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Jun 16 18

Dumb or memory loss!

by Carl

The Atlantic Shoals uses block watcher detection mods to indicate train occupancy on my model board. One day I noticed that the block between Kegi and East Eddie was on continuously with no train in that block. I ran a train through the block and it operated perfectly but when it cleared the block occupancy light remained on, very strange! I played around for a few days checking the feeds and reprogramed the mod with nothing found. One day after a session I noticed the occupancy light was out! I ran another train and when it entered the block in question it lit up and when the train exited the block it went out! OK the model railroad gods are messing with me. Later in the month after another OP session the light was back on again so I swapped out the mod for a new one and everything worked fine until the next session, same issue! After a glass of wine (or maybe two) I went after the issue with gusto and was about to cut away the feeds and run new ones all the way from the circuit breaker when, wait for it, I noticed that the light that illuminates my small staging yard was on. I turned it off and the occupancy light went out! Viola the holding yard light was connected to the infamous block! Light on occupancy on, light off occupancy off. Moral to the story, NEVER EVER connect anything to the DCC power feed except track. You may remember I had a similar issue with the Walthers turn table until I placed it on a separate power supply. Model railroading is never dull.


Feb 1 18

Ballardvale Junction Mystery

by Mike Costello

During Tuesday night’s operating session it was brought to my attention that locomotives were stopping when they entered the turnout at Ballardvale Junction. I took a look and what I saw was as soon as the locomotive’s wheels touched the frog it would stop and the lights would go out.
The immediate conclusion I came to was that there was a short. This conclusion was further supported by the fact that this was a fast tracks turnout built by soldering the rails to copper ties. The ties need to have the copper on the surface interrupted at key locations or it creates a dead short. The rails on both sides of the frog are cut to electrically isolate the frog since the polarity needs to change depending on the switch orientation. The copper ties soldered to the frog are all cut to isolate the frog as well. Since the frog is electrically isolated via the rails being cut, it all made sense to me that if one of the ties wasn’t completely cut through as soon as the wheels touched the frog a short would occur.
I thought this would be a simple fix. I grabbed my triangular shaped file and hit all of the copper ties soldered to the frog. Sometimes the tiniest remnant of copper will be enough to short. I had Ace run the locomotive through the turnout but nothing changed, still stopped as soon as the wheels touched the frog.
The next possible cause was a little more difficult to resolve. I have had previous fast tracks turnouts create a short if the feeder wire wasn’t soldered properly. I attach feeder wires to the bottom of the track prior to installation on the layout. If the feeder wire happens to inadvertently solder to an adjacent copper tie on the bottom side of the tie instead of just the intended bottom of the rail, then you know what happens, a short. I now was convinced that this was more than a quick repair and would need follow up after the ops session was over.
So last night I continued with the process to resolve this short. I started with my ohm meter expecting to confirm that the frog was not isolated from one of the stock rails. Once I determined which side, I would cut all the way through the copper rail adjacent to the feeder wire to break through the bottom side copper. To my surprise the frog was isolated from both stock rails. Know I’m really scratching my head. I ran a locomotive through the turnout and once again as soon as the wheels touched the frog it came to a complete stop and the lights went out.
Know I’m grasping for straws. I checked all the feeder wires to this turnout and adjacent track to make sure the black and white feeders were connected to the black and white bus lines, even though I knew if they weren’t there would have been a short all of the time. Everything was wired properly.
Not sure where to go from here I grabbed my volt meter and started measuring track voltage. I was completely “shocked” to discover there wasn’t any voltage in the turnout. This turnout is at one end of a detection block that spans from Lowell Junction to Ballardvale Junction. For this reason the rails just beyond the turnout are cut to isolate this block from the next one. I then noticed that the rail within the block entering the turnout did not have a rail joiner on one side.
Further observation showed that by pure coincidence, the length from the first locomotive wheels to the last exactly matched the distance from the block isolation cut to the frog. How could Murphy be so cruel?
My focus was now on the feeder wire from the bus to the turnout on the side without a rail joiner. Everything visually looked fine. I proceeded to open the suitcase connector at the bus. My plan was to remove the metal blade, trim the end of the feeder wire, and reattach the feeder to the bus. No matter how hard I tried I couldn’t pry the blade out of the connector away from the wire. Eventually I was able to remove the connector from the bus wire.
A little explanation about how the suitcase connectors work. In this case I’m using one that is designed to connect different gage wires. (In my case #18 feeder to #12 bus.) The metal blade has slits in it that are just the right width to cut through the insulation completely and tightly slide over the wire. So in this case a wider slit to fit the #12 and a narrower slit to fit the #18.
It is not unusual for this metal blade to fall out of the plastic housing when in the box. Several times I have simply picked up the metal blade and reinserted it into the plastic housing. But in this one case, I reversed the blade so the narrow slit was aligned for the bus and the wider slit was aligned for the feeder. When I engaged the blade, the narrow slit wouldn’t fit around the large bus wire. One side slid against the copper and the other side folded over, thus causing the difficulty I had trying to remove it.
And as far as the wider slit fitting over smaller feeder wire? I learned the hard way that the width of the slit was wider than the feeder copper and even though it partially cut through the insulation it never made contact with the copper.
Mystery solved. Locomotives run perfectly through the turnout.
Model Railroading is FUN.

Dec 12 16

Happy Holidays and Thank You

by Carl

A huge thank you to all my operators, Tuesday, Saturday and Spare Board for coming throughout the year to make the Atlantic Shoals perform. I truly hope every last one of you had fun at each session. I am looking forward to another great year of operations on all of the B&M Operators great model railroads.


Sep 27 16

Good By For Now New England Northern

by Carl

The New England Northern will operate for the last time for members only on October 25, 2016. Jere is moving his business to a new location and his beautiful layout is being dismantled. Thank you Jere for all the great years and we look forward to your new layout in the near future and best of luck with your business move.

May 23 16

Walthers Turntable woes

by Carl

I made an interesting discovery while attempting to fix my turntable, which has been acting up for the last three sessions. The Walthers turntable operates on a simple self contained computer. There are two terminals, one for turntable track power and one to power the computer and motor. The track power should be connected to the DCC track power, not brain surgery. The turntable power, however, is shown in two different ways in the instruction manual. One method is to simply power it with 10 to 16 volts AC from a stand alone power source. The other way is to power it from the DCC system, ie, tap the power from the base station. The second way is how I did it when I attempted to add sound to the table. I have found that using the DCC power causes problems because whenever a short occurs and a breaker trips it cuts off the power to the computer in the turntable, when the power is restored the table is automatically re-booted! Thus the failure of indexing properly if the table was in use at the time of the short. I now have the table running on a 9 volt AC wall transformer so lets hope the problem is solved.