Saturday, May 05, 2018

Initial Yard Operation

Squeezing in one night a week over the last few weeks I've managed to get the new yard operational. All of the track is not laid yet so I still am lack my three storage tracks, but the arrival/departure, run-around, caboose track, engine track and yard lead/throat are all up and running. I took some time last night to do some switching to see how it all played and I was quite pleased. For such a compact yard it seems to work very well. It was also unexpectedly easy and satisfying to use the throttle to control all of the turn-outs in the yard. The biggest challenge is knowing the turnout number address to control. At the moment I'm cheating and have bits of masking tape with the numbers near the throw-bar. I may consider putting a diagram on the back-drop I plan to mount. This would be a bit un-conventional, but much easier to glance at and still keep an eye on the tracks, as opposed to looking down at a control panel or the fascia.

You can see that the A/D track has a train almost ready to go with the switcher still on point. Two cabooses are in their hole and some additional cards (and Thomas) are in storage on the run-around/switching lead. The road engine is sitting on a temporary piece of track which will be the permanent engine track. All that is left is the switcher needs to grab a caboose, the road engine can pull the train forward and the switcher will tag the caboose on the end of the train as it leaves the yard for the main.

Next goals are to finish up the track laying and get that all operational, then I'd like to get a backdrop in place separating the town from the yard. Once that is all in place I can start in on some scenery while continuing to test the track-work. I'd also like to get some waybills set-up so that I can do some basic operations between the yard and town.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Plenty of Progress!

Ack! Where did the time go, I had all sorts of good intentions of additional posts, but the choice between time spent on the RR versus time spent documenting the RR means that the blog lost...

What have I been up to?

I achieved my goal of a fully continuous running loop by Christmas. It did require building a quick open grid frame on top of a couple of saw horses, with a sheet of plywood, but at least it works!

The loop on the table top currently provides an additional siding that can be used for spotting cars at industries and a return back out to the mainline.

Lacking any better ideas, I started labeling wires with "T" for "Town" and have since decided to refer to my town as "Taunton" (a local town here in eastern MA). The module portion is referred to as Taunton, while the extended siding is referred to as "East Taunton".

In addition for Christmas I also got Thomas up and running complete with custom sound effects for his whistle, and two sayings from the TV show. In addition to squeezing a decoder and speaker into tiny little Thomas I also found space for a tiny "keep alive" capacitor to handle trouble areas like turnouts or slightly dirty track. Check out the video! Apologies that the first part is a bit shaky.

Lastly, I've resurrected the staging yard from the old layout I de-constructed last summer. At first I thought I would keep the turnouts as is, but the more I looked at it I determined that I'd prefer to make the yard functional from a switching perspective and not just a straight staging yard. So I ripped up the turnouts and have re-laid most of them and planned out the remainder.

The improved yard provides two tracks that can be used for arrival and departure, a run-around, two classification tracks, a yard lead, caboose and locomotive storage. In the picture the classification tracks are buried under materials and the yard ladder and engine track have not yet been laid.

Redoing the yard also gave me a chance to look into stationary decoders to drive the turnout motors (all Tortoise under-layout mounts). I've picked up two Digitrax DS64s that give me control over all of the turnouts in the main yard.

I think my new best friends are Ebay and my parents' Brother Label Maker. Both have been critical in getting the yard up and operational!

Additionally for power management I've started implementing a PM42 Power Manager from Digitrax. This allows me to break out the power from each of my two boosters to two separate districts for each booster, additionally I can set the sub-districts to be auto reversing, rather than having the boosters themselves set to Auto Reverse. This way each booster can power an auto-reverse section (which should generally have no more than one train in it) as well as another larger portion of the layout, distributing power more effectively.

Once the yard is on-line, I want to get a back-drop installed between the yard and Taunton. After that I hope to start on scenery around the track that goes from Taunton to the yard.