Tuesday, January 26, 2010

And now, the benchwork will continue

Now that the switch machines on the staging level are installed, tested, and fully wired/operational (with the exception of the final model board installation), benchwork for the second level roadbed can be constructed. Rick came over and we spent this past Saturday building the stringers for the remainder of the main line!This image illustrates the general approach we took. The design leaves approximately 9-1/2 inches of clearance between the bottom of the top level and the railhead of the staging area, which will be plenty to adjust train or locomotive consists. The main stringers here are 2X3 pine, therefore there is approximately 6" of clearance between stringers and railhead, plenty for even my tallest equipment.After 6 hours with both of us working, we had completed the new stringer arrangement and could re-populate the staging yard. Here you can see the difference between the future Onondaga Yard area (to the right) and the open mainline running (on the far side of the studs to the left). The Yard will consist of plywood installed directly on the stringers. On the back side, the subroadbed plywood will be at the same elevation, but supported by small risers to allow the scenery to fall away a bit on each side of the mainline - much like it does in many open rural areas of Central New York.Above is the CP 282 area with the top layer subroadbed installed. The staging at CP 274 is below. We used scraps of 2X4 and 2X3 from the wall construction as supports for this area of the staging yard since the lower-level stringers were not accessible. This is a good example of how you need to be flexible and creative with your benchwork sometimes - it is not as cut and dry as you imagine all the time! The most important thing is to constantly check the level and elevation. When building atop a layer that was carefully constructed to begin with, this gets easier and easier as you go along.

And, finally - I couldn't resist including this shot of Conrail B36-7 5037 during a test run after the new benchwork was installed...
More to come as I continue installing the second level subroadbed!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Wiring Interlockings

Interlockings, controlled locations on railroads where trains can change tracks and signals can be displayed by a dispatcher or operator, are very complicated installations. Turnouts themselves are complicated, and so is the circuitry and wiring to control the turnouts. This chaos is the underside of the staging level at both ends of the staging yard. This shows first-hand why colors are so important for organized wiring - it is the only reliable way to tell what goes where! Some of this will be cleaned up using zip-ties, and I plan on labeling most of the origins and terminals so as to provide some insight during future adjustments or electrical problems. This image shows a typical installation for a pair of the Circuitron 'Tortoise' machines. These come with a mounting jig, allowing the installer to locate the machines using a small hole drilled through the benchwork at the location of the throwbar on the turnout. Four pilot holes are drilled for mounting screws, and the machine is installed from below the subroadbed. I had to check the alignment several times in order to get the location just right, but it has worked out well so far. This is the 'heart' of one of my interlockings, CP 295. This is the 'west' end of my staging yard, and this terminal strip is how I have routed a separate power suppy to the switch machines. While I used red and white wire for track power, I have used black and green for switch power, and will someday use blue and yellow for signal power. The heavier 14-gauge green and black wires lead to another terminal strip which is the location from which all my switches will be powered, and it in turn is wired to an old transformer set to 10 volts.

The nicest part of the Tortoise machine design is that it is constantly under power, and simply will stall once the points reach their full throw. This means that the machine will not burn out from constant power, which is a nice change from the cheaper 'snap' switches I was used to.
Here is the organized chaos of the back of a model board, the 'brain' and control center for an interlocking. These are double-pole, double-throw switches that essentially reverse the DC power to the machines, which simply makes them spin one way or the other, throwing the switch. The thin orange and white wires run from the switch to the Tortoise machine. For now, these are mounted in a simple cardboard mockup of what will soon be a black plexiglas model board, with white lines representing tracks and decals for labels. I will also be installing LED's as indicator lights, although not until the final model boards are in place.
The temporary model boards for each end of the staging yard... And, finally, a close-up shot showing the throwbar itself on a Micro-Engineering #6 switch in the staging yard. If you look at the close end of the throwbar, you can just barely make out the end of the steel wire that links the machine to the throwbar and moves the point rails. It's a nice set-up and worth the extra money compared to other machines.

This completes the work on the staging level that must be done ahead of the second level! It's a major milepost in construction. This weekend, Rick & I will be installing the benchwork for the second level, and then we're back to installing roadbed, track, and more interlockings.

Stay tuned!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Machine

Here's a quick shot of an installed Circuitron 'Tortoise' switch machine on the layout. I'll go into more detail on these soon, but so far I'm very happy I took the more expensive option for turnout control on the Onondaga Cutoff.
There are many built-in options with these motors and the possibilities are many. For me, I will be using double-pole, double-throw toggle switches to control the motors, and will incorporate bi-color LEDs on the model boards to indicate the direction of the switches.

More to come soon!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Almost Ready...

Switch machine installation was in full swing this past weekend as I worked to install Circuitron's "Tortoise" under-table machines and associated electronics. I will make some photos this weekend post the process for you all to see. While cumbersome, these units are reliable and prototypical in both operation and...yup...sound. They sound very much like a 1/87 scale electromechanical throw motor!

More to come soon. Happy New Year!