timing is everything

Lots of stuff going on lately.

Model Railroadish stuff, mostly.

A trip to the Amherst Railway Society's big train show in Springfield, MA offer ample chance to blow one's mind with possibilities. Add to that a heaping goodie basket of new things from the various vendors...

Travelling with local traction modeller extraordinaire Roger Chrysler was a real treat; I'd be more than happy to repeat the process for any train show I can think of.

However, unexpectedly, I had to debug the S Scale Workshop's layout on Friday afternoon. Due to time constraints, I was attending the show for Saturday only, and had not anticipated being able to enter the show grounds ahead of time. Through sheer luck & good timing I was in the same building as the layout late in their setup phase. Workshop member Andy Malette of MLW Services spotted me while I chatted with Jeff Adam of Motrak Models. Andy hauled me back to the layout to see what was going on.

The DCC system was giving the group fits. I found several things wrong over the course of the next hour or so:

  • three custom made, twisted-pair (Cat5?) LocoNet cables were causing the throttle buss to spasm
  • one LocoNet UP5 panel was not daisy-chained correctly
  • a rail gap had closed up at one turnout, shorting the track buss
  • a damaged Tortoise had been replaced but the frog power routing had been compromised, shorting the track buss when the points were aligned for the main.

The first three issues were isolated and sorted out fairly quickly by halving the layout's busses until the faults revealed themselves. The last item could not be readily repaired as that Tortoise is part of a complex control panel comprised of momentary pushbuttons and LED route indicators that doesn't lend itself to tracing wires unless that module set is laying on its side; which was not practical at that point in the setup.

One issue I should have dealt with was to ensure that the Command Station was centrally located along the track buss. The layout was about 80' in length this time around thanks to some excellent new modules built by member John Johnston. Our habit has been to hook the Command Station into the buss about 8' from one end. Not such a big deal when the layout is in the 40-50' range, but it gets much worse as track buss lengthens. Next time...

In the end, the layout was operational for the weekend. I was able to come back on Saturday after lunch and, while the rest of the crew ran trains, chat with the general public and other modellers who viewed the modelled scenes and trains. Some great questions were asked and many compliments were made.

It came as a pretty big surprise to the crew when the Amherst Railway Society's committee stopped by at about 4 PM and awarded us "Best in Show - Layouts" for 2013. We are certainly honoured to be recognised in this manner. Needless to say, spirits were running high for the rest of the weekend.

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