Wednesday 17 September 2014

The Good Stuff

Well as reported in the last blog I had spent a few weeks diving under the baseboards redoing the wiring for Candelo. So far so good and the wiring still seems to work. And my back and arms are now feeling OK.
Wiring is a thankless job we have to do to get the systems operating. No one comes to view your layout and says "Gee can I see the wiring in your control panel?" You can spend hours doing it, then we go and hide it all away.
Scenery is another matter. It is meant to be looked at and appreciated. Its what gives a layout character, some of course do it better than others and some just completely ignore it and just like running trains. Each to their own.
This week I have finally started go do some ballasting and started with Nos 1 and 2 storage roads.
When I pulled up Candelo tracks I tried to rescue as much ballast as possible. No need to buy ballast twice for the same spot. Luckily I had used the old pva glue and detergent system of laying the ballast. The spray bottle got to work over the tracks and after ten minutes the track was able to be lifted once the brads had been taken up. The spent ballast went into a container and after going through the sifter was once again ready for re-use.
Storage sidings 1 and 2 will be mainly used for holding the BCH coal hoppers as they are split up and taken to the two close by coal mines. These two roads will effectively have more dropped coal around them.
In redoing Candelo I should be working my way from the back to front so as not to be knocking poles, structures etc along the way. But I was itching to get some ballast down to see how it goes. I don't use any underlay in the yard as in real life there are no shoulders under the track, all just flat dirt. I also make sure I paint the sides of the rails as I go, you never see silver rails in real life. My preferred colour in the yard is Tamiya Khaki drab which is a muddy, dirty colour.
Looking the other direction this is the current extent of ballasting. Track is easy to do, its the ballasting around points which is tedious and slow, making sure the point blades don't get glued up along the way.
This shot shows the other side of the ridge not normally seen from the aisle. I am using florist foam, pushed into shape and glued to the plaster. The foam will make it easier to push shrubbery into this area rather than having to drill holes. I have painted this with a brown paint since which helps to blend it in with other scenery. The point motor is not seen from the other side as well and the point motor to the left will eventually be covered in with a removable flap for access.

Slowly but surely Candelo becomes reality as the scenery spreads. Compare this shot with the first shot from last posting and the microswitch has been hidden under the foam. As I have had to cut out along this existing ridge to fit in new points motors, I will work my way along redoing the scenery. Then the rest of the yard will be ballasted.

Thursday 11 September 2014

Surface, Surface

Well who could imagine that it has taken me five weeks just to get the control panel in, wired up and finally all the points operating?
I must admit that it has been the most frustrating five weeks in my modelling career. The title of this blog entry "Surface, Surface" reminds me of the order given for submarines to once again return to the surface. True I didn't need aqualungs, goggles and flippers to be there, it was towards the end that I was doing a countdown of the number of points left to wire up.
All of the point motors for Candelo are situated on top of the board. Having a sample of the "underboard life" when I was wiring up the various sections, I couldn't imagine trying to drill and screw upsidedown whilst in the squat posture trying and get the point motors into position to actually work. No it was an easy decision to place them on top.
I have used some of the newer Peco point motors that look similar to the real point motors as per the photo below. To operate the polarity of the points I used a small microswitch that was actuated by the arm of the point motor. So far this has worked well. The microswitch will eventually be covered by scenery in this area.
Another point motor will be covered by a small garage which I will rename a shed as no car will ever get in there now that the point motor takes up all the space. Some of the points have the extended throw bar extending under the tracks to the point motor. There are at least five point motors that have been built into and embankment an will be completely covered in to be invisible to the operator, but readily accessible by removing some scenery.
A few of the point motors sit in the PL 12 Peco adaptor base and I have used the PL13 Accessory switch pushed onto the Peco point motor. I have had mixed success with these PL13's where some switches were very hard to slide back and forth, they seemed to bind. So sometimes when all these assemblies were put together it was a matter of luck to get them to work. A bit of WD40 spray usually got it all moving.
So I had fun doing the wiring (not). As I tackled each point motor, I would head off for underneath looking for the telltale piece of coloured paper sticking down to locate my next target. It was like Jenolan Caves under there, the wires representing anorexic stalactites. The wires after having been soldered up to their respective push button on the panel snaked their way underneath the layout looking for their hole towards the point motor. After wiring up the button was pushed and if the point actually responded, a cheer was given and up to the house for a celebratory cuppa. Then the microswitch was duly wired in as well. It took a while to work out the logic on how these little buggers actually worked. So when the actuating arm was pushed in the end lug was energised and the middle one wasn't. Then I had to follow this out, saying OK when the point is set for the curved portion then I want the power to the frog to come from this side of the track. What made it more complicated was that I had soldered all the droppers down in the one go and used any available wire. Then I was saying "Now its the red wire from the microswitch to go to the left hand side green wire dropping down from the point." (I think) Now I am going to need the wire strippers and wire cutters so take them with me before I get under the layout. Under I go  hoping to quickly find the wires required. All good, but when I get under there I am now having a problem with my glasses in that I don't seem to be able to get my head up close enough to clearly see the ends of the wires. No problem, if I whip off my glasses I can see the ends of the wire clearly. But bugger where did I leave the wire strippers? No can't see, back on with the glasses, ah there they are now safely in hand, glasses back off again and the wire work completed.
Imagine playing this game when I needed to use the soldering iron under there. Glasses off, wheres the fricking iron, ouch just found it, ah whats another scar, my hands are getting old age wrinkles anyway. My greatest fear was after taking off my glasses was having the soldering iron have a stray wriggle and end up melting one of the lenses, luckily this didn't happen. But what happened along the same lines was when I was deep under and had knocked the iron off the shelf unbeknown. It wasn't until you got that burning smell of either paper or plastic that I had to move quick and move it.
Now I am starting to see the sense of high level baseboards. When trying to get up to bottom of the board you can't kneel because you head hits the bottom of the layout, so you have to squat, the old necks getting a workout and with some luck you finally get it wired up. I eventually reckoned that without going through the wiring logic each time, I had a 50% chance of getting it right the first time. Mostly it went the other way and that involved another trip to the surface to change over the wires.
A couple of times I got wrapped up in surplus wires just hanging down, a rotate the wrong way would result in it either getting ripped out from somewhere or wrapped around me.
Many moons ago on the main board at Bega I had a diode matrix made to route set the tracks into the mainyard from the main line.  A retired friend did all the paperwork for me I just had to follow the diagram and it actually worked. It was now my turn to repeat this for the meat and oil siding. As much as I searched  the internet and tried to decipher the diagrams, I decided to turn to my electronic guru friend Jim from the Kamilaroi Railway. Within no time he had a diagram whipped up, emailed to me and then I went searching for a piece of vero board to assemble the parts onto. Murphys law can't find it, so into the local Jaycar shop to get a piece of vero board and also some IN4004 diodes. Cheap at 50 cents for four diodes. This is the left hand matrix in the above photo. When you follow through the logic of how it all works it is quite simple.
When ever there was a hiccup during the wiring, I would down tools and finish for the day saying "will solve tomorrow with a clearer head" And usually it all worked.
In amongst all of the trackwork I also included a double slip. Then after having the frogs separately powered I realised I had to work out a matrix for it as well. I had six buttons feeding into the matrix, to end up working the two point motors. This is the right hand matrix in the above photo. Then slowly one by one the wires were fed into it and tested. No matter how carefull I was in checking and rechecking the wiring diagram, I only got a 85% mark. This resulted in trips in and out up to the panel to see if it all worked. Eventually all worked and around lunch time today success finally with all points and sections working. I wish I could have hired a small boy or a dwarf for a couple of weeks to help with the wiring. (Can you still say that?)
 As the photo above shows poor old Bodalla has copped a hammering of late. It will eventually be cleared and refurbished once Candelo is completed.
So this afternoon I got to run a few trains around Candelo to test the points and sections.
The Victorian B62 class along with the new C van recently obtained at the Caufield exhibition test some of the trackage at Candelo.
Whats next? A big cleanup of the floor and baseboards and possibly getting the passenger platform underway. Yee ha, wiring done.