Sep 2011

Fun with JMRI

Some weeks I don’t get much done. Well, that’s not quite true, I did a lot of work on the website this week, but the railroading time suffered. I did find some time to play with the test track I’d set up last week though, configuring JMRI to report block status based on the BDL168 outputs.

If you’re not familiar with JMRI it’s a free software package that allows a computer to interact with any of several DCC command stations that support computer interfaces, including Digitrax. It’s also available for Windows, Linux and Macs. And while not the most Mac-like program, it works, even on the ten-year-old iMac I’m using for the layout controller.

So what I have is a test track that’s an oval divided into two electrical blocks, each connected to an output of the BDL168. I named them, creatively enough, “One” and “Two”. And I used the Layout Panel editor to draw a schematic of the track. When displayed, red shows occupied (it’s configurable) and green shows clear. Even on my old computer, the change is nearly instantaneous once the locomotive crosses the insulated rail joiners from one block to the other.

DCC Power I

After assembling the first of my DCC protection and Occupancy Detection boards, I decided I wanted to test it and get some experience with using it. So I set up my loop of test track with insulated rail joiners separating it into two halves, and connected the feeder to outputs 1 and 2 of the BDL168, which correspond to RX4 A, detectors A & B. All of these are powered by PM42 section 1. For DCC, I used my Zephyr, and for the DC supply I used the 2 Amp, 12 Volt supply I plan to use for these systems (it’s the black box just above the Zephyr in the photo above). Powering it up, nothing went “Zap!”, which I count as a success.

Back On Track

After two months spent working on the website move, I’m back to working on (and playing with!) the railroad. That doesn’t mean I’m done with the website stuff. There are still pages left to convert, and a few problems to solve, and I’ll have more to say on that down below. But the new one is up and running, and relatively problem-free. And I’d budgeted this weekend to model railroad work in case there were problems, so I had some free time on my hands. I celebrated by getting the outer loop wired up and running a couple of trains. Then I turned my attention to working on the DCC protection and occupancy detection circuits so I can get the other two loops up and running.

The Big Move, Part I

This is the first post-move Musing, and I’m actually writing it before the move to ensure I get down all the details I know about in advance. There will probably be a Part II once everything settles down and I know what I forgot to mention. Then I can finally get back to writing about trains, or better yet, playing with them.

So, the move has happened, or will have by the time you read this. A couple of major changes in the end: first, the site has been restructured and in some places rewritten, but it’s basically the same site as before otherwise. Second, I couldn’t get the RSS Feed URLs for the Musings or Photo Albums to remain the same, so if you use those you’ll need to delete the old ones and get the new ones. However, you might want to hold off on that, as I’m not sure as I write this that I’ve got them correct yet, and I’ll need to do some experimentation once the new site is up to ensure they’re working.

August 2011 Status - Looking Back, and Looking Forward

It’s been about two years since construction started on Sumida Crossing, eventual replacement for the old Kitchen Table Layout (KTL) seen in the photo above (which itself had served me for close on two years, although that overlapped the later construction somewhat). The old KTL is gone now, broken down into its component elements and reused on the new layout, or stored away on shelves and in bins awaiting reuse.

The old layout was constrained to running two six-car trains (and a small freight branch/yard that couldn’t do much), plus others on sidings. Not much, but aside from one or two glitches (one bad unijoiner caused problems for weeks before I found it), it mostly worked and provided hours of entertainment for very little investment of time (the cash investment was much higher; all those pre-built buildings were expensive, and back then I was still buying from overpriced importers so the trains cost an arm and a leg (now that I buy direct from Japan they only cost one arm).

After two years of building I have a layout that looks fairly good and (when I don’t have it apart) lets me run two trains, and will shortly let me run six or more (I really have to finish up the rewiring of the commuter and subway loops and start converting more trains to DCC). And I’ve derived a lot of enjoyment from the research that went into it, and the construction. Not to mention having an excuse to buy more trains. Read More...