Sunday, October 30, 2016

Out with the old, in with the new pt 2

Tonight I got the second set of PSX boards and the AR board installed for the Staging yard.  Turns out I bought one too many PSX boards, Oh well I have spare now or I'll use it for the engine terminal as I got thinking that I wired it in with either the Reverse Loop or one of the yard due to the way I used the PM42 outputs?

Basically they're working as they should with a few exceptions.  Somehow I must have the Reverse Loop wired into the Front yard somehow.  When I trip the Reverse Loop circuit breaker, the circuit breaker for the front yard trips as well?  I probably crossed a set of feeders.

Gonna have to get my jungle gear on and delve into the wired jungle of the yard to see if I can figure out what's up.

The second thing that I can't figure out is some of the buzzers are singing continually even with no short occurring?

The third thing I found is the buzzers ARE working properly, but they are just too high pitched for me to hear unless I'm right on top of them.  DCC Specialties did say there is another buzzer that is 17 dBs louder and has a lower pitch, but not by much.  Also the other buzzer is 30mm in diameter which should fit, but it will be close.  But I know it will not fit on the AR.

Not sure I'll try them or not?  So I will probably go ahead and add the LED's for a visual notification if there is a short.  Just need to find some that will work the way I want to use them.  

Monday, October 24, 2016

Out with the old, in with the new

Moving right along, tonight I got started on replacing my old PM42 for the main section of the layout.  Earlier this year I received my DCC Specialties PSX Circuit Breakers and my one PSX-AR.

When I wired my layout I used a PM42 and one older PM4 as it was already wired up.  Since then I learned about the PSX Circuit Breakers and decided to acquire some.  As of now the PM's are working good with no issues.  

One thing I found out about the PM's that I did not like was, once installed the Command Station didn't see the shorts and never made the audible noise when a short occurred.  The PM's did not make any kind of noise other than the quite "Clicking" when a short occurred and with my hearing not being the best, if there was other noise around, like others talking or chatting, I wouldn't hear the "Clicking".  

On several occasions when others were over, they would stop and listen, then ask "What is that "Clicking" noise?"  At that point I'd holler out "We have a short somewhere!"    

When I was looking into these PSX units I read that they could have a buzzer installed on them!
I later found out from a fellow modeler that the buzzers are good and loud and actually turn into a Warble if the short persists too long.  I'm looking forward to hearing these!

The first PSX 4 ready to go!

I unhooked all the wires from the PM42 and marked them with tape.  I removed it and installed the new board with the PSX4 and reattached the wires and threw the power on.
Viola!  Back in business!

Upon testing them, I was a little disappointed.  The loud buzzer seems to be a very, very high pitch whine and it harder for me to hear than the soft clicking of the PM's.  Maybe I should wire in a Klaxon?

Also the bottom buzzer (the blue disks) is sounding all the time even without a short present?  Gonna have to look into this deeper and see if there is something that needs adjusting or re-programmed?  Other than that, the Quarter test trips the breakers and they seem to work.  I plan to do some further testing with the RRampmeter.

Next will be PSX3 and PSX-AR for the yard...   

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Updates for the Wheel Report and Car Tabs

Quin and I ran another abbreviated session today (10/22/2016) and I and I'm happy to report that everything worked as expected. YAY!

Issues we were having (this may get kind of convoluted, sorry) were several and some of them were compounded as well.

The first problem was a simple fix. I have my Wheel Report designed on Excel. Shortly after getting it running, Steven from The Rock Island: Ottawa Sands, told me that he could get it to automatically generate a session randomly when you hit the F9 key. He did this and it's been super nice, but it has one drawback.  Anytime you make a change and save it, it also recalculates the session!   I did find a way that you can turn this off.  But even so, I have had to redo a session before as halfway through, something changed.

Which is exactly what happened last week while running session #12 but I didn't catch it in time and halfway through the session Doug called out to me saying something was awry!  He had too many cars and others were missing while he was building the Haskell Turn.  So after the session was over I compared the sheets that I had printed off and sure enough.  One thing I found was Dixie Woods was asking for an All Door Boxcar and there wasn't any to be found.

What I came up with was to generate a session, then right away save the entire workbook as a PDF, all 18 pages.  Once it's saved I can go back and print off just the 2 sheets that I need to stage the layout and the 2 sheets that the El Dorado crew uses to block the 3 Turns with.  Plus now that I have it saved, I can go back and compare notes if anything went wrong.  I can also reuse any of the saved session at any point if needed instead of regenerating new session.

The next issue was kind of a hidden one and was hard to place a finger on until Quin started playing the Wheel Report one night.  The sessions that we have are single sessions and when they are run, they are done.  They are NOT consecutive. At the end of each session the cars that were picked up are left in El Dorado to be picked up and returned to the main yard during the next session by the 4 manifests.

The 4 manifests that feed El Dorado leave the staging with 2-3 locos, 18 cars and a waycar.  Depending on the amount of cars that were picked up from the previous session, the manifests may grow beyond their 18 car limit.  We've had some that topped out at 28 cars.  Now these manifests do not fit in MQ and DuBach siding with 18 cars so the length doesn't really matter that much.  But it can and does cause a small problem in El Dorado at the start of each session.  El Dorado only has four tracks and it can get kind of crowded at times.  But being crowded or having too many outbound cars isn't the whole problem.  To complicate matters, there are captive service cars that never return to the main staging yard, instead they would sit in El Dorado in a track that we first called the "Pool Track".  Some of these cars would have a day delay because they didn't get picked up and returned to El Dorado in time to be placed on the W&OV's Razorback train.  So they would have to sit in the "Pool Track" until the next session where we would pull from them when the Razorback came to El Dorado to swap the cars for that session.

The problem was the amount of Pool Track Cars would at sometimes be enough that it would fill 1 of the 4 tracks. At times we had to use the lead that will eventually run up the hill to El Dorado Proper as another yard track. This will become a problem after I get the El Dorado proper built because there will be an incline to this track of about 3%.  This means the cars won't stay put and will roll back down.

Yes I know 3% is steep, but it's going to be nothing more than an industrial track so there should be no more than 4 cars going up at any one given time, so it shouldn't be a problem?

What Quin came up with was to do away with the Pool Track and Pool Cars. Basically we restaged the yard at El Dorado on this test session.  Otherwise what we were doing was running a single session on the layout but consecutive sessions for El Dorado. It's kind of a step backwards but it worked. 

The original Wheel Report that Jim Hediger used on his Ohio Southern worked like this: When a local left the yard it had a limit on its length so it would fit in all his sidings.  As the local worked it's run, it would pick up the same amount of cars that it dropped off at each industry, thus the length remained the same.

What we did was to place the exact number of cars that would be picked up or delivered in this session in El Dorado yard.  If the first NB manifest was to drop off 3 cars, then we placed 3 cars in the yard and marked them with white NB tabs.  If the next SB would drop off 6 cars, then we set 6 cars in the yard and marked them with white SB tabs.  We did this for all 4 manifests.  Likewise, whatever cars that would have been pulled from the Pool Track, we place enough cars in El Dorado to cover those needed for this session and placed the proper colored industry tabs on those as well.

Now how this played out was good, the 4 manifests came to and left El Dorado with 18 cars.  Before each of them arrived I grabbed that exact number of NB or SB cars from the yard tracks and placed them on one of the A/D tracks.  I knew before they arrived how many cars were needed as I could look on the Yardmaster list that we used to stage the 4 manifests with.

One thing I should remind you of, we have four manifests, the first two run near the beginning of the session and bring cars to El Dorado that are needed for the Winnfield Turn and W&OV's Razorback.  One NB and one SB.  The second 2 manifests run about halfway through the session and do the same thing for cars needed for the Haskell Turn and El Dorado Trick.  Knowing how many cars are being dropped off from the 4 manifests can be seen on the Yardmasters list.

As for the changes to the tabs, this was simple.  We decided that ANY cars that were called for pick up would receive a White tab marked with "EDY" (El Dorado yard).  By doing this, El Dorado Yard became and industry.  During the restaging of this session, those "EDY" tabs in El Dorado yard were replaced by either a White NB or SB tabs for the cars being picked up by the manifest and the old "Pool Track" cars would receive a Blue or Yellow tab so they could be picked out of the yard easily when the El Dorado crew was building either the W&OV's Razorback (Yellow tabs) or the Winnfield Turn (Blue tabs)

Another thing we're going to do will be to leave the colored tabs on the cars that are delivered to their respective industries.  This will do 2 things, one it will help mark the industries (as some of them do not have any buildings in place yet) and two, it will show for sure that those cars will not get picked up. 

Now that this has been done and I have a better plan, I'll need to make a up a bunch more tabs.  I can add this to the "To Do" list I already have planned for this winter.

But the first thing on the "To Do" list will be to get the new circuit breakers installed and replace the aging PM42's, so stay tuned...

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Op session #12

Last night's session went off pretty good.
Some typical problems arose such as dirty track and dirty wheel from not having played with things since March of this year.

The only major issue we had was with some anomalies within the Wheel Report. Doug found several times where the Blocking Sheet was calling for cars that were not delivered to El Dorado and was not even on the next train?

At first we thought he was just having troubles reading the sheets, then the thought occurred that I might have gotten the wrong sheets in front of him, but then he said there was a call for an All Door boxcar that wasn't on the Yard Master's list that Quin and I used to stage the trains with.....Hmmmm, something is amiss I fear?

Other than that, all things went very smoothly.

We also had a repeat visitor from K.C.  Coy Coles and his wife made the trip to play trains with us again.  We also had a newbie join us this session!  Bill S.  (more commonly referred to as "Wild Bill") and his bride Jeannie.

All told we had 7 crews working last night:
Quin, Doug, Jon D. Coy, Bill, Lynn and myself.  Thanks for coming over!  Hope the rest of the crews can make it the next time? 

Here's a few pics from the second half of the session after I remembered to grab the phone.

Doug is gathering up the last of the outbounds before the LRMP-H and MPLR-H arrive.

After running a few Through Freights, Coy decides to tackle the Winnfield Turn.  After arriving at the first stop in Dubach, he begins the sorting process. 

Shortly afterwards, Jon brings the MPLR-H to a stop as Coy feverishly tries to clear the main at Dubach. 
Dubach is not an easy section of the Winfield Turn to work. There can be a lot of cars to move and not much track to work with.  This is one section I plan to work on and lengthen the sidings a bit so it doesn't get so crowded.

Wild Bill is watching how things are done, unknowingly, his throttle time is coming.

Here Quin is giving a "Reach Around" as he works at sorting out the newly arrived cars in Malvern.

Wild's throttle time has arrived!
He was watching me get a train ready to depart from staging, when he asked what I was running next, I replied "You're running the Pig Train" and handed him the throttle.
And that's all it took!  He ran several more after that!  I think I gained another crew?

Jon!  Pay attention to what you're doing!

Back in Malvern, Quin has just about got everything finished.
He's one of our more proficient crew.

Caught a race in El Dorado.
While Jon was leaving El Dorado with the MPLR-H, Doug was pulling the new block of cars onto the drill track.

First time operating with us, first time earning the Asshat Award!
Wild earned it after putting a few cars on the ground a few minutes previously.

Meanwhile back in DuBach......
Coy is still slogging through the tasks at hand trying to get things finished up so he can move on to Ruston and Winnfield.  You can do it Coy!

This time I caught up with Jon who's about to hammer the diamonds at Ruston, LA  
with the final manifest of the session, the LRMP-H. 

After this shot, I noticed my phone was down to 4% oops, time to grab the charger! 

Unfortunately, this will probably be the last session for a while this winter.  Now I need to get busy with my "To-Do" list.  The first task at hand will be to replace the two aging Digitrax PM42 circuit breakers with some DCC Specialties PSX circuit breakers and one PSX-AR.   Once this has been accomplished I can start in on the planned track re-alignments.  First up will be to remove both sidings at Ruston Jct. and replace them with a single siding.  You can see the "To-Do" list here.

I plan to work on the list one job at a time and finish it before moving to the next job.  This way the entire layout will not be down with multiple jobs at once if we decide to have another session at some point or  if  I have someone drop by.

Stay tuned with the updates...

Friday, October 7, 2016

Kill switch

Several years ago I had an idea to have one switch that would kill power to the entire layout. Finally got around to it.  last night my electrician stopped by to finish a small project in the kitchen and had him tackle my kill switch for me.

I have four outlets in the basement for the layout, one for the main power supply and command station, two others where the circuit breakers for the layout are plugged into and one for the lights over Malvern.

So now with one flick of the switch, as AC/DC would say, the layout is on or off.  I took it one step further and had him add an outlet so when the stormy weather arrives in the spring and summer and there's bad storm coming, I can not only shut it off, I can also pull the plug and the entire layout is now unplugged from the rest of the house.

Not that this will be a sure thing if I get a good lightning strike, but it improves the odds of not having a bunch of puddles around the layout where my chipped locos were sitting or end up with a fried command station.  It's more of a piece of mind than anything. 

Thanks Jon!

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

An MKT rarity on the Little Rock

The other day while track side I was blessed with seeing a rare MKT loco.  I've heard of the unit and seen pictures but I have never seen it in person until this afternoon!


Years back while visiting a buddy in KC, we went railfanning and was lucky enough to actually see this unit in person, sitting in Katy's K.C. yard waiting to head south.  Since then I've always thought it would be cool to have one of these for the layout to run with my FPPX train.

Years later I ran into a guy on eBay who I had purchased several custom Rock Island locos from him previously. One night while snooping through eBay I found another of his listings.  This time he had done the #401-B using a KATO F7!!!

Well I gathered enough guts to actually make contact with him to see if I he would be interested in building me as well, but instead of using a KATO, I wanted mine made with a Intermountain unit.

Well he agreed and several years later here it is!!!

Thanks Chuck C.