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wasdavetheroad

Radio controlled 00 scale tension lock coupling

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INTRODUCTION 

Over the last few years I have constructed a continuous run 00 scale layout (Penholme) replacing an extensive modern image N scale predecessor. The new layout is set in the 1950's/60's with steam and diesel power. I have acquired an extensive range of stock on made some progress on scenery and have plenty of operating experience. The layout is constructed on existing baseboards of 150mm blue insulation foam and has no wiring. I had dabbled in radio control back in the 'N' days so adopted it for controlling the locos. Hand control of points and an uncoupling pole have proved adequate so far but there are a number of problems with uncoupling.

 

UNCOUPLING PROBLEMS

Uncoupling in awkward places such as behind platforms and or distant from the operator or among lines of vehicles in the fiddle yard, also uncoupling when looking along the length of the train or when up to 4 or 5 metres away. My old eyes and hands make the existing method difficult as well.

 

THE UNCOUPLING PROJECT

Use radio control and battery power to allow remote uncoupling anywhere on the layout for selected items of rolling stock. To start with a rake of non corridor passenger coaches for my 'Lakes' branch which uses Penholme as a terminus with coach stabling. The locos used are 4-4-0 or 2-6-0 and have front bogies which will be a problem. There are also short rakes of freight wagons of various types which will be dropped of or picked up by passing 'pick up goods' trains.

To start with I constructed two prototypes for passenger coaches. These us Dapol non corridor brakes which have the advantage that they are low priced. Kits are easier to use. Here is the result

 

 

This is the North (down) end of Penholme. The 2 sidings in the foreground will be the coal yard and the short siding by the signal box is used to load by products from the local gas works

1606496483_5618_110331_4700000032.jpg.1ef150972c31290670cca5e177d62aef.jpg

 

There is a small goods yard somewhat inspired by the one at Oxenholme

1998878532_5618_110331_4700000011.jpg.410e0dc17c935300de209f96dd5e86fa.jpg

 

Also a small loco shed and turntable, the two sidings on the right can each hold 8 coaches

1376606342_5618_110331_4700000001.jpg.b8465bc83d219be654310c6df4722a84.jpg

 

Prototype construction details later

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Looks interesting. How does it work?

 

I made an InfraRed controlled uncoupler on an N-Gauge wagon a few years ago but I gave up the idea because of the complexity of remembering which wagons had the uncouplers.

 

...R

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BASIC OUTLINE OF CONSTRUCTING THE PROTOTYPES

 

I decided I did not have the skills to make my own components so attempted to use commercial products. I checked out various couplers and decided on the Bachmann mini loop screw on coupler as it was easy to modify.

2068893145_BACHMANNSCREWONMINILOOP.jpg.38ff1b8c03d03900177fdd864cb78d9f.jpg

 

A activating arm was folded up from 0.5mm brass wire and super glued to the coupling arm. I used gel glue and filed off the paint on the coupler hook

835075217_BRASSWIRE.jpg.c71141459ac39238c92e14c15d286abf.jpg

 

The Dapol coach bogies were modified and the coupling super glued to the bogie. I also replaced the plastic wheels with Hornby replacements

1278481076_MODIFIEDCOUPLERGLUEDTOBOGIE.jpg.e7ce7fe3a1430153134e2566a0e7e88a.jpg

 

The coupling bar height was checked against a home made height gauge, the idea is to have the height above rail set at 8.5mm. 

2001449139_HEIGHTGAUGE.jpg.199fc2cf75ddb222282969cec883e916.jpg

 

Holes were cut in the coach chassis and body floor,here is the bogie fitted to the chassis

1770658951_COACHBOGIEFITTED.jpg.12628c375cc137086c27e87517e3dfec.jpg

 

and the coach body added

534535005_MODIFIEDCOACHBODY.jpg.313a4cc5e70beb992f26f457a3962ec5.jpg

 

Next will be the electronics etc

 

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ELECTRONIC COMPONENTS AND SERVOS

 

Here are the major components, from the top clockwise is a Deltang Rx60 radio receiver, 2 types of mini servo, normal and linear. These operate at up to 4.5V. A single cell LIPO battery. This gives 3.0 to 4.2V and  finally a battery connector

IMG_7702.JPG.7415bc6e467128564c2e26abd549da58.JPG

 

I used this Deltang transmitter for the prototype control. It can control up 4 independent servos

798038128_DELTANGSIMPLETRANSMITTER.jpg.974251e40ed9c233407d8efd8af98281.jpg

 

The bits installed in the coach. the servo arm is connected to the coupler with polyester sewing thread, this allows the coupler to act as a normal tension lock as far as coupling is concerned. The 100mAh battery gives up to 5 hours of operation. You can fit a 250mAh instead for 12 hours plus

P3281130.JPG.3f39173a2f301a9e67100d940b6bfbbe.JPG

 

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Thanks for all the great pics. A deltang receiver would make the project much too expensive for me.

 

When I made my IR control I used a DIY electro-magnet to lift the DG coupling with a mechanism quite similar to yours. I had a lot of trouble getting enough magnetic pull but I think I know more about magnetic attraction now. I was trying to attract a steel wire whereas a piece of steel strip (having a much greater area) should be much more effective.

 

...R

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Yes, Deltang receivers are expensive but luckily I still have a considerable amount of N scale stuff to sell which will help fund the project. 

 

Dentang receivers are not the only option, others are available on ebay for good prices. You could try a DCC decoder as well with the advantage that you won't need the battery. The basic mechanism can remain the same. An alternative to a micro servo is a small actuator as used in tiny RC model aircraft. I will probably try making a prototype using one of those as well. I bought my servos fromm Micron Radio Control, they do actuators as well http://www.micronradiocontrol.co.uk/actuator.html

 

You mentioned possible difficulty in identifying vehicles and I have given this some thought. I intend to use a Deltang TX22X transmitter which has four switches/buttons, these can be used for operating servos. That is four servos for each of its 12 'Selecta' positions, up to 48 servos!

 

Initially I want to convert 2 passenger rakes. A branch 3/4 coach rake and a main line 3-8 coach rake representing a 'Lakes Express' or Convention Special. These will occupy Selecta position 1, servo 1&2 for the branch train and servo 3&4 for the main line one

 

For goods trains for example my main line pickup goods could have Selecta position 4 and comprise 2 variable length rakes of wagons, each with a converted wagon at each end. I don't have a return loop so all my rolling stock has a fixed orientation. The servo identities reading from left to right.

 

I will also have to give some thought to fitting converted tension locks to some locos and brake vans. The locos already have a receiver installed anyway.

 

I also found that uncoupling is possible on curves down to radius 3 in some cases

 

Here is the TX22X transmitter, servos can be operated using S1, S2, S3 and the bind button. You can also control a servo with the throttle knob

P3281126.JPG.a251f519aa45a4ba6dc14c59403b0cad.JPG

 

A question, why are operating tension locks not fitted as standard in loco tenders?

 

 

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Fitting a system to a loco that already has a receiver and battery is attractive - but they tend to have less free space. And you probably want the uncoupler to work at both ends.

 

Snipping the "lock" off the tension lock coupling might be an idea.

 

...R

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Both ends of a loco is attractive however dealing with the front bogie is a problem. A lot of locos would only need a tender installation, for example large passenger types or heavy goods, the ones that don't shunt. My problem is I have 4-4-0 and 2-6-0 locos that do shunt, at least on the prototype, also some 0-6-0 tender locos. I also have 2 pairs of locos that prototypically do double heading, at least one of each would need a tender installation.

 

That idea of snipping the 'lock' of the coupling arm has merit as it would allow uncoupling with the tension lock under tension, no more reversing the loco a tiny bit before hitting the button. I must run some trials.

 

There is a lot of work here, many months I reckon

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If you are prepared to do some fine soldering and some programming you could build a radio system that costs about £4 per unit :D  But they would not be as small as the Deltang units.

 

With an IR system it would probably be down to £2 per unit.

 

Would the lower price make a difference to your aspirations?

 

...R

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Unfortunately my ancient hands are not capable of doing any fine work, the most I am comfortable with is soldering wires together. Micron Radio Control solder the wires I need on the Rx which means I wont destroy the Rx trying to do it myself.

 

As I mentioned before I have plenty of N scale stuff to sell which should raise a few hundred and have about completed my loco fleet. If a good second hand class 5 or appears I will probably buy it. There is a £5 cheaper Deltang Rx which is 11mmx10mm and I will buy one of those for testing

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Hi Dave,

 

This looks really interesting.  I have thought about uncoupling for a while but not yet worked out a system that is effective and not too expensive for widespread use.   So I'm really interested to see how this works.

 

Robin, I'd be interested in your ideas for IR as well.

 

Frank

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, fallen said:

Robin, I'd be interested in your ideas for IR as well.

 

The project I built for an uncoupler in an N-gauge wagon used an Atmega Attiny 45, a TSOP 4838 IR detector, a 1S LiPo cell and a home-made electromagnet coil. I programmed the Attiny with the Arduino system and IIRC used an Arduino Uno with an IR LED as the transmitter.

 

I just remembered that I wrote about it here

 

...R

Edited by Robin2

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A low cost system would be attractive. The components I used would total over £40 per installation. There are cheaper commercial radio receivers which have the capability to control a servo or actuator but the ones I have seen need one transmitter per receiver, not a viable solution IMO. Maybe getting the cost below £10 would be a target.

 

Over to you Robin!

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Posted (edited)

I am not proposing to offer any ready-to-use product or even a kit.

 

But if someone is interested in some DIY Arduino programming the opportunity is there to get a much lower cost per "receiver" together with a single "transmitter" for a large number of "receivers". The nRF24L01+ transceiver modules are about £2 each - probably much cheaper if bought from the far east. I control my model trains with one of them and an Attiny84 which costs less than £2. If using a servo for uncoupling then that is all you need. If you want to use a solenoid you would need a transistor to switch the solenoid current.

 

An ESP8266 WiFi module (which can also be programmed with the Arduino system, and which does not have to use WiFi) has the advantage of the wireless and the microprocessor in the same product. I believe they can be very very parsimonious in their use of electricity when used intermittently but I have no experience of that as in the continuous mode needed for controlling a locomotive they use about twice as much power as the Attiny and nRF24.

 

If people want an off-the-shelf ready-to-use product then it seems to me the Deltang system is good value. I certainly could not make that type of thing for that price on a commercial basis.

 

...R

Edited by Robin2

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On 07/04/2019 at 10:40, wasdavetheroad said:

Both ends of a loco is attractive however dealing with the front bogie is a problem. A lot of locos would only need a tender installation, for example large passenger types or heavy goods, the ones that don't shunt. My problem is I have 4-4-0 and 2-6-0 locos that do shunt, at least on the prototype, also some 0-6-0 tender locos. I also have 2 pairs of locos that prototypically do double heading, at least one of each would need a tender installation.

 

That idea of snipping the 'lock' of the coupling arm has merit as it would allow uncoupling with the tension lock under tension, no more reversing the loco a tiny bit before hitting the button. I must run some trials.

 

There is a lot of work here, many months I reckon

Looks like a good idea in theory but the cost looks pretty prohibitive if you want to shunt individual wagons.

The idea that big locos don't shunt is a bit wide of the mark.  All great western locos were used for shunting. Kings shunted stock on and off their trains at places like Swindon, 28XX were used on pick up goods

I think rather than lift the tension lock hooks they should twist sideways by 90 degrees.  Needs a bit more thought but certainly has potential

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An interesting concept.

 

A couple of thoughts. For coaches, I'm guessing you will always be uncoupling them at the same places on the layout - platforms, sidings, etc.,so what is the advantage in using a coach-fitted r/c device over a baseboard fitted r/c device?

Does the extra brass wire on the hook affect the balance of the hook - are they more prone to raising when not required? Filing off the 'lock' could make this worse.

For wagons,does all the device fit in a standard size van, and how will it be utilised  in an open wagon?

I can see the advantage in being able to spot wagons anywhere, but there are probably more regular locations than random ones.

Stu

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1 hour ago, Stubby47 said:

An interesting concept.

 

A couple of thoughts. For coaches, I'm guessing you will always be uncoupling them at the same places on the layout - platforms, sidings, etc.,so what is the advantage in using a coach-fitted r/c device over a baseboard fitted r/c device?

Does the extra brass wire on the hook affect the balance of the hook - are they more prone to raising when not required? Filing off the 'lock' could make this worse.

For wagons,does all the device fit in a standard size van, and how will it be utilised  in an open wagon?

I can see the advantage in being able to spot wagons anywhere, but there are probably more regular locations than random ones.

Stu

The coach rakes can be variable length and uncoupled in 3 platforms, 2 storage sidings and the fiddle yard. some of those locations can be difficult to see due to obstructions, distance or angle of view. I tried a fixed uncoupling location with the Brian Kirby system and could not get the consistency of operation I wanted, hardly at all at distance. This might be down to my poor eyesight. I also counted the number of fixed locations I would need, when I reached 35 on the scenic section I stopped counting, no way am I going to dig up my 150mm blue foam baseboards for that.

 

I added some extra weight to the coupling hook so no effect on balance. When I trial the no lock version I will a little more weight. the whole hook assembly only weighs about 1 gram so no problem with servo power.

 

Yes even the prototype version fits in a standard sized van. I am thinking the open wagon version, I won't need many of them, will use a linear servo with the connection below the floor. The receiver is about 5mm thick and 3mm thick batteries are available. I will be happy if at normal viewing angles I can't see the false floor above the electronics. Some brake vans coupling at both ends would be good and I tested a servo yesterday, the idea is a push rod that moves left or right as required, pushing up the coupling hook.

 

Yes there are regular locations but also some single wagon spots, I reckon with a little thought it could be done, having a working coupling in the tender would help.

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6 hours ago, DavidCBroad said:

Looks like a good idea in theory but the cost looks pretty prohibitive if you want to shunt individual wagons.

The idea that big locos don't shunt is a bit wide of the mark.  All great western locos were used for shunting. Kings shunted stock on and off their trains at places like Swindon, 28XX were used on pick up goods

I think rather than lift the tension lock hooks they should twist sideways by 90 degrees.  Needs a bit more thought but certainly has potential

Yes, a prohibitive cost for individual wagons but doable for short rakes etc. I must admit I did not find any photos of duchesses or Royal Scots shunting at Penrith but admit it could be done. Actually the bigger locos should be easy, at least for the tender end. You already have the receiver onboard.

 

I thought about a rotating hook but it looked more complex, difficult to construct and the coupler would not function like a standard tension lock.

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Hi Robin,

 

Thanks for the info on the IR system.   Definitely something to think about.

 

Frank

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2 hours ago, wasdavetheroad said:

Yes, a prohibitive cost for individual wagons but doable for short rakes etc. I must admit I did not find any photos of duchesses or Royal Scots shunting at Penrith but admit it could be done. Actually the bigger locos should be easy, at least for the tender end. You already have the receiver onboard.

 

I thought about a rotating hook but it looked more complex, difficult to construct and the coupler would not function like a standard tension lock.

Had you thought of using the N gauge coupler as a basis for the uncoupling system. You must have a few around if changing from N to 00.   It would be my no 1 choice if starting out afresh in 00. I have too many H/D Peco couplers to change now.

Actually there are pictures of Scots shunting between Penrith and Shap on the Quarry trip, was it Harrison's siding, in their last years.

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I would like to have the modified coupler function as a normal tension lock as well as remote uncoupling. It can then auto couple to another tension lock and uncouple if the other tension lock does not have a hook. Plus existing uncoupling ramps will work, hopefully!

 

I have been thinking about some cheaper alternatives. For a small number of tension locks a Deltang transmitter kit for about £20 is worth considering. Deltang use Spektrum transmission protocols and other manufacturers receivers are available. I found Lemon receivers are less than £12 in the UK and it should be possible to control them with a Deltang transmitter. I think buying one to test might be a good idea. Over on FreeRails there has been a lot of discussion on Flysky products, it uses a different transmission protocol but also worth looking at

 

there are several topics here

http://www.freerails.com/view_forum.php?id=45

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IMHO if you have a large number of auto-fitted vehicles (which low price might encourage) the big problem will be remembering which button to press for a particular vehicle. One box-van or carriage is much like any other.

 

My own preference is for a ground-based uncoupler together with delayed action.

 

...R

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I reckon I can remember at least 20 vehicles, especially as they would be organised in pairs. Combine that with some locos and you have the potential for a lot of flexibility

 

Organising in pairs:

branch passenger - 2 servos

lakes express - 2 servos

main line pickup goods - 4 servos

branch pickup goods - 4 servos

coal - 2 servos

cattle - 2 servos

parcels - 2 servos

engineering /milk - 2 servos

 

plus some brake vans and locos

 

I checked some prices this morning. Combining a Deltang transmitter kit for £20 with 4 Lemon receivers at just under £12 each gives a price of about £17 per installation plus the price of servo/battery etc which can vary It needs testing so I am going to order a couple of Lemon receivers and try it out.

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There has been no progress for 6 months as I have had two lots of eye surgery and the second one did not turn out as well as I had hoped it would. however that eye has now improved to the point when I can start modelling again, although I will have to live with my clumsy fingers.

 

I am currently slowly building a Deltang TX27 servo control transmitter kit which can control 7 servos and possibly more with some modifications.

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