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.

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