Wednesday, August 16, 2017

My Sound Decoder Function Standard

For a number of years I have been thinking through the problem of some sort of standard for function assignments on sound decoders. As we know each decoder manufacturer has decided to use their own 'standard' to suit their particular decoders. I have found this somewhat annoying so hence my 'thinking'.

I have a number of brands of sound decoders and these have varying capabilities. I can't afford to change out the older decoders for the latest types so I have to work with what I have.

I have first generation Soundtraxx Tsunami, latest Soundtraxx Tsunami 2, first generation QSI, QSI Titan and ESU Loksound 4 in steam only.

The early Tsunami has the functions in groups that is not every sound or lighting can be applied to any function you may want. This is somewhat restrictive compared with the later Tsunami 2 which can have any sound or lighting set up for any function number.

The QSI and ESU sound decoders also allow a lot of flexibility in aligning sounds and lighting with function numbers.

Working within the constraints imposed by the first generation Tsunamis of which I have quite a few I have now come to what I think is a reasonable set of function assignments or at least ones that suit me and the way I want to operate.

I am not one who wants to 'play a musical instrument' with a lot of button pressing and I am quite happy to allow the decoder to sound those random sounds such as injectors, blowers, shoveling, etc. Manual notching for diesels is also something I don't like as you can easily drive a train at notch one up and down grades with a full train load, not very prototypical.

I would have to say that I really like the Tsunami 2 with auto notching as it reads the BEMF and responds to the load on the loco. If you start a light loco it and use the throttle to notch up to say notch two or three it will do so but then once moving it will drop back and quieten right down. Similarly if it has a train load behind it it will notch up louder and then drop back as it gets the load rolling, very nice.

I also have a steam Tsunami 2 in a NSWGR C35 Bergs brass model and it also responds in a similar manner, chuffing loudly to get the train moving and then dropping back and chuffing lightly or even drifting once the train is rolling.

I believe that the TCS WOW sound decoders also work this way but I don't have one, this is the only reason it isn't included in the tables of function assignments.

I also want to work towards having working marker lights which will be a long process of course as some of the earlier models didn't have them and some decoders do not have enough lighting outputs either.

I have drawn up a diesel and a steam table for my new 'standard' and I have begun to re-program my loco fleet.

I have an NCE DCC system with the standard larger cabs. These cabs have 12 available function buttons  but F10, F11 and F12 require the use of a Shift key to access. Functions 0 - 9 are all single press (Function 0 is the headlight). Also of the basic eight functions only six show on the LCD display.

I realise that not everyone will like or agree with my choices but they are of course just my preferences.

Here is a table showing the function assignments for a diesel.

And here is the table for steam.

Please be aware that I model late 1965 and as such the diesel function assignments do not include ditch lights, etc. of modern locomotives.

Most sound decoders only have 4 outputs, some do have 6 and there is one that has 10 and these have been listed on the PDF tables.

For those who are interested there is also a decoder that has 12 outputs and it is one of the Zimo sound decoders.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Stock Train of Sheep for Agistment

A couple of weeks ago I was browsing in a camera shop looking at a top line DJI Phantom 4 drone and of course was approached by a sales assistant. We were discussing the drone when I noticed some tripods and asked if there were any that had a smooth head for panning with a video camera. Of course there was, so I am now the owner of a Manfrotto 290xtra tripod, only $199. It has a very smooth fluid head but has no level indicator so you must be careful how you set it for a long pan, I will get a small bubble level or use the App on my phone.

A week later in JB HiFi I saw a Manfrotto mount for mobile phones for $19.95 so home that came as well.

I now give you a video made with my Samsung Galaxy S7 phone of a stock train climbing towards Wollar loaded with sheep for agistment. Now theoretically loaded stock trains on the layout should be heading downhill towards the cities or the abattoir at Bylong but this one is going the other way.

As my layout time period is set in late 1965 (an earlier proposed mid 1950s alternative not withstanding) I have been told that my back scenes are too green as there was a drought in 1965, of well I am not repainting them. Anyway, the only way for a stock train to be climbing towards Wollar is if the sheep were being moved to better pastures.


I did try my video camera but I wasn't happy with the result, more experimenting needed or a new video camera. I had to remove a bit of noise from the video in my video editing program but I think the result shows promise. I have to work out how to control the auto focus a bit better, camera placement really, note the focus on the water column at Wollar.

Incidentally, I like the idea of playing around with a drone with a high resolution camera but I really can't think of a reasonable reason to get one, that is what to use it for. I suppose shooting video of whales passing on the coast would be pretty cool but it wouldn't do to lose it in the ocean. I saw a video on YouTube of one that was doing something similar when it got confused or the owner lost control because the sun got in his eyes and it ended up in the sea with its camera still running, luckily someone with a boat rescued it for the owner.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

A Holiday Observation and Other Things

Well, the sheep finally got tired of watching the trains go by and decided to have some lunch.

Train watching
Time for lunch
On our recent caravaning holiday to South Australia, it became obvious as we saw paddock after paddock, that 99% or more of the sheep were busy head down, grazing and I realised that I had to do something about it.

Once back home I fired up the computer and turned to my latest favourite modelling tool (as if you haven't noticed). I spent some time 'converting' a standing, head up sheep to a grazing one. It is just lucky that the sheep couldn't feel anything as I cut its head and neck off at the shoulders and swung it downwards. That was the easy part, I then had to fill in the gap caused and some hours later it was done.

Once the trial print sprue of 64 White Strong and Flexible sheep arrived from Shapeways I sprayed them with my dirty sheep colour, Tamiya XF57 Buff. This was followed up with Model Master Skin Tone - Tint Base for the face and the lower legs (below the knees as the wool doesn't grow there). At this stage I snipped the sheep from the sprue so that I could more easily paint their rear end with Model master Dark Tan (either observe or think about it). Now both Model Master paints were thinned with some acrylic solvent so that the colour would not be so strong and would flow and blend with the base colour. I make my acrylic solvent with about 70% methylated spirits and 30% window cleaner.

While the last two colours can be seen with the naked eye they haven't shown up in the above photo so perhaps I was being a little too subtle.

Anyway I am very happy with them and have ordered another sprue of 64 grazing sheep and they are now available from my Shapeways Signals Branch shop.

What about the heads up sheep? Well they will be going into the stock race yards when I build them as there is nothing to eat in the yards.

More Brass Signals

Since my last news about the brass signals I have been busy and now have 15 brass signals on my shop along with the appropriate White Strong and Flexible bases that the signals plug into.

I have listed them them here but please go to my shop to see them.

  • 16 ft post signal with 1 Siding Arm and other detail parts

  • 18 ft post signal with 1 30 inch Arm and other detail parts

  • 18 ft post signal with 1 30 inch Arm + 1 Siding Arm and other detail parts

  • 23 ft post signal with 1 36 inch Arm and other detail parts

  • 23 ft post signal with 2 Siding Arms and other detail parts

  • 23 ft post signal with 3 Siding Arms and other detail parts

  • 27 ft post signal with 1 39 inch Arm and other detail parts

  • 27 ft post Distant signal with 1 Distant Arm and other detail parts 

  • 27 ft post Home and Distant signal with 1 Home and 1 Distant Arm and other detail parts

  • Left Hand Offset Bracket  signal with 1 36 inch Arm and other detail parts

  • Right Hand Offset Bracket  signal with 1 36 inch Arm and other detail parts

  • Left Hand Bracket  signal with 1 39 inch + 1 30 inch Arm and other detail parts

  • Right Hand Bracket  signal with 1 39 inch + 1 30 inch Arm and other detail parts

  • Inverted or Underslung Bracket  signal with 1 39 inch Arm and other detail parts

  • Scarborough Siding Bracket signal - no Siding arms.

  • Sprue or 4 Siding arms, 2 Calling On arms, 2 Shunt Ahead Arms and 2 Wrong Road Arms.

I have just ordered an Inverted Bracket in Brass for my layout as the train drivers will have a sighting problem under a road bridge at Cox's Gap if a normal starter signal is used. I also wanted to get an order in before this GST change started for online overseas orders on 1 July 2017. I don't know how Shapeways will handle this although they do apply VAT on British orders.

If ordering the bracket signals then be careful as the view that the Shapeways system has put up is from the rear so the left bracket looks like a right and vice versa. Read and go by the model name. I have tried to change this but all I can do is change the orientation of the view that you get on the next web page once you have clicked on it.

As may have been noticed, there is one 'odd ball' signal among the fifteen and that is a bracket signal that was in the sidings at Scarborough on the Illawarra line. This signal was done for a friend and has been made available on the 1 in 1000 chance that someone else would want/need it. The bracket is unusual as it has two dolly posts and no main post above the landing, one dolly post is in the usual position on the outer end of the landing and the other is in the middle of the landing, very strange.

I will be doing the small brackets that held the small centrally pivoted siding signals that were attached below the main signals and these will be in brass. There seems to have been three variations of the brackets, an early McKenzie and Holland somersault type, a cast iron one of the Byles type and a fabricated one. I will do all three and probably put multiples of brackets and arms of each type on a sprue of each type. These will be done with a peg that will allow them to be mounted on White Strong and Flexible (WSF), Frosted Ultra Detail (FUD) and Brass signal posts by drilling a hole in the post where required and glueing or soldering them in place. These will be operational but the operating rod will be bent in a 'Z' shape as there is no way that the actual mechanism could be workable, too small. If you aren't sure what I mean by a Z shape then turn it on its side (sort of).

Of course I still have to draw up some more steel post signals including bracket signals, does it never end?

It is lucky that I enjoy the creative process as another form of modelling.

Oh, yes, here is something I did for a friend, a funnel for a H Class 17 Class Post 1924 re-classification). Something else that will have only limited appeal.

I have made it available in Frosted Ultra Detail, Frosted Extreme Detail and Raw Brass, I suggest that the brass version although more expensive will be the one to go for as the top of the early funnels were polished brass.

Ok, that's all for now.





Monday, June 12, 2017

Signals Branch Pricing Update

Well, after waiting for a couple of weeks on tenterhooks it seems that about 95% of my signals and other items on my Signals Branch Shapeways shop are cheaper!

We were away on holidays in our caravan when the pricing was updated by Shapeways (see previous post) so I wasn't able to have a really close look until we returned. I spent all last week going through things item by item and re-drawing several to reduce the price.

Several items went up but even those mostly weren't too bad. The largest price hike was US$30 for the set of 18 Werris Creek Station Awning Posts and Brackets in Frosted Ultra Detail. The pricing change as outlined last post related to Shapeways pricing in the waxy support material used in the FUD printing process to support any cantilevered parts. Of course the posts with brackets look like palm trees so a lot of support material would be used from the printer base upwards to the brackets, etc.

The answer was to turn them upside down and remove the supporting sprues on the bases of the posts, unfortunately, while the price dropped it was still too expensive. Strangely by doing the same to the set of 6 posts and brackets that are also available they worked out very well and as a result I have removed the set of 18 from sale as 3 lots of 6 works out only about US$5 more than the original price of the set of 18.

I hope all that makes sense and I give this information here to show some of the re-adjusting caused by the re-pricing. Incidentally, I had actually sold two lots of the 18 posts and brackets prior to the re-pricing which was nice as I wasn't sure if the Werris Creek bits would hold too much interest.

Also re-priced was the Precious Metals of which Raw Brass is a part. I was quite worried by this and had calculated that the two brass signals I had just added to the shop would go up by AU$7 - AU$8.

It seems however that I got the calculation wrong as the signals have dropped.

On the Signals Branch shop the 23' timber post signal and details bits was US$49.95 and is now US$44.50 while the 23' steel round post signal and parts was US$45.95 and is now US$39.95.

At the current exchange rate the two signals with the White Strong and Flexible (WSF) base mechanisms and FUD ladders work out at AU$79.50 for the 23' timber signal and AU$73.40 for the 23' steel signal (less brass).

There is always a 'fly in the ointment' though'.

Although not on the shop as yet, the Werris Creek platform starter bracket signal Raw Brass printing price went up by US$11.00!

If I can, some careful design investigation to try to keep the price down will be required for the other steel bracket signals.

The brass C32 tall 1907 sand boxes went down in price by US$4.95.

The brass counterweight levers and bracket signal bell cranks also dropped.

I have to stop here as there are too many to list, so go and have a look at the new prices.

Of course I have stated the US$ prices here mostly as the designers only get to work in US$ and the AU$ price varies with the conversion rate.

Incidentally, Shapeways only adjust the conversion rate once a month but I don't know when.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Brass Signal Update

I have almost finished the brass 23 foot lower quadrant timber post and 23 foot lower quadrant steel post signals, only requiring the 'glass' spectacles to be added with Krystal Klear and Tamiya clear tinted paints. If ordering these brass signals a White Strong and Flexible (WSF) base mechanism and a ladder need to be ordered to complete them. The platform safety rails are to be made from 0.015 inch phosphor bronze or brass wire.

Current total prices including the extra parts are about AU$80 for the timber post signal and AU$74 for the steel post signal. Prices of taller, shorter and bracket signals will vary due to the amount of brass involved. These two signals are currently available from my Shapeways Signals Branch shop.

While writing this post I received two emails from Shapeways announcing pricing changes for Frosted Ultra Detail and Raw Brass 3D printing. The changes come into being on 22 May for the Raw Brass and 25 May for the FUD. Apparently smaller brass items will go down in price and larger will go up, of course signals are large!

Of course any FUD items on my shop will change in price as well, which way up or down, I don't know at the moment, the FUD formula is difficult as it involves a calculation on the amount of support material used for each different item and some other factors. I will be informed of the actual price changes for my items on 22 May 2017 for Raw Brass and 25 May 2017 for FUD. Apparently Shapeways will adjust the prices automatically and then I will have to review and adjust prices accordingly,

I have used the supplied formula to calculate the new Raw Brass prices and they are:

23 ft LQ Timber Post Signal - Approx. AU$87
23 ft LQ Steel Post Signal - Approx. AU$80

Be aware that the prices on the shop are in US dollars.

So if you want to save a bit of money then buy the brass signals now before 22 May 2017.

Annoying!

Werris Creek UP Platforms Bracket Starter Signal

Also just needing the 'glass' added is the Werris Creek UP platforms bracket starter signal, this one was a real challenge! I had previously had it printed in Frosted Ultra Detail (FUD) acrylic material but I felt that it could easily have been broken by a clumsy arm reaching across the layout. The problem was that the upper bracket area is supported on the thinnest part of the tapering post. I then had to re-draw it for brass as the minimum design limits are slightly finer for the FUD material.

This pilot model of a steel bracket signal has the detail parts and signal arms on the dolly posts done in FUD with the posts being 1 mm Albion Alloys brass tubing, 1 mm rod would work equally well. I will be looking at how to print the two dolly posts in brass but the advantage of using the FUD parts and the tubing or rod is that you can decide what those dolly posts are like. Further thought required.

Given the just announced pricing changes from Shapeways, I have not been able to calculate an approximate price as yet because the FUD formula is difficult. The likely price before these changes using the FUD parts but not including the brass rod/tubing was going to be about AU$112.

If you are going to the Modelling the Railways of NSW Convention at Loftus this coming Saturday 20 May 2017 you can see these signals and others as I will be doing a clinic on building my signals.

Anyway, here are the signals, price changes aside I am very happy with them.

23 ft Lower Quadrant Timber Post Signal - Brass

23 ft Lower Quadrant Steel Post Signal - Brass

Werris Creek UP Platforms Bracket Signal - Brass




Sunday, April 30, 2017

Brass Signal Assembly Instructions

I have put a link on my Signals Branch blog for the assembly instructions for the new range of brass NSWGR signals.

The instructions can be found in the Links section on the right hand side of the web page and here.


Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Latest Effort - Werris Creek Platform Starter Bracket Signal

In line with my recent work on brass signals (last post) I have redesigned the Werris Creek platform starter bracket signal and had it printed in brass. This 3D printed signal was received a couple of weeks ago, prior to my last post.

Here are a few photos of the model as it stands today.




I have painted one signal dolly post for the photos in this blog post but I will be stripping the paint off and spraying the whole signal with some self etch black which will prime the brass and be suitable for the black parts. Of course painting white over the black will be interesting as it will have to be done by brush, carefully.

The prototype signal does not have bellcranks to transmit the signal box lever movement via wire to the signal arm and uses wheels instead. I designed the signal to have working wheels (drilled with holes to be a bellcrank) to get the operating rods up to the signal arms however they are just too small and fiddly to fit. In future the wheels will be cast in place (non-turning) and the operating rods will be bent to run behind the wheels.

To get the operating rod movement I used one piece of 0.015: phosphor bronze wire from the below baseboard mechanism to the counterweight lever. I bent it to replicate the operating wire of the real signal and threaded it through the wheel brackets behind the wheels. Check the photos to see what I mean. A loop of 0.010" wire was bent into a U shape and soldered to the post to retain the two operating rods and minimise flexing of the wire.

The brass post is glued to a boss on the top of the White Strong and Flexible, the square base of the post being hollow.

The two round steel dolly posts are 1mm diameter brass tube from Albion Alloys which can be purchased from Hobbyco, Bergs Hobbies, Brunel Hobbies and Frontline Hobbies. The detail parts on the dolly posts are Frosted Ultra Detail parts that slide onto the posts. The dolly posts fit into holes printed in the signal that need to be cleaned out with a 1mm drill.

Some holes need to be drilled with a 0.4mm drill, some cast OK and some don't. A supply of 0.4mm drills would be useful as I find that some drill well and others don't. I think it is how well the point has been ground.

The drills can be found on ebay or a pack of 10 drills can be had for $10 from McJing Tools in Yagoona NSW.

I will be investigating how to do these dolly posts with details attached in printed brass. I have to keep the height below the 100mm maximum build box of the 3D printer, so some more 'hidden' sprues.

This signal is a trial for the steel post bracket signals to go with the round steel post signal now available on my Signals Branch Shop.

Once this signal is done I will return to the Werris Creek station building, at last - again!

If anyone is interested in how my signals go together I will be having a clinic at the Modelling the Railways of NSW Convention at Loftus on 20 May 2017.