Saturday, 16 July 2016

Wiring up the three boards

I originally made the baseboard in six parts using the standard length of the A1 foam board sheets but found that it was better to amalgamate the sheets so that there were only three boards. This kept the complication of switches over joins, etc. to a minimum.

Basic Wiring
I started work on the end nearest the window in the room as that had the simplest layout just the curve and two points. I am fitting the layout out with DCC Concepts Cobalt IP Digital point motors. These give a smooth change for the points and also have a built in feed for frog polarity and for point direction indicators.

First off, I lay out a power bus using copper tape (normally used to stop slugs climbing up plant pots!). I then run droppers down from all of the track positions that will need power and connect them to the appropriate bus.

Point Motors
Each point motor just gets mounted with a nice double side sticky pad (supplied with the motor). I then reinforce this with some foam board hot glued around to stop any twisting motion. Two wires are run from the motor to the power bus and the frog wire is run to the third position. That's each point wire!

Caution
The latest motors come with a sticky tab over one end of the motor connector board. This is to stop you putting the power leads into the switch positions. Evidently, this immediately kills the motor and markes it a dud.  This is NOT covered by DCC Concepts warranty. It is, however, carefully explained in the paperwork. I have 8 earlier motors from my previous layout and these do not have a sticker. Guess what? I did it to one of them. $23 later, I have a replacement and a new regime in place to ensure that I don't do it again.

2nd Caution
Make sure that all of your motors are wired up to the same polarity. This isn't as easy as you think. A motor can be mounted in both directions - just think of there being a front (with the point wire) and the back (clear). If you mount one so that it is in the opposite direction, the frog will get the wrong polarity and cause a short as you travel over it.


Thus, you have to ensure that the power feed is inserted in the correct orientation. 

Next, you have to ensure that you get the basic polarity right. Using my NCE controller, I have to enter 1 or 2 when changing the point. 1 and 2 are relative to the orientation so if you want 1 to be the straight route on all of your points, you have to get the feed wires the same for every point motor that faces one way and swap them for every point motor facing the other way. This becomes clearly evident when you read the next part of the blog.

Control Panel
Another nice thing about the Cobalt motors is that you can tap off them to drive LEDs. I have a full blog entry on how I did this. Check out HERE. If you read back from there, you will see all the trials and tribulations I had to get to where I am now with these point motors.

I have also connected a wire from the frog polarity connection through to my LED panel. Fortunately, when I made this, I did it on a breadboard so I can extend the LEDs - there were only 8 points on the last railroad and there are 13 on this one. As a test, I wired up point 8 to the old panel and found that it worked first time.

Conclusion
This is what the underside of the board looks like. As you can see, everything above the baseboard is connected to the two copper power busses and the frogs are connected to the panel with separate wires held down with clamps to the baseboard. Not as tidy as I would like but understandable, nonetheless.

To come back to the polarity of the power feed to the point, not only does it affect the 1 and 2 orientation from the NCE controller but it also affects the colours. Now I like to define a main on each point and like that to be Green on the panel. As the points are set up at the moment, I am getting a red on that so I have to swap over the feed to both points.



Saturday, 2 July 2016

S&NE Track nearly down.

I have laid the bulk of the track. I have found out that I am short of about 3 yards of straight so I have them on order.  In the meantime, I can get on with the wiring and fitting the point motors.

Here is where I am at the moment.





My normal technique is to lay down a DCC bus using self adhesive copper tape and then connect every thing on to the two strips. I am going to us choc block connectors between the boards as, once the wiring is finished, I am hoping not to have to disturb the boards again.

The last loco that I need to run a minimum service arrived the other day from those great guys at "Model Train Stuff". They have great stock and ship very quickly. Unfortunately, the postage from the US to the UK is very expensive - then I have to pay UK sales tax at 20% and a handling charge. Mind you, that is still cheaper than buying in the UK. I bought an MTH F-3A. This will handle the SNEs daily freights to and from New Haven/Boston. It will have to double up as a multitude of locos until I can afford to buy some more units! It will need a respray and some home made decals to get it ino SNE colours.




Wednesday, 22 June 2016

The S& N.E.s place in the world - and in my modelling room!

I have had some reactions to my plans for the new layout. This has caused me to restate the back story for the S&NE. Firstly, I decided to produce a better map, including the real B&M and New Haven.
Firstly, I have renamed Worcester to Sunset (just because I created this railroad name in 1970 for an N Scale layout I was building and it has stayed with me ever since!). As you can see, the B&M never came near Hartford and the New Haven had a long route east and north to get to Boston. The S&NE came into being because places along the actual route felt that they were missing out by not having a railroad. I have also assumed that, because the S&NE served Sunset, the two rail links from the B&M to the town (Worcester actually) were never built. I have left off any routes that aren't involved in this story (NH from New Haven to NY for instance)

Things went swimmingly until the Wall Street Crash. Up to that time, the S&NE ran regular freights and passenger trains from Hartford to Boston and did very well out of it. Following the crash, the passenger traffic fell of, leaving the railroad to finally close the line to passengers around 1933. The 2nd WW gave the freight traffic a big boost but the military personnel trains stayed on the New Haven/B&M route as they had the stock to carry the volumes.

This continued after the war until Budd produced their RDCs. The New Haven saw these as a way to provide a service directly to Boston so that their passengers didn't have to change at Springfield. They started out with three trains a day over the S&NE but slowly reduced it to 1 each way by the time we get to our scenario. You can read, in an earlier blog entry, how this affected the passenger facilities at Sunset.

As it provides a much quicker link between Boston and Hartford, the B&M runs a daily through freight in each direction. This also eliminates the need for switching at Springfield. It also runs a way freight through to Sunset. Both of these routes are headed up by a B&M RS-3.  The New Haven runs their RDC once a day to Boston. The S&NE runs a way freight each day in both directions and a through freight to Hartford.

This gives us the following trains:
B&M Through to Hartford (stops at Sunset for S&NE direct traffic to Hartford) (B&M RS-3).
B&M Return to Boston (stops at Sunset for S&NE direct traffic to Boston) (B&M RS-3).
B&M Way Freight to Sunset (B&M RS-3).
B&M Way Freight back to Boston (B&M RS-3).
S&NE Way Freight to Boston (SNE SW7).
S&NE Way Freight from Boston (SNE SW7).
S&NE Way Freight to Hartford (SNE SW7).
S&NE Way Freight from Hartford (SNE SW7).
S&NE Through Freight to Hartford  (SNE F3A).
S&NE Through Freight from Hartford  (SNE F3A).NH RDC from Hartford to Sunset and Boston (NH RDC)
NH RDC from Boston to Sunset and Hartford (NH RDC)

These, with the switching involved, provide a nice operating session for me.

Note: If I have the geography or the history wrong then I don't care. This story will do me.

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Further thoughts on the new layout

I have been giving this some real thought as I can't face going through the whole EBay thing once again. I always end up having to put some money into the pot and I don't really have any at this time (having bought a new saxophone recently and changed all of our streaming speaker system). Additionally, I have an expensive DCC Heljan (Walthers) turntable that works but has a few bits broken which means that it would be a bit iffy to try and sell.
I am coming round to the thought that maybe I should give up on roundy/roundy and go for another terminus layout. The problem is that my fictional railroad has one end at Hartford CT and the other at Boston MA which leaves me struggling to create a terminus with any grounding in my "facts". My last layout was a for a small industrial yard which was easy to justify as being an offshoot of Sunset (which is, in itself, a through station). In the space I have now, I don't really want to make an industrial yard but neither do I want to build staging off both ends.
I could do the following but I would lose the Boston/Hartford B&M through freight - and I do like my B&M RS-3. The NH Budd would still work as it could just come into Sunset and out again.
Then my staging would be for both of the ultimate destinations although I could make the split on my board and have two tracks going into the staging.
I have mocked this up on the map. Maybe, now seeing this, the S&NE would have dropped the through leg of the wye to make everything come into Sunset. However, I would have thought that this would have worked against the B&M through freights as they might as well send them over their normal, more northerly routes.

Monday, 2 May 2016

Some thoughts on the way to go.

No sure what to do now.
I have been giving this some real thought as I can't face going through the whole EBay thing once again. I always end up having to put some money into the pot and I don't really have any at this time (having bought a new saxophone recently and changed all of our streaming speaker system). Additionally, I have an expensive DCC Heljan (Walthers) turntable that works but has a few bits broken which means that it would be a bit iffy to try and sell.
I am coming round to the thought that maybe I should give up on roundy/roundy and go for another terminus layout. The problem is that my fictional railroad has one end at Hartford CT and the other at Boston MA which leaves me struggling to create a terminus with any grounding in my "facts". My last layout was a for a small industrial yard which was easy to justify as being an offshoot of Sunset (which is, in itself, a through station). In the space I have now, I don't really want to make an industrial yard but neither do I want to build staging off both ends.
I could do the following but I would lose the Boston/Hartford B&M through freight - and I do like my B&M RS-3. The NH Budd would still work as it could just come into Sunset and out again.
Then my staging would be for both of the ultimate destinations although I could make the split on my board and have two tracks going into the staging.
This is what it would look like on the map.

I have put this out to the Model Railroad Hobbyist forums so I will see what they have to say.

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

It all ends up in the bin again!

It seems that I never get anywhere further than running a few trains. It doesn't help that, even after much thinking and planning, I still end up with a layout that doesn't work very well. However, the driver this time was that we were moving apartments. We didn't go very far - just down two floors but the new one had a bigger 2nd bedroom (aka David's Hobby Room). I had seen the room before in that my mother-in-law moved into an apartment with the same floor layout (but a mirror image) about 6 months before our move. I had always stood at the door of the room and thought what a great railroad I would get in there.

However, by the time I had set up my modelling desk, my studying desk (I am completing an Open University degree in Computer Science), two glass cabinets full of scale models, a shelving unit with my scale model kit stash and a 10' run of kitchen units holding the rest of my "stuff", the only place left for the railroad is on the top of the kitchen units.



I have a big pile of HO equipment and only a 2' wide shelf to build a railroad. Now, if I was to go back to making a switching layout then this would be fine but I have found that I miss trains running round.

I posed the problem on the forum of Model Railroad Hobbyist. I was asking if I could get a roundy-roundy layout on here, given that I only run short 1950s diesels and 40' freight cars. What has come out of that is a suggestion to try a tight curve (I have the track) and see how it works. Apart from that there are three real suggestions:

  1. Fit removable wings on both ends of the worktop to enable wider curves.
  2. Fit a shelf around the room behind the computer screens etc. with a lift out bridge at the door end.
  3. Move to N Scale!
I don't like option 1 and 2 doesn't work as we rent the apartment and I don't really like fixing anything to the walls - the kitchen units you can see are actually free standing. This leaves option 3. If you go back to 2011 on this Blog you will see that I have been here before. In fact it was only when we moved in 2013 that I broke up this and moved to British OO (for a very short time before I came back to US outline!).

I quite like this idea for a few reasons. Firstly, it gives me the equivalent of 20' x 4' in HO without the complications of not being able to reach the back of the baseboard. Secondly, and strange to relate, I would be glad to get away from having sound on the locos. I found it hard in a small room to have three locos all puffing or whining away. I kept turning the sound off. This way I can move to a quieter world. Lastly, I can have my dream of a really good run for the trains whilst keeping a decent yard for switching. I think that I can get enough for my current stock, off EBay, to let me get the bulk of what I want and then to build up slowly after that.

Finally, I would be glad to have something a little bit more complicated because I am still developing "Old Bill's Switch List" which is my web based car routing software.

Monday, 10 August 2015

Sorting out the point display panel

As I have mentioned, I have a problem with arthritis which means that I cannot stand and work on the railroad if it is at certain heights. One of these heights happens to match the worktop in the hobby room. The construction of the railroad is intended to be as lightweight as possible so that I can move the individual boards into the living room so that I can work sitting down at the dining table.

The railroad is designed to be operated on the hobby room worktop with me sitting alongside. However, I cannot see how the points are set when sitting down.



Part of the reason for me getting the Cobalt switch machines was to enable an easy way of indicating the routes. The secondary feed from each machine was to be used to drive a couple of LEDs. as described in the Cobalt documentation. I realised that I could make the display simpler if I used a bi-coloured LED rather than individual red and green LEDs. However, I have had experience before in soldering up complex layouts before and there is a great scope for shorts, especially when using D-Sub plugs and sockets as the connections are extremely close together. This meant that I would need to be very careful in the construction of the panel if I wanted this to be in any way robust in a layout that would be taken down and erected with regularity. I, also, wanted to be able to change the wiring very simply. The reason behind this was that the polarity of the points was different depending on which way the frog was set. Rather than have to work all this out, I decided to put everything through a breadboard. Firstly, this would alleviate much of the comoplex wiring and make it simple to reconfigure the LED connections.

The best way to manage the wiring was to make all of the connecting wires to a similar specification to the jumper wires that are used on breadboards. I have some tinned copper wire and lots of heat shrink. This is what each of the LEDs looked like once I had wired them up.


As you can see, all of the connections to the LED have been sealed within heatshrink. Also, I have soldered a small amount of tinned copper wire to the end of each lean (again with heatshrink around) to make an effective plug to go into the breadboard. Once all of the LEDs were finished, I was able to hook everything together. Each LED has one outer leg fed from one side of the DCC bus and the other leg to the opposite side of the bus. The centre pin is connected, via a 1k resistor, to the frog feed of the Cobalt machine. These connections are very simple with the breadboard.

I was a bit hesitant about powering everything up as these things normally don't work first off and I didn't relish searching for the one dry joint! However, I needn't have worried. Putting the power in resulted in all of the switch machines carrying out their self centering action with every LED reacting to the changes. Finally, I made sure that I had each LED labelled up for its correct point.

I had already made a panel out of a sheet of printer paper that I had laminated and fitted to some foam core board with 2mm holes in the foam to accept each LED. However, I had punched holes in the paper. I realised, after reading on MRH about another LED panel, that the LEDs would shine through the white paper. This would make it much neater. Anyway, here is the final result.


I can now sit on my moveable office chair, control the locos and the points from my iPad (using WiThrottle and JMRI) and see the routes as currently set - all without standing up.


As you can see, I need to reconfigure some of the LEDs to match the point orientation. Then the LEDs will be the same as the WiThrottle indicators.