32 Class DJH model Conversion to DCC

This is a DJH 32 class model I built many years ago. The white metal kit was assembled completely by soldering in the 1980s and was a good runner on DC. It saw service during the ’80s on the old Warrimoo layout in the Blue Mountains.

I converted it to DCC in 2015 using a Soundtraxx Micro Tsunami model TSU-750 #826001 Light Steam. This is a generic US decoder which serves the purpose but lacks a true NSWGR whistle. I can live with some compromises! The USA Reading 6 Chime whistle was my compromise.

These days my preferred decoders are ESU Loksound and there are some local suppliers who can supply one with the correct 32 class sound file.

The first step was to dismantle the loco for access to the boiler and chassis for installation of the speaker and headlight and to replace the motor and flywheel as well as adding additional power pick-ups as below:

The motor I used was a NWSL Flatcan 12 x 20mm Double 1mm Shaft (#1220D-9)
I ordered mine on-line from this company. You may be able to buy one, or similar alternative locally. I added:

    • a flywheel – 1.0mm shaft ID, 10mm OD not countersunk #435-6
    • shaft adapter bushing 1.0mm ID x 2mm OD to provide enough diameter to match the gearbox shaft #10171-9
    • nylon (nitrile?) model aircraft fuel line to flexible couple to the gearbox.

The headlight was a pre-soldered  Warm White 0603 SMD LED purchased on ebay. These have leads which are long enough to go through to the tender. But they are fragile and require handling with care. An 0603 LED is 1.6 mm x 0.8 mm x 0.6 mm thick and seems a good size for a steam loco.

The photo below shows the 32 class headlight – I drilled a tiny hole through the base of the headlight, right through the rear mounting and into the firebox. It needs to be just big enough to take the two wires. The LED was held in place with a speck of canopy glue. The alignment of the drilled hole is shown in red. The wires were held in place within the boiler barrel with small dabs of blu-tack.

It is vital that a series resistor be placed in either feed wire to the LED. I have adopted as standard, a 3k3 (3,300 Ohms) resistor as there is no need for NSWGR lights to be too bright. Remember that a resistor has no polarity ie. can be installed either way around.

The Speaker – I have separate posts to describe fitting a speaker to the smokebox but to save you searching, here is the gist of the 32 class receiving a speaker in the smokebox. Facing upwards towards the funnel which needs to be drilled out. This is the sugar cube speaker enclosure under construction:


The cylinder is cut from a small piece of plastic tube to match boiler ID.
End caps have now been added. The wires should be brown but I ran out!

While the boiler is off the chassis, extra pick ups can be added.


The wipers are phosphor bronze with the front ones the correct size (0.008″) and the rear ones, looking like crow  bars at 0.015″ (they haven’t impeded the loco!). The wipers are only needed on the side with insulated tyres.

To get the wipers out to the correct spacing, a plastic insulating piece was combined with a small piece of PCB (printed circuit board) to make a mounting to solder the wipers and the connecting wire to the tender.

The Tender

Access needed to be provided to the tender space as shown below

A plastic ferrule was glued to a hole drilled just forward of the front bogie pivot – so that the wiring can safely pass into the tender. The other half of the exercise is getting the wiring out of the locomotive

Here we see 8 wires emerging:

  • Orange and Grey – to the motor
  • one pair of Red and Black – to the Right & Left track respectively.
  • one pair (incorrectly) Red & Black which should be both Brown for the speaker
  • one pair of thin and clear LED headlight wires. These are identified by one wire being shorter – this is the Cathode and connects to the White decoder wire. The other wire is a little longer and is the Anode wire which connects to the Blue decoder wire. They need to be marked before the LED is installed and I coloured the end of the Anode wire BLUE with a marker pen.

The tender is where the fiddly wiring occurs. Since there are 8 wires needing to be connected to the decoder, a plug and socket arrangement is difficult. I choose to make those connections via a small pair of home made PCBs. They are shown below

The photos below show handmade simple PCBs made with a small saw and a mitre box. The single sided PCB material can be bought on eBay from sites such as this one. The little PCBs are cleaned thoroughly on the copper side with very fine wet & dry and can then be tinned with a little resin cored solder. Make sure the tracks remain electrically separate.

I made 2 for the tender above so that I could solder the 8 wires from the loco to the 8 wires from the decoder:

Here you can see the 8 connections from the decoder. The resistor (1k – should be 3.3k) is settled behind the LH PCB with one end of the resistor joined directly to the white wire from the decoder and the other end of the resistor soldered to the rear PCB strip. That will be where the Cathode of the headlight lead is soldered.
The other headlight lead (marked with blue felt pen) will be soldered to the strip connected to the blue decoder wire.

Also visible in the above photo is another little PCB pad which will carry the phosphor bronze wipers to the tender bogies on the insulated wheel side.

The photo above is actually a 36 Class tender bogie but you can see how the principle is the same. Similarly, the photo below is of the front of the 36 class tender showing how the little PCBs were fitted to this slightly roomier space.

 

Speakers for DCC

SPEAKERS FOR DCC

This post combines new material with some hidden away in other posts. The photo below was of a common speaker such as those supplied with Loksound decoders. They are quite suitable for large body diesels and other larger models that have enough room.

This was the 25mm (1″) 4Ω  1.5Watt speaker and enclosure used for a 42 class diesel project. A silly but important point is make sure you solder the speaker wires to the speaker terminals before you seal it in place!

It is very important to make sure that the enclosure is fully SEALED around, and behind the speaker. The bigger the enclosure, the better but we are usually stymied by lack of space. See below for using Canopy Glue for sealing.

One of the best speakers I have used is the so-called “Sugar Cube” speaker. With even a small enclosure, they are remarkably compact combined with good sound quality. The ESU version is 12mm x 14mm and 5.5mm thick:

This is a sugar cube speaker with wires attached and ready to have an enclosure wrapped around. This enclosure is a little deeper than the depth of the speaker to improve the bass response.

I prepare some styrene strips equal to the height required and use a small machined metal block as an aid to assemble the pieces using a styrene cement.

The next photo shows one of the best TIPs that I have. If you are using super glue for assembling anything, use a small piece of teflon bearing material (or even thicker plastic) and drill a small depression into it. Put a drop of super glue in to the recess and it will last up to an hour or more without going off! It also helps when applying styrene cement. [PTFE teflon sheet can be purchased on eBay by searching for ptfe sheet]

To seal the speakers into their enclosure, I prefer to use “Canopy Glue” as it is sticky and remains in place, plus, it dries clear. As with the super glue, the best means of applying it is with a thin applicator such as a T Pin or a tooth pick:

THINK OUTSIDE THE SQUARE:

The speaker enclosure doesn’t have to be rectangular – consider a cylindrical one to fit inside the smokebox of a steam loco. I have fitted them to brass steam locos including 30 class, 36 class and whitemetal 32 class. Like this:

The curved part has been cut from a small section of plastic pipe which needs to be filed flat as in the previous photo. Two end plates have to be shaped to fit.

The benefit of the smokebox speaker is that the sound is coming from the correct part of the loco. The photos below show a 25mm speaker fitted to a custom housing in the tender of a 36 class brass loco. The sound was brilliant – but it was clearly radiating from the wrong end of the loco.

Fitting the cylindrical speaker can be difficult. In my brass 30 class (small) loco, the smokebox door was loose so I was able to remove it. For the larger 36 class boiler, I was able to insert the speaker from the firebox end of the boiler tube:

THERE ARE OTHER OPTIONS

This is an iPhone 4S speaker purchased from eBay. In this case I have split the speaker to see what was happening inside. As I understand it the chamber on the right is an acoustic cavity to improve the sound. The port where the sound exits is shown with a pink arrow, just below the speaker itself.

Here we have a 40 class diesel look-alike modified from a Kato RSD4/5 model. I like this model as it is well engineered and very smooth and powerful with 2 large flywheels. The tight space in the narrow hood filled with mechanism and weights meant I couldn’t easily fit a sugar-cube speaker but and iPhone 4S speaker sat nicely on top of the motor.
A close up shows the sound port on the RH end of the speaker.
Here is a sound file using an iPhone 4S speaker with an ESU V4 Loksound decoder programmed with an ALCO 12cyl 244 (FT) #73401 sound file. The loco sound volume is quite low and would be deafening if run at full volume.

I note that iPhone 4S speakers are currently (24/3/19) available on eBay from as little as $1.58 ea (+ GST) and with free postage.

For an even smaller loco, consider other iPhone speakers. The first 3 work but you would need to experiment.  The iPhone 5 speaker may be a good option for a small loco.

Solder directly to the contact springs.

iPhone 5 speaker showing the parts that can be removed.

If you have had any interesting success with speakers, I would be happy to post that on this blog (with acknowledgement). Rick

WiFi Throttles & USB

Fitting a USB charger to your layout?
PLUS   WiFi THROTTLES – using old iPhones!

  • they are  handy for charging a lot of “devices” these days – phones; tablets; pads; cameras etc.
  • or in my case it has a specific purpose – to charge my WiFi throttles.

I have become a convert to using mobile phones as throttles. I first tried Android phones but lately I have become convinced that old iPhone 4s models are the go!

This post is supposed to be about USB chargers so here we go:… wait a moment!
The setup below is out of date now!
A bit disappointing I suppose. But on the right is a little 2 port USB outlet powered by the 12V DC bus which runs around my layout. It is a something I picked up from a marine supplier.

It now looks like this:
and the charger is a more powerful model by Jackson and purchased from Jaycar Electronics. It still only just does the job, rated at a total 3.1Amps. If you can find a higher output unit, go for it.

On the shelf there are still 3 very old iPhone 4S mobile phones and my old Android phone which has … “carked it!”

The iPhones are ancient in the modern world of devices and each phone above  was donated by friends and family who had them stuck away in drawers and cupboards. They have the old 30 pin connector and nothing uses them these days. I did my research first and discovered that I could buy the USB to 30 pin cable for peanuts on the web. Get this:
On eBay of course and the cost? ……. $5 for 5 complete cables including postage!!
If you don’t believe me look at the eBay site. Back to the phones.

You need to get them to Erase All Content and Settings. This can done by:

iPhone:

  1. Going to Settings and tap General > Reset > Erase All Content and Settings.
  2. Then remove the SIM card as it has no use in a Throttle.
  3. Or best of all – look at the explanation on this site.

Android:    Look at the explanation on this site.

THROTTLES: you need to load an app into the phones:

Wi Throttle Lite on the iPhone
or
Engine Driver on the Android

(this will still be possible via WiFi using your App Store or Play Store.

This is what they look like used to look like when running on the device:

The people who kindly develop
Wi Throttle for iDevices have made a couple of significant improvements.

iPhone 4SWi Throttle Lite – this is what the “Address” screen looks like.

It is showing the Roster obtained from JMRI Decoder Pro which must be running in the layout room. The phone connects to this by WiFi and displays several screens. This the one shown as “Address” (lower middle).

I have scrolled down the list and selected 4201 then “Set” that selection. Next I will select Throttle circled in RED.

 

 

You can now select from 4 sub menus:

  • Recent selections
  • Keypad entry if you know the engine number
  • Roster of entries for selection
  • A list of Consists (ie previously coupled together locos)

It now looks like this – this one being the “Recent” list.

And this one – the Roster list.

 

 

The next Throttle screen looks like this:

This is the major improvement: in this version, to see multiple control (Function) buttons, you had to swipe sideways which was a little awkward.
NOW, the function buttons now scroll UP and DOWN which seems more intuitive

The selected loco is shown with a green background.

The throttle is a slider on the right.

Direction can be predicted by the arrow pointer at “Idle”

The BEST BENEFIT – you don’t have to remember F numbers and what they do!
The Functions are in text on the buttons (albeit abbreviated) and you can put them where you like.

 

The next screen is now revealed by a swipe UP and shows more Functions. As below.

 

 

This is the second page of Functions.

You can have more if you like, on another screen!

To be quite honest, I now rarely use the command station throttles on my NCE system.

 

 

Android Option called Engine Driver.

Once WiFi has been established, this is the next screen.

When you press “Select” a Roster list appears and you select the loco.

 

As below:

 

 

 

 

 

This screen lists the locos in the roster obtained by WiFi from JMRI.

 

Touch the loco to select it.

 

Previous locos are retained in a “Recent” list for convenience.

 

 

 

 

 

The loco is now selected and the window shows the loco number, directions with the current selection in green.

This throttle is a horizontal slider.

Both throttles have a few options in preferences.

Speed steps shown at top right.

The Plain language buttons are a feature and there is room for plenty of them .

 

 

I have only lightly covered the interface between JMRI and Wi throttles. Perhaps another blog post??  (if there is any interest)

Regards – Rick

Lima 42 Remotor + DCC

The old Lima 42 class diesel has been around my layouts for decades and I am not too proud to run it mixed in with all my more recent and highly detailed models. It ran well on DC and even better on DCC with a LokSound V4.0 decoder coupled with a replacement pancake motor and pickup on all wheels.

The motor shown in the top 2 photos was purchased on eBay as a specific replacement for the 42 class and other similar models. It satisfies the requirement of isolating the motor from the frame for DCC and runs well.

I always try to achieve pickup on all wheels or as many as possible. In this case it was easy. I added two small pieces of PCB to form solder pads. They are clearly visible attached to the two sideframe brackets with epoxy and carrying the RED flexible feed wire and the phosphor bronze pickup wires.

Note the holes shown in the bottom of the chassis to the top left. These are for the speaker shown in later photos.

A thicker piece of copper wire connects the 2 pads and one carries the p/bronze wires for 2 wheels and the other for 1. The photos show the setup.

The photos above and below show the decoder attached to the roof of the body shell with Blu Tack and small piece of strip board (Veroboad) used to carry the series resistors (1k – 1000Ω) for the front and for the rear headlights. Notice the “interrupts” cut into the tracks under the resistor. These were made with the tip of  a small drill. This isolates both ends of the strip. Normally the resistors would be mounted on the other side of the board but this method works  just as well

In the photo above I have removed most of the interior glazing except the sections for the front and rear windows. The portholes are glazed with Butyrate 15 thou strips held in place with tiny spots of Canopy Glue. [K & S Clear Plastic Sheet #1308]

In this model I used a 5mm (front) and 3mm (rear) yellow glow LEDs with ends of the LED filed flat and then polished. To avoid light appearing from other than the headlights, I carefully painted all but the front of the LED flat black.

I couldn’t find an appropriate and cheap socket to accept the 8pin decoder plug on the LokSound V4 so I made my own from a machined pin DIL (Dual In Line) IC (Integrated Circuit) 8 pin socket (eg Jaycar part# PI-6452 or on eBay).

The first step is to carefully cut the socket into 2 parts…

… as shown here.

Clean up the cut edges – the ones below need to be filed, but it’s not important as the correct spacing is achieved by gluing the IC socket back together on the smooth faces…

… as shown below with the prepared pair stuck in a blob of Blu Tack. Rough the surfaces a little and bond together with a spot of epoxy.

For this installation it suited me to bond the lead weight into the chassis with silastic and epoxy the prepared socket to the top of that. I have an old plug cut from another hard wired LokSound decoder that I can use as a guide to indicate which coloured wires need to be soldered to the rear of the new socket.
Note that installing the socket this way means that the off-centre plug can only go in one way around (good).

The mounting position of the speaker is shown above requiring some holes to be drilled in the bottom of the chassis. The speaker (which is not my preferred sugar cube type but was one of a number of spares I had in the workshop) is mounted just clear of the surface to allow sound to escape into the body shell. The speaker fits within the its housing but importantly, needs to be very carefully sealed into the housing. I use Canopy Glue on a toothpick to carefully seal every gap around the edge of the speaker, keeping it clear of the speaker cone. Also seal the spaces where the wires exit the housing – silastic may be better here.

This was the 25mm (1″) 4Ω  1.5Watt speaker and enclosure used for this project.

Here is a short video:

“Charles” Gets a Decoder

A project with a difference – PART 2.
A friend has a Fleischmann™ type 4028 0-6-0 Steam Locomotive which he would like to use as a “proving” loco for his under-construction Wolgan Valley layout. It’s a sort of a recycling exercise. This is the next exciting episode – Charles gets a decoder!

The decoder is a LokSound V4.0 running the ESU sound file: 54413-LSV4.0-Dampf-BR80-R5      It sounds like this:

Very Germanic!! But it will be OK for the purpose, assuming that the NSWGR may not have bothered changing the whistle.

This is where the LokSound decoder will reside. For a tank engine, the Fleischmann 0-6-0 has plenty of room. After a little testing, it was least obtrusive in the cab roof and is held in place with Blu Tack.

There are other things to do with DCC sound installs one of which is the Speaker and more details will follow. This is one is my favourite Sugar Cube speakers in my favourite mounting area – the smokebox. That way the sound comes from the right part of the loco! [post coming on fitting a sugar cube into the smokebox of a brass 30T class loco]

The motor, especially in this ringfield type requires special attention to make sure that it is isolated from the frame.
There is excellent technical advice on this in an article I obtained on the “All Aboard” Mittagong website – except it doesn’t seem to be there any more. The original PDF file I downloaded from “All Aboard” is however available HERE.

The replacement Isolated Motor Shield is shown below fitted to the mechanism. It is sold as Fleischmann replacement part # 50 4730 and is available from All Aboard as a spare part (not shown on the web site).

Here you can see the wiring from the decoder to the motor – Orange and Grey to the motor and Red and Black to the track pickups (loco frame and wheels). Some other wiring is visible and is described below.

The decoder has a number of unused function wires and they are held captive by the (yellow) kapton tape. Two extra simple PCBs are also visible. Simple PCBs are described in THIS POST.
The one on the LEFT has 4 strips – 2 carry the brown wires to the speaker (in the smokebox) and 2 carry the wires to the front headlight.  The bottom strip can be seen to have a connection via a resistor to the WHITE function wire (headlight).

The value of the resistor is 3k3 (3,300Ω) indicated more clearly on the board to the RIGHT where the colour code is ORANGE, ORANGE, BLACK, BROWN, BROWN which is 3 3 0 (1 nought) and (1 percent tolerance) ie 3300 Ohms ± 1%  This value is higher than most people use but it provides a more prototypical yellow glow in the Warm White LED.

Image© courtesy eBay

Incidentally the LED is a tiny pre-wired device where the LED size is 1mm x 0.5mm and is available in Warm White, Bright White, Red and Green & available on eBay for ridiculous prices.

Sold as: Pre-soldered micro Litz wired leads Warm White SMD LED 0402

They will fit into the smallest headlights on a loco but must be handled with care.

The pcb to the RIGHT is shown in detail below and feeds the rear headlight and the 3k3 resistor is on one strip which has been interrupted under the resistor making 2 isolated pads.

The common wire is BLUE and feeds to both small PCBs. The YELLOW wire is the function output to the rear headlight.

The speaker used is a Sugar Cube which measures 12mm x 14mm x 5.4mm thick (bare). This is one being prepared in an enclosure.The following speaker is ready to go in:More about speakers in a separate Post.
And to save you scrolling back up – the photo below is repeated and shows the sugar cube sitting in the Smokebox and under the chimney which has been drilled out so that the sound is coming from the front of the loco both top and bottom. I will go to any length to try to get the speaker OUT of the tender and into a more realistic place. You can detect the difference in a passing HO loco.

If the speaker enclosure is mounted on the chassis it is inconvenient to wire as a plug and socket arrangement would be needed. Instead, I have located the enclosure to the inside of the body shell by the simple of expedient of a blob of Blu Tack in the top of the body which “grabs” the speaker when you assemble the two parts.  [Yes, I know … there should be a plug connecting the decoder and the motor/pickups but I got lazy]

Here is another loco with homemade plugs and sockets so that the body mounted  speaker can be separated from the chassis:The 2 brown speaker wires from the decoder are connected to the speaker via a 2 pin plug. The body and chassis can then be separated. This loco is a 73 class shunter.

The next episode will cover painting into NSWGR “colours” but in the meantime, here is a preview of “Charles” making some noise! Deutschland Über alles!

DCC

The basics of DCC at “Brolgan Road”.

The backbone is a commonly used NCE system comprising a 5 Amp power supply to the left and the Power Pro DCC Command Station to the right.
The primary controllers are both wireless and consist of a Procab on the left and Cab-06 on the right.

The wireless antenna is mounted high on the wall and coverage is excellent in the small layout room.

Ground zero is near the main station Brolgan Road. A laptop slides out from beneath the layout when required. Left to right on the fascia: Brolgan Road Panel; the only NCE cab bus outlet (no others required with radio); a switch to isolate Brolgan Road DCC sub bus and the Procab. The shelf underneath houses L to R: a 12V power supply for the Canbus/ servos/ ancillaries; a grey box controlling power to the layout via DCC or DC (rarely used – just for testing); two track sections used as “Programming Tracks” – one for JMRI and the other for the Lok-programmer (shown below).

JMRI DecoderPro provides another throttle but more importantly, a means of programming the decoders in locos in a simple way and while operating on the main (line).

JMRI  stands for “Java Model Railroad Interface” – it is an open source program for model railway (railroad) hobbyists. It includes DecoderPro, Panel Pro and a Throttle. The computer above runs on the house WiFi and in my case I have a WiFi extender in the layout room as the signal from the router (modem) in the house is patchy.

Other throttles which can be used include:

  • smart phones,
  • tablets
  • iDevices

… using either “Engine Driver” app on Android or WiThrottle on Mac. Phones need to connect to the WiFi network in the layout room.


The DCC signal is fed to the rails and provides power to the loco; control of the loco(s) and other devices; and sound – if the decoder is so equipped. On the photo above the DCC main bus is “A”. There are some excellent websites explaining DCC operation and wiring and one of the best is by Marcus Amman at Main North.

The other Bus pairs shown above are:
B – 12 volts to power servos and other equipment.
C – DCC sub-Bus (because even though you can run ALL of your layout on the main DCC bus, it is bad practice when it comes to fault finding short circuits or other problems. Much better to isolate areas so that the fault can be found and operations can continue on the rest of the layout.
D – my CANBUS which is a control system which manages everything on my layout. See the post on MERG.

On the drawing board is a lot more material on DCC for future posts… Rick

CBUS & MERG

MERG (Model Electronic Railway Group) is an international, UK based group promoting interest in the application of electronics & computers to all aspects of railway modelling (quoted from their Website).

That covers one of my railway modelling interests and the annual fee of £20.00 (+£5 joining fee) is reasonable and includes a quarterly journal and access to a vast amount of information including a forum where your questions can be answered.

If you are doubtful about the quality of the group, you can download from the website a FREE book written by MERG member Davy Dick, entitled “Electronics for Model Railways”. This is a very comprehensive and informative introduction to the subject and I would highly recommend it as a worthwhile read.

MERG offer a growing list of kits, including Train-on-Track indicators, Gas Lamp Twinklers, a Computer Control system, DCC and the new CBus Layout Control System are available to members and, on occasion, ‘bargain’ components of model railway relevance. There are also basic projects & kits called Pocket Money Projects and these would appeal to starters in the hobby and those less confident in “things electronic”.

CBUS:  This is a universal layout control system developed by MERG members. The designers describe it as “a system for comprehensive layout control based on a general purpose Layout Control Bus (LCB). 
So what are the functions of a layout control system. You can divide these into two basic categories:

  1. Control of devices (outputs)
  2. Detection of ‘states’ (inputs)

Examples of (1) are changing turnouts (points), signals, power to block sections, turntables, level crossing gates, layout lighting, setting routes, controlling the speed and direction of locomotives (by DCC or analogue DC) and any other electrical or electro-mechanical devices that may be on a layout.

Examples of (2) are control panel switches, block occupancy detectors, bar code or RFID readers, turnout direction sensors, turntable position and ‘RailCom’™ track detectors.”

The choice of CAN: The CAN bus (Controller Area Network) was developed by the Robert Bosch company in the 1980s for use in motor vehicles but has since been applied to many other types of machinery including aircraft and medical scanners to name just two”.
Davy Dick, in “Electronics for Model Railways” describes it like this: “Imagine building a new layout consisting of four boards. With CBUS all you need do is run
four wires the length of the layout – two for power and two for the control system. No matter how many switches, button, lights, points, track occupancy detectors, accessories, etc. you now add to the layout, you still only need those four wires. The accessoryconnections between boards are always just these four wires – not the scores of wires associated with conventional wiring.”

But what does it look like on my layout, Brolgan Road?

In order to find out I built a small test panel to check things out as shown below. In simple terms the process runs from RIGHT to LEFT

  • starting with the module called CANUSB4. It connects to a computer off to the right by means of a USB cable and to the CANBUS twisted pair (red/white)
  • then comes the board labelled CANACE3 (to the designers, these acronyms made sense, but they puzzled me!) which is a switch interface that can handle 128 toggle
    switches or 64 pairs of push buttons. The module talks to the CANBUS and tells other things, in this case specific Servos to do something eg. operate points.
  • the module at the left labelled CANSERVO8 (I can understand this one – it controls 8 servos!) listens on the CANBUS and when it gets a message relevant to the points it controls – it talks to the particular servo concerned, and alters its state (normal or reverse). The servos do the business.

It’s interesting to note that the previously mentioned 4 wires seems true here (2 for CANBUS and 2 for 12DC to power modules, servos, lighting etc). But what about the DCC bus? That’s another 2 and it’s very prudent to divide the layout into SUB buses for DCC.
For example, Brolgan Road has 4 sub buses – loco, yard, carriage works, main station area and a number of isolating areas controlled by microswitches to isolate the areas either side of the lifting entry flap. Then, of course the servos have to be connected to the CANSERVO by cables and so it goes on!
BUT – if you are methodical and use colour coding and write a master list, then wire neatly and use labels, all will be well.

The video above shows a test rig built on a board being used to move a servo, in this case to find its centre position. The test rig consists of two Pocket Money Projects (PMP). The one on the left is a “Servo Controller/Tester” and all it does is respond to the position of the control knob (operating a variable resistor). It allows me to make sure the servo arm is fitted in the correct position – giving equal movement each way.

The PMP on the right is called “Ezy Points” and you will see it working in the video below. It is connected to a turnout test bed so that I can test the movement of the point blades. The 3 BLUE objects on the circuit board are variable resistors (aka potentiometers aka “pots”) which adjust 3 things manually with a screwdriver: speed; movement Left; movement Right, so that you can make the poin blades “kiss” the stock rail.

These PMP projects are fully described in the free book “Electronics for Model Railways”

An earlier test rig (below) better shows the “pots” (blue) and the standard RC (radio control) cable – yellow, orange, brown. You can get these in various lengths from hobby shops dealing in RC aircraft. Or, you can buy them on eBay very cheaply. You can plug them together for longer runs.
If you had a tiny shelf layout with a couple of points, you could use a few “Ezy Points” to control them. OR – you could use the servo to activate any other moving thingy eg. a gate, a signal etc. anywhere on your layout. Of course then you haven’t got remote control of all aspects like you have with CANBUS (or DCC).

The servo cable would normally come out the bottom of the layout.
Here is a close-up of the CANACE3 printed circuit board (PCB). You can buy the complete kit from MERG or just the PCB as I do and source the parts locally.
The soldering is not difficult but it requires practice. I will try to develop a VIDEO showing the process.
This is a close-up of the CANSERVO8 and this is a beautifully designed PCB of a more modern style. This board can control 8 servos and 2 are plugged in at the top. The long device in the centre with lots of legs is an IC and it can be purchased pre-programmed. It has all the “smart stuff” that responds to signals on the CANBUS and then bosses the servos around!

Controlling Mains Power on a Layout

This is a simple topic and one which may be of no value if you have a tiny layout.

In my case, with a layout running around the walls, I had 3 mains power outlets all of which would be difficult to access when the layout construction was under way and completed.

This Remote Controller is one of a number that are available which allow you to switch varying number of outlets. This one does the job for me.
Check on-line for pricing (look up: remote control power outlet)

The switched outlet plugs into the wall socket as above. I can turn ON ALL with one switch or select which one I want.
It is also useful for me to divide the layout power into three sections which eases the load when powering up. Others have more than 3 controlled outlets.

Modifying Peco Points for DCC

A Peco Electrofrog point modified for DCC is shown below. I have added the microswitch to the right which changes the polarity of the frog as the point changes. The microswitches were about 50c – $1 on eBay and are activated by the push rod controlled either by:
mechanical point levers
or by servos.
On this page “Point” = “Turnout”  / “Switch”       “Sleeper” = “Tie”The microswitches need to be small – these are 20mm x 10mm x 6mm thick (body size)

These were the microswitches I used but …
… the longer arms on these may have been better (can be trimmed)

The first step is to attach the microswitch in exactly the right spot as shown below.

The critical bits are:

  • I always fit the microswitch such that the electrical switch contacts are towards the “Right” rail which is always a RED wire on my layout. The centre connection  on the switch goes to the Right rail – clarified further down in the YELLOW BOX
  • the hole in the throw bar must be able to operate the lever on the microswitch (and NOT miss it!)
  • the switch needs to be positioned so that the throw bar will operate the switch (hear it “click”) when the points are thrown.
  • the switch is attached using contact cement (in my case Quick Grip). First work out which surfaces of the point and the microswitch will fit together – they need to be scraped or filed smooth for a good bond. I scrape the underside of the point with a blade and file the bottom side of the microswitch to level it (actually, I hold the microswitch and rub it back and forth on a file).

make sure you don’t get glue into the moving parts and hold it with a clamp as in the photo below.

There won’t be any wires on your switch at this stage.

The two bridging wires here need to be prised out. Check the instructions with new points or on their website.

The easiest way to lever the two short wires is with a small screwdriver.

Then put a small amount of flux on the 4 rails shown. Use something like Carr’s Red Label or DCC Concepts Flux – a non-corrosive type.

The 4 rails have had a spot of solder to “tin” the rails and on the left a piece of tinned copper wire has been soldered in place. You can buy that from electronics suppliers like Jaycar.

The rails on the left are bridged and trimmed; the wires in the middle removed; and attention moves to the frog connection on the right.

The wire provided needs to be extended to reach back to the microswitch. Use similar size tinned copper wire. Here the extra wire has been twisted around the original and will be soldered together first then run down the length of the point.

This diagram explains what is happening electrically. In my method, the switch becomes part of the point to feed the correct polarity from the Common connector on the microswitch to the frog – as shown above by the GREEN connection 3.
On my layout, an additional (Light Blue) wire from the Common connection on the microswitch is taken below the layout to be used to indicate which route is set on the panel. This means my panel LEDS show which track has power.

The extra tinned copper wire has been soldered to the point wire and is run in the least conspicuous path. I gently melt the wire into the underside of the sleeper with the soldering iron to hold it in place.

The wire from the frog terminates at the Common connection on the switch – may be labelled       “C” or “1”

The wire from the frog terminates at the Common connection on the switch – may be labelled           “C” or “1”

This rail area indicated has been tinned ready for connection …

…and this one ready for the other side.

As the run is only a few mm, bare tinned copper wire is fine.

Another view.

These wires run through the foam benchwork and connect to DCC (red & green) and the 3rd light blue wire provides a common connection (from the frog) to allow an indicator to show which way the points are set.

The LH connection is the common pole in the SPDT switch (SPDT= Single Pole Double Throw)
The middle contact connects to the red (Right rail DCC wire) and the RH contact connects to the green  Left rail .

This template locates the cut-out needed to accept the microswitch under the point.
The red lines are used to align it to the rails as the switch is off centre. In this case the point was being operated by Wire-In-Tube via the trench shown.

Having marked out the position of the recess for the microswitch, cut the underlay and foam with a sharp knife.

Routing the hole to a depth of 10-12mm with a Dremel (and vacuum cleaner).

Dremel Cutter
Ready for a test fit.

The final steps which can be done after the point is installed:

  • remove the over-centre spring IF you are using servos to control the point – this can be done from the top.
    My points are operated using servo control technology designed by the MERG UK group and built by the user. The points operate at a slow speed and can be set up using a computer interface to smoothly touch the stock rail. See MERG site.
  • leave the spring in place if you are manually switching the point.
  • notice that the sleepers near the mechanism have been thinned down from their over-scale size.
  • if servos are used, the throw bar ends can be cut off.
  • weathering will improve the realism of the installed point.

Making Simple PCBs

Printed Circuit Boards (PCBs) are possibly a step too far for many railway enthusiasts. However the material lends itself to many simple possibilities.
What is PCB? There are two main types:

  • a board based on glass reinforced resin and coated with a thin layer of copper which is a good conductor and easily soldered. Some PCBs are double sided, ie. coated with copper on both sides. For our purposes, both could be used but there is not much advantage in double sided boards for these simple projects.
  • an earlier type which is based on a phenolic material, dark brown in colour and somewhat brittle. Otherwise similar to the above

The PCB we want to use is BLANK PCB which can obtained from on-line
or retailers like Jaycar® or Altronics® in Australia.

The 3 PCBs above are all based on glass fibre PCBs. The one in the middle is the focus of this article. It is a Power Supply.
The other 2 boards are produced by the MERG (Model Electronic Railway Group in the UK). Members can buy these boards either as a kit (with all parts) or just the PCB for the owner to purchase the parts and assemble. The latter is what I have done in these 2 boards.
In these complex PCBs, a series of “components” are connected by conductive “tracks”. The components are soldered to the PCB through holes in the board.
In simple terms, the one on the left operates up to 8 servos which can be controlled by the one on the right. The latter handles input from switches.

The rest of this post will focus on how to make simple PCBs even more basic than the one outlined above.

Rather than a Terminal Strip with screws:
The PCB on the right is about as simple as you can get (& cheap!)
It is divided into 2 discrete parts by making a saw cut through the copper cladding. Each half is a separate part of the circuit. One for the RIGHT rail of the DCC supply and the other for the LEFT rail.
A couple of screws hold it to wood in this case. It could have been glued (epoxy) to the wood or to the underside of a foam layout with contact cement. 2 screw holes are needed.
The copper is cleaned with fine wet & dry or a fibreglass brush. For ease of soldering under the layout, I made 10 small starter “blobs” of solder.

The pic above also appeared in the Track Feeder Post
Whilst this one looks slightly chaotic, it shows a couple of other aspects:

  • the PCB has been glued to the base of the foam with contact cement.
  • the piece of PCB is super simple – the copper has been split into 2 sections by using a modellers razor saw (see below)
  • colour coding is obvious and important
  • the 2 CBUS wires (red & white) to the far right have been held in place using a low temperature glue gun.
  • the purpose of the exercise was to feed DCC power to 4 adjacent tracks on the turntable.
    To do a simple divide on the surface of copper clad PCB you can use a home made (left) or purchased mitre box (right).
    Just make sure that both segments are electrically isolated using a test lead or a multimeter on the Ohms range.
    To make the PCB on the right, cutting with a saw, as described above, will not work.
    A cutter such as a dental burr or a “Dremel” engraving cutter such as this one is needed in a rotary tool or drill press.
    This one is a #111 engraving cutter but I think #105 or one of the
    others as shown on the Dremel Site should work.

     This is the finished product PCB.
    It converts 12V DC to 5V DC which is required in some circuits.
    The construction technique is UNUSUAL but SIMPLE to use for basic circuits. In effect a bit like modern boards which are made using SMDs (Surface Mount Devices) except that the latter are TINY, almost microscopic.

    This is the circuit diagram for the project described above including the “pinouts” of the 3 leg 7805 voltage regulator IC. Feed it with 7-35V DC and it will deliver 5V DC. The function of this board was to provide 5V to power the servos controlling my points.
How to Cut the Grooves:

The “pads” of copper will form discrete parts, or “pads”, of the circuit for this 12V to 5V converter.
Below I am using a small bench drill (or a rotary cutter like a Dremel) with a guide clamped to the left. To set the depth of the cutter, the simplest way is to adjust the cutter so that it just touches the surface of the copper, then slide the PCB away and place a piece of paper under the board which will raise it enough to route a groove. You will need to experiment with the thickness of paper but a thin piece is all that is required.

A slightly more crude approach, but one that will work, is to mark out the pattern with a pen and freehand cut the grooves. The electricity won’t mind if the edges are a bit ragged! But check that each area is not shorting to a neighbour with a meter or test lamp.
Treat the cutting tool carefully with respect to SAFETY . Wear safety glasses. If cleaning up with a fibreglass tool, vacuum up any loose material – it has an attraction to entering your skin!

The NEXT STEP of installing the components involves SOLDERING so see the Soldering Post to reproduce something like the little power supply above.

At present I will continue this post to show how to use super simple pieces of PCB as an aid to wiring layouts and panels.

The example above is the rear face of a control panel (see the Post on Control Panels). Several pieces of PCB have been attached to the back of the acrylic panel material. The long strips distribute a connection to the DCC bus. This is used to operate the LEDS, shown later, which reflect the setting of the points switches and the solenoid position. The smaller squares terminate the connections from the LEDs via 1k resistors.
The PCB here brings in the connections from the module that controls the point switches shown in the first photo. The connecting cable is called “rainbow cable” and sells from suppliers like Jaycar in 16 wire ribbons. Other suppliers have even wider cables but they all repeat in batches of 10. This cable makes figuring out which wires go where, much easier.
Strain relief on the cable is provided by clamping an additional piece of 2mm plywood. The mounting ply and the PCB are epoxied to the recycled picture frame housing the panel.
The panel shown above is now complete and ready for testing. At the back, the LH PCB connects switches to the panel. This board was made using techniques shown above.
The right hand board is a piece of commercial strip-board sometimes known as Veroboard. This board is bringing in connections to the frog from 8 points. This signal is used to set indicator LEDs showing which track is “set”.

This gives some idea of what the panel does – the LEDs indicate which road is set. The switches also indicate the road but the LED is easier to see and actually indicates that the road has power. The switch on the right is replicated on the next panel and can be controlled from either panel.