Above photo is my Gosford complete with the Overhead. Click on the photo to see the Main North Album at Flickr

Friday, March 29, 2024

NCE's new PH5 Power Pro & DCC Meter.

NCE has released a new Power Pro system, the PH5, available from the Model Railroad Craftsman & their Dealers.

As a beta tester for NCE, I was sent a PH5 to evaluate & test on my layout in Dec 23. PH5 features:

  • 5 Amp capacity
  • A USB Port instead of a Serial Port.
  • Read CVs without a Program Track Booster.
  • More memory & faster Processor.
  • Upgrading from the Internet via the USB.
  • Faster loco selections for Wireless Cab06s. 
  • Supplied with an External 19.0 Volt 5.0 Amp D.C. Switch Mode Power Supply.

For more details, see DCCWiki 

I downloaded a test version of JMRI & got Decoder Pro working. You'll need to have JMRI test version 5.7.1 or later for the PH5.

I have 8 Power Districts on my layout, controlled by NCE EB1s. I reprogrammed my EB1s with the following CVs:  CV 135 = 0 & CV 129 = 1. I also checked the Trip Currents for each EB1 (see your Manual).

Released at the same time was the combined DCC Meter & Analyzer. As shown it displays  Volts & Amps. I recommend everyone to have an Ammeter to know how much current is being drawn by the layout, easily mounted in you layout's Fascia, available from MRRC. Click here for the DCC Meter Manual . See see my Ammeter Blog entry to build an Ammeter for $3 that includes your 10A Multimeter. 

Thursday, November 23, 2023

Derailments, Track & Speed Issues.

Operating two of my signature trains, the Double Garratt 1200 ton Newstan Coal train & the Northern Tablelands Express 7 Car DEB Set, both shown below, passing my Newstan Mine, on Fassifern Bank, I had some derailments. Some maintenance is way overdue.

Derailments are a pain in the butt anytime, especially with a Garratt but in tight spaces in the Newstan Mine Shunting Neck or the the DEB Set under the Overhead Wires, they're intolerable.

For the derailing Garratts, I first checked to see the Sound Tubes were in their correct locations on the Front Buffer Beam as dislodged Tubes cause the Pony Trucks to derail. 

The Newstan Mine Shunting Neck starts off from the Loading Bin through two sets of Points under Fassifern Bank (through the Black Hole in the above photo), then with two lengths of Peco Streamline track set at 20 - 22 inch radius to keep it inside the Fassifern Bank fascia & underneath the Sulphide Works with a further 2 metres of straight track under Sulphide Junction with minimal clearance. My Eureka Models Garratts are supposed to be able to negotiate 18 inch radius track. 

Using both Garratts, I found that the "outside" Drivers "rode up" on the outside rail, as it tried to negotiate the same 20 cms of the curved track, ultimately de-railing, in a bugger of a place. 

Using a smaller wheel base locos like the 50 Class, it negotiated this "tight" track okay. I could not fit my  NMRA Track Gauge in between the two rails, at this "tight" spot, while the rest of the track was okay.   

I lay a new section of track, soldering two lengths of Peco Flexitrack together & letting the track find it's own best lie then secured to the road bed with screws. I repositioned the LED Strip Lighting & trimmed some of the above track "road bed", creating a bit more clearance. This job took a few days with lots of swearing. 

One of the Garratts had it's Kadee fitted providing a "close as possible" coupling with the BCHs, looks good but on small radius curves, the Pony Trucks were touching the Coupler Box. I trimmed all the Coupler Boxes & fitted the Coupler to the "outside" hole, providing maximum clearance. I tested the Garratts numerous times on this Shunting Neck, with no derailments. Time will tell. 

To see my 1200 ton Double Garratt Coal train from Newstan, see my 2020 YouTube, below.

The 7 Cars of my Northern Tablelands Express have 2 axle Bowser bogies. Having only 8 wheels to pick up the power is fraught with power interruptions. To improve the pick up, I  have  have permanently wired the 4 Cars together, providing all wheel pick up. Same for the 3 Car Set. 

The 4 Car Set has two Motors & two Speakers from the one decoder with one of my Stay Alives, & with the two wires for pick up, making it 6 wires in the harness. The 3 Car Set only has one motor & one speaker making it a 2 wire harness, just for "pick up".

Recent running of the 7 Car set from Werris Ck to Sydney & back, the second Car of 4 Car continually derailed at Points. Repositioning of the harness & securing it to the roof inside, reduced the derailments. Running under the Overhead Wires of my new Gosford to Sydney section, these derailments became intolerable. 

More needed to be more done. The "fine" wheel flanges on the Bowser Bogies, need all the help they can get to negotiate the Frogs on my Points. While most of my Points have a .015" (15 thou) styrene glued to the Check Rail on the Points, I fitted more 15 thou styrene, to the remaining Points. 

With these above "fixes", derailments of the Express were all but eliminated. You cannot eliminate Operators running "against" an incorrectly set Point.  

Two Operators suggested the DEB Set was not travelling fast enough in sections of the layout. I had noticed this also. Looking for an easy fix, I decided to look at the Track Voltage. Down to 11.8 Volts DCC. I switched out my Ammeter that "robs" about 1.0 Volt but it made minimal difference. 

I adjusted both decoder's "Speed Tables" to provide the maximum speed & the 4 Car Set was only 18 MPH, while the 3 Car Set was 55 MPH. 

With the 4 Car Set upside down on the Workbench to clean the wheels, I noticed applying a Cotton Bud to the wheels of one of powered Bogies, it nearly stalled, while the other bogie was okay. It was time for a "Service" well at least some form of lubrication. I had not previously "oiled" the Motor/Gearbox Bushes on this DEB Set. 

I cleaned & oiled the bushes & added a drop of thicker oil to the gears & the stalling was gone. I did the same with the other "End" Car Now the 4 Car set had a Top speed of 60 MPH. What an improvement a little oil does & I used to have a Workshop fixing cars. They also let me loose on aero planes but I was a "Conehead", not a "Greaser". I lubricated the 3 Car Set.

I speed matched both Sets to provide 5/10/15 & 20 MPH at the appropriate Speed Step, with a Maximum of 30 MPH at Speed Step 28. I do this to all my locos & I use 28 Speed Step mode, so when an Operator sets the loco to Speed Step 20, the loco is travelling at approximately 20 MPH. To see my Speed Match Blog entry click here.  

Now with Speed to burn with the DEB Sets & as the train is an Express,  I decided to "up" the Maximum Speed to 40 MPH for the DEB Sets. The passengers will appreciate it.

To see my Northern Tablelands Express run to Sydney & back, click below on my 2020 video. 


Saturday, November 4, 2023

Fassifern Station Upgrade & the NMRA Layout Tour.

Upgrading my Stations has been a long time coming, the latest is Fassifern the second last one on the lower deck, then it's onto Ourimbah. Not much has been done lately. 

I made new 1.3 M long platform bases, using 19mm thick Pine. I added styrene to the platform edges then covered the platforms with a Sand mixture. I added a Fence to the Down Platform & "adjusted" the Footbridge a little for the Steps down to the Platforms & Road (down side).  

I used my original station buildings, a Suburban Station kit for the Island Platform & the the two small buildings on the Down platform then added some Platform Lights including the Nameboards. 

I will have to upgrade my Bracket Semaphore to be one of Ray Pilgrim's Fassifern's Double Bracket Semaphores with the prototype shown below. Because of the Wakefield Road Bridge, drivers could not see the Signal, so a Double Unit was made.

I'll replace my Dale Richard's Bracket Semaphore, built years ago. I have the Wakefield Road Bridge but my Fassifern Bank is at "right angles" to my Fassifern. I may add some Semaphores for the Toronto line.  

Looking north through Fassifern, the 1200 Ton Double Garratt Coal Train backing out of Newstan Mine & crossing over onto the Down Main. The Garratts will stop when they've passed the end of the Platform, then reverse, accelerating through the Station to attack the 1 in 40 Fassifern Bank, with some speed.

The Australasian region of the NMRA had a Convention at Rosehill over the October Long Weekend,  where I had volunteered for Convention Attendees to visit my layout on the Friday, Monday & Tuesday. This above upgrade was just completed prior to the Layout Tours, Visitors in the Morning & a 3 hour Operating Session in the afternoon. I had about 30 visitors. 

I knew my Queensland Mates were attending the NMRA Convention, so I offered to have them over for Dinner, coming on Sunday night, where I cooked Spaghetti Bolognaise, topped off with a Nanna's Apple Pie & Ice Cream & plenty of Cakes. Then we got to run some trains but mostly had a yak fest. I had a ball. Thanks Darren, Bill, Craig, PK etc. for making it to the Main North. Thanks for the photo Darren & Craig. 

During the 3 Operating Sessions, I asked for a volunteer to "run" my Double Garratt 1200 ton Coal train from Newstan Mine using my Operating Card & asked them how to improve the "running around" of the train at Broadmeadow to haul it into Port Waratah, without "running" onto the mainline at either end of Broadmeadow. as it's been suggested that what I need to do. The 3 different Operators had fun to say the least. Geoff, the last Operator worked in the Signaling Department of the railways & suggested I needed a few more Signals. Ray, I may order some more.

The Northern Tablelands Express DEB Set & the Garratts of this above train, had a few de-railments during the weekend, fixing why they de-railed, is my next Blog topic. 


Thursday, August 3, 2023

Gosford Upgrade.

Gosford was always going to be a BIG job & I was always putting it off, shown at the right before the Upgrade.

With the Overhead across the Broadwater into Gosford (last Blog entry), I decided to get on with upgrading it.

Prior to ballasting, I fitted 4 x Rapido Un-couplers to appropriate locations on the Main & Loop with their operating Switch on the Control Panel for north of the Station Un-couplers. For the UP Main Un-coupler on Platform 1, the Switch is on the Fascia. More details on Rapido, see my Uncouplers Blog entry.

On the lower deck of my layout, I manually operate the Points for most locations, that included Gosford but  knew this would be difficult with the Overhead installed. Years ago I tried a Rod in a Tube connected to a Slide Switch for one of the Points & this worked okay. 
Gosford Yard has 10 Points that'll be under the Overhead & I intended using this method. I installed 15 more of the Rods/Tubes then added the Ballast, using Chuck's Martins Creek that's no longer available. adding the Slide Switches after the ballast dried (shown left). Note the "test" Peco Point motor is in the foreground. 

For years I've been using a curved Island platform salvaged from another modeller's layout.
Instead of building another one, I modified this one by adding a strip of tapered timber to the straight side (platform 2) & re-aligned  the curved "Back Road', (platform 3) track. 

I added Styrene Strips to the edges of both platforms & surfaced the tops with a white sand/black oxide, mixture.  

The tracks south of Gosford already had their Rods/Tubes/Switches installed & were operated with a small knob at the fascia, shown left.

I considered using this method on the Points in the Yard but the aisle at the northern end is very narrow & I could see Operators fouling the knobs, inadvertently operating a Point. This is why I was going to fit the Slide Switches in hole in the fascia.

The Overhead installation was completed. The 90 degree turn was quite fiddly. Catenary wires were trimmed/lengthened to enable having single Stanchions crossing 3/4/5 tracks in the Station & through the Yard.

The Turntable is located at the southern end of the Station, adjacent to Platform 3, due to lack of aisle width north of the Station. 

I added a Harmen Coal Stage until I build a Hodkinson Electric Crane that was at Gosford in 1965 & a Water Tank that's missing it's Water Treatment Shed, that I hope to build one day.

While waiting for the ballast to dry, I experimented with adding a Peco Point Motor to one of the Rod/Tubes arrangements directly to the baseboard without the Peco Mounting Bracket.
I warmed to this new method but to make this work, I'd have to make a Control Panel, a major job. 
I decided to go with Point Motors & a Control Panel. I added 10 Point Motors secured with a screw with the appropriate Capacitor for my Capacitor Discharge method (see previous Blog entry), at the edge of the baseboard.  

I made a Control Panel mounted at eye level on the fascia of the track going to Werris Ck, above North Gosford. I used my usual method of using Toggle Switches & illuminating the Green LEDs for the route selected - more details see my Control Panel Blog entry.

I made a foam Cover to hide the Point Motors, secured with 4 screws. I added Showground Rd at the edge, 4 houses & a Car Park, at the Footbridge. There was some spare land between these houses & the Garratt Siding, I added some trees initially with Sedum Trees. While operating a Point Switch on the Control Panel, I fouled a couple of the Sedum trees, breaking off some branches & plenty of leaves. I replaced the taller Sedum trees with not as tall, plastic Chinese trees that can take the abuse. 

I have 3 tracks, at the fascia, two of which are the Garratt Sidings for storing steam locos at the northern end of the Yard, 
I added a Water Tank, Water Jib & Shed.
I need to include Sand Bin (Boat Water Tank type). 
The Shed on the right, hides a Point Motor.

I modified my existing Station Footbridge by adding some Steps at the Car Park side & increased the height of the 3 Supports so the Footbridge cleared the Overhead, instead of building another one of my Stuart Walker Footbridges. 

Instead of painting the Stanchions Light Grey that I did in Hawkesbury River, I decided to "darken" them up using Tamiya Dark Iron (XF-84) & painted the Wires Gunmetal (XF-10) thinning it down 50/50 with Isopropyl Alcohol at Gary's (at MRRC), recommendation. I repainted the Hawkesbury River Stanchions.

I changed around some buildings near the Yard, painted a road & added fencing. My very compressed Gosford Yard has the Packing Shed, Sungold Produce Shed & a Goods Shed. 

On the Siding to the Packing Shed, I added an Antons Cattle Ramp with a small Pen, an over the track Crane & a small Siding to unload the Sandstone Blocks, loaded at the Gosford Quarries Sandstone Mine at Wondabyne, on the layout. 
The loading at Wondabyne Quarry & unloading at this Siding will be a Pick Up train running for the Operators. 

Colour photos of Gosford Station in Roundhouse July 87, 46 Class Remembered books & Facebook etc, the buildings were painted white during the introduction of the Overhead in 1959/60. I painted my 5 station buildings, white for my 1965 era, added Platform Lights with GOSFORD in Calibri font & size 11 & added some brick facing paper to the front of the platforms.

I added 3 Colour Light "Starting" Signals for the platforms. For Operators running UP trains from Platform 1, I added an Occupancy Detector, they'll see the Signal change to Red as they leave Gosford. The two Down Signals will have many combinations - too hard to add "occupancy", so for now they're just for show. 

The 46s along with an 8 Car Interurban set, are stored at the Electric Car Sidings in between the Station & the Broadwater, shown below.

For Operating Sessions, someone may offer to be the Gosford Yardmaster or maybe it'll be me.

While I kept putting off this challenge, I'm really glad I've done it & happy with the results. The "Catenary" Guru, Geoff S was here yesterday & gave my effort, the Thumbs Up. Isn't he a good Fella. An overall view of my upgraded Gosford below. 


Saturday, July 1, 2023

Overhead Wiring on the Main North.

NSWGRs installed Overhead Wiring on the Short North as far as Gosford in 1959, then to Newcastle in 1984. My era is the mid 1960s, so I need to have some Overhead on my layout. I had intended on having the Overhead installed prior to purchasing Southern Rail's 4 car Interurban Set in about 2011 but it didn't happen. Then I purchased a few Auscision 46s in 2015, still no Overhead on the layout but I introduced the changeover to/from 46s at Gosford to/from Sydney. Good thing the Auscision 46s can run without the Overhead. 

My mate Geoff S regularly visited the Main North, where the two of us would run some trains but yacked most of the time. I had seen Geoff's Mullet Creek layout where he installed the Overhead Wires. Note: Geoff's Mullet Creek layout can be seen at Auscision Showroom & Geoff was instrumental in Southern Rail releasing their Stanchions.

Numerous times we discussed adding the Overhead to my Main North, even discussing adding his Mullet Creek module to my layout but I had to decline his kind offer as there would be too much modification to fit it into my Mullet Creek. Geoff suggested I purchase some Code 83 track, Insulators from Tichy & .025" Phosphor Bronze wire and make my own Stanchions. This was about 10 years ago. I also bought various lengths of Marklin Catenary wires.  

April 2023 & I've made a start on installing the Overhead, firstly at Hawkesbury River mentioned in my last Blog entry. I soon realized that I did not have enough of the Marklin Catenary Wires to complete my Overhead through to North Gosford. Six months ago my mate Spencer gave me some Sommerfeldt Catenary that he was going to install on his Hornsby layout, including 9 x 500 mm lengths. I made numerous enquiries about getting more of the Marklin & Sommerfeldt Catenary. 

Making Single/Double/Quadruple Stanchions were made using a crude Jig using a small metal Square clamped to my workbench for the 90 degree angle with marks in positions for Corner Braces, Hanger & the Horizontal Brace, on the Bench. The Stanchion's vertical Posts were 130 mm & the Horizontal length according the actual location (1, 2, 3 etc.) tracks. Added a couple pieces styrene for easier cutting of the rail for the Corner Braces & threading of the Tichy Insulators, onto the .025" Phosphor Bronze wire after poking my fingers, too many times. 

The positions of the vertical post/brackets, across the horizontal was determined per location, as shown for a Stanchion straddling the 3 tracks on Gosford Station.

For the Hawkesbury River Bridge, I used 6 lengths of the 500 mm Sommerfeldt, adding some Marklin Catenary to make installing the Stanchions easier & temporarily held in place by clothes pegs, shown below:

Instead of installing Catenary in my 3 tunnels, I "ramp up" the first & last wire as it enters/leaves the Tunnel, so the Pantograph isn't touching anymore. This saves on the amount of Wires & Stanchions, more importantly time. Note I have about 6 metres of Tunnels plus up Cowan Bank & 7 Loops & Sidings of Sydney Staging that's under 100mms under Broadmeadow.
I found, as with the Hawkesbury River installation, the Catenary needed to be "tensioned" to keep it in place, instead of going sideways with the pressure of a Pantograph under it - sideways too much & the Pantograph fouled in the Catenary wires. I made some crude "Tensioners with Telco wire & pegs. Twisting the peg until the Catenary was "tight enough". Many of the Tensioners are in Tunnels, rough enough is good enough & it works. Out in the "open" this rough method is replaced with a piece of Piano Wire anchored on the Stanchion & the ground after making the tension adjust as above. My rough adjustable Tensioners are shown below:

I stored all of my Catenary Wires in a drawer for easy access especially useful when doing my Gosford  station & Yard.

Doing a rough calculation, I figured I'd have enough to finish off my Overhead through Gosford.

Working out which length of Overhead was necessary, was a  bit of trial & error by adding Stanchions & trying a 46 under the temporally installed wires. Many holes drilled besides the track to reposition the Stanchions. 

I've "wired" the layout to across the Broadwater just south of Gosford. To go further I need to complete my Gosford Station & Yard, shown below, as it used to be prior to May 2023.

I knew it would be difficult to manually operate Points with Overhead installed so I test fitted a Slide Switch to one of the Rod/Tubes years ago. I purchased 20 Slide Switches & Rod/Tube for all of my North Gosford  Points. thinking this would be the way to go. 

The Gosford Re-work will be my next Blog entry. It has been done & road tested by Visitors in two groups over the last 3 weeks, with minor issues to fix, see below:

Friday, April 28, 2023

Hawkesbury River Upgrade.

My Hawkesbury River Station platform needs surfacing & the area especially around the Marina, needs sprucing up.  

I had previously made a curved 3.0 mm MDF platform top. To surface it, I used the same  method I did for Broadmeadow & Sulphide Junction, for details click here . With the top off, I trimmed the base pieces for a better fit then added brick facing paper to the front edge. 

I had a "suitable" Sydney Suburban Station kit built already. It should have a Signal Box on the up end but it'll have to do for now. I added a Stuart Walker Platform to Ground Footbridge & two Sheds on the up end. With a few seats & people, it's nearly completed. 

I added the Railway Crossing at the southern (Up - Sydney) end with a Signal Box that controlled the boom gates. I tried a yellow pencil for the double yellow lines at Rob's suggestion in the Broadmeadow Comments but it didn't work. I borrowed a Bow Pen but I can't make the lines so I 'll try a fine yellow Marker pen. I'll also need to "centre line" the road in front of  the shops & hotel.

I started to install Troughs for the signal wiring that are very prominent in the 3 photos of Hawkesbury River Station in the Country Station Books (Book 3). I bought an Anton's $12 Trough kit that'll make about 350 mm of Troughs, that means I need about 10 kits for my 3 metres, that'd be $120 & it'd have nice brackets. 

Instead, I used styrene strips & using a Jig to drill the holes for the Supports, 25 mm from the track, with the posts about 8 feet apart.

With the first strip of Trough fitted, I suddenly remembered I was going to install Overhead Wires to my Main North from Hawkesbury River to Gosford.  

I removed the Trough. 

Many years ago I had purchased at the recommendation of Geoff S of Mullet Creek layout fame, a packet of Code 83 rail, Tichy HO Insulators, 0.025" Phosphor Bronze wire to make Stanchions & plenty of Marklin Catenary. I used the above Jig to drill the holes for my Stanchions. Now I've done Hawkesbury River station, I'll need to get more of the Marklin Catenary. Installing the Overhead will be my next Blog topic.

I added a bit more land on the road to McKell Park (towards backboard) & found a building under the layout, sprayed it grey. It'll do for my Marina Office/Workshop. Made a Ramp down to water in front of the Workshop & added a couple of Jetties that are waiting for some 3D printed Row Boats. Added a Pilot Boat, cause that's what I found once again under the layout, tied up to the closet Jetty in the "corner".

Using the applicable Facebook group for inspiration, my Marina area is a poor representation but much better than what I had before, so it'll do for now. 

I added fences to the road to Long Island on the Causeway adjacent to railway & added the Brooklyn Ferry Wharf.

As can be seen, a very basic & incomplete model of a boat, is tied up to the Brooklyn Wharf, hopefully I'll find the rest of the kit & it'll be the ferry to Dangar Island.

I was given an 80 foot Sardine boat kit, that's too big for my Marina, so you'll see the hull tied up to a wharf under my Hawkesbury River Bridge. I must & complete the boat as I have the parts but not a high priority at the moment, much to the disgust of John H in Brisbane, who gave it to me.

Adding the jetties etc was done after I had installed the Catenary that made the job even harder. Soldering the last of the Overhead, I tripped over the Soldering Iron's chord with the Soldering Iron & Stand, falling from the above shelf (my Newcastle station) & it broke the first Stanchion I'd made. At least it didn't land on my Footbridge that would have broken in half or on the Station/platform that would have been much harder to repair. 

I added the Troughs, modifying the Jig after using it to drill holes for my Stanchions & platform Lights including Nameboards to fit the 8 font "Hawkesbury River". 

For the Comment from my South Coast Rail mate, there was a General/Fast Food Store in 1965 across the road from the Pub, see below. Bit different now in 2023. 



Friday, April 14, 2023

Sulphide Junction Upgrade.

My Sulphide Junction had 6 tracks in all, the Up & Down main line, an Up & Down Refuge Loops & two Exchange Sidings off the Up Refuge for the Sulphide Works at the southern end & the Cardiff Locomotive Works at the northern end, off the Down Refuge. 

The running of the W44 terminated at Sulphide Junction with the Garratt + 36 shunting the CGs & Van  into the Exchange Sidings. Government locos could not be operated into the Sulphide Works. The Sulphide Shunter (a 44 Toner), shunts the CGs further into the Works.

The Cardiff Locomotive Works opened in March 1928, replacing the Honeysuckle Workshops in Newcastle. Many of the workers came by train but I didn't have Station. The only action from my Cardiff Locomotive Works was the occasional "light engine" running of 5717 to/from Sydney. 

I wanted to add a Station so the Workers at "my" Cardiff Locomotive Works, could catch the train, with a short walk along the Siding, into work. Without much happening on the Down Refuge, I removed the Down Refuge Loop then moved the Down mainline against the fascia that gave me enough room for an Island Platform. The Siding into the Works now comes off the main.   

I added more "saw tooth" workshops, a Boiler Shed  & Change Room/Showers with an Office so the Workers could bundy on & off.

For the Station platform surface I used the white sand/Oxide mixture I used at Broadmeadow, adding a little more Oxide for a darker asphalt surface. I wanted to experiment with the colours of asphalt as I have to make a few more platforms - Fassifern, Gosford & Hawkesbury River.  

I built the second Joe's PC3 Station kit I found under the layout, added a C2 Toilet from Scale Model Co & Antons Station Lights, 

I added a Signal Box against the backboard from Stuart Walker with the Footbridge, also one of Stuart's kits. 

I added a Road Bridge crossing the mainline at the summit of my Fassifern Bank on the peninsula, providing a "back road" entry into the Sulphide Works, a Walthers kit.

Now to include stopping at Sulphide Junction for some of my passenger trains.

Now onto Hawkesbury River Station, that'll have Marklin Catenary fitted that I bought years ago.