Sunday, January 26, 2014

The B@$t@rds Drank me Dry

On Saturday afternoon I received a visit in the Shed from Anthony and Mark – two Victorian/South Australian Modellers.  They were last here on New Year’s Eve for another run.  We ran quite a few trains, with the occasional incident of a wagon coming off here and an uncoupling there, but generally it was fairly OK.  There were however, quite a few incidents of dirty track in a few locations.  I think that is a consequence of all the rain we had over the last week.
Yesterday's Running Session was only confirmed late on Friday afternoon and while I did send a call out to some of my regulars whom lived close by and a few from the other side of town, no one else could make it at such late notice.  Well I guess it was lucky that they didn’t turn up, as the two that were here drank me dry!  I thought I had a few more beers that what I had in the fridge, but it just means I need to buy some more - maybe tomorrow.
During the session, I also noticed a dip in the track on the entry into Murwillumbah where the banana siding branches from the main line and at least two trains had issues at that location.  So today I climbed under the layout and added some support under the baseboard at that location and I will see if that fixes the problems.  I also added a few supports directly under the main line into Murwillumbah just south of the platform.  These were lacking and there was always a major dip at the southern end of Murwillumbah platform.  So I think that was reduced by todays under baseboard work. 
I also noticed a slight dip in the track upon the southern entry into Clapham yard.  That will also be worked on maybe tomorrow.  There was also an issue, of the same Banana train over the last two running sessions within the hidden spiral between Old Cassino and Lismore.  This section of track allows for the train travelling between those two locations to take more than 15 seconds when travelling between the two locations.  With this bit of extra track in a spiral, the front of the train is not in one location while the rear of the train is not in the other location, as would be if I did not have the spiral in place.  What occurs now, the track, and hence the train is out of sight for most of the trip between these two locations.
I also had a visitor from the North Coast branch of the Tuesday Nighters on the Friday evening.  It had been a while since Peter had visited and  showed him what had he accomplished. Tuesday this week was also a Tuesday Nighter get-together and it was good to see everyone for the start of the new year.  I was another great night.
On Saturday morning in preparation of my visitors, in no particular order, I washed the coffee cups, swapped over the tea towels and completed wiring the power bus for Power District no. 3.  So now all the wiring on the layout should now be completed.
So my plans for the next few weeks is to do some more terra forming (plaster) work around the various tunnels and the spiral on the area north of Lismore towards Murwillumbah.  This afternoon after fixing the baseboard around Murwillumbah, I turned on the cricket and I resumed the plastering around the spiral.  I think I mixed up four batches of plaster and also did some work on the facia board around this location.
I intend to go back down to the shed tomorrow afternoon and continue with another 4 or more batches of plaster near the spiral, and do a facia install around the track on the southern side of Clapham Yard and also fix that slight dip in track at that location.
Happy Australia Day!  See ya next week.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Fourth Power District is Now Complete

Over the weekend I completed wiring up PowerBus for Block 4.  So I now have 4 of my power districts connected to their power bus.  I still have a single block to complete - Block 3.  I think that is my longest block section.  I hope to have this wiring complete this following long weekend.  Besides sitting under the layout and wiring droppers from the track to the power bus, I did get around to doing a few other things.

I have cut a facia panel for the Acacia Ridge Blob on the top deck.  That will protect trains coming down the gradient from Clapham Yard around the 220 degree bend into Acacia Ridge Yard.  It will also make this area look a bit cleaner, as it was just bare frame and baseboard.

I am also looking at building a small through truss bridge to go over the road crossing just north of Lismore.  This will be a scratch build based on a similar model I have next to the Richmond River bridge near Cassino and two more on the Upper Richmond River at Kyogle.  I have put all the styrene shapes aside and will look at gluing that together this weekend while I watch the Aussies belt the Poms again in the cricket.

I also got around to completed the testing of the point control in Loco Pilly from the control panel.  I have a 3 way point in the loco area and I had the point motors throwing in reverse order in some situation when I needed both of them to throw.  It was just tidier to fix that up.  You just need to get the first point motor out of the way before you throw the second point motor.  It is obvious when you look at it.  I did have one of my commands in the Mini Panel code wrong.  I was setting the point to Normal when it should have been set to Reverse in two locations in the code.  That was easily fixed.
On Monday last week I posted my NCE radio equipment away to get upgraded to the latest version.  Well on Thursday and Friday the kit was returned.  You could not get better service from Marcus Ammann than that!  Thanks Marcus.  While I was happy with the performance of the old version, you can really notice the difference with the new version.  I am most impressed.  I must admit that I am yet to experience one o fthose Loco run aways where the speed step is set to the maximum for the current loco on the Procab-R screen.  This is easily fixed, but was annoying.  Touch wood - it will happen never again.
So now I have three radio throttles in my arsenal.  My old Procab-R now has an internal antenna.  My old Cab04PR also has an internal antenna and has the latest version of the radio software.  My Powercab was also upgraded to radio and is fitted with an internal antenna with the latest version of software.  I think I am now really spoilt. 
For those thinking about doing this sort of similar upgrade, I would certainly recommend it.  I would also suggest that any person out there that has a Powercab for their home layout, and then takes this to the Club layout on the weekend to run there as a Procab, I would suggest that you find out if the your Club has radio installed.  If so, upgrade you Powercab throttle to a Procab-R when used at the clubhouse.  I'll be suggesting that my Running Session crew to look at upgrading their Powercabs to a Procab-R.  It certainly saves trying to find a plug in point on someone's layout.  Also you never loose control of your loco like you do when a plug-in throttle as you move from one plug-in point to another.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

I Have the Best Mates

I really do have the best set of mates out there.  They come in all sorts, young, old, short, tall, fat, skinny, beer drinkers, teetotallers, those with prototype knowledge, those good at modelling, those with hair and those without, those who steal trains, those that take the wrong branch on a running day and those that back the winning horse.  Some of my mates fall into many of the above categories.
I have to tell you a story about one of them who backed the winning horse!  He is the editor of our Great Club Magazine that goes right around the world in readership.  He photoshops me in weird hats, pink tutus and other things and generally just takes the p155.  Well he and a small team of Club members are also doing a great job in spicing up the Club N scale exhibition layout.  They have been doing a great job for some time now.  Anyway, the developers have come in and bought up the Golf Club on the layout and are converting it to a high profile and costly resort.  It will have a large ten lane swimming pool, tennis courts and basketball courts.  Last Saturday I was just amazed at what they were doing.  One thing was however troubling me.  The tennis courts that they were installing, to me anyway, looked to be Horribly Oversize.  It was not until Thursday at work this week that I caught up with this member, and asked the question that I thought that the Tennis Courts looked way to big and if anyone had doubled checked the size.  My question was prompted by watching the Australian Open on Wednesday night on TV and from side on getting a basic view of the tennis court with people on it.  I came to the conclusion that the court measurement from the base line to the service line was about 2 people lengths.  From the service line to the net looks about 2 and a half people lengths.  The model that I saw last weekend, when I mentally convert from N scale with N scale people, was way oversize and possibly Horribly Oversize. 
So when I spoke to this member about this, and he said, "No it was fine as 'HE' had checked and double checked and that the tennis court was indeed the correct size for N scale".  So on Friday morning, I thought I would Google "tennis court sizes" and convert the dimensions from metres 23.774 x 8.230 for a singles court and 23.774 x 10.973 for a doubles court, into N scale size by dividing by 160 and getting 14.9cm x 5.1cm and 14.9cm x 6.9cm.  When I sent this club member an email advising these dimensions, he was quick to reply, “Yeah Peter got it wrong!”  What a great mate.  Having his other mate’s back!  What a guy!
He is one of my bestest mates.  I just hope I don't get too many things wrong so he can have my back.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Control Panel Design

I have spent some time doing up the design for a number of control panels for my mate David’s layout.  Some of the panels are rather simple crossing loops.  The whole aim of these panels is push buttons connected to an NCE mini panel sending commands onto the track bus and a number of Digitrax DS64 point controllers listening for their address to throw the Peco points.  One of the panels includes a rather large station which incorporates a few sidings.  I have taken the NX (I understand that it is short for Entry-Exit) panel sample code from NCE website and modified the code to put it together for his needs.  So David came over today and he was most impressed with the details I had previously sent him about this panel and mode of control at this main station.  My only problem was that I have two too many routes configured and so it will not fit into the Mini Panel’s 30 locations.  So with some discussion today we have removed a couple of routes and now it should fit.  I will confirm all of this later on tonight when I can concentrate on this while watching the one-day cricket match between Australia and England.
Last night while thinking about David’s panel, my mind turned to our new Club HO layout.  I think I will put together an NX panel for the main station at that location and show that to the guys.  We might even end up creating one of those for the Club layout.
So just before David came over today I was in the process of checking out the last installed Digitrax DS64 point controller that I was having trouble with.  This one was heating up and while it seemed that I could code up some addresses into it, it would then not throw the points at those addresses.  I had ordered an additional replacement DS64 and it turned up this week.  So I connected that one up and sure enough it worked.
So I now have one to send my dodgy one back to Digitrax in the US under warranty, but I might just wait until David tests a few of his, to ensure that they all work.  Should he also have some dodgy DS64’s we can send them back together and share the postage costs to the US.
Tomorrow I will be sending my NCE radio equipment off to get upgraded to the latest version.  So I will be without any means of control for the layout.  However, that will not stop me being able to continue wiring up the Power bus should it not be back by next Friday – which I do not expect it will.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Hot, Hot, Hot...

With a post already this week on New Year's Eve and two small Running Sessions on Monday and Tuesday already spoken about, I have s shortened week to cover in this post. 
Following the last Running Session and the occurrence of a number of NCE Radio runaway bug events that caused a suspension to the last formal Running Session, I’ve decided to send my kit away for radio upgrades in mid January – ready for the next Running Session.  I have put up with the bug until now, but it seems to be occurring at more frequent intervals and it will make everyone enjoy the Running Sessions more when it runs more smoothly.
Last Friday morning and into the afternoon quite a few Tuesday Nighters met for a very sad occasion - to say good bye to our associate Mike’s wife June who passed away just after Christmas.  We were about 6 strong plus some partners and were joined by about another half dozen members of the Logan District Model Railway Club.  It was a very sad time, but it was great to see Mike's Model Railway Family there to support him.
On Saturday morning I made a trip over to my mate David’s house.  He has been doing up his shed and the layout.  The improvements have quite simply made his shed look like a million dollars now.  The shed has been lined, and even received a ceiling.  He has added some back boards to the back of the peninsulars and the work undertaken does look very nice.  David has added a vary large viaduct to the first blob as you enter his shed.  This also is starting to look pretty good.  We were discussing how to wire up his NCE Mini Panels, and Digitrax DS64 point controllers and where to locate his control panels.  We then adjourned indoors to watch some cricket and drink a cold beer.  On my way home my car was registering between 44 to 46 degrees C upon leaving David’s and travelling home at around 1:00pm on Saturday afternoon. 
Saturday was just too hot with temperatures in my pergola in the shade of 41.4 degrees C, so there was no way I was going to the Shed in the arvo.  I did however take my Christmas lights down on Saturday evening when it did start to cool down.
Sunday I went to Jaycar for some more bus wire.  I then went to the Shed to do some more wiring and try and complete Power District 4 with its power bus and droppers.  Of course I turned the TV on and after the Tea break during the Fifth Cricket Test between Australia and England, every time I walked to the far end of the Shed, a wicket fell.  I ran about 15 metres of power bus and then added 7 pairs of droppers to the power bus for Power District 4.  I was working most of the time, either within one of spirals (Cougal Spiral) and along the back aisle (through Border Loop as well as some work at The Risk) so I was not getting any benefit from the fan.  It was very sweaty work in the shed.  I had sweat just pouring off me.  Once the cricket finished I started to pack up and prepare for the work to be performed in my next working bee session in the Shed and then I called it quits in the Shed.  I have three more pairs of droppers that have been drilled through the baseboard, they just need to be soldered to the power bus and the droppers soldered to the rails.  That will make Power District 4 complete.  I hope to have that done before Friday night.  I can see a early mark coming this Friday arvo. 
I’ve had a request from a mate (Anthony) to show the layout off to another of his Victorian Modeller friends.  I think Anthony wants his whole operating crew to come over. With a bit of luck we might get some defectors to the northern side of the border.  There is a chance that there might be a couple of guys over on either the next Friday evening or Sunday afternoon.  I will have to ensure that I have a couple of died in the wool NSW modellers available to assist me in case the Mexicans gang up on me.  I cannot believe that I now know five Victorian Modellers based in Queensland - who would of thought!
I’ve even had a suggestion from Anthony to replace my wagon cards with just a single sheet of paper that has the wagons to pickup or put out at each location.  I think this suggestion might have some merit.  I think I will try it for a couple of trains and see how it goes.  It might be simpler and easier to use and may be incorporated into the next running session whenever that is.  I will work on it this week.  Each train will have its own shunting list created.
So once the cricket finished this arvo - did I say we won the Series 5-0, I then turn over to watch Leyton in the tennis.  I watched the first set, and after tidying up in the Shed (i.e. Tuning on the layout to ensure I have not caused any shorts in my recent bit of work - which I didn't) I then went and had a kick of the football with Kyle while Paige rode her rip-stick and scooter up and down the road.  I came back in and eventually saw Leyton loose the second set, but I then saw him win the third set and the match.
Next week I will finish off Power District 4 and then do the same with Power District 3 over the subsequent work sessions.  Plenty of work to do.  I will have to do something as I will not have any throttles to use as I will be sending them back for upgrade.  Let's hope it is cooler next weekend.