Thursday, January 27, 2011

Time to Work on the Helix

Today I decided to work on the helix. I had already made most of 1 loop just for checking heights. I figured the total would be 2 turns.

The method I used was to make 1/8 radius cutouts on 3/8" plywood. I then offset and glued them together for strength. This would give me the 3/4" thick sub-roadbed with no connector plates. So far this is does not appear to be as sturdy as my last helix which was made out of 1x4 lumber cut on angles and biscuit jointed together. So far I liked the old method, but we'll see how it goes.

I planned on using all-thread rod to make my separation. I forgot to make the sub-roadbed wide enough, so I installed a small bracket to connect the rods. This minimizes the amount of space/height required to get over the lower loop.

I glued on the cork roadbed on both loops an tomorrow I'll mount the first turn and lay the track. Then I'll work my way up until I'm on the second level.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Car Cards

The stack of CC&WB's before I put them out for the first Operating Session.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The railroad expands into Searsport.

It has been a while since I posted some pictures, so here they are. In the last couple of days I added track into Searsport from Rockland and put up the backdrop between Searsport and Rockland.

Searsport looking north.

Searsport Looking South. The Yard lead goes to the left. The empty road bed leading off to the right will connect the helix to the upper level.

Rockland looking South with its new backdrop.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Finishing Up Changes & The MER Convention

I added a new track in staging and instead of waiting until later I went ahead and installed the local control. I also installed a button that I forgot in Portland staging, which was a good thing because I ended up moving it to a different panel than it was originally scheduled to go in.
I was finishing up some of the Staging changes because once I cover it up there will be no going back. I also took this time to put in permanent bracing for Searsport (above staging). I made a few changes in staging to allow me to raise the track in staging once I get all my Tortoise machines installed above it.
I was thinking that I would be done for a little while and then I get an email asking if I would consider opening my layout for the convention. Of course I said yes, that is what this is all about. So what does that mean for me? I have until October to get as much done as I can. The ultimate would be to have all of the upper level completed so I can have the full planned Op Sessions.
All of the bench work is already up for the upper level and the upper level staging track is already in. Part of the helix roadbed is done. So this should be easy, right! It is until you consider all of the things that will sidetrack you from your goal. Well here we go.

Monday, January 17, 2011

I though I was done with changes for awhile

I got done with all the programming changes to the dispatcher's screens and told the Electronics guru who helps out when I screw up, that wouldn't be making any more changes for a while. At least until I continue the layout. Well..........You could say I lied, or that I didn't realize how soon I would put in more track.
I had to take down the plywood for Searsport (which was only there to test some theories), to put in the backdrop framework. This uncovered the mid staging that had only 6 tracks. I decide to take the time to add one more track there, since once covered it would be impossible. I was able to do everything to get it ready to go except the programming changes and control panel changes. I don't plan on using it right away put now I can put the Searsport decking back on and lay the track work at Searsport. As I get more track down I will already have the extra track just in case.
As the almighty's say "you can never have enough staging.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

First Op Session

The first session was pretty successful. 4 of the 6 invited showed up and the other two oted out due to icy road conditions. Dil Huey came over a little early to troubleshoot a couple of odd issues prior to starting. None of the issues would hurt the session, but he had the time to help and I accepted.
We got started after I gave a run down on the way the railroad should operate. Most of the problems were typical for new people on the railroad. They were trying to remember what I told them and get a feel for the way this railroad does business. I ran around as questions arose to help explain my thinking of the way things would be. All operators gave good suggestions for things I could do or provide to help people with the layout. Some of things I just forgot to print out and others will be added later.
We had a small number of small problems that were easily fixed or changed. We bad ordered two cars I didn't have as tuned as I thought. There were a couple of track issues in St. Albans staging. Two of the PECO turnouts needed to have a plastic part of the throw bar trimmed because cars of the next track hitting it. Two turnouts in Brunswick had cars occasionally derailing. It turns out that one of them needing one rail trimmed because the rail was bowing. The other one needed the Tortoise machine green adjustment piece adjusted because the turnout wasn't quite going all the way over. The amazing thing was that in two locations I forgot to trim the styrene pieces for isolating electrical blocks. I found them the next day. We didn't run all of the trains, which surprised me. I was worried that with only one level operating we might need to re-stage during the session. It is a little busy in Brunswick and will only get worse as the layout grows, so two people are definitely needed in Brunswick.
The only item left to be resolved is the radio part of the radio control. We had a few dead spots which shouldn't have happened.
All in all the 4 brave Guinea pigs seemed to enjoy themselves.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Beating back the Gremlins

I have been plagued with Gremlins since I decided to call for the first session. For the most part they have been beaten into submission. All of the engines seem to be running OK. One of the engines sounded like it was running on square wheels, even though it is a new engine. I decided to take it apart looking for a broken gear, but I didn't find any. There was a small particle in one of the gears. I cleaned it up and while not perfect it is running better. The only thing I have figured out is it is in the front truck.
Most of the button issues where due to the fact that somehow I introduced an old version of a text file into the computer. This text file told the computer what turnouts to throw when you push a certain button. Once I figured that out I just had to do some reprogramming.
The only local button that doesn't work hasn't been figured out yet. Parts of the circuit has been tested, but there must be a bad solder joint somewhere. The good news is that turnout is only expected to operated remotely and that part still works.
So, I'm thinking that thinking the only Gremlin now is the weather. The session is tomorrow and there is ice all over the roads. We'll see how things go today before we decide what to do.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

It's time to start freaking out

It is a couple of days to the first op session and today I decided to put cars in their starting positions. The cars were basically in the yard and in staging but not in any kind of order. I would use engines to move the cars around while setting up the trains. Little problems started creeping in right from the beginning. Track 5 button from the south side of Bodwell yard wouldn't work. The Main 2 track button from the North side wouldn't work and one of my engines was acting up. Not a good start.
I shut down the system for running some errands and when I came back, none of the engines would work. I know the track power came on because my sound engines were making noise and the engines lights were on. They just didn't run I powered up and powered down many times but know good. It was the same on all throttles. Great, now I'm starting to go crazy.
About an hour later, I decided to try again and the engines started up this time. Don't you just love the magic in the little black box. Then I noticed the throttle was acting up on one leg of the layout. I turned out it was happening down stream of the radio plug in, which wasn't powered at the time. I plugged it in and that seemed to solved that problem.
I noticed that the turnout control buttons weren't working properly. It turned out they were working very slow. This usually means that the computer has issues and that was the case. One of the nodes wasn't being read. That slows down the computer. That node will have to wait until tomorrow.
Things were a lot easier when I didn't have all this electronics.

Remember "Model Railroading is fun"