Friday, April 29, 2016

April Update

In April there was no activity in the layout room but work was completed on the Top Level Signal Controls, a lot of activity occurred for Wayne covering JMRI Roster, Maintenance, JMRI WiThrottles, operating sessions and planning future improvements and Chris's WiThrottle too.

Top Level Signals

This month has seen work on the Junction Control Modules.  I'll explain the concepts which are used using the first junction.  I will go through the track arrangement, possible routes and consolidation of those routes.  To ensure the micro controller code is working correctly I built a test assembly to simulate inputs and outputs to the Route micro controller.

Route Controls

The first junction consists of two parallel tracks with two pairs of cross overs.

The nomenclature is:

  • Entry/Exit "A", "B", "C", "D" - the [Booster_Area, Booster_Power_Block]
  • Turnouts "T1", "T2", "T3", "T4" - the [Layout_Turnout_Number]

List of all the available Routes and their respective turnout settings.

Turnout nomenclature:

  • "N" - normal or straight through
  • "R" - reverse or diverging route
  • "-" - position is irrelevant

Concurrent Route list

Consolidated Route list

Test Board

I setup the test board which connects to the TI Launchpad for:

  • Inputs 1 - 7 to simulate "Turnout State" - "Switch Up" = "N" & "Switch Down" = "R"
  • Outputs A - I to simulate "Route State" - "LED On" = Not Available & "LED Off" = Available

Turn-Onka Junction [T-JCTM-2 V1]

Module nomenclature [T-JCTM-2 V1] = Top Level-Junction Module Number- Version.

This is a "Junction Route Summary" page you can see the components explained above with the addition of a graphic showing the micro controller connections.

All turnouts in Normal position - Routes "A" [A-C] & "D" [B-D]

Turnouts 1 & 3 Reversed - Route "B" [A-D]

Turnouts 2 & 4 Reversed - Route "C" [B-C]

Turnouts 1, 2, 3 & 4 Reversed - Route "E" [A-X-C] Should never be used but a novice tower person just might do it!

NO valid route selected.

If you are interested the code can be seen here.

Stanvac Junction [T-JCTM-3 V2]

This junction T-JCTM-3 V2 is the same as T-JCTM-2 V1 with the addition of turnout "T5" on the approach from "A".

The additional turnout adds two additional consolidated routes.

Route indications are the same for Routes A, B, C, D & E.

First additional Consolidated Route

Second additional Consolidated Route

NO valid route selected

If you are interested the code can be seen here.

The Turn [T-JCTM-1 V1]

This junction T-JCTM-1 V1 is totally different for those before.

If you are interested the code can be seen here.

Signal Aspects

The standards I am implementing are shown below.

Signal Controls

The Junction Module's also have East and West Controllers that incorporates the Block Occupancy and combines with Route from the Route micro controller.  Below are the same junctions as detailed above showing the East & West Signals to be Controlled.

The nomenclature is
  • [En] T-S-Ennn - [East_Signal_Output_Number] Top-Signal-East_Signal_Head_Number
  • [Wn] T-S-Wnnn - [West_Signal_Output_Number] Top-Signal-West_Signal_Head_Number
Where dual head signals are used the lower Head Signal_Head_Number is one higher than the Top Head i.e. E210 - Top Head E211 Lower Head on the same signal mast.

Turn-Onka Junction [T-JCTM-2 V1]

The East signals on approach "A" E1 & E2 are standard R-Y-G for each head.  The signals on approach "B" E3, E4 & E5 are R-Y-G and head, T-S-E220 is not shown, it will always be R as the track comes from a passing siding which is on the approach to "B" so Medium Clear or Restricted Speed is mandated.

East Signals
 West Signals

Stanvac Junction [T-JCTM-3 V2]

All heads are R-Y-G

East Signals
 West Signals

The Turn [T-JCTM-1 V1]

All heads are R-Y-G

East Signals
 West Signals

There will be more next month on configuring the East & West Controllers.


A lot of activity at Wayne's covering getting all locos into JMRI, maintenance, JMRI WiThrottles, two operating sessions and proposed future changes.

JMRI Roster

This month we finished loading the remainder of the 62 locos on the layout.  Standardisation of the loco service types to allow consisting awaits....  One of the major issues we face is the vast majority of Wayne's operators have little or no experience with DCC and continue to operate on DC layouts they have been operating on for the last 30 years so they expect instantaneous response from the throttle like what happens in DC - This has its challenges....


We had a few glitches with some reversing sections, loco lights going AWOL, and testing was giving spurious results whereby issues were not always the same on power up.  We ended up factory resetting the Command Station and all the PSX-AR's then reset in-rush and current trip settings and magically the issues all went away!  Pity we ordered some replacement PSX-AR's - oh well we will now have spares....

We have had significant derailment issues with some coaches that Wayne had on a local passenger train.  Modifications to couplers and wheel sets had previously been undertaken to no avail..  These coaches were very light but no longer!  This vastly improved performance in all but one coach. Further investigation showed that one bogie was giving a problem, on checking with the NMRA Standards Gauge, one axle was found to be too narrow by about 10 thou.  Axle was removed adjusted and refitted and now they run flawlessly.

JMRI WiThrottle

Some time back Wayne & I purchased a basic I3 HP notebook each specifically for running JMRI on our layouts.  I deleted the supplied Windows 8.1 Operatings System and loaded Linux Mint 17.1.  This has been working fine for programming etc. Wayne decided he wanted some 7" tablets like me and Chris.  The difference here is that my HP notebook connects to my home network whereas Wayne's was in the shed with no connection to his home network available.  Unlike Chis's system which is similar that I had setup on Windows I had trouble sharing the WiFi connection within Linux.

I decided to go back to windows but I discovered that I had wiped the recovery partition! So I had a original copy of Windows 7 on disk from a previous computer, which had died, and loaded that.  After the 300 odd updates I discovered some devices in the operating system were not working - like NO COM PORTS... it was then I realised that I had loaded a 32 bit operating system (OS) on a 64 bit computer and the 64 bit drivers did not work on 32 bit.

The only thing left was to try Windows 10 so I had to make a bootable USB stick as per the instructions on the Microsoft website.  When the Windows 10 OS loaded luckily it found some info on the Laptop that said it was built with Windows 8.1 and all went well with no need to get a registration key - it was treated as an upgrade install.

Well I learnt during the process that the Hard Disk OS had been changed back to the previous regime that Windows 10 won't work on and that Windows 10 is a pain when trying to load "Unsigned Drivers" such as those that run the Sprog.  However after much research I am pleased to report I found solutions for all the issues and JMRI is loaded and WiThrottle is working as required.

I will go install it all on Wayne's layout next week.

Operating Sessions

I was lucky enough to attend two Ops sessions both of about 2 1/2 hours duration with different teams of operators.  I had enjoyed both sessions and had fun while achieving the majority of Wayne's operating objectives.

Proposed Future Changes

It has become evident that at Lowood Crossing the yard is too small to support what it services so consideration is being given to adjusting adjacent areas to improve operations.  Eden Valley's passing loop is too short by at least two cars so minor changes will probably happen their too.

Chris's WiThrottle

Well despite it working at my place when I took the laptop back to Chris's it had a hissy fit and decided that the WiFi connection would fail.

Chris with a decent coffee in hand watches the loco on Test Track

Testing the Laptop Connections
I ended up bringing it home again for rework....

Till the end of May 2016.