Sunday, August 22, 2010

Backscene 1 - Signals 0

In my last post I was about to install the new signals that Dale Richards made for me and I thought that this was the next logical step, wrong!
I realised that I neeeded to paint the backscenes along the garage doors before I could safely install the signals at the branch junction as I would have to remove the backscene panels for painting as it was too far to lean across the Bylong station section below.
Oh well, we can't always do what we want when we want to can we?
I had investigated the paints I needed to use a little while ago and these were made by Jo Sonja and could be found in craft stores (of the female persuasion) but also at Bunnings. Jo Sonja makes a range of paints called 'Background Colours' and from these I used the following, Sky Blue for distant blue hills, a mix of Sky Blue and Forest Green for shading the blue hills, Oak Moss and Forest Green for distant wooded hills, Oak Moss for distant grassy hills, then Vellum and Willow mixtures, some with a little Forest Green for closer fields.
I used my digital projector to project a suitable long panorama scene I had taken in the NSW countryside onto the backscene and then sketched in the horizon, mountains, hill lines and foreground features, etc with a 6B pencil.
After trying out my painting techniques on a small piece of previously sky painted backscene I held my breath and started earlier this week.
Here are some pictures of the result.
Now I worked out the horizon by looking at the projected picture as roughly my eye height which seems to work pretty well in the above photos but here is a 3/4 view of a train on the grade to the upper staging and it certainly doesn't work from this view, looks like you can't have it both ways which is one of life's little rules.
Also note the way that the foreshortened view causes the hills and mountains to become peaked. The only way to reduce this is to paint your hills and mountains very long horizontally if you understand what I mean.
A comparison with older photos will show that I have matched the colours of the old backscene reasonably well but without the misty effect I achieved with a can of grey primer sometime back.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Working Lower Quadrant Signals

I have been asked in a comment on my last post if the signals are made to work and if so, do I intend making them work, the answer is yes on both counts.

I have had two signals working for about 6 years now and thought it was about time I pushed the signalling along.
I received the two brackets and two home signals last Friday night and have just started to work out their exact locations on the layout, hence the picture in the last post.
To make them operate I use cheap relays with a fine phosphor bronze wire soldered onto the 'clapper'? (the moving piece) the other end of wire is threaded into a hole in the bell crank arrangement to operate the signal. I also use a small weight on the crank to make the signal fail safe, i.e. a loss of power brings the signal to stop.
Now, you can use bell cranks available from model aricraft hobby shops that are quite cheap but I use the Circuitron Actuator (Part 800-8101) that is actually made to do just this job, although when I first bought them about 6 years ago I didn't realise that is what they were for.
I get them from the Model Railroad Craftsman at Blacktown and here is a picture from the Circuitron product catalog:

The actuator comes with 450mm (18") of wire in tube as shown above that would help with placement of the Tortoise motor if you are rich enough to use them for this.
The bell crank has limits placed on it's movement (adjustable with the two small screws) so that the stress is taken by the bell crank and not by the signal mechanism.
I will be mounting the signals on a piece of 3mm MDF and will set up the bell crank and signal connecting rod on it as well. I will lower the bell crank part through a suitably sized hole cut in the board and fit the relay underneath after. The relay positioning is easy as the phosphor bronze wire is about 100mm (4") long and has a lot of flexibility, it also takes up the excess movement at the bell crank.
I have previously installed the board under the layout by putting the signal up through a hole in the layout baseboard as this allows the signal, bell crank and relay to be set up and working but at the expense of having to fill the hole through the baseboard and around the signal. Does that make sense?

Simple enough really.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Back Again

I have just spent an inordinate amount of time removing a thin layer of 'plaster' and ballast next to the main near the Ulan Colliery branch junction. Now this may not seem much but it took me about 10 minutes to remove about a 1" square section to provide a flat area to mount a new bracket signal that Dale Richards made for me. Now this piece of layout was sceniced in about 1982 with plaster and ballasted using PVA (I think; it has been a long time). I have struck this same problem before with scenery around the Bylong station area which was originally done in 1979.
I don't have any answer to this riddle it just had me amazed at the difficulty.
I took this photo to check how the signal looks and am very happy with it.

I will soon be removing some of the plaster on the small bank in front of the white railway gate so that I can install a small sleeper built retained area for the signal box that will control the junction and the Sydney end of Wollar yard. Given the difficulty experienced so far this could be an interesting exercise.
I also contracted Dale to build another bracket signal and two home signals for the branch junction on the main beyond the Gulgong end of Wollar yard. just past the flour mill.
I decided that it was time I did something about signalling the layout and finally decided on the 'style' of signalling.
I went for homes signals outside of stations and loops, the two junction brackets and a couple of distants where there is room.
The next step upwards in signalling gets very complicated with brackets inside yards to indicate main or loop, starting signals, etc.
I have decided that the trains will be started by the signalman or stationmaster using a green flag (as they did) and yes, Bylong is operated with signalmen and stationmasters as we can only run about 4 - 5 trains at any one time and there are about 10 of us when we operate.
The 'green flags' in my case though will be green LEDs on the fascia of the layout opposite the ends of the loops or on the main. These will be operated by the stationmaster/signalman using a momentary contact push button. The button will be pressed for a few seconds and the train driver will respond by blowing the whistle before proceeding out of the station. It will be a momentary push button as I am sure that the real stationmaster would not hold his arm up forever (no there won't be any silver whistles issued either).
The purists will say this is all wrong but I am looking for something that appears to be more or less correct without all the complications that would tie up the operations too tightly.
Now, if I follow my usual work regime, it will probably take me another two years to finish this little exercise.