Category Archives: Electrical

Ceiling panel install Doughboy Hollow to Ardglen completed

The final panel was installed yesterday. I have also temporarily installed the lighting to finalise their locations.

The next step is to remove the lights, fill the joins, undercoat the ceiling then paint with the sky colour. The lights will then be re-installed. I am very pleased with how it’s all come together. There is now plenty of light to continue trackwork and scenery in this section.

The top valance/pelmet will most likely be installed after the majority of scenery is complete.

Ardglen on the left, Doughboy Hollow on the right


For quite some time now, I had planned on using 12V LED strip lights for the layout lighting.

Some years ago, I purchased some 5 metre rolls of LED strips on eBay. I had temporarily fitted these above the Chilcott’s Ck to Kankool section, primarily to provide lighting to be able to work on the layout.

Over the years, I realised that the strip lights were not going to be suitable for a number of reasons.

a) they ran very hot;

b) they used a lot of power;

c) to get the correct colour temperature of the lights, I found I had to use a strip of cool white AND warm white together. I soon realised I would need a hell of a lot of strips for this to achieve the desired result.

Ever since starting work on scenery, especially applying static grasses, I knew that I needed to sort the lighting out once and for all.

Yesterday I finally went into a local lighting shop to ask about “slimline” type fluorescent tubes. I was told “they are old technology now and are difficult to source”. The guy then showed me some LED slimline “linkable” LED lights that came in various lengths; 280mm, 540mm, 840mm, 1140mm & 1440mm. I decided to get a few different lengths to try out.

The other great thing about them is they can be switched between three different colour temperatures; 3000K (warm white), 4000K (cool white) and 5500K (daylight).

The 1440mm was $55, 1140mm was $44 and the 540mm was $29. I proceeded to install them above the Chilcott’s Ck bridge scene as a test.

The lights are supported by small plastic clips and can be daisy-chained together, either with a solid connector, or a short flexible connector that spaces each fitting approximately 130mm apart. This was the method I chose. The fittings were mounted behind the valance that was already in place.

I was pleasantly surprised by the effect once turned on. I have settled on the 5500K “daylight” temperature as it just looks the best compared to the other two. There is a nice, even spread of light.

The other plus is these draw far less load than the equivalent 12V strip lights. They also run very cool.

So to sum up, I think I am on a winner here. I have already done some local shopping around and it looks like I’ll be able to get some quite good discounts on the different length fittings if I buy in bulk. The plan is to use the longest fittings where possible, and short ones for going around curves/corners.

Below are some shots of the fittings in situ, the connector piece, and an overall view of the layout and the specs of the fittings. One thing to note is that they recommend a maximum run loading of 240W, which if you calculate off the figures in the picture, approximate run lengths of 22m, 16.7m, 16.5m 15.2m & 15.7m can be achieved for each different fitting length.

Here is a link to the product page.…/slimline-tc-linkable-sl9706

Track cleaning

An interesting article in this month’s (May) Model Railroad Hobbyist online magazine on keeping wheels and track clean.

Go to Page 9, “Publisher’s Musings”.

Some time ago, there was a thread on the MRH Forums on this same discussion, and I purchased a graphite stick and have been using it occasionally on the short section of track between Chilcott’s Creek and Kankool. I have yet to actually “clean” the track with a track rubber or similar since the initial application of graphite, and locos run perfectly on it every time, most often with months between runs.

Central Valley Track laying – Part II …

Hi all,

On Monday I laid the first lengths of rail down on the Central Valley tie bases.

The first job was to install a short section of transition track between the PECO track and the CV track.  This is located about where the train will enter the Temple Court scenicked section from the helix.  The transition piece was required due to the different overall track heights between the PECO and the CV track, which was around one millimetre, with the CV track being less.

I managed to find a short length of Micro Engineering code 70 track and this was duly made to fit and feeder wires soldered in place.

location of transition section between PECO and CV track

transition section glued in place

In the second picture you will notice quite a bit of adhesive.  As the transition section could not sit flat on the foam due to the track height difference, the plan was to have it sit ‘suspended’ in the bed of glue.  Liquid Nails was used, but once I had the track in position, I realised I had applied a tad too much glue!  The excess glue will be removed with a Dremel ‘burr’ tool once set.

In the image below, I have pointed out that the rail joins are offset.  This is similar to what I did when laying the PECO track in the helix.  It’s always better to have rail joins staggered, as this helps with the flow of the track and the possibility of a kink is avoided.

rail joins are offset

I must now mention that the longer bit of rail at the top in the above image was pre-coated with the contact adhesive as well as the few CV ties that it would be glued to.  Once it was in position, the rail was held down, located in the moulded tieplates, and MEK applied with a brush to the tieplates to activate the adhesive and make the bond.  This will be explained further on.

I could now start laying rail on the CV track.  But first I had to come up with a sequence of things to do.  At the moment, this is what I have come up with:

1.  Depending on the location, the rail needs to be pre-curved.  The main reason for doing this is to alleviate the stresses on rail joins where the rail would be under tension and have a tendency to want to ‘spring’ out.  The rail is curved using a Rail Roller from Fast Tracks.

pre-curving the rail

The bend can be adjusted to suit whatever radius you have.  I found that after a few passes through the tool, I achieved just the right amount for the rail to virtually sit in place on its own.

2.  Once the rail has been curved, it is placed in position and a mark made at a suitable location for the feeder wire to be attached.  With the semi-hollow nature of the spline roadbed, it allows the feeder wires to be pulled through the foam and spline.  These will be hidden by the ballast later on.

So, a short piece of hook-up wire is soldered in place on the underside of the rail.

feeder wire soldered in place

feeder wire when rail in place


3.  The underside of the rail is now cleaned with Methylated Spirits to ensure a good bond with the contact adhesive.

rail is cleaned with methylated spirits


4.  Once the rail is clean, the contact adhesive & MEK mixture is applied as a thin coating using a cotton bud.

adhesive applied to rail


5.  The same adhesive is also applied to the tieplates on the CV track.  Again a thin coating is all that is required and is applied by brush.

adhesive applied to tieplates

Both the rail and tieplates are left to dry for at least an hour.

6.  Once the adhesive is dry, the rail is placed in position on the moulded tieplates, held down with light pressure with a small block of wood, and MEK is then applied to the rail/tieplate join with a brush.  Keep pressure applied for about thirty seconds then move on.  I only do about ten sleepers at a time.

bonding rail to sleepers with MEK

At this point, I am only laying one rail.  I’ll probably continue with one rail all the way to the staging yards, then come back and fix the second rail in place.  I’m hoping I won’t need to use any gauges as the moulded tieplates form the ‘gauging’.

Overall I am very pleased with how it’s all going.  A lot better and easier than I had imagined.


Staging yards control Part II …

Hi all,

Quickly following on from Part One, I will attempt to describe the wiring that I have done.

Probably the first bit of wiring I did was when I was installing the Cobalt motors.  The turnout vee crossings will be ‘live’ and polarity switched when the turnout is thrown.  This is done using the auxiliary contacts within the motor.  So, positive and negative droppers were connected to the turnout at an appropriate spot and along with the dropper from the crossing, were terminated at the motor.

turnout motor wiring

Wire size is 7/0.16mm, Altronics Light Duty Hook Up Wire, Cat No. W2250 (Red), W2251 (Black) and W2255 (Green).  I bought 100 metre rolls of ten different colours years ago.  The grey wires are figure 8 type that supply power to the motor.

As mentioned above, the red and black droppers are connected to a convenient spot on the turnout.dropper connections for vee crossing polarity

With the requirement for each road to be a detection section, I had to run a positive bus wire for each road, including the turnout ladders at each end of the yards.  There a total of twenty two detection sections, eleven per yard.  Once these bus wires (1.5mm2) were run, smaller gauge dropper wires were attached to every piece of rail and then connected to their respective bus wires.  The negatives from each road were bonded together and connected to a negative bus for each yard.  The photo below shows a section underneath the UP yard showing the bus runs, the positive rail connections and the common negative connections.

detector section bus wiring

dropper connection to positive rail

The wiring for each turnout motors was run using figure 8 type wire back to a central terminal block, one for each bank of eight motors.  To connect these back to the control boards (SMD-8’s), four core alarm cable was used.  This was obtained from my local electrical wholesaler.  I got one hundred metres for only thirty five cents per metre.  I needed four runs of this cable for each bank of turnouts.  The conductor size of this cable was 14/0.2mm.

turnout motor wiring

Due to the small conductor size of the alarm cable and figure 8, and the large terminal block connections, small ferrules were used to make it easier to terminate these wires.  The ferrules were obtained from the local Jaycar store, part number PT4433.

All this wiring had to be terminated at the control boards.  I chose a location under one end of the UP yard and screwed some timber to the wall to make a mounting board.  The image below shows the finished product.

staging yard control

The following images show close-up views of the individual components.

SMD-8 and FOB-C boards for turnout control

There a four SMD-8 boards that control the thirty two point motors.  The alarm cable wiring from each bank of eight is terminated at the fan-out board (FOB-C).

BOD-8 boards for train detection

There are three BOD-8 boards for the detector sections.  The Cat5 wiring comes from the current transformers.

CT's for current detection of trains

There is a total of twenty four detection sections, twenty two for the yards and another two for the sections between the UP yard and Kankool and the Down yard and Pangela.  At the moment, I haven’t installed the last two CT’s, but the Cat5 wiring is terminated already.

Relays for road power control

The wiring to control the power to each road was probably the most complex.  The original plan was to just use the RB-4’s, but I found it was too difficult to terminate the larger wires (brown & grey) into the small terminal blocks on the RB-4.  So I purchased another lot of relays that would control the main DCC power and used the RB-4’s to control these new relays.  I was then able to use much smaller hook-up wire in the RB-4 terminals.  The new relays were from Altronics, part number S4197 for the relay and S4320 for the base.  They are mounted on DIN rail which was also obtained from Altronics.

TC-64 Tower Controllers

All the boards are connected to the two TC-64 Tower Controllers by 10-way ribbon cable.  The TC-64’s are connected together via 6-way flat data cable with RJ-12 type connectors.  These are then connected to the Locobuffer USB interface, which will then be connected to a laptop that will sit just to the right hand side of the control board on a shelf.

I am yet to test the system as it will involve a lot of time to carry out the programming and addressing of the hardware in JMRI and PanelPro.

For those interested, I have included some wiring and schematic diagrams that I drew up to not only assist in the actual wiring installation but to help with future fault finding.





Staging yards control Part I …

Hi all,

Apologies for the long time since the last post, but I have been busy with work on the layout.

The main task lately has been to complete the wiring for the staging yards and to install all the components that will control and monitor trains in the staging yards.

From the beginning, one of the main reasons for me building the layout was to not only be able to run trains, but also to hopefully recreate a number of prototype scenes from books and magazines in model form for photography purposes.  I have always had a fascination for the Liverpool Range area since I first started in the hobby in the late 80’s and got to chase trains in the area.  The era I am modelling though is a about eight years prior to this, circa 1980.  I always knew I wanted to run trains rather than shunting them around a yard, and since the three locations I am modelling are essentially only crossing loops, I needed a storage area for trains to be marshalled in.

Over time, the decision was made to select a number of trains from printed publications, in both UP and DOWN consists that I particularly liked and wanted to model.  The plan is to have complete trains marshalled in the staging yards and using small touchscreens incorporated into the fascia at Ardglen, select a train and it’s required route out of the yard.  The idea is to use the touchscreens as the ‘eyes’ of the staging yards and by using detectors, an operator should not have to physically look in the yard to see what is going on.

But first, a bit of background as to how the staging yards will work.  Refer to the schematic below.  Clicking the image below will open up a larger version in a new window.


  • There are two separate yards, an UP yard and a DOWN yard, each containing nine roads.
  • Each yard has the capacity to store eight complete trains, which will remain in fixed consists facing the appropriate direction.
  • The ‘through’ road will never store a train.  It is bi-directional.
  • Yards will be controlled via RR-Cirkits equipment and interfaced to JMRI PanelPro running on a computer.
  • Interlocking will be programmed within PanelPro.
  • Train/route selection will be via a PanelPro schematic using the touchscreens.
  • Power to each road will be via relays and selected via the touchscreens.
  • Each road is a detection section. It is there to detect a train in the road.  If a train is fouling the ‘clearance point’ of the road, ie either end of the train, this will be picked up by detection in the turnout yard ladders at each end which are separate detection sections.  ‘End of train’ detection will be achieved with resistive (10k) wheelsets in the guards van.  If a train has reached the limit of the road and therefore fouling the clearance point, it will show as a detection in the exit turnout yard ladder.

The above is only a brief description on how trains will operate on the layout.  The plan is to make running trains as foolproof as possible and to incorporate safeworking and possible interlocking with the lever frames at Kankool and Pangela, ie only one train is allowed in a section at a time as per single line safeworking rules.  I will expand more on this later when I come to program how the yards work.

Now to the hardware that runs it all.

When I was thinking on how I wanted to manage train operations, I started looking around on the internet for suitable hardware that would do the job.

I had known about JMRI and DecoderPro for programming DCC decoders, but I didn’t know much about another application within JMRI, called PanelPro.  After some investigation, I decided that I could use PanelPro to control the yards.  Now I just had to find the appropriate hardware to use.

I had originally planned to control the Cobalt motors using their own DCC accessory decoders, which would have been wired to the DCC bus and controlled via the throttle.  This would have been OK, but I couldn’t see an easy way to also control the power to each road.  I didn’t really want to build traditional control panels with switches or pushbuttons.

After some internet searching, I found a range of reasonably priced electronic control boards that would allow point motor control, train detection and yard power control, all via a Digitrax type interface to a computer.  Check out RR-Cirkits.

Initially I wasn’t convinced about the Digitrax part of the system, because I’d had some exposure to Digitrax DCC many years ago when a mate bought a system to convert his then DC layout to DCC.  At the time, DCC systems were in their infancy, and I really wasn’t a fan of the Digitrax stuff.

Having said that, upon further investigation, I discovered that the RR-Cirkits range of devices only used the Digitrax LocoNet® protocol and that JMRI handled it all easily.  It wasn’t a Digitrax system as such.

My system comprises the following RR-Cirkits hardware which I purchased from BNM Hobbies in the US.  The owner, James Koretsky has been very helpful.  Thanks must also go out to Dick Bronson from RR-Cirkits for technical assistance and for allowing me to use images from his website.


The BOD-8 is a DCC block occupancy detector board that has inputs for eight blocks using remote current transformers (CT’s).  Three of these boards were required.


These 100:1 toroid coils sense the track current on leads passing through the hole in the middle of the coil. They connect to the BOD-8 with twisted pair cable such as CAT-3 or CAT-5 network cable.  Twenty four of these CT’s were required.


The SMD-8 is an eight output, optically isolated driver board for stall motor switch machines (eg Tortoises and Cobalts).  Four of these boards were required.


This board (FOB-C) is designed to allow easy termination of the point motor wiring to a single SMD-8 board.  It connects to the SMD-8 via ribbon cable.  Four of these boards were required.


The power to each yard road is controlled via this relay board (RB-4).  It contains four 10 amp single pole, single throw (SPST), optically isolated relays.  Four of these boards were required.


The TC-64 Tower Controller is the ‘heart’ of the system.  It is a 64 line (8 port) I/O controller designed to run on LocoNet based DCC systems.  All the above boards connect to the unit via 10 way flat ribbon cable.  I required two of these units as I had eleven boards that required connecting.  The interface between the TC-64 and the computer is the LocoBuffer-USB which connects via USB.  One of these was required.

Well, that’s pretty much all of the hardware I obtained for the control of the staging yards.  In the next post I will go more into the wiring that was required and how it all connects together.


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