Monday, 16 September 2019

Uncoupler installation update

About a week ago I came down with something slightly stronger than man flu, and have been stuck at home with no voice and very little energy. I decided that in spite of this, the universe has given me several solid days to tackle a job I'd been putting off for far too long - installation of the Rapido uncouplers.

Firstly, size matters. Although the dimensions for these exist elsewhere in the internet, sometimes I find a local comparison helps. Here's my contribution to helping you work out if you can fit one in your layout:

I managed over the last few days to get one installed on the co-op siding, and one on the coal road. I've secured them temporarily with blu-tak while I work out the best orientation for each siding, and I'll secure them in place with liquid nails once settled.

Although the coal road is on a curve like most of the trackwork in the Mt Wilson yard, the CH's have no trouble uncoupling, however the 85 just doesn't want to let go. I've offset the next one on the main to be slightly further out under the curve to compensate for the swing of the couplers, so we'll see how that goes. The shunting manouevres to get a coal train off the main and into the siding under the loader is the main feature of the layout, so I hope the final result comes together.

I prefer to work in creative processes than scientific ones (which probably explains my preference for making scenery), but I've worked out the wiring schematic enough to be able to have an LED illuminate on the control panel.

And yes, that mess of wires will eventually be tidier once the control panel fascia goes on. 

I find that with being under the layout and then testing it all my patience is only good enough for one a day, which is still better than nothing. I hope to have the rest installed by the end this month. 

Other updates

I've also been working on building up a Rail Central Pc2 station, adding a brick chimney and fireplace to it as per Rob Nesbitt's 'Building Wagga' blog post on constructing a similar structure for Tumbarumba, here.

I'll do a separate post detailing all of that in future, as it's worth seeing it from beginning to end rather than as a footnote to the progress updates.

Still on track to get the basic scenery done before the end of the year!

Until next time,

Sunday, 18 August 2019

The arrival of the electrics

It's here! The Auscision 85 class turned up recently and it lives up to expectations. Despite the obvious differences in engine sounds between diesel and diesel-electric locos, the sound file is fantastic - particularly the Nathan P5 horn. Can't wait to hear it on the SDS 81 class now...

I placed the 85 on to a coal train from the operating sequence to test the loco out and to confirm that the placement of uncouplers around the layout was still correct. Reassuringly, the 85 fits in the headshunt, clears the platform and traverses all of the sidings with ease.

While doing this I discovered that I'd forgotten to drill a hole for an uncoupler on the main, next to the first wagon behind the 85 in the above photo. I fixed that this afternoon with the holesaw. Drilling the hole from underneath the baseboard towards the track is still a test of nerves...

It's also nice to know that the mouse-hole exit to the fiddle yard fits electric locos with enough room for the overhead wiring catenary too.

I also recently acquired a Bergs' U Set! 

I wanted to have another passenger set to run on this layout and felt that a railmotor wouldn't quite cut it - despite the fact that the 600/700 class railmotors were providing the bulk of services on the Richmond line during my era, as well as CPHs working in multiple units and alone elsewhere in the suburban network. The U Boat (as they are commonly known) set is shorter than my V set, which means I can fit the whole set on a single road of the fiddle yard traverser, as well in the platform road of Mount Wilson and still clear the main for a coal or goods train to depart.

The Bergs' U Boat's are much better to my eyes than the Southern Rail Models versions. Although the SRM ones come complete with lettering and insignia already applied unlike the Bergs' version, the roof profile on the SRM variants are eliptical, as opposed to flat with rounded edges where the roof joins the sides. Decals I can do myself, but the roof profile is deal-breaker. I still need to buy a decoder to convert the set to DCC, but that will be a job for the future. I don't want to work on rollingstock too much at the moment until I've got the basic scenery done on the layout.

Very happy with this set though.

This weekend I adjusted the height of my traverser fiddle yard and worked out how to align it to the Mt Wilson yard module. It was a fairly simple task, but one that was standing in the way of putting the track laying tools away.

Even though I had measured it again and again before building Mt Wilson, seeing the coal train fit into a single road on the fiddle yard with plenty of additional room (which means the CTS hoppers will fit too!) was a nice sight. One less thing to stress about.

I also had a go at building the control panel this weekend, mainly as a way of avoiding installing the uncouplers and wiring them up. I'm really not looking forward to that job. Unfortunately, it only reinforced to me that the control panel can't be attached to the layout until the uncouplers are installed and wired. 


You guessed it. That's the next job.

The only wiring task left after that is the fiddle yard, which will be much more straight forward compared to the rest of the layout.

Until then! 



Sunday, 28 July 2019

Mt Wilson update - 3 months' worth of progress!

I'm a big fan of smaller layouts; less track and fewer baseboards to build means trains are up and running much sooner.

So here we are, three months into the build for this layout and it's progressing just under the pace for Rozelle Street, which I'm taking as a good sign, as this layout has additional turnouts and some new electronic gear added. I've now finished all of the track wiring, and have installed and configured all of the turnout servos.

The most painful installation of Servo's, ever.

I was having some trouble getting the throw to align correctly while fitting most of the servos. I opened out the holes underneath the throw-bars to make things easier, shifted the servos and played around with tweaking the end points of the throw using the decoder, but I was still getting that horrible grinding sound in some cases, and eventually, the white arm just fell off, taking the piano wire out from the turnout with it.

Turns out, I forgot a screw.

Or more accurately, a number of screws. In the picture above there is a screw to hold the plastic arm onto the servo, and another to hold the servo onto the mounting block. I double-checked the instructions and found that it didn't actually identify that a screw was required to hold the arm on. I only learned I was doing it wrong when, frustrated, I took one of the servos over to Rozelle street and compared what I'd done there previously.

For reasons I can't fathom, only two of the servo decoders will display the fascia panel LEDs in the configuration I want to; green for the direction of alignment, red for the closed route. I've tried moving the jumpers around, re-setting the factory settings on the decoders, everything. In the end, the servos work, the points change, the frog polarity changes, and there's power where there needs to be on each road. I've locked the decoders to further adjustments, so job done, moving on.

The first train!

With the completion of wiring I got a train out to test how my concept for operating sessions will work. Being fitted with a keep-alive, the X200 is the most tolerant loco I have to shoddy trackwork, so I probably should have gone and grabbed the 73 class, but this will do for now.

I ran through a sequence of bringing the coal train in and shunting it into the colliery siding. It's nice being able to stand back and enjoy the fruits of your labours! Also, all of the double and triple-checking I'd done for clearances for running around and siting the uncouplers seems to have paid off, with no issues found.

I did discover that I'd forgotten to install an uncoupler on the main to facilitate shunting the coal wagons into the colliery siding, but luckily I have one more uncoupler left, so that will be another job in the near future.

Other developments

After much um'ing and ah'ing I've decided to wire the uncouplers onto an accessory bus, rather than the track bus. Rapido recommends 12V DC with a minimum of 500 mA. I've read in some user reviews that people were needing to use at least a 1 Amp system to get the uncouplers to throw, so I picked up a 12V 1.5 Amp power adaptor from Jaycar, and wired up an example today to see if it worked.

An audible 'clunk' tells you the uncoupler is working once thrown, and mine seems to be working fine with the 1.5Amp solution. Now that that's a proven concept, I'll have to wire up all six of these in due course. Another job for the next few weeks, before we even get to installing them and hooking them up to the accessory bus...

I've also come up with how I want the colliery loading bin to look. The main components will come from the Ratio 547 coaling tower kit, and I've assembled about half of it already, and put it in place to get an idea for the look and feel.

Electric locos won't be permitted under the loading bin, but will still be able to access the branch for shunting and departing from the yard.

I'm happy with it so far, but I'll extend the bin and add a covered conveyor belt from the mine, which will disappear into the rock at the back of the module.

As always, here's the overall view. Adding a few trees and buildings has helped visualise where I want everything to sit, and I'm happy with how it's coming along.

In other news, Auscision has announced that the 85's have arrived in the country and will be sent out within the next fortnight. I probably won't post again until after I've received mine and taken it out of the box for a run. I may also have another addition to show off around the time of the next post, but we'll see. I'm aiming to have the uncouplers and fiddle yard done by September too.

Until next time!


Sunday, 14 July 2019

Mt Wilson update

All of the wiring and electronic components have now arrived so I've been moving ahead with the layout again.

First up, I had some valued help from my brother in installing the roof, pelmet, end braces to the layout, which allowed me to install the lighting.

I've installed two pairs of strips of lighting this time owing to a wider baseboard and roof than on Rozelle Street. As you can see with only the single pair illuminated above, it's a little dark in the far corner. The photos below show the effect of the second strip (bottom picture) compared to the single pair.

With this step complete I then glued the track in place with PVA. I had spent the last few weeks marking out on the board in pencil where all of the turnouts are, where the frogs sit and the general alignment of the track, so that once I'd removed it all I could drill out holes for the frog wires to the hex juicer and the turnout throw bars from the servo motors.

Just about everything within reach was borrowed to hold the track in place while the glue set.

After I'd glued the track down and started wiring it, I realised that I'd forgotten to snip the wires on each Peco turnout that connect the switch rails to the frog. That will have to be a dremel job before I finish wiring.

Next came the Rapido remote uncouplers. I purchased a hole saw for this job and I was slightly apprehensive about drilling up from underneath the layout and inadvertently taking out some sleepers if they caught on the saw blade. Going slowly and steadily though I only took out two sleepers on the last one out of five holes in total, and that was probably out of trying to rush to finish. Needless to say, there was an enforced break after this.

I've used Peco Code 75 points and Micro Engineering Code 70 track. Peco is also bringing out Code 70 track and points, but I can't find it online yet. I've found that both brands of metal track joiners work between the two codes of track fairly well. The Peco ones are definitely the more forgiving of the two. 

Above is the Rapido uncoupler test-fitted in place. I had a go manually turning the whole unit in the hole and running a coupled JLX and BP tanker over the top, and I'm impressed already. If it's this successful when wired up I might be investing in a few more of these! These are especially going to make uncoupling under overhead wiring that much simpler.

Also in one of the boxes of goodies to arrive in the post were some fascia mounting panels for the Tam Valley Servo switch. These are the first 3D-printed items I've used in layout building and once I've primed and painted them (waiting for that confluence of spare time and an ambient temperature above 18 degrees to enable some spraying!) they'll come up nicely.

The only downside - and it's solely a fault of my planning - is that I can't mount the fascia panel straight in the frame of the layout due to the way the printed circuit board lines up offset from the panel. I'll have to plan this a little this week.

Before having to stop for the weekend I did manage to get a few roads on the right-hand side of the layout wired up to the track bus and finished with heatshrink to neaten the job.

Bit of quick one this time, but I will have another go next weekend and hopefully finish the minutiae of wiring tasks.
Cheers for now,

Sunday, 23 June 2019

Progress and taking in other people's layouts

A fair bit has happened since the last blog and I'm confident that I've almost got enough of the bits and bobs to further progress Mount Wilson. Until then, here's what else I've been doing modelling-wise.

NSW Diesel Era Modelling Day

Every year, the NSW Diesel Era Modelling Facebook group are very generously loaned a layout from the Epping Model Railway Club to gather and run on. It's been going for four years and as I've missed all of the previous ones I was determined to get there this year.

This year EMRC loaned Binalong with it's dual DCC and DC operation, and the new owners of Stockinbingal generously brought that along too. I can remember seeing this layout at the AMRA Liverpool exhibition in the 1990s and marvelling at how detailed it was then. Naturally, this was where I wanted to use my allocated path for the day.

I brought 42106 out again with a short wheat train. What seems huge on a 1.5 home layout is dwarfed on days like this!

Marcus Ammann's Main North layout

I was also lucky to be invited to run at Marcus' Main North layout (blog here, including a video walkaround of the layout) along with a few other modellers. It is a seriously impressive space, over 3 levels with no helix.

All of the crossing loops are steam-era sized, so my shorter late 70s-wheat train (with 48 kindly loaned from Marcus) parked to let a number of the larger diesel-era trains pass and cross, which made operating the layout a lot more realistic and a lot of fun. Add working signals, block detection and DCC sound-equipped locos to the mix and it just increases the play value.

Passing through Ardglen:

Dropping down grade from Murrundi to Broadmeadow:

Apparently it took him 28 years to get to this stage. It would be nice to be in the one spot for that long build something similar!

While I was there I took the opportunity to ask Marcus a heap of questions about DCC, particularly about accessory wiring and circuit protection. He made a good point; for a layout with a single operator there's not much need for an accessory bus as you're going to be running one or two trains at a time and you'll be able to fault-find fairly easily. More importantly, a single operator doesn't have to worry about the disruption to other operators caused by a short. Summary: just use the track bus for accessory power.

This is exactly what I've done on Rozelle Street, and it's worked fine. To reinforce the point, Marcus' Main North layout has just a track bus and power districts. It seems to work fine for him. As usual, I was about to over-complicate what would be a very simple branch line layout.

Mount Wilson Progress

Lastly, progress on Mount Wilson has been positive. Firstly, I've bought all of the turnout servos, another frog juicer, another power pack, an NCE panel interface for the PowerCab I've already got off Rozelle Street and fascia panels for the servo controllers. I later realised I've bought the wrong fascia panels for the servo controllers, so they will be going back to MRRC and be replaced with the right ones from Ray Pilgrim's Signals Branch on Shapeways.

I've also decided to not use underlay on this module. I didn't use any on Rozelle Street either and haven't had any issues with it, and nor do I run trains fast enough to get much of a reverberation audible over the sound-equipped loco running at the time either. I will stick with powering the point frogs though. I own a number of short wheelbase shunters and find that a powered frog and/or keep-alive devices improve performance of these locos at low speed.

After playing around with the magnet uncouplers I've also decided to bite the bullet and buy Rapido on/off uncouplers, which are now also on their way here. Going to be a lot to do when the postman turns up!

So I'm up to here: track cut and ready to be glued down, lighting tested and waiting for the roof to go on, and a mock-up of the initial landform and buildings.

After getting some ideas from a presentation on coal mines in the Lithgow region at the MRNSW Convention back in May I've also decided to change the coal loading method on the coal siding from front-end loaders to an older, overhead bin. More on that in a future post.

Once I get the roof on and the lighting installed I'll lay the track, wire it up, and test it all. The Auscision 85 class is on it's way so I have a bit of a deadline to work to.

Til next time!

Tuesday, 21 May 2019

Magnet uncoupler testing

I mentioned in the previous post about contemplating ordering some of Rapido's Railcrew uncouplers to use on Mt Wilson so that I can have non-permanent uncouplers and trouble-free running. 

Before investing a fair chunk of modelling money into postage from Canada, I thought I'd have a go at testing whether I could replicate the same design concept the Railcrew uncoupler uses with a view to building something similar myself. I bought a 6-pack of 12mm x 3mm rare earth magnets from Bunnings and built a quick test bed from some offcuts of timber and tape.

From left to right are two magnets aligned parallel to the track, then a coaster of roughly the same height to create a level area for the track to run over, then two magnets separated from each other by 1mm of tape, and finally two separated by 5mm. I wanted to see if there was much difference in having the magnets further or closer apart.

The first test with the magnets 1mm apart worked well, uncoupling the TRC and MRC from each other.

Same with the next pair, 5mm apart from each other.

And as predicted, the magnets arranged in line with the track didn't uncouple the wagons. They did push the coupler release bar horizontal though!

I'm planning on using cork on Mt Wilson, so I though I would try out putting the cork coaster between the track and magnets. The couplers appeared to be too far away for it to work.

Time then to test out the on/off function of my plan by taping two of the magnets to the coaster and running a few wagons over it. The photos explain the results.

So that works. I've learned that the magnets need to be right under the track to be strong enough to uncouple the wagons, much the same as Rapido suggests for fitting their uncoupler. Now to work out how to make my own. I'm not particularly confident with electrical wiring despite having muddled through it for Rozelle Street, so I don't really want to operate these via servos if I can avoid it. I'd be ok with a push rod or something similar, provided that I can design it so that "off" is with the knob flush against the fascia so that it doesn't get bumped in transit and as a reminder that the uncoupler is active. More thinking required.

In the meantime, I spent a few hours painting today.

Next job will be tracklaying and wiring, and I'll add the roof and lighting after that.


Tuesday, 14 May 2019

Construction Progress - uprights

Phil Collins asked after the last blog post I put up if I could post some additional photos of the rear of the model to get an understanding of how that structure is supported and kept straight.

Happy to oblige!

We spent a lot of time lining each of the vertical pieces up with the level before to ensure a 90-degree join before attaching it with screws fed from inside the framework for the middle two, and attaching the outer end uprights to the end of the layout frame.

We then cut a notch in the top of the backboard, and filed and sanded the opening for each vertical brace piece to feed through and attach at the rear, as shown in the photos.

I'm concerned that there's not enough strength in the horizontal pieces supporting the roof of the module to maintain to 90-degree angle over time, so to provide additional bracing and to visually separate the scene from the fiddle yard I'll add a 9mm pine panel at the left-hand end of the module once the track is down, the turnout servos are installed and all of the wiring is finished. You can see in the last photo that all of the parts at the end of the module finish flush to enable this panel to attach easily. On the right-hand end (pictured) I'll add a 9mm pine panel cut into a 'C' shape to brace this end.

My Engineer brother assures me that I've successfully over-engineered this to beyond what it actually needs to be strong (something about clients being pedantic and not trusting physics), so it should provide many years of fun.

Until next time!