Northern Tablelands Express approaching Ardglen Tunnel

Northern Tablelands Express approaching Ardglen Tunnel
Click on the above photo to see the Main North Album at Flickr

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Craig's Live Steam.

The May Meeting of the NSW DCC Modellers Group was at Yarramundi, 10 kms south of Richmond. I offered to take John, Andrew, Erik and Spencer in the Boss’s Honda Civic for the trip of a lifetime, first to the Model Railroad Craftsman to pick up some goodies then onto the Meeting, a 90 minute drive. Thanks to Spencer we were not as jammed in as we would have been, if I drove. I guess Spencer wanted make sure he was comfortable. Thanks Spencer for taking us. 
Google got us there and also gave us a bird’s eye view of Craig’s layout where I've made a very rough track plan, hopefully correct, below.

All of us were all gobsmacked with what Craig has done on his layout. 

Craig’s layout is a Live Steam railway with all of our favorite NSW Steam locos in 5 inch gauge which is 1-1/8 to the foot. There is 1000 Metres of main line with a Tunnel, Trestle Bridge, Coal Stage, 20 points and Lower Quadrant Semaphores which are basically route indicators, on 4 acres. The track has two "Sprung Points" one at the end of the dual main line where it turns into a Single line and the other at the Return Loop around the Pond. This allows continuous running, without changing any Points. All others Points are manually operated with Levers.

Craig has 4 Steam locos, a 3008, 3654, 3805 and 5905 all with magnificent sound and one non sound Diesel, 42205. I did discuss how to add a sound decoder and a big speaker to 42205. A set of 6 R Cars made with Styrene and about about 60 4 wheel Wagons (my guess) and a couple of bogie Guards Vans. 3654 and 42205 were the locos rostered for us to "play" trains on the day.  

Craig, thanks a lot for the invitation to your layout.

Craig adjusting the decoder of 3654 with an Engineer in training alongside the Coal Stage

Alex having heaps of fun with 42205.

Loco Turntable with the 3 Elevated Service Tracks in a Lighted Shed with the Crew Room and Workshop at the rear.

The Controls of 3008.

For some video of the Craig's layout, click on the photo below.

For a 6 year old YouTube of Craig's Live steam, see:

Thanks Craig, Vicky and our engine driver, for a fantastic day. 

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Adding Ray Pilgrim's (Shapeways) Semaphore Signals to the Main North

Some years ago I installed a basic Colour Light signalling system on the 40 metre (130') single line from Broadmeadow as it winds up to Werris Creek, due to the 3 peninsulas restricting the operators view of what’s happening on this section of the layout, see below. The signals for the 2 blocks were controlled by NCE Occupancy Detectors, so that when the applicable section (block) is occupied, both the signals were set to Red.
During recent Operating Sessions a few Operators had asked if the Murrurundi to Werris Creek section could be further divided that would speed up train movements.

I had purchased some of Ray Pilgrim’s Shapeways 3D Semaphores available at:
and this was an ideal time to install them. I decided to divide the Murrurundi to Werris Creek section, at Pangela instead of where the Bankers disconnect at Ardglen. Furthermore Pangela is more of a central point of this block, the Loops were longer and the “crossing” procedure was easier to see, see the track plan below.

Making the Semaphores. 
Ray has provided a very comprehensive Instruction Manual to help us, at:
The Semaphores are not difficult to make but require some time and patience especially when getting the length of the .015" Phosphor Bronze Operating Rods, correct. The beauty of these Semaphores is what’s on the underside of the Signal with the 2 "screw adjustable" mechanical stops for the Signal Arms, already included on the casting. This makes adjusting the Signal Arm positions (Stops), very easy and can be done while on the bench.

Lighting the Semaphores.
I wanted to "light" my Semaphores by adding a single "pre-wired" 0.8mm Surface Mount (SMD) LED purchased from Gwydir Valley Models Part No GV31a and powered the LED by a “local” 12.0 Volt Power Pack or from the same power supply for the Octopus III. The colour of the light being achieved by painting some Microscale Kristel Kleer (or similar) into the 2 Signal Arm Lenses then painting them with Tamiya Clear Red and Green when dried, all explained in Ray's Instruction Manual.
I glued the two twisted very small wires from the LED to the rear  of the Post and terminated them onto a piece of PCB Sleeper complete with a 1,000 Ohm SMD resistor. Painting the Post conceals the fine wires to a point that they can hardly be seen.  

The below photo shows the 8 Semaphores (prior to completion and painting)

Motorizing the Semaphores. 
I used the small remote control car “9G” Servos available from the Model Railroad Craftsman, Gwydir Valley Models etc. Other methods I did not try, include Tortoises, Muscle Wire, Relays etc. 
Servos won’t operate by just supplying 12.0 Volts to them, they need a Servo Driver (electronics). The cheap cost of the small 9G Servos will offset the total cost when comparing the other options.
I used a Tam Valley Depot Octopus III, an 8 channel Servo Driver, see:
Alternatively I could have used 8 x Tam Valley Singlets (1/8 of an Octopus plus an Accessory Decoder) that is supplied with a LED Fascia Control. 
My intention was to control the Semaphores automatically when trains/locos are sensed in a Block using current Occupancy Detectors (NCE BD20s) and to initially position the Semaphores by operating the Toggle Switch for the Points so I did not need the LED Fascia Control. Better value using the Octopus III. Fascia Controllers can be purchased separately. Details on how all this works, later.

Mounting the Semaphores.
Requires a 20 or 22 mm hole depending on type of Semaphore, with the centre point, 6 HO feet from the track (23 mm). 
On my previous Colour Light signalling system, for simplicity, I mounted the Signals "outside" the Point (on the main line) but I noticed Operators stopping at the Signal without being aware that they were blocking the the oncoming train from entering the Yard/Loops. 
Installing the Semaphores has to be in the "inside" of the Points to the Yard/Loops without a stopped train blocking the "entrance", allowing trains to pass as shown below.

Operating the Semaphores.
There are many variations on how to operate Signals to as easy as using a Switch or to as complex as using a computer program like JMRI’s Panel Pro, Railroad and Co etc.
While I'm familiar with what JMRI’s Panel Pro has to offer, I did not need the complexity and further expansion capability at this stage and more importantly I did not want to spend the time learning how to do/use it, at least not right now. A job for "ron", much later 'on.
Some years ago I had used a NCE Mini Panel for an automated train control test and thought I’d be able to use it to tie all the Signals and occupancy together but this required the Octopus III to be “DCCed” using the Tam Valley Octocoder. Subsequent testing we found the Octocoder had timing issue when using Macros, a common method of operating multiple Accessory Decoders. With this issue and not being able to get the first part of my signalling to work even with heaps of help from Ray, I decided to go "back to the basics” using relays, switches, diodes etc that worked previously, albeit much simpler. 

Below is the Servo Installation etc at Werris Creek. 
The bottom of the Signal in the photo clearly shows the how Ray designed the operating "mechanism" with the 2 Adjusting Screws for the Signal Arm mechanical Stops. The Circuit Board in the photo is the Werris Creek NCE EB1 Circuit Breaker.

The small Bridge Rectifier (circular black item next to the L/H Servo), in the photo is my form of obtaining 12.0 Volts DC from the DCC Bus, to illuminate the Semaphores's LED. I have used this method of providing D.C instead of using a D.C. Power Pack to other accessories that need D.C. eg the Turntable at Murrurundi etc. NOTE: This method of obtaining D.C. from the DCC Track Bus CANNOT be done "inside" the Occupancy Blocks described below, as the block will ALWAYS show "occupied" due to the LED's current. Take the DCC from some other "NON" Occupied block of the layout.

Below is the Servo Installation at South Pangela, using a piece of 2 x 1 pine as shown and securing the Servo with one of the supplied screws. Simple easy installation, only time will tell if it's simplicity will last but for now it works.

Below is the the Signalling "Control Room", under North Pangela including the simple Servo Mounts (Marcus style), the Octopus III, 2 x NCE BD20s/Relay, a Relay and 2 Diode Matrix. While it looks like a bit of a mess, making it prettier by installing it onto some sort of Circuit board, was not warranted. Hopefully down the track I still be able to work out what's going on if something plays up.

Configuring the Octopus III.
My Semaphores will "mimic" the position of the appropriate Points that are operated by Toggle Switches using a Capacitor Discharge system, more details below. Operate the Toggle Switch for the Points to set the route through the Main line, a second pole of the Toggle Switch will operate the Semaphore to Green/Clear for the Main and Red/Stop, for the Loop and visa versa. Done by configuring the Octopus III to use:
  1. "Toggle" instead of "Momentary" Switches AND 
  2. Use the “Swap” feature where you can swap over the Servo “End Points”. 
This provided the correct INPUT condition to the Octopus III necessary to make the Occupancy Detection work correctly, that is a:

GREEN Signal, the Input needed to be OPEN.
RED Signal, the Input needed to a CLOSED (Ground). 

With Occupancy detected by the BD20s, ALL the appropriate Octopus III Inputs are "grounded" via the Diode Matrix, resulting in the Semaphores that are set at Green, going to RED and the Semaphores set at Red, not moving as they're already "grounded". The Diode Matrix looks after all the combinations. 

A little time swapping “things” around on the “spaghetti jungle” test version on the work bench and it work as I wanted. Eureka!! 

Configuring the Octopus and adjusting the settings for the Servo "End Stops" etc, is made easy by using the optional Remote Alignment Tool that comes with a 2.0 metre harness with RJ Plugs.

Simple hey!!!!

While this is not how the "real thing" works, it provided the automatic signalling I wanted, that is the Operators are "told" via the Signals when they can or cannot proceed from the appropriate location. Power is not removed from the track and yes Operators can disregard the Signal (and they do) but they may have a "head on" with another Operator and most probably banished to make the coffee.

When I install Semaphores into other than these "occupancy" sections, I'll figure out another method, maybe JMRI's Panel Pro etc but for now I'll go with mimicking the position of the relevant Point. 

My Occupancy Detector – a modified NCE BD20.
I have not installed resistor wheel sets to my Rolling Stock yet, so I can only “sense” the current drawn by a loco. Yes the train may still be “in” the block while the loco is not. Slight irregularity here but Operators can see the train when they enter the Yard/Loop, so it’s not an issue and it saves on adding resistor to wheel sets.

Due to the configuration of how I use the BD20, I connect 12.0 Volts D.C. (from local power) to Pins 1 and 4 and connect a Relay to Pins 1 and 3. With "occupancy" detected by the BD20, the Relay is energized and a GRD is supplied to the the Diode Martix, supplying a GRD to all the appropriate Inputs of the Octopus III, setting all the appropriate Semaphores to RED but this is okay with clean track/wheels.

Most of my locos have Stay Alive (see my Alive web page) so when power is interrupted to the decoder from dirty track/wheels, Dead Frogs etc, the Stay Alive powers the loco (and sound), through this power interruption. With the Occupancy Blocks being up to 15 metres long there could be some power interruptions that would cause the Semaphores to "cycle" from Red to Green to Red when the loco experiences a loss of power. To eliminate this "cycling" I have added a 2 second "delay" in de-energizing (NOT occupied) the BD20, by adding a 47 uF 16 V Electrolytic across Pins 1 and 2.

The Tam Valley Octopus III.  
Power: from the same “local” 12.0 Volts 1.5 Amps D.C. Supply (Power Pack) as above.
Inputs:  The wiring from the Points Fascia Switches etc have to be as short as possible (less than 2 feet) otherwise electrical “noise” may interfere with the operation of the Points and Signals. For the wiring to Werris Creek 5 metres away, the Fascia Switch operates a Relay under Pangela - now the input wire is less than 2 feet long.
Outputs: The wiring to the Servos can be much longer. I have spliced extra wire (telco 4 conductor) for the Signals at Murrurundi and Werris Creek where the wiring is up to 7 metres long and the Servos work fine.

My layout is of a walk around design, where you follow your train so you can "digitally" change your Points with your Index Finger and this method has survived for over 20 years but I intended to motorize the Points on layout where the "position" of the Points is hard to see and to those Points that are difficult to reach like Werris Creek, Port Waratah etc. With the installation of the Semaphores at Pangela the Points needed to motorized to "tie in" Semaphores with the Points. I needed to make my first Panel.

I had accumulated many Peco Point Motors over the years, so that's what I'm mostly going to use. These need some form of Capacitor Discharge system to operate AND I wanted to use Toggle Switches instead of "push/momentary" Buttons. The Toggle indicates which way the Points are thrown, hopefully eliminating the need to fit LED "indicators". My Occupancy system also required Toggle Switches (see above). NOTE All my Peco Electofrog Points have "Dead Frogs" also another "job" eliminated but I have Stay Alives in my locos to help here. 

Capacitor Discharge System.
Years ago I saw a Simple Capacitor Discharge Circuit from December 1994 AMRM by Gary Snow that uses a Toggle Switch, 2 Diodes and a 2,200/4,700 uF 25 Volt Electrolytic Capacitor (circuit copied below). Refer the original article for more details. 
I fitted the 2 Diodes to the Peco Point Motor and installed the Capacitor in the lead from the Negative of the Power Supply. You can use a smaller value Capacitors, in my case 2,200 uF 25 V instead of larger (3,300/4,700 uF) if you increase the voltage of the D.C. supply. making sure you don't exceed the Capacitors Operating Voltage. I made up a 20.0 Volt D.C. Supply from parts.  The value of the capacitance may need to be changed to get the Peco Point Motor to work - experiment here.  

Fitting more Semaphores
I have 6 Semaphores and 2 Bracket Semaphores to build. I'll fit the 4 Semaphores to Ardglen and the the 2 Bracket Semaphores to both ends of Murrurundi and using them as Starting Signals on the Yard and Loop and the single Semaphores on the what I call the "Main" with Murrurundi Station Platform. I'll replace the existing Colour Lights for the Broadmeadow to Murrurundi Occupancy Detectection section (block), all in the next few months now that I got essentially what I set out to achieve. 

I hope this Blog Entry gets you started in using these great Semaphores from Ray and Shapeways. Any question please don't hesitate to contact me.

This was one of the most rewarding modelling projects I have done on the layout due to fact that after making a start on assembling the Semaphore Signals, they were installed and working on the layout exactly how I wanted them to, all in about 3 weeks. To top it off, operating lighted Semaphores look fantastic.

For an overall operation of this section of the Main North, click on the video below. 

Operating Pangela with a few Operators.
A recent Operating Session after the above set-up was completed, an Operator had just completed a "rear end" bank to Ardglen and was returning the Banker back down to Murrurundi, stopping in the Pangela Loop, two trains from opposite directions arrived at Pangela jamming up Pangela with now where to go. Both trains had left Werris Creek and Murrurundi with a Green Starting Semaphore. This was not how the the signalling was supposed to work. 

Looking at how the prototype handles this scenario, they have a Signal Box with an Operator positioning the Lower Quadrant Semaphores with Levers, they use Timetables and Staffs/Bank Keys, where 3 trains/locos could never be at Pangela at the one time

The fix for me: 
1. Delegate a Visitor that's not running trains, to "operate" the Pangela "Box" just like the real thing. This will sort out these non observing Drivers or will it.
2. I want automated operation so I needed to have occupancy detection "inside" Pangela for both the Main and Loop lines. 

I've fixed the above Occupancy issue for Pangela by installing a third BD20. Once a Loco is detected (occupancy) for either the Main or Loop tracks, BOTH Werris Creek UP Starting Semaphores and the Murrurundi DOWN Starting Semaphores show RED while the appropriate Starting Semaphores in Pangela stay at Green. 

Having Semaphores on the layout with their Arms moving, is fantastic, thanks to Ray for his Semaphores and the flexibility of the Octopus III.

I've purchased further Semaphores to install Distant, Home and Starting Semaphores between Broadmeadow and Tamworth including Ardglen where I'll increase the length of the Loop. 

The latest Semaphore additions - 8Mar17.
I've installed 3 Semaphores "inside" Murrurundi, shown below with the Northern Tablelands Express departing, instead of the single Semaphore "outside" as described above and in the video.  A Triple Bracket UP Home Semaphore will be added to the left of the photo.

Controlling the Semaphores and of course the Points, required another Control Panel.
Experimenting with different methods of displaying the track on the Panel, I chose painting the 300 x 100 mm Aluminium Sheet after drilling the appropriate holes for 29 Green 3.0 mm LEDs and 9 Switches (6 x DPDT and 3 x 4PDT), with Yellow paint, applying 3.0 mm Tape for the tracks then painting with flat Black. Drill out the North Murrurundi fascia for access and clearance and attached using a 100 mm long hinge. Making this and other Control Panels will be my next Blog topic.

The illuminated LEDs show the route through North Murrurundi, making selecting the correct "road" for Visitors, easier.

Update: 10th April 2017 - I've installed 2 Up and 2 Down Starting Semaphores to Ardglen and lengthened the Main and Loops tracks to 2.5 metres allowing for easy crossing of my longest trains.
That's 15 Semaphores on the layout with all but the two Distant Semaphores, operating with 3 Octopus IIIs. Many more to build and install.
Now with operational (automatic) signalling at South Werris Creek, Ardglen, Pangela and Murrurundi, many more trains can be run in both directions through this 40 metres of single line, without "head ons",
I have the rest of my life to empty the Shapeways box of the Home Semaphores including 2 triples for Murrurundi, to finish the signalling of this single line section of the Main North.
The next section will be the northern end of Werris Creek to Tamworth but I need to add Point Motors to many of the Points in Werris Creek and make a Control Panel.

The Ardglen "UP" Starting Semaphores with the Down Home (not operational yet), in the distance, just at the northern exit of Ardglen Tunnel. Also shown are some loaded Ballast Wagons at the Mine, behind the 5136.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Know Your Loads for more Fun.

As it’s too cold to do anything on the layout, I’m spending my time at the Main North Nerve Centre Bench with a heater at my feet, until it warms up a bit, that’s more conducive to working on the layout. Plenty of “bench” type of work to do – installing decoders into my 46s, helping others with DCC, spending/wasting time on the computer etc. I really should be building some structures.

The 3 spans of the Hawkesbury River Bridge have been completed by Allan. I painted the track and roadbed then temporarily installed them, so we can still play trains. Finishing the scene with adding catenary, scenery and making massive expanses of water will have wait until it warms up somewhat. I don’t know about you, but I am feeling the cold more than ever before, must be something about getting older.

After looking at plenty of Youtubes about making water for Hawkesbury River and Mullet Creek, I have decided to attempt making water as Dave Frary shows at:

I spent about $150 on Students Acrylic paints, Brushes and Mod Podge (sealer) from Art Scene at West Ryde NSW. A fantastic supplier of all artist products etc. Hopefully I’ll get it something like what Dave has done, only time will tell if the money was well spent.

Instead of this Blog entry being about my Hawkesbury River Bridge as suggested in my last Blog entry, I thought I’d post an entry about “Know Your Loads” mentioned in my “Operating Cards for the Main North in 1965” Blog entry. I did a Presentation at the SCMRA Epping Seminar last year (2015) about this topic. See below for the Dropbox link.

The length of a train (load) is determined by the type of loco pulling the train and the grade of trackage the train was operated on in the real thing (prototype) – the Ruling Grade. For example the Ruling Grade for a single C36 hauled DOWN train from Broadmeadow to Werris Creek in 1965, was the 1 in 50 at Muralla, limiting the load to 385 Tons.

There is 13 km 1 in 40 climb from Murrurundi to Ardglen with a 500 m Tunnel at the summit of the climb, what happened then as the maximum load for the 1 in 40 was 255 tons? In the steam era the NSWGR practice was to add a loco when “steeper” grades needed to be negotiated instead of double heading for the whole distance.

Operating your trains using the prototypical loads/grades restrictions will add another dimension of modelling to your model railway, just like adding sound to your locos, adding scenery etc. Operating as close to as what the prototype did, is lots of fun. 

The details on using Load Tables, Working Timetables, Gradient Diagrams, Load Calculators (Wagon Weights) etc, see my Know Your Loads PowerPoint Presentation at Dropbox 

If your locos don't haul the prototypical load up your grades look at reducing the weight of the rolling stock, adding weight (lead) to the loco but not the Tender and "eyeball" your grades to see if they have "ups and downs" and measuring the actual grade. Many modeller's grades are more than they actually think they are.

If you want to view my Banking from Murrurundi to Ardglen YouTube video, click below:

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Hawkesbury River Station

Hawkesbury River Station, Newcastle and Armidale Staging.

As said in a previous Blog entry, I needed to add Armidale Staging above Newcastle (1700mm above the floor). I wanted to add scenery around the Hawkesbury River Bridge area as the Bridge Spans are nearly complete. I had to add Armidale Staging (the 3rd upper level in the photo below), before doing the scenery.

While adding the shelf for Armidale Staging, during one of my Coffee Breaks, I read Ray Love’s article “The Last of the Hawkesbury River Bank Engines” in Diesel Scene 5. In 1965 these Bank Engines were the 46 Class Electrics. Checking my 46 Class book - Portrait of a Classic, operating the 46 the Maximum Loads listed the following:

Southbound (Up) trains up to 1,100 tons trains from Gosford were hauled by a single 46 (except when positioning a 46). At Hawkesbury River, if the load exceeded 550 tons, a second 46 was added to the front. The second 46 was detached at Cowan (my layout Sydney Staging) and light engined back to Hawkesbury River where it waited for it's next banking assignment. For down trains (Hornsby to Gosford), the maximum load for single 46, is 600 tons. The maximum load for both up and down passenger trains is 375 tons.

This above "banking" made for lots of operation.

I needed to add a Hawkesbury River Station to the layout.

Since replacing the Garage Door with a Wall, it was possible to move Newcastle further back towards the wall. This allowed enough space to install a very compressed Hawkesbury River Station and Causeway, in front and below Newcastle. My "River" consists of Up and Down lines and a Siding on the Up side at the Sydney end, for two 46s. No room for the Up and Down Refuge Loops and the Siding on the Causeway commonly called "Siberia", that existed in 1965.

With the Station/Causeway and the Bridge only 2 Metres apart, the layout's sea levels will have to be at the same height and meeting at the Fascia (see lower photo). The Bridge deck height is 35 feet above the water and the track has to go down to 13 feet elevation for the Station. This means a 40 mm rise/fall in 1.5 Metres. That's a grade of 1 in 35 made worse with the 28 inch curves onto the Bridge. There is a similar grade up to Sydney Staging (1,170 mm). 

These 1 in 35 grades are in Tunnels so they won’t be noticed and all trains travelling in this Sydney – Gosford – Sydney section are hauled by the 46 Class Electrics, it won’t be an issue as the model is very heavy. Comparing the “weight over the wheels” that provides all models with their pulling effort, the 46s weigh 436 grams while a C36 (without a Tender), is 225 grams. Of course you have to have a Tender (82 grams including decoder and speaker), this 82g “weight” is equivalent to hauling another wagon.   

The “front” track of the Armidale Staging (5 Loops), will be a continuation of the Main North to Armidale 550 mm above Hawkesbury River Bridge, with a Return Loop (added at a later stage), providing the turning of the trains stored in Armidale Staging, ready for their next journey, south and obviously continuous running if necessary. The previous Return Loop at Tamworth will be removed.

The track separation for the 3 levels are from Hawkesbury River Station to Newcastle is 240 mm and Newcastle to Armidale Staging 340 mm, while not desirable, this arrangement provides the operation I want. Hawkesbury River Station being in front (lower) than Newcastle, makes the track with the adding of the Bankers, easy and looks better than if the Station was underneath the Newcastle. Building a layout is full of compromises.

The Hawkesbury River Hotel is paramount to the scene. Thankfully Bob Stack was able to "re-secure" his Pub and now it's the centrepiece of the scene. I have been very lucky to have been able to have "instant" town scenes with all the buildings from Bob and Keith. 
Now to finishing the scene with a Jetty, Boats etc then adding the Hawkesbury River Bridge with 2 of the the partially built spans of my Bridge, shown below. Note the track separation for the track above the Bridge (the single line to Murrurundi), is 170mm and the fascia will be painted next time i get out the blue paint, to disguise it a little.    

Friday, February 5, 2016

Linton’s Loksounds.

Last night I had the pleasure of Linton Towelly visiting the Main North, demonstrating his Brass Z13 and the Auscision XPT, equipped with Loksound decoders.

I have been following Linton’s Blog where he has been discussing his sound projects for his some of his locos complete with YouTube videos, to get what he considers a better operating loco sound. Tonight I saw two of his projects “running” on the Main North – in a word WOW!!!!

See Linton's Blog entries about the Z13 and the XPT including the YouTube videos, at:

As you know. I’m predominately a steam loco operator, I was gob smacked when he ran the Z13 from Werris Creek to Broadmeadow. There has been some construction on the layout lately (installing Armidale Staging and now Hawkesbury River Station – a future Blog entry), so there was some dirt around. The 4-4-2T 13 Class ran on the on the layout without missing a beat.

I have done hundreds of decoder installations, what amazed me with Linton’s Z13 “installation”, it had 2 crew and I could see through the Cab. Not a “big” thing I hear you saying, but where’s the decoder, speaker and the TCS KA2 installed? There's NO Tender on the 13 Class. 

The Zimo Sugar Cube is located in a home made lead “casting” in the Smokebox. The Loksound Micro is somewhere, I think he said on the floor behind the driver. He did “split up” the KA2 where 4 capacitors of the KA2 were under the Coal Load and the fifth is up the front of the loco. I thought I did well, getting my 30 Tank equipped but I have to redo it and add crew, now I have seen Linton's Z13.

What a fantastic “installation”.

Running the loco, the sounds were just as amazing as the installation – fantastic.

Stationary, the 13 had all the appropriate sounds and more. Accelerating the loco, the Chuffs were loud until the loco was slowed by “one” Speed Step (using 28 Speed Step mode), where the Chuff volume reduced. Increase the Speed by “one” Speed Step, the loco Chuff volume increased. Reducing the speed to slow down approaching a Station, the Chuffs were very quiet, simulating coasting. To stop at the Station, F6 is pressed to operate the Brake. Great to see the Brake on F6 so we NCE users can see that the Brake is ON. Very impressive, so much so that I thinking of operating with "Brakes", in the future.

Linton explained that he was not happy with the way standard Diesel decoders operated, as he had driven the real thing. He wanted his Diesels to sound more like what he had experienced. In endeavoring to achieve this, Linton posted a message on the Loksound Yahoo group. I saw the replies at the time and they were less than complimentary, so he soldiered on without "their" help.

There are two Loksound decoders installed in the XPT, both operating on the same address (not consisted). On power up, the “rear” Power Car notched up (to level 2). This effect is due to one (either the front or rear), continually supplying the electrics for the XPT when stationary.

Countless hours mucking around with his recordings, the Audacity software and the Loksound Programmer, Linton was able to achieve his desired “notching” effect.  Some might say to use Manual Notching but if you have used this feature, I understand why Linton worked so hard here.

I wish I had time to take some videos but it was already the wee hours of the morning but I took a photo of the XPT as shown below. 

One of the great things about this Hobby, it has so many different disciplines. 

What Linton has done with these Loksounds, is nothing short of AMAZING. 

Linton, thanks for the visit.   

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Operating Cards for the Main North in 1965.

Visitors to the Main North can bring their own trains to run on the layout. Return Loops at either end providing a continuous run of 115 Metres of track, gives the Visitor an extensive road test/running of their trains and they have fun.

The 12 Stations/Locations are identified on the appropriate fascia. To help Operators know where they are, which way to go etc, I have attached some Track Plans shown below, to the layout's Valances. 

Operators at a Main North Operating Session or a Visitor that wants wants to run one of my trains, they'll have to run them as they did in 1965 with all the operations of engine changes, double heading/banking, add/remove wagons/coaches/vans etc, that were done to run the train in both directions over this 450 km section on my Main North. This includes changing over to  46 Class Electric for all southbound trains (except the 44 hauled North Coast trains), at Gosford, for the run to Sydney. The same for northbound trains out of Sydney, all will be hauled by a 46 to Gosford, where there will be an engine change to a 35s, 36s, 38s or an AD60s, heading north. 

To know what has to be done and to help them negotiate the Main North, I have made a business card sized Operating Card for each of my trains. To be convenient to use, they had to clipped to the Throttle as shown, providing the details of what's necessary as they follow their train around the layout. The Operating Cards are laminated with a 64 x 99 mm Laminating Pouch available from Office Suppliers.

Using the many books and magazines I have collected about the NSWGR, Passenger Train Composition Book, Load Tables, Wagon Load Calculator, help from other NSW modellers etc, I was able to put together the details of running each of my trains, "1965 style". 

At the moment, I don’t operate to a Timetable, instead I want everyone to have fun playing trains, using the Operating Card. If and when a Timetable is implemented, each Operator will still need to use the Operating Card to run a train.   

For 1965 Operating Sessions the Operator takes an Operating Card from the Card Stowage "Trains to Run" Pocket (lower) located above the Workbench (shown right) and clips it to the Throttle. Using the Card, he'll run the train "1965 style" and when finished, returns the Card to the "Finished Trains" Pocket.
The Operating Cards are arranged in a sequence that provides an Operating Session without too many bottlenecks etc.  
Note: My DCC Ammeter is shown in the fascia above the Workbench, monitoring the current to the layout. The reading of "1.12" Amps is what 33 stationary sound equipped locos, ALL quiet (no sounds), are drawing. This equates to 34 mAs each. With 6 Operators playing trains, the Ammeter displays rarely reads higher than 2.0 Amps. I recommend that ALL DCC layouts have an Ammeter installed. See my Meters for DCC web page for more details. 

Operating Sound Locos.
Imagine the noise of over 30 sound locos starting up, when the layout is powered up, what a racket, so ALL locos are programmed to be QUIET until they are operated.
75% of my locos (Soundtraxx and QSI equipped ones), will automatically mute after a time of inactivity, minimizing the "idling" locos, after the Operator has finished running the train, and they forget to mute the loco (F8). 

Making the Operating Cards.
Using M/S Word, a page is divided into two columns, the width adjusted to the width of the business card as shown below. I wrote the details on how to "operate' each of my staged trains.

If the text was more than 12 lines, I made a second page, placing the text in the appropriate place to provide text on both the front and back of the Operating Card, when printed as shown on the Glen Innes Mail Operating Card below. I have used Tahoma font with "10" size, providing easy to read text, even without my Reading Glasses.   
The highlighted text, in the Glen Innes Mail's Operating Card indicates there are 12 "operations" to be carried out while operating this train from Sydney Staging to Tamworth and back to Sydney. Obviously not all trains travel this far and don't have this many "operations". I use normal A4 paper not cardboard due to laminating the Card.

A YouTube video of operating the Glen Innes Mail with it's Engine Changes etc. as explained in the above Operating Card can be seen below:

As I operate in 1965, steam locos were still the primary form of traction on the Main North, north of Gosford. The tonnage of the loads were calculated for the Ruling Grade for that section. Using the appropriate Load Tables and a Wagon Load Calculator, I “weighed” my trains to keep them within the Load Table specification. I did a Presentation on this topic at the 2015 Epping Seminar. It will be a future Blog Entry.

A few trains like the "269 Pick Up" have shunting activities but there is more than enough shunting necessary with the Newstan Full and Empty Coal Trains, the W44 Concentrate, the Full and Empty Wheat trains, the Illawarra Coke train etc. The addition of the engine "operations" makes for an even more complex running exercise for most trains that takes a long time to complete and is lots of fun. 

Many trains are "through" trains. Depending on the trains, it can take up to 60 minutes to run a train. Imagine how tired an Operator can get after walking up to 450 kms (or 900 kms if he returns), as he follows his train, changing engine etc. A “Crib” break can be taken anytime, just leave the train in an appropriate Loop/Siding so as to not block the main line. If you need someone to have a chat with, turn of the Master Power Switch and announce “Coffee” but be aware of calls like "what's happened, my loco has stopped" etc.

Layouts need plenty of Staging Areas to store the trains, complete with loco. I have 3, soon 4 Staging Areas, to store my trains. 

To see one of my favourite "operations" that has to be done on many DOWN Goods trains as they are run to Werris Creek, including rear end banking up to Ardglen, click on the below video.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Layout Changes.

On my Main North layout, the "Main North Line" terminated at Armidale Staging a few feet north of Werris Creek Station and on the "wrong" side of the Station. The Mungindi Branch line crosses the Lift Up Bridge through to Gunnedah and then through a Return Loop, providing easy turning of a train and continuous running if necessary.

Recently I "fine tuned" and "electrified" the Points at Gunnedah's Black Jack Coal Mine located opposite Gunnedah and on a shelf 80 mm above the track, south of Werris Creek Yard. With the Gunnedah Abattoir and the Mine it provided some great train operations.

I had made some changes at Werris Creek to improve operations that included repositioning the Roundhouse and Turntable, adding the Shunting Neck and adding a second line into the Yard for the "main line", providing a more direct path to the Station. This eliminated a Crossover that was giving me some grief (Shinohara Double Curves - what a pain in the proverbial).

I wanted to add a Stock Yard and Loading Bank for additional operations around Werris Creek but there was no room to do it unless I removed Gunnedah's Black Jack Coal Mine. A monumental decision had to be made as Gunnedah was an important part of my layout.

Due to the "people traffic" in the Aisle between Sulphide Junction and Broadmeadow, I had removed the 300 mm high Platform that was necessary to operate Gunnedah so there was not much happening at the Black Jack Coal Mine so Gunnedah had become a "through" station as North West trains used the Return Loop to turn around trains.

Layouts "evolve", so I removed the Mine and the associated track along with the Abattoirs and now I had room for the Loading Bank and Stock Yards. These could be operated from the Train Room, see below. I have included the Werris Creek Mine (seen in the background of the above photo), so LCH Coal Trains will be running from/to Werris Creek.

With these above changes the 3 "signature" Main North Passenger Trains - the Brisbane Express via Wallangarra, the Glen Innes Mail and the 4 Car DEB Set Northern Tablelands Express that I've now got all the correct rolling stock for (mentioned last post), would STILL be terminated at Armidale Staging, 3 feet away from Werris Creek Station.

The "importance" of Gunnedah without the Mine and Abattoir was drastically reduced. To provide a 25 foot longer "Main North"and the Return Loop for these 3 Passenger Trains etc, I've swapped around the two sections of track "north" of Werris Creek, see the Track Plan below.

The below photo shows the Glen Innes Mail having arrived on the "correct" side of the Station, departing and continuing on the additional 25 foot section of the Main North line (previously the Mungindi Branch), heading across the Lift Up Bridge to West Tamworth.

Gunnedah Station/Yard with the Mill and Silo will now be my "close enough" combined West Tamworth/Tamworth and the previous Armidale Staging (3 feet from Werris Creek) will now be the North West Staging. A new Armidale Staging above Newcastle (Middle Deck), will be added later.

Shown above is one of the signature Passenger Trains of the Main North, the 3616 hauled Glen Innes Mail, double headed to "light engine" 3390 to West Tamworth for the Barraba Passenger. Operating Trains on the Main North and the The Glen Innes Mail, are the topic for my next Blog entry.