Image above captured on the upper deck of the layout where scenery has progressed to some extent...
Shot with Olympus C-750

Welcome to the SP Oregon Division!

An N Scale RR depicting the good old days along "The Friendly".

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Nov Update

Little time left for messing with the layout as of late, but felt good to get a full day + of progress in for a change this week.  Some of what has taken place as of late:

-Finished the rebuilding of all 9 ME turnouts so can get back to working on the staging yard project (have now acquired all 75 sections of flex track and the bridge also).
I have always been a staunch supporter of ME track, but I am now on the fence after the latest acquisitions.  The flex track was always superior to Atlas in my experiences, and I had never had any major issues with any of their turnouts...  The latest purchases of their new line of flex track have revealed a strange stagger problem with the rail not being centered on the ties.  And this last batch of turnouts I got on ebay I can only explain as a pre-production set since I encountered so many issues that had to be resolved.  I am tempted to embark on the use of Atlas 55 for the new expansion... but I still want a uniform look since using code 40 in the sidings.  Unable to make any decisions here yet...

-Replaced the ailing Tortoise Motor that has been keeping the DS from seeing / lining the W switch at Oakridge.  This was a thorn in my side as it was the most difficult motor to access on the layout.  Thanks for helping me align that thing back in place Ray!

-We have had a problem with slow trains in the Helix for awhile, so have been working on a number of items to mitigate it:

First I attacked an overdue problem that I have known about for quite awhile with my Tunnel Motor fleet.  Been running the drive trains through a rebuild progam since finding out that a large number were not pulling their fair share of the load.  When cleaning their wheels I noted that the wheels would stop turning but the motor would still be spinning while using the Minitrix wheel cleaner.  Come to find out the yoke on the output shaft of the motor cracks, allowing it to spin freely when under any load.  They ran fine as light units, but any cars behind them and the drive shaft would slip, so the unit would hardly be pulling any weight at all.  I simply clean and superglue the yoke to the motor output shaft as a fix, and now they are back to pulling their fare share of the load.

Then I reprogrammed all my Zimo decoder equipped locos as they were running poor when cold (???).  Unfortunately before I tested them under load on the layout I moved to the next fix, so I don't know which really brought them back to life, but they are running great again. 

The main issue appears to have been track voltage under heavy load.  The DCS was set to 12 V which is fine for most layouts, but we have added so many components that the voltage making it to the rails under load was significantly lower than should be.  So we bumped up the track voltage to compensate for the accumulation of V drop going through bridge rectifiers and other in-line devices, and am somewhat astonished at the results.  I had no idea we were only getting 7 volts under heavy load in one stretch (where I know I am lacking in number of track feeder wires).  That section has now recovered to about 10V by raising the output voltage on the DCS by slightly over one volt.  My Tunnel Motor lighting affects had been looking pretty blah for a looong time and this has also brought them back to full life again.  :)   A few test laps reveal that the layout is back up to it's old spunky self again.

-After settling that issue, we were newly motivated to install the meter onto the fascia that shows layout current flow, which had sat under the layout for seems like eternity.
Ray already had a circuit he built in-line so it was just a matter of actually installing and wiring the meter / display.  Interesting to see what different sets of power and locos actually draw on the layout.  About 300 cars with resistive wheel sets only draw about 1/4 amp, the stable of 30 locos at rest also about 1/4 amp,  and a 20 car TOFC with 4 old Kato SDs doesn't even pull 1/2 amp on the steepest sections of the layout.  I don't remember the layout ever pulling as much as 3 amps during a full operating session, but FWIW now we can see what is actively happening.

-Also Ray cleaned up the master signal control panel now that all systems have been verified as stable through the months.  Since moving the layout controls to the central computer in the house I haven't been using the layout computer for Decoder Pro in a long while, so He also brought the layout computer back on line by building one of Hans Deloof's Loco Buffer cards.  Now I am back to programming locos the easy way again.  *Hans also needs some credit here for his Loco IO cards that we use for turnout position sense (shameless plug). 

I forget how much credit Ray deserves till I look back at what we got done, so an ongoing Thanks! ...yet again for all your help Ray!