Sunday, 14 May 2017

And then there were two - 2

Having had a successful weekend running 'Freshwater' on 'Freshwater' at Abingdon, I have now turned my attentions to a second Dapol A1X Terrier locomotive, carefully copying the process that worked with number 8 'Freshwater'.

The chassis is etched nickel-silver, available from the 2mm Scale Association along with suitable wheels and gears and 'muffs'. A Nigel Lawton motor provides the power, and a CT electronics DCC decoder fits in the cab. Some extra lead weighting has been added inside the tanks.

Having got the chassis working well enough on analogue DC, I fitted the DCC decoder, and now it runs very nicely on the rolling road. It is not so good picking up from the tracks yet, but I have still got to fit the rail-top pickup scrapers and the DCC stayalive capacitors that Freshwater has.

This locomotive will become number 13 Carisbrooke, and will be lines southern olive green with BRITISH RAILWAYS in sunshine lettering, if I can find a supplier for the lettering and nameplates.

And then there were two - 1

For exhibiting 'Camford Junction' at our show in Basingstoke back in March, I had cobbled together various modules purchased on eBay, controlled by an Arduino, all screwed to a piece of wood and joined up with a bird's nest of wires. This provided the five analogue DC controllers to drive the trains on the layout. By pretending to be a Merg DCC Control Station (CANCMD) it allowed Merg hand-held throttles (CANCAB) to be used to control the trains. It also meant that JMRI, running on a laptop, could also provide on-screen throttles, and by hooking up a WiFi access point, Android and iPhone throttle apps could also be used to drive the analogue DC trains.

Having performed faultlessly all weekend, I had to tidy it all up, and put it into a proper case for protection. This has taken longer than the original build.

I have also been thinking about the problem of failures and rectification of faults during an exhibition. With a club layout, there will always be some concerns amongst the membership about the reliability of new technology. For Camford Junction, I have tried to make fault rectification as simple as possible, by standardising and separating things. The layout is powered by several identical laptop-style 12VDC power adapters. We will have a spare one that can be used to replace any one of these in the event of a failure. So far, I have used only two types of Merg CBus modules, the CANSERVO8 module to control up to 8 point servos, and the CANACC8 module (modified for 12V DC power) to operate a standard 8-relay module widely available from eBay, to switch track sections between controllers. We will carry a spare for each module, which can be quickly swapped if required. It will be necessary to plug in the laptop to load the configuration data into the new module for its new location.

The new control box is a different matter. If one of the other layout modules fails, it will disable a few points or a few track sections, but if the control box fails, the whole layout will grind to a halt. Repairs under exhibition conditions would also take some time. The simple answer was to build an identical spare. Fortunately, the total cost of all the modules in the case is reasonably low, but it did require a lot of drilling holes, crimping, and soldering. The end result, twins:

The next step will be to add a Raspberry Pi (a very small Linux computer) into the control box that will run JMRI and provide WiFi access, instead of having to plug in a laptop.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Freshwater on Freshwater at Abingdon

My Freshwater layout was at Abrail last Saturday. It has had a busy few weeks, but this is the last booked exhibition at the moment.

Today was also the first time the little Terrier has earned its keep, running nicely all day with just one minor hitch, when the coupling rod came off a crankpin, bent and threw out the quartering. It was soon fixed though. Finally, I seem to have overcome the current pickup problems, with a combination of 'Simpson Springs' on the axles, rail skates, and 'stay-alive' capacitors for the DCC decoder.

The layout also came second in the 'Best Layout' competition. I was quite chuffed, especially as the layout is obviously unfinished, and there were several fine layouts at the show.

And also some video:

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Camford Junction survived the weekend at the Basingstoke exhibition. We had trains running to and fro on all four main line tracks, and could even control them from mobile phones - no mean feat for a non-DCC layout. There were some glitches in the track alignment still, and lots of paint, flux and glue to remove before we get faultless running, but it went better than expected. The yard area is still to be wired up, but was used to display an impressive collection of locomotives and stock. A number of buildings, huts and other lineside bits and pieces are appearing, although ballasting and groundwork will need to be completed first. We also need to start thinking about fiddle yards to complete the layout.

Friday, 3 March 2017

Another deadline approaches

Before Christmas last year, The Committee decreed that Camford Junction should have all the scenic track laid and some trains running in time to show it on the club stand at the Basingstoke exhibition in March (11th and 12th). It may look like we left everything until two weeks before the deadline, but things have been happening behind the scenes. The gang have built all the points and track, assembled the Dingo servo mounts and prepared 2mm Scale Association under-baseboard tiebars. Actual track laying was delayed by the problems with the baseboard joins (which are now resolved) and by me turning the baseboards upside down to wire up the main line tracks. But now, track laying is proceeding rapidly:

This board will have the last three points laid this week. The troughing for the carriage washer has been installed beneath the concrete sleepered track, and etched drain grills added, although they are barely visible.

The left hand board is being sculpted to fit the inspection pits for the loco shed. These were salvaged from the previous layout, 70K Coley Park.

Latest update, trains are now running the full length of the layout, and some temporary cosmetic arches have been added (to be replaced by properly modelled ones later) and more buffer stops are appearing:

Friday, 17 February 2017

Trains move on Camford Junction

A major milestone has been achieved , with trains running on part of the layout for the first time. I have been putting together a collection of cheap, ready made electronic modules with an Arduino to produce a quintuple analogue DC controller that is operated via commands sent through the Merg CBus. It can be operated using Merg hand-held controllers (CANCABs), or via a PC running JMRI and smart phone throttles. It is still a bit experimental at the moment, but is developing into a usable system.

The one baseboard of Camford Junction is fully wired up for the 4 main lines, and this was used for tonight's test. Unfortunately, only N gauge locomotives were available, and their wheels and flanges do not pass through the finescale pointwork, limiting how far two of the tracks could be tested. I also only have two CANCABs and did not have time to set up the PC and WiFi network, so we could only run two trains at a time. However, the test was reasonably successful, as can be seen in the video:

Video on Flickr

So, now I need to get on with the wiring of the second baseboard, while the others lay some track for the TMD on the first board, in an effort to have trains running to and fro in time for a display at the Basingstoke model railway exhibition in March.

Thursday, 2 February 2017

"You're just wasting your time"

Obvious quote from "Oh, Mr Porter" describes this morning's activity. Using some plastic card and some printouts from Scalescenes, I started on the interior of the Station Master's house:

And what can you see once it is in place?

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

A Little Destruction

With only two weeks until the Newbury exhibition, taking a chisel to the layout might seem a bit foolhardy. However, I had a few jobs I wanted to complete before showing the layout again, so I have booked a few days holiday to get them done.

The first job is to extend the station concourse. Having acquired more photos and information, it was apparent that I had underestimated its size, as the W.H.Smiths bookshop and newsagents was sited between the station building and the signal box. I have moved the buffer stops almost two inches closer to Newport. I positioned some plastic card and foamboard as foundations for the buildings and concourse surface. The headshunt is still long enough for a Class 33 to run round. The prototype was only just long enough for an O2 to run round, but that would be a bit restrictive for my layout. The ground surface can now be remade.

A little more destruction along the rear of the platform was caused by the removal of the over-height etched fencing which will be replaced by 3D printed Southern Railway cast concrete palings that I have created.

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Some more buildings for Freshwater

Not much has been happening on Freshwater for a few months as all my modelling time seems to have been spent making up Merg electronic modules for other peoples' layouts. But this is about to change as I have an invite to the exhibition in Newbury on February 11th. I had set myself a deadline to get the station building and surrounding area sorted, and some more trees planted before this. So, over the Christmas period, I spent some time on the laptop fiddling with Blender to get the signal box and W. H. Smiths bookshop ready for 3D printing. I had also received an old photo showing the side view of the corrugated iron goods shed. My previous 3D printed model of this had been made using just a distant, end view, and I had imagined double doors would have been fitted on the sides. This new photo showed just a single door, and a brick built plinth. I therefore editted my Blender file, and got a new 3D print. The images below show the 3D prints, as received from Shapeways, having just cleaned them with acetone-free nail polish remover, and given them a light spray with Tamiya fine grey primer. I hope my painting skills will be up to the task of finishing these off. I have to find some suitable window frame etches to modify to fit, as nothing off-the-shelf was appropriate.

Corrugated Iron Shed, version 2.0
 and the newly acquired photo of the original
 W. H. Smiths
 and the original
 Signal Box (kit of parts)
 and the real thing (also showing W. H. Smiths bookstall and station building beyond)

The station concourse is larger than I imagines, so I will have to move the buffer stops and rebuild the concourse/platform a little to fit the bookstall where it belongs. I have also 3D printed some SR standard concrete paling fencing to finish off this area, as the etched brass fencing I fitted originally is much too tall.

My first attempt at the iron shed included the pointy finials, similar to those on the signal box, but they broke off in transit. I, therefore, re-created them as a separate set of 6 (with a sprue) printed in FXD which will be added to the shed and signal box later.