Saturday, July 29, 2017

July Update

This month has seen activities that included: Control Panels, Speed Matching, Car Card & Waybills, Adelachian Lines, OPSIG, Three Ops Sessions, Pierre and Derek in training, TrainMasters TV, Doodle Bug and NMRA Convention.

Control Panels

Following feedback from my operators who want the extra functionality I have physically worked on 3 panels and the planning on two more.

Hornertown East Industrial Panel

This panel has been in place for a long time and the wiring from the terminal blocks to the turn outs was completed some time back.  Without this panel the industrial shunt operator had to share the main yard panel with the classification yard operator and "they occasionally got in the way of each other"...  So after a number of requests this was the first panel to receive attention.

Complete and operational....

Flintston Panel

There were more challenges with this panel as a cross over had been replaced with a double slip after I lost the debate with operators....

Then I got the comment “I wrote some notes. If Hornertown is a benchmark for the way switching is done, then Flintston is inconsistent. You have 4 (sic 3) sets of double slips. One is missing some direction lights, another used one press button for one end and another for the other end, none use the Hornertown method of flicking the switch of the opposite side of what you want (while this seems against logic, it works, and once learnt it is not an issue).” from one of my operators...

All the "other double slips" on the layout are Peco "Insulfrog" but I installed an "Electrofrog" one which is adjacent to another "Electrofrog" one and these require the use of the accessory switch to "switch the frog polarity" so the switch is not available for switching as for the "Insulfrog".

I have used Rob Paisley's "2 Sets Of 2 Inputs To 4 Discrete Outputs"  to control indications for my "Insulfrog" but I had to build a micro controller circuit to do the same for the "Electrofrog" version.  I used the TI Launchpad chip to do the work.

The double slip ladder Insulfrog-Electrofrog-Electrofrog

Red/Green bi-colour LED's

All done and operational...

Daveyston Panel

This panel has been sitting waiting for about four years to get hooked up - it is finally done. The panel is in addition to the controls on the "Bottom Level Panel" and will allow local operations at Daveyston.

In and operational - "the boys should be happy"!

Only two small panels to go: Adamsville & Jimtown - the design is done but the consturction and wiring might take a while....

Speed Matching

Whist getting everything ready for the Card Card Photo Shoot I realised that I had four Locos still in boxes that needed to get the usual speed matching treatment before they get placed on the layout.


I had purchased one of the first release Athearn Genesis models and one of the Skyline release too.  I ran them in for a short time on the Bachrus rollers and subsequently matched the speed curves for freight service.


I had purchased these Athearn RTR models and fitted Lok Pilot 3.0V DCC decoders.  I also ran them in for a short time on the Bachrus rollers and subsequently matched the speed curves for freight service.

Card Card & Waybills

I am following the system used by Wayne that has the following:

  • Freight Car Cards - White
  • Coboose Cards - Red
  • Locomotive Cards - Black
  • Coach Cars - Green
  • Railcar Cars - 1/2 Black & 1/2 Green

The cards will be prepared using 200 - 230gsm coloured card the Freight Cars are printed and trimmed whereas the Caboose cards need the pictures printed separately and the locomotive cards need the Loco details and picture printed separately.  All the cards will be laminated for durability.

Card Card Design

I decided that I would "mail merge" the details and initially I could only get two per page as each row would only "update the data" based on a new row.  Then Derek suggested using columns (I had totally missed this idea) and bingo I could get four records a page.  

Freight Cars

Sample page


These will be trimmed to length just under the Loco number and each side of the picture so there will be Black showing all around the "bit printed on white" then they will be laminated.


These will be printed on Red Card stock and the picture placed below the Car Number then laminated.

Waybill Design

The waybills will but cut and folded to fit in the Car Card plastic envelope.  I have the Master document for "merging" but now need to develop all the card information.  This will need to be well thought out.

At the moment I have test data in a spreadsheet but may need to develop a database to get a balanced result through a systematic approach.

As I have eleven staging tracks if the process for most trains calls for one town to be a staging town the same cars will take a long elapsed time to go through a full cycle and this coupled with more waybills than cars there will be even more turnover which will help to ensure cyclic operations should only occur with my "unit trains".

Photo Session

Chris came over prior to the session to help gather all the rolling stock from across the layout into trains which could be cycled past the camera.  I spent another 6 or 8 hours gathering all the locos and remaining items.  See the video below to get an idea of the outcome.

Wayne came to take the photos with his good DSLR camera we had a long but successful day taking in excess of 300 pictures.

It took quite some time to put all the cars and locos back in various locations on the layout.

The Outcome..

There is still a long way to go before the cards will be ready let alone the storage boxes and sorting racks to be made and installed.

Adelachian Lines 

I learnt most of my "finer modelling techniques" from Don back in 70's when he was active in our Monday Night Round Robin group and I was building Layout 2.  Don was not able to be active in the group for about three decades but since retiring he has again become an active member.  It is a pleasure to have him back in the group and we now have another layout we will be able to operate at.

Adelachian Lines the concept - written by the owner Don

The Adelachian Lines name is a combination of Australian and American areas of the trains that I like to run.

Adel from Adelaide and Achian from the Appalchian area of the east coast area of the USA and Lines from the subsidiary railroads that both NYC and SP ran. Later I added “And Everywhere West” from the CB&Q railroad slogan to bring in the west coast of the USA.

The layout is double deck, (refer to the schematic) the lower being storage and some running, unsceniced and the upper being the main operating part, sceniced.

The run represents the mainline from Adelaide to Tailem Bend on the main south line of the Adelaide and Murray Bridge Divisions of the SAR. Station names have been based on the areas near the actual locations.

Hilton, near Mile End and Adelaide, Fosters Jct near Belair, Morvale Plains, near Nairne, but named after an exhibition layout I had, Brukunga after the pyrites siding near Nairne, Swanport near Murray Bridge, Monteith Flat near Monteith and Wurton near Tailem Bend. Wurton was actually a whistle stop opposite Tailem Bend Loco.

The layout is continuous, but is run point to point. The Hilton / Wurton yard area can hold 8 trains. It runs double track to Fosters Jct then become single track for the rest of the layout. From Fosters Jct a helix of 4 turns at 36” radius and  a 1 in 54 grade takes you to the top deck, to Morvale Planes, Brukunga, Swanport, Monteith Flat, and back down another helix, the same specifications as the other, to arrive back in the same road you left from.

The lower storage area is Hilton on the right, back four tracks and Wurton on the left, front three tracks plus a small station on the right of the area.

There is a new storage area on the western wall under construction, known as Rapid Bay, a small port south of Adelaide where BHP used to ship dolomite from a open cut mine. This area has 6 roads holding 6 trains, a rotary dumper road, and represents a port shipping bulk materials and container traffic. At Rapid Bay you enter from the down mainline and store. When leaving you go through a reverse loop and enter the mainline at Fosters Jct and proceed through the layout making use of two more return loops to create a run of up to 450 feet.

At Monteith Flat there is a branch off to Monteith Mines, ( a return loop) and is a generic mine.
Brukunga is a short spur west of Monteith Flat and has grain, ballast and pyrites traffic, and is serviced by its own shunter based at Monteith Flat.

The layout is operated by Roco Multizentrale blue radio maus and JMRI, IPad or phone system, both systems are able to be used at the same time.


We had our first familiarisation run this month.

L-R Rosslyn, Pierre, Derek, Me, Barry & Chris

Don explaining "Swanport" to Chris with Rosslyn looking on

Derek enjoying the experience

Derek and me watching Chris and Rosslyn working Swanport

Don has a WiFi camera so we took turns in running from the workshop with only the "engineer's" view on a tablet.

The camera car has its own flood lights!

Barry driving remotely from the workshop...

Afterwards we enjoyed supper.

Thanks Don a great night we enjoyed the first session I look forward to many more!

OPSIG Subscription

This month I renewed my online subscription for another three years.

Ops Sessions at Wayne's

Wayne had two ops sessions that I attended this month, the first was with John, Alan, Ross, Don, Des, Hugh, Wayne and Me.   I ran five trains - all of which I have not run before!  The second was attended by Barry, Chris, Don, Des, Peter J, Wayne and Me.  Once again I ran a number of trains that I had not previously driven - I think I had 7 assignments in the 2 1/2 hour session.

Des, Don, Barry & Peter J at Dunkleigh Towers

Chris at Mulga Ridge

R-L Barry at Dunkleigh Towers, Wayne at Red Rock, Don & Des at Lowood Crossing

Due to major maintenance programmed for August there will not be any op sessions during the month.

Pierre and Derek back in training

Thursday evenings while my wife is out playing Bocce, Pierre has been coming over to learn the finer points of using a throttle and is now finding his control during shunting manoeuvres is much more accurate.  He is now spending a couple of hours per week running around sections of the layout learning where different tracks actually go...

A couple of years back Derek learnt the "Top Level Panel" which is way easier to use that the "Bottom Level Panel" he has taken the plunge to educate himself and "Master" the more complicated Bottom panel.  Don also came over to provide additional challenges for Derek so Derek has commenced the process of coordination of "more than one train" running concurrently.  Generally at a full op session there will be up to five concurrent movements over the two panels.

A recap of the bottom level is:


Actual Physical Layout

The Control Panel
Apart from one cornfield meet Derek did pretty good.

TrainMastersTV night

Well the Monday night roster for 24 July was at my place and the agenda included TOMA  Parts 3, 4 & 5 as we are encouraging Barry to start building before he moves house (to no avail right now)....

When I woke up on the morning everyone was coming over I read my email and there was one from TMTV at 00:26 to say their site was down due to a DNS server failure..

I immediately sent an email to those scheduled to attend to say an alternate program may be required....

Luckily things returned to normal a couple of hours before my guests were due to arrive and the evening progressed as planned.  So Chris, Rosslyn, Derek, Don, Barry, Pierre & I watched the following program...

Afterwards we chatted and it lasted about a half an hour past the usual finish time.

Doodle Bug

Way back when Don was initially active I bought this brass model from him.  It had a spring drive that was not that reliable.  A while back I fitted a "Black Beetle" to replace the original drive mechanism and fitted a Lok Sound decoder.  The power pick up was not the best and unreliable and it was slipping on the steeper grades.

Don came to the rescue and fitted new axles and pick ups to the rear truck and "bull Frog Snoted" two driving wheels - wow what a difference.

It is now in service!

Thanks Don!

Ops Session 3 July

I had nine operators attend and the schedule was pretty full on as I wanted to test my theory on maximum numbers of operators and movements.  A few "red cards" were issued for troublesome equipment and notes were taken to allow fine tuning. Apart from a technical issue which occurred 2 1/2 hours into the 3 hour session everything seemed to perform pretty well. I decided to called time a bit early and investigated the problem later.

Pierre, Vic , Chris, Rosslyn , Don, Me, John, Wayne, Barry & Peter (L to R)

We has a few nibbles after the session - thanks guys for a great afternoon.

NMRA Convention - Adelaide

The Australian National NMRA Convection is in Adelaide this September.  I was approached by the committee to have my layout available on the "Layout Tours".  I have agreed and my operators will be on hand to run some basic operations so the layout "is alive" when people visit.

That's it for this month!

Till the end of August.....


Friday, June 30, 2017

June Update

This month has seen activities that included: MTH PA/PB's woes, Top Level Signals, helping Chris, Fast Clock prototype, the Monday Night Crew, Two Ops Sessions, Peter's Sound Modules, Pierre in training, Arduino Course and Prep for my next Ops Session.


The lost postage continued - they found the package at Granville NSW but then it went missing for another two weeks....  I had to telephone to follow up before they actually found it again.  It is interesting I signed for delivery but no record of that is shown....

Received by Australia Post 04:30pm Thu 04 May at LIVERPOOL NSW

With Australia Post for delivery today 09:01am Tue 13 Jun SOMERTON PARK SA

Not bad for a normal 1-2 day delivery time.....


I now have the new motors ready to install.

I hope there are not any more issues whilst installing them.

Top Level Signals

I have recommenced working on the signals and finished off terminating the detection and signal mast wires around the layout with the exception of those around the helix.  I have mounted the control board and terminated the incoming wiring. I have commenced installing wiring for the turnout state loops with the control panel.

Signal Wiring

The final local termination boards which are above Hornertown East.

Control Board

The double sided board has been placed in position above the master control panels..

Direction sensing, passing loop and junction control pc boards

Rob Paisley's Three light signal boards
Wayne & I installed the detection and signal mast wires from the helix area through to the control board for termination.

Signal Head wires

Direction Detection wires

Direction Detection wires terminated
Signal Head wires terminated

Now to get the 24 turnout status wiring loops installed after Wayne helped me run the 48 wires.

We will also need to test each cable run for proper connection status to minimise the "gremlins" as we move forward.

Chris's Staging Lighting

During the initial operating sessions at Chris's we had issues seeing what is happening on this level the ongoing use of torches was deemed inappropriate.  It was decided to retrofit LED lighting in the low headroom space.

The issue has now been addressed including me getting some wounds along the way from sharp stuff from the level above...

Chris's Winter Woes

I guess there are lessons about living in a climate with temperatures and humidity that change significantly during the year.  It would appear significant reinforcing of the larger panels is required during construction.  The roof panels fitted perfectly in summer - a bit different now....

More work required here.....  Perhaps Jim Gore's upcoming book may have some pointers....

Fast Clock

Barry has been "thinking ahead" for his proposed layout, and, after initially thinking "working to the clock" at Wayne's during op sessions was B.... S... he has now realised the value.  He has been talking to me about utilising some old computer screens for the purpose.  After some thought I decided it would be a lot easier to use some 8 x 32 LED modules.

Below is an outline of the development work undertaken and "where it is at" so far.

The push buttons utilise “Debounce” methodology an example can be found in the provided in the Arduino IDE.  This had to be done to ensure proper operation as our simple button press is too slow for the microprocessor which cycles at 16 MHz (16 million cycles per second).

The basic wiring diagram is below.


The clock upon power up will display “Pause” and the default start time of 06:00 and fast clock “Rate” will be set to 4:1 with a low brightness intensity. After changing the Time, Brightness or Rate press this button to commence operation or pause operation after commencement.

+ Time

Pressing this button will either increase the “Start Time” or “Run Time”.  If the clock has been “running” for two minutes then adjustments are made to the “Run Time” otherwise it will be to the “Start Time”.  The adjustments are in 15 minutes per button press. Each button press will be registered when “Pause” is displayed which will happened after ¾ of a second after each press.

- Time

Pressing this button will either decrease the “Start Time” or “Run Time”.  If the clock has been “running” for two minutes then adjustments are made to the “Run Time” otherwise it will be to the “Start Time”.  The adjustments are in 15 minutes per button press. Each button press will be registered when “Pause” is displayed which will happened after ¾ of a second after each press.


Pressing this button will cycle through the 16 brightness levels available. The brightness will stay at the last level selected until the clock is powered down.


Pressing this button will allow the fast clock rate to be set at 2, 4, 6, 12 or 30 times normal time.

Generally, a rate of up to 6 will be used for Op sessions and the 12 & 30 used for testing minute/hour/day roll over operation of the clock which will run for about 5 days before the dreaded “stack overflow” – this should not be a problem in practice!

Below is a link to a short video that covers what has been done.

I also tried sharing the control data over multiple screens and it seems to work OK.  I think if this was implemented then the control cables would need to be screened cables to avoid interference from other adjacent cables.

The proof of concept appears to provide a workable outcome.

Monday Night Crew

We still have "modelling nights" where we all get together and progress our individual projects.  The last one was held at Barry's other regular locations are Derek's & Rosslyn's.  They are always followed by supper.

Barry, Derek, Chris, Rosslyn, Don, Pierre and me (L to R)

Ops Sessions at Wayne's

Wayne had two sessions for us this month, first was the additional night time session to introduce the session swap discussed last month then our usual monthly daytime session.

Night Session

Rosslyn introduced Vic Tilling (see his video channel here) to our group and they joined Barry, Chris, Derek, Wayne and me for a interesting session.  Derek & I worked together (derek as engineer and me as conductor/guard) as did Rosslyn & Vic while Chris & Barry undertook different duties.  All the trains Derek & I operated were the first time I had run them in all the time I have been going to Wayne's.

We had an enjoyable evening followed by supper and Vic has been invited to future operating sessions on Wayne's and my layouts.

Daytime Session

Don, Des, Rosslyn, Vic, Barry, Chris and me attended and again we had a very enjoyable session - I think we are all improving in how we are operating and conforming to the layout rules. We did have one cornfield meet towards the end on some hidden track - a solution to prevent future occurrences is being worked on!

(L to R) Des, Don, Vic, Wayne, Me. Barry, Rosslyn & Chris

Des & Don looking and discussing some details

Don showing Vic some finer points of the MultiMaus Throttles

Wayne & Chris at Dunkley Towers

Barry intently watching his train between Hartley Vale & Lowood Crossing

Rosslyn intently watching his train leaving Valley Junction

Barry at Eden Park

Des & I playing tag.

Pierre back in training

Pierre has been over for two separate coaching sessions this month.  I am pleased he is making the effort to overcome issues he has identified and asked for assistance with how to improve.

Sound Module Prototyping

Peter Jackson is coming for a chat today - June 30 - on options for the addition of sounds to his layout.  I have information obtained at the Narrow Gauge Convention from Prof Klyzlr. Over the coming months a final decision will be made on the type and brand of the sound modules to be installed which will be operated by an arduino based control system.

Arduino Course

Wayne, Derek and I attended the first two sessions of the Arduino course at the local library.  Whilst we learnt a few things we were quite disappointed with the very unstructured approach by our lecturer and the organisers for not having any course evaluation mechanism.  The last session had to be rescheduled and Wayne and I had a previous commitment so we missed out on attending.

Prep for 3 July Ops

I have 3 days to clear off the layout and get ready for an ops session on 3 July.  It has come around quicker than I thought looks like a busy weekend getting things ready and preparing all the running sheets as I have 2 new operators and a guest coming in addition to the normal crew.

That's it for this month!

Till the end of July.....