Sunday, September 22, 2013

LED lighting and a better view

When I first built the lower level of the teardrop with the loop at Kerrabee along with the other lower parts of the layout, it was as an afterthought that enabled me to extend the main line run. However since it wasn't part of the original design there were two downsides to this, the first was that the gap between the upper and lower levels was a bare 6 inches increasing to 8 inches (150 - 200mm, sorry but although working all my life in a laboratory with the metric system I still often think about the layout in feet and inches?) and the second was that the lighting for the lower level had to be made to fit where it could. The level under Wollar was basically OK as I was able to lower the front and have the scenery drop forwards from the track which visually opened up the scene to 9 - 10 inches.

Lighting for this area was done using compact fluorescent lights fitted into the frame of the upper level. Kerrabee however was a different matter. Because of the way that the outside of the teardrop had been constructed back in the 1980's I wasn't able to do the same and was forced to put the compact fluorescents above and behind the top of the low back scene which gave poor uneven light at best. A further issue was that I was not comfortable with 240 volts wiring under the layout as I had previously used 240 volt figure of eight wire for point motor power. I had used red Dymo tape to mark the 240 volt wiring about every twelve inches or so but it was still a danger.

Some time ago Bob Lynch had installed some 5 metre strings of LEDs on a lower level of his layout and also Ron Cunningham's Werris Creek, this gave me food for thought. A few weeks ago while pondering over the issue I had an idea on what to do. It was found that the combination of a strip of cool white and a strip of warm white gave plenty of light for photography along with good colour rendition, not perfect but unfortunately there doesn't seem to be 'natural' LEDs available.
The following photos show the various stages of the reconstruction of the outer part of the upper level to accommodate a higher back scene and LED lighting. The secret was the ability to put outrigger supports screwed to the rising grade supports of the upper level

The existing teardrop before reconstruction, note that the upper level only partly covers the lower level and also the depth of the upper valance.

Upper level valance and scenery removed exposing the upper level rising grading support structure.

Lower back scene extended vertically and upper supports in place which gradually increased the gap between the lower and upper levels. I considered removing the short lower back scene but I had nailed and glued it to the upper rising grade supports, hence the addition of a strip on the top of the existing back scene. This was achieved by first attaching small tabs of 3mm MDF every 4 inches or so with PVA glue held in place with cloths pegs. The additional back scene was then cut, glue applied on tabs and the top edge of the lower back scene, nailed at one end and carefully wrapped and tacked in place. The join was then filled with Spakfilla, mostly successfully but the join can be seen here and there. I made and screwed in place a small removable section of back scene for access to a point motor and servo motors for the bracket signal at the colliery junction.

Lower back scene sky painted and upper valance in place and painted black. I managed to cut down and reuse the old upper level valance which was still in a nice curve.

Fitting and testing LED lighting was then carried out. The LED strips come with self adhesive on the back so I painted the inside lower 20mm of the upper valance with semi-gloss paint to enhance the bond. The strips were attached around the bottom edge of the valance one above and hard up against the other. Although not shown in the photo the underside of the outer end of the outrigger frame extension was tapered upwards to make room for the LED strips to pass under and to minimise the height of the valance to optimise the viewing height of the lower level. Unfortunately the next morning I found that one strip had fallen off so I used some Selleys water based Kwik Grip to glue the strip back. I have since noted that the strips tend to pop off the valance in short 25 - 50mm sections here and there and I will watch this before the top level scenery is done. If it gets worse I will begin a process of using the Kwik Grip to bond these small sections until it stops. My advice is to apply the strips to a gloss painted surface and to use contact adhesive as well, you have to let the contact adhesive dry then apply the strips.

LED lighting in place.

Back scene landscape painted and basic scenery back in place.
As I like to photograph the layout I was hoping that this reconstruction would enable to me to photograph a part of the layout that was extremely difficult to do so. I have to say that I am very happy with the result and here are some trial photos I took. The photos are as taken apart from one which has had part of the lower valance removed by 'rubber stamping' grass over it in a photo editing program, it is the one which is a different shape having been clipped out of the original.

5085 on the Up Pickup crosses Kerrabee Creek

5085 on Up Pickup leaving Kerrabee

5085 on Up Pickup leaving Kerrabee

PHG guards van on the Up Pickup

Finally here is a video of the first train through the completed Kerrabee scene. Well, no layout is completed and I will be upgrading the scenery between the track and back scene in the future.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

From out of the past

Many years ago my brother Noel and I scratch built a Z25 class, I can't remember the exact year however it was featured on the cover of the Nov-Dec 1970 Australian Model Railway Magazine (issue 047). I took the photo and wince at the total lack of quality, it seemed OK then and certainly shows the advances made in cameras, particularly digital since then.
I saved the cover photo below from the AMRM site rather than try to find my copy, apologies to Bob G, James McI and Ian D. It's amazing how you can put the issues in chronological order and then come back some time later and find them all mixed up.

On the cover it can be seen that the Z25 was numbered 2531 which was the case for several years until I found a better picture of the real 2531 and saw the it had a crocodile crosshead so after a little research it quickly became 2540.
I recently decided to resurrect 2540 after installing a LokSound Micro v4.0 sound decoder in my Craftsman Models Z13.
I had done some work on 2540 many years ago when I fitted some ball races to the driving axles but it was in dire need of detailing.
I removed the sand boxes that were made of solid brass and replaced them with some spare whitemetal ones from the Craftsman Models Z26 class body kit I produced many years ago, the sand boxes were cut and filed to shape to represent the ones on a Z25.
I added a new cast brass headlight, marker lights including wiring, a ladder for the tender, beading around the top edge of the tender 'hungry boards' and finally I replaced the Triang turned brass buffers with some spare bronze Protype castings left over from the Craftsman Models Z13 model kit production. I had a lot of castings left over as Trax produced their brass Z13 at the same time so my kit sales died, thanks John E. Never mind the kit paid for the large milling machine that I bought to produce the chassis for the Z13. That mill is still sitting under the layout waiting for me to do something with it. I have a lot of Mansfield Hobbies steam locomotive castings and a couple of gearboxes and driving wheel sets and now that I am retired I might just scratch build another locomotive.
Anyway, back to 2540, I now faced the challenge of fitting the decoder, a TCS KA1 Keep Alive and a speaker into the tender that already contained the motor. I won't go through all the work I did to make this work but the following photo of 2540 shows a very full coal load in the tender as it is hiding the 16mm QSI speaker and enclosure. The coal load is a bit squarish from the back but it was that or no sound. Also I just need to give the cylinders a bit of airbrushing as they are showing a lot of scratches and the weathering on them needs to be toned down.

I am reasonably happy with the result except that there is a gear grind evident once you get going faster than shunting speeds, oh well perhaps I might look at an enclosed gearbox but how to fit it is the question. In explanation I should mention that my brother turned the boiler from solid brass and the belpaire firebox is also solid with a slot running through underneath for the drive shaft from the tender so not easy to make more room for a gearbox. I was also going to replace the steam dome and funnel that my brother also turned up in brass however they were pegged into the boiler and I couldn't shift them.
So there it is a 'new' locomotive for the Cassilis branch.