Crossing Paths

Crossing Paths
Model Melbourne trams

Thursday, 27 December 2012

Settlement Day - The aftermarth.

Settlement Day,(1) a term used by bookmakers in the racing caper, on that occasion all balances were settled between each other, then the true account of the race day could be recorded, usually one or two days after the meeting.(2) a term used by me to describe the eventual outcome of Christmas Day, 'outlay versus return'.

The running of a blog spot is not only for my amusement and to share my efforts with like minded souls, it is also a great insight into your wishes, aims and outcomes that your significant other can mine for gift ideas, as I found out.

Armed with a smart phone, the bride with two kids in tow, secretly hit a premium model railway store in a Melbourne seaside suburb with a cunning plan.(however that the two kids under four managed not to either spill their guts or tear the shop apart, is the biggest mystery)

So instead of making do with the usual Christmas takings of card, plastic box top and other potential materials like, the tokenistic flashing LED Christmas crap found in some Christmas crackers(only marginally better than the paper hat and the bad joke). The family delivered a couple decoders (*6 light function!), some cars and other bits and pieces, in the end a great result.

So what is the future for these 6 light function decoders.......Here are a couple of ideas, trams with indicators....

even better now that I have plans.
and an early Z class.
(note the classic 70's colour!)
So, now I have a few projects that need attention this year, which will drag Victoria Street into the fashionable 70's.
From under the wires,

Friday, 14 December 2012

That time of the year again...

A bit more than a week out from Christmas, and how much of the past year has flown by. As part of the online tradition, here is this years Christmas Card.

Above all enjoy the season, tolerate your family and try not to spoil the kids. (Who know, Santa may slide a few more decoders into the stocking), so therefore keep safe, try not to eat anything bigger than your head and hangovers still do hurt.

From under the wires

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

The Pancake Parlor

As the DCC transformation of Victoria Street continues forward, the conversion of my fleet of W class trams powered by the cheap and cheerful Bachmann Brill trolley mechanisms has offered me some few and interesting moments. As these trams are powered by the rather retro 'pancake' motor as opposed to the more 'recent' can motor, there are a few things that need to be sorted out.

The power pick ups of the Bachmann Brill trolley assembly need to be isolated from the brush assembly for this DCC concept to gain traction, as the pancake motor is fed by contact prongs that touch either of the two halves of the motor bogie. (This unreliable method of electrical transfer has led to many a premature 'death' of a Bachmann Brill trolley).

My method of fitting DCC to these dinosaurs is to disassemble the pancake, remove/isolate the prongs and direct solder the orange/grey wires to the brush assembly, and connect the red/black wires in parallel to either side of the motor bogie and to the non driven bogie. It ain't pretty, but it works.

With the DCC conversion of the two Cooee Collectable RTR W class (964 & 812), the installation and programing of the decoders was easy, being can motors and smooth running at low speed; however the Bachmann Mechs (800 & 870) are completely different. Not only is the wiring unique, but all the phaffing around required when sorting through the CVs, for they can need a good kick in the arse to get going, then need a subtle touch on the throttle to stop them racing off at breakneck speed.

The other issue with installing decoders in the Bachmann Mech W class is the amount of real estate these units take up inside of the saloon, even more so when installing the lighting options as well. The W5 800 with its open three door drop centre section, per side, full of punters, really set the mind thinking of how to install a decoder, offer directional lighting and saloon lighting, all with one end of the car taken up by a pancake motor bogie...... (in the end, I think I may have nailed it.)

W5 800 (Bachmann Mech with NCE D13SRJ Decoder)
The underside of W5 800
So that's what I have been up to lately.
From under (amongst) the wires.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Computer games

Now I have finally crossed over to the DCC side, not happy with smooth running and multiple light functions, I pushed the boundaries even further, I hooked the laptop to the DCC using the NCE DCC usb interface, then to go that one step further again, I can now run the trams via wifi from my 'smartphone' all with the JMRI software and apps. I have achieved satisfaction.

The smartphone with JMRI controller.

 The NCE DCC usb interface.
(note the professional application of electrical tape)

The NCE DCC usb interface will be housed in a clear lidded zippy box so I can watch the LEDs light up as the computer and the Powercab chat to each other.

The ancient laptop which runs Windows XP with the JMRI software that allows 
myself to spend countless hours phaffing around with CVs.

Getting all this technology to work together required watching youtube vision, google searches, bad language and a few beers, best to be done when women and young children are not present.

*** SAFETY TIP*** 
When using your smartphone to run multiple trams be aware that incoming phone calls WILL result in losing control of your fleet as they will continue on with their last instruction, and you cannot stop the trams until you complete the call. 

From under the wires

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Little Details - The Video

Some video evidence of the lighting functions I installed on W5 812 using DCC, yes, it was a challenge but it does encourage me to eventually install similar features to the rest of the fleet.

So sit back and wonder at how OCD I'm getting with DCC.
From under the wires


Monday, 5 November 2012

My cup runneth over

As I started back in the model rail/tramway caper about four years ago after a long layoff from my mid teenage years. The time in between was taken up by the love of football and thoroughbred racing, (I was a really ordinary footballer and still not that great as a punter/owner either).

In that time I bought a house that is about a kilometre away from Flemington racecourse*, (the wife came later on), well this week is the spring racing carnival, last Saturday was Derby Day, tomorrow (Tuesday) is the time honoured Melbourne Cup(a public holiday), Thursday is Oaks (ladies) Day then the following Saturday is Stakes Day (cash permitting?).

As you can understand, it does get a little busy around here and as I have done for near the last twenty years, I take the week off work. This now gives me time on non racing days to 'run services' on Victoria Street, fit more DCC decoders and just be a Dad. (This explains why there is a racecourse on Victoria Street)

Best of both worlds.
Pretend races on the study shelf, real races on the laptop.
 DCC allows for tighter headway.

More mayhem outside the racecourse.
From under the wires and amongst the losing tote tickets,
Regards Glenn
*For those not from Australia, Flemington would be on par with Royal Ascot (UK), Churchill Downs in Kentucky (USA) or Longchamps (France)

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Little details

With the three trams fitted with DCC running exceptionally well, the thought of lighting comes to mind.
For some reason W5 812 is running a NCE D15SR decoder that has six function light outputs, (two extra outputs) I considered this not only a waste, but also a challenge.

So I lit up the multiple head/tail light assembly on the apron on each end of the tram.

812 indicating the turn from Victoria St into Epsom Rd.

Multiple head/tail light assemblies started making an appearance in the early 70's as part of a road safety push, the same time wearing seat belts became compulsory and driving after downing twenty beers in the pub also became frowned upon.

The layout of the lights on the trams is simple enough, three lights either side of the main head lamp, fitted to a fibre glass profile. The initial sequence from top to bottom was clear (front running), red (tail lamp) and clear again. Later when the Z,A and B classes were introduced, turn indicators and brake lights then became the norm, the W classes (which were being phased out except for the city circle line, #35 and #30 and #78/79) were retro fitted with turn indicators and brake lights within the existing light profile. The sequence from top to bottom is now clear (front running), amber (turn/hazard) and red (tail/brake).

It is the later profile that allowed me to use all the light functions of the decoder.

The LEDs that light the Multiple head/tail light are in the tram body and the light is transmitted through fibre optic threads to the apron, the LEDs and fire optic thread are attached using heatshink sleeving, the beauty of heatshink/fibre optic thread is that space is saved, and it allows easy connect/disconnect when untangling the inside of the tram.

 Some of the madness within.

964 with the original painted marker lights, 812 with hazard lights
on ready to negotiate the crossover.

The other end of 812.

Also, not to be outdone, 812 also has interior lights and cab lighting that also run off the decoder.
While not exactly true to the timeline of Victoria Street, The other trams with marker lights will run the original layout.

Yes, even my wife thinks that I am nuts.

From under the wires

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Dylan goes electric.

A bit like the post title, Victoria Street has crossed over, it now has added DCC!

I have finally accepted that for Victoria Street to improve operationally, it had free itself of the shackles of cumbersome (and extensive) block wiring.  While I could run scenarios to a fast clock, it lent itself to a repetitive rhythm of flicking switches and throttling a dubious DC controller and keeping an eye out for the section breaks in the trackwork.

So with a little birthday money and a little bit of online research, I have settled on the NCE powercab.

The new toy for the boy.

The first three candidates SW6 964, SW5 812 (both RTR versions) and X1 460.

"It's alive, mah ha ha ha ha!'
SW6 964 now fitted with DCC decoder (note light functions leads are shrinked wrapped until 
all that motor CV caper is figured out.....)

So with now these three trams running prototypical Melbourne like on Victoria Street, (nothing for ages, then three run Indian file trying not to rear-end each other). 

The decoder list now will have to blow out to suit another 4 W class cars, 3 other non standard MMTB trams(a U, an X, & Y class) , plus 2 blow ins from the bush (Ballarat 28 & Bendigo 29), not to mention my other exotics from Japan, Germany and the U.S.; therefore I will be up for a small fortune in decoders.$$$$$$.

Above all, I love the slow speed handling, and operational scope of this 'dark art'. (What the f*@& was I thinking with bog standard DC?)  

From under the wires, amongst the decoders and burnt by solder.


Saturday, 6 October 2012

Chinese whispers.

As part of the illumination and interior detail project, LEDs were retro fitted into the buildings at the Railway Station Module of Victoria Street, and as I do (quite often) then take photos of them and then post them to my Flickr account.
Well you could image my surprise, (and to my wife, much amusement) when a group on Flickr called Chinese Restaurant Worldwide Documentation Project invited this photo of the early evening in Victoria Street.
for a closer look
This group collect photos of Chinese restaurants that are not in China/Taiwan that sort of culture clash/mash themselves in their adopted environment.
The questions I ask myself is "Do they realise that this only a model?" and then "Who am I to question someones interest into something I think is somewhat obscure, for I do model and photograph trams" 
The world is a broad church, and things like this only adds to the rich texture of life.
From under the wires

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Night Moves

Since the exhibition, Victoria Street has sat on the shelf in the study undergoing a little bit of work, it required some mood lighting. Therefore a quick trip down the the road to the $2 shop (pound store) a set of cheap 100 LED Christmas light set was bought and stripped down.

Here are some of the preliminary photos of the work in progress.

The Railway Hotel Hotel after dark.
The Chinese Restaurant and Milk Bar.

 A quiet night in suburban Melbourne.
From under the wires



Saturday, 11 August 2012

A little more Sunshine

As I stated in the previous blog, there is never enough time to take decent photos at an exhibition when you are exhibiting. A fellow exhibitor has proved me incorrect, Adam from the Melton Model Railway Club who was exhibiting their Free-mo concept modular layout managed either to delegate minions to run their layout or abandoned it completely to take these photos.

because most of my photos somehow ended like this....

It's either time for a new camera or new glasses for the operator.

From under the wires

Monday, 6 August 2012

Two days of Sunshine

All is reasonably well after two solid days of running at the Annual Sunshine Model Railway Club exhibition, conducted at the Braybrook Secondary College Hall. As this venue is just a few kilometres (couple of miles) down the road from home, and this is the third time that Victoria Street has been exhibited there, it made for a rather welcoming and familiar event.

For the first time I could recall at Sunshine, Victoria Street was not the only model tramway exhibit in attendance, the crew from the broad church that is the Model Bus Association of Australia also had their layout 'The High Street' running a few trams together with an assortment of Faller powered buses and trucks.

This meeting of kindred folk allowed the free transfer of trams from one layout to another such as ....
Their A2 276 in The Met livery pauses at Railway Station

A2 276 on approach to the Racecourse terminus.

While Victoria Street was being dragged into the mid to late 80's, my trams such as SW6 870 and Restaurant Tran 939 were plying their trade in the very British surrounds of The High Street.

The other aspect of the exhibition was that I could reconfigure Victoria Street by setting the modules in a different sequence to that at home, so an entirely new 'feel' and operating system became Victoria Street for the weekend.

So from top to bottom for the weekend was, fiddle yard,
the bend, the railway station, the crossing square then the racecourse.
Therefore offered a different view of the street scape.

 Another angle of the railway station.

Now for the drama report, Bendigo Birney 29 decided to toast a motor, then an hour and half before finish on the Sunday an electrical gremlin made the racecourse terminus difficult to operate, so as per prototype, all trams were 'short shunted' at he Railway station before the gates, with 'bustitution' allowing punters to continue their journey to and from the racecourse.

Here is the link to the Sunshine/Braybrook thread on railpage, has some chatter plus some good members have uploaded photos of the exhibition, (because you never have enough time to take decent photos at an exhibition when exhibiting!)

So, All thanks to the Sunshine Model Railway Club and their hospitality, and thanks to all those who follow this blog and all its links to other sites such as Youtube, Flickr, Micro/small Layouts and Railpage who helped put faces to names, and offered encouragement and appreciation, plus those who maybe inspired to have a crack at modelling trams. Thanks again.

From under the wires,


Saturday, 28 July 2012

On the beach or on the road?

At the moment Victoria Street resembles the final scenes in the cinematic classic
 'On the Beach' (1959, MGM). A movie based on the book of Nevil Shute, a post apocalyptic drama set in Melbourne after a nuclear war (rather heavy themes, then again it was the cold war)
Victoria Street

Movie/DVD poster

Epsom Road

actual final scene from movie

No in reality, Victoria Street, is getting a good clean, and the trams a good shakedown before I drag the whole show down the road to Braybrook for the Sunshine model railway club exhibition next weekend (August 4th & 5th).

So all the punters and the road traffic are currently spending the next week inside zip lock bags as the fun process of dismantling the layout takes place.

From under the wires

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Whether to weather.

For quite a while the fleet on Victoria Street resembled the pristine operations of a museum, this did not truly reflect the cross suburban nature and theme of the layout.

In reality, trams get grubby, sooty carbon residue on the roof of car due to carbon insert trolley shoes, road grime on the trucks and bogies, some slight dilapidation in the appearance of cars heading towards the end of their running life.

Trams that seemed to be rostered on the very few cross suburban routes or running race/footy specials were like the small kid being picked last in sport teams. They are there to make up the numbers.

The next question, is how am I going to weather the trams, using an airbrush in the house would not go down well with domestic authorities, so therefore a water based, tidier solution would be needed.
Enter the use of watercolour paints, the bride has a vast collection of pallets and colours that could be experimented with. The other thing is if I go a little heavy handed with the medium, it could be washed off, the model, the bench and the new carpet if needed.

To alleviate the beading of the paint on an enamel painted or  plastic surface a dash of dish washing liquid was added to the solution to break down the surface tension.

SW6 964 working a football shuttle after some weathering.
(cigarette ads and yarra trams logo never actually co exist)

SW6 870 & W5 800 also show some neglect on the bogies and roof.

SEC Ballarat 28 shows its vintage
(This is a reworked Tyco/Mantua Trolley)

Overall I am quite happy with results, you could easily become slightly OCD with the concept and start weathering everything.

From under the wires

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Lights, Camera and even more distractions

Here is the video I was trying to create, using the small cab mounted video camera and the family camcorder, together with Windows Movie Maker.

The video features W5 800 travelling from the railway station to the racecourse and back again, the in cab footage was shot from Y 469.  Other trams include SW6 870, SW5 812 and SW6 964.

So sit back and enjoy three minutes that you may never get back again.

From under the wires, Glenn

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Service Improvments

The W class fleet has recently been expanded, after acquiring two, 'motorised' Cooee Collectable trams courtesy of a 'scatch and dent' sale, both cars were deemed inoperable therefore offered at nil reserve on ebay.

SW5 812 & SW6 964

After delivery the faults were as follows, 812's bogies were separated from the body, and after 10 minutes of refitting them, ran like a treat. 964 looked intact on initial inspection, but on removal of the shell, signs of 'well intended tinkering' proved that the wires had been disconnected from the motor, a quick heat of the soldering iron, and 5 minutes later, another success

I have always been interested in these RTR models, but bauked at the full retail price ($220+ AU) per unit. So I bought the static version of these models and motorised them with the cheep and cheerful mechanisms from Bachmann Brill Trolleys. This allowed to create the myriad of variations that exist within the class range from W5 though to W7, with center doors, weather blinds, multiple marker lights, saloon window configurations and paint schemes.

Here is the How to video...

The pair of SW5 812s, The RTR version at the rear with the wrong door,incorrect windows
and the 'filled with brown' to the window sill line. The Bachmann powered
unit highlighting the clear drop center section of the tram.

The pair of SW6s, with the similar issues as the SW5s.

 The inner workings of the RTR version.

The inner workings of the Bachmann powered version which
allows the drop centre section to be filled with punters.
W5 800

The RTR trams weigh in at 265grams (9.3oz) compared with the light weight Bachmann units of 187grams (6.5oz), also the RTR are fitted with directional and saloon lighting as bright as burning magnesium that would render any travelling punter as blind as a welder's dog, this will addressed in time. The RTR trams also negotiate both the crossing square and the bend on Victoria Street with ease.

W5 795 at Bylands

As for the future of the new cars, RTR 812 will become W5 795, and its mechanism will be swapped with my Restaurant Tram 939 ( as it has no window glass in the lower door), as for RTR 964 the doors out 812 will be installed and austerity retro painted and decaled with MMTB monograms and non pc (cigarette) advertising.

The roll call
W5 800, SW6 964, SW6 870, my SW5 812 & RTR SW5 812.

From under the wires, Glenn.

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Lights, camera and distractions

Sometimes we wish to view our layouts from a different angle, and then curiosity gets the better of us.

    -What if.........I could get a cab view.?
    -How could I fit a video camera ?

Well for a bit of fun I obtained a small digital video camera from an electronics retailer, and for $50, (I have dropped more on a Saturday afternoon at Flemington races and have ended up with a lot to less to show for it.) therefore I would give it a go.

So this is Part 1 of the process.

The camera specifications are:
   - 640 x 480 res at 30 frames per second (not HD)
   - 4 GB flash memory
   - USB interface/recharge
   - 82mm long , 22mm diameter
   - 30 gram weight

The crude proof of concept prototype.
parked outside the Railway Hotel looking a lot like a North Korean missile launcher.
(camera mounted on Bachmann Brill chassis with Blu tack, real classy)

Which showed some promise, as long there was enough natural light, as it failed to provide a decent picture in the evening run.

 Then I thought it needs to run in a actual model, enter Part 2 of this caper, the candidate.

As my MMTB Y class (Y 469) is actually built form a reworked Bachmann Brill trolley and chassis, that the Y class were the only MMTB cars built to the Peter Witt style meant there were no bulkheads between the cabs and the saloon, unlike my stable of W class cars.

The shell of MMTB Y469 with camera mounted and in the process of being 
charged by the USB lead from the computer. (note the window glass has been removed to facilitate
the access to the camera control buttons.)

Y 469 giving to railway station crossover the big eye.
(The leading trolley pole has been removed to utilize the hole to mount the camera
with a M4 screw and nut.)

Now for the fun part, the camera works like a treat stuck on a bogie with Blu tack, but fails to to offer a decent picture when mounted in the Y class. Go figure!
The promising unedited video complete with flaws, stalls and the big hand.
(note to self, clean wheels before running a tram that has not run in 12 months)

More to come, from under the wires,  Glenn