Favourite Photos...

Favourite Photos...
Reading Lines GP35 #3647

Middletown, Pa

Monday 29 December 2014

It's all clear ahead...

Well tonight I have been playing around with the colour mix of our double head - searchlight masts.  I have installed this one on the layout to test the colours under actual layout lighting.

The first photo is with the LED's being driven at 12V, the two below are being driven at 5V which is the eventually output from the Digitrax SE8c Boards.

So far I'm pretty happy with the primary red & green on the Tomar Searchlights, the yellow which is driven by both the red & green is acceptable too.

I'm finding that I need a brighter green & dimmer red to get the yellow to pop above red, and also not look orange.  Its a slight trade off as I'd like to have the green dimmer but this would turn the yellow more towards the orange spectrum.

Even the camera which is Nikon J1 is picking up the colour difference on the mast, and this is under the layout lighting which is a NEC 6000K 38W Daylight Fluorescent Tube.

Next step will be to try out the double head dwarf and see how they look.



Tuesday 23 December 2014

Ready for some Re-Wiring...

Well Santa came a little early today.

In time for a few nights of re-wiring the entire layout for the detection & signalling.

The layout power bus will be re-run from the PSX Circuit Breakers and the common rail detection to the BDL168's that need to be installed around the layout.

I also have to install the PSX-AR for the new Classification Yard too.

The next step will be to make up a power district board above the NCE DCC Command Station that will house all of the power district PSX Circuit Breakers, the Auto Reversing CB will be located nearer to the areas.

More soon.


Friday 12 December 2014

Classification Yard progress...

Well over the last week in between working on the detection & signalling I managed to install the remainder of the drywall/plaster roadbed and cork sub roadbed for the Classification Yard.

I have also began laying the track at the entrance that forms the wye in the South Bend area.

Next step will be to finish off the track, and begin wiring.


Wednesday 10 December 2014

JL&T Detection & Signalling Plan...

Ok folks its taken a little time to get here, but we finally have the detection blocks and signal placement done.

A very special thanks needs to go out to Brendon Dennis who has guided & educated me through the finer points of detection and signal placement.

We both spent about 2 1/2 hours the other night physically marking out the detection blocks and signal mast/dwarf placement.

Here is the detection block & signal mast dwarf plan:

The naming conventions on the plan are area representative as I've only really named one location "South Bend Curve" (SB).

When looking at the plan the triangles are the isolators, these are placed on the inner most rail (nearest to the fascia) and are classed as common rail wiring.

As can be seen in the photo below the inner most rail is marked with a yellow dot, this will have an insulated rail joiner placed at this point and separate the two detection blocks.  You can see the naming convention as well.

The arrow with the dot, dot, M is our symbol convention for a double head signal mast, controlling to the left (east) of this detection block boundary.  The T7-3 represents Tortoise (switch machine) Number seven (7), on SE8C board number three (3).

Next stage is to add all the insulators and then the tedious task of re-wiring the layout for the common rail detection will begin.


Sunday 30 November 2014

Track Work on the Classification/Staging Yard begins...

Well this week was the beginning of the installation of the track work for the Classification/Staging Yard.

The yard will be operated as a functional stub-ended classification yard and will be one of the two main staging areas for the layout.  The second staging yard will be located beneath the top northern deck, and will be fed by the return blob near the paper mill.

The reason for starting the yard now is that it forms part of the new "wye" for the layout, it is also part of the blocks that will be detected & signalled first.  So I need to at least complete the entrances, it will also help with any future ops sessions that are held.

Diagram of the Classification Yard...

The first step to get the track from the centre peninsula yard lead entrance was to make a small span across the void that was the existing layout roller door opening.  This was made with 12mm - 5ply plywood, I also added 100mm side to either end in case of derailments in there that could see the long drop down to concrete below.

Next stage was to lay out the north & south yard leads to check alignment and the curve radii.

Below is the North Yard Lead entrance...

Below is the South Yard Lead entrance...

After the yard leads were checked I placed the first series of turnouts into place and roughly placed the start of the storage tracks to check spacings and alignment.

The yard is split into north & south storage tracks (3 tracks each) with a common escape track that is fed by a series of crossovers towards the end of the yard.

Next step will be to finish of installing the remaining plaster sheet for the sub roadbed, and install the 3mm cork sheet and lay the remaining track.


Sunday 23 November 2014

First Digitrax - BDL168...

Now that the first stage of the LocoNet has been installed I decided to install the first BDL.  These are pretty much the same as the SE8C in regards to setting up the backing board.

The backing boards are being setup on the same size a the SE8C boards.  The only real difference between the two installations is the wiring size.

The BDL connections require a larger diameter wire size as they will be carrying track power, I've opted for 1mm Solid Core wire for the connection between the 44 pin connector and the terminal blocks.  

The solid core wire also assists with forming the wire to fit nicely on the board terminal strip, one trick that I have picked up is to give the end if the solid core a tap with a hammer to slightly flatten the wire so that it passes through the terminal strips on the 44 pin connector.

The above red wires represent one (1) detection zone, which incorporates four (4) detection blocks, there are four (4) detection zones on the BDL which allows for a total of sixteen (16) detection blocks.  Once this board is complete it will be placed in the South Bend Curve area, and the blocks will be connected from there.


And finished...


Saturday 22 November 2014

Relocation & Rewiring...

With the forward progress of the detection & signalling installation it was time to relocate the layout PC and the NCE DCC Command System.

I had my good friend Brendan over during the week to set up the LocoNet & LocoBuffer to the layout PC.  This meant that I had to relocate the PC to its new nook and rewire the layout to it and begin the installation of the LocoNet.

The new are housing all of this is directly behind the dispatchers nook, there is a small open ended box that houses the layout PC allowing for easy connection to it, cross ventilation and easy access.

I've also cleaned up all the wiring in the area and began the process of clipping everything up to keep it neat and tidy.  The power board above the PC is a surge protected board that supplies power to the lower board which has individual switches to turn off each piece of equipment.

The NCE DCC System sits on top of the PC Box along with the LocoBuffer box.

This little nook has room for a swivel chair on rollers so that I can work on the wiring with ease, once the layout fascia's are finished there will be drop curtains installed around the layout to hide all of the under bench areas & storage.


Wednesday 19 November 2014

Altering track work to install Tortoise Motors...

The last couple of days has seen some more alterations made to the track work around the centre peninsula.

To install the Tortoise Motors I have had to shift a few turnouts, when I originally did the track work for the layout I had decided to just use Caboose Ground Throws.  Now with the installation of detection and signalling the mainline requires the Tortoise Motors to be installed.

One issue has been several area that had timber framework for the layout blocking.  I adjusted the track work and replaced several turnouts to get it all to work.

It has worked out quite well as I have removed the Walthers Shinohara turnouts from the area and they are all now PECO Code 83 - Insulfrog Turnouts.  The track work is now also flowing a lot better through this section and I have gained a little length in the sidings on the right (nearest to the fascia) and this will help with operations too.

More photos soon.


Sunday 9 November 2014

MOW crews alter track work for the Layout Expansion...

UPDATED:  10/11/14...

Well today I spent a couple of hours altering the track work around the south/east portion of the existing layout.  I've updated the photos below to reflect todays progress.

This section was originally the layout staging area, consisting of three tracks around 10' (3m) in length.  With the addition of the new layout area, and the staging/classification yard this section needs to join with it.

The existing staging area will become a mainline (working from fascia to backdrop), passing/storage siding and lastly the industrial spurs.  The industries will all be background buildings and will be predominately be scratch built with styrene.

The photo below shows the new classification yard lead running into the passing/storage siding, this allows trains to either enter/exit the yard onto either the passing siding heading westbound (towards the bottom edge of the photo) or through the #6 crossover onto the mainline (nearest the fascia).  The RH turnout to the right is the first of the industrial spurs for the area.

This section will be joined to staging/classification yard and form the layouts first "wye", it will also be adding more switching opportunities again with narrow bench work.

The photo below shows the possible installation of a #8 (Medium Speed) Crossover that I'm considering installing, this will give the dispatcher another method of allowing opposing trains the ability to change into or out of the passing siding onto the main.  It will also serve as a runaround/spot storage for locals & switchers to switch out the industries along this area.

And below is overview shot of "South Bend Curve" and the series of crossovers connecting the Northern & Centre peninsula areas of the layout to the South end.  The yard lead connects to the lower section of the classification yard and also forms the "wye" as mentioned above.

More soon.


Thursday 6 November 2014

More Signal Goodies...

Well this week I received some more Digitrax SE8C's & BDL168's, I have my LocoBuffer - USB for connecting the LocoNet to the PC & JMRI.  I also got another 12 Tortoise Switch Machines (bringing the total to 30) in this shipment.

I've decided to get 100m of CAT6 cable for all of the detection & signalling wiring, and this will be standard I will use throughout.  I have made up the second SE8C too, I've not got this one down to about 2 hours to make. 

I have another lot of Tomar double head - Searchlight signals here, and am waiting on another order of single & double head dwarf signals to arrive direct from Tomar.

Over the next few weeks I will begin by installing the power bus for the SE8C boards, work on installing the remaining Tortoise SM on the main, and begin connecting these to SE8C's as we go.


Saturday 1 November 2014

My first Published Article...

Well yesterday my very first published article has appeared in Model Railroad Hobbyist magazine, it was written some time ago but very happy that the team at MRH accepted it and now published it.

It has always been one of my goals to write an article when I started in the hobby, I'm a firm believer in sharing and helping out others who,are getting into the hobby.

Here is the direct link to the article:


Friday 31 October 2014

First Operational Digitrax SE8C for signalling...

Yesterday I finished off installing the first Digitrax SE8C onto the layout.  It has been located on what will be known as South Bend Curve (a purely fictional place) that is located in the L&T Branch area and interchanges with the new staging yard.

I installed it here because there are a series of turnouts that are behind structures, and also hard to get to.  They are also Walther's Shinohara turnouts that require either a manual throw (caboose ground throw) or electronic like a Tortoise Motor.

So far I have installed the backing board with SE8C and screw terminals and connected three (3) Slow Motion Turnout Machines (SMTM).

The board is placed roughly in the middle of the cluster of turnouts, the SE8C has the ability to control eight (8) Tortoise type switch machines.

The most important thing that I can suggest to anyone considering or about to embark on the installation of signals, is to clearly mark EVERYTHING!!  I have the Digitrax SE8C wiring diagram for the 44 Pin Connector right next to backing board, which is also clearly marked with what wires go to the SMTM & Push Button Switches.

Once the SMTM & Push Buttons are connected I mark the backing board with a common naming convention related to the turnout.  This is as suggested by Digitrax and is also used in JMRI to name the individual turnouts too, I use LT#--, this being Local Turnout & the turnout number, followed by B#-- this representing the Board Number in the system.

When labelling the push button switches I also use the same LT number so that it is easy to identify which switch operates each turnout.  I also place the turnout number on the SMTM too.

I have also converted the fascia panels with the momentary (normally open) push button switches.  These are extremely easy to install both ion terms of wiring and into the fascia compared to the toggle DPDT switches.

So far the installation has gone extremely well, with no major issues either.  I have had to replace the +VE Common wire for the push button switch power as the connection was dodgy.  But apart from that all good, there is a huge amount of work in installing signals, but it is also very satisfying to see everything coming together and operating.

Next step is to install the remaining SMTM for this SE8C and then work on installing the LocoNet.


Wednesday 29 October 2014

Signalling Backing Boards...

Last night and today I finalised the layout of the backing boards for the Digitrax SE8C Signalling Boards.  These boards will operate the signal heads on the layout and also operate the Slow Motion Turnout Machines (SMTM) via Push Button Momentary Switches on the fascia panels and via JMRI and the CTC dispatch panel that is to be completed.

The backing board requires three (3) distinct types of connections to be placed to allow wiring to connect to the 44pin connector that attaches to the SEC8.  

These are as follows:

1.  Two power leads to each of the eight (8) SMTM (16 wires in total).
2.  One lead to each of the push button - momentary switches (8 wires in total).
3.  One lead from each of the push buttons, to the common wire (8 wires in total).

The boards need to be set out in a logical manner to make the initial wiring easier as well as assisting with fault finding if needed later on.  So a clear layout, that is well labelled is essential.

So below is Mark1 for the SE8C Backing Board...

The 44 pin connector (to the SE8C) is placed directly in the middle of the backing board,  its is spaced off the surface of the board with two (2) washers to allow the board to be removed and replaced easily from the connector.  The black eight (8) terminal block is for the common wire for the push button/momentary switches and saves having to "loop" a standard terminal eight times.

The wire that I will be using for the connections between the SE8C and the terminals will be CAT6 Data cable.  I prefer this as it is solid core instead of stranded, I will also be using this to wire between the screw terminals and the SMTM's and push button switches.

So far I have wired in four (4) pairs of the SMTM paired power wires, and have another twelve (12) to go.  Then it will be onto the eight (8) power leads for push button switches, this will finish off the connections to the 44 pin connector.


So after another two (2) hours last night I have finished the first of the SE8C boards, not really that much of an issue doing all the wiring and soldering.  I will say this however you need to take a lot of care just before you solder, I guess its like the "measure twice" rule always check the orientation of the wires and the placement before soldering to the connectors.

Having the extra space and laying out the screw terminals in a logical way will help later of for any fault finding or adding extra features (to be controlled by JMRI) will be easier.

Using the CAT6 Data cable IMO is the best way to go, the solid nature of the wire makes it easy to work with, bend and form paths around the boards and is really cheap.

Another six (6) SE8C boards to go, then onto the BDL168's.


Tuesday 21 October 2014

Workbench Nook Update...

Yesterday i managed to finish off installing the bench tops for the workbench nook & dispatcher area.  The bench tops are 18mm MDF that has been coated with satin finish Cabothane.  This will help protect the tops from moisture and spills.

I also installed the storage bins that I picked up about a year ago, these are in addition to the existing units I already had.  Due to expansion and the extra storage space on the wall I'm now able to add them.

The dispatch area is ready for the twin monitor bracket (yet to purchase) and the keyboard & mouse for the JMRI PC.  I'll be using a wireless pair to save having to route wires back through the benchwork or walls.

The small piece of MDF (which is also coated in cabothane front & back) is installed over the bench work and will be used for when I need to either paint, airbrush, or weather locomotives, rolling stock & buildings.  I have a self healing mat on top of this as well, I will eventually be getting a portable spray booth for this area.

Next stage will be to install the remaining storage bins (existing) and begin placement of the dispatcher gear including the PC and twin monitors.


And at the end of yesterday this is what we finished with, just about all of the storage in place and filled again.  More room, better layer out, more bench space & a dispatcher area too.

More soon,


Monday 20 October 2014

Building up the Hardware...

Over the past month I have been beginning to collect all the necessary hardware to begin the signalling installation for the layout.  To date I have two (2) Digitrax SE8C's for Tortoise Switching & Signal Heads, one (1) Digitrax BDL168, five (5) double head - searchlight masts, five (5) single head - searchlight masts, five (5) of each single & double head dwarf signals all from Tomar Industries.
I have the power supply for the SE8C's which is a 15V - 2A transformer which will run us a layout buss for all of the SE8C's, I have also ordered the RR CirKits LocoBuffer USB to interface the standalone Loconet with JMRI through the layout PC.
I have also ordered another twelve (12) Tortoise motors, bringing the total to 30.  It should be noted that the totals mentioned in this post only refer to being able to detect, switch & signal the main.  In order to do all three on the entire layout and include all passing sidings and spurs it will require seven (7) SE8C's five (5) BDL168's 50 Tortoise Machines, 50 Signal Masts/Dwarf Heads, the layout will be broken into 73 blocks.
Below is the new signalling plan for the 73 Blocks, this number has increased after discussions with my good friend & signalman Brendan after we discussed the advantages of have each turnout as its own block.

When you look at the totals and start thinking about price it becomes a major investment, it's almost the biggest if not the second biggest for a layout.  Our layout is also by no means a large layout, and there are still extra costs to be factored too.  I have twin monitor screens to purchase (for the CTC/JMRI panel), there is added electrical work to be done for the JMRI PC, the hundreds of feet/metres of CAT6 cable, momentary SPST switches for the panel mounted fascia's, and the list goes on......
Hopefully towards the end I'll be able to break it all down and give a true cost analysis of the project, and by posting threads of each section give those contemplating it a better understanding of the process involved trying to get there.  More soon...

Tuesday 14 October 2014

Dispatcher Area & Work Bench Nook - Update...

More progress today on the Dispatcher Desk & Work Bench Nook.  I installed all the bench frames for both sides, the dispatcher desk is 1400mm (4' - 7 1/8") x 400mm (1' - 3 3/4") and is on the left hand side.  This will have the two screens for the JMRI - PanelPro CTC Panel, keyboard & mouse, and whatever communication system I install for the layout.
The Work Bench wraps around in an L shape from the right hand side and back across the middle.  The right section will be for everything to do with building, assembly, maintenance, soldering, etc.  It's 1400mm (4' - 7 1/8") x 500mm (1' - 7 11/16") and will also have a MDF top.  The middle section will be for painting, weathering & detailing (I'm purchasing a mobile spray booth at a later date) this section will have a further 3mm sheet of MDF or Cork over the bench top so that when it is completely shot, and covered with  paint it can be replaced.
The bench height is set so that the roller chair can be spun to either side without hitting knees or legs on any of the frame, there is enough room to have two chairs in the space (although tight) or one person on the dispatch deck and one operating the Diesel Service Facility above.  The chair can also be rolled out into the crew lounge area so that operators can get straight out of the chair clear of the nook.
I can see myself spending quite a lot of time in here, it's quite cosy and will be a good place to work on locomotives & rolling stock when I begin weathering.
This wall will be for all of my storage bins, parts pins, tool racks, etc.  I've amassed a fair amount of cheap storage units that will no doubt be filled in the years to come.  I will be installing two quad power points (receptacles) along the wall for tools like Dremels, Soldering Stations, iPhone Chargers (music), and will also have some form of adjustable lighting as well.
In all I'm really happy with the way the "nook" has turned out, it's amazing what you can think of that needs to go into a well functioning work space, and then to throw in a dispatch area as well takes a bit of thought and planning to pull it off.
Next stage is to finish off the dispatch & work area bench tops.  These will be coated with a water based clear sealer to protect the MDF, more soon.