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 Posted: Thu Oct 13th, 2016 02:02 pm
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tynewydd
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OK - starting up a topic on Port Dinllaen Lines (PDL) - which started as a slightly mad quest to do a pale imitation of Buckingham, as fondly remembered in the pages of RM, but has morphed into its own thing. 
I also post more detailed progress on my own Port Dinllaen Lines Blog

The basic idea is to use a 21' by 12' three-sided space to achieve an operationally complex layout which can have a high variety of equipment.  This is a style of layout that is a bit of a throwback now to earlier periods of railway modelling - being track heavy and scenery light, but I consider myself to be similarly challenged!  

The overall layout scheme is to have two interconnected levels set up to 9 1/4" apart running around the edges of the space with a bi-level 17' peninsula running lengthways containing the storage below and a terminus above. There are two spirals running in opposite directions around the room to link the upper and lower levels. On one long-side is a junction station with a branch to a terminus on the opposite side. On the side opposite the peninsula there is a single track passing station. I reached this topological design by noticing certain restrictions in the Buckingham GC original that I felt could be smoothed out using some extra space.

I then set out to craft a fiction to support the resulting layout and happened on the never built schemes for Port Dinllaen in the scenic north west of Wales - once seriously considered as an alternative port to Holyhead. This is not a totally novel concept (I have since seen several layouts in print) - what I think I added was to construct a series of events that brought the Great Central (and hence the LNER and then ER) into the heart of LMS and GWR land so as to provide a lot of diversity of locomotive power. And of course I had the good fortune to possess enough space to attempt something "secondary mainline" in nature if you don't look too closely. 

When it actually came to doing the track planning, things started to seriously deviate from the script. First I modelled the main terminus on a condensed version of Holyhead and then the branch terminus on Bethesda. The single-line passing station got elements of Evercreech and so only the junction station looked anything like a Peter Denny original plan in the end.

I say advantage, but actually that has made the project much more complex and so a very long slog. Planning took over 12 months using XTRCAD. The custom baseboards were ordered almost 2 years ago and delivered 18 months ago. Track laying took ages, and so on.

Where I have reached now is that wiring is over 60% complete. I aim to have the layout running "bare" by thanksgiving here in California (last Thursday in November) so I can iron out any kinks and have my family able to run trains before starting on scenery next year. This target is going to be tight but I think doable. 

Here are rough upper and lower level plan views. Apologies for the coloured "blobs" - when these screenshots were taken XTRKCAD had some issues on a Mac which have now been fixed by the good open-source elves. 




Adam



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 Posted: Thu Oct 13th, 2016 04:35 pm
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Campaman
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Wow, a lot of track there, would be nice to see actuall pictures of where you are at this point.



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 Posted: Thu Oct 13th, 2016 08:23 pm
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tynewydd
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Pictures? 

The layout is always broken into sub-assemblies of its modular parts so far because I am inverting them (actually flipping them up through about 120 degrees) to wire them up in "comfort" in the same garage space, so I haven't had the room to keep them assembled yet. It's like one of those kid's puzzles where you have to move the parts around to reveal the entire picture. 
But here are a few pictures to show the subassemblies so far - apologies for the iPhone camera work - I must get by SLR in there and fix the lighting. But every second available is devoted to wiring. 

End of Port Dinllaen - goods yard on left, WR Shed on Right foreground, MR shed in rear.



Same modules taken from the other side. Obviously lighting needs to be sorted out using LED strips under the shelving (behind a valance).



The main part of Port Dinllaen in panorama. The 4 platforms in a V around the dock are to the left along with the Goods in and Out customs sheds and carriage sidings. The local goods yard is to the right.



Panorama from the other side. Neither of these modules have been wired yet.



Pont Llynfi Junction - the line from Port Dinllaen to Tan Y Graig is on the viaduct to the right. To the left is the marshalling yard, the bay platform - modelling the soldering iron - is for trains to Nantlle. Some track was obviously not glued down when this was taken. 

 

Nantlle - The branch terminus.



Tan-Y-Graig has been a bit camera shy. It's time in the sun is coming as I wire around to it. It's in the middle of this panorama with the access swing gate at the end of Pont Llynfi junction on the left and Nantlle beyond the picture to the right. Excuse the clutter!



Of course there's also the storage yard/loop that I did first on the lower level.



And here is an idea of the "terror that lies beneath". You'll see Cobalts, you'll see BlocD8s (occupancy detection), you'll see circuit breakers, auto-reversers and juicers in there. There is an accessory bus and multiple sections of a track power bus. The turntable, SE Finecast's small with a Dapol bridge, is powered by Locomotech and uses a simple engine decoder This is the "T" module at the end of Port Dinllaen - so it's got it all going on - in my fractured Welsh this would be called "a bit of a bwygan"! - wiring took a month for this module, about twice as long as any others due to the multiple layers and access issues. I am going to go back and re-label once I have sorted out the layout as basically working module by module.



Note these pictures were taken at different times and so the progress of parts will not be exactly correct as of current date.

The main point is that of 15 modules to wire, only 5 are left to do (of course one of them is PD throat with 20 odd Cobalts, but 2/3rds done sounds better).

Adam



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 Posted: Thu Oct 13th, 2016 10:23 pm
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John Dew
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Hi Adam

A rather belated welcome.......we seem to have a few things in common!  Modelling North Wales in OO DCC using computor control....in North America....we are even on the same time zone which will be a first for me on this forum:lol:

There are a few differences of course.....your layout is far more ambitious than mine and you clearly have far more technical ability than I. I was very impressed with both your blog and the layout progress to date. The detailed planning that has gone into both the construction and eventual operation of the layout is quite amazing :thumbs

In your blog you mention on a number of occasions the possibility of using RR&Co Train controller software as a likely option for computor control. I am wondering if you have downloaded the demo version and done any experimenting?

I ask for two reasons. Firstly because you seem to be planning some parallel control systems that would duplicate those provided by TC. Secondly because my lasting regret is that I didnt learn more about how the system operated before finalising my block (track circuit?) structure. :oops:

I ask this very hesitantly. With your IT background it may well be that you will find TC too restrictive and you can produce a more flexible solution yourself.......I am not really clear how far you have researched TC

In any event I will be following the development and operation of PDL with great interest

Best wishes from a very wet Vancouver

John

ps what coupling/uncoupling system will you be using?


  
 




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 Posted: Fri Oct 14th, 2016 01:40 am
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Hi John,Thanks for the welcome. Always great to meet a fellow sufferer for the cause, a colleague in arms, as it were! :)  I have relatives on the Island (Metchosin and Sidney) so I am even familiar with what a double-double at Timmy's is...

I have done some reading research on the RR&Co actually, but I haven't actually got into full real-life investigation mode yet. But here's what I know so far... 

First here is my decision matrix that is the context for this part - 
  1. I initially picked LocoNet for my DCC bus because it allowed for independent third-party detectors that were of the miniature transformer type rather than the drop across a diode or resistor type like BlocD8 - I do not know whether that is vital in reality, but I felt if I was doing it I should over- rather than under- shoot, if you see what I mean as it would be a lot of work to redo. I also liked the idea of using DCC for feedback of these things as well as loco control. There are obviously alternatives which may be cheaper in bulk (like CAN-based buses) or require DIY (like MERG circuits) but I wanted as modular and off-the-shelf as possible - given there were some other calls on my time!
  2. LocoNet led to DigiTrax as the controller - but really these two could easily be separated as you could use the detection capabilities of Loconet boards on a system entirely run by computer and a different DCC system like NCE or Zimo or something for loco power - which could also be plugged into the same computer as RR&Co or JMRI will apparently operate both together happily. This means I am not locked in on one DCC system.
  3. I early on decided that in-spite of the cost advantage of manual point control in yard areas I would just go ahead and fit DCC point controllers everywhere. I did the analysis at the time (two years ago now) and concluded that the Digital-IP Cobalt bought in bulk was the cheapest way to go to do that. You can also wire them up to push buttons on a mimic diagram if you want to. There always seems to be some noise about this choice by Tortoise partisans - all I can say is that so far I am happy. 
  4. In terms of flexibility and control, RR&Co seems to stand out as the commercial solution. I know that I can do it all with open-source JMRI - and nothing I have done has precluded making that choice instead - can you tell I am an IT infrastructure architect by day?  But for now RR&Co appears the easiest path.  I might end up with some aspects of both given I am also interested in using RFID for loco/rolling stock identification which RR&Co doesn't have.
Now RR&Co does not require all sections to be track circuited - only places where the train will stop (or stand) under computer control. It can do this because you can profile the equipment so it knows how long (distance) a train needs to stop from various speeds. These circuited sections have to be long enough to allow for the realistic deceleration rate you want, of course, so when the train is first detected, it can be braked before the circuit ends. You can alternatively have braking and stopping sections and so forth like you used to in DC - it's just they aren't required if you profile your equipment. In between those detected places, RR&Co will use a form of route locking to ensure that there are no conflicts with other trains. Of course, if you need to be able to more heavily use a section than that would allow (because you want to be able to reuse a section for another train before the first train has stopped at the end of the route, for example) you need to provide RR&C with more TCs so it can break the route up and ensure that the train has exited the critical path and release the second one. The analogy is absolute block or multi-aspect signals in the real world. If you want more traffic density, you have to add blocks or signals. I have had to do this in the hidden sidings lead-in section (i.e, add more TC blocks) as that is where traffic density will be highest.

In your case, you may be able to relatively simply retrofit TCs in just the stopping sections by some judicious use of a track-splitter/Dremel for one rail and an extra dropper wire per TC. An IRJ as well would be great - but I see layouts with just an air gap instead - or use of some epoxy that is shaped to fill in the gap if retro-fitting the IRJ is too much work.

Now with that background, I do intend to use both RR&Co and some other forms of more manual control. Here's why. 
  • Some tasks, like running the storage yards, are not really fun. Remember I am emulating Buckingham which had an ante-PCian Jules-Verne-esque controller - the Automatic Crispin - to run its storage. Plus the ability of the system to run repeatedly and predictably and to a timetable makes a real difference to how the rest of the layout operates. So some computer control will always be needed.
  • Some other tasks are definitely fun but a complex layout needs a lot of hands to make it go and maybe there will often not be enough. So those things will need to be switched between automatic or manual.
  • I would like less experienced visitors to be able to "join in" - may be do some shunting or run a branch line, say - without impacting everyone else as they learn. And if they need to jump in and out we should be able to go hands off that task again.
  • Some people like to drive trains, while others like to be signalmen. We should therefore ideally be able to accommodate both.
These are all things RR&Co can deal with according to the blurb. Time will tell.

Now, for those who want to operate the layout more hands on as a signalman/woman we have a choice. Do we go with computer screens (provided as part of RR&Co) or do we provide something more tactile like a mimic diagram or a lever frame which may be more accessible and "real"?  I must confess at this point that I am a semaphore signalling geek - and so the prospect of rendering everything to a clinical LCD as a control surface is not as appealing - so I decided I would do things to be able to have both approaches (switchable in and out).  The DTM30 had some appealing aspects in that it can operate on its own, in concert with RR&Co or merely as an input and output device for RR&Co. And it uses LocoNet as its "Bus" and listens for changes to switches and TCs over that bus as well. You wire the diagram to the board, but the fact that all the TCs and motors are Loconet DCC means no extra wiring is needed to them. So you can simply unplug the power and the Loconet cable and walk off with the whole thing - move it to another location, etc.  If you want to you can have two panels that mimic all states but each have control over a unique set of routes - basically you get a lot of flexibility.  And as I said, I'm an architect, so I like what we would call "late-binding" decisions - so we can change things if we want to without ripping up lots of stuff.

Happy to chat or explore - or answer questions - after all some of this is the bleeding edge really.  I would expect that playing around with this control stuff would be a winter activity this year after I have just got the basic "bare" layout running. So I would hope to be in a more experienced position to share on this in spring, I hope

-----

You also asked about coupling and uncoupling - well, that's the final frontier and cause for a fight, isn't it!! 

I have started out by merely using the off-the-shelf Hornby/Bachmann tension-lock stuff for now while I get things going. I have seen interesting things with stepper motors pushing up and down ramps for uncoupling around and there is the Kirby method which adds electromagnetic uncoupling to tension lock to consider as well. As the vast majority of my rolling stock is modern enough to have NEM pockets, main exceptions are some things that could be even be permanently raked together like a set of Hornby B&C Mk1 coaches from the late 70s, some cattle wagons and a brake van, some engineering train wagons, and so on.  If I change at all, it will be to Kadees and therefore probably electromagnetic uncouplers (although I could also use a shunter's pole with a magnet on the end in goods yards and I personally have no problem with that "hand of God" when shunting - after all the three-link crowd have always had to do that). I put nearly all of my sidings within easy reach of the board edge for this very reason...

Adam



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 Posted: Fri Oct 14th, 2016 02:04 am
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AUSSIETRAINS
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That is certainly some layout Adam.
Watching with interest.



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 Posted: Fri Oct 14th, 2016 02:22 am
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Giant style layout, Adam.  Excellent!  :thumbs

BTW, I turned your photo.

Cheers



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 Posted: Fri Oct 14th, 2016 06:43 am
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John Dew
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Hi Adam

I may have mislead you regarding my RR&Co knowledge. I should have explained that although Granby is smaller than PDL it has 90 turnouts (all DCC controlled ) and 100 detected blocks. I have operated it for the past 10 years with RR&Co .......so, while by no means an expert, I have acquired a reasonable amount of experience with the system. I think it is a brilliant system (usual disclaimer) and it has added a new dimension to my enjoyment of the hobby. However like all systems it can lack flexibility :roll: and I was unsure of the extent of your understanding of the system.

For instance.....It maybe an over simplification to assume that TC only requires detected blocks where a train stops or stands. Excluding turnouts, are you planning to have stretches of undetected track between blocks?

Secondly you should be aware that TC has a very rigid system of keeping track of what it calls trainsets. If you attach a loco to a set of coaches this has to be done manually (via the keyboard) or as a result of a Join (or Separate) command at the end of a schedule (journey between two or more blocks). If you drive a train into a goods yard and manually change its composition or order and then return it to computor control without first manually recording the changes.you will have "unexpected results" :twisted:

I do hope this post does not irritate you....it will be great to have another RR&Co fan to chat to on this forum. I find that most newcomers to RR&Co are overwhelmed by its complexity......this will clearly not be the case with you.......but I guess I am suggesting a little testing in demo mode now may save you time later

I agree with you about Kadees.....where I have fixed rakes I often leave the tension locks in place but top and tail with Kadees. All locos have Kadees. I should warn you that while UK manufacturers all fit NEM pockets they have a very relaxed approach to height.

Best wishes

John


    





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 Posted: Fri Oct 14th, 2016 09:57 am
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tynewydd
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John,
Aha, so it appears you should be educating me about all this!!  Sorry about the grandmother and egg sucking teachable moment.  :oops:  I had admired your layout via this site before in fact - very nice job indeed. Now the penny has dropped. You have the joy of it actually working as well. 
The changing consists and then handing back to automation issue was one of the reasons I am interested in RFID. My idea was by placing readers at strategic points like after stations and in entrances to the storage I could have software understand what the actual trainset is now by collecting the data as it passes. Every piece of rolling stock would have a chip attached as they are so cheap now in bulk. In this way, regardless of what the humans did, the software would be correct in what was on the train, its length etc. But I had already noticed that even TC Gold doesn't seem to have RFID reader support while JMRI does. It does have "train identification" which is presumably the DCC-chip based feedback systems - but they don't help with wagons and coaches.  I will readily admit my quick dip into the manuals didn't show anything helpful - so I shelved it until later - maybe to ask a question of our German friends about any plans for adding RFID support for train and train makeup identification. 

As I re-read those same manuals now it definitely talks about that you do not need circuits for every piece of track - only where trains can stop. The parts in between the circuits are routes and can contain switches/points it says. Do you know something more about this than the manual reveals? 

In direct answer to your question - yes, I have areas of track between circuits - and yes they contain switches - what won't happen in those case is the train stopping in those sections. F or example, in the storage yard, each section that can hold a train has a circuit as do the ready sidings but the ladders do not. Hopefully that will work.

Agree completely re: demo mode and testing out first. There's a lot of stuff to try out and get comfortable or not with.

No - I'm not irritated at all - very happy to learn from people who know more and be told when I am standing into danger.  

Re: Kadees and pockets - yes lots of shimming and offsetting will probably be needed if I go that way (sigh).  

Adam








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 Posted: Fri Oct 14th, 2016 10:29 pm
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John Dew
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Hi Adam

No worries.....I didnt express myself very well and I now think I may have misunderstood you regarding "circuits".
 
Undetected turnouts are fine. Some people do argue that a lengthy turnout ladder should be detected. I dont bother and have not had problems. However stretches of undetected track, without turnouts, between blocks is not a good idea.  

Shifted markers in blocks  can be used not only to brake and stop a train but also to modify the speed to that set in the next block. At a specified point in the block you can initiate actions unrelated to the current train (signals, turnouts, release and lock other blocks, start other schedules etc). These operations can be initiated by an action marker or within a specified schedule. All depend on the train entering (or leaving) the detected block.

Thinking about manual shunting provided you dont give TC too much detailed information regarding trainset composition it will work provided you dont change the loco or its orientation in the trainset

Regards

John 








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John,Undetected turnouts are fine. Some people do argue that a lengthy turnout ladder should be detected. I dont bother and have not had problems. However stretches of undetected track, without turnouts, between blocks is not a good idea.
The worry, I suppose, is that a train will stall half in and half out of a siding that hasn't got a circuit covering the input. Or that after a power outage a train might be wholly within in an undetected section.

I double checked and mostly I have every piece of main track covered with the exception of a few points (including the yard ladder). In many cases I have two circuits for most storage sidings with a small section at the front of each that happens to be over a board module boundary - this may be useful as a stopping section. The Goods yards and MPDs are not covered today but there's always the future.... There is always the idea that some extra detection could be added later if needed, of course.  I have upped the amount of detection in Port Dinllaen and Tan-Y-Graig partly as a result of your comment as they were underway. Nantlle has some small sections that are missing detection right around the throat.

I think in total I with have 17 BlocD8s or 136 TCs but a few here and there are not in use - so maybe 125 in use.

Latest progress - all but two modules (of 15) have completed wiring. I assembled all the modules along the walls and they fit!!!
  This is a testament to at Ondrew Hartigan at modelrailroadbenchwork.com. He built it to my specs supplied as a PDF from XTRKCAD in Florida and then shipped it on a (giant) pallet. Usual disclaimer - no connection other than I am a happy customer.

Here's where we are on the sidewall seen from the entrance gate. 

And with it open

and finally from the inside looking out 



Once again - excuse the clutter!  



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A substantial gate there Adam, can you get a couple of closer photos showing it open as well?  from the inside please.



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The gate that will become The Bridge on the River Llyfni eventually!  Ironic because the real river is something you can just about jump over... The scheme is to build a viaduct with 28 arches and 3 spans (2x 14", 1x 12")  Two of the arches will be in the vicinity of this gate. 

Ron,
The gate is a "right trapezoid" - having two parallel sides and two right angles. The depth is 10" and the width is 18" on one side and almost 30" on the other. A heavy duty hinge is on one corner and the opposite corner has been "shaved" so it doesn't interfere as it opens. 
 
I added two microswitches just on the edge of the adjoining modules held underneath the gate with washers as the means to close the switches attached to the gate itself. When the gate is opened it turns off the power to the sections before the gate (and on the gate itself). The NC contacts on the switch route to a track circuit on the BlockD8 through a 10k Ohm resistor - meaning the current will be in the range of 1-1.5mA. This then will show as a blocked area to the computer when the gate is open stoping trains being scheduled through it. 

Pictures


The track joints on the gate using brass screws
One of the knobs for securing the gate closed. 


The wood strip on the fixed side furthest from the hinges


The gate slot on the moving part


Open Gate


Hinge and pins side


One of the microswitches being operated by the washers.

Let me know if you have any questions

Adam



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Thanks Adam



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John Dew
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Hi Adam

Your benchwork is magnificent.......I am so envious :mrgreen:. I particularly admire the gate .......as I get older and creakier I often regret my decision to install a duck under!

Not sure if you want to have your main thread cluttered with RR&Co comments. If you want to start a subsidiary thread I am sure Max or Ron (Sol) could move the posts from our earlier discussion there.

While you are thinking about that two quick comments:

You can use flagman indicators to track movement into undetected blocks. It works fine with terminal sidings. I use it on my MPD .......each of the shed roads off the TT is split into two blocks. The first is detected, the second is not....stop and brake markers are activated by the flagman.

Linking the gate micro switches to an occupancy indicator is very ingenious. When you have RR&Co set up you will be able to implement an even more elegant solution by "blocking the entry" to the approach block.  
 
Kind Regards

John








tynewydd wrote:

Ron,
The gate is a "right trapezoid" - having two parallel sides and two right angles. The depth is 10" and the width is 18" on one side and almost 30" on the other. A heavy duty hinge is on one corner and the opposite corner has been "shaved" so it doesn't interfere as it opens. 
 
I added two microswitches just on the edge of the adjoining modules held underneath the gate with washers as the means to close the switches attached to the gate itself. When the gate is opened it turns off the power to the sections before the gate (and on the gate itself). The NC contacts on the switch route to a track circuit on the BlockD8 through a 10k Ohm resistor - meaning the current will be in the range of 1-1.5mA. This then will show as a blocked area to the computer when the gate is open stoping trains being scheduled through it. 



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 Posted: Thu Oct 20th, 2016 02:01 pm
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tynewydd
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As suggested, created new thread for RR&Co - in the RR&Co section!  RR&Co thread for track circuiting. Happy for those posts to be moved over there. 

Adam



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 Posted: Thu Oct 20th, 2016 02:39 pm
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Bob K
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Wow, a layout and a half. Lovely complex track plan too. Belated welcome to the forum.

Bob

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 Posted: Sat Oct 22nd, 2016 06:05 pm
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tynewydd
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Thanks, Bob
Here's the most complex part in 1:72. 



The track on the left above the pliers will be the programming track operated by a 4PDT center off switch. It will have an isolating section at its end of about 6 inches to stop innocent engines blundering in when it is in programming mode. I think that having it under control of the MPD operator and right at hand makes most sense. When in normal mode it is a headshunt that allows engines to recirculate from the MPD out ready roads and north light shed to the coal/ash/turntable and vice versa.



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 Posted: Sun Oct 23rd, 2016 05:39 am
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amdaley
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Fantastic layout you have there Adam & the bench work is something else.
It looks the size of Buckingham shire let alone Buckingham
:doublethumb



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 Posted: Sun Oct 23rd, 2016 08:14 pm
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tynewydd
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The peninsular module is complete - here it is in situ. Seems to be enough clearance from wiring etc. I intend to add some LED strip lights and a web cam or two to help operators.


A little teaser of the end result - I put the throat board in place as well - here being inspected by the Art department - who is all about houses and people. 
The peninsular in place but the boards in front missing
 
Now this has been broken down again so I can get on with wiring up that last top board. 



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