Monday, February 25, 2013

Block Detection - Fully On-Line!

In another major milestone, this one thanks largely to the help of Nick, I can announce that all 33 detected blocks on the Onondaga Cutoff are fully linked to the computer and the dispatcher's screen.  While work remains to equip each car on the railroad with the resistive wheelsets necessary for the detection to trip, the system itself is where it needs to be.  Take a look!

Nick built all the signals in to the CATS software, which runs with JMRI to control the signals in a CTC fashion.  The software is now essentially ready to be linked to the signals themselves, but first we need to get the interlockings converted from their current analog control boards to digital controllers, which are stationary DCC decoders designed to control 8 turnouts or pairs of turnouts each.  The interlockings are the next major project, but for now, it's fun to see trains 'routed' (green lines) across the railroad on the screen, and more fun to watch the track occupation lights (TOL's, the red lines) flash in as the system detects the train on the track. 

Exciting progress!


Tuesday, February 19, 2013


We're back up and running after replacement and rewiring of the circuit breakers for the railroad!

The first move to test our new breakers was a 52-car ELSE.  Here that train is in photos, coming and going at milepost 293, climbing towards the summit at CP 282.  Thanks to sound construction techniques, labeled terminals, and the patience to have done it right the first time, I was able to quickly replace the 6 breakers with the issues by simply substituting the new ones, which all work as intended.  This time I remembered to ensure that the 'SETUP' jumpers were not left on the boards!

One thing I did change as part of this process was the bus wire that ran to the breakers from the command station.  All of this was originally solid 12-gauge wire, which is very stiff and therefore puts some strain on the fine soldered joints on the printed-circuit boards of the EB-1 breakers.  I changed all of it to 14-gauge stranded wire, which is much more flexible.  The track bus all remains the original solid 12-gage copper wire.

So, we're back in business on the Onondaga Cutoff!  Later this week, we hope to begin running wire from the BD-20 detectors (see the January 2013 blog entries) back to the command station, which will enable the computer to 'see' the entire railroad from a block detection standpoint.  Exciting developments coming soon!


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Sometimes you Win, Sometimes... have to fix what you lost!

Most of you who follow the blog know that I'm running a PowerPro 5-amp system with a second booster unit for my HO scale railroad. I have 6 EB-1 circuit breakers, three on each booster unit, that until this weekend were working perfectly. Since all 6 need the same settings, I never changed the factory-set stationary decoder address of 2044 (which, by the way, is not an address I use on the model railroad for any locomotive).

This weekend during an operating session, the EB-1's all stopped tripping, and therefore the boosters themselves would trip when there was a short.

In troubleshooting, I realized that I had never removed the 'SETUP' shunt on any of the EB-1's, which is explicitly mentioned in the directions.  For two years, it was no problem, due to simple programming that did not affect the CV's that control EB-1's.  Recently, however, I have installed the JMRI software to assist in programming and to control the detection and signal system.  JMRI allows speed matching of locomotives as well, a huge asset with a locomotive fleet as varied as mine.  While it is simple to do this on the computer in JMRI, the computer is actually doing quite a bit of CV programming in the background...including several that affect the EB-1's when the SETUP jumper is left installed.  In effect, I had reprogrammed my EB-1's, and they no longer worked!

I did attempt to follow the directions and do a factory reset per the instructions, which had no effect.  I even called NCE and asked for advice, and even their advice to enable the manual reset had no effect.   It was time to bite the bullet and order 6 new EB-1's for the railroad.

Long story short - FOLLOW THE DIRECTIONS!  Some days are diamonds, and some days...well, they're rocks.