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Great work and a really beautiful technical illustration, Ian!

 

I'll be very interested to see how you get on with Megapoints and your servo mountings.

 

I watched some demos at the Megapoints stand at Taunton today and they were very persuasive. I might have to change my plans.

Phil,

 

Glad you liked the Servo drawing, prepared as always in Xara Designer Pro. I'm still using 'your' technical font, it just looks 'professional'. Got any others??

 

Yeah, the MegaPoints system does seem to be very good. I've got their 'servo starter pack' plus the DCC module. So far I've only explored the basic servo operation and corresponding LED lights, but very impressed. I need to get some actual layout installed before I can test the DCC module.

 

It suits my 'keep it cheap and simple' approach (once you've shelled out for the controller ...), with the majority of the non-electronic components readily available from a number of sources.

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Tracklaying Tools

 

Have progressed to the point where I am now laying some of the track. My method is as follows:

  1. Glue down the foam underlay (neat PVA is used).
  2. Place timber & bricks on the underlay while the PVA sets.
  3. Mark out the track (particularly the turnouts) on the underlay using a 1:1 scale printout of the layout area [photo below].
  4. Using a bodger (nail or pin would do) mark the track centreline at all changes of geometry, plus turnout extremities & servo location.
  5. Remove printout and 'join the dots'! This gives me the required track plan on the baseboards.
  6. Lay each piece of track and mark locations for all droppers / wiring on both the rails and the underlay. Put sticker on each piece to designate it's location, including which rails are 'black' and 'red' wires (using the 'back to black' nomenclature).
  7. Drill all required wiring holes and holes for turnout servos.
  8. Solder all cables to individual track components. I'm leaving all these at 500mm, and will trim (or extend ...) as required later.
  9. Working along the track, place neat PVA on the underlay, feed the cables through the holes, and gently lay each piece of track.
  10. To keep the correct alignment, use a straight-edge for straight track and railway-curves for curved tracks [photos below].
  11. Place timber & bricks on the track while the PVA sets, occasionally removing in the first hour or so to check / re-align the track using the straight-edge and railway-curves.

So far this method is working for me. If anyone has any comments / observations / improvements I'd like to hear them.

 

Typical Track Plan Section:

post-27436-0-06517500-1541592800_thumb.jpg

Straight Edge (1-metre ruler) + Box of Railway Curves

post-27436-0-88930000-1541592812_thumb.jpg

Typical Railway Curves

post-27436-0-23203700-1541592823_thumb.jpg

 

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Time for an update ....

 

Been quite a while since I posted, but I've been busy on the lower level of the layout.

 

As I tend to refer to the baseboard names I thought it prudent to include a quick 'map':

 

post-27436-0-12199900-1548188640.jpg

 

Back in November I started on one of the smaller areas, but one that included a lot of turnouts; Baseboard B. Now I thought this would be a nice 'easy' one to start on. Hmmm, got that wrong! Turned out to be quite a difficult board that took me a while to 'learn' all the necessary skills.

 

Once the track was installed it looked like this (and, yes, I did extend the tracks onto the adjacent Baseboards A & C, another skill to learn!).

 

post-27436-0-81165700-1548189283_thumb.jpg

 

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Wiring Baseboard B

 

I thought it would be a good idea to draw out the wiring of the Baseboard before starting. So here is the drawing of the underside of Baseboard B:

 

post-27436-0-87373100-1548189592_thumb.jpg

 

I made a couple of errors in the process of 'reflecting' the drawing to show the underside and ended up with some of the small stripboards (veroboard) circuit boards turned 180-degrees. This became apparent later ...

 

Anyway, I progressed with the wiring installation and fitting of the first servos / microswitches to the turnouts and it looked like this by early December:

 

post-27436-0-74876500-1548189876_thumb.jpg

 

And here is a close-up of a few servos ready for installation:

 

post-27436-0-34415100-1548189953_thumb.jpg

 

As you might have noticed, I was fairly meticulous with labelling of all wires / plugs / sockets / turnouts / servos. This really should pay dividends in avoiding 'crossed wires', or at least I hope it does.

 

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Lower Level Tracklaying Completed

 

Well, almost. The only bit missing is the single track 'link' across baseboards I & J. That means all the turnouts are laid and so is the 10-track stabling / fiddle sidings. All the baseboards can be 'separated', with the rails cut at all the baseboard joints. That involved a huge number of screws in the baseboards soldered to the underside of the rail ends (before cutting ...). All the tracks and turnouts have the necessary 'droppers' installed ready for the next major task - wiring! At least each baseboard can be removed and turned over to permit wiring. So much easier than working under the baseboards!

 

(Baseboard layout is shown in earlier posting)

 

Turnout Fan - Baseboard B/C (the white bits are the turnout numbers)

20190110_192855.jpg.f6c1c775246487fff6fe05ecd6bd9ce4.jpg

 

Stabling Sidings - Baseboard C/D

20190118_205805.jpg.d54f00e61ed1b177c42aa5b3d1c2befb.jpg

 

Turnout Junction with link to the future 'ramp' up to the high level & 3-sidings for loco stabling - Baseboard G/H

20190127_190238.jpg.fa225141bf6ab605027ac64228ce986f.jpg

 

3-sidings for loco stabling and 'missing link' single track - Baseboard H/I

20190127_190224.jpg.5c7afea299e3145eb6a1c148ba277427.jpg

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Wiring Completed on Baseboard B

 

Well I never expected wiring to be such a long job. It has taken me days of wiring (and, errr, re-wiring ...) to get this first board completed.

 

The finished board looks like this:

20190128_180407.jpg.c5cda099b76fe7bad3fed64132cf9495.jpg

 

Yes, that's a MegaPoints 12-Servo controller board in the middle. It controls 10 turnouts (with the double-slips counting as 2 turnouts) on this board, and will have 2 'fly leads' onto the adjacent baseboards to control 2 more turnouts.

 

The following photo is a close up of typical turnout servo and frog control microswitch installation. To keep costs down, I've made all the cabling from rolls of cable and crimped on all the termination plugs / sockets myself.

 

All the stripboard / veroboard is screwed down to the baseboard with blue silicone 'washers' about 2mm thick. These provide the necessary 'standoff' to clear the solder connections on the underside. The 'washers' were cut from a length of aquarium tubing I found at a local PoundStretchers shop for a couple of pounds! I think I'll have enough for the entire build.

 

You can also see my fastidious labling of just about everything.

 

The cable 'fixings' are just the common clips you can get from B&Q, although I also found 'mixer boxes' of them in the Pound Stores. I chose to screw them all in to permit 'adjustment' as things were installed. This turned out to be a very good move! 

20190128_180431.jpg.dc625b888b9d921dcb8c834c650b40e5.jpg

 

 

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Beautiful work, Ian!

 

The care and attention you are taking should give a very smooth and reliable layout. Have you done any test runs yet?

 

Out of interest, what is the underlay material your track is laid on?

 

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Phil,

 

I did have a test run of Baseboard B a while back. It demonstrated that I had the polarity on some of my turnout frogs backwards! That was easily fixed, and I've learnt my lesson where I went wrong. Actually, powering one board and getting the MegaPoints Controller powered as well was quite a bit of a faff, but at least all the turnouts operated as they should.

 

However, this clearly demonstrated that I need to get a mimic panel built to operate the turnouts easier. As it was I had to individually 'short' each one on the controller to move the turnouts. I've got some ideas about building the mimic panel with off-the-shelf bits and a building-block approach using common veroboard designs. I just need to get my ideas drawn up in Xara to make sure it will work.

 

The underlay material I used is, errr, underlay. Literally. It's for under wood flooring and came from Homebase about 2-years ago. As you can see from the photo below, it's 3mm thick and I paid about £30 for the 10m2. That's plenty to complete my plans. I'm sure cork would have cost more, and I think this stuff has a number of benefits. Firstly, it's quite soft so you can put fishplates onto flexitrack without having to remove the end sleeper. I just cut off the 'rail fastenings'. The slightly lower sleeper (due to the fishplate) is absorbed by the underlay. Second, PVA glue sticks to it, but when forced if peels off without leaving any damage or residue. Guess how I found that out ... Third, when you drill holes through it into the baseboard (eg: for droppers) the underlay seals back up the hole.

20180824_191618.jpg.0372c873c2dd33d5fe61d77f1c1fd399.jpg

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Missing sleepers at rail joints is something that has always mystified me when looking at photos of other people's trackwork. This is the first explanation I've ever heard for doing it!

 

I have always (even 40 years ago) cut the chairs off the sleepers either side of the joint and not worried about any rail height changes because the chairs hold the rails slightly above the sleepers anyway and the joiner slides into that gap. AFAIK that is the Peco recommended method.

 

 

Edited by Harlequin

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Phil,

 

I could be totally wrong in my explanation about missing sleepers at fishplated joints, but at least it's logical ... Strange that you see so many layouts under construction with sleepers missing. I seem to recall it occurring on Everard Junction as well.

 

However, missing sleepers are necessary at baseboard joints, where a method is necessary to 'fix' the rails in place. Using the underlay (it is soft) I didn't see how the copperclad sleeper method could be made to work, so I went with the 'soldered to screws method'. If anyone knows how the copperclad sleeper method could work with my underlay I'd be interested to know about it. I suppose I'd need to replace the underlay with 3mm plywood, and attach the copperclad directly to it??

 

At present I'm working on the 'fiddle sidings' areas, so absolute accuracy / authenticity is not so critical (which is why I started there - to practice). Once I get to the upper (scenic) areas, such things as baseboard joints become more important. That's a while away, as I have to complete the lower levels and then tackle 'the ramps' .... That's going to be fun as the plan is to cantilever them off the baseboard support structure (not the baseboards themselves, as I still want them to be removable).

 

 

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Baseboard D Wiring

 

Whilst I am awaiting some parts for Baseboard C (namely a MegaPoint 4-servo controller board)  I've spent my time working on the wiring of Baseboard D. What a joy to work on a baseboard with tracks (10-sidings) and no turnouts. It's much easier / simpler and I've got it finished in a couple of days. See below.

 

20190208_195558.jpg.72015b54e384978ff7807349645f36ea.jpg

 

You can clearly see the split between the 4 SB tracks and the 6 NB tracks. Not entirely necessary, but it seemed prudent to keep the SB & NB on different circuits, if only to aid troubleshooting.

 

I've seen quite a bit of discussion regarding DCC versus DC, but I think the wiring on this board would have been just the same on DC (I'm using DCC).

 

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Baseboard E Wiring

 

I'm starting to get the hang of this wiring malarky (famous last words ...?) and finished Baseboard E in a single day, and that included making some additional stripboard / veroboard components as I was getting a bit short in my stockpile.

 

The 'odd' blue/green/yellow wire across the middle of the board is a network cable for the MegaPoints controllers, which need to be daisy-chained together.

20190209_180850.jpg.4b6ce7d11a343cb8b83335d679d66b1f.jpg

 

To connect the boards together I'm using plug-in PCB connectors (they're green) attached to small stripboards. See below. The lefthand one is for the track power, split into NB & SB. The righthand one is for MegaPoints controllers, and needs 2 wires for power and 3 for the network. As you can see I tend to include a few 'extra' pin connectors just for future-proofing, even though I seriously doubt they will ever get used. But, better to have one too many than one too few!!

 

The green 2-pin plugs are for the bus wires that pass around the front of each board. The smaller black plugs are to connections / tracks 'on' the baseboard.

20190209_180921.jpg.ab977dfab36da43e4988b01619952e55.jpg

 

On the next board I'm back to turnouts, so progress will probably slow down again.

 

 

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Looking really nice - the effort you have put into planning it looks like it is really paying off. Looking forward to seeing more pictures as it progresses.

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Baseboard C Wiring

 

Dave at MegaPoints controllers was 'on the ball' once again and my order for some 4xservo boards came through promptly. This enabled me to return to Baseboard C and get the servos installed to complete the wiring.

 

20190218_154527.jpg.7ec47ba8f61be91f05216ad86ee3d1a8.jpg

 

Not exactly my tidiest wiring, but it is 'logical' (honest Guv ...). As usual, I tested each servos operation and the polarity of the microswitch to the turnout frog, and I tested continuity to each rail from the power bus. Well, actually I couldn't test one of the servos (there are 5 on this board and the controller only controls 4) as one is served by the 12xservo board on Baseboard B via a jumper. I'll need to assembly Baseboards B & C together to test the last servo.

 

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Baseboard F Wiring

 

While I was waiting for the 4xservo boards to come from MegaPoints Controllers I completed Baseboards D & E (see earlier postings) and was well under way on Baseboard F when the 4xservos came. Thus it wasn't long before the wiring on Baseboard F was similarly completed.

 

20190216_180249.jpg.170e85d3eecd884241dc26c6cb3b5041.jpg

 

With this board having 4 turnouts, it was an exact 'fit' for a 4xservo controller board. Hurrah, no need for 'fly leads' to adjacent boards or even spare sockets.

 

As with all the previous Baseboards with MegaPoints Controllers, I set up (adjust) each of the servos limits to verify the correct turnout movement and operation of the microswitch for frog polarity.

 

As you might have noticed by now, I've completed Baseboards B, C, D, E, & F and still not had any trains actually running! I must confess that this is really annoying but is a direct result of my plan to use separate baseboards and MegaPoints Controller boards. Yes, I could bolt the completed boards together and hook up my the NCE PowerCab to the power bus and run some trains (I did do this for a single loco on Baseboard B sometime ago so it does work), but until I have the Mimic Board built I can't actually operate the turnouts very easily. Ah well, it least it keeps me concentrated on the 'build' and not 'playing trains'!

 

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Baseboard G Wiring

 

Now this was always going to be the next difficult Baseboard, what with 11 turnouts to contend with. Well, it's all done but not without a few problems. Firstly, one of the cross-braces clashed with a servo location. Thankfully, the cross-brace was easily removed and re-installed about 2" away. I hadn't glued any timbers, just screws, and none of the screws were under already installed tracks. Turned out to be an easy fix.

 

Next I interchanged  two turnouts (forming a crossover) when installing. As I had already prefixed the droppers, this resulted in them both failing to meet my 'back to black' rule. Ah well, those two turnouts will have to be 'back to red' instead. I left myself a note stuck to the underside of the Baseboard as a reminder!

 

Then I found I'd managed to miss two insulated rail joints on the heel of two turnout frogs. Mutter. With a bit of track lifting (the glue comes off the underlay cleanly with a bit of force) I was able to install the necessary insulated joints.

 

Here's how it looks:

Track installed

20190224_172547.jpg.498c3b03a6235b919be97367f930f113.jpg

 

Underside wiring, complete with MegaPoints 12xServo controller

20190224_172501.jpg.6449b26b070ef0c9eeac85de3ceb4558.jpg

 

After fixing my wiring errors I was able to hook up my PowerCab and run my Class 08 shunter around the tracks. No 'dead' areas (even in the scissors) and the frog polarity was correct first time. The running was nice and smooth, despite the obvious 'tarnishing' of the rails caused by the fumes from the PVA glue. I will get the tarnishing removed once I've found an easy / quick method of removal. At present I found T-cut to be very good.

 

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Tarnishing Removal

 

I used the T-cut I had (more of a cream, smother than normal T-cut) and went over the railheads. Initially I used my Dremel clone, but settled for a cloth with a flat stick inside. Tedious job going round all the rails, but at least its finished and the rails look a lot better. Hopefully, this will help with smooth running ...

 

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Baseboards H  & I Wiring

 

These 2 baseboards form a little 3-road stabling area for locomotives that are not in use in the main 10-road through stabling sidings. Baseboard H was really simple, and Baseboard I had only 2 turnouts so that wasn't too bad either. It just needed the addition of a 4-servo controller from MegaPoints Controllers.

 

Baseboard H - Top

20190227_151954.jpg.c0836b10d8255ab2fe89f568797a29aa.jpg

 

Baseboard H - Underside

20190227_151914.jpg.7f1ccc8bf2202021d6819e3f8835b5ae.jpg

 

Baseboard I - Top. Yes, I did get around to completing the single track leading to Baseboard I.

20190227_154244.jpg.d5463465a58173b8af799558e567ecb2.jpg

 

Baseboard I - Underside

20190227_154221.jpg.f4cbafc4e28d91f81385c10514b21f1e.jpg

 

I'll not bore you with Baseboard J as it's just a single track!

 

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Tracklaying & Wiring Complete!

 

Its taken months, but finally the tracklaying and wiring of all 10 lower level baseboards are finished.

 

The next job will be to make the necessary 'jumper cables' between the baseboards and commence a little 'testing' to see where I've made mistakes. I've been really careful to label everything and keep to standard 'rules', but there are sure to be some errors ...

 

Rules:

  1. Power: Black & Red. Back to black (very common rule ...)
  2. Servos: Brown, Red, & Orange. Back to brown
  3. Network: Blue, Green, & Yellow. Back to blue
  4. Frog Power: Green

As you can see I just used the colours starting with the letter 'B' towards the back of each baseboard.

 

 

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Baseboard Jumper Cables

 

As I've mentioned previously, I'm using the green plug-in PCB connectors (with 5.08mm pitch). They probably have a 'proper' name but I've not seen one, even when ordering them.

 

I have used 2 connectors:

  1. 4-way connector. This provides for 2 power buses (busi?) for the NB and SB tracks.
  2. 5-way connector. This provides power (2 wires) and network (3-wires) for the MegaPoints Controller boards.

Thus I needed to make 9 pairs of connectors for the 10 baseboards. I'm omitting one to avoid any 'loop'.

 

4-way connector

20190311_112406.jpg.d6408d9b84a4411224c3b68642f05031.jpg

 

5-way connector

20190311_112437.jpg.003be5d429f2e0f30a013c9cb0aefa71.jpg

 

I didn't have the right coloured cables for the network (should have been blue, green, yellow), but my choice of black, orange, yellow should avoid any confusion. The main trick is to avoid reversing the cables such that the power ends up on the network. Ask me how I found out about that one! Mutter. That's what happens when you are 'jerry rigging' to do some testing. In the final configuration, this should not be possible, should being the operative word.

 

I was going to include a photo of them jumpers installed, but I've reached my 10mb allocation. Next time then.

 

Now with everything in place, I can get on with connecting the baseboards together, powering them up, and actually run a few test trains. I wonder what will go wrong ...

 

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Trains Running

 

And 'debugging' is in progress ..... There's always some niggling problems to be overcome; slight misalignment of rails at baseboard joints, red/black wires connected backwards, solder joints missed, servos not activating the frog microswitches, frog polarity reversed. The list goes on. However, all have been relatively easy and straightforward to fix, and I can now run trains reasonably reliably. I'm glad I spent the time to label all the turnouts, tracks, and each cable connection!

 

As you should be aware, the part that is complete is the lower level of what will be a 2-level layout. Hence the lower level has 'stub end' tracks that will eventually lead to the ramps up to the, err, upper level (really inventive titles). So, basically the lower level is the stabling sidings. However, in order to allow some early running of trains, a single track loop is incorporated into the lower level. There is also a 2 loop tracks for  loco stabling.

 

The 'window' end of the layout, with the stabling sidings to the rear:

20190315_211218.jpg.8ce199f9415e3efe838d907133bab76d.jpg

The 2 stub tracks (right-centre) will eventually connect to a ramp to the upper level.

 

The 'wall' end of the layout:

20190315_211227.jpg.827e3838a52cf81d63e1dd3141fdd6e5.jpg

The 2-track shed with the Class 47 poking out is covering 3-tracks that will lead to the second ramp to the upper level.

 

Stabling Sidings:

20190315_210729.jpg.97b3d52a72ec649ec893d39521b9775e.jpg

 

It's really nice to reach a stage at which trains can run. Construction of the lower level has taken over 6-months, so this is quite a milestone.

Mind you, now I can run trains, some of my time will be taken up with getting a number of my older (circa 1981/82) stock up-and-running!

 

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Turnout Operations

 

With trains now running, it was quite important to be able to operate the turnouts ... To this end I installed servos on all 33-turnouts linked to MegaPoints Controller servo boards (2x 12-servo boards and 3x 4-servo boards). Control of the whole lot is by the MegaPoints Controller Processor board, with additional Switch and LED boards to 'expand' the Processor from a limit of 24 servos to 48 servos.

 

I cobbled together the boards on an offcut of hardboard and labelled up each turnout number:

20190315_210552.jpg.bfe7e4064d287a9a07780887f469ad18.jpg

 

To operate a turnout you briefly 'short' the 2-pins related to the turnout you want to operate. Short them again to return the turnout to the original position. I can see why MegaPoints Controllers has just released a box to temporarily attach switches and LEDs for the operation of each turnout. However, I think I'll be building a proper bespoke mimic panel. Once that's done, operation of the layout will be so much easier.

 

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On 11/03/2019 at 11:41, ISW said:

Baseboard Jumper Cables

 

I was going to include a photo of them jumpers installed, but I've reached my 10mb allocation. Next time then.

 

 

 

It seems that photos on my phone are actually quite a large filesize (~1.7mb!) so it's no wonder I reached the 10mb limit without even trying. After this I'll shrink the files before uploading.

 

Here is a photo of the baseboard jumper cables installed:

20190311_112524.jpg.8d84836e722bc5cb016c78030a6d5ddf.jpg

 

20190311_112520.jpg

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Just stumbled across your thread.

I clicked "Like" on the post above, but that hardly seems sufficient.

This seems to me to be a really ambitious build, but you're making amazing progress and the quality of your workmanship is top notch.

Thanks for posting such a detailed and comprehensive explanation of your methods and layout.

Looking forward to further updates.

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On 30/03/2019 at 10:22, GWR57xx said:

Just stumbled across your thread.

I clicked "Like" on the post above, but that hardly seems sufficient.

This seems to me to be a really ambitious build, but you're making amazing progress and the quality of your workmanship is top notch.

Thanks for posting such a detailed and comprehensive explanation of your methods and layout.

Looking forward to further updates.

Most kind Sir.

 

The workmanship is not as good as I want (photos can hide a lot of issues ...), and I had to spend quite a while 'tinkering' with the turnout microswitches, rail alignment at joints, etc. to get good running characteristics. At least all my efforts into the power distribution paid dividends, as my old Lima & Hornby locos (circa 1980s vintage) work fine even though they have very few wheel pickups.

 

I've got a bit 'stuck' doing the mimic panel, and I'm rapidly understanding why MegaPoints provide the turnout route indicator LEDs as separate LEDs. There seems to be to rhyme or reason to which LED is 'normal' and which is 'reverse'. And you can't just turn the connector round (I tried thaty). So, if I proceed with my plan to assemble the LEDs onto a bit of veroboard, it has to be symmetrical to allow for being the wrong-way-round!

 

Mind you, I have bought most of the bits needed (wires, connectors, LEDs, heatshrink, push-to-make buttons, etc), so I suppose I just need to bite the bullet and make a few bits to see if/where the problems will arise.

 

Hopefully, by the summer I will be looking to build the 'ramps' that will eventually access the Upper (scenic) level. That will be a test of the viability of my plans!

 

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