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, June 14, 2020

Occupancy Detection for DCC.

Note: If using relays with Integrated Circuits (I.Cs.), see my warning at the bottom of this Blog entry
If you need to know where a loco/train/rolling stock is on the layout when using computers, signals or just for a LED on a Panel etc, you'll need an "Occupancy" Detector, sensing the train's position by infra red beams or current to a section of isolated track. Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) is not discussed here, if interested, click here.  

For an "out of the box" Occupancy Detector that I use and recommend is NCE's BD20. For more details see Mark Gurries's page on Block Detectors here.

As always I need easy solutions, so nothing different for occupancy detection. 
I haven't installed any resistors to my rolling stock wheel sets, I ONLY sense the presence of the loco. Yes the train can still be in the block while the loco is NOT but the Operators can see the train when they enter a Yard/Loop. This saves me from adding resistors to to my wheel sets. There's only so much time left.

The only problem I experience, that's common on all layouts, are power interruptions to the loco caused by dirty wheels/track, that'll cause the BD20s to "cycle", resulting in the Semaphore to cycle, from Caution to Clear then back to Caution, while the loco continues on unaffected because all my locos have a "Stay Alive". 
If the rolling stock had resistor wheel sets, this cycling could be all but eliminated as there are more "current" paths (resistor wheel sets), than just the loco. 
Installing a 100 uF 16V Electrolytic Capacitor across Pins 1 and 2 of the BD20 will delay for 3 seconds, the turning OFF the Detector thus eliminating the "cycling" of the Detector. 

The BD20 is capable of driving a Relay from Pins 3 and 4, if you supply 12 Volts to Pins Pin 1 and 4. Relays are used for my signalling to control the Tam Valley Octopus III for the Semaphore's Servo.

On my layout I use "occupancy" detection for:
  1. Signalling 40 metres of single line with 3 loops for automatic bi directional running.
  2. Signalling at other locations.
  3. Indicating which tracks are occupied in my "eye level" Armidale Staging.
  4. Turn off the track power to eliminate crashes in my Tickhole Tunnel.
  5. Operating Points and Signals to provide my desire route through Tamworth.
  6. Just lately helping Cassino Craig with his Shelton photographer. 
For my signalling, see my previous Signalling Blog entries where I used BD20s. At a Mate's recommendation in the U.S. I purchased some cpODs  needing more Detectors as I fit more Semaphores and other "occupancy" projects. 

I enjoy tinkering around with electronics, so I looked at making my own Occupancy Detectors from Rob Paisley's web site. , I had already made a DCC Ammeter, see my Ammeter Blog entry 

I was hearing a lot about using Arduinos for model railways, so I asked Dave Lowe from Brisbane who was going to attend the MRNSW 2018 Convention, if he'd do an Arduino Presentation.
Great Presentation with lots of ideas and examples of how to use the Arduinos for our layouts. There’s even an application to make a DCC system. Dave's example to flash a LED/s with an Arduino, that can be easily done using a $2 "555", I thought it was an little bit of an overkill. I bought an Arduino to play around with it. 

I had just installed a 60' Turntable in Tamworth and when the AMRM Article explaining how to control a Turntable using an Arduino and a Jaycar Stepper Motor, I felt my prayers for motorizing the Turntable were answered. I raced out and bought the applicable Stepper Motor.
My mate Brian spent an inordinate amount of time using the exact same Turntable mentioned in the AMRM Article and had correspondence with the author but could not get it work successfully. More perseverance may have been necessary but you can only spend so much time pulling your hair out. Brian’s experience sealed the fate for my Arduino, yet to connect any power to it, let alone “make” a project.

Making Occupancy Detectors 

I decided I wanted to make "transformer" type Occupancy Detectors, similar to the BD20 using Rob Paisley's Transformer Occupancy Detectors.

My regular electronics parts suppliers, Jaycar and Element 14 did not stock the Transformer so I purchased them, along with other parts, from EBay. The 10 components were assembled on a piece Veroboard and they worked first time. Dave sent me some Circuit boards and his pdf to make a much tidier Detector. 
Changing the value of "C1" in the above circuit, provides the delay, I need. 

My home made Detectors cost me $3 each so I can save heaps and buy more Tam Valley Octopus IIIs to motorize my static Bracket Semaphores. Dave has used Arduinos to operate his Servos, maybe I should talk to him but for now the Octopus III, is good for me.  

Occupancy Indication for my Armidale Staging.

This staging area is at 1680 mm, too high for me to see what’s in the 6 Sidings and to manually set the Points, so you can use an empty Siding. I needed add Peco Point Motors along with a Control Panel and some form of "occupancy" indication.

I made the Armidale Control Panel using my usual method of Toggle Switches and ONLY 3.0 mm Green LEDs, recessing the Panel into the fascia. Operating a Toggle Switch, illuminates the appropriate LEDs and operates the Peco Point Motor using it's own Capacitor Discharge circuit (see previous Signalling Blog entry).

The illuminated Green LEDs easily identifies which Siding is selected but requires extra wiring behind the Panel, well worth it.

Occupancy of the Sidings was to be simple, just a Red LED easily implemented by using Red/Green LED (Jaycar Part No ZD0248) for the LAST LED in each of the 6 Sidings, see photos.

An empty Siding the Bi-colour LED illuminates GREEN and an occupied Siding the LED is RED, see below.

The photo on the right has the last LED illuminated RED, indicating Siding 1 is "occupied" with the 4 Car Northern Tablelands Express at "home". 
Also shown is the Yard "Exit" Colour Light Signal is at green indicating it is safe to crossover into Tamworth.

I wanted a simple homemade solution, firstly trying infra red sensors but the difficulty of mounting the transmit and receive LEDs I made a simple homemade "current" type of detector I saw years ago on p89 in DCC book by Ames, Friberg and Loizeaux, years ago. I used a 4N25 and a 1 Amp Bridge Rectifier mounted on a Veroboard with a LED. Connected 12 Volts and DCC and it works.

For a circuit see Rob Paisley's Basic Detector but without the LM339 Comparitor etc. Pin 5 supplying an earth to the LED, with occupancy. This simple detector could be used if you want a LED on a panel, see photo.

I could not work out how to "changeover" the polarity to the Red/Green LED without using a Relay and my simple detector could not drive a relay without adding a LM393. Now it's not a simple detector. 

I went with one of my homemade Veroboard Transformer Occupancy Detectors, shown right.. 
Instead of adding a relay to control the Red/Green LED, with the help of Andrew, I added 3 resistors (L/H side of Detector), that "swap" around the polarity to the Red/Green LED from Green (not occupied), to RED when the Detector senses "current" in the Siding, indicating the Siding is occupied. 

You may have to adjust the turns through the Transformer to get the indication to changeover.

The photo right, shows 4 of the Detectors mounted under the layout behind the Armidale Control Panel 

The only problem with this above solution, if there’s no loco (only rolling stock), it will not show “occupancy” – solution, make it a train and not just rolling stock by placing a loco on the track. While not exact but this’ll prevent someone from trying to park their train in that Siding and we all have spare engines. If you've run out of locos, clip a 100 Ohm 1 Watt Resistor to the track.

I also re-modelled Armidale because I don't think I'll ever install the Return Loop, that I initially wanted all those years ago. I added a spare "island" station, some houses and a little bit of scenery. I know the station is not "correct" but it'll do for now until I maybe build the right station.  

Tickhole Tunnel “Isolation”.

In my last Blog entry I suggested if an Operator did not stop at the Colour Light Signal on the UP, if it was RED before entering Tickhole Tunnel, he'd probably crash into a train with catastrophic results. 
I'd have to spend half an hour during an Operation Session to remove scenery to access the wreckage. 

To safeguard this slack Operator, in this era of strict OHS procedures, I’ve removed the power to the track at the Signal by using the second set of contacts on the DPDT Relay on my Detector controlling the Colour Light Signal, an easy fix. 

The Occupancy Detector in this installation is one from the Model Railroad Control Systems in the U.S. mentioned above.

Tamworth entry/exit Points.

I could have used a different type of Auto Reverser for the Tamworth Return Loop with "contacts" to operate these Points. This would include of shunting in Tamworth.

I could have added a Frog Juicer and associated DCC stuff. 

I wanted  all trains from Werris Creek to be automatically “routed” passing Tamworth's Platform, then they'd go to Armidale or take the Return Loop for continuous running (back to Werris Ck etc). If the Return Loop option was taken, the train "appeared" on the rear track of Tamworth, the second Occupancy Detector automatically switches the Points via the Capacitor Discharge seen on the left of the photo, getting the train back onto the mainline, to Werris Ck.

Casino Craig’s Shelton the Photographer.

After reading Craig's Blog entry he posted on 31 May 2020, I contacted Craig and with Andrew, we suggested alternatives to what Craig was trying to achieve with his Flasher Circuit that worked, well sort of. 
Craig purchased an Arduino and wrote the appropriate code, what a computer geek Craig is.

I did NOT want to venture into getting my Arduino to work so I used one of my $3 Detectors to operate the LED, but it remained illuminated dimly after the Flash even with changing resistor/capacitor combinations, I tried a Relay with a 100 uF Capacitor in series with the Coil that energies the coil for a  1/4 of a second providing a perfect Flash, irrespective of how long the Detector senses occupancy. 

A 100 uF for" C1" in the circuit, keeps the Detector "ON" for 15 seconds after there is NO sense current from 40 mm "block". This eliminates a second and subsequent flashes with dirty wheels/track and/or when the second bogie of a diesel,contacts the 40 mm block. The values of both of these Capacitors may have to varied to provide a single flash. Maybe Craig's Arduino is looking as a  better option but not for me.  

To make value of the time I spent, I decided to add Shelton to my layout at Ardglen Tunnel, using a 0.8 mm Surface Mount Daylight White to glued to Shelton’s head. I cut the appropriate Gaps in one rail before the Tunnel and connected the DCC “sense” wire through the Detector’s Transformer to the isolated track and connected it to the 12 Volt D.C Bus for signalling, under the track..

Above is my "test" Transformer Detector, assembled on one of Dave's Circuit Boards, under the layout. The schematic on the right shows all of the the connections. 

See Shelton “flashing” at Ardglen on the Main North, below.  

Craig's set-up on the 14 Jun 2020 entry, uses a Bridge Rectifier connected to a 4N25, "triggering" his “supercharged” Arduino as per the diagram below and it flashes. Craig has just got to get Shelton, onto his layout. 

The Voltage Drop across the Bridge Rectifier, reduces the voltage to to the track that can cause a "slowing down" of a loco using this method of Occupancy Detection. Circuits using this method of detecting the current without an Arduino, are also shown at the above Rob Paisley's pages.  

Bridge Rectifier Current Occupancy Detector using a LM555 Timer with a Delay.

I made another Occupancy Detector but instead of using the hard to source Transformer I use, I used a 1 Amp Bridge Rectifier and a 4N25 that triggers a LM555 Timer triggering a Relay. I used a 2.2 uF Electolytic that provides 3 seconds of delay. Inc/dec capacitance varies the delay.

The Output of the LM555 (Pin 3), can be used to operate LEDs for both "states" of the Detector as shown in the circuit.

Check Rob Paisley's site for more details.

I added a Jaycar 230 Ohm Relay and the LM555's 200mA capacity is fine with using the 250 to 500 Ohm relays but the LED is illuminated as long as the Detector is "energized, red/green photos below. 

To get the above Detector to FLASH for using with Shelton, I added a 100 uF Capacitor in "series" with the Coil, shown left. 

This makes an Occupancy Detector with easy to source parts and without using an Arduino that has to be "coded". 

Craig could this alternative circuit and save his Arduino for something a little more "difficult". See the photo left.

Without the Capacitor, the Relay is energized for as long as the Detector sees "occupancy". 

An Occupancy Detector with easy to source parts from Jaycar etc, for any "occupancy" project.   

I haven't made another circuit schematic.

Warning when using Relays with Integrated Circuits (I.Cs.)

Energizing the 300 to 500 Ohm Coils of the “common” 12 Volt Relays from say Jaycar, is not a problem in most cases. The “circuitry” used to energize the Coil needs to be able to supply this necessary “coil” current.
The Output Capacity of the LM393 Integrated Circuit used in my Occupancy Detector is very low at 20 mAs. If you use the above “low” Ohm Relays, the LM393 could be damaged. Instead use the 1,000 Ohm Relays like Jaycar’s SY4032 or SY4036 versions.
Some years ago I purchased lots of 960 Ohm Relays shown in the above photos, so I’m okay.

Monday, June 1, 2020

The Workbench

Everybody spends lots of time using a computer at a place depending on various scenarios. Initially I connected to the Internet with a Desktop in a spare room upstairs. I soon bought a Laptop to be more “portable” then spent most of my time downstairs in the Trainroom on my workbench. I was away from the T.V. but close enough to hear the Boss, especially when she’d announce “lunch, afternoon tea or dinner”, was ready. How good was this!

Being an Electrician, I've always had an interest in things "electrical", I'm at home with most things electrical in the hobby. My workbench comprises of a spare standard door on top of some drawers I got from a previous employer. and setup with the appropriate equipment/tools etc, if not at an arm’s length, they're close by. I installed a Sliding Drawer under the bench using kitchen drawer slides from Bunnings, making for easy storage of commonly used tools like screwdrivers, cutters, pliers, rulers, scissors etc.

Present day "electronics", is getting really hi tech with Arduino etc, that's leaving me behind. My electronic questions are simply solved with resistors, capacitors, transistors, diodes, relays etc as shown in my Signalling Blog entries, most of the time.  

The 2014 photo below shows the normal mess, as I work on the workbench, I’m sure I’m not alone here. I’m getting tidier in my old age, most probably because I’m sick of looking for stuff for whatever I was working on.

Since I don’t do decoder installations and stuff for others anymore, I’m workin’ for me now, to finish what I started in 1990, indicating that progress around here was very slow. So much to do but it's not about finishing the layout, it’s the fun you're having on the journey. I’m certainly having fun making scenery and as of late, ballasting.

This above messy unsceniced “view”, is the most looked at part of the Main North, well by me that is, as I sit at the workbench, made “worse” when I turn on the workbench lighting to work on a model etc. It needs updating.

The “Rotten Row” shelf and the adjacent one to the right above the equipment, have been removed for more “vertical” space above the double mainline and the new mine, see below.

The electrical equipment on the R/H side shelf has been relocated onto the bench below, to reposition the shelf to the same level as the rear “brown” shelf, so as to add a Mine, coming off the “Down” Main (to Broadmeadow & north).

To eliminate a mess under the “brown” shelf, I fitted another Jaycar Cabinet, cut in 3, for more "tidy" storage.

Fitted a fascia then added a “3 piece” polystyrene Hill to the Corner where the double mainline exits Tickhole Tunnel, so it can be removed for access to the hidden track, if necessary. I planted plenty of trees. I did this scenery 2 years ago but it’s taken 2 years to clean up the mess.

My new “view” as I sit at the workbench without the mess.


Researching for "local" Mine, I wanted to model the Stockton Borehole Colliery with it's 2,000 ton “over the track” Bin. I couldn’t find the motivation to make it, instead I added some Mine structures I already had (spare Walthers New River Mine parts etc). It's amazing what you find you've collected over the years stored under the layout, so this'll do for now. I parked some of my “red” LCHs there. I may still make the Stockton Borehole mine, only time will tell.

I made the front track of the Mine, my new Program Track, appropriately isolated from the mainline, using the Main/Prog Switch, 3rd from the left on the row of switches to the right of the Power Cab, details below. See the below link for details of isolating so you don’t blow up a Program Track Booster at:

The Workbench Equipment (l to r).
Just out of view is the NCE 5 Amp Power Pro, with the track wiring going to the fascia Ammeter Circuit Board behind the Cabinet (see: ), then in 4 directions to the EB1 Circuit Breakers, for the 9 Power Districts of the layout.

My home made 30 year old 5 - 25 Volt, 5 Amp Power Supply to power projects etc, with a recently added combined Volts/Amps display from EBay to replace numerous failed Ammeter displays. Included is a Timer and Constant Current circuitry to charge rechargeable batteries. 

A Jaycar 10 Amp Multimeter  (QM1535) is fixed to a sloping bracket to easily read the display, with the Leads extended and hanging from below the R/H side of the bench with suitable Clips, with 3 other “sets” of Leads (my Power Supply, extra Program Track Leads and Power Pro “test” Leads), providing enough length to test/make easy measurements/tests on the workbench, see the next photo.  

A wireless equipped Power Cab is clipped to a sloping bracket, providing an off the workbench, out of the way Procab, depending on which system I want to use.
Plugged into the R/H Panel or using it as a Wireless Procab, it is used with the Power Pro system.
Plugged in to the L/H socket (2 x Red LEDs), it is used a Power Cab. This allows the use of the Program Track without shutting down the layout or testing without turning the layout on, see below.
Connecting the laptop with either an NCE USB Interface (Power Cab) or a Serial Cable (Power Pro), allows the use of Decoder Pro for programming. 

The Switches (left to right) select numerous options for the layout, details below:

  • Layout ON/OFF: Left in the OFF position, isolating the layout during powering up the Power Pro and when programming/test locos on the Program Track. Obviously ON for playing trains.
  • Program Track:  Selects either the Power Pro or the Power Cab to power the Program Track. In the Power Cab position, it disconnects the layout from the Program Track. 
  • Main/Prog: Selects Operation or Service mode of programming for the Power Pro.
  • Ammeter: The Ammeter reduces the Track Voltage by approximately 1.0 Volts. Switch OFF, full voltage at the layout, if necessary.
  • P.Lamp: The "short indication" (12 V 10 Watt Lamp) for the Program Track can be switched out if necessary.
  • Dremel: Easy ON/OFF for the Dremel hanging from the Upper Deck shown in the bottom photo.
  • TAM O/C: 12 Volts for the Tamworth Points and Occupancy Detection.
  • Hawk Lts: 12 Volts for the Sydney Staging and Hawksburry River Station LED lighting.
  • 3 Spare holes for whatever new project needs an On/Off Switch.  
A Weller WES51 Adjustable Temperature Controlled Soldering Iron (green LED) with the Soldering Pencil located in a Holder on the Workbench, replacing a 30 year old Dick Smith unit, don't make them like that anymore.

I’m a dinosaur and still use a landline, the handpiece is at the end of the Program Track.

Above the yellow cabinet from the left is the Power Supply for the NCE Power Pro system also providing power for other stuff at the bench including the Fascia Ammeter, discussed on a previous Blog entry at:

Next is the Power Cab Jiffy Box, housing the USB Interface. In this configuration, it's the interface between Decoder Pro and the Power Cab. Disconnected from the associated wiring, I can take it with a Power Cab in my DCC Doctor Toolbox with the Laptop, plug the unit into 240 Volts then program/adjust locos on other modellers layouts. See my article at:

Jaycar’s very small tip Soldering Iron for repairs to Circuit Boards using SMD components, now done with my new Weller.

A 12.0 Volt Power Pack plugged into the power point, supplies the Power Cab, power to an External Hard Drive and for my ESU Lokprogrammer. 
The Soundtraxx PTB-100 Program Track Booster that's necessary to read CVs of most sound decoder is attached to the shelf. No need to remove the PTB-100 to program Soundtraxx Tsunami 2s. 

The last scenery job is adding ballast, but only after soldering rail joiners and adding more droppers, ballast glue plays havoc with rail joiners and Point "contacts" etc. 

The Colour Light signal (at Red) in the photo right, is located on the UP Main “protecting” trains ahead in Tickhole Tunnel especially when shunting the W44. but Operators still pass Red Signals. Those Operators are banished to make the Coffee. 

If the above "crash" happened, I'd have to remove the 3 piece Hill and the removable scenery at Fassifern/Newstan Mine, to clear the derailed train that'd take at least half an hour, a real inconvenience to an Operating Session. I should include removing the track power, with a Signal at Red. Sounds like it should be one of my next projects.

Occupancy Detectors control the Signal and will be the subject of my next Blog entry. I let you know if I did the above Signal "project".

Good “overhead” lighting is absolutely necessary for “close up” work, we're doing on locos and small projects etc, with two 18 W CFLs, and a long reflector from another light assy.

For magnification and some extra illumination when necessary on the workbench, I have a Jaycar Desktop Magnifier Light (LEDs) Part No QM3552, stored “out of the way”, under the bench that “doubles up” to illuminate the under-bench area. 
I modified the Light by replacing the base with an 8 mm bolt, that allows mounting the Light into a 8 mm hole, under the bench or at the edge of the workbench, see photos.

I need glasses for reading etc.I got a pair made up with a focal length of 200 mm, to work "inside" the models, all shown hanging up in their "correct" place. 

The latest addition to my Workbench is the WiFiTraxx Module that simply plugs into the NCE Cab Bus (no computer with JMRI needed for this), allowing the use of 4 Mobile phones with the applicable App, so when a Visitor comes to the layout, he can use his phone as a Wireless Throttle, see:

Thanks to Craig Mackie, he's written a very comprehensive "write up" in 2 Parts at his Blog. 

A variable height comfy office chair on wheels is necessary to move around the clean Main North "nerve" centre with almost everything at my fingertips. It's so much better sitting at the Bench, now that the scene has been upgraded, shown below, with my constant companion jumping onto the chair to obviously keep it warm for me.

Now to keep the mess, away – that’s the challenge.

For an easy exit when I'm done at the Workbench, pressing the circled "master" switch below, turns everything OFF including the Workbench lights, layout etc, except the one power point that feeds the master switch and the computer, to keep the battery charged. I can now sleep easy, knowing everything's off.

Monday, May 25, 2020

Upgrading Newstan Mine.

Suggested in my previous Blog entry, where I did some videos for the 2020 Epping Seminar of coal trains operating on my layout "around" my very basic Newstan Mine (shown below), I really needed to upgrade the mine NOW, now that I'm getting better at doing scenery.

Using photos I have collected over the years especially for the overall layout of Newstan, a 1972 view below, I've got a much better Newstan, now. More detail to be added like completing the buildings, painting etc but there's so much to do on the Main North, this will do for now.

I visited and photographed Newstan Mine in 2005, a lot different than I what I wanted to model for my mid 60s Newstan - no over the track Loading Bins that are the "centre piece" of my Newstan.
I also visited the Lake Macquarie Library to make a copy of Brian Andrews "100 years of Northumberland/Newstan 1887 to 1987", book. Some great photos and details for my mid 60s Newstan.

My 2.0 metre long wedge shaped Newstan Mine is 350 mm wide at the "head" end, tapering down to 100 mm wide at the "throat", is jammed in between the back scene and Fassfern Bank.
The end of the Mine is hard up against the Hill for the deep Cutting at the top of Fassifern Bank, as the track goes around the peninsular, into Sulphide Junction. The high "Run of the Mine" Bin fits in against the Hill, in any event the that's the way it has to be.

I made a "close enough" Coal Preparation Plant where the coal is washed prior to being loaded into the over track Loading Bins, from leftover parts from my Walthers New Riving Mining kits.

I also purchased a Walthers Walton and Sons Lumber kit to make the Workshop. On fitting it into the available space, I should have scratch built the Workshop as I had to cut it in half.

Coal for my Newstan Mine, comes from behind the Mine and at the top of the Hill via a Conveyor, into the large "Run of the Mine" Bin.
From the bottom of the Bin with another conveyor into the top of the Coal Preparation Plant, then by conveyor into the over track Loading Bins.

This pushed the Preparation Plant further to the right toward the Mine's "throat".
I needed to add the Winder and the Workshop to this shrinking space. Something had to give.
I could not include the Office Block/Miners Facilities as per the "real" Newstan, it's all about compromises.

Installing the coal delivery conveyor to the large Bin, the hill was too high.
I had to trim the existing hill, that's easy to do with foam for the scenery base.
Added to the scenery by "planting" more trees. I also added a little more "hill/landscape" to hide the entrance to Shunting Neck.

This made operating the furthest Point, that's inside the tunnel impossible to operate by hand that has been okay for years.
I was going to take the easy option and fit fascia mounted "recessed" knobs but Operators may not have noticed the "hidden" Point.

I needed to add a Control Panel where Operators could see the track plan at the Loading Bin area of the mine area.
Due to the narrowness of the aisle here, for the Operator to easily see the route and operate the Points, the Control Panel needed to be at eye level, I mounted it in the fascia for the Upper Deck (below).

It was "recessed" so as the toggle switches would not be fouled by Operators, extra work but worth it. Note: Green LEDs ONLY illuminate for the selected route.

Over the years I've accumulated lots of Peco Point motors.
I fitted a couple of the side mounted units, making "motorizing" the points, easy, without removing the Point or drilling any holes etc.

I added a Shed for the conveyor mechanisms etc, to the Loading Bins and had to swap around the Loading "funnels" as the the "Through Road" now is the track closest to the aisle.
Sprayed the Bin with grey primer. I had to get rid of the "white" colour. I have to add the Conveyor mechanisms to the top of the Bin, later, so the grey Bin will do for now.
Fitted some of Anton's Yard Lights (not illuminated), to the Mine tracks.

Ballasting the track around the 3 Points using some of Geoff S's Weber BBQ ash, was the final part of the Newstan Upgrade. I also ballasted the main line up Fassifern Bank and Fassifern Station, using Chuck's Ballast H.O. Martins Creek ballast.

I have lots more ballasting to do on the Main North. Seeing how far a 1.0 kilo bag of ballast goes, I was worried that the 9 kilos I still had left would not be enough to  finish the layout. I was lucky to purchase 10 more kilos of Chuck's Martins Creek ballast. Thanks a lot Roz.

Below is a short video of a Garratt hauled coal train "in" the new Newstan.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Main North Derailment, Epping Seminar & Running Trains.

The Main North was derailed at the end of July 2019, re-railed months later.

At the end on July 2019, I had to changeover to the NBN that had been installed in the street some months earlier. I decided to stay with Optus to keep my web site url active, with their medium speed package and a Fetch Mighty to record "free to air" T.V. Subscribed to Netflix for the Boss. I had to get a new T.V and a digital Antenna.
The Internet kept dropping out but I was busy with family matters, until the Wireless Access Point was replaced in November.

A couple of weeks later, my Laptop died. Not ready for something new like getting a Windows 10 Laptop, this was going to be an issue, I was not "let" down.
I purchased a Lenovo Laptop and Office 365 as it included Outlook for my emails but Outlook didn't work as expected. Finally fixed by a "remote" Microsoft Technician that disabled the default "S Mode". No mention of this by the retailer.  Hours of time wasted here.

Issues with going to Windows 10 continued.

I do the service and warranty work for NCE here is Oz (via the Model Railroad Craftsman here in Sydney) and my Programmers did not work, I was buggered if I needed to program new chips. Along with "Driver" issues, when I downloaded the new software for one of the Programmers, the PICs I have to program were not in the included library. For this I got help from Mark in the U.S.
Help from Randall a local NMRA member also modelling NSW, got everything else working by the end of January including my QSI Programmer. I owe Randall heaps.

Now with my Laptop and Internet fixed, the Main North has been re-railed.

Each year I do a session at the Epping Seminar. 2020's theme was "Modelling the Prototype". I reluctantly agreed to "rehash" something I'd already done as I did not have the enthusiasm to spend time etc on something new.

This "rehash" resulted into doing videos with all the details on the screen to run the 5 following trains with the approximate Operator running time on the layout.
  • Double Garratt 1200 ton Newstan Coal train - 60 mins 
  • 50 Class R/End banked LCH Coal train up Fassifern Bank - 40 mins.
  • DEB Set Northern Tablelands Express - 30 mins.
  • Goods train rear end banked up Ardglen Bank - 40 mins.
  • The Down Glen Innes Mail - 60 mins.
Click here for a Track Diagram of the Main North 

Note: To run any of the trains on the Main North, Operators use an Operating Cards, described in a previous Blog entry. 

The 5 severely compressed videos run for a total of 28 minutes for the 40 minute session of the Seminar. The Seminar was cancelled 5 days out but I guess I'll do it in 2021.

A lot of videoing around Fassifern and Newstan Mine, suggested to me that during this COVID-19 "isolation", that many of use are having to do, I should upgrade my very basic Newstan Mine, maybe my next Blog entry.

Below a 7 minute video of the Double Garratt 1200 Ton Full Coal train from Newstan Mine to Port Waratah and back to Newstan Mine.

Below a 4.5 minute video of the 50 Class Rear End Banked Coal up Fassifern Bank.

Below a 4 minute video operating the 7 Car DEB Set Northern Tablelands Express from Armidale to Sydney and back to Armidale.


Below a 5 min video of banking up Ardglen Bank

Below an 8 min video of the Down Glen Innes Mail

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Audible Warning for NCE EB1 Circuit Breakers.

Previously I have fitted an audible warning to some of my NCE EB1 Circuit Breakers to let Operators know that when a loco stops running, they have short circuit instead of loss of power, using a Piezo Transducer Module from Jaycar Part No XC-4424, connected to the the EB1, shown below.

With Operators running in both Broadmeadow (lower deck) and Werris Creek (upper deck), where lots of shunting/marshalling trains can be done at the same time, a buzz from either of the EB1's that are located in the same area, it's hard to determine which District is shorted without looking at which EB1 has a flashing LED. This ia a bit hard for a visiting Operator to know where to look. Yes the trains stop when there's a short but with Stay Alive they don't stop straight away. See below.

During a recent Operating Session, Operators asked what's the buzz noise in the Trainroom when running trains and another Operator, while setting up his trains in Gosford, felt he caused a few shorts as others were having trouble with running trains through Gosford. The Gosford EB1 did not have "noise" (Transducer). The easy fix would be to isolate the track used for setting up trains - I'll do that one day.

I wondered about another solution by having an "announcement" when a power district was shorted. I'm into recycling my train stuff even if it's 30 years old. Many years ago a I made a Digital Voice Recorder from the December 1989 Silicon Chip magazine, used with my son's Lego trains.
I found the Board along with a lot of other junk under the layout, I spent an afternoon mucking around with it to see it would work for the "announcement" solution. While it provided 4 announcements, each triggered separately, I was not happy with it.

Since seeing Dave Lowe's Arduino Presention at the 2018 Modelling the Railways of NSW Convention, I bought an Arduino Uno and a Stepper Motor from Jaycar to "try" and motorize  a Turntable from an article I saw in AMRM. Nothing done yet with that project.

Browsing around at Jaycar when I'm there for electronic components, I saw a 10 second Record and Playback Module for the Arduino. I checked the details on-line and thought I'd try one instead of using the kit above, but I did not want to use the Arduino Uno to make my announcements work. I needed one of these Modules to play around with.

Jaycar Record Playback Module XC4605

Shown below attached to an NCE EB1.

The Record Playback Module needs 5.0 Volts D.C. (not 12 V) and I needed to trigger it from the EBI instead of the Arduino so I need to use a Relay but a conventional "coil" type one would create more "circuitry" in my simple logic, so I thought I'd use a Solid State Relay from Jaycar, see:

Jaycar PCB mount Solid State Relay SY4090


The Record and Playback Module comes with a Microphone installed.
Connect an 8 Ohm Speaker.
Provide 5.0 Volts DC and a "triggering mechanism" where both are normally supplied by the Arduino.

I soldered a 5.0 Volt 3 Terminal Regulator to the Capacitor on the EB1. I have since found that the EB1 has a 5.0 Volt Regulator already installed. I'll connect to that in the next EB1 upgrade.
I connected DCC to the EB1.
Press the REC Button while yelling your "announcement", to get the highest volume, numerous times until the "REC" LED extinguished (10 secs).

Pressing the "PLAYE" or "PLAYL" Buttons provided the "Short Circuit in Werris Creek" message.

Triggering the Module.

EB1 (default) Operation:
EB1's LED ON= Power to track. LED Extinguished = Short.
When there is a short. the EB1 disconnects the power to the track for 2 seconds then re-applies the power. If the EB1 still senses a short after 16 milliseconds then power is removed again for 2 seconds. This cycle keeps repeating until the short is rectified. Note the EB1 "settings" can be adjusted, see the Manual.
The Module has to be triggered each time the LED extinguishes.

Connections for the Solid State Relay are:
Pin 1 to the EB1's Terminal Block position 3.
Pin 2 to the EB1's Earth at Pin 8 of the 12F683, the IC adjacent to the Terminal Block.
Pin 5 and 6 to the "PLAYL" Switch. Note: Pins 5 and 6 connection are polarity conscious.

Now we know the the Operator in Werris Creek (upper deck), has to correct his "action" etc.

The Record Playback Module, Solid State Switch and the 5.0 Volt Regulator for the modification cost about $17.00 at Jaycar plus the EB1.

If using sound decoders, don't forget to to program the EB1's CV 135 to 4. For more details see the EB1 Manual or Mark Gurries's page on the EB1 at: Mark Gurries EB1 page.

The completed "announcement" EB1 fitted behind the Fascia at Gosford. The Record and Playback Module is held to the EB1 with a Cable Tie and connected an 8 ohm speaker. The volume is more than loud enough with an old Traino 44 speaker with an easily made enclosure from some 27 mm (o.d.) conduit, 50 mm long.

The 6 Pin Solid State Relay "located" between the two boards, held with two links:
Solid State Relay Pin 1 to the EB1 Circuit Board Terminal Block's Pin 3 and
Solid State Relay Pin 2 to Pin 8 of the the adjacent PIC12F683 chip.
Solid State Relay Pins 5 and 6 (Blue and Yellow wires) are connected "across" the "PAYL" Switch of the Rec Play Module.
The 5.0 Volt 3 Terminal Regulator can be seen on the R/H side, soldered to the EB1's 470 uF Electrolytic Capacitor. Simple and it works.

The announcement of a "short" as a slack Operator runs against an incorrectly set Point in Gosford, see below.

If you want to make some of these "Annoucement EB1s" phone me on 02 9402 8929 for more details. I will take further photos as I make more of these "Annoucement EB1s".
I have made 5 of these Annoucement EB1s, all now using 5 Volts from the EB1 5 Volt Regulator, saving using a separate 5 Volt Regulator.

Monday, March 25, 2019

West Tamworth on my Main North.

Previously I wrote a Blog entry about Passenger Trains on my Main North and described that I swapped around the way Werris Creek worked, with the track from the rear Platform entering a 3 track North West Staging and the Front Platform track went onto West Tamworth instead of going to Gunnedah. This allowed a longer run of three of my "signature" Passenger trains, the DEB Set Northern Tablelands Express, the Brisbane Express via Wallangarra and the Glen Innes Mail.

For the Glen Innes Mail, I have included the 3 Coaches for the Barraba Mail that are removed from the Mail, at Tamworth. Secondly a 30T (3009) needs to be "light engined" from Werris Creek to Tamworth for the Barraba Mail.

I needed to upgrade my Tamworth particularly for the Barraba Mail "part" of the Glen Innes Mail.

Thirdly, the Mail with the ACS, CR and MHO, make the train heavier than the C36's load limit of 268 tons for the 1 in 40 grade. The 3616 hauled Glen Innes Mail will need to be double headed up the 1 in 40 climb from Murrurundi to Ardglen but on my layout, to Werris Creek.

Operating the DOWN Glen Innes Mail from Sydney now terminates "turned" in the Tamworth Sidings, has 5 engine "movements/changes" on it's run north. with a lot of "operation" centred around Tamworth and can take over 60 minutes to "run". See my latest Glen Innes Mail YouTube, below.

I needed to change the West Tamworth trackage (shown at right), to include easier operation/storage of the Barraba Mail etc.

Using a 1945 Track and Signal Diagram, courtesy of the ARHS DVD  shown below, there are many industries to model in West Tamworth.

The above 1945 show the following industries. A little research to find which ones were there in 1965. For starters I needed to model some of the following:
  • 250 foot long Platform with a Dock at each end.
  • Station Building that was from the diagram, about 150 feet long.
  • Goods Shed
  • 2 large Mills: West Tamworth Mills and Fielders Mill. 
  • Silo.
  • Stock Yard and Loading Banks. .
  • 2 Road Engine Shed
  • Small Coal Stage.
  • 60 Foot Turntable 
This section of the Main North Upper Deck is 15 feet/5 metres long and 3 feet wide. The photo shows my very compressed West Tamworth on the left and Werris Creek Cattle Pens/Loading Ramp and Mine (in the distant), on the right.

Good thing the 250 foot platform equals 3 feet in HO.

On the layout, the Station is on the "down" line closest to the aisle. Passing the Goods Shed, the line goes to the right for Armidale Staging and left to the Upper Deck Return Loop.
The Return Loop exits from behind the Mill connecting to the 3rd Loop, then "back onto" the mainline at the doorway.

Trains running from Werris Creek, Occupancy Detection on the Lift Up Bridge section, "sets" the Points so all trains go past the Station. With the Points selected for the Return Loop (not Armidale Staging), trains "turn" and appear on the 3rd Loop, passing the Silo, where a second Occupancy Detector operates the Points (opposite to that above), to bring the train back onto the single mainline. This provides automatic end of the layout, "turning" of trains so long as 3 "fixed" Points are set for their normal positions. Not prototypical but it provides the procedure I want. One day I'll add switches to these 3 Points for some form of warning. I could have used a Tony's AR PS One but I wanted to make something and I already had the Auto Reverser. 

I located the 6 Tamworth Sidings including a Fuel Depot and a Mill
at the northern end of Tamworth.

The Glen Innes Mail and the NTE are stabled in these Sidings, ready for their runs to Sydney.

The Tamworth Loco with a 60 foot Turntable and a single line Engine Shed is located between the fascia and the Sidings as shown,  Access can be gained from any of the 3 Loops.

The Centre Loop opposite the Station provides the "storage" of the the Barraba Mail's 3 Coaches and 3009 when the Glen Innes Mail is at Tamworth Sidings, ready to be connected to a UP Glen Innes Mail to Sydney.

I am still thinking of how to add track and a Return loop for the Barraba Line but this has to wait, so the Middle Road and shunting will have to do for running the Barraba Mail.

While remodelling Tamworth, I added the track crossing the mainline from Ardglen to Werris Creek, using a 90 degree Crossing, to the existing but not connected, Armidale Staging (6 tracks above Newcastle).

I wanted Armidale Staging to be as low as possible and I did not want a Bridge over the mainline.
I have changed how this Staging was to work, initially thinking I could add a further Return Loop (over Murrurundi) but it hasn't happened.

This "crossing" is "signalled and interlocked" (May 2019), using the Bracket Semaphore (shown at left) and a colour light Signal controlling the exit from Armidale Staging, so you cannot run out of Armidale Staging without first selecting the Point (shown at left) to Armidale and the Ardglen to Werris Creek "block" is NOT occupied. I used a colour light signal instead of a Semaphore as it does not need Servos or part of a Octopus III, making this a simple "signal" control of Staging.

I added scenery using my foam packaging method and added plenty of home grown Autumn Joy Sedums to hide the "90 degree crossing".

The Upper Deck of the Main North here at the aisle way from the Trainroom is 1570 mm from the floor. For Operators and especially the vertically challenged Marcus, I added a platform 300 mm above the floor to 3/4s of the Aisle way, making the height now a very comfortable, 1270 mm.

There are never enough Staging Tracks on a layout and with 30+ trains trains "staged" for an Operating Session, this new Armidale Staging shown below, helps a lot and is the new location for holding the Down Glen Innes Main and the Northern Tablelands Express, ready for their run to Sydney.

A March 2020 Glen Innes Mail 9 minute video is at YouTube:

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

My Revised Signalling Theory & the SCMRA Epping Seminar.

At the 2018 SCMRA Epping Seminar, I did a Clinic describing the way I've signalled the 40 metre single line section from Broadmeadow to Werris Creek on my Main North layout using Semaphores to provide bi-directional running by rehashing my Jan 2017 Semaphore Signalling Blog entry, where all the Operator has to do, is set his road (Points) and closely observe the Signals. The rest is automatic.
Instead of using text and photos of the spaghetti jungle under the layout, I made a schematic of the "electrics".

How it works
Operating the Control Panel Toggle Switches if appropriate, provides a "ground" for a Red and an "open circuit" for a Green, "input" to the Octopus III to operate the Semaphore's Servo.  With occupancy of the Block "ahead", the appropriate two GREEN Signals are positioned to RED, shown below.

BOTH Operators have a Green. Who goes FIRST?

Either one but as soon ONE moves into Block 2 the OTHER has a RED.
Make sure "your" Signal is green before passing it.
I could add some sort of  time delayed removal of track power, in this above scenario, to Blocks 1 and 3, to correct a slack Operator not paying attention to his Signals - lots of time and effort. It is much easier to banish a serial offender to make the Coffee.

The above circuitry is repeated 4 times for Blocks 1, 3, 5 and 7, see below, to only provide one train in the Block. Trains are allowed to pass in Blocks Broadmeadow, Blocks 1, 3, 5 and Werris Creek. Home and some more Distant Signals will be added later.

While this above basic signalling method is not "exactly" prototypical of what happened on this section of the Main North in 1965 where hundreds of staff  controlled the trains, it provided me what I wanted, bi-directional running, keeping Operators apart on 40 meters of single line and it's automatic. See the below layout video:

If you want to make it more difficult to understand, see my original Blog entry at:

SCMRA (Southern Cross Model Railway Association) Epping Seminars 
These are held in April at the Epping Creative Center here in Sydney, focusing on the railways of NSW with lots of prototype and modelling ideas etc. Each year there is a "theme". Keep an eye out for details in AMRM etc. 

This year it was "The Railways of Southern NSW", with the schedule of the Day copied below. In each Seminar, numerous Clinicians talk/demonstrate about a topic, in this case, about the Main South. While my talk was not exactly about the Main South, I showed how to implement Semaphore Signalling in the "South", similar to what I've done on my Main North. 

These Days are excellent for NSW modellers of any era. I hope to see you next April.
The Whiteboard had a list of suitable themes for 2019, with the "Main North" having the highest interest (and I only voted once). Fantastic-  right up my alley. I will do a Clinic and offer a visit to my Main North layout.