Sunday, April 30, 2023

Layout Electrical Wars—Battle Lost

One of my longer-term goals has been the replacement of the toggle switch control of turnouts on yard panels.  The first step in this process was commissioning a local model RR electronics expert to design control boards that will permit pushbutton control of track routing.  He delivered the first set of these boards for the Crescent Lake panel in the year before the world shut down.  It always seemed I had “higher priorities” elsewhere on the layout, but I finally found a window of opportunity this winter and spring to assemble the new panel.  


From my perspective, this project involved laying out a new panel, installing pushbuttons and LED indicators, wiring up those items on the panel to the control boards and then installing the panel into its layout location with connections to the switch machines.  Although I dragged my feet throughout the process, I finally accomplished the panel front layout, hardware installation and panel back-side wiring.


New Crescent Lake control panel backside.  Two control boards are needed to control the switch ladders at either end of the Crescent Lake reverse loop staging yard.


New Crescent Lake panel with the beginning of switch motor connections.  Groups of connecting wires will be bundled with wire ties eventually.


As I began making switch machine connections, I wanted to power up the panel and try the several routes initially wired.  This would guide further connections.  Which polarity should the switch motors use as the standard connection?  When I powered up the panel, the LEDs on the control boards lit and a route on the inbound switch ladder would light the appropriate route indicator LED.  Unfortunately, the same could not be said of the outbound side of the switch ladders.  The outbound LEDs would blip once and extinguish.  Stalemate.  I needed to consult with the circuit designer.


New Crescent Lake control panel with the route for inbound track 2 selected (upper right).


Unfortunately, I ran out of time.  I need a functional control panel this week as I prepare for an operating session at the end of the week.  I will freeze any further work on such critical layout infrastructure throughout May as I prepare to host operating sessions for outside-the-area visitors coming in for our 2023 edition of Western Oregon OPerationS (WOOPS 2023). 


Fortunately, my on-panel and layout documentation was good, so it was relatively easy to re-install the old toggle switch panel.  That will have to remain in service for WOOPS.  Somehow, the “binary logic” of toggle switches controlling a switch ladder evades some operators, so I must resign myself to dealing with inevitable shorts at mis-set switches and a few potential derailments.  That is what I hoped to achieve with the new route-controlled panel.


Toggle switch to switch machine wiring on the inside of the old Crescent Lake panel.  This has been restored to service.


Sigh.  Count this as one battle lost in the on-going layout electrical war.  The battle for a new panel for WOOPS was lost, but the summer break should give me time to get with my model RR electronics expert to try to sort this one out.