Saturday, October 15, 2011

Third Ops Session at the Welztalbahn

Today marked the first time the Welztalbahn saw an operating session with 3 operators. Although, ... it almost didn't happen.

I prepped for the session early this week, wrote a short description of the layout, its "history", and setting. I created scheduled trains. I did some (minor) staging. All that was left to do this morning was cleaning track in staging, and testing one or two trains that changed, and/or were known to be a balky. I also had set up a Chromebook with a connection to JMRI's mini-web server and planned to operate the turnouts in Staging from that. 45 mins of prep on the layout and plenty of time to get other chores done around the house as well. When I threw one turnout, hell broke loose...

LocoNet went nuts. One of the semaphore signals was being set to red over and over again, two turnouts did the same thing. I cut power to the stationary decoders. ... Deep breath. ... turn power back on, and it all continued. Power-cycle everything, and it still continued. Further debugging showed it came from JMRI Logix, but that didn't seem to make that much sense either. There's nothing in the Logix doing this. After ripping a lot more hair out, fruitless debugging, and contemplating to cancel the ops session, I realized this all started with when I threw a switch in staging which I haven't done since I added semaphores ... could it be ... 4x DS64, 2x SRC16 ... that they draw just too much power on the 12V DC bus? ... Indeed! That bus is powered by a wallbrick rated for 1A, and when the system comes live, there are short spikes of up to 1.5A, multiple DS64 charging their capacitors. Overloading the wallbrick can cause all kinds of funky problems.

Robert brought along a DC powerpack, things worked well with that, and the session could start. I took the mole job running staging, while Balazs manned Emsingen, and Robert took Talheim. We ran a total of 19 trains (out of 20 planned; BR50 didn't want to cooperate for the last Dg run). Aside from the BR50 issue, there where no mechanical problems, and no derailments! The session ran for abot 2.5 hours at a leisurely pace that left time for chatting on the side.

The operator positions are based on location.

Running Emsingen is mostly a switching job, sorting cars in the yard, switching the sidings in Emsingen, and swapping cars from the local freights. This position also includes running the Emsingen tower.

The Talheim position gets to run most passenger trains and freights on the visible portion of the layout, as well as operate the interlocking tower in Talheim. The interlocking can get a bit busy at times. For balance, towards the end of the session this position switches Talheim industries, while the Emsingen operator gets to run some trains.

The mole job is responsible for positioning trains at the staging exit for the operators to pick up, and storing trains arriving from the visible portion of the layout in staging. This position keeps track of the schedule and occasionally runs trains when the schedule asks for a passenger train meet in Emsingen.

Suggestions for improvement:

  • Better indication of direction. For both stations it's unclear which direction is North or South.
  • Prepare instructions for the individual trains that explain the required moves. Especially expectations about direction, station stops, and meets.
  • Better instructions for how to operate the interlocking panel.
  • Control all switches from the panel.
  • Explain color codes of trains and waybills somewhere.
  • Make sure to have English labeling for everything.
The sequence schedule I cobbled together worked surprisingly well. I'll have a separate post about that.

Overall, this session was a much bigger success than the last time, and everyone had a good time. 

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