Monday, 29 May 2017


The long term aim of the layout is that it will run by itself with a simple computer system knowing which of the fiddle yard lanes are occupied and running round one engine after another. Ideally it would know what direction each train is facing and propel it in the correct direction.

However, the layout needs to be able to operate manually should automation fail. Note that I am writing this as British Airways is into day 3 of it's disastrous computer issues which grounded all their flights from Heathrow and Gatwick. I'm not in their league but I know it can go wrong.

Here is the fiddle yard from above:

The only difference to the usual method of wiring is that insulating fishplates have been used at both ends of each road. I know I don't need the extra isolation right now but I figured it would be easier to fit them now than dismantle it in the future should the extra isolation be needed.

Below are the components that will be used to control the layout:

Bottom left is one of those cheap PWM controllers available off Ebay for under £4. It only needs the addition of a DPDT switch to change direction and that is traction sorted.

Automation is much easier with servos rather than the traditional solenoid point motors so I have chosen the ubiquitous SG90 fitted to David Ingoldby brackets as shown top right. David is a MERG member and makes these folding metal brackets that can be fitted with end of travel switches and are very robust.

Top left is the Servo4 board, also available from MERG. It took me less than an hour to put this one together this afternoon. The Servo4 board drives 4 servos (so I will need 2 boards) and will remember the endpoints of travel which can be set by a control box or by a laptop. I chose the laptop option as I had the necessary USB to serial lead from a previous foray into DCC.

What is not showing is the power supply. All this runs off a standard 12V power supply that you can get from around £7 from Amazon. The intention is to have one supply drive the LED strips and one to drive this circuitry. The servos can be run from an independent supply but I'll take that route should I get the dreaded twitching or interference that can affect layouts with servos.

So those are the pieces that will be fitted over the next week or two in-between the day job. I know how I will adjust it for computer control but for now I'll put this lot in place to get something running.

Monday, 17 April 2017

More baseboards built

Easter weekend is the perfect time to get some quality modelling time done. First you have to ensure all domestic duties are taken care of and then get up early and get started.

This weekend was earmarked to finish off the baseboards. Despite the ply being under heavy books in the lounge, some of the pieces still developed some horrible warps. I discarded the worst and managed to salvage enough to complete the two side extensions.

The two side pieces literally just contain the 180 degree bends to curve the track from the back onto the fiddle yard at the rear. They have 3 dowels for alignment each and also 3 bolts to hold the boards together.

Since taking the picture the top boards have been glued down and are under the significant weight of some railway books. Later this week I should be able to start track laying.

Sunday, 12 March 2017

Wall being painted

I've finally got round to finishing the wall. It's had a coat of white Gesso primer and is now getting some colour onto it. The first was a dirty wash to try and take the white from between the stones. Then I took a damp sponge and applied a mix of grey, brown and green. If you put too much on you can just wipe it off again with the sponge. Working in artificial light after sunset means it is really difficult to tell how it is coming out so it makes sense to keep the first coat light and do the next in daylight.

Here is how one end of the wall is looking.

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Trackbed in place

The concept behind the layout is that there is a single line that rolls across the front of the layout. What is nice about the line is that it is on a permanent bend of varying radii and it is on a slight gradient. Nothing straight about this!

The line itself runs between the river and the mill race so it is effectively elevated for all the visible section. I had guessed on the height and it turns out I had set it all a bit high but that is not an issue as I can raise the river bed and can make the front lower fascia deeper to cover it. I knew there was a reason why I didn't glue the front fascia on!

The plan was to reproduce the curves and incline as best as could reasonably be achieved. I used foamboard and cut out some sections that had a 1 in 100 incline on them. the foamboard, I discovered, would bend sufficiently for my needs so I set about gluing it down a few inches at a time as far as each change in bend would allow. 

Eventually it was all down and I discovered it wasn't level front to back. I clearly wasn't as accurate as I should have been but a bit of card packing soon sorted that out. I added some bracing and glues the top down. As can be seen in the picture I cut the gaps where the mill race enters and leaves and where the two sluices are. The next step is to add cladding using Wills coarse stone sheets.

The lighting had to have an adjustment. Once the track bed was in place, the front row of lights were found to be just behind the leading edge in the middle of the board so created a shadow. I added a layer of foamboard to the underside of the wood sticking out on the lighting beam and added more LED strip to that. I also took the opportunity to add a run of warm light on this. Iain Rice, in his book on Cameo Layouts, says that warm lights are not suitable for British weather. However, I am hoping to create a yellowy/brown reflection off the river right beneath so I though tit worth a try. I can always just snip the wire to that strip of LEDs should it not work out.

Sunday, 29 January 2017

Layout Lighting

A layout needs good lighting. I knew I would do it with strip LEDs as I had some left over from lighting my workbench. I had enough for two runs, one on each of the overhead battens. The great news is that, not only does it light the layout nicely, it also provides lighting while I am working.

The ones I had were "day white" but I wonder if they are just a bit too white. I've ordered some warm white which I know will be at the opposite end of the spectrum of whites but I'm hoping that a run of these on the front batten will give a warmer reflection off the river that is at the front of the layout.

Monday, 16 January 2017

All change

How many modellers have announced they have had a change of heart and want to do something different before the current layout is finished? All of us! The change of heart was caused by an increasing disillusion with DCC which didn't run reliably for me. Others have had great success with it but all I got was sparking locos that kept tripping the short circuit protection. Additionally a change of house and change of job took place so 3+ years later, here we are.

There's been plenty of thinking in this time. Despite now having a much larger railway room to play with I knew that any layout would have to be relatively small to give me any chance of finishing it. I knew it would be 009 - I have made so many friends in the 009 Society and they are such an easygoing and helpful bunch of people.

Within 009 there is a huge range of prototypes. Having been a standard gauge modeller for so many years I have really struggled to mentally adjust to the really tiny stock that many lines had. Fortunately there are two lines that have some fairly chunky stock, the Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway and the Leek & Manifold Light Railway. The other attraction for both these lines is that they have a interaction with standard gauge which widened the modelling possibilities.

I looked at both and settled on the Welshpool line as being the more interesting. I then did the standard thing and looked at the stations to see which could be modelled. In truth only Llanfair Caereinion can fit into a moderate space but it didn't give me what I wanted, the ability to sometimes watch trains go by.

In the end I flipped my thinking on it's head and made watching trains go by the major requirement. Looking along the line I came to Melin Dolrhyd, where the line weaves between the mill and the river. Could I model it? I don't know but I'm going to give it a try. I've built the main board as can be seen. The eagle eyed will notice it will be in cameo form.

Watch this space for another post. Hopefully in less than 3 year's time.

Monday, 26 August 2013

Control Panel Built

I decided this layout would have a separate control panel as I wasn't sure whether I would operate from the front or rear. At home it will probably be the front but if it ever goes to an exhibition then I would expect to operate from the rear of the layout.

I've continued with DCC and used NCE components from Coastal DCC. In this case the control box consists of the standard connector panel with an EB1 short circuit protection board and a mini panel

I wanted to simplify the control of the points away from switches or buttons for each point and make use of what would traditionally be done by a diode matrix. In this case the mini panel takes up to 30 inputs and you program it to drive whatever accessories or macros you want. In this case it took me about 10 minutes to program the 7 switches.

I've still got a couple of  points that are not switching the frogs reliably. I've not had this problem before but for some reason I'm not getting enough throw on the seep point motors to allow the sliding switch to make reliable contact. I've even had a point motor collapse on me, something that has never happened before.

It's quite expensive to have this electronics, probably £100 as opposed to £10 for a diode matrix but this is re-programmable and so mistakes are easily rectified.

All in all this probably took around 4 hours of the bank holiday weekend, not a bad few hours work. However, now it's back to work, plus a holiday, plus trying to move house means blog posts are likely to be even less frequent than ususal.

For reference, all the documents for the NCE components are available as pdfs on their website so I keep copies of them in Evernote on my Nexus tablet. It's a great way to carry all your documents with you when out and about.