Friday, September 30, 2016

Upper Huron Wye Signal Operation

On Wednesday we discussed the installation of the TS2 signal circuit along with process to allow interlocking operations. Tonight we are going to walk through the operation of the interlocking function at Upper Huron. 

Readers: The signals and signal systems that I will be reviewing and installing in my Layout How To series were provided at no cost by Azatrax LLC. However the selection, installation, operation, and opinion of these signals and systems are 100% my own. 


Our example train the R-GEPB-29 (Road Switcher Gerhard to Port Belle of September 29th) led by MCIS 3833 has be issued track authority by St. Clair Sub dispatcher to proceed from mainline DTC Block Lacey (LACE) to DTC Block Upper Huron Jct (UJCT) via Upper Huron East Wye Switch (EWS). 

Upon reaching the signals / block boundary at east wye switch Upper Huron, the train comes to a stop and the conductor climbs down to change the route. 

Reaching the signal mast, the conductor opens the control box and pushes the button "Press to Occupy". 

The operator throws the Peco switch from normal to reverse to the east leg of the wye at Upper Huron. 

The operator acting as the conductor in reality pushes the "Press to Occupy" on the panel. This action shunts the signal from a "clear" to "stop" indication. 

With signal indicating the east switch at Upper Huron block is now lined reverse and authority given by dispatcher to occupy the UJCT DTC block, R-GEPB-29 proceeds onto the east leg. 

Train departs past the signals and operates onto the east leg of the wye which ties directly into the Port Belle Sub.

Once the train is in the clear onto the Port Belle Sub the conductor uses the north end control box where the east / west wye legs come together to line the switch back to normal and clear the signal. 

With the train on the Port Belle Sub our TS2 system does not know this as it expects to either see the train reverse over the sensors at the east switch or continue over the sensors at the west switch. Since we are doing neither, we hold down the "Press to Reset" button which clears the block back to green.

At this point once the operator has verified signals display "clear"and switch is re-lined the R-GEPB-29 continues on its journey. The abs signals at the East Wye Switch stand ready for their next use.

The same process happens coming from non signal territory to signal detected territory with the exception that instead of pushing "Press to Reset" after lining the switch back to normal, the operator would simply push "Press to Occupy" again. This has to do with the train coming onto signal'd territory so the system knows there is a train occupying an actual block in signal territory versus our example above where the train left the signaled territory requiring us to manually clear the block. 

This is a very simple example of using the interlocker ability, one example to automate further would be having the "Push to Occupy" button drive a tortoise motor which act as the SPST Off-On driving the TS2 to change the signal. There are plenty of other examples of ways to use this function such as a drawbridge. Take a look at the Azatrax Block Signal page for more ideas.

The best part of our hobby is the ability to make things as simple or complex as you would like based on your skills. For my setup a simple push button and using my finger to throw the switch was sufficient, and requires operators to engage "beyond the throttle and fascia".

Stay tuned in October for the last few posts of my signal install series. In these upcoming posts we will dive more into Advanced Interlocking using TS2 circuits on a passing siding, and then wrap up with a discussion on how a train would operate in DTC/ABS territory.


Wednesday, September 28, 2016

St. Clair Sub Signal Install - Part 4 (Phase 3 - Basic Interlocking)

Continuing with our signal installation series, in this post we will focus on basic interlocking using the Azatrax TS2 signal circuit. At the same time we will add another signal block to the Michigan Interstate St. Clair Subdivision. 

Readers: The signals and signal systems that I will be reviewing and installing in my Layout How To series were provided at no cost by Azatrax LLC. However the selection, installation, operation, and opinion of these signals and systems are 100% my own. 

If you have been following my signal install series, you probably noticed that each post we build upon the previous. The best part of building upon each phase is the basic process gets easier while we add a new piece that is a little bit more work. 

MCIS 3830 knocking down the signals at east end of Upper Huron. In this post we will walk through the install of these signals, TS2 circuit, and adding the ability to "interlock".


1 - Azatrax TS2 Circuit Kit
            (Kit includes the board, 2 sets of IR LEDs and IR Receivers with wire leads)
       We will use the 1000 ohm resistor for this install
2 - BLMA 1038 Block Signals
1 - Single Pole / Single Throw Push Button Switch
1 - Momentary Push Button Switch

In addition to the ordered components, you will need the following items:
- 3/16 inch #12 Drill Bit
- Small Wire Stripper
- Solder Iron / Rosin Core Solder
- 28 Gauge Wire - Solid in at least three colors
- Signal Tester (Used for BLMA signals which are made with magnet wire)
- Heat Shrink Tubing
- Hot Glue Gun

We start by marking where we are going to drill for the signals and sensors that will be installed in between the track.

 Signal installation between the east wye switch at Upper Huron and Quinacassee Creek Bridge.

Drilling complete - ready to clean up and begin installing LED sensor and receivers..

Installing the LED sensors through the track is done the same way completed in our part 2 - phase 1 post. It is important to only have one tie space (two ties) between each of the holes drilled at 45 degrees for the sensors. 

 For this install I decided to install the TS2 on the fascia for easy access and maintenance. The wooden box is from Hobby Lobby for around $2.00 and after cutting the back off on a tablesaw, it would fit nicely on the fasica. It is important to ensure plenty of room if you decide to mount the TS2 in a control box.

 Marking the inside outside of the control box I proceeded to drill holes for wire access and TS2 mounting. 

 TS2 installed on fasica, ready to begin fishing wires from LED sensors through from under layout and connect into TS2.

East/Westbound LED Sensor / Receiver and power connected. 

Test - Test - Test with a variety of equipment before moving on to signal install / connection.
 MCIS GP38-2 #3830 operating at walking speed over the east and west sensors of TS2 #6. Locomotive fuel tanks can cause sensing issues, ensure you test multiple variations and adjust as necessary. 

Intermodal wellcars, tank cars, and covered hoppers put the sensors through its paces.  

Once you feel confident and the sensors properly detect without issue, then it is time to move onto signal install.


 Threading the signal wires down through the foam board, under the layout, and through the fascia access holes we prepare to trim down the wires, strip, and connect to TS2.

 TS2 Wiring complete - remember to keep it neat!

 East and Westbound signals at East Upper Huron protecting between the Upper Huron and Lacey DTC blocks. 


A quick primer on the function of interlocking at Upper Huron. On each end of Upper Huron is a east and west switch that connects to the Port Belle Sub. When the switch is thrown reverse allowing a train onto either leg of the wye we want the signals on each end of the block to display a "stop" telling the crew that a switch in this particular signal block is lined against the main. In the prototype throwing a switch like this in ABS territory would shunt the signal to "stop", so by using the interlocking function we can represent this same concept. Since the switches are manual, we have to help the system know the switch is reverse and we will do that using the S1 "On-off" SPST switch. Additionally once the train has moved onto the Port Belle Sub and the switch is returned to normal we use the S2 "Momentary switch" to clear the block bringing the signals back to "proceed" indication with the train now in the clear. Remember our ABS signals only display block occupancy, it is still the job of the dispatcher to issue track authority via Direct Traffic Control


 West wye switch in the town of Upper Huron. The concrete ties are the St. Clair Sub main that heads east to Grays Lake. The diverging track to the left is the wye west leg to the Port Belle Sub.

East wye switch at Upper Huron near the sugar beet plant. You can see the main concrete ties coming around from the west switch and wye east leg diverging to the right. 


Azatrax provides in each installation guide for the TS2 and online, diagrams for wiring up the TS2 for basic interlocking. In our Michigan Interstate example we have two switches; one for the east leg and one for west leg of the wye. Both switches fall between the TS2 #1 and TS2 #2 so all we need to do is wire in a simple SPST push button switch for S1 and a momentary switch for S2.

In previous installs we have linked TS2s using "LE" to "LW" and "C" to "C". This install is no different as you can see in the diagram below those connections are still there. The difference is the extra set of wires coming from "LE" and "C" on TS2 #1 that split and go to on-off switch S1 and momentary switch S2. This extra set of wires drive the TS2 to operate in interlocking mode between these two TS2s only. 

Basic Interlocking Diagram courtesy Azatrax 

The specific example on the Michigan Interstate. S1 in foreground, S2 in background awaiting wire connections. These were install directly on the fascia using a 1/2 drill bit. 

The extra set of wires to be installed from "LE" (red wire) and "C" (black wire). Using wire nuts to join the wire back to the TS2 (leaving off photo in foreground), wire to S1 (middle), and wire to S2 (background).

Once the wire assemblies were ready, I proceeded to thread the bare wire ends through the switch opening like you would on a decoder. Once wrapped around, I soldered to create a strong connection. Until finished with the wiring i used blue painters tape to hold the wires in place. Permanently plastic holders will be installed. 

Using Microsoft Word I created a simple panel with where the buttons would be mounted along with instructions for operating. Once printed I cut around the border and laminated. Using the blue holes as a template made drilling on the fascia very easy. Use a small drill bit to mark the center of the drill hole, then remove the panel and use the proper size bit to make hole in fascia. 

Finished product installed on fascia. Not only does it provide instructions for the operator but also provides a very neat professional look for your layout. 

Lastly after all sensors, signals, interlocking panel were installed and tested it was time to close up the TS2 control box. A size latch keeps it securely closed but allows for easy access saving your head and neck. I ended up painted the boxes with Rustoleum Primer Gray. 

There we have it, another TS2 with two signals installed, linked to rest of signal system, and interlocking ability added. On Friday we will walk through the operation step by step of the interlocking to give you an idea how it operates and ways you can use this on your railroad


Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Oregon Joint Line Tour

While I have been working hard on the next signal install phase coming out this weekend, this post is not about me or my layout. This post is all about my my experience, overview, and influence of good friends layout this past weekend.

My favorite train - northbound coal drag from The Rio Grande seen here at Humboldt Jct.

Last Saturday I had the opportunity to attend and dispatch Dean Ferris' N Scale Oregon Joint Line set in the 1960s. This layout is not only great to operate on, but also railfan with the numerous scenes to catch a train traversing. The layout is single deck walk around with staging located below. It has been some time since my last OJL post so let's jump right into my experience as dispatcher and layout tour.

              Map of the layout 

Seated in my corner of the the OJL world I had all the tools needed for a succesful day including track map, diapatcher board, plenty of track warrants, and dispatcher phone. Dispatching anothe layout is a great way to get ideas for your own layout, not to mention really learn the territory. Having a good comfortable spot for the dispatcher is appreciated, and Dean did well with this.

    Prepped ready to begin the session.

Working through the lineup - 24 track warrants were issued for 11 trains and a dedicated helper working both north and south grades to Snowline.

Keeping them moving! Having a dispatcher white board helps dispatchers lay out there authorities and plan better. We use a similar board on the MCIS which will go digital soon. Each train receives a different color.

We start out on the lower level of the layout. This north staging yard represents Ukiah, Antelope, and other northern offline destinations.

North Staging below - Monument Yard on top.

Coming out of staging and past GN Jct where the joint line begins we traverse through Lone Rock. This is the only town on the lower level before coming up onto the main level.

With Lone Rock behind us we begin our trek along the South Fork of the John Day River with spectacular views of The Picture Gorge.

Following the river we enter Fossil which hosts a logging site and passing siding

       North end of siding at Fossil

              South end of Fossil 

Passing Fossil we diamond over the shortline Oregon & Northeastern at O&NE Crossing of all places before continuing on to Monument.

O&NE Scanlon Yard with OJL mainline behind the industries. As you can see forest products are king out here.

After passing the O&NE the main jogs to the right bringing us into NP Monument Yard.

Beyond Monument is Dayville which also hosts the GN yard with a host of industries around both terminals. Why are there two yards? It is a joint owned line so both NP and GN have their own classification facility.

Leaving Dayville we begin our assault up the grade to Snowline. Most trains other than passenger and piggyback require helps to conquer this grade.

  The grade crest at Snowline. There is a siding here to make meets.

Once past Snowline southbound it is downgrade all the way to Silvies. Here we are passing the ballast pit at Basalt.

Past Basalt we enter the town of Emigrant. Multiple customers keep a local out of Silvies pretty busy during a session. Additionally there is a station stop here and connection to UP Burns Branch.

Coasting out of Emigrant we enter Emigrant Canyon on our way to Silvies. Fantastic views along our route!

Emerging from Emigrant Canyon we enter a broad curve bringing us into Graystone and past the large Graystone Cement plant. 

Rounding the curve out of Graystone we enter the north end of Silvies. The locomotive in the foreground was our helper this session. Northbound trains heading towards Monument / Dayville need a helper out of Silvies to get over Snowline.

Silvies has a yard which hosts the local to Emigrant and numerous block swaps during a session.

Beyond Silvies Yard is the town of Silvies before trains enter Staging at Humboldt Jct representing offline destinations to the south.

Humboldt Jct and NP Hearney Staging 

While Dean's OJL represents the 60s I took the opportunity to model the OJL on my modern day Michigan Interstate. How you ask? Well those forest products that are King on the OJL must get to market so what better way than a FMC double door boxcar in forest product service. 

Former McCloud River found new life on the OJL. While the OJL is a jointly owned railroad which in modern times would be UP/BNSF, the railroads decided to create a paper subsidiary railroad to serve customers between GN Jct and Humboldt Jct using OJL marks. 

There are also rumors that Graystone Cement is looking to enter the Great Lakes market via a terminal somewhere in Michigan.... Will have to see if this materializes....

I hope you have enjoyed our tour of the OJL and seeing how two proto freelance railroads can influence each other. Stay tuned for my next signal install phase post coming this weekend!