Maine Central, Lamoille Valley

Maine Central, Lamoille Valley
Click image to link to my web site,

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Wiring work on the Modules

Having just completed a long weekend of Free-mo, I wanted to take care of a few things on my modules while it is still fresh in my mind. I don't have a plan yet for the next Free-mo event, but I want to make sure a few issues and upgrades are taken care of before that occurs.

I have clamped plastic throttle holders to my module to make a place for them to reside without adding a permanent projection from the side fascia, which is something to avoid on modules as much as possible. This would be easily damaged in transit or set up. I noticed Bill Grosse had taken the idea a step further on his modules and mounted his plastic holders to a thin piece of wood which is then clamped on to the module. This is a good idea and makes for a sturdier mount of the throttle holder. I decided to upgrade my pair to match what Bill has done, also painting them in the standard NJ Free-mo fascia color.

The throttle holder "block" can now be firmly clamped to the side of the module.
I have 2 clamp-on extensions for my module, one that serves as the shortline interchange off of the yard, and a one that can be used off of the mainline when no module is connected past mine. This allows a locomotive set, or loco and car to use the run around of the passing siding. While these were painted to match the fascia, the roadbed remained gray homasote. I decided to give these a spray from my favorite track color, Rustoleum Camouflage Brown, a great very flat railroad color. I'll also spray the track and rerailers. This will help them stand out a little less.

The Homabed is now darker to match the track placed on there after clamping to the module.
Free-mo as a national group recently decided to modify the standards for the wiring, converting from RJ connectors and trailer plug connectors to Anderson Power Poles, and also adding a DCC common bus line. I have had dual RJ and PP connectors for a few years, but decided this would be a good time to remove the older connectors and have just Power Pole, along with adding the DCC common and converting the accessory bus from trailer plugs.

The module is clamped onto the table top above my pool table in the "non-model railroad" portion of the basement.
 A great thing about the modules is being able to move them, turn them on their side, etc., when work needs to be done, as shown above. Here you can see my main bus, the loconet cable, the terminal strips at the ends, and one of the non-manual turnouts controlled by a Tortoise and a DCC/pushbutton control module developed by a New England Free-mo member.

Accesory Bus, DCC/Track power bus , and the DCC Common bus with their Power Pole connectors
You may be wondering about the wire colors (a lot of red there) and the Power Pole Connector colors shown. No standards exist for wire colors or Power Pole Connector colors. This may seem odd, but it becomes apparent that it is unfeasible once you take into account that a module left and right will change when you get to the other end. A black wire to the left rail will become a black wire to the right rail on the other end when you are facing the end. So I am using different colors where possible within my module to assist me, but in reality once wiring is done and working, you never need to mess with it on a module.

I am still working on this and also plan 2 other changes. First, I picked up some Cobalt intelligent turnout controllers in Springfield and I want to test it out on one of the module turnouts to see if it will allow me to convert it back from the ground throws. Although the ground throws continue to work, they are subject to damage from moving the modules, and also detract from taking realistic photos on the module. I need to make sure I can control the Cobalt from push buttons mounted on both sides of the module.

The other change I want to make is to isolate my module trackage from the DCC bus and include a circuit breaker. This way if a short circuit occurs (usually from running a turnout), I will not take out the whole DCC block and stop everyone else from running. This is the same as what you want to accomplish on a layout with separate power districts. Having 10 turnouts on my module usually means someone (like me) will forget to throw a turnout now and again, especially when they are switching and a someone starts to talk during a show. I'll be running a separate bus for the DCC, and tap into it for powering the circuit breaker. My existing track bus will be connected only to the circuit breaker, and I'll insulate the track ends to isolate my module trackage. So 2 more Power Pole Connectors on the intra-module joints only. More on this as work progresses.

Meanwhile work continues on the Crawford Notch station. I'll post about that soon, plus a few other small projects. And hopefully I'll have an Operating Session to report on in late March.

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Springfield Wrap Up

A great weekend up at the Springfield show. The weather was much warmer than any time I have been there before. I needed to buy a D&H T-shirt to wear Sunday as it was so warm in the building. The crowds were pretty good and I talked to a number of new and also familiar folks about Free-mo and model railroading.

I posted pictures I took of the Free-mo layout up on Flickr. Go to the link below to see them all (76).

Woodstown Jct. setup and ready to receive visitors - people and trains!
Saw some cool stuff at the show, picked up a few things of course, but mainly enjoyed operating on the Free-mo layout and talking to people. I know I probably missed a few of you who visited however. We ran operating sessions both days, and it was quite a run I had on Sunday when I went from Italy Yard down the branch to Woodstown, about 200 feet. I switched towns along the way and decided to terminate in Woodstown rather than head back as it took me an hour to do that part of the run. Very cool!

It was great having so many new people join with modules. Others from NJ and a new group out of Albany, plus a fantastic Bridge module from Ontario joined in this year making for a spectacular layout. The show director was quite pleased with the layout and people's reaction to it, and we have the same space available again next year. James Koretsky of NE Free-mo did a great job with the plan, which fit the space perfectly. And Fred Hessler and Bob Hall, also of NE Free-mo did a great job coordinating an operating plan that offered plenty of trains to run and industries to switch.

My friend Anton assisted with my modules and also brought some of his road power to run. Some of his nicely weathered Canadian units were operated Sunday with a good deal of natural sunlight coming through a  roof sky light making for some great photo opportunities.

My GRS GP40-2W (ex-CN) and Anton's CN GP40-2Wget some sunlight on the bridge at Woodstown Jct.

We did experience some issues with short circuits within our power district. This brought to mind my desire to isolate my module from the bus and install a circuit breaker. This way if I am the one causing a short I won't impact others in the power district. So while the modules are out and it is on my mind I will spend a little time working on that, along with getting the rest of the Power Pole changeover done to match the revised Free-mo specs.

So sorry if I did miss any of you looking for me, but glad to meet and say hi to those that read the blog and were at the show.

If anyone has any specific questions, post a comment here and I'll respond.

Who needs a Pepsi?