Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Trip North

Early Saturday I was picked up by Darren and Mike as we made our way to Peter's Place. From here Peter drove us up to the Sunshine Coast to visit Peter and Anna at Caloundra. Peter moved his rather large N scale layout from Algester to his new house in one piece in the back of a truck, and while there he started to do some work on it. It is currently located in his 2 car garage. He has ripped up some track and and is in the process of adding some removable wings. He is making it look like an E with three wings on it. After checking out Peter's progress, we adjourned to his outdoor area for a very civilised morning tea. From here Peter led us to his mate Gordon's place. Gordon has a shed out the back and is in the process of adding two wings onto his N scale layout. Both Peter and Gordon are NCE Powercab converts.  From here we made our way to the Beerwah Pub for a great lunch. It was here we met Frank. Frank lives a few kilometres west of the pub and his layout N scale layout is located in his barn type shed. His shed make's mine look like a very small younger brother. On one side of the barn, Frank has an area about 6m x 9m screened off as his crew rooms. The walls and doors, came from a mate's place down the road who wanted to borrow Frank's ute to take a whole lot of aluminium windows and door frames to the dump. No you don't he said I've got a good use for it. These rooms, are very well appointed with an actual lounge area, a modelling table, stacks of well organised storage, DVD player attached to a TV and tea and coffee making facilities.  Didn't I cop a few smart comments in comparison to my non-existant crew quarters.  Directly above the crew room, is his layout room. Frank also models N scale. This layout allows for about 6 or 7 operators. You can use two man crews, as you pick up and drop off cars along the ways. The layout is operated using Frank's own card system. Every wagon has a purpose and goes from source to destination and back again during the running of the various trains. You continually add or drop off the cards with the wagons.  It was certainly very enlightening and thought provoking. The system uses a Digitrax radio control system. While the layout ran superbly, I do like my NCE system better.

After a safe trip back to Brisbane, later that night Peter payed me a visit.  He and Anna had to come back down to baby sit their daughters kids.  As they live in the same suburb, Peter popped around to check out my new Telstra T-Hub as well as progress on the shed.

On Monday this week, sometimes Tuesday Nighter's visitor to my place George, came round to get some advise in setting up his NCE 5 Amp radio control system. I think he has made a wise choice.  He did have a Lenz system but was having trouble with upgrades and support.

On thursday this week I came home from work slightly early and wanted to run a train in the shed for an hour before dinner. So after starting out running the train, I ended up doing some styrene terra forming in a couple of hard to reach areas on the top deck in order to try and meet my self imposed deadline of basic scenery on the top deck by the end of the Christmas Holidays this year. Today I covered some of these areas with some plaster to ensure a little bit more progress towards the goal is made. This work will sit here for a couple of weeks before any future progress as next week Peter, Darren, Geoff and myself will be car sharing to the Armidale Convention. Any of those readers attending this convention please say hello.  Because I will be interstate, there will not be an update next Sunday.  It will probably by delayed to Monday night so don't dispair.

The weekend after is usually my day to attend the Club Meeting, however, as my daughter has a dance rehersal and recital on during the day and my son has a party to attend, so that has thrown my plans into disarray. So in order to get my fix, I think I will schedule a running session in the shed on that night for PK, and the usual car load of suspects.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

What A Week! - I'm Exhausted

Tuesday this week started off with an early mark from work and a trip to Dick Smith to get some sub-miniature slide switches that they were selling for $0.25 each - absolute bargain! This was followed by an approx 1km walk to the Jaycar for some bi-colour LED's for the next section of staff machine control panels. After another 1km walk back to the local bus station, and 2 buses later I arrived home. Once home I made up a couple more of my styrene brackets to hold my control panels to the layout facia.

Tuesday night was a Tuesday nighters meeting in the Shed. The Boss had prepared a little supper and I had washed all the coffee cups out and pre-boiled the water, got the tea, coffee, sugar and moo juice out. Eventually the Tuesday Nighters rolled up and while they were all chin wagging and checking out the staff machines, I was installing the brackets to fix the control panels to the facias, at Glenapp Loop, The Risk Loop, Border Loop, Kyogle Stock Siding, and Kyogle Loop. The staff machines held up to much switching and proding and were met with a general consensus of approval. I also ran a few trains as did Darren testing out his radio Procab on my triple headed sounded equiped 44 Class ballast train. I also ran my 620-720 class set from Grafton through to Kyogle - the then current start of the staff controlled sections of the layout. I think Geoff enjoyed hearing my 620/720 as I kept blowing the horn on every loop of the helix right next to his ear.  Darren also brought his 49 Class Loco which he is replacing the normal electrical board in the loco with a new Tsunami sound decoder. Darren was seeking assistance with how we all thought he should wire up the front and rear marker lights to Functions 5 and 6 on the sound decoder. I think PK thought that model decoder was OK as he ordered one for his 49 class loco from Model Railway Craftsman the next day - it must be great to have money.

On Thursday I had the day off from work on child minding duties as the Boss had a specialists appointment in the morning and both kids were home sick, so I took my daughter to the doctor to get her a dose of medicine - my son had gone to the doctor two days before and got his then. It was not until about 3:00 pm that I managed to get some train time. I first went out to an electrical wholesaler and got a 100m roll of 4-core alarm cable to allow the wiring up of the rest of the staff machines. When I got to the shed at 3:45 pm, I laid the cable linking the staff machines at Fairy Hill all the way to Cassino. I also laid the cable for the Cassino to Old Cassino connection and a cable from the Intermediate staff machine just near where the main line junctions near Hotham Street on the northern end of Cassino. This cable will cater for the section of track that runs from here to Old Cassino via the Old North Fork, which has been ripped up now for many a year, but which I am modelling. I then soldered up the two signal panels at Fairy Hill Loop and gave them a test. The next Block is now controlled by staff machines.

Saturday was the day that I went over to Austral Modelcraft and ran into Tuesday nighters Lefty & Son. They had not made it around on Tuesday as Raymond was on call and I think LEfty was after some Beauty Sleep. At Ray's I picked up 20 NCE 8-pin drop-in decoders for the Club that Ray had ordered the week before. When I got home, I started packing what I needed to take to the Queensland Model Railway Exhibition at the Workshops Rail Museum. I was working on the Structure Building Stand.

Today at the exhibition I caught up with lots of familiar faces and surprisingly even ran into Bob Gallagher himself. I also met Bob Young from Balmain Drawingboard another interstater. So my output for the day was 4 HO scale coil steel cradles, 4 complete HO coil steel containers with more 2 half complete, and 5 complete N scale coil steel containers, and 1 half complete. I also found out some interesting things about the New England Convention in 2 weeks time from Warren Herbert - those attending who read this Blog will all learn about it when you get there and not before. There was also two layouts I had not seen before, one in HO NSW called Riverbrook and one in O scale NSW - Newcastle by Ron Fox. Most impressive. There was of course old favourites Coorparoo, Dagabar, Brendale and Kyogle also running QR and NSW rollingstock. There was a good selection of Shops/manufacturers - including Alco World, AR Kits, J&J Hobbies, Gwydir Valley Models, Horizon Hobbies, Little Building Co, Modeller's Warehouse, Modratec, O-Aust Kits, Peter Boorman's Workshop, Railco and Wuiske Models. I had a hoot.

Next weekend is a trip to see the North Coast Chapter of the Tuesday Nighters. See you after that.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

We Have Staff Instruments! And they are Working

This week I spent considerable time looking up designs for power supplies that I would use to power my Staff Machines. I had to have something to show the Tuesday Nighters (this Tuesday), so I eventually decided on taking a design from the NCE-DCC yahoo group website files area that allows a constant voltage for LED's to be taken from track voltage.

So I coupled this design with the design for switching the bi-colour LED's to indicate 'Line Clear' and 'Line in Use' and Voila a staff instrument was born.

So on Saturday I made a trip to Jaycar and purchased the components for 10 power supplies for 10 blocks on the layout. However, I only have enough 5mm bi-colour LED's for 4 blocks. I put one power supply together and tested it. I attached the power supply to the rails with alligator clips and it produced a short circuit. I scratched my head and then looked at the 2 inputs and 2 outputs on my bridge rectifier - Doh! I had one input wire connected to the wrong post on the bridge. I just unsoldered and then soldered it to the correct pole and no short circuit now. So I connected the multimetre up and measured 3.something Volts across the output of the power supply. That was close enough so I connected 2 LED's and the LED's came on with good intensity so it worked - truely amazing - this electronics stuff is a piece of cake.

So I then put three more power supplies together. I drilled holes for the 5mm LED's in the first few Control Panels and glued the LED's in with Aquadhere. I then soldered everything together and installed the first two blocks. They worked I then half installed the third block. That was enough work in the shed for the day.

On Saturday night I put together another 6 power supplies and tried to work out how I would attach my Control Panels, which shows the staff machine status, to the layout. I worked out a way and made up 4 brackets from styrene and tried then on Sunday afternoon. They worked. Sometimes I do amaze myself.  It may not be the smartest way of mounting these control panels but the first two seem to work.  I then finished installing the third block and then installed the fourth block which included an Intermediate staff machine for the Kyogle Stock siding. This will allow a train to be put away in this loop clear of the main line to enable other traffic to keep running while a stock train is loaded or unloaded in the loop. Mind you, it will be a small train as the siding only allows about 6 or 7 stock wagons with a 48 Class loco on the front. I then half installed the fifth block but ran out of LED's. So that will be a task for next Saturday.

I have cut out all the control panels for the whole layout and over the next few weeks as I purchase the required items to complete the panels - switches, LED's, more 4 core wire, I will complete my layout's block control system.
Acacia Ridge Control Panel - showing the Staff instrument for the Acacia Ridge - Glenapp Section

Glenapp Control Panel.  The left light indicates the section back to Acacia Ridge and the right light shows that 8040 on the loop has just withdrawn a staff and is heading to The Risk, while a train is in the Main heading the other way.

At The Risk a train is just arriving from Border Loop while 8040 is still coming from Glenapp.

At Border Loop we see that train is still in the section between Border Loop and The Risk.

The intermediate Staff instrument at Kyogle Stock Siding

Kyogle's Control Panel showing the section all clear back to Border Loop.  The Control Panel at Fairy Hill Loop has yet to be completed at the other end of the section - thus no light.

Late this afternoon, with the guys coming over on Tuesday, I vacuumed the shed and washed down the benches in the kitchenette area.  Can't have the place looking like a pig stye now can we.  It will probably return to that in about 2-3 weeks but the guys will have been and gone by then.

Next Sunday I will be attending the Queensland Model Railway Exhibition at the Workshops Rail Museum. My mate Jim Hutchinson (Modeller extrordinaire) will be working on our Club's Structure Building stand on the Saturday and I will be working on the Sunday. So if anyone is going pop by and say hello to us both.

The weekend after next I will be heading off to Armidale to the 2010 New England Convention with 4 Tuesday Nighters. So if you are attending you better say g'day there as well.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Thanks Geoff!

For those that have been following my blog, you will remember that I’ve been looking at implementing my staff system around Cassino that will use green and red LED’s located at the end of each crossing loop (on the facia of the layout) to represent the staff machines in each signal box. Being an electronics simpleton, I just started with two double pole double throw switches and thought how I needed to light the Red and Green LED’s and thought that I’d use the two sets of contacts on these switches for this.  This was how my trial staff machine was wired from a couple of weeks ago.
How I wired my original Block Switches.

However, this method that I designed had its drawbacks in the number of separate power supplies required to make it work – 4 power supplies. When you tried to run two Blocks off the initial four power supplies, you got feedback and this caused multiple (read all) the LED’s to light when, certain combinations of switches were set.

I had then just redesigned my signal box – to include Integrated Circuits (IC’s) to then use NOR and XNOR logic chips, fairly easy to wire, and then drive the green and red LED’s via a driver circuit. I was readying my shopping list from Jaycar for the weekend, when Geoff from "Splitter's Swamp Creek" (it's probably a torrent with all this rain we are having) made me feel very small. He sent me a copy of an article in the September issue of Model Railroader. Now if I had not been on holidays lately when that particular magazine did the distribution rounds at work, I would have known this. What are friends for – they just skipped me from the distribution list – Thanks PK – Mate!

Well back to Geoff! After reading the article I went – Doh! Mr Burns had solved the problem. Well actually the article solved the problem. Geoff just showed me the article.  By wiring the first DPDT switch in one signal box in a reversing fashion and sending the output from that switch to the next reversing switch at the other end of the section in the next signal box and the output of that switch controls the red and green LED’s back at both signal boxes, with the LED’s wired anode to cathode and Voila! The lights magically switch back and forward between green and red and green and red, as a switch is toggled. It does not matter what switch is changed, the LED’s just reverse. I have no idea why I did not think of that myself – Oh I know – I’m not an electronics guru. I’m sure there are many people out their reading my blog that knew this all along and some people had no idea how I had stuffed up my design and needed 4 power supplies – but it was logical to me at the time.  Here is how I will do it now.

How I now intend to wire the block switches now

I guess it is just another example of our Blogs that we follow, providing a method of communication and the opportunity for people to share information for the betterment of the hobby.

Our last Tuesday Nighters’ meeting had 10 people attend. Discussion was very enthusiastic about everyone’s recent holiday stint, and progress on layouts or activities involving staff machines. Certainly lots of laughs were had and mostly at my expense. I gave a comical recount of my trip to the hobby shops in Sydney and the characters I met and Peter talked about his trip to the Sydney AMRA Exhibition.  He also made us feel very envious as he picked up a bargain at the Austrains stand.

While on the subject of staff machines, at the Tuesday Nighters’ Meeting, Darren from "The Nimmitabel Extension" brought along his version of how he was going to implement his staff machines – maybe he will update his blog with pictures soon. Darren has always had a desire to have operationally correct infrastructure, staff machines, signalling, track layouts, etc. But for his staff machine implementation he was going to use voltage meters on his facia with an inlay behind the needle saying Line Free and Line In-Use. Darren was also using switches just like mine – just a different type, and when the power is sent along the circuit, the metre moved between the two positions of the staff machine display – In-Use or Line Free. Pretty Good!

I pretty full on week this week. Commonwealth Games on at night, Boss’s birthday – no I did not give here a new train, as PK says I like my macadamias. I did have George come over for a visit on Friday night, and a day at the Club on Saturday.

Today I cut out the 19 signal box facia panels and installed the relvant switches into the first 10 panels.  Nothing wired yet though.  Some of my panels will be for intermediate staff machines located in sidings within the section.  So it will be possible to put a train away into a mid section siding and also have the train get right of way to leave and head to one of the ends of the section.  I just put a third or fourth double pole switch in the section and wire it up like the second.  I also laid the first run of cable that will carry this signal box logic and between the double pole switches located at each end of the loops.  So this cable went south from Acacia Ridge to Glenapp, The Risk, Border Loop, Kyogle Stock Siding, Kyogle, and Fairy Hill until I ran out of cable.  Fairy Hill Loop can be controlled from both sides of the baseboard so I will have a panel on both sides of the layout.  Each panel will be located adjacent to the signal box in each loop.

The next Tuesday Nighters’ Meeting is at my place and I have promised that I will try and have some of my staff machines in operation for three loops on the top deck. Darren will also bring his wireless NCE controller over so he can practice driving a train. Jacko was also going to bring some 3’ 6” stuff. So I need to connect up a controller to my 12mm track, and as Jacko is from the old school, it won’t be DCC’ed so I need an old DC controller installed. Unless I wire a spare NCE decoder, with its red and black wires to my 16.5 mm track and the orange and grey wires direct to the 12mm track voila – a poor man’s decoder install for any non DCC’ed loco.

See you next week.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Thinking, Doing and Dreaming

This week began with me drawing circuit diagrams for my staff mechanisms.  The reason for this is that when the switches were thrown in a certain combination, there is back flow of power through the components and all the LED's Red and Green all light up.  I did not know if this was because I had wired something incorrectly, something was faulty or it could do it.  Well after tracing the circuits, it does back flow and all the LED's light up.  So I either have to have seperate battery circuits for each LED pair in each block or I throw out the mechanical switching so I don't use the poles on the back of the block switches.

So I then resurrected my truth table logic from about 25 years ago at Uni and my XOR and XNOR logic gates and worked out that with two IC's on every circuit board (1 x XOR and 1 x XNOR) with a couple of pull up resistors I can create the logic to power each block's LEDs.  Next week I will pick up a few IC's, some resistors along with some more LED's from Jaycar and try and fit these together so I can test it out while watching Bathurst next Sunday (Go Tricky Dicky's team) and whatever is also on at the Commonwealth Games - I am a TV sports nut.

This afternoon while watching the Dragons beat the Roosters I cut out a chassis from 2mm styrene for the Trainorama 44 Class shell I picked up in Sydney 2 weeks ago.  I have installed two Lima 44 class dummy bogies on it (I still need to fit a fuel tank).   This looks reasonable for a first attempt.  I will make a second one out of the two left over Lima power bogies and we will see how well it works.  If it works I may have to try and get a second 44 Class shell and my loco fleet will expand by two locos with one being a dummy.

So on Friday Auscision announced they were bringing out the NSW XPT in 5-cars sets with seperate 2-car add on sets available.  Well that now means that I will have to sell my two 7-car Lima XPT sets and two DCC'ed Lima power cars, along with about 5 dummy XPT power cars and a few extra cars and break the bank with an outlay of $2,300 for two Auscision 7-car sets.

Don't get me wrong it is not that we can't afford this, it is just that this far exceeds my allocated budget for trains and one needs to remain on the good side of the financial controller.  This one purchase is about my whole yearly spend and I had already spent that and more in the next 12-18 months with all the other sets appearing. 

I will get at least one sound fitted 81 class, a few 48's maybe 2 or 3, I do want to get 2 x 59's, 2 x 73's, as well as about 8 CSX steel wagons, some ABFX's, some Oil pots from Eureka, some RSH's, some BCW's and some milk pots.  I'm as certain as the sun will rise tomorrow, that someone else will bring out something else that I also need for my north coast based layout in the mean time and that will put more strain on my budget. 

I better put a Lotto entry in for Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday this week and hope one comes up with at least 5 numbers - no need to be greedy now.  The only issue is that our work syndicates for Tuesday and Thursday, need to be split 11 ways with the guys from work.