Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Rewiring, Whew!

The rewiring project is well under way:

There are several subtasks in this phase. One is to remove one DC cab circuit entirely, and replace the other, which had been 22 AWG color coded green and yellow, with 14 AWG DCC cab bus color coded red and black. This will include removing all block toggles from the control panels.

Another task is adding a USB connection from my computer to the layout via an NCE USB interface for JMRI. Here is the USB cable going through the wall into the layout room:

A third task is to replace the control panel toggles that operated Tortoise switch machines with stationary DCC decoders. This will do two things. The first is to allow switches to be thrown at any point on the layout via a handheld DCC controller, rather than having to go to the particular panel with the proper toggle. Here's the old way of doing things:

Neither the block toggles nor the switch toggles will remain when things are finished, though this will take some time. The second advantage will be to use the USB connection to my computer to be able to control switches via a JMRI dispatcher's panel on the computer. (This will only be really useful if I can ever find other operators for the layout.)

I'm also recycling some surplus components removed during rewiring onto the T-Track module project. In addition, I'm using stationary decoders for switches from the start with T-Track.

You can also see an Atlas snap relay, surplus in the rewiring project, that will be controlled by stationary decoder and control signals on the T-track modules.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Looking At The Walthers Mainline SD70ACe

Six-axle EMDs are uncommon in California on the BNSF, even less so in the Los Angeles area. Still, I decided to give the Walthers Mainline SD70ACe a try. These are very reasonably priced, especially for the sound version, and I found one on line for 5% off the discount price on a Veterans Day sale. Here's a shot of the loco out of the box, with couplers installed:

The details are generally good, as is the paint, although the paint doesn't include warning labels. The biggest problem is the bare cab roof:

As delivered, these locos had GPS and antenna domes on the cab roof. Here is a 2014 photo of the prototype 9372 that also shows the warning labels missing from the model's paint:

More recently, PTC antenna arrays have appeared on prototype cab roofs. These vary by railroad and also by date they were installed, and some models have these, while others don't. Here is an MTH SD70ACe that I installed aftermarket PTC antennas on the cab roof:

I'm not sure, though, if the BNSF styles of PTC array are even available as aftermarket parts.

Here is a video I made to compare the lights and sound of the Walthers SD70ACe with my MTH loco, followed by a prototype BNSF SD70ACE:

The Soundtraxx basic sound with the Walthers model doesn't seem to give a choice of horn, but both the MTH and Walthers horns seem close to what you hear in the video. I wish the ditch lights were brighter in both models. I like the fact that function F5 turns the ditch lights on and off on the Walthers model.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

My History Modeling Signals

I've had signals on my layout ever since I started with HO. I remember being in junior high school and building a signal bridge with balsa strips, washers, and red and green grain of wheat bulbs that I controlled with a DPDTY switch. My more modern evolution begins with the start of this layout project at an earlier home in 1988. I saw an article by Gary D Petersen, "Simplified CTC Signals", in the July 1988 MR. Here is an image from part of a page in that article:

Here is a switch machine block I built following the article:

I've replaced almost all of these on my current layout, when I switched to Tortoises, but this is an example of what could be done with the earlier technology. Notice that I filled in a lot of the space around the machine with silicone calk to keep it from shaking itself out of alignment. Another problem was that the machine also eventually shook loose solder connections.

Here's a photo that includes some of the electronic gear that went under the layout:

And a photo of the very crude CTC machine under construction following the Gary Petersen MR article:

I had a fantasy when we moved to this house of having a CTC board with a dispatcher in another room, but I began to realize how much wire this would require, and I also began to realize that realistically, it's hard to put together an operating group, so I dropped it. However, my layout does have signals:

Here is the electronic equipment that controls this signal.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Rewiring -- CP CONN

I've always been interested in signals. My basic concept for my present layout, including the part that was started in the 1980s, was to emulate CTC control points. The way I've gone about it has changed over the years.

The current rewiring project has had its effect. DCC will allow simplification and may eventually let me hook things up to a computerized panel. Once I began to get an idea of how much wire it would take to do something like the CTC panels you read about in the model press and on the web, I realized this wasn't doable for a single builder like me.

However, I eventually worked out a way to put detector and relay panels under the benchwork. This is the one at CP CONN almost exactly three years ago:

These are analog relays and detectors cobbled together with Radio Shack components. the wiring was just being started here, but eventually I got stumped. here's the project as it is after I restarted it today:

The wiring will be neater when the DCC bus replaces the green and yellow color coded block wiring. This and some additional hardware will control this BLMA gantry at CP CONN:

The gantry is temporarily propped up. Logic Rail Technologies has come up with hardware that can control this, used along with some of the detectors and relays shown above.

Those shown are from Dallee Electronics. My oldest are almost 30 years old. I discover I can use them with JMRI computer panels with an interface.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

T-Track Modules Assembled

I was able to set up a temporary surface for the T-Track modules. Here's a video of them assembled with a Kato Chicago Metra set running: