Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Up-cycle - Uncoupling Magnets

I have been experimenting with uncoupling magnets for Up-cycle in those few spare moments over Christmas. The Micro-Trains coupling system (as with is's larger Kadee cousins) has the useful facility to serve many sidings from one magnet in the headshunt, using delayed action to uncouple a wagon before pushing it into the siding.  However, this  is useless if you wish to uncouple within the siding itself, you would need another magnet in each siding anyway....

Having decided to install uncouplers in typical uncoupling locations rather than rely wholly on delayed uncoupling, my installation has gone through some development. I initially installed MicroTrains' own magnets, however I discovered that they are not ideally suited for shunting individual O9 wagons as the wagons are the exact same length as the magnets, making for all sorts of accidental uncoupling incidents whilst trying to couple beyond the magnets. I am advised that it is possible to carefully score and snap the magnets to make two shorter ones, but that wasn't really something to try at 3pm on Christmas Eve!

I have therefore created my own magnets from pairs of 18 x 3 x 3mm ferrite magnets from Squires, set approx 0.75mm apart with a styrene strip between, and with some 0.5mm styrene underneath (L-R: individual magnet; magnets in position; the packet as bought):

Some experimentation soon finds the correct orientation of the magnets to attract the droppers on the MicroTrains couplings. The two magnets should attract each other along the sides, the two top poles are the same. I marked each magnet to show which way around it should sit before installing them with the magnet tops level with the rail head:

The sequence shows the magnets in use, starting with pulling up over the magnet and the couplings starting to feel the force of the magnet below:

Pulling apart the couplings are fully attracted to the side:

Pushing back together the couplings adopt the delayed position, should that be required to push a wagon further down the siding:

Obviously these magnets are still quite experimental, but that all adds to the fun!


Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Up-cycle - Some thoughts on setting

Lets face it, there isn't really that much that can be done scenically in a space 29" x 6" and without much depth.  Whilst planning 'Up-cycle' my thoughts were alternating between a scene that could definitely be linked thematically to 'Shifting Sands', i.e. another part of the Somerthorpe Miniature Railway; or a generic scene that could be anywhere on a 15" railway.

My first thoughts were for a shed scene, the "other shed" that must exist somewhere on the SMR as the sheds at 'Shifting Sands' are not that large.  My original idea was to have a dummy traverser on the rear line to create a three-road shed (inspired by the traverser that used to exist at Steamtown, Carnforth - as pictured here), however by the time I came to sketch the idea out, a dummy point was planned due to space restraints.  The shed would have been a removable facade only, the tank on it's stand adding some much needed depth:

At the other end of the board, a workshop building based on the old Cleethorpes Coast Light Railway workshop (now hidden amongst other buildings) could have stood in front of the fiddle siding.  This sketch also shows (lower left) an alternative idea for this siding based on the 'Shifting Sands' WW2 pill box and some Peco railings. Upper right is an idea for the right hand end using a removable container as part of a permanent way store:

These last two sketches could come to fruition, as the scenic work is more likely to follow the more generic path. As an example of the sort of thing that can be achieved using walls, fences and scenic details.  This is a diorama I produced several years ago which may provide some inspiration for the scenic treatment on Up-cycle:

May I take this chance to wish all readers of O9 Modeller a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.


Saturday, 20 December 2014

Introducing 'Up-cycle' - A MicrO-9 Project

As some of you will know, I'm very short on space about the house these days and my workbench lives in a walk-in bedroom cupboard, aka the 'Railway Cupboard', aka the 'Tardis'.  Over the years various schemes have been sketched up to get a working bit of railway in there but most were just too daft to actually build, or would compromise space somewhat.  Last month I pictured the workbench in a rare, tidy moment...

This month it's a bit different:

I've always come back to idea that the best way of getting a working "layout" in there is simply a desk-sitter shunting plank.  So the size is rather pre-determined.  Finding space to store it whilst not in use is the other main design criteria. 

During a week off work in early December I managed to create a workable baseboard based on the principles of a box file layout (which was an alternative at one point) - i.e. three low sides and a base, but dispensing with any folding bits and incorporating some timber under the base for strength and to give the wiring somewhere to run. What you see above is all 29 1/2" x 6" of it, underneath it looks like this, you can see that with some foresight I drilled two 16mm holes in the ply roughly where the slide switches for the points would be:

Almost everything is recycled from somewhere or second-hand, hence the project name 'Up-cycled' (and we know what happened to my last project name..).  The ply was part of some boxing-in we removed from the living room during redecoration and the timber (allegedly pine but I'm not convinced) from a shelving unit I built as a shoe rack during that week off. The strip along the front is some 'J' section timber, marked up as costing me 20p at some point in the past. Everything was glued and screwed/pinned together and the result is a lightweight, strong board. All ply and timber parts are varnished to help avoid warping.

On top of the ply is a layer of 5mm foamcore and then cork tiles, this composite accepts and holds track pins with nothing poking out underneath.  Trackwork is all Peco, the points were secondhand some time ago and the track is mostly some short lengths I picked up for 50p at a recent exhibition, although some short rail lengths were swapped for longer lengths from the spares box to avoid too many joins.  Points are operated and frog polarity changed using slide switches recovered from an earlier project:

The overall height of the sides of the board is 70mm.  This is very low to be a backscene but can be disguised with walls and fences. This is where the second part of my design criteria came into play - any micro layout had to store in a very shallow space above a set of drawers:

All wiring is now complete and test running has commenced using my MG Models tram loco and A1 Models diesel. I hope that eventually I will be able to do a little shunting of sorts and certainly for testing MicroTrains coupling set-ups. This low level shot shows that there is enough depth to also allow use as a photographic backdrop:

More as and when the project develops.