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


Turnout Control Conclusion

If you have been following along, you know that I have been attempting to devise a way to throw Comstock Road’s turnout points using a servo and a rotary motion mimicking a manual switch stand. The initial attempt using the mounting scheme appropriate to the typical back and forth scheme was not a success. After much scheming, I became resigned to having to mount the servo face towards the baseboard bottom and with shaft in line with the vertical throw shaft.

Happily, I came across a similar scheme used and well documented by the Delmarva Model Railroad Club that I could adapt to meet my goal. Rather than use a couple of blocks of wood, I used a couple of pieces of aquarium bubbler hose and 1 1/2″ #6 wood screws.

Before I tipped the center section up to get at the servo location, I taped down the points, throw bar and all. This kept things centered as well as prevented the pins holding the throw bar from falling out. Family lore includes the time we tilted a sofa bed while lugging it up the stairs and it went sproing. All subsequent movements start with tying those suckers shut! Note that digital photography has not stopped me from exercising my talent for getting a finger into the shot…boughtthatfarm

Things secured and disconnected, I tipped up the section, clamped it in place and re-bent the vertical wire to the new spec. The horizontal leg has to match the distance between the servo shaft center and the last hole on the servo horn.turnoutwiremk2

I plotted out the mounting holes to put the servo horn perpendicular to axis of the servo mount at center. This turned out to work but only just. The servo shaft is not centered in the housing so the near mounting screw interferes much sooner than the far one. The interference issue is only relevant when you invert the servo like this. Future installation will offset the center point to split the difference in the available travel.servobracketmk2

I tried to capture the situation when the turnout is thrown to that side. The servo horn is right up against the tubing but the turnout is thrown so we will call that a win.servohardover

Finally, I am awaiting the arrival of appropriate bits and bobs to wire the servos, controllers and driver board permanently. I can still operate one turnout at a time at close range via temporary measures. Also note that I forgot to install the frog polarity relay while I was “under’ the layout. One more for the checklist.verytemporary

I did a run of the test train to prove things worked so I can now claim to have an operating layout. I can now perform an Inglenook scheme via this turnout, the back track and manually pushing the traverser. Or at least I could if I had enough cars converted to P:48. I will need to do an inventory and get that under way.

Getting one turnout is not a huge deal but getting a working method sorted out to my satisfaction is a mental obstacle overcome. Onward!

A Bit More Turnout Control Progress


Pictured above are in order, an Octopus III servo controller, remote relay, fascia controller and micro-servo, all from Tam Valley Depot. I bought a bunch of each for the previous layout and never did get any of it deployed so I am both pleased to be finally using it all and having to learn how to do that.

Tonight I soldered up a fascia controller kit (two LED’s, a button and a connector) and messed around with the remote alignment board to get the hang of it. I think I can do it all now including, ahem, factory reset the Octopus in case I mess it up. Hypothetically speaking. 🙂

Next concern is that the required throw for the points is about 100 degrees of rotation. To get that out of the servo will require it to be quite close to the point of rotation which creates other alignment issues. I am having a bit of a ponder about what to do about that. I will also tip the board up for the next bit of fiddling since I can’t get under the bracket location with a screwdriver due to the sub-baseboard. Hopefully the assorted point bits won’t fall off since I haven’t permanently attached any of it.

Finally, A Throwbar

As I may have previously mentioned, actually hooking up turnout points is one of the mental hurdles in my path to layoutdom (layoutness?). Today’s project was getting started on hooking up the points for high track with a throwbar. The method of pinning the two together was the challenge. Learning took place.

I had a plan that involved using very small hex bolts 1/8″ 00-90 that did not survive contact with reality. The clearance hole for the bolts is a drill number in the 60’s that turned out to be too big a hole to reliably drill in the tabs of the American Switch & Signal (now sold by Right O’Way) points. I managed one and then the next tore out. Break time!

For the second attempt, I went with an idea I vaguely recall from somewhere, cut down straight pins. The standard steel sewing pins almost fit through holes as-is so they work much better. They are easy to make which is fortunate since they also fly very far if your grip with the tweezers slips.

After assorted bits of filing, drilling and fiddling, the test fit was completed. I expect the installation of the rest of the throwbars to go much smoother.


Putting a Stop to It

Now that I can run the loco on Comstock Road, there now exists the possibility of rolling stock taking inadvertent flying lessons. This is much to be avoided so after one scare involving a combination of touch screen finger trouble and momentum effects I knew I need to take steps. It is a small job but it is now a small job done. I cut up some scrap pieces of 1/4″ plywood and made stoppers for the four ends of track. They are fastened to the subroadbed with wood screws which should stop the loco unless it really gets up a head of steam.

The end on shot is an artifact of having to detach the section to get at the ends which normally are about 6″ from the wall. I am pleased to have this taken care of until I get scenery and/or backdrop ends installed.


Weekend Reading: Animated Scale Models Handbook

animatedscalemodels.jpgWhile I was in Kingston, ON on Saturday, I was able to take a bit of time to visit the Kingston Railfair train show. As is my habit, I browsed through the used books because one can never have too many books! I was lucky enough to come across Animated Scale Models Handbook by Adolph F. Frank. It was inexpensively priced so I took it into custody out of curiosity.

I am pleased to say that I am not disappointed in my latest acquisition. I have not finished reading it yet I soon will. Published in 1981, Animated Scale Models describes methods, materials and mechanism for animation predating the advent of inexpensive microcontrollers, stepper motors and servos. While some of what is described has been superceded, much of the wisdom of creating mechanisms from simple materials still looks useful.

Materials and tools described are only the ordinary sort that can be easily obtained. While the tool list certainly does not include a lather, I am also certainly going to find things to do with mine in this book. And save money either way. One can buy pulleys from a hobby robotics supplier, for instance, but the cost can add up in a hurry. Using the techniques in this book, one can readily build inexpensive alternatives that are exactly what is needed.

The book itself is soft bound and printed on non-glossy paper. It is well illustrated with plenty of clear drawings but despite the blurb on the back cover, no photographs other than the one on the cover. No pretty pictures here, just the stuff you actually need. Chapters include basic components, speed reduction mechanisms, mechanical movements,  and various example projects including a ferris wheel, a factory with a bicycle assembly line and more prosaic things like a small house with a man swinging a hammer to repair the roof and grandma rocking her rocking chair on the porch.

I think I can safely assert that any model railroader could find something useful in the Animated Scale Models Handbook. I look forward to employing some of these techniques to liven up Comstock Road. While apparently no longer in print, the online book retailers seem to have multiple used copies available at very attractive prices if you are interested.

Comstock Road at One Year

It has been approximately a year since I finalized a trackplan and started construction of Comstock Road. As one does, I took stock of how things had gone.

Current state is still mostly bare trackage abuilding but what trackage there is is considerably more functional that it was before. Here is how I see the state of things

  • Steady albeit slow progress still going on. This is the main achievement. I am still interested and still getting down to the shop to continue the project.
  • Just this afternoon, I got the high track and main on the non-traverser end wired up and can now run a train from one end to the other. And did!
  • First DCC sound install completed and DCC system wired up.
  • Still haven’t got a turnout servo installed although two turnouts are essentially complete. This is obviously my next psychological hurdle to clear.
  • The sectional design is holding up well, I can take them apart and put them back together with impunity. This includes wiring connections.

Goals for the near future include:

  • Get that first servo installed so I can start Inglenook style operating.
  • Basic foam ground forms in so I can stop worrying about derailments (which haven’t happened) causing a long drop to the concrete.
  • Traverser automation installed. Manual alignment from the front is challenging.

Here is the obligatory status shot. Not visible is the wiring and the 40 percent or so that of laid track that has tie plates spiked on all ties.