Friday, July 31, 2015

The ROCK 3.0: JMRI Revisted

Late this evening, I revisited the JMRI Decoder Pro.  I have upgraded my laptop since the last time I used it, so I needed to re-download and start over from scratch.

You can download JMRI here:

In my case, I download the JMRI for the Mac OS X.  I connected to my NCE PowerHouse Pro system using the USB to Serial Interface sold from Dick Bronson at RR Cirkits here in North Carolina.  His site:

After downloading the software, I was prompted to install Adobe Flash (forget the version, but whatever the latest is).

A wizard pops up to help you through connecting with JMRI for the first time.

I selected NCE for my system and serial.  For the Serial Port, I wasn't sure what to select here, but found this usbserial selection and chose that.  It connected so it must have been the right one.

I placed a loco on the program track, clicked the "New Loco" button, clicked on the "Read Type from decoder" button.

It gave me three options of decoders.  I selected the correct decoder and then clicked on the "Open Comprehensive Programmer" button.

I entered the basic info about the locomotive.

I worked tab by tab changing the settings.  A big one that was suggested by my friend Allen with the mysterioso short is to turn off the DC Analog Mode.  In Digitrax, you can run locomotives without decoders, but in DC mode.  In NCE, they don't have this functionality.  So, it is best to turn it off.  The theory is that a possible short of a car derailment (with metal wheels) was causing the loco to think it was in DC mode which cause the entire system to go haywire until the locomotive was removed from the layout and the system reset.

When you are done making changes to the settings, you need to click on the "Write Changes on Sheet" button to post the changes to the locomotive's decoder.

First Tab - I changed to the long address and turned off the DC Analog Mode.

Click either Write Page Changes or Write Full Page to post the changes to the locomotives decoder.

Second Tab - I like to change the acceleration and deceleration to "1".  It adds a little momentum to when you throttle up and throttle down the locomotive.

Third Tab - You can use this to set your start, mid-range and max voltage.  I used to use this before DecoderPro in an attempt to speed match.  It works ok, but not the best method.

Fourth Tab - Speed Table.  This is more involved.  I highly suggest you reading Allen's blog post regarding this subject.  He is much more educated on this than I am.

Fifth Tab - Lighting Functions.  These are different for each decoder, but pretty self explanatory.

Sixth Tab - More advanced lighting functions.

For example you can select a Mars Light as Allen did on my Kato E8 he sent me.

Seventh Tab - Only has the repetition of turning on/off the DC Analog Mode.

Eighth Tab - Advanced Consisting Information.  This is used in NCE, but not sure on Digitrax. 

Ninth Tab - Advanced Settings.  Evidently this one you can set something regarding the brakes.

The first locomotive logged in the database.

I repeated this for the remaining locomotives until I had read them all in to the DecoderPro application.  Tonight, I didn't do any speed matching, but did get them all logged into the database and turned off the DC Analog mode.  I also changed all the acceleration and deceleration to 1 for now.  Allen does that with his locomotives and I like that little bit of delay on the throttle.  So, I guess that is progress for tonight.  :-)

All the locomotives logged into the Decoder Pro application.

Well, that's enough for tonight.  I didn't get started until late, but it only took me about an hour to read everything in and setup the database roster.  That included the time to download and install the JMRI software and such.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

The ROCK 3.0: Illinois Division Track Diagrams

These were made available to me by Harold Krewer.  Please see below for the track diagrams for all towns between Bureau Junction and Morris, Illinois.  Hopefully these will help out some fellow RI modelers out there.  Having these just want me to model more of the Rock Island!  :-)

No work on the layout tonight.  I ended up having to return some items to Lowe's that we found damaged upon checking them this evening.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The ROCK 3.0: Project Update

So, I went back through the blog and found a few projects I was reminded of that need to be worked on.

#1) One of my "A-Team" operators Larry Keller had requested a crossover at Ottawa Silica for quick run around moves.  Approved!  Rail for turnout has been ordered and will be constructed.

#2) At the last session, we began experiencing issues with the turnouts at the A/D track at Ottawa Yard.  The turnouts installed currently are the highly suspect Micro Engineering turnouts.  If you look at them wrong, they will fall apart on you.  Rail has been ordered and replacements will be constructed. 

It has been a while but I will build these turnouts myself.  I plan on just taking my time with them and doing it right.

#3) Peru Power: I require another Walthers Northern Light and Power kit to complete the back walls of the Peru Power main structure. The remaining wall sections are not brick so I plan on using styrene for those.  Walthers kit ordered.

For now, I believe I have enough styrene to complete the back walls of LOF and most likely get a good jumpstart on the structures at Ottawa Silica.  I will hold off on ordering that now.

My main focus though will be working in the LOF (i.e. Project #1) area.  It shouldn't take much to complete the LOF factory building and additional building flat on the background.  I need to build some covered conveyors and piping between between the buildings as well.  I have a lot of scratchbuilding materials so I should have everything I need.

I need to paint my structures though.  I have a cheap airbrush that I picked up at Harbor Freight and a compressor from Home Depot but need a hands-on lesson.  One day, I will get up enough nerve to try it.

So, as far as recent acquisitions, I mentioned the Soo Line SD40-2 acquired the other day.  

Another project of custom painting a Kato E8 that had been in the works for over a year now had come to a stalemate.  Plan B has been activated now.  Here is the loco in primer paint ready to depart for Tucumcari tomorrow on freight train #01 for paint in the Rock Island Red/Yellow paint scheme.  This locomotive will become power for my Peoria Rocket.  It is estimated this power will return sometime next month.

While hanging around South Ottawa, I caught the RI crew testing the loco down 
by Ottawa Avenue this evening.

The RI crew was nice enough to stop at the crossing so I could videotape the Mars light on the unit.  

Here is the prototype of the paint scheme for the model that will become power for my 
Peoria Rocket.

After grabbing a bite to eat for dinner, I wandered over to Utica to hang out for a bit.  I caught a late #113 Joliet to Bureau Turn traveling east with a string of Hooker tank cars.  I hear they are being used at some of the chemical companies down south in Peoria.  The opportunity arose for me to acquire some of these cars earlier today.  Management hasn't made a final decision but thinks the cars will work great for the expanding Peoria based traffic.  

A late #113 Joliet to Bureau Junction Turn headed back east through Utica at the Mill Street crossing.

Ooh!  Look a CR&E coal hopper!  This as well as five others were decaled up by
my friend Marcus Neubacher.  Thanks Marcus!

The Hooker Tanks on loan currently until management can decide if they will be a good fit
for the Peoria chemical traffic.

I also snapped some photos of a few box cars as well.

As #113's caboose rolled by, I noticed Billie Joe (B.J.) McKay was loading up a truck load of clocks over at Westclox to deliver to distribution warehouses.  As a kid, I was a big fan of the show watching it with my dad.  I think it is pretty cool to have a replica of the truck now in N Scale.

The detail on this truck is amazing.

In other news, thanks to track diagrams provided by Harold Krewer, I learned I had the cars spotted in the wrong locations at Phialdelpha Quartz.  I spotted the sand hoppers on the far track closest to the mainline.  They are actually supposed to be unloaded on the #2 or middle track.  I had assumed dry chemicals were being loaded on the middle tracks from the Bing Map photos I had seen, but now realize those are large sand hoppers being unloaded.  It appears they received caustic soda on my #1 track (I number all tracks up from one closest to the aisle up), unloaded sand on track #2 and shipped liquid chemicals of some sort on my track #3.  I'm still unclear exactly what they produced there.  I need more tanks though!  Good thing a package of them arrived from Nebraska today.

Here is the Utica map.

Here is a photo of the cars aligned on the proper tracks now.

Those three sand hoppers on track #1 closest to the aisle are mis-spots.
I found those when moving when moving the cars around.  They should have went back 
to LaSalle at the last op session.

Tanks unloading caustic soda on Track #1.
Sand being unloaded on Track #2.

Tanks being as well as some PQ hoppers being loaded with finished chemicals on track #3.

The next crew will have to handle these mis-spotted cars.

That reminds me!  I need to create some new tabs to correct this snafu in car routing.  Add that to the To Do list my good friend.

Speaking of donuts, I was looking at Google Earth of Utica today.  Wow!  They have really built up the sand operations at Belrose Silica (now Unimin).  They added another loader and sizeable yard to the east of the existing loadout that I model back in Rock Island days.

The left circle represents what I model on the RI.  Belrose Silica is on top and PQ on the bottom. 
In the right circle is the new loadout and yard added.  Wow!  That's a lot of sand being moved!

In other personal news...
So, I was going to make a joke about me being wired up on this heart monitor today.  I'm about 30 hours into my 48 hour test.  So, far no shortness of breath attacks.  Go figure.  

Anywhoe, so, like I said, I was going to make a joke about my heart monitor as I feel like I'm wired up to pick up satellite tv with all these wires connected to me.  So, when staging up train #113, everything was working fine, then I noticed my throttle froze.  I unplugged and replugged in, but still frozen.  I reset the system.  When I did that, the throttles were still froze and now one of the Atlas Soo locomotives was running buck wild crazy at full speed.  What in the world?  I reset the NCE system a few more times, but still the same thing each time.  I took the locomotive off the layout and restarted.  The throttles were all responsive again and I could control my train.  What is with that locomotive?  It was one of the locomotives acting queer before too.  Two of them have done this.  One RI GP38-2 and one Soo GP38-2.  Both are made by Atlas.  I may have switched the chassis on these units, but I don't recall for sure.  I think I need to send these off to my friend Allen to check.  Something is shorting these locos and creating a failure on the layout.

I haven't worked on the layout in months and on the second day, mystery electrical shorts.  Lovely.