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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.

 

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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
 
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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.

 

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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
 
 
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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.
 
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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'.
 
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Electrics
 
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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.
 
 
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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.
 
 
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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.

 

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Already looking very impressive. I always like layouts that are impeccably neatly built like yours. The Trackwork looks excellent and the idea of painting the underside of the boards white and identifying everything is inspired. I shall very much enjoy watching your progress. May I ask what the sections are stacked underneath the scenic section in the second photograph?

Edited by Anglian

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Hi

Looking good ,very neat and tidy , keep up the good work will watch with interest.

Hugh

 

Hi Hugh,

 

Thank you for your comment, and thanks for following.

 

 

Already looking very impressive. I always like layouts that are impeccably neatly built like yours. The Trackwork looks excellent and the idea of painting the underside of the boards white and identifying everything is inspired. I shall very much enjoy watching your progress. May I ask what the sections are stacked underneath the scenic section in the second photograph?

 

Hi Anglian,

 

They are the transit boards for the baseboards - I pair a scenic board face-to-face with its opposite fiddle yard board, and similarly the end curved boards stack face-to-face in pairs. Trying to keep assembly/disassembly quick for exhibitions, I have used the case latches to secure the end boards as well, which required adding 2"x1" timber to the MDF to give the depth for the catches - a bit bulky, but sturdy.

 

 

Cheers,

 

Mark

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Hi Mark,

 

 Looks to be an interesting project, look forward to seeing more.

 

Graham.

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Great start and looking very professional, always good to see a Southern layout. Those baseboards look very good I'll have to investigate further.

 

It may be the time of day, or I'm just a bit simple but what is the overall size of the layout.

 

Keep up the great work

 

Nik

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Great start and looking very professional, always good to see a Southern layout. Those baseboards look very good I'll have to investigate further.

It may be the time of day, or I'm just a bit simple but what is the overall size of the layout.

Keep up the great work

Nik

Nik,

 

I neglected to include the dimensions in the opening post. Overall it's 13' by 4': three off 3' by 1' scenic/straight fiddle yard boards either side and two off 1'6" radius curved boards at each end. When ordering the curved boards I thought the 1'6" was the inside radius, but it turned out to be the centreline radius - so 1' inside and 2' outside.

 

Cheers,

 

Mark

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Nice looking layout, but to my eyes the track looks more like 4mm/OO than N gauge - have you gone over to finescale?

 

Anyway, keep up the good work!

 

Sam

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Nice looking layout, but to my eyes the track looks more like 4mm/OO than N gauge - have you gone over to finescale?

 

Anyway, keep up the good work!

 

Sam

Hi Sam,

 

The scenic track is from the FiNetrax range (see www.britishfinescale.com), I can't praise it enough for appearance and ease of building; it contrasts quite significantly with the Peco code 80 in the fiddle yard.

 

I did look at going to 2FS standards for my 'not-so modern image now' layout "Bridgetown", but with the cost of re-wheeling the stock, plus some smaller diameter wheel sets being not readily available, I decided to stick with N.

 

Cheers,

 

Mark

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Nice layout, just what gauge?

Hi Ed,

 

It's N Gauge using FiNetrax from British Finescale for the scenic track.

 

Cheers,

 

Mark

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Outstanding and inspirational work so far, thanks for sharing.

 

I note the use of electromagnets. What couplings are you using and who's magnets are They please?

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Outstanding and inspirational work so far, thanks for sharing.

 

I note the use of electromagnets. What couplings are you using and who's magnets are They please?

Hi Scottystitch,

 

The electromagnets are from Model Signal Engineering (MSE); couplings are as yet undecided, but will probably be either Spratt & Winkle from MSE, DG or MBM/MBD where uncoupling will be required for operation.

 

I have a number of Mathieson Models 3-link fixed coupling sets to be used on long through freight workings, with intermediate non-permanent couplings for transit - either standard N gauge or home-made couplings. I will also be using Dapol knuckle couplings and/or standard N gauge couplings between passenger stock.

 

I hope that helps - a bit!

 

Cheers,

 

Mark

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Progress has slowed a little the last couple of weeks, basically since the Wife & Kids have come home from a two week visit to the in-laws during the school holiday.

 

I had an opportunity two nights ago to assemble a MERG CANUSB4; this will be fitted in a small case and used for localised programming, to save having to set up the main "hub" every time I want to program a single unit:

 

 

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I have also managed to start the electrical installation on the penultimate fiddle yard baseboard:

 

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The last part of the hardware installation will be the addition of cable tie bases and loose cable ties. I will then start installing the wiring using the loose cable ties as a guide to get the wire lengths correct, once all the wiring is installed I can tighten the cable ties to keep it all tidy.

 

Better get ready for work now, should prove an interesting night with disrupted Caribbean and Florida flight schedules, and Orlando "Rescue" flights to closely monitor to ensure they're serviceable for departure before the airport closes.

 

Cheers,

 

Mark

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Afternoon All,

 

I started wiring the sixth of seven fiddle yard baseboards a couple of weeks ago, but with work and various home duties, I just haven't found the time to complete it yet. 
 

I have been looking at point rodding with an aim to compose a diagram to establish the components required to install on Robertsfield. From all the Googling of images and sites to work out what I will  need to make something that resembles a prototypical installation, I kept finding images of Signal Boxes, which got me thinking about a kit I purchased some time ago.
 

I quite liked the design of Signal Box that my friend Rob Cottrell built for his jointly owned/built 7mm layout "Newhurst", it was a LSWR 'type 4' brick-built structure, which I think has a nice look of quaint yet sturdy. The kit I purchased was the Arch Laser Co "Exeter Central" box from Osborn's Models; a much more substantial structure, but a similar design to that I had in mind.

Last night I made a start on a "cut-and-shut" project to assemble the kit in a guise more appropriate for Robertsfield:

 

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The end elevations are as supplied, but the front and rear elevations are significantly reduced in length. This required removing five windows from each end of each elevation, then cutting the lower wall back in line with the innermost windows to shorten the cutout for the point rodding. Offcuts were then used to extend the brickwork to complete the elevations at the ends.

Being a fully subscribed member of the hindsight club, I now realise I should have removed the cutout for the point rodding from the rear elevation. I may still do this later, or just raise the ground level behind the box.

 

Cheers,

 

Mark

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Good Afternoon All,
 
I have made little progress over the last few months, but recently started working on a JMRI control panel that will eventually be used to test the operation for the physical control panels before I start constructing them:

 

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The Green "Sensors" will operate the uncoupling magnets, while the yellow "Sensors" operate the routes; the signals have not yet been set up.

 

 

I have also just had a new set of PICs for the CANMIOs delivered. These will allow installation of the latest firmware that in turn will enable the required functionality with a standard set of CANMIO modules. 

 

Once I have completed wiring the last two fiddle yard baseboards (yes, I still haven't completed them since my last post!) I can start getting all the CBUS modules programmed and the JMRI panel to talk to the layout.

 

On the fiddle yard front, I have decided to make the fiddle yard available to my 'modern' layout Bridgtown, albeit in an extended format; more can be seen on my build thread linked from my signature below.

 

Cheers,

 

Mark

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Afternoon All,

 

After some recent wiring activity, I have now reached a milestone where the electrical installation is complete on the baseboards and I can move on to a 'commissioning' stage.

 

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The 'commissioning' will entail setting up the turnout frog microswitches and connecting up the wiring for correct polarity, updating all the CANMIOs to the latest firmware and programming the CBUS events, plus getting it all to work with the JMRI panel.

 

I also need to revisit the three scenic baseboards and install district cutouts - plus I need to check the CBUS wiring at the junction boxes as I think I may have been using an earlier version of my reference document when assembling these.

 

Once all the above is complete I can move on to an intensive phase of playing rigorous testing.

 

Cheers,

 

Mark

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Morning All,

 

I have had a bit of time with the house empty, so have taken the opportunity to do some work on Bridgtown and Robertsfield, in between sessions reorganising the office.

 

I had plans to assemble Robertsfield in the lounge while I had the house to myself, but time has been against me and I can see this not happening. I should still be able to make some progress though; I plan to revisit the wiring on the scenic baseboards to make some changes/corrections. I had not originally installed the District Cut Outs, these being a later addition to the design, so they will be installed and the necessary wiring modifications made. I also need to review the CBUS connections in the baseboard connection boxes, I think I may have used a diagram for an alternative proposed spec for the connector pinout, so appear to have a discrepancy between the scenic and fiddle yard baseboards. 

 

I have also been having fun with my Pickit3 - the device used to allow my PC/Laptop to directly load the firmware to my CBUS modules - it just won't talk to the PC! I've got a few more tricks to try, but am lacking the time to try them. I need to get this working though so that I can load the firmware to my CANMIOs, currently a major hurdle towards getting the layout fully operational. I'm sure time and perseverance will find a resolution.

 

Cheers,

 

Mark

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Superb! I don't know how I had missed this before. Great to see a layout using the fiNetrax pointwork.

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Afternoon All,

 

 

I spent last weekend at Telford operating 'Newhurst', and despite being the 7mm pinnacle show I did manage to make a fair few purchases for both Bridgtown and Robertsfield; mostly tooling and materials from Squires and Eileen's Emporium, but also some scenic details from Severn Models and scenic materials from Treemendous.

 

 

I have been pondering how best to produce Southern style concrete station lamps in 2mm - one of my purchases at Telford was materials for latex moulding, so I can have a go at making a master of each single and twin lamp style, then I'll have a go at resin casting. If that fails, I did briefly speak to Alan Butler from Modelu at Telford, so could look to get them produced by him, or alternatively have a go at producing a CAD file and getting them 3D printed.

 

Other than that progress has been slow of late, I have managed to get the Pickit3 working with my laptop, and think I may have found what has been causing earlier problems loading the CANMIO PICs - I think I may have to load another piece of firmware (Bootloader) first. I need to read-up more to get my head around it properly, but it sounds like it may be where I was going wrong. I think I need to stop flitting between projects, and concentrate on one at a time!

 

Cheers,

 

Mark

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Can we have another update please Mark? I need to see some more neat wiring photographs to feed my addiction! :D

 

Cheers,

 

Alex

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Hi Alex,

 

Wow, last update on 5th September, I knew it had been a while, but didn’t realize it had been that long!

 

Not much progress made on anything since the last post due to shifts (including a fair amount of overtime), a run of bugs through the Christmas period, and helping my Brother renovating his flat (which is also taking ages due lack of time).

 

Typically, having purchased the resin casting gear for making the Southern-style concrete lamps, they’re now available from Osborn’s Models, so I now have few packs ready to install at the appropriate time. 

 

I’ve also been looking at the control panels, and am considering having the boxes and facias manufactured. I spoke to KS Laser Designs at Tolworth last year and need to get the artwork across to them for a quote.

 

I might have some evenings coming up soon where I can leave the scenic boards accessible to finish the wiring and look to get the electronics working between shifts and kitchen rebuilding. I have a couple of mods to do to bring them in-line with the later fiddle yard boards, such as installing the district cutouts. I also need to fit the labels to the fiddle yard boards, so may try and get that done as well.

 

Progress will be slow again this year with finishing the flat, an A350 theory course for 7 weeks from the beginning of April, plus a further week on A350 practical training training at some point, then there will be more overtime covering guys on the next courses - so a busy year again, but a few more modeling credits for the bank!

 

Cheers,

 

Mark

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Hi Mark,

 

Thank you so much for the update. It's always a pain when real life gets in the way of far more important activities like model railways! 

 

On 14/08/2017 at 21:59, pelhama said:

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 thing I forgot to ask... I stumbled across your layout while I researched CBUS for my next project. I'm gradually getting my head around it all. Presumably the "relay boards" for the electro magnets are just the MERG "U-RLY Universal Relay Mounting PCB" (Kit 921) kits or similar? 

 

Cheers,

 

Alex

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