Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Progress Report 51

I usually regard Easter as the start of the operating season, but this year the weather has been so mild that I have already had a couple of decent days operating the railway.

 Rolling stock

Locomotives - Converting a DCC loco to battery power

As has been mentioned in previous Progress Reports, I have been steadily moving over from DCC track power to battery powered radio control. Two things have prompted this move. Firstly I have always found track-cleaning and maintaining electrical connections a chore. Because my railway is quite extensive, it would take me at least half a day to clean the track prior to the first operating session of the season, and then around an hour or so before each subsequent operating session. Inevitably, there would be also be dead spots where electrical continuity had failed (eg where bonded rail joints had deteriorated and where the contacts on pointwork had become corroded). Secondly, the technology for radio control has not only improved markedly in recent years with the proliferation of 2.4gHz transmitters and receivers, but also the price has dropped considerably. After experimenting with a couple of cheap approaches to radio control (see An evaluation of a cheap 2.4gHz system), I was introduced to Deltang radio control (see An overview of Deltang radio control for trains). Although, I am no expert, I have shared my experiences of radio control through a blog posting (see Getting Started with Radio Control) in case others want to tread the path I have already followed.

The most recent development is the conversion of one of my former DCC controlled locos to battery power. The most likely candidate was Loco No. 2 - Beeston, a 2-4-0T Andrew Barclay locomotive which was constructed from a GRS kit (now sadly no longer available).

I chose this loco because it had the most potential space onboard to hold the 12v li-ion battery (in one side tank) ........

 ....... and the radio control gear - though the combined Deltang receiver/controller is extremely compact.

As can be seen, the switches and charge socket were located below the other side-tank.

I follow the same wiring diagram for all my battery conversions ........

...... although at present I have not included a sound card in this loco - partly due to cost but also waiting until I was certain the conversion had succeeded. I have, however, included the wiring required for its inclusion.

A have been extremely pleased with the conversion. The LGB mechanism around which the kit has been constructed responds very well to the Deltang controller, as can be seen from this video.

Locomotives - Wynford gets her fourth mechanism

After wearing-out the gears on three mechanisms, I decided to install a commercial motor-block in my IP Engineering Jessie (named Wynford on my railway).

A USAt medium motor block was purchased from g-bits after exploring a range of other options. Although the HLW motor block (63.5mm) is closer to the original wheelbase of Jessie (60mm), I reasoned that the USAt block with a wheelbase of 84mm would fit under the chassis and had the advantage of extended axles on which to mount the fly-cranks. The small USAt motor block would have been even better, but this no longer seems to be available.

The motor block slotted into the chassis quite comfortably .........

...... and the newly powered Wynford, has shown she is more than up to the job of hauling her nine loaded hoppers up the 1:40 gradients on the line.

For more information about the conversion see How I improved the mechanism of my IP Engineering Jessie

The railmotor is revamped

For two years, I have used the railmotor only occasionally as I dealt with a series of problems with her radio control system, batteries and mechanism. Even then, she was quite unreliable; often derailing when negotiating points.

When re-wheeling failed to solve the problem, I realised that the the long wheelbase of the railmotor was responsible - a slight undulation in the track would mean that one wheel would lose contact with the rail. The solution was to provide suspension for the front wheel of each car with a pivoted bracket.

This, combined with a set of LGB compatible wheels, has meant she is now become at least as reliable as any other loco on the railway.

Another flat wagon joins the stock roster

Having had a HLW wagon kit sitting on the shelves for some time, I decided to use this as the basis for another short wheelbase flat wagon.

This will become a permanent way department wagon, another flat wagon has become the designated match wagon for the railway's mobile crane (based on another HLW flat wagon).

These are very straightforward conversions and are described in other postings - see How I created some flat wagons and How I constructed a mobile crane



Peckforton station - replacing an R1 point

 As part of a long-term plan, I am intending to replace all the R1 points and curves on the railway. The point leading to the timber yard siding at Peckforton was an Aristocraft R1 turnout and I had been finding that some stock found this point tricky to negotiate - partly owing to the uneven ground on which it was laid and partly because there was a small crack in the check rail on the curved stock rail.

I decided it was time to replace it with a Piko R3 turnout. The offending point was removed .....

 ..... and the track leading to the point needed to be shortened and bent slightly (see Jim Crow below), but the siding was easily realigned by simply sliding the rails forward approximately 10mm. The R3 point was slotted-in .........

...... and then the whole area was re-ballasted with a 3:2:1 mix of sand:gravel:cement. At the same time, an opportunity was taken to raise the track a few millimetres to even out some of the undulations in the underlying blockwork.

Some brown cement dye powder was sprinkled irregularly over the area while the cement was still wet and although this looks alarming at first, from experience I know this soon tones down as sun and rain take their toll.

Incidentally, this station now boasts a combination of LGB, Tenmille, Aristocraft and Piko trackwork, all happily co-existing (and all interlinked with standard LGB rail joiners).

Bickerton Station cross-over

Another place where R1 points existed on the railway was the cross-over at Bickerton Station.

As with Peckforton, the offending points were removed which entailed opening-up the rail joiners to enable the points to be lifted out.

On this occasion, the LGB R1 points were replaced by Trainline R2 points. I felt that installing LGB R3s would have restricted the length of trains which could use the loop. The necessary adjustments were made to the surrounding track with the judicious use of a hacksaw.......

.... and then the two new points were installed - though a short length of track needed to be inserted between them to maintain the same track alignment as the LGB R1s.

I'm intending to re-ballast this station and, as at Peckforton, take the opportunity to compensate for some uneven foundations.

Bending track with a Jim Crow

As my tracklaying has been primarily with flexible track, inevitably there have been places where the rail-joints have occurred on curves - and as a consequence some of the joints have developed kinks as the track has settled and/or responded to the ravages of excesses in the weather.

To overcome these problem areas, I have deployed a jim crow which was manufactured for me by a fellow garden railway modeller who offered his services through the G Scale Central forum.

As a consequence, most of my kinked rail joints are now a lot smoother.

For more information see - How I smoothed out kinks in rail joints with a jim crow

Peckforton Mill siding

Another item on my long term developmental to-do list has been to add siding between Peckforton and Bulkeley to serve a mill (which has yet to be built). In reality there is a mill on the Peckforton side of Bulkeley, but the most appropriate place to position one on my railway is just outside Peckforton beside the stream. Apart from creating an item of scenic interest, the siding will enhance freight operations on the railway. Interestingly there are precedents for this feature on both my favourite narrow gauge railways - the Southwold and the Llanfair and Welshpool.

At present, the bridge spanning the stream has yet to be constructed but it will be based on the timber trestle bridge which spanned the River Blyth and the mill stream on the Southwold Railway.
Timber trestle bridge on the Southwold Railway
See How I added a siding for the mill


The viaduct continues to take shape

The construction of the viaduct is a time consuming and ongoing project. So far, both sides have been completed, the next stage will be to attach the sides to the plank carrying the track and then fill in and clad the arches.

[Awaiting photo]

Another article in Garden Rail magazine

Another article about the railway has appeared in the January edition of Garden Rail. This describes the construction of the low relief buildings at the Copper Mine - basically plywood boxes clad in various finishes: coffee stirrer planking, balsa wood 'sandstone blocks' corrugated plastic and stone blocks.

How added suspension to my railmotor

A couple of years ago, I constructed a two-car railmotor based on a couple of Andel resin freelance coaches (see How I constructed a railmotor). Since her construction, she has been through quite a few reincarnations as I have sorted-out a series of problems. Whilst this has at times been frustrating, the solutions have also provided me with opportunities to develop knowledge and experience in a range of different fields.

Problem: Erratic radio control
Initially, she was controlled with a keyfob controller using a circuit from a gadget for dimming LEDs.
Solution: After trying various modifications, I eventually discarded this control system and installed a Deltang receiver/controller (see An evaluation of the Deltang r/c system)

Problem: Lack of power
 Initially, the railmotor was powered by an IP Engineering motor and gearbox assembly. The 16:1 gearing on this mechanism meant that there was insufficient power from the motor running on 12 volts to take the power car and trailer up the 1:40 gradients on the railway.
Solution: The original motor/gearbox was discarded an MFA gearbox motor was mounted beneath the chassis powering the wheels through bevel gears. (see  Progress Report 48)

Problem: Regular derailment
Whilst sometimes she would run round the track without problems, on other occasions she would regularly become derailed as she negotiated some pointwork.
Solution 1: My first diagnosis was that she needed more weight over the front wheels - to keep her nose down. Some strips of lead flashing were trimmed to fit into the cavity beneath the bonnet and, with fingers crossed, I gave her a trial.

Some sets of points she negotiated without problem, but others she refused to take without derailment. Close scrutiny of her progress showed that one wheel was riding up over the check rail, thereby causing the other to foul the frog.

 Solution 2: My next attempt was to widen and deepen the flanges of the Tenmille wheels with plasticard as I had done successfully with other finer-flanged wheels (see How I improved the compatability of IP Engineering wheels with LGB pointwork)
Tenmille wheels
Plasticard 'washers' roughly shaped
Superglued to the back of the wheels before being filed to shape
 Whilst this has been successful with other rolling stock, this was not so with the railbus. I then tried some LGB spoked metal wheels which have wider treads and deeper flanges and of course are designed to be compatible with LGB pointwork. No success. Clearly the problem was more deep-rooted.

I studied her closely again as she went through the points and realised that, as her wheelbase is quite long (in comparison to most of my other locos), she was unable to flex her chassis if the rail dropped slightly. This meant that in certain places, not all four wheels were in contact with the rail. Whilst this was less of a problem on straight track, it was disastrous on the curves of points which were not perfectly level.

Solution 3: What was needed was some simple form of compensated suspension - to allow the leading wheels to follow the contours of my uneven trackwork. After considering (and rejecting) a range of complex hinged systems, I eventually opted for the simplest - a U-bracket which was loosely mounted so it could rock from side to side.

 A bracket was made from 64thou brass strip, with two fixing-holes along the centre-line.

Between these holes a short length of 2mm diameter brass rod was soldered.

The bracket was then bent into shape and fixed in place with self-tapping screws as, unlike nuts and bolts, these could be screwed-in without me having to dismantle the bonnet assembly (a fiddly process).

Another test-run showed that this solution was successful. The wheels now remained in contact with even my most irregular trackwork.

A few more test-runs showed I needed to adjust the back-to-back distances on the wheels on the powered axle, but the railmotor will now trundle around the railway at a sedate pace with only the occasional mishap - usually explained by overhanging vegetation or twigs which have fallen on to the track.

I spruced her up by giving the radiators and headlamp surrounds a couple of coats of brass paint and painted the underframes and steps with matt black.

And then, of course, she needed extensive test-running ......

And then, although she will never need to traverse R1 pointwork (the only R1 points I now have on my railway are in the copper mine sidings), I decided to see how she would fare through the most challenging trackwork on my railway.

No trickery involved (apart from editing out the manual changing of the points) - I even tried her flat-out through the points without mishap. However, she struggled to get through two R1 points connected in tandem to form a cross-over. But this was because the buffers between the two cars locked rather than any problem with the suspension system.

So, I feel very pleased with my applied problem-solving in this instance. This is one of the reasons I find railway modelling so rewarding - each day presents a new challenge which requires ingenuity and sometimes dogged persistence to overcome.

Monday, April 21, 2014

How I added a siding to serve the mill

 For some time, I have been planning to add a siding to my railway to serve a water mill, similar to that found on the Southwold Railway. The most obvious place seemed to be where the railway ran beside the stream on the approach to Peckforton from the Bulkeley direction (see Progress Report 41)

 I have had three five foot lengths of Tenmille flexible track and a sleeper pack sitting doing nothing for several years and so decided, as the weather was clement, to get cracking on adding the siding.
 The first job was to assemble the track, which was simply a matter of sliding the sleeper sections on to the rail.

Next, I decided on a position for the R3 LGB point and dug a shallow trench (about 6" (15cm)) deep, leading up to the edge of the stream, exposing the plastic liner in the process.

Some vegetation was removed from the route of the siding on the opposite bank of the stream and a cutting chiselled from the sandstone to take the track.

The upper edge of the trench was lined with sandstone blocks to act as a retaining wall for the soil and a layer of stones was spread and tamped down in the base of the trench to act as hard-core.

A length of track was positioned loosely along the trench to check it was in the right position ......

...... and then the trench was filled with a 3:2:1 mix of sand, gravel and cement, to which some red cement dye had been added (to match the red sandstone). Chunks of sandstone were positioned on the lower edge of the embankment to retain the cement, which was smoothed off with a trowel and checked horizontally with a spirit level

Rawlplugs were inserted into the wet concrete at intervals along the centre line of the intended track (the length of track used to ensure they were spaced appropriately beneath the sleepers)

 The cement was left to harden-off. A day later, while the concrete was in its 'green' state (ie soft and crumbly), the sandstone retaining rocks were scrubbed with a wire brush to remove excess concrete and expose the craggy finish.

 While the concrete was hardening, a gap was made in the existing track to accommodate the R3 turnout, using a junior hacksaw and a fair amount of grunting.

The R3 point was then inserted into the gap and held in place with rail joiners. I tend to avoid screwing pointwork down to the underlying basework as this can distort the rails and lead to derailments.

The concrete was left for another two days to fully harden-off.

The track was then laid, being fixed to the concrete with screws. Sleepers were removed from the section crossing the stream as I intend to construct a simple wooden trestle bridge based on that which spanned the River Blyth on the Southwold Railway (see How I constructed a simple wooden trestle bridge - pending)

 At present, I have not decided where the mill building will be positioned. I had envisaged it would be between the siding and the river, but I am now not sure there is sufficient room. There is more room on the opposite side, which I might consider.

In the meantime, I am happy to include the siding in my daily freight movements and will add ballast and more details as time permits.