Servos Wired

Over the last few days, I have worked my way along to completing the servo installations for Comstock Road. There was a bunch of other wiring tasks required that got done while I procrastinated on the servos themselves. When I actually got around to them, things went reasonably well although I did have to get out the multimeter at one point to debug what turned out to be an insufficiently inserted Anderson connector lug.

More or less in order, I did the following:

  • installed the board that holds the Octopus board and relays
  • connected the control panel to above. (OK, order did matter here)
  • ran wires from the relays to frog feeders
  • ran a servo cable from the controller to the runaround turnout which is the only servo not on the center baseboard section
  • applied Anderson Powerpole connectors to the runaround servo cable to span the gap between baseboards and jumper connectors to both ends
  • ran a cable and jumpered the other servo run which is not right next to the control board
  • bent up the link wires and installed them through 1/16th” brass tubes
  • actually installed the servos
  • tested everything, (multimeter comes in here)

The next step will be to make up the throw bars and link them up so I can align the servos and run some trains.

Here is the control board wired up. I used some small wire wraps to tidy things up a bit. Without the wraps, the y-cables connecting control panel, relay and controller made a bit of a rats nest.wiredcontrolboard.jpg

At the other end of the center section, I created a “cable” by wrapping all the wires going into the Anderson plugs with electrical tape. This makes it less likely that the smaller gauge wires will get damaged when the connection is made and unmade.wiringharness.jpg

Note that only the white and grey DCC bus wires look like they need these robust connectors. In fact, I had to solder the servo and frog wire to the lugs before crimping them since the crimp isn’t tight enough to grab the small gauge wires.


Octopus On A Plank

I have some task to perform this weekend that will take me out of town on Sunday so hobby time is limited but I did get something done. Permanently installing the Tam Valley Octopus III and attendant remote relays will require me to mount them in close proximity to the control panel. There isn’t any large wood surface in that location or in any other for that matter, this being the downside of non-solid wood topped baseboards. There being no wood surface available, I determined to provide my own.

I measured the boards and pondered their optimal orientation in relation to each other and to the various connections that would need to be made. I then cut a 3″x 8″ hardboard rectangle, drew some guide lines on it and attached the boards with 3/8″ #4 wood screws.

It isn’t fancy but all the boards are securely mounted so that plugging and unplugging won’t cause something to come loose. I will screw the board to the underside of two subroadbed sections so that the board is accessible between the baseboard bracing.


The blue terminal blocks all handle power of some sort: track for the relays(red boards) and servos for the Octopus board. The black connectors on the relays and the C 0-7 header on the Octopus connect to the controllers on the panel via Y-cables. The less ideal bit is that the cables to the servos connect on the header on the left side of the Ocotpus. This was the least bad choice since the connector for the Remote Alignment board (right side) needed to be easy to get at since it’s cable will get repeatedly plugged and unplugged at least until I get things all set up.

As a note, the relays are what seemed like the best solution for switching frog polarity when I bought the Ocotopus-III several years ago. If I was doing this from scratch, I would use a Frog Juicer instead especially now that I have used one and seen how simple it is to wire up.

Diamond Frog Juice

I have been test running back and forth looking for mechanical flaws in Comstock Road’s trackwork. Whilst so engaged, I discovered that the two isolated and as yet unpowered frogs on the diamond are both as long as the SW-8’s trucks and spaced almost exactly the same distance apart. This was obvious as the locomotive persistently lost power crossing the diamond at slow speeds. (Faster speeds allowed the capacitor to get it across the gap in time).

Fortunately, I recently purchased a Tam Valley Dual Frog Juicer for just this eventuality and got it installed tonight. Several post-installation test runs have failed to produce a stall so it looks like the device is earning its’ keep.diamondfrogjuice

This is probably the easiest installation I will get. Four screws, four wires and done. I think I spent more time reading the instructions than actually hooking it up.

As an encore, I broke out the servo connector wire kit I have assembled from various vendors. The combination of purpose specific three strand wire, connector kit and crimpers will allow me to connect servos to Octopus-III board and control panel. And the vast quantity of parts will allow me to mess up the occasional crimp. Score is 6-1 so far…jrkit

Electric Sunday

Today’s model railroading efforts were devoted to wiring. I connected up the feeders for the balance of the layout. I then tested the main and one path through the diamond and am happy to report that all went well except for the occasional loss of power due to dirty rails. Rail cleaning ensued. Since rail cleaning improves electrical contact I am calling that electric related.

I then drilled the holes for the three remaining turnout servo linkages. At that point, I realized that I was going to want a control panel since the minute you have two unlabeled push buttons dangling off an unattached board you have a user interface problem.

I then assembled four more Tam Valley fascia controller kits (one more than required so I have a loose one for servo installation if I need it). tvdcontrollers

I am unsure of what form the final control panel will take so I am not investing a lot in a panel right now. I therefore bodged up a quickie panel out of hardboard using basic drafting tools and the paper template supplied with the controllers. Ten minutes with a center punch and the drill press gave me all the holes required. A bit of sophistamicated graphic artistry with a straight edge and the big marker and the temporary stand-in was done.bodgepanel

This will work for me as a start and allow me to experiment with panel locations. This is my current best choice but I am not thrilled with the proximity to the creek bed to the right.

Power Strip

I made a minor investment in Comstock Road’s infrastructure by installing a dedicated power strip one the sub-baseboard frame. This will allow me to plug in the “wall wart” power supplies for the servo controller, the traverser mechanism, and whatever else I end up with (animation, structure lighting,…) and run one cord to the dedicated switch outlet. Prone as I am to getting focused on a task and obliviously kicking and tripping over things, I felt it prudent to organize things out of the way before I accidentally ripped some cord out of something.

This also represents the first time I have actually been under the layout since I set it up since I can usually just flip up a baseboard section to get at the underside. A sweep up of floor usually covered by stuff was indicated. No lost treasure was found.powerstrip

The scrounged power supply currently powering the servo controller is obstructing an outlet despite the spacing. I may have to see a squarer replacement if I need that outlet in the future.

A Good Iron Spike…

I have got all the rail down on Comstock Road. Wiring and point installation are pending as well as a lot of cosmetic tie plates and spikes but I am calling track laying complete.

Here is a status shot of the railroad for posterity.lastspike

If you squint, you will notice that the right leg of the turnout going off the front of the layout looks a bit odd. Since I don’t plan to launch any rolling stock into the ether, I have created a turnout with the frog removed. This is sometimes done to take a turnout out of service without abandoning or relaying track, just in case. In this instance, I laid the turnout as per normal and then pulled the frog and replaced it with a short piece of rail just as the prototype would have. I even put feeders under the dummy rails so I can restore things to operability if I ever want to.whatfrog

I also cut the last rail spanning a baseboard joint which I had forgotten to do. I rechecked all the other rails since attempting to pull sections apart would be a bad way to discover another oversight. Getting the jewellers saw into position required some excavation of prematurely installed foamboard.sawthenfoam

Four Closure Rails to Go

I am away from home this weekend so progress  actually on the layout is halted but before we set off, I managed to get everything but two sets of closure rails down on Comstock Road. This allowed me to push things through the other leg of the diamond to test things out. Putting down the closure rails require tweaking things so everything works so it is a non-trivial step but it is exciting to be able to see the “end” of track laying.

I anticipate getting the throw bars, linkages and servos installed on the remaining turnouts in the next couple of weeks.