It Ain’t Pretty But It Works

As the saying goes, it isn’t that a dancing bear dances well that is amazing but that it dances at all. I have got the diamond installed after much fiddling. It works but there were a few alignment issues with the frogs that make for imperfect lines through the crossing. I am impressed that my eye is less tolerant of variance than a finescale track standard. Anyway, I did not remake any parts but I will probably remake the whole thing at a future date. I will keep the functioning present version in order to get things running.

Here is a shot of the diamond from overhead. diamondinstalled

And an artsy track level view.diamondlow

Getting the challenging part of the trackplan inspired me to press on with the more mundane bits and now have the spur in front of the traverser tacked down as well. (I consider it installed enough for operational purposes when every third tie is spiked down.)diamondlong

All the track laying remaining to be done is at least partially visible in this shot:

  1. closure rails and points for the front track at centre back.
  2. inactive turnout and spur off the upper right leg of the diamond.

That is a refreshing short list! After that, I am down to point servo installation and wiring before I can operate Comstock Road. Well, that and banging together enough rolling stock…

This Diamond Might Actually Work

Not installed or trimmed to length but I got the second k-crossing done tonight and just had to pose the two bits in situ on the layout. So far, things seem to be going well which probably means I have overlooked something. I am still half expecting to have to scrap and redo something but so far so good.kcrossingsfinished.jpg

Measure Twice…Oh, Bother!

diamondderpI bent up the second knuckle rail for the Comstock Road diamond and set about filing the two other running rails. I very carefully blued (with a big Sharpie marker), marked the angles using  a scribe like a proper machinist, and filed up to the line. The first rail works beautifully. The second one had a slight issue. (If you look closely, you can see that the second rail has the angle going precisely the wrong way.) Fortunately I have lots of rail and the filing process is not too time consuming.

I am also glad that I took the time to make up my set of roller gauges. They made setting the rails for the second half (side?) of the diamond a snap.rollergaugesftw

I also got the frog and the straight closure rail for the turnout leading to one leg of the crossing down. I plan to do the same for the other turnout before putting down the crossing since they are less mutable than the diamond itself.

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

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.

firstthrowbar

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.

ComstockRoadOneYear

Track Power Regularized

trackpower

Comstock Road’s DCC bus in now powered in a proper way instead of the temporary hookup where I just connected command station to the traverser leads. The only track connected is the traverser and the two traverser lead segments on the same module but this means that I can run the loco on and off of the traverser. Operation!

More importantly, the command station and power supply are located at the far end of the layout and plugged into a dedicated outlet. When finishing the layout room in anticipation of the previous empire, I went all in and wired up the six circuits represented by the switches above. The intended uses were, in addition to room lights and general outlets, four outlets grouped at the end of the room for separate control of layout related circuits. Track, accessory, lighting and something else I don’t remember. It is a small thing but actually having the intended track power hooked up to actual track feels like an achievement.

Proper labelling TBD.

Jeweler Saw Practice

Having just finished the electronic part of installing a DCC decoder in Comstock Road’s lone Atlas O SW-8, I set out to finish the job by making sure everything was correctly insulated, taped down and able to fit inside the diecast metal shell. Perceptive readers might wonder why I mention the shell material. That is part of the fun!

Getting the wires all tucked in was not too much of a challenge but I then discovered that my estimation of clearance between speaker top and shell was, er, optimistic. The issue was the speaker mounting lugs cast into the inside of the shell. They are almost a fit for the chosen TCS speaker but only almost. I have also elected to not attach the speaker to the shell to give more clearance for a future detailed grill.

Here is what the inside looked like when I started.sw8mountlugs

Since the lugs had to go anyway, I resolved to “daylight” the opening back to something akin to the prototype rectangle. This would give plenty of room for the speaker to shoot upwards.

I got out my trusty jeweler’s saw and my excessive supply of #0 blades. Back in the day, I bought a gross of this blade size in a fit of enthusiasm and only afterwards discovered that #0 is too coarse for .015″ material. I have despaired of every finding a use for all those blades but no longer!

Even the relatively heavy #0 blades are fragile and do not tolerate careless use. You can turn corners in a cut but you have to carefully saw in place while rotating cautiously. If you push to hard you can jam the blade and snap it. Letting the work twist on the blade while repositioning can break a blade… You get the idea. Fortunately, I have about 12 dozen blades for just such an emergency. Or I did. I am now better at sawing and have less blades.expendovblades

Eventually, I got the opening cut out to my satisfaction. Here is the view from above with the shell on. (Apologies for the bad focus.)speakerhole

And here is the top view with the stock screens and grills back in place. All being black, the speaker is not visible unless you get up close and look straight.sw8postsurgery

DCC Install Complete-ish

Here is the full installation less wire tidying and any lighting connections. I don’t plan to hook up any of the lights because stripping the shell is in the near future so I don’t see the point.

This shot is very similar to the previous post except for the addition of the TCS speaker and LokSound PowerPack. Getting those soldered on was not any more difficult than the basic motor and pickup connections but my haste and ignorance did result in a bit of comedy.

AtlasODCCInstall

Firstly, I have hooked up the ESU CabControl system but I haven’t read anything but the Quick Start card nor have I operated with the system elsewhere often enough to know it. I can just about remember that the first three function keys are light, bell and horn. So, first heart stopping moment was when I applied track power after hooking up the speaker and got… nothing, nichts, nada. (no smoke, either). But then I tested the controls and the loco moved so no fried decoder. Eventually, I figured out that I have to F8 to “start” the loco and the room filled with the glorious sound of a 567 winding up. After noodling back and forth enjoying the sound, I was off to apply the keep alive capacitor.

The connections for the keep alive are on the side of the bottom board so I removed the decoder proper to get clear access to the relevant pads. Soldering the three connections was easy and I excitedly put the loco back on the track for the big test of the full system. And nothing at all. Not even movement. A bit of checking of documentation (does it need to charge or something?), connections (did I short something this late in the game?) and head scratching later I realized that I had a very good view of the soldered connections. Almost like the decoder wasn’t blocking the view. After plugging the decoder back into the board, all was well and the family was summoned for the big demonstration run.

I then did a bit of switching of my test tank car back and forth between two approach tracks and the traverser. I now have strong motivation to get the wiring sorted so more extensive running can be done. And also so I can move the DCC base unit off of its precarious perch on top of the layout.