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  • Location
    East Sussex
  • Interests
    Building an 00 gauge '20s early '30s Southern Railway model railway.

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  1. To this point in the process, Lyghtondown has been rather two dimensional. Flat, even. "Hardly a surprise", would be fair response. At the end of the last blog entry the Management and I had got as far as playing trains on a flat rectangular area of plywood with a rectangular hole in the middle. I don't wish to minimise the mile stone that represented, we had a great evening unwrapping the toys at last. But in real terms this much less than half way, there's a lot still to do. What the railway always required (an indeed all layout require) is a third dimension: height. The railway needs bumps, contours, shape and ultimately some context in which the railway "paraphernalia" would sit in. Something to make it believable. The best way of getting some of that third dimension going was to start planning the hills, and when this began something really became obvious: Corners do not look right. For a layout this size it seems like it has quite a lot of corners, and from most angles when looking at the layout (rather than looking into your hands ) there's a corner making its presences felt (either on the inside or the outside of the boards). This is predominantly caused by the scenic area being maximized by forming a "U" shape round the centre access hole. It was inevitable, but how to mitigate this. The answer was hardly rocket science, but did require additional in-fill boards to be fabricated: The back scene behind the scenery will be (more or less) continuously curved from the extreme left to the extreme right. Something like this: So the blue line represents the outline planning permission for the back scene, and the turquoise bits the new boards. I picked up some flexible plywood to assist with the fabrication and the back scene itself. Strange stuff is all I can say. I am happy with it for the more structural pieces, but for the back scene I am having second thoughts. More of that another time. I could try to describe the build process from here forward, but photos during fabrication are better. So: Infill corners just made and sitting roughly where they would be placed. Then, and a little frustratingly later in the process, the corners are fitted and the "backs" of the hills fixed and glued into place. Left: Right: Finally the whole thing: So this set the basic outline of the hills along the back. The next job is to fill in the hills. So, voila! ... and ... The building insulation foam was used to fill in the hills. One 2.44m x 1.22m x 60mm sheet provided enough material for everything, just a pain trying to remove all the foil before gluing it into place. That's probably enough of this for the moment. Next time finishing the hills and bringing the blog pretty much up to date.
  2. One of the least appreciated aspects of our hobby (by those outside it) is the opportunity to expand your knowledge and experience into areas that simply hadn't crossed your mind. For us controlling trains on your "Model Train Set Railway" soundly fell into that category. With both of us having a rudimentary understanding of electricity (management more so than me; she's the smart one), the wiring and potential issues with signal data and power being pushed through hap-hazzardly fabri-cobbled together birds nest of wire didn't cause much concern. Generating those signals did in the first place did. We're both a little old fashion in many senses, and bought (again back when the board were being made) into a system which seems solid, functional, simple. We bought one of these: Actually (and this is whole different story), her old loft space did have a quite sizeable Train Set installed and in reality the Prodigy Advance 2 was bought for this with two handheld controllers and a booster pack too. Now this system worked well enough for us at the time and once the move to consolidate our assets had been negotiated and approved (thanks to a trip in the West Somerset Railway), this controller and its accessories came along too. "Sorted", I thought, "One less thing to worry about". However, if truth be told, both of us found the use of the system a little cumbersome, and once Lyghtondown had reached the "functional testing" phase (i.e. lets play trains) these little issues seemed to grow. Thinking back, the fiddly nature of the system was far less apparent in her loft because the layout was so much bigger: the time spent driving the trains about was much larger than the time spent setting points, selecting a loco and moving away. With Lyghtondown the journey time from the traverser to the station is best measured in seconds than minutes (even at a realistic pace), and so it now it took much longer to set things up for the next train than it took the train to move. Suddenly we're not "playing trains", we're primarily playing with technology. Not what we wanted. It was about this time that we felt that joining the local club would be appropriate, we'd been to a couple of their local shows (very good), and thought to show our faces. We got a very warm welcome, and in that frenzied bout of questions during that first evening ("What scale do you model?" "DC or DCC?" etc) a young chap (younger than either of us) called Gary (BlueLightening) said something like "I use and Arduino and some software". There was some dumb struck awe at that point. Was that even possible? As I guess everyone here is aware, this is of course eminently possible, and indeed really not that difficult. I think it took a week to order the necessary parts and find the right software to drive it (JMRI), some fiddling to get the DCC++ sketch operating. I'm an old hand at programming and computers but this micro-controller stuff was all new to me. So here is our trail blazing Arduino, now in standby mode as I've accidentally bought a few more : We took our lead from Mr Heath-Robinson and cobbled this together with a small 15 volt power brick from some defunct piece of kit that had long since made it to recycling and, amazingly, it worked! An old laptop furnished the computer power to run JMRI being installed on top of Linux. Further investigation of options available in JMRI found the "Wifi Server" and suddenly a couple of old smart phone became mobile controllers. Fan-tas-tic! Several things quickly came to notice: The Phone interface is cool (to us at the moment) and being wireless is great, but not necessarily faster in use than the Prodigy kit. This, though, is a function of which Application you use to make the connection to JMRI, and so is subject to change and update, unlike the Prodigy kit. The speed control though the phones was much smoother and lost some of the "stepiness" that seemed apparent with the Prodigy system. You don't have to remember the numbers of things any more We might have gone over the top a little, but seeing that we were going to stay with the Arduino based solution, it made sense to build something more .. permanent. So we built this: We built the box under the stand. It features: Mains powered (fused at case socket) Red 240v LED to indicate supply on 15 volt 4 Amp switch mode power supply 4 Amp breaker on output of PSU Volt and Amp meters giving output of PSU Switched supply to Arduino motor shield Green 15v LED to indicate supply to the Motor Shield Arduino with 4 Amp Motor Shield installed The analogue meters were surprisingly expensive given that a combined digital one was about half the price. Sign of the times I suppose. The old Compaq laptop (and that name gives away its age) serves this purpose well, and generates its own Wifi network, so we don't have to try and work through the house one (two floors down). The only downside really is that the laptop battery has long since retired from active service, so pulling the power on it will turn it off quite quickly. As I said at the start .. an opportunity to learn new things. Having grasped some of the possibilities of the of the Arduino loads of ideas bubbled up. More of those another time. Jeff.
  3. Our intention with Lyghtondown has always been to operate it as a DCC layout, and the consequences of this choice were largely explored prior to the track being laid. As a result much of this Blog entry really overlaps the previous entry as track laying and train control happen hand in hand. But to continue ... In hindsight some inevitable inexperience crept into the decision making progress, though largely nothing which cannot be carefully re-examined if necessary. Our thinking broadly touched upon the key "advertised" benefits of DCC: A two wire Bus architecture for power and control No need for isolated sections of track Point motors driven and operated from the bus Accessories (signals etc) driven from the bus So (we thought) in the catch phrase of that advert: "Simples". Step one was to convert all the points from DC function to DCC only: Short bridging wires were soldered onto the underside of each point so that the point blades ceased to be a functional electrical switch and the over centre springs on the tie-bar were removed (in preparation for the point motors): in addition to this all the conducting fish-plates we used in the track had drop lead soldered onto them and fed down through the base board: Then, where the track crossed base board boundaries, we put in small brass screws and used these to both fix the rails in position and also to supply power to the rail ends: This being done with the rail continuous across the gap, then slitting the rails with a 0.5mm Dremel diamond wheel. Then, finally, wire the whole lot up into some electricians idea of a nightmare birds nest of wires: Actually, I like to think that is a little better than that. At the moment the infamous "choc blocks" have been used as these are easy to undo or extend while we have been "developing" the wiring solution. A key early decision was to have the capacity to route six wires between all the boards. The rational for this was simple: DCC to rails for engines (blue/yellow) DCC to accessories (purple/grey) Pure DC 15 volt power (red/black) These six wire use some readily available automotive 4 amp connectors to bridge the boards: However as can been seen from the photos above, so far we have only connected and utilised the track DCC bus (blue and yellow wires). We have found that even with all the point motor attached and two engines running the whole system only draws 0.5 amps. There seems to be little reason to to make it more complex than it needs to be (but being prepared is never a bad idea). What else to say of note? The point motors are all from DCC Concepts. Like the track these (quite a lot of them) were bought when the boards were built. There is much I could say about them, but not here. In simple terms they do operate the points under DCC control, and they do supply the frog with a feed from either the blue or yellow wire they are powered from (this is probably a very good reason to run them off the track bus). It's tempting to think that as the track is a complete loop and that the DCC bus will be too. It is not. There is a clear electrical break at one end of the traverser with power supplied into the bus next to that break. I have not installed any DCC bus terminators or suppressors .. yet. The system seems to be operating reliably over all the track. This could be a function of the size of the whole layout (being smaller giving less opportunity for issues) or just the equipment being used. For practical purposes the layout has stayed at this point, electrically speaking, since this time. Once some of the more interesting ideas we've had brewing on the back burner get some time "up front" then I expect some changes and extensions to the wiring will be required, but all hopefully within the scope of what's already in place. All this, of course, is of no value without a source of power. Coming next. Jeff.
  4. jeff_p

    Hello there.

    Thank you for the warm welcome. I am looking forward to digging into the archives and collective wisdom of RMweb but I'm also fairly sure I'll be a good source of silly questions as time goes by. Jeff.
  5. jeff_p

    Hello there.

    Hello all, New to the forum, though I've been a member of other forums over the years (both modelling and other interests). Not new to model railways, but only lately got more seriously back into it. I'm now trying to take a step forward and up on this front now that time is more readily available (not actually a result of the recent difficulties) and I have the capacity to take on a long term project. My interests are primarily Southern '20s and '30s in 00, though the wife likes any big steam engine, preferably blue (definitely not green). As well as a layout, I have a couple of engine kits I need to build along with some other bits and pieces. Being a bit of computer person (it did pay the bills) I've also enjoyed digging into DCC and the potential this offers through the like of JMRI etc. I suppose I ought to say more, but I'm not sure what would be useful or interesting to know? Cheers, Jeff.
  6. Now would seem like a good time to outline what the goals of Lyghtondown are, and how we might hope to achieve them. It would be fair to say that my wife and I are approaching the hobby from opposite ends of the spectrum. I'm very much of the "as realistic as possible" frame of mind, working to the best of our abilities within the limitations we either had to, or choose to, accept. We've called this the "model railway" approach. On the other hand, and a perfectly valid alternative view, is my wifes desire to recreate the hobby of her past where historical or practical accuracy is second to simply getting on and seeing lots of trains moving about. We've called this the "train set" approach. This opposition of views has been the cause of lots of discussion and suggestions countered with an alternative approach that took weeks to get (mostly) sorted out. So what is the resulting objective? We're trying to do both, after all, compromise is necessary in every marriage Lyghtondown has been laid as through station within a continuous loop (through the traverser) such that we can play and allow trains to roll round and round to our satisfaction. Sometimes it's just nice to watch the trains moving without have to be directly involved every second. Having settled on this decision the next obvious one was "one or two tracks". The board has space, just, for a dual track loop but I felt that using the space for this would have consequences for how realistically the station could be represented and on a practical note how easy and reliable the traverser alignment would be. I won that point, eventually, and so the station is an attempt to represent the style of station that might have been found on the Cuckoo Line. Which raises another question. Why not model a real location then? Good question, but actually not such a good answer. I spent a fair bit of time trundling through the Signalling Record Society Website virtually walking up and down the branch lines looking at the options like, for example, Rotherfield: But eventually I think a couple of things steered us away from this: The layout would be, regardless of what we did, be very tight, and sticking to a sensible minimum radius would be challenging. Taking even a small station plan (as above) and condensing it into the space available would result in something that would only be "representative" of the named location. I'm rather proud of the name "Lyghtondown", entirely made up but with a feel of authenticity, which allows us to model whatever we like (rule #1). I brushed against a couple of points there: the track plan itself and track laying choices. I'll add a few words on that subject. All the track is PECO Code-75 flexi-track and electro-frog points. At the time the track was purchased (back when the boards were actually made) the bullhead option didn't exist, so I felt this was the best option short of making track, and met the "train set" objective of allowing us to run anything we fancied including all the 00 RTR stock we had gathered over time. The plan itself is very much "in the style of" a number of the stations on the Cuckoo Line, though perhaps most like Rotherfield. The track has been laid with a minimum radius of 0.5m, and this tightest radius has been almost exclusively reserved only for the curves behind the scenery. In the scenic section the curves are mostly more open than this, aided by the fact that all but 2 of the points are curved. From a strictly prototypical point of view, the track layout is missing some key safety features that would have been considered essential: Catch points. These have been left out simply because their inclusion would have used up space forcing the station itself to be even smaller. So the final plan, agreed by the management, looks (something) like this: The aim was to capture a typical branch line station layout while keeping open as many options as possible. Space everywhere is tight, the platforms are just long enough to get four coaches and a small engine in, but in reality the traverser is only long enough for three coaches and an engine, but does hold six trains. Here we are, having got the track down and working, unwrapping the toys for our first play. The traverser is clearly just four long coaches long and basically defines the practical limits on over all train size. Yes, that large blue loco in the middle of it is Tornado, one of my wifes engines. Happy days at last. Jeff
  7. ... long, long ago, in a far off shed, in a garden many miles away a railway started taking shape. I suppose it's a little too much to expect yellow lines of text rolling up the screen getting smaller as they go backed by some triumphant rip roaring sound track, and in reality that would be substantially over the top So, about eight years ago (I had to check the date on the pictures) when I lived elsewhere I had a dream about restarting that childhood hobby I looked about the house for space to put a model railway. Deciding that the spare bedroom was just that, spare, I elected to re-designate it as the "hobby room" and started building base boards for a model railway. For reasons which I can't remember now (perhaps I just realised that I wasn't going to live there forever) I chose not to make the construction permanent, and built the boards free-standing and capable of being dismantled. The shed/workshop saw a frenzy of activity, and eventually a number of base boards were produced. Construction was using 9mm plywood giving seven components which when assembled produces a nearly square layout 2.4m wide by 2.1m deep with a hole in the middle 1.2m wide by 0.75m deep. For those that (like me) still think in the old fashioned way that's a layout approximately 8' wide by 7' deep with a hole 4' by 2'6", but the boards are metric The list of boards making up the whole structure is: Front centre: 1.2m x 0.75m Sides, left and right: 1.5m x 0.6m Rear left and right: 1.5m x 0.6 Traverser: 1.2m x 0.6m A quick look at the numbers gives away that something doesn't add up across the back, which is true. The two rear boards support the central traverser section and in order to form a stable and rigid platform for this they extend under the traverser section to over lap and interlock. All the board are located with pattern makers dowels and are held together with bolt and wing nuts. This all felt over the top at the time though in hindsight my efforts have been repaid with interest. As is so often the case with life, spare capacity and opportunity for developing the newly started model railway dried up during the creation of the initial track plans and the boards were stored away. ... and time rolled by, as it does. Six years ago my partner and I got married (there does seem to be something wrong with calling a lady past a certain age your "girl friend") and we moved to a new town. Lots of changes happened about that time, but the bare baseboards made it through the consolidation process as the content of two houses were merged into our new home, and early last year we both thought it was time to rekindle the modelling hobby. The house has that stereotypical "room in the loft" and after lots of "what if we did this" questions we realised that the old layout base boards, then in storage in the garage, would fit nicely saving time and money and still leave room for desks and storage of other things. The baseboards were extracted, cleared and erected in their new home. Thank goodness for marine plywood, everything just slotted together. This last picture shows track being laid after literally weeks of pushing points and flexible track about, and so "Lyghtondown" was begun. Much to do ahead. Jeff.
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