Sunday, October 26, 2014

Let There be Light!

I think someone great first said that line many, many years ago!
During the week I received a long awaited delivery of 4 strings of 5m of cool bright LED lights for the layout - 5 weeks.  I gave them a test and all seemed to work and all power supplied also seemed to work.  On Friday afternoon, I went down to the shed and started to install three strings of lights under the top deck of the layout starting near the entry door.  The first string starts around Grafton Loco, runs past Rocla Sleeper Siding and heads past Baker’s Farm and ends just at the beginning of the Rappville Loop area.  The second string starts at this point and runs the whole length of Rappville Loop.  The third string starts at the end of Rappville Loop, and enlightens the level crossing at the Bruxner Highway and runs past the Bonalbo Ballast Siding, across the Richmond River and ends at the location of the rail pedestrian crossing at Barker Street. 
I turned the first string on and it looks tremendous.  I then turned the third string on and it looks pretty good if I say so myself.  My issues are now two fold.  One of the power bricks popped within two minutes of turning it on.  Not what I wanted to occur considering that it took about 5 weeks to arrive from OS.  The second issue is not a really bad one to have.  How do I power all these bricks?  I was thinking of purchasing a set of those remote power switches so I can turn the strings of LEDs on one by one by remote control.  I will investigate those types of power switches.  I did see a set from Kambrook on ebay that seems to be expandable in the number of sets that can be remotely controlled.  I will keep a lookout and see if anyone has them on special.
On Saturday I went back down to the shed and installed the fourth string of LED lights, even though I cannot power them.  These run from the Barker Street crossing through Cassino Station and end near the Signal box.  I then used some wiring clips to allow me to feed the power brick lead around under the layout and keep them out of harms way and feed them down under the layout.
I then got an old string of "warm" lights out and used them to measure what will be needed to complete the lighting from Cassino to Murwillumbah.  The 5th string will go from just short of the signal box, around the Cassino Loco area and to the West Street level crossing at old Cassino.  The 6th set will go from the level crossing to the start of the Lismore Oil Siding.  The 7th set will go from the Oil Siding until just near the road underbridge just north of Lismore.  The 8th set will go from road underbridge to just short of the entry into Murwillumbah yard.  The 9th set set will go until the end of the platform at Murwillumbah and I will need a half set to go all the way to the end of the headshunt at Murwillumbah.
After that point in order to complete the mainline north, I will need at least two more strings to go from Cassino north towards Brisbane until the track enters the Helix just after the Cassino Meat Works Siding.  So that would complete the requirements for the bottom deck.  That will leave the top deck to be planned.  However after firing the 4th set up today to take some photos I can see that the light throw from the fouuth set through Cassino Station needs to be supplemented.  The reason for this is that the baseboard at Cassino extends significantly out past the width of the deck above it and the throw of light does not reach the full extent of the Cassino station baseboard.  I think I might have to run another set along here at the front of the top deck and angle this string outwards so it illuminates the full station area.  I will experiment with this when I get another set of lights.
I was luck the boss was going to the shop yesterday arvo, so I sent her on a mission to purchase some electrical extension cords to I can plug the LED transformers in to some of the numerous power points within the shed.  I plan to have at least two strings of LEDs wired to start from the same point and run off in different directions.  That way they can share the same electrical plug in points. 
Following that LED installation task, I turned my attention to painting a few sections of baseboard at Lismore and on the northern side of Old Cassino.  These areas are now ready for the installation of dirt and grass.  So today I finished off by planting some dirt and grass around Lismore Station.

The first string showing Grafton Yard bottom right and the track leading around the outside of the blob and reappearing on the top right.  This location is Rocla Sleeper Siding.
On the other side of the above blob.  The track goes under a wooden bridge and enters a tunnel.  It reappears on the top right at the end of Rocla Sleeper siding and goes past Baker's Farm before continuing into Rappville Loop.
At the far end of Rappville Loop is the Bruxner Highway that runs from Cassino to Tenterfield.

Further to the right is Bonalbo Ballast Siding.

Still further north we go past the entry to the ballast siding and travel across the Richmond River Bridge.
At Cassino we can see the shadow being cast by the lights under the deck above.
Still a further shot of the Cassino Station and still more shadow at the furthermost reach of the station.

The area in front of Lismore Station has been greenified.

On Friday afternoon I decided to do a bit of work on one of my dual gauge points that will be located at the northern most end of Fisherman Islands when I finally get around to laying some dual gauge track for that location.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Queensland Model Railway Show

This weekend was the occurrence of the Queensland Model Railway Show held at the Workshops Railway Museum at Ipswich. I headed out early on Saturday morning to give the guys a hand on the Club layout.  There was a good number of layouts and shops in attendance.  While there I purchased some nice track cleaning blocks from J&J hobbies for $8.50 each for the Club HO and N scale layouts.  Apparently the guys eat them at the Club as the ones in the Club Shop keep getting used.  Hopefully these ones will last a very long time due to there huge size.  They are about 4 times the volume as a Peco track rubber for roughly the same price.
In preparation for the show, I gathered together a few boxes of rollingstock and about a half a dozen locos and a few other items.  I had planned to find some table space somewhere at the show and do some work on my Fleischmann Tacho wagon and fit some KD couplers to it.  But Aurora Trains had some KD #20’s NEM couplings that fitted in just perfectly.  The wagon then went for a spin on the HO layout behind one of Bruce’s oil trains.  The HO layout is 1.8km (scale) around the outer track.  While looking in the shops I also purchased a RH curve point so I could complete a cross over on the layout in Acacia Ridge Yard.  When I got home from the Show on Saturday afternoon I spliced that point in along with its partner in the next track and gave it a quick test.  It works very well.  I still need to wire jumpers around the insulfrog points.  Another future project.
Also at the Show was Jim Hutchinson my modelling mate when we do Structure Building work at various Exhibitions.  This time, Jim came out for a run.  Jim bought two trains to run on the HO Exhibition layout in DC mode – a CPH railmotor and a NSW Garratt with a string of 14 CH and LCH coal hoppers and 2 x CHG (I think) guards vans.  Both of these trains had sound.  So I advised Jim that due to them having sound, they were equipped with DCC decoders.  I advised him, he could just place them on the layout in one of the rear staging tracks and run them back and forwards so he could get used to controlling a train via our NCE Power Pro 5A system with a Procab controller.  Jim caught on very quickly and he then ventured out onto the Mainline and to the platform road at the front of the layout.  He was running shuttles from the platform into the yard and back with the CPH.  Later he took the Garratt out to the platform track and ran it up and down the platform track into the yard and return.  I think we have another convertee to DCC!  Welcome aboard Jim!.
This weekend was the first outing of the Club HO Exhibition layout with its Raspberry Pi based Wifi setup.  Apparently it did not run to well on Saturday.  I wonder if they worked out what went wrong by the end of the exhibition?
Also on the topic of the layout, there were a few unexplained shorts occurring on the HO Exhibition layout yesterday morning for some unknown reason.  I wonder why that happened?  At least PK and a few N Scalers were getting a great laugh out of it.  All I can say is beware people holding a coke can on the tracks, especially when the public ask - "Hey Mr., can you make those pretty lights come on again?"  They were our short circuit indicator lights on the top of the layout.
Being a Club we have members who model a whole lot of different prototypes.  When we exhibit we let them run their own things as we are inclusive Club.  However, some members rollingstock just runs like cr@p.  For some unknown reason, one member has taken some nice Australian rollingstock and replaced the wheels on it with America wheels and the wheels are the wrong axle length for the bogies and the bogies have been screwed so tight that they do not swivel any more.  It does not matter what we do, this guy just does not understand when we tell him not to do this?  You just get a blank stare back.  Oh well, I only had to put up with this for about 4 hours.  So you can guess that his train ran like rubbish.
Today I went down to the shed before lunch and spread some dirt around Cassino loco.  I had been planning on doing this for a few weeks now.  After lunch I went back down and planted various grasses in this area.  I then walked around to Lismore and decided to tidy up a section of baseboard there.  I then cut down the facia on a small section about 30cm long to the correct baseboard contour and then mixed up a batch of plaster and blended the scenery in to the new facia at this area.  I get the feeling that this area might get the a paint, some dirt and a grass application next weekend.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

A Weekend Off

This week I did not get around to do much in the shed.  With Monday being a Public Holiday the only day I did venture down was that day and played a bit with the Raspberry Pi.  I undid the changes I was trying to make for what I thought made the Pi simpler to use, and then did a test run with it.  It auto booted with the Wifi connection being visible to my son’s IPod and the Pi successfully allowed me to drive a train from the iPod connected via the serial connection to the PowerPro 5 Amp System.  Today I went to Office Works and picked up a second 8GB micro SD card for $7.97, which I will have available with an alternate configuration so I can connect the Raspberry Pi to my Powercab system (after I purchase an NCE USB connection).
Yesterday was Club Meeting day and I made my way to the Club for the monthly meeting.  I took along my Fleischman Tacho car and had it pushed around the layout.  Well It turns out that the layout is 7.03 scale Km around the inner loop.  That equates to about 80.8m of track.  Quite a lot of track.  I think that distance surprised some people.
I spent most of the in front of the TV watching Ford reign supreme over Bathurst!
Next weekend is the Queensland Model Railway Show at The Workshops Rail Museum in Ipswich.  I hope to get there.  Our Club will have two layouts in attendance - HO and N.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

We’ve got Pi! - Raspberry Pi.

Well during the week one of my mates – PK – put an order in for some Raspberry Pi’s and associated kit.  Well the gear turned up on Wednesday arvo and on Friday he brought mine to work.  He gave me a quick overview on how it gets connected at work on Friday morning and a hint on some commands that were described on his blog on how he had set up his Pi.  The Pi runs the JMRI freeware software and allows train drivers to use the Wi Throttle application and the Android version of that app to run trains via their smart phone or a tablet over wifi on a layout. 
On Saturday morning I went to the Shed and the Pi was connected up to my layout, and to my USB keyboard, USB mouse and VGA CRT connected monitor.  PK had already installed a base config along with root password, a wifi network name and a few other things in it and it auto started in Faceless mode, but it was set to default to a USB connection to an NCE layout.  My connection is via a serial cable to my NCE Powerpro 5 Amp system.  So after breaking into the system and creating a new profile in JMRI, I had it manually starting up via the serial cable and I was able to run a throttle from the Pi and control a train on my layout.  I then commandeered my son’s iPod and downloaded the Wi Throttle lite application from the App Store and soon I was controlling that same train via wifi in the shed.  Later on my son was also firing up the Wi Throttle application and running a train on the layout.
So I know the Pi now works as an alternate method of communication for visitors to control a train in the shed during a running session.  It gives them an option instead of just using a Procab or a radio Procab (which is my preferred method of access).  I have had a hell of a time trying to get my new configuration via the Serial cable to auto start in faceless mode.  I wanted to keep the original USB connection as a valid connection option in case I decide to connect the Pi up to my NCE Powercab connected test track. 
It has been about 17 years since I have been logging on to a Unix computer and doing Unix System Administration.  It may have been even longer!  But I still remember some of those commands and I now remember why I hated it.  I have been able to fix a few issues with the base configuration that have been annoying me with the help of Mr Google.  I will eventually overcome the issues I have and get it running automatically in faceless mode via the serial cable connection.
This giant step forward has been because of the great work that Greg and PK have been doing pioneering the use of the Pi at the Club as a method of access on our Club Exhibition layouts and our Clubroom Layouts, and on other member’s (and their own) home layouts.  Thanks Guys.
A new era is about to unleash on Cassino as soon as I work out what to do to get my serial based faceless profile to work automagically.