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.