We have started working again on Mauch Chunk since getting back from a succesful exhibition in Glasgow. We had two problems there that impacted on operations, although hopefully the public didn’t see anything substantially wrong.
Firstly we had overheating of the Lenz LZV100 command station. This was partly because I didn’t take the lid completely off the really useful box we’re using for the control panel. However, overheating did occur again later even when the box was completely open. Clearly passive air cooling isn’t enough when we are operating so intensively for 7 – 8h periods.
To remedy this, Gavin has put a fan in one end of the box, holes in the other and reorganised the interior to allow a good airflow. The Lenz LZV100 is now also mounted on a hollow support to allow airflow beneath as well. It should work nicely and will allow us to leave the lid on next time!
To put the icing on the cake he (and Dave Faulkner) have also wired the block protector boards to LEDs that display when a short is occuring – this will make it much quicker to detect problems.
Secondly, we had problems with the Peco point motors (in the staging yard) misbehaving. This is likely to be due to poory alignment/positioning which has occured as a result of heavy use and the way that they operate – with a thud in each direction.
We decided to try a servo design which has a more genteel motion. As there was not enough vertical space for Tortoise motors, have gone for MP-1 point motors from MTB Model (click here) in Prague. These are supplied by DCC Train Automation in the UK (click here). To control these with DCC we also purchased Digikeijs DR4018 accessory decoders, also from DCC Train Automation (click here) which each control eight motors.
We had to include some cross-baseboard links for control to avoid wasting the channels on the accessory decoders. Although it is a pain to replace and rewire all the motors in the yard, provisionally it looks as though it will be a good investment. We will report here on our experiences.
After getting back from Chatham Exhibition, we took a break before erecting the scenic boards of Mauch Chunk. Once these were standing again, Gareth’s son, Celfyn (Welsh for Kelvin) found the boards were just the right height for climbing through! Steve’s daughter Anna’s dog, Bryn, is also with us for a couple of months while she moves into her first house (we hope) and he is being very laid back about all the noise I am making rebuilding Packer Hill.
The first main task was demolishing the temporary polystyrene ‘hills’ at either end in order to construct the new, larger ones. Polystyrene sheets were laid and stuck together with various glues of various efficacies! Eventually, they all dried and we were able to carve them with a mixture of a multi-tool and knives. Baseboard edges were lined with plywood.
Once this was completed, the roadway was laid in ply around the edge of the hill above the track. The base of Flagstaff mountain is being similalry rebuilt.
The other issue we wanted to resolve is the use of Big Bear with our Lenz equipment. Remember that we fudged at Chatham exhibition and used an NCE PowerCab to control the pointwork. Peter, the developer of Big Bear, has been very helpful and has now managed to recode Big Bear to work with the Lenz 23150 USB/ethernet adaptor – brilliant! This means that we have been able to lay out the control board again and it has been made to fit into a Really Useful Box for transport and operation.
Over the last three weeks (while Steve was on vacation in Scotland, touring Whisky distilleries on Islay), the team: Richard in particular, but also Gavin, Steve (when he got backl), Phil, Mike, Gareth and Dave; have been getting Mauch Chunk ready to go to the Chatham exhibition.
In particular, Richard has ballasted the new track, completed 10 caboose modifications, and carved and painted the new LH extension of the river wall. Richard and Phil have done more work on locos and stock and others have smartened up bits of scenery. Steve has recorded the stock and packed it all away and modifications have been made to the Big Bear layout plan with several additional routes added.
We’re ready to go (tomorrow) for Mauch Chunk’s first exhibition in six years and the first with the Barrowmore team.
We’ve got it up and running! This wasn’t as smooth a process as we would have liked though: The first time the layout went up we discovered that the frog juicers weren’t behaving – they switched the current to the frogs but too slowly when the wheels went over and shorted. In retrospect they are designed for turnouts wired so that the switch rails moving will cause them to operate. As our switch rails are permanently aligned electrically with the adjacent track, this doesn’t happen.
Solution: Buy 39 Peco turnout accesory switches and rewire the turnouts. All peco turnouts done by Steve on Monday 8th, 7 tortoise motors also rewired by Richard on Tuesday morning. The frog juicers were abandonned under the layout for the time being. Eveything is now working.
Next problem – a MERG board overheated producing acrid smoke. Quick turn off and board replaced solved problem.
Last problem – Big Bear DCC wouldn’t talk to the Lenz system. We have temporarily resolved this by using an NCE PowerCab to control the turnouts and in the meanwhile, Pete of BigBear DCC is rewriting some of the code for us to ensure that Big Bear will work properly with Lenz – excellent support!