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The Yard - Small industrial layout in 7mm

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This thread will be quick, to bring it up to date on how a group of four of us built this layout, The Yard, to an initial deadline, which was last weekend, of 13-14 January 2018.


It all started on 2 September 2017, when Ken had an idea!


Our club, the Orpington Model Railway Society, needed a small layout to fill a space in the January 2018 exhibition.

So what could we do?


Well, Ken had an idea, we already had in stock for a few years now a manually operated gantry crane rescued from a layout that was being scrapped, we also had a radio controlled lorry, which was one of the first built by Giles of End of the line and Denton Brook fame, both these layouts of which Ken and myself are guest operators. We also had narrow gauge and standard gauge stock from our layouts Half Way, Theobald's Yard and Whiteoak Light Railway, so all it needed was a small setting to stage this equipment.


The scene was set, three straight tracks, no points and a roadway to keep it simple along with some small factory buildings to give it a purpose.

Here is the initial mockup from 2 September 2017, consisting of one 2 foot x 3 foot board and a 2 foot x 2 foot board, what could be simpler? That's all sorted then, or so we thought!





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Once we had all had our input, things grew, three tracks and no points was not going to be over exciting for those operating the trains, lorry and crane drivers will be OK though.
Therefore five points were included and the layout lengthened to nine feet overall, which consisted of two 3 foot scenic boards and two 18" fiddle yard boards.
This was drawn out full size so that basic framing could be designed and point motors allowed for in construction. Having between us probably lugged around and exhibited layouts at over 100 exhibitions, weight, ease of transport and set up were all important factors to be considered. We also wanted to do something a little different in the presentation of the layout.
Construction would be mainly of plywood and foam, the plywood forming a central backbone for the layout, in which all the electrics and point motors would be contained.
The first cutting of wood started on the 7 October 2017.
Table bench saw and router came in handy for cutting the main parts, captive 'T' nuts used with bolts for baseboard joining, an afternoons work had the main components created.
This were quickly glued up, being virtually self jigging.


The gantry crane side uprights were offered up to measure for cross braces.




These were fitted and track bed layer glued down.




Then the lower sheets of 3mm ply glued in place that will eventually support the foam.





Edited by Greengiant
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Foam was fixed in place using Gorilla glue, which is strong and gap filling, on this board the track base has yet to be installed.





One of the problems with a short build duration there is no time to fully plan everything and we also had other ideas as thing progressed, one of these was increasing the height of the rear roadway which meant the end boards were now wrong and needed extension pieces.

To achieve this we used a dowelling jig to add the extra bits and ensure alignment.




Basic low level foam now in place along with the increased height joins to cater for the rear roadway.




Upper roadway foam now going in to place. Crane dropped in position to get a feel of how things are sizing up. The end plate marked '1' is the end plate for the lefthand fiddle yard at the size we thought it would be, but that changed later.




While this was drying off thought turned to baseboard support, one of us had an old plan printer stand kicking around, made of metal, very sturdy and easy to take apart.

Our initial thought was to make a plywood plank bolted to the stand, then rest the baseboards on this, so this is MK1 version viewed from the rear.







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Rear foam all in place now.




The other track bed is now in place, curved out further than originally envisaged.




We popped the full crane in position and roughed out some track to get a feel for the composition. The standard gauge is just a straight 3 foot length of track, the two righthand narrow gauge tracks will go into a factory, the lefthand one will go down the outside of the factory.








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This photo gives an idea of how the layout will be supported, at this point we had not realised the stand was back to front for our purposes, we also checked the height for viewers standing and for those in a wheelchair, for both we found this a little too low for the best viewing experience. this was later to change and the plank replaced with something else to give us the height we needed.




It was also at this time thought had been giving to the overall presentation, we really wanted to get away from the from drapes and plank facia type of presentation and wanted something that would fit in well with the theme of the layout

So our plan was to have an RSJ suspended above the layout, held up by crane hooks which are in harmony with the gantry crane, the RSJ would have the layout name and house the lighting, we knocked up a quick visual in Sketchup to prove the concept.




Suffice to say we thought this would work, we just had to achieve it.





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We had further thoughts on track layout and operation possibilities, to this end and extra point and siding were included along the front, some of this track will be modelled as disused, unfortunately after the main construction was done, so some reworking would be required which will cause a few issues to resolve further on in construction. This is one of the pitfalls when up against time and designing on the fly.





Here can be seen where the extra siding will appear along the front, at this point with no trackbed, there are also some initial building mock ups in foam.




The roadway first carvings have also taken place.





We are now in early November and a new toy arrived in the form of a Laser cutter, this I had ordered back in July 2017, being a new model it had to go through a lot of approval processes having been manufactured and imported from Australia, this took a longer than expected time, but having been an earlier investor I got it at a favourable cost which all helps. It did mean however accelerated attention was needed on the buildings and a new machine to learn and test!




So drawings were created in Adobe Illustrator, laser printed and mounted on foam board to check fit and composition.






Some of the factories are based on some I came across in 2004 when I was doing my world tour of the Scottish coastline, it was in the days before I hag geo location photos, so have no idea where they are.


We used these mocks ups to test clearances when the boards are mounted together for transport, you can see the small end building has changed slightly in roof profile to give us a larger safety margin. Although they fitted fine I was not entirely happy with them, so some buildings were to change slightly later on in the build.







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Mid November now and we are cracking on with track construction, we used Fast Tracks jigs to make these, which made the process so quick and easy I forgot to take photos! We were fortunate as one of us had these jigs for building another layout.




Thoughts had also taken place with regard fiddle yard construction which was now underway. This is the righthand one, the front recess will eventually contain a bit of roadway for the lorries and also a location for one of the two identical control panels.




This is the lefthand one taking shape, on this one the recess will hold the other control panel and a space to put down the crane control box.




Here is an underside view of all the boards bolted together, one person can comfortably pick up all the boards on one go. Clearly can be seen the central backbone channel which will hold and protect all the electrics and give easy access for maintenance.




A top side view of the same.




Buildings and crane back in place and points being tried out for final position.









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We are in late November now and after a few teething troubles with the Emblaser 2 laser cutter, successful trials of cutting and jointing 2mm MDF have taken place, well enough to carry on with this method of building construction.






I had a number of window frame mouldings in stock from Port Wynstay and Chivers, for these I spent some time making accurate template cut outs that I could just copy and paste into any building drawing.




For some I also did cills and brick arches to save time in the future.




Control panels were drawn and checked for fit.




Again time was spent making template cut outs for the screws, LEDs and a clearance fit for the push button switches, which were all tested.




This is one of the panels in location.




One of our team is the electronics guru of us, he put all the parts together on a gridded board.




The same grid was used when drawing up the laser cutter files, the electronics was assembled off site, we are pleased to say when the two were eventually offered up the fit was perfect.




Buttons alter the points on a push to change basis, the green LEDs illuminate to indicate the route once they have thrown, this indication is replicated on the duplicate panel at the other end, the row of red LEDs along the top indicate if there is a short on any of the four baseboards. In this shot we were testing and setting up.




This is a view of the underside of the righthand scenic board.





Edited by Greengiant
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Early December now and work on powering the gantry crane is well underway, I don't have many photos of this, but I suspect Neale and Simon can give more detail and photos on the installation of the three motors and gearboxes along with radio control and onboard battery power.






Further trials on the laser with cutting and painting have been taking place.







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We are approaching early-mid December and just over one month before the exhibition and still with a lot to do, thoughts of we may have bitten off more than we can chew were starting to appear, but don't give in, onwards and upwards.

Lasering of the first factory was taking place.




Some trial assembly on the bench taking place, some of the walls are made up of three laminations of 2mm MDF to get the depth required.




Trackwork is going down, as most of this will eventually be cobbled copper clad construction was used.




Two evenings got this completed ready for testing before adding the check rails. Under track Kadee uncouplers can be seen.




The laser was used to cut sleepers from ply for the only exposed sleeper track on the layout, all 14" of it. The darker rectangles are meant to represent the use of cut down standard gauge sleepers and these are where the chairs were originally bolted.




Once glued the webbing spacer pieces were removed.




Then the rail could be spiked in place.




Initial track work complete, foam profiled, fiddle yards have been shaped at the front and control panel supports in place, all boards mounted on the stand in mid December, 10 days before Christmas.







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An description of the control system used on the layout.




As the concept developed from the initial 'no points' to four points on one board with the switches, etc., on the same board, to the final design of 6 points spread over 2 boards, it was designed to incorporate a more sophisticated control system.  This was also justified when the decision was finally made to add 2 fiddle yards each end of the layout and equip both with mimic panels.

The system installed uses the MERG CBus system which requires just 4 wires between each board (+12 volt, 0 volt and 2 CAN Bus wires).  Each of the 2 main boards contains one module which drives the Tortoise motors and also send back the confirmed position.  The 2 mimic panels are identical, again using one module and use single momentary push switches to change the points plus mimic LEDs to indicate the actual point positions.  The switch states are reflected between the 2 panels so the switch actions are always synchronised.

The DCC system is independent of the point switching and currently uses the Gaugemaster Prodigy Advance system.  The DCC feed on each board is short circuit protected with opto isolated detector outputs which are linked to the CBus units so any short circuit is shown on the mimic panels as red flashing LEDs.  This also means the 2 control systems are not directly connected.

The boards are joined by 9 way D type connectors with 4 contacts utilised for the CBus and 4 contacts (2+2) for the DCC.



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Some details about the crane motorisation.


The travelling crane was originally designed for manual control so converting to remote control was a bit of an unknown. Once it was decided that the wheels on the cabin and horizontal frame should be driven at 25 RPM, then suitable gearboxes and gears were chosen. The radio link is based on the Deltang system and the receiver chosen has 3 on-board PWM (ESC) drivers. The whole system is run from a single cell Li-Po  2AH battery.


Some aspect of electrical control must have been present in the mechanical design because both the frames and the wheel sets on one side were electrically isolated. This enabled the drive to the horizontal frame motor easier by using the rails.


The first challenge was to mount the gearboxes. The horizontal frame motor gearbox drives one axle and is positioned at the rear of the frame with one motor terminal joined to the frame and the other to the isolated track.


The cabin motors were trickier as space was very limited. Some parts of the internal chassis required quite a bit of modification but the final system works very well.




The DT receiver is very small (13 mm square by 5 mm deep) so was easier to mount. A contact wiper was added to the isolated wheels on one side of the cabin chassis for feeding the drive to the horizontal frame motor. 




The battery is mounted in the roof of the cabin with connector to the main chassis to make maintenance access easier. 




An ON/OFF switch and a charging socket completed the installation.


A custom transmitter is being built, but time ran out to complete this for the show so a commercial transmitter was used.



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Along the back of the layout runs a roadway for the lorries to get to either of the fiddle yards to load or unload.


In front of this road and behind the crane we wanted a brick wall that increased in height as the road climbed, this was to be built in panel sections, so a test drawing was cut on the laser.

Each panel consists of four sides for the post, a front and back panel for the main wall, a caping stone and a row of bricks on their side to finish off the top of the panel.

This is the test cut, the three tabs to the right are for locating into the next pillar.




The space from the wall top to the top of the pillar will eventually be filled with some railings once we can decide what we want, there was not enough time to get it done in time for the exhibition.


Here is a detail shot of the parts for one pillar, it shows the locating slots for the wall panels themselves.




A week now until Christmas. The whole wall took up one and half sheets of 500mm x 300mm 2mm MDF, the full sheet took nine hours to cut and engrave.




Sadly it failed to cut fully through in all places, which meant I had to finalise some cuts with a piercing saw. I latter discovered it did not cut right through because the laser lens needed a clean. In hindsight it would have been quicker to have cleaned the lens and run the whole job again!

This is part of the rear of the sheet to show the problem.




Something I did which proved very useful was to engrave cut an identify letter to related component parts, this came in very useful when assembling the whole wall.





Edited by Greengiant
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With Christmas over and New Years Day fast approaching factories are starting to take shape.




Some of the factories changed slightly to give a hopefully more interesting composition.




The water tower changed a lot, I found a picture of the water tower at Faversham, using Google Maps was able to grab some very useful images to help with the drawing of our version.










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Happy New Year!

Two weeks to show time, righthand fiddle yard taking shape and now painted black.




Front left is the continuation of the front roadway and the well on the right is for the control panel. We took inspiration for the theatrical black stage exits from Giles of Denton Brook fame. Having operated his layout at three shows now, we were impressed how well the openplan black fiddle yards work, after a while your mind does not seem to notice them and they fade in your outer vision, also does away with the need for a hole in the sky.


Roadways now have a black undercoat.




DAS clay has appeared, we were going to emboss this now, but time precluded this in the end, we will scribe the setts after the show. The crane has also acquired some end upper brace beams.





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Meanwhile Ken had been busy in his workshop finalising the construction of the baseboard supports, back scene mounting system and facia/lighting beam.

Here the facia/lighting beam can be seen resting in the baseboard support beam, this is how the facia was to be transported for protection, although things have now changed slightly because the original plan of the layout fitting in one vehicle with two operators is not going to be practical. The layout needs at least four people, we already have a trailer for our other layouts, so we will use that in future which means the Facia RSJ can be longer and finish at the outer ends of the scenic boards, which will make it six feet long, therefore a new beam will be built that will also be capable of housing speakers for another idea we have. 




This gives a good idea of the whole support structure which is all assembled before baseboards are bolted on.

The background is a PVC banner printed with a grey cloud scene, eyelets are along the top and bottom edges, through which we have fully adjusted mounting pins, we had not at this point altered the adjusters to remove the ripples from the back scene, although it proved difficult to get it very flat, the shed was just too cold, however, in the heat of an exhibition it soon smothered out.




The wiring to the layout is hidden in trunking behind one of the lower uprights, the trunking we felt added to the industrial effect. For the same reason the legs, RSJ and upper supports are all painted in red primer.


This shows the main support beam and how the boards straddle it.




An end view showing the cross bearers that support the baseboards and the access to the central well, the beam underneath is open, the sides being made of folded sheet steel for lightness and strength.





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One week until the show now and the rear walling has only just got to the gluing up stage.




This had to be done in many stages, component by component and then panel by panel.




The factories were coming on.






Initially painted in red oxide primer.




A close up to show some of the windows and a window blocked up with breeze blocks. The window arches have had a coat of grey.




This view shows some of the tank tower building and the main factory building entrance.




Later in the day we thought we had better at least have a running session for a few minutes.






During this session we found a loco we had not originally intended to run on the layout hit the factory wall corner, so in true prototypical fashion the offending corner was removed. A supporting beam upright was inserted later to take the weight.







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Three days until the show and I started cutting out point infill panels in Trotec using the laser cutter.

This one has a grid finish engraved into the top surface.




All the panels and infills now engraved and cut, they are only held in place by the nearest slither of plastic, so easily released with a scalpel.




A waft of grey primer later.




While working with the laser, stencils were cut for sign writing the facia panel, using a font in keeping with the industrial feel.





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Two days to go now and started to apply the mortar using DAS, purely due to time limitations, otherwise I would have used my preferred method of thinned enamels for this stage.




We still needed a tank for the top of the tower!

The water tank was made using a 3D printer. The design is fairly simple and created to look like a number of flanged plates bolted together. The front, back and sides were printed separately and glued together, mounted on plastic 'I' beams and painted in grey primer.





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Friday turned out to be a long day, but we got there in the end. This is very much a work in progress, with loads more to do and alterations and improvements that resulted from a two day exhibition

I forgot to mention that on the underside of the the RSJ are strips of LEDs that provide the layout lighting.

Total length of layout 9 feet x 26 inches at its widest.






Phew, finished :)



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Show time.










Many thanks to Giles and Di who came along to support us, brought along one of their lorries and spent the day operating in very cramped conditions.

At one time we had six people operating at once.




That's all folks.


Many things to do now in readiness for our next outing at the Uckfield show in October, but I have had whisper the crane hook has already been remade.


Hope you enjoyed the whirlwind ride.



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After operating the Crane for two days several issues came to light, one of which was how the pulley and hook behaved when attaching to a load. Because the original one had no weight to it and the pulley did rotate easily it was very entertaining finding the chains on the loads. Hopefully this new one which has a lot more weight will solve the problem, on the bench it does work much better.


The other jobs to do are, provide the chain with easily removable fixings in case of breakages, new axles and wheels on both moving sections.




Edited by hobbyhorse
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Fantastic! You've achieved so much in such a short space of time. Brilliant looking layout.


A few things that jump out at me:


The combination of black, open fiddle yard and the continuation of the scenic area in front really appeals to me. The way the scenic area 'bleeds away' is so much better than sky-corners and horizons that are too close.

The baseboard join is very well disguised, it does not look like the typical post-earthquake join that plagues many layouts. How did you prevent the road having a visible join, was it a 'plug' that fits in?

The RSJ is a brilliant idea and really adds to the overall presentation.


Was the red lorry the one that worked down at the little hamlet of Brookford for a while?

I wonder if Denton Brook could be hooked on to the fiddle yard for an RC extravanganza!

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