Subscribe via RSS

Getting from Kyoto to Otsu the long way…

I love Kyoto. I'd be happy to write a post that only said that. Usually when I'm in Kyoto, I'll either be found at the Railway Museum (actually, it's been twice now and I haven't visited it since it has been renovated!) or up at Mt. Kurama via the Eiden (Railway). This time, I was on the Eiden, but I veered right.

Demachiyanagi Station to Mount Hiei

Hiei-zan is the mountain range to the north-east of Kyoto and forms a dividing range between it and Otsu. As with all mountains in the Kyoto area, Hiei-zan has multiple shrines, multiple temples and multiple transport methods for conquering it. Fortunately, one of those is the famous Eizan Dentetsu (shortened to Eiden) which starts at Demachiyanagi station and ventures to the base of the mountain. Of course, Eiden also heads of north-west towards Mt Kurama and I recommend this trip too.

DSC07801

DSC07803 DSC07805 DSC07809

DSC07811 DSC07816 DSC07813

The trip to the base of Hiei-zan is quick and you'll end up at Yasehieizanguchi station in around 20 minutes.

DSC07819 DSC07824 DSC07829

DSC07830 DSC07831 DSC07834

The garden around the station is also picturesque! Autumn was a great time to come. Turns out I was there a week before the snow.

DSC07833 DSC07835 DSC07836

DSC07839

DSC07838 DSC07841 DSC07843 DSC07844 DSC07847

The autumn colours were so very different from the colours experienced in Nichinan a few days earlier!

Hiei-zan Cablecar

After hopping off the train, we're off to the cable car. This is a standard vertical mountain climber, like the peak tram in Hong Kong. It passes the opposing car half way and offers amazing views the whole way!

DSC07850 DSC07853 DSC07854

DSC07855 DSC07857 DSC07863

There's enough seats, but I'd recommend getting up as high as possible. It'll give you a better view out the front.

DSC07868 DSC07872 DSC07877

The view out the side isn't bad either!

DSC07885 DSC07890 DSC07887

DSC07897 DSC07898 DSC07902

At the top, the attendants will politely ask you all to get off as quickly as possible... please follow their instructions and do this!

Hiei-zan Ropeway

Are we at the top yet? Not quite. There's one more mode of transport to go! Let's just take in that view first.

DSC07910

That's north-east Kyoto in the left of that picture above. The loop hanging in the foreground is a target. Buy some rocks for 100yen and throw them. Make a wish and it'll come true if your lobbed rocks make it through the middle. Anyway, back to the mountain climbing.

DSC07907

DSC07912 DSC07914 DSC07917

DSC07920 DSC07921 DSC07922

You've made it! You're at the top of the mountain! How crisp is that air? It's now a short walk to the bus stop... so enjoy the scenery. Don't worry about the main building of the ropeway machinery, it's perfectly structurally sound.

DSC07923 DSC07925 DSC07926

Follow the signs and you'll end up at a bus-stop/carpark/kiosk/garden-museum.

DSC07927 DSC07928 DSC07932

If you head right once you're at the carpark, you'll find the toilet and a great view of Otsu city.

DSC07934

Heading then to the other side of the kiosk, you'll see a nice view of Lake Biwako to the north.

DSC07939 DSC07940 DSC07941

Follow the bus timetable and work out when the next one is. They're about 30mins apart. If you have time, grab a frankfurt with sauce from the kiosk. Yum!

DSC07944

Notice that set of white lines on the right of the image above? That's actually where you are meant to line up! We followed the tourists in front and lined up in the wrong spot! Either way, the bus is uneventful and you're going to want to get off at the first stop.

Sakamoto Cable Car

From here, there's only one mode of transport down. You'll hear it a few times, but it's only one method because it's the longest cable car in Japan. There's even tunnels! Before that though, there's a 20min walk to get to the station. Check out Enrakuji while you're up here!

DSC07946 DSC07947 DSC07949

Jump into the station and buy a ticket... but don't forget to check out the surrounds!

DSC07950 DSC07951 DSC07954

DSC07952 DSC07953 DSC07964

There's a cool display on the second floor of the station. The stairs up are inside.

DSC07967 DSC07963 DSC07968

Check out the times and line up prior to departure, you'll want a good seat!

DSC07970 DSC07959 DSC07974

The view down is fantastic and mainly out the left. There are a few bits to the right too though.

DSC07976 DSC07981 DSC07984

DSC07987 DSC07988 DSC07993

The last picture above is of the road through to JR Hiei-zan Sakamoto Station. After exiting the station, turn left and follow the road. It'll curve right and then head straight down towards Lake Biwako. The station is about 20mins down the road. (So are a few good places for lunch!)

JR Hiei-zan Sakamoto Station

This is a suburban raised station along the lake, north of Otsu. It's appropriately named as it is the closest JR station to the Sakamoto Cable Car. Some freight trains come through here, but most travel down the other side of Lake Biwako. The JR West Thunderbird express runs through this station.

DSC08004 DSC08007 DSC08042

DSC08030 DSC08033 DSC08038

A total of around 35 minutes was spent on the platform. This saw 3 local trains (green), a freight loco hauling a diesel and a Thunderbird express.

DSC08012 DSC08024 DSC08026

DSC08053DSC08057 DSC08061

From here it was a quick ride home via Kyoto.

Filed under: JPN No Comments
8Dec/160

Shimonoseki, Japan – November 2016

We spent the day driving from Miyazaki to Shimonoseki, stopping through Nobeoka, Oita and Beppu. When you're on the highways, it's a very quick trip! Detouring off every so often provided great food and great recycle shops.

Evangelion Shinkansen

JR West have wrapped one of the last remaining 500 Series Shinkansens in EVA livery and it looks fantastic. It runs a Kodama service daily from Hakata to Shin Osaka. They've even gone as far as to refit the interior!

DSC07616 DSC07624 DSC07626

DSC07641

DSC07635 DSC07634 DSC07630

I was so hoping they'd play the theme song when the train was approaching... no such luck. I had to settle with it being sung at karaoke instead.

Sanyo Main Line

Down under the Shinkansen tracks, the Sanyo Main Line runs from Shin-Shimonoseki through Shimonoseki itself and then under a tunnel and into Hakata via Kokura. Just before Shimonoseki Station is Hatabu and a passenger yard. Turns out they're busy chopping up their stock :(

DSC07650

Fortunately, the timing was great that morning as the Shinkansen lined up nicely with a few freight services. An EF66 came through Hatabu as we were waiting.

DSC07656 DSC07664 DSC07670

Here's an EMU prior to getting the chop.

DSC07687

The overnighter in Shimonoseki came to a close and it was time to jump on a Hikari to Osaka.

Filed under: JPN No Comments
6Dec/160

Kyushu, Japan – November 2016

Kyushuu is renowned for it's joyful trains. I was fortunate enough to be in the vicinity of one in the south-eastern part of the island and couldn't afford to miss it. The Umisachi Yamasachi runs on the Nichinan Line from Miyazaki to Nango nearly every weekend in the later months of the year. Here is the latest timetable. The conist uses two DMUs which used to run on the (now closed) Takachiho Railway between Nobeoka and Takachiho. I was visiting a friend who works in a local monastery that happened to be right next to the line just short of Nango.

We arrived late on a Saturday and I actually saw the consist bolt past as we drove from Miyazaki Airport to Nango. It was already too dark to bother trying to get a shot of it.

Nango Town

This quaint little port town is home to a fleet of fishing vessels. It's located north of the Toi Cape, just south of Aburatsu. The shrine I was staying at happened to be located right next to the railway.

DSC07507

The local Nichinan Line service operated like clockwork and shook the building when it went past. It worked perfectly as an alarm clock.

DSC07292 DSC07302 DSC07306

DSC07323 DSC07334 DSC07335

DSC07488 DSC07492 DSC07493 DSC07495 DSC07496

Every now and then you got a double-DMU consist... but I failed to get a good shot of it! There was a yellow KIHA also.

Umisachi Yamasachi

This train only runs on weekends and so I only had the following Sunday to track it down. The service runs from Miyazaki to Nango and therefore was to run right past the temple. Unfortunately we had a busy day planned, so I wasn't to be in the right spot to get it. My friend actually called JR Kyushu for us to determine where the train would be staged between runs; turns out that location was Aburatsu Station. We headed there during our travels to see it.

DSC07428 DSC07430 DSC07431

DSC07437 DSC07435 DSC07433

DSC07438 DSC07439 DSC07432

So... didn't get to see it running; and now that I think of it, the consist would've passed the temple 4 times! I initially thought it staged at Nango Station as there is a siding there. Either way, seeing it at Aburatsu Station was a great opportunity!

Nichinan Line Bridges

During the travels around Aburatsu and Nango, we came across some great vantage points for photos. There's a bridge in the south of Odotsu that provides a fantastic backdrop.

DSC07343 DSC07349 DSC07350

DSC07365

DSC07356 DSC07364 DSC07373

And then one just north of Odotsu, but do be careful: the beach there is private property and we were politely asked to leave!

DSC07562

Low-light shots

As that I had the time and the location sorted, I thought I'd grab the tripod (or other suitable mounting point) and try for long-exposure shots of the DMU passing through. Turns out I suck; but it was fun trying!

DSC07484 DSC07525 DSC07528

DSC07542

That last one was actually at ~4:45am when the 'super moon' was up... hence the sky is also super-light.

Nobeoka

We ended up driving to Shimonoseki from Miyazaki Airport. This meant a trip through Nobeoka for lunch. The main reason was to visit as many recycle shops as possible! Either way, it timed perfectly with the daily freight that heads into Nobeoka South freight depot.

DSC07584

DSC07577 DSC07582 DSC07585

Bad lighting... but I didn't have enough time to work out a better vantage point. The recycle shops were calling!

4Dec/160

Compaq Deskpro 386s/20n: CMOS Battery

So, I totalled the previous motherboard and found a new one online. This one was the 16mhz version (the original was an SX-20) and had a different component layout. At the same time, I also purchased 8mb of RAM (Parity SIMMs!) and a 'new' Dallas Clock Chip/Battery from eBay.

After slapping it all together, the RAM counted up nicely and I could get into the setup as per usual. I configured the HDDs and then saved the settings and rebooted. Instead of working fine, each reboot presented me with the 162-System Options Not Set-(Run Setup) error. No amount of configuration would work. Everytime I continued and went into the setup, it would remove the HDD configuration. I could see that the BIOS wasn't even searching for the HDDs.

This was weird as the system was more-or-less configured back to a standard Compaq factory-issue. Everything was in good nick. I had a hunch though; maybe that Dallas Clock Chip from eBay was actually already dead!? The fact that I hadn't powered down the system meant that the configuration should have applied; this didn't seem to be the case!

DSC09097

I replaced the battery as per the previous one that I replaced (I actually ended up using the original one on the motherboard for the other 386 I picked up recently.) With the hack in place, the BIOS configuration saved and the HDDs were detected and ... the world was a happier place!

So... if you have a dodgy old Compaq Deskpro like mine: MAKE SURE YOU HAVE A GOOD CMOS BATTERY!

4Dec/160

Virtual Box vs. Hyper-V (Visual Studio Android Emulator)

I've had Virtual Box running for ages. I use it for experimenting... I also use it to host VPN'd OS'. The whole concept of having applications and OS' fixed into a container is fantastic.

I also dabble with Smart-phone development; usually using a Macintosh or Android Studio on Windows. I recently became aware that Visual Studio Community 2015 comes with the opportunity to code Android/iOS apps via Xamarin.

I've attempted Xamarin before, but never built anything productive. This was years ago and have since forgotten about it. Seeing this option in VS meant that MS were somehow backing it and I therefore took the plunge.

Installing it was fine and building a sample 'WebView' application harmless. It even ran successfully in the emulator!

VirtualBox Conflict

Later in the day, I attempted to boot up my trusty VM to acquire a few things. I was greeted with the error that VT-x was not available. I attempted to re-configure the machine, but the Acceleration tab was disabled as Virtual Box could not actually find any acceleration to use.

It turns out that installing the Android Emulator for VS also installed Hyper-V Virtualisation. On any windows machine, only one Virtualisation manager can be installed and VirtualBox is not compatible with Hyper-V! There's a blog post here of someone asking the same questions.

I have found one blog post by Scott Hanselman that tells you how to 'multi-boot' into Windows where Hyper-V is disabled, but then you cannot run your Android Emulator. This post was actually from January in 2014! I'm surprised I've only just hit this issue.

It turns out that VirtualBox simply cannot work with Hyper-V. I'm not sure if the Android Emulator can work without it.

I attempted a switch to VMWare only to find that it is also not compatible with Hyper-V! At least it presents you with an appropriate message.

The Answer

The solution to all of this is to use the Hyper-V Manager which is installed as part of Hyper-V and create virtual machines from there. I haven't done this yet, but am not expecting too many issues.

30Nov/160

Nintendo Famicon + Composite Mod

So, I impulse-purchased this original Famicom from a Recycle Shop next to Higashi-Yodogawa Station in the Shin-Osaka area. I wasn't in the market for a Famicom originally, until I found out that the original A-Train was released for it (as well as the MSX.)

DSC08953

DSC08954 DSC08955 DSC08956

The box didn't have an AC adapter. After a little googling, I purchased one from the stalls under the train station in Akihabara. BE VERY CAREFUL if you're buying an AC adapter for a Famicom, they're non-standard. See further below for potential issues.

Of course, Japan was NTSC back in the day and so this unit outputs an NTSC signal over the RF output. This is no good for TVs in Australia as none of them are capable of decoding an NTSC RF signal. Fortunately, they can decode an NSTC Composite signal, so we'll need to modify this unit to bypass the RF modulator and provide the signal we require.

Outputting a composite signal

I initially thought I'd use this simple modification and bought the required components. At home I realised that I actually had the 1989 version Famicom with Motherboard revision HVC-CPU-GPM-02. Searching further, I found this modification which was stated to work with my revision of the motherboard.

I purchased the required components:

  • 2x 1uf Capacitors (I used Monolythic. The Author says Ceramic, but the picture he shows uses Monolythic caps.)
  • 33uf Electrolytic Capacitor
  • 220uf Electrolytic Capacitor
  • 100ohm Resistor
  • 150ohm Resistor
  • Two RCA jacks for mono audio and video

There is also a transistor involved. This component is already on the motherboard and does not need to be purchased.

Applying the modification

First, de-solder the transistor.

DSC08969 DSC08971 DSC08975

The next step is to de-solder pin 21 of the PPU and then bend the pin out of its hole. This is to prevent signal noise which shows up as vertical bars in the signal (aka jailbars.) I had issues with the desoldering and so cut the leg at the base with the scissors on my swiss-army-knife. I don't recommend this process as you scratch the crap out of the pcb. Fortunately, there are no tracks underneath, so I fluked it.

DSC08980

Now, flip the board over and scratch the track that 21 was attached to as below. Although you've already removed the signal running on it, all articles recommend that you also scratch the track. Supposedly the thin track next to it absorbs noise from its neighbour. I'm not so sure that the track needs to be isolated, but I did it anyway.

[take photo]

Next, we need to work with the transistor that was removed. Fold one leg horizontal and then solder it to the locations as shown below.

DSC08982

Finally, add the 33uf Cap and resistors. The negative leg of the capacitor is your video output, so wire this (with sheilded wire if possible!) to the yellow RCA jack.

DSC08984 DSC08986 DSC08990

DSC08991

Add the two 1uf capacitors to the following locations to further suppress noise.

DSC09004

The second-last step is to attach the 220uf capacitor for sound output. The sound output comes from pin 46 of the cartridge port, so connect the capacitor there and the other end to the black/white RCA socket. Of course, both sockets also need to be grounded! I initially thought that I could just lie the capacitor on the board and connect the leg to pin 46... turns out that the case presses against this capacitor when closed, so I had to move it and wedge it in the gap to the left.

DSC09024 DSC09028 DSC09029

Now the final step is simply to mount the RCA sockets on the side of the unit. I chose the front right as there is heaps of room behind.

DSC09012 DSC09016 DSC09017

DSC09024

Now... to test...

Incorrect AC Adapter

Nothing... no power... dead... I hadn't actually ever gotten a signal out of this unit; so could it be completed dead? A quick investigation with my multimeter showed that the voltage was backwards on the 7805! Oh shit. For anyone playing at home, the link here gives you all the information you need on the power supply, especially pointing out that the adapter needs to provide negative on the center pin. Of course, I had bought a power supply with positive in the center and had tried to tune the RF for a few minutes. This completely cooked the 'slow-blow' fuse in my Famicom!

See here for more detail on fuses and replacing them. I was unable to find an exact replacement at my local electronics store, so I just shorted it to start with... but there was no way I was going to leave it in this configuration. If you want an exact (or best match) replacement, then search eBay for 'SNES Fuse' and you'll get quite a few results.

DSC08994 DSC08997 DSC08998

After this, I reversed the polarity on the AC Adapter.

DSC09002

And then....?

DSC09007

Winner! Nearly...

NTSC vs. PAL

I tried everything to get the picture correct. There's a trimpot, but this didn't help. I also grabbed some tinfoil to shield my video cable to the port, but that didn't help either. After a little googling, I realised that the NTSC timings of the Famicon are slightly out-of-spec and that my TV would never actually decode the signal. I know it can decode a proper colour NTSC signal, so I was a little concerned.

As a final test, I plugged the machine into the big TV.

DSC09008

Muhahahahahaha... and then for the final icing on the cake... (Thankfully I was wearing pants...)

DSC09035 DSC09034 DSC09032

Now to play the game!

9Nov/160

Installing an AT Motherboard in an ATX Case

I needed an AT case for this naked 386 AT motherboard and hadn't had much luck searching eBay. Little did I realise that I could put the motherboard into an ATX case with minor effort. All AT cases on eBay were way out of the price range, so I went back to the store that I purchased the power supply from for the Compaq and came back with another bargain!

DSC06942

DSC06943 DSC06945 DSC06946

There seems to be a faceplate missing, but I can't complain since I got it for AUD$20. It didn't come with a power supply, so I chose to use the AT that the motherboard came with. Of course, the first problem (it's still a problem, actually) is that the power switches aren't able to be swapped. ATX uses a 'soft power' switch whereas AT runs the full 240v right up to the mechanical switch to control the power feed. This is still currently hanging out the side of the case.

Mounting the motherboard was easy enough. Turns out that the read plate actually has all the required markings for the AT motherboard spacers!

DSC06957 DSC06958 DSC06962

A bag of goodies was included and I quickly got the motherboard into position.

DSC06964 DSC06965 DSC06966

Before going any further, I realised that I'd not put a new battery on the board yet. I cleaned the remnants of the previously leaky battery and mounted a coin-cell holder.

DSC06971 DSC06972 DSC06975

Once screwed down, everything fit back into the case perfectly.

DSC06976

The majority of front-panel wires were still compatible with the old AT style pinout... I just required a quick google to find information on the AT System panel connector.

DSC06979 DSC06981 DSC06982

Of course, the included I/O Panel doesn't fit an AT motherboard, so there's extra ventilation at the back. There seems to be all sorts of hints online to make your own plate, but nothing off-the-shelf that I could find.

I popped the top off to see if I could mount the power switch but there was no room for it. I'll have to work out a better mount for it, as the current answer is to have it hanging out the rear.

DSC06984 DSC06989 DSC06987

After purchasing a PS/2 to AT-style keyboard converter, I was able to actually boot the thing up! Now to get some software onto it...

2Nov/160

Melbourne – Cup Day 2016

Usually public holidays means very little freight traffic, but everything-and-more was running yesterday! I promised myself to sit in front of the computer, and work on computer-related-projects, but gave up quickly when I looked at the radar and saw that XR554 was leading the Long Island. I ran out of the apartment and just managed to catch the Metro Frankston train in front of the freighter from Hawksburn Station.

Glenhuntly Station - Long Island Steel Train

Glenhuntly Station was chosen as the vantage point. I'd always wanted a shot of the steelie coming round the bend. This intersection happens to be a 'Tram Square' where tram lines cross the railway lines. The catenary has to cross at this point too, and so only one network is energised at a time. There are insulators isolating the crossing wires and, I would assume, there is some large electrical switch that chooses which network is powered into the junction.

DSC07191 DSC07192 DSC07193

I was paying too much attention to the infrastructure and nearly didn't hear the freighter approaching!

DSC07194 DSC07197 DSC07208

DSC07202

The sun came out perfectly for the curve. Very happy to see an XR in the lead.

Two 49s and a Tamper

I was about to head home, and continue that work I promised myself, when saw something strange on the radar. A 49 Class NSW Locomotive heading south into Melbourne. These are sorta like the Victorian T Class, and aren't often down south. Not really knowing a good location, I attempted somewhere new, on-foot. From Albion Station on the Subury Line, I walked over to the curve where the Standard Gauge joins (or re-joins, really) the electrified broad gauge.

DSC07209 DSC07215 DSC07228

DSC07224

Turned out to be a pretty good location! One other on-looker had already been waiting there too. The colour-scheme looks really good on this loco, especially in overcast lighting.

CSR002 - The Sugar Cube

The map indicated that the new SCT movement was coming through next. It wasn't for about an hour though, so I caught the train back to Sunshine and got lunch at the mall. I also purchased an external battery pack for my phone, as the radar does happily trash one's battery. These batteries usually come pre-charged and this brick happily gave me a full charge prior to giving up the ghost. After mucking around and not paying attention to the radar, I realised that I was now running late and that CSR002 was already at Jacana. A quick run from the mall straight to the overpass saw me back in location with around 1 minute to spare.

DSC07236 DSC07246 DSC07251

DSC07244

These sugar cubes get their name from their very boxy shape, and the fact that their class name is 'CSR' (a famous Australian sugar company.) The train hurtled round the bend with 2 vans which it had retrieved from the new SCT depot in Wodonga.

The 49s return home

These two didn't hang around long. After the CSR came through, I ventured back to Albion station and awaited the next Metro train. I just missed one and so the next service wasn't for ~20mins. This was fortunate as the 49s showed up on the radar on the triangle near the LPC in Dynon. It turns out that they were turning around on the triangle; I assume 4911 has the accreditation to run in VIC and 4917 was there as backup.

DSC07254 DSC07260 DSC07262

DSC07261

They bolted through at track-speed and headed home. It always seems to be the days you least expect that provide the most excitement.

31Oct/160

Steamrail – 50 Years Of The Vintage Train

Steamrail Victoria is a heritage train preservation group that runs out of the Newport workshops, Victoria. They have a large selection of operational vehicles and they run a lot of tours throughout the year in Victoria.

This past weekend they ran a 50th anniversary for their "The Vintage Train" service that commemorates 50 years of running preserved steam locomotives in Victoria. They outdid themselves by having two consists running from Melbourne to Geelong, in parallel where possible!

Getting the consists to Southern Cross

As that there is no turn-around facilities at Southern Cross Station, both locomotives had to run tender-first with their consists from Newport to Southern Cross.

DSC07000

R761 was up first, basking in the morning sunlight through Spotswood.

DSC07022

DSC07029

D3-693 came through a few minutes later, letting a spark run first.

Southern Cross to Geelong

Both consists left Southern cross just after 10am. Initially it was stated that one was to run via Werribee and the other via the Regional Rail Link. I'm still not sure why, but both ended up running via the RRL. I caught R761 at Tarneit on the curve I previously mentioned. The train perfectly ploughed into the sunlight just as it approached Tarneit.

DSC07042 DSC07067 DSC07072

DSC07096

Following Google Maps, I then proceeded to Manor Loop. There was an intention to beat R761 to this location, but that wasn't an option obeying traffic rules. Instead, D3693 came bolting down the RRL as it joined back onto the Western Line. This was an unexpected delight, as it was actually meant to have run via Werribee?

DSC07112

From here, I joined the cavalcade. Turns out there were a lot of enthusiasts on the road. Of course, these were back roads and one or two of them were dirt. Unfortunately, the enthusiasts have passion and had no regard for road rules. Rocks were flying, dangerous overtaking was being practised and the poor locals really had no idea what was going on as an army of bad drivers plundered their way from Little River to Lara.

I attempted a few shots along the way, but the trains were, for the most part, well ahead of me. The sun was also in a bad spot. To make things harder, the trains were also leap-frogging for front place and my timing sucked. There was also a serious amount of contention for 'being in front' when a good photo spot was popular.

DSC07123 DSC07125 DSC07127

I then took my time, there were no more locations to get the trains before Geelong.

Geelong Station

Both trains were already on the platforms and one loco had already started the run-around. There was also a crowd who must have heard the trains arrive as they didn't seem to know what the trains were actually doing.

DSC07133 DSC07136 DSC07137 DSC07143 DSC07149

Both trains ran around. I assume they then went off to the V/Line depot and turned on the turntable. The goal was to then bring them back into the station and attach them to the opposite train that they came in with.

Returning via the RRL

I was about to head back to Melbourne. The weather was turning crap and there weren't too many good photo locations (that weren't smothered with enthusiasts) along the return route. I then realised I hadn't gotten a proper shot of the trains side-by-side, so I stuck around (a book helped) and decided on Little River to get the shot I'd actually spent the day for.

DSC07155 DSC07161 DSC07163

DSC07165 DSC07166 DSC07172

DSC07174

DSC07182 DSC07185 DSC07188

Of course, I chose the end of the 'parallel run' area and the trains weren't going to actually be side-by-side at this point. They did get very close... R761 was ahead on the approach and slowed right down to allow D3693 to catch up, but then bolted ahead a little too early and made its way back to Melbourne first.

As D3693 approached the platform, the level crossing activated. It seems to have then faulted, as the lights were flashing but the gates didn't come down. Cars built up and then started crossing. A V/Locity crawled its way from the other direction on caution as the light must've also been red from the other side. After a 20 minute wait, the gates came down properly and the steamer was given a proceed back to Melbourne.

I returned to Melbourne also. Really great day out!

28Oct/160

Latest 386 Hardware Acquisition

Whilst browsing the usual Vintage Computing column on eBay, I came across a naked computer. The seller described it as a functional 386 with RAM, CPU and all cards/cables; but no disk drives. No real issue there as I had the missing components at home.

Upon further inspection, a few of the cards caught my eye. They were all 8-bit ISA and had huge IDC headers on them. One had 4-in-a-row internally and another had one on the rear plate. These seemed to be I/O controllers, and so I endeavoured to win the auction.

Once everything arrived, I asked a few more questions and was told that this rig was initially in a corroded standard PC case (of the time) and had a large quantity of ribbon cables hanging out the back. This makes perfect sense as each of those headers would fit a 50-pin ribbon cable, and four of those hanging out the back would take up a lot of space. I was then told that the machine was used at the Siding Spring Observatory. Who would've thought that a random 386 would have so much history!? No wonder they needed so much I/O!

I googled for images of internal computer systems at the observatory, but couldn't find any pictures of anything resembling this machine. Here's some links: The 2.3m Advanced Technologies Telescope at Siding Spring Observatory, Anglo-Australian Telescope control room, 40 Years of the Australian Astronomical
Observatory
and The Anglo-Australian Telescope and Siding Spring Observatory.

The Loot

386 Motherboard
ELTECH 386
ELT-386B
Cyrix 387 FastMath Coprocessor
Very OEM-looking board, but turns out to be a popular brand back in the late 80s. This is nearly the board, but it seems like there is very little information. There are some brochures on the machines! It gives you a good idea as to what the case used to look like.

8 SIPP modules installed. These have pins, instead of an edge-connector, connecting them to the motherboard. Very difficult and fragile to deal with!

The EEPROM was oncovered to start with and the sparkly internal chip was visible. I'd not exposed it to direct sunlight, but I was worried for it's 1s and 0s! The battery was also in an awful state. This was removed and cleaned up post-haste.

DSC06895

DSC06896 DSC06906 DSC06907

16-bit Controller Card
PRIME 3B MKII Nothing special about this card...just your standard ISA 16-bit controller with all cables and ports provided for.
DSC06929
16-bit VGA Card
ZPVGA REV:B
ZTECH Electronic Corp
Licensed by WDC
Really nice 16-bit VGA card. Seems to be a clone (or produced under license) of WDC.
DSC06913

DSC06915 DSC06920 DSC06922

Axiom Tech AX5210 A/D Interface Card
8-bit ISA bus with 50-pin IDC male port.
16 analog/digital inputs.
8 Digital-only inputs.
8 digital-only outputs.
This thing looks awesome. At first I thought I'd have trouble with connectors, but it uses a standard SCSI 50-pin IDC connector! There's a lot of documentation and (thankfully) the source code online too!

Acceed.net product information page
Acceed.de product information page
Driver pack with sample code!

AX5210 Brochure Page 1 AX5210 Brochure Page 2

DSC06931
8-bit ISA I/O Card
All cabling internal.
Small slot under backplane to allow ribbon cables through?
4 50-pin IDC headers.
This thing is huge. After investigating the ICs I can see that there are 8 74LS244Ns that run to the 50-pin IDC ports. Therefore I'm guessing this is a 64-bit I/O card. Programmable as well. Maybe similar to this. Zero documentation online, but I did find another going on eBay for over AUD$100!?
DSC06936
8-bit ISA I/O Card
DECISION-COMPUTER
DECISION 9012-1
2 PORT 422/485 I/O CARD
Startech Semiconductor Corp (on chips)
PLC 37-pin Female Socket
Not much online for this one either. Seems to be a 2-port RS422/485 serial card? Not overly interesting as I have nothing else for it to talk to! Here's a datasheet of the major ICs on board (ST16C550CP).
DSC06933
AT Power Supply
TERVAN PTY LTD
"INSTALLED 29 JULY 2004"
"FAN REPLACE 25 JAN 2011"
This power supply has, relatively recently, been maintained? Does that mean that this machine was still operational at the Observatory right up until (or past!) 2011? Amazing usage of the rule don't-fix-what-ain't-broken!
DSC06886

DSC06887 DSC06888 DSC06890

Quick POST Test

Yes, the age-old Power-On-Self-Test-Test. Just like the ATM Machine. Not all of us know English. Anyway... removed the battery, cleaned the area of residue and thankfully there was no corrosion! The motherboard was inspected. The power supply was too.

DSC06926

All received a brief clean and then the machine was assembled on the workbench with the VGA card installed.

DSC06925

Ta-da!