Wednesday, 11 July 2018

A board becomes a layout

The next step with the baseboard was to add fascia panels to protect the foam-core board, which although surprisingly strong is not very robust. Joshua also wanted a back-scene and a lighting pelmet, for such a small layout it made sense to make them integral. The whole lot was cut from a sheet of 3mm MDF; the end pieces forming a support for the backscene and lighting, with a "lid" on top to cover the lighting. The front, rear, and end pieces were glued to the foarm-core board and also screwed to the blocks that had been set in the corners. Small strips of wood were used to help join the backscene to the ends, and blocks behind the lighting pelmet joined the top pieces together.

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As you can see at this point track-laying had already started, as we'd realised it would be easier to lay the curve through the backscene and the point control wires before the backscene was in place. The curve is pretty tight, so the rails were slid out of the sleepers and pre-bent between fingers, before re-threading the sleepers back on. Track is glued down with PVA, held with a few track pins pushed into the foam-core until the glue has dried.

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Point operation is by wire-in-tube, which was laid into a groove cut into the top of the foam-core board and held with hot glue. We've used the simple but effective trick of connecting the wire to a slide switch, which deals with frog polarity.

Monday, 9 July 2018

Another distraction

In my last post I referred to a couple of distractions from my usual modelling plans, this is the second one.

Having helped me with exhibiting my layouts for the last few years, my son has been saying for a while that he wanted to build his own 009 layout that could be taken to exhibitions, a small layout like the EXPO challenges. Then he found out about the Dave Brewer challenge for this year's EXPO-NG show, which is to build a layout 50cm by 35cm, and decided that he was going to build a layout to enter.

Of course what that means is that he is going to get me to help him build the layout, including advice and doing anything he deems too tricky, so the result will be a bit of a joint effort. However that does leave us a challenge in simply making the time to work on it - there's not a lot that Joshua could do without supervision, and I'm not doing anything without him.

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We've been working on it for a few months now, but I'll rewind the story to the planning stage. This was mostly done full-size on a piece of lining paper, with paper point templates, and some mock-up buildings made from cereal packets. We tried out a few ideas, and even has some input from Mum, before he settled on the design he wanted.

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The baseboard was made from foam-core board, which is easy to cut with a knife, even for an 11 year old. The parts are stuck together with a hot glue gun. The top is double thickness, laminated with PVA glue, and blocks of wood were set into the corners ready to screw side panels to later.

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More soon...

Sunday, 1 July 2018

Another Control Panel

If you've noticed that updates on my modelling activities have been limited of late, there are a couple of distractions that could explain things, and not just holidays and the hot weather.

The Sussex Downs 009 group are building a new layout, and I seem to have got the job of wiring it up, possibly because no one else seemed to want to. After some time thinking and planning I have adopted my usual approach of coding the wires, and using lots of terminal blocks, hopefully making it easier to follow - and debug in future. However, it became apparent that progress during fortnightly meetings was rather slow, so I brought home the control panel for some homework.

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I can take no credit for the box itself as that is the work of Martin Collins, who has much better woodwork skills than I. The panel is my usual approach of a sheet of aluminium, with a computer printout schematic diagram, and a layer of clear plasticard on top. The coloured switches operate the track sections while the silver ones operate the points. The two grey cables run one to each of the two baseboards.

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Inside (the panel is upside-down in front of it's box) may look messy, but the terminal blocks are labelled according to wire codes, and simply link the switches to the track, point motor, or appropriate power supply, so should not be too hard to follow. The incoming power connections have yet to be made, and the big cables need some kind of cable grip.

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The multi-way connectors weren't much fun to wire up but I've not found a better alternative for this many pins, that isn't too bulky or costly. Each connects to a hinged panel on the back of the baseboard, one of which is seen here.

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The back of the panel has more terminal blocks - which connect from the socket to the various parts of the layout. The seemingly random letters and numbers are the codes for each wire, the wires are colour coded according to purpose too. This panel will hinge down for easy access if required.

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Revisiting a French beauty

The end of May half-term saw us on a family holiday in France. I couldn't resist a trip to re-visit the Chemin de Fer de la Baie de Somme, which I first visited four years ago. This metre gauge line runs from St Valery sur Somme to Le Crotoy via Noyelles sur Mer, around the Somme estuary, with a branch to Cayeux sur Mer. We took the main route again as that was running a steam service, once again with a beautifully turned out loco and train, through peaceful countryside with views over the estuary.

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Noyelles is a "through terminus", where the train reverses to take the second part of the line. Last time I visited two trains crossed here, which led to a simultaneous departure in the same direction on parallel tracks. Only one train today (although it did meet a standard gauge SNCF service in the station behind), but opportunity to watch the loco being turned and watered. Apparently this loco dates from 1889, and was built for the constructors of the Panama canal, before being used in Puerto Rico. It is now beautifully restored.

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The turntable at the St Valery terminus is on the quayside with inset track, and this delightful inset turntable that is a real crowd-pleaser, in front of the small but ornate station building. One day I must build a model based on this scene!

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There's loads of inspiration for modellers, such as the little rail-car or drasine spotted in the yard as we passed. The tiny set of bogies in front of it are interesting too, I suspect for moving rails when renewing track.

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Even the track itself is fascinating, unusually complex for a narrow gauge line, such as this three-way point in front of the turntable at Noyelles. Note the boarding for the crossing.

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The scissors crossing must be even more unusual; this connects the two running lines from St Valery (right) and Le Crotoy (left) into the platform at Noyelles. The siding on the left is standard gauge, I've noticed the rail has taken on a different colour.

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Added to all of that there is dual-gauge track between Noyelles and St Valery, with the metre-gauge set inside the standard (i.e. not sharing a rail) giving rise to some pointwork oddities. I assume this is so SG wagons can be moved by NG locos.

This is a gem of a line that was well worth a second visit. It's only a little over an hour from Calais so look it up if you are passing! http://www.cfbs.eu/en/

Sunday, 20 May 2018

SWING Narrow Gauge & Industrial show

Yesterday I took Awngate a short trip down the coast to Littlehampton for the SWING industrial and narrow gauge show. I was ably assisted by my chief train driver.

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We did suffer some problems with the fiddle yard, the wiper contacts are not working too well. I may have to re-think that, but I don't yet have a better solution. There were also the few troublesome trucks, but mostly the layout performed well, and received some nice comments.

The show was at a new venue, the Littlehampton Academy, which meant all the exhibits were in the same hall, a big improvement over the last venue I thought. The style remained the same, a varied collection of layouts covering narrow gauge and industrial themes - though there was even an Irish broad gauge layout - and good trade support including NG specialists and both 009 Society and 7mm NG Association society sales. I did get a few photos although unfortunately I didn't get a program or list of layouts, so I don't remember the names or builders of most of them.

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Both the trophies - voted for by exhibitors, and by visitors - went to this live steam SM45 layout Hambleden Valley Railway. Most live steam layouts are all about the trains with some token scenery, but this was a detailed scenic model railway that happened to use actual steam power, running was smooth and realistic by radio control too. I guess you could say it is more prototypical than most layouts.

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Bridge over the Blythe is a model of the Southwold Railway prototype, and a fine example of railway in the landscape modelling, it's hard to believe this is 2mm scale.

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I liked this US industrial layout, Red Hook Bay, full of finely detailed scenes and the waterfront is superb.

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Another type of waterway, this canal lock on this 7mm scale layout called (I think) Mulldale.

More photos can be found on Flikr here.

Friday, 4 May 2018

Remotoring an armoured Simplex

My armoured simplex, which I built a couple of years back, didn't run very well. Investigation showed that the sleeve on one of the axles had come loose from the axle, meaning the gear could turn on the axle, effectively making it a 2 wheel drive chassis. The sleeve is meant to be superglued in place but it is very difficult to do, and even more difficult to fix, as the axle also has to pass through the chassis holes. Since I can't figure a way to fix the chassis without supergluing it I wasn't sure what to do, until I heard that the Tomix MH-01 chassis can be fitted.

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So at Narrow Gauge South I picked up a chassis, as you see it comes with a bright but incomprehensible (to me) box. It also has a "box-van" style body to fit over it, and stickers to cover it which you can decorate, though I didn't use those. Under the toy-like packaging and body is a surprisingly compact chassis. Oddly, it has a frame like a kind of life-ring mounting around it, which is designed to allow some movement - limited rocking and swivelling - of the chassis within it.

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I cut a piece of 40 thou plastic (black) to fit within the body of the simplex, and out of that cut the shape of the chassis until it until it was a close fit around the outer frame of the chassis. Small squares built up on packing pieces sit on the corners of the chassis, and smaller off-cuts bear against the side of the motor to prevent it swivelling within the frame. At one end I made a notch for the mounting bolt.

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Underneath a couple more pieces of plasticard clamp under the chassis outer frame. There was still a little movement between the chassis and mounting frame, so I dabbed a spot of hot glue in the gap on each side.

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The chassis is a neat fit into the body. The new mounting plate slots in at one end, held by a plasticard piece behind the buffer beam. At the other end it is held by the bolt used for the original chassis. I couldn't find space to secure the couplings with a screw so I've had to superglue them in pace, fortunately there's a nice piece of whitemetal just above them to there should be plenty of contact.

I'm pleased to say the new chassis runs well, and it's nice to have the little tin turtle back in service. However I'm still left with the problem of how to fix this Ruston, also languishing out of service. The Minitrix chassis motor has taken to releasing magic smoke every time power is applied, so it looks like it is mortally wounded. It's a difficult chassis to replace though.

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Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Lighting with LED's - experimentation

I've been looking into LED lighting for layouts for some time, with the build of Hexworthy underway. They offer distributed light in a light-weight flexible format, with low power consumption and heat output. There are potential pitfalls though, I've seen layouts far to dimly or unevenly lit, or worse still, with an unnaturally blue light (I've even seen a layout actually lit with blue LED's!).

One problem is that "white" LED's are not often white, the options seem to be "cool white" at the bluer end of the spectrum (6000K), or warm white (3000K) which is much more yellow. I find the cool white is too blue, and while the warm white is more preferable it is rather too yellow - more Mediterranean than British! However I recently found that it was possible to get "Natural white", which at around 4000K is somewhere between the two.

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So here's what I bought:
  • Natural White 4000K SMD 5050 LED strip, 60 LED's per meter (link)
  • A 12V 2A Power Supply Adaptor, which should be good for about 2m of LED's (link)
The adaptor came with a socket fitted with screw terminals, allowing easy connection of the LED's. I cut about 50cm of the LED strip and stuck it to a strip of foamboard to experiment.

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This assembly was then roughly taped to the lighting beam above Awngate, at a slight angle towards the rear, to see how it looked.

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The result looks good, the colour does look "natural" to me, and while far less yellow than the tungsten strips used on Awngate, it does not have the blue tint of cool white LED's. Placement may be better - objects near the front are in shadow - and shadows are a little harsh, but otherwise light distribution looks OK.

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The effect in a darkened room looks good to me. I wasn't sure if it was bright enough at first, so how does it compare to the existing lighting?

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This shows the layout lit with the LED strip on the left side, and the existing 30W tungsten strip lighting the right hand end (the one at the left end is switched off). The difference in colour balance is obvious, the tungsten light is much more yellow - cheerful and summery perhaps, but less realistic. Brightness seems reasonably consistent to me, although the LED light may be less well spread, and shadows are perhaps a little sharper. So a 12" deep layout may be adequately lit by a single strip of LED's, but using more lights and possibly use of reflectors and diffusers might spread the light better.

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I also got this dimmer switch (link), mainly because it was so cheap. I wonder if it may be helpful if adding more LED lights to dim down to what is needed. Also I suspect that the small power supply I got will do for very small layouts, but I may need to get a bigger power supply for larger layouts. More experimentation to follow, but I am happy with the colour balance of these lights.