Thursday 4 April 2024

A visit to Kaleen

 Kaleen Exhibition, and home layout planning logistics

The 2024 Kaleen Exhibition was held on the 23rd, and 24th of March.  I was able to share a ride with Pete and Ben, from Junee to Kaleen on the Saturday, arriving just after 10am

After the exhibition, we made a detour via Yass Junction.  

The exihibition is held at Kaleen High school, and most of the school was occupied with layouts, and retailers.  There was far more there than the pictures below show.  


Darling Harbour (NSW HO) was a layout I had not previously seen in person.  Grand scale, with impressive buildings.  There were a couple of trains circulating, and a shunting engine moving wagons at the rear into the double deck goods shed.  

Glasson is a new NSW O scale shelf layout, running from a fiddleyard, to a small station. 

Gresham, (NSW N scale) by the NSW N scale club

The small railbus shows how small a model you can fit in an N scale decoder.  The 38 class is waiting at the signals.  The showers painted on the backscene though didn't work in my opinion

The lighting was with  LED strips under the valence, and I felt it didn't quite illuminate the excellent scenery well enough.  

Gunning, (NSW N scale) by Rob Popovski was a nice sceniced layout combining Gunning, with other aspects of the main south.

Positioning of the turnout controls on the front fascia was something done on home layouts, but different on an exhibition layout


Unfortunately, the lighting was positioned so that the models closest to the viewer had dark shaddows that obscured many of the details

Mungo Scott (NSW HO) by the Arncliffe Model Railway Society

Tarana and Oberon (NSW N scale). St Georges Model Railway club.  A very large new layout, showing the branch line up to Oberon.   Innovative use of a self contained mainline operation oval at Tarana (fiddleyard at the rear), with a rambling branchline then extending quite a distance on seperate layout sections.  

The Small Depot  (NSW HO) by Geoff Small.  Another in the series of "small" exhibition layouts, concentrating on a theme - this one being a depot.   

Yendys (NSW HO) by the ACT Model Railway Society.  I understand that this may be the last time this layout is exhibited.  It is planned to incorporate Yendys into the ACTMRS permanent club layout.  As I designed Yendys in 2003, and spent 6 years actually building it, this layout is a great survivor, and the detail improvements since I left, have been a credit to the Society.

It was easy to spend all day, and we were ushered out of the school just after 5pm. 

As mentioned, our return trip was via Yass Junction, and Binalong for photos, and we had an excellent evening meal at the newly opened Harden Chinese Restaurant

My haul of retail delights.

It is important to support the retailers that support the hobby.  The retail support at Kaleen was extensive, and I tried to buy something from many of them

My Purchases from Kaleen.  Many of the items are for the Wagga layout, including DCC chips, modelling tools, and some scenery items.  The "Railway coins", "Model Box"and book were extras.

3022 was a purchase from the "seconds" bin at Wombat models.  The faults mentioned - slight wobble, and headlight not working at speed was something I could live with, maybe fix.  Anyway, on the test track (the kyeamba creek bridge diorama I built a few years ago), I struggled to see the wobble, and the headlight worked fine (at low speeds).  Add a chip, and weathering - and another loco for the Tumbarumba branch. 

Train Room flooring

The last pieces of the flooring were wrangled into position

The final full floorboards down leave a gap, that requires the board to be cut lengthwise to fit.


I am waiting on advice on whether I fit another board, or a tile for the front entrance

Gap mostly filled - a 1cm gap will be covered with the skirting

Note the trim around the internal door has been extracted to allow for removing of 5mm ot timber at the bottom  (thickness of the vinyl floorboards) and easier painting.

All the door upright trim pieces painted gloss outside on the trestles.  The skirting boards were treated the same way

I tried to add the trim, and skirting boards by myself, using hammer and tack nails.  Result was disappointing.  Without a nail gun, the boards and trim moved. So, the trim and skirting will have to be removed, and reattached when my builder next makes an appearance

Aisle Planning with BLOBS

With the floor now down, I made a start with brown paper, chalk, to define the main layout end loops, which I am calling blobs.  This is to check my small plans, and physically confirm that the aisles are big enough to accomodate operators.

Track radius is 70cm.  The radius to the edge of the future benchwork is 80 cm (for Shepards blob), and 85cm for the Wagga blob. Note the metal ruler
22" pinchpoint is acceptable, as this is not an operator position.

Drawing the track plan on the brown paper will check my design 1:1 size.  This is the Wagga blob. It is much easier to make adjustments with chalk, than later when the track is down 

The main line takes up the most floor space, so I am drawing this one out first.  The staging track layout will then be superimposed over the mainline, to confirm it fits properly.  The branchline, with the exception of the helix, will be easier

Living in Junee, getting to exhibitions is often impossible.  I am fortunate that Kaleen is relatively close for a day trip.  Thank you for the organisers (Canberra Model Railway club) for a great day.  For those wanting more, Will James was in attendance with his video camera, so watch for his video on you-tube shortly.

Back in Junee, I will continue with the brown paper layout planning whilst I wait for completion of the train room. 

Until next time, build a model, or two.

Monday 18 March 2024

Thoughts on Staging yard electronics


Staging yards turnout control, and some extras



Auscision Models livery CLP9 "Peter Wilks" at Junee in February.  

Way back in August 2017, I wrote a layout design primer on “X” factor layouts, and described that my design of the Wagga layout would be an X factor.


Whilst painting the walls, and laying down the false flooring on my train room, I have been giving some additional thoughts to the staging yards.  In the comment section of that original blog post, James McInerney suggested that the number of staging tracks I had proposed was too small in number.  He is right.  The NCE Switch 8 that I have only gave me enough for 9 staging tracks, which as James suggests, is not enough

In addition, I was never comfortable with having to install a lot of wiring, and slow motion stall turnout motors under the staging yard benchwork, as adjustment later would be at best tricky, at worst impossible. 

I had contemplated constructing the benchwork so the staging yards could be extracted, but I could never settle on a feasible benchwork arrangement. 


Another option was to mount the switch motors above the benchwork, and use levers to transmit the throw action to the tiebars   possible, but would need some testing.  Or go with twin coil motors – peco makes an adapter base for their motors, and making a diode matrix for route selection is something I have done before.  Peco side mounted turnout motors are smaller again.  A further option was to use a servo motor driver – Peco has one for 4 servos, although there are Arduino servo driver circuits that can be built.

Any of the above options could work, although I was never convinced they were the right way to go.  All needed  a lot of wiring to return to a central location

So it was a relevation to discover a product that was compact, DCC controlled, modular, and designed to mount above the benchwork


Enter the DCC Concepts SS point control

Metro Hobbies had a recent sale, and I bought a 12 pack from Metro Hobbies for $399, a $100 saving.  The pack contains six DCC addressable control modules, each module will switch 2 turnouts.  The turnout motors are extremely compact, and rely on a stepper motor to turn a screw shaft containing the attachment for the linkage.    In addition there are extender wiring harnesses, sets of mounting screws, and a selection of pre-bent wire linkages

The DCC Concepts, Cobalt SS 12 pack box.

The Control module supports 2 DCC controlled turnouts.  There are six of these in the box


I found a suitable board, and mounted two turnouts, 2 point motors, and one controller.  Annoyingly, the DCC concepts wire linkages were all designed for vertical holes on the tiebar (peco), and not the horizontal tiebar hole in my Atlas turnouts.  So I bent my own linkage with brass wire.

To power it I used my portable Powercab test bench.  The alligator clips made connection to the power easily.

Two Atlas customline #6 turnouts installed on the board.  Each turnout connected to a point motor, which is then connected to the control module - one uses the extender cable.  DCC power via the alligator clips from the NCE Power Cab.  What I haven't wired is the frog polarity wiring - switched also from the control module.  (click on the picture to enlarge the image)

Following the DCC Concepts instructions,

1)     Assign an address to one side of the control module.

2)     reset the point motor

3)     Using the Powercab accessory operation, check the throw.  You will need to activate the accessory address multiple times, whilst you adjust the throw distance using the adjustment control on the control module.

4)       Once the throw distance, matches the turnout tiebar movement, attach the linkage, double check the throw, and then screw the point motor down.  I only used 2 screws, leave the other 2 holes in case you need to later adjust the position of the motor.

5)     Program the other side, and repeat the above.

I had assigned 0001 and 0002 as the DCC accessory numbers for the specific turnouts.  Later, I will use a dymo label  to record the accessory numbers more professionally

The NCE hand controller has specific buttons for selecting accessories, or a macro.  The screen on this controller image is asking for the Macro number.  

The NCE Macros.

Controlling Accessories with your DCC system can be tedious, and my preference is to avoid it if possible.  The NCE system that I have, has an <Select ACCY>  button, but you still need to enter the ID of the accessory, press <Enter>, then “1” (for Normal), or “2” (for reverse).  Some of software available for the mobile phone throttles makes this process less of a chore.  In any case, to align 4 hidden staging yard turnouts one by one, to find the appropriate stub ended track is not going to end well.  This is where the Macro comes in.  A macro allows a number of turnouts to be switched simultaneously – and if a macro is assigned to each of the staging tracks, than just activating one macro, all the necessary turnouts can be aligned.

The system limitations of the NCE Power cab are 16 macros, each of 8 accessories.  Not enough?  The NCE Power Pro system has 256 macros, each of 10 accessories. 


Testing of the route control using macros

For the purpose of testing, I assigned 3 end points.   And then programmed the macros using a truth table

Staging track 1.                Turnout 1 – Normal         Turnout 2-Normal

Staging track 2                  Turnout 1 – Reverse        Turnout 2 – don’t care

Staging track 3                  Turnout 1 – Normal         Turnout 2 - Reverse


In operation – press <macro>, enter the macro number (which is staging track ID) and hit <Enter>.  In my test above, one, or both turnout motors activated simultaneously, selecting the correct route.


It is like magic.  Theoretically, I could set up 128 stub ended staging tracks at each end of the layout, by using the macro function, although in practice, it is unlikely to be more than 16, which will be switched by 4 or 5 turnouts


There are a few you-tube tutorials on using the NCE system to control the DCC Concepts SS turnout.  This one by Barcoola is excellent

An  alternative to the DCC Concepts SS system 

Something that I wanted to avoid with the DCC Concepts SS motors, is a mass of wiring, and circuitry below a layout.    Whilst this undoubtably works, the complexity,  arduino components and programming could lead to a nightmare in diagnosis a few years down the track when the memory goes hazy.  


Repair of Westinghouse Brake gauge for display

Installing Yellow Tongue flooring on the walls was a deliberate choice.  The main reason was for strength in hanging the upper deck off the wall without needing to know where the wall studs were.  The bonus was to allow for simply screwing on my railway memorabilia directly onto the wall. 

Last month, I was transferring a box of brass gauges from the house, to the railway room, when I heard the unmistakable crunch of broken glass


Westinghouse air brake pressure gauge from a NSW48 class.  


After removal of the brass bezel, and the broken glass, both arms also showed damage - the Main Reservoir hand also lost part of the enamal, and writing 

The broken glass was used as a template to draw a circle on the 2mm thick clear PVC that I had

Using a dremal cutting disk, I cut around the line.  Note the protective paper on the clear PVC

After much filing, the PVC was fitted inside the brass bezel


I color matched the enamal to Floquil Signal Red, and the writing redone with Floquil Reefer White. The original paint was gloss, but after the "glass" was refitted, I doubt anyone could tell

Removal of the protective paper on the PVC, gives a crystal clear result.  How long will the PVC stay this clear is a mystery.

On the Train Room display wall, with all its friends.  

Train room progress. 

After finishing the painting of the ceilings, and the walls, the next major task was laying about 50 square metres of flooring.

Bunnings delivery of 20 boxes.  Each box contains 12 planks, and weighs an estimated 30kg.  This delivery was worth the bunnings $94 delivery fee.  The boxes were then relocated into the train room - a serious workout.

The first planks are laid like writing, from the top LHS of the room, and after that run, the next run is layered down a line, clipped into the the first.  The lines have to be straight, to avoid gaps in the planks.


The other end of the room.  These planks have an included rubber foam backing, so saves having to install an extra foam mat beforehand.  Much simplier than the 4 other false floors I have previously laid

One of the hassles of having a room full of junk, is moving it prior to painting, laying flooring etc.  The new floor is immediately useable

The kitchenette area.  The newly acquired bar fridge fits nicely under the "L" shape kitchen bench, hiding the hot water system.  Note that the plumbing has not progressed as all since October

Next stages after completing the flooring,  are the skirting, and gloss white painting of the window sills, doorways etc.    That just leaves the ensuite - waterproofing,tiling, and painting, and the plumbing.  Progress is slow, possibly as my builder has only been once since XMAS, so I am going at my own pace. 


You have to be comfortable with being able to diagnose faults, and fix your models, or your layout.  That confidence will pay dividends.  Before I stumbled across DCC Concepts SS turnout controllers, I had trepidation that I would have created a maintenance monster that would lead to the premature demise of an operational layout.  Now, by having each part self contained, and relatively easy to replace, I can get onto worrying about other aspects of the layout build.

 Until next time, build a model or two.