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Test Track Conclusions

N Scale Model Railroading and the prototype Railroads that called Denver home

Test Track Conclusions

A little while ago I decided to build a 6′ x 2’6″ N Scale test track. The following are my initial observations.

The primary objective was to be able to test run locomotives and cars in a continuous circle and to change the DCC loco code from the default of “3” to the loco road number.

There were many secondary objectives including:

  1. Testing Kato turnouts and track
  2. Testing DCC Concepts ADS solenoid accessory decoders and NCE Snap-It decoders
  3. Testing NCE BD-20 track detectors and Team Digital DBD22 track detectors
  4. Finding the appropriate use for NCEs AUI-01 and the Mini Panel systems
  5. Using JMRI Panel Pro and Decoder Pro
  6. Using the program “Train Controller” from Freiwald Software
  7. Finding the best method of wiring the layout. ie:
    1. Using Tortoise or Servo motors and JMRI
    2. Using solenoid motors with DCC Concepts ADS or Snap-It accessory decoders  and JMRI
    3. Using single CDUs (Capacitor Discharge Unit) to power large numbers of solenoid motors and Gaugemaster GM500 latching relays to activate signals and light LEDs to indicate turnout positions.
  8. Last, but by no means least, finding the easiest method of signaling the layout.

As my NCE Power Pro Radio system was wired to the main layout I used my backup NCE Power Cab system to run the test layout.

Initial conclusions:

  1. The motors in the Kato turnouts are polarity driven with only two wires – quite different to the 3 wire solenoid Peco point motors.
  2. The NCE Power Cab is very under-powered at 1.8 volts and about 1.8 amps.
  3. Start up amp usage was around .31 amps.
  4. The DCC Concepts ADS solenoid accessory decoders did not work as expected with the NCE Power Cab. Only 4 of the 8 operated correctly. The start up amp usage  of the NCE Power Cab jumped to 1.33 amps.
  5. Consequently I had to use NCE Snap-Its to power the turnouts (using a DCC Concepts DCD-SDC adapter to convert the 3 wires to 2 wires for the Kato turnouts).
  6. The Snap-Its worked fine but did not have the additional SPST connections that the DCC Concepts ADS units have. However apparently they can connect to NCEs “Dual Relays” and maybe other relays. To be tested.
  7. JMRI failed to function after the first couple of screens. No idea why but I suspect that the RS232 connection of Power Pro is much stronger than the USB connection of the Power Cab. However I need Decoder Pro to work so I will persist with using JMRI. Otherwise I will have to use the RS232 connection of Power Pro on the main layout.
  8. The test version of “Train Controller” only works for 15 minutes which is not enough time to determine if it works ok.
  9. I was keen to use the Gaugemaster GM500 latching relay to indicate the turnout position. However with the Snap-It and the two wire Kato turnout I could not identify the correct connections. I know that these relays work fine with Peco point motors.
  10. The Team Digital DBD22 track detector worked fine – except that no matter how  I wired it I could not get an external LED to light. The internal LEDs on the BDB board worked correctly. Consequently I replaced it with two NCE BD-20s and I will not be buying any more DBD22s!
  11. It would appear that using the AIU-01 with a Power Cab system is questionable. The AIU is only really of use with JMRI so that test can wait until the main layout is ready.
  12. There seems no point testing the NCE Mini Panel with such a small layout.
  13. The layout is inappropriate for testing Signal Systems.

As a result of the above I only intend to use the Kato layout for its primary purpose of test running locomotives and cars in a continuous circle and to change the DCC loco code from the default of “3” to the loco road number.

However I may well add scenery and make the layout into a display layout. There are two industry tracks, a two track yard and a railway station track. There are plenty of shunting options and for the future it could be used to test the “Ship It” system. Allowance has also been made for a Wye track so as locos can be turned.

With regard to the best method of operating a layout in terms of turnouts, block occupation and signals, there seems to be 3 options:

  1. Use Tortoise or Servo motors for turnouts and connect to JMRI Panel Pro – the problem I have here is that Tortoise are (a) very expensive, (b) too large to install on an N scale layout and (c) have to be installed from beneath the layout, unlike Peco motors which attach to the turnout when installed from above.  Apart from the reservations listed I have a large number of Peco and SEEP solenoid motors in stock already.
  2. Use solenoid motors with either NCE Snap-Its or DCC Concepts ADS decoders. The problem here is that (a) I keep hitting snags and problems, (b) every turnout requires its own CDU making it VERY EXPENSIVE and increasing the wiring significantly and the system does not work well with latching relays, which I hope to use for signals.
  3. What might be called an ANALOGUE SYSTEM:
    1. Use one (or more) large 24-32 volt CDU’s to throw all of the turnouts.
    2. Use Gaugemaster GM500 latching relays to indicate turnout position.
    3. Use GM500s and BD-20s to activate signals.
    4. Use a diode matrix for route control.
    5. Use local control panels to indicate train operation.

Since starting to write this blog I have spent a lot of time on Google and YouTube investigating Signal Systems. Most either require JMRI, Arduino scripts, infra-red track detection (I only want to use Current Sensing devices like NCEs BD-20) or very complicated DIY designs. I have also noted that at least two (Team Digital and Iowa Scaled Engineering) Signal Systems which showed promise, in terms of what I am looking, for had discontinued their products.

However Circuitron (of Tortoise fame) appear to have circuit boards that might fit my requirements, which are simply to be able to change 3 colour signals using BD-20 block detectors and either Gaugemaster GM500 latching relays or standard relays. Consequently I have ordered the following Circuitron products:

  1. SD-1 Signal Driver
  2. ER-1 External Relay
  3. BD-2 Block Occupancy Detector

Once these products arrive I will be able to test them to see if they perform the Signaling functions I am hoping for. We shall see.

 

Phase II Trackwork FINISHED !!

OK. All of the track laying for phase II is finished, which is a good thing given that I only have a dozen pieces of flex-track left.

I am now deep into the wiring of the  motors in Denvers yards (what was phase four) while John is finishing installing SEEP point motors on the main line past the East Denver Belt line leading into Denver’s yards from Glenwood Springs (the old phase two).

Once we have all of the point motors wired up we can concentrate on the BUS wiring, which is complicated in Denvers yards as there is a return loop which will require a PSX reversing unit.

Phase II . . . Only 6 tracks left to lay

Finished installing the last of the turnouts in D&RGWs North Yard last night. Only have the 4 service tracks and 2 industry tracks left to lay.

Then it is onto wiring, wiring and a lot more wiring. Model RailRoading is fun! Still I am looking forward to constructing the control panels. Best part (together with scenery) of the hobby for me.

New areas to explore include controlling main line turnouts via DCC and installing signals. I found a really nice 3 light Chinese made N Scale signal (3 pack) at Amazon for only $11AUD each. Normally N Scale signals cost around $30 each so I have 27 more in transit to me. Plus I have 20 Drawf N Scale Signals (in packs of 10) coming for installation at DUT as part of Phase III.

Phase III Update

Thanks to the hard work of Rod and John all of the Denver Union Terminal (DUT) tracks have been laid and SEEP turnout motors have been installed – wired and tested – under the baseboard. Now onto the laying of the tracks for C&S’s Rice Yard and the passenger coach yards.

Phase II . . . almost there

This photo was taken 4 days ago. Since then I have laid a further 3 turnouts to the Holcim Cement and Hadley Auto Transport industry tracks in D&RGWs North Yard. These tracks will also act as Rio Grande Motorway tracks as required. That leaves 3 more turnouts for the D&RGW/Rock Island locomotive servicing tracks and the Pikestuff Small Enginehouse.

Then I can connect the remainder of the Kato extender tracks across the module 6 & 7 divide, patch up a couple of broken tracks and start making connections to the control panels, starting back at Black Hawk. Once all of the feeders are connected to the BUS it should be possible to run a train around the loop.

I have updated the main web site to reflect the 4 phases, instead of 5, of the layout construction mentioned in the last post.

Phase II and Phase IV combined into Phase II; Phase V becomes Phase IV

The main line between Glenwood Springs and the Wye at Denver Union Terminal (DUT) is almost complete. I just have to install the Wye track to the north of DUT, (the connection to the east is already laid), and relay two or three turnouts on the main at the Prospect Junction end of North Yard. Then I can connect the remainder of the Kato extender tracks across the module 6 & 7 divide, patch up a couple of broken tracks and start making connections to the control panels, starting back at Black Hawk. Once all of the feeders are connected to the BUS it should be possible to run a train around the loop.

The changes to the Phase numbers will be reflected in the main web site pages in the fullness of time. Reducing the number of Phases to four will align with the planned N-Scale magazine articles.

New Year (January 2019) Update

Although some weeks have gone by, little has changed since the November update. The magazine article has been completed and should be published in the May/June edition of the N-Scale magazine. Rod is still working hard on pre-wiring the turnout motors for Phase III – Denver Union Terminal (DUT). Both John and Rod are currently on holiday.

I have made a breakthrough with the installation of KATO extender tracks between the Belt Line module and the North Yard module in Phase II. I have successfully installed Kato extenders on 4 tracks which paves the way for continuous loop train running. However when I went to lay more track in the yards I realised that because the module is against the wall it will not be possible to install point motors from underneath the baseboard because you cannot reach or see the top of the tracks. It is ok to “pop-up” the baseboard for BUS wiring. Consequently I have began to raise up the turnouts, one by one, and install PECO point motors attached to the turnouts. This has the advantage that once track laying is complete, wiring the turnouts to the control panels is a relatively quick job.

Once the yard tracks, turnouts and motors are installed I will work backwards along the main line to Glenwood Springs. With regard to the mainline all of the turnouts are to be computer controlled, which means that a number of DCCconcepts AD-S8sx decoders will need to be installed, together with NCE BD-20 block detectors. The Grand Junction loop turnouts will also have to be rewired with AD-S8sx decoders and 14 more NCE BD-20 block detectors added. Once complete testing with JMRI Panel Pro and Railway & Co can commence.

Phases 1 to 5 November 2018 update

I am not sure anyone reads this Blog except of course the Web Robots.  If you do read the blog please register and make a comment, or send me an email. However the blog was started as a useful place to record the progress on my layout, so I will keep updating every so often.

Phase 1 – the Clear Creek RR continues to progress. All track is laid. All turnout motors are installed. By the end of today all of the BUS wiring will be complete. Golden Station building is complete and five other kits have been completed. In addition the scenery work and ballasting has been completed on the canyons west of Golden. The scene is ready for photographs to be taken for an upcoming magazine article, except for the addition of some model people. This will happen once they arrive by mail from the USA in about 3 weeks time.  Two new control panels for Black Hawk (Power District 2c) and Idaho Springs (Power District 2b) are ready and awaiting artwork and connections. Golden is in Power District (PD) 2a, Glenwood Springs in PD2 and the Grand Jct Loop in PD1.

Work will shortly commence on adding the industries  and rolling stock into the “Ship It” Prototypical Switch List Generator program.

Phase II – the Main Line from Grand Jct Loop to D&RGW North Yard. All track laying and BUS wiring is complete, and in the process of being tested. The point motors have been  installed and are currently being connected to the Power District 2 & 3 control panel and to Relay switches which will change the lights on the control panel to indicate direction. 30 NCE BD-20 track detectors have been purchased for installation in the return loop and the main line. An NCE AIU01 Auxiliary Input Unit has been purchased to link the track detectors with the Railway & Co “Train Controller” computer system.

East Denver Belt Line – all track has been laid and most of the turnouts will be controlled by Caboose Industries ground throws.

Phase III – Denver Union Terminal (DUT). Rod has finished laying track in the main station complex. Installation of the point motors has commenced. This is expected to take some considerable time. When the track BUS and point motors have been tested we will carry on installing the C&S/CB&Q Rice Yard, the coach yards and industrial branches.

Phase IV – D&RGW North Yard and industries and the UP 36th Yard. All work is on hold pending the completion of the work on Phase II as above.

Phase V – the D&RGW Main Line from Denver to Glenwood Springs and a branch line to Craig.  Peter has laid all of the cork roadbed for this phase and I have finished the Gore Canyon scenery for the time being. Track laying for this phase will begin after phases 3 and 4 are complete.

Phases 1 to 5 July 2018 update

Phase 1 – the Clear Creek RR is progressing very well. All track is laid. All turnout motors are installed. Golden branch is completely wired. Scenery work has started on the canyons west of Golden. Ballasting of Golden yard is about to commence. Golden Station building is complete and two other kits have been painted and are ready for gluing. Two new control panels for Black Hawk and Idaho Springs are ready and awaiting artwork.

Phase II – the Main Line from Grand Jct Loop to D&RGW North Yard. All track laying and BUS wiring is complete, and ready for testing. Main line point motors are yet to be installed. East Denver Belt Line – all track has been laid and most of the turnouts will be controlled by Caboose Industries ground throws.

Phase III – Denver Union Terminal (DUT). Rod continues to lay track. Both of the scissors crossings are installed and most of the main tracks. It is beginning to look very impressive due to the length of station trackage.

The following sections are now part of Phase III:

(1) UP/CB&Q 23rd St Shops & D&RGW/CB&Q Coach Yards – connects with the Denver Union Terminal. Work will be started once the DUT trackage is complete.

(2) C&S Rice Yard – connects with the Denver Union Terminal. Work will be started once the DUT trackage is complete.

(3) UP Wynkoop St Branch – Gary has stated both the cork roadbed and the track laying at the North end of the Denver Union Terminal.

4) D&RGW Burnham Shops – this section will not be started until phase 4 and the rest of Phase 3 has been completed.

Major surgery to Phase 3 & 4 Benchwork modules:

Most of module 5 (the corner section with the passenger Y and loop trackage and industries within the loop) has been bolted onto module 6, which is now a little too heavy for one man to lift. The ends of the D&RGW and C&BQ coach yards, which commenced in module 4 and ends on module 5 have now been cut away and bolted onto modules 2, 3 & 4. This is a two man lift.

Phase IV – is now divided into the following sections:

(1) D&RGW North Yard – most of the North Yard track has been laid. As this module bridges the Phase II and East Denver Belt Line track with the Phase III Denver Union Terminal trackage, special trackwork for bridging the gaps will be required.  Kato extended track pieces are currently favoured as the solution between:

  • Modules 8 & 9 (Phases 1 & 2)
  • Modules 6 & 7 (Phases 2 & 4)
  • Modules 4 & 5 (Phases 3 & 4)
  • Modules 1 & 2 (Phase 3)

(2) D&RGW North Yard Industries and trackside buildings.

(3) UP 36th Yard – adjacent to the D&RGW North Yard.

Phase V – the D&RGW Main Line from Denver to Glenwood Springs and a branch line to Craig.  Peter has laid all of the cork roadbed for this phase and I have almost finished the Gore Canyon scenery (see an earlier blog). Track laying for this phase will begin after phases 1 and 4 are complete.

Phase One Reset !!!

Phase 1 of the layout started out life as the DC controlled Argentine Central Railway running Atlas Shays of the same roadname. Unfortunately it is too hard to install a DCC decoder in an Atlas Shay so I looked around for an alternative railroad to base phase 1 on. Having purchased two Model Power 2-6-0s and 4-4-0s with DCC and sound in CB&Q with “Burlington Route” logos on the tenders, modeling the Colorado & Southern (C&S) seemed a good idea. My first thought was to switch to the Golden and Ralston Railroad which ran out of Golden from 1877 to 1898. Go to http://denversrailroads.com/GRR.htm for more details of that line. However there was very little information available about that line or its track-age so I decided instead to model the Clear Creek Railroad, a C&S narrow gauge line that ran from Golden to Black Hawk and Idaho Springs until 1941. Thanks to the extensive writing of Harry Brunk in the Narrow Gauge and Short-Line Gazette and others there is a lot of information available about the Clear Creek Railroad, including the Black Hawk track arrangements.

Before I made the change I gave a lot of thought to the Denver’s RailRoads layout and discovered that the D&RGW Aspen Branch continued as a standard gauge line until 1991. However after a lot of track planning I came to the conclusion that the track arrangement did not fit the track that was already planned as part of the original Argentine Central layout. Furthermore I had the four Model Power steam locomotives in the “Burlington Route” roadname and a lot of 1930 era reefers,  boxcars, tank cars and stock cars that I really wanted to run.

Consequently I have gone back to the Clear Creek RailRoad (CCRR) layout, running to Black Hawk and Idaho Springs. I have now laid all of the track, including the short branch line from Golden to Idaho Springs and the much longer branch line with a 3-4% grade to Black Hawk. This arrangement will allow me to either run the CCRR as a stand alone C&S 1930s steam only layout or as a branch of the “modern” 1950-60s C&S, ignoring the little fact that the line was removed in 1941. In both cases the Coors Brewery will be a center piece of the railroad, either with billboard Reefers and boxcars or with 40′ piggyback trailers and covered hoppers.