Saturday, May 30, 2009

Curved Stations

James McInerney posted a comment to my previous post about curving the station to get away from the parallel to the baseboard look.

I love the look of a curved station but have always shied away from it because of concerns about the reliability of uncoupling KDs. Uncoupling KDs is a question in itself, permanent magnets, electro-magnets, by hand, etc. that I still don't have an answer for.

I have found that the new whisker and scale head KDs are far superior in performance to the old No. 5s, however because they are so good, with 4 wheeled stock they can false uncouple when moving slowly over permanent magnet uncouplers. This is a big issue with steel axles on light 4 wheeled stock.

I only put permanent uncouplers on stub ended sidings so it's not that big an issue and can be overcome somewhat by adding weight to the wagons. This suits me as I like my loads to be heavy to give the challenge of getting up the grades with bank locos.

I am hoping to build Cassilis station yard with handlaid points as per Bylong station so curving might be the way to go, perhaps a nice broad curve will still allow the KDs to couple and uncouple, I must do some trials.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Cassilis Version 4

Here is another version of Cassilis, this one is in response to a comment from James McInerney on my first version (see first Cassilis post below) regarding the placement of the silo and the stock yards. I knew that they should have been swapped to be more prototypical but was pushed for room for the silo.

Well, once you have the detail police on your tail you may as well give up so here is a better version.

I had another version that was prompted by 'Tom' from another comment about tracks being parallel to the baseboard edge and the need for a coaling stage track. I did a version to suit but have had to put the tracks back parallel again to fit the silo.

I am open to any suggestions but the available space is 3600mm x 600mm (12' x 2') as it will sit above the lower staging yard where the upper staging yard was until it's recent move.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Cows and Grass

I had a comment from IainS on my last post about how good the cows looked in the grass and how I got the effect.

Well, those two cows are Bylong layout veterans having first been used when Bylong was exhibited at the AMRA Sydney October Exhibition in 1979. Those who have the July/August 1981 AMRM will see them in one of the Bylong article photos.

Unfortunately they are somewhat crippled as I cut them off at the knees back in 1979 when the stood in the 'grass' I used then, coloured sawdust.

These days the 'grass' they are standing in that is tickling their bellies is made of a layer of fine grass flocks of various colours to give a dry look which then has green and brown static grass applied over it.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

A Quiet Night

One recent Friday I got a call during the day from Gary Laker, one of the Ramblers who was desperate to do something. Gary works to a roster and was out of sync with our meetings so I invited him over that night.

I also rang 'Rowdy' David Allen another quiet Rambler.

Well we had a most enjoyable evening running trains and adjusting the CVs on a Tsunami Alco 251 V12 decoder I had just installled in a Trainorama NSWGR 44 class. Gary had been a driver for 15 years and Rowdy had been a fireman for several so they were invaluable in determining which of the 15 diesel horns in the decoder was the closest to a 1960s 44 with dual horns. After much tooting of horns it was down to two, numbers 4 and 13. I am using the number 13 horn at the moment and it will be put to the test the next time all the Ramblers drop by.

Next we moved on to dynamic braking, the Tsunami allows the dynamix brake to be turned on with function 4 but you can also have the throttle respond accordingly by adjusting the CVs. By default the Tsunami will drop the diesel sound to idle when the dynamic brake is used but the real 44 class would go to notch 4, so notch 4 it was. This doesn't give as much change in engine noise as the default as you may only be around notch 4 when descending a grade but it's nice to know that it is happening.

In conjunction with the dynamic braking I had set the automatic notching in the Tsunami to change every 10 throttle steps, so when set in 128 mode and with a speed curve active that tops out at the 80 step mark this gives you eight notches as per the prototype. The Tsunami can also be set up for manual notching where the diesel engine sound is disconnected from the throttle and most be notched up and down by the driver, I haven't tried this yet.

The 44 was given a heavy momentum for both accelerating and decellerating for more realism.

The Tsunami allows function 11 to activate a brake that will slow down the loco, the braking effect being fully adjustable by CV for effect.

Now, I use NCE and function 11 is an awkward two handed button press and function 7 operates the brake squeal noise so I used JMRI Decoder Pro to make function 7 sound the brake squeal as well as activate the braking effect. Function 7 is also the brake squeal on locos fitted with QSI sound decoders such as Eureka and Austrains C35 so this is a good match, nothing more confusing than trying to remember which function does what and which decoder is in which loco. The JMRI DecoderPro freeware program is just the thing for setting these function button assignments easily.

With the momentum and the above adjustments the 44 took on a whole new dimension.

There may be more adjustments to make for fine tuning but I am more than happy with the way this 44 operates, two more to go.

A word of warning, the standard shrink wrapped Tsunami barely fits and one speaker must be removed to make room. For my second 44 I have bought the Atlas variant of the Tsunami, this being a flat long decoder that should replace the existing lighting board although it isn't the same shape. Maybe one day Trainorama and other manufacturers will ensure that the lighting boards in their diesels are made to the Atlas 'form factor' for ease of decoder installs, or at least for this decoder. Unfortunately this is not the case with the upcoming GMs.

One last point, I fitted a speaker enclosure for the 44 that is available from the Model Railroad Craftsman at Blacktown, NSW. This speaker enclosure need a little bit of chamfering on the inside edge to fit the existing 44 class speaker. You must have an enclosure sealing the back of the speaker as you will get little sound the way the speakers come in the 44 class without it. The speaker needs to work against entrapped air to produce the sound.

Gary Spencer-Salt, the proprietor has produced this speaker enclosure to go with his Loksound sound decoder kit specifically set up with 44 class sounds. Having seen and heard this operate in James McInerney's 44 class I can thoroughly recommend the Loksound as a far easier install than the Tsunami.

Finally, towards the end of the night Gary Laker asked if he could take a photo of his 13 class and passenger cars that has been working their way around the layout that night.

I gave him my camera that is permanently set up for model photos and a tripod. The photo above is the result of his photo and a bit of enhancement by me by dropping a real background into the photo instead of the light blue background that exists right behind the train (see below).

As you can see Gary is a fine modeller with a good eye for weathering.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

BYLONG Operation Night

NOTE: Links to timetable files are to be found at the bottom of this post.

Two nights before they returned home to Texas, Blair Kooistra and Lance Lassen attended an operating night at Bylong.

Others attending were, left to right, sort of:
Bob Merchant (Senior Bob), BobLynch (Junior Bob), Blair Kooistra (at rear), Ron Cunningham (front), James McInerney (centre), Lance Lassen (at rear in orange shirt), Terry Flynn (centre), myself (front in white shirt), Layne Hardy (centre), Des McDonell (towards rear) and Gary Laker (front right). Keiran Ryan turned up later from work after the photo was taken.

Blair has been posting a day by day diary of their train chasing exploits around NSW on his Under the Weather blog ( since he arrived back home and I feel slack about not updating my own blog.

We had a fun night operating Bylong to timetable for the first time since it's recent changes. Everyone was given copies of the timetable and signalmen were allocated to the staging yards and each station with a 'station timetable' to control the passage of trains through their section. We did not operate with a dispatcher although I was available for advice and to troubleshoot as the night went on.

The timetable was run to a 6:1 fast clock and we started well but slowly dropped behind until we were running about a fast hour behind at one stage. I had allowed for this and the middle of the 'day' was quieter and we managed to catch up a bit of time. It later became busy but we finally ended up a bit late.

There was an Up and a Down Pickup Goods as well as an Up and Down Branch Mixed that had to shunt. Blair volunteered to be driver with James McInerney as guard, he must be a masochist!

He did say he had a great time though as he shunted with James' Trainorama 49 class fitted with a Loksound sound decoder from The Model Railroad Craftsman at Blacktown NSW. James had done a lot of adjusting of the CVs and the loco had been programmed with momentum so it was interesting to shunt with.

James also brought along a Trainorama 44 class similarly fitted and adjusted like the 49 and also an Austrains C36 with a Tsunami sound decoder that was so well programmed that it would fall almost silent and drift downhill with only the clank of the side rods to be heard. I really have to ask James exactly what CVs and values he used as my Austrains C36 is also fitted with a Tsunami.

Lance chose to drive a couple of the mainline trains during the session and said he enjoyed himself.

We had two goods trains that needed banking from Kerrabee to the Gulgong staging along with the attendant light engine workings of course.

All in all, things didn't go too badly but I certainly have a couple of things to fix before the next session.

Blair kindly offered to attend the next session..... ;-)

Here are the timetables, train control graph and forms used.

The full timetable.

Individual station timetables.

Train control graph

Modified NSWGR X2010 form used for pick ups consists including shunting instructions.

See if you can find the error in the timetable and train graph, there is a move that wasn't actually possible on the night, I stuffed up.