A journal following the history, design, construction and operation of Bernard Kempinski's O Scale model railroad depicting the U. S. Military Railroad (USMRR) Aquia-Falmouth line in 1863, and other model railroad projects.
©Bernard Kempinski All text and images, except as noted, on this blog are copyrighted by the author and may not be used without permission.

February 2, 2022

Amby to the Rescue

 If you read my blog, you know I hate wiring and electronics. In the panoply of model railroad tasks required to build a layout, I rank wiring and electronics rank at the bottom.  So I was delighted when Ambrose (aka Amby) Nangeroni offered to help finish build my telegraph system. Amby is an electrical engineer from Northeastern University. He has a lot of experience with model railroad electronics.  He said he was willing to work on building the components at his home to minimize possible exposure to COVID as he needs to be extra careful. 

I sent him copies of the documentation I had, plus a copy of the video of the prototype system in operation. He studied them before visiting and had some very interesting observations.  He also asked me some questions that required me to review the documentation as it was long enough ago for me to forget the details.

After I made that video mentioned above,  I had to send all the circuits back to Seth and Bill of https://www.modelrailroadcontrolsystems.com/telegraph-sounder-driver/ for some software revisions. That was about 2 years ago. They returned the updated parts to me and I promptly put them away. I had not worked on them since then.  

Today, Amby stopped by my house to see  the system as it stands and to better understand the design and application. 

It was a thrill to get the parts out of storage and  working again. Amby was very helpful in debugging some issues we had. A few wires had come loose while the parts travelled back and forth across the country. In addition, the antique sounder that I sent to Seth, got broken in the shipping process. The super fine 100 year-old paper-wrapped insulated coil wires broke. Seth sent me a replacement sounder as repairs to the old coil looked difficult. But the replacement sounder was not working. The reason was perplexing at first, but simple once Amby figured it out. All the contacts inside were corroded and needed some maintenance.

Once we sorted out the sounder, we were able to get the prototype station that I had assembled three years ago to work. We verified that the new software works too.  Amby now has all the circuits at his house and will work on assembling them as his schedule permits.  Here is a short video he shot at his house showing the original system in proper operating condition.

I plan to make the base plates. At first I used wood and laser cut plastic to make the panels. But I now will try to make 3D printed panels that will be painted to look like brass. I'm aiming for a brass builder's plate look, hopefully one that conjures up a 19th century vibe. 

Amby also has some ideas on how to run the cables from the stations back to the dispatcher. He recommended prefabricated  CAT6 cable with plugs and sockets, vice the terminal strips I was thinking about using. 

In retrospect, I should have designed each station to connect to a data bus as opposed to individual CAT6 wires from each station to the dispatcher.  That way we could run just one pair or wires to east station. Each panel would need a data bus interface, and there would need to be some kind of bus controller, but I suspect such circuits are available off the shelf. It might be possible to add that feature on to the existing system.  If anyone has any suggestions on how to do that, please let me know.

Last week Paul Dolkos and Ted York visited the Aquia line. Ted was in town to receive an award for a photograph he took, and Paul has showing him around.

 The stunning image depicts wild mustangs in an action shot. They look to me like they are fighting. You can see Ted's photo here https://www.worldphotographiccup.org/wpc_gallery/finalists-2022/

In case you don't know, Ted also has a fantastic HO model railroad depicting the Santa Fe over Cajon Pass. I have operated on Ted's layout a couple times and it is a hoot.

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