Saturday, April 7, 2012

Fort Myers Layout

This is what has been happening..... The layout RUNS!

I have spent more time doing rather than talking, hence a long delay between posts. Priorities.

The original track plan changed.  Like all plans, what was considered important on day 1, is less important on day 56 (pick a day).

I had tried to avoid a duck-under, but compromised with a bob-under (a higher duck-under) and that changed the ability of the layout to now be a walk-around. That solved a number of problems.
I wanted 24" radius curves in N Scale.  The exception is the yard where No.4 points have been used.
I wanted continuous running and I wanted a single track main - to make operations easy, enjoyable, logical, (pick what suits you).

A good mate, Fitzy, (see Barcoola blog) offered that there was an opportunity for a staging area. This resulted in 4 tracks (off layout) for trains to be prepared to run interference in the planned coal trains, empty and full, running each direction. This was a great way to improve the operation of the layout. In honour, I've called it Fitzy's Staging (bottom right of layout plan).  Thanks Fitzy.

What is not shown on the track plan is the planned scenery divider.  That will split the peninsula into half and will run diagonally (20 degrees from horizontal on the plan) from the notch in the layout at Fort Myers where the power station will receive the coal loads on one side and the coal is unloaded from river barges at Roscoe.  The aim is to have loads in and empties out of the power station.  The scenery divider being the start/end point of the layout.

Most of the track has been pinned down, some is glued down.  I want to be able to test operational running before locking the track in place.  A downside is that a multi-loco train can move the points slightly.  This then leads to the next train screwing up (that's a technical term) and grinding to a halt.  The 'Hand of God' is required to intervene.  I really hate that.  I fixed that with double sided tape and cured those issues.

One of the aspects that I really wanted to portray was West Brownsville, PA.  I just could not get enough of the street running.  As an aside, I went to Rockhampton, Queensland, Australia, to see the street running there.  It was a public holiday when I arrived and nothing ran!!!  700km each way for nothing......

Back to the layout.
There are opportunities for switching in 4 locations as well as making up trains in the main yard.  There is more then enough planned activity for myself and a couple of other operators.

There are some other friends that need thanking to get the layout to where it is now, listed in contribution order: Doug - he's a good carpenter (not like me), Michael (deceased) who helped in the lining of the shed (if you can read this Michael, an email back to me would be good)  I have a sense of humour; Fitzy, a track planning guru;  and Jim for helping to make sense of DecoderPro and all that makes locos run like they should.

I tried doing this on my own.  I quickly  figured that I don't know enough to make a model railroad work the way it should (and as I would really like it to).  Thanks to all those friends that have assisted.  Every one of you is appreciated for your contribution and skill.

 Digitrax/DecoderPro/Selector Switch/PC setup

I use DecoderPro with a Digitrax Zephyr Extra and Digitrax PR3 computer interface with a selector switch to change between Ops mode or Service mode.  I use Service mode to read back from the decoder in the initial loco setup and Ops mode for speed matching on the fly.  The stopwatch on the phone to check timings using Android app Lapstar Lite Talking Stopwatch.

In preparing to speed match locos, I first considered the max speed for the Passenger, Freight and Coal locos.  Markers beside the track measure 3 and 4 foot points.  I use a terrific scale speed calculator ( from the Western Reserve Division, of the National Model Railroad Association, Inc (NMRA)) to calculate the max top speed and then work back in the throttle settings.  Thanks guys for making the effort to put this freely on the web.

 The Western Reserve Division speed calculator webpage

Jim's Excel spreadsheet for speed matching locos 

Jim (see ) created a spreadsheet to speed match locos for acceleration and deceleration as well as top speed and speed at various throttle settings.  This works really well.  It is time consuming to set up a pair of locos.  The end result is that all the coal locos all run at the same speed for a given throttle setting. The same goes for freight and passenger locos.  The accel and decel rates can also be matched.  This makes for very smoooooth loco consist operation.  There is no fighting as to which loco wants to be first to go or stop.  Good work Jim.

 The overall workbench setup (a switching layout in the background)

The workbench (3x4 feet) folds with the green panel at the front covering the test track, then the entire bench (without the notebook) folds vertically against the switching layout.  This protects the setup while still enabling access to the layout and provides room to move around the room.

 DecoderPro initial screen

Loco details screen

The fun area - for setting and matching loco speeds

Below is a short video showing the adjustment of the top speed using the slide bar.  The write time is reflected in the delay of the loco response to slow to the new top speed.  You can see that some boxes have been checked below the sliders.  These reflect the speed steps 0,1,2,3,4, & 6 on the Zephyr.  On this loco, there is an almost linear speed ramp.  Some locos have different characteristics and are not as linear. 

To keep track of the locos that have had the DecoderPro speed matching treatment, I put a small red marker on the jewel case and another on the bottom of the loco fuel tank.  That makes life easier while I have a mixture of locos treated vs untreated.

That's all for now.  Happy modelling.

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