Monday, 26 August 2013

Control Panel Built

I decided this layout would have a separate control panel as I wasn't sure whether I would operate from the front or rear. At home it will probably be the front but if it ever goes to an exhibition then I would expect to operate from the rear of the layout.

I've continued with DCC and used NCE components from Coastal DCC. In this case the control box consists of the standard connector panel with an EB1 short circuit protection board and a mini panel

I wanted to simplify the control of the points away from switches or buttons for each point and make use of what would traditionally be done by a diode matrix. In this case the mini panel takes up to 30 inputs and you program it to drive whatever accessories or macros you want. In this case it took me about 10 minutes to program the 7 switches.

I've still got a couple of  points that are not switching the frogs reliably. I've not had this problem before but for some reason I'm not getting enough throw on the seep point motors to allow the sliding switch to make reliable contact. I've even had a point motor collapse on me, something that has never happened before.

It's quite expensive to have this electronics, probably £100 as opposed to £10 for a diode matrix but this is re-programmable and so mistakes are easily rectified.

All in all this probably took around 4 hours of the bank holiday weekend, not a bad few hours work. However, now it's back to work, plus a holiday, plus trying to move house means blog posts are likely to be even less frequent than ususal.

For reference, all the documents for the NCE components are available as pdfs on their website so I keep copies of them in Evernote on my Nexus tablet. It's a great way to carry all your documents with you when out and about.

Saturday, 10 August 2013

First Train Running

That's not bad for 2 weeks. It hasn't taken that much time. I'm trying to get a move on so the heavy work is out the way. So far I have

  • removed all the scenery
  • upgraded the legs to a quick release system I devised
  • expanded the front of the layout to have a harbour
  • laid nearly all he track
  • wired up the track
  • run a train

The next stage is to wire the points in so I can confirm that all the trackwork is properly live and there are no dodgy places that will let me down in 2 years time. This is where the time needs to be spent to create a quality foundation.

Saturday, 3 August 2013

All change

Progress has ground to a halt. There are several factors involved but the space that could be used to have a railway permanently up to work on is just not realistically available. I have cast around for inspiration around how to make use of the Mospick Halt baseboard. It was a great little layout but my impatience meant there was a track join on a curve and there was a high tendency to derail at that point. I was wondering whether I could create a quay or harbour scene off the front. Using Google to look for different industries and harbours I came across pictures of Crackington Quay, a layout, now retired, which fits the bill perfectly. I'm not sure what industry I'll use but the key concepts I like are:
  • Harbour
  • Shops across the middle
  • Industry at the sides
  • Land rising to each side so buildings have to rise with it

I ordered some resin boats on eBay which arrived today so work has commenced!

Saturday, 30 March 2013

York show

It's day 1 of York show. I'm up here with Tony and Richard and we're operating Clydach. It was a trek getting here. Due to the knock on effects of several accidents our 3 hour journey yesterday became 5.5 hours.

Still, the layout went together quickly and is running well. As the picture shows, the public arr enjoying it and 3 or 4 deep is par for the course.

Sunday, 30 December 2012

Christmas goal achieved!

I set myself the goal of having something working over the Christmas break and I achieved it - for all of 2 minutes!

Firstly I twisted lengths of wire together. Technically you only need to do this for long runs but I decided it would be beneficial on tracing faults to have teh wires woven together. With Jill's help we were able to wind together 15ft of wire at a time using the Dremel. I then soldered on 30 individual wires to the different sections and it looks like this.

The pair of wires that feeds a section I want to detect in is fed through a DBD22. The AIU is in place to take the output from the detector. The other piece of electronics is the UTP panel. The other board looks identical.

I then connected up the NCE station and it worked first time. The mainline points are very smooth. There was no jumping and despite not yet having wired the frogs the engines ran well.

Unfortunately I then shorted the layout and it all stopped. Most has come back to life but not everything. I suspect I may have damaged a decoder or I just don't know how to use the new equipment. The basics are definitely right. Now I need to go back to Kevin at CoastalDCC and purchase some short circuit protection.

Thursday, 27 December 2012

2 wires

It is often said that DCC can be run with just 2 wires. Now technically that is true if you have a simple circuit of track. The reality is significantly different. The recommendation is that you have droppers to each individual piece of track to minimise voltage drop. Therefore if your circuit contains just 4 pieces of track then you are immediately up to 8 wires. That is before you think about any accessories.

Here is the block diagram for the new layout.

It's really simple - honest! The pieces are:

  1. NCE PH-Pro - the main controller of the layout. This is the heart of DCC. 
  2. The handset (T shaped piece bottom left)
  3. Programming track (prog) for programming engines
  4. Track - which gets broken down into 3 districts each with their own short circuit protection
  5. UTP panel - central point for connecting the cab bus
  6. NCE AIU - auxiliary input unit for taking in random inputs - there will be 2 of these
  7. DBD22 - detects occupancy of a section of track - there will either be 3 or 6 of these
  8. Lenz LS150 - point controllers, there will be 2 of these
  9. Computer - any old laptop that can run JMRI
  10. USB to Serial converter - most DCC systems have serial connectors. Most laptops don't :-(
I can't be truly definitive as to how many wires there will be as the goods yard has not been designed yet. However, my initial calculation is that I will have over 200 wires to put on this layout.

If that wasn't bad enough I've worked out I need 3 different power supplies!

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Fresh Start

It's been a while coming but finally decisions have been made and a start has been made. I've had plenty of ideas but have come down to a few core ideas that I want to achieve. In no particular order they are:

  1. Exhibitable - it would be good to be properly on the exhibition circuit
  2. Able to be left up at home
  3. A town scene where the trains go between the buildings as on the Welshpool and Llanfair Railway
  4. A continuous run - it is nice to just watch trains occasionally
  5. Computer controlled
I had some boards that I had built for my 3mm work which I increased in width and two of those are capable of being set up in the spare room at a push with us still able to put other junk in the room.

The Welshpool and Llanfair Railway is particularly interesting and the book by Glyn Williams has some superb pictures. There are many cameos that can be modeled especially where the railway runs over the brook between the buildings.

For computer control I have moved on from my NCE starter set and bought the professional version from Kevin at Coastal DCC. Kevin was really helpful. He happily had a phone call with me one evening and we discussed the different options and what would and wouldn't connect. It was a straight choice between switching over completely to Digitrax and LocoNet or staying with NCE and mix and matching different manufacturers offerings to make it all work. I stuck with NCE as I prefer their handset and most of the extra work involved is just common sense.

So it's Christmas and what else do you do except eat, drink and work on the railway. The track plan is a simple circle. There is a 4 road fiddle yard at the rear and a passing loop at the station at the front. This will allow 4 trains to be run in a sequence. There will also be a goods area for shunting and showing off wagons.

I have made use of the new Peco mainline 009 points. At 18" radius I am hoping for better running than with the standard 9" radius points. I have used 2 Y points in the fiddle yard as these are 12" radius. I've laid the outer track only and now am going to wire it up and prove to myself I can connect all the DCC electronics successfully.