Monday, July 04, 2016

Progress Report 65

A long spell of fine weather has enabled me to get out into the garden for some prolonged running sessions and so there has been fewer opportunities for me to engage in constructional projects - which I tend to do when the weather is too cold or wet for being outside. The better weather has clearly encouraged others to venture out into the garden, judging by the increased number of transmitters I've been constructing and despatching, together with associated receivers, wiring looms and other equipment. However, there has been time for a few projects and some ongoing maintenance to be completed.
  • Apart from ongoing maintenance there has been no major engineering works on the line. 
  • On the lineside, here has been an addition in the form of a motorised road vehicle - a steam lorry. 
  • In terms of rolling stock developments, the new timber wagons have been equipped with pit-prop loads, the newly added Bagnall loco has had a paint job and I have been busy converting LGB Starter Set Stainz locos to radio control.
  • There have been a few developments in relation to aspects of control on the railway. I have had to replace the lithium-ion batteries in Fowler diesel, No. 8 - my first battery failure since going over to battery power, three years ago. I have added a new transmitter to the range which I supply through RC Trains, and I have also constructed some bespoke transmitters for various customers.
  • On the operational front, I have had the opportunity to engage in some running sessions - one of which I videoed and turned into a time-lapse overview of a full timetabled day's operations at Beeston Market station. I have also improved the appearance of the destination stickers I use on freight stock to help with shunting.
Finally, it was encouraging to see an article (which I submitted about a year ago) appearing in the magazine for the 16mm Narrow Gauge Modellers Association. This describes how I added Deltang radio control to my IP Engineering Lollypop railcar (see How I constructed an IP Engineering Lollypop railcar).


Whilst filming the time-lapse video of a day's operations at Beeston Market (see below), I decided to animate the steam wagon which was parked beside the goods yard. I used a crude form of stop-action animation to give it the appearance of movement, but it prompted a fellow modeller to enquire as to whether I had considered making it radio controlled. Never fearful of rising to a challenge, I decided to investigate the feasibility of such a venture (see How I converted a ModelTown steam lorry to radio control).

The conversion is not particularly elegant as I used it more as an investigation than a serious attempt at motorisation. The resin-cast model is representational rather than an accurate scale model and so there is plenty of scope for its enhancement. One day, I will set about improving the model, both cosmetically and mechanically.

Rolling stock

Timber wagon loads

 After purchasing four small Feldbahn timber wagons (see Progress Report 64), I felt they would be improved by repainting, weathering and having loads. I have been considering constructing some wagons to transport pit-props from the timber yard to the copper mine and for transshipment to the main line for some time and so these were an opportune addition to the line.

The pit prop loads were conveniently cut from various twigs and branches which were found in the woodland nearby (see How I provided pit prop loads for my timber wagons)

 Bagnall new livery

My newly acquired Bagnall loco was in urgent need of a new paint job and so it went through the railway's paint-shop and has emerged in the standard Rover Brooklands Green livery reserved for the line's locomotive roster.

As the prototype on which it was based was 2' gauge and had outside frames, I have tried to disguise the driving wheels by painting everything below the running plate matt black and picking out the motion in bright red. I have also added a few extra cosmetic details such as reversing levers and clack valves to focus attention away from the lower part of the loco.

She is a good runner and looks very much at home in charge of passenger trains in the timetable. The early version of the MyLocoSound card has a throaty chuff, although I struggle to keep the cylinder beat in time with the loco's speed.

Stainz conversions

After posting information about converting my trusty LGB Starter Set Stainz loco to radio control (see How I converted an LGB Stainz loco to battery power and radio control), I had some enquiries from fellow modellers, asking if I could perform the same surgery for them.

 I have now converted four Stainz locos to battery radio control and so am becoming reasonably proficient at dismantling and modifying these neat little locos. The later versions seem to have a much throatier sounding soundcard, though I have not yet found a way of modifying the card to give the loco a background hiss when stationary.


Replacing lithium-ion batteries in No.8

 When I originally constructed my IP Engineering Jessie loco, I used NiMh batteries - managing to squeeze ten AA sized batteries under the bonnet (see How I constructed an IP Engineering Jessie loco).

However, all but one of my other locos are powered by lithium batteries and so, for uniformity, I installed three 18650 lithium-ion batteries which I bought very cheaply on eBay. They do say you get what you pay for and I very quickly found that the 3000mAh claimed for the batteries was an exaggeration. After testing them, I discovered they were closer to 1600mAh. However, they did function satisfactorily, albeit needing to be recharged more frequently than I had anticipated. All was well for a year or so until, during a running session, the loco started losing power. Normally, the protection circuitry and/or the receiver will cut-out lithium-ion cells when they drop below a safe level of charge (around 3v each) and so this loss of power indicated something more serious was at fault. Removing the cells and putting them on the meter showed that, while two cells were a healthy 3.2 volts, one had dropped to 1.67 volts. I realised there was no way this cell could be recovered and so all three were discarded and three new 18650 Panasonic batteries were purchased from Ecolux - who guarantee the quality and legitimacy of their batteries. I know from experience that, when making up battery packs, the three cells need to be identical - mixing cells of different characteristics is a recipe for disaster.


After some deliberation, I am now offering my version of the Deltang Tx24 transmitter on my RC Trains website. I had always planned to have this transmitter as part of my range, but as I don't have live steam locos (yet), I felt I wasn't qualified to offer advice for version of the Tx22. However, after requests over the months from customers, I have constructed and sold three RCT-Tx24s - one of which has been successfully in service now for over four months - and so I felt confident that the transmitter would be a useful addition to the range.

The difference between this transmitter and the RCT-Tx22, is the replacement of the two way toggle switch for direction with a centre-click potentiometer. This makes it a lot more suitable for controlling servos operating the reversing lever on live steam locos. It can also be used to switch direction on receivers which are programmed for low-off operation and can also be used to control outputs from the RCT-Rx65b receiver to, for example, trigger sound effects on soundcards.

Since placing the transmitter on the website I have had a further three orders - and so there is clearly a demand for this transmitter.

Bespoke transmitters

I have also produced transmitters for customers who require some additional bespoke features. In one case, this was the addition of another push-button to trigger Channel 4 and another couple of cases, they wanted transmitters produced in the same liveries as their railways:

I charge extra for this bespoke service as it does involve additional work, but it makes my work a bit more interesting.


 Destination boards

 As freight operations are an important part of operations on my railway, I have explored various approaches to making sure goods wagons are shunted into the correct sidings when, for example, the pickup goods makes its rounds. I was attaching a white sticky label showing the destination to each wagon but, of course, they did not look particularly realistic.

After a suggestion from a war-gaming friend, I created a series of self adhesive destination boards which were mounted on pieces of tinplate. These are attached to wagons with small magnets (see How I created destination boards for my freight wagons)

Operating sessions

 With a spell of fine weather during June, I was able to indulge in a series of running sessions - one of which I captured on video and then turned into a time-lapse film showing operations at Beeston Market Station.
 Four coach special passenger at Bickerton with Barclay loco No. 2 (Beeston) in charge.

 The Up four coach special crosses the Down mixed at Bulkeley station

 Aerial shot of the above manoeuvre.

The Down mixed arrives at Bickerton as the Up pickup goods is about to depart

Time-lapse video of movements at Beeston Market station during a complete day's timetable

Since the middle of June the weather hasn't really been conducive to decent running sessions (sunny periods with heavy showers - or prolonged periods of rain). However, this has given me an opportunity to focus on organising the stock for my online business and also explore other avenues such as developing a soundcard.

Whenever I do run trains, I tend to take photos and short sections of video as the trains pass by. One of my future tasks is to try and organise these clips into another video showing life on the Peckforton Light Railway

There is always plenty to do on a garden railway.

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