Tuesday, 23 March 2021

On The Surface

I think I've mentioned that I'm building Grundy's Yard on an old baseboard that doesn't really suit under baseboard wiring and point control.  Even if it did, I would still be trying to keep as much as possible above baseboard. The Cadeby layout suffered badly from being turned over so I could work on the electrics, especially the trees, which lost much of their foliage.

I've never been happy with my various attempts at manual point control. They have worked, but always felt a bit Heath Robinson.  When work on TAoC recommences I'll probably use Blue "manual" turnout motors. Some would quibble about the cost but I want something that will be as foolproof and reliable as possible. Having said that I could even use the Morgan Design TOUs again.

Bodging the point control on Apa Valley. How hard would it be for someone to produce this as a commercial product? So many of us have done it.

Back to Grundy's Yard, I  want something foolproof and reliable. I'm using Mercontrol to operate the points, the question is where to place the microswitches, and what type to use. Where to place them depends on whether I value accessibility more than reliability. The type depends on the location

What would make life very easy would be if the Peco undertrack microswitch could be attached directly to a turnout, rather than to the point motor, and had arms to attach an operating wire to. I'm wondering if I could adapt them in that way, possibly in conjunction with the adaptor base. I'm also hoping that the tolerance that seems to be built into Peco's products designed for use with their somewhat brutal point motors might avoid the need for omega loops, which would be one less thing to hide.

Perhaps counterintuitively, I'm trying to avoid soldered joints in the wiring. That isn't because I don't trust my soldering, but as we know soldered joints do fail, and given the surface mounting I don't really want to be waving a soldering iron around in close proximity to the scenic stuff.

I have a horrible feeling that I'm about to fall into my usual trap of embarking on a project partly inspired by stuff I have lying around and then using something completely different. Yes, I have considered biting the bullet and building a new baseboard. I might still. The deciding factor will be a decision about how I'm going to display the layout. I'm normally passionate about the need for back scenes and the value of proscenium arches, but the Cadeby layout actually works very well without either, especially now it is on display in my studio, where the walls are painted sky blue for a reason. 

What I'm definitely thinking about changing is the surface material. I had two layers of foamboard in mind originally, which worked really well on the  Apa Valley (remember that?) micro and I have a large box of it taking up space in the studio. I will still make use of it, but I'm beginning to think it would be sensible to use something else for the trackbed at least, like balsa foam.

With the end of lockdown in sight, I do find myself considering Grundy's Yard as a possible exhibition layout. That is very unlike me. It is actually behind my thinking about making it as foolproof as possible. It isn't intended to be compared to the seminal Outwell Basin Wisbech & Upwell layout, but as a simple example of a layout anyone could build, and find space for, whilst raising standards without going full-on finescale.


Friday, 19 March 2021

I Had A Dream.

 Quite literally, I had a dream.

I've not been one hundred per cent happy about the approach I was taking to control of the three-way point on Grundy's Yard. The answer, or at least part of it, came to me in a dream. Needless to say, it turns out to be blindingly obvious in retrospect and just involves using a different type of microswitch and trusting a type of wire connector I've not used before to enable maintenance if required. 

I think I'm going to have to build a structure to hide some of the workings, but by a happy coincidenceScalescenes generously made available the ideal building for that use from their back catalogue.

With a little more time on my hands than normal, having got the Danish presentation out of the way, I've been thinking about revisiting the Scalescenes Canal Boxfile layout as well. My plan for this has long been to use it as the basis of an OO6.5mm layout with perhaps a little bit of standard gauge, and mounted on a slightly larger baseboard than the boxfile. It helped that I found some of the stock that I'd lost, which gave me a chance to compare an 009 loco with a HOF one 

Saturday, 13 March 2021

Costs, Complications and Exhibitions

 Did I really think I could build Grundy's yard mostly from the store cupboard at a low cost?

Well to be fair, I have mostly been using the storecupboard. It has provided the track, the ballast, the baseboard, the trackbed, most of the scenic materials, most of the electricals, and pretty much all the stock I'll need.

Yet I've still spent a fair amount of cash.

What on?

The biggest single cost has probably been couplings, and this photo lets the cat out of the bag that I'm using Kadees. I came very close to retaining tension locks, since I'm not planning to re-gauge any of the stock to EM. It feels like a big investment, but I have two other projects where I'm planning to use them anyway so I will be able to spread the cost out. It might seem odd, given that I've never built an exhibition layout in my life, that my choice was partly based on possible exhibition use and what I've observed on exhibition layouts. Which is, essentially, that at exhibition viewing distances Kadees are no more obvious than S&Ws.

Then there is point operation. I discovered I had fewer wire in tube components lying around than I thought I had. I suspect actually that means I can't find them and one day will open a box to discover a hidden stash. The layout does only have the one, three-way, point, but I  wanted the freedom to operate it from front or back. The baseboard I have lying around also dictates that control has to be surface mounted. Rather like the couplings the cost mounted because there was no way to buy just the components I needed for this layout.

Having said which I realised afterwards that I'd forgotten about another idea that, I suspect might be more robust and cheaper in this situation.

Finally, there have been all the little things that add up. Appropriate buffer stops, a water crane, and a brake van. I suspect I'll probably need to top up some scenic materials as well, and some figures and a lorry, perhaps.

I still think that when I add it all up and share the costs across other projects I'll have spent less than £60 specifically on the finished layout. But I reckon I've spent at least twice that on initial capital outlay. Then there is the value of the things I already had to hand. 

The title of this post alluded to complications as well as costs, though obviously there are links between them. Oddly, and this applies to my day job as well, striving to simplify things can add complications. Mechanical point control in this case will probably end up costing me more than using Peco point motors and built in microswitches, as well as being less foolproof to install. Other coupling systems would in some ways be less complicated to install. Opting for possible operation from front or back has definitely complicated things. As has going for keeping everything above the baseboard. Mind you, needless to say, as work has progressed I've come up with ideas for doing things differently next time that might genuinely make things simpler.

I alluded to exhibitions earlier. I very much doubt this ever will make an exhibition appearance. However, that remote possibility has been part of my thinking, partly because the subject is of local interest and I'm involved with local heritage groups, so who knows. The "what if" exhibition scenario is definitely behind my desire to have it operable from front or back, particularly in a post-Covid world where exhibitors will be encouraged to social distance from attendees.

Thursday, 4 March 2021

Displacement Activity

I've mentioned before that the virus hasn't had much impact on work, apart from the lack of travel and missing physical conferences. In the background, I've been busy recording podcasts on various esoteric subjects, such as the use of robots in the service industry

I'm supposed to be writing a session for a virtual conference being held in Denmark next week. In theory it should take me an hour or so to do the slides, since it is my specialist subject and I try to avoid subjecting the audience to death by Powerpoint.

But, like many of the colleagues in the industry, it seems that the dreaded writer's block has struck me down. In my case part of the issue is that since we've had the garden office built I'm keeping more regular hours, which makes my wife happy, but 8.30am to 6pm isn't my most creative time.

So today I decided to start "tidying" the studio side of the office. In reality, that means moving things around in a vain attempt to make room to start work on Grundy's Yard.  The one good thing to come out of it is that the OO9 micro has been retrieved from the back of a cupboard and is now back on display. The downside is I'm going to have to do some work to get it presentable and operational again.

The new location means it is at eye-level and viewed from a different angle, rather like the way you saw Cadeby from the main road. In fact, I think the view works so well I might incorporate an element of it into my trial OO6.5 layout.