Friday, July 19, 2019

Eighteen Months On

They say no model railroad is ever truly finished, but some days when I look back on progress I think maybe I am taking that saying just a bit TOO far! Even though I have not posted an update, I have been busy (sort of) working on the track and wiring, but in my normal mode, once I get trains running, all other progress seems to stop.

But first, getting to where the trains were running again, and significantly better than they were before!

New Throw Wire Method

Drilling the one millimeter hole through the throw bar of the turnout was getting to be a much worse approach; especially considering the cost of a double slip! To help prevent future catastrophes, I decided to investigate options, such as using the existing openings in the throw bar, and moving the servo off center to accommodate.... 

An Overhead View of the New Method

Station Throat Complete

Track work moving a big step towards completion at the west end of the yard and station. 

Following my earlier decision to straighten the approach tracks and add room for a turntable, the track modifications are finally drawing to a conclusion:

- Two drill (switching) leads for the freight yard were extended and straightened. 

- The arrival/ departure capacity has increased by dual-purposing the number four platform to freight yard arrival and departure as well as local passenger trains. 

- An engine pocket has been added between platform one and two to better service arriving trains, in the same fashion as the east-end of platforms three and four; the station switcher can now wait there while road power cuts off, then go to work servicing head-end cars. 

- The -slip switch on platform track three improves flexibility for arriving trains, as well as making the scene look “busier”. 

Close-up View of the Changes to the Station Throat

Relocating a Crossover

When I made the changes to the station and yard approach, there was no longer any room for the crossover on the mainline outside; rather than push it farther back up the line, I decide to move it to this point right outside the station throat.

In addition to keep the longer smooth run on the mainline, this option is also prototypical; the turnouts might have once been connected to a tower via manual interlocking levers, so the closer in aspect allowed both visibility of the plant, as well as reducing the amount of control rods required.

Crossover Installed

A test-fit of the turnouts and trimmed track prior to mounting the servos.

Overhead View of the New Crossover

Servos for the Crossover

Preparing the mounting pads on the new crossover just outside the yard and station. 

Job Done

All set; just need to add the wiring changes and it's back in business, much more elegantly! 

Sunday, January 28, 2018

One More Missing Piece Replaced

Change is constant, but hopefully not all of the time constant or  I will never run trains again!

While laying the roadbed and walking through operational scenarios, I kept coming back to the crossover that was lost when the yard frame was extended; there simply was not enough real estate to place it in the section before the yard after the ninety-degree curve as before, and I really did not want to move it all of the way back to the stretch of track at Bad Brick. That scene was supposed to represent a "left behind" segment of the line whose fortunes left when the railroad no longer required a section gang or station agent there. Adding the crossover would have re-introduced complexity. Something I desired NOT to do.

Looking at the geometry of the curves coming into the Division Point, I had another epiphany; the radius of the Peco "long radius" turnout would be a great transition from the straight run out of the throat to the curve, and introduce complexity where it deserves to be: the busy end of a commuter run terminating station!

Overview - Seeing Where It Goes

It's possible to see how the arriving trains can reach any point on the approach to the station and yard; trains arriving on the left-hand main can take the first crossover to use the first two "westbound" platforms, or reach the freight yard receiving tracks via the the double slip. Trains running in on the wrong main have full access to all tracks as well, passing over crossover to reach the westbound platforms, or taking the double-slip to reach eastbound platforms or the freight yard receiving track. Trains leaving the yard also have the same options to join either main, with a minimum of "wrong track" running.

Playing About with Station Approach Changes

I had planned the crossover (on the piece of paper) to be much farther in back of the scene, but this epiphany might just work out to keep the complexity close in. By using a right hand turnout, with the straight route of an opposing left-hand turnout forming the crossover, I managed to line up with the curve WITHOUT resorting to a curved turnout. Transition to the curve has only just started at the farthest turnout on the outside track, so only a slight alignment adjustment is needed on this track. 

The corner seems to naturally join on the inside track, so I have an added benefit of using large radius corners on the main line. The theory is that a train running “normal” left-hand may need to take the West-bound (right hand) platform tracks, but will never take the crossover and then be diverted back to the “normal” route unless in an emergency, such as a defective turnout. 

While appearing operationally and aesthetically feasible, this also keeps in line with the desire to keep the long straightaway at Bad Brick leading into the corner before this area open and clear, almost desolate. The scene will feature an old (abandoned) depot and section foreman's house, but little other evidence of railroad activity, where trains merely pass a sign which still tells of its name.

It was a bit too cold to get much else done, but I hope to get all of the servos mounted and track fixed in place before spring. Over the last year I have acquired a couple of SD40-2s as well s trailer on flat car (tofc) cars so am itching to re-enact "Falcon Service" along the mainline!

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Changes to the Changes

Before the summer ran out I had planned and made a large start to the west end of the freight yard and passenger station approach track; these were undertaken to correct a couple of "less than ideal" features that had the previous configuration had required, and add the turntable which was part of the original plan.

After the had been completed I moved on to preparing for and laying the new tracks in the new section:

New Beginnings: Extra Space

After installing the new section to the yard bases, it is time to lay some track. But first, roadbed needs to be added. The guidelines were added during the proof of concept, prior to actually building the new base for the yard.

Mainline Re-alignment

A visualization of where the mainline will go; most important points are space for the eventual turntable and a straight run into the passenger platforms. I have not decided fro sure what else will be added to the engine terminal space, but a roundhouse is one option (space permitting) or maybe some additional service trackage off of the the turntable.

Change to Changes: Modification of the Track Components

During the process I decided that I wanted to increase the flexibility of the station and yard approach tracks to make the flow more flexible. Adding a double-slip switch increased the operational potential while drastically shortening the space required to achieve the same same results with conventional turnouts. the advantages:

1 Trains can arrive into the yard on the right-hand (wrong) main and return to their original platform tracks to simulate a problem outside of the station.

2. Freight operations using both mains to reach the yard are possible, as access across the left-hand main can now be achieved within the yard limits, and does not require using the mainline to reach a crossover further out.

3. The double-slip switch add to the appearance of complexity in the station approach tracks.

These shot were taken with an old Shinohara double slip that I have had for a long while, but was not quite sure where it might find use.

Overhead View of Track Changes

A mock up of the revised plan featuring the Shinohara double slip; a Shinohara #6 was also considered to keep the alignment more simple, and reduce rail height difference issues.

Preparing the Route Changes

Happy with the revisions, certain other changes were now needed. To support the double-slip, the roadbed had to be amended.  The crossover section were added, and mounting pads were placed for the turnout servo motors..

Mainline Tracks Placed

After placing the the double-slip crossover roadbed changes I placed the mainline and extended yard leads.

Change of "Change of" Plans

Disappointed with the Shinohara double-slip switch, I broke down and acquired a Peco "fine scale" electrofrog version. Without resorting to replacing the medium radius turnout on the switch lead (top of the photo below and to the right of the crossover to the right of the SD40s) I think the alignment of the transition from the double-slip to the fourth platform track is pretty good. As it is a working track the the speed restriction will be a bit tougher on that track, compared to the other three.

The next steps will involve adding the servo motors, and revising the wiring for the changes to the track arrangements.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Continuing Towards a Turntable

Despite the intervention of summer travels and the Squaw Falls exhibition layout project, I managed to get a bit more progress made on the revised locomotive terminal, to include space to mount the turntable!

I have decided though that rather than risk the highly detailed Diamond scale Models craftsman kit in this environment, I will go with the Heljan/Con Cor turntable that I have had since the 1970s. Motorizing it should not be too much of a challenge post installation, and the plastic components might be better able to cope with the temperature changes.

At the same time I did some of the preliminary preparation, to get an idea of where things would go and what they may look like...

Revised station approach tracks:

New Route Roadbed

Hopefully soon the mainline tracks will leave the station going straight, rather than at the odd angle they and the drill tracks currently lie in. Once I get the new box built for the yard expansion I can concentrate on restoring the mainlines, and work on re-aligning the other track that will change to make way for the turntable. Restoring what currently works will be the first priority, so I can run trains again, then finish up the servo mounting further up the station area.

Re-alignment Preparations Continue

Preparing for a major change on the west end of the station and yard; the curve leading in will be straightened, and the escape track will be reinstated for track 1 and 2. The cork in the foreground is the future alignment of the mainline, which will go straight to track 2 and 3 (all track numbers from the right).


Nothing is any good without a solid base, so I extended the benchwork using the same approach as the rest of the layout. Now just waiting for the next time to get it in place

Extension Base Completed

Waiting for the glue to dry; will be a few weeks before I get to get it mounted and work on track... 

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Another Major Change of Plans

A number of factors have come together to make me decide to put the turntable back into the plan at the engine terminal of the loft layout; I had an epiphany about how to incorporate it.  This would mean building an extension of the plywood frame and re-aligning the mainline and drill tracks, bringing them out and straightening them. The turntable itself would be mounted on the new section, but all yard turnouts would remain on the existing section.

Proposed Changes to Four Tracks

This photo shows where the tracks will be affect for the most part, straightening them and removing the curve in the drill tracks.

Proposed Change from the Station End

Another view of the proposed trackage changes...

I laid out the foam sections as a proof of concept, to judge the impact and feasibility. One crossover will need to be moved, but other than that, looks like it is do-able... next step: box frame to support it...

Mock-up of the Turntable Location

You can see how the mainline will be rerouted past the space for the turntable track and maybe a roundhouse...

Overall View of a New Section

Following my brainwave on adding the turntable, I laid out the foam sections as a proof of concept, to judge the impact and feasibility. One crossover will need to be moved, but other than that, looks like it is do-able... next step: box frame to support it...

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Sunday Surge of Activity

Perfecting a repeatable process, and improving it as I move on has allowed me to make great strides in a relatively short time.

The only constant that I cannot overcome is the time for glue to dry; while other, faster setting product are available, the ability to "undo" with a little water makes the waiting worthwhile.

Sunday Surge of Activity

I prepared eight points for servo installation over the course of a few hours on Sunday, while literally waiting for paint to dry on a domestic project.

I also hung four doors, and installed a bathroom cabinet, but that is another project, and as there are no pictures, you will have to take my word for it.

In addition to this work I managed to run a train, briefly, as since most of the servo installation has mean a cut main line, I have not had much opportunity lately.

Sunday Surge of Activity - Second Part

In addition to the yard ladder, I prepared these four turnouts on the station approach tracks. This entailed removing the last of the Peco twin-coil motors, as seen by the larger footprint of the mounting pad in the top of the picture, between the red push pins.

All boards are fitted in the cut holes while the last of the glue sets on the cork, so I can whisk through mounting the servos on the next visit.

The next group will be the four on the left-hand side of the picture; the two in the coach yard, the platform 1 and 2 turnout, and one at the top edge, that allows access from platform 1 to the coach tracks.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

More Progress, and Two Firsts...

After the radical decision to change my choice of servo control boards for the more turnout intensive areas of the layout, I made a surge of progress on the East end of the yard.

Just Another Crossover

One of the two remaining on the mainline, and will be controlled from the MegaPointsController that runs this end of the yard.This is also the first to have the new Hobby King servos installed, which in operation do seem a touch quieter than the previously used models.

Moving In To The Yard - First Replacement

This is the beginning of the totally automated yard; I chose this end to start as there are fewer turnouts located here, and it is a good distance from the bulk of the action. I also removed the first of two Peco twin-coil motors, as you can see from the left most hole in the roadbed. These devices were deemed unusable due to the large footprint, with half of the motor located under the adjacent track, and would have caused havoc in crowded turnout locations.

The turnout still in place, a Shinohara #6 that leads to the departure/receiving track, was already servo powered, and now will be controlled by the MegaPointsController board. 

Back To Where We Started

Even with the odd-sized hole to not disturb the already mounted and working turnout, installation went quickly. I used common paper towel, brushed with PVA, to cover the holes in the foam near the first turnout mounting. This keeps scenery material from falling through the layout onto the HO layout below. 

The next phase will involve the platform throat, and adjacent turnouts to the small coach yard. The other Peco twin-coil is located in this area, and since no other turnouts are currently automated, progress should be a lot simpler, even in the crowded locations, due to the ability to use a small mounting board and the ability to mount servos vertically.

Stay tuned...