Sunday, February 8, 2015

Wollar Station Yard Upgrade

Several months ago as part of signalling my layout I decided that I would finally do something about the non-prototypical track work at the UP end of Wollar. Way back in the mists of time (mid-1980's) I was given some Shinohara points by a friend. As money was tight I built a station yard with what I was given which led to the not quite right track work.

I recently ripped out the offending points and replaced them with some Peco code 75 points in a correct arrangement. Another reason that the points had to go was that they weren't DCC friendly at all and also caused the occasional derailment.

I won't bother you with what the track work looked like but here is the upgraded yard layout. The main line is the loop track through the station platform and the actual refuge loop is the straight track, a bit different but it was used occasionally by the NSWGR. The back platform road is the one closest to the aisle which is at the bottom of the diagram.

This diagram is the one I have mounted at the Wollar 'Signal Box' otherwise known as the Wollar control panel.

About the same time that I was rebuilding the track work I visited Train Works at Thirlmere with Chris and my youngest grandson Jesse and I took photos of the plates on the lever frame there.

As a result of this outing I decided to do some work to upgrade the control panel to at least partially replicate a signal box arrangement.

This led me to draw up small versions of the plates which I had 3D printed. I have just completed painting and installing these above the key switches of the points and signals (see below). The plates are 25mm x 10mm and it was interesting applying the brass colour to the numbers, letters and edges of the plate that were raised only 0.4mm from the plate surface. I used a gold coloured Uni-ball Signo fine gel ink roller ball pen that I found at Officeworks. If I ever re-draw them I will look at raising them higher from the surface. I had to do a bit of touching up with black paint.

The numbers on the plates are replicated on the track diagram in the photo above and will assist the Signalman at Wollar the next time that we operate the layout. When I have time I will print up a 'Pulling List' that will tell the Signalman which levers (switches) to pull (throw) to move through the various routes in the station yard. There is an area for the list to the right of the main bank of switches. The group of four switches at each end are the UP and DOWN Accepts and the three UP and DOWN Starters. The Accept switches are the two grey ones on the outer ends. The Starters are the red ones and the points are black. I actually have one switch, number 8 which is marked NOT IN USE as it doesn't control anything. This was a decision I took when I decided that I would have the bank of four switches at each end of the main bank so that it was balanced. It originally controlled one of the removed points. The two red switches on the ends of the main bank are for SHUNT AHEAD signals for each direction out of the rear platform road and are used to control leaving the sidings and moving onto the main to shunt other areas of the station yard.

The white thing hanging on the brass cup hook at the UP (left ) end of the 'Signal Box' is the staff for the Coxs Gap to Wollar section, a similar hook is at the right, the staff for this section being at the Gulgong staging yard at the moment. We use these staffs when operating. I also have 'Tickets' drawn up but we haven't used those as yet.

The Wollar sign on the layout fascia is also 3D printed along the same lines of the lever plates using the NSWGR 'font'. At the moment I have only done these letters of the font. I will eventually do signs for the other stations.

There are more signals than there are controlling switches as a number of the signals are linked to points and are controlled through JMRI and its inbuilt logic. A signal can't be thrown for a train to enter or leave unless all the points are aligned correctly. At the moment the logic is only in place at the DOWN end. The semi-automation is part of making the signalling easier and hopefully fun. The Signalman will control the entry of trains with the Home signals which are linked to the Accept switches. The Home signals are also linked into the JMRI panel logic an example of which is the Flour Mill siding at the DOWN end that has a manually operated point which if thrown to the siding will stop the Home from being cleared or change it to stop if it is at clear. The main, loop and back platform road will have occupancy detectors feeding back to JMRI as well. The Home signals are brackets which will also show which road is clear to enter.

It will probably be another month or two before I complete the rest of the signals and do the JMRI logic. The signal posts are in place and painted but no arms, servos, etc. So an operating night is a while away.

I just hope that the rebuild and 'Signal Box' go down well with the two Ramblers that often act in the role of Wollar Signalman, time will tell.

Of course the observant will notice that there isn't a signal box at Wollar, something else to build. I am working out where it will go at the moment and I am currently favouring one on the Down end of the platform.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Installation of a Soundtraxx Tsunami ALCO 251 v12 sound decoder in an Auscision 45

Given that the Auscision 45 class comes with a 21 pin decoder socket for the ESU Loksound v4 decoder this presented me with a problem as I already have seven diesels fitted with Tsunami decoders.

Why was this a problem?

Here are some issues that I had to think about:
  • The Loksound v4 momentum factor issue - ESU has moved away from the standard NMRA momentum factor of 0.876 and introduced a factor of 0.25 in the Loksound v4 what this means is that for the same momentum input for acceleration or deceleration the Loksound v4 will only have about 30% the momentum of any other brand decoder. This becomes a real issue when consisting and using the momentum button on a NCE throttle to set the load behind the train. As you can imagine, locomotive consists with a mix of Loksound v4s and other decoders will have trouble as the locomotives will appear to fight each other. The Loksound v4 equipped locomotive(s) will slow down or accelerate faster than the other(s). The momentum can of course be adjusted in each decoder type to match but then that stops the use of the NCE throttle momentum button for more realistic operation.
  • There is a Loksound v4 decoder that is available with recorded 45 class sounds that has manual notching whereby a press on the appropriate function key will start the locomotive notching up and there is another key to notch down. While this can give an appearance of prototypical operation it also means that you can drive your locomotive in speed step one up a steep grade with a long train. It can be a bit like playing a musical instrument, you have to think about what you are doing with the diesel motor to match how you are driving. My seven Tsunami equipped diesels have automatic notching and a speed curve set up so that in notch eight the diesel is going at 15 miles per hour. I did this as the NSWGR rated their diesels at what speed could the maximum power be achieved (notch 8) on a 1 in 40 grade. The speeds ranged between 8 to 13 mph so after some experimentation I chose 15 mph as the average of approximately 10 mph was too slow. I also set the Tsunami decoders to notch up/down at 10 speed steps so in 128 step mode you can tell which notch the diesel is in by looking at the speed step (10, 20, 30, etc.). The ruling grade on my Bylong layout is 1 in 40. Incidentally the Loksound v4 decoder does have automatic notching but the notches are spread over the full speed range. I believe that this could be adjusted but the learning curve required is very steep and the available 45 class Loksound v4 is locked so this can't be changed, maybe one day.
  • The price of a Loksound v4, enough said.
Since I had an AT1000 Tsunami ALCO v12 already, the choice was made to install it.

I removed the existing board with its 21 pin socket and proceeded to wire up the AT1000.

Edit: I should mention that there is little vertical room for the AT1000 and I had to cut off the two short posts that located the original board at one end. I then glued a piece of 0.005" styrene across the two mounting posts of the original board at each end to insulate the AT1000 from the chassis.

Mostly, everything went well until I found that I couldn't get the headlight/white markers/number boards to light up. The red markers worked and I tested the outputs on the AT1000, the headlight outputs at both ends were good, so a problem with the 45 class. A call was made to Marcus Ammann who quickly sorted me out. It appears that the white wire to the headlight output at each end of the AT1000 is correct but the purple wire has to go to the function common along with the blue wire! The wiring of the Auscision 45 is back to front for DCC, something to do with DCC using a +ve function common instead of the more usual -ve common found elsewhere. Perhaps Auscision need to inform their factory about this anomaly and change it for future models.

Wiring Diagram

I wired the front red markers to the FX5 output on the AT1000 and the rear red markers to the FX 6 output.

So what I have is the headlight on F0 (Headlight button on NCE throttle) and the headlight/markers/number boards will turn on at the front or rear depending on the direction of travel, not perfect unfortunately.  The red markers are on/off as required.

This allows me to have the headlight/white markers and number boards on at the front when moving forwards and not have the red markers on at the rear of the locomotive when pulling a train.

Also, when the locomotive is standing in a siding or shunting it can have both front and rear red markers on at the same time as per NSWGR practice.

The headlights, white markers and number boards should all be on separate outputs but this is about the best we can do with the restricted number of outputs on decoders. Although I should add here that the QSI Titan has 10 outputs which almost gets us to the 12 required to handle marker lights etc. prototypically. Unfortunately at the moment they are hard to get.

I used a Soundtraxx 810113 Small Oval Speaker in the 45 class speaker enclosure but I had to cut the sides of the enclosure to fit the speaker (see photo above).

The sound from this speaker is quite good and here it is in the video below along with the same sound decoder and speaker set up in the second 45 class, an AR Kits version. Unfortunately the microphone in my video camera is not that great. I am sure that the Tsunami ALCO 251 v12 doesn't sound as good as the available 45 class Loksound v4 version but it does match my other ALCOs and it doesn't cost as much.

I actually have four Loksound v4s in steam locomotives, I just don't like them for diesels so I am not trying to stop anyone from using the Loksound v4, this is just my implementation for my reasons although I do think that modellers should consider the momentum issue against their existing diesel roster and layout operational ideas.

Approaches have been made to ESU by some well known model railroad identities (as well as Matt Herman of ESU USA) to have a CV added so that the standard NMRA momentum factor can be chosen if required but to no result. We can only hope that ESU will wake up, especially considering their current inroads into the US OEM market.