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...


  1. Rod

    I think your idea of putting the accessory decoders inside the 'signal box' is good. I have bits and pieces of DCC gear under the layout in various places and apart from being difficult to mount they can be a pain to see properly when attaching the wires.

    I also like the UP and DOWN signal boxes as this happened on larger stations and I like the idea of signalmen rather than CTC.

    Ray P

  2. Rod,

    Being a real pain in the R's I would like to point out that the usual NSWGR practice when two (or more) signal boxes existed at the same named location was to give them suffixes, not call them up or down.

    Goulburn is a good example with 5 boxes in close proximity. From the Sydney direction the boxes were known as North Goulburn, Goulburn North, Goulburn Station, Goulburn South and (Goulburn?) Loco. No up or down here!

    So I would like to propose that, in order to be prototypically correct, your boxes should be called Fish River North and Fish River South, or something similar.

    I have no problem with your neatness approach to the wiring. Well done!

    Happy boxing,

    John Proctor

  3. Neat taken to the next level ! Looking good Rod, nice to see the River lives !

  4. Ray, Gary...

    Thanks for the comments it is pleasing to get them finished and some running fun ahead over Christmas...