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2021 (April): A new condo development, Eagle Vista at Barhill, has just been completed in the rural village of Barhill, increasing property values and interest in this picturesque locale which overlooks the famous winter ski village of MARS Valley.

(click for sign)

(click for larger image - F11 for larger)

(click for larger image - F11 for larger)

2021 (March): A new virtual control panel has been developed for the Calgary Terminal area of the layout. The purpose of this is to show all the tracks, turnouts, and other control items so that new operators can become familiar with the complexity of the area and to assist in the planning of automatic (computer-controlled) operations.

(Click image for larger version; F11 in your browser for even larger; F11 again to return)

2020: The last several months have been spent developing an automatic signal system which works in a semi-protypical manner.

Signals are positioned around the layout on both main lines. To simplify matters, the layout is signaled for running in just one direction on each main line.

Both main lines have right-hand running as the standard. Thus a train traveling on the inner main line will appear to move clockwise around the layout while a train on the outer main line will travel counterclockwise.

Of course there are exceptions this rule. For example the track-cleaning train travels over the entire layout, often using tracks in the direction opposite to this standard. This train will clean all the unocupied tracks on the layout automatically in about 15 minutes! For operational purposes, this train use a track warrant to give it permission to occupy all the tracks it needs regardless of direction or signaling. This train is considered to run in "dark" territory as the signal system is turned off during its operation.

Other exceptions include when a train is backing up. The signals still work as designed but the direction of travel is the reverse of the standard.

The Technical section has been updated to provide more details as to how this is accomplished but, in general, each signal is a 3-LED (three light-emmitting diodes) device and is operated by a mobile decoder just like you would put in a locomotive. Instead of powering a headlight or ditch lights, the decoder powers each of the 3 individual LED lights in the signal head.

All of this is coordinated using the Automatic Operations Control Centre as explained in the Technical section.

A train approaches a clear (green) signal just at the north end of Bow City.

As trains traverse the layout, the signals change to indicate the appropriate aspect: red when the lead locomotive passes a signal; red for the block behind the train; yellow for the block behind that; and finally green for the block behind that.

Sometimes, though, the train is longer than a block and there may be two or even three red signals in a row until the train clears the trailing block and then the signals change to indicate the track status: yellow in the case where the next block is red; green when the next block is clear.



Some of the significant recent developments are things you really can't see!

The new telegraph system is set in the present day but was designed to emulate operations of a century ago so the wires are underground and, as was then the practice, the devices are inside the stations. But there is a real telegraph device on display (not in a station) and it works (with DCC)!

Improvements in automatic scheduling are not visible when the layout is static, but when trains and special effects are operating, the extent and flexibility of these become readily apparent.

And you probably wouldn't notice the new lighting system unless it is pointed out.

Telegraph System

One of the most interesting things added to the layout recently is the new telegraph system. This permits Morse Code messages to be sent automatically to any one of four stations on the layout. As RHJRail is a contemporary operation (with many preserved and historic components), the wiring is underground.

A comprehensive explanation of Morse Code can be found on this excellent website: http://morsecode.scphillips.com/translator.html

Quoting from the above website:

"If the duration of a dot is taken to be one unit then that of a dash is three units. The space between the components of one character is one unit, between characters is three units and between words seven units. To indicate that a mistake has been made and for the receiver to delete the last word, send ........ (eight dots). "

Additional features of the RHJ Rail system include the ability to encode specific messages and set the speed (words per minute) and other factors in the messages sent. For ease of understanding, these have been set relatively slow.

And just for fun, there is an actual antique telegraph device attached to the system which can be used to receive messages. However, the volume on this is somewhat louder than that in the HO stations

The device used on RHJ Rail is shown in the photographs below:

KOB means “key on board” or “key on base”.
A KOB includes a key and sounder.

The technology is not very sophisticated
but this was patented c. 1882.

The whole system is controlled by the RHJ Rail Automated Operations Control Centre (AOCC) using a Windows computer, JMRI, Digitrax DCC, and a number of custom-designed gizmos, many of which are based on mobile decoders.

In fact the Morse Code dots and dashes are generated by flashing a lighting function on and off using a Digitrax decoder. It is unlikely that this could be done using a handheld throttle because the response speed is just too slow. It turns out that computer-generated commands can be sent over Loconet quicker than commands sent from a throttle.

Technical details can be found at Technical - Page 6


New Overhead Room Lighting System

This sounds dull but if fact it is really bright! It includes all new LED bulbs (34 of them!) and LED dimmer switches. It is an attempt to show the layout in a new light!! Anyway, you probably wouldn't notice it if wasn't pointed out.

New Trains

RHJ Rail is always interested in acquiring new trains to run on the layout. There are some and they are being integrated into the automatic control system.

Improvements in Automatic Scheduling

The development of overlapped master scripts has been a major innovation as part of the Automated Operations Control Centre (AOCC). This means that many trains and special effects can be run automatically without having to wait for the previous one to finish.

If you want a bit more detail, see TECHNICAL - Page 7.

If you still don't understand it, then you're not alone. If you're still interested, contact RHJ Rail for further information.


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RHJ Rail is owned and operated by Richard H. Johnson
© Copyright 2021 Richard H. Johnson