D, Operation
Model 106 Single Track Block

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Sections shown below on this page:

1. Summary
2. Operating Phase 1 Starter Version
3. Constructing Phase 2 -- Add Rheostat & Slowdown Section
4. Operating Phase 2 Version With Rheostat
5. Constructing Phase 3 -- Add Capacitor
6. Operating Phase 3 Version With Capacitor
7. Constructing Phase 4 -- Add Signal Lights
8. Troubleshooting
 

1. Summary

This section tells you how to operate the "Phase 1" block, and then add a few parts to operate the Phase 2, 3 and 4 versions .

2. Operating Phase 1 Starter Version

53. Verify you have completed Phase 1 construction steps.

Check Out Steps

54. Connect AC control power to the knife switch.

55. Verify the light bulb lights when the knife switch is closed by pushing the handle down to the right.

56. Verify the arm of motor M3 moves to the left (RED) when a magnet is held over track contact T1.

57. Verify the arm of motor M3 moves to the right (GREEN) when a magnet is held over track contact T2.

Operating Instructions

The following figure, Initial Conditions -- Phase 1, gives suggestions for starting the automatic block.

Figure 1 - Initial Conditions - Phase 1
You may want to try to duplicate some of the steps shown on Module 4D of Video V9202, Tape #2:

58. Initial Conditions 1:

  • AC power to block: OFF.
  • Block in GREEN position (arm to right).
  • Position a single train as shown by engine 5 in the above figure. Engine 1 is removed from the track.
Action: Run 1 train around the loop to verify that trains will pass over the depowered block.

59. Initial Conditions 2:

  • AC power to block: ON.
  • Block in RED position (arm to left).
  • Put a magnet on bottom of engine 5.
  • Position a single train as shown by engine 5 in the above figure. Engine 1 is removed from the track.

Action: Run engine 5 around the loop and verify it will change the block from red to green back to red as it passes around the loop.

60. Initial Conditions 3:

  • AC power to block: ON
  • Block in RED position (arm to left).
  • Put magnet on bottom of 2 engines. Position 2 engines as shown in the above figure.

Action: Run trains around the loop and verify the block will keep them separated.

61. Do this step only if one of your two engines is consistently faster than the other one.

Initial Conditions 4:

  • AC power to block: ON.
  • Block in RED position (arm to left).
  • Put magnet on bottom of slower engine, no magnet on bottom of faster engine.
  • Position 2 engines as shown in the above figure, with the slower engine being the position shown by engine 5.

Action: Run trains around the loop and verify the block will keep them separated. Slower engine 5 with the only magnet should always have a green block and never stop.

62. Do this step only if you have 3 engines that run approximately the same speed.

  • Initial Conditions 5:
  • AC power to block: ON.
  • Block in RED position (arm to left).
  • Put magnet on bottom all 3 engines.
  • Position 2 engines as shown in the above figure, and the 3rd engine in between those two. You may have to move track contact T2 clockwise around the loop (closer to contact T1). (The best reference for this is to watch Module 4D (Living Room Demo) on videotape #2, where I demonstrate operating 3 and then 4 trains on the same loop with one block.)

Action: Run these 3 trains around the loop and verify the block will keep them separated.

Note that if one of these 3 engines is consistently faster than the other two, you can remove the magnet from it.

3. Constructing Phase 2 -- Add Rheostat & Slowdown Section


Figure 2 - Rheostat Bracket Dimensions
Phase 2 adds the rheostat and the slowdown section in the track. This allows locomotives to enter the block area at reduced speed, before they stop, and then start up at reduced speed for a smoother start.

Rheostat Bracket

NOTE: Step numbers from this point on are OUT OF ORDER, as the paragraphs have been rearranged from their original order in the written bulletin.

33. Using the above figure, Rheostat Bracket Dimensions, as a guide, cut a 2 inch long piece of 1-1/2" x 1-1/2" aluminum angle.

34. OPTION: To avoid doing any measuring, you can copy this figure, and rubber cement the copy of the drawing onto the piece of aluminum. Then you can use a hammer and center punch, and punch a starter indentation where the holes are shown on the paper.

35. Drill the 6 holes as shown.

36. Screw the rheostat bracket to the wood base.

37. Attach the rheostat and rheostat knob.

Wires

Refer to Sheet 9, Phase 2 Control Unit -- Standard Version w/Slowdown, as a guide for the following steps.

38. Remove BLUE wire B99 (this is a temporary jumper wire for Phase 1 that is not needed for Phase 2).

39. Solder BLUE wire D1 to the TOP tap of the rheostat, and connect to terminal 8 on terminal block TB4.

40. Solder BLUE wire B5 to the CENTER tap of the rheostat, and connect to terminal 3 on the terminal block.

NOTE: Do not connect wires A1, A2, and Y16 yet. These are for the signal lights, which are not connected until Phase 4.

Adding Slowdown Track

41. Add the second 10153 isolating track to define the rear end of the slowdown block.
  • LENGTH: You might start with a slowdown section about 4 feet long, then experiment with different lengths.

42. Connect BLACK wire 3 to the rear 10153 isolating track on the track unit base, as shown onpage 38, Sheet 4 Automatic Block Track Unit Assembly. Make this wire about 48" long so you can slide the isolating track back to the rear if necessary to increase the length of the block.

43. Double check that this wire 3 is connected to the left rail in the slowdown block, and not improperly connected to the mainline, and not improperly connected to the stop block.

4. Operating Phase 2 Version With Rheostat

63. Verify you have completed all Phase 2 construction steps.

Figure 3 - Initial Conditions - Phase 2 w/Rheostat
64. Turn the knob of the rheostat all the forward (CW). This will set the resistance to zero, that is, no slowdown. Operate the block in this setting to verify trains are travelling across the slowdown section ok.

With zero resistance, the block should operate the same as it did in Phase 1.

65. Begin experimenting with turning the rheostat know CCW, which increases the resistance. This should start slowing trains down as they enter the slowdown section, and starting them up more gently when the block changes from RED to GREEN.

5. Constructing Phase 3 -- Add Capacitor

What's The Capacitor Good For?

Phase 3 adds the capacitor. This allows locomotives to start up with a gentler start when the block changes from RED to GREEN. This gentler start happens, because when the block changes to GREEN, the discharged capacitor, as it charges up, will "steal" part of the current away from the locomotive.

Please note that this phase is OPTIONAL. I am still evaluating it's usefulness -- sometimes it seems to work well, but not always. Adding the rheostat (Phase 2) produces the most benefit for smoothing out the start up.

Make sure you have the rheostat R1, from Phase 2, installed ahead of (in series with) the capacitor. You have to have some resistance in series with the capacitor, or it does not work well at all.

Obtaining The Capacitor

The best place to find a capacitor with the large enough amount of capacitance at a reasonable price, is probably a surplus electronics store.

You want capacitor sized somewhere in the ballpark, and I emphasize the word ballpark, of 40,000 microfarads, with a working voltage DC (WVDC) of around 25 volts. You sometimes see this capacitance size written also as 40,000 M farads, or 40,000 m farads. (A micro farad, or m farad, is 1 millionth of a farad, or 1 x 10-6 farads.)

The biggest size capacitor Radio Shack handles is 4700 microfarads, so this is too small.

I have one capacitor that is 40,000 microfarads and 25 WVDC, and the size is about 3-1/2 inches high by about 3 inches diameter.

You will probably get positive results with anything sized between 15,000 microfarads and 80,000 microfarads. The 40,000 microfarads is plenty large for my starter engines.

Note that you can also put several smaller capacitors together by wiring them in parallel with each other. The total capacitance will the sum of the individual capacitances.

You can also use a capacitor of higher working voltage than 25 WVDC. The unit, however, will be larger in size for a given capacitance.

You can think of the capacitor as a very short-term battery, or the electrical equivalent of a rubber band, or the electrical equivalent of a spring. Charging the capacitor up when the block changes to GREEN, is equivalent to stretching out the rubber band, or stretching the spring -- while it's stretching (charging up), it's "stealing" current from the locomotive which takes the jerk out of the locomotives start-up.

Hooking Up The Capacitor

Sheet 4, Track Unit Assembly, shows the capacitor sitting on the front end of the control unit. The location is not critical, is long as you ensure you get it wired in parallel with the locomotive.

This means the current must flow from terminal 7 on terminal block TB4, to the (+) terminal of the capacitor, then from the "-" terminal of the capacitor to the "-" right track rail.

NOTE: Make sure you do not reverse the (+) and "-" terminals of the capacitor -- this could ruin the capacitor.

44. Attach black wire 7B from terminal 7 to terminal block TB5.

45. This step, installing switch K3 is OPTIONAL, but I recommend it. When the switch is closed, the capacitor will be "in the circuit". When you open the switch, the capacitor will be "out of the circuit". Thus by turning this switch on and off, you can easily compare the operation with and without the capacitor.

  • Install toggle switch K3 -- use a Radio Shack 275-612 SPST toggle switch or anything similar. Install it so that when the handle is forward, the switch is closed.

The easiest way to install it is to solder two stiff wires about 2" long onto the switch, put spade terminals on the other ends, then just slide screw it to terminal block TB5.

46. Attach remaining wires 7B2, 7C, and 7C2.

Make sure wire 7C2 connects to the right (-) rail.

6. Operating Phase 3 Version With Capacitor

66. Verify you have completed all Phase 3 construction steps.

67. Set toggle switch K3 to the rear, which should disconnect the capacitor. Then verify the block operates exactly the same as it did for the Phase 2 version.

68. Set toggle switch K3 to the front to connect the capacitor. Adjust the rheostat about in the middle.

NOTE: Do not set the rheostat all the way forward (zero resistance) when using the capacitor.

Without resistance in the circuit, the capacitor "sucks up" current too quickly, and drops the voltage when the block changes to GREEN, as it acts like a short circuit when it first starts charging.

This momentary short-circuit effect and resulting voltage drop will jerk the engine on the mainline, and may make your transformer unhappy.

Making sure there is some resistance in series with the capacitor, prevents the short-circuit effect.

69. Experiment with the capacitor, by varying the rheostat setting.

7. Constructing Phase 4 -- Add Signal Lights

The signal lights do not affect the function of the block, but I strongly recommend them, as they add to the visual interest when the block operates.

The template shows the wiring for lighted signal, such as the Shiloh two-light #GS2S units, or the Model Power #990 two-light units. The Model Power units are cheaper, but they use bulbs, and seem to me to be disturbingly fragile. The Shiloh units are probably preferable -- they are sturdier, plus the high intensity LEDS should last longer than bulbs.

You can also hook up semaphore units such as the LGB 5092 through 5095 series, although this is slightly more complicated, as you are adding a second motor to the system.

Hooking Up Signal Lights

Refer to Sheet 9, Phase 2 Control Unit -- Standard Version w/Slowdown, for the following steps.

47. Hook up yellow wire Y16, and gray wires A1 and A2 as shown.

  • The gray color indicates wires that carry switched AC to power the lights.

    48. Position the light on the track unit. Note that Sheet 4 shows a suggested location for the signal light on the front of the track unit.

    49. Hook up terminals 15 and 16 of terminal block TB4 to the red and green lights.

    50. Hook up the common (-, ground) wire from the lights to terminal 2 of TB4 as shown.

Checking Signal Lights

Operation will be the same as Phases 2 and 3. The following steps will verify the lights are working properly.

51. Push the arm of motor M3 to the left (RED) position. Verify the red signal light is lit.

52. Push the arm of motor M3 to the right (GREEN) position. Verify the green signal light is lit.

Alternate 1 - Using LGB Semaphore Signal For Lights

Note this is an ALTERNATE to using the signal lights. You would probably want to mount the motor on the front of the block where the capacitor is shown, and locate the capacitor somewhere else.

Figure 4 - Wiring Alternate Semaphore Motor

Alternate 2 - Using LGB Semaphore For Lights & Relay

As you probably know, the LGB 5092 through 5095 series signals include relay points on the same motors that operate the semaphores.

Because this system uses 1 motor to power 2 mechanical items (relay and semaphore arm), it has in the past seemed to be less reliable. Since 1988, to improve reliability, I have been using 1 motor for relay points only, and a separate motor for operating mechanical semaphore arms (if one is used).

Therefore, based on my past experience, I do NOT recommend using 1 motor for both relay and semaphore arm, but you may want to experiment. If you use the Booster or higher voltages, you may be able to get reliable operation of both mechanisms from one motor.

8. Troubleshooting

Possible Malfunctions

You may encounter some of the following problems that can cause the automatic block system to malfunction:
  • Engine stalls or slows down, upsetting the timing
  • Rolling stock uncouples or derails
  • AC Control Voltage is too low (see AC Control Voltage comments in Section 4.4 More Details About Building The Single Track Block )
  • Relay motor M3 fails to completely throw
  • A track contact sticks in the closed position.

The first two problems are pretty much self explanatory. The last two are described in more detail as follows:


7.1 Switch Motor Fails to Throw

Mounting the control unit in a clean location is the best way to keep the switch motors working well. Nevertheless, occasionally a switch motor will fail to "throw completely". By this I mean that the arm fails to move all the way to the other position as it should.

If the system suddenly malfunctions, you can check for an "incomplete throw" by doing the following:

  • Stop all trains immediately.
  • Examine the position of the arm of the motor M3 on the control unit. Verify that the arm is completely to one side or the other, and not stuck in the middle.
  • You should never see the arm in the middle -- it should be either all the way to one side or the other.
  • If the arm is not stuck in the middle -- that is, if the motor arm is throwing completely, perform the checks in the next section 15.2Sticking Track Contacts, on page 34.
  • If the arm is stuck in the middle, reposition it per Figure 6a" -- Initial Conditions -- Phase 1" and restart the trains.
  • If the motor starts sticking on a regular basis, check that the AC control power is not dropping significantly below 18 volts.

Once when I tried to run 2 trains on the gray 1/2 amp starter set pack, I noticed the automatic block I was using started making incomplete throws, apparently because the AC side of the starter pack was dropping in voltage as a result of my loading the DC side of it to the maximum.

You will occasionally encounter this problem of a motor sticking and not throwing entirely. However, if a motor starts doing this repeatedly, try replacing it with a new one.

"Tuning" The Switch Motors

The motors work most reliably if the rack is centered on the pinion. Occasionally the factory seems to assemble one that is off by a tooth, which is not as reliable for automatic operation. Most of the motors are used for manual operation where you push a button with your finger until the switch throws, in which case the motor can be a trifle weak and it will still work because you will keep pushing the button until it completes its travel. However for automatic operation where the engine crossing the track contact creates a limited-duration pulse, it is critical the motor be "optimally tuned".

I usually check the centering on the motors I put on units I build, but you can double check by performing the following steps:

  • Remove the 1203 relay points from the end of the motor.
  • Remove the 4 screws holding down the top of the motor, being careful to keep not let the top move.
  • Center the arm as much as possible, then hold it in that centered position.
  • Remove the lid, being careful to keep the arm in place on the pinion.
  • Find the little "tab" on the pinion. This little tab should be sticking straight up if the rack on the arm was centered on the pinion.
  •  
  • If the tab on the pinion is not sticking straight up, move the pinion so it does stick straight up.
  • Now re-center the arm, by carefully lifting the arm straight up off the pinion, being careful to keep the pinion centered.

    Note that you can move the arm with the rack to one side or the other a tooth at a time, but carefully letting the teeth slide over the pinion while the position of the pinion remains centered.

  • Replace the cover and the 4 screws.
  • Replace the 1203 relay points.

Checking Voltage Across Switch Motor Terminals

If you suspect that you may be getting a voltage drop to the switch motor, such that the motor is not throwing as positively as it should be, you can do a voltage test across the terminals of the motor when the track contact is activated.
  • Turn off the AC power to the control unit.
  • Lay a magnet across one of the track contacts that actuates the motor.
  • With a voltage range set to the AC range, hold the two leads of a digital voltmeter down inside the terminals of the motor, as shown in the following figure.

Figure 5 - Measuring Voltage Drop Across Switch Motors
  • Turn on the AC power.
  • Observe and record the AC voltage reading on the meter.
  • With your finger, push the arm of the motor to the other side. Feel how strong the resistance is.
  • Compare it's strength relative to the other motors (if you have others connected to track contacts).
  • Notice if the motor catches or has a tendency to hang up anywhere along the length of its travel.
  • Turn off the AC power.

Note you can measure the voltage at each motor for each of the two track contacts hooked to it. Expect voltages somewhere in the ballpark around 8.5 volts to 9.6 volts AC for an 18 volt power source.

Note that this voltage measurement you are seeing is not really accurate, as you are measuring a half-wave rectified signal. The main value should be that you can compare the values produced by different track contact relative to each other, to see if any of readings are significantly lower than the others.

I would advise against leaving the AC power on for very long when the track contact is in the constantly-closed position due to the magnet laying on it. LGB claims that you can apply constant AC voltage to the motors without damaging them, but I notice the motors quickly get hot under this condition.


7.2 Sticking Track Contacts

The 17000 track contact is normally open. It is closed only when a magnet passes over it which causes the contact to momentarily close.

Occasionally a track contact will stick in the closed position, and thus "jam" the system. If the system suddenly malfunctions, you can check for a stuck track contact by doing the following:

Stop all trains immediately, making sure no engines are parked on top of a track contact.

Push the arms of the motor M3 to the other position, then return it to the original position. If a track contact is stuck, the motor will have power applied to it when it shouldn't, and thus will "fight you" when you try to move it.

If you find evidence of a sticking track contact, you can identify the sticking track contact as the one that causes the motor to go to the position it is sticking in.

For this single-track block, a sticking T1 contact will jam motor M3 in the left (RED) position. A sticking T2 contact will jam motor M3 in the right (GREEN) position.

After identifying the sticking track contact, tap it several times with your finger. This will usually cause it to stop sticking and return to the "open" position.

Often a track contact will stick once in a while, but operate properly for several hundred times before it sticks again. However, you may encounter a track contact that begins to stick repeatedly, in which case you should remove it and replace it with a new one.

 


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