About modifying the Dapol motorised signal mechanism to go under a baseboard where there isn't enough clearance.
Clearly anything like this is going to invalidate the warranty. Obviously this is relatively high risk as some of the wiring is very fine and the components may be fragile. This entry here is just how I did it out of interest, presented by way of 'lessons learned' and for entertainment. This is not presented as an instruction or how-to. If you decide to have a go at this, it is at your own risk. Don't blame me if it goes wrong, you crazy fool!
I took a deep breath and had a go at modifying a Dapol motorised signal to fit onto my baseboard, given that there is insufficient clearance under my board to accommodate the assembly containing the workings. I wondered if it was possible to rotate the housing somehow.
Here's what I found. Mainly that it is tricky work, and there is a fair chance that the thing will be knackered completely.
I managed to split the casing easily enough using a couple of small screwdrivers (xmas cracker ones, the size for speccy people who wear giggs) to prize the 2 halves apart. The screw sheers easily enough. This left me with half the cylinder-shaped housing attached to the signal base, and half that comes away. Presented inside were the electronics on a rectangular circuit board, and a motor assembly. Some of the wiring is very fine gauge.
Both the circuit board and the motor came out of the respective halves of the housing, one half of which remained attached to the signal base. The half of the casing which was attached to the signal base was then cut (i.e. shortened) using zuron cutters or something.
I have to admit, I had a go on a damaged one first... my main lesson learned was DO NOT cut the circuit board in two, and neither will it work if the circuit board is removed completely by cutting those wires. It appeared that the wiring to the bulb (the wires that disappear up into the signal post) will not, on their own, allow the bulb to illuminate (even if the yellow wires were connected). The circuit board therefore needed to be left intact. This could, however, then be rotated to be fixed to the underside of the baseboard.
Having learned that, I moved onto the 'good' signal that I hoped to modify...
The red and black wires were wired as usual to the power supply as per instructions, and the bulb still worked, because really the only thing I'd done was to split the casing and have the assemblies inside loose albeit rotated 90% to their normal orientation. Some very fine wires came away from their points on the circuit board, but even I managed to solder these back on by applying a little heat from the tip of the iron onto the solder that was already on the board (once I'd gently rubbed off the insulation to expose some bare wire). Fortunately, I'd take a photo of the items before I started messing around with them, so I know where the wires needed to be relocated.
The motor assembly could also be oriented parallel to the underside of the baseboard. At this point it got tricky. I have to say, I lost the will to carry on with the task, so the motor assembly (in the casing half that was not attached to the base) and the yellow wiring are just bundled up and taped to the underside of the board alongside the circuit board (obviously the ends of the yellow wires are now taped up with electricians’ tape to prevent any unplanned connection being made for the motor). The signal therefore requires the 'hand of god' to change it, but the bulb works. However, for what I want that's fine as the signal is unlikely to change anyway at that point on my layout.
In case it's of use to anyone else... having reoriented the assemblies and got the light working... How could I get the signal arm working? My thoughts for if I pick this up again in the future are:
I think it could be possible with more time and material options than I had. The motor assembly will need to lie in the half of the casing that separated from the signal base, so don’t break that half of the casing. The motor works on a worm wheel, so I needed to identify the point up the half of the casing where the worm wheel pushes the 'pusher' (ie the pusher that would normally engage with the base of the signal wire) beyond the point when it becomes detached. I found this point easily, and simply cut a shard of picture framing card (any material of a few mm thick would do) and superglued it to the inside of the casing. Thus, the worm wheel still pushes the 'pusher' up but it doesn't disconnect. That assembly could then be attached (maybe using superglue) to the underside of the baseboard.
The tricky bit will be changing the direction of movement from the now horizontal motor assembly and pusher, to the vertical base of the signal wire.
The base of the signal pusher wire (the wire that goes up through the base to the signal arm, perhaps calling it the pusher rod may be better?) is a small bit of plastic with a small spring attached.
The end of the pusher on the motor assembly is a flat face.
I worked out that, in theory, a small length of electrical wire insulation (I used Peco wire, the kind for point motor wiring) with the metal wire taken out (i.e. strip a good length to start with, maybe 10 cm, but then shorten to fit your gap) will flex - but only in a limited way - if it’s only a few cm long. So, the horizontal movement from the motor pusher should translate into a vertical movement onto the base of the signal wire, presumably due to the slight rigidity of the hollow tube of insulation. This would mean (if I could get it to work) that there was no need for a crank pivoting around a bracket to change the direction of movement.
I found that the stripped insulation will fit into the spring at the base of the signal wire at the base of the signal pusher rod, and a small amount of superglue on the end of the insulation would keep it attached, although I then ever so slightly crimped the spring onto the insulation tube. That end worked fine.
I then came unstuck (literally) because I couldn't get the other end of the insulation tube to stick to the end of the pusher on the motor, it just wouldn't stick. I tried a small strip of plastic which was glued to the pusher on the motor assembly, and then glued the plastic to the insultation, but the bond wasn't strong enough.
So... if in future I choose to give this a go again, the difficult bit will be gluing/fixing the insulation tube to the end of the motor pusher. If I can crack that, then I've probably got a viable method of rotating the Dapol signal mechanisms under the baseboard.
To be honest, I found it to be a lot of faff, and perhaps adding some extra baton under the board to create the necessary clearance might be a better bet, depending on board set-up in future.
I did take some photos but I'm not sure they'll be much use.
It was an interesting challenge. Next, I shall lock myself away and paint a large area of wall Black. And then some more black. Then, I shall apply an eye mask and listen to white noise.