Sunday, January 23, 2022

Just Getting my Breathe

I feel like I have nothing to do on the layout at the moment, that will inspire me.  So I have turned to doing some construction of some structures.  But it seems to have been one step forward, and then two steps backwards, then two steps forward and then another step backwards.  But I think I am making some slight progress.

So this week I did not do anything in the shed, except about 15 minutes of work on Friday afternoon.  I mixed up a couple of very small batches of plaster and added these along Kyogle near where Anzac parade goes.  That was all.  The only other activity I did in the shed was look for my old AMRI buildings which are models of NSW suburban brick station buildings.  They were somewhere in the shed.  It took me a while but I eventually found them.  I have at least 3 and a half of these items.  My original plan was to use these buildings, via a cut and shunt method of construction to help construct my Cassino station building.  I also had a NSWR plan for the Cassino Station Building & Signal Room.  I purchased this and lots of other items many, many years ago.

So on Friday afternoon, I got out my many photos of the Cassino Station building, printed two to an A4 page and sticky taped these together into a section by section picture for the Cassino station building.  It was slightly difficult to identify what went where, but eventually I pieced together 4 strings of photos.  I used my photos and a lot more photos that were taken by my mate Paul from the Sunshine Coast.  He took these many years ago, and I scanned them for him and together with his photos, it helped me to get my photos in order.  The Cassino station building is actually two separate buildings joined under the one roof.  The southern building is actually the Cassino Station Building.  So this accounted for 2 strings of photos, the back platform side and the main platform side.  The northern building is the Cassino Refreshment Room.  I also created two strings of photos for this building as well.

My plan for the station building shows the plan view as well as the back platform side drawing view.  It is amazing that these are very similar to my photos.  The only difference being that one of the openings from the back platform through to a walkway, was bricked up.  No doubt done some time around 1991, when the back platform was put out of use, filled in and made into a roadway for busses to use.

After studying the plan, I found out that the distance between the thickened beams that support the corbels and hence the brackets that support the roof, is different to those on the suburban station buildings.  The suburban station buildings are on about 11’ centres according to another NSWR plan I have.  The Cassino station buildings has these at about 13’ 3” on average according to my calculations.  The AMRI model is just over 11’ centres.  So back to my strategy of using these station kits to help build the Cassino station building.  Well having the section a different size was a bit of bad luck, and made me think of alternatives.

So I decided to look at some brick embossed plastic sheet and see if I could make my own building sides from scratch.  I will still look at re-using the thickening posts and the corbels and the windows and doors out of those kits if possible in my construction.  The brick I am looking at using is from Ratio and they do a Flemish bond pattern, just like the actual station building.  Not that I will be able to see this, but you will up close.  These sheets were ordered today at the local hobby shop and should be here next week.

I have created an HO scale drawing of the back platform side of the station building, with all the scale dimensions on it.  The NSWR plan is nowhere near scale, and I don’t have access to my work photocopier, which if I did, I would just do one print of my page, scaled up at about 1.62 times and it should be near enough to HO scale.  But we are not allowed in the office for a few weeks yet at work.  So no harm done.

I will probably do the main platform HO scale drawing later tonight.  I spent some time this arvo trying to pull apart my AMRI station buildings to get to the basic building blocks I need to detail my station building.  Most came off very easily, and a couple were damaged, but I think I will end up with more than enough components.

Sunday, January 16, 2022

A Positive Weekend

So on Friday afternoon I could not get motivated to do anything.  Maybe some of that was because my daughter was not feel well on Wednesday night/ Thursday morning.  She went for a Covid test on Thursday morning and we thought we could be in lock down for a week.  

On Saturday morning we got the answer and she was negative.  A big relief.  No one else in the house had any symptoms.  I was experimenting about how to install a single LED into my ambulance.  I was trying fibre optics, (well fishing line) but I was not getting a good light out the top.  So I decided that I would just mount the LED straight up inside the ambulance.

I was contemplating how to put two LED lights into my fire engine.  Again it turned out that I needed to disassemble it and drill some holes for the LEDs and the wires up through the cab and place them next to the blue lights on the roof.  When testing these at the workbench they seemed to work OK.

So on Saturday afternoon I decided to go to the shed and install my Arduino for drill the holes up through the baseboard for my disco lights in my community hall.  So I drilled those holes, pushed the wires up thought the baseboard and then through the community hall.  I turned the Arduino on and the hall was really bopping along.  A future task is to add the MP3 player so we have sound as well.

So the next task was to run wires from the Arduino to the fire engine on the layout.  These were run and then the wires were run to the ambulance.  The holes through the baseboard were drilled and the wires fed through the holes and soldered up to the fire engine and the ambulance.  These were tested and seemed to work OK with a 3V power supply.

Work then resumed back at the computer merging two Arduino programs into one.  I merged the code for the Disco event at the hall to the flashing light program and there was no issues.  No compile errors at all.  My skills must be coming back. I ran the program and there was a slight issue with the flash rate.  I made a change in two places and re-tested and all was good.  

Late on Saturday night I realised that back on the layout I was delivering the wrong polarity to one side of the flashing lights were delivering to the ambulance, fire engine and police car.  I also realised that I had not installed my inline resistor to the various flashing lights in the cars.  That was my problem sitting at the kitchen table doing some testing on Saturday morning.  I blew up two small red LEDs, on a 3 V power supply.  So I devised my work schedule for Sunday for when I got down to the shed.

So early on Sunday I steadily went through my list of tasks.  I rewired my flashing lights to be a common 5 V instead of GND.  I then added the resistors to the circuits. I swapped the Arduino I had on the layout, for one with the new program in it that had both the Disco code and the flash light code for the emergency vehicles.  I turned the Arduino on and the disco raged away.  But my flashing lights did not flash.  It had me perplexed for about 15 seconds, until I saw that the plugs for the ambulance and the fire engine were just dangling down in front of me, and not plugged into the Arduino.  Well that was a bit of a problem!  But very easily fixed.  So I did and guess what?  They worked!

So later on I was looking at how to remove my existing police car from the layout - it had various wires running into it.  It had headlight and taillights that worked and and flashers on the roof that did not work.  I through I had blown the flashing LED lights a couple of years ago and needed to work out how to remove them from the car on the layout keeping the other wires and lights in tact.  This was done and the flashers were taken to the work bench to determine how to add new LED lights to the car.  I just happened to test the old flashing lights and wouldn’t you know.  They actually flashed.  It must have been a dry solder joint that was causing it not to flash.  So these were old flashing lights were returned to the old police car and now that is working fine. 

So I then had to dig around and find another car that I could add my own Arduino powered flashing lights to.  The car was found, disassembled, and provision for lights made.  However, this old car, already had front and rear lights.  But these were not working.  So I have been distracted by trying to get these lights to work.  Tonight I think I will make an executive decision and throw that car away and grab another car from the layout and drill some more holes in it for the my flashers, but I will check that the headlight and tail lights work first.

Sunday, January 9, 2022

Light at the End of the Tunnel

This week I spent quite a bit of time trying to adjust some Arduino code that I wrote to get realistic flashes on some LEDs to simulate Police car flashing lights, Fire truck flashing lights and an ambulance’s lights.  I think I mastered that quite well.  I had planned to have these all installed by this weekend, but that never happened.  I also re-wrote my disco flashing lights code and had them working well on my test bench.  This is for my local Community Hall located at Fairy Hill.  The next task is sound as well as lights - but that is a few weeks off.  All these lights will be controlled by an Arduino.  So I have the two pieces of code, the flashing lights for the emergency service vehicles, and the flashing light for the disco in a loco hall working separately.  I now have to merge the two pieces of code into a single program in my Arduino.  That will occur next weekend.  

My weekend started on Friday afternoon when I installing a small shelf under Fairy Hill on the layout on which my Arduino (to control the all the lights) will be located.  I should be able to provide power to the Arduino at that location easily enough.  My plan is to have a switch on the fascia of the layout in various locations to turn the various scenes with flashing lights off.  So separate switches for the police car, fire engine, ambulance and the disco.  Instead of just having the Arduino keep running and going through the various parts of the program for each set of lights, and me just turn off the common wire in the circuit to those lights so they extinguish – and potentially make the program very simple, I went down a rabbit hole.  And sitting back now, I have no idea why I did that.  Those switches on the fascia are read by the Arduino and in that program running on the Arduino it just skips the particular flashing light code for whatever needs to be not run.  Sitting here now, I just wonder why I decided to do that stupid technique.  Oh Well!

Anyway, on Friday night and Saturday I started installing all the wiring for the local Community Hall disco so it would reach from the Arduino on the shelf to the Hall on the layout.  But I was doing this on my work bench.  When completed it would be taken out to the layout and installed.  I would do a bit or work, test it.  Do a bit more test it.  Everything was going well.  However, when I plugged the jumpers into this small section of PCB board they would not work.  It just had to be bad contacts by the jumper pins in the PCB board holes.  Too small a pin, or too large a hole and very bad contact was made.  I wanted to not solder the last lot of jumpers for the 6 LEDs, from the PCB to inside the hall, so I could remove them from the layout easily if required.  I decided to solder these connections as well.  Then I also had trouble soldering to this old piece of PCB.  It was very annoying.  So I went out this morning and bought a new piece of PCB from Jaycar and used that.  So this afternoon I created a new PCB, connected the wires and Perfect! 

So the disco scene is now working very well.  But the time ran out on the weekend.  I might have watched the cricket on TV instead.  So next weekend, I will update the two pieces of code (lights and disco) into a single program, and then lay the wires to the various emergency vehicles to flash the lights.  I expect some issues with the wires going into the various vehicles, but will be next week’s problem.

Today I also watched about 85 minutes of trains running and commentary on Dave Abeles layout in the US from midday today - local time.  There were at one stage 243 people from around the world watching these trains running.  We even had our mate Marty from the Gold Coast running a few of these trains.  A great day indeed.

Sunday, January 2, 2022

Slow End to the Year

This week has been a strange one.  I have gone from full throttle to idle.  We had a cut down Operations Session on Monday, and then I had some issues to fix following that session.  These were documented in the last 2 blog updates.  These list of changes were completed quite quickly.  The last few days I seemed lost.  Without a purpose.  Not knowing where to go or what to do next.  So today I decided to create my list of the next lot of future tasks to do.  Optimistically I thought I would get through quite a few of the items on that list today.  Well I was way out. 

Back in early December I purchased some infrared controlled candle lights.  So today I started to pull a few of these candles apart, as I was going to splice one of these into my flickering ‘fire in an industrial bin’ at Park Road Siding.  Did you think I could get it to work?  I think I must have fried the first circuit, as it no longer turns on or off via the remote.  The fires just blazes away.  So I built a second IR control circuit and certainly that one was working.  So I spliced that in to the ‘fire in the industrial bin’ circuit and it now works.  Whoo Hoo!  My next task is to build a flashing light  circuit for the fire engine appliance that has visited Park Road Siding to extinguish the 'Fire in the Industrial bin'.  Again, this might be able to be set to turn the flashing fire engine appliance lights off when the crew has extinguished the ‘fire in the industrial bin’.

The next few items are to illuminate a number of flashing lights on some police cars and ambulances on the layout.  I also have a car with headlights where its headlights are not turning on.  I will get under the layout and check that out tomorrow.  I then need to start on the disco lights for the local community hall.

Also, to placate Marty, today I ran a CAT 5 cable from my router in the house to the shed where I have my wifi extender.  The cable can be unplugged and rolled back up when not in use, or not required.  I tested it all with everything in the house this afternoon.  So tonight I will probably get online and do it from the shed, just to prove to Marty that I can and it works.

Unfortunately I need to go back to work on Tuesday.

Friday, December 31, 2021

Post Operating Session Fixes

So before the Monday Operating Session I discovered that one of my headset plug in points had a broken plug in connector.  Given that we had no North Coast Control (NCC) in operation, then we were not using any headsets so the broken plug in point did not cause any issues.  So on Tuesday morning I started doing some fixes.  The control panel at Murwillumbah was fixed.  The screw was adjusted and the wires re-soldered on.  

I found out that 8019, which wouldn't run, had its long address set to 0.  Whoops.  I was working on that loco prior to the Ops Session.  Maybe after a reset it I forgot to set is address again.  So that was my fault.  I then re-consisted 8019 back into its Brisbane Limited consist.  I inspected every ballast wagon on the ballast train and tested the wheels and they all ran well.  I gave it a run back and forth between The Risk Loop and Glenapp Loop and everything seemed fine now.  The next day I ran the troublesome ballast train from The Risk crossing loop to Nammoona Ballast Siding, and then ran it back again.  Guess what?  No issues.  So the work I did on every wagon the day after the Ops Session must have fixed what was wrong.  It must have been no use for 12 months that caused its issues.

As I was working the ballast train back to the The Risk, I noticed that some rails had not been painted.  So I then decided to paint some rails brown along the route.  Some points in Border Loop were also done.  I then started to look at a couple of narrow gauge wagons (12mm) whose bogies are slightly stiff.  I then turned my attention to two wagons that were bad ordered from the Oil train during the Ops Session.  One open wagon, was slightly high one end, but also very light.  So I removed one KD washer from one end and found some lead to put inside the wagon.  The second wagons was an oil tanker.  It has low couplers.  So I can add a washer above the bogies, but that makes the bogies unable to swivel.  The bogies are of the clip on variety.  So I am looking at maybe changing them to a screw in type.  We will see.  While fixing up these wagons from the Oil train, I got thinking.  The open wagon, which delivers full drums to the Oil Depot at Old Cassino, also takes full drums away.  The difference between full and empty drums is how they are packed into the train.  Full Drums stand upright.  Empty drums are laid down.  I have decided to add some more operations to the up and down Oil trains.  So after the open wagon is placed into the Oil Siding at Old Cassino from number 49 down oil train, its removable load of full drums will be replaced with a removable load of empty drums.  When train No. 50 gets back to Grafton Yard, the Empty drums will also be replaced with the full drums again. 

The loaded drums.

The empty drums

The wagon where the loads are placed

As a follow up to the previous week’s post about a loco (4836) not working this was the result.  I found that I had a spare NCE D13SRJ decoder laying around.  So I thought I would swap the decoder out of 4836.  I had an idea that it had a D13SRJ in it as well.  However, when I opened it up, it had an older hard wired D13SR.  So I had to unsolder and resolder all the wires to replace it with the newer D13SRJ.  It did not run.  So I took the motor out and eventually I got it running.  I have no idea why it would not run.  But it would tick away doing CV writes, but not move when full motor current was applied.  Anyway, I removed and reattached the motor wires, and used a 9V battery applied direct to the motor to test it and it ran.  I then tested the wires I applied to the motor and they then worked.  I then fully installed the decoder, and tested it and it was off and running again.  So maybe it was some sort of motor connection problem all along.  But that loco is now back in the roster.  I added this loco back into its 3 loco consist that I swapped it out from, and returned the loco that I swapped it with, back to being a spare loco.

I investigated three issues that Darren reported during the Operations session.  I adjusted three sets of point throws in the southern end of Cassino Yard and they now do a full throw in both directions.  The chance of derailments due to the blades not laying up against the stock rails here is now gone.  I also adjusted the fence line at the Rocla Sleeper siding and ran the car carrier through that location a dozen times and it now appears incident free.  I also fixed the power feed on the main at Rocla Sleeper Siding.  There is no more stopping when the point is set for the siding.

I also fixed a manual point throw at Kyogle that came out from underneath the Peco point.  I also found quite a few notes made to some of my Shunt lists from the operations session.  As trains have evolved over time, I may not have been too diligent in adjusting the current shunt lists.  I also realised that I could simplify a few timetable cards where the returning trains need to travel around the return loops at Grafton Yard before backing into one of the dead end sidings.  But to do so I will have to re-locate a train that sits on track 8A to somewhere else on the layout.  I will get around to that later on.  Today I updated the timetable cards and various shunt lists.  I found out that some of the changes I was to make to the shunt lists, were already made.  I just did not print new shunt list cards since the last session.  Again my mistake!  However, there were plenty of slight changes made to various instructions on the timetable cards and on some shunt lists.  I added the extra 2 cement wagons to the shunt lists for train numbers 3 and 4 the cement train.  I added the new wagons to the shunt lists for train numbers 49 and 50 the Oil train.  I also added the instructions to the timetable cards for the replacing the drum loads on those two trains as well.

Happy New Year everyone.

Thursday, December 30, 2021

Running Session Wrap

Monday this week started with the phone starting to ring off the hook as the time for the December Operations Session approached.  Crew were dropping like flies.  Marty’s Dad had a fall and had a fractured wing.  He’d been up at the hospital from 4:00am and was in no state to drive up to my place and participate.  Glen had a sore throat and was going to get a covid test.  Jeff whom was waiting for his wife’s covid test for quite a few days finally got a Positive result at 12:30am – not something he was looking forward to.  Darryl, forgot the house number, given that new car port out the front probably confused him.

But at 11:30am the BBQ was fired up, and from midday the crew started to trickle in.  We had Darryl and his son Chris, followed by Darren, Arthur and Greg all rock up.  We had a few snags and a cold drink and a bit of a natter before heading down to the shed and kicking off Operations just before 1:00pm.  Given the small numbers, we decided to do away with North Coast Control and everyone was running trains, working themselves between crossing loops.  So if the next section was free, they could take the staff for that section and progress their train in accordance with their timetable card.

Everyone read their notices, the aircon was turned on, their throttles given cab addresses on my layout, the fastclock started and away we went.  So over the next 3 hours we had 28 trains operate.  A few trains that have sat idle in sidings for over 12 months without turning a wheel ran rather poorly.  My ballast train which is normally a great train to operate ran abysmally.  It was uncoupling, derailed at a few locations and on a couple of points.  It might need a service.  Loco 8019 which was in a consist with 8040 and was to drive the Brisbane Limited south from South Brisbane would not move.  Whoops.  So a jumbo 442 was substituted for the stalled 8019 and normal services resumed.

I had added a couple of wagons to the oil train since last running, and they had not been tested.  Guess what?  They were bad ordered.  So that is a job for me to fix up – post session.  Coupler issues and lack of weight in one maybe two wagons.

A gate on the Rocla Sleeper siding was causing some minor issues.  However, the fence along the outer edge of Rocla Siding had recently been sheeted in wire mesh.  It seemed that a few wagons going past were rubbing on the wire and gradually peeling the wire back along the fence.  I will have to look at that.  At that same location, the points at the northern end of this loop, were set for the Siding, but as the loco approached on the main, it stopped.  It appears that there is bad power feed in one rail at this location.

My CPH railmotor must have some dirty wheels, as it continually stops and restarts.  So that will get a service.  The 620/720 will also get the same service, as it was derailing more than usual.  Maybe it has a build up of gunk on the wheels.  I realised after the CPH left Kyogle that my track cleaning train was occupying the Loop at that location.  So I moved it from there to the Kyogle Butter Siding.

I just recently did some work with soldering wires onto the control panel at Murwillumbah.  But I need to do some work on the screws holding it in place.  It was wobbling all over the place.  That cause two wires to come adrift again.  So that stopped the points being able to be thrown for the Loop.  So that will also be addressed permanently post session.

A few trains went via some unusual routes.  The Gold Coast Motorail went via the sidings at Murwillumbah to gain access to the platform.  The ARHS CPH railmotor tour went via the wrong way around the return loops at Acacia Ridge and got stalled under Rocklea Sidings.  So it had to be rescued, and put on the right track.  A 44 class whose wheels were continually going out of gauge, was derailing.  So it was swapped over for a 442 Class and that caused the train to run a lot better.  That 44 class with have its wheels gears changed before the next session.

Darren was running one train with two locos and a coupling pulled out on the lead loco.  So I grabbed that loco and fixed the coupling and then after the glue dried, it magically was transported back onto the front of the train.  Darren also reported that some manual points in Cassino were not throwing fully.  They left the slightest of gaps between the point rail and the stock rail.  It might have caused a problem or two.  A few points were not throwing properly at Rocklea Sidings.  But pushing the button twice seemed to throw the point over properly.  I will check that out and also give that track a bit of a clean.  The pre-session track cleaning train does not operate through the various sidings at this location, so it is a manual job.  It wasn’t done before the session.

Given that the number of operators were down on normal, the number of trains running concurrently was down, so some trains were not in their required location before another was due to run through a location.  That then causes issues with the timetable.  A case in point, the Railbus which had just run from South Brisbane Interstate Station to Cassino, terminates in the back platform road.  About 20 minutes later it is taken on another run to the branch terminus of Murwillumbah.  However, before the Railbus could leave, a goods train from the branch was due to travel via the Back Platform Road and do some shunts across to the Cassino Yard.  It could not use the Back Platform Road.

A few points will be added to the Notices for the next operations session.  I few words will be changed on some of the timetable cards to be even more specific to the Operator to ensure they place the wagon sin the correct location, or go via the correct route.  I had the motor rail wagon stored at the wrong end of South Brisbane Interstate platform.  I will look at the timetable card to see if I can be more clearer.  I also heard some comments via some ex-railway staff, that these instructions were not written by someone who has done the job of shunting previously.  These are all backwards.  So I will revisit those instructions as well.  All in good fun, but I do enjoy being the brunt of all these comments throughout the session.

Soon after 4:00pm we had a cessation of activities due to excess hours and we adjourned to the pergola for a final drink of the crew’s favourite poison:- beer, soft drink, coffee, and a snack of some sweet biscuits and cakes etc.

Thanks for persevering guys.  We will be back again but it will be much sooner than 12 months this time.  Thanks for attending.

The 620/720 set is running from Cassino to Border Loop on the Goat.  It is just crossing Fairy Lane

The 620/720 set is about to take the Main in Fairy Hill Loop.

In the crossing Loop, the 620/720 meets the Railbus which is in the Loop waiting for the cross.

Arthur is shunting the wagons for the return Brisbane Limited at South Brisbane Interstate.

Chris and Darryl watching a train depart Park Road Siding.

Darryl is next to the Good Shed at Park Road Siding looking across to South Brisbane Interstate.

Arthur is doing another shunt, this time the Branch pickup goods from Murwillumbah to Grafton Yard.  It is here picking up 5 wagons that have returned from the Cassino Meatworks and were placed in the yard for this train to take them back south.

The meeting of the minds.  Darren, Arthur and Darryl.  They surround South Brisbane Interstate.  I think they are hatching something.  Maybe a cunning plan.

Sunday, December 26, 2021

Bring It On!

So a Christmas update.  I hope everyone had a fabulously merry Christmas with their families.  Let’s hope that the big fella in red has dropped some model train related items under your Christmas trees.  I received my usual items:- Dilbert Calendar, Sudoku book, chocolate coated almonds and a few other items. 

On Friday afternoon, I tested another 5 locos.  I also electronically submitted my two NMRA APs for CIVIL and Electrical.  I have two hard copy bundles of paper to give to the local guru to check them out when he comes round some time next year.  I have also started reading through the paperwork for NMRA AP for Dispatcher.  I hope to have all of that complete by the end of the holiday period.  I realised that I need two NMRA mates to sign off the hours undertaken operating on their layouts.  So I just need to arrange a meet to get that elusive signature. 

On Friday evening I went to the shed and sceniced a small area about 2’ x 1’.  On Christmas Morning I went back down to the shed, after the normal family activities and did another small area of scenicing around the same size.  However, the main task for that day was to check out my headphone system.  I know that I have an issue with one set of headset plug in point.  So that was quite easily remedied, by soldering the wires back on.  However, upon testing the system, with no DCC power applied to the track, it appears that there is a rather large squeal through the headsets.  I always thought that it was related to the DCC signal in the track running parallel to the headset system, causing some inductance.  However, it appears not related to this.  So my next task was to unscrew all 24 headset plug in points and inspect everyone separately to see if I can see any issues before Monday’s Operations Session.  I could not find any incidents of wires touching, or wires off any of the pushbuttons, or plug in points.  Oh well, we will have to live with it until I can come up with a better solution.

The last task yesterday was to stock the fridge, and then clear the dispatcher’s desk at North Coast Control.  The table and chairs in the pergola were washed down.  The Boss got some snags today and a carton of milk for the shed, but who bothers to check the gas level in the BBQ.  I like to live on the edge!  Tomorrow morning the tea and coffee, sugar and coffee cups come out in the shed.   Marty is bringing his camera along tomorrow and will be following some drivers along with their trains.  So if it is to go wrong, it will tomorrow as Marty will capture it and the whole world will see it.

A late update from two attendees, is that they are late withdrawals.  Someone is awaiting a covid test result and the other has had a change of plans thrust upon them.

Bring it on!