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

Monday, October 3, 2011

NMRA X2011 Convention in Sacramento USA.

It's been 6 months since I posted anything on the Main North Blog, so you can come with me on a visit to the U.S, instead. For years I've wanted to attend an NMRA Convention in the U.S. One of the NCE users living in San Jose that I communicate with regularly, suggested many years ago that the 2011 Convention in Sacramento would be the one to attend, as "they" were the host organizers.

In March 2011, Jim Betz another one of my Skype DCC mates asked me if I'd be interested in doing a Clinic on "Decoder Installations" at the Convention, as one of the the regular DCC presenters had pulled out due work/family commitments. As I've done a few presentations here, I said yes. I had three months to put a PowerPoint presentation together so instead of using NSW models, I thought I'd use U.S. models that I borrowed from one of my train mates, Alistair. I even found an Athearn SD40-2 under my layout, very handy for the topic on "Motor Isolation". Heaps of hours spent preparing but finished with plenty of time to spare.

In the meantime, three of my train buddies Laurie, Garry & Alistair decided they'd come with me. I really wanted to "travel" with one mate, 'cause I'm still a Kid and scared to travel by myself as my Wife had declined my offer of accompanying me to the Convention and some sightseeing of the U.S West Coast, so 4 Aussie on the "loose" in the U.S. seeing model trains - how good would it be.

I arrived in L.A. two days before my mates as I travel on Standby. With these days to spare, I'm heading south to San Diego on a 14 lane Freeway travelling at 75 MPH (130 KPHs), with cars and trucks overtaking me - what a driving experience, to visit the La Mesa Club's Tehachapi Loop. Many have said, it's a "must" see layout if you're ever on the U.S West Coast. I'm here, so I'm going!

The Tehachapi Loop is one of four layouts located in the Model
Railroad Museum in Balboa Park. The layout is 150 feet long by 52 feet wide in a double "storey" (not double deck) format. Spent 6 hours talking, taking photos, visiting the Library & culminating with a guided tour of the layout's "innards", after the Museum had closed - what a day.

Top photo shows an aerial view of the Tehachapi Loop with the model on the second storey of the building.

The middle photo shows the Calente on the lower floor with the
mountains in the rear.

The lower photo shows the CTC? Panel under the layout.

For more photos and videos of this spectacular layout, see:

September 2011 Model Railroad Hobbyist's has a video about the Tehachapi Loop layout at:

More Tehachapi Loop YouTube videos

Certainly one of the highlights of my U.S. trip. Well worth if you get to L.A. I could spend a few days at Balboa Park, but I really know where I'd be. See:

Drive from San Diego to San Jose via the Big Sur & Monteray. Met up with the other Aussies at the Newark Hilton, the "base" for the Advance Layout Tours around the Bay Area.

Prior to the Advance Tours schedule, Jim offered to open his Cal Central Club layout, for us to have a play and Seth Neumann offered a special "private" operating session for the 4 Aussies, so we're off to an early start.

Cal Central Club - where Jim Betz and Mark Gurries are members, is located in the old 500 square feet, Agnew Depot, right beside the train tracks going to San Francisco - a real surprise with all that OH&S stuff around these days. More details at:
An overview of the Cal Central from the Dispatcher Desk located above the layout.

I bought a Eureka Models Garratt over for Jim, so the Club layout will have some NSW flavour, now. Jim was really surprised with the Garratt, when it would not pull anywhere near his intended load of 40 Coal Hoppers on the level, let alone up some of the layout's grades.

Some "Cal Central" YouTube videos

Southern Pacific at Cal Central club (HO)

Seth Neumann - "Union Pacific in Niles Canyon" layout where we operated in "pairs" with

Switch Lists, getting permission to enter the Mainline from the Dispatcher in another room, by radio. Our first experience to this sort of "operations".

The photo (top right) shows Garry (red shirt), operating.

The lower photo right, Alistair and me (headphones on), "switching" the Nummi Yard. The Yard Clerk gave us more chores (Cards), to do, re-position cars that has to be done prior to the next Operating Session.

A great night for us 4 Aussies. Also see:

Friday was the start of the Advance Tours. We had opted for the "self drive" option as we'd already hired a rental car (Camry), instead of taking the bus option - saved heaps. Meet at Santa Clara's "The Train Shop", the best model railroad shop in California, then to the local Mexican restaurant where many of the DCC operators, that work in/around Silicon Valley, meet for lunch that's now colloquially called the "DCC Lunch". After lunch and the first of the layouts on Tour:

Jim Vail's - HO/HOn3 14' x 33' plus side rooms "Glenwood & Black Creek NG represents a 1/2 of a mountain division across 2 1/2% grades over Cumbress Pass. The Central California Coast SG loops around the layout emulating the Southern Pacific. Layout 98% sceniced, see:

John LaBarba - HO/HOn3 20' x 20' Sonara Pacific & Southern Pacific layout, see:

Chuck Catania - HO Chittenden Pajaro & Coyote layout, see:

Jack Burgess - HO 20' x 20' Yosemite Valley RR layout, one of the best layouts in my opinion that I visited.

Jim Dias - HO 16' x 20' Western Pacific layout, featuring Feather River Canyon and the Keddie Wye, in the 1930s, see:

Silicon Valley Lines - Large double deck Club layout, see:

Rick Fortin - The double deck 30' x 49' HO Sierra Western & Santa Fe RR. Proto freelanced extension of the Santa Fe in the early 70s from San Francisco Bay Area to Portland, modelled portion runs from Central Valley town of Chico to McCloud, just south of Mt Shasta. See:

Howard McKinney - On3 Denver Rio Grande & Western Railroad, 7' x 19' plus 5' x 6', is a point-to-point railroad running between Victoria, Co. and Notell, Colorado in the late 1930's through the early 1940's, no mines but with lush pine forests for the timber for the mining industry in the state.

Ed Loizeaux - New York Central - Valley Division. This large S scale layout represents the NYC in the Catskill Mountains in 1948. Steam is resisting diesel pressure to retire early, but is losing the battle. Hauling long freights and fast passenger trains over the mountainous terrain is a routine daily task on this layout, see:

Bob Brown - O On3 On30 Tuolumne Forks 25'x 34' layout. Scenery is complete and detailed. The railroad is a logging and tourist line with sawmills and a large hotel set in the Roaring Twenties. Also an On30 limestone layout with kilns, a stave mill, and cooperage, shown at the right.

Wayne Floyd - HO 16' x 22' Freelance Southern Pacific in the 1950s, shown right, operated easily by NCE DCC or Aristo-Craft DC. Fully sceniced.

Mainline is SP and branch line is Sierra RR up to a Saw Mill, Looging RR to Logging Camp

Andy Schnur - HO 22' x 48' C&O Allegheny Subdivision with DCC. Mainline extends from Alleghany, Virginia to Prince in West Virginia with staging representing Clifton Forge, VA and Handley WVA. Operating sessions last for 5 hours with a meal break. A really fantastic layout, as you'll see in the YouTube video below:

David Parks - Cumberland West - Western Maryland and B&O, HO in a 1200 square feet room with two 40 and 32 train Staging sections, under the layout, most double/triple headed & with sound.

This was the second of the "operating" layouts we participated in, starting at 9:30 am, stop for lunch (provided by Mrs Parks) and then finished operating at 3:30 pm. Hard work but I was comforted somewhat by my operating buddy, a "real" Diesel driver on the Southern Pacific, that said it wasn't anything like that in the real thing. See:

Drive to Sacramento, approximately 2.0 hours north of the Bay Area. Travelling in the far left lane as I had more than 2 passengers (like our Transit Lanes), I did not see the Toll Booth signs and went through without paying. $14 fine when I got home.

On the Freeway we had a laugh at a truck we passed (see right), should I say passed us.

At Sacramento, we met some of the other 48 Aussies, some with their wives that attended the X2011 NMRA Convention at "drinks"with some of the NMRA Executive.

The Convention Clinics started on Sunday night through to Saturday morning. Every day there were extra train related activities like a SIG Layout Tour on Wednesday, all day, trips to Portolla, Napa Valley,etc. I missed these as there were too many Clinics I wanted to see. Busy for the whole week. The Clinic Schedule is at:

Up at 5:30 am on Monday morning to return the rental car to the Airport, then onto the Convention to meet Jim Betz who was on at 8:00 am, my first Clinic for the week. 9:30 it was my time to be "up the front" with my "DCC - Installing Decoders" in front of about 100 modellers. After the initial questions of, "we don't understand you", "can you speak up", I slowed down a little and it all went off well - 50 PowerPoint Slides and Questions at the end. I finished 11.10 a little into Jim's next Clinic.

My second Clinic presentation was on 2:30 Friday afternoon, after spending time at The National Train Show held in the ground floor of the Convention Center, a guess at 6 times larger than Liverpool, but I was told, small in comparison to the U.S. East Coast National Train Shows, in the morning and "DCC Lunch" Sacramento style, at the Old Spaghetti Factory.

Clinics I attended were on DCC, Decoder Pro, Signals Dispatcher, Tuning a Tsunami, Joe Fugate's two Clinics. Tony Koester's Double Deck layouts and many more.

A few visits to the Layout Design Sig rooms where Seth Neumann is the coordinator of this group, Byron Henderson is one of the major players in this group, click here for Byron's Blog. Anyone wanting to design a layout for better operation, should visit this group's groups website. Included in the Membership is a Journal

Mark Schutzer a NCE user asked me if  I;d like to co-host a NCE Forum at late notice. About 60 modelers attended on Thursday evening, where we discussed anything to do with NCE and Decoder Pro They and me learnt a lot about the NCE DCC system.

I met a lot of modellers, I've "seen" on the NCE and JMRIuser (Decoder Pro) Yahoo chat groups. A great night.

Friday evening, dinner at the Sacramento Railroad Museum organised by the Layout SIG Group, seated amongst the locos, what a finale to a wonderful week. Photo of "my" table with Garry in the middle left and Jim Betz to the left.

After nearly two weeks in the U.S. visiting all these great layouts, clinics on the U.S. prototype, I was feeling like changing prototypes. Once home and saw my beautiful Garratts, there's now way I'm changing.

The only things I purchased for the layout were a few books, some speakers and a Soundtraxx Micro Tsunami sound decoder, so I could ask Soundtraxx, where the on board fuse was located, so I could fix the two I had blown up when initially installed decoders in the Trainorama C32. Nancy and Steve at Soundtraxx willingly obliged my request. Now I've fixed them.

The HO Free-mo Layout shown in the National Train Show Sacramento - Part 2 YouTube video, was one very impressive modular layout, particularly the trees.

What a great two weeks, highlights being: La Mesa's Tehachapi Loop layout, operating on Seth Neumann's and David Parks' layouts, presenting a Clinic to the U.S. modellers, the banquet dinner with all the locos and of course meeting so many model railroaders.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Operating the Track Cleaning "Hanna" Van on the DCC Main North.

At the recent SCMRA Departmental Rolling Stock Seminar at Epping (April 2011) , I did a Clinic on "Loco Sand".

On researching this topic, I found an article in the Jan 85 Roundhouse on Hornsby Depot by Ray Love, detailing the track cleaning operation of the Cowan Bank etc, due to accumulation of sand that played havoc with the signalling system.

On the NSWGR, Main North there was heavy use of sand by locos as they struggled up the Cowan Bank with grades of between 1 in 40 to 1 in 55. In the open, the build up of sand/oil/grime was cleaned away by the rain. With no rain in the tunnels to clean the track , this build up of sand/oil/grime etc made worse by the heat inside the tunnel, affected the signalling system.

In the early 1930s, the Signals and Telegraph Branch experimented with cleaning of the track by fitting 2 Wire Brushes behind the rear bogie of a 30 Class loco. In 1936 the Signals and Telegraph Branch introduced the first Track Cleaning Van with two Wire Brushes, fitted and operated similarly to what was fitted to the 30 Class loco.

Initially the Van was an old American Box style carriage and operated by Syd Hanna. It was destroyed at Hornsby Yard in a shunting accident in 1944. A bogie BHG Goods Brakevan was converted to make a second Van. This Van was affectionately known as the Hanna Van, after it's long time operator.

The BHG Hanna Van was attached to the No 69 Down Pick Up Goods, just ahead of the Brake Van at 5:15 am, every Tuesday and Friday morning and cleaned the rails of the Cowan Bank and Woy Woy tunnels. The Van was detached at Gosford a added to the No 58 Up Pick Up Goods, where it cleaned the rails in the UP direction. Track cleaning was to be done at a minimum speed of 10 MPH where the brushes rotated at 695 RPM. Like the first Van the second "Hanna" Van was damaged again at Hornsby in a shunting accident , in 1950.

A MCV or similar van was modified to to be a third Van until electrification to Gosford, removed the need for such maintenance procedures, where is was withdrawn from service.

I volunteer to do a Clinic to get a model/building onto my Main North layout. Instead of adding a Sand Bin to my two Elevated Coal Stages, I decided I'd build a Hanna Van and add this "operation" of cleaning the track on the Cowan Bank with a Hanna Van.

Firstly I needed to build a "Hanna" Van and then add DCC to it. If I was to make a Hanna Van, I 'd like to make BHG due to it's extra detail (blocked out windows etc) that was not available, instead the MCV that's available from Ian Lindsay Models. One of my mates found me a BHG. I needed to make this a DCC Hanna Van with sound and lights. For sound of the spinning wire brushes grinding away the sand/corrosion etc, I tried a diesel decoder in one of my locos with the notching set to maximum - no good. I tried a Steam decoder at Maximum speed and the "noise" was close enough. What else was I going to use that was cheap. I had an older DSX sound decoder and needed to add a Function decoder, to "operate" it. For the Clinic, I used this set up.

Since then I replaced the Function decoder with a D13SR motor decoder for better "automatic" operation. I had to also add 2 miniature 12 volt relays to operate the sound, lights and sparks. I could have used a combined sound and motor decoder, but did not have one "on hand". The sparks are two 0.8 mm SMD LEDs glued onto the non rotating brushes configured as Firebox Flicker. The under floor illumination lights are four 1.5 Volt incandescent lamps wired in series with a 120 Ohm resistor.

The DSX is set up with address #9 and the D13SR is set up on address #8.
Prior to operating the Hanna Van, select loco #9 and set to Maximum Speed.
Then set up the Hanna Van motor decoder, this case #8, into a Consist with the operating loco in this case 3622 .
Operate 3622 (in consist with #8), to the Tunnel with the Hanna Van.
Stop just outside the tunnel entrance.
Press F1 (No Bells in NSW) and the lights over the Wire Brushes illuminate.
Wait 10 seconds as the operator pretends to lower the Wire Brushes.
Operate the 3622 to move forward.
The grinding sound and sparks start automatically by the motor decoder, as speed is increased above Speed Step 1.
Once finished cleaning the track, stop the loco.
Press F1 that disables the sound, raises the Wire Brushes and turns off the lights.
Drive the loco to Gosford.

Relay 1 is used to enable the sound and to turn on the lights by pressing F1.
Relay 2 connects the speaker via Relay 1, when the speed of the Consist is above Speed Step 1.
The motor output of the D13SR decoder, energizes the Sound (Relay No 2), whenever the speed is above Speed Step 1.
I made a Speed Table with CV67 at "0" and CV 68 - 94 all at "255", using Decoder Pro.

To see how it all turns out, see  my Hanna Van on the layout Youtube at :

The No 69 Pick Up will be "staged" at Sydney Staging with 6 wagons including the Hanna Van. To ensure that it "all" works correctly, the operator will firstly "dial up" loco 9 (the Hanna Van) and set it's speed to maximum. He'll then take the loco/train that will be already consisted with the Hanna Van (loco 9), to the first of two Boronia Tunnels (only room for 2) on my Cowan Bank, stopping the train with the Hanna Van just outside the entrance. Press F1 wait 10 seconds for the brushes to lower, then move off. Sound and Sparks will start automatically as the the speed is increased. As the Hanna Van exits the tunnel, the operator will stop the train and press F1, wait 10 seconds (raising the brushes), then proceed to the second tunnel (3 feet away) then repeat the process. After raising the brushes at the exit of the second tunnel, he'll proceed to Gosford where he'll detach the Hanna Van and shunt it into the appropriate siding.

This total operation takes about 20 minutes. The UP No 58 Pick Pick Up, will pick up the Hanna Van and repeat the above operation, cleaning the UP tracks and leave the train in Sydney Staging (Loop). Operations like this, is what I want/need to re-create on my Main North, so the building of the Hanna Van was a fantastic addition to my railway.

Since the construction of the Hanna Van, I have decided to be more specific with my layout "era" and have locked in the mid 60s. Overhead wiring was completed to Gosford in 1960, so I will be fitting the "overhead", when time permits and have purchased some 46 Class Electrics,

The Hanna Van is not operated any longer and is "parked" at Gosford, I don't have Hornsby on the layout. Occasionally I will place the Hanna Van Track Cleaning "operation" Card in an Operating Session for a non era operation.