Favourite Photos...

Favourite Photos...
Reading Lines GP35 #3647

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Harrisburg Industrial Area - Alterations...

So today was one of those days that had a few things to be done, and not a lot of spare time to get stuck into anything substantial on the layout.

I managed to build another IHC plastic Signal Bridge in readiness for the next one to take shape.  Whilst positioning the signal bridge I was mulling over the Harrisburg Industrial Area and how I was going to best use  the space and thinking about how to operate it.

Some of my moments and best ideas come about sitting and looking at the layout while having a cuppa, and trying to think about how to operate an area.

Today turned into one of those days.  I recently obtained a Walther's - HO Electric Furnace kit after much searching along with a Walther's - HO Rolling Mill kit too.

These two structures will represent my portion of the steel industry that formed part of Harrisburg's golden railroad years.  This section is a recycling site attached to the greater steel mill which on our layout will be a photo backdrop of the real thing.

The area that these two kits will be placed is on the left of the main entrance to the bigger section of the layout.  This will add some serious bulk to the entrance of the layout and will hopefully give some real industrial grime and mass to the area.

This section has now worked out better than the old arrangement as reach in is no longer an issue for operators due to all the industries and trackwork being relatively close to the aisle and fascia too.  I have also managed to get some storage track for possible one or two spots as well which is always a bonus.


It will also allow me to have a city/commercial area in the next section along that would have created reach in issues for operators.  I always some city area to model as well so that the layout had an even balance of believability.

Next phase will be getting the turnouts and track work altered and re-installed.


Wednesday, 19 October 2016

First Signal Bridge complete...

Yesterday I finished off the first of our layout signal bridges.  The Harrisburg - East bridge has two triple head masts.

These masts are Tomar - Triple heads that have been converted to fit the IHC Plastic signal bridge kit.  They are also fitted with RR-CirKits Tri-Coloured LED's as the searchlights.

The installation is fairly straight forward but extremely time consuming, these two masts devoured the better part of full two days to install the LED's and feeding the wires through the bridge/conduit and wiring up.

Below masts from left to right:  Stop & Approach Medium...

The second mast (the left one above) went much better with the wiring install as I was able to feed the wires into the mast a lot more cleanly that the first effort (mast on the right).  This was mainly to do with the difference between the wires used.

These masts and the trip coloured LED's are perfect, they can be seen from some distance easily and the colours are easily distinguishable from one another too.

Once the next bridge is in place it will be time to program the two and then onto detailing them at a later date.


Saturday, 15 October 2016

More signal masts being produced...

Well I have had a few busy weeks with work and not much time dedicated to layout at all.

So the last two days I have spent building more signal masts for the layout signal bridges.  It's time consuming but in a weird way I find it relaxing, when things run smoothly of course.

Recently I had a big win and found some old IHC plastic signal head kits, along with the corresponding signal bridge kits too.  The bridge kits are in fact the old watering bridge kit that IHC made but it is the exact same mould that was used for the signal bridge too.

So I have completed my first IHC plastic signal mast for one of the signal bridges.

These kits are very easy to make and very adaptable too, they are perfect for the tiny 1/8" (3mm) Tri-Coloured LED's that I am using as there are no issues with shorts on brass and they are just glued together.

The detail is not quite as good as the Tomar kits that I have previously used and the wires cannot be run in the brass tube so they are exposed.  But neatly bundled and secured to the mast and once painted black they will be barely visible.

Many, many more of these to be built......

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Hershey Chocolate Factory...

So here is one completely out of the box...

About two weeks ago I was having a conversation with a fellow modeller on the MRH forums about the industries going in and around Harrisburg on our layout.

And the discussion led to the suggestion that I should model the famous "Hershey's Chocolate Factory" in Hershey, Pa.

Well with that suggestion I thought what a great idea, quite an iconic industry that would certainly lend itself for being rail served, and a prototypical one that may be suited to an area on our layout.

So I broke out the Reading System Map that I have and low and behold the Hershey area fits perfectly inbetween Rutherford & Lebanon, this works both operationally and prototypically for the layout.

Once this seed was firmly planted into the brain, the ideas started to flow.  Because as luck would have it I have a unfinished section of layout that is around 10' (3m) long that is situated between Harrisburg, Rutherford & Lebanon.

This section is ripe for a backdrop building using a combination of Walthers - Modular kits and scratch building other kits to make it work.  So after a little research of the rail served portion of the factory I have made a starting plan to model the rear of the factory that ran along the mainline and was the unloading points for the raw product.

There are two unloading spurs off a storage siding.  This will work great with the pre existing track work that has already been installed too.

I have also purchased the well photographed twin brick stacks (Walthers kit) & water tower to include in the scene to help sell the authenticity of the real industry.

More soon as this project develops...


Sunday, 11 September 2016

More structures around Harrisburg...

The last week has seen some major structure building going on, in particular the area around Harrisburg.

As this is to be a heavy industrial area the structures needed to fit the feel & what would normally be seen in the area.

Along with the Walthers - Modular kits several other kits have now been constructed.

The area is now at a point that has a good mix of structures and can easily be switched.  There is some minor track work alterations to be made for the rolling mill loading building.

Next stage is to continue to move around adding the structures and tuning the areas.

Update:  I said I would post up a view of the finished area and what it would like with the street running scene through these buildings.  Here is a plan of what it will look like with the paved road running over the sidings & crossover...

More soon as the build continues...

Saturday, 27 August 2016

Latest Industrial Area - Harrisburg...

Over the last week I have been planning and constructing two more Industrial Areas for the layout.  The two new areas are located at Harrisburg & Columbia.

The two areas represent a major part of the switching operations for the layout and have two or more separate industries within each of them.

The Harrisburg area serves a few purposes, the first being a view block as you walk into the layout so that you cannot see the western portion or the layout, and also a "given" that I wanted to model a "street running scene in at least portion of the layout.

Below photo shows the structure as the view block:

The first step was to set out the buildings and the road network around the installed track work...

I'm using the Walthers - Modular Kit system to build these two industries.  When finished they will view block this corner off from the western portion of layout (in the background).

Below is the work table setup to make the Walthers - Modular Kits into structures...

The above photos show one of the completed industries which is a three (3) storey warehouse building with side loading/unloading dock which will also have a paved rear unloading area too.  This will support two 50' boxcars.


Scene below is the Harrisburg area looking back east, also with another industry in the background in place.

Next step will be to add the other structures, and begin working on adding the road network and paved areas around the structures...

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Signal Placement Schematic...

As we roll on with the signal install I realised quite quickly I needed a schematic that showed the layout in full so that I could work out the signal placement of the bridges & masts.

The ideal solution was right in front of me on the layout.  The fascia panels that I had made in Excel for the switch machine push buttons were ideal.

Over the last couple of days I have been sticking them together and working out the placement of the signal bridges relating to interlocking locations and the placement of the signal bridges, masts and dwarfs.

The diagram is perfect as I can reference the whole layout and even begin to figure out the programming of the signal logic as we go.

Even this schematic surprised me about how many signals are actually required to control the movement of traffic.  The system we will be using on the layout is mostly ABS through JMRI.  It will have the ability to hold aspects and manually set routes too.

Next step once I have the placement and number of signals finalised is to begin building the bridges, bracket masts, masts & dwarf signals.


Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Triple Head Signal Mast on a Signal Bridge...

So in the last week I have begun installing the new signal head masts.  To start I have decided to incorporate more signal bridges on the layout than just a standalone mast.

As in the previous posts I have used the IHC Signal Bridge kit for this.

First step of the Triple Head installation was to convert a Tomar - H876sl into a Signal Bridge Mast.  This involved cutting off the bottom section & base.

The next stage was to feed the twelve (12) wires into the mast for the three (3) searchlight heads.  Luckily the bottom head didn't need to be fed through with the middle & upper head, although all twelve do fit into the mast.

Once the wires were threaded through it was onto soldering on the wires for the LED's, this involves checking each LED as it is finished.

When the LED is fitted I add a clear domed light pipe to act as the sense and hide the physical LED.  It also helps spread the light evenly out through the whole aspect opening.

When the three heads are connected and installed it was time to install the mast onto the signal bridge.  This was fairly straight forward actually and surprised me how well it looked when completed, the mast is actually secured to the bridge by black wrapping wire and is quite sturdy.

As you can see the aspect color from these RRCirKits LED's are superb!  Once the signal bridge is painted and weathered the wires will virtually disappear.

Here is a short video showing the signal aspects programmed for the triple head...

Monday, 25 July 2016

Creating Operations Paperwork - Harrisburg Division 1975 / Switch List...

With another Ops Session scheduled for Wednesday with four of our wider operating group I decided that I needed to create some form of Switch List for the guys to know what & where to spot cars.

I have borrowed some of the format from the JMRI - Switch List generator form.  It has been designed on Excel and when I refine it down again I will add "drop down" data for the cells so the forms are easier to create.

These will be used while we develop the Layouts - Operating Scheme, and will help the guys get used to the layout and also give the sessions some form organisation.

This form should be able to be utilised in the JMRI - Operations Program, this one took about an hour to make and fill in.  Once I have the data compiled and easily referenced from other cells it won't take long to make one up.


Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Installing Signal Bridges...

So moving right along and beginning stage two of the signalling of the layout I have begun the task of converting many of my bi-coloured LED's into the newer Tri-Coloured ones from RR CirKits.

I've also decided to make a shift in the direction I was taking with the type of signals we are installing on the layout.  Originally I had planned to install masts & dwarfs only, but I have now decided to also incorporate signal bridges.

One of the reasons was that they really set the scene, and I do like the challenge of getting something like this built and working.  I managed to get some help from a guy in the USA by the name of Marc Samuelson, Marc is a Norfolk Southern engineer and is the signal installer and guru at the Lehigh & Keystone Valley RR (LKVMRR) in Bethlehem, PA.

Marc has installed many of the their signals on signal bridges.  One of these is the IHC Signal Bridge kit.

These kits have long been out of production and sometimes they pop up on eBay, Marc and I were actually bidding on one complete kit a little while ago (I won the bidding too) and this is how I learn't that these were perfect for our layout and the area & era.

Luckily enough (shear luck actually) I have sourced enough kits for the entire layout.  These are a little different a "Watering Tower" kit by IHC but the exact same molds for the steel structure.

So one section of Harrisburg has four tracks (main, two passing sidings & industry track) converging into one single main.  The interlocking past this section has a few crossovers and is all curved.  To incorporate the CR1988 - Signal Aspects of Slow Approach & Slow Clear I needed to install triple head masts.  I purchased two of the Tomar H-861 Triple Head Searchlight masts for this purpose.

So to begin I have made up the first of the IHC Signal Bridge Kits, and placed it in the area that it will be located.


The next stage will be to upgrade the triple head searchlight to the newer Tri-Coloured LED's and install it onto the signal bridge.


Monday, 18 July 2016

A Major Milestone Reached...

So today we reached another major milestone for the layout, we finished the wiring for the detection side of the layout.  It has taken just over two years to get to this stage, it has on several occasions nearly broken me with the amount of work required.

Last month it got that bad with a persistent LocoNet problem I almost gave up on signalling the layout, thankfully that problem was solved by changing over one wire.  Yes one wire!

For the record the this is what has been installed in the last two years:

Four (4) Digitrax - BDL168 Block Detectors.
Eight (8) Digitrax - SE8C's.
Sixty Four (64) - Tortoise Slow Motion Switch Machines.
Sixty Four (64) - Push Button Fascia Switches.
Two (2) PSX-AR - Auto Reversers.
Four (4) PSX - Circuit Breakers.
Sixty Four (64) Detected Blocks.
More than 60 Insulated Rail Joiners.
Hundreds of feet/metres of wiring including:  CAT6, Bus Wire, Feeders, Printer Cable.
Countless Terminal Strips.
One Hundred plus - ID Tags for the detection blocks & tortoise motors.
About a thousand cable ties (that's what it felt like...)

I have now finished this portion of the greater detection & signalling system, the blocks are all programmed into our JMRI - Panel Pro Panel and operating as expected.

Here are a few shots of all the completed works to date:

This was the final BDL168 to be installed and the last of the detection wiring...

Just a few of the sixty four (64) Tortoise Motors...


One of the most dense sections of the layout for wiring, tortoise motors & labelling...


Special thanks needs to go out to my wiring team Noel Purdey & Dennis Hare.  And to our resident Dr Digitrax & DCC - Brendan Dennis!  

You guys are the greatest and thanks for helping us get here to this milestone.

Next step is onto the installation of the signal bridges, masts, heads & dwarf signals and all the wiring the associated with that.

More soon...

Monday, 11 July 2016

The Final Stretch of Detection Wiring...

So after resolving a LocoNet issue that plagued the layout for well over three (3) weeks I have begun the final push of installing the detection wiring for signalling & operations.

I have now added a fourth BDL168 to the layout to detect the remainder of the mainline turnouts and few other tracks that needed to be detected.

So for the last few days my time has been spent scooting around on an office chair under the layout connecting the blocks to the BDL Zones.

I have three (3) BDL zones wired in and one more to go, and then onto the last BDL and the detection wiring will be finished.

More soon...


Monday, 13 June 2016

Redoing the Layout Panel...

Last week I had my good friend and resident electrical guru, Brendan over to see if we could find the issue of the slow detection on the panel.

After about an hour of checking the detection blocks, running these while checking Loconet Monitor and a few other things it was decided that the layout panel .xml file was either corrupted or had some leftover artefact from the panels that was causing the panel to be delayed anywhere between 5 - 10 seconds.

It was therefore decided that the best option was going to be to start from scratch, so for the last couple of days I have been doing the layout again.

Once I had the first section of track in I tested out a few detection blocks to ensure that the slow detection issue wasn't coming back.  After this initial test everything was in sync with real time, LocoNet Monitor and the panel displaying the detection blocks.

I added the remaining sections of the layout and have began the process of adding all of the detection blocks back in gain.  This time I fixed a few little track issues that had been bugging me on the previous version too.

Now the layout is back in panel view and waiting on the remaining blocks and the signals to be added back in again.  Far better than the last panel and I managed to get it looking a lot better too.


Saturday, 28 May 2016

Moving along with... Well more programming of blocks!

So after a little break from the layout due to family, work and other commitments it's back into programming the blocks into the JMRI - Panel.

The process is repetitive but once you get rolling and have a pattern going it goes rather quickly.  Along with adding the various sensors to the panel I am also recording them on a table for future reference and troubleshooting if required.

One of the great things about JMRI is the WebServer function that allows you to display the panel, and other JMRI features from PanelPro on either your iPhone, iPad or Laptop using a WiFi enabled router.

I use the LocoNet Monitor & WebServer on my iPhone through the WiThrottle App to look at the detection blocks on the JMRI Sensor Table as a locomotive runs across them to check the sensing of each block.  You can then switch to the panel display and check that the sensor block corresponds to the panel block too.

Below is screen capture of my iPhone showing the LocoNet Monitor and one of the Digitrax SE8C's as I was testing the Tortoise Switch machines.

Next stage is to get the last BDL in and connected to the LocoNet and trackwork and begin loading the signal logic onto the panel.


Saturday, 21 May 2016

The LK&O Railroad...

My very good friend, sounding board, freight relocation engineer and astonishing layout builder Alan Bailey has just reached a major milestone on his LK&O layout build.

Alan has completed his number 13 module which sees the top portion of his LK&O layout build complete.  For those that have followed his progress or for those that haven't seen it, if you want to see what detailed planning, engineer level design and master level build execution looks like take a visit and look through Alan's website.


His wiring is astonishing and his electrical engineering is amazing.  Alan is also one of those true gentleman that would literally give the shirt of his back to help someone out, even when they live 16800 km away!

If you are looking at building a layout this is a complete reference level website that will put you on track for an excellent start, and provide a rock solid foundation for a great layout.