Sunday, September 29, 2013

An Expensive Weekend

I came home from work early on Friday and decided to head down to Jaycar to pick up some heat shrink.  The family came with me as we were to check out the car yards at Browns Plains after the stop at Jaycar.  The Bosses car is approaching 10 years old, and the plan is always to swap them over about every 10 years or so.
Anyway we got out of our estate and onto the highway and then all of a sudden the in car computer started complaining that it was overheating.  Oh no!  So I coasted down to Jaycar went inside to have a look around and pick up my heat shrink.  So upon leaving the shop when I started the car again the temperature was back to normal so we left Jaycar and then no sooner had we left that car park and the car computer started complaining again.  So we drove into the next shops carpark and then called RACQ for roadside assistance.  These guys do a great job!  After about 15 minutes they turned up and it looked like the fanbelt had shreaded and had taken the water pump with it to the great big used car part place in the sky.  It was a tow home job.  Luckily only 5.8km from home.  So while I awaited the tilt-tray to turn up, the wife and kids started walking to the Browns Plains bus stop and caught a bus back up to the main intersection with our suburb and then a walk of a couple of kilometres back home.  The bus driver allowed the kids on for free while the boss used her GoCard.  About 20 minutes later the tilt-tray truck turned up and the female driver loaded my car onto the back and gave me a lift home.  We reversed the car into the garage and then called Lube Mobile to see if they could do some magic on Saturday morning some time.  Well as it turned out, they arrived at 8:00am on Saturday and while they were there making the car run again by removing half the equipment in the engine bay in order to get to the water pump, I got them to do a scheduled service at the same time which was also due as well as replace the five year old battery as it was on its last legs.  So for the just a bit more than the cost of an Auscision XPT set, my car is back on the road.
So while the mechanic was performing major surgery to my car, I put the heat shrink to good use and I attacked 4 locos – 2 x 80 class and 2 x 421 class and installed decoders and wired up the headlights at both ends via a pair of 220 Ohm resistors.   This work is for a fellow Club member whom has a number of locos to be decodered up.  I had to try and claw back some of the money I spent on the car somehow!  I still have two 442 class locos to do, but they take about 10 minutes longer to do, as you have to remove the couplers to get the shell off with those models. 
We did never get to the car yard on Friday.  However, on Saturday afternoon, to give my car another test run, we made our way down to the Browns Plains car yard magic 400m section of the highway service road.  There were about 5 or 6 different car yards all with new and used vehicles on the service road.  We went to all of them and the wife will spend some time over the next few months refining her colour choice and car make.
Today I went out and picked up another 20kg bag of casting plaster at Bunnings and put it to good use doing some more plaster work in the shed, terra forming the terrain on the southern side of the Richmond River bridge.  On the subject of bridges and my long awaited Central Valley trusses, I understand that they were to ship this weekend from the states.  So at this stage, I have no idea if they will be available for pickup next Saturday morning from the local hobby shop.  We can but hope.
So after lunch I splashed a bit of plaster around at both ends of the Richmond River.  I also took my rice cake piers - sorry hebel block piers and cut them down to a more realistic size slightly.  I then tapered them from bottom to top along both planes so they were more realistic.  I then tried to coat them with plaster to get a smooth covering.  This took some time, but it seems to have worked.  We will see once they have dried and I will use a file to smooth out the rough bits.  During this week I'm pretty sure I will find time to clean the piers up and give then a coating of my colour all stain.  I can then look at fitting the piers permanently to the layout.
Back on the subject of the Auscision XPT set, I will be putting in my order tomorrow, as they announced last Tuesday on their Facebook page that the price will be going up from $895 to over $1100 for the basic set.  So I will be locking and loading Eddie!  Of course I will also be ordering two extra wagons and I would dearly like to order an additional motored power car, but I would like to order the Casino power car (I wonder why) which is not separately orderable, even though they spell it the wrong way, and given my luck, it will be the non-motored power car as well.
I won't be doing much model railway related activities next weekend as it is a milestone Birthday for the boss.  So we have activities planned with the family on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.  I might need a day off the week after to recover!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Scenicing the Richmond River

Today I went down to the Shed and got stuck into scenic opening across the Richmond River at Cassino.  As stated last week I removed the piece of pine that previously carried the track across the opening.  Because of this, trains cannot run in this section at the moment.  I temporarily placed the bridge piers and my bridge girders on the southern approach bridge.  I then rested the not yet complete bridge on the plaster cast piers and temporarily installed a girder section on the northern approach.  Below is how it looked.

This is a photo of how it will look when completed.

The same scene from a lower perspective.

A bit of a close up of how it will look.  I laid two pieces of code75 rail across the bridge girders on the southern side of the bridge for a test.

So I cleared out the area and got started throwing a small amount of plaster around to blend the southern side of the embankment into the scene from the previous ground level down to the new waterline.  I have now run out of plaster.  I've had it on my shopping list for some time to buy another 10kg bag of casting plaster but I have not been to Bunnings lately.

The opening all cleared out after the first bucket of plaster had been thrown around.

After I had let the plaster set for some time, I thought I would try and make the bridge girders sit on their piers.  The piers are made from Hebel block.  It is so easy to cut.  Someone gave me a small piece many years back and I had always planned to use it in this location.  I might have to go and get another block of it and replace some of my other piers in the future. 

The test run of the piers and girders following the first splash of plaster.

I was thinking about installing the rail for this section across the four girders.  So I took the girders and a length of weathered code 75 rail to the workbench.  I installed a home made track gauge made from a PC board and rail joiners soldered to it, onto each end of the code 75 rails, and turned the rail upside down and applied superglue to one girder length of rail.  I then placed the rail on the girder and used another track gauge running up and down the rail to ensure it was all in gauge and the track was centred on the girder.  I then did the same to the next girder and so on until I had four girders laid with a section of rail across them.  As I went I used a Eureka cattle wagon and a Eureka sheep wagon as test vehicles on the workbench to ensure that they did not fall through between the rails. I then installed the girder section onto the piers and then I needed to cut a section of track between the point into the Bonalbo Sleeper Siding and the girders.  This was cut and the track all joined up.  I then did a few test runs of the Eureka Sheep and cattle wagons and two 80 foot container wagons through the southern side of the bridge opening.  So far everything works well.

The track laid up to the main bridge span.

I still have to trim down my bridge piers and then paint them.  There still needs to be a bit more plaster installed behind the piers and of course when the piers are ready to be positioned finally on the layout, they will be laid into wet plaster and I will ensure that they are installed vertically.  I also have to ensure that the bridge girders are as near as possible to horizontal across the opening as well.

So at the moment these are exciting times as I progress the track back across the Richmond River.  I will have to seal the river base then and look at what I will use to simulate the water.  But I'm in no hurry to accomplish this task.  I am hopeful that my Central Valley girder kits will show up next weekend at the local hobby shop, but I am not that certain they will.  I think I might still have to wait another fortnight.  I really need them so I can progress the bridge which is my entry in our Model Railway Club's annual Christmas Modelling Competition held in early December.

I'm off to Canberra tomorrow afternoon and back on Tuesday night, so I will perhaps get some time to do some reading of the latest AMRM.  I do enjoy this magazine.  See ya next week!

That Damn Short is Back

Yesterday when I went to the shed to fire up the layout, I encountered enough another short when I fired up the layout.  Yes it was in power district 5 again - the Acacia Ridge to South Brisbane section.  So in an effort to quickly divide and conquer, I disconnected the DS64's and still had the short.  I did some more investigations and eventually about an hour later I tracked it down to a section of track in the southern end of Clapham Yard that had expanded in the recent heat and the short section of rail about 1" long, had jumped out of a plastic insulated joiner and was touching the frog end of an electrofrog point.  I replaced the insulated joiner, and cut about 2mm off the troublesome short section of rail and replaced it.  I then did another test and everything was working as designed.

I also spent some time looking at power districts 3 and 4.  Section 3 is from just south of the Cassino Meatworks to north of the Kyogle Stock Siding, and section 4 is from Cougal Spiral to Acacia Ridge Yard.  Well it seems these two sections of track are interlinked somehow.  If I turn them both off, they are isolated, but if I turn just one off, then power is still in the sections.  I traced one of the power buses, but could not find any cross wiring to the other section of track.  There is definitely a section break between the two sections.  I will put this on my to do list so hopefully I will have this resolved in the next few weeks.

Last night I did a bit of maintenance on a dual gauge point I had made a few weeks back now.  I adjusted the third rail slightly and then re-glued it down.  I then ran a few 12mm bogies through it and then a standard gauge bogie and it seems to be running better than ever.  This point was the last point I had installed in the northern end of Clapham Yard.  This was the first point removed as the suspected culprit of the recent short in the Acacia Ridge to South Brisbane section a few weeks back.  I will eventually get around to replacing that point in the next week or so.

Sunday, September 15, 2013


Today I made my way down to the shed just before midday convinced I was going to solve my short issue in section 5 of the layout – Acacia Ridge to South Brisbane Interstate.  I checked and it was still there.  I took all locos from the track in that section.  There was a triple header 48+45+48, double Jumbos, a 73 and a CHP + CTH set.  I had no idea how I was going to resolve this issue.  Nothing was visible.  So I started measuring resistance between the rails.  There was some about 1700 Ohms.  I split the track bus in half where is it fed from my EB1, disconnected it was the EB1 and split the track as well.  I measured the southern half of the track from Acacia Ridge to Dutton Park and it had no resistance – an open circuit – Great.  That means it is at the other end.  Just because I hadn’t done it before, I decided to disconnect the four DS64’s from the track bus.  Another measure and now there was no resistance on the section from Dutton Park to South Brisbane!  So the short was related to powering the DS64’s.  I reconnected the track and track bus to the EB1 and the section started properly.  I connected the DS64 for the Park Road Sidings and tested again.  Still OK.  I connected one of the DS64’s at South Brisbane and still OK.  It was now narrowed down to one of two DS64’s.  I connected one and the short reappeared.  Gotchya!  I disconnect that one again and connect the other and there was no short.  So now I knew where the short was – but I didn’t know what was causing it.  I inspected the DS64 and nothing was obvious.  It was upside down under the basebaord, in a dark location and my eyesight is not what it was like about 3 years ago.  I disconnected one of the wires next to the point motor common connection and fired it up again.  No Short.  I think I found it.  I think I had a small strand of wire bridging the common and one of the actuation wires.  I tidied it up again, reattached and retested and it worked.  Whooopppeeee!!!!  Success!
After that success, I thought I would install the section isolation switches for each of my five EB1’s controlled Power Districts.  I first needed to cut a whole in my facia to install the five slide switches.  This was followed by taking the wire that went from the EB1 to the track bus for each of the five sections and connecting that to the centre of the slide switches.  I then installed five wires, one from the top of each slide switch back to the where the previous wire came from the EB1’s.  A quick test revealed that four of then worked as designed.  My section from Cougal Spiral to Acacia Ridge does not have its staff machines shut down when I operate the slide switch for that section.  There must be another sneak path bypassing the EB1.  I will review that issue next week.  I think I have had enough success for one week.
After a quick session watching the V8’s on TV and playing with the kids out the front with the soccer ball, I returned to the shed and started looking at the bridge over the Richmond River at Cassino.  I have now removed my temporary wooden bridge and done some surgery to the scenery on the southern side of the bridge.  The original opening that I had made for the base of the Richmond River is not wide enough as I have built the bridge to its scale 180’ or 630mm size.  I added about 120mm of foam to the flat river bottom base.  I have had to shape the wooden southern bank to a sharper angle after I cut off about 150mm from that.  I will post some photos next weekend.  I am still waiting for my order of Central Valley girders to arrive at my local hobby shop from the US.  Apparently they are sitting in a shipment at a straight forwarder still in the US, awaiting more items to build up its weight.  I don’t think they will be here next weekend either.  Time is running out for me to finish this bridge for this year’s club Christmas Modelling Competition.
During the week my DS64 returned from its vacation at the Digitrax factory and apparently has been fixed under warranty by replacing the FETS.  I also had a bit of a win in our work’s footing tipping competition.  I came equal 8th with 8 other people and got approximately half my money back.  Two more successes for the week.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

They Come in Threes

This week has again been very light on with Railway related activities.  Some activities did occur on Tuesday night with the guys coming over for our regular Tuesday Night get together, this time at my place.  Just as the guys started arriving, I removed what I thought was my troublesome set of point that was causing the short on the layout.  So after removing the points and reconnecting the track bus, it looked like everything was now back in working order.  We had a great night.  I was showing off my Richmond River Pratt Truss bridge with my triple header test consist running back and forth across the bridge.  Lots of good conversations, plenty of people bagging me about my lack of space in the shed to sit down and talk and a pretty late night for the last lot of guys to leave.
On Saturday morning, while I was at the kids school cooking the BBQ for the polling booth, helping to raise some money for the school, my wife turned up and advised she had no hot water at home for her shower.  When I eventually got home and checked out the hot water system, there was water streaming out from the top and down the side.  That was not looking good.  I made a few phone calls and so until Monday morning, no damn electrician will get off their big fat well paid @r$e.  At least I did get 20 years of the old hot water system.  Not so bad!  So cold showers for everyone now until at least Monday.  If any longer and I will go buy a camping shower.
Early this morning while preparing for a family BBQ at our place today, I was wheeling the BBQ over to where it was going to get fired up and guess what, two of the wheels (the front swivel ones) fell off!  I have tried to re-attach them, but they are very dodgy.  Damn cheap foreign import equipment.  At least the BBQ still works.  We had a great lunch today.  I am sitting here almost too stuffed to move.  It was great catching up with the Missus' Family and a few of the kids cousins.
This afternoon before I fired up the BBQ when two of my Brothers-in-law came down to the shed this arvo to get their first drink of the day, and I fired up my layout to show them it running - nothing happened.  That damn short had re-appeared in the Acacia Ridge to South Brisbane section of track.  I could not get it to power up. AAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHH!
Not happy Jan!  Anyone want to subcontract the fault finding for this damn short circuit?
Yesterday, between cooking the BBQ at the school polling booth, and heading home to see what the hot water system gods had dealt me, I headed over to Austral Modelcraft and picked up another NCE EB1 for the fifth power district of the layout - district no. 4.  Today after the BBQ, I installed the EB1 into the layout power bus, but still need to connect it to the track bus for the Cougal Spiral to Acacia Ridge Yard power district.  I think that will be after I get a working hot water system, as it can be very sweaty work under the layout doing the soldering of the track bus.  Possibly a job for next weekend.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

I'm Stumped!

Saturday this week I went down to the shed and decided to get stuck into fixing a few headset plug in points around Acacia Ridge and Grafton.  After taking the faceplates off the layout, it was obvious what the cause was.  Yes, some wires came off.  It was easy to re-attach and retest the socket, by plugging in set of headphones.  All good and it is now ready for the next Running Session. 
After a perusal of the layout and what trains were in what storage loops at Cassino, I then decided to turn the layout on, as I was about to move the various train consists into their correct sidings.  What is that noise!  One of by EB1’s was registering a short circuit.  It was the one currently wired in to Power District 3.  Well that is somewhere in 2/3 of the layout north of Cassino.  I have not yet split this into the three power districts that I have planned for the rest of the layout.  Damn!  I tried to figure out what it could be but eventually gave up and went out the front of the house and watched the kids kick a football.  I tried to think logically about it last night.  Nothing seems obvious.
So this morning I went back down to the shed and with a clear aim to divide and conquer the issue.  I decided to bite the bullet and move the Acacia Ridge to South Brisbane Interstate Section to power district 5 on a separate EB1.  So that was done.  I also traced back some of the main bus wires and then cut the section break between power district 3 and power district 4.  Power district 3 is now just south of Cassino Meatworks all the way up the helix, through Fairy Hill Loop and through Kyogle and past Kyogle Meatworks.  Power district 4 is from Cougal Spiral, through Border Loop, around the Running Creek tunnels, through The Risk, Glenapp and covers the whole of the Acacia Ridge Reversing Loops.
The down side is that I am still one EB1 short.  I will pick one up this weekend and install it straight away.  While I have wired up these power districts, and run the main power bus, I have not yet wired the main power bus to the track.  I have a couple of jumpers installed, but certainly no where near enough in power districts 3 and 4.  So I think that will take my time over the next couple of weekends. 
Now to my main problem.  After moving the Acacia Ridge to South Brisbane Interstate section to its own EB1, I still have a short within that power district.  I think I will just rip up the track that I have recently installed at the northern end of Clapham Yard.  This is the only thing I can think of that is causing a short.  It must be one of my dual gauge points.  It is very puzzling as I have had trains running through these points recently.  Two weeks ago I had the track working when I was testing out my Bridge.
That reminds me I need to visit Ray to see if he has the extra Central Valley girders that I ordered to finish the bridge.  I think on Tuesday Night I will break out my multimeter and check resistance between the various points near Clapham Yard and see if I can track this issue back.  It is really driving me nuts.  I am thinking that I will install a separate on-off switch to each power district, besides my master on-off switch.  That will allow me to isolate a particular section or sections and continue to run some trains even when there is a problem.  I still can do this but I just have to disconnect a wire out of an EB1 while under the layout.  Not a very quick process but still doable.
So plenty to do next weekend when I get down to the Shed.