Friday, June 30, 2017

June Update

This month has seen activities that included: MTH PA/PB's woes, Top Level Signals, helping Chris, Fast Clock prototype, the Monday Night Crew, Two Ops Sessions, Peter's Sound Modules, Pierre in training, Arduino Course and Prep for my next Ops Session.


The lost postage continued - they found the package at Granville NSW but then it went missing for another two weeks....  I had to telephone to follow up before they actually found it again.  It is interesting I signed for delivery but no record of that is shown....

Received by Australia Post 04:30pm Thu 04 May at LIVERPOOL NSW

With Australia Post for delivery today 09:01am Tue 13 Jun SOMERTON PARK SA

Not bad for a normal 1-2 day delivery time.....


I now have the new motors ready to install.

I hope there are not any more issues whilst installing them.

Top Level Signals

I have recommenced working on the signals and finished off terminating the detection and signal mast wires around the layout with the exception of those around the helix.  I have mounted the control board and terminated the incoming wiring. I have commenced installing wiring for the turnout state loops with the control panel.

Signal Wiring

The final local termination boards which are above Hornertown East.

Control Board

The double sided board has been placed in position above the master control panels..

Direction sensing, passing loop and junction control pc boards

Rob Paisley's Three light signal boards
Wayne & I installed the detection and signal mast wires from the helix area through to the control board for termination.

Signal Head wires

Direction Detection wires

Direction Detection wires terminated
Signal Head wires terminated

Now to get the 24 turnout status wiring loops installed after Wayne helped me run the 48 wires.

We will also need to test each cable run for proper connection status to minimise the "gremlins" as we move forward.

Chris's Staging Lighting

During the initial operating sessions at Chris's we had issues seeing what is happening on this level the ongoing use of torches was deemed inappropriate.  It was decided to retrofit LED lighting in the low headroom space.

The issue has now been addressed including me getting some wounds along the way from sharp stuff from the level above...

Chris's Winter Woes

I guess there are lessons about living in a climate with temperatures and humidity that change significantly during the year.  It would appear significant reinforcing of the larger panels is required during construction.  The roof panels fitted perfectly in summer - a bit different now....

More work required here.....  Perhaps Jim Gore's upcoming book may have some pointers....

Fast Clock

Barry has been "thinking ahead" for his proposed layout, and, after initially thinking "working to the clock" at Wayne's during op sessions was B.... S... he has now realised the value.  He has been talking to me about utilising some old computer screens for the purpose.  After some thought I decided it would be a lot easier to use some 8 x 32 LED modules.

Below is an outline of the development work undertaken and "where it is at" so far.

The push buttons utilise “Debounce” methodology an example can be found in the provided in the Arduino IDE.  This had to be done to ensure proper operation as our simple button press is too slow for the microprocessor which cycles at 16 MHz (16 million cycles per second).

The basic wiring diagram is below.


The clock upon power up will display “Pause” and the default start time of 06:00 and fast clock “Rate” will be set to 4:1 with a low brightness intensity. After changing the Time, Brightness or Rate press this button to commence operation or pause operation after commencement.

+ Time

Pressing this button will either increase the “Start Time” or “Run Time”.  If the clock has been “running” for two minutes then adjustments are made to the “Run Time” otherwise it will be to the “Start Time”.  The adjustments are in 15 minutes per button press. Each button press will be registered when “Pause” is displayed which will happened after ¾ of a second after each press.

- Time

Pressing this button will either decrease the “Start Time” or “Run Time”.  If the clock has been “running” for two minutes then adjustments are made to the “Run Time” otherwise it will be to the “Start Time”.  The adjustments are in 15 minutes per button press. Each button press will be registered when “Pause” is displayed which will happened after ¾ of a second after each press.


Pressing this button will cycle through the 16 brightness levels available. The brightness will stay at the last level selected until the clock is powered down.


Pressing this button will allow the fast clock rate to be set at 2, 4, 6, 12 or 30 times normal time.

Generally, a rate of up to 6 will be used for Op sessions and the 12 & 30 used for testing minute/hour/day roll over operation of the clock which will run for about 5 days before the dreaded “stack overflow” – this should not be a problem in practice!

Below is a link to a short video that covers what has been done.

I also tried sharing the control data over multiple screens and it seems to work OK.  I think if this was implemented then the control cables would need to be screened cables to avoid interference from other adjacent cables.

The proof of concept appears to provide a workable outcome.

Monday Night Crew

We still have "modelling nights" where we all get together and progress our individual projects.  The last one was held at Barry's other regular locations are Derek's & Rosslyn's.  They are always followed by supper.

Barry, Derek, Chris, Rosslyn, Don, Pierre and me (L to R)

Ops Sessions at Wayne's

Wayne had two sessions for us this month, first was the additional night time session to introduce the session swap discussed last month then our usual monthly daytime session.

Night Session

Rosslyn introduced Vic Tilling (see his video channel here) to our group and they joined Barry, Chris, Derek, Wayne and me for a interesting session.  Derek & I worked together (derek as engineer and me as conductor/guard) as did Rosslyn & Vic while Chris & Barry undertook different duties.  All the trains Derek & I operated were the first time I had run them in all the time I have been going to Wayne's.

We had an enjoyable evening followed by supper and Vic has been invited to future operating sessions on Wayne's and my layouts.

Daytime Session

Don, Des, Rosslyn, Vic, Barry, Chris and me attended and again we had a very enjoyable session - I think we are all improving in how we are operating and conforming to the layout rules. We did have one cornfield meet towards the end on some hidden track - a solution to prevent future occurrences is being worked on!

(L to R) Des, Don, Vic, Wayne, Me. Barry, Rosslyn & Chris

Des & Don looking and discussing some details

Don showing Vic some finer points of the MultiMaus Throttles

Wayne & Chris at Dunkley Towers

Barry intently watching his train between Hartley Vale & Lowood Crossing

Rosslyn intently watching his train leaving Valley Junction

Barry at Eden Park

Des & I playing tag.

Pierre back in training

Pierre has been over for two separate coaching sessions this month.  I am pleased he is making the effort to overcome issues he has identified and asked for assistance with how to improve.

Sound Module Prototyping

Peter Jackson is coming for a chat today - June 30 - on options for the addition of sounds to his layout.  I have information obtained at the Narrow Gauge Convention from Prof Klyzlr. Over the coming months a final decision will be made on the type and brand of the sound modules to be installed which will be operated by an arduino based control system.

Arduino Course

Wayne, Derek and I attended the first two sessions of the Arduino course at the local library.  Whilst we learnt a few things we were quite disappointed with the very unstructured approach by our lecturer and the organisers for not having any course evaluation mechanism.  The last session had to be rescheduled and Wayne and I had a previous commitment so we missed out on attending.

Prep for 3 July Ops

I have 3 days to clear off the layout and get ready for an ops session on 3 July.  It has come around quicker than I thought looks like a busy weekend getting things ready and preparing all the running sheets as I have 2 new operators and a guest coming in addition to the normal crew.

That's it for this month!

Till the end of July.....


Wednesday, May 31, 2017

April & May Update

The last two months has seen activities that included: MTH PA/PB's continuing problems, Arduino bits, 2017 Australian Narrow Gauge Convention, The Bellarine Railway, Visit to Traralgon, Stanvac Gates, Four Ops Sessions, Sound Module Prototype and Arduino Course.


I think these are the most troublesome locos I have ever bought....

Following installation of the Loksound decoders unstable motor performance has been experienced with every model.  I gave them to our Guru Don who took them home inspected my work and tested them.  The motors would work normally for a while then start drawing heavy current from 120mA up to 800mA per motor.

We finally decided these motors had to go so I ordered Mashima replacements which the supplier duly shipped and the postal service has "lost the parcel"...

It seems finishing these locos is doomed......

Gearing up for Arduino Projects

After many small purchases from eBay, Aliexpress, Banggood, Goodluckbuy and a few others my stocks for projects are now mainly on hand.

2017 Australian Narrow Gauge Convention

On Easter Thursday Rosslyn and I drove to Geelong in Victoria where we joined Peter from Traralgon who had come by regional train via Melbourne and we stayed in a cabin park before departing on Tuesday morning.

After a "heavy night" on Thursday we were slow to rise on Friday so had an easy day before attending the conference venue in the evening for registration and the first look at exhibitors and suppliers who were finalising there setup.

We had a great weekend attending many clinics and wandering throughout the venue a number of times visiting the layouts, the contest area and suppliers booths.  All of us opened our wallets and a few good buys were had.

It was nice to meet people that I talk with on Model Rail Radio and/or Facebook and to name a few: Dan Pickard, Rod Hutchinson, Gerry Hopkins, Murray Scholz, Prof  Klyzlr & John Garaty.

Here is a link to the 500 odd photos posted on the 2017 Australian Narrow Gauge Convention public site.

Below is a photo (by Dan Pickard) of the Corrimal Colliery Incline constructed by John Garaty & Guy Gadsden.

Below is a video taken of the Corrimal Colliery Incline towards the end of the "setup" process.

Murray Scholz's clinic...

Peter, me and Ros in the Static Grass clinic (front row left of the "leaning one"
Whilst none of us model narrow gauge we did learn from our attendance as well as having a fun weekend. On Tuesday morning Rosslyn was dropped at North Shields Railway Station where he boarded the Great Southern Rail "Overland" train back to Adelaide.

The Bellarine Railway

Attendees of the 2017 Australian Narrow Gauge Convention had the opportunity when booking to ride a special train chartered for 100 attendees on The Bellarine Railway. I invited Gavin & Natalie who are close friends and live in Geelong.  Unfortunately Gavin was in New Zealand for work so Lenny an ex Geelong Signalman "was Gavin" for a day.  Lenny related "old railway stories from his days in the Geelong Signal Cabin" during the day some of these were funny and others interesting.

I must mention the lunch provided on the platform at Queenscliff - it was exceptional - well done!

Below are a few videos put together from the day.

The scheduled service arriving and departing Queensciff.

Our train being shunted to platform after the scheduled service departed Queenscliff.

The obligatory "run by"

Lakers Siding Workshops

The preservationists at The Bellarine Railway attempted to get the steam crane going but some technical difficulties were encountered - we appreciated what they tried to achieve for us.

It was a relatively long day but we all had fun.

Visit to Peter's

On Tuesday we drove for about three hours to Traralgon for a week of "Playing with Arduino's", enjoying each others company and eating nice food accompanied by exceptional red wines...

We did spend an hour or two in the shed where Peter gave some Amtrak locos "a run".

One of the first projects was to build Peter a circuit to turn some background lights on when he walks into his dark study.  This will allow him to sit down and switch on his desk light whilst not being in total darkness.  We adjusted the "detection range" for the ultrasonic sensor placed on one side of the entrance to be less than the distance to the door and this was used for activation.  After prototyping using a UNO R3 we loaded the program to a Arduino Nano.

We used an ultrasonic detector and a Arduino Nano to switch a few LED's and a relay used to activate a light strip

Relay, light strip and ultrasonic sensor
My project was to write the code for Stanvac Gates - see next story below.

We also played with temperature/humidity sensors, 7 segment displays, LCD Display, 8 x 8 LED Matrixs and shift registers.

I left Peter's and headed for home the following Wednesday getting home in the late afternoon of 26th April which did not leave enough time to do an April Blog Update hence this one covering two months.

Stanvac Gates

Last time I mentioned the visit to Seth Newman's (video link) where I liked the operating gates and simulated derail at his Water Treatment Plant.  I am working on a version for the entrance to Stanvac - my Oil Refinery.

I mounted the servo motors and started programming a Sketch for the Arduino controller.

At Peter's we refined the code including angles and speed of rotation for the gates and speed and length of movement of  the derail.  I decided to add a "Blue protection" track light, a flashing red light to be installed next to the moving gates and a green indicator light on the control panel for when gates opening. This was done using a UNO and finally transferred to a Pro Mini for the final installation using the Rx Tx connections.

Here is a video of part of the development.

I have 18V AC accessory power at all control panels so I built a 12V Regulated DC circuit and used a DC to DC adjustable power board to get the 5V Regulated DC required to run the project.

I installed the project on my layout and the results are shown in the video below - the masking tape simulates the gates which I will build and fit later along with the chain wire fence..

Here is the link to the Arduino.ino Sketch.

Now I have to teach my operators how to use it!

My Ops Session

Don, Des, Chris, Rossco, Pierre, Wayne and Pete joined me for a pleasant three hour session on 1st May.  Pete came back and he showed his operating capabilities again.  Everyone undertook something different during this op session with the exception of Don who wanted to repeat his previous undertaking with advanced operation utilising command station consisting and de-consisting.  I again received some positive constructive feedback.

The broad running schedule was.

We all had fun operating and enjoyed a debrief over some snacks and drinks afterwards.

Ops Sessions at Wayne's

Wayne has two groups of operators that come to operate his layout and he has four "operating sessions" to complete "a cycle of operations".  Each session has an average of about 22 train movements which has been steadily refined based on "operating experiences" over the last 18 months and the whole scheme is no quite stable.  A unintended consequence of two groups and four sessions is that each group only see sessions 1 & 3 or 2 & 4.  A strategy has been struck for our Monday night round robin group to do an "extra session" so Derek and Ross who are still working will now get to operate on Wayne's layout twice a year.


Chris, Barry, Rosslyn & I had a fun session at Wayne's and things ran pretty smooth and every movement card was used.

The fast clock was only stopped once in the session and the new configuration of Lowood Crossing continues to meet requirements just soooo much better than the previous - well worth the effort Wayne!

Most of us are starting to get a better handle on the layout now and I am sure that we are getting a lot closer to understanding the rules and operating regime.


Chris, Barry, Rosslyn, Don, Des, Peter S, Peter Jackson & I had a fun session at Wayne's and things ran pretty smooth and we had a great 2 1/2 hour running session. There was a number of derailment and power issues at the approach to Dunkley Towers yard.  I undertook to resolve the problems.

After a maintenance session I was able to successfully pull and push a set of coaches through the industrial yard tracks which should be Ok for shorter freight cars.

We look forward to our next visit in June where we are undertaking the first night time run of the layout.

Ops Sessions at Ross's

Chris, Barry, Rosslyn, Derek, Pierre & I had a fun session at Ross's.  We operated with the two Yards at each end of the point to point layout assembling trains and the operator at the line stations driving them so trains were passed from crew to crew around the layout meaning we stayed at a location for the session while Ross directed operations!

The mode of operation proved itself and we did not have any "trying to pass in narrow aisles" issues.

My thoughts are that we can extend this to include some local shunting along the line - maybe 1 or 2 cars on and off at each line station - just food for thought!
Ross our host

Ros, Don & Derek (L to R)

Chris & Barry

I was sick and missed the Ops session at Chris's in May......

Sound Module Prototyping

Peter Jackson the owner of the Eureka Valley Narrow Gauge Railroad On3 layout is interested in adding sound to three of his scenes.  I have been playing around with sensors to switch the sound modules off and on.

Three ultrasonic detectors which can be adjusted independently within the sketch on the Arduino UNO

3 x ultrasonic sensors, 1 x UNO, 3 x Relays & 1 x Sound Module

one dual and a single 5V relays
Here is the link to the Arduino.ino Sketch

Arduino Course

Wayne, Derek and I are attending a local library Arduino course (for adults) which is a 3 x 1 1/2hr session course.  We are hoping to learn a few things which will be useful in our exploits.

My first project was a traffic light simulation.

Here is the link to Arduino.ino Sketch using the delay() function.

Here is the link to the Arduino.ino Sketch NOT using delay() function.

That's it for this month!

Till the end of June.....