Dapol Class 73s…into traffic!

March 28, 2017

No. 73 108 in late condition, photographed at Eastleigh in 2002.
Faded, dirty but still doing its stuff on the SE TPO.

No. 73 108 is one of the locomotives I have chosen to model using one of the two new Dapol models to recently arrive on Folkestone East. Conversion to EM turned out to be the simple, involving the regauging of the split axle wheel sets which have a good profile on them – good enough to run smoothly through my hand built track.

There are many well-thought out technical features of this model. The body lifts straight off after releasing the retaining screws – no pesky clips to fight. Don’t loose the screws though or you will be scr*wed when it comes to putting the body back. There is a good space for both decoder (nearest) and a sound speaker. A 21-pin socket ensures all lighting features have power.

The circuit board makes contact with circuits in the body by means of a row of sprung contact pins which eliminates linking wires and plug and sockets. However, I did not want the cab lights illuminated and was looking to fit a decoder with ‘stay-alive’ (‘keep-alive’) . The only one I had to hand was a wired LaisDCC one which works well with this mechanism. 21-pin versions with stay-alive are also available. I also wished to work the head code lights independently using red LEDs, so decided to remove the circuit board and hard wire a LaisDCC decoder in place with its stay-alive capacitor. The lighting connections to the circuit board are easy to locate and desolder, so this hard wire DCC conversion is easily reversed – the circuit board being stored away safely.

The image above shows the hard wire installation, with the head light LEDs wired with 5k Ohm resistors to reduce the fierce light to something a little more realistic. Connections will be made with the head code box LEDs too.

A stay-alive unit is seen in this image. It was not quite powerful enough to power the Dapol Class 73 when it lost contact through those pick-up bearing rings. In the end, I built a new stay-alive unit with some higher Farad rated capacitors with great success. The higher rated unit was still connected to the same LaisDCC decoder. It is worth mentioning that even the smallest capacity stay alive unit will prevent light flicker in the most reliable models even if there’s not enough juice to deal with a serious stall. In many instances, the flywheels fitted to modern mechanisms will carry a loco over a minute dirty spot without interruption,. The only hint of a problem will be a flickering of LED head and tail lights. Stay alive units also smooth the operation of locomotives that otherwise seem to run well.

A final look at the DCC installation. It may seem strange to remove the convenient 21-pin DCC interface. However, wired decoders offer so much more flexibility in terms of organising lighting effects and this installation turned out to be quick and effective. The model is numbered 73 108 with an address of 3108 and is now hauling trains on Folkestone East. It is at this point I must admit to keeping two Lima EDs, stripped of drives and in the process of being reworked with Dapol detailing parts. One is No. 73 129 ‘City of Winchester’ which is used as a trailing unit in the SE TPO so the train can be top and tailed. Two Dapol EDs on this train is overkill. The second loco was also a regular on the SE TPO: No. 73 131 which will eventually be refinished in EWS livery.

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Stay Alive ‘Peckett’ – fitting decoder and ‘cap’ to the Hornby model.

January 22, 2017

There’s not a lot of room in the Hornby OO gauge Peckett W4 0-4-0ST locomotive model which comes as no surprise. To maximise pulling power, the saddle tank, boiler and frame assembly is entirely cast from metal – beautifully done but challenging should you wish to fit even the smallest ‘Stay Alive’ device or speaker for digital sound.

 

The challenging little Peckett - a beautiful runner, but interesting should you wish to fit something other than the decoder Hornby has designed for it.

The challenging little Peckett – a beautiful runner, but interesting should you wish to fit something other than the decoder Hornby has designed for it.

Hornby has fitted a non-standard 4-pin interface for an adaptation of its small loco decoder. However, not all of us use Hornby DCC equipment and for various reasons too many to mention here. Adding an alternative N gauge decoder such as a Digitraz DZ126 for example would require hard wiring – at least it will slot into the front of the motor cavity where Hornby intends its own decoder to fit. However, when it comes to adding a Stay Alive device or digital sound…there’s simply no room unless the 4-pin plug arrangement is removed from the side of the motor and some milling out of the inside of the die-cast body undertaken – tricky!

This project shows how I fitted an N gauge decoder and Stay Alive to the Hornby Peckett.

This project shows how I fitted an N gauge decoder and Stay Alive to the Hornby Peckett.

To take advantage of the lovely mechanism over the sharp and complex track of the Loch Dhu Distillery yard, Stay Alive is essential to smooth operation in a loco with just four wheels and four current pick-ups distributed over a short wheelbase. I decided to try one of the low-cost LaisDCC decoders with its Stay Alive unit which would provide something like 0.5 to 1 second of power when track supply is interrupted. More power time would be desirable, but there’s simply insufficient space in the loco for a larger capacitor circuit such as the TCS KA-series decoders! Anyway, this is how I tackled the project. The same approach could be adopted by those wishing to fit a digital sound decoder – a sugar cube speaker should fit at the front of the model where I fitted the Stay Alive device. The model’s wiring, TV interference suppression capacitor and decoder retaining bracket were removed first.

Two screws hold the body in place - one is concealed behind a NEM coupling box.

Two screws hold the body in place – one is concealed behind the NEM coupling box at the front of the model.

There it is!

There it is!

For this project, soldering cannot be avoided. You will need heat shrink sleeve, a soldering iron and electrical solder, Kapton tape, double-sided adhesive tape, wire strippers, tweezers, mini-drill, milling tool for a mini-drill, wet and dry paper, screwdriver set, fine nose pliers, modelling knife and somewhere comfortable to work with plenty of light. It’s a long job!

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The wiring is simple including the rather large 4-pin socket arrangement. Interestingly enough, this is the start of fititng a decoder to the side of the motor to leave the front area clear for the Stay Alive unit (or speaker for a sound decoder).

Die-cast metal all round in the motor cavity - all of which can cause a short and kill a decoder if care is not taken over insulation and making enough room for the decoder.

Die-cast metal all round in the motor cavity – all of which can cause a short and kill a decoder if care is not taken over insulation and making enough room for the decoder.

peckett-dcc-image-8-web

Yes, there is potential for attaching a decoder to the side of the motor. Some further space will need to be ‘created’ by milling away some of the inside of the loco body. There is also enough room to run wiring across the top of the motor mount but not around the back.

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Wiring and brackets are stripped away. Heat shrink sleeve is used to insulate the soldered connections between loco wiring, Stay Alive device and the decoder harness wires.

The decoder wiring has been shortened to fit the model. The unwanted lighting function wires have been trimmed short and insulated from everything else with 'Kapton' tape.

The decoder wiring has been shortened to fit the model. The unwanted lighting function wires have been trimmed short and insulated from everything else with ‘Kapton’ tape.

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With the decoder positioned on the side of the motor, it is now a simple task to work out how much metal to remove from the inside of the body.

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Around 2mm of metal was removed from the inside of the body, on one side only. This shows progress after 30 minutes of very careful work.

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Once the body will easily slide on and off the chassis without the decoder catching anywhere, you are finished. Clean up rough edges with wet and dry paper and insulate the inside surfaces of the motor cavity with insulation tape. When test fitting the model, do not force it over the decoder – crushing and scraping will damage it. If there is even a hint of the body catching the decoder, remove it and slowly mill away some more metal. There’s plenty to go at without piercing the saddle tank!

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Final assembly with Stay Alive ‘cap’ taped into place and Kapton tape used to secure wiring in place. The body now drops straight on to the chassis without touching any components.

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A time consuming installation but well worth it. The value of CV29 was set to 34 to switch the analogue operation off so the Stay Alive unit will function correctly (also for 4-figure addressing). I hope the close proximity of the die-cast body will act as a heat sink for any heat generated by the decoder, not that this loco will be under much load!

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The installation has resulted in a smooth running engine. The effect of using a low power Stay Alive is to make operations smoother in such a small short wheelbase engine. If the track is truly contaminated, it won’t work as well as a TCS KA-series ‘Keep Alive’ device, but there’s no fitting one of those in a Hornby Peckett without seriously milling away a great deal of the die-cast metal with the consequent loss of adhesion.

Examples of the TCS KA-series decoders and 'Keep Alive' units - too large for this project!

Examples of the TCS KA-series decoders and ‘Keep Alive’ units – too large for this project!

The Hornby Peckett at work at the Loch Dhu Distillery interchange sidings.

The Hornby Peckett at work at the Loch Dhu Distillery interchange sidings.

 

 


Keeping it simple…control panels

March 13, 2016

control panel OMWB_3

Overly complicated layout controls are not my thing – I am more interested in train operation than trying to duplicate a signal box interior. The minimalist approach does not detract from the train driving experience, particularly on my large N scale Montana Rail Link layout where the use of wireless throttles allows engineers to follow their trains around the layout – hence the need for local panels.

With completion of track laying at Paradise East (Paradise MT) together with a running circuit on this second level of the bi-level layout, the time to consider control panels to operate the main line turnouts arose (the yard turnouts are manual). Even with my minimalist approach to layout design and construction, I was surprised how little work was needed to put in two local panels fed by a master control panel for this level of the layout.

control panel OMWB_2

Simplicity is very much thanks to DCC where there is no need for any section switches to separate locomotives from each other. All there is on each control panel is a Double-Pole, Double-Throw (DPDT) switch for each turnout motor and indicator LEDs (green for normal position and red for thrown). Using duplicate controls at the master panel means that indicator LEDs are a must as the switch position is no indication of the set of the turnouts.

control panel OMWB_1

Simple wiring too! This is the local panel fed from the master panel. A simple wooden frame, 80 thou styrene card top and some securing screws is all that is necessary to get this element of the layout working. The corners, edges etc. are smoothed down and rounded off to avoid snagging clothes or skin!

control panel OMWB

The local Paradise East panel in operation except for the switch on the left which remains to be wired up with the powered main line turnout at the west end of Paradise Yard. Some aircraft lining tape will be applied to show the track layout. Eventually, the styrene tops will be replaced with something more graphic. But in the mean time, to get an area of layout operations quickly for fine-tuning, de-snagging and adjustment, simple controls are all that is needed!

 


Truss-bridge works part 2

September 28, 2015

Bridge 218-3

MRL Bridge 218 has progressed a little recently. Five piers, two end abutments and the approach spans have been completed in a bid to span a large gap at the west end of the 4th Sub mainline where it crosses the Clark Fork River at Paradise MT. Without this structure, trains cannot begin to operate as intended. Using Kato Unitrack truss spans has saved some time and considerable amounts of money over using truss bridge kits, despite time-consuming modifications to the spans to off-set them to cross the river at an angle.

Bridge 218-2

As of today, the track panels for each span are complete and a timbered bridge deck to create the impression of ‘bridge track’ is being installed using strips of 40thou styrene card. That is a mind boggling task in its own right, but given that Micro Engineering Company track bridge track is difficult to find in the UK, it is a viable option. The gauge of 9mm for N scale is achieved by soldering code 55 rail to copper clad sleeper strip, spaced to match the trussing members. The gaps are then filled in with styrene strips to represent the larger timbers used in bridge track. Each truss section has its own track panel and the truss spa track sections will be joined using the track rail joiners when assembled on the piers.

Bridge 218-1

The structure is loosely placed on the layout to check the height of the bridge track with the adjacent abutments. There remains a few millimetres of adjustment to do in raising the bridge which can be done by completing the bearing pad detail. The piers are constructed of 80thou styrene with a wrapper of embossed stone card by South Eastern Finescale which was leftover from another project. The real Bridge 218 has concrete piers which, until recent repairs were undertaken by MRL, were looking pretty weathered and heavily patched and repaired. Embossed styrene card provides a key for a smear of Squadron filler which will be roughly rubbed down to create the desired worn concrete effect – some of the outline of the stone embossing may show though in places adding to the patched effect. Smooth styrene sheet would not have been so visually effective.

The structure will be used on the layout in unfinished condition for a time until the spans are painted dull black and weathered; the piers painted in some lovely warm concrete colours and a newer highway bridge constructed and placed immediately behind the rail bridge. Some additional detail remains to be added to the Unitrack truss spans over the next few modelling sessions.

It is turning out to be a long, long project, but one which I think will produce a passable representation of Bridge 218 on MRL at Paradise MT. Whilst there are some significant detail differences between the real truss spans of Bridge 218 and the Unitrack models, the compromise will be acceptable to me now the spans are off-set to cross the river at an angle and in the process of being detailed. There is not N gauge kit which could be used to make the truss spans making up Bridge 218 that is readily available. So rather than slip a piece of plywood in as a stop-gap, the Unitrack spans seem to be a fair substitute and should carry heavy (for N scale) 10 to 12 foot long trains without difficulty!

 


What’s a cookin’?

July 28, 2015

Class20TC-3-wordpressHmm – I have been quiet of late. Computers or my work bench? I know I prefer the latter, but the arrival of the first new (and I mean brand new) OO gauge model for my collection in a very long time deserves a little attention.

And no, it’s not another product of English Electric for the Southern region. It’s EE alright, but there’s something amiss with my traction choice of late. The Bachmann Class 20 above is going to more at home on ScR pick-up goods circa 1965 than the former Southern Region. Numbered D8028, the model (32-044) is one of the latest Class 20 releases from Bachmann which includes the unusual green Class 20, No. 20141, a real hold out loco which survived in BR green into the early 1980s (32-034A).Class 20TC-2-wordpressClass20TC-1-wordpress
The tablet catcher equipment is a bit of a giveaway as to the origins of this locomotive model. Not destined for Folkestone East; it is the first arrival for a new OO gauge layout project which has been slowly taking shape this year. The model itself is neatly finished in early condition. It will be renumbered D8032 and given a suitably grimy finish. The model does not come equipped with lighting, so that will make an interesting DCC project.
Class20TC-4-wordpressClass20TC-5-wordpress copyHere’s another clue as to my current layout planning ideas:

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Covhop-1-wordpressOne of my rare Ebay auction wins and for a reasonable price too. Two ‘Whisky’ covhops, origin Trix Trains/Liliput and latterly Bachmann. They are more recent models and cost relatively little to buy. I am now searching around for some 16t mineral wagons, 13t steel sided wagons and some shock wagons, not to mention a handful of vans. The project will not need a lot of wagons, being compact in design.

This does not mean that I have been dormant on my other projects. The OHLE is finally in place on Dudley Heath and anyone who saw the layout at the Perth show last month will have seen it in its state of interim installation.

The Montana Rail Link layout has seen considerably more activity – almost a complete redesign now I have decided to bridge the layout room door way – something I have resisted for some time. The result is a simplified layout design and a longer main line run.

Folkestone East is mothballed currently and has been so since my return from a long trip to Norway. The stock is yet to be placed back on the layout and remains in secure storage. Dust sheets rule there!

Tronheim copy
Finally, I am surprised how little equipment there is for modelling current NSB operations. The shot above was grabbed at Trondheim on the 28th May of this year. The stock from the Bodø-Trondheim sleeper is moved ECS to the berthing sidings after its arrival from the Arctic. I would take considerably more interest in modelling the railways of one of my favourite countries if there was more equipment available either in HO or N gauge.


Inverness Show this weekend…

September 6, 2013

DHJ-13-2

Dudley Heath will be making a rare outing at the Inverness show this weekend – a weekend of playing trains for the pleasure of it! The show is held at the Mercure Hotel in the centre of Inverness, two minutes walk in a straight line more or less from the front of the station. The exhibition is open on Saturday (10 to 5) and Sunday (10 to 4).

DHJ-13-3

There was the usual show preparation to do: Track cleaning and conditioning, wheel cleaning and maintenance jobs on locomotives and rolling stock. The rails are treated with Rail-Zip2 the night before the layout travels to the show. Rail-Zip2 conditions the rails preventing excessive arcing between wheels and rails, reducing tarnish and dirt build-up. It lasts long enough for a two-day show which (hopefully) removes the need to clean the track during operations.

DHJ-13

Testing was completed following the layout’s relatively long period in storage – it has not been out since its outing to Peterborough last Autumn. The OHLE is yet to be ordered, built up and installed, so uncluttered photographic views like the one above are still possible to take. The down side is that the GF Class 350 and Dapol Class 86s remain to enter service.


Overcoming analysis paralysis…

May 9, 2013

There was a block on the completion of my Montana Rail Link 4th Sub layout which occupies the lower and middle deck of my home based, never to go to shows, layout. I really, really was not keen on any sort of bridge across the entrance doors to the cabin – it was an absolute ‘Given’ in my planning that there should be no bridge. This, combined with a determined bit of bloody-mindedness over the inclusion of a trestle on the 4th Sub line resulted in a struggle with the final bit of track planning, holding up the middle deck of the layout.

10th sub-6

In the end, I looked at the possibility of using aluminium angle to create a rigid and stable removable bridge across the doors to the cabin. The experiment worked and thus a route for the secondary 10th Sub line could be included in the plan, resolving several track planning dilemmas. Also, this move clarifies where the west end staging yard (Sandpoint) will be located.

10th sub-5

Some care was needed to ensure good alignment at each end of the lift out bridge. This allows a single track line to run round the opposite side of the room from the main line (4th Sub route) and allows the junction with the 4th Sub at Paradise to be modelled.

10th sub-4

10th sub-3

10th sub-2

With that planning change, work could commence on the building of the baseboards, inserting the spline track bed and preparing for track laying. The layout is based on shelf layout principles and the boards above are only 10 inches wide, minimising impact on the room but increasing operating potential of the layout.

10th sub-8

The picture above shows a view of testing work on the new door bridge using temporary wiring before completing the back drop and fascia. A switch to prevent trains entering the bridge zone will be installed to prevent accidents!

10th sub-7

The door bridge project turned out to be more successful than I had hoped. I can now make further changes – installing a Pratt through truss bridge (4 spans) on this stretch of 10th Sub line to cross the Flat Head River and a similar truss bridge on the main line close to Paradise Yard. This fills my bridge building urges and means the originally planned trestle can be dropped. At last, the over-thinking (or analysis paralysis) is over and practical work on the layout has recommenced – and all resolved by adopting a more flexible approach.