Saturday, March 16, 2019

Staffs and Staff Boxes - A Model Interpretation

It has been a while since the last post and I did say I was working on something for another post so here it is.

This took a lot longer to do than I anticipated.

I have drawn up and printed some small staff boxes for use on my Bylong layout. These staff boxes had to fit on the layout edge which is made from nominal 2 inch X 1 inch pine framing with 1/2 inch (12/13 mm) chipboard on top. The boxes were designed to fit the nominal 2 inch edge. Nominal means that the pine frame isn't really 2 inches X 1 inch and in fact measures 42 mm X 20 mm.

The idea was to use the small 3D printed staffs available from my Signals Branch shop although I did have to print two more on my FDM (filament) printer which I will come to later in this post.

So the idea was to use the small tabs on the staffs to trigger two micro switches to turn the box into a switch. Now each staff has two tabs in different places just like the prototype does. On the prototype the staff is inserted into a key way in the side of the box and this enables the box lid to be opened so that a book of tickets can be removed and used to allow a train to proceed into the next staff section without the staff. Once the train or trains have left the staff section the following train can proceed with the staff to the next staff section signal box. Of course no train movements can come in the other direction until the staff has arrived at the next section signal box to allow the process to repeat for the other direction. The other aspect of this is that the staff will only open the staff box it is for.

The staff boxes are painted in red, white, blue and green and have a circle, triangle, square and heart respectively.





The name plates on the above staff boxes appear to be a later addition. On the model boxes I chose to used raised lettering to make it easier to paint the signal box/station names.

Here is a photo of the parts I designed and printed on my FDM printer:







Of course, the staff box is too small to contain tickets so the idea is to use the micro switches and the matching staff to say change the opposing Home signal to stop. The switches could be used with a solenoid or servo to unlock another box containing tickets as well. I will be using the staffs and staff boxes to trigger programming in NCE Mini Panels. I set up a Mini Panel with some programming but found that the normal lever (switch) that operates the Home signal would change the signal to clear even if the staff box had put it at stop. So the thought is to use the staff box to disconnect the wiring of the signal lever that goes to the Mini Panel such that the signal can't go to clear while the staff is in the staff box. The staff box would also trigger the Mini Panel to put the Home signal at stop.

A note here about NCE Mini Panel triggering. The Mini Panel uses a wire from the Mini Panel ground to a switch then back to an input on the Mini Panel. The Mini Panel programming reacts to a change of state such as a switch closure but not about the switch already being closed hence the problem above with the Home signal. Also to throw a point or signal the other way it needs a separate input so keep this in mind if using a Mini Panel. The Mini Panel has 5 volts available on the circuit board which could be used with a 5 volt relay or a flip flop transistor circuit if required to feed from a NCE BD20 track detector to the Mini Panel. The Mini Panel will react to the BD20 turning on but does not react to a BD20 or switch turning off so the relay or transistor circuit can be used here to produce the turn off input to the Mini Panel. 

Anyway, that is where I have got to after several weeks of design, printing and painting the staff boxes. Oh yes, I had to make two more staffs with different tabs and matching staff boxes for two extra sections. I painted the circle and heart on the two repeating staff boxes brass along with the area around the circle and heart cutouts on the staffs to indicate that they are different.

While I am sure staff sections on the real railway have a number of stations within them I chose to have staff sections that ran from station to station in model form.

Here is the full set in order including the one already mounted at Bylong. In the way of these things I managed to put the triangle on my white model boxes upside down so It looks like some more printing and painting coming up.


Now I have to get back to finishing and installing the rest of my signals on Bylong, it never ends does it, just as well that it is fun.




Saturday, February 2, 2019

Werris Creek Station and a Couple of Signal Boxes

Sorry for the lack of posts over the holiday period, we haven't been away just other things intruding at times.

I have been doing a couple of things though.

In early December I installed the Werris Creek station building and platform on Ron Cunningham's Werris Creek layout. It didn't go quite as planned even though I had made a template of the space and worked out where the platform and building would go. Unfortunately, I didn't allow enough platform space for the awnings on both sides of the building which meant that the platform and building had to move further away from the apex of the North and North Western lines. The result was that the straight end of the platform on the North line had to be trimmed to meet the curve of the track as it wrapped around the room corner. Luckily the curved part of the platform is not really that visible and will be hidden once the Refreshment Room/Hotel building is in place (whenever that might be).

I decided that it was time for it to go to Ron's even though there are still a few bits to be done. The main things are the platform edging which I am hoping will be laser etched and cut so that it can be laminated onto the timber platform face. The second missing item was the small concrete paneled signal box on the apex of the platform.


Station just prior to the move with a rough first print' of the platform signal box
So, as the platform edging was out of my hands I had decided to work on the small signal box. On our way last November to the Convention at Armidale we dropped into Werris Creek and I measured the signal box and took some photos, these were now referred t as I drew up a 3D version for printing. I printed the walls and roof on my Cocoon Create Touch FDM printer (filament) and the doors and windows and gable barge boards were printed on my new Phrozen Shuffle XL DLP printer (resin). While the walls and roof are not as good a finish as would be achieved with the DLP printer they are adequate and straight/rectangular models are difficult to keep straight with DLP printers as the resin is prone to warping caused by about a 0.5% shrinkage when curing. Some warping is evident in the doors of the South Box model, these were straight when printed and warped later.

Only photo I have found of the signal box in 1971 - Photographer unknown

In 'Heritage' colours - November 2018

The model sitting in the grass on my Cassilis yard on BYLONG
Please note that the current signal box is lowered slightly into the platform surface due to the platform having been raised. The model is correct for the period.

With the small signal box out of the way I decided that the next job was to do the same for the Werris Creek South Box which has long been demolished. I had two photos of is and a couple of sketches by an unknown person. This sketch was useful as it gave me an indication of what was on the rear wall of the South Box. The extra details around the signal box will be added once the South Box is in place permanently.

The prototype photos and the final result are shown here below less the deck at the front which will be built once the small scenery bank that it sits on is in place on the layout.

Unknown photographer
Unknown photographer
Sketches - Unknown Artist

The model sitting in the grass on my Cassilis yard on BYLONG
I have been up to some other modelling recently but that will be a subject for the next post.


Monday, December 24, 2018

Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

Well another year has gone by and this now makes the tenth year of the blog, quite amazing!

I don't know what I expected when I started the blog in 2008 but I have had fun although the posts have got a bit further apart of late. I will try to do more posts about the layout and little projects this coming year although there will be the odd 3D printing post as I find it a fascinating way to model although not suitable for everything.

I have always liked to push the boundaries and try new techniques and as such BYLONG has really been a test bed down the years since it first started in 1978. Parts of the existing layout are still in evidence from the first exhibited 1979 version and it takes me back to an earlier time when I look at this years Christmas card as the hill behind the town with the rusty corrugated iron shed above the street is from the original layout.


Talking of projects I really must finish the pub on the corner of the main street, slack! Unfortunately this is a side effect of having ideas and wanting to try new things.

It doesn't look like the lack of a two story verandah and awning has caused the locals to stay away on this Christmas Eve afternoon.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Lambing Flat Running Session

Last Friday night I attended a running night at James McInerney's Lambing Flat layout along with James of course, Ron Cunningham, Terry Flynn, Marcus Ammann and John Zubrickas. James will be moving in the New Year and the layout won't be in its current configuration at its new home so it was a night to run it before it goes into a temporary limbo.

I tried out a small 4K video camera that has been designed to be used on a drone. The idea being that as most of these cameras have a wide angle lens which can give some distortion in the outer areas of the picture the 4K resolution will allow a Full High Definition(or near enough) segment of the images to be cropped to remove the distortion and also possibly room walls, etc. The camera doesn't have a screen so I had to place it where I thought it would give a good view of the action. Sometimes I placed it a little too close so the trains might be a bit out of focus but the low down by the track effect is good I believe.

The operating was fun particularly the shunting which I didn't video unfortunately. James has his shunting locomotives set up with momentum and he requests that you shunt by accelerating to step 20 of 128 on a DCC throttle so that the movement is very smooth. As the shunting locomotives have Soundtraxx Tsunamis (original Tusnami, Econamis and a Tsunami 2) then a working brake is also available and this can be used to great effect to slow down and neatly couple to a wagon, great fun!

Here is a video I put together of some of the trains running that night, enjoy.


And here are a some photos as they progress around the layout.


















After adding the above photos to this post I realised that I missed a creek section between the station yard and the stock race as well as the branch leading to another staging yard, it can be seen leaving to the right in the second photo immediately above.

I hope you enjoyed the video and photos as I certainly enjoyed the night, thanks James!












Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Shapeways 15% Off Sale Extended for 24 Hours

Shapeways has extended the 15% off sale for another 24 hours.
Thank you those who ordered something from my Signals Branch shop.
Use the code HAPPYMONDAY

Friday, November 23, 2018

Shapeways is Finally Having a Sale

Shapeways has just announced a 15% off sale that will be on what the USA calls Cyber Monday, 26 November 2018.

This is a 24 hour one day sale and the timing is the USA 26 November not Australia's so if you wish to place an order then make sure it is 26 November in New York.

Here is a link to a web site that can give you the time in New York:

This web site has a clock for Sydney and another for New York both with their respective dates below them.

This is the first sale since about January as Shapeways has been 'tightening their belt'.



Thursday, November 15, 2018

UPDATE - SIGNALS BRANCH and Shapeways New Pricing

Shapeways adjusted its printing costs on 22 October and anything new that I upload will be at the increased price and any existing items on my shop will remain at the old price until January 2019 when those prices will increase.

So if anyone wants to order something they had best do it before January.

It is hard to determine the new pricing as Shapeways no longer publishes their pricing algorithms (the way they calculate the price) for each material. The only way I can do so is to upload all 295 or so models on my shop as pricing ‘dummy’ checks.

I have done some ‘dummy’ uploads of existing items to see what the new prices will be.

The Smooth Detail Plastic (previously Frosted Ultra Detail) has gone up the most at about 34% of the print cost.


Versatile Plastic (previously White Strong and Flexible) has gone up a small amount, maybe 5% of print cost but a small item went up much more as a percentage so I think Shapeways has increased the base production cost and this is reflected in the large percentage increase. That is, most of the original price was base production cost.

On the few items I have uploaded the Brass seems to have gone up by 10 – 17% of the print cost.

There doesn't appear to be a simple pricing algorithm that I can work out.

Previously, the pricing went something like this:

  • A base amount to cover the production handling
  • A material used cost
  • A machine build volume component
  • The Smooth Detail Plastic (previously Frosted Ultra Detail) also had a wax support material used component.

Don't get too concerned over the percentages as there seems to be some other factors at play and the percentage may be on something that isn't too expensive, although 3D printing is expensive.

Not much fun for the modeller or the shop keeper and I have little control over the prices other than reducing what little I make.

Totally confused, I will have to wait until Shapeways gives the shop owners/designers a shop price list or some easy way to determine the new prices on mass.

Regarding the shipping, Shapeways has stated that normal production will take longer perhaps a couple of weeks longer but that there is a priority option that costs US$4.37 so about AU$6.00.

Incidentally. there has been no discounts or free shipping since about the start of the year and Black Friday (23 November - normally a Sale time) is 8 days away so it will be interesting to see if Shapeways does their usual sale. Somehow I doubt it will happen.