Modeling on the Road

hotelmodellingWe spent the recent long weekend exploring the area around Owen Sound, Ontario. Owen Sound is a small (20k) city on the south shore of Georgian Bay and the seat of Grey County as in the Toronto, Grey and Bruce Railway. More on what I discovered in succeeding posts but I wanted to cover the bit I planned in advance. Being away from home prevents any direct work on the layout but with a little foresight I was able to make some indirect progress.

One of the recurring minor tasks I have to do in support of track laying is nipping tie plates off of sprues with my sprue nippers. Pack up the box of sprues, nippers and the container to put them in and I was ready to go. I also took along my stock of brass rail brace castings in need of cleanup with a file, micro-drill and/or micro broach. All in all, I probably got about two hours of work done which is not monumental but two hours progress is two hours progress.

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Freehand Rail Filing

Stephen Gardiner was kind enough to complement the quality of my incorrect filed angle and although I think he was just trying to make me feel better I did consider that perhaps describing my technique might be useful to someone. Having never done an instructional type of post, it will be a good exercise for me. All are encourage to ask questions if I have left something out!

So, you’ve got a piece of rail and you want to file the end to a particular angle.filingstart

I start by marking the angle on the top of the rail. I also sometimes mark the bottom as well or just the bottom depending on what seems necessary. If you are prone to getting an unwanted vertical angle as you file, do both so you can catch yourself at it. Machinists typically use a blue marking die which one either paints or sprays on. It is lacquer based so it smells and it takes a solvent to get it off again. For small jobs, I use a big Sharpie maker; an alternative I learned about in Simon Bolton’s books. The marker will do a 4″x10″ sheet of brass in less than a minute of vigorous scribbling if you need to.filingmarking

I then use an engineer’s protractor to get the proper angle and a machinist’s scriber to make a mark in the blacked area on the rail.filinglayout

The marker makes the scratch from the scriber easy to see.filingmarked

After that, we get to the actual filing. I use a 12″ single cut file for most of my filing. This is less aggressive than default double cut file you get at the hardware store. You can usually find the single cut ones if you look. As far as actual technique, I grip the rail in my fingers and rub it back and forth on the file which I either lay on the bench or my lap. I find it easier to see and check the angle mark as opposed to clamping the rail and moving the file.filinggrip

I check every dozen strokes or so to see how I am doing and adjust as necessary to try and keep the filing parallel to the mark on the rail. Eventually, I usually get down to the mark. If I mess it up, I either remark the end and take some more off or start on a new piece if I can’t spare any more length.filingfinished

Trackwork, Various

I managed a few trackwork related moments in the last week in amongst assorted excursions, tasks, crises, crises requiring excursions, etc… Most significantly, I got the first K-crossing for the Comstock Road diamond formed and pinned down ready for soldering. This took place on a larger pine board which I acquired for the purpose. I despaired at the price for a 1x8x6′ pine board until I spotted a stack of 1x10x5′ “pine shelves”  in the next rack over. These looked suspiciously like 1×10 boards and were a quarter of the price. The mysteries of retail!

Here is how far I got.firstkcrossing

While I was acquiring that bigger piece of pine, I also purchased an inexpensive engineer’s protractor. This is a handy way to measure and transfer angles and I wanted to make sure everything matched when I moved it over from the template. The crossing angle is 24° for those who were wondering. That bit of rail has marker on the end so I can mark the angle I need to file. This sort of protractor makes that much easier than the half circle sort.protractor

I also did some other things including getting the start of the second rail down on the main where it leaves the traverser. This rail will feed into one leg of the diamond. I also applied paper to the ends of the rails on each of the four frogs remaining to be laid, two turnouts and the ones I made for the diamond. Rather than rely on an air gap, I try to have something solid and unobtrusive as an insulator. I have used a mere layer of paint in the past but always worried that expansion would squish a short into being. Paper to be trimmed after the adhesive cures.froginsulation

Diamond Ho!

This weekend I kept up the momentum created by getting the first turnout servo installed and started in on the only bit of Comstock Road’s trackwork that requires hand made frogs, the diamond crossing. Through the miracle of Templot, the diamond is asymmetrical with one leg being on a transition curve. Not something you are going to get off the shelf but a feature that let me squeeze things in the way I wanted. Now I just have to build it.

I started by re-reading the relevant sections of Trackwork Handbook for Model Railroaders by Paul Mallery since I have never built a diamond and haven’t built a turnout frog a very long time and not many of them then. Including the diamond in the trackplan was a deliberate creation of an opportunity to do something a bit challenging.

I printed off a copy of the crossing template, found a suitable bit of pine 1×4 and my file and dove in. Much bending, filing and fitting later, I was ready to apply some solder.firstfrog.jpg

Once I figured out that my piddling little 80W digital iron wasn’t going to cut it, I broke out the big 120W Weller and things started flowing. I soldered things into a blob and then spent more time than I like cleaning it up. Nevertheless, a result was achieved that compared well with the paper version.templatevsreality.jpg

The second frog aka V-crossing went considerably faster as I applied my learning from the first one. It was necessary to redraw the reference lines before I started since the wood block got a little singed.secondfrog.jpg

At the end of the evening, I have both V-crossings built and am looking forward to doing the K-crossings. I have not applied any detailing to the frogs and may not do so prior to installation. I will probably regret this decision. Here are both pieces posed in situ on the layout.vcrossings.jpg

Weekend Reading: Trackwork Handbook for Model Railroaders by Paul Mallery

trackworkhandbook.jpg

This the book I was re-reading this weekend to brush up before starting in on the diamond crossing for Comstock Road. I have had this book for many years and actually did a search of my previous postings because it seemed strange that I had not already done a post on this book.

This classic is THE book for those intending to hand lay model railroad track in the North American tradition. It covers all kinds of details of the prototype and then gets down to practical advice for the modeller. Written long before DCC or the advent of the Fast Tracks CNC made jig empire, the methods described are what you need to build any kind of track using flat bottomed rail, spikes and a few simple tools. I needed to re-read parts of it because I haven’t built a turnout frog from scratch in more years than I care to count but the asymmetrical diamond on Comstock Road is just the sort of situation where these methods shine.

Even if you do everything with commercial jigs or castings, I highly recommend this book as a reference for prototype practice and other practical trackwork matters. Published by Carstens, it is currently out of print and not listed on the White River Productions site although several other Carstens books are. It looks like the book stand at train shows is your best bet if you want a copy although you might turn up a reasonably priced copy online. (unlike the unreasonably priced ones I found when I checked while writing this post.)

Turnout Control Progress

I have mentioned previously that getting hand laid points connected up and suitably under control has been a stumbling block in past efforts. The achievable scope of Comstock Road (4 or 5 turnouts total) makes the mental size of the task easier to contemplate. I have begun the new year as I mean to go on, by tackling the mentally hard things and have made further progress.

First up is the connecting rod from switch stand location to throw bar. Increasingly prototypical possibilities have occupied my imagination but when I found myself contemplating scratchbuilding scale clevis’, I realized that I was making things harder than they should be, certainly for a first attempt. I resolved to make something out of the piano wire on hand.

I needed an eye or loop in the wire to connect to the vertical shaft comping up from beneath the layout. (I am going for a rotational motion like a switch stand rather than the model railroady back and forth in a big hole. I fashioned a simple jig consisting of a piece of scrap plywood with a nail driven in and cut off, and adjacent to a piano wire sized hole. A right angle bend near the end of the wire goes into the hole and the wire is wrapped around the nail to form the eye. I got the idea for this jig from the Animated Scale Models Handbook.

Here is the jig.bentwirejig

And here is the result trimmed up.eyeinwire

I have got the vertical brass tube and wire combo installed and connected to the throwbar. (We pause while I dash downstairs to take a photo of the installation which I apparently forgot to do. Lack of photos is usually a good sign since it indicates that I have got a head of steam up.) Here is a shot of the connecting rod installation. Bending the crank in the end of the vertical wire was a challenge and I will consider better alternatives such as soldering on a separate piece of brass bar. It does work and will be concealed by the switch stand. The other reason for a separate bar would be to allow the vertical wire to continue up through the stand so the target can rotate.connectingrod.jpg

Finally, we get to installing the servo, Tam Valley Octopus servo driver and associated electrical bits. I have got as far as fashioning a bracket for the servo using a section of 1/2″ aluminum channel from the big box store. I picked this idea up somewhere in the model railway reaches of the internet and it works a treat. The servo is just a friction fit in the channel after a slight pinch with a pair of pliers.bracketmk1

Beginner Brass Bodging

I have previously mentioned some books on model related metal work by Simon Bolton and Kenneth C. Foran. My soldering and brass shaping skills are rudimentary at best and I did not feel comfortable plunging directly into rolling stock construction so I set out to find a simpler project. While walking past a construction site, I hit upon the answer, a roll off waste bin. These ubiquitous items of the modern era are locally sourced and constructed from metal sheet and structural shapes. Just like those in the metal rack at the hobby shop!

I cast about for a suitable example and discovered that most waste disposal companies provide overall dimensions for their bins as well as photos thereof. Just the thing for the modeler in need. Subject identified, I prepared a basic dimensioned drawing and set about acquiring the necessary brass square tube sizes and sheets.

I made good progress but there was an issue. My Hakko FX888 digital soldering iron is not quite up to the job of soldering a joint where one or both halves is a big sheet of brass aka a heat sink. Cold joints were the order of the day and I put things aside while I mail ordered a big 120 watt iron in hopes of solving that problem.

Today I dusted things off and had a go, big iron and all. The thing is a monster with a half inch tip on it. Not for detail work but boy howdy, does it heat things up. Maybe too much. I managed to avoid desoldering everything previously attached but that wouldn’t be hard to do. Perhaps a finer tip is in order if I can get one.

Anyway, here are the two competing irons, the Hakkohakkoiron.jpg

And the 120 watt Weller old school iron (not so old school as to involve fire but still)bigiron

And here is the project to date. Todays progress was putting the sides, end and bottom together.binprogressjpg