CMRCI currently has four operational HO scale layouts:
“Baldwin Park” – a static layout,
“McEvoy Junction” – an exhibition layout,
“Charlestown” – a children’s U-drive layout used for exhibitions and displays, and
“Hy-Brid” – a US Style shelf layout.
In addition we have “The Zig-Zag” – which belongs to a member, but permanently housed in our clubroom.
Baldwin Park – the CMRCI static layout
The primary reason for building the layout was to give members who do not have a layout or test track at home somewhere to run trains, test locos and rolling stock, etc. It is also useful to enable members to learn new skills; such as track laying, electronics and scenery.
The under frames are constructed of welded 25mm steel tube, which supports an overlaying plywood base board. The overall size is approximately 8m x 2m. The layout has two levels, as can be see in the following photographs.
Baldwin Park in operation during a running session by members
Tracks are Peco 100 gauge and Peco turnouts have been used throughout, with both Cobalt and Circutron Tortoise point motors controlling the turnouts. The track plan is a series of simple interconnected loops on the lower level, leading up to a yard and round house on the top level. There are also a number of industrial sidings around the layout.
The control and track power is provided by a NCE DCC system using radio control.
The track plan also includes a large discrete outer DC circuit for owners of DC locomotives. This track has its own fiddle yard and control system. The inner track has recently been modified to a dual functioning track, operating as either DCC or DC with a flick of a switch.
While Baldwin Park was not originally designed for operations, some members are currently investigating the possibilities and are developing operating serials. Thanks to the efforts of a crew of members the scenery is almost completed, but of course there are always improvements to be made.
Development of Baldwin Park is continuous. Here members are showing off their new bridgework on the layout as part of the track plan improvements.
Baldwin Park is named after Baldwin Drive which runs passed the UC-High School (Kaleen) where our clubhouse is situated.
Baldwin Drive is named after Joseph Mason Baldwin, MA, DSc (1878-1945), appointed Chief Assistant, Melbourne Observatory 1908, acting Government Astronomer 1915, and Government Astronomer 1920, President Melbourne University Association, 1930-31, Member Royal Astronomical Society 1915, Councillor 1920-45, President 1925-26.
McEvoy Junction – the new CMRCI exhibition layout
The last CMRCI layout (named Petersville because of the number of our Members who bear that prestigious name) was first displayed at the 2014 Malkara exhibition and has since appeared at the Canberra, Wagga Wagga, Bungendore and Albury shows. It won the Ladies Choice Award at Wagga in 2015 and Best In Show in 2017 as well as Best In Show at Albury in 2018.
Petersville in action at the 2018 Canberra Model Railway Club Expo
In 2019 the decision was made to build a new layout to replace Petersville. It had had a busy life and was showing signs of age. Construction of the underlying structure and baseboard for the new layout is compete. The trackwork and electrical systems have been completed and tested.
Scenery work has started but has a long way to go. The layout will centre on a rural townsite with a quarry and cattle yards nearby. It will feature a number of industrial sidings to provide opportunities for shunting action.
The layout will also feature moving boats, bicycles and vehicles.
McEvoy Junction has been named in memory of our late President, Mr Peter McEvoy who died in a motor vehicle accident in late 2019.
The layout is composed of 6 modules, each 1.8m x 1.2m. Each module will fit into the Club trailer and the complete layout and all ancillary equipment can be easily carried in one load. The layout sits on a 25mm steel base with a 6mm baseboard.
The tracklaying team at work on the new layout
First test of trains on the new tracks
What A Transformation
Nearly There – testing out the new layout
First stop at the station
A Train Circulating
Kid’s U-Drive aka Charlestown
Charlestown is a simple layout designed specifically for Children. It has four independent tracks on two levels with four controllers, one on each corner. That way, four children can individually “drive” their own train – usually flat out!
A newly completed Charlestown set up for testing in the CMRCI Clubroom
The layout is very popular with children and is frequently operated at venues such as the Hall Markets, Bunnings, retirement homes, etc. Apart from providing entertainment, the layout is used as a means to promote our annual exhibition. It usually has a very busy schedule in the December – March period.
The control system is DC. The track is HO gauge and the locomotives and rolling stock are mainly Thomas The Tank Engine and Friends.
Construction of the layout was mostly done by the Daylighters group which meets on a Tuesday morning. The baseboard is 25mm tubular steel underframe with a 9mm baseboard on top. It is constructed in two sections, each 1.2m x 1.8m providing a total surface size of 3.6m x 1.2m. The scenery is mounted on polystyrene covered with plaster bandages. It has proven to be a stable resilient surface that can support structures, features and ground cover.
The layout had its first outing at the 2018 Canberra Model Railway Club Expo in March 2018, It was officially launched by Mrs Janet Schuster and Ms Suzanne Orr MLA, Member for Yerrabi. Ms Orr was a member of the ACT Government panel that awarded the grant that enabled the construction of Charlestown. The funding to build the display layout was provided by a grant under the 2016-2017 Participation (Veterans and Seniors) Grant Scheme.
The layout features an English style village – in deference to Thomas – and the Jurassic Zoo which has many dinosaurs in residence.
The layout was named Charlestown in honour of our late Life Member Mr Charles Schuster.
Hy-Brid is an HO layout with a US theme. It was originally two layouts, one with an industrial theme and the other with a logging subject. One of our members undertook the task of renovating and repairing both layouts and making a centre piece to combine the two layouts.
The result is about 8 metres in overall length with a concealed fiddle yard in the middle. It has plenty of scope for operations.
This photo shows the logging end of the layout and early work on the connecting centre piece. The parallel rails in the rear are where the concealed fiddle yard will be located.
The Zig-Zag – The following article was published in the August 2020 edition of the CMRCI Bulletin
PHIL’S ZIG-ZAG – By ChrisN
One of the more senior members of the Canberra Model Railway Club, by the name of Phil, gave the Club a challenge. He remembered fondly the Lithgow Zig Zag, and wanted the Club to produce a layout that would represent the switchback arrangement. The Zig Zag was part of the line built across the Blue Mountains to the west of Sydney between 1863 and 1869 and operated until 1910. It was re-opened as a volunteer-staffed heritage railway in 1975. Phil would provide the wherewithal to construct the layout if Club members would help him.
Phil and Mal setting out the track plan on the baseboard
Much debate ensued on the dimensions of the layout, the number of levels, and the gradients. Phil wanted the over-run at each reversing section to be able to accommodate a small loco and two small wagons. We also thought it sensible to be able to fit the layout into our Club trailer, in case we might want to transport it somewhere. The end result was a board 1800mm by 900mm, with the track rising over seven levels through five turnouts. With Phil’s stipulated 400mm for each reversing stage, it left little for the sloping track from level to level. We eventually decided on seven levels, rising through five turnouts. The resultant slopes would be a little over the desired maximum of 4%, but we figured the loco could handle it.
This is an Anyrail representation of the layout. The final track position is not as precise, to add a bit of interest, but the concept, heights, gradients and dimensions are the same. The board was constructed at a local Men’s Shed by one of our members who has an association there. It is made of five ply supported by pine sections. The finished product is a substantial construction, able to support the original locos, not just our HO scale models. Track is Peco Flexi-track, and points are Peco SL-97 Wye turnouts.
The board with track laid
The next decision was how to control the loco. The system was simple enough that it could not justify the expense of DCC control and locos, so we adopted a DC approach. Even so, standing and manually driving the loco back and forth and changing points would quickly become a chore, so we decided to automate the whole process. We had been experimenting with Arduino microcontrollers to control signals and points, so figured we would give that a try. Switching the points using SG90 micro servos would be easy, since they are designed to work with Arduinos.
And its underside showing the power supply
Our plan was to install two sensors at the start and end sections, and on each reversing stage. The outer sensor would be at the end of the track, and an inner sensor about 300mm away, just after the turnouts on the reversing stages. Once an inner sensor was triggered, the loco would be slowed to a stop, the turnout changed, the loco’s direction reversed, and the train would proceed to the next stage. The outer sensor would act as an immediate trigger if the train had not slowed to a stop before reaching it. Sensors placed on the bottom and top sections would reverse the train up or down the hill.
Our first attempt at fitting sensors used Arduino compatible IR motion sensors, a small board containing an IR transmitter and receiver. The two active units were installed between the tracks after removing a sleeper. In testing, though, we found the units to operate inconsistently and requiring continual adjustment using the on-board potentiometer. We suspect the reason is either due to temperature change as the units warm up or ambient lighting effects. We also found that we needed to put reflective paint or tape on the underside of the train to make sure the sensors detected reliably.
We finally adopted a Differential Absolute Position Detector described in Model Railroad Hobbyist magazine. The system uses two TEPT4400 ambient light sensing phototransistors, with a comparing circuit to detect differences in detected light. One sensor is fitted between the tracks, and the other beside the tracks, so that when a train passes the difference in light received triggers the detector. The big advantage is that the system is not affected by variations in ambient lighting, as the system just compares the difference between the two sensors, not absolute light value. One of our more competent members produced small circuit boards that contained two comparators on board, so that with one board we could accommodate both inner and out sensors.
The IR proximity sensor for the first attempt, and the DAPD eventually used
With seven sensor pairs, meaning fourteen sensor inputs, and five turnouts each requiring a control signal, we needed a microcontroller with at least nineteen pins. An Arduino Uno wouldn’t do it. So, we had to employ an Arduino Mega. More than enough pins to do the job, and also enough power to drive the sensors and servos if we wanted to, so long as they were operated individually, not all at once.
But controlling the loco was a different matter.
We attached an L298P Motor Shield to the Mega. The shield is able to drive two DC motors at up to 2 amps. The polarity of each DC motor output can be controlled in software. The shield also has a dedicated 5V servo interface to provide stable power to drive the servos. We powered the shield with a surplus 12V 2A power supply from a derelict laptop. One problem arose because the Motor Drive shield does not provide an analogue DC output, rather a pulse width modulated output that simulates DC. It works fine, but the PWM signal produced a loud buzz from the motor. We were able to overcome that (and provide a better power solution) by changing the PWM frequency to a much lower level, a simple one-line coding process.
From there it was a simple (sometimes not-so-simple) process of writing an Arduino sketch that would set the initial turnout positions, start the loco and accelerate to top speed, and wait for a sensor to be triggered. Once triggered, the loco would be slowed to a stop, the corresponding turnout changed, the loco’s direction reversed, and the loco accelerated away towards the next stage. If the second sensor on a stage was triggered before the loco had fully stopped, it would be immediately stopped to avoid over-running the track.
The Arduino setup with its shield, and the micro servos used to drive the turnouts
The only control is an on-off switch. Switching on initiates the Arduino and the process proceeds automatically until switched off. The switch can also be used if an overenthusiastic spectator inadvertently triggers an out-of-sequence sensor by waving their arms around. There is a reset option on the Arduino, but we found in practice that we need to reposition the train at its starting point each time, so just hitting reset strands the train in an unusual place out of sequence on the track.
Once the hardware/software development was done, it was time to turn the layout over to the landscaping wizards.
Phil in front of his baby
The Finished Layout
There is still some discussion over where, how and if the Zig-Zag can be incorporated into the club’s existing layouts. Watch this space.