and this was an ideal time to install them. I decided to divide the Murrurundi to Werris Creek section, at Pangela instead of where the Bankers disconnect at Ardglen. Furthermore Pangela is more of a central point of this block, the Loops were longer and the “crossing” procedure was easier to see, see the track plan below.
Ray has provided a very comprehensive Instruction Manual to help us, at:
Lighting the Semaphores.
I wanted to "light" my Semaphores by adding a single "pre-wired" 0.8mm Surface Mount (SMD) LED purchased from Gwydir Valley Models Part No GV31a and powered the LED by a “local” 12.0 Volt Power Pack or from the same power supply for the Octopus III. The colour of the light being achieved by painting some Microscale Kristel Kleer (or similar) into the 2 Signal Arm Lenses then painting them with Tamiya Clear Red and Green when dried, all explained in Ray's Instruction Manual.
I glued the two twisted very small wires from the LED to the rear of the Post and terminated them onto a piece of PCB Sleeper complete with a 1,000 Ohm SMD resistor. Painting the Post conceals the fine wires to a point that they can hardly be seen.
The below photo shows the 8 Semaphores (prior to completion and painting).
I used the small remote control car “9G” Servos available from the Model Railroad Craftsman, Gwydir Valley Models etc. Other methods I did not try, include Tortoises, Muscle Wire, Relays etc.
Alternatively I could have used 8 x Tam Valley Singlets (1/8 of an Octopus plus an Accessory Decoder) that is supplied with a LED Fascia Control.
My intention was to control the Semaphores automatically when trains/locos are sensed in a Block using current Occupancy Detectors (NCE BD20s) and to initially position the Semaphores by operating the Toggle Switch for the Points so I did not need the LED Fascia Control. Better value using the Octopus III. Fascia Controllers can be purchased separately. Details on how all this works, later.
On my previous Colour Light signalling system, for simplicity, I mounted the Signals "outside" the Point (on the main line) but I noticed Operators stopping at the Signal without being aware that they were blocking the the oncoming train from entering the Yard/Loops.
Installing the Semaphores has to be in the "inside" of the Points to the Yard/Loops without a stopped train blocking the "entrance", allowing trains to pass as shown below.
Below is the Servo Installation etc at Werris Creek.
The small Bridge Rectifier (circular black item next to the L/H Servo), in the photo is my form of obtaining 12.0 Volts DC from the DCC Bus, to illuminate the Semaphores's LED. I have used this method of providing D.C instead of using a D.C. Power Pack to other accessories that need D.C. eg the Turntable at Murrurundi etc. NOTE: This method of obtaining D.C. from the DCC Track Bus CANNOT be done "inside" the Occupancy Blocks described below, as the block will ALWAYS show "occupied" due to the LED's current. Take the DCC from some other "NON" Occupied block of the layout.
- "Toggle" instead of "Momentary" Switches AND
- Use the “Swap” feature where you can swap over the Servo “End Points”.
A little time swapping “things” around on the “spaghetti jungle” test version on the work bench and it work as I wanted. Eureka!!
When I install Semaphores into other than these "occupancy" sections, I'll figure out another method, maybe JMRI's Panel Pro etc but for now I'll go with mimicking the position of the relevant Point.
Due to the configuration of how I use the BD20, I connect 12.0 Volts D.C. (from local power) to Pins 1 and 4 and connect a Relay to Pins 1 and 3. With "occupancy" detected by the BD20, the Relay is energized and a GRD is supplied to the the Diode Martix, supplying a GRD to all the appropriate Inputs of the Octopus III, setting all the appropriate Semaphores to RED but this is okay with clean track/wheels.
Most of my locos have Stay Alive (see my Alive web page) so when power is interrupted to the decoder from dirty track/wheels, Dead Frogs etc, the Stay Alive powers the loco (and sound), through this power interruption. With the Occupancy Blocks being up to 15 metres long there could be some power interruptions that would cause the Semaphores to "cycle" from Red to Green to Red when the loco experiences a loss of power. To eliminate this "cycling" I have added a 2 second "delay" in de-energizing (NOT occupied) the BD20, by adding a 47 uF 16 V Electrolytic across Pins 1 and 2.
My layout is of a walk around design, where you follow your train so you can "digitally" change your Points with your Index Finger and this method has survived for over 20 years but I intended to motorize the Points on layout where the "position" of the Points is hard to see and to those Points that are difficult to reach like Werris Creek, Port Waratah etc. With the installation of the Semaphores at Pangela the Points needed to motorized to "tie in" Semaphores with the Points. I needed to make my first Panel.
I had accumulated many Peco Point Motors over the years, so that's what I'm mostly going to use. These need some form of Capacitor Discharge system to operate AND I wanted to use Toggle Switches instead of "push/momentary" Buttons. The Toggle indicates which way the Points are thrown, hopefully eliminating the need to fit LED "indicators". My Occupancy system also required Toggle Switches (see above). NOTE All my Peco Electofrog Points have "Dead Frogs" also another "job" eliminated but I have Stay Alives in my locos to help here.
Capacitor Discharge System.
Years ago I saw a Simple Capacitor Discharge Circuit from December 1994 AMRM by Gary Snow that uses a Toggle Switch, 2 Diodes and a 2,200/4,700 uF 25 Volt Electrolytic Capacitor (circuit copied below). Refer the original article for more details.
I fitted the 2 Diodes to the Peco Point Motor and installed the Capacitor in the lead from the Negative of the Power Supply. You can use a smaller value Capacitors, in my case 2,200 uF 25 V instead of larger (3,300/4,700 uF) if you increase the voltage of the D.C. supply. making sure you don't exceed the Capacitors Operating Voltage. I made up a 20.0 Volt D.C. Supply from parts. The value of the capacitance may need to be changed to get the Peco Point Motor to work - experiment here.
Fitting more Semaphores
I have 6 Semaphores and 2 Bracket Semaphores to build. I'll fit the 4 Semaphores to Ardglen and the the 2 Bracket Semaphores to both ends of Murrurundi and using them as Starting Signals on the Yard and Loop and the single Semaphores on the what I call the "Main" with Murrurundi Station Platform. I'll replace the existing Colour Lights for the Broadmeadow to Murrurundi Occupancy Detectection section (block), all in the next few months now that I got essentially what I set out to achieve.
I hope this Blog Entry gets you started in using these great Semaphores from Ray and Shapeways. Any question please don't hesitate to contact me.
This was one of the most rewarding modelling projects I have done on the layout due to fact that after making a start on assembling the Semaphore Signals, they were installed and working on the layout exactly how I wanted them to, all in about 3 weeks. To top it off, operating lighted Semaphores look fantastic.
For an overall operation of this section of the Main North, click on the video below.
Operating Pangela with a few Operators.
A recent Operating Session after the above set-up was completed, an Operator had just completed a "rear end" bank to Ardglen and was returning the Banker back down to Murrurundi, stopping in the Pangela Loop, two trains from opposite directions arrived at Pangela jamming up Pangela with now where to go. Both trains had left Werris Creek and Murrurundi with a Green Starting Semaphore. This was not how the the signalling was supposed to work.
Looking at how the prototype handles this scenario, they have a Signal Box with an Operator positioning the Lower Quadrant Semaphores with Levers, they use Timetables and Staffs/Bank Keys, where 3 trains/locos could never be at Pangela at the one time
The fix for me:
1. Delegate a Visitor that's not running trains, to "operate" the Pangela "Box" just like the real thing. This will sort out these non observing Drivers or will it.
2. I want automated operation so I needed to have occupancy detection "inside" Pangela for both the Main and Loop lines.
I've fixed the above Occupancy issue for Pangela by installing a third BD20. Once a Loco is detected (occupancy) for either the Main or Loop tracks, BOTH Werris Creek UP Starting Semaphores and the Murrurundi DOWN Starting Semaphores show RED while the appropriate Starting Semaphores in Pangela stay at Green.
Having Semaphores on the layout with their Arms moving, is fantastic, thanks to Ray for his Semaphores and the flexibility of the Octopus III.
I've purchased further Semaphores to install Distant, Home and Starting Semaphores between Broadmeadow and Tamworth including Ardglen where I'll increase the length of the Loop.
The latest Semaphore additions - 8Mar17.
I've installed 3 Semaphores "inside" Murrurundi, shown below with the Northern Tablelands Express departing, instead of the single Semaphore "outside" as described above and in the video. A Triple Bracket UP Home Semaphore will be added to the left of the photo.
Controlling the Semaphores and of course the Points, required another Control Panel.
Experimenting with different methods of displaying the track on the Panel, I chose painting the 300 x 100 mm Aluminium Sheet after drilling the appropriate holes for 29 Green 3.0 mm LEDs and 9 Switches (6 x DPDT and 3 x 4PDT), with Yellow paint, applying 3.0 mm Tape for the tracks then painting with flat Black. Drill out the North Murrurundi fascia for access and clearance and attached using a 100 mm long hinge. Making this and other Control Panels will be my next Blog topic.
The illuminated LEDs show the route through North Murrurundi, making selecting the correct "road" for Visitors, easier.
Update: 10th April 2017 - Ardglen now has 2 Up and 2 Down Semaphores and the Main/Loop were extended to 2.5 Metres. This allows "crossing" of my longest trains at both Ardglen and Pangela. That's 15 Semaphores on the layout with all but the two Distant Semaphores operating with 3 Octopus IIIs. Many more to build and install.