Favourite Photos...

Favourite Photos...
Reading Lines GP35 #3647

Middletown, Pa

Thursday 31 December 2015

Under Layout Lighting...

So last night I decided to spend an hour two building the housing for our under layout lighting.

Because the underneath portion of the layout will be used for storage and eventually some staging I wanted to install some LED's under it so that as I'm wiring and installing the signals & detections its already in and running.

My folks got me a 75W transformer and two 5 metre (16.5') strings of LED's.  Because the transformer has screw connections on the 240V active that could be touched I wanted to place it in an enclosure.

The case is a plastic electronics case from Jaycar, it hold the transformer with enough room to get the wiring in and allow for ventilation around the edges.

The case has a sealed lid but I actually cut out the opening to the same dimensions as the transformer making sure the wiring connections were covered.

Quick test to ensure everything is wired correctly and working...  These LED's are very bright.

Case lid cut out and installed and ready to be placed under the layout...


Thursday 24 December 2015

More Signal Mast work...

So last night I began installing the Bivar Tri-Coloured LED's into a Tomar - H-873 Double Head Searchlight Signal.

The Bivar LED's are easier to install in the searchlights as the have more room in the back of the searchlight housing.  I will be using the RR CirKits LED's on the Tomar Dwarf Signals and the Tomar - Triple Searchlight Masts.

The best part about the Double Head masts is that I can actually fit all eight LED wires (common, red, yellow, green) in the mast tube.  When I install them in a Triple Head Searchlight I will have to use 36AWG wire or magnet wire.

The existing Bivar 1/8" - 3mm Light Pipes are able to be used in the Tomar Searchlights too, they again in stopping the surface of LED being seen and help provide a constant even light from them.

The end result for the colour is pretty good, not quite as good as the RRCirKits colours especially the green & yellow.  But at least they are much better than using the old Bi-Coulured ones.


Next stage is to connect them to JMRI and adjust the output and resistor value and program them into the Panel Pro - Panel...

Merry Christmas & Safe and Happy New Year to all following our blog throughout the year.


Wednesday 16 December 2015

Programming more signals today...

Well today started out a little interestingly, after our inaugural ops session the other night we noticed a small glitch occurring on one of the BDL's.  It was showing a phantom sense on several of the blocks.

After a fair bit of investigation I narrowed it down to the last block feed either getting some form of inductance from other feeds nearby and/or the BDL's being set to a High Threshold Sense mode.

The LocoNet is now stable again and performing as it should, hopefully no more issues.

After this it was time to install a few more signals onto the Centre Peninsula.  It's quite a process to put one double head mast onto the Panel:

Create a Signal Head (or two for dual head masts) which involves entering for SE8C addresses for head (so thats eight addresses for a two head mast).

Create a Mast using the Signal Heads.  This involves adding the two heads to the one mast, then setting the signal rules from JMRI.

Then we create the mast for the Panel Pro Panel and add it in edit mode.

These are the screens required to input the heads, masts and finished signals onto the panel and control the layout...

The process looks complicated but once shown, and when you have added a few JMRI really does make it quite easy to add them.


Friday 11 December 2015

JL&T Railroad's - First Ops Session...

Well a major milestone in the five year history to date of our layout was reached on Tuesday 8th of December...  

We had our first Ops Session!

Well you could call it an expression session, or test ops session actually because it was all free time for the four operators.  My good friends Noel, Brendan & Darren came over and together we gave the layout a proper workout.

The main aim for the night was to check for any immediate electrical problems, dead track or sidings including the now finished Tortoise Fascia Control Panels, block wiring, turnout operation, track alignment and the general feel of the layout.

The guys had several options to start with, there was several cars spotted and stored around the York Haven Pulp & Paper Mill with a MP15 Switcher on call.  A pair of RDG SD45's ready for a local or hot shot train.  And a two small locals that could be spotted anywhere around the layout.

Below (from right to left) Darren, Noel & Brendan start from the York Haven - Pulp & Paper Mill (YHPPM)...

The guys were quickly off into different areas of the layout and testing out various locos and rolling stock.  

One very quick issue arose with one of the crossover turnouts with the YHPPM area which was quickly identified as dirty point ends on the point rails.  This will be fixed once I add the remaining power feeds to the PECO turnouts.

Also one of the push buttons controlling one of the Harrisburg - Fascia Control Panels wasn't working but was changed out very quickly.

The layout sustained the four of operating for about 2.5 - 3 hours, and we estimated that once the industries are set up and the remainder of the track work is completed the layout could sustain 6 - 8 operators and a dispatcher easily.

The next evolution for the layout will be designing and testing a more formal and prototypical operating scheme for future Ops Sessions.  The design and development of a car card system, paper work, and the programming of the detected track, turnouts & signals into JMRI and our Panel Pro - Panel.

The guys have already began to supply some great feedback and ideas and a dedicated night (Tuesday night) has been locked in as our monthly Operating night.  The Christmas break period is going to be very busy beginning to implement all of the infrastructure for Ops Session along with finishing off the detection & signaling too.

Below Noel running the RDG SD45's 7602 & 7603 through Mannheim & Rutherford...

A special thanks must go out to Noel, Brendan & Darren for being the first to operate the layout, and for helping out with testing it and for being such great company for the night!

Onwards & Upwards now...

Thursday 3 December 2015

Last of the Mainline Fascia Control Panels installed...

Today I managed to install the last of the mainline (main layout area) Fascia Control Panels for operating the Tortoise Switch Machines.

The amount of wiring to be able to control a switch machine from a fascia panel or from a computer panel (with software) is a monumental task, and one that takes a fair amount of time to complete.

The last Panel installed was the Lancaster Junction panel...

There are nine (9) fascia control panels in the main layout area, and another three in behind the centre peninsula.

Below is the last of the Digitrax SE8C's that had all the Tortoise Motors connected to it...

Next stage is to move onto the wiring of the power for all of the blocks connected to the other BDL168's.


Monday 30 November 2015

This is what 4.5 hours of wiring looks like...

Today I continued on with installing the push buttons for the Tortoise Motors on the Fascia Control Panels along with a few more power feeds to some of the Tortoise Motors that needed to be rewired from other SE8C's.

One of the things I need to accomplish is wiring that is tucked away and not hanging down underneath the layout benchwork, as the area is going to be used as storage I don't want anything catching and breaking delicate detection and signaling wires.

The below photo shows the "York" - Fascia Panel with the push buttons installed, with the exception of two push buttons (located on the panel to the right) all the wiring in the shot is associated with the Digitrax SE8C on the right.

The area directly above the SE8C has no less five (5) crossovers, these can be seen by the small black cable ties denoting twin pairs of Tortie connected to a common turnout position in the SE8C.

So the moral of the story is, if you don't like wiring don't install detection, signaling or Tortoise Motors...


Saturday 28 November 2015

Crew Lounge Facilities - Operational...

Well this week after getting the electrical connections ran and connected the Crew Lounge Facilities are all installed and operational.

There is a small bar fridge, kettle & coffee maker installed to make visiting that little bit more enjoyable and refreshing.  There will be room later on for a microwave.

Still requires finishing off the surrounds and a small LED light above the kettle area.  And of course some operators to test it all out...


More Fascia Control Panels completed...

During this week I have begun a big push to complete the layouts Tortoise Fascia Control Panels.

On the 8th of December I am hoping to have a few of the guys over to give the layout a good test ops session.

So the first two panels complete are Carlisle Junction & Shippensburg.

The Carlisle Junction - Panel is the busiest as far as track work & Tortoise switch machine density is concerned.

The first step is to punch out the centres for the Tortoise Push Buttons.

Both panels service the area taken up predominately by the York Haven - Pulp & Paper Mill.  

There are another three panels to go before finishing.


Saturday 21 November 2015

Crew Lounge Area takes shape...

So yesterday I started to install the shelving and setting out the configuration for the Crew Lounge beverages & snack area.

The main task was to get the shelf in that supports the small bar fridge & coffee making facilities.


This will be located underneath the Rutherford Yard extension, there will eventually be a microwave also to heat up food if needed.  This will make the layout self sufficient for ops sessions and save the walk back up to the house.
Next step is to get power to the little nook for the fridge, and then I can enjoy a cold beverage at the end of day...

Thursday 19 November 2015

Last of the main layout area fascia installed...

Today I worked on finishing off the remainder of the fascia in the main layout room, with the fascia control panels ready to be installed this was the last step before that could occur.

The fascia is 10" (250mm) high and houses the Fascia Control Panels, PTP mini panels for the NCE throttles as well as storage boxes for ops sessions.

Next stage will be to install the turnout fascia control panels.


Wednesday 18 November 2015

Last of the Fascia Panels completed...

Today I worked on creating the last of the Fascia Panels for the layout.

This panel is the Carlisle Junction panel and is the major interchange between Conrail/Reading & Chessie System/D&H railroads.

This panel is one of the busiest for push button switches too, it is also has the most signals in an any of the areas too.


Friday 13 November 2015

Last section of Bench Work for the JL&T...

So for a little change of pace and to have a quick break from wiring and signaling installs I decided to make a start on the extension to the Harrisburg Yard & the Crew Lounge Kitchenette.

This area actually forms the new entry to the entire layout, it is the new crew lounge area and also the main staging yard.  The opening to the new extension of the layout shed has a small roller door for the opening which is about 8' (2.5m) in width.

The opening is great for moving large items in and out, but I'm now at the stage that this doesn't need to occur anymore.  The other issue is that it allows the dust and dirt in, and hot air during summer and cold during winter.

So yesterday I started by framing up the new wall and small nib wall.  The kitchenette will sit behind this wall and will have a small bar fridge, microwave, coffee machine and storage for everything required to keep operators and guests happy.

The section extending from the left to the right will be the addition to Harrisburg Yard, I will be adding a internal corner piece on the right to allow for the curved yard to extend another 4' (1.2m).

Today I finished up the entrance wall and wrapped it ready for cladding, the cladding will be 5/16" (8mm) MDF board.  This will stop the elements and hopefully most of the dust and dirt from getting in as well as adding to the security of the layout.  

In the shot below you can see the extra storage space we have above the crew lounge area.

The photo below is looking back towards the shed opening from the original/main layout room.  The space will hold a couple of operators for the Harrisburg Yard, and another two operators waiting to be called from the crew lounge.

As a value add for the layout I've recently had the security system upgraded and also had smoke detectors added to it too.  In the next stage this will have a 4G auto dialler added so that I can be alerted anywhere.

The new opening into the main entrance/crew lounge will also be getting a very special makeover that is purely inline with our layout and one of it's fallen railroads too...  More on that soon.

Thursday 5 November 2015

It's article time again...

You know when its article time again when your work bench looks like this...

And to give you an idea of what its all about this time...

The time taken to photograph the individual steps, and get the composition right is huge.  This sequence took about two hours to get right...

And when there is twenty (20) odd pages of content, and 2000 odd words in the article that adds up to a fair chunk of time to complete.

Stay tuned for it hopefully in a publication soon.

Sunday 1 November 2015

Another fine example of great planning & attention to detail...

A truly great friend of mine is Alan Bailey, many of you will have seen his LK&O Railroad taking shape on his website.
Alan and I have struck up a great friendship even though we are some 16000 odd kilometres away from each other, it's amazing how much we have in common in our lives including our layouts!  I hope one day we actually get to meet in person...

Alan's next module "Module 5" is another fine example of great planning, astounding wiring skills, and a fine level of detail for installing wiring that is rarely seen on a layout, it is a work of art in itself, in fact I would spend hours just looking at the wiring...

Check out Alan's latest post:

LK&O Railroad - Module 5...

Wednesday 28 October 2015

More Signals masts...

A few more masts have been added to the Harrisburg area, this set protects the track towards Rutherford Yard and the westbound traffic heading into Harrisburg from Rutherford.

All of these signals are Tomar H865 - Double Head "G" Type masts.

On the left is the inbound signal towards Rutherford (main) and the diverging route to Rutherford Yard.  The right signal is from Rutherford heading into Harrisburg.

All working and "clear"...

More soon...

Wednesday 21 October 2015

Signal Mast Install - Progress...

So this week I managed to get a few more signal masts and dwarfs installed.

The first pair (a mast & dwarf) have been installed on the Harrisburg Main (protecting westbound to Lebanon) and Siding #2.

The mast is a Tomar H-865 G Type 3 Light - Signal, it is connected to a Digitrax TSMK board and to SE8C Board No7. 

The dwarf is a Tomar H-876bl Double Head - Searchlight Dwarf Signal, these have modified with RR CirKits - Tri Coloured LED's.

The combination of the RRCirKits Tri-Coloured LED's and the Tomar case are a real winner, I'm that impressed with the colour and operation that I will be converting all of my dwarf & searchlight signals to these.

The last install for the day was another two (2) H-865 masts to protect the start of the Harrisburg Line heading westbound and the Southbound section coming from Chessie Interchange at Shippensburg/York Haven.

More soon...

SE8C Driver Aspect - Switch List...

As I've been installing the physical signals onto the layout I also have to program them into JMRI to check the wiring install & the subsequent SE8C.

In the Digitrax manual they have a table that lists the ranges of switches for the driver aspects of each SE8C for board number one.

I needed the switch lists for the driver aspects for eight SE8C's, so to ease the install in JMRI and for visual reference I made up the tables up to eight SE8C's.

Although very time consuming it will make programming a lot easier...

For those wanting the complete series for eight (8) SE8C boards the link to the page is here:



Tuesday 20 October 2015

Revised 2015 - Signal Plan

With the installation of more signals I needed to update my Signal Plan.

The next step is to wire in the masts & dwarf signals from Harrisburg to Manheim Jct.  

This section is the first to have a completed BDL168 wired in with all the blocks, this section takes up the entire centre peninsula and is wired to a PSX-AR as the peninsula is a reversing section.

Friday 18 September 2015

Updated Panel Pro - Panel

So as part of the consolidation work on the the block wiring I needed to redesign the JMRI Panel Pro - Panel.  The existing layout panel was fairly cluttered and wasn't really going to work well.

Now that installation of all 28 blocks to the centre peninsula BDL are just about complete I spent the last two nights and a few hours yesterday redoing the panel.  There were several issues that needed to be ironed out, and I also wanted to add town names and mile post markers too.

The new panel flows much better is easier to understand and visually works well and I'm happy with it.  It still needs a few things added like the actual signal masts & dwarfs along with some more labels.

I have to do some tweaking to the section split between the two screens so that it basically just straight track and its ready for ops.