Sunday 18 July 2010

Magnetic uncouplers for Freshwater

Following the Expo, I can now get on with adding the uncoupling magnets. I had always intended using permanent magnets, following their successful use on Brunswick. I bought some small magnets from Merg, but they were nowhere near powerful enough to operate the DG couplers. Now I have purchased 50 'rare earth' magnets via Ebay. These are really powerful for their size (about 5mm diameter and 3mm long) and come with all sorts of warnings. 'Rare earth' magnets have a high iron content and would corrode very quickly if not protected by a special coating. Often this is nickel plating. It is therefore not practical to cut them, and you have to protect the plating from damage.

I planned to use some more servos, as used to operate the points, to move the magnets into position under the track, or away from the tracks when uncoupling was not required. The layout has several parallel tracks at various positions where I wanted uncoupling to take place, so I planned to have a number of magnets alligned to the parallel tracks, all operated by a single servo. I cut a length of paxolin sheet, and drilled it to take the magnets, which are glued in with epoxy. Working with the magnets is interesting, as they fly around the workbench attaching themselves to tools each time you get anywhere near them. Trying to get three magnets into their holes in the paxolin to glue them without them flying to each other was also quite fun.

I made a paxolin 'arm' which bolts to one of the servo attachments, and the bar with the magnets attaches to the arm, using bolts and a paxolin block with threaded holes in it. Because of al the tracks above where the servo needed to be, I cut a sheet of hardboard to attach the servo to, which bolted under the layout away from the tracks. The photos show how it works, I hope. One shows the magnets moved well away from the tracks, and the other two show the magnets in position hard against the underside of the layout surface, below the three parallel tracks there. You can also see the Merg Servo4 board that the servo plugs into. Now I just need to build two more.

Monday 5 July 2010

Freshwater Behaved Itself

We had a great weekend at the Expo - lots to see and spend money on. Dave Stratton lent a hand carrying and operating, allowing me to roam a bit with the video camera.

I had the layout operating with nearly a week to go, and I chose to give the track a last minute paint job. I did not find time to add rust to the rails, just a spray of undercoat, and some paint slapped on the concrete and timber sleepers. It took an hour to scrape the rail tops and free up the point blades, but it was ready to go when the doors opened.

The layout performed a treat all the weekend, once the rails and wheels were cleaned and the back-to-back of several wagon wheels reset using the gauge. I am really glad I concentrated on getting the track right rather than pressing on with the scenery, as it is a pain to sort out with delicate buildings in the way. Now I can start laying ballast. I was definitely not going to do that before the Expo.

Uncoupling was achieved using a hand held rare-earth magnet waved about underneath the baseboards. 50 small rare earth magnets have now arrived in the post (ebay) which I will now produce a mechenism for. To shunt the kick-back siding, couplings had to be added to the other end of locomotives which previously only needed one coupling for shunting on Coley Park. It does add some interest to what is a much smaller goods yard though.

The servos and merg Servo4 control boards worked perfectly and did not require any attention all weekend - very promising.

The ability to switch from analogue DC to DCC and back again was of interest to some people, and when a wheelchair-bound friend turned up, we managed to lower the complete layout for him, using the adjustable trestles, returning it to our height later. This was not as easy as hoped, and will probably not be repeated, but it does show that we can chose what height to set up at before each exhibition.

I just have this out-of-focus pic of Dave shunting:

Ian Morgan