Thursday 30 November 2017

First Stages of Powering Main Level of Layout

Bus # 5 

Main Level of Layout where the helix at the top of the pic feeds elevated blue track to main level and receives trains exiting the main level to return to the staging yards. 

Bus # 5:  Power added to yellow part of track which includes the lower most located lane ( in the pic)  to the passenger terminal, part of the elevated track to the bridge at the lowest part of the pic, and a portion of the commercial freight yards.  

One transformer powers this isolated segment of track. 

Red dots: Insulation points
Black dots: Power...feeder wires to distribution strip
Dark Green Marks: Contact track to the S88 

Why one transformer to this area?  At least one rail bus will occupy the passenger lane, perhaps two. At least two working steam locos will be in this maintenance area, and then there will be transiting freight trains.  So given that power draw, one transformer was selected. 

Contact tracks will be added to both the entry and exit of each isolated "block". 

Recommendation:  check each block or section of track powered by a single transformer to make certain that the track insulators are working properly.  I always test the insulators to make certain that current does not "bleed" into the next block section.  I actually did find a "bleed" into another section of track. The insulators were placed properly...I I replaced them with another set...problem solved. 


Review of Contact Tracks:

"Business" end of contact track:  blue wire soldered to "O" terminal and insulator placed on that side.

 Adjacent C track with the insulator on the same side as the soldered contact to the S88
Used a Dremel to cut the "O" connection on each end of the C track contact track to isolate the outer rail.


Find the "short"....!!!

Ok, so now we have a short in the layout.  We have 5 transformers connected to the layout, each powering a segment of track, and several turn outs.  How to find the section of the layout to begin locating  the electrical short? 

IF the transformer plugs are numbered according to their powered bus sections, we can isolate the area in question.  Unplug all the transformers except those powering the CS's....I have a transformer for each CS ( not connected to track) .   

With the system booted up, plug in the Bus transformers one at a time till the layout shorts out with the last one plugged in.....then search that section for the culprit.  In my case I found that a feeder wire paddle had detached from the C track.  I soldered that feeder wire!!!  ( must have happened with taking apart track to add the contact track)  

On to the next section.........Auf Wiedersehen....

Thursday 9 November 2017

Computerization of Layout?

Hello from Los Osos, Calif.

Sorry for being incommunicado....visiting grandkids in California for a month, will return in the Thanksgiving time frame....then more progress on the layout and subsequent blog entries.

This separation from my layout has provided a fortuitous opportunity to "step back" and evaluate options regarding how to proceed with layout wiring and train control.

Fortunately I have been presented with distinct opportunities to speak at length ( email) with some august members of  ETE ( European Train Enthusiasts) who represent a vast reservoir of experience and passion for the hobby.

The Community remains an constant as well as interesting cache of information and experience...much to learn from this forum.


1) Proceed with the traditional approach:  wiring the layout with expensive Marklin signals,  CS block regulation,  programming the Central Station accordingly,  installing the 72442 Marklin braking modules ( or the VM equivalent), etc.

2) Computerize the layout and allow the more sophisticated software programs currently available to regulate the layout with the options of manual override.

Traditional Approach: 

1) Plethora of printed information created by the "Marklin Dudes" available in the Marklin Digital Newsletters.
2) Marklin Dudes represent and incredible source of advice and experience if one were to encounter difficulties.
3) Satisfaction of wiring the layout and all its intricacies! -- ( not completely convinced about that one!! )

1) Frustrations encountered with the learning curves and working out the "bugs" of wiring difficulties.
2) Time--and more time-- and effort to wire the layout.
3) Cost:  Marklin signals are expensive,( but beautiful and efficient, even more so than in the past. Would need lots of these signals.
4) Learning curves with programming the CS.
5) Potential problems with running trains bi-directionally....thru the signaled sections.

 Computerization of Layout:

1) More expeditious completion of the process to "wire" and achieve a functioning layout. (Then can spend more time on my favorite aspects of the hobby: Scenery!!! )
2) More control of train movement without the threat of "accidents"--especially counter-directional competing with "through" traffic.
3) More options for moving trains around the layout with less hassle.
4) Movement of trains bi-directionally without complicated contact track and signal programming-wiring  / CS programming.
5) Save $$$$ by buying signals which do not require the sophistication or control of Marklin signals. The less expensive signals have no regulatory control, only "eye candy" for the observer. The computer does all the work.
6) Some software programs have a steep learning curve...others...not so much.
7) Incredible number of UTube learning videos available for the "TrainController *TM) software.


1) Cost: Will have to buy a PC ( I am currently an "Apple guy") ...Costco a good resource, etc.
2) Cost: Will have to buy the TrainController *TM software, install and program. ( i.e. learning curve)

The cost of the PC and software just about offsets the cost of additional modules such as the 72442, Marklin signals--of which I will need many to make the layout appear as "ideal" as possible. ...see latest Marklin new mags.

So the bottom line:  save time and frustration crawling under the layout and wiring the "traditional approach" vs. computerization.

One of my ETE friends had already wired his layout in the traditional manner, and subsequently removed all that work and invested in computerization.  I believe he smiles a lot! I can't imagine tearing out all that wiring and those modules, but he did so.

Thought provoking, no?


Some pix taken before we left for Calif to visit the grandkids....below is a mockup of potential steam repair facility--yard ....not certain how to not have room for the equipment from last layout and that very detailed steam yard.

Modified the ascending ramps the the "old city " and cathedral area....looks better. Will need some water effects and bridges in there somewhere. Obviously will need to place the foam boards for proper elevation.

 Testing locations for city buildings and bridges.  Could be an interesting scene. ...tram? Possibly.

 More test locations of existing buildings...and control towers.

 Well, I'll sign off for now.  If anyone wishes to offer advice please PM me at

Thanks for reading....Hope your Thanksgiving and Christmas Seasons are joyful and blessed for you and your families.