Sunday, 3 November 2013

Keeping Track of Hidden Staging Tracks- by Don Janes

The trains above are in the three staging tracks I have added to my new section of the layout.  photos by Don Janes

Infrared Detection Circuits from Berkshire Jct. Models 

 The first thing I had to complete on the new part of my layout was the addition of three hidden staging tracks.  Since these will eventually be hidden behind or under the scenery I had to come up with a way to detect if there were trains stored in the tracks once they were no longer visible.  Browsing the Internet turned up a good and reasonable solution from Berkshire Junction Model Railroad Supplies out of Adams MA.  They sell  single or three packs of Infrared Occupancy Detectors.  They are priced at $12.99 for one set and $37.50 for three sets.  To accomplish what I needed I purchased a total of nine detectors.  While I was at it I also purchased a 12 volt DC Power Transformer to power the detectors as well as my Tortoise switch motors.
     This is a very simple system to install and it works great.  One set consists of a two part detection circuit, a red LED panel light and a pre- wired circuit board that mounts under the layout.  Each piece of the detector set comes pre-wired with colour coded wire to match those listed on the installation instructions.  It is just a matter of connecting all the wires of the same colour together for each individual detection circuit and powering it with the 12 volt DC transformer.
       I simply  built three wooden "bridges" over the tracks, one at each end of the tracks and one in the middle of the tracks, to hold one half of the detector circuit.  I drilled a hole in the bridge over the center of the track where I wanted the detector and another down through the roadbed directly under the hole in the bridge.  Next installed one end of each infrared circuit  in the bridge and the other end half in the hole between the rails and used Walthers GOO to hold them in place.  The wires were then attached to the circuit board.  At this time I also temporarily hooked up the LED panel light. 
     The Occupancy Detectors work like this.   When there are no trains present the red LED's are not lit.  As soon as a train entering the staging track breaks the beam at one end of the track the red light will come on and stay on as long as the train is passing through the detector.  As soon as the tail end clears the red LED will go out meaning the train is clear of the fowling point in that track.  As the train moves through the track the red LED in the center of the track will come on to indicate the there is a train occupying that track and will stay on as long as the train is sitting on the track.  The red LED's at each end of the track will both be out indicating the there is a train in the track and it is clear of the fowling point at each end.  Once the train starts to depart and passes the fowling paint at the other end of the track the LED at the fowling point will stay on until the tail end clears.  Now all three red LED lights will be out indicating the track is now clear.
     One thing George pointed out to me and that I overlooked is that I will have to have some sort of paperwork so I can write down what locomotive is in which track.  This is because with DCC you call up the train by the engine number and if you have not recorded which engine is in each track it might take some time to figure out what train is in which track. Thanks for the head's up George.   
     I have finished installing all the Occupancy Detectors and they all work as they should.  All the Tortoise switch machines are doing their job also so now once I get to the scenery stage of the layout I can hide these tracks and know I won't have to rely on my ageing memory to remember if there is a train in track 2 or not.  I would highly recommend checking out the Berkshire Junction web site.  I also purchased a set of operating crossing lights and associated circuitry from Berkshire Junction for future use on the layout.

This photo shows the two halves of the detector circuit installed in the holding tracks
The above photos show the 12 volt DC power supply, circuit boards for each Occupancy Detector and bus bar for connecting all the power feeds for each point where the Occupancy Detectors are located
Here we see two LED's are lighted to correspond with the trains occupying the track in the first photo

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