NGRC 2018 Layout Tour

Well Friday June 8th finally came and the big event.  Our layout was on the Friday tour  June 8th, 2018 from 8am to 1pm for the Natonal Garden Railroad Convention for 2018 in Atlanta.  We have been working hard for this event ever since we started our layout, 3 1/2 years ago.  The plan was to have something to show for the layout tour that we would be proud of.

Friday we suceeded.  It was a great day.  Over 350 people showed over the 5 hours that the layout was open.  While we didn’t have everything working that we had planned on we had a working layout that everybody was excited to show and that we received a lot of compliments on the layout.

I want to thank everyone who worked on the layout as this was a family affair and we even had a lot of the family on had during Friday to help explain the layout and keep the trains running.

We ended up having 9 trains running on the lauyout at the same time.  All the trains were under computer control with 4 sharing a main line going back and forth.  The underlying electronics wewasre Digitrax as I have blogged about before and all controlled by JMRI, a model railroad program.  With the help of some JMRI experts I wrote the progrms to control the trains and run the layout.

We learned a lot in the last several weeks getting ready for the show.  These last few weeks were the first time we continuously put the trains through their paces.  We had lots of problems with the biggest being the rain.  It was been one of the rainiest springs on record for Atlanta and it rained almost every day for the last 3 weeks leading up to the train show week.  Each day the layout barely dried out before it rained again.  The water caused the BDL168 sensors to show occupied which caused our programs to not work correctly.  Our wiring had to be thouroughly dried up before the sensors worked and they showed problems first thing in the morning because of the dew.  I started to change out the wiring to XHHW wiring (see earlier blog) and this seemed to help out the sensor situation but I need to test this more.  Our goal for Friday was just to get everything running.

Luckily the 4 days leading to the tour it didn’t rain once.  Everything dried out and we were able to run the programs everyday.  There were some logic issues in the programs which we straigthened out. over the days leading to the tour.  The bigger problem was keeping the locomotives running consistantly  We had problems with the track connections, dirty tracks as well as locomotives acting up.  Since this was the most we had run all of these locomotives, several problems emerged.  Some of the standard LGB track connectors caused electrical gaps.  As we found them we replaced them with the split jaw connectors.  In addition, some of the wheels on the locmotives were getting dirty and they had to be cleaned.  We also had connection wire issues inside the locomotives.  We were plauged with these problems through out the week and even on tour day so some of the time we had to push the locos along to keep them moving.  The trolley line worked flawlessly but the 4 main locos needed some help periodicaly.

One thing that worked all day during the tour was the python programs running under JMRI.  We didn’t have to restart the program once.  We did have some locos that slowed and missed their stop point, we had some turnouts that didn’t move all the way when they needed to, and we had some cars that didn’t want to follow their locos everytime. Over time there were fewer and fewer cars.  The focus wasn’t on the cars though, it was on the ability to run multiple locomotives under computer control and in that we suceeded.

We had planned on a lot of buildings and while we didn’t get most of them done, we still had a lot to show.  The Aerial Tramway made by Jägerndorfer worked great with a modified cap to activate the reversal switch.  We had 3D printed billboards, houses, water towers with the cities that we lived in and other structures.

One of the biggest hits was circus city.  My grandchildren helped to demonstrate circus city as it was designed with the grandchildren in mind.  My oldest grandchild, Joanna wrote her own description which she read to many of our visitors.  Nathanial and Mikey helped to demonstrate parts of the circus city and Simon stepped in to read the description when Joanna needed a break.

We the 3D printer out demonostrating how we used it to print the structures and how it worked.  Everybody did a gret job at the 6 different stations explaining the layout and helping direct people and take care of everyone’s needs.

It was a great job by everyone that helped out.  It was a great a NGRC 2018 convention.

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