Sunday, 23 July 2017

Back to setting scenery

I have been very busy with my Open University project (470Routing) but I have managed to keep going on the home railroad. I have now ballasted the yard (with Woodland Scenics (WS) cinders) and the rest of the main town (Sunset) with WS N scale fine ballast. I have also set up the two-LED routing indicators. There hasn't been much running but the scenic work has been fun.

I have also managed to build two laser cut industries. One is the Branchline Trains Creamery whilst the other is the final part of the Ice House from GCLaser.

Using some WS lightweight Hydrocal I have put down some basic ground cover around the Creamery and the Ice House complex. It isn't finished yet but is starting to look quite good.

Here is the current situation:

(Click on the image for a full sized version)

Shortly, I will be completing the ground cover and the roads, along with the grade crossing.

Thursday, 8 June 2017

SNE Wired up and ready to go

I finally have an SNE that I like and that will probably work! I spent a lot of time drawing layouts and  posted quite a few iterations on the forums. The plan went through a lot of changes. Not only that but the boards have been built with extra bracing so they shouldn't suffer the dips that appeared in the last one.

The layout is at a much lower level so that I can get to everywhere whilst sitting in my chair.The switches are all controlled by DCCConcepts Cobalt Digital switch motors so all of the live frogs are wired up. I have, also, installed two-colour LEDs on every point so that I can see which way they are set without standing up.

The boards were built in sections but they are now held together with strong tape so that there is no movement between them. This tape will be covered by the scenery as it goes down.

Here are some images of the current state of play.

I have staging on both ends. This staging is build on foam core that has been turned into box girders. I have invested in a set of foam core tools and one of them is a v-cutter. This runs down a channel on the special FoamWerks straight edge and cuts a v-channel whereby the board can be folded with a 90 degree angle. This is extremely string and can span at least 5 feet without any flex. here is a shot of the end of one of the girders. as you can see, the v-cutter makes an excellent job of the cuts (such that you can hardly discern the "V" cut at all.

I have fitted a small level on the end and you can see the screw for the levelling foot, which is an M6 bolt with some foam core glued to it screwing into a T-nut. The other end is fixed to the base board. An added interest is that the desk is electric (in that it has a power lift and fall) which I use because of my arthritis - if I sit at it for any length of time my joints seize so I change the level on long sessions. This means that I then have to adjust the staging to get it back  to level as I never get the electric lift back to exactly where it started. The other end of the railroad is the same except that I have more space soI have fitted a wide base with two adjusters to get the levels right in both directions.

All joints across all boards are fixed with PCB sleepers and the track soldered in place. The sleepers are then glued to the foam board and we have joints with zero movement.

As you can see from the images of the layout, I have filled all of the spurs to get some idea of the capacity of each. With this information, I can incorporate this layout into the test phase of my university freight car routing project.

I am still getting used to my new DCC controller - I have one of the new Digitrax Evolution Duplex Starter sets (with the wireless controller). So far I am very happy with the set up. I have also got it integrated with JMRI. The eventual hope is to have the trains run from my phone and the routing software on my tablet. We shall see.

Next step is to mess about with the resistors on the LEDs as they are very bright and need toning down. 

Thursday, 4 May 2017

SNE Track design works

I put my track design on theModel Railroader Track forum for comments and had lots of help sorting out what would work and what wouldn't. There were concerns that I had done the usual trick of overestimating how much track that can be got onto a board and one commenter thought that I had used #2 turnouts to make everything work. In fact I had been a little ambitious but, with a bit of reorganising,I was able to get the basic layout to fit.

This is the "current" final layout.

I had to swing the runaround over so that it ran from one end of the main board to the other. To make this work,I had to move the passenger station onto the runaround. I also removed a couple of industries. Apart from that everything went in OK. here are some pictures as it went along.

The track is now down, wired up, had the turnout motors fitted and everything has been tested.

Here are all of the point motors laid out and pre-configured to their correct addresses. Little did I know what was to come!

 It wasn't until I tried everything on the board that I realised that motor No. 1 didn't work. I had done the classic Cobalt motor stupid error - put the two power wires in at the wrong end of the wiring panel. This is guaranteed to blow up a motor. Later versions have a little film cover to stop you. This is the second time that I have done this. So, a quick trip down to my friend Kevin at Coastal DCC and another £17.00 pounds spent. With that replaced, there was a further problem. Point #9 was the wrong way round. Sending close made it turn out and sending turn out made it close. Also, it was still self-centering at startup when I had switched that off for all the motors. Whilst I was with Kevin, I asked him about this and it seems that, very occasionally, the set/run switch gets a dry connection and, thus, programming the motor doesn't work. Fortunately, this is covered by their guarantee so Kevin will swap that over - hopefully tomorrow. In the meantime, I have swapped in #14 so that I could keep going.

The last activity that has been taking place is to put the wiring in for the switch display panel. To do this, I had to add a second wire into the frog polarity switch on each motor and run it out to the front. I have carefully numbered each one and wired them into a choc-block connector.

Here is a shot of the underneath with all of this in place. The red and black are the power bus wires and the yellow/green are the LED feeds. (I ran out of yellow!).

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Joining the Foam Core together

I have spent the day today connecting everything together. I have planned out the new layout. This has been amply discussed on the Model Railroader Magazine Forum.

I have been through four iterations of the plan and I think that I have got it close to where I want it.  However, the first thing to do was to connect the various boards together. The layout is like this:

I have connected 8,1 & 2 and 4, 5 & 6. The boards were hot glued and kept straight. The separate boards need to be connected together so that they don't move. I do this with foam core clips. I have used these before and they work very well. They look like this. There is a clip at the front and the back.

They sit right down and hold both sides together.

Tomorrow, I will start laying out the track to make sure that my design works. The design is as follows:

More photos tomorrow.

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

All the foam core is down.

I have now laid out all of the foam core. It all fits very nicely and very tightly. It is 80mm high to accommodate the DCC Concepts point motors.

Here is a video of the layout as it stands. I hope that you like the music ( see my note at the end).

The next step is to start laying out the track. I have tried in the past to design the railroad on paper or on the computer but I never seem to get the spacing correct. This time, I have set my Givens and Druthers (fine old American expression that we don't have over here in the UK. I picked it up from the John Armstrong books and then heard it in a duet between Bobby Darin and Johnny Mercer  on "Two of a Kind" called "I'd Rather Have My Druthers" (a CD I heartily recommend!). Anyway, I will start sliding points around along with some of my industry buildings so that I get the spacing correct.  I am looking forward to that.

The music is, as you probably guessed, "The Little Red Caboose Behind The Train" as recorded by the Pickett Family sometime before WWII. YouTube picked up on the song and they have a claimant to the copyright so you may find an ad appearing! Sorry if that happens:-(

Monday, 17 April 2017

New Boards

Further issues with my arthritis have caused me to dismantle the layout that I was building on the kitchen units. There were two problems with it. Basically, the return curves were too tight and I was getting a lot of issues with stock coming off the track. Secondly, it required that I stand up to build the railroad and also to do the switching. I can only stand up for about 3 - 4 minutes at a time (I then sit down and recover) so I wasn't getting much done.

My wonderful wife (who puts up with so much from me given my health issues) told me to take it down and reduce the height so that I could do everything sitting down. That had two effects.
  1. I had her support for the mess and work involved and
  2. She could hardly complain about the budget when it was her idea - well, I might not get away with that for everything - smile.
Reducing the height was easy. We just had to lift the kitchen units and take the legs off. This would drop them by about 8" - perfect. I am left with two nice long runs, with potential for staging on each end that is removable. I am thinking about what to do. I have recovered 14 points but little of the track so I have bought a box of 25 yards of Peco Code 83. I will cover this in a later blog entry.

Well, my friend Mark came around and helped me take down the old and put up the new. We took the kitchen units down and took the legs off. Mark moved the glass cabinets across the room (without emptying them). He also moved the steel industrial shelving unit that I had on the left hand side of the door (which had my kit stash on it) across to the other side of the door - commenting that, although it was full of kits that they didn't weigh very much. A younger and fitter version of me would have done all of this on my own but my arthritis prevents me from doing much.

All the new units (from Hobbycraft and John Lewis) all moved up into the left corner and my study desk (the nice electrically power one) was moved back to its old position. This left a clear area under the window. All in all, it gave me a lot more space - but no chance of a roundy-roundy - boo.

Mark gets my eternal thanks for all of his help. We managed it between 9.15 and 12.00. Since then, I have done the following:
  • Bought the 5mm A1 sized foam core from Hobbycraft (they have a special on - 4 sheets for £10.00. That is the same price per board as Amazon but with Amazon you have to buy 10 sheets and I wanted 12 so that was much better. 
  • Made a click and collect at Maplins for the wire and set of wire strippers.
  • knew that Tool Station does a nice line in screws that act as their own drills so I bought a box of 40mm.
  • Went to Travis Perkins and bought 20m (65') of 2"x1" (funny that lengths are in metric but wood sizes are still imperial ;-) (incidentally, I bashed the back of the car against an iron girder which will cost much more than I was planning to spend on the railroad!).
  • Went to B&Q and got a nice assistant there to get  a couple of 48" x 24" 6mm MDF (still confused about units?). into my car.
  • Decided that 40 mm wast't long enough for some of the joints so went to Screwfix (just around the corner from B&Q) and bought some 50mm drill tipped screws.

Now having everything I need, I got going. It was a long holiday weekend so I didn't have any interruptions. I got on nicely and here is the result.

Three boards ready for laying. I put extra strengtheners under to stop the sag that I suffered last time. Tere are 3 more to go plus some faffing around at the end.

I cleared off the top of the units so that I could make the open frame bit.

Here is the open frame. It fits very nicely between the units and the wall. The legs are fitted with t-nuts. I then insert a bolt, glue the bolt head to a castor cup. I can then level each part just by rotating the cups.

Finally, I have it all made up ready for the rest of the foam core to be built.

I hope to finish the foam core tomorrow. I will then plan the track layout by moving actual points around. I intend to have removable staging at both end but we will see how that pans out.

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Here we go again

It's my blasted arthritis. I set the railroad up onto kitchen units on the basis that I could sit down and operate whilst it would be at a good height to build the scenery, etc. My arthritis has developed faster than I can work on the railroad. I am now in the situation whereby I can't stand up long enough to do anything (4 - 5 minute bursts don't leave enough time to get "stuck in"to anything!

There was another problem with the railroad as constituted. As I wanted a roundy-roundy, I had to accommodate the curves at both ends within the space between the wall and the door.  This gave me a board which, at its widest, could be 32". With some space for the longer stock to travel around, I was down to about 12"curves. This has been causing problems with various items of stock not liking various parts of the curves. The problem is that there are not any specific spots that can be fixed. One loco doesn't mind one end whilst another comes off every time going round it.

I was talking to the wife about what to do when she suggested that we lower the railroad to make it possible for me to work on the boards as well as run trains sitting down. Trust her to see an obvious solution. She suggested that we take the feet off the kitchen units and sit the cabinets on the floor. This would drop the whole thing by about 6" and everything would then be accessible.

This would kill two birds with one stone because I would have to take the railroad down to carry out this operation. The reason is that the baseboard is constructed of 5mm foam core boards of about 2' length but that are all hot glued into one long board:-( I jumped at this because, knowing what I know now, I would have to forgo the roundy-roundy but would no longer have the problems of the curves at each end. Additionally, as she suggested it, she could hardly complain about the budget. (Aside to self: best I put as much into this as I can as it is an approved expenditure - grin).

So, yesterday morning, we had this:

and now we have:

I expect to have the whole thing down by close today. We have worked out a new room layout which moves the desk back to where it was and shuffles everything else around to give me more space. I will be building down the left hand wall and across the back, making sure this time that we can open the window!

Other news since I last posted. 
  • I have acquired another two locos - a Pennsy GP9 and (as a Christmas present from my friend Dan in the US) an Amtrak SW-7. Both of these have gone off to Kevin at Coastal DCC to have "proper" sound decoders installed.
  • I have bought two SP coaches which I intend to re-decal as Boston & Maine. I had to carve off steps and some underbody stuff to get them to go around the old curves - which has ruined them really.
  • All change on the DCC front - out goes NCE and in comes latest Digitrax radio. More on that in another post.
  • The OU course is going well. Check out the web page and the blog

So, I need another 10 yards or so of track; lots more rail joiners; more feed wire and, oh,about 15 sheets of foam core!