel is located beneath Border Loop.  Access to some of those areas was going to be a real pain - particularly when I needed to run so many wires in a repetitive process.  It was also going to cost me a small fortune in wire. 
I have now made a decision to purchase another Mini Panel and locate it at the northern end of Clapham Yard.  I can then wire all the pushbuttons located on the two control panels with only one reel of wire.  I wish I could have made this decision quite some time back as I would not have had to run 7 wires from the control panel located at the southern end of Clapham Yard back to the mini panel located at Acacia Ridge Yard.  I then would not have had the issue with the over writing of the Mini Panel commands for Clapham Yard and the required rewriting of the Acacia Ridge Yard commands.  Oh Well!
Sometimes it is easier to spend some money and not just take the cheapest solution.  Everything is better in hindsight.
Next week I hope to install the mini panel (if Ray has one) and I plan to solder all the wires from DS64 I installed today onto all the point motors.  This week (maybe even later tonight) I will be drilling out my northern Clapham Yard panel and the Loco Pilly panel to allow installation of the various push buttons that I already have.  I can then solder these up sometime through the week if there is nothing on TV to relax in front of.  We also have Tuesday Nighters this week at Geoff's.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Fixing up the Electronics

One of the issues that I found last weekend was that when I threw some buttons on my Acacia Ridge Panel, points in Clapham Yard fired.  So yesterday, point by point I entered the accessory address of the various points in both yards and they all fired at their correct address - all except one point in Acacia Ridge Yard.  As I threw that point, the light on the DS64 signifying that it received a valid address did not light.  So from that deduction, it looked like one of my DS64’s had lost the address of point number one.  So I recoded that DS64 to the 4 correct point motor addresses and all was then OK, except my hitting buttons in my Acacia Ridge panel caused points at Clapham to fire as well. 
I scratched my head as to how to figure out what had happened.  So to debug this further I plugged my Procab into the Mini Panel and started reviewing the commands.  The commands that were showing as entered for the first 11 triggers were correct, but slots 12 through 16 were wrong.  Somehow they had incorrect instructions in them.  Oh I remember, I overwrote them.  Doh!  I then realised that when I plugged the push button wires from the Clapham Yard into the Mini Panel, I plugged them into 5 free trigger inputs in the Mini Panel.  I forgot that I had commands associated with the Acacia Ridge Yard already entered in them that I linked to from 7 other triggers to throw common points in a cascading fashion.  That was a prime stuff up - even if I do say so myself.
Luckily I had recorded the original commands for slots 12 through 16 in a spreadsheet.  Upon closer examination, instead of using a large number of links, I could have just entered the common accessory commands into the slots for 7 slots that linked to slots 12 through 16.  That allowed the freeing up of those original slots for use by the Clapham Panel.  I was just a major dork by over writing the original commands.  So I reprogrammed the Mini Panel and everything is now working correctly.  I can't believe that I actually did that!
I also checked out the block boundary between power districts 1 and 3 with my trusty Multimeter set to AC volts.  The track feeds at that location were as I surmised, the wrong polarity existed.  So I rewired the outputs of power district 1 and 2 by swapping the wires coming out of the NCE EB1's and ran a train over that block boundary again, and all was now OK.
I then fitted 4 point motors to some of the points in the northern end of Clapham Yard.  I still have to fit all the wires back to a currently spare DS64, that will control the first 4 point motors.  I think I will need at least another one DS64 to allow completion of Clapham Yard and most of Loco Pilly.  The wiring of the point motors at the northern end of Clapham Yard is probably a job for next Sunday.
Some of the other major work required before the next running session is that I need to find the power feedback between power districts 3 and 4 and also install the various wire droppers to the power bus in those districts.  There is no use installing an NCE EB1 for short circuit protection and having a power bus running the length of the track section - maybe 20 metres of track and only having a single connection to the track from the power bus and having the rails as the only conductor for the whole layout.  It has worked satisfactorily up until now, but it really needs to be wired correctly.
Today I went to our Club's Buy and Sell and sold a few wagons and strangely for me, I did not purchase another loco or wagon or even a building.  How was that for self control.  There were a good number of sellers and quite a few buyers.  I think everyone left happy.
Upon return home, I went down to the shed for about one hour and re-attached a KD coupler that had fallen off a wagon.  I then set about enhancing my railset train.  This permanently attached 8 car train has KD's for the ends and between the middle wagons.  The rest of the wagons have dummy knuckle couplings.  I removed the dummy knuckle couplers that were between all other wagons and replaced them with standard KD's.  That should make this train a bit more reliable.
Next week I will be spending some time at Clapham North wiring up another four point motors and creating the control panel for that area.  I will also work on droppers from the power buses for power districts 3 and 4, as well as trying to find that troublesome cross connection.