Sunday, November 26, 2017

Signals Branch - Signal Relay Hut, Staffs and Steel Post Signal Detail Parts

Over the last couple of weeks I have uploaded a few more items to my Signals Branch shop.

Signal Relay Hut

At the request of Marcus Ammann I have just completed designing a 2 bay Signal Relay Hut that has now been added to my shop in two Frosted Ultra Detail (FUD) versions. One version is sitting on a  supporting frame  and the other is on the ground. There were a number of types of these huts and this version has been produced based on a photograph and a plan supplied by a friend. The version designed is not exactly like the plan and doesn't have the gutters as the photo seems to show that they are lacking.

The plan also shows old point rods being used as cross braces between the legs so the printed frame has holes for 0.015 inch brass or phosphor bronze wire to be added if the modeler desires.

Version on Frame
Version on Ground
Presumably the frame and ground versions depended on the particular location.

Although there is not much extra acrylic FUD material in the frame version the increase in price is due to Shapeways charging for the supporting material that is used in the 3D printing process and later washed away. The frame of course adding a lot more supporting material due to its height. I looked at having a separate frame but this didn't seem to make much difference to the Shapeways pricing.


Quite a while ago I designed some NSWGR Staffs that the railway used for track occupancy permission. The idea is to use these on my Bylong layout along with printed tickets.

In use the Staff was given to the driver of a train and gave that train permission to use the next section of track until it was required to be handed in at the end of the section at the next signal box or station.

Staffs came in four types, at the end of each Staff was a round section within which was a hole shaped like a circle, square, triangle or a heart. Each different Staff was for a different section of track. The Staffs would repeat for the fifth section and beyond.

In support of the Staff was the Ticket. A Ticket was used when more than one train needed to use the next section of track. The first train was given a filled in Ticket to carry and hand in at the end of the section. More Tickets could be used as required for subsequent trains heading onto the same section. The Staff was used for the last train. Trains proceeding in the opposite direction could not do so until the Staff was at the other end of the section.

I believe that the Staff was also a 'key' to the Staff Box in which the Tickets were held. The Staff was used to unlock the Staff Box to gain access to the Tickets.

UPDATE: The following information was supplied by Colin Hussey.

The ordinary staff and tickets had colour associated with the head, you will notice the colour of the respective boxes and the cutout shape of the head, that cutout represented the colour that was also the colour of the tickets for the applicable staff and the section that it corresponded with.

Heart - Green
Round - Red
Triangle - White
Blue - Square

The staff opened the appropriate safe working box, no key on end meant no sidings in the section, whereas a key on the end was to unlock points.

UPDATE: The following information was supplied by Tom R.

The staff boxes typically have a hole for the staff on both sides of the box to allow the staff to be slid into the box, the annett key (if the section requires it for working intermediate sidings) on the end of the staff would pass through and protrude out the other side of the box, most of the photos you have posted above shows that the staff with a key is longer than the box is wide.

A staff for a section can only open each of the two (2) boxes for that section to obtain a ticket if required. There was / is a box at each end of a section.

A staff from another section cannot open a box from another section, this explains the corresponding staff head symbols and colours ( the colour was also stamped / written on the shaft of the staff as well on some staves). 

This was also another part of the safe working methodology in order to prevent over running the section with an incorrect staff as it would not be able to assist the train crew with working of intermediate sidings in the section nor open the staff boxes

My understanding (willing to stand corrected) is the staff can only enter the box from the right hand side when facing the box. The lugs on the shaft of the staff varied in their position and they corresponded with the unlocking mechanism of the particular section / staff boxes in order to open the box to obtain a ticket if required, again another safe working protection.

The NSWR document covering the use of the Staff and Tickets can be found here: NSWR Using Train Staffs

A PDF with 4 NSWGR Single Line Tickets can be found here: NSWGR Single Line Tickets

Note key on end of the staff

Another staff with key

Staff without key on end

In this photo there seems to be a place on the top of the right hand end to insert
the staff to open the lid of the staff box to access the tickets
I apologise to the owners of the above photos as I don't know who they are and hope that they don't mind this use of their photos.

I have two size staffs available, a small version that is 82 mm long and a larger version that is 116 mm long. The large version has a hole designed into the 'key' end of the staff to accommodate a 3 mm stereo plug that can be wired in different ways to act as an electrical switch if required.

The model Staffs have tabs along their length that could be used in a small Staff Box made from say MDF. The tabs can be used with appropriately placed micro switches in the Staff Box to electrically 'unlock' the Staff Box. The tabs are in different places on each of the four different staffs.

Here are some computer renders of the 'model, staffs.

Small - 'Model' Staff
Large - 'Model' Staff showing hole in end

Steel Post Signal Detail Parts

As you may know I designed a single steel post  brass NSWGR Signal and placed it on my Signals Branch shop a while ago. I also did the platform starter bracket signal found at the Sydney end of the Werris Creek platforms for Ron Cunningham's Werris Creek layout.

Brass Steel Post Signal with WSF Base and FUD Ladder
Brass Werris Creek Bracket Signal with FUD Details and WSF Base
The delay in designing more signals was due to the lack of suitable telescopic round tubing for the posts. At first I used some 1 mm Albion Metals brass tube for the Werris Creek bracket signal dolly posts but the next larger size for the lower section on a single signal wasn't available, hence the lost wax cast version mentioned above.

Recently I found some Ngineering brand stainless steel telescopic tubing that would work, at the Model Railroad Craftsman shop at Blacktown NSW. The tubing is not on the on-line shop so a phone order or visit would be needed.

The Ngineering web site does have an online shop however and I found that the shipping would be US$10.

The Ngineering product numbers for the tubing are:

Ngineering 0.042 inch stainless steel tubing - N2042-2 (2 pack) or N2042-4 (4 pack)
Ngineering 0.050 inch stainless steel tubing - N2065-2 (2 pack) or N2065-4 (4 pack)

I have designed the detail parts for Frosted Ultra Detail (FUD) acrylic material so that they can be slid onto the tubing to make a particular signal. Unfortunately, due to minimum wall thickness design limits it is not possible to make these parts in the 3D printed lost wax cast brass process from Shapeways. Anyway the brass parts can't be soldered to the stainless steel tubing.

I have designed a set of FUD detail parts for a single post signal with a 36 inch arm and also a set of extra post detail parts with 4 of each part but no signal bases for those modelers who want to make a signal with multiple arms, etc.

Single Steel Post Signal Parts Set
Different View of Parts Set

In addition I have added the Werris Creek Bracket Signal and associated FUD detail parts for it to the shop.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Signals at Bylong

For a little while now I have been back into working on my signals for the layout. When I started my Signals Branch shop on Shapeways and produced the line of signals in White Strong and Flexible (WSF) nylon material I worked out what I thought I needed and ordered all the signals. So of course when I later worked out how to have fine detailed signals in the more expensive Frosted Ultra Detail (FUD) acrylic material and to make them only a little more expensive than the WSF ones I already had all my signals. Bummer!

Knowing that I couldn't afford to replace the WSF signals with fine detail FUD ones (or my later brass ones for that matter),  my thoughts turned to cutting away the printed handrails that were too thick due to the WSF minimum design limits for 'wires' in the 3D printing process and replacing them with actual 0.015 inch phosphor bronze wire.

As a result  I had been trying to come up with a jig for bending wire safety handrails for the left and right hand bracket signals and the single post signals for some time and had designed and had printed a trial version, but I wasn't happy with it. This was well over a year ago.

A couple of weeks ago my wife Chris brought home an Aldi weekly flyer and I noticed that they were going to have a small 3D filament style printer for sale on the coming Saturday for $299. I investigated the printer on-line and found that it was a re-badged version of an existing small printer (a Wanhao i3 Mini 3D printer), so after watching a couple of YouTube videos of the other printer I was there at opening time on the Saturday and came home with the printer and three 1 kg rolls of the PLA filament in white, grey and black at $34.95 a roll. Note that this printer only uses PLA plastic filament, no ABS plastic with this printer.

The Aldi printer is called a Cocoon Create and is actually from a company in Melbourne, here is the link.

A few months ago Aldi had a larger filament printer with a heated bed ($499) and probably better than this one but I thought that this was all I needed for what I had in mind.

The printer didn't need to be assembled and set up was minimal but the included small manual must be read. In a short while I had the printer working away on a small cute dragon to test it. About 7 hours later it finally finished the dragon. The result was reasonable but it was obvious that this printer wasn't going to be making any fine detail signals but then I knew that.

My purpose for the printer was to do trial prints of designs to make sure that they would be OK before I placed them on my shop. Now as it can't do everything I will concentrate on useful items that it can do.

I then spent about half a day working on re-designing and printing versions of the signal safety handrail jig and after three versions I had it sorted. Now it might be said that $400 is too much to make a signal safety handrail jig but apart from saving the Shapeways printing cost I had also saved time as the three jigs would have taken about three weeks each between print test, redesign and re-order and this is very important to me.

Signal Handrail Jig Prototype

How to use the jig to bend the handrails
Once the jig worked I uploaded the design to my Signals Branch shop. The jig can be used for the WSF signals by cutting the printed ones off and drilling holes at the cut locations with a 0.45mm drill bit in a pin vise. It can also be used to bend up the safety handrails for the Fine Detail FUD LQ Signals and the Timber LQ Brass Signals available from my shop.

Over the last two weeks I have also printed off a few different items to explore the limits of the printer and it does have limits. Basically a design is best to have a flat base as the printer only uses PLA plastic filament that is heated and extruded onto a unheated plate and the first layer must stick. If the base layer is too small the print will move and you will get a mess.The supplied software that produces the gcode for the printer has an option called a Brim which is like the brim on a hat, that is it will be add around the base of the model to assist in bonding to the printer base plate. There is also an option for a Raft that can be used for items that don't have a flat base and this is a support under the whole of the item.

Here are  some servo motor brackets that I usually get from my Signals Branch shop.

Servo Motor Brackets still with Brim
One thing that must be said is that the printer is slow, slow, slow.......

Anyway, for those who are interested, I saw last Saturday that my local Aldi still had some printers and a small number of PLA rolls of filament. Be aware though that these basic printers aren't the type that are just press the button and go as some adjusting is required to produce a useful print, e.g. the printer base plate must be leveled for each print and attention needs to be paid to the printing temperature, Brim, Raft or None, etc. I was very aware of what I would have to do to get good prints as I have been watching the development of various types of 3D printers for many years.

So, back to the signals on the layout. I can make and add handrails, add one of my FUD signal ladders (available in 2 or 10 to a sprue) and add the wire ladder supports to a WSF signal in about 45 minutes now and I have done most of them with only about 8 more signals to add handrails to.

While the end result is not up to the standard of the fine detail or brass signals they still look quite good and are an easy upgrade.

Here are two photos of the partially completed signals in my Bylong station yard. The signals are yet to have the operating wires attached, be mounted and have the servo motors installed. The last thing I do with a signal is to glue the finial (NSWGR term is a pinnacle) onto the top of the post to limit damage while working on the signal.

This bracket signal is complete and ready to go with LEDs

Since Marcus Ammann has added working lights to his signals (WSF versions from my Signals Branch shop) on his Main North layout and they look good and can be seen from a distance I have decided to do the same. Some signals that can't be seen directly such as on a curve without direct line of site to the arm will have fascia mounted LEDs so I won't wire the 0603 Warm White SMD LEDs into those.

If you are interested I did a blog post on adding the LEDs to the above bracket. As a comparison to the photo above; the photos of the bracket signal in the post show it with the original printed handrails and ladder.

A big job doing all the signals for the layout but I think it is better to do it this way than piecemeal.