Wednesday, May 31, 2017

April & May Update

The last two months has seen activities that included: MTH PA/PB's continuing problems, Arduino bits, 2017 Australian Narrow Gauge Convention, The Bellarine Railway, Visit to Traralgon, Stanvac Gates, Four Ops Sessions, Sound Module Prototype and Arduino Course.


I think these are the most troublesome locos I have ever bought....

Following installation of the Loksound decoders unstable motor performance has been experienced with every model.  I gave them to our Guru Don who took them home inspected my work and tested them.  The motors would work normally for a while then start drawing heavy current from 120mA up to 800mA per motor.

We finally decided these motors had to go so I ordered Mashima replacements which the supplier duly shipped and the postal service has "lost the parcel"...

It seems finishing these locos is doomed......

Gearing up for Arduino Projects

After many small purchases from eBay, Aliexpress, Banggood, Goodluckbuy and a few others my stocks for projects are now mainly on hand.

2017 Australian Narrow Gauge Convention

On Easter Thursday Rosslyn and I drove to Geelong in Victoria where we joined Peter from Traralgon who had come by regional train via Melbourne and we stayed in a cabin park before departing on Tuesday morning.

After a "heavy night" on Thursday we were slow to rise on Friday so had an easy day before attending the conference venue in the evening for registration and the first look at exhibitors and suppliers who were finalising there setup.

We had a great weekend attending many clinics and wandering throughout the venue a number of times visiting the layouts, the contest area and suppliers booths.  All of us opened our wallets and a few good buys were had.

It was nice to meet people that I talk with on Model Rail Radio and/or Facebook and to name a few: Dan Pickard, Rod Hutchinson, Gerry Hopkins, Murray Scholz, Prof  Klyzlr & John Garaty.

Here is a link to the 500 odd photos posted on the 2017 Australian Narrow Gauge Convention public site.

Below is a photo (by Dan Pickard) of the Corrimal Colliery Incline constructed by John Garaty & Guy Gadsden.

Below is a video taken of the Corrimal Colliery Incline towards the end of the "setup" process.

Murray Scholz's clinic...

Peter, me and Ros in the Static Grass clinic (front row left of the "leaning one"
Whilst none of us model narrow gauge we did learn from our attendance as well as having a fun weekend. On Tuesday morning Rosslyn was dropped at North Shields Railway Station where he boarded the Great Southern Rail "Overland" train back to Adelaide.

The Bellarine Railway

Attendees of the 2017 Australian Narrow Gauge Convention had the opportunity when booking to ride a special train chartered for 100 attendees on The Bellarine Railway. I invited Gavin & Natalie who are close friends and live in Geelong.  Unfortunately Gavin was in New Zealand for work so Lenny an ex Geelong Signalman "was Gavin" for a day.  Lenny related "old railway stories from his days in the Geelong Signal Cabin" during the day some of these were funny and others interesting.

I must mention the lunch provided on the platform at Queenscliff - it was exceptional - well done!

Below are a few videos put together from the day.

The scheduled service arriving and departing Queensciff.

Our train being shunted to platform after the scheduled service departed Queenscliff.

The obligatory "run by"

Lakers Siding Workshops

The preservationists at The Bellarine Railway attempted to get the steam crane going but some technical difficulties were encountered - we appreciated what they tried to achieve for us.

It was a relatively long day but we all had fun.

Visit to Peter's

On Tuesday we drove for about three hours to Traralgon for a week of "Playing with Arduino's", enjoying each others company and eating nice food accompanied by exceptional red wines...

We did spend an hour or two in the shed where Peter gave some Amtrak locos "a run".

One of the first projects was to build Peter a circuit to turn some background lights on when he walks into his dark study.  This will allow him to sit down and switch on his desk light whilst not being in total darkness.  We adjusted the "detection range" for the ultrasonic sensor placed on one side of the entrance to be less than the distance to the door and this was used for activation.  After prototyping using a UNO R3 we loaded the program to a Arduino Nano.

We used an ultrasonic detector and a Arduino Nano to switch a few LED's and a relay used to activate a light strip

Relay, light strip and ultrasonic sensor
My project was to write the code for Stanvac Gates - see next story below.

We also played with temperature/humidity sensors, 7 segment displays, LCD Display, 8 x 8 LED Matrixs and shift registers.

I left Peter's and headed for home the following Wednesday getting home in the late afternoon of 26th April which did not leave enough time to do an April Blog Update hence this one covering two months.

Stanvac Gates

Last time I mentioned the visit to Seth Newman's (video link) where I liked the operating gates and simulated derail at his Water Treatment Plant.  I am working on a version for the entrance to Stanvac - my Oil Refinery.

I mounted the servo motors and started programming a Sketch for the Arduino controller.

At Peter's we refined the code including angles and speed of rotation for the gates and speed and length of movement of  the derail.  I decided to add a "Blue protection" track light, a flashing red light to be installed next to the moving gates and a green indicator light on the control panel for when gates opening. This was done using a UNO and finally transferred to a Pro Mini for the final installation using the Rx Tx connections.

Here is a video of part of the development.

I have 18V AC accessory power at all control panels so I built a 12V Regulated DC circuit and used a DC to DC adjustable power board to get the 5V Regulated DC required to run the project.

I installed the project on my layout and the results are shown in the video below - the masking tape simulates the gates which I will build and fit later along with the chain wire fence..

Here is the link to the Arduino.ino Sketch.

Now I have to teach my operators how to use it!

My Ops Session

Don, Des, Chris, Rossco, Pierre, Wayne and Pete joined me for a pleasant three hour session on 1st May.  Pete came back and he showed his operating capabilities again.  Everyone undertook something different during this op session with the exception of Don who wanted to repeat his previous undertaking with advanced operation utilising command station consisting and de-consisting.  I again received some positive constructive feedback.

The broad running schedule was.

We all had fun operating and enjoyed a debrief over some snacks and drinks afterwards.

Ops Sessions at Wayne's

Wayne has two groups of operators that come to operate his layout and he has four "operating sessions" to complete "a cycle of operations".  Each session has an average of about 22 train movements which has been steadily refined based on "operating experiences" over the last 18 months and the whole scheme is no quite stable.  A unintended consequence of two groups and four sessions is that each group only see sessions 1 & 3 or 2 & 4.  A strategy has been struck for our Monday night round robin group to do an "extra session" so Derek and Ross who are still working will now get to operate on Wayne's layout twice a year.


Chris, Barry, Rosslyn & I had a fun session at Wayne's and things ran pretty smooth and every movement card was used.

The fast clock was only stopped once in the session and the new configuration of Lowood Crossing continues to meet requirements just soooo much better than the previous - well worth the effort Wayne!

Most of us are starting to get a better handle on the layout now and I am sure that we are getting a lot closer to understanding the rules and operating regime.


Chris, Barry, Rosslyn, Don, Des, Peter S, Peter Jackson & I had a fun session at Wayne's and things ran pretty smooth and we had a great 2 1/2 hour running session. There was a number of derailment and power issues at the approach to Dunkley Towers yard.  I undertook to resolve the problems.

After a maintenance session I was able to successfully pull and push a set of coaches through the industrial yard tracks which should be Ok for shorter freight cars.

We look forward to our next visit in June where we are undertaking the first night time run of the layout.

Ops Sessions at Ross's

Chris, Barry, Rosslyn, Derek, Pierre & I had a fun session at Ross's.  We operated with the two Yards at each end of the point to point layout assembling trains and the operator at the line stations driving them so trains were passed from crew to crew around the layout meaning we stayed at a location for the session while Ross directed operations!

The mode of operation proved itself and we did not have any "trying to pass in narrow aisles" issues.

My thoughts are that we can extend this to include some local shunting along the line - maybe 1 or 2 cars on and off at each line station - just food for thought!
Ross our host

Ros, Don & Derek (L to R)

Chris & Barry

I was sick and missed the Ops session at Chris's in May......

Sound Module Prototyping

Peter Jackson the owner of the Eureka Valley Narrow Gauge Railroad On3 layout is interested in adding sound to three of his scenes.  I have been playing around with sensors to switch the sound modules off and on.

Three ultrasonic detectors which can be adjusted independently within the sketch on the Arduino UNO

3 x ultrasonic sensors, 1 x UNO, 3 x Relays & 1 x Sound Module

one dual and a single 5V relays
Here is the link to the Arduino.ino Sketch

Arduino Course

Wayne, Derek and I are attending a local library Arduino course (for adults) which is a 3 x 1 1/2hr session course.  We are hoping to learn a few things which will be useful in our exploits.

My first project was a traffic light simulation.

Here is the link to Arduino.ino Sketch using the delay() function.

Here is the link to the Arduino.ino Sketch NOT using delay() function.

That's it for this month!

Till the end of June.....


Wednesday, March 29, 2017

March Update

This month has seen activities that included:  Updating my Website, Problems continue with the MTH PA/PB's, Rossco's Interlocking, Stanvac Chain Wire Fence and two Ops Sessions.


Speed matching turned out to be quite easy as the basic speed control Start-Mid-Top produced a speed curve that matched my passenger speed curve pretty well!

The dramas continued with two of the three locos as the sounds worked fine but there was NO drive.....

PB Drive Issues

I disassembled the loco looking for drive train issues but found nothing.  Then I discovered that the connector on the motor leads appeared to be intermittent in contact so the next task is to solder new motor wires and connect to the decoder without the connector.

TrainMasters TV Night

The Monday night group came around for another TrainMasters TV evening and we watched the following:

Rossco's Interlocking

Well it is finally installed and working!   Below is the final part in the story you may have been following.  All that remains now is the project write up for the website.

The Tracks

The single track crossing the double track main is the "RED LINE" on the panels and also know as the "E route" as opposed to the double track "BLACK LINES" also known as the "NOT E route".

Rossco had installed live frog crossovers and I was expecting insulated ones - just what I'm used to!   So we purchased two Tam Valley Depot DCC Dual Frog Juicer's to deal with the frog power issues.

Having seen Duncan's workshop in San Diego it is nice we are going to be using some of his gear.

There was a maze of wires to power the approaches, dead rail sections approaching the crossings, turnout power and turnout indications.  The final wire lengths may be adjusted or just "tidied up"....

The Panels

Red Line is the active route

Black Lines are active routes with the swing by Black to Red active

Black Lines are active routes

Black Lines are active routes with the alternate Black Line approach

Did you detect the troublesome green LED?  -  it is all fixed now!

Chain Wire Fence

Last year when we visited Seth Newman's (video link) I liked the operating gates and simulated derail at the Water Treatment Plant.  I want to do a version for the entrance to Stanvac - my Oil Refinery which is very loosely based on the demolished Port Stanvac refinery near home which had sidings that were accessed after the chain wire fence gates were opened.

Having seen Luke Towan's build guide for a chain link fence I decided to give it a go ( BTW Luke has updated his video from the earlier version I referenced which did not have the barbed wire simulation at the top).

The Gates

Using the NMRA Standards Gauge I determined where to position the gates and the derail.  Holes were drilled to insert brass tube through the scenery and baseboard to extend downwards towards the lower edge of the supporting framework.  These tubes will house the wires that move the gates and derail.

I cut some mdf to mount the servos on.  I fitted three "guides" to ensure proper location before tightening the fixings.  This is because it will be located in a "hard to get at"location so I wanted a "sub-assembly" I could install more easily.

Following the Australian Narrow Gauge Convention that I am attending with Rosslyn & Peter Rees (Peter R) I am going to Traralgon to spend a week with Peter doing "Arduino stuff" where I hope to get the servos attached and "Doing what I want" ready to install when I get home.

My Ops Session

Don, Barry, Chris, Rossco, Pierre, Wayne and Peter Saunders (Peter S) joined me for a pleasant three hour session on 6 March.  Peter S joined us for the first time and I was very happy with his operational capabilities and hope he will be able to join us at future sessions.

Everyone undertook something different during this op session and I received some positive constructive feedback.  Most have asked to "do it again" next time to cement the new activities.

The broad running schedule is below.

We had fun.

Ops Session at Wayne's

Don, Des, Barry, Rosslyn & I had another fun session at Wayne's and things tend to run smoother each time we attend.  There was a couple of "technical" power issues that Wayne & I will work on.  I think some modifications to the feeder methodology is required maybe move a booster and the addition of some "snubbers" at the end of some very long untwisted feeders.

Wayne giving me "instructions"

Des & Don at Lowood Crossing

Barry at Dunkley Towers

Des & Don shunt Hartley Vale

Rosslyn & Wayne at Forrest Gully

My mixed goods train ready to depart at Upsen Downe

Wayne, Don & Des discuss "congestion" at Lowwod Crossing

Barry "worn out" near the end of the session

Wine, tea, coffee & biscuits afterwards

We look forward to our next visit in April.

That's it for this month!

Till the end of April.....