Saturday, 7 December 2013

Fish River Down Panel Comes To Life


As the post title alludes to...the Fish River Down Box is all but complete and ready to install.  The same methodology of construction was incorporated as used on the Up Box, so assembly was a lot more straightforward this time around.

I have copped many a light hearted hammering from some quarters for my "anal" approach to wiring neatness.  This habit may or may not be traced to an early background in the aviation industry...but if the readers of this blog could have seen my approach to wiring for earlier layouts and my vocabulary when something went wrong and a gremlin needed to be traced...they would certainly understand my want to get it right this time.  Anyway I still consider myself as a rank amateur as I have seen some much neater and more comprehensive approaches...

Some others have asked about my selection of cable and component positioning and a short entry regarding same may help others...

As stated in earlier posts I decided to use Cobalt point motors, exclusively on the layout.  Apart from the fact that each motor has it's own personality, as far as speed and noisiness is concerned... I have had no major issues thus far and see no need to change.  Because the layout is wired for DCC and I am using an NCE setup to run the layout I decided to also utilise the Cobalt decoders as part of the initial installation.  The decoders can be installed at the Cobalt point motor and if utilising the AD1 single decoder...the point motor has a slide in ability to house the decoder.  I decided to locate the decoders inside the control panels and run required wiring to each point motor.  Where possible I have also used AD4 decoders (which is basically a 4 gang version of the AD1) and this only requires one set of "power in" wires for each bank as each decoder in the bank is "electrically linked" which serves to minimise panel wiring.  Having the bulk of the "logic" located inside the panel serves as mechanical protection for all components and I feel that troubleshooting is also enhanced.

The wiring from the front panel to the decoders is via 4 core alarm cable and from the decoders to each point motor I have utilised 7 core alarm cable which is certainly overkill considering only 2 out of 7 of the cores are used...but in an effort to future proof the layout these spare 5 wires will already be there should I decide to take full advantage of the decoders and install signalling or some other accessory.

So with the wiring now explained I guess the last thing to examine is how I want the layout to operate...  I am from an age where a track diagram on each panel, push button control and LEDs signifying route status is about all that I would imagine I would ever want....but if I ever decide to explore and utilise the NCE setup to it's potential ( or someone more tech savvy than myself ever visits ) I can number each set of points and programme them to operate from the NCE handpiece individually or programme a macro to set a number of points ( route control ) with one command from the handpiece.  Again I have no idea what the future holds and I guess if I don't want to spend my later years under the layout adding bits and is better to do what I can now.

For the Fish River station and yard area...history may well prove that the decision to provide two separate panels to control just over 20 sets of points was flawed and it all could have been incorporated into one single panel.  The approach I have taken is based on the possibility of more than one operator of the layout at once and I have seen some home and club layouts with one panel and it can be a proverbial pain in the arse.  Whether the panel layout proves convenient for me as a sole operator, as will be the case for the vast majority of the time, will only be decided over time...

So with the panel all but will be installed in the next day or so and trackwork and point motor installation can then follow and my loose timetable to have a continuous loop of the train room by Christmas looks achievable.

Rear of the panel and associated wiring...all pushbuttons and LEDs have been wired.

4 of the decoders have been wired...8 will be required with the single decoder being added as a spare if required later.
It is possible to see the difference between and AD1 ( single decoder) and the two banks of AD4 decoders.
Wiring to the layout will exit the panel via the bottom.  Decoder Power In...will occur when the panel is fitted to the layout.

Completed panel ready for fitment to the layout...

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Time Management and Control Panels...


Before I became self employed and worked in the "real" world...I was often told that my time management skills were pretty good.  Wind the clock forward a few years and I am not so sure about those earlier third party observations.
While not the major reason...the inability to get hobby projects through a gestation period and through to completion within a self imposed time frame, certainly was a contributing factor in my brain explosion and decision to mothball the layout earlier this year.

As with most issues in life we tend to examine only the obvious external reasons that have invoked or caused a problem and tend to avoid any evidence that our approach, attitude or methodology has played any part in the original problem. 

So with this in mind and my hobby and layout juices beginning to flow again I have spent quite a bit of time working out how to make improvements to my "headspace" and how I approach the hobby and the layout.  All of this sounds a bit over the top...but the hobby has bought me so much joy and is such an important part of my life that I figured it deserved time spent conducting an "audit and improvement" examination.

Certainly at the outset we all know that there is a finite time available to devote to a hobby and that time has to be flexible to cope with a range of external factors such as family, work, other leisure and general life.  Following on from this personal "audit" I have narrowed down the two major issues that have given rise to my hobby frustrations.  The first is unreasonable self imposed time expectations of completion of projects and secondly being personally organised and having an organised workspace for when the hard won couple of free hours arrives ( planned or unplanned ).  The first issue raised will be an ongoing rearrangement of attitude to which I have already started.  The being organised part of the equation is something that needs the bulk of the attention. What tends to happen now is that a couple of hours become spare and I then spend those couple of hours assembling the parts, tools and other "stuff" to achieve the task and of course when I am ready to go....The time available has expired.  With this constant cycle of disorganisation...when the time(s) become available to "hobby" the motivation evaporates...

The way around this for me is to setup an area within the house and an area within the layout room to allow flexibility of workspaces and over the years I have amassed enough tools to enable two individual areas and setups to be achievable.

So armed with all of this new found inspiration and organisational changes I set about commencement of building the second control panel for the main station area of the layout being "Fish River".  In an earlier post I wrote about the "UP" Box and now I can report on progress of the "Down" Box.  The new "Down" panel will be an exact replica of the existing "Up" panel in both design and construction. Once this box is complete and installed it will allow completion of general trackwork, pointwork and point control to be completed at this end of the yard.  It is then only a matter of a few lengths of track on the opposing wall and a complete loop of the trainroom will have been achieved.  I see completion of these works as very real and achievable over the Christmas period and in line with my new found "hobby logic"....I am working toward this project only and am not entertaining any other projects to cloud the issue until it is completed.

The reasoning for two panels to manage the rather humble "Fish River" environ was taken so that each panel is roughly located at the nest of points that they control.  It will also make things a lot more manageable and comfortable if a time eventuates where multiple operators are in attendance.  I have decided to stick to the exclusive use of Cobalt point motors and Cobalt decoders located within the panel so that point/route control can be undertaken via the panel or the NCE handset.  There has been a lot written ( good and bad ) about the Cobalt point motors but from my perspective I have had no issues with them and am now familiar with the find no plausible reason to change.

In the accompanying photos I have also shown the now long completed "Up" box so that together with the under construction "Down" box... an idea of the overall track plan can be seen.  There will need to be some modification to individual track legends on the original "Up" box panel to incorporate the changes to the overall track plan that have happened since it was installed.  Basically I have decided on single track main which will see the "Up Main" renamed "Loop"...The "Down Main" renamed as "Main"  and the Dock Siding renamed "Carriage Siding"

It is still my intention to remove the two double slips from the up end of the yard and this will be undertaken and the Up Box panel will be modified to suit at that time...

Anyway if some still find it confusing...I will add an "as built" track plan in one of the next postings.

Original Completed Up Box...

The Down Box panel being created on the laser...
holes for switches and LEDs will be laser cut in the same operation once the track plan has finished engraving 

The new panel being populated 

Although this is the innards of the Up Box...the Down Box has been constructed and will be outfitted in the same manner...