Sunday 21 July 2013

Treasure Hunt at Amberley

Last weekend I was at Amberley for their annual railway gala, helping out with the 009 Society stand in the model railway exhibition. Making up 009 wagon kits and chatting to punters wasn't very demanding so it left time to have a good look round. The format was much the same as previous years, some good NG layouts (though little I hadn't seen before) but the real action is outside with lots of trains and locos running. Visiting loco this year was Jack, an Andrew Barclay originally built for the Edinburgh Gas Works, and looking superb.

However this year I was on a mission - I knew that three of the Thakeham Tiles locos ended up there, and it would be great to see if I could find them, so camera in hand I went for a wander. First up is No 4, which was built by the staff at Thakeham, clearly no expense spared!

Nearby was No 5, also built at Thakeham. This time a little more thought had gone into the design and it had a (removable) cab, it almost looks like a loco! Almost, like No 4 it has more in common with a lawnmower than a railway loco.

The final loco was more elusive, but a quiet word with someone in the know pointed me in the right direction (probably a direction I wasn't supposed to be in), to where I found Hudson Hunslet 3653 of 1946. Now this loco was significantly modified to fit under the Thakeham hoppers, so first here's a picture of a similar Hudson Hunslet looking as the factory intended:

So finally here is the Thakeham Hudson Hunslet. The chassis and radiator are recognisable but the driving position has been dropped behind the chassis, with the driving controls modified and extended for sit-down operation. Note that like No 5 there is no coupling on the "rear" of the loco - the cab would not be strong enough - but the operation at Thakeham only required coupling at one end.

To complete my model of Thakeham Tiles a model of at least one of these locos would be great, though none would be easy. The enclosed No 5 would probably be the easiest to motorise, and although there is a good kit of a (standard) Hudson Hunslet from Nonneminstre Models that could be modified, the Tenshodo motor bogie which it is designed for is unsuitable for 14mm gauge, and the open sided prototype makes motorising it a real headache. In any case I will be struggling to get the layout finished for EXPO as it is so building another loco is out of the question!

Still an enjoyable and productive day at Amberley and perhaps some projects for the future!

Monday 15 July 2013

Track and Wires

It has taken over three weeks, but finally I have finished the trackwork. Well, almost - I should add the nice plastic fishplates KB Scale supply with the sleepers! Also the section over the bridge is not yet fixed as I need to complete the bridge and walling first.

I'm pleased with how it looks, although at about a week per foot of track it has been pretty tedious! At the ends the track is hidden inside structures, a few copperclad sleepers add strength and I have ensured there is no chance of a train leaving the board! Track feed wires are visible here too, but every rail section in the scenic area has a feed wire soldered to the bottom of the rail.

I have also fitted a control panel using the method I've applied to a few layouts now. The panel is an offcut of 2mm Aluminium from the guillotine waste bin at work, onto this is stuck a print-out of the schematic (Word is OK for drawing this), then a sheet of clear plastic (Wills kits bubble packaging in this case!). The toggle switches bolt through and hold the layers together, then the whole lot is screwed in place behind the facia.

The position of the panel allowed me to incorporate the manual point actuators - these are the two dowels visible in the panel. Behind the scenes these slide through a block of wood, and are screwed to the plastic lever of slide switches. The point operating wire is also attached to the slide switch, then goes to the point via a tube as seen in the last post. The slide switch is then used for feeding the vee of the point and provides the latching mechanism. I'm rather chuffed with this idea - operating the wooden dowels in the panel is nicer than operating the slide switches directly, and they have a nice "clunk" action.

Also visible in the photo above is the main terminal block for the wiring. I used to use tag strips, and would prefer to but these terminal blocks are much cheaper! As well as joining wires together they act as a point to route and test wires.

A wider view of the under-board wiring. The power comes in from the controller via a socket bottom right, the panel is centre right. Wiring is colour coded for ease of understanding, and despite being a simple layout the need to feed each rail length and switch point frogs makes it surprisingly complex:
- Red is main track power (controller fed direct)
- Blue is the common return to the controller
- Black is for switched point-frogs and any rails joining to them
- Yellow is for the three isolating sections. 

And yes, it did all work first time! Sketching it out in advance, and drawing the layout and labelling feed wires on the underside of the layout helped. Incidentally the yellow wires are the only ones a DCC user could skip, along with the three switches. But then you'd have more wiring in each loco. Who says DCC is two wires?

Monday 8 July 2013

A pair of points

I'm finally nearing completion of the track-laying, so here is the story of the most tricky part - the points of course! I'm very glad I only have two to build for this layout, I'm sure I'd get better with practice but point building is very tedious to me, especially using the spiked construction of the KB Scale track representing the sectional industrial track.

The rails were cut and shaped onto plans of the points. Without soldered construction and with so few sleepers the crossing vee (frog) area of the point would be very weak. I decided to assemble this onto a small, thin sheet of brass, justified as these type of industrial points often had steel plate under the crossing. Track spikes help with the assembly here.

The point blades have wire droppers soldered to both the hinge end and the tie-bar end, these will form the pivot and the attachment to the tie bar. The "proper" construction with tiny brass tabs under the blades riveted to tie bars is well beyond me, so I have a cheat method. Once ready, and not forgetting to add feed wire droppers, the rails were then transferred to the plastic sleepers on the layout.

The rails were carefully spiked in place checking the gauge. Slots had been cut under the tie bar for the wire droppers, and holes through the sleeper and foam-board at the hinge point, so the blades could be dropped in place. The tie-bars are made from 40" plastic (they will be cut down) through which the droppers pass, although these are largely cosmetic they do help keep the blade spacing. At present I have yet to fit the check rails.

The real action is underneath. The real tie bar is a strip of PCB (sliding on a piece of black plastic), through which the droppers pass, then small pieces of PCB are soldered to each dropper to act as "nuts". The droppers are therefore free to rotate relative to the tie bar as it moves sideways. The same method of PCB soldered to the wire is used to hold the pivot wire in place too. Note that the blades are electrically isolated from each other and a wire feed will be attached to the bottom of the hinge wire.

The points are operated by wire-in-tube, a steel wire through the tie-bar passes through a plastic (PTFE?) tube which is held in place by lots of hot-glue and pieces of foam board so it cannot move sideways. A Z-bend in the wire by the tie bar acts as a spring for any slack. The other end is attached to a slide-switch, which not only will switch the electrics for the point vee, but also acts as the latch to hold the point over. Actuation is by dowels to the side of the layout, attached to the slide switches with a screw, more on this when I get to the wiring.

This isn't precision engineering but so far the points seem to work, which is the point ... if you excuse the pun. That said, they've not been tested by a loco yet! Time to finish the last bits of track and connect up the wires.
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Monday 1 July 2013

Integrated Lighting? Not Quite...

While I'm working on the points I thought I'd update you on how the layout will be lit. Rather than go for a full lighting rig for such a small layout I figured I'd use the same angle-poise type work lamp I used for Landswood Park. This relies on a G-clamp fixing, so rather than rely on it fitting to the table (table designs vary!) and to ensure it is high enough, while building the baseboard I incorporated a lighting attachment fixture.

By which I mean a block of wood! It fits into the recess behind the curved back-scene at one end, and as you can see this allows the lamp to sit at a good height over the layout providing an even light.

Sadly IKEA don't seem to sell this design of lamp any more, although this model appears quite similar, relying on an LED bulb instead of a fluorescent tube.
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