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

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  1. I believe my last words were "I need to focus", and in a sense I have, just not on what I thought I should be. The trouble with "playing with DCC control" is that once I had a proof of concept working with trains and points moving smoothly under my control I realised what was missing. The result has been (and encouraged by the management) that I've re-written virtually everything but "properly" this time. But that's not all, oh no. Looking forwards towards a more automated layout (and freshly encouraged by my successes with the tiny Arduino boards) I thought to pull together some form of networking for these devices such that a number of them could be "dotted" about the underside of the layout and control things. Things can be lights, sensors, servo motors or even stepper motors (but not trains ). Then, thinking to myself "do I need to use JMRI?" I've also coded up to use the DCC++ connection directly. So that's where so many weeks have slid past: 8K+ lines of Arduino code and about 15K lines of C++ "server side" code, and still growing though nearly completed. I'll work up to a proper update soon(ish), but here's what a ring of Arduinos looks like: All good fun. Jeff.
  2. Hi Justin, Yes, the "brains" in the handset is the cheapest Nano compatible board I could find on eBay. Working on the premise that I was likely to blow at least one up, I didn't want to spend too much. I think one was about £3.50. The MCU in the bread board in the title picture is an STM32 based MCU (so a 32 bit ARM processor rather than the 8 bit Atmel AVR chip). I've had this working too, thinking that the extra speed and memory would improve things, but the tiny Nano works just fine so there was nothing significant to be gained. The screen is an SPI attached 1.8 inch Colour TFT Display with 128 x 160 Pixels, the most expensive component in the handset! There's a few things still to polish yet, the development hasn't finished. Jeff
  3. ..on the modelling. But, to be honest, this really grabbed my interest as a bit of a technical "can I actually get that to work?" way. The answer is "Yes", but what is it? I decided to see if I could make a simple hand held railway controller that be used to operate a DCC layout. When I say "a" DCC layout, I really ought to be clear and say that I meant "our" DCC layout: JMRI with a DCC++ interface. I wanted it to be as simple as possible to operate, and as simple as possible to configure, and this is the first completed prototype in a 3D printed case (a story in its own right): So how does it work? Hopefully fairly intuitively. The rotary knob will control the currently selected engine shown in the bottom box (faster/slower, forwards/backwards, etc). Click the dial to change direction, long click to flip between driving mode and shunting mode. The "cross" (actually a joystick component from an Xbox controller) is used to move up/down the menu, or left/right between menus. Press to activate the selected item. Technically, it's not the handset doing the clever stuff. All it does is manage its display and report buttons, dials or joystick activity communicating with a computer via a USB lead. The fiddly stuff is done in a program on the computer which picks up a menu configuration from a text file and (for the moment) talks to the WiFi Service in JMRI to make things happen. So far I can turn power on/off, select and drive an engine and toggle points. One of the aims was to make it as easy as possible to "play" trains, so once an engine has been selected (and appears in the bottom of the screen) it can be driven while any other menu is shown (and used). Here the points menu is active with Engine 51 moving forwards: Anyway, all I need to do now is make the management her own controller (no doubt in a different colour), and we'll be away and perhaps (with this now nearly out of my system) I can get back to what I ought to be doing: building the layout itself
  4. Ahh, thanks for your comment. I had already thought about some form of lateral control on the bogle but will worry about that once the model is complete enough to operate and test. Not having got the body compete I've not seen how high it rides, but I'll definitely keep an eye on that now.
  5. Now that the (apparent) rush with the blog is over a more sedate and relaxed pace will be the order of the day, but I mustn't allow lethargy to take control. So, in the spirit of showing that the lock down protocol hasn't resulted in me wandering about the house all day dressed in my slippers and dressing gown (what a terrible image, sorry , and I don't even own any slippers), there's been some progress on the SE Finecast I3 kit. I've rebuilt the chassis now with some new parts sourced from 'Finecast. It became apparent when making a more detailed inventory of bits and pieces that I had lost some of the kit. Nothing big, just from nuts and bolts, stuff for the electrical pickup, that sort of thing. I have absolutely no idea where they could have gone to, but given how long it was stored for anything could have happened. Unfortunately (for me) that meant I needed to contact 'Finecast and request some missing bits, and that mean that I accidentally (honest gov', he made me do it) bought one of their SR 0-4-2 D1 kits . The chassis is far from complete, but rather than ploughing on I thought it sensible to make absolutely sure I had the chassis and wheels sorted and rolling smoothly before adding details. The result was this: Two key elements were causing trouble at this point. Naturally the coupled wheels were spinning fine independently but wouldn't when coupled, and the bogie (being so light) wouldn't stay on the rails on the tighter curves. The cause of the first problem is no revelation, and neither was the solution (well most of it). Using the broaches that I do have I have I eased the bearings in the chassis just a bit more, and then progressively did the same on the ends of the coupling rods. This I did with the coupling rods back-to-back to make as sure as I possibly could that they stayed the same length, even if it wasn't exactly the right length. The other thing I did was tie the two halves of the compensation arms/levers together. It can be seen as the slightly off-square bar just behind the front driving axle in the following picture: The compensation still allows the driving axles to rise and fall a couple of millimeters, but has stopped a possible twisting motion laterally. It was fiddly, but was this necessary? I don't know, but as far as I can see the driving axles cannot now move further apart through the motion of the compensation, and so this ought to maintain smoother running while still allowing the chassis the best chance of keeping its wheels on the track. Time will tell. The bar was placed there as the gearbox fills in the equivalent space around the rear axle and effectively keeps that under control, but the front axle bearings were free to move laterally along the axle so this seemed like the obvious place to add some rigidity. As for the leading bogie, a spare spring from a three link coupling kit has been donated to the cause, and after trimming has been installed over the bolt between the chassis cross bar and the bogie itself. Thanks to Martins' suggestion on Monday nights club call for that one. As is not uncommon for me I'd missed the obvious solution and was caught up in trying to work out how to make something out of some springy wire . The spring is too strong for an unladen chassis (even cut down), but once all that white metal added then this should resolve itself. It's easy enough to tune later. I've also started working on the body of the kit for a few reasons: I need the weight on the chassis to enable some testing etc.. I might need to trim the motor shaft and also create some restraint for the motor (given that it rises and falls with the driven wheels) I also need to see where I can run wires and place a DCC decoder (probably the bunker) So here I am starting to piece together the major components of the body: Finally, the D1 kit: This goes onto the shelf for the time being, but I have been wanting one of these for the layout for a while now. It fits nicely into the period and concept of the layout, so much so that I might even need two ... Jeff [Edit: just to sort out the typing and phrasing]
  6. Hi Keith, On the jib I had to resort to a spot of resin putty to fill in some gaps that simply wouldn't be resolved in any other way. I took to assembling it one piece at a time and letting the glue set before tackling the next piece. It is worth the effort though. Jeff.
  7. So impressed with the 3D resin printing. Just getting to grips with a new "old fashioned" PLA printer myself. All good fun.
  8. I once worked in a company where the phrase "JFDI" was occasionally fired at you. Essentially it means "stop procrastinating and Just Do It", I'll let you workout what the 'F' stood for . Happily, for me (and possibly them too), I no longer work for them so having this expression thrust at me has become a rather rare experience, but the other day I found myself thinking, "You can't avoid it, you're going to have to JUST DO IT", so what was I thinking about? A bit of an embarrassing admission really, I have had this white metal kit for a number of years now that I started, badly, then stalled as at that time of life work was ... difficult. I realised the other day that now was a good time to take it out of storage, give it a good long hard looking at, and start it again. What is it? It's one of South Eastern Finecast LBSCR I3 kits. Digging the box out (it was sitting next to an untouched H2 kit I bought before the RTR versions were even an inkling of a thought of an idea), I was presented with a box of bits still wrapped in tissue paper: .. and the standard "exploded" diagram of how to build it: Unfortunately the chassis lurked in there and when extracted looked like this: A little pause for mentally working out how to approach "un-building" the chassis then an hours patient application of flux and hot soldering iron resulting in a pile of detached, but messy parts: One screw gave me particular issue as at least on this one I'd managed to solder not just the two parts together, but the thread on the screw too. Four or five attempts later (and one or two "damn" moments with the fingers) and this part too surrendered to the inevitable (something was going to give, and it wasn't me!). That was yesterday. Today I reviewed the parts, thought about what was needed to make putting this together simpler, and vanished into the garage. I've made myself another block of steel with one critical dimension being the same as the distance between the two halves of the chassis. Now I have a extra pair of hands in the same way I did with the crane, and these hands don't mind getting a little hot Anyway, some time spent removing old solder and cleaning up the bits and pieces. You might notice that I have also started clearing out the axle boxes to allow some compensation to be fitted on the driving wheels (the two "bone" shaped pieces between the files). ...then I started with the front bogie chassis. Filed off some surplus tabs (EM specific) so that it was easier to jig the pieces together: Finally drilling out some 0.8mm cross bar holes, fitting the bars and feeling satisfied with not making a mess of it: Enough with the soldering today, so finished off by dry running the main chassis together: I stopped short of soldering this together because I'm not sure how rigid it will be. It must be fine, many people must have made this before, but it feels "flexible" laterally. Is this even a problem? Time for a drink, more to follow. Jeff. [Edit] Still haven't learnt not to post last thing in the evening. I'm definitely a morning person.
  9. Hi melmerby (Mel?) So many of the parts seemed delicate enough to be accidentally blown away by a stray puff of exasperation. It's amazing how long it can take to find some parts Yes, the two of the four Jib brace parts on mine were not quite formed, so a few hours gluing and fettling to solve that one. The repair is hardly invisible, but eventually I couldn't bring myself to file any more away. Rolling the crane back off the point I can see that they're both sitting properly, but the match wagon still seems a little higher at the buffers. This could be for other reasons, of course. For example I might not have the buffer beams quite "upright" despite best attempts to ensure that. The difference isn't great so I'll probably ignore it for the moment. Cheers, Jeff
  10. Hands up, I know, it's a Great Western Railways 6 Ton hand operated crane ... but, well, it was calling to me so I fell for it and picked it up from eBay. At the time I was having trouble finding Cambrian as a vendor which was why I was scanning through the many, many things eBay suggested I couldn't do without I have subsequently "found" Cambrian and now have a small set of SR bolster wagons to put together at some stage in the future. Anyway, a corner of the layout is destined to be some rural timber yard scene, and I thought (at the time) that a small crane would fit into that scope nicely. The fact that it wasn't "home grown" could be explained away with something like "bought in cheap by the mill owner", and besides, "Southern Railways wasn't primarily goods focused, so perhaps they too bought in rolling stock appropriately". I've spent some time looking (on line) for evidence of mobile cranes in Southern use, and some do turn up. Obviously the "big" stuff for re-railing etc., but the occasional smaller one too. I guess they were not that photogenic at the time. This one is certainly interesting, found in Flickr, a picture posted by "Les Chatfield" (probably somebody here, thank you Les): Great, so there is some form of precedent, that's good enough for me. From a blogging point of view, I've missed out on some of the build steps (as I simply didn't think to photo them at the time). So we catch me here with the two bases formed and me (behind the camera) scratching my head about how the rest of the pieces fit together: I had re-invented the "block of metal and magnets" trick for holding things firmly and square. I'm sure this has been done many times before but, for me, it was bit of a light bulb moment and delayed building the kit while a pile of blue fridge magnets were delivered and I hacked the end off a piece of steel and squared it off. This made piecing together all the big sections much simpler. Here it can be seen holding the start of the frame for the crane while the glue does its stuff: So, progress being made, but the jib itself took a little while for me to convince myself I had it right, and that I'd got the necessary pieces fitting together fairly well. The jib half built, as is the body of the crane itself: ... closer ... Now here is the point where I grabbed the managements glasses; they're thicker than mine: This last picture covers some significant work, the obvious ones of sorting out the hooks and cleaning them up but also, less obviously, repairing two of the long thin links from the jib to the top of the crane body. The molding process had fallen just shy of fulling forming all four of the pieces, so two of them needed pieces of spru (?) grafting into the missing space and then the reformed piece gently working back to size(ish). Bit of a challenge, but rather satisfying when completed. Final result, unpainted, thus: Many extra steps and fiddly things have been, erm .. glossed over, to get to this point. For example, side running boards stowed or out? What I did forget, was to place some weight inside the crane counter weight. Without it the crane naturally rests jib down. Later on you'll see a small square hole in the bottom of that area through which I rectified that omission Prime with grey: Now try and pick a colour. I know what, how about grey, but dirty: Then finally, for the moment that is: Some things remain to be completed: The ride height of match wagon and crane seem slightly out. This is almost certainly because I have used the same 8 spoke wheels for both, but the instructions which came with the crane definitely mentioned the crane itself using larger wheels. I need to find some. I have the three link chains to go between them, just need to fit them. Couplings at the ends? Yes, definitely. Almost certainly going to settle on Spratt and Winkle couplings, but until we've undertaken some trial conversions and seen how these cope with the many curves on the layout that's not a 100% decision yet. Ballast? Yes, definitely. Both wagons are inevitably light and need weighing down. I need to find a source of clean lead (or something) and some guidelines for how much. Tie down chain and other match wagon additions. When the crane is on the move the tip of the jib should be chained securely to the corners of the match wagon for obvious reasons. The chain an other pieces are awaiting some painting and placement. Some more detailed weathering of both chassis with both grease and rust marks required. I'll call this a day now, and pick out the typing mistakes tomorrow Jeff [Edit] It's tomorrow. Lesson from last night: Don't write a blog into the night - my writing skills are definitely diminished. Also forgot to mention that I did fit brass bearings into the wagons.
  11. jeff_p

    A Small Distraction

    A set of gauge blocks ... hmmmm Have wanted some for some time now, but can't quite find the right excuse to get a reasonable set
  12. Thanks for the pointer to KiCad. The Management and I are cooking up some thing Arduino based and still had a hole in the "How?" part that covered the "sticking it all together in a way which isn't a mess of wires". She's now looking into designing a board and how we can make it. Whole new world opening up
  13. From where I'm sitting that looks great. Awesome!
  14. I really intended to get there this time, but in juggling everything I was trying to achieve yesterday my attention simply slipped past the call time without realising it. You'll be pleased to hear that I had my head inside modelling activities and ideas, so not a complete loss
  15. And fill up the gaps in the layout (and that's everywhere at the moment ). But, specifically this time, I mean the bridge across the left hand entrance to (exit from) the station. This, with primer just applied, looked like this: Shiny new paint, though fuzzy as this image was cropped from a larger picture. The arch over the track is the access through the back board of the hills. I had thought to cut it open "to the sky", but a few things stopped me: The board with the back scene still needed a hole for the trains the travel through The arch would add some strength the relatively small hill is the corner of the board There would be a bridge pretty much immediately in front of it, so mostly hidden To the managements surprise (almost despair) I had no plan to look for something that could be purchased and "made to fit". Scratch building was my chosen way forward. She had a single word reply to that: "How?". Oh dear, I thought , best get on with it then. I chose to take small steps in making the bridge, not because it was difficult, but rather that as this was my first run at building anything for the layout I wanted to leave myself plenty of check points that I could roll back to if I made some ghastly mistake (which I thought quite likely). My starting point then was to make two templates for the front and back of the bridge which captured the curvature of the sides with respect to the rails. Finally one of those cereal boxes I've been saving for a while now found its calling. The result of this is shown here: These fit nicely across the track and against the side of the cutting. From these templates were made for the two sides of the bridge. These then allowed all of the most awkward pieces of rolling stock to be checked for clearance and to "get a feel" for the general look of the resulting bridge before too much effort was invested into it. These templates looked as follows: The reference to the rails was maintained to help keep things lined up. The piece in the middle is a combined "arch template" from a Scale Scenes brick paper. None of the arches fitted what I was looking for, so combing pieces of two of them in three bits ("A", "B" then "A" again) gave the curve I was looking for. Construction of the bridge was pretty simple in reality (fortunately), some 1.5mm artists card was bought form a local Paper/Book/Hobby store (long before the lock down), I think the sheet was A2 size. Two pieces of this made the sides, two pieces of cereal box glues together made the road surface and another made the inside of the arch. Finally two more smaller pieces of the artists card were used to make the walls either side of the road realistically thick. Once the structure was completely dry everything was, very carefully, papered in bricks. As is typical of me, I didn't think to photo the intermediate stages (probably because I had glue on my fingers, so here is the best "in progress" view I have, an internal view: Finally with the bridge in position, thought not fixed yet (front then back): You can see how close this is to the back of the layout as the top edge of the plywood arch clips the corner of the last picture. All in all this didn't take that long to make, which was a good thing, as this is the second one I have made. The first I thought to spray with Matt Varnish to give the printed paper some protection, but successfully managed to make it look like it had been sitting in the sun for years and faded. Too heavy handed with the spray, obviously, so all the prep work at the start of the build paid off. I suspect that I shall be keeping to this style of methodology as while I am happy to learn from my mistakes I hate having to redo more work than necessary as a result. I suppose the final step should be to glue this in place, but my hand always pulls back at that point. There's no need to make this permanent yet, and while I think this looks pretty good, especially for a first go (reaches round and pats self on the back ) it's not actually based on any specific bridge or style, I just made it up. There's a good chance I'll try something more accurate in the future. That's the bridge done, for now. Next the Cambrian GWR 6 Ton Crane, though I am still finishing that off. Here's a peek: Jeff.
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