Believe it or not, I'm back in business. Thanks to Dil Huey who brought his spare power supply. We spent the morning troubleshooting, replacing and testing I/O boards. 4 of 26 were toast. 2 others had small problems, but I could move wires around to good places. The rest are working st this time. I spent the afternoon reprogramming the software to match the changes.
Today I turned on the layout and I heard a pop, but I didn't know what it was. Then I smelt it. There was an electrical problem somewhere. The regulated power supply was is supposed to put out 13.8 vdc was putting out 26.6 vdc. This caused at least two I/O's to smoke. There maybe more. I won't know until I can replace the power supply.
This may cause the cancellation of a few op sessions.
The cavalry is on the way tomorrow and maybe then we can see the extent of the damage.
Starting on the north end of Searsport and working on hiding the hole in the wall. When everything else dries I have some trees to plant that will help hide it. I think the backdrop is doing a pretty good job so far.
I thought I would get a start on Searsport and I made a big mess. Then I realized how many available days I had left before the next Op Session. Not a good move on my part. I will be extra busy getting everything tidied back up.
Finally got around to scenery on the small part of the helix that shows. I was hoping not to have to use tunnel portals, but the things I tried didn't work. Things are drying now, so I'll test this section out later.
The Bucksport city planners have made up their minds for the city improvement project and things are underway. The first section is on the south side and we will be working north from there. New roads have been planned and started. We even got a few light clouds over the city.
This area is where the trains come out of the helix for a short stretch. It was long time coming to get this project going.
The mainline and staging is done. It is time to see if I get a couple of towns with buildings and scenery before the convention.
I spent the day moving the buildings I had around to see what worked for me. I got a very rough idea of what I wanted for Bucksport and Searsport.
This is one of the buildings I had started but broke when I was careless is this one. It will go in Bucksport. The current industry is Ellsworth Supply. One of the new industries for Buskport will be renamed Huey Wire & Cable for the help that I was given by Dil Huey through out my early stages of construction. It might be this building, but I have another place that would be fine. Not sure yet.
The small section is to cover a hole in the wall where track goes. The big section was meant for the old layout, but will be used here. It is probably a little large, but it was already started.
It will get sturdier bracing to help hold it together better than the last time.
Part of the reason to add staging tracks is to get away from using the same train for a morning and afternoon runs. My trains 33 and 34 where the afternoon potato train became # 73 and 74. These are now a fast freight of any kind. It could be piggy backs, a tank train or whatever. That was easy enough.
Then there was the other Canadian trains. Since this train went into St. Albans, which was full. I had to go through the new staging tracks.. CN3/4 now becomes 87 and 88 the more realistic milk train. Southbound will pick up full express reefers and make some passenger stops. Northbound will set out empties at the dairies and make some passenger stops.
The evening passenger trains 12/13 will not work dairies and becomes a more express train stopping at just the bigger cities.
The morning passenger service no longer works dairies and becomes more of a commuter train.
With these changes comes the inevitable schedule changes. These are a headache no matter how you do it. Change one thing and it affects everything else. Then once you are happy you actually run the schedule and you must make more changes.
Today I finished wiring the control panel and tested the panel and I/O without hooking it to the rest of the layout. Tested the buttons and lights with the computer. Fixed a couple of bad solder joints and retested. All is good.
Then I proceeded to connect up to the layout. I had to move a few existing wires first. When all was connected and components added to JMRI. I retested again. All was still good.
Then I spent about 4 hours programming the buttons and lights for use and testing to see that I have achieved the desired goals.
I obtained many parts from a couple of layouts that were taken down. A lot of those parts got put away until I needed them. I had two large panels put away that I already thought I had stripped of parts. I dug them out just in case I missed some and to my surprise they were completely intact.
This meant that instead of scrounging for parts, I now had more I/O boards, wires, push buttons and LEDs. I had forgotten to get some green LEDs and this panel was full of them. All of these wires were perfect for the new panel.
The new panel has been wired internally, but still needs the wires attached to the I/O board. This panel will have local control for both staging yards. Each half will have a push button with indicator for which track is selected. A yellow light to show you are in local control and a signal with red and green indicator for leaving the yard.
Since the last update I finished installing and programming all of the signals. Testing the programming has been completed. The new panel cover for staging is ready, so now the next step is to wire up the new controls. 24 push buttons and 30 indications lights.
This is the guts inside of the control box. Now to connect all of the wires.
With all of the changes it was time to move some control panels around. I removed the old panel for Portland to be used for Brewer. Then I removed the Bangor/Brewer panel for use for both staging areas.
The new Brewer panel was redesigned for how Brewer looks now. Some of the electronics for Katahdin had to be moved into this panel. It now sits where the upper staging panel used to be. I needed to go into JMRI and make many changes in the program so it would work properly.
The new staging panel face is in the process of being made. There will be an upper staging and lower staging section. Each section will have 12 push buttons for local control and lights so you what track is selected. There will be a local enabled light and a red and green light to tell the engineer if he can proceed or not.
I got the layout staged for the next session so I decided to continue on with construction. I went ahead and connected the new staging to the rest of the layout. This time I cut in a temporary turnout a different way the the first time.
The first time I went the easy route and connected to the near side of the return loop. Unfortunately this caused much more redesign with the old staging and main line. This time I connected to the far side of the return loop. So that the new and old staging comes to the layout the same way. I needed to do this because I will need to take the old staging track for use in the rest of the new staging. The means a more seamless transition to the new staging. If I can get a switch machine on the temporary turnout I will have 13 staging tracks for use until the move is complete.
While I was at it I replaced the temporary wiring for auxiliary power to staging. I also tested the installed tracks to ensure everything worked.
I am finally back at it again after a long time off for vacations and other things.
The first step was to pre wire all the track in the yard throat. With that accomplished the next step was to put the section in place and test for fit and car clearances. Of course the very last track had clearance issues and the bench work needed to be lowered about 1/2" to clear my tallest rolling stock.
I completed the hook up for the turnouts and made a test panel in the computer for testing all of the turnouts and Occupancy Detectors.
I already had the back section of tracks 8-12 in place, so I connected the front half to the back half.
Today I hooked up all the wires for the installed track. They are now ready for testing.
Before testing happens I'll need to restage all of the lower staging for the next session.
Finally after way too many days, South Portland is back together and I'm moving forward again. The track throat was modified to accept a better turnout and remove the S curves that I didn't see the first time around. The track work is much better now.
The upper benchwork was installed and lights for the lower level put in place. Now back to the projects I should have been working on before I got sidetracked.
A friend from the old country heard I was working on the railroad and since he was going to be in the Asheville area this weekend he wanted to come and help. It was decided to work on staging because two people would be better for some aspects. We ended up getting farther than I thought. Some because of the help and I wasn't sure if I had enough stuff to work this part.
The staging throat seems to be much better than the first one. Some turnouts were reversed and there is not as many s curves. I may have to change the lower level to match.
Al of the tortoise machines have been installed already and the track power drops have been put in.
As soon as I get all of the yard throat tested I'll be able to move some of the original NMJ track to here and finish up staging.
Mike Porterfield working on the back half of Northern Maine Junction.
I was going to put together something to more easily tell me what was going on with my signals. I had put a couple of signals together through splitters which Dil Huey recommended against. Of course I don't always listen.
This is a tester for the signals and occupancy detectors. I inherited it when other folks torn down their layout. I knew I had some test equipment but I hadn't paid attention to how to use it. The top section is for checking Occupancy Detectors and the bottom will check the signals. It makes it easy to plug in to my I/O board to check that I'm getting the outputs or inputs expected. You can go farther down the line if you put splitters or connectors in.
It turns out that the I/O boards are fine. Some of the trouble arises with the splitters and most of the trouble arises with my installation techniques. I allowed the wires from the signals to have stress on them, instead of securing them properly. My old signals with mag wire rubbed the insulation off and when moved can cause a short. In some cases wires broke either way I learn some things today.
During the last session there was a lot of signals that had a least one light out. Some where because I missed programming them for the new changes. The rest I would have to look at. I had to make an order for resistors and they finally came in.
I programmed a button in JMRI to do nothing more than turn every signal on at the same time. That way I could walk around an look at every light and know which ones need my attention. I don't know why I didn't think of that earlier.
One of the last things to do with the addition is to add some of the cars that have been waiting for a home. The first thing I wanted was to get enough cars for a piggyback train. I have enough for one direction, but not both. I'll use this opportunity to stage different trains in South Portland and pick the one I want for the session. It might be a reefer train, tank train or whatever I put together.
I also wanted a few Food Grade tank cars for operations and these are the ones that I have ready. The good thing about Intermountain Cars is I only need two already made resistor wheels, since I'm using IM wheels already.
There are timetables, card cards, maps, waybills, single line diagrams, train instructions, engine cards, yard instructions.
Pretty much anything that had something to do with the new construction. It might have been town name changes, adding new industry, changing industry names or siding lengths. It could be a train length changed, a train makes an extra stop.
Of course I used this opportunity to change some train names to be more consistent with the area I model. This added a few more wrinkles.
Then there is all of the verification that I did it all right in the computer and then when I printed it out and when I put in the new card on the layout and removed the corresponding old card......
The old reverse loop was wired backwards.
All the the mainline connections for occupancy needed an upgrade.
Deering is now on a different breaker so the wire color needed to be changed on all track.
A turnout needed to be changed out.
I cut an extra gap in the siding that had to be fixed.
Most of the logic for JMRI had to be updated.
Now all of the track is working.
The occupancy detection is working.
All installed signals are working, with one more to add.
Yesterday I got enough JMRI work done and made the choice to do what it takes to have it all done by the next session. 14 days to complete all track changes, paperwork and restage.
Today I put in the new panel for Deering to match the proposed new track arrangement. I finished programming JMRI to allow all of these buttons and lights to work. This all went pretty well until I hit the RS 485 convert and cracked it. So far it still works, but I'll have to order another one just in case.
Things went good enough to start removing all Portland track that was in the way, putting in the new mainline and remove all TSM's. The back two tracks were the old Deering tracks and are now the industry tracks. Some of the Portland staging is now used as the Deering Main and siding.
Still need to finish the mainline leading in and out of Deering. After that I'll start on the track power which will have to be changed for occupancy detection. Signals after that.
Today was the day to move all electrical powers supplies to a new location. This will allow me to consolidate all power to work from the light switch by the door.
The power for DCC and the CMRI equipment was off of a light switch at the door, but I was using an extension cord to make that happen. The DC auxiliary power was off a receptacle way it the back of the room. All of this was moved and connected to the switch at the door so all of it can be turned off at once.
I have my programming track hooked back up and will hook up a computer to JMRI and NCE, so I can try out the WI throttle.
My very first train set was a Lionel 027. It came with a Northern Pacific engine similar to this. So when I saw this Athearn Genesis HO on the clearance shelf at LCC, I thought long and hard about getting this engine for nostalgia purposes.
It comes with Tsunami Sound and it was half off.
Of course it doesn't match my road, but it does match the era and with an expansion coming up, I can use more engines.
At the north end of Portland there is no going back. I removed the three way turnout and a few others. We haven't been using these during ops sessions anyway. I connected the main between Yarmouth and Deering with a section of track. Now it matches the changes that were previously made in JMRI.
Next you will see some changes in the Deering and Portland track. At this point if I don't get the electronics made in time we can still use the tracks as before. Deering being the back two tracks and Portland being the rest. When the changes go into effect the Deering tracks become sidings and the back two Portland tracks become the Deering Main line and siding. The rest will be removed.
This change is still somewhat temporary until I come up with a better plan and the code 83 track and turnouts needed. One thought that occurred to me is that the old return loop could be an interchange with the MEC or a place for the Wood Job or Work train staging.
I do not like to cancel op sessions. This means that any major work has to be done between sessions. Any changes must he ready to go in less than a month. Normally this is not a problem, but to add the new staging, I must do many changes this month.
I have tested all of the new track and now everything needs to be incorporated into the old system. This will mean many many changes in JMRI. The way I attached to the layout means that Deering must be modified and also changed in JMRI. The old staging track 7 & 8 will become Deering's mainline. The old mainline will become sidings.
A new local control panel will have to be designed, implemented and tested before the next op session.
There are things I'm doing at this point that can be implemented, that need to be done for the new portion of the layout, that will not impede op sessions. There will come a point where I have to decide to go for broke and make all of the changes and hope for the best.
Following the theme of more engines. Tony's train Exchange had a decent price on Atheran Genesis engines with Tsunami Sound so they will be added as soon as they arrive.
I decided to try a Bachmann engine since I found a good price on EBay. This does not have sound. It does look pretty good, but after two sessions, it has been removed both times for performance complaints. I'll have to take it on the road myself to see what I think.
I went to The Little Choo Coo Shop after an Op Session last week and found they were having a big sale. Two weeks before I was looking at this NYO&W FT set with LokSound from Intermountain is was on the 20% off table and left it there. Two weeks later I go back and it's 50% off. It was snatched up.
I am also looking at upgrading or expanding the tank car fleet and they had IRC, Atlas and Kadee at 40% off. I picked up 4 tank cars I had been looking at on EBay.
So this week I was driving somewhat nearby and decided to stop again. This engine was 50 % off also. It does have the LokSound in it. While none of these engines are exactly my road, this is where I might have to learn how to paint. Until then they can run as is.
Oh yeah. I picked up four more tank cars and a building from Woodland Scenics.
I was online with the CMRI group asking about a problem I was having with my detection circuits. Out of the blue Chuck Catania from Model Railroad Control Systems, sends me an email explaining their new design for detectors that he thinks works better in troublesome cases.
He asked me if I would like to test one to see how they worked. I said yes and a couple of days later I have one in the mail.
They are almost half the size of the older versions. They are also cheaper for the built version than the other one. Now to find a place for it before Next Saturday's session.
Portland Staging track has been put together and both sections have been hooked together. The Tortoise machines are working with the computer. Eight of the twelve tracks occupancy detectors are working with the computer. The rest are waiting on parts.
The next step was to connect the new staging to the rest of the layout and test the track work. All is well.