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Entries on 13-December 13

entry 13 Dec 2013, 17:58
Well, I've had quite a productive week and have managed to get both the 3mm cork board topping and the 2mm Plastzote track bed laid.

This is the present state of ppay with the full-size track template pinned into position and the main line points laid on top. I plan to start at the double slip at the station throat and work outwards from there. You will also see that I've cut the hole for, and positioned the turntable well.



Evenings continue to be spent 'bashing' the Metcalfe Small Station Building which is starting to come together and should be completed next week. All will be revealed then.

That's all for this week but I'll do another update next weekend when, hopefully, there will be a fair bit of track laid.

Entries on 25-November 13

entry 25 Nov 2013, 14:55
Well I can hardly believe it's been 4 months since I updated my blog but the glorious Summer weather was not really conducive to locking myself away in the train room so not much happened in August or September.

Anyway, progress has recently restarted on the 'Parmouth' boards and, as well as completing the hidden storage roads I have also laid the visible part of the Parmouth Harbour trackwork and completed all of the under-board wiring of points etc.

View from Doorway






Looking back at Parmouth Town beyong the Loco Shed.



You will see that I have managed to locate a suitable picture which I intend to use as a backscene for Parmouth harbour – It's actually Brixham Harbour. I've cropped the picture down to form a long, narrow one which I've then manipulated with a programme called 'Posteriza' to produce a continuous backscene. This is just a test print and the eventual idea is to fix a sky background to the whole backscene board and then mount the picture, minus the sky part, onto card which will be fixed on top of the sky so that it becomes ultra low relief. Eventually, the row of street-level shops and houses at the bottom of the picture will be scratch built in low relief and mounted in front of the flat picture. I'm also toying with the idea of building the colonnaded walkway that you can just about make out in front of the street-level shops.

You will see that I have also managed to fabricate some illuminated buffer stops.





These are the standard Peco rail type buffer stops and the red warning lights are made from the Springside Models GWR Tail Lamps with the jewel removed and the centre drilled out to receive an 0.8mm SMD glued into the hole. This was no easy task as the lamps are only 1.2mm wide and it took me 12 attempts to get 5 usable lamps, with an 0.85mm hole drilled in the centre as, even using a pin-vice, the drill kept breaking out of the sides due to the very tight tolerance. The buffer stops themselves were assembled with superglue and then sprayed with grey primer before sloshing on some dark wood dye and wiping off the surplus to give an aged wood effect. They were pretty fiddly to make but I think they've come out quite well.

I've also installed an inspection pit and an ash pit on the loco shed siding with another 0.8mm SMD installed into the side wall of the inspection pit, this time a proto-white one. I'm thinking of toning this light down a little, either with a higher rated resistor or by applying a little yellow printer ink to it. There's still a bit of light leakage at the side of the pit at the moment but this will be remedied when I lay the 'concrete' floor to the loco shed. I still have to fit the internal roof lights and some internal tool benches etc. but it's otherwise, complete.






You may also have noticed that I do the main weathering to the track before laying as this avoids having to do it after the track is laid when access can be awkward. This basically comprises giving the track a good clean with an ordinary household cleaner and warm water to remove any oils left during the manufacturing process and, once it has thoroughly dried off, spraying the track with good old Halford's grey primer. The final stage involves sloshing on various colours of wood stain until the desired colour is achieved. This gets rid of the shiny plastic look of the sleepers but accentuates the wood graining and produces a more prototypical brown/grey colour. The top running surface and inner edge of the rails where it makes contact with wheel flanges are cleaned up with IPA after each stage and the finished article looks like this. You can, if you wish, dry brush on a little rust, track dirt or sleeper grime to vary the colour a bit but I prefer to do that level of detailing after the track is laid as additional colouring is generally dependant on the actual location of the track.









Meanwhile I've been making steady progress in the evenings on scratch building the Waiting Rooms and Toilets for the island platform at Market Havering. These follow the same basic design as Codsall Station buildings on which my previous main Market Havering Station was based. This is its' present state and, while it still needs gutters, downpipes and a little detailing, I'm quite pleased with how it is turning out.








That's about it for this update. Next task is to get cracking with the track laying on the Market Havering boards.

entry 25 Nov 2013, 14:43
Installing seep Point Motors

For this layout I’m using Seep PM1 point motors and, as many people find these a bit difficult to get right, I thought it might be of interest to show how I install them. Firstly, to make the later wiring a bit easier, I solder a short length of wire to each of the 6 connector tabs and terminate them in a 6-way choc-block connector strip before I install the motor below the board. This picture also shows one connected up to a MASTERswitch point controller.








The main difficulty people find with the Seep PM1 motors is getting them centralised so that the built-in frog polarity change-over functions correctly. To help with this I have a couple of little home-made tools. The first is an ordinary wooden clothes peg which is reversed and a fine slot cut into each of the two ‘legs so that the hold the actuator rod in a centred position.








The second is a small 2mm thick plastikard template which duplicates the Seep PCB with the actuator rod and fixing hole positions and has the centre lines in each direction marked on it.

This then is how I install the motor. First I temporarily lay the point in position over the top of my track template and, using the holes in the tie-bar as a guide mark the axis and actuator rod position. I then remove the point, draw lines connecting both axis marks and drill very small holes through the board. These will then become the positions of the axis points on the underside of the board. I then remove a small section of the Plastazote track bed and lay my template over the lines to mark the position of the actuator slot. I use a 3mm drill in my Dremel to stitch drill the slot and then clean it up with a small router. Finally I relay the track bed and cut a slot in it with a craft knife directly above the drilled out slot.














I then relay the point itself and fix it down with Copydex, carefully checking that both the position and orientation are correct. Once the glue is dry I move the blades to a central position holding them in place with 2 small off-cuts of 1mm plastikard which are secured with a strip of masking tape.










Turning the board on edge I draw 2 line on the underside connecting the two pre-drilled axis holes and lay my platikard template over them to mark and drill the positions of the fixing holes. Holding the point activator rod centrally using a wooden ‘clothes peg’ tool I offer up the point motor to the underside of the board so that the activation rod passes through the board and the tie-bar. Align the point motor with the two axis lines and fix the motor into position. Once I am sure that the motor is centrally positioned I remove it and open out the fixing holes to form slots before re-fixing in position.

When making the final fixing, I back off the screws a quarter turn or so in order that the motor itself can move freely along the line of activation. This is important when modelling in N Gauge as the tolerance of the polarity change-over contacts is very small so by doing this the motor first moves the point blades by the 2mm 'throw' and then moves a further 1 - 1.5mm, making a total movement of 3 - 3.5mm in the actuator rod itself which ensures that the frog polarity change over contacts are fully made.

And that's about it. I didn't bother posting pictures of the underside fixing as the 4 holes drilled from the top of the board, plus the clothes peg clamp and the plastikard template are all that is needed to fix the motor position accurately now.

Entries on 22-July 13

entry 22 Jul 2013, 17:34
I'm afraid I was diverted onto domestic duties last week so didn't achieve the progress I had originally hoped for. However, I managed to get some 'train time' over the weekend and have, at last managed to complete track laying for the storage roads.

Here's an overall view of the completed storage roads. The 2 carriages are there to give an idea of scale and each of the storage roads can hold at least an 8 coach train with some of them even holding a 10 coach train.



Bearing in mind that the camera can pick up irregularities that the eye sometimes misses I took a couple of low level shots to check that the approach curves are smooth and free of kinks.



In case you are wondering what the bits of masking tape are all about, they are each holding two small slices of 1mm Plasticard in place to centre the point blades ready for fitting the Seep point motors which will, themselves, also be centred on that position.

Visible progress will now be very slow as I have to install 10 point motors and connect all the new track and pointwork up to the control panel which, as previously noted, involves 540 separate connections.

Once that is done I can make a start on the visible part of the layout which, apart from the actual track laying, will involve fitting uncoupling magnets, an inspection pit for the loco shed and an ash pit outside the shed.

That could all take a while. ohmy.gif

Entries on 20-July 13

entry 20 Jul 2013, 00:35
Progress has been a bit slow due to the weather being too good to lock myself away in the train room but I've finally made a start on some track laying.

So far I've laid Phase I of the track which covers the West end of the hidden storage roads. It's taken a little while to sort out a few gremlins on the wiring for a couple of the points but, bearing in mind that the 7 points for this section have a total of 420 connections of various types with some being soldered and others screw type, I suppose that was to be expected. I daren't show you the wiring underneath the board now.

First step was to cover the boards with 3mm cork stuck down with Copydex. I then pinned the track template to the cork and marked the outline of the trackwork. Next was the Plastazote track bed which comes in 2m x 1m sheets so this was loosely pinned down before the track template was laid on top and the track outline marked out. The Plastazote was then cut to shape and glued down to the cork, again with Copydex. The reason I use both cork and Plastazote is so that I don't form an acoustic bridge between the track and the plywood baseboard tops when the track is ballasted as forming the trackbed shoulder invariably results in some ballast being outside the Plastazote track bed.

Here's a picture with the cork and Plastazote track bed in place.



And now with the track template laid on top and the storage road points positioned ready to start track laying.



Here's a close-up of the points pinned into position with Pinboard pins and dropper wires commenced.



A few hours work saw the points all installed and wired up and the first half of the storage road tracks installed. The sharp eyed among you will have also spotted that I've painted the 'sea' at Parmouth Harbour but it will need several coats of goss varnish to finish it off.




Here's a closer shot of the track laid to date and you will also see that the first loco has been running on the layout - purely in the interest of testing the track you understand. biggrin.gif



Here's a close-up of my little Peco Collett with a drawing pin for size comparison. I suppose this must count as the first loco to run on the layout so that's another milestone reached.





That's it for this update. Next will be the East end of the storage roads which has 9 points in it so that's another 540 connections to make. yikes.gif

Which idiot said DCC only needs 2 wires. mad.gif

Entries on 8-July 13

entry 8 Jul 2013, 15:56
Although the location of the layout is set in GWR territory, because the back-story supposes that the line had originally been built by the South Devon Railway, I wanted a station building that was 'different' to the standard GWR design. None of the available kits were really what I was looking for so there was nothing for it but to get to work with Google. Eventually, after many hours scouring hundreds of pictures I stumbled upon Codsall Station, the design of which ticked all the boxes and the arched stone window surrounds really set the building apart from anything else I had found.

Similar to my own hypothetical route, Codsall station was originally built by the Shrewsbury & Wolverhampton, Dudley and Birmingham Railway in 1844 which became the Shrewsbury & Birmingham Railway (S&BR) in 1849. The S&BR then merged with the GWR in 1854 and the earliest photograph I have found seems to have been taken around this time. Little did I realise what I was letting myself in for, particularly as this is to form the centre-piece for the Market Havering area of the layout.



You will see from the later photographs that the station buildings have evolved over time including the addition of a second storey to one part of the building to provide accommodation, presumably for the Station Master, so I have based my building on the pictures taken circa 1953 but with the original, pre-BR platform canopy. The other features which particularly drew me to the building were the tall and very deeply corbelled chimneys.

This is a picture of the front of the building taken around 1952.



And this is it in it's present form. Although the line itself is still operational the station closed to passenger traffic in 1960 and was finally sold off in 1980.

It is now a popular pub and restaurant and is featured in the CAMRA Good Beer Guide.



Although I have built many building kits before, both plastic and card, this was to be my first attempt at a complete scratch build. and the unusual stone arched window and door surrounds immediately presented problems. Eventually the arched window and door surrounds and the stone banding at first floor level have been individually cut from 0.25mm Plasticard. The building itself has been scratch built entirely from card using various Scalescenes scratch building sheets for the brickwork and roofing.

These were my first designs which were based solely on an estimate of what the door dimensions are.







These drawing were produced using the 'Draw' utility within MS Office.

These were then mounted on various thicknesses of card to and cut out to produce this set of parts.



The stone window and door surrounds were a different ball game altogether though and I tried various ways of making them before resigning myself to cutting each individual frame from 0.5mm Plastikard.



The arches themselves were made by using a paper punch to cut a circle and then a single-hole punch to punch out the centre, thus leaving me with a ring which was cut in half to form two arches. The Mullions and cills were cut from the same thickness of plasticard and the whole thing was assembled with Plastic Weld. I must admit I nearly abandoned the whole build at one point when I was trying to mae these frames but, I had nothing else to do, so I eventually persevered.

For the card elements I've used Scalescenes Aged Brown Brick which is printed onto 100gsm 'linen weave' paper which I think adds a degree of relief to the brickwork without the over scale mortar joints that are evident in other modelling materials. These are a few pictures which show the stages of the build.

Stage 1



Stage 2





Nearly there






And now the finished article after approximately 400 hours of work.







The station canopy has been scratch built from Plasticard strips and clear plastic sheet while the etched brass window and door frames, chimney pots, station benches, canopy support columns and etched brass column finials are all from Scalelink. The roof finials were turned in a Dremel from some bamboo cocktail sticks. The main building is illuminated internally with 3mm soft white LEDs and the gentlemen's toilet is illuminated internally with a yellow SMT LED.

I must admit I was quite pleased with how it has eventually turned out, so much so in fact that I decided to enter it into the N Gauge Society Annual Model Making Competition though I didn't really have any great expectations for it. You can imagine my surprise, not to mention delight, when this happened.



To cap it all it also came runner up in the overall 'Best in Show' and was given a Silver Award.

Now that's what I call a result.

entry 8 Jul 2013, 15:24
They took a little longer than originally expected but, eventually the boards did arrive from MRS and they even came down themselves to fit them into the room. Here they are installed in my train room, apart from the lift-up board, which I'm leaving off for the time being to make access easier. Note the recessed area on the right which will be Parmouth Harbour.




I must admit I was well impressed both by the quality of the boards and the service from MRS.

In case you're wondering, this is the design for the lift-up board which, as you can see, is quite a complicated bit of joinery as this will form the valley with the canal at the bottom with a viaduct and a bridge crossing it.



Now that I had the boards I wasted no time and got cracking on the under-board wiring for the Storage Roads and Parmouth areas. This is an overall view - (Who said DCC only needs two wires ????? )




And this is a detailed view of one part of it which shows the various circuits all labelled up.




Unfortunately, it was at this time that I had to go into hospital for the second reconstructive op on my hip - (That makes 4 ops on the hip in total.) Consequently any further work on the layout came to a grinding halt for a couple of months while it all healed up and I had some quite intensive physiotherapy on it.

Nevertheless I was able to do some 'armchair modelling', literally, so I spent a lot of time in my chair with a little table in front of me so that I could get some buildings started, and in particular, my main station building.

But that's a story for the next episode.

entry 8 Jul 2013, 15:16
Having seen many threads where tracing DC wiring problems was difficult I decided to split the layout into 6 DCC Zones which will each be independantly switchable including one as a programming track. This is a drawing of the various zones.



I then put together a simple Distribution Board which will enable me to plug each Zone into the DCC supply as they are installed.



I've temporarily shown how the plug-in connectors work on the bottom right of the picture.

Next task was to make a start on the 5 small switch panels which will control the power supplies to points, lights, sounds etc. This involves 'stitch drilling' out all the openings for the switches and drilling holes to receive LED Panel Indicator lights.





The next step was to 'fettle' the holes to get a good fit for the switches. You will note that I am just using a temporary paper template at the moment as it's so easy for the drill to slip when stitch drilling. The final switch plate covers will be printed onto glossy photo paper and then sealed with clear varnish.

Here are a few of the finished panels with the switches and LEDs installed.






Next up were the Point Control Panels and here are some pictures of the finished articles.

First a front view of the Market Havering Panel



Then the Parmouth & Storage Roads Panel



This is a view of the chassis socket connections on the rear of the panels. I've left a few spare spaces for any future additions.



And this is the ball of spaghetti inside. The turntable control wiring is on the left and the orange/black wiring is for the push buttons to the electromagnets for auto uncoupling. I will be using 6 core alarm wire for the connections between the panels and the point motors.



You will note that the bi-colour LEDs are not glued in place yet and this is because the orientation of each pair will not be known until they are connected to the points and they can be matched to suit the throw of the blades.

This is the wiring diagram of how it all works




And this is the test rig I used to check each switch & LED as I installed them.



Next up will be the start of the layout itself.


entry 8 Jul 2013, 14:53
Well, having completed our move from China and been through the first stage of the surgery I needed, it was time to get started on the actual construction. Before that, however, I did make some minor changes to the track plan since, after trying to work out how the signalling will eventually have to be installed and having looked at several prototypical situations, I came to the conclusion that the access between the MPD/Head Shunt and the main 'Down' line needed to be improved. I therefore removed the simple cross-over to the right of the main station area and introduced a double slip at the right hand end of the platforms. There were also a few minor changes to the size of the layout now that I was able to measure the actual room instead of relying on the original estate agent's dimensions. I have replaced the original trackplan and scenic detail pictures in the earlier posts to avoid any later confusion.

The first task was to design and build the support framing for the layout. The configuration of the benchwork and baseboards was more or less dictated by the design of the layout itself and the need to avoid clashes with point motors etc. This was quickly drawn up using Winrail again and I found a local joiner who was able to both convert the existing swing door to a sliding one and build the support framing in situ. So this is the design for the support framing with the individual boards also identified.



Once the framing was installed I then had to move all of my boxes of railway equipment into the train room which did present some problems due to the reduced space now available, but I did eventually manage to squeeze the proverbial quart into a pint pot. A couple of coats of paint to seal and stabilise the timber and the job was done. Here are a couple of pictures of the situation as it was then. First is the arrangement for when the layout is being operated, with my workbench tucked away under the boards.



And this is with my workbench pulled out ready for some serious modelling to start.



As you can see, space is definitely at a premium and it's a good job I'm reasonably slim. I will definitely have to find somewhere else for the radio though as that is where the lift-up board will be.

The next step was to find a baseboard manufaturer as, due to my restricted movement and disability, I am no longer able to build them myself. Having identified several potential manufacturers from magazine articles and web searches I looked closely at their designs and the materials used as I need boards of a strong but lightweight design so that I will be able to position them on edge to do the underboardwiring without having to crawl underneath - (which I couldn't do anyway). I also prefer plywood both as a top surface and as the framing material as it is, IMHO, the most consistent material in terms of quality and, once settled, is less susceptible to expansion and contraction or warping than softwood framing

With these parameters in mind I eventually identified Model Railway Solutions
as being my manufacturer of choice since they use a lightweight 6mm plywood framing system which is very similar to the open grid system I have always used when building my own boards. Board tops are also 6mm Birch Ply. Below is a picture of one of their typical boards.



I sent them various CAD files which were generated from within Winrail and they quickly came back with a quotation which, while not cheap, would, I was sure, provide me with a set of boards that will be strong, light and durable.

Delivery was promised in about 3 weeks so, in the meantime, I got on with building my Point Control Panels and a few small switch panels to control the various wiring circuits.

Here are a couple of pictures of the Points Control Panel design and of one of the small switch panels. These drawings are all produced using the 'Draw' utility within MS Excel.





Well that's about it for this installment. I'll be giving updates of the Control Panel construction and wiring in the next installment.


entry 8 Jul 2013, 14:30
The Layout Design

So it's on to the design stage of the layout. This is a brief description of the various thought processes I went through when designing the layout.

First I prepared a list of 'Must Have' features that I felt I really must incorporate into the layout.

1. A twin track main line for continuous running - (I do like to watch the trains go by)

2. A single track branch line with both passenger and goods traffic.

3. Enough storage sidings to accomodate at least 8 full length trains.

4. A central operating well with a lift-up access opening.

5. A station layout incorporating 2 through platforms and a bay platform for local traffic.

6. A small Goods Yard.

7. A twin track steam loco shed.

8. A branch line terminus with some form of local industry that would generate rail traffic.

9. Enough space to model at least a small part of the town served by the main station.

10. Some form of local industry which would require a separate siding (Brewery ?)

Then came a list of things I would like, if possible, to incorporate.

1. A Diesel Maintenance and Fueling Facility - (For the GWR 'Flying Banana' Railcars I have)

2. Coaling and Ash Removal facilities.

3. A turntable - (I already had the turntable and motor from my previous 'Chipping' layout)

4. A Permanent Way Department - (I had already built a breakdown crane for my previous layout)

5. A river or canal scene with a rail over bridge or viaduct.

6. A rural/farming diorama.

Due to the limitations in the size of the layout room (8ft-3in x 6ft-2in) it was abundantly clear that, even in N Gauge, major compromises would have to be made and that split levels and gradients would severely interfere with any scenic modelling. That left me with a 'round & round' type of layout with hidden storage roads along one of the long sides of the room. Assuming that the main station area would be on the opposite side of the layout, how then could I fit in a branch line and terminus? A few quick sketches and calculations revealed that the storage roads would take up a little over 350mm of board width and, assuming a maximum board width of 750mm, that left me with about 400mm of free space in front of the storage roads. Not a lot of room, but enough for a very simple branch line terminus design. I remembered seeing a small 00 shunting plank layout in a magazine which might fit the bill and, sure enough, having found the article and resized it to 1:148 instead of 1:76, with a bit of rearrangement of pointwork it fitted the space nicely lengthwise and even left a bit of width available for a few low relief buildings and structures representing some sort of industry to generate rail traffic.

Turning now to the other side of the layout, I wanted to create several distinctly separate scenes in this area which would, hopefully, make the running tracks appear longer than they actually were. I've never been a fan of straight lines of track along one side of a layout with unrealistic bends leading to and from it so I roughly sketched in a long, sweeping curve of track linking the two ends of the storage roads. This immediately created three discreet areas for scenic development. Two, good sized, triangular sections in each corner of the room and a quite shallow area linking these two areas together. One of the corner areas was large enough to accommodate a reasonably sized station with a few buildings to the rear and side of it to give the impression of a larger town area beyond. The other corner was where I would need to have a lift up access board but was the only space large enough to incorporate the river/canal scene I wanted. After much head-scratching and screwed up pieces of paper I came up with a design which ticked all of the boxes though the construction of that board would be quite complicated. That just left the link area between the two corners and I managed to create just enough space to get an industrial siding and a brewery in.

I use Winrail for designing my layouts so, having roughed out the basic design on graph paper, it was now time to see if it was physiclly possible andidentify any potential problem areas. To my delight, not to mention surprise, it all went together quite easily and I quickly had the basic design established. I've been using Winrail for about 12 years now and I particularly like the way it 'optimises' flextrack curves to produce eliptical curves with smooth transitions. The hardest part was optimising the positions and orientation of the points leading into the storage roads in order to make the approach curves as gentle as possible. Even a 1° rotation of a point can make a huge difference to the ensuing curve radius. Minimum radius is 320mm in the hidden areas and 450mm in the scenic areas though, due to the way Winrail works, these are only momentary as the radius is constantly changing. For example the radii of the station approach curves actually vary between 450mm and 1250mm.

This then revealed the amount of space I still had available for the MPD, Goods Yard, PWD siding, Coaling Stage and Turntable. I won't go into a blow-by-blow account of how it evolved into it's final design other than to say that it took many hours of fine tuning to get it to it's present state. In the end I am quite pleased with how it has turned out and am satisfied that traffic flows will be both realistic and interesting. The sharp-eyed among you will, no doubt, spot a facing point leading to the Goods Shed but I could find no other way of achieving what I wanted to do. A more prototypical single slip did not fit the alignment of the approach tracks so I had to console myself with the thought that in real life even the mighty GWR had to bend the rules occasionally.

During a pause in designing the main station area I has a 'Eureka' moment in respect of the branch line terminus. I was thumbing through an old magazine and came across a small 00 scale dock-side layout that was a mere 18" wide and it suddenly came to me that I could do something similar. A few tweaks here and there to the track plan gave me enough space to construct a small harbour scene and Parmouth Harbour was born.

TRACK PLAN



Over the course of the following months the track plan was fine tuned and the scenic areas developed in more detail until it became the design you see below. On the whole I am satisfied with the final result into which I have managed to incorporate everything I had on both of my wish lists. I even managed to fit in a long headshunt/programming track and a main line relief road.

SCENIC DEVELOPMENT



The next stage was to turn theory into practice, but this came to a grinding halt as I needed further surgery to my hip that was not available in China. Hence my relocation back to the UK.

As a bit of further information with regards to control methods, locos will be controlled from my ESU ECoS Controller but all pointwork and electromagnet uncouplers will be operated from a mimic control panel with bi-color LEDs indicating route settings.

More on that later.

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