Sunday, January 28, 2018

Australia Day Long Weekend

Australia Day brings with it the beginning of the new school year - this always happens in this week in Queensland.  Also associated with this date is the beginning of the school cricket season.  Last Tuesday was the first day of cricket training for my son so I took an early mark from work to drive him there and back home again.  Wednesday was the first day of school for both my kids, so I took the day off work, and drove the kids to school with their heavy book filled school bags and then went and had coffee and snack with the boss. 

Model Railway activities during the week were few and far between, except that Tuesday night I went over to Arthur's place for a meeting of the Modelling the Railways of Queensland Committee.  This event continues to evolve thanks to the work of Arthur and more information will be available soon.  As Friday was the Australia Day public holiday, I was able to make my way to the shed and do some basic work.  I installed a new train onto the recently created 8A staging track in Grafton Yard.  I then repaired an old set of Peco right hand medium points, so I could then place two right hand points into a cross over within Fisherman Islands between track 1 and track 2.  The location of the points was causing some concern, as I wanted to make them usable so I could start locating another train on the first or second tracks in that location, and the container trains that terminate in the Fisherman Islands can fit between the cross over and the entry ladder.  These new cross over points will have multiple benefits.  Firstly, there is then somewhere to store some of my excess rollingstock, and secondly I can then store some additional wagons, that can be incorporated into various shunting moves, so I can make up, break up, and swap over wagons on some trains in the timetable.  I also gave a few locos a test run, as they had not been driven for probably well over 12 months.

So we had a school cricket trial for my son on Saturday down at Shorncliffe in the afternoon.  My son took 1 wicket for 5 runs from his two overs, and had another stumping disallowed as the umpire was obscured by a fielder.  The wicket keeper was most distraught at the non-decision, as he said he was further out than the first stumping.  Later on I was scoring when our team was batting, and gave my son out for a third ball duck, when after a few more balls I realised that he was still out there, and smacking the ball around to all corners of the ground for singles.  He made 10 from 14 balls  (he faced quite a few wides as well) when the game was called off with his team chasing down the opposition’s 101 all out from 23 overs with their 5/183 from 21 overs with 3 batsmen retired, and two more still to bat.  A good day’s work for the trial.  I just hate it when every batsman in the team wears a green helmet and they are all the same size.  I can’t wear my distance sunglasses when scoring as I can’t see the scorebook.  What a mistake – marking your own son as out when he was at the other end and yet to face a ball.  It all comes down to two new batsmen starting at the same time (one ball apart) and one batsmen going to the wrong end and causing all sorts of issues in the trial.  That is why I mixed the guys up.  It was even my son.  How bad am I?

Anyway today was another cricket match.  An Old Boys XI played the First XI, and the 7As played the 8As, and the 9As played the 10As.  The Second XI  was supposed to play a teachers team in the afternoon, but they called it off as being too wet.  So I went out early in the morning and again around lunch time, to see who was in the First XI and Second XI teams that I might know, as some of the boys were the same age and went to school with my daughter.  It turned out one young boy was in the Second XI team.

But in the arvo I was able to get down to the shed and have some more fun.  I installed the cross over between track 1 and track 2 in Fisherman Islands Yard.  That just means that I only need two left hand medium radium points to complete the crossover arrangement in Fisherman Islands Yard for the standard gauge track.  I am hoping to pick up a couple of second hand points at an upcoming Buy and Sell next weekend at one of the local clubs.

After this, I positioned the Ballast train that I store down at Fisherman Islands in the first part of track 2.  That still allows the Container trains to terminate in track 1.  I will consider locating another three container wagons in the second part of track 1.  What will become the second part of track 3 when I get the next two points will have a spare loco located in it and maybe another wagon or two.

I also started looking at the reason why the dual gauge track at Acacia Ridge was causing a short when the points were switched to crossover from track 1 for standard gauge trains.  I just insulated the dual gauge track against the point rail and all is now good.  I even ran a 45 class loco back and forth around that area to confirm all is now good.  What I also need to do, is investigate if I connected up the small cross over panel to control this point from track 1 to dual gauge or straight through for track 1 in Acacia Ridge Yard.  I test it today and it did not work, and I'm not sure if I ever connected up the push button back to the NCE Mini Panel, or even coded up the point throw commands in the NCE Mini Panel.  I also not sure if I ever purchased a stationary decoder to power the point motors on the cross over.  I do know that the points for the crossover have a point motor installed.  Well I guess that is a task for next weekend.  Who knows what I might find at next weekend's Buy and Sell. 

Another task, is to find out why the whole power district 6 will not power up.  Again a task for next week.

Note for young players.  Do not place soldering iron on the track in Acacia Ridge Yard in preparation for use and power up the layout and then wonder why there is short in power district 4.  It is relatively easy to solve though - again a note for young players - Just remove the soldering iron!

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Grafton Track 8

Again a very slow week for modelling and anything model railway related.  With Cricket on the TV on Friday and Sunday that is where I spent most of the afternoon and evenings on those days.  I did get to the cricket nets with my son yesterday afternoon and I was amazed that he has really developed his outswinger.  I had me caught behind about 3 times.  So he is consistently pitching it in the correct spot and everyone was swinging about a foot.  He even got a couple to go the other way and also had a few cutters going.  Just nice before the start of cricket season on Tuesday this week. 

On Saturday morning I did a round of some of the local hobby shops to see what was up.  I ran into a couple of people and had a good natter.  I also happened to pick up a second hand Peco medium radius point for a good price and when I got home after lunch decided to splice it into the Grafton Yard.

The location was the in track 7 to make a new connection into track 8 in Grafton Yard.  The aim was to make track 8 a complete loop.  I went through the other points that I had in my unused pile and found a couple of others and tried to work out what would fit the geometry in track 8.  The best fit was another right hand medium point.  It seemed that both of my two other RH points were slightly damaged and I did want to try and use them as a run around in Fisherman Islands Yard at a later date.  Anyway the best out of those two was resurrected and used to be spliced into track 8 to join up to track 7.  Track 8 was then re-laid around the loops in Grafton Yard.  I then spliced in another length of flex track between the two separate ends of track 8 and now it is a loop.  Mission accomplished.

I had my fruit train sitting in track 6.  So I backed the train out around track 6 and then reran it through Grafton Loops via track 7 to see if the new track work had not compromised the running.  All was good.  So I did this again.  I then backed the train out of track 7 and then re-entered the Loops via track 8.  Again no issues.  I tested both exit routes through track 8, the one via the main lead that tracks 1 through 7 feed into, and then the route into the single ended sidings from track 9 through 12.  I then backed the train out again, and left it back in its proper staging track, track 6.

So this was a good day's work.  I will still be on the look out for a number of medium radius Peco points that I need to install into Fisherman Islands,  That is one of my next tasks.  I also need to look at a short that occurs when I come of the entry to Acacia Ridge Yard from the south and into the dual gauge yard.  I'm sure  the solution will be a simple bit of work.  Maybe an insulated joiner has been missed.  Again a task for next weekend.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Grafton Yard Rethink

There was no railway activity early this week.  Friday this week I went to see Star Wars with my son, and in the late afternoon, received some visitors to the shed.  Jeff from my running crew brought along his father – Ian - up from Victoria and another fairly local Operating Session provider Duncan Cabassi.  Duncan runs a blog that I follow, called the UP / BNSF Joint Division - see my list.

Not having my wifi micro-SD card available for my Raspberry Pi based JMRI, as Greg was taking a backup of the saved config and other guru type stuff, I was limited to two Procab-R’s for a short operating run.  I gave Ian and Duncan a geographic tour of the layout, and then Jeff and Ian each ran a train.  Jeff ran the Murwillumbah Shunt train starting from Grafton Yard and dropping wagons off at Cassino, Old Cassino, Lismore and Murwillumbah.  While Ian took the Container train from Fisherman Islands, picking up another three 80’ container wagons at Clapham Yard and then travelling south to Grafton Yard.

While running the Shunt, Jeff advised that the loco does not fit through the new goods shed at Old Cassino.  What?  He said he ran it a few Operating Sessions ago and had issues.  Well Jeff did not write a note on my timetable card, so I couldn't follow up after the session on the 27 December and fix this.  I originally did not believe him when he told me on Friday.  But sure enough he was correct and I was left with egg on my face.  So today I went down to the shed at about 11:00am and put some cork under the shed, and raised it up.  The track at this location was laid on cork, and the shed sits in between the tracks in the yard but not on cork.  A bit of a blunder there from me.  But easily fixed.  The cork has been glued down, and eventually ballast will be added around this location and everything will blend in.

Another thing I did was paint a small baseboard, that I will use to build the Old Cassino Shell Oil Siding on.  This will allow removal from the layout.  I can then spend some time adding detail to the various bit and pieces in this area when I’m up in the house.  It will have at least 4 oil tanks, and may even have large fifth tank.  It also has a case shed.  I would really like to install the various pipes that runs between the various tanks on this removable baseboard for some added detail.

I also spent quite a bit of time considering some track re-arrangements to Grafton Yard.  I was thinking of adding a few more points so that the single ended tracks could be reached by both the inbound and outbound routes into the yard.  At the moment, all the single ended tracks can only be reached by a train backing in through the outbound tracks.  But after some considerable time, I talked my self out of any changes here.  However, I did decide that I would investigate making track 8 which is currently two dead end tracks , one on the inbound end and one on the outbound end, that don’t meet, into another single circular return loop.  This means that trains do not have to back into track 8 any more after a session.  But the train will just run through and stop.  I also thought of making a slight change at the outbound end of the track 8, by adding a set of points so that trains can leave by the ladder that takes trains from the return loop tracks - track 1 through track 7.  Previously you had to leave via the lead from all the other single ended tracks.  This will allow me to create a small section of track about 90cm long, that will house a couple of special trains.  Maybe my NSW railbus, when I get one from Auscision or eventually get my Far North Models version operational - it currently has a bit of a bind in the mechanism.  I could also locate a small steam special on this new piece of track.  I do have a single unused dead end track – track 13, that I could also stage a short 90cm train on.

I am considering that a future project for Cassino will be that all the crossing loops and the sidings on the mainline will be converted to power operation of the loops.  These could well be controlled via a JMRI panel on a tablet.  The North Coast Controller may well set the track that someone enters into a crossing loop into.  That would prevent most head-ons inside a crossing loop.  But this is a multi year project that needs to be planned.  It requires more thinking.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Happy New Year

Well it has been hot in the shed this last week.  Monday I have no memory of what I did during the day.  I think I did go down to the shed.  I did a bit of maintenance on my layout voltmeter.  It had some loose wires on it.  These were re-soldered.  I did plan on getting under the layout this weekend and trace some wires, as my master voltmeter that measures the output from the command station, via a master on/off switch, has not been working for a few months.  I had verified online via the web what the electrical schematic should look like and knew what I needed to do.  I was going to work out where a hanging wire was supposed to connect back to and solder it up.  But I just could not get motivated this weekend to action.  Well I guess there is next weekend, or maybe next Friday.  I need to be home next weekend to baby sit my son, as my daughter and the boss are going to a concert in the arvo with some friends.

Early in the week I did create a very short to do list for the layout for three things to do this week, and after having an early day on Wednesday, as I had the worst headache from about 7:15am in the morning, I finally called it a day at about 2:30pm, following two meetings that I need to attend in the arvo.  At about 5:30pm that afternoon after a couple of Panadols had kicked in and removed my headache, I ticked off the first two actions on that To Do list.  I also did a couple of other tasks.

Yesterday, I did have plan to go to a hobby shop and buy a set of point for Border Loop, when the wife distracted me, by saying go check out new some new cars – they are having a sale.  So after checking out two car yards in the morning, and then taking the boss back in the afternoon, and checking out a third car yard next to the first one we were actually looking at a car in, we actually bought a new ford.  So next Thursday my old XR6 will be replaced by a new Ford.  If I win lotto next Thursday night, I might be back there on Friday getting a new Ford Mustang as well.  While we were buying our car, two couples were each picking up new Ford Mustangs.  Hmmmmm!

Today I went down to the shed for a short period in the afternoon during the Lunch break in the cricket, but it was too hot.  However, I did paint up about eleven tarpaulin tea bags and have set them aside to dry in the shed.  Next week, these will be cut up into two tarpaulins each.  These tarpaulins are destined for my mates who model VR and SAR outlines. 

After that I did check out my timetable from the last operating session.  The next timetable card to pick up is for a 7:20am departure.  We already have a number of trains that are due to arrive at their destination at around 11:00am already completed.  So over the next few weeks, there are about 15 trains that I will need to move about (with some help from some other operators) so the timetable can be reset for an 11:00am restart when I next host an operating session.

Let’s hope that the new year brings us all lots of enthusiasm and we can all continue work on our home or Club layouts, or that special model.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Update From Last Operating Session of the Year on 30th December 2017

On Friday night 29th December, the night before the last Operating Session of the 2017 year, I did some work to cut up and stained about 20 more legs for my goods loading platform for South Brisbane Interstate station.  On Saturday morning, before the session I glued these legs onto the platform.  I also cut up and painted some tie down straps along the end of the wooden platforms, as per a photo I have of the real platform at South Brisbane Interstate Station.
The unloading platform in place at South Brisbane Interstate Station between the platform road and track 3.  The locos off the Brisbane Limited have run forward to run around their train before heading back to Loco Pilly for refuelling.

Saturday dawned and we had another crew gathering turn up for a 1:00pm start.  This time we had two more Victorian modellers.  We had David Head from Melbourne put in an appearance.  It has been a few years since he has been in attendance at one of my Operations Sessions.  PK piked as he said he had to shampoo his beard or some other type of lame excuse.  I think he couldn’t be in the same room as a group of modelling gurus.  Or maybe he was digging the hole for his clothes line?  Maybe we will never know.
Some of the crew - David, Shelton and Greg

We delayed the start of the session by a few minutes as my JMRI bitch was working overtime to get JMRI working properly.  Now I would like to extend my sincere thanks to Greg for persevering with my Pi problems.  Greg loaded a whole new version of JMRI onto the micro-SD card and low and behold, once connected we never had any of our previous issues that we had on the last few versions of JMRI running on my Raspberry Pi connected system.  Greg started with a particular base that someone advertised as being a complete version.  No doubt there was some driver issue or some sort of incompatibility that had crept its way into the previous version that Greg had been maintaining for Raspberry Pi that seemed to work when he connected his Raspberry Pi to his Powercab system, but materialised when connected to my serially connected 5 Amp NCE setup.  Woo Hoo!

The only little inconvenience with this version is that the fast clock with the JMRI set as the master, gets slightly out of sync between the Android engine driver throttles and the NCE procabs.  Now we just need to try and work out if wi-throttles have the ability to show the fast clock time (no one who attends my sessions is rich enough to has an iPhone) and everyone can determine if they are on time or late, running early according to the timetable cards that we run the layout by.  So during the session the two fast clocks drifted slightly apart with the NCE base station loosing time compared to JMRI’s master clock time.  I would have thought that if you made the JMRI system the master, it would have kept the NCE system in sync – that is why you make it the master.  Oh well there is always next time for some more tweaks, and more experimentation.

Saturday’s session was our first timetable Operation to officially include some narrow gauge trains.  I gave the honour to Darryl to run the first narrow gauge timetabled train.  Well considering he brought over all his 12mm rollingstock that honour should have gone to him.  Anyway maybe Darryl should have done some more rigorous testing of some of his wagons a bit before coming over.  Some Southern Rail Models locos had very low cow catchers.  They were almost dragging along the rails.  They kept hitting joins in the track, particularly when there was change in gradient in the layout and that occurs regularly on my layout.  So the cow catchers would get stuck on the join.  Some couplers of wagons had low hanging tangs, and coupler heights did not match the locos.  Lots of issues.  I’d bet that many of the 12mm wagons also had wheels that were out of gauge.  Now not all issues were related to Darryl.  The long section of dual gauge straight track between Acacia Ridge Yard and Clapham Yard has some slight wobbles in it. These wobbles, cause many derailments of the 12mm rollingstock.  So bit by bit, I will attempt to address these and try things out before next time.
The first narrow gauge Wheat Train from Acacia Ridge to Fisherman Islands departs towards Clapham Yard.

Later on in the session, an oil and general goods narrow gauge train is heading towards Fisherman Islands as well.

Well the session was almost over for some before it even started.  It was like an Emergency ward at my place.  Geoff hit his head getting into the car to come over, he had drawn blood from a scratch on his head, complained that he almost saw stars and had a very bad headache.  I know some people will do anything to avoid an Operations Session (like PK was perming his beard today), and then Dave had a hypo (low blood sugar) attack.  We were lucky that Dr Peter was in attendance and those people can expect a bill during the coming week.  Maybe another sound equipped Loco there for you Dr Peter?
This shot shows one of the standard gauge trains heading through the Running Creek tunnels early in the morning.

After Geoff went home with a headache, we had someone take (maybe steal) the mantle that has belonged to him for many a year.  Let me describe Geoff’s previous title.  He was the train stealer.  When he was given the timetable card for the cement train to Murwillumbah, he took the Gold Coast Motorail.  I’m sure blind Freddy could have spotted the difference.  So we kept reminding him of that event.  We now have a new train stealer.  It is our much loved, layout changing, Victorian Modelling mate - Shelton.  You do need thick skin to attend an Operations Session at my place.  Maybe that is why PK bailed?  When Shelton’s timetable card says that his train is a stock train and that the loco number was 8010 on the front, why would someone find another stock train on another track and cross out the 8010 loco number on his timetable card and re-write the timetable card with 4894, then proceed to take 4894 which was meant to go to Kyogle Stock Siding later in the session, but instead Shelton took it to Old Cassino.  Sometimes it is hard to get good drivers.  I know QR currently has a driver shortage – Shelton – Do not apply for any vacancy.  If you do, don’t put me down as your referee – or you will get my standard ‘You would be lucky to have him working for you’ response.

Anyway, the session ran reasonably well except for the 12mm side of things.  I saw three timetable cards with notes, but I can disregard one as someone could not find 8010 on a stock train – did I mention that?  However, that card did note that a wagon had an issue going over a roadway with a low coupler.  So this was addressed and has been double checked.  We had at least two issues, with people entering the same passing loop from different ends at the same time.  That causes a problem or two.  Someone has to back up and re-enter the Loop.  It is also difficult to take the Loop, if you are 2 foot along the Main before you get there to throw the point for the Loop!  I found one rather new timetable card, that the driver could not understand what to do, so I will adjust the card tomorrow to clarify things.  There was the occasional break away of a train.  But I really think these occur when the layout gets bumped at a particular time, as I cannot replicate these issues when I try to reproduce them.  I noticed some issues with drivers being a bit too enthusiastic in removing their headsets from the plug in points and the plug in point almost bending at 45 degrees.  I might have to brace some plug in point a bit more.  That was the cause when some of the plug in points ceased operating, as wires came off the back.  I think I really need a PABX installed, but that will reduce walkway space, and I don’t have a few hundred dollars to replace my headsets that are probably almost nearing end of life anyway. 
Now that is 8010 on a stock train.

Gee I must have an understanding and fabulous wife!  She doesn’t see me for a few days over this holiday period as I’m down the shed working on things, but she prepares afternoon tea for our two Operations Sessions crews over the last week and also the previous Tuesday Nighters.  I think she is a keeper.

There has been some suggestions made about the 12mm tracks at Acacia Ridge, and I have already actioned some work on that on Sunday (new year's eve) afternoon.  I have almost fixed up the ballast train timetable card mis-read from yesterday’s session.  The biggest repair that needs to be made following Saturday’s session is that a point at the southern end of Border Loop is stuffed and needs to be replaced.  That is a bit of a bugger, as the point is ballasted in.  So I will need to visit Ray’s shop next weekend and see if he has a replacement point.  So in the meantime, Border Loop has been booked out of use as a crossing loop, so the layout is still operable.  The point has been clipped for the Main Line.  Superglue was used to try and stabilise the point and seems to be working.
The one ballast wagon left at Nammoona Ballast Siding during the session.

The rest of the train was positioned at Fairy Hill Loop.

What should have happened, the ballast train should have loaded at Nammoona Ballast Siding.

The single ballast wagon that does not fit into the Nammoona Ballast siding, has to bide its time at Fairy Hill Loop, until the rest of the train is loaded, then it heads back and gets loaded in a short period of free time between other trains.  It then progresses around the layout dumping ballast at various locations.

The troublesome point on the southern entry to Border Loop.  It has been clipped to lie for the Main.

I also addressed an issue at Clapham Yard where a narrow gauge train of grain wagons was hitting a steel piano wire actuator that was sticking up about an inch above the peco actuator connected to the point motor which was set off to the side of the track.  So the steel actuation wire was trimmed off today.  Also a few of the narrow gauge points in Clapham Yard that are manually actuated via a steel piano wire from the facia also had their actuating wire up thought the middle of the point trimmed off lower, as the Southern Rail Models locos kept hitting the steel wire.  My narrow gauge locos do not have that problem.

There were some clean up activities undertaken following the session.  The errant stock train at Old Cassino was returned to Grafton Loops and replaced by the correct stock train (located in the next staging track powered by 8010).  No one will ever know about this event!  While conducting this move, it became apparent that the Oil train which was to leave 3 oil pots and an open wagon at the Old Cassino Shell Oil Siding only had 3 oil wagons there, and the Lismore Shell Oil Siding had an extra open wagon in residence.  So I did a bit of a shunt to move the open wagon (loaded with oil drums and cases back to Old Cassino siding which had a case store.  Also one of the Shell tankers that was due to be placed in at Old Cassino was at Lismore.  So I 0-5-0’ed that wagon back to its proper location.  Again no one will ever know about this mix-up.  Also the Loco 44100 from the Cement train to Murwillumbah was also parked in the Norco Siding instead of the headshunt, so this was amended as well.
The fixed up Oil train in Lismore's Shell Oil Siding.

The correct contents of the Old Cassino Shell Oil Siding.