Monday, May 30, 2016

May Update

In May there was some activity in the layout room with grandsons running trains for a couple of hours and more work on signal wiring.  It also saw more programming work on the Top Level Signal Controls.  Again there was activity at Wayne's installing the JMRI WiThrottles, two operating sessions, programming locos and future changes.  I also successfully installed Chris's WiThrottles too. I assembled an electronic component tester and my SQ8 camera has arrived. My overseas trip is only a few weeks away and the schedule outlines where we will be when.

Grandsons Visit

During the school holidays two grandsons spent a couple of hours running trains using WiThrottle and the 7" tablets.  Fun was had by all despite having to position the signal wiring to miss the tracks in use.

Top Level Signals

Last month I talked about the "Route" micro-controllers that feed the East and West micro-controllers on the same Junction Module. This month has seen work on coding for the East and West Controllers as well as terminating the signal and detector cables.

Route Controls

I built a test board to ensure the East or West signal controllers accepted the Route control outputs, asses Block Occupancy state and operated the signal "red conditions" correctly.  I made an error in the route controller program whereby I had active Route(s) turning "off" when available instead of "on".  I have adjusted the code and this has been corrected - I also updated the links to the revised code in last month's update.

Below are the same junctions I introduced last month showing the east and west signals.

Turn-Onka Junction T-JCTM-2

There is an additional signal at the East Signal end.  The signals are: S1 [T-S-E210], S2 [T-S-E211B], S3 [T-S-E240], S4 [T-S-E241B] & S5 [T-S-E221B] as there is two routes on the approach to the junction S1 & S2 are on the main and S5 the passing loop. (The "B" represents the lower lower aspect of the two aspect signals).

The going East controller's configuration is below

The going West controller's configuration is below

Stanvac Junction T-JCTM-3

The going East controller's configuration's below

The going West controller is configuration's below

Turn-Onka Junction T-JCTM-1

The going East controller is configuration's below

The going West controller is configuration's below

Test Board - Signal Controllers

I setup the test board which connects to the TI Launchpad for:

  • Assigning a configurable Input C1 - C5  individually as Input or Output
  • Inputs Set 1 - Routes A - F to simulate "Route State" - "Switch Up" = "Not Available" & "Switch Down" = "Available"
  • Inputs Set 2 - Block Occupancy from C1 - C5 Configured as Inputs
  • Outputs - Signals 1 - 5 to simulate "Red State" - "LED On" = Not Available & "LED Off" = Route set and clear ahead

No "Route" set - all signals "Red"

Launchpad connected to the Signal Controller test board.

Route "A" selected - Signal 1 "Not Red".

Route "A" selected BUT C3 occupied - Signal 1 "Red".

Routes "A" & "D" selected - Signals 1 & 3 "Not Red".

Routes "A" & "D" selected BUT C3 occupied - Signal 1 "Red" & Signal 3 "Not Red".

Routes "A" & "D" selected BUT C3 & C4 occupied - Signals 1 & 3.

Routes "A" & "D" selected BUT C4 occupied - Signal 3 "Red" & Signal 1 "Not Red".

Route "B" selected - Signal 2 "Not Red".

Routes "B" selected BUT C4 occupied - Signal 2 "Not Red".

Route "C" selected - Signal 4 "Not Red".

Routes "C" selected BUT C3 occupied - Signal 4 "Red".

Route "E" selected - Signal 2 "Not Red".

Routes "E" selected BUT C3 occupied - Signal 2 "Not Red".

The code can be found here.

Signal Wiring

In April Wayne & I installed the signal and detector looms for the upper level.  This month we started the terminations...

The Standards are a must! a constant point of reference.

Two more sets of terminations and boards are still to be fitted at Hornertown East.


Once again a lot of activity at Wayne's covering Installing the JMRI WiThrottles, two operating sessions, programming locos and future changes.

JMRI WiThrottle

I am pleased to report that the installation went well see the photo below.

During the first operating session after installation we discovered the signal at one end of the shed, some 10 metres away from the laptop was not reliable so we installed a WiFi repeater which addressed the issues.

Operating Sessions

I was lucky enough to attend two Ops sessions both of about 2 1/2 hours duration with different teams of operators.  I enjoyed both sessions in the first we had fun while achieving the majority of Wayne's operating objectives whilst the second I did not do so well - oh well.

Wayne, Bob & Barry

Pierre & Bob

Barry & Me

Programming Locos

It had become evident that from the Ops sessions that seven locos needed adjustment, well we succeeded with 5, decided that one needs a new decoder and the last one was a lost cause and we weren't sure why....

Future Changes

Wayne has been actively seeking feedback from visiting operators and a number of suggested improvements seem to have been taken on board.  One station - Lowood Crossing - is being redesigned to allow better operations for the functions it performs.  The means another Hartley Vale will become an industrial area serviced from the revised Lowood Crossing.  Shortly after the last operating session Wayne has started removing track ready for the baseboard changes.  I look forward to seeing the changes be realised.

Chris's WiThrottle

Last month I indicated that I ended up bringing it home again for rework....  I am pleased to report all seems to be working OK now when I took it back to him and we tested.

Component Tester

Derek put me on to this kit and it sure beats changing the multimeter setting all the time.  It is from Banggood and only took an hour or so to build once I read all the instructions..

This sure make identifying component values easier - Thanks for the advice Derek!

SQ8 Camera

Thanks Toni Ryan for your YouTube videos they were great - I got a camera too!

Overseas Trip

Rossco (aka Ros from Oz) and I depart Adelaide on June 20 for a visit to the USA and UK.

Below is an overview of our trip as it currently stands.  We would be interested to meet people who participate in any of the following podcasts: Model Rail Radio, A Modeler's Life and Ryan Andersen's Model Railcast Show.  Most of our days are jam packed but an opportunities exist to catch up with modelers' over a meal in may places.

San Francisco  - Nappa Valley Wine Train, Cable Cars & Heritage Street Cars
Arrive Monday, June 20, 2016 Depart Thursday, June 23, 2016

Sacramento- Museum & Wharf
Arrive Thursday, June 23, 2016 Depart Friday, June 24, 2016

San Jose - Meet Tom Barbalet for Tom's Tours
Arrive Friday, June 24, 2016 Depart Monday, June 27, 2016

Los Angeles - Rail Giants Museum
Arrive Monday, June 27, 2016 Depart Tuesday, June 28, 2016

San Diego - San Diego Museum
Arrive Thursday, June 30, 2016 Depart Sunday, July 3, 2016

Arrive Sunday, July 3, 2016 Depart Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Denver - Colorado Museum & Caboose Hobbies
Arrive Tuesday, July 5, 2016 Depart Thursday 07 July 2016

Indianapolis - National Train Show
Arrive Thursday, July 7, 2016 Depart Saturday, July 9, 2016

Columbus, Ohio - Meet Matt Goodman
Arrive Saturday, July 9, 2016 Depart Monday, July 11, 2016

Arrive Monday, July 11, 2016 Depart Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Chicago - Illinois Railway Museum
Arrive Tuesday, July 12, 2016 Depart Thursday, July 14, 2016

Philadelphia-Cherry Hill - Meet Tim Harrison & Ralph DeBlasi
Arrive Thursday, July 14, 2016 Depart Saturday, July 16, 2016

New Jersey, Carlstadt - Meet Craig Bisgeier  & Jim Lincoln
Arrive Saturday, July 16, 2016 Depart Sunday, July 17, 2016

New York
Arrive Sunday, July 17, 2016 Depart Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Toronto - Meet Lionel Strang
Arrive Wednesday, July 20, 2016 Depart Saturday, July 23, 2016

York - York Mesuem
Arrive Sunday, July 24, 2016 Depart Tuesday, 27 July 2016

Porthmadog - Welsh Highland Railway & Ffestiniog Railway
Arrive Wednesday, July 27, 2016 Depart Thursday, 29 July 2016

I meet my wife in London on 29 July and we continue holidays and I get home in the middle of September.

I am not sure when the next update will be due to my holiday arrangements.


Friday, April 29, 2016

April Update

In April there was no activity in the layout room but work was completed on the Top Level Signal Controls, a lot of activity occurred for Wayne covering JMRI Roster, Maintenance, JMRI WiThrottles, operating sessions and planning future improvements and Chris's WiThrottle too.

Top Level Signals

This month has seen work on the Junction Control Modules.  I'll explain the concepts which are used using the first junction.  I will go through the track arrangement, possible routes and consolidation of those routes.  To ensure the micro controller code is working correctly I built a test assembly to simulate inputs and outputs to the Route micro controller.

Route Controls

The first junction consists of two parallel tracks with two pairs of cross overs.

The nomenclature is:

  • Entry/Exit "A", "B", "C", "D" - the [Booster_Area, Booster_Power_Block]
  • Turnouts "T1", "T2", "T3", "T4" - the [Layout_Turnout_Number]

List of all the available Routes and their respective turnout settings.

Turnout nomenclature:

  • "N" - normal or straight through
  • "R" - reverse or diverging route
  • "-" - position is irrelevant

Concurrent Route list

Consolidated Route list

Test Board

I setup the test board which connects to the TI Launchpad for:

  • Inputs 1 - 7 to simulate "Turnout State" - "Switch Up" = "N" & "Switch Down" = "R"
  • Outputs A - I to simulate "Route State" - "LED On" = Not Available & "LED Off" = Available

Turn-Onka Junction [T-JCTM-2 V1]

Module nomenclature [T-JCTM-2 V1] = Top Level-Junction Module Number- Version.

This is a "Junction Route Summary" page you can see the components explained above with the addition of a graphic showing the micro controller connections.

All turnouts in Normal position - Routes "A" [A-C] & "D" [B-D]

Turnouts 1 & 3 Reversed - Route "B" [A-D]

Turnouts 2 & 4 Reversed - Route "C" [B-C]

Turnouts 1, 2, 3 & 4 Reversed - Route "E" [A-X-C] Should never be used but a novice tower person just might do it!

NO valid route selected.

If you are interested the code can be seen here.

Stanvac Junction [T-JCTM-3 V2]

This junction T-JCTM-3 V2 is the same as T-JCTM-2 V1 with the addition of turnout "T5" on the approach from "A".

The additional turnout adds two additional consolidated routes.

Route indications are the same for Routes A, B, C, D & E.

First additional Consolidated Route

Second additional Consolidated Route

NO valid route selected

If you are interested the code can be seen here.

The Turn [T-JCTM-1 V1]

This junction T-JCTM-1 V1 is totally different for those before.

If you are interested the code can be seen here.

Signal Aspects

The standards I am implementing are shown below.

Signal Controls

The Junction Module's also have East and West Controllers that incorporates the Block Occupancy and combines with Route from the Route micro controller.  Below are the same junctions as detailed above showing the East & West Signals to be Controlled.

The nomenclature is
  • [En] T-S-Ennn - [East_Signal_Output_Number] Top-Signal-East_Signal_Head_Number
  • [Wn] T-S-Wnnn - [West_Signal_Output_Number] Top-Signal-West_Signal_Head_Number
Where dual head signals are used the lower Head Signal_Head_Number is one higher than the Top Head i.e. E210 - Top Head E211 Lower Head on the same signal mast.

Turn-Onka Junction [T-JCTM-2 V1]

The East signals on approach "A" E1 & E2 are standard R-Y-G for each head.  The signals on approach "B" E3, E4 & E5 are R-Y-G and head, T-S-E220 is not shown, it will always be R as the track comes from a passing siding which is on the approach to "B" so Medium Clear or Restricted Speed is mandated.

East Signals
 West Signals

Stanvac Junction [T-JCTM-3 V2]

All heads are R-Y-G

East Signals
 West Signals

The Turn [T-JCTM-1 V1]

All heads are R-Y-G

East Signals
 West Signals

There will be more next month on configuring the East & West Controllers.


A lot of activity at Wayne's covering getting all locos into JMRI, maintenance, JMRI WiThrottles, two operating sessions and proposed future changes.

JMRI Roster

This month we finished loading the remainder of the 62 locos on the layout.  Standardisation of the loco service types to allow consisting awaits....  One of the major issues we face is the vast majority of Wayne's operators have little or no experience with DCC and continue to operate on DC layouts they have been operating on for the last 30 years so they expect instantaneous response from the throttle like what happens in DC - This has its challenges....


We had a few glitches with some reversing sections, loco lights going AWOL, and testing was giving spurious results whereby issues were not always the same on power up.  We ended up factory resetting the Command Station and all the PSX-AR's then reset in-rush and current trip settings and magically the issues all went away!  Pity we ordered some replacement PSX-AR's - oh well we will now have spares....

We have had significant derailment issues with some coaches that Wayne had on a local passenger train.  Modifications to couplers and wheel sets had previously been undertaken to no avail..  These coaches were very light but no longer!  This vastly improved performance in all but one coach. Further investigation showed that one bogie was giving a problem, on checking with the NMRA Standards Gauge, one axle was found to be too narrow by about 10 thou.  Axle was removed adjusted and refitted and now they run flawlessly.

JMRI WiThrottle

Some time back Wayne & I purchased a basic I3 HP notebook each specifically for running JMRI on our layouts.  I deleted the supplied Windows 8.1 Operatings System and loaded Linux Mint 17.1.  This has been working fine for programming etc. Wayne decided he wanted some 7" tablets like me and Chris.  The difference here is that my HP notebook connects to my home network whereas Wayne's was in the shed with no connection to his home network available.  Unlike Chis's system which is similar that I had setup on Windows I had trouble sharing the WiFi connection within Linux.

I decided to go back to windows but I discovered that I had wiped the recovery partition! So I had a original copy of Windows 7 on disk from a previous computer, which had died, and loaded that.  After the 300 odd updates I discovered some devices in the operating system were not working - like NO COM PORTS... it was then I realised that I had loaded a 32 bit operating system (OS) on a 64 bit computer and the 64 bit drivers did not work on 32 bit.

The only thing left was to try Windows 10 so I had to make a bootable USB stick as per the instructions on the Microsoft website.  When the Windows 10 OS loaded luckily it found some info on the Laptop that said it was built with Windows 8.1 and all went well with no need to get a registration key - it was treated as an upgrade install.

Well I learnt during the process that the Hard Disk OS had been changed back to the previous regime that Windows 10 won't work on and that Windows 10 is a pain when trying to load "Unsigned Drivers" such as those that run the Sprog.  However after much research I am pleased to report I found solutions for all the issues and JMRI is loaded and WiThrottle is working as required.

I will go install it all on Wayne's layout next week.

Operating Sessions

I was lucky enough to attend two Ops sessions both of about 2 1/2 hours duration with different teams of operators.  I had enjoyed both sessions and had fun while achieving the majority of Wayne's operating objectives.

Proposed Future Changes

It has become evident that at Lowood Crossing the yard is too small to support what it services so consideration is being given to adjusting adjacent areas to improve operations.  Eden Valley's passing loop is too short by at least two cars so minor changes will probably happen their too.

Chris's WiThrottle

Well despite it working at my place when I took the laptop back to Chris's it had a hissy fit and decided that the WiFi connection would fail.

Chris with a decent coffee in hand watches the loco on Test Track

Testing the Laptop Connections
I ended up bringing it home again for rework....

Till the end of May 2016.