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 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:
… 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
I have fitted many brass numbers to HO steam locos, but it was so long ago I had to remind myself how to do it.
Frets of brass and nickel silver loco numbers are available at hobby stores like Casula Hobbies. The latter have sets like “AM-1 HO Numbers Brass Etch Sheet” & “AMO-4 HO Contractors Locos”
This is one way to do it – on a DJH white metal kit of loco 3214
I find it easier to apply brass numbers than decals.
Another method I have used in the past is to use a strip of clear sticky tape after severely “de-sticking” it by repeatedly attaching it to a clean smooth surface then peeling it off. The tape needs to be super low stick so that you don’t peel off paint at the end of the process or that the numbers are pulled off when the tape is removed.The numbers can then be lightly attached to the reverse of the tape by the blue tack method or by picking them up with a super sharp scalpel point. The advantage is that the whole number set is done in one hit and the numbers can be adjusted and moved around before gluing. The disadvantage is that you are setting out the numbers back to front.Coat the back of the stuck-on numbers with dilute PVA or Canopy Glue and apply the strip with care. Once positioning is OK leave the PVA to dry for a day or so.
It is also possible to lay all the numbers out on a clean surface using specs of blu tack , then pick the lot up in one go with the tape.
This section covers the construction and installation of mechanical lever frames which are not prototypical in appearance but do move in a manner not dissimilar to the prototype. Also covered is the associated “Wire in Tube” (WIT) operation and installation. The photo below shows some lever frames in position near the proposed Carriage Works in the early stages of my layout. Four of these control single points and two control facing points (crossovers).
In this post:- “Point” = “Turnout” “Sleeper” = “Tie”The lever frames are two assemblies – the frame mechanism itself and the housing.
For this crossover (above and below) near the front fascia of the layout, there was no room to fit a WIT the normal way. The frame directly controls the rearmost point by the bottom wire on the frame and this wire runs directly under the plywood mounting for the bellcrank (white above) and come up through the throwbar as can be seen below.
There is a very short piece of tube to hold the wire in place near the point. I glue these in with PVA.
In order to throw the second point in the crossover, the top wire from the frame operates a bellcrank which changes the direction of the pull (so that it is parallel with the fascia) and operates a second bellcrank for the front point.
The photo below shows the setup for the other point. I had to drill a hole right through the fascia to get the short piece of WIT to the throwbar. Again, the bellcrank is mounted to a thin plywood plate which will sit above the throwbar wire. You can buy these bellcranks from Model Aircraft shops.
The normal method of installing facing points with WIT is shown below. In this example originally there was only a single point and the trench for the WIT is still visible to the left. In changing it to facing points the frame was relocated; swapped to a double wire type; and new trenches laid for the WIT.
In some ways I preferred the manual point operation as it is more appropriate for my 1960s layout where the train crew or shunters did much of the groundwork. However the change to servo control does allow simpler use of area conrol panels and some likeness to a signal box diagram.
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:
Control of devices (outputs)
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).
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.
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)
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.
These wires run through the foam benchwork and connect to DCC (red & green) and the 3rdlight 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).
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.
Flextrack needs to be connected by “rail joiners”. I prefer to call them “aligners” as they really can’t be relied on to JOIN or at least electrically connect two pieces of track. They do a good job of keeping the ends of the track in-line.
But don’t rely on them for electrical connections!
The photo above shows from the top:
a standard Peco “joiner” for Code 75 flex track (which is what I use on my layout).
a shortened joiner which aligns the track, but is SHORT enough to be moved along the rail if track adjustment or point removal is needed (trust me , it will be!)
I have had cause to remove points which were glued to the road bed with latex carpet cement. Brushing some water around the sleepers freed the point after 10 or 15 minutes and then slide the joiners sideways to lift the point out.
a small tool consisting of 2 offcuts of rail soldered together so that the smaller joiners can be held on the LH end to trim the ends neatly. The tool is also useful to ensure that the ends of the shortened joiner will easily slide on the rails.
SHORTENED JOINERS: to make these:
cut the Peco joiner in half with a motor tool (get 2 for the price of 1!) to do this I hold the joiner in one end of the jig which is held in a vice.
file the ends square – to do this hold it with the shorter end of the little jig in the top photo.
scrub the end of the joiner with a wire brush to clean out the end.
Never static, always something to be added as can be seen below. This configuration is temporary until the layout nears completion when the bench part will be divided into 2 sections, both of which will wheel under the layout for storage until needed(that prediction proved to be incorrect). Storage drawers will then reside on existing shelves under the layout. Note the suitcase vacuum cleaner under the bench – perfect for servicing the table saw above.
What prompted me to recently implement the storage of the work area below the benchwork was that the central work area, whilst convenient in the early construction stage, became a TOWERING MONOLITH in the room. It was becoming impossible to get around it to operate the layout.
Now it looks like this:But, the storage parts and tool drawers don’t work under the layout! Too much bending and kneeling required. The “sawnoff” work desk is OK and the horrible coloured green drawers hold items conveniently when the desk is rolled out but I can’t find other stuff. My plan is to build a “Dalek” (for want of a better description) which will roll out from under the bench to the left of the desk. It will hold all of my parts storage drawer sets and other tools on a lazy susan style. More in a future post.
The photographs below might provide you with some ideas to improve your work area:
Sometimes little things are important – the oft used 150mm s/steel rule hangs from a round head screw but has a litle rubber foot fitted to keep the rule clear of the surface so that you can easily lift it off.
The yellow key shaped object is a special stripper to cut through the outer insulation of multi-core cable.
The grubby blob of “Blue Tack” is used to hold things in place on the workbench while soldering, photographing etc.
I have never been happy with the fumes from lead based soldering wafting into my face. A properly fitted extractor hood would be ideal but I cannot justify the cost or space for hobby use. I know I probably should use lead free solder but I have never been happy with the finished joint in that either.
The simple device described below at least blows the fumes across the work area for dispersal, instead of up into my nose.I have recycled a computer cooling fan (12v 300mA) wired to a fan speed control which was also recycled. I notice that you can buy the simple controller on eBay at $3.40 AU from China. It is adjustable to give enough airflow to move the fumes. without being too draughty.My unit plugs into a 12v outlet on my workbench – also available for testing various MERG & other projects. TOOL Racking and Storage will be the subject of another post.