So today I completed the wiring and programming of the Rutherford West - Interlocking Signal Bridge. The process is fairly simple to get these wired to the Digitrax SE8C's. The connection between the signal heads and the SE8C is made via a Digitrax TSMK (Terminal Strip Mounting Kit) and a 10 pair printer ribbon cable. The TSMK makes hooking up the physical LED wires easy, and they also include inbuilt resistors too. Two (2) TSMK's are required for one triple head mast, and a single TSMK for a double head mast/dwarf. The T, M, B in the photo below is reference for Top, Middle, Bottom...
One of the issues I often face when performing this task is the inability to see which signal aspect is on when underneath the layout connecting the wires to the TSMK. This signal bridge wasn't that bad as the bench work is only 250mm (10") wide so I could actually see them from underneath. I have for some time been looking for an app to utilise that uses a spare iPhone and the layouts WiFi modem to "stream" the images of the signal heads. Today I was using an app called "Web of Cam" this app is perfect and also allows not only viewing from an iPhone & iPad but also from a desktop PC.
This makes programming the individual heads in Panel Pro and the masts a lot easier, no more backward and forwards trips from the Dispatcher's nook to the signal bridge on the layout.
The final colour of the aspects has changed a little with them going through the resistors that are mounted on the TSMK boards, I'm now really happy with the red, yellow & green.
Today I completed another signal bridge on the layout, this brings the total to four. The Rutherford West - Interlocking Signal Bridge is the boundary between Hershey & Rutherford. The aspects shown below are "Medium Clear" (left mast) & "Approach Medium" (right mast).
The signal bridge protects the North bound mains to both Harrisburg & Carlisle Junction, it also protects the yard lead into Rutherford Yard - South.
The Harrisburg main is protected by the triple head mast on the left. The triple head signal mast allows for a "Slow Clear" aspect as the main can be diverted into the south bound passing siding through the Harrisburg Industrial area. The Carlisle Junction main and the Rutherford Yard - South Yard Lead are protected by the double head signal mast on the right. There is no requirement for a triple head on this side as I do not need a slow clear, the main aspect into the Yard Lead will be a "Restricting" aspect. The process to add the G-Type heads using the IHC plastic kits has been fairly easy and quick to install. The small 1.5mm butterfly/axial LED's go together quite quickly too. The colours on the green & yellow are not as good as the RR CirKits's but they are much better than Tomar ones.
Next step is to install a pair of G-Type standalone masts on the westbound end of Hershey, and a double head dwarf protecting the crossover from Hershey into Rutherford (to the left of the last photo). Jas...
With the signal installation moving along nicely I needed to try out a different type of signal head. When I decided to install signals on the layout I wanted to use those that would have been found typically on the Reading. Two of these were the searchlight and the G Type/Tri-Light heads. I have already installed the searchlights heads using the RR CirKits LED's but needed a solution for the G Types.
I have previously used the Tomar masts but like bi-colour LED's wasn't at all happy with the red, green & yellow used in them. So after searching around for sometime I came across a 1.5mm butterfly/axial LED that not only fitted in the Tomar brass g-type heads but also the plastic IHC ones too.
I started out by making a small jig that allowed me to solder the common anode leads and feed wire together.
This jig made the process go fairly quickly, in fact it has been easier wiring up the G Type heads over the searchlight heads. Once the wiring was completed it was onto securing the LED's to the plastic IHC head with a little CA. I also tested each LED before gluing the head to the signal bridge mast.
Next stage was to glue all three G Type heads to the signal bridge mast, and again test the LED's.
Once the glue had set over night it was onto gluing the mast to the bridge and then feeding the wires through the bridge conduit.
Once the wiring is routed through the conduit and secured to the mast you can barely pick up the wires from front on, and once painted it will be quite hard to pick up any at all.
Next stage is to install one more double head mast and this bridge is ready to be installed onto the layout and programmed. So far I'm very happy with the way that the G Type heads have worked out, and again using the plastic IHC signal kits. Jas...
Now that the layout wiring has been upgraded and the PSX's installed to protect each power district it was time to again to continue on with the installation of another signal bridge. The next signal bridge is located at Lebanon protecting the interlocking into Harrisburg heading eastbound.
This bridge was originally going to have three (3) masts but I decided to remove the westbound main triple head as it was not required. So now it is a triple head for the main heading eastbound, and a double head for track 2 also heading eastbound.
The above photo is the new location, you can see the existing (temporary) G Type double head that was installed for the main. Once I had built the bridge I placed it to test the bridge masts alignment with the right rail head before wiring. The next stage was like the other two previously, wire up the RRCirKits Tri-Coloured LED's and place into the aspect heads. The route the wires through the signal bridge frame and cable conduits.
The wiring routed through the signal bridge frame, attached to the masts using Kynar Wrapping Wire and fed through the 4mm cable conduit.
The cable conduits have a small piece of 1mm heat shrink tube between them the cable can be fed through the framework at the ends of the bridges.
And finished ready to be installed onto the layout and wired and programmed into PanelPro via JMRI...
Over the past couple of days I have been converting three of my locomotives/switcher over to ESU's LokSound - Select Direct decoders. The installs have been fairly straight forward apart from one of my Athearn RTR RDG GP35's which required a donor chassis, motor and trucks from an existing CR GP35. There was a gear or truck binding issue coupled with a noisy motor than actually competed with the sound decoder. Thankfully the transplant was a success. I know have two RDG GP35's on the layout fully fitted out with the Select Directs coupled with ESU Sugar Cube speaker.
The next recipient for the Select Direct decoder is a Atlas Gold/Master Series RDG MP15DC # 2772. This was originally fitted with a QSI Sound Decoder and was giving me nothing but trouble, had issues consisting it, locked up and the stupid magnetic wand wouldn't reset it... Perfect candidate for an upgrade! The installation was pretty straight forward, the Select Direct mother board fitted perfectly onto the Atlas tabs, the wiring was a fairly easy hook up and the only alterations required was the removal of the Atlas 16 ohm speaker and the plastic housing and the addition of the wiring for the cab headlight.
After I had finished with the MP15DC today I had to of course try out the Full Throttle features. These are such a versatile and pleasurable experience to operate with, the decoders and sound are in my opinion the best on the market to date, and offer the most realistic prototypical operations by far! I am using WiThrottle coupled with JMRI to operate all of my locomotives and the ability to swipe left to access all of the functions buttons is such a valuable ability when using Full Throttle. This also coupled with the ability to see the throttle position and if the F9 (Drive Hold function button) is something that my NCE throttle just doesn't have the capability to do. I can see a lot more switching operations occurring, whilst getting used these decoders features in the future... Jas...
Over the past week I have been back under the layout working on wiring yet again... Urrgghh! This time around it was because I was moving towards setting up power districts that were being protected by DCC Specialties PSX1's. Over the past couple of operating sessions we had noticed that Rutherford Yard was dropping out the remainder of the layout when a short occurred. I already had two PSX1's installed along with two PSX-AR (auto reversers). The first set was to completely replace the main buss, this had been altered quite a few times and was not consistently sized along the whole layout. I replaced it with 10 awg (2.5mm) house flex with sub busses being 14 awg (1.5mm) and the feeders still the same 18 awg (1mm) solid core. The replacement went relatively easy, and with a little attention to neatness and pulling out quite a few feet of unneeded wire I ended up with 5 main buss runs.
I've made Rutherford Yard, Rutherford Workshops and the centre peninsula separate buss runs. The next stage was installing the remaining PSX1's and the two packets of isolated rail joiners. I had a few sneak paths on the common return so had to track these down to ensure each power district was isolated. Each BDL168 is fed from a PSX1 to ensure all the detected as well as non-detected track work is protected. You can see the wiring block to the right of the PSX1, this feeds the BDL below and the remaining undetected blocks for the Pulp & Paper Mill. The PSX below has the main buss feeding through the board (two pair of wires on the left) via the four pin block.
The remaining install went well and I managed to neaten up a fair portion of the layouts wiring too, the remaining PSX-AR (auto-reversers) didn't require any further work and have been working perfectly since installed over two years ago...
So this evening has been spent redesigning the layouts fascia control panels. The previous design was down in Microsoft Excel to try and use the cells as a guide to get the panels the same and I'm quite proficient with doing neat little tricks with it too. But there was a snag... Somewhere between swapping computers and different versions the panels wouldn't print the same and I was getting artefacts when I cut & paste the same pieces when I printed. I also needed to do them again as the track work and signals have changed since version one. So this time I have used a program called Pixelmator, its a iMac based drawing software like Photoshop. Very easy to use and has some great features that make doing duplicates very easy and quick. So tonight I redesigned the Harrisburg Fascia Panel to match the new track work around the Steel Mill/Furnace and the changes made to the signals as well. It can be difficult to get the 3D layout track work to fit and match on a 2D fascia Panel. The below photo is the area represented on the first Harrisburg Fascia Panel...
One other issue is leaving enough room to be able to place the push buttons for the Tortoise motors too. This often requires some tweaking of the track design to allow them all to fit. The picture below is the first draft of the new fascia panel for Harrisburg...
I've tried to simplify the design too, gone are the dots on the end of the tracks to represent the end of a track or siding, the arrows on sidings showing the continuation, and the triple railroad heralds. I've made the decision to plant the layout and theme more into the Reading era rather than Reading/Conrail merger era. Hence the single Reading Herald now. After our last ops session I also decided to change the colour of the main so that it is easier for operators to pick it up while operating the Tortoise push buttons. So far I'm happy with the redesign and the simplified new look, next stage is to make another ten (10) new fascia panel inserts... Jas.
Nothing special just the Reading Herald that started it all seven years ago... For those that don't realise the word Reading is actually pronounced "Redding", I had it wrong for awhile until someone picked it up on a YouTube video.
A few hours today has been spent designing the Rutherford Yard - Fascia Panel.
This is required as I need to control three of the rear (south) yard leads with Tortoise motors. These are show as the larger circles, these will be the same "normally open" push buttons as used around the remainder of the layout. This panel will also help yard masters & crews know which tracks are which.
The hardest part is getting the trackwork to translate from bench work into schematic.
Today I finished the backdrops for the Rutherford Yard & Workshops area. This was the last section of backdrop to be completed for the entire layout. The process takes about four solid days to complete. The mudding of the joins and the sanding is the most time consuming and messy.
Once the sanding of the joins is finished I paint a coat of sealer.
The final stage was two coats of the sky colour that I have used on the rest of the layout.
This is another major milestone completed as the layout moves towards completion... Jas.
The last two days has been spent installing the last of the plaster/drywall backdrops in the Rutherford Yard & Rutherford Workshop areas for the layout.
The product is a 1/4" (6mm) flexible plaster board that can be bent/curved and is perfect for using as backdrops. To date the original section of the layouts backdrops have not one crack in any of the joins.
The trick to getting perfect joins that don't crack is to back block every one. The process is fairly straight forward and the only consideration needed is when requiring a hole to be made for trains to pass through you need to add a backing board (usually 1/8"-3mm) made of MDF.
This stops the plaster/drywall from splitting due to the force in the curved section.
Next stage is to mud up the joins with fibre glass tape, one thin coat then dry, followed by a single top coat and dry again with final sand. Then paint sealer and two coats of the final colour.
As part of the recent upgrade to the LokSound - Select Direct decoders I also wanted to upgrade the bulb lights in the Athearn RTR - RDG GP35. The LED's are a TCS - Golden White 3mm LED.
The installation is fairly easy and can be done in about 30 minutes to an hour. First step is to drill out the holes on the cab for the lights. The Athearn headlights are slightly bigger than holes for the bulbs, I drill these out with a small thumb drill and ensure the plastic headlights fit. On this RTR GP35 I had to also drill out the opening in the cab to get the LED through the cabin plastic at the back of the number boards. Once the fit is right I file down the Golden White LED.
Then glue the Athearn headlight lenses onto the LED and shorten the anode & cathode leads. Ensure that headlight lenses are centred over the LED.
Once the CA is cured I place a small piece of heat shrink over the leads. This stops any shorts and also blocks out any light from the cabin interior.
I then fit the LED and lenses into the cab and secure with a piece of Kapton tape.
Then test the LED before replacing the cab shell onto the body shell.
The Golden White LED gives of the perfect colour for locomotive headlights. Be aware though that when using a LokSound - Select Direct decoder like I have you do not require resistors in line as they are installed on the decoder. If you are using anything else ensure you check if resistors are required.
To have a little break from the layout build I decided to start installing my two ESU - LokSound - Select Direct decoders. I originally got these to go into my new Athearn - Genesis RDG GP39-2 locomotives. I was however a little hesitant to attack two brand new locomotives before trying it on something a little less expensive. So as a start I have upgraded an Athearn RTR - RDG GP35 & Atlas Silver Series - GP40-2. The Athearn RTR GP35 had already been weathered but I wanted to upgrade the truck power pick ups, replace the Athearn bulbs with LED's and give the motor a good service.
This unit will have one of ESU's Sugar Cube speakers (50321) which is a 15mm x 11mm 8Ohm speaker. The photo below shows the temporary location for the speaker, it will eventually be stuck inside the shell towards the rear series of fans.
The second unit being the Atlas Silver Series - GP40-2 was a straight forward change out. After doing the Athearn first which required a few fixes and servicing the Atlas was a easy changeover. It took around two hours even though I had to cut out sections of the weights and OEM speaker enclosure too.
The Atlas already comes with LED's so the installation of the board and wires was a 30min job. The only modifications required was to trim down the decoder lugs a little to get the decoder to sit down straight above the motor. I also had to remove a small section of the Atlas speaker frame to get the decoder into place.
The speaker setup originally installed into this was the same ESU Sugar Cube setup as the GP35. I however changed my mind and tried out the "closed coupled" ESU sugar cubes by two in the supplied baffle and wired in parallel. This is an awesome combination in this unit!
The location is still in the same spot even though the size has double. The photo above shows a much deeper baffle for the single speaker too. The closed couple set is a little shorter in height to make the fit above decoder better. Next step is to fine tune the unit with the LokProgammer and post a video too... Jas...