Friday, 8 July 2016

Trackwork, layout wiring and turnout wiring

After I'd finished all the boards I could get into the tracklaying. Most of what you'll see over the next few posts is stuff I've copied from other people's blogs. I'll provide a link where relevant.

Track & uncouplers

I'm using Using PECO code 75 track I saved from two layouts ago. Once I had the track correctly sized, I cut it to length with Xuron cutters, leaving 1-2 centimetres either side to allow for adjustment later once the bridge components and fiddle yard were fitted. For newcomers to DCC, you still need to fit insulated joiners (or insulate the join by cutting it) on the two rails leading to the frog from the converging tracks. That is, on the same side of the frog as the MRC van in the picture below. 

If you haven't got a pair of these, stop everything and go buy some. They provide a straight, flush cut on one side and require minimal pressure to operate. Just don't use them on piano wire.

I measuring the minimum clearances I could use in the sidings and marked out space for two, 10mm-wide and 3mm-deep, small rare earth magnets per track after seeing the idea from Gavin Thrum on his Port Dock Station layout. You can pick these up from Jaycar in packs of four. Gavin altered a drill piece to limit the amount of drilling required and provide a flush base for the magnet to sit in. I used a standard drill piece - with the baseboard at 9mm thick I had a small safety margin. Here's the magnets after installation:

Rather than gluing the magnets in, I made a snug fit and pressed them in using the piece of steel they come in, sliding it away once the magnet was correctly seated in it's hole. I inserted a piece of black paper over the top of the magnet to permit ballasting later, and also to allow me to salvage the magnets if the whole thing just didn't work out. Lucky I did, because I stuffed up the siding closest to the camera in the above picture. In this case it was an easy job of removing the magnets using the steel again, before flipping them over to the correct polarity and re-installing. 

At this point I also drilled a small hole for the turnout throw bars from the servos and for the wire from the frogs immediately underneath where they would sit.

I secured the track by running a 5mm (or thereabouts) bead of PVA glue down the centre line of it's future position on the baseboard, avoiding where the turnouts would be. You can glue the turnouts too, but I wanted to leave myself a safety margin in case I needed to pull it all up again for the wiring stage. This was then smoothed with a straight-edged scrap piece of timber until the glue was a thin film. I set the track directly on top and put a few light weights on top to ensure the track didn't 'float' and set in place and left it to set overnight.

Track wiring for DCC

While this dried I drilled and fit the fascia panel for the NCE powercab I'm using, and fit the track bus. I had some issues trying to figure out what wire to use. Model Railroader recommended wire gauges I couldn't get through local chain stores. In the end I used the best I could and went with 16AWG equivalent wire for the power bus and around 22AWG (light duty hook-up wire) for the feeders. I'm vague on the latter because I can't find a straight answer on the internet or through the otherwise very helpful staff at Jaycar. Meh, it works so far!

Turnout control

Four turnout control, I opted for Tam Valley servo's, with a Singlet II micro decoder and fascia controller. Having used 65mm timber on the sides of the module, I was concerned that a Tortoise or Cobalt turnout motor would protrude and get very expensively bumped when folding the legs up underneath. Once mounted, the servo's are only 40mm deep. I grabbed the servos, their controllers and the mounting blocks through Gwydir Valley Models and Model Railroad Craftsman. Although the Singlet II decoder enables control of the servo from the DCC controller as an accessory I didn't want to be fiddling with punching an accessory number into the controller while trying to drive a train on a system I would still be getting used to at the exhibition. Press the button, the light changes. Job done.

It needs a bit of preparation before fitting to the layout, which is all covered in the instructions. Here it is mounted, with the fascia control wire (red, white, black - plugs straight in, no soldering!) running off to the left, and the frog juicer wire (blue) running off from the hole and out to the right.

Wires for each controller run from the power bus (or accessory bus if you're running a bigger layout) into the terminal strips as shown.

Another couple of holes on the front of the boards and the point controllers could be fit and attached to the red, white, black wire running to the servo.

The speed and length of the turnout throw can be controlled through these by just using the buttons, as well as setting the colour the LEDs display for each turnout state.

I vacillated on buying the Hex Frog juicer for a few months during the build, but considering that most running on the layout is at low speeds with the public looking on, I needed to prevent against stalling as much as possible. Ultimately, there was plenty of stalling during the exhibition weekend, some of which was alleviated by my brother's fastidious track-cleaning, and some of which I am still trouble-shooting. More to follow on that in a future post. Despite the apparent overkill of going with the Hex rather than the dual or mono juicer for just three frogs, it will pay off in the long run if I add another module. Here it is underneath the layout with the wiring completed.

I covered all of the joins to the power bus in heat shrink to protect it, but also to keep it looking neat under there.

That's all for now. Feel free to ask questions via the comment box below if you want to know more of anything in this post.

'Til next time!

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