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

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Know Your Loads for more Fun.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Hawkesbury River Station

Hawkesbury River Station, Newcastle and Armidale Staging.

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

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

From Gosford, southbound (Up) trains up to 1,100 tons trains were hauled by a single 46.
At Hawkesbury River, if the load exceeded 550 tons, a second 46 was added to the front for the "haul" up the 1 in 40 Cowan Bank.
The second 46 was detached at Cowan (my layout Sydney Staging) and light engined back to Hawkesbury River where it waited for it's next banking assignment.
From Hornsby to Gosford (Up trains), the maximum load for single 46, is 600 tons. The maximum load for both up and down passenger trains is 375 tons.

This above "banking" operation had to be included on my Main North, so I needed to add a Hawkesbury River Station to the layout.

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

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

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

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

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

The Hawkesbury River Hotel is paramount to the Hawkesbury River Station scene. Thankfully Bob Stack was able to "re-secure" his Pub and now it's the centrepiece of the scene. I have been very lucky to have been able to have "instant" town scenes with all the buildings from Bob and Keith.

Te track separation between Hawkesbury River Bridge and the track above (the single line to Murrurundi), is 170mm, While not desirable, there are many compromises to be made when building a layout. Placing this upper track further back and no scenery, will "hide" the track. Could have be hidden the track in a Tunnel.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Linton’s Loksounds.

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

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

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

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

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

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

What a fantastic “installation”.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Linton, thanks for the visit.   

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Operating Cards for the Main North in 1965.

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

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

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

To know what has to be done to operate "the" train, I make a Business Card sized "Operating Card", with the necessary details and attach them to Clips similar to these,  to all of my Throttles, shown left,   
The Operating Card is printed (described below) on normal paper and laminated using 64 x 99 mm Laminating Pouches available from Office Suppliers, to make it stiff and easy to slide into the Clip. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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