Northern Tablelands Express approaching Ardglen Tunnel

Northern Tablelands Express approaching Ardglen Tunnel
Click on the above photo to see the Main North Album at Flickr

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Main North Layout Video

The recent progress on the layout's scenery, as shown in my previous Blog entry, has even shocked me. The major job left in completing the layout, is ballasting the track, but...

When building the layout, I was always in a hurry to get track down and run trains to test the track "plan", with the idea that it will change after running some trains. Yes it has, hundreds of times but now the scenery encompasses the track, there won't be many track changes. Rail Joiners and minimum droppers that until now have provided for so much fun, more so now that the scenery is there, will not provide the fun I need, after I add the ballast with the glue creeping into the solder less joints rendering current flow at best, intermittent. I am surprised that my electrics (really a lack of electrics), have provided for mostly trouble free running, for so long. My attitude was that when there was an electrical problem, I'd attend to it - then. So now there is a BIG electrical problem and I have to attend to it now.

I'll take the rest of my life "bullet proofing" the electrics and then adding the ballast but I can still play trains with my Mates on a sceniced layout with operational Semaphores on most of the single main line, keeping the Operators, apart. It can't get much better, Hey!

I'm now scared I might finish the layout, so I'm gunner slow down a bit, so that doesn't happen. I don't want to rip up the Main North to build another layout. I want to leave that to the Kids to do, they've got to earn their inheritance, hopefully not too soon though.

To celebrate, to what I thought was the biggest obstacle in building the layout, adding the scenery, I have taken a new video of the layout.

PS. I've just remembered the box of Bracket Semaphores, under the layout and building numerous Control Panels etc to make them work, is another "scenery length" job, on the layout. So much more to do.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Official Opening of the Main North's Hawkesbury River Bridge and more Scenery.

It's taken 9 months to get some more scenery done on the Main North, culminating in the "Official Opening" of the second Hawkesbury River Bridge.

About a month ago I sceniced South Gosford, opposite the Electric Car Sidings with the bridge for the Pacific Hwy crossing the 6 tracks, ballasting to be done soon.

I made a more permanent crossing of the "Broadwater" and installed a 2 metre Gosford Racecourse Track, albeit on the wrong side of the Main, but this is the only place to fit it.

Adding this Siding completes the "running" of the Gosford Race train. As Sydney Staging is "full", the Gosford Race Train comprising of 3 FOs, 3 HKGs and Van, will be "staged" in the Racecourse Siding.

Operate 1028 (til I renumber it to 3528) and the Race Train to Gosford Platform 3. Disconnect 1028 and run to Loco. Attach a 46, run the train to Sydney then back to Gosford, arriving on Platform 3. Replace the 46 with 1028 and shunt/propel the Racecourse train into the Racecourse Siding. Wait 5 minutes for all passengers and horses to disembark. Then pull the train back to Gosford Platform 3 and marshal the consist for operating to Sydney (swapping Coaches and Van "around"). Push the train back to the Racecourse Siding and leave, ready for the next Operating Session, shown below with Van behind the loco.

18 moths ago, Allan G completed my three Central Valley Model Works Double Track Bridge kits that I'm using for my Hawkesbury River Bridge. It was suggested that we'd need to have an "Official Opening" when they're installed but I have been too slack to complete the "scene" with the appropriate scenery.  Well I've finally completed the scenery around the Bridge's Tunnel Portals.

The Bridge's southern Portal and Long Island complete with the "right angle" Tunnel, underneath Newcastle Station. The grade for the 2.5 m of track from the Station (elevation 13') to the Bridge (elevation 35'), is about a 1 in 30. Not a problem as it's hidden and ALL trains are hauled by the "heavy" 46 Class Electrics or 44s (North Coast trains), due to my 1965 operation.

The Long Island (southern) Portal with the six C38s for "load testing" at the Official Opening of the Bridge.

The Bridge's Northern Portal into Mullet Creek Tunnel with the rest of the "the Bridge scene", where the tracks on the Upper Deck, diverge left up the hill to Murrurundi and to the right, down what can be seen in the photo, on a steep grade, with just enough clearance (60mm) from the Murrurundi benchwork for the 3 track North Coast Staging .

After installing and shaping the polystyrene "landform" for the track to Murrurundi/North Coast Staging, there was "something" wrong with the way the Tunnel entrance to North Coast Staging, looked.

Overnight I agonized how to improve it. I'll add a Road Bridge over the track to Murrurundi. This needed an addition to the Fascia to make it higher and now the land needed re-modelling - more polystyrene and lots of  "scraping" the land. Now the whole scene looks much better.

When I decided to fit a Hawkesbury River Bridge on the layout, I initially thought I'd locate it opposite Gosford. The delay in making up the kits, I decided I wanted to "have" Mullet Creek with Wondabyne, so the Bridge had to be located on the other side of the Peninsular, under Muswellbrook. Muswellbrook's Deck was 450 mm wide and 230 mm above the track of the future Bridge. This would have "hidden" the Bridge.
The Bridge s 2.3 metres long and is a "feature" of the Main North - it needed it's own "space".

Muswellbrook had to go. In one way this was another plus as I was having a "grade" issue, getting my 35/36 hauled trains to Murrurundi. Without Muswellbrook, I could reduce the grade a  little. BUT what to do with my Muswellbrook Oak Dairy that I spent hours kitbashing a Walters REA Kit for an Epping Seminar. It wasn't going to be packed away out of view "under" the layout, so it'll be on the "top" and at Murrurundi. Compromises have to made when building a layout.

I was now ready for my re-enactment of the 24th June 1946 "Official Opening" of the Hawkesbury River Bridge. This monumental occasion needed recording where six C38s "load tested" the bridge.

With the Main North requiring lots of scenery, I decided to keep the "scenery ball", rolling.  Below is shown the exit from Mullet Creek Tunnel as the track hugs Mullet Creek on it's way to Woy Woy Tunnel.

Looking through the cutting towards Wondabyne.

My Mullet Creek is 3.5 metres long and 200 mm below Murrurundi's Fascia but the 3 North Coast Staging tracks are jammed in between the two. With just 130 mm of height to play with I've have a very compressed Wondabyne Sandstone Quarry with the Sandstone Siding. The North Coast Staging tracks can only be seen when crouching down. Woy Woy Tunnel is in the distance.

A 46 hauled Down Pick Up is shunting the Sandstone Quarry Siding. Note the Siding does not have overhead wiring (nor does the Main at this time), so the 46 needs to keep under the wires by having consist of at least 6 Bogie Wagons.

A close up of the Wondabyne Station Down Platform with the Down Pick Up and Geoff S fishing off the Jetty in the "raw", with just a Cap. Not very pretty but you'll look good with that tan.
Note: Wondabyne is the only Station in NSW that does NOT have motor vehicle access - only boat or walking.

Some years ago I bought an Ozito 12 litre Drum Vacuum Cleaner for $35 from Bunings. It has been getting a workout the last month. It was the best $35 I ever spent. I'm surprised how many hills etc it has vacuumed up, that the motor is still going.
Remove the Top (2 Clips), empty the millions of polystyrene balls into a Garbage Bag, clean the Filter and back to sucking up "land". I added an extra Hose (never throw anything out here), making the hose about 3 metres long.
The unit is no longer available from Bunnings, buy something similar, you won't be disappointed if you're adding polystyrene scenery to your layout, see:


Sunday, July 9, 2017

DCC Ammeter for the Layout

Over the years, I've read/heard modellers asking many times, "When do I need to add a second Booster". Recently some modellers reported on one of the Groups that a loco or lighted Passenger Coaches Set, drew too much current, causing the DCC system to cut out.

Almost everyone has a 10 Amp D.C. range on their Multimeter and adding a 6.0 Amp Bridge Rectifier to it as shown below, you'll have a DCC Ammeter for $2.50. Seems crazing if you don't have one. Now you'll know what current is being drawn by the layout (locos, lighted Coaches etc) and when to add a Booster.

Note: If you are using an NCE Power Cab, it has an Ammeter included, set it up in Cab Parameters. If you are using the Power Cab with an SB3/5, the included Ammeter is not available.

The Bypass Switch: The Bridge Rectifier is necessary to measure the Amps but it reduces the Track Voltage by 1.5 Volts.
If your DCC system has a Voltage Adjustment you can compensate for this 1.5 Volt drop and you can leave out the Bypass Switch.
If your DCC system does NOT have the "adjustment" and you want to operate at the "set" voltage, install the Bypass Switch and operate it in the OPEN position for Current measurements and in the CLOSED position if you don't want to operate with the slightly reduced (1.5 Volt) track Voltage.

See below for measuring the DCC Voltage.

Add the Bridge Rectifier to one of the Track "Power Bus" Feeders as shown below by "hard wiring" the Bridge Rectifier into the Booster Track Terminals or an appropriate location and run 2 wires to the Meter and Switch (if you are using it). Shown below is the " Ammeter Adapter"for my DCC Tool Box, 10 Amp Multimeter, necessary for troubleshooting other layouts or demos etc.     

One method of making the "simple" Ammeter using a Jaycar $10 Multimeter and a ZR1314 6.0 Amp Bridge Rectifier with the "D.C." leads soldered into two Banana Plugs for easy removal/install of the Adapter. The two Back leads connect to the "A.C." leads and connect "into" one Track Feeder at the Booster as per the above diagram. You choose the easiest way to make it.

This is all that's necessary to measure the current to the layout.

The above Bridge Rectifier Ammeter compared to my Fascia Ammeter, refer below for details on how I made it..

A 5 Amp Bridge Rectifier soldered to the rear of a 5 Amp Panel Meter with the black wires goint to the Booster.

The Digital Multimeter Ammeter compared to a 5.0 Amp D.C. Panel Meter, both indicating the track current - no locos running and all quiet (no sound). The reading indicates the standby current for 35 stationary locos and a few Bus Accessories (power to my Signal Power Supplies etc), to my layout.

During an Operating Session with 6 to 8 Operators running trains, the Ammeter rarely goes above 2.5 Amps on my 600 Sq Ft Double Deck layout and there is just the one Booster. 

My Fascia Ammeter made from a Rob Paisley Model Railroad Circuits at:
made on Veroboard with the 2 very small black rectangular ZXCT1009 - 3 Terminal 'Current Monitor' Integrated Circuits, between the Copper tracks in the centre of the photo. 

Above an old 5 Amp Digital Multimeter, cut in half to fit behind my Fascia connected to the above ZXCT1009 Ammeter. I could have bought a Digital Display from Jaycar, but it was lying around not being used. The Meter is powered from the same Transformer that powers the Power Pro system.

 A 5 Amp Panel Meter fitted to one of my mate's DCC System Cabinet, showing 4 High Speed Diodes and the small Bypass Switch. The larger one (Upper R/H side), is the Layout ON/OFF Switch. The layout is divided into 6 Power Districts using NCE EB1 Circuit Breakers. The District ON/OFF Switches are installed to help troubleshooting the layout when there are the inevitable wiring issues. This is a large layout and still only using one Booster with the Meter showing less than 2.5 Amp during the running of trains. If and when it gets to 3.5 to 4.0 Amps, we'll add a second Booster.

Measuring DCC Track Voltage is as easy as using your Multimeter and selecting A.C. Volts. While this may not be as accurate as a specialist DCC Voltmeter like Tony's RRampmeter, it is good enough for troubleshooting voltage drops. With your Mutimeter, measure the voltage at the Booster Track Output Terminals then measure at the appropriate location. Compare the two readings. The "difference" in the readings is the voltage drop between the two locations. 
NOTE:  When making a voltage drop measurement, always have a load like a 21 Watt Automotive Lamp (1.5 Amps), across the track at the "Track" location. 

For more details on Meters for DCC see my web page at:

Sunday, June 25, 2017

DEM Facebook Group's 2017 Running Day.

Recently I had lots of fun attending Aaron Denning's DEM Facebook Group's Running Day.
The  most enjoyable part of the Day was seeing so many younger modellers having fun. Not that us old Farts don't have fun, we do but seeing the younger blokes enjoying themselves so much with a some banter and a little bit of horseplay, so long as it's kept in check, is really fantastic. Reminds me a lot of myself for 65 years. I hope you younger Guys don't grow up, I haven't, just ask my wonderful wife and the kids.

Where can you get so much fun and laughs, running trains yakking to friends and new acquaintances, 2 Sausage Sandwiches/Rolls and the chance for one of the 30+ Door Prizes kindly donated by our manufacturers, all for $5.

Thanks a lot, Aaron, the Epping MRC for the supplying Binaway and Brunswick Park layouts and the venue that can host 70 + modellers and all Aaron's little Helpers for setting/packing up etc.

One of the many Lucky Door Prizes was Ian's IDR Models X200 in Candy.

Guess who's the new owner. Thanks Ian and DEM. I haven't unpacked it yet as I don't know how this is going to fit in the mid 60s Main North at at Gosford. Some including me, suggest that a lot of modeller's licence is necessary when building a layout but can there be this much.

I'm sure some of you can come up with some appropriate solutions. My Inbox is ready.

I did not take a Camera or a mobile phone so no photos from me. Thanks Aaron etc for the photos posted on the DEM Facebook Group, copied below.

The ever watchful George, overseeing procedures on Brunswick Park.

 Aaron even organised a Quiet Room for some to get a few ZZZs

Trevor and Mike attending to one of the most important jobs for the Day.

Ray, John, Ian and Evan at the "Corner of Knowledge".

Aaron said of the Day, some traveled some distance but as yet, no Interstate Visitors.
Craig Mackie from Brisbane, suggested that the DEM Running Day could be on the Sunday after the MRNSW Convention, is a great idea, where those a long way away and interstate, would get more bang for their "travelling" buck and time. Making it a TWO Day Event would be more attractive to make the trip. Call it a Sydney Model Train Extravaganza Weekend or something.

An example of making layouts available for visiting/operating before/during/after an Exhibition, that the local NMRA does here in Australia, see what I did when attending an Exhibition in 2011, yes more time and many more dollars spent but we could do something, albeit in a much smaller scale. Food for thought to help our long distance "Mates", get to Sydney. See:

I know a few layout owners in Sydney and surrounding areas that would be happy to host Visitors to be included in a "Once a Year" Convention/Weekend.
Many modellers visited the Main North on the Saturday night after the Convention and the Epping Exhibition. They all appreciated it and I had a ball hosting them. I will do it again next year with a lot more notice. Perhaps the DEM Running Day could be included, as suggested by Craig.

I'm happy to have visitors to my Main North anytime, just contact me on 02 9402 8929.

Thanks to Ian from IDR Models, I now have an Indian Red X207.

Shown below, is my "new" X207 shunting the Gosford Sidings with the Glen Innes Mail leaving and a Garratt hauled Goods train in the Up Refuge, waiting for a 46 Class Electric, for the remainder of the trip to Sydney.
Ian suggested I paint the Buffers Black. While at it I painted the wheel Coupling Rods and all the "white" stuff. I think it looks better.
The 4 wheel X207 without sound, easily negotiates all the Points complete with Dead Frogs in Gosford Yard due to the "home made" 200,000 uF Loco Stay Alive.

An excellent loco, thanks Ian and IDR Models.



Sunday, May 14, 2017

Craig's Live Steam.

The May Meeting of the NSW DCC Modellers Group was at Yarramundi, 10 kms south of Richmond. I offered to take John, Andrew, Erik and Spencer in the Boss’s Honda Civic for the trip of a lifetime, first to the Model Railroad Craftsman to pick up some goodies then onto the Meeting, a 90 minute drive. Thanks to Spencer we were not as jammed in as we would have been, if I drove. I guess Spencer wanted make sure he was comfortable. Thanks Spencer for taking us. 
Google got us there and also gave us a bird’s eye view of Craig’s layout where I've made a very rough track plan, hopefully correct, below.

All of us were all gobsmacked with what Craig has done on his layout. 

Craig’s layout is a Live Steam railway with all of our favorite NSW Steam locos in 5 inch gauge which is 1-1/8 to the foot. There is 1000 Metres of main line with a Tunnel, Trestle Bridge, Coal Stage, 20 points and Lower Quadrant Semaphores which are basically route indicators, on 4 acres. The track has two "Sprung Points" one at the end of the dual main line where it turns into a Single line and the other at the Return Loop around the Pond. This allows continuous running, without changing any Points. All others Points are manually operated with Levers.

Craig has 4 Steam locos, a 3008, 3654, 3805 and 5905 all with magnificent sound and one non sound Diesel, 42205. I did discuss how to add a sound decoder and a big speaker to 42205. A set of 6 R Cars made with Styrene and about about 60 4 wheel Wagons (my guess) and a couple of bogie Guards Vans. 3654 and 42205 were the locos rostered for us to "play" trains on the day.  

Craig, thanks a lot for the invitation to your layout.

Craig adjusting the decoder of 3654 with an Engineer in training alongside the Coal Stage

Alex having heaps of fun with 42205.

Loco Turntable with the 3 Elevated Service Tracks in a Lighted Shed with the Crew Room and Workshop at the rear.

The Controls of 3008.

For some video of the Craig's layout, click on the photo below.

For a 6 year old YouTube of Craig's Live steam, see:

Thanks Craig, Vicky and our engine driver, for a fantastic day. 

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Adding Ray Pilgrim's (Shapeways) Semaphore Signals to the Main North

Some years ago I installed a basic Colour Light signalling system on the 40 metre (130') single line from Broadmeadow as it winds up to Werris Creek, due to the 3 peninsulas restricting the operators view of what’s happening on this section of the layout, see below. The signals for the 2 blocks were controlled by NCE Occupancy Detectors, so that when the applicable section (block) is occupied, both the signals were set to Red.
During recent Operating Sessions a few Operators had asked if the Murrurundi to Werris Creek section could be further divided that would speed up train movements.

I had purchased some of Ray Pilgrim’s Shapeways 3D Semaphores available at:
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.

Making the Semaphores. 
Ray has provided a very comprehensive Instruction Manual to help us, at:
The Semaphores are not difficult to make but require some time and patience especially when getting the length of the .015" Phosphor Bronze Operating Rods, correct. The beauty of these Semaphores is what’s on the underside of the Signal with the 2 "screw adjustable" mechanical stops for the Signal Arms, already included on the casting. This makes adjusting the Signal Arm positions (Stops), very easy and can be done while on the bench.

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)

Motorizing the Semaphores. 
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. 
Servos won’t operate by just supplying 12.0 Volts to them, they need a Servo Driver (electronics). The cheap cost of the small 9G Servos will offset the total cost when comparing the other options.
I used a Tam Valley Depot Octopus III, an 8 channel Servo Driver, see:
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.

Mounting the Semaphores.
Requires a 20 or 22 mm hole depending on type of Semaphore, with the centre point, 6 HO feet from the track (23 mm). 
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.

Operating the Semaphores.
There are many variations on how to operate Signals to as easy as using a Switch or to as complex as using a computer program like JMRI’s Panel Pro, Railroad and Co etc.
While I'm familiar with what JMRI’s Panel Pro has to offer, I did not need the complexity and further expansion capability at this stage and more importantly I did not want to spend the time learning how to do/use it, at least not right now. A job for "ron", much later 'on.
Some years ago I had used a NCE Mini Panel for an automated train control test and thought I’d be able to use it to tie all the Signals and occupancy together but this required the Octopus III to be “DCCed” using the Tam Valley Octocoder. Subsequent testing we found the Octocoder had timing issue when using Macros, a common method of operating multiple Accessory Decoders. With this issue and not being able to get the first part of my signalling to work even with heaps of help from Ray, I decided to go "back to the basics” using relays, switches, diodes etc that worked previously, albeit much simpler. 

Below is the Servo Installation etc at Werris Creek. 
The bottom of the Signal in the photo clearly shows the how Ray designed the operating "mechanism" with the 2 Adjusting Screws for the Signal Arm mechanical Stops. The Circuit Board in the photo is the Werris Creek NCE EB1 Circuit Breaker.

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.

Below is the Servo Installation at South Pangela, using a piece of 2 x 1 pine as shown and securing the Servo with one of the supplied screws. Simple easy installation, only time will tell if it's simplicity will last but for now it works.

Below is the the Signalling "Control Room", under North Pangela including the simple Servo Mounts (Marcus style), the Octopus III, 2 x NCE BD20s/Relay, a Relay and 2 Diode Matrix. While it looks like a bit of a mess, making it prettier by installing it onto some sort of Circuit board, was not warranted. Hopefully down the track I still be able to work out what's going on if something plays up.

Configuring the Octopus III.
My Semaphores will "mimic" the position of the appropriate Points that are operated by Toggle Switches using a Capacitor Discharge system, more details below. Operate the Toggle Switch for the Points to set the route through the Main line, a second pole of the Toggle Switch will operate the Semaphore to Green/Clear for the Main and Red/Stop, for the Loop and visa versa. Done by configuring the Octopus III to use:
  1. "Toggle" instead of "Momentary" Switches AND 
  2. Use the “Swap” feature where you can swap over the Servo “End Points”. 
This provided the correct INPUT condition to the Octopus III necessary to make the Occupancy Detection work correctly, that is a:

GREEN Signal, the Input needed to be OPEN.
RED Signal, the Input needed to a CLOSED (Ground). 

With Occupancy detected by the BD20s, ALL the appropriate Octopus III Inputs are "grounded" via the Diode Matrix, resulting in the Semaphores that are set at Green, going to RED and the Semaphores set at Red, not moving as they're already "grounded". The Diode Matrix looks after all the combinations. 

A little time swapping “things” around on the “spaghetti jungle” test version on the work bench and it work as I wanted. Eureka!! 

Configuring the Octopus and adjusting the settings for the Servo "End Stops" etc, is made easy by using the optional Remote Alignment Tool that comes with a 2.0 metre harness with RJ Plugs.

Simple hey!!!!

While this is not how the "real thing" works, it provided the automatic signalling I wanted, that is the Operators are "told" via the Signals when they can or cannot proceed from the appropriate location. Power is not removed from the track and yes Operators can disregard the Signal (and they do) but they may have a "head on" with another Operator and most probably banished to make the coffee.

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. 

My Occupancy Detector – a modified NCE BD20.
I have not installed resistor wheel sets to my Rolling Stock yet, so I can only “sense” the current drawn by a loco. Yes the train may still be “in” the block while the loco is not. Slight irregularity here but Operators can see the train when they enter the Yard/Loop, so it’s not an issue and it saves on adding resistor to wheel sets.

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.

The Tam Valley Octopus III.  
Power: from the same “local” 12.0 Volts 1.5 Amps D.C. Supply (Power Pack) as above.
Inputs:  The wiring from the Points Fascia Switches etc have to be as short as possible (less than 2 feet) otherwise electrical “noise” may interfere with the operation of the Points and Signals. For the wiring to Werris Creek 5 metres away, the Fascia Switch operates a Relay under Pangela - now the input wire is less than 2 feet long.
Outputs: The wiring to the Servos can be much longer. I have spliced extra wire (telco 4 conductor) for the Signals at Murrurundi and Werris Creek where the wiring is up to 7 metres long and the Servos work fine.

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 - I've installed 2 Up and 2 Down Starting Semaphores to Ardglen and lengthened the Main and Loops tracks to 2.5 metres allowing for easy crossing of my longest trains.
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.
Now with operational (automatic) signalling at South Werris Creek, Ardglen, Pangela and Murrurundi, many more trains can be run in both directions through this 40 metres of single line, without "head ons",
I have the rest of my life to empty the Shapeways box of the Home Semaphores including 2 triples for Murrurundi, to finish the signalling of this single line section of the Main North.
The next section will be the northern end of Werris Creek to Tamworth but I need to add Point Motors to many of the Points in Werris Creek and make a Control Panel.

The Ardglen "UP" Starting Semaphores with the Down Home (not operational yet), in the distance, just at the northern exit of Ardglen Tunnel. Also shown are some loaded Ballast Wagons at the Mine, behind the 5136.