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

Thursday, April 15, 2021

The Prototype did Everything.

Each year I do a Presentation for the Epping Seminar. This year, I described how I came to model the Main North and Murrurundi, titled “The Prototype did Everything”, re-writing it for this Blog entry. 


In the early 1990s, with my young son Matt, we’re modelling NSW in the steam to diesel transition period with a 3 oval layout called Broadmeadow located in a spare bedroom downstairs. I wanted to expand the layout but I’d have to head out into the adjacent double car garage where I had my ski boat and the Boss parked her car. How was I going to lay extra track with them in the way? It seemed like a mountain too high to climb, so initially that idea was knocked on the head.


Getting back into the hobby, I purchased AMRM, Byways of Steam, Roundhouse etc. In Byways of Steam 3 an article about Murrurundi, Ray Love discussed the rear end banking of steam hauled trains around Ardglen NSW, I immediately thought that banking operation would be fantastic to replicate if I had somewhere to do it.  Robert Booth in the Oct 81 Roundhouse also described banking around Ardglen. Once again, I’m thinking the layout needs extending.


If I was to extend the layout, I wanted to have the following:


1.      Long main line running.

2.      Rear End Banking of Steam trains.

3.      Lots of my favourite locos – Garratts.


Now I was on a mission to get around the car and boat in the garage. Instead of this being a hinderance, this set the destiny of my layout. I drew many track plans dodging the car and boat, following the walls, using 2 peninsulas and without a Helix, climbing to a second deck, 400 mm above Broadmeadow in the Train room.


If I called this second deck area Werris Creek, then the 40-metre climb from Broadmeadow would be the “Main North” providing my “long main line running” and the crossing of the Liverpool Ranges at Ardglen that was the mecca for “Rear End Banking” of steam trains as they negotiated the 1 in 40 grades in both directions. Including Muswellbrook on my Main North, I’d have Lots of Garratts.

3 out 3 of my “must have” list. PERFECT.


The second deck area was named Werris Creek and my “Main North” was conceived. 

Now to make the rough 2 D track plan, work in 3 D. Heading out into the garage from Broadmeadow (not shown in the track plan below, that's directly under Werris Ck), following the wall and crossing half of the garage door’s opening to the first peninsula for Muswellbrook and Murrurundi at 1470 mm to clear the unmovable car.

From Murrurundi across the garage door, along the wall above my Workbench then along the rear wall to second peninsula above the boat for Ardglen at 1650 mm that also provided a “comfortable” Duck Under that was necessary here on the way to Willow Tree and Werris Ck. Note: There is a 300 mm difference in the floor levels for the garage and the train room.


From Werris Ck, I ran out to garage onto the peninsula above the boat for Gunnedah (behind Ardglen) and the Black Jack Coal Mine. I added a Return Loop for easy turning of trains.

For the banking across the Liverpool Ranges, 50, 53 & 55 Standard Goods locos were used and based at Murrurundi, I needed to model Murrurundi Loco before it closed in September 1965, setting the era of my Main North to 1965. 

For more details about Murrurundi on my Main North see my Scenecing Murrurundi Blog entry

For a video that I did for last year's cancelled Seminar of Rear End Banking of a 36 hauled Down goods train from Murrurundi that was one of the three "must have" requirements when I initially extended my layout, with 2 Operators on my April 2020 Main North, click on the video below.

It’s 2005 and Eureka Models was making it possible for me to have plenty of Garratts on my Main North but my Muswellbrook Mine was too small. I needed a larger Mine.


The Overhead wiring reached Gosford in late 1959 and most trains to/from Sydney were hauled by the 46 Class Electrics and I wanted to model this “changeover”. Heavy Goods trains travelling north and south from/to Gosford, regularly used Garratts. Along with the increasing coal traffic south of Newcastle, the Broadmeadow to Gosford section became known as "Garratt Heaven". I wanted to have my own Garratt Heaven. I need to go to Gosford.


I’ll move the boat outside & I could work with the Boss still parking in my layout – well sort of & I did for some time. As you can see below it was a tight squeeze.

At Broadmeadow, I crossed the train room entrance, through a hole in the wall (Tickhole Tunnel) then onto a peninsula that replaced the boat in the garage. One side, Sulphide Junction & the other, Fassifern Bank with Newstan Mine between the ‘Bank & the backboard. Fassifern on the rear wall, then onto a 2 track shelf for Gosford, above the garage workbench.


Utopia! No Eureka, I certainly would be in Garratt Heaven, with help from Ron. 

Double Garratt 1200 ton & rear banked 50 Class, coal trains up Fassifern Bank from Newstan Mine.


We needed some renovations. The Boss had been asking for a new kitchen since we moved here in 1990 & it’s 2014. Matt’s now 27 & a Builder living in Melbourne. He did the renos including a 10 x 7m Shed & Car Port. The Boss doesn’t park her car in my layout anymore and the garage door’s been replaced with a stud wall.


With the Workbench in the new shed, my 2 track Gosford was replaced with a severely compressed 4.8 m x .9 m Gosford, with the Electric Car and Garratt Sidings, see below.

Extending the layout, I took over an 11' x 6' area adjacent to Gosford and added Ourimbah on the lower deck that improved the the entry into Gosford with a much longer UP Refuge and allowed the Garratt Sidings to curve around the peninsula. 

Pangela was added on the upper deck in this above area, providing a Crossing Loop complete with Semaphores and Occupancy detection for better bi-directional operation, increasing this Murrurundi to Ardglen section to 25 metres and more fun for the 2 Operators, rear end banking a train, up the Bank. 

I added Armidale Staging for more storage, above Newcastle Station accessed from Tamworth via a 90 degree Crossing on the track between Ardglen and Willow Tree at the Duck Under.

South of Gosford across The Broadwater, I fitted the Gosford Racecourse Siding and made a permanent lower deck peninsular with Wondabyne, Mullet Creek and Tunnel on one side with a 2.3 metre 3 span Hawkesbury River Bridge, on the other. This iconic Bridge looked hemmed in under Muswellbrook, it needed it's own space. Since I had my "Garratt Heaven" south of Broadmeadow, I replaced Muswellbrook with a single line against the back board and the lucky people of Murrurundi, got the OAK Dairy. 

Out of Long Island Tunnel, across the Causeway into Hawkesbury River Station, then up Cowan Bank into Sydney Staging with a Return Loop, 100 mms under Broadmeadow allowing for easy turning of trains and continuous running if necessary.

After 30+ years of fun, the shape and locations of the layout has been finalized but with miles of ballasting and plenty of detail to be added, there’s still plenty to do on my Main North that'll take another 30 years, so I don't have to worry about dismantling this railway. 

Discussing our renovations with some friends, the Boss said: "She had to “make” a builder to get her renovations" but we know that’s not true, "The Prototype did Everything".


For a YouTube video of the whole layout in 2018, click here.

Saturday, January 30, 2021

Port Waratah.

For many, essential for running trains on a layout are an originating and/or destination locations and Port Waratah is one such location on my layout.

Many years ago, I fitted a few tracks/sidings on the rear wall of the Train room and on a shelf at the Train Room entrance for a 15 foot (5m) long Port Waratah, adjacent to the southern end of Broadmeadow Yard, where the layout at the time, terminated.  

Access to Port Waratah was via a set of Points on the Rear Road through Broadmeadow Station (Yellow Circle on the Track Plan at the bottom of the page), providing a direct entry for trains from Werris Creek, Gunnedah etc.

This first Port Waratah had the Wheat Terminal at the R/H end, along with 2 sidings for the BWH Wheat train. Full and empty Non-Air Hoppers (LCHs) from Muswellbrook and Werris Creek were stowed on the Rear Sidings. At the left, a silo and few sidings representing the BHP Steel Works. 

The rear end banking procedure of down trains up to Ardglen from Murrurundi, was what my Main North was about. Now I had a location to run my full Wheat and Non Air Hopper Coal trains from Werris Creek and Gunnedah and empties back, just like the prototype. 

Later I added an Elevated Coal Stage to Broadmeadow, to access it I added a steep incline track from a facing Point on the UP Main at the southern end of the Yard that caused a few operating hassles, see below.

Gosford to Broadmeadow - for my Double Garratt Territory.

Garratts are my favourite loco. I bought a DJH AD60 kit many years ago and fitted sound to it but never got to add all the valve gear and detail to it. Instead of finishing the kit it was easier to purchase Eureka Model's Garratt, released in 2005 and now thanks heaps to Ron, it was possible for me to have a few Garratts. To this day this DJH Garratt sits un-painted beside the Broadmeadow Roundhouse. 

Garratts did not operate further north than Murrurundi on the real Main North. Due to the layout design at the time, Muswellbrook with a small mine, was 15 feet from the end of Broadmeadow but a lot of the track was out of view as it ran behind Newcastle Station and very limited action at my Muswellbrook mine, how was I going to enjoy my favourite loco. I needed a bigger model railway - common issue for model railroaders.

Gosford to Broadmeadow was “double” Garratt territory so I needed to have a long run to Gosford and include the engine changeovers from/to the 46 Electrics at Gosford. I'd get my Garratt “Heaven” but I needed to go “south”.

I added a Lift Up Bridge across the Train Room Entrance then out through the wall calling it Tickhole Tunnel then onto a peninsular in the garage after moving the ski boat outside, with Sulphide Junction with the Sulphide Works for the W44 Concentrate train,  on one side in the aisleway (opposite Broadmeadow Station) and down a 1 in 40 grade “Fassifern Bank”, on the other side with Fassifern on the garage’s rear wall, then onto Gosford above the existing Workbench.

Newstan Mine, with a minimum number of sidings due to narrowness of the available space, was added to the above peninsular between Fassifern Bank and the backboard,. For more details on Newstan Mine, see this previous Blog entry.

PERFECT, now I've got my own double Garratt territory including a double Garratt Mine. See the Track Plan a track plan below. There was no "back room" for Ourimbah initially, just a double track for Gosford. The expansion for Gosford and extending the track to Sydney, came much later. 

Operating trains to/from Gosford with Garratts and Coal trains between Newstan Mine and Port Waratah  I'm in "Garratt Heaven" on my own layout.

Expansion of Gosford eventuated and adding another peninsular (under Murrurundi), extended my Main North to to Sydney albeit up a small Cowan Bank, later changed to adding the Hawkesburry River Bridge and Station (Brooklyn), see this Blog entry for details.    

Over the years I've purchased many BCHs and LCHs (still many of Joe's kits to make), allowing me to have 4 separate Coal trains - 2 Empties and 2 Fulls for this Fassifern to Port Waratah section of the Short (Main) North, eliminating the need to add/remove Coal Loads.

Initially these Coal trains were run and stored "somehow" at the destination, made all the more difficult due to a lack of space at both Port Waratah and Newstan Mine, multiple operations became difficult and I had to reposition the trains that took time.

I looked for a solution.

The Port Waratah to Newstan Mine “Sneak Path”.

Due to 1 in 40 grade of Fassifern Bank, there's a 100 mm height difference between Newstan Mine and Sulphide Junction on the peninsular and the track to Broadmeadow including the Drop Down Bridge. 

I'll run a track from the Bridge down a grade behind the Workbench and Tickhole Tunnel to underneath Sulphide Junction that'll connect the "ends" of Port Waratah and Newstan Mine. While not prototypical it  was my solution and it was out of view. The train is stored where it came from. No storage problems now - simple.  

At the R/H end of Port Waratah, with a facing Point I added a third track to the Lift Up Bridge, then ran this track behind the double mainline behind the work bench then under Sulphide Junction (below photo),

Joining Newstan Mine's 15 feet (5m) Shunting Neck and Loading Bins (photo right). 
"Connected" with a trailing Point and adding the Shunting Neck, provided the right orientation/direction for both Empty and Full Coal trains. 

Running the Coal Trains.

The limited space/sidings at Newstan and Port Waratah, storing these 4 "complete" Coal trains is just manageable. The Full and Empty NON Air Hopper wagons and the Empty BCH wagon trains were stored at Port Waratah, while the Full BCH coal train, with one Garratt, at Newstan Mine.

On reaching the destination when running anyone of these trains, the Operator completes his task by returning the train back to it's originating location using the "hidden" Sneak Path, extending the Operators running time and more importantly the train is ready for the next Operator that saves me a lot of time. A “win win” on both accounts.

See my YouTube video for running a Full BCH Coal train. 

Fast forward to September 2020 - Upgrading my Port Waratah.

With all the activity in Port Waratah, especially with 22 BCH coal trains to/from Newstan Mine being one of the more popular train operations since extending the layout to Gosford/Sydney, shunting and operating the Points by hand, the “inclined” track to the Broadmeadow Elevated Coal Stage was IN THE WAY.

I never ran a 19 Class up to the Broadmeadow Coal Stage, so to improve the access, I removed the inclined track and “angled” the Coal Stage track, to the rear across the Port Waratah “entry” track.

I replaced the BHP Steel Works Sidings with very basic Port Waratah Loco and added a Water Tank and Signal Box, home for the Port Waratah Shunter a 50 Class.

I’ve bought many books/publications about NSW railways, in one, “Our Region, Our Railway” by Robert Mckillop and David Sheedy from ARHS NSW, discuss the Hunter and the Great Northern Railway from 1857 to 2007.

Shown left is an aerial view of the coal loading operations at Carrington Dyke in 1967. Morandoo exchange sidings and the BHP Steel Works are in the background.

The owners of Newstan Mine installed the first modern conveyor type Loader at the “Dyke”, some 10 or so tracks “back” from the waterfront, opening in 1958. Shown below is a 1957 view of the Unloader.

This allowed coal to be directly discharged from their BCH Coal trains to under the track then quickly moved by Conveyor Belts for loading onto ships. I needed to add this to my new Port Waratah.

A close up of the Newstan Loader complex complete with conveyors that I'm trying to model - well sort of. 

One day l hope to make one of the dockside cranes used to unload the Non Air Hoppers with my yet to use 3D Printer I have had for 3 years.

The Loading Shed in 1974. 

For the time being a cardboard box replaces the Wheat Terminal on my “new” Port Waratah until I make a styrene Shed.

I added a crude Conveyor from timber strips but will change the size to 20 x 12 mm timber, to cross the tracks to a “make believe” ship until I source a photo.

The Empty BCH Coal train replaces the BWH Wheat train that is now stored at the Werris Creek Silo complex.

Non Air Hoppers are stored in the previous two empty BCH Sidings along with many on the waterfront, waiting for my 3d Crane. 

I repositioned the Port Waratah “entry” track so as to better fit two storage Sidings against the wall behind Broadmeadow’s Turntable and Coal Stage, making Port Waratah a 10 x 15 foot “L” shape. 

These two Sidings store the S wagon Coil Steel train (to Sydney) and the Coke train from the Metropolitan Colliery (south of Sydney) that is run again to Sydney as Coal train to Pyrmont (Sydney) Power Station

I fitted Peco Point motors to all of the Points and each motor has its own Capacitor Discharge comprising of 2,200 uF capacitor and two 1Amp Diodes and operated by a 2PDT Toggle Switch (see a previous Blog entry for details).

I made a Control Panel and mounted it in the Werris Creek (Upper Deck) Fascia above Port Waratah. As with my other Control Panels, I only use Green LEDs where the LEDs are illuminated only for the selected track showing the route while all other LEDs are extinguished. Note: This needs extra wiring and the use of the second set of contacts on the DPDT Toggles Switches and possibly a relay or diodes behind the Control Panel. Note: I do NOT power the Frogs of my Points – Dead Frogs, this saves lots of time and effort. My locos do not stall but most have “Stay Alives”.

Uncoupling the Coke and S wagon Coil Steel trains, 3 feet away, I could not use my usual “Piksters” Uncoupling Tool method, I fitted two below track Electromagnet Un-couplers purchased from Bob Olde many years ago. There’s an article in Dec 1991 AMRM on how to make Bob’s Electromagnets. The magnets are operated from the Control Panel.

Track plan of the new Port Waratah and Newstan Mine including the "Sneak Path" in red and the Entry Points (circled in orange), into Port Waratah, with photos below.

Trains operated to & from Port Waratah and where staged/stored. Still looking for train numbers. Northern Exposures esp p 25 helped. Maybe some of you can help.

·         931 Double AD60 1200 ton Coal train from Newstan Mine – Newstan Mine.

·         Full Non Air Hopper 520 ton train – Port Waratah.

·         631 Coke train from Metropolitan Colliery – Sydney Staging.

·         Full BWH Wheat train from Werris Ck – Werris Ck.

·         Full RU Hopper Wheat train from West Tamworth – West Tamworth.

·        954 Empty BCH Coal train to Newstan Mine – Port Waratah.

·         Empty Non Air Hopper Coal train to Newstan Mine – Port Waratah.

·         614 S wagon Coil Steel train to Sydney – Port Waratah.

·         Full BCH Coal train to Pyrmont Power Station (Syd), previously the Coke train – Port Waratah.

The triple 48 hauled BWH Wheat train from Werris Ck and double 50 Class hauled RU Wheat train from West Tamworth, on arriving at Port Waratah, their locos are disconnected from their trains and the Port Waratah Shunter stores the Van in an appropriate Siding then "pulls" the train further into the Sneak Path then disconnects. The original locos are returned (after servicing for the 50 Class, pulls the their train forward and picks up their Van then runs back to Werris Creek/West Tamworth by the same Operator, giving him a “double” run. The Port Shunter is returned to Loco.

As can be seen, just like the real Port Waratah, my layout version is a busy place. The “run around” operation of southern trains, further complicates the model operation but all of this makes for LOTS of fun. 

The track from Broadmeadow's Elevated Coal Stage crosses to the rear backboard. All removeable for track access if necessary. 

A very compressed Port Waratah Loco, just to store the 50 Class Shunter, behind the scenery hill with the Coil Steel and Coke train Sidings.  

The 2 sidings for the Full Non Air Hoppers behind the small scenery "block" and my first attempt of adding the Conveyor.

Looking towards the "cardboard" Newstan Loader complete with 2 sidings through the Loader for the empty BCHs. The Empty Non Airs are stored behind the Coal Loader on the wharf road. 
The Lift Up Bridge's rear track is the Port Waratah end of the "Sneak Path", to Newstan Mine. 

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 click here for Mark Gurries's page on Block Detectors.

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 experienced, 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 also cycling, while the loco continues on unaffected because all my locos have a Stay Alive unit. 
If the rolling stock had resistor wheel sets, this cycling could be all but eliminated as the the resistor wheel sets provide more "current" paths 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. Needing more Detectors as I fit more Semaphores and other "occupancy" projects, at a mate's recommendation in the U.S., I purchased some cpODs

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 Dave's 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 a height of 1680 mm, too high for to manually set the Points and to see what’s in the 6 Sidings, I needed to add some 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 my mate Andrew, I added 3 resistors (L/H side of Detector), that "swap" around the polarity to the Red/Green LED. Obviously RED indicates Occupancy of the Siding. 

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. 
Everyone has spare locos, if not 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 to 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.

If your Occupancy Detector needs to operate a Relay like the Jaycar 230 Ohm Relay, the LM555's 200mA capacity is fine operating these.   

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

This makes an Occupancy Detector with easy to source parts from Jaycar etc 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". 

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.