I’ve just posted Ozone #3
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Recently I wrote here about building some signal kits and also about hearing of the release of Dapol’s 7mm (1:43.5) ready-to-plant signals. The signal I’ll be talking about here is the GWR wooden post semaphore (item #7L-001-00) which was provided to me by ModelOKits for evaluation. I’ll write a full review of this and the LMS tubular post signal in an upcoming issue of 7th Heaven, the Aus7 Modellers Group newsletter. However the signals are in stock at ModelOKits and while the square post GWR signals aren’t exact replicas of NSWR semaphores, they certainly have a McKenzie and Holland “family” look.
Like a lot of modellers I’m a member of a couple of online groups and forums and recently on one of these, a question was posed asking how a Dapol signal could have it’s indication mimicked on a control panel with LEDs. There’s not a lot I normally contribute to this particular group, however I had a Dapol signal in my cupboard that I was planning to evaluate and I had a plan for how I was going to achieve the mimicking on a control panel so I thought I’d take the plunge and put my two cents worth in.
I plan to have my signals switched from a central control panel by a signaler and as such I need this board to be able to display what aspect the signals are showing in locations not in the direct line of sight of the person sitting at the panel. I had a plan for how I was going to achieve this through swapping out the single pole switch provided with Dapol signals for a double pole variety and then switching between red and green LEDs (or possibly a single bi polar LED) on the panel using the extra set of contacts provided by this type of switch. Simple, cheap, effective and, I thought, worth sharing. However I was told in a couple of replies that my suggestion wouldn’t work.
Outside of the possibility that the signals from Dapol in the OO and N are made to actuate in a manner that is different from the way the O-scale ones are, I couldn’t see why what I had proposed wouldn’t work and, in fact, I knew bloody well that it would! 🙂 So today I set out to prove to myself that this could be done, mostly because I plan to eventually populate my layout with about 14 or 15 of these signals and they will all need to have this mimic feature. Before I got too much further down the track I thought I’d better test what I was proposing to do on Morpeth.
I built myself a small box from 12mm plywood to mount the signal to run my test. My roadbed is 12mm ply so this was a suitable material to use. The signal is provided with a plastic nut that tightens a threaded mount on the underside of the signal (the part on the signal that has the yellow line running up it in the photo) which is 15mm in diameter. I drilled a 15mm hole in the ply top of my little box and mounted the signal through this, making sure not to over tighten the nut as it looks like it would easily crack if tightened too far. I plugged in the motor box and the plug leading from the switch provided and tested that the signal worked as advertised. Everything worked beautifully: the red and green aspects were nice and bright and would be very clear under normal layout room lighting. The semaphore worked crisply and even had a slight bounce as per the prototype.
So now I’d tested that the signal worked as produced by Dapol, I made my modifications to test that I could mimic the signal aspect via some “remote” LEDs.
After I’d attached the wires to the new switch I mounted two 5mm LEDs (one red and one green) into the front panel of my little box. I’d used 3mm MDF on the front of the box to allow for the mounting of the switch and the LEDs. I hooked up the power supply that I’d used to power the signal to the LEDs by running the positive to a common connection between the LEDs and the negative to the middle pole of the switch. I ran the two leads from the other poles of the LEDs to each side of the switch inserting a 1k resistor in these lines. I then tested this set up and it worked as I’d hoped it would.
On my first try I got my positives and negatives mixed up running to the LEDs but after swapping the wires I’d soldered to the poles of the switch over the red and green aspects on my 5mm LEDs lit to mimic what was showing on the signal.
After the test proved positive I let out a sigh of relief. I’d had a bit of a vision of how I was going to achieve the mimic feature of the signals on my layout and I also felt that the way I was going to do this would be cheap and simple. I didn’t want to introduce new, extra components to the mix if I didn’t need to. Someone on the forum I referred to earlier had suggested using a flip/flop to achieve the same result. If I knew what I flip flow was this may be possible but as my method works I’ll leave working out what these are for another day 🙂
As I spent time bashing my head against the underside of the bench work of Queens Wharf this week, as I wired in some turnouts I’d removed a while back, an idea occurred to me. Perhaps the idea got in there from banging my head but it’s not a theory I’m keen to test! 🙂 I’d been doing some rethinking about what I wanted to do with the space I’d created for the short NG line I wrote about a few months ago. The problem was that I just couldn’t get what I wanted to fit either in a practical, track layout sense or in an operational sense. The benchwork for the NG extension had sat untouched and unchanged for several months as I’d gone about making models and planning for the next round building and track laying to the broader layout. So I took the decision to remove the NG from the plan. It will reappear at some point down the track but not as a part of the layout.
However while my plans for NG track laying had stalled I’d left the benchwork for it in place and started to think about whether to remove this or see if I could incorporate it into the SG network as an industry siding or modest industrial complex. This benchwork forms a narrow peninsula that run down the middle of one of the operating “wells” either side of Morpeth and the storage yards/coal branch.
The minimum radius on Morpeth is 1.2m on the branches and 1.5 on the main. The most logical place to branch off from the main onto this orphaned benchwork would be from the yard you can see on the left in the above photo however, there simply isn’t the space to get even a 1.2m (4′) radius curve to bend around and emerge in the approximate centre of the benchwork. I could lay track on this peninsula and leave it unattached from the rest of the layout but this would defeat the purpose of doing any work on it so I was considering tearing it down and setting the segments up in my work room where I’d install some NG track. It was at this point that the thought struck me that if I could somehow lay track from the other direction (coming in from the far right in this photo) then this would allow a connection to the rest of the layout and add extra operational possibilities. The only problem with this solution was that the coal branch rises over the exit from storage at this point, thus precluding any opportunity to raise this track over the main, and the main itself sits at about 45 degrees to the track extension that would be needed, so any thoughts of just installing a new left hand turnout into the main and running some track down to the benchwork was also blocked.
What to do?
What did the prototype do when two separate lines needed to cross but a bridge or cutting wasn’t practical or cost effective? A diamond crossing of course! But hang on, this would be two curved lines (one is 1450mm radius and the other 1500mm radius) crossing at about 40 degrees to the other. I’ve never built a diamond crossing and, in spite of being involved in this hobby for over 40 years, have never used such a crossing on any layout I’ve ever been involved with so have no idea of how they operate. Did Iet any of that stop me? No way! 🙂
I did what I usually do in these circumstances and consulted my wiring bible – Easy Model Railroad Wiring by Andy Sperandeo – to find out how to isolate and set diamond crossings up electrically to see how this would impact the construction.
It might be legitimately asked that, as I’m not familiar with the diamond crossing as a species of track,wouldn’t I be more concerned about how to make the thing rather than how to wire it up? This is a legitimate question, however I had little doubt that I could in fact construct the crossing and get trains to run through it. What I didn’t know much about was how I was going to wire the thing up when it would be sitting on one leg of a triangle that is protected by an automatic DCC polarity switch which itself has to operate in harmony with short circuit protector for that zone of the layout. I suspect that this might be cause for conflicts but damn the torpedoes I say: full steam ahead! Andy had no advice to offer on this topic but he did show how to build the crossing to allow no short circuits. All I needed to do was build the crossing. Wiring it so that it worked could be confronted later.
I’ve been using a UK program called Templot for a couple of years now and generally find it extremely useful. It allows you to design just about any type of trackwork your heart desires, expect for a diamond crossing with curved legs of the angle I needed! Evidently, according to a little pop up box that would appear when I clicked the appropriate button to “Make Crossing”, the prototype didn’t use crossings of this angle so therefore I wasn’t having one either! 😦 &^%!@# the prototype! I did what I usually do when I computer tells me I’m not allowed: I went old school. I printed out the bits I could and cut and pasted them together on my dining room table which provided me with a perfectly serviceable paper template to allow me to lay out the sleepers accurately. Cutting up the track and pinning it to the sugar pine sleepers I get from Gwydir Valley Models was a relatively simple task, after checking Mr Sperandeo’s book to ensure I had electrical gaps where I needed them.
All I need to do now is install some new track bed and a new left hand turnout into the mainline to allow access to the crossing. Wiring it up may turn out to be a bit of a challenge but that all remains to be seen in about a week’s time.
After the Borderline Operators last visit I was left with a list of approximately 10 problems on Morpeth that needed to be addressed. I did make a start on these but weathering some locomotives, DCC decoder installations and signal building got some attention for a couple of months so I only got back to the list a couple of days ago. One of larger goals that’s been sitting at the back of my mind out of the operating sessions I’ve hosted over the past 12 months or so is that I want to install some form of signalling/safe working system sooner rather than later. Over many years of reading about and talking to other modellers about the topic of signals it seems to me that more often than not these are an after thought, something that they’ll eventually get around to when they run out of other jobs to complete. For me this is actually the reverse of how I’ve gone about planning and working on this layout. First and foremost I want to operate on this layout and track, rolling stock and a method of safe working are the critical components to this. I’ve built plenty of layouts and installed quite a bit of scenery however to cover the whole of the Morpeth line with scenery will probably be the work of the next 20 years or so and, if I’m realistic, may never be entirely complete. However I want to operate the layout and have friends over to run trains now, so signals and some type of CTC panel that will mimic a signal box’s role are front of mind.
There were a couple of reasons why I found myself building three NSWGR semaphore 1:43.5 signal kits recently. One was that a friend had asked me to finish building two kits that he’d made a start on himself while the other was that I wanted to do some build testing to see whether I could envision myself building multiple copies of these and similar kits and then installing these on the layout. Before we get too much further into this perhaps I should fess up and admit that I have only a passing interest in signals and very little knowledge of how they work in relation to safe working procedures. Every time I’ve tried to do a bit of research or attend a talk by people who know something about the topic it very quickly becomes eye glazingly confusing and boring. What I eventually install as a safe working system on Morpeth will work it will probably drive anyone who knows a lot about safe working absolutely bonkers! 🙂
I have to admit that the experience of building three of the kits did not lead me to conclude I’d be happy to undertake the construction of something like 17 or 18 of them. This is the number that Ray Pilgrim (who knows a tad about signals) advised me I’d probably need to properly signal Morpeth. 18!!?? 🙂 The kits from KRM are very buildable and make up into a very accurate, working semaphore but 18 of them!!?? It ain’t happening! So when Glenn Scott from ModelOKits recently told me about a Dapol, McKenzie and Holland, 7mm scale, GWR signal that operates, has a light and comes supplied with a servo built for the model and is even supplied with a switch, I was very interested. He sent me a sample to look at and review in an upcoming edition of 7th Heaven. While I may not have a great deal of specific knowledge of signals and safe working I have eyes and can compare a ready to plant signal to one I’ve just built from a kit and I’m buggered if there’s all that much difference. Add to this the fact that it comes ready to install and that it’s only about $25 more than the un-built kit (which will need to be motorized in some way further adding to the overall cost of getting an operating signal) for me it’s a no brainer.
What I’ve been up to over the Easter long weekend is to get back to that list of problems that emerged on the layout from the most recent operating session. I had removed the track at the end of QW yard to tweak the turnouts there and these now needed to be reinstalled. So now it was time to work on the control panels, finish their installation so that they all worked as intended and to do a lot of small to medium wiring jobs that had been left till a more convenient time. The first and possibly most significant of these jobs was the permanent re-siting of the Morpeth yard control panel. I’d made this panel in the lead up to taking the layout to the New England Convention at the end of 2018. It worked ok at the convention but occasionally the panel would refuse to work and when I got the layout home and installed it back in place the problem only grew more common, to the point where the switches on this panel would only operate my point motors something like one in ten times after the layout was powered up. I went through a whole series of different trials and tests, installed a grounded cable between my boosters and still the problem persisted. However there was one thing I hadn’t tried and that was to move the NCE Button Board (which I use to route power via buttons or switches to my Tortoise point motors to the NCE Switch8s) much closer to the Switch8 stationary decoder.
The big test was, after the changes had been made, to turn the layout on and see if the Tortoises would operate when the switches were flicked and the difference was immediately apparent. Prior to this change I’d turn the layout on and 9 times out of 10 there would be no response from the point motors when you flicked a switch on the panel. Nothing. Nada. The first time I turned the layout on this time the motors operated as they should and made that wonderfully distinctive sound all Tortoises make. Success! However I did turn the layout on a couple of times and the old problem came back. I tracked this down to a sequencing issue; if I turn the power to the command station on after the booster sometimes the panel refuses to operate. So this is far from a simple matter where my dodgy installation was the problem. Turns out my dodgy installation was the problem but perhaps only 95% of it. In spite of this light sprinkle of rain on my parade I seems to have largely solved the mystery of the dead control panel and she now sits in place permanently hard wired into the layout.
Over the past couple of weeks I’ve spent some time in the house, along with 50% of the rest of the world’s population, doing some modelling. I completed the semaphore signals I’d been working on and moved onto making a brake van (caboose) to allow myself the feeling that I can occasionally work on a model of my own choosing, as opposed to working on models belonging to friends. I currently only have one van to use in service during operating sessions and as we plan to run more than one goods train per ops session a second brake van was a logical choice for the next build. It’s been an enjoyable break from pulling up and modifying the work I’ve done on the layout and working on a series of DCC installations and building the signals.
The brake van is almost ready for paint so it was time to start getting serious about the work I plan to do on the layout as a part of my isolation regime over the next weeks, months or for however long our politicians decide they much prefer us all inside not out causing trouble on the streets. Things are so much quieter when everyone is stuck inside and I bet the crime, road death and air quality stats are way down. It reminds me of that hospital in Yes Minister that had only one patient and got an award for the most efficient hospital in the country 🙂
Layout work can be translated into fixing issues that arose in the good old days when I could invite friends over to run trains and that to-do list is still quite long. However I’ve been planning some major adjustments to the track arrangements at Raworth, alongside the installation of the electrical cables, signals and the final move of the 60′ turntable and before all this can happen I need to take some measurements and nut out whether my grand schemes are actually going to fit. I’m happy to report that they do!
The main issue I want to address in the re-work of the Raworth yard is that I need to bite the bullet and install a goods loop taking it from a main line and a single passing loop. In the early planning stages for the layout this seemed like an adequate arrangement but as soon as I watched people running trains on the layout I realized that a through station needed a goods loop to make it workable. By “workable” I mean a train crew being able to shunt the yard at the same time as a train runs through on the main without work in the yard coming to a shuddering halt. Raworth lacked any provision for sidings for such basic facilities as a goods shed, stock race or a crane and with the turntable located in the yard, making room for these was near impossible. So I wasn’t trying to install some huge industry siding, just some basic yard infrastructure and places to place wagons.
As is always the case space is limited and I tend to work on the assumption that if I can cram in an extra siding then all the better, but as one end of Raworth’s yard is inside a storage cupboard, and this was further hemmed in by the turntable, and at the other end of the yard I’d been planning to run a NG line I was really narrowing my options. The first thing to go was the NG line. It didn’t work in a planning or operational sense, making the aisle space too cramped and the operation was always going to be a neglected half sibling, so NG will just have to take a back seat for a time while I do some thinking. The turntable that hemmed in the line is being shifted to the end of the coal branch in this re-arrangement so after these changes were settled on in my mind I had a semi-clean slate to work on. But I still wanted to draw up a plan and I still wanted to see if I couldn’t fit in a bigger industry such as a dairy or a mill to justify more intensive loadings coming and going from Raworth. Then a thought struck me: why not extend a line into the cupboard and build a mill or dairy (or both) in there? There’s plenty of shelf space in there and the line runs through it on the end of one of the shelves already so adding a turnout or two and reserving one shelf for a layout extension wasn’t a difficult decision to make. As long as I could get a 1.2m curve into the confined space??
I’ve put a lot of thought into what changes I was going to make to Raworth and I was really determined to finalize these on my plan before I started pulling track up and making new track and turnouts. I’d hankered for a space for a larger industry in Raworth for a long time and not being able to get it to fit at the other end of the yard was what led me to try cramming in the NG line. Well if you just open your eyes you sometimes find a solution in the most unlikely places.
This change should allow a crew to potter about shunting Raworth yard and associated sidings with a minimum of disruption when a through train appears around the bend. I want my crews to have challenges but I’d also like them to be able to work their trains and shunt the industries at the same time as trains are passing through the yards.
On a separate matter I was interested to hear about the temporary closure of Peco and Dapol in the UK and KD in the US, and I’m sure the same is happening to many other large and small railway hobby businesses due to the pandemic. I’m pretty sure it won’t be long before a lot of the supplies and materials we rely on to carry on our hobby will be in pretty short supply and images of people fighting over toilet rolls came to mind. How long will it be before we see similar scenes in our hobby shops?
This will be my one and only deviation from my normal train related posts. Stay safe everyone and do some modelling.
I’ve had little to post about recently so have refrained from taking up precious bandwidth blathering about not much at all. However this I morning applied the final touches to a couple of Kerian Ryan Models semaphore signals which means I do finally have something worth writing about.
These brass and nickle silver kits come as a set of etches with a few small detail parts that appear to be cast in white metal. I was handed a couple by a friend quite a while ago who asked me to complete them for him. He’d already made a start on them but it took me quite a while to get around to working on them. The reason for this delay is that I tend to work on the models I need for the layout and signals tend to be well down the list of “needed” models. However since operations started on Morpeth I’ve decided to signal Queens Wharf as a test to see if I can institute a way of controlling train movements on the rest of the layout. I’m not sure I’ll be able to signal the entire layout in a prototypical fashion as the cost and time this would take would be prohibitive.
I sat with Ray Pilgrim who writes the Bylong blog and has a company called Signals Branch at a Forum not too long back and he counted the number of signals I’d need. He reached 17 signals and that didn’t include everything such as ground signals and signalling the entry to storage. I staggered away clutching my chest 🙂 I purchased one of his bracket signals online and this came in at well over $180 delivered and that was well before the Aussie dollar crashed through the floor this past fortnight. Signalling the whole layout might have to wait a little while but I’m going to run a few tests with the signals I have in hand, including the one I’ve been building along side the ones handed to me by my friend. More on that later but be warned: modellers who enjoy and know a great deal about signals and signalling will not like what I have planned. My suggestion would be turn away if you fall into this category and see any upcoming posts that have the word “signal” in the title. I will not care that what I’m doing isn’t exactly to prototype so don’t bother telling me so. You have been warned 🙂
The construction of the signals was relatively straightforward but I would not recommend this kit to anyone who isn’t experienced with a soldering iron. The kit is highly detailed, in fact I feel it’s over detailed. Working with such small detail parts might make you eel good but it can also be a one way trip to insanity and sore knees as you crawl around under the workbench trying to find something you’ve dropped. And we all drop things, don’t pretend otherwise! 🙂
I was making two of the signals operational and one that would be restricted to a static display model and I’ll be honest and say I departed quite significantly from the instructions. I cannot see the point of applying detail that no one will see, which isn’t robust (in my opinion) enough to stand up to the rigors of surviving on an operational layout or will be lost under a layer of solder, glue or paint or a combination of all three. I’m an experienced modeller with a lot of soldering, gluing and painting experience under my belt and I consider myself quite neat. In spite of this some of the detail was still lost from view. Don’t tell Keiran but I didn’t apply most of the really fiddly bits 🙂
Having said that the kits make up into an accurate and very pleasing NSWGR home signal and two of the ones I made operate and have LED lighting. I applied the coloured lenses this morning and while I’m quite happy with the red I feel the blue plastic is a bit too dark, significantly masking the LED. Also the colour of the lens appears to be shaded to provide a green light when the LED has a yellowish tinge, however the LEDs supplied with the kit are very white so the dim light showing through the lens remains very blue to my eye. This isn’t a huge issue as the semaphore arm will be the primary means of communication to drivers however if I build any more of these kits I’ll probably swap out the supplied blue lens with a small piece of green cellophane. The detail parts supplied with the kit are really quite beautiful and had very little flash and really look the part. Making the signal operate was only a small amount of extra work over building the model static and I really can’t see why you’d bother building such a kit unless you were going to place it in an operational form on a layout.