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Found 15 results

  1. Wasn't sure whether to blog or thread this, but I'll start with a thread and see how we go. I've built a few 7mm signals for a mates (sadly now defunct) garden railway and they were mostly operated by solenoid point motors. As we've moved the signals to the new indoor layout I've thought about maybe powering them with micro servos and to this end I've got some bits from MERG http://www.merg.org.uk/ and I'm giving it a go. So...this is the first signal. It's a scratchbuilt ex LMS upper quadrant 3 doll bracket thats now a gantry (er...don't ask..yet.) This is one of the servos (digital prodder thing to show size) This is the kit of bits that will be a driver unit for up to 4 servos (If I can fathom it out) And this is a box of bits that will program the servo driver to do as it's told. (How much travel and how fast or slow etc) If I don't fry the contents with the soldering iron that is... I'll update with words and pics as I progress. Feel free to comment/help/laugh as required. More Soon JF
  2. I've been following a similar topic by dessire_luvals (Barnstaple Junction in EM Gauge) for the last couple of years, and I've posted a couple of times. I've now got to the point where I've got things I can post about my layout ... so I've started a new topic, not wanting to hijack dessire_luvals' topic. I've learned an awful lot by belonging to my local Club, South Hants MRC - there are some amazing modellers in the Club, and everyone is always so willing to answer my questions. I've never been one to follow the well-trodden paths of others, so I've been learning from my friends, and developing my own ideas. There are a number of things which are still undecided ... the type of couplings for exampe ... and I'm also wavering about using EM or 00. I had fully intended this to be an EM layout, but I'm wondering if the time and cost savings (mostly time) of using 00 might be the best route for me - time is not on my side. What have I decided? Radio control - no more expensive than DCC, and a huge saving in time (no track wiring, polarity switching etc.) MERG and servo control of the points and signals - route-setting, not interlocked, but with 'illegal' route warnings Constructed so the layout can be exhibited, with additional 'plain track' sections which don't fit into the loft! As little as possible positioned under the layout - servos, electronics and wiring running in 'service' channels' along the board edges The operating sequence to be mid-week so there are plenty of freight workings, and covering a whole day I'll add details and some pictures in the next post ... now it's time to get back to building the layout! David.
  3. Robertsfield is my British Railways, Southern Region - South West division, layout, based in the steam to diesel/electric transition period. The layout is not intended to be any form of accurate depiction, but is to accommodate my desire to build a Southern steam layout, and to be a little different to the many “height of steam” models by recreating the run-down, grotty period where steam was a little less cared for. I have not set a fixed location for Robertsfield, but it is intended to be along the London & South Western main line, after four tracks become two, and where green outweighs brick and concrete. The station and goods facilities serve a small town and local industries, and provides a railhead for branch line traffic; the branch diverging further to the West. Some branch passenger trains terminate here, run-round and shunt into the bay for departure, while others may continue on to the next major town. Baseboards and Sub-Frame The baseboards for Robertsfield utilise the 1ft wide laser-cut kits available from Tim Horn; a Left, Centre and Right "Scenic/Photo Plank Board", three plain, and two pairs of 1ft6in radius curved boards form the oval. These are held together with simple 'case latches' for ease and speed of assembly. I have slightly modified the design by adding a secondary backscene to give a 'flush' appearance between the lighting supports. This uses softwood battens glued to the original backscene, with an additional sheet of ply across to form the new backscene. The exception is the corners which were formed using 'flexible' MDF. The voids were all filled with expanding foam. The baseboards were given a white undercoat, and the scenic board faces in view were painted matt black. The surfaces were covered in self-adhesive cork tiles, which were then sealed with PVA. This all sits on a sub-frame that has been based on a design by my good friend Rob Cottrell, who has also expertly built the support and bearer assemblies. It is designed to observe my requirements for ease and speed of assembly, with minimal individual components, whilst also being fairly easy to store. It consists of four main 'A' frames that connect in pairs once erected, which then support two pairs of bearers. Two bearers each sit with one end on a main 'A' frame, and contain a further drop-down, integral 'A' frame for supporting the other end of the bearer at the centre of the layout. The second pair of bearers span the gap between these and the second pair of main 'A' frames. Finally a pair of 'shelves' span the gap between the longitudinal bearers to support the end curved boards. Track The track plan for Robertsfield was produced in Templot, after a great deal of time trawling the internet for prototypical designs. I settled on a design to maximise operational interest whilst maintaining the feel of a Southern Region prototype. The full-size printed track plan was glued to the baseboard using a UHU stick, and was then lacquered to minimise moisture ingress when adding the scenics. The track itself, is built using "FiNetrax" turnout kits and plain track components from British Finescale. I have used a mix of B6 turnouts and crossing for non-passenger carrying track, and B8 for passenger carrying turnouts. There is one B7 turnout in the goods yard, to allow the geometry to flow better within the baseboard confines. After pre-drilling the operating wire holes, I glued the milled turnout bases to the baseboards, then assembled the remainder of each kit in-situ. It takes a bit more prior planning this way, but is worth it for the flowing appearance of the track. At baseboard joins, rail ends are soldered to brass pins on the scenic section, and copper clad strip on the fiddle yard boards. Track in the fiddle yard is Peco, for quicker installation and cost saving. These are slightly modified to improve running by filing a taper into the switch blades, and adding a thin strip of plasticard into the common crossings or 'frogs'. Electrics Robertsfield will use a DCC control system for controlling the trains, and I have opted to use the Model Electronic Railway Group "MERG" version 2 system. I have tried various systems previously, and never found a handset that I particularly liked. They were either a nice size, but lacking functionality; or overly large, with too many controls than are really needed for basic 'playing trains'. With the Digitrax system, I don't like the small rubber buttons, and the more compact throttle has the very un-ergonomic encoders for changing loco address. Equally, I'm not keen on the Lenz system where you either get a throttle with a full numeric keypad, but speed control via buttons (which I really don't like!), or a rotary speed controller, but with limited keypad. ​I find the MERG CANCAB is a very nice ergonomic design, that encompasses all the features that I sought. The control of the layout itself, i.e. the turnouts, signals etc. will utilise the MERG CBUS system. Again, i find this a very adaptable system that works very well. It is far more cost effective than 'off-the-shelf' digital products, and allows far more flexibility than a basic analogue control system, such as running two control panels with overlapping controls. For turnout operation I am using servos, fitted to MERG (there's a trend building here!) servo mounts, and also servos with MERG signal mounts for the signals. The uncoupling magnets are DG electromagnets from Model Signal Engineering. The photo shows the components required to make baseboard 2 work (except the signal servos): from the connections box at the bottom centre of the photo there will be 12VDC for the CBUS components and accessories, 12VDC for the LED lighting, DCC track bus to the rail droppers and turnout motors for polarity switching, and CBUS data. The three CANACC8s convert CBUS data into 'discretes' to trigger the SERVO4s and Relay boards, which in turn drive the turnout/signal servos and magnets respectively. One of my 'pet hates' is watching a layout doing nothing, whilst the operator faffs with a throttle trying to change the route; I am a firm believer in using a control panel, be it a physical panel with switches and buttons, or an electronic panel on a computer. I will be building a pair of control panels, per the design below, to allow two scenic operators to control any part of the layout. The yellow buttons will set the routes, simultaneously returning any conflicting signals to danger, the green buttons operate the electromagnets, the white buttons operate the main signals, and the black buttons operate the ground signals. The two blue buttons will be connected in series to trigger the Initialise, or "start of day" CBUS event. This simply sets the layout components and LEDs to a predetermined condition such that the layout and panel are in agreement. The integral layout lighting uses "White" self-adhesive LED strip. I prefer this colour as, in my opinion, "Cool White" can be too clinical, "Warm White" can be too yellow, and "Daylight White" tends to melt the retinas. The adhesive can be unreliable, so the strips were attached with Gorilla glue approximately every 3" for when the supplied adhesive inevitably ​dries and peels. I have installed two strips per baseboard; one along the front edge inside the lighting unit, shining straight down, the other along the lower edge of the fascia, illuminating the backscene. This stops short of the ends of the layout by approximately 6" to avoid glare on the curved backscene sections. Progress so far...To date I have all the track in place and eight of the ten baseboards with the wiring installed. Once the remaining two fiddle yard baseboards have had the wiring installed I can the make a sweep across the layout setting up the CBUS modules, turnout servos and microswitches, and connect the microswitches to the correct track polarity. I will then move on to constructing the five control panels; this seems a lot but will be two of one design and three of another. The two will provide control of the scenic section, with the other three providing control of the fiddle yard. The intent is to have three control positions; one each end at the front with one of each control panel, with a third operating position for the fiddle yard alone. Once the electrics have been completed the layout will get a good shake-down to ensure all is working reliably, before moving on to the scenery.
  4. Nearly two months after the move to the Oxfordshire countryside, the sorting out and housely matters have got to the stage that I can start thinking of reconstructing the railway. The only part of MK1 that fully survived was Newton Purcell, the junction. It was built in two halves, but never made it back into a whole. So achieving that goal would be a milestone. I have spent a good few evenings designing the layout on AnyRail. The junction fits nicely across the end of the new railway room (what some folks would call a garage). That allows the double track circuit around the outside, the terminus of Buckingham West down the middle and Brackley Road at a higher level along one edge. I learned some lessons from MK1:- Less height difference between the levels, Easier gradients More support to baseboards Don't use MDF Don't have a complicated piece of trackwork above another complicated piece. Use more electro frog points. My main aims remain the same, but I have added a few more. They are:- Line to run from Buckingham West, through Newton Purcell to the rest of the GWR system. The junction with the rest of the GWR to be storage loops off scene. The line is supposed to join the Oxford to Banbury line just north of Aynho, heading north. Double track throughout the main route. Single track branch from Newton Purcell to Brackley Road (Middle of a field miles from Brackley). GWR 1930s. Keep 4-6-0s to a minimum. Allow the odd ex GCR loco to run in from Banbury To be operated by 1 to 3 or possibly 4 people. Bell codes to connect operators - so they take the primary role of signalmen. DC. Gaugemaster simulator controllers. Receiving signalman controls the train via cab control. All main signals to work. Signals to alter cab control permissions. Run to a timetable, not just a sequence. Speeded up Time to run on a PC via FastClock. Mainline to be 43 inches off the ground. Different levels to be 3 inches apart. Gradients to be no greater than 1:75. Control panels for points and signals to resemble signal box lever frames. Open frame/L girder baseboards. Lifting flap across doorway - no duck-under. Turntable at Buckingham West. Increase storage loops to 9 or 10. Dumbbell reversing out of loops. Route selection on loops. Loops to be hidden under scenery. Quarry off scene near Newton Purcell. Stick to steam days rules of as few facing points as possible:- Trailing entrance to goods yards. Double junctions not single and facing crossover. Have lots of private sidings. Movements of goods stock not to be random. Curves no sharper than settrack 4th radius. Curves to be larger radius where seen. Medium and large radius points on running lines. Signals and points to operated by servos using MERG electronics. Space in goods yards. Carriage sidings at Buckingham West. Code 100. (I have some older stock). Stock to be lightly weathered. Only one or two aims to build in!!!!!!! And so the fun begins. Here are some photos showing the coming together of the two halves of Newton Purcell, and the station in its rightful place, ready for further expansion. I have idea why the first two are on their side, but I can't change them. Thanks for reading and I'll keep you posted. Rich
  5. As mentioned in the last entry, over Christmas I made my second MERG Servo4 electronic module. You will recall I put too high a voltage through the first one (and one donated by a friend) due to H&M Duettes delivering far more voltage than they say when they are not under load - BEWARE! This third module tested ok and looked right. I plugged it into a new (checked) 12vdc supply and still all looked and tested ok. I plugged 4 servos in and they worked. I wired it up the power for common return, wired it to the panel switches and added piano wire bent double back into the cranks of the servo and offered them up under the points through holes in the baseboard under the tie bars. I originally hadn't centred the servos up first, so some bent the piano wire and were working at odd angles as a result. I redid this with the laptop and now have much better positioned servo armatures. The points then changed via the panel switches in the desired manner and all was well. I am pleased to say the double sided sticky pads are still working well. Not the cheap polystyrene ones: they pull off. These are very strong. One did not feel overly secure and then I realised I had stuck it on the label side of the servo and of course the label was coming off - well, the servo was coming off and the label was well secured to the baseboard. I was then able to play trains for a while and enjoy the fruits of my labours over the last year. This is as far as the last blog entry got to. I got a few more locos out and was enjoying life when all of a sudden a train ran off the continuous run and into the loops - but I hadn't changed the points!!! Was there a ghost in the machine?? After a bit of experimentation I found that one of my Dean Goods and particularly my 61xx caused the points for the storage loops to change over. This happened with the suspect locos running, but with them at random places around the circuit. Both locos are in need of a service, but why did only 2 of the servos change and only in one direction??? I have to say that the MERG modules are very easy to make and you do not need to know anything about electronics. Most of the MERG membership know a lot and they are very helpful and I received loads of advice when I put my situation up on the forum. We tried lots of things to find the cause and a solution. One of the MERG members in my club (High Wycombe and District Model Railway Society) had not only very kindly offered to mend my first two modules, but also had some ideas about my phantom point changes. We swapped out the offending module for one of the repaired ones and hey presto the problem had gone. Well almost, I still had some "twitching" of the servos at times, but no complete change over. It turns out the problem was twofold. 1) although I thought I had made the module well and it looked and tested ok, it turned out there were some dry joints. Mark had found some on the other boards too. 2) The suspect locos are producing RF from poor running and the module was picking it up. The dry joints were making the module interpret the RF in an odd way. The "twitching" is quite common, but can be dealt with. The solutions are to improve the running of the locos, which I need to do anyway, and to keep the track clean. Separating the Servo wiring from the track wiring as much as possible will also help. There are also some configuration changes I can make to the module to reduce it. These are all standard. Overall, I am really pleased with the look of the slow changing points and also with how easy the modules are to build. I also like how cheap the combination of servos and Servo4 Modules are. The members of MERG are brilliant and pleased to help. So a big thank you to Mark, Chris, Keith, Bob and all the others in MERG. I have learnt that dry joints are hard to spot, but cause lots of problems. Just because a module works doesn't mean it works fully and faultlessly. I hope my future soldering is better and I shall certainly be checking very closely indeed to find any possible dry joints before I install the modules. I shall certainly be using servos powered by MERG Servo4 modules for all the other points and signals. Now, this time consuming interlude has been concluded I can get on with the next baseboard construction - at last!
  6. Google provided me with details of the High Wycombe and District Model Railway Society and I made contact with one of the guys there. He invited me along as there is a large test track (incidently for O, OO and N gauge, DC or DCC!), many people to speak to about DC or DCC and he himself is a serial loco builder. For a bottle of Port and a small amount of cash for materials, I became the proud owner of a well finished off Bulldog in 1936 shirtbutton livery. I have bought plates to name it "Pershore Plumb". Many thanks Stan!!!! I also got to test all my locos. All but two ran. Simple repairs to pickups quickly done at home and all was put right. My first and second steam outline locos: a Hornby Albert Hall and Pannier failed the running test over modern Code 100 points (heaven forbid code 75!) and so two decisions were made 1) the two locos became gifts to my second cousin who is running on old Hornby track, and 2) I had to stick with code 100 for the rest of my locos. I had some great chats with plenty of people about DC and DCC and decided that it would be very difficut to fit decoders into my old locos and DCC would not actually give me much greater benefit given what I want to do with the layout. If I could fit sound DCC, then that would be very attractive apart from the cost. I am sure that will come. The "sound" locos at the club are very attractive. Although I never intended joining a club, I soon realised there is a huge depth of experience on tap and the guys are very happy to share. HWDMRS has a wide range of layouts and is working on some very advanced stuff including MERG electonics and CBUS control. They (we) also run the popular WYCRAIL exhibition. You guessed it, I joined! If any readers have not considered joining a club or society, I strongly recommend it. So with these questions answered, I set about finalising my plans, wiring principles and bought lights, a load of timber and insulation. This was November to January, nearly a year ago. By the end of January I had boarded out the loft, applied insulation (multi foil) to the underside of the slopes and had wired in some flourescent lighting. Apart from the cost implications, I now wish I had put more insulation under the slopes, but you have to be careful to ensure the timbers can breath. The alternative can be rot and mould - not good for rafters! I started building baseboards using 22 x 44 timbers for the frames. The storage loops, junction station (Newton Purcell) and main terminius (Buckingham West) all have solid tops with framing approx 18" apart. The tops are 6mm MDF. Using PVA, I have stuck soft boarding on top of this, using the underlay boards made for laminate flooring. This is about 6mm. The interconnecting boards are open framed and so have cross member approx 12" apart. MDF has again been used for the track bed, but leaving gaps to the sides for scenery to dip below the line if needs be. Also, these boards will carry two levels of track, so the higher ones will be on risers from the cross members. The boards on the solid tops are fine, but there is a minute amount of deflection to eth boards on the open frame sections. Ideally the cross members should have been closer together or the boards 9mm. I have got round this by adding strengtheners below those sections. The boards are fitted to the rafters using metal brackets and 2" x 2" legs. Although a little Heath Robinson, the boards are reasonably stable and level, but they will not come up to the exacting standards of many people. During the Spring I laid the storage loops. Getting the positioning and geometry of the point ladders at each end correct to ensure the maximum loop length was a little tricky and I had to learn how best to cut track and get the connections right. The main issue was, however, getting the maximum radius possible on the dumbell. I was advised that I shouldn't go less than 600mm. In the end I managed 570mm, but I was concerned that the 8 coupled locos wouldn't go round. I already had a 28xx, but knew I wanted a ROD. This was just the reason I needed to invest in Bachman product and what nice loco that is!! Once the loops and dumbell were laid, work commenced on the double track circuit which goes right around the loft, below Buckingham West and Newton Purcell (that board fits above the storage loops and therefore isn't yet in place). There are two double junctions on the circuits: one to the storage loops and the other to lead to the incline up to Newton Purcell. The track was laid in the summer heat. Although the insulation is reasonably good, the loft is still hot in the summer and right now is quite cold and feel a little damp - but that could be the cold. Time will tell. I have no heat in the loft and although some people have said you have to have dehumidyfiers fitted, I am very sceptical about that. Some heat for modelling sessions may be needed though. The good point about laying track in the hot weather is that you can butt it up tight and know it won't buckle. If laying in the winter, be sure to leave expansion gaps at the joints - particularly on continuous runs. With the double track circuits laid and temporary feeds to the live frogs, I installed the power bus below the boards. I have used 24/0.2 wires and have used common return wiring. The outer rail of both tracks is taken to just one wire, which is connected to both controllers. There are separate wires to each of the inner rails. This saves wiring, but also makes section switching, block working, interlockinig with signals and points so much easier by using one side of dpdt switches for the tracks and the other for the accessory. I used 7/0.2 wiring for the droppers from the tracks to the busses and plastic "suitcase" style connectors, avoiding the need to solder against gravity in a confinded space. With over 50 meters if track laid for just the circuits and storage loops (6), there was quite a lot of wiring, but I don't want to have to rely too much on fishplates for connectivity in a loft environment. Hey presto I have running lines and I have started running in my locos. It is so satisfying to see GW locos running round. This autumn I have had less time available, but I needed to fit control to the storage loop points. I didn't want individual controls for each point. For me that would lose the illusion of the storage/fiddleyard being "real" Banbury/Birmingham etc. I want to just send the trains into the tunnel and not have to deal with them again till they are due out. So I designed a diode matrix that means I only have to press one of 6 buttons for a train going in and anoter one out of 6 when one is due out. The timetable will just say A to F by each of those movements. I found the H&M point motors to need too much current when 5 motors had to be thrown: the Peco CDU to be too weak for my requirements: and a potential loss of power due to the operating buttons being 4 meters from the ladders of points. I have therefore ended up using peco side fitting point motors, thick wires cut from mains cable and a heavy duty CDU obtained from All Components (others are available). I also had to use high current diodes obtained from MERG. After quite a bit of trial and error the matrix for one ladder is complete and the point motors installed. On test it all works. Now I have to build the second matrix, install the rest of the motors, fit the kit in place and connect the final wires. This should be done before Christmas, so I can install the Newtn Purcell baseboard over the loops. My only concern is then how to keep the track clean below. Any ideas? In the meantime I am happy watching my locos running in. Rich
  7. South Hants Area Group meeting The next meeting will be held on Tuesday 13th March at 7.30pm at the Southampton Model Railway Society clubrooms, Kemps Quay, Bitterne, SO18 1BZ “MERG and MERG Products and Activities” With Nigel Phillips Model Electronic Railway Group UK based group promoting interest in the application of electronics & computers to all aspects of railway modelling. See https://www.merg.org.uk/ At the end of the evening you are invited to join us at "The Station" pub next to Bitterne station. For directions to Kemps Quay please refer to the Southampton MRS website - www.southamptonmodelrailwaysociety.wordpress.com Although the South Hants Group meetings are joint EM/P4 Area Groups, every railway modeller, irrespective of scale, gauge or experience, is welcome to all our meetings. SH AG Kemps Quay 13th March 2018.pdf
  8. A mixed bag to report today. On a good note, I have parted with some cash, not only for the long awaited Dukedog (which still needs to be painted GWR Green with a shirtbutton), but also Star and 28xx with shirtbutton. My Bulldog has also been remotored. This is an old Ks kit which a friend of mine at the High Wycombe club (HWDMRS) finished off and painted for me. The old motor worked but was very noisy and far from smooth. I bought a new Mashima and Roxey gearbox and Stan very kindly fitted it. I have a lot to learn and remember from years gone by on motors and gearboxes. Unfortunately for him, it proved to be very fiddly to get to run smoothly due to the con rods wanting to do their own thing! Thanks Stan. On another good note, I have worked out the wiring needed for the Station at Newton Purcell for the track feeds and also for the servos for the points and signals and have soldered it all up over a number of evenings. The track feed switches are mounted on the track plan. The signal and points are set out in signal box lever frame style. There is an amount of interlocking and interplay between the two types of switches. The signals and points for the double junction are interlocked in as much as the signals will not clear if the points are set for the wrong road. Unfortunately the levers (switches) will throw, but the boards will not pull off. The distants will also not pull off unless the home, starter and advanced starter are not pulled off as well. The advanced starter signals also act as cab control switches. Pulling off the advance starter switches control to the section in advance. Trains are controlled by the eventual arrival section on my layout. This means that if there is a non stop train from Buckingham West to Banbury, the Banbury (continuous circuit and return loops) controller takes control. This is done by Buckingham West ceding control to Newton Purcell by pulling off its Advance Starter and Newton Purcell ceding control to Banbury by pulling off its Advance starter as well. All of this of course is following a series of bell codes. The wiring for Buckingham West and Banbury is relatively straight forward but Newton Purcell is more complicated due to the passing nature of the station and particularly because it is a junction and the branch to Brackley Road is single track, so can be controlled by Brackley Road, Newton Purcell or Buckingham West depending upon the signalling. More good news is that I have had all my MERG Servo 4 pics (the brain) reblown by a very kind MERG member. These are now on the latest (and more stable) firmware. I have put them back in to the SERVO 4 control boards that are fitted to the Newton Purcell baseboards and have so far managed to very easily reapply all the settings off a laptop. However, I have two SERVO 4 boards that need more attention and are not playing the game. Of course one is the only one that is not directly accessible!!! Why is that always the way. So I am going to relocate that one. The bad news is that I am very unlikely to see the station up and running for quite a long time. We are moving house (hopefully) and so all the effort put into that station is going to be put on hold. It is not total bad news, because that part of the layout is in two halves and is transportable and reusable. The really sad bit is that the continuous circuits and reversing loops are going to have to be dismantled and I do not know how much will be reusable. At least it has been a good learning curve and next time I will correct some errors. Happily, the house we hope to move to will have a railway room. I intend to be moving out of the loft! Although my loft experience has not been as bad as many said it would be. I cannot hide my joy at the thought of a room (hopefully large integral garage which will be insulated and heated) for the railway. Vertical rear edges to the baseboards, allowing taller buildings and backscenes will be a joy. The principles of Buckingham West will be continued. So there will not be much progress on the layout, but I hope to build some more building kits and to renumber update some locos. I will be adding extra pickups and painting some goods stock. I also hope to start some weathering, having bought some powders and an airbrush. Watch this space. Thanks. Rich
  9. Richard Mawer

    Time Flies

    Wow! Time does fly. My last entry was April!!!!! I am not sure why I haven't written anything for many months. You would be forgiven for thinking that I must have finished the layout by now, but alas no. For various personal reasons and a busy business life, there has only been a certain amount of activity. But here goes with an update. Newton Purcell, the junction station midway along my line, was finally laid and tested for smoothness of the running, but with no electrics fitted. The issue is that the storage loops are located below and this makes wiring up almost impossible. So the station is arranged over two boards and once the track was glued down, the boards were split and one by one removed and stood on their edges for wiring. These shots are of the track layout. There are the two mainlines which will have platforms. Off to the left, the line heads down grade to the continuous run and then on to Banbury (the storage loops). To the right, the line travels round to Buckingham West. There is a down bay on the far left, serving the branch line which leaves to the left on the far side and travels round to Brackley Road. In the far right, there are two private sidings. I have yet to decide what factories or facilities these will serve. Does anyone have any good ideas for some rural trackside industry for 1930's Buckinghamshire? Forward of the mainlines is a goods through road and then 3 sidings and a kick back forming the goods yard. The through line crosses the mainlines on two single slips to the right and branches off to the ironstone quarry. I have kept all points as trailing apart from the double junction to the branch. This is the right side baseboard on its side having been wired up and with the servos in place for the points. I am using the MERG Servo 4 boards to control the servos. You programme these via a pc (or you can build a dedicated box of tricks to do it). You programme the two end positions for the travel and also the speed of that travel. This gives the points a slow movement, but at a fraction of the cost of tortoise motors. It also only needs a simple on/off switch. I have yet to see how well the servos last, but of course this is meant to be a permanent layout and not go through the rigours of an exhibition layout. I have also used servos for the signals. This is the first attempt, and in situ as the up starter. I bought the signals from someone in France via ebay and whilst not immaculate, they serve my purposes. There is a version of the MERG firmware for the Servo 4 boards that allows you to programme a bounce into the signal arm and once I have the layout all up and running, I may well get that installed too. In the meantime, I have installed three of the Servo 4 boards to control 12 items. The 2 servos needed for each single slip are controlled as one, using Y leads. The left side baseboard is now being worked on. The track wiring is in place, but the droppers need to be soldered onto the rails. One Ratio bracket junction signal is part made with another waiting. I need to work out how to fix two servos to the baseplates. I also need to build three more Servo 4 boards to control this side of the station. In the meantime I have worked out the wiring diagram and made the control panel for the station. This has 45 switches: 15 for the power to the track sections, 2 to switch the panel in (for multi operator mode) or out (for single man operation), 27 point and signal levers (set out like a traditional signal box lever frame) and a spare. There is quite a lot of electrical interlocking and pre-selection going on. For example, the junction signal boards will not pull off if the road is not correctly set (although the lever can be pulled - but we can't all have everything!), and setting the right road and pulling off the signals will select the correct controller to that section. That was quite hard to work out for the branch, which can be controlled by the Up main, Down main, Buckingham West or Brackley Road, depending on the settings. On this layout, the eventual receiving station drives the train for the whole journey. There are three bell push buttons as well. I was toying with the idea of buying morse code tappers, but they are too bulky. I have also avoided block instruments. It will all be down to memory. Next steps are to make final checks to the running on the storage loops (they will become covered by Newton Purcell), complete the wiring of the left board and then reinstall the two and connect the control panel. Hopefully it will all work first time (!!!!!). Once tested (and no doubt fettled), I have the task of building the incline down to the existing continuous run. That will be fun with part of the incline being on a curve and also needing a lifting section just before the bottom double junction. I have decided I am getting no younger and ducking under a 700mm high (low) board is just asking for trouble. However, if a lifting section is also too much trouble I may resort to ducking. Simple is starting to sound attractive!!! The most annoying thing is I will also need to build a slightly simplified version of the Newton Purcell control panel so I can "play trains" on my own, sitting on the other side of the loft. Rich
  10. After what seems an age I have a working MERG DCO6 block cutout pcb up and running. The previous versions I have put together and are successfully working on Summat Colliery used my own etched PCBs but this one is using Trevor Stockhill's "stealth black" pcb - double sided, plated through holes, gold flashed and black solder resist. There are however a couple of problems with version A of this PCB - there is a resistor missing from the remote shutdown input circuitry and the legend for the MOSFETS U1 and U2 show them fitted the wrong way round. I don't use the remote shutdown (you can see that the terminal block is not even there on the left of the PCB) but the MOSFETS had to be reversed to get the PCB up and running. The final stages of testing of this design will be to make sure it works with Hornby DCC systems. I'm planning to send it to traction of this parish for tests. Once this is completed it should not be long until this circuit is made available as a full blown MERG kit
  11. Richard Mawer

    Electrics

    OK, it may be crude and rather Heath Robinson, but at least I've made it myself and it works. Subtlety and tidiness will come with practice. This is the diode matrix to control the pointwork leading into the hidden storage loops. The con strip for the outgoing pointwork is in place at the bottom. The route selection buttons are 4 meters away from the CDU and point motors, so to reduce loss to a minimum I have used a heavy duty CDU and mains cable. I now just hope the small push buttons on the panel will be man enough and that if a selection only results in one motor firing, that it won't burn out. It has two chances! Once these are all in place and working I can move on to the next challenge - operating the two double junctions on the circuit. One leads to the storage loops and other to the incline (more of which another time). For all points and signals apart from the storage loops, I have decided to use servos. These are inexpensive and can operate in slow motion. You can even add a bounce to the signal arms! I have bought my first batch and also become a member of MERG. MERG sell all manner of handy electronic kits including one that operates 4 servos. I need 8 servos to operate the 4 points and 4 signal arms in the vicinity of the twin double junctions. The whole area will be operated from just 4 dpdt switches-one for each point and the signals will automatically show the routes. This part of the layout is going to be operated as an extra task for one of the main operators, so simplicity rules. I duly made up my first kit as seen below. Sorry for photo quality. It looks complicated, but the instructions are second to none and I found it very easy. It took about 2 hours all in and I was being very careful! You then download the software from the MERG site, connect the board to your laptop via a serial cable and programme which servo you want to move from position 1 to position 2 at what speed etc and the board remembers it. What could be more easy??? Well unfortunately, it would have been far easier if I had read the final instruction and put the correct voltage to the board! I put in 16v ac instead of 9v ac. End result?? - a new capacitor required - but its not the end of the world. We live and learn. So once these teething problems are overcome - and I've learned to read - I will be able to programme the servos for the points. I have yet to make the bracket signals. The next challenge will be to mount the servos under the baseboard - I'm thinking of very strong sticky pads (servo tape?) any better ideas that don't cost a fortune (I have about 90 to do!) - and then thin piano wire or guitar string wire to connect the servo arm to the tie bar. The over-centre springs have already been removed from the points. There needs to be a bit of "give" or spring in the wire to apply a small force to the switch blade when against the side rail, but not too much : more trial and error! At my current rate of progress, that will be January, but I hope not. Thanks for reading. Rich
  12. It has been a while since I managed to do much (anything) to the little shunting puzzle, my problem has been that the layout had to go up into the loft in order to free the spare room for a visitor and has not made it down since. The problem being it is a big hassle to get it out of the loft to spend an hour working on it and then put it away again. Given the current weather conditions, and the amount of juke currently residing in the loft, the prospect of venturing upwards and doing work in the loft is also not very appealing. I was having the discussion yesterday when I said "I can tell you how long it is, I will look at my blog". It was then that I realised I had failed to document the last bit of progress I made, so in an effort to reawaken the enthusiasm I thought I would "back fill" the story. Soem years ago I started dabbling with RFID for train detection, this result in the production of a MERG RFID reader kit and has found use on a club layout. I wanted to also employ RFID on my little shunting puzzle, mostly because I wanted to use this layout as a testbed for ideas, but also because I thought it would be fun. The big question was how to link it into the control system, I didn't want something that just triggered slide displays like I had done before, I wanted to have it integrated. This layout uses the MERG CBus system for control, all the accessories, the DCC command station and the throttles are connected to the single CBus, so it seemed logical to connect the RFID to this as well. So the first task was to build an interface between the RFID reader and the CBus - those members of MERG that are interested can see how this was doen in the MERG Winter 2012 Journal. This gave me the ability to send a message to every device on the layout whenever a train passed over the reader, know the question was what to do with it. The layout currently has no dedicated control panel, instead it uses JMRI running on a laptop display a mimic diagram and control the points. The laptop has a connection to the CBus in order to allow this, so therefore the laptop and JMRI is able to receive the messages from the RFID reader. So my next step was to add functionality to JMRI so that it could understand the messages received from the RFID. Fortunately JMRI has the ability to have something called "Reporters", these are devices that report back train information to the software, they are designed for system like Railcom in DCC that can send train identification from block occupancy detectors. So I created a new one of these reporters to understand my new CBus message for an RFID tag read. The reporter allows a message to be placed on the control panel window when a report is received, this message can be tailored to contain any text you require for a given train identity. Since the layout also has block detection, once a train is detected using the Reporting, as the train moves from block to block, the report can follow it around the layout. The upshot of all this is that I now have an RFID reader on the single line that feeds into the sidings of the layout, as a train passes the reader a string is displayed that identifies the train. When it moves into the adjacent block the message on the screen will move with it, and stay with it as long as it is detected within any monitored block on the layout. When a second train enters it is also read and can be tracked in the same way. As long as both trains are not is the same block they will be tracked independently of each other. So I now have a mimic diagram that shows me not just what block are occupied but also the identity of the train in that block - just like the real railway does these days.
  13. Richard Mawer

    Lessons!

    Irritating got even more irritating!!! I made all the cuts in the track, installed 4 out of the five micro switches and even before I could wire them in (so the dead sections on the far rail were totally dead) the locos were still doing odd things. Another session in a darkened room and the reason for it AND the answer came to me. So I put in place Plan..... (Now what is it?) .....oh yes Plan D!! I soldered up all the damage I had just done to the track (!!!!!) and added just one more break, 2 wires and another centre sprung dpdt switch. Job done! How did I make such a mess!! Big lessons: try before you do 6 lots of stuff! Think about back flows of electricity. Don't test for electrical isolation or continuity with a loco on the track. Expect locos and stock to bridge isolating breaks Expect the unexpected. Oh yes and don't blame sticky locos if you've not cleaned the track! I am sure I knew all that 30 years ago, but ......... Anyway, locos are now running with trains of coaches! It's been nice to see the 30 year old Castle perform for the first time in it's life and to see the new City being put through it's paces: a lovely loco! At last I have been able to move onto the next phase: to make another MERG Servo 4 board and fix the servos to the double junctions. As you can see, the points have so far been held over with Blu-tac. You take the springs out of the tie bars if you are going to use servos, so you get the slow action change. I have previously made a "servo 4" control board, as mentioned in an earlier entry in the blog. They are quite easy to make if you follow the instructions religiously. BIG LESSON: don't use either the 12v dc or the 16v ac feeds from Duettes to power them!! Not only did I blow up the main capacitor on the first board I made, but I had the same result with a board given to me by a friend! And that was after I changed from ac to dc following the first indoor firework display! Luckily another friend (aren't model railway clubs good!) has repaired both for me. So while I wait for them to come back, I've made another. Each "servo 4" board controls 4 servos and you program the boards from a pc to set the two extremes of travel and the speed of change. The board remembers the settings and the servo then moves from one setting to the other by changing a simple on/off switch: easy AND realistic. With the electrical tests done and a new, regulated power supply (simple plug in 12 v dc) the board was up and running. Thanks to advice from some clever people at MERG I've modified the board a little to work on common return, but I am using a common return for all the Servo 4's that is separate from the power bus for the trains, to keep "noise" down on the power - no, I'm not 100% sure what that means either, but I'm told it stops the "chatter" or wiggling that sometimes can happen with servos. I couldn't get the pc to operate the board and servos at first, but sought some more advice online from other MERG members. They are a helpful bunch. Although I got lots of advice I was still static and unresponsive -as it were. Then I put the software on my daughter's laptop and all was sorted!! The next issue was actually fixing the servos under the baseboard and linking to the tie bars on the points. My first attempt was the Evostick very sticky double sided tape pads to hold the servo in place and use a section of guitar string supa-glued to the armature crank to connect to the tie bar and provide an element of spring to hold the point blades hard over. The sticky pads worked (so far), but the guitar string was a disaster. Far too bendy. I ended up using piano wire bent through the armature and back on itself. I've learnt another lesson as well. Even if you think the servos are set half way, they might not be. When you plug in the pc there is a chance they will travel right over and bend the wire, if not damage the point blades. Its going to be better to plug the servos into the board and the board into the pc, before fitting the armature to the servo and the servo under the points. We live and learn. I had another project in mind for the Christmas break. I have to add horizontal rails along the front and rear of the high level junction main board so that the weight is spread. Instead of making whole lifting sections, the ends will be more open framed to allow holes to be cut and removable scenery so that the points into and out of the loops can be reached if needs be, but to allow for the correct alignment of the track, boards will be laid on the frames and the track fixed before the boards are cut around the formations. But that might have to wait.
  14. I'm running JMRI Decoder Pro on the latest spec MERG DCC CANCMD controller. I'm unable to read/write to a CT DCX77zN decoder; all attempts generate a "Loco not Detected" (Error 301) message. I've tried the DCX76Z v.66 decoder profile, which I'm told is the nearest fit, and also the simple CV programmer. I have tried reversing decoder orientation, installing in multiple locos and a second decoder, all with the same result. I have had the decoder tested on other controllers and it works fine. I've had no problem setting up decoders from other makers. Posts on the MERG and JMRI forums have elicited no solution, so I'm stumped. I'm surely not the first to try this particular combination of controller and decoder. Any ideas please?
  15. As track laying on the scenic section nears completion work has started on some of the other parts needed for the layout. Several N Brass OHLE gantries have been built and as you can see from the photos we've made progress on the accessory decoders needed for the fiddle yard. Early on in the design of the layout, we made the decision to control the points via DCC. For those points on the front of the layout we've opted for the Traintronics TT300 slow motion units which contain built in decoders. These are kinder to points than solenoid type motors which change the points with a thwack! Hopefully we'll have less problems of points failing due to heavy use (and so no need to patch up scenery around replaced points). However, our fiddle yard will eventually have seven tracks in each direction and so to keep costs more manageable we've gone for solenoid type point motors. If points do fail then those on the fiddle yard are easier to replace as there's no scenery to worry about. From our research the best value decoders (we are mostly Yorkshiremen after all!) are the MERG ACC4 units. A total of eight of these have been purchased and the first four have been built and can be seen here. The decoders come in kit form and are well presented. The kits contain decent instructions and all the components are easy to identify as they're laid out on cards with each part labelled. Recommended. Cheers.
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