Wednesday, 25 September 2013

And the electrons go round and round and comes out here!

It's all very well showing off to all my readers the stuff above the baseboard of my modular layout "Steam on the Cambrian" but, just as important if not more important is what is underneath.
Of course, if it wasn't for what goes on below base board level, nothing on the top would work!

Electronics and electrics strike fear in to a lot of people who are probably very proficient modellers.
To me it's the other way round as a retired Electrical Technician I have a good background for wiring model railways! Whereas my modelling skills will never make the likes of MRJ!

What makes this layout different to all my previous efforts is the track work. "Steam on the Cambrian" uses C&L Finescale flexible track and hand built points. I didn't want to use solenoid type point switch machines because of the sudden and powerful action is not good for hand made points. To this end I decided to use Fulgarex slow action switch machines. Designed to work on 12V DC they still run a bit fast, so I built a voltage regulator circuit with a variable output voltage. The Fulgarex units being quite happy and run at a reasonable speed when set at 9 volts.

Added to this I also needed 12-15V for working the LEDs and relays and 22V DC for operating the signal solenoid motor.
Here's a picture of the underneath of Penmaenpool's baseboard showing the various voltage power supplies and wiring during construction.

Power for all this lot and the traction current comes from a mains power pack.

The power pack contains two transformers, one transformer supplies the power supply and voltage regulator panel shown above. The other transformer has two separate output windings and these feed the 12V ac to the two hand held speed / direction controllers. All mounted in an earthed aluminium case each output is protected by either fuses or overcurrent thermal cut outs.

Finally control panels.
The main control panel is mounted on the front of the Penmaenpool board allowing layout operation from the front.


The whole ensemble being controlled by two good old fashioned and reliable DC home made hand held control units.

I do not recommend any unskilled person building their own power supplies or anything else that connects to the mains.
Please do not ask me for details on wiring up transformers because if you don't know that information then it's obvious you don't know enough to work on mains energised equipment.


Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Exhibition essentials part2

My new layout "Steam on the Cambrian" makes it's very first public appearance this weekend (28th September) at the Telford model railway exhibition.

So, during the last few days I have been thinking about what I need to take with me apart from locos and stock to help ensure smooth running.

Operation of this layout requires very little if any shunting or uncoupling/decoupling operations in the full view of the public, That is one lesson learnt from exhibiting Pen-Y-Bont. Three links, instanter and screw couplings are the very devil to deal with in 4mm scale. You either have the knack or you don't and I don't.
It's always the same when Joe Public is watching too! soon as their backs are turned they magically couple up OK. Something to do with Sods law I think ?

Anyway I digress a little bit but the preamble brings me on to the shunters poles I use for 3 link couplings.
seen here at the bottom of the picture there are two slightly different styles of pole. I make mine from 2mm o/d tube for strength with a short piece of 0.9mm brass wire for the actual hook.
The small AAA battery torches are really essential no matter how good the lighting it still gets dark between wagons on the layout.
The blue one is a Maglite given to me as a gift some time ago and uses a filament bulb which is heavy on the battery. The other one is by Fluke and uses a bright white LED so I tend to use this one most of the time.
The other items shown are a TRIX wheel cleaner. expensive but really good at cleaning loco wheels.
 A quick 30 seconds  run on each loco before the show starts is all that's needed.
Finally I found this old Tri-ang track cleaning car on the Corris railway stand at Bournville exhibition a couple of weeks ago. I had to change the wheels though because the original Tri-ang "Steam Roller" wheels wouldn't run on my C&L stuff!
The felt is soaked in cleaning fluid ( I use meths) and pushed or dragged along the track to clean the rails.
Much better than the old "Peco" track rubber and easier to use too.

Ah well, back to packing stuff ready for the weekend more waffle from me soon!

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Exhibition essentials!

My new layout "Steam on the Cambrian" makes its very first public appearance next weekend (28th September 2013) at the Telford Model Rail Group's annual exhibition.
Just a one day show but the ideal shakedown for SotC to iron out any bugs that I haven't found yet!
I had the layout set up at the Cradley Heath MRC club rooms for a week or two and had some time operating it assisted by several Wednesday afternoon members.

I have no doubt what so ever that like all exhibitions Telford will attract it's own fair share of "Rivet Counters"   "Armchair modellers" and general PITA "Pedants".

This time how ever I am going prepared with my very own weapon of "BULLSHIT" Repellant! with careful aim and calculated length of spray it is guaranteed to eliminate or repel most of the previously mentioned exhibition "Pests"

The added advantage is that my BS repellent  is highly scented and is also guaranteed to displace any foul odours that seem to follow certain members of the above communities.

I'm still working on an automatic bar of soap dispensing device so that will have to wait until later this year or 2014!

I'm also trying to think of some way to deal with a rucksack removing and crushing machine but as it may involve sharp blades for cutting rucksack straps It may fall foul of some "Elf & safety" regulations.

It would also be nice if exhibition managers could provide every layout with at least one armchair, Then our loyal fans the "Armchair Modellers" could be made more comfortable and be left to drone on and on about how I should have done this or that or maybe if some sort of internet access was available they could maybe moan or foam  as much as they liked on one of the internet forums.

In any case, soon as Telford show is over I'll raise another post here and report on the success or not of this latest product to hit the exhibition traders tables!

Cheers for now

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Tools of the trade.

When I first  started work (many years ago) as an apprentice instrument mechanic I was always taught to look after my tools and equipment how not to abuse them and to buy the best quality you could afford.

Good quality tools have always been expensive items, there is a lot of truth in the saying "You only get what you pay for"
Buying cheap usually means poor quality and if you take your hobbies seriously then it's always worth spending the extra few bob for a quality tool that will actually do the job it's designed for.

When my father passed away several years ago some of his tools and equipment came my way,
My dad was an engineering fitter by trade so most of his tools were spanners, wrenches, hammers and general heavy engineering tools. The spanners were mostly "King Dick" a name no longer seen, replaced by "Made in India" or "Made in China" I still have a raft of spanners and other tools but they are not much use for railway modelling!

However some stuff from his shed found their way onto my workbench not least of which is this set of dividers by Moore & Wright of Sheffield.

Made in 1939 they are still in reasonable condition and do all I want them for on my modelling bench.

Some tools however are expensive for what they are, a set of 00 gauge back 2 back gauges can set you back several pounds when all it is is, a piece  of steel machined to 14.5mm wide. However working in industry for 45 years had its advantages. Enter your local "Friendly Fitter"! My shift colleague  in the fitting shop made me this....

It's a Back 2 back gauge made by my friendly fitter mate. Made from a piece of round bar and machined to 14.5mm across the faces. An old screwdriver handle and a splash of MIG weld makes a professional job.
Total cost? just a free coffee from the canteen vending machine!

I have a collection of other hand made tools and accessories other than those mentioned in this entry but I'll do another entry on those in the future.

Cheers for now

Saturday, 14 September 2013

A couple of "Old Bangers?"

A couple od "Bangers!" Airfix kit meat van (Sausages?) and Parkside kit Gunpowder van (Explosives) Both carry "Bangers" of one sort or another.

I liked building the two kits, The Airfix (Now Dapol) meat van although dated and the tools for the mouldings are over 40 years old is still a decent kit. 
This one has been built using everything straight out of the packet, the only extras being a short piece of brass wire between the V hangers and a crank to connect the Vacuum cylinder.
The couplings supplied have been discarded and screw link couplings fitted.

The Parkside Gunpowder van however has had all the brake gear replaced with etched components from Mainly Trains. The original design being intended to be non vacuum brake fitted.
I have modified this one to make a later diagram version with vacuum brakes. Again screw couplings have been used. transfers are Modelmaster. This did present a problem though.

The wheelbase of these wagons was 9ft 6ins rather than the standard 10ft, However they were still branded XP for fast running. The Modelmaster sheet I had for the transfers did not include any 9ft 6in transfers.
In the end I used 10ft lettering and covered it with some heavy weathering using powders. 

No doubt some pedant or rivet counter will spot this "mistake" from the viewing distance of 3ft whilst the train is moving at a scale 45mph! but I have a surprise ready for  them if they do! (The secret will be revealed once I have upset a few pedants at exhibitions!

More soon

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Modern day "Gricer" Book review "STEAM LOCOMOTIVES OF GREAT BRITAIN"

Many, many years ago when Adam was a lad I was one of those snotty nosed kids often seen on railway station platforms wearing short trousers, held up with the ubiquitous "snake" belt, grey shirt and tank top, short back and sides hair cut and so on. In other words a "train spotter!"
One of the essentials that every one of us used to own apart from the usual note pad and pencil (No ball point pens in those days!) was the well known Ian Allan ABC books. My first ABC was 1958 and it's still about here somewhere!
Basically the ABC book was a list of all British Railways steam (and later diesel too) locomotives. the idea was that when you spotted a loco and got the number you would write it down in your note book.
When you got home you would then look the numbers up in your ABC and underline the number in the book to indicate you had seen that particular locomotive. All good clean fun.
I think my last ABC i bought was 1985, then as loco hauled trains became less and less I lost interest in collecting numbers, multiple units and HST sets were quite frankly boring!

Some time ago after i got my first computer with a spread sheet I decided to list all the preserved steam locos I could find and then proceed to "Mark" them off as they were spotted on various preservation lines and mainline steam tours.
However a printed copy was needed to take with me on trips to preserved railways and museums and so on, and I was just about to copy my spread sheet to my Android tablet for portable use when I found this!

On a visit to Bournville MRC's exhibition yesterday I came across this new publication from Locomotion books.
What a great idea! using a very similar format to the old Ian Alan ABC's this book lists all the preserved steam locomotives in great Britain.
The listing includes all the Ex BR locomotives, Ex Industrial locomotives, New build locomotives as well as imported locomotives like some of the Belgian,German and American engines.

The book also gives the current location of every locomotive listed and an appendix at the back even gives the SatNav postcode to get there!

Also included are numerous colour pictures of locomotives as they were when the data was compiled.

The data being correct at May 2013, obviously there may be some movement of engines since then but as far as I know it's pretty accurate.

Here's an inside shot of my copy and you can see that I have started to mark off the locos I've copped since preservation.

All in all this is a great publication and anyone who follows preserved steam should look out for it or order direct from Locomotion books. At £8:99 it's not expensive and is another useful reference source for the modern day gricer!                                                                                                                                 
The usual disclaimer applies, I have nothing to do with the publishing company or the bookseller who sold it to me other than being a well satisfied customer.                                                                                        

Thanks for reading and more from my keyboard soon I hope                                                                    
Cheers!   Frank