Tuesday, December 31, 2013

End of Year Achievements

Yesterday I had a work colleague and one of his son’s visit for a short time to see the layout.  The little fella – Liam got to run a train or two and I think he had some fun.  It was during this running that I had the same situation occur that last occurred on Friday night during the Running Session.  A loco fell from the track and landed mid air within the Cougal Spiral.  Different Loco same place.  I then had a closer examination of this location and there was definitely a kink on the track.  It seems that the heat has potentially caused about two or three sleepers to come away from the track and the track has developed a kink at this location.  This morning I jumped inside my spiral and added a few extra nails to the track and re-aligned the track at this location.  I tested it by running a string of 6 ballast wagons through the spiral by themselves under gravity (at speed) and they ran very nicely without any hiccups.  One of my main outstanding problems had been solved - Whoo Hoo!
Also this morning, once I fixed the track issue at Cougal Spiral, I decided to spend an hour trying to motivate myself towards some progress at solving the Power District 3 and 4 cross connect issue.  I started tracking the power bus for Power District 4.  Upon reflection, I did not have many jumpers from the bus to the track in this district.  So I identified 5 more locations to add jumpers and then I got to the hard to reach locations.  Tomorrow I will identify more locations to locate these additional jumpers and if I don’t have anything else to do, I will then install these jumpers for this entire block - soldering the jumpers to the power bus. I think there is also a small section of track in Border Loop on the main line that I will replace as there are a few kinks in one of the rails.  Better replace it now while I remember. 
It was soon after this point when I drilled the holes for the first few jumpers of the Power District 4 that I came across a location – Kyogle Stock S iding, where I have jumpers from the Main line to the Loop line to ensure that the loop is powered.  I then found another jumper from the Main line to a location within the top level of the Cougal Spiral.  These two locations are about 8 inches apart behind a styrene and plaster view block.  For those wondering, Kyogle Stock Siding is in Power District 3 and Cougal Spiral is in Power District 4.  As one famous TV character says – Bazzinga!  I found my cross connect.  Whooppie!  So out with the snips and the two power districts were now totally isolated from each other.  After a test to confirm that this was the only location - I had now solved my two outstanding major problems.  What a way to end the year!  Tomorrow I will also start adding droppers from the track within Power District 3 to the Power Bus as well.  Once this is completed – potentially next weekend, my track and power related activities, I think, can go into hibernation.
I can then resort to spending some more time finishing off on the plaster work around the Lismore to Murwillumbah area and make the layout look more scenically complete.  There are plenty of other jobs to do scenic wise, and then about 50 structures to build I would guess.  I also have a few more bridges to build around the northern side of Lismore.  I have no problems with building structures, just painting them so they look realistic.  I guess I will have to take some lessons from two excellent modellers (that I am lucky to be able to say are my friends) Jim Hutchinson and Mike Boyde, in the new year on that very topic.
Today I had another two modellers come over for a small running session.  Anthony (whom was a last minute cancellation from Friday night's session) and one of his running crew Mark visited just after 1:00pm.  I gave Mark the initial tour, got him to sign the standard Indemnity Form and we were then able to run trains.  We had some trains that were part way through the running session from last Friday, so we worked them.  Then we started on some others.  Given that these two guys were the only two running trains, there were no crosses occurring.  But we had a couple of incidents with some track cleaning being required in the Old Cassino to Lismore section within the hidden spiral.  This dirty track caused rough running of the loco and we lost the last two wagons within the hidden section.  We did not know until the following train ran into them.  This following train also experienced some rough running in that area.  I will clean that area tomorrow.
Well that is about it for 2013.  Happy New Year to all my crew, to the readers and most of all to my family, especially to the Financial Controller whom allows me to spend time down the shed each weekend and spend a dollar or two on the empire.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Running Session 27th December 2013

The crew started to turn up from just before 7:00pm for the Running Session.  I had two first time attendees at this session.  However, before the session started, Greg showed off his recent purchases of a Walkers Railcar.  It was popped onto the track between two of the Running Creek Tunnels and sent for a run towards Border Loop while we were waiting for the full crew to roll up.  A photo of the railcar courtesy of David Head (one of the virgin running session attendees).
Walker Railcar at Border Loop (photo by David Head)
Slightly late we started pulling timetable cards and the various crew started conversing with North Coast Control.  We had 9 crew in attendance along with me.  Two were no shows through various reasons.  Greg went to North Coast Control and was showing the ropes to Darryl.  I think everything started off quite well until various trains had to cross the Richmond River Bridge.  All the trains were stalling on the bridge.  One of the rail joints needed to be slightly adjusted and eventually it provided constant electrical connectivity across the bridge.
Darryl assisting with holding up the fridge at North Coast Control
During the night, two headset plug in points failed.  From one you could hear and not be heard, and the other you could speak but not hear anything.  These were fixed yesterday in going through the wrap up from the session fixing or investigating all the various issues documented by the crew.
Perplexingly there were a couple of trains travel through to the wrong destination.  The Rail Train was due to travel from Clapham Yard to Kyogle and terminate in the yard track at that location but it continued through to Fairy Hill Loop.  What gave it away was the driver asking for permission to reverse back up one block section.  Another train, the branch fuel train, after dropping off its first four petrol pots at Old Cassino, was spotted heading north of Cassino towards the Hotham Street level crossing towards Brisbane and actually running the points at that location and causing a short.  Talk about drawing attention to yourself – hey Shelton - twice!
When thinking about where locations are on the layout, I think the layout is fairly well sign posted.  There is the North Coast Control mimic diagram.
Photo of the North Coast Control mimic diagram (photo by David Head)

There is also a string diagram of the layout from Grafton to Acacia Ridge - it doesn't yet have the trackage north of Acacia Ridge to South Brisbane - around the outside of the helix.  Each major crossing loop has a diagram stuck to the facia (somewhere near each location - either above or below) with most sidings in that location identified.  There is also a sign at each crossing loop, that identifies what the crossing loop in each direction is called.
We also had an interesting situation occur in the Cougal Spiral.  One of the locos from NL1 fell off the track.  Don't ask me how that occurred.  Although later as I was adjusting the location of NL1 for a resumption of the timetable in the future, someone had put some cars on the motorail car and these kit the layout frame within the Cougal Spiral and caused issues with a massive derailment.

The photo of an 80 class upside down in a precarious position under the layout (photo by Shelton)
There were a few really big issues that occurred during the session, one that almost caused the cessation of the session totally.  I run an NCE 5 Amp system and have quite a few attendees bringing their radio throttles to control quite a trains.  I find it better to use radio instead of plugging and unplugging constantly around the layout.  However, my radio system base station has never been upgraded to Version 2.0 (or later) and because of this, there is a known bug that can occur – that I have had occur many times – mostly when I am running trains by myself, so it is easy enough to control.  However, what occurs is we get a runaway situation when a loco just fires off at full speed.  In a few occasions on Friday night, a few locos did just that.  Because these locos were just sitting in sidings at the end of a run, there was no driver associated with the train.  These runaways were not found immediately.  The issue that we had was all of a sudden we had some power districts start pulling huge Amps.  The whole layout was fluctuating between 3.5 and 5 Amps.  This was causing low voltage on some sections of the layout.  I know I have an issue with two power districts that are somehow electrically linked - and I have not yet wired up the power bus for these districts.  This is a situation that I must investigate but I have not got around to it.  It just so happened that these loco runaways occurred within this district.  We could not find any cause for the low voltage situation.  However, I eventually found the culprit and moved the runaway train off the points it was shorting on and everything came back working.  While this investigation was occurring, the crew took a break.
The crew were almost revolting - I guess they were not that bad!
The NCE radio bug, can be mediated by crews selecting the address of another loco that does not exist on the layout as soon as they are finished with their timetable card and have parked their loco.
Me having a turn at North Coast Control - photo by Shelton

Me checking out who is doing what on the layout from North Coast Control - photo by Shelton

What we did discover from the session is that there is more text that can be added to a few of the timetable cards to provide some assistance and direction to the crews.  These will be updated next week.  I will also add some more information to the mimic panel to advise the Controller that certain locations on the board are sidings and not crossing points.  Some locations are only 600mm long!
All in all I think everyone had a good time.  The sessions are only as good as the crew that turns up, and I always have a great crew, who enjoys the task of trying to operate a model railway as would have occurred back in the mid 80's early 90's on the North Coast of NSW running through to Queensland.
David Head also runs a blog and he has provided an update of the night.  Link to David’s Blog.


Lead up to December 27th, 2013 Running Session

With Christmas Day and Boxing Day this week, I was able to find some spare time and travel down to the Shed and complete the last few tasks before the running session was due to occur on the Friday.  So on Christmas Morning after the kids opened their presents I was able to get to the Shed for about an hour and a half.  I wired power to the last 7 point motors around Clapham Yard and Loco Pilly.  I connected the first four motors up to the DS64 point controller.  These were allocated addresses and tested.  I then coded up the mini panel so the push button controls from the Loco Pilly panel through the various point at the northern end of Clapham Yard and the first two sidings in Loco Pilly.  These worked like a bought one.

I then wired up the next three point motors to the second DS64 point controller.  These were also allocated addresses.  However, whenever I tried to fire the points, the LED on the DS64 did not light, as it does on my other DS64's.  I can only assume that it is not getting the addresses I set it up with.  I just hope this is not another warranty claim as this is killing me posting this stuff back the US.

On Boxing Day in the morning during the first session of the cricket I then found a wire off my Master Layout Voltmeter.  Why not use the TV in the shed if you have one!  The next major task that I had to do was to setup the train number magnets on the master layout minic panel used by North Coast Control with the all trains magnets placed in their starting locations in the various display panel sidings.  I then had to go through the train timetable cards and remove the various trains that I had decided that we were not going to run during the session.  I use two sets of timetable cards.  One that the drivers use and one for North Coast Control to refer to so he can see what instructions the driver is also seeing on the timetable card.  The cards say things like what siding to take and what wagons to drop off or pick up at what locations.  I think that makes it easier for North Coast Control. 

I had always been experiencing issues with the auto reversing unit located at Acacia Ridge Yard when it did not always throw when a train entered Acacia Ridge Yard from the south sometimes stalled upon entry at the section boundary.  During the week I printed out the single page instruction sheet for the auto revering unit.  I then knew what way to turn the variable resistor located on the reversing unit and adjusted the triggering current downwards and then ran a test train.  Again - it worked just like a bought one.  I had no idea why it has taken me so long to adjust that setting.

All was now set for the Running Session the next day - the 27th December.  From memory I think I also went down to the Shed on the morning of the Running Session to potter around for an hour or two while watching the cricket.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Time is Running Out ...

Well time is certainly running out before the next Cassino running session later this week.  Family events and other activities are certainly conspiring against me and making it hard to get everything completed before the running session. 
Yesterday I had one child off to a kids birthday party (with the Boss) and I was confined to home with the other.  However, I had a visitor from Melbourne pop in for a few hours in the afternoon, so I could show off the layout and also having the opportunity to see a Eureka R class loco running on the Murwillumbah branch from Lismore to Grafton.  I think it must have been offloaded from a barge near the Lismore Wharf siding and after a few runs up an down the loop, it made it’s way towards Old Cassino and then onto Cassino and eventually around to Grafton where it finally rested.  The loco looked nice, ran very well especially at slow speed and I was very impressed by the sound - plenty of volume but it was set a bit too high for my likings.  However, having never heard an R class in 1:1 scale before I don’t know how accurate the sound in the model is.  It must have been a steam day yesterday as I broke out the Garratt and double headed it with my 35 Class and ran them from Grafton for their first trip across the Richmond River Bridge before making it into the platform at Cassino.  They then ran back to Grafton Loco.  That was the first steam loco activity on the layout for quite some time. 
So this morning early I went to the shed before heading off to a family gathering for the Mother-in-Law’s birthday celebration at midday.  I got around to moving the last few trains into their initial starting location before the running session.  I found out my layout Voltmeter had stopped working so I will investigate that over the next few nights.  I still have to wire up two points on the main line, and I would like to get at least four completed, if not 6 before Friday.
I must remember tomorrow to print a new train diagram for the Friday Operating Session and print the timetable cards on the four part paper so I can rip them up and have them ready for the Operating Session.
I still need to investigate a fault between Power Districts 3 and 4, but if that doesn’t get done before Friday its is not s show stopper as the layout will still operate.  My next blog update will probably include photos from the operating session and a wrap up of the event.  
I hope you - the readers - get some enjoyment out of visiting this blog, and even if NSW North Coast modelling isn’t your thing, the links that I provide cover off on your prototype calling.  Merry Christmas to everyone that visits this blog and reads the diatribes that I post every week. 

Sunday, December 15, 2013

2013 RMCQ Modelling Competition and Christmas Party

Yesterday was the date of the Annual RMCQ Modelling Competition and Christmas Party at the Clubrooms.  We had a great turn out of members, and a great range of diverse models.  We also had quite a few donations of goods for the various Christmas Hampers.

From about 1:00pm I was talking with a subset of our HO members about the new HO Clubroom layout.  We were discussing some of the electrical items on the agenda.  I tendered a schematic for the location of the UTP's on the layout along with suggested input points for 12V feeds to the cab bus.  This was followed by a suggestion for the location of the five power districts on the bottom deck.  Then we discussed where we would locate the Command Station and the EB1's which we will use for the circuit breakers for each power district and also the potential location for the Booster.  One of our resident electricians advised he would start looking into providing power circuits under the layout from our existing wall power points.

After our usual 2:00pm Club meeting which was quite quick this month, The members started to vote on the various popular categories in the modelling and photo comps.  So here is a selection of photos of some of the various entries in the Club Modelling Competition in the various categories:-
This is a scratch built crane that looked very nice indeed.

The concrete batching plant that I think took out one of the awards.
This duo of models were not in the competition but were by the prolific expert modeller Jim Hutchinson.  On the left is a QR signal cabin based on the one at Dalby in south western Queensland.  The one on the right is a model of the Glenapp Signal Box on the Uniform gauge line south of Brisbane.  This just happens to be a crossing loop on my layout.  I know where that model will be going.

This entry was a bitbash activity following the instructions from the various AMRM articles last year and this year of one of the Sleeper carriages based on a Lima coach.  See, some people do build models from these articles.

This small N scale diorama was an entry in the modelling competition and was very nice.

This was another entry.  A small N scale layout with a train that was doing loops.  There was some very fine detail on this layout.  It just proves that you do not need too much room to have a working layout.

Following the Modelling competition, we had the Christmas Hamper draw.  This year I think we ended up with about 7 separate hampers.  We then had a couple of re-draws as one hamper contained a slab of XXXX Gold and the winner was not a beer drinker.  So it was redrawn.  This was followed by a separate 6 pack of XXXX Gold.  Unfortunately I did not win anything this year.

Before the meeting, Jim Hutchinson provided me with 20 Bulletin Magazines and 30 Australian Railway History Magazines.  These were mostly from the 1990/91 period with some from 2012/13.  I read through all of them last night.  I was able to glean a good amount of information from these magazines that covered Cassino and a number of crossing loops within my area of modelling.  Some of these facts will be used when I redraw my timetable sometime next year as I now have details of some of the XPT time trials through Cassino back in 1990.  Most of these will end up in my magazine library.  This way I can run both Brisbane Limited and XPT trains at the same time.

Today my only activity was to go to the shed and re-install my Bridge across the Richmond River as it was also entered into the Club Modelling Competition yesterday.  I am having too much fun watching the Poms get flogged in the Cricket.  I'm tipping a whitewash for the series!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Weekend Off

This weekend I went down the Coast with the family for a short break.  We stayed at Coolangatta, right across the road from the beach and as the wife had planned it, also across the road from where the Gold Coast Craft Markets were held today.  We certainly gave the markets a nudge this morning before heading off to the beach and then back to the pool, before watching some cricket.

So this week there has been nothing of a modelling persuasion undertaken.  The only thing I did was on Friday when I removed my bridge over the Richmond River and separated it into its three pieces and packed it up so I can take it to the Club next Saturday for our modelling competition.

Plans for this week include catching up on reading with the latest AMRM magazine as well as the December Digest and the October issue of Australian Railways Illustrated.  This magazine has an article on the Northern Rivers Railroad which has some very nice photos taken around Casino and other north coast locations.

I also have to install a small decoder into a Club member's British loco as time is running out before I need to return it to him next Saturday at the Club.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Consulting Services

Very little to report this week.  Yesterday it poured in the morning so I did not go to the shed.  In the afternoon I made use of the fine weather and put up two sets of Christmas lights out the front.  I had previously put up two sets of Christmas lights on Friday afternoon.  Today while catching up on some recorded TV, the phone rang off the hook.  I answered an SOS from old Mike Boyde.  He was after a few sets of HO bogies so I took three sets over to him.  I then helped him re-setup his Powercab on a very small shunting layout located in his garage.

The second phone call was from Lefty.  He needed to use some of my consulting services on his layout.  That was no problem at all.  He already knew the answer, but he just needed to hear it come from someone else.  In an effort to inspire him to actually cut some more timber track bases on his top deck so he can put the next 15 feet of his track bases in along with his very large On30 scale station module,which is about 4 feet long and 1 foot deep, I gave him some free advise as to how I would cut the various baseboards etc.  It really would be great to see some more benchwork progress and an update to his blog - hint hint!

I did spend about 30 minutes in the shed today before I put my consultancy services into action.  I screwed my two recently purchased DS64 devices for the Loco Pilly up underneath the layout's top deck.  I then cut some wires and connected up the DCC supply to both of these DS64's so that are now basically operational.  I then turned the layout on to ensure that there was no short created by adding these items into the track bus.  I still do need to code up the DS64 device address and the four point motor addresses on each, but that is a job for the next time I visit the shed.

On Tuesday this week we went to a new Tuesday Nighter's place and checked out his HO scale NSW layout.  The layout was very well detailed and his rollingstock while not making the leap into DCC yet, ran very nicely and was extremely well presented - including nice weathering on some items.  Something to aspire to eventually when I get some time.