(a.k.a. “Honey, in case I have to quarantine I’m going to be in the basement”)
June 2020, the last operating session I attended was the first Friday in March. Like so many other model railroaders I realized that during this time with no monthly operating sessions, I could rip apart the layout in a big way and get some serious work done.
I had known for some time that the layout power scheme was problematic, I had kluged things together as I went to get things running as soon as possible to debug the track work and to expand operations.
I needed to clean some things up, rationalize the power districts and install some circuit breakers.
The foundation for this work was begun at the beginning of the year, so by March I had two new locations where boosters and association power supplies could be located: under Fresh Pond Yard (the central layout peninsula) and under Queens (the far wall of the basement by the helix). I took equipment *out* of the power location by Bliss which had previously been serving the entire layout.
The second Digitrax power supply above runs the 12VDC bus that handles layout accessories and under-deck lighting.
There were immediate benefits of this:
- Track bus wire total run length was reduced by 20-40 feet, so less voltage drop due to line loss
- Circuit breakers can now be placed right next to the boosters, and
- Where I used frog juicers, these could be placed upstream of the circuit breakers as recommended.
If you place a Frog Juicer on the track side of a PSX circuit breaker, it emits a high pitched whining noise, which cannot be good. At a bare minimum it’s really annoying to listen to.
Above are the circuit breakers that handle C Secondary, Hicksville, and (eventually) Ronkonkoma. This one is mounted in the open space between LI City and Bliss, the other two had to go down under the lower deck – much less convenient.
I’m happy with the results, but I think since the central layout peninsula has twice as much trackage and equipment than the others I will most likely install another power location under Jamaica.
The CTC island from Farmingdale to Deer Park was expanding westward, and I realized that the time had come to start installing resistors on the wheel sets of all cars that didn’t already draw current, so they would activate the track occupancy detectors.
This is great fiddly work that can be done while watching Farscape or Stargate SG-1 for example. Neither task is one requiring extreme amounts of focus!
My detectors are from RR Cir-Kits, and I have found that 10k-ohm resistors work fine with those. (NCE guys: you will generally need a lower value than 10k with the NCE detectors – R.T.F.M.!!)
On the recommendation of the esteemed Adam Pinales, I affixed 10k surface mount resistors to the axle with Gel Super Glue and then used silver conductive paint to make the connections from the resistor to the wheels.
Plastic wheels needed to be replaced, and I had both Walthers and Intermountain wheel-sets available. Some trucks fit one brand or the other a little better.
If I encountered a wheel-set with a plastic axle, I’d put the resistor in the middle:
For metal axles I placed the resistor so that it would bridge across the plastic piece that insulated one of the wheels:
The paint I use is: MG Chemicals 842AR-15ML Silver Print (Conductive Paint). It’s not cheap but it adds no additional resistance to the path as I understand that some other paints might do.
I recommend placing a resistor on two axles per car, regardless of the length of the car. If two 85-foot trash flat cars with one resistor each are coupled with the resistors at the far ends, there can be an 18 inch gap with no resistor axles and if your track detection section is short (think a single turnout) then it will temporarily vacate underneath a train, which is sub-optimal.
Divide CTC extended west
During operating sessions the Tower Director at Divide was doing a lot of walking around since DIVIDE-1, 2, 3, 4, 6 and FARM-1 where all local-only power-switches or “finger flicks”. I set out to give them track indications and remote control of all switches in their territory.
This involved separating the layout sections and installing MP-5 switch machines and placing current detector coils on the track power wiring.
Below on the right: A Signal LCC node, which can drive two, 2-head PRR position light home signals, as well as the BOD-4-CP accessory board on the left (connected with the flat grey cable). Each BOD-4-CP can sense occupancy in 4 track sections. drive two MP-5 switch machines (or crossovers), and also take 4 switch inputs (Normal / Reverse position indications for the two connected switches for example)
Converting to Electric Lock
Between FARM-1 and FARM-2 there are a couple of Electrically Locked hand throw switches that had been temporarily installed as simple toggles. I converted them to my normal “Padlock” “Release” “Throw” panels.
RR Cir-Kits makes a “RB-4” — Relay Board 4, but what if you just need a single relay?
I found this nice solid state relay in a DIP package, it’s a Vishay LH1540AT. The neat little board with the screw terminals that will take any DIP-6 chip is from Winford Engineering. Just be aware the board cost 3x what the chip did! I wanted to keep the wiring neat.
The solid state relay gates voltage to the toggle when the Electric Lock conditions allow the turnout to be thrown.
I set up an indication circuit for the drop-down bridge that allows entry to the inner layout area. The bridge locks when a metal plunger is inserted into a fitting. I drilled a hole through that fitting through the 2×4 brace for a long pin, so that when the plunger is fully seated it will push the pin and close an electrical contact. Absent the plunger the track power is removed from the bridge and one track section on either side.
The tape kept the 1/4″ bit centered in the 1/2″ fitting as well as protecting the inside – critical since the plunger is a very snug fit; just a few mils.
In the two shots above, i’ve pushed the pin out to help show it’s position passing through the support.
I used relays to cut the power off of the approach tracks and the bridge tracks. Obviously if you are backing a 37-car freight train towards the open bridge, the power cut-off isn’t going to help you, but one hopes one member of the crew is watching the back of the trains as it moves in reverse! I hope that is a “Fringe Case”.
Note that the relays are set up to place a 10K resistor on the detection circuit when the track power is removed – this makes all relevant signals drop to their most restrictive aspect when the bridge is open. In addition the LCC system reports the status of the bridge directly to the Tower Director’s screen at Divide. Note that although it monitors and reports the status of the bridge lock, LCC is not an active participant in the power cut or the bridge-closed circuit. The simple “Power on, then bridge closed, then enable track power” state logic sequence will generally fail into the safest state.
Divide Tower Director’s Console
The JMRI Layout Editor Panel was expanded to fill a spiffy new monitor that I had come across on sale at Best Buy. All of the new track indications and switch controls were piped into JMRI and worked into this display. Right now the Tower can “see” all of the trains and switches in the territory and can direct them more precisely – with less walking around. The “union” was threatening to charge by the mile for that job rather than per-hour!
The routes are lined using the JMRI “Entry-Exit” feature.
Grey tracks are vacant tracks with no allocated route. White tracks have a route lined over them. Red tracks are occupied by trains.
The layout is 100% position light signals, but the panel uses Amtrak Northeast Corridor style Position-Color-Light for two reasons: It can be difficult to determine the position of a panel signal when it is mounted sideways, so the color helps the operator determine the aspects more easily. Second, the JMRI Amtrak signal system definition is the only one that allows proper aspect progressions needed to replicate LIRR signal practice. Specifically, Home Signals need the ability to display both Stop/Proceed *and* Restricting.
The Train Director can give local crews control of switches in an interlocking for a period of time for making switching moves using the tablet mounted on the layout edge.
More work on the Super Turnouts
Finally, I’ve gotten back to work on the #24 super-turnouts. I recently completed another frog and set of points copying the ones that Turnout Jedi Master Phil Monat built almost a year ago.
That’s all for the moment, hope to see you all in person…. sometime!!!