Sunday, October 27, 2013
As we were running some test trains over the layout for the first time in months, we noticed that the two SD9s were acting up again.... but finally a new clue arose to help pursue the cause. They had been overly sensitive to power drop-out, making the decoders reset with the slightest power interruption. Now these units were resetting when an adjacent power district went into overload mode. In other words, if a train in a different sub district on the PM42 shorted out, the PM42 would cycle its overload relays, which caused a power drop or sag in the sub district that the SD9s were in. Unlike any other unit on the layout utilizing the same decoder board, this demonstrated that these decoders were not fixed as previously hoped. After trying an experiment with super-caps to make a temporary keep-alive circuit (as Ray has been installing in some other HO units), we did some extensive testing and were able to determine that the sound level output on these two units, had a direct relationship to the problem; but no matter what the sound settings, the units would only work reliably as long as they still had an oversize bank of capacitors attached. After messing around long enough, I finally got to the point where I just cleared out the custom 567 sound project that I had previously installed, then loaded the Digitrax GP38 file back into the decoder instead. Problem solved! It appears that it was a corrupt sound file causing the stall issue, or an unknown sound CV setting? Lot of lost hours in getting these sound units back in reliable running order, but glad to know operators will be able to run the local jobs from now on without issue... even if they don't have the correct sound project for now.
Friday, October 25, 2013
I have been feeling a bit overwhelmed with the size of the layout and all that needs to be done (let alone maintenance), so glad that there is no more space to allow any further expansion at this point... To me the images below make this project look a little less significant than when one shares the room with it, but it actually consumes nearly 60 sq feet of floor space.
Anyhow, trackwork has been tied into the main layout for the new Hampton section. The Hampton spur track is lower priority and will follow later since its a hand laid turnout. I made some progress on getting this section wired, but then decided to push the rest of the way through to complete benchwork for the expansion project.
So I confronted a few issues while selectively compacting everything in an effort to make it all fit on the upper level. I had intended to eliminate one more loop from the helix in exchange for the upper deck trackage, but that caused issues with the mainline grade being too steep to reliably set out cars for the KN interchange, possible issues with the KN power being able to handle the branchline grade, and squeezed the bridge scene too low at Hampton. Now I have framing in for the upper level which is basically flat running, and have made it to the point where I am ready to lay cork for the mainline section. The roadbed for the Klamath Northern interchange, and also part of its branchline have been started; but are low on the priority list at the moment, as this is another project in itself (lots of code 40 turnouts).
Still some wood work ahead when I have to consider all the masonite sections needed for backdrops and fascias. One of these backdrop sections will act as a scenic divider running down the middle of the upper level, which should change the atmosphere of the whole room, so anxious to get that in. Most of my fellow modelers paint and install backdrops early on, but I have put off backdrops mostly due to the unknowns of how each scene was going to blend in, and always maintained the idea that I could paint and more importantly, detail the backdrop more easily on a workbench, while leaving room to slide them in later... The expansion is a bit different, as the backdrops will require more of their own framing, and will have to go in before any scenery; but latest plan has been to configure expansion benchwork where it will allow me to slide them in after initial construction... Considering just cutting and painting all layout backdrop sections blue temporarily (bare wood is getting old), and keep things so most can be removed later to more closely match scenes...
Wanna-be artist's rendition of what things are supposed to look like:
....and here is where the progress is so far:
I want to get the layout back up and running for ops again. Its been about 5 months since we have operated, and I am a little eager to try out a number of earlier changes also. Hampton's siding will be out of service for our next run, as signaling has not been completed yet. As time allows, the new sections will be cut in with the rest of the CTC. Ray has already been keeping up with the latest CATS and JMRI panels for when the hardware is implemented, along with pre-wiring edge connectors for the BDL and PM42 cards. We are diverging from earlier ways and installing a TC64 for the IO's (instead of using the SE8c cards again), but operators will continue to utilize existing signal locations until the cut-over takes place. If all goes well, we can squeeze in some Ops before the Holidays consume everyone's free time...