Hello, it’s you absentee web host welcoming himself back to his website. I have to apologize for the long absence and I will not insult you by offering excuses, I’ll just say I’m sorry.
Ok, not to insult you , but maybe an excuse or two.
When I last left you, which would have been the end of March, I had finally reached the upper deck. Having done so, I then had to work through a couple of electrical problems. After that post not much happened downstairs as I went into full work mode, gotta pay the bills. Big trade show mid April, so there was a week or so of prep and then ten glorious days in New York. We got home on the 17th of April, two days after a rare April blizzard. Less than two weeks later and the house was closed up again with the A/C running.
Somewhere I read that spring and model railroading doesn’t mix. Well, we blew right past spring and into any early summer with all the outdoor work that it entails.
And then towards the end of May my son and his family had to move a second time in less than 8 months for work. This time from Phoenix to Kansas City. My wife and I drove down to help them unpack and settle in. Back to my son in a minute.
This isn’t to say that nothing has gotten done on the layout. Quite the contrary. I have been working on several projects around the layout and will be updating you on all of it in the very near future. The problem goes back to the picture file upload limits. If I couldn’t get pictures in to show you what’s happening, then it just wasn’t any fun to write. I sat down here many times and just couldn’t do it.
Which brings me back to my son. Yep, he’s my IT guy and once they were settled he was able to fix the problem. Now I have to get all the photos loaded so that I can get you caught up on what has happened on the layout.
I am back, limping along, but back. Haven’t heard yet as to what happened with the picture thing or when it will be resolved, but I have come up with a work around for now. I am now using the camera on my phone, although some of those pictures are to big to upload. Anyways, good enough for an update although I don’t think the picture quality is as good.
As I had mentioned in my last post I have finally reached the upper deck(insert trumpets blaring or a chorus of angels). As I laid the track onto the upper deck into what will be a hint of a town, but mainly a sawmill scene, I realized that I needed electrical support. Which means I started pulling new buss wires for the upper deck. Which in turn means I had to wire new a terminal block in the electrical cabinet as the upper deck is on a different booster/PM42. Did that and then the big moment came, I ran the first train up the helix and onto the upper deck and…
Electrical Gremlin #1…
The train hit the gap between the top of the helix/lower level booster/1st PM42 and the upper level booster/2nd PM42 and everything shorted out. The breaker kicked in, cleared and then clicked out again, rinse and repeat. I quickly pulled the engine off the layout to stop the shorting and then shut everything down.
Before we proceed , a picture of the completed helix and the dreaded “gap”,
I then started the arduous task of tracing all of the wiring to see where I had screwed up. Finding nothing that was wired incorrectly, I turned to “The Google” . After several attempts, I finally hit the right combination of words and got the answer I was looking for. It was a service bulletin from Digitrax (digitrax.com) (not sure if Digitrax calls them service bulletins, but, oh well). Turns out that the polarity on Digitrax boosters are not always internally wired the same. WTF!!! Their fix is to simply flip the wires to Track A and Track B on one of the boosters. HUH. You would think that a company would have something like this pretty much down pat. So, fighting everything I know and grew up with (remember my Father the Electrical Engineer/Rocket Scientist) I flipped the wires on one of the boosters and tried again.
And viola! The train ran up the helix, through the gap and up onto the upper level, no problem.
I breathed a sign of relief. And then it hit me, if everything was working right, why didn’t just the helix shut down? Why did the whole lower level go dark?
Electrical Gremlin #2…
Looking over the PM42’s I realized that they have five LED’s, four red to show which section has shorted and a green to show power on. Nothing was lit. So I grabbed the multimeter and checked the PS 12 power supply and it was showing it supplying .03 volts. That’s a problem. I headed on over to the LHS as I know there were always a couple in stock. They were out of stock, turns out someone had come in the day before and bought both. I had Bill order a couple for me. This is late Wednesday and I picked them up Saturday morning. Can’t complain about that type of service.
I had originally wired both of the boards to one power supply, however the new setup is each board has it’s own supply. Got them wired to the boards, plugged them in and I had one board lit and the other one wasn’t. The one that wasn’t lighting up was the older of the two from my last layout. Not sure if the problem was with the board or with something in the wiring of the edge connector, I turned of the power and pulled the board out. Power back on and the light on the new PS14 wouldn’t light, meaning there must be a short in the connector wiring.
Normally I would have then checked the wiring on the edge connector. However, if you remember back when I installed them they are a little buried behind cabinets and under bench work.
Below is a photo taken when they were installed. There is now bench work above this.
Also in that post I had mentioned that although I only needed two connectors I had wired up four in case of future expansion or should I have a problem with one I was using. Turns out that was time well spent.
So I changed over the wiring in the cabinet, plugged in the board and turned on the power…
As much as I hate having to go back and rework things, I am happy with the way everything turned out.
Please stand by, if you’re old enough. you will recognize those three words as a problem with your viewing pleasure. If you’re not old enough, a quick explanation.
Back in the olden days when we only had three TV networks, the local station would occasionally have a problem with the feed from the network. Your screen would go blank and then those three words would pop up until the problem was fixed. Seconds, minutes or even hours (rare).
And that’s kind of where I’m at.
As you know from my last post there was a problem with the website, or the company hosting it. Though the basic problem was fixed in that the site is back up, I still have lingering problems. Mainly the size of the pictures files I can upload to it so that I can place them in posts. If you’ve been following along long enough you may remember I had run into this problem before, kind of. That time it was a new camera with a much larger sensor, thus larger picture files. Solution then was to continue to use the old camera.
This time when the site came back up it severely cut back on what could be uploaded to the hosting server. I do have a call into my IT dept. and my son is working on the problem. Just haven’t heard back yet as to the verdict.
So for now just words.
The good (great) news is that the railroad has reached the upper deck. I obviously would have liked to have pictures showing the historic moment. But I really couldn’t wait to share this moment until we got the picture thing worked out. As soon as I can, I will have the photos on here.
Of coarse as soon as the first train hit the upper deck the whole “mouse/cookie” thing reared it’s ugly head again. I am now in the process of running buss wires for the upper deck and all the other support structure that I had put in place on the lower deck so long ago and had not thought about for the upper deck.
I hope to have photos of what’s been going on soon. The world has become far to visual not to have them.
Until then, please bear with me. And “Please Stand By”…
Welcome back, it’s been awhile. I’ll better you’re wondering if I’m speaking to you the reader or myself. I guess a little of both.
The last time I posted was almost a month and a half ago. I thought I would be back here sooner. January was a little crazy at first and then a couple of trips for work. Got home from those and then my wife and I slipped out of town for our anniversary for a couple of days. When I finally had a chance to get back to the site I logged onto a lot of things I didn’t understand, but I did understand two of them. A big red “WARNING” and “FATAL ERROR”. That and no website.
A quick text out to my IT dept. (my son, who set me up on this site and teaches coding and website design) did not yield a quick response. It took him awhile to get back to me and the response was: I’m not sure what happened, but it’s not something you did.
Thanks son, that I knew.
He finally got back to me with a lengthy explanation on what he did to get it back up and running. I was kind and let him talk although I didn’t understand as he sounded rather proud of fixing it. There was talk of “FTP”ing and hiding things and “skipping” something. All in all, what I might of heard was “I hacked my way in and fixed it”. Not sure though.
Any way if you had stopped by during the week and half that the site was down and still came back to see if it was still here – Thank You. I appreciate your staying with me and your patience.
I will have a new post in the next couple of days.
I hope everyone is having a great Holiday Season. While I have been busy with family and work, I have had a chance to continue on the helix. Just not as much as I had hoped. I guess that’s the way it goes.
I did get the second ring of the helix installed. Tracks in and wired and successfully tested. Which leads to some thoughts on the way helixes are monitored.
This has been and continues to be one of the great divides on using a helix. Many will tell you that they would never use one for a couple of reasons. First, they are a tremendous real estate suck. Yes, yes they are. I have devoted about 30 square feet to mine. That’s a lot of space, especially if you are working in tight quarters. Fortunately I have the space.
The second is, you can’t see what’s going on and have no idea if the train is even moving.
My solution to that one.
One could just leave the helix open so that you could see what’s happening. My sense of aesthetic won’t allow me to have this great big monster hanging out in the open. I don’t know, maybe we should chalk it up to OCD.
My plan is the following. First the progress.
You can see above that both tracks end in the same place. Not something that happens when laying track with two different diameters. They were cut off together because this is the end of the first detection block. There will be a three over three signal at the entrance to the helix top and bottom. The upper signal head will show occupancy for the first section as the train navigates up or down. The lower the second section. The operator will have the visual cue of the signals so that they know there is movement.
If this isn’t enough, I have a two camera monitor that the operator can watch.
You can choose between the two cameras or have a split screen of both. The cameras will be placed (I hope) so that one can see the entire helix as well as the upper and lower return loops. Will see how that works out. I had picked this up at Lowes years ago on clearance. When I got it home and played with it I really liked it. Went back to get another but they were gone. The newer security systems are way too expensive (my opinion) for what I need. Mainly because they all have DVR’s built in. Don’t need a replay of the train in the helix.
Any ways, my solution to the problem.
I did get the third ring assembled and set into place.
One thing that struck me was, with only two loops, it didn’t strike me as a helix. With the third in place it now “looks” like a helix.
Still have several family functions to attend through new years, so there won’t be much work done downstairs. After the 1st though I should be back at it.
Got the helix started and we are movin’ on up to the second deck.
As I had left it last, I had all the curved roadbed pieces cut for the helix. As I was getting ready to assemble the first loop I realized that even if I got it put together I had no way to mount it. So back out to the garage to cut the vertical supports.
Originally I was going to have six sets of vertical supports. They would mate up with the with the joint in the roadbed pieces. I had a rather intricate plan for the vertical supports that would have been a lot more involved and labor intensive. Also I would have had to figure out how to a measure .667 inch rise between supports. I did the math and the fraction of an inch isn’t any better. So, I decided to have eight sets of supports, which meant that it would be a half an inch rise per support. A lot easier to figure out.
I than had to refigure the placement of the supports. Which presented the next hitch. One of the supports landed right in the middle of the reverse loop under the helix. Again, out to the garage to cut a piece to lift the support over the track.
And then I was off and running. First I measured and cut off half of a curved section for my overlap. With that done it was a matter of gluing and screwing the pieces together till I had a complete circle.
Before I moved the finished ring to the layout I started the next loop so that the overlap would match up.
Ah yes, moving the loop to the layout. I had assembled the loop at the end of the peninsula. The plan was to slip it into place on the Brandon side. Wouldn’t go. So around the layout and up and over the New Brighton street scene. Got it partially into place and then back around the layout and into the helix center where I wrestled it into place.
The next task was to join it to the other sub roadbed. My plan was not to use any cork roadbed to increase clearance. This meant an offset joint. While trying to figure out how to cut a piece 5mm thick for the offset, it occurred to me to just use a piece of cork sheet.
Next I measured and mounted half of the loop, with the other half pulled high (you can see it in the picture above). This was so I could mount the first section of track where it was under the overlapping piece of the loop. I am using code 100 track in the helix. The reason is simple, I have a bunch of it sitting around from what I figure is about 25 years ago. Plus if I need more it’s cheaper than code 83. This meant a had to use transition pieces. They are from Walthers (walthers.com).
After that, permanently mounted the rest of the loop.
Next up was to add the track, wired in feeder wires and then the first train.
Welcome to workbench Wednesday #5. These are things I was working on as I was waiting for glue or paint to dry on the grain complex. They are filler buildings to run along the backdrop in Jackson.
As I had mentioned in the original plan there are feeder barns and stock pens in this area. I built the grain complex for the end of the siding, but tried various small industries to fill in the rest. Problem with that was then there would be cars set that would have to moved to switch the complex.
I decided to go a different route. Instead of a lineside industry, I added several small businesses and a coupe of apartment buildings. All modelled from the back. The apartment buildings are Walthers (walthers.com) Parkview Terrace Apartments (PN. 933-3177). They are perfect because they are made as a backdrop building. Liked the colors that they were shown in but not the raw plastic. So I painted them to match the box art.
Since I wanted to light them and the fact that they were open on the side that would go against the backdrop I sealed the backs.
For the businesses I used what I had on hand. Again they are from Walthers. They were a group of buildings I had picked for a main street scene. Wasn’t going to happen. They are simple kits that Walthers had made for them from Kibri. Only a couple of different styles with different architectural detail and color. Since I only needed the backs, I measured what depth I would need and cut off the fronts. And again added styrene to the open side so that I could light them without light leaks.
At some point in time I got bored and assembled them without thought of painting them. The plastic color is not natural, so I will be painting them (unfortunately brush painting) before installation. In addition all buildings will have something in the windows (curtains, blinds, etc.) so that they look occupied. I plan on blocking some windows so that when lit not every window is aglow.
This is what the scene will look like when done.
It should be a rather convincing backdrop for the town. The apartments and shops will fill space without really registering in your mind that they are there. Of course they will need a lot of weathering as they are right along the tracks. That, and some trees and a fence, plus ground cover and the appropriate details and it will be a great scene.
That’s it for now. In full helix mode (update to follow very soon) so no more of this kind of work for awhile.
In this edition of workbench Wednesday I will continue on with the grain complex.
Having finished basic construction it was off to the spray both. Not a easy task as my booth is two feet wide by two feet deep and the complex is just under 30″ assembled. The walls are all flat white. My first pass through with the roof was a dull silver, however they really stood out. I didn’t think any amount of weathering was going to change that. So I repainted them a light grey.
In the pictures the walls and the roofs look a lot closer in color than they really are.
Side note: after painting and before weathering I added the shingle roof to the office.
I started to weather the building using Pan Pastels (panpastel.com). I have two sets, one is weathering earth tones (rust, browns, white) and the other has black and grey tones. Really like the thought of them and all the demos I have seen make it look easy. However, it requires a lighter hand than I seem to be able to master. So I went back to my weathering chalks. I’m use to them and can control them better. I did use the pastels when doing the rust color and I think it turned out well. Baby steps I suppose.
Anyways, this is how the complex stands now.
I also did the grain bin. I used a technique that I had used on a sheet metal sided grain elevator to highlight the banding on the bin. Not one hundred percent sure I like the look. I’ll let it sit a bit and decide if I still like it before permanently installing it.
And this is the complex sitting in it’s new home.
I still have the large transfer pipe to weather and I have to add the window “glass”, but for now it is basically done.
Since I have the helix now to work on, I’ll walk away from it now before deciding if it needs a little more and what fine details to add.
I will get you an update on the helix soon. Till then…
I have finally taken the first steps towards starting the helix. It is long overdue. This past weekend I had a large block of time. And since it was still warm enough in the garage without heating it I picked up the plywood and started cutting.
As I had mentioned before (it’s been awhile, May 2015) I have a aluminum pattern that I had made for the curves. Using the pattern I trace out the curve section on the plywood (I can get 16 curved sections on a 4 x 8 piece of plywood). I then rough cut out the pieces. Then again using the metal pattern screwed to the rough cut pieces I run them threw the router using a pattern bit. I had detailed this along with pictures in the May 2015 post if you want a better idea of how it works.
I need 12 curved sections per loop. Six would complete one loop if I were using 3/4″ plywood. However than you would have to join the pieces together without creating a clearance problem. My solution was to use 3/8″ plywood and laminate the pieces together offsetting the joints to crate a 3/4″ thick ring that would have nothing below to cause clearance issues.
The stack ready to go.
As noted there are also four pieces (bottom of stack) that I cut with straight sections leading into and out of the helix.
My plan is to assemble them away from the layout one loop at a time. I will glue, clamp and screw them together. Then I will add that loop to the layout, lay and wire the track. I will then run a test train through it before going on to the next loop. After the first loop works I will repeat the process.
The thought of trying to mark the locations for screws and the center line of the track kind of boggled my mind. A little thought and my next great idea. Back out to the garage and in no time I made a couple of marking gauges.
They ride along the edge of the roadbed and have holes in them for a pencil to mark screw and track locations. One is for the inside of the curve and the other for the outside.
Tried one out and this is what it looks like.
I should have the first loop completed and installed this week. Will keep you updated. I will also have an update on the grain complex for you on Wednesday.