Sunday, July 26, 2015

Fisherman Islands Progress

On Tuesday afternoon this week I went down to Jaycar and purchased some wire for the track power bus to be used in the Fisherman Islands track section.  That night I went over to Arthur's place for our Tuesday Nighter's meeting and saw some very nice trains running.  Arthur even ran a some special trains (parallel runs) for the Queensland Rails 150 years celebration.

As I try to do almost every Friday, I came home from work early.  I went down to the shed and started work on the electronics for my level crossing detector.  I soldered a few things together.  Then I thought that I must try and find my level crossing flasher unit.  Well I went through all the places that I hide my electronics and you guessed it, I eventually found it.  I gave it a test and it still worked - Amazing - it must be over 20 years old.  I also found some other detector units that I did not know I had.  I also found about 4 relays that I did not know I had as well.  I could have incorporated these into my electronics build instead of buying some from Jaycar.

On Saturday I went back down to the shed and did a bit more on the electronics build.  I could not get my cheap delay relay working, so I gave up working on the electronics.  I then started to work on cutting holes in the baseboard at Fisherman Islands for the points motors at the throat into Fisherman Islands.  I cut out two point motor holes at that end.

I then went down to the other end of the yard and cut four more holes at that end.  So I currently have the three standard gauge tracks all laid.  I think I will have to look closely at one of my dual gauge points, as I think it will cause a short when wired up.  I will have to install some insulated rail joiners at the diverging end.  I think I will also have to cut some isolation slots in some of the rails and install some sort of switch to control the polarity of the frog area.  Once the track was laid, I ran my rake of ballast wagons through all the points and everything seemed to run well.  I also ran two of my narrow gauge stock through the dual gauge points and the narrow gauge points and they seem to be working well too.  It was then that I realised that the dual gauge headshunt did not have any track.  So I soldered up a length of dual gauge track and added that to the point.

Today before a party at our place, I installed the control panel for the Fisherman Islands throat on the layout.  I also ordered some push buttons required for the two control panels for Fisherman Islands.  I am also looking at where I can locate my Digitrax DS64, so I can power four of the five points at this end of the yard.  I will have to purchase an NCE Snap-It for the fifth point.  The point control for the far end of the yard will take quite some time to complete.

I had a look around to find out if I have any spare slots on the nearest NCE Mini Panel so I can hook the Control Panels up to.  I did some design of the control panels at each end of Fisherman Islands.  I need 14 push buttons, hence spare locations on an NCE Mini Panel.  Unfortunately, the nearest NCE Mini Panel has 12 free locations on it.  I could run two switches (and the common wire) to an alternate NCE Mini Panel, but the three wires required will need to run about 35 feet.  I don't think that will be an issue, but it is a fair distance.

This is the view of the far end of Fisherman Islands.  The first three tracks from the left are standard gauge.  The next is dual gauge and the far right is narrow gauge.

This is the entry into the throat at Fisherman Islands.  The narrow gauge and standard gauge split via a Tillig piece of track.

Finally I have uploaded the photos as promised.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Foreign Running Session and Track Laying

Saturday this week a few of us ventured to Anthony’s for the monthly Border District Running Session.  This is a top session.  The layout room was packed with 7 bodies.  Four are from the dark side – Anthony, Mark, Ian and Shelton (Victorian and/or South Australian Modellers).   Brendan has recently gone to the dark side (aka being a Victorian Modeller).  So it was left to Darren and myself to bring some form of resemblance of properness and decorum to the session as we were the only NSW modellers in attendance.

As usual it was a great day.  I was awarded the ‘Train Controller’ job and also had the opportunity to run three trains in the 26 movement roster.  The session is packed with shunting activities.  It did not get off to a good start, as I caused a few issues.  I sent the wrong train out of the staging (even though I did not drive it – I set the points).  I also set the points for the locos for the Overland Passenger to couple up to the wrong end of its consist and it began heading off in the wrong direction until picked up by the host.  At least the rear was still in the staging siding – so we could say that it was just being test run before leaving on its real run.  I only heard of one bogie derail during the session - Hey Geoff (sorry Brendan – you had to be there), and one set of points being run through the wrong way – Hey Darren!  Shelton caused a few shorts – at least his name was the one called out – I know in at least one occasion he was not even driving but he still got the blame.  All this added to the mood of the session.  Someone drove a brass loco (Ian) without looking where it was going ( I distracted him by talking to him across the layout).  The loco was supposed to be heading through Tatiara Downs on the main platform, and the signalman there had incorrectly routed it into the dock (Hey Anthony).  It was only just able to pull up before ploughing into the station stop blocks – and potentially killing hundreds of passengers.  This session is filled with excitement, stress, deep concentration and thought and the comments that occur make it an afternoon to remember full of banter, jest and laughter.  I certainly look forward in attending.  The planning that goes into arranging this running session must be immense and congratulations to Anthony for his preplanning.  It is just immaculate.  For the price of a few beers and nibblies, Anthony even got a piano moved.  A few photos were captured by Shelton and Ian, but they have not yet surfaced on various blogs - What are you guys waiting for!

Today I got down to the shed late in the arvo.  I put the TV on the tennis and the AFL (Lions).  I sat at the workbench and made up two more lengths of dual gauge track.  I then laid them those pieces with a few other pieces of Tillig dual gauge track that I had from Dutton Park Junction and into the throat of Fisherman Islands.  I then ran a string of ballast hoppers through the Standard Gauge point work and everything works well so far.  So I have one more piece of track to buy, a narrow gauge RH point.  Then I can complete the last of my track work on the layout.  I still have to install the point motors of all the points in Fisherman Islands and also install the track bus for this area.  I am currently undecided if I would use a separate power district for this area.  So I think that might be a task for the next few weeks.

I don’t think I will get much done next week with family activities planned on both days.  I might be able to have a day off during the week and get the wiring started.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

The Cold is Coming

This weekend it was hard to get motivated.  Maybe it was the cold weather.  On Friday afternoon I made a trip over to Austral Modelcraft to pick up a few more decoders for the Club Shop.  On Saturday I sat down at the kitchen table and installed three plug and play decoders into three American Proto-2000 models for a prospective member at the Club.   The first loco I did produced a puff of smoke when I think the underneath of the decoder touched the loco frame which was connected to one side of the locos pickups.  It seemed to blow the front headlight circuit causing it to be permanently on.  Luckily, I just remapped function 1 to be the front headlight and it now works just like a bought one.  I also replaced the lights with LEDs.  The second loco was slightly easier as someone had previously removed the lighting board from the loco.  That made the loco hard to test run before the install.  I installed the decoder and wired up the LED headlights and gave it a test.  It ran like crap.  I think there are split gears in the loco as the box the loco came in had four gears in the bottom.  No doubt someone has a future job to replacing the existing split gears.  At least it runs better in one direction.  For the third loco, I had no idea how to disassemble it to get access to the lighting board and decoder plug.  But as we all know “Google is your friend” and Mr Google told me about two screws hidden under the bogies.  So I unscrewed these and Bob’s your old man and it came apart.  But it had four light bulbs in it.  I just installed two LEDs to replace the four bulbs.  It seems to work well.  That is one task just completed to return to the loco owner the next time I get back over to the Club.
Today I went down to the shed and collected some track to create two new lengths of dual gauge track that are for track 4 in Fisherman Islands.  I soldered these up while watching the V8’s shootout.  I then did some track planning to create two more lengths of dual gauge track to be installed between Dutton Park and the track into the beginning of Fisherman Islands.  Between these two lengths of dual gauge I will insert a Tillig piece of track that takes the third raid from one side to the other – a sort of transition track.  That allows the geometry of the track in Fisherman Islands yard throat to be correct.
I have one 12mm RH point to purchase and then I can lay the complete Fisherman Islands Yard.  I will have to cut plenty of holes in the baseboard for the various point motors and then connect them up to a number of DS64 point controllers which will bankrupt me given the price they have gone up to.
On Monday I purchased some Light Dependant Resistors from evil bay (but from a NSW location) and they arrived on Friday.  I will use these to make up the test track for the train detection circuit for my level crossing circuit.  I have put a piece of track on a board, and over the next few weeks I will installed the detectors and the other electronics.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Working on Some Electronics

This week I was spending some time trying to get some electronics working.  A couple of weeks ago I came up with a plan to implement a level crossing flasher across the Bruxner Highway, just on the southern side of Cassino (and I suppose another at Hotham Street on northern side of Cassino and a third on West Street on the Eastern side of Cassino).  The plan involves the level crossing flasher circuit being triggered by track detectors (photoresistors in the track), that can detect either an Up or Down train separately.  The circuit will detect a train in the distance and initiate a flash of the crossing lights, but it will turn off the lights as soon as the last carriage is clear of the crossing.  That way the impatient car driving locals on my layout will be able to resume their travels across the track as soon as the train has gone.  But I need to ensure that the opposite direction circuit does not get triggered by the train as it leaves the level crossing. 
Most commercial circuits are good for dual track, where you can place the circuit detection just where you want it on each track.  But on single track, I am not aware of any commercial products that works like a real level crossing.  Some people have the circuit detect equidistant on either sides of the crossing.  That is not good enough for me. Well I am making one that works prototypically!  I will submit the final description here on my blog along with circuit plans when it is successfully installed on the layout and also send an article off to AMRM for their consideration for publication if they are interested. 
So back to my solution.  Well I thought I had this concept figured out, just how everything was going to work.  Taking this from that circuit, and that from another circuit.  I’ve also enlisted the help of some guru mates to check my logic.  However, I made a small mock-up of one of the circuits components with a relay powered from a 9V battery.  However, it would not work.  I asked my guru mates and they said it should work.  So today I threw the 9V battery away and got out my trusty DC train controller that I test all my DCC decoder installs with, set it to about 12V and hooked that up with my relay circuit.  Success!  The relay now works when I have a capacitor across its terminals.  I get a 3 second delay in this part of the circuit.  I then added a second capacitor and now I get 6 seconds.  It is working as designed.
Now while I was scratching my head about getting this circuit to work during the week, I was searching good old ebay.  I found some circuit boards that do what my cheap and nasty circuit does and does it for a variable length of time and at a cheaper price.  Wouldn’t you know it!  So I ordered two of those.  Anyway, I have the first building block of my circuit working.  I just needed to get my components working.  I will cover the alternatives in my future write up.  It will probably take about 3 weeks for the parts to get here from OS.
On Friday night this week, a few of us hit the highway and travelled to Grover’s place for a snag sizzle and a modelling night.  I did not do much while there, but I did solder up eight (8) track snubbers for my DCC buses.  However, I still need a few more to be made.  I also need to install those snubbers.  I also revisited the lighting circuits for my Auscision 73 class loco.  One wire has come adrift from one of the light boards, and I was trying to work out where it has to go back on.  So I think I have identified where it needs to go, and I will try to reattach next weekend and cram everything back under the shell. 
Yesterday was spent at the Club.  I did plan on working on my troublesome container train but I did not get around to it.  I took it to the Club and just brought it home again.  It is now sitting on the track at Acacia Ridge and will get some more time spent on it next weekend.  My initial plan of adding some more weight in the centre sills of the wagons is not possible as the centre sill is enclosed.
Of Friday night, Geoff mentioned about a new Hobby Shop that has opened up down at Browns Plains, 3/45 Grand Plaza Drive.  Its been there about 3 weeks.  It is called Simon Says and covers Hobbies and Games.  I went down to check it out today.  It looks promising.  It is open 9-5 Monday, Tuesday, Friday and Saturday, 9-9 Thursday and 10-4 on Sunday.  It is closed on Wednesdays.  Over time they will increase their range of items for sale. 
Go Queensland!