Sunday, October 10, 2021

A Home for the BYLONG Layout Circuit Breakers

Several years ago the layout gained a mysterious short circuit even though I hadn't been doing any wiring or trackwork recently. After a lot of searching under the layout and checking the track for closed rail gaps, I called in the big gun, Marcus Amman.

Marcus spent an afternoon with me checking all the same things and we still came up with nothing. At this point, it was decided that I needed to replace the NCE EB3 circuit breaker board as the EB3 boards were known to be a bit flaky. So, three NCE EB1 circuit breakers were bought and temporarily installed in the wiring. Now what I mean by temporary is that they just hung down below the layout suspended by the wiring to them. This situation stayed that way until about a month ago when I decided it was time to fix the mess.

I won't go into a too long-winded explanation of what I did so I will present the photo below and it will become self-evident. The EB1s are mounted on the perspex panel with 3D printed stand-offs. The stand-offs were 3D printed because we were in COVID-19 lockdown and I didn't want to do Click and Collect at Jaycar where there is a whole range of different sizes. Longer stand-offs were also printed to mount the panel on the layout fascia. The lit red LEDs on each EB1 board indicate that all is well.

Now, I should mention that somewhere along this journey when the EB3 board was replaced by the EB1s the short circuit disappeared and hasn't shown up again.

I should also state that the mainline was divided into two districts and the Cassilis branch was the third district. The mainline was divided at Coxs Gap loop but for years the two mainline districts would shut down when there was a short in either, I obviously had a sneak path in the track wiring. I searched for this for a long time and eventually accepted that this was just the way it is. Of course, when doing something totally unrelated under Coxs Gap loop I found some wiring that went from one end of the mainline outside the loop to the other end, it was tucked up behind some layout framework. A quick snip and all was well with the BYLONG world.

In the photo above a toggle switch and a 5 Amp ammeter can be seen. This measures the total amperage drawn by the layout when operating. The toggle switch is to cut the ammeter out of the power to the track when not reading as it uses some voltage. It is turned on when needed to check the current draw.

I am very pleased with the installation and it has taken away my concerns about those EB1s hanging in the wiring, also they were not very professional looking.

Sunday, October 3, 2021

A Track Cleaning Train

 As we all do, the search for a good and easy way to clean track can cause us to try all sorts of things. Of course, one way is to use the Peco track rubber or other brand, another is to use what used to be known as an ink rubber (eraser), a slight abrasive was bonded in the rubber. I have noticed that these are very hard to get anymore which is a pity as they were better than the Peco rubber. I am not going to get into the argument about the abrasive rubbers scratching the rail head as my track is long past protecting from that potential issue.

One thing I have always done is to use a 38mm paintbrush and drag it along the track at about 45 degrees to remove dust which I believe is a major part of dirty track. Combine dust with some conductivity fluids and you make the grey stuff that builds up on the wheels. Anyway, that's my theory. The dust by itself can also cause erratic power pick up and running. I will use the brush if I haven't run the layout for a few weeks.

In regards to conductivity, I started decades ago by using CRC 2-26, an electrical conductivity spray, this certainly works well but must be applied sparingly and away from grades. I applied it to about 50cm of each rail on level track in several places around the layout as well as on the point blade and stock rail contact areas of points.  I did find many years later that it can build up to a slightly sticky form at the point blade contact areas and start to restrict blade movement. This was rectified with an application of enamel paint thinner on a cotton pipe cleaner. This is how I enhanced conductivity until I started looking for other ways several years ago.

The next trials involved the use of graphite pencil sticks which seemed to work well but also had to be kept away from the layout grades. These can be found in art supply shops.

My latest efforts involve a geared motor rotating a cleaning pad against the rail tops. This motor is built into an NSWGR 48 Class HO model that runs as a dummy with another diesel locomotive, usually a Trainorama 44 Class. Behind the diesel locomotives are several wagons that have other track wiping and cleaning fittings.

Here are some photographs that show what I mean.

A white metal Protype BCW with an abrasive rubber (from Walthers I think)
The middle wagon has a piece of 1mm cork mounted on the Dust Monkey brush
Noch also makes the axle mounted Dust Monkey brushes

The cork disc and the cork on the Dust Monkey have a small amount of CRC 2-26 electrical conductivity fluid applied to them before operating. The CRC 2-26 can also be applied to the rails in a number of places around the layout to rejuvenate the cork. Any buildup of the grey dirt from the track can be cleaned from the cork carefully with some enamel thinner. Be careful not to saturate the cork with the thinner as it may cause the glue holding the cork on the plastic to soften. I use a cotton pipe cleaner to clean the cork.

The 48 Class has a piece of grey sponge mounted behind the leading cowcatcher to wipe the dust away before it can get on the locomotive's wheels and cause problems. I am still looking for a small brush arrangement to replace the foam.

The motor that spins the cork disc is a 1000 rpm geared 12volt DC motor that can be found here (at the time of this post of course):

On ebay


On Aliexpress

The body of the 48 Class is an old Trax body and the chassis of the 48 Class is made of several 3D prints. The non-powered 48 Class bogies are from the early Trax 48 Class and I have used two of them. They clip into the 3D printed chassis the same as they did on one end of the Trax 48 Class. It was lucky that I kept the Trax 48 Class chassis' when I made new mechanisms some time ago. See the blog post here.

The prints were done on a 3D filament printer except for the fuel tanks which were done on a resin printer. The fuel tanks might work on a filament printer with appropriate orientation and supports.

If anyone is interested and has an old Trax 48 Class body and a couple of the non-powered Trax 48 Class bogies then here are the STL files of the chassis parts and the fuel tank side (two required).


Chassis Motor Bottom Support

Track Cleaner Disc

48 Class Fuel Tank Side

The chassis parts were printed flat on the bed of the filament 3D printer.

Of course the adventurous could always design and print the bogies and use the white metal bogie side frames if they are still available.

The motor sits relatively loosely in the centre square hole and the square part below the chassis is glued into the chassis to retain the motor. The fuel tanks screw onto the chassis and retain the body. The disc slides onto the motor shaft which has a flat keyway. The disc can move up and down under its own weight but a small piece of foam is used to apply slight downward pressure. Too much pressure can stop the motor from rotating. The longer two box shapes can be used for some weight and/or a place to put the DCC decoder. Although my 48 Class isn't fitted with a Keep Alive as yet it would be a good addition.

Various trial materials were used on the disc - 2 types of material, cork,
2000 grit Wet and Dry and the last one has glue on it from a covering I removed
Under chassis view showing a piece of foam that exerts
a slight downward pressure on the disc.
View of the chassis, body and two fuel tanks that retain the body.
View showing motor sitting in the square box mounting.

1000rpm 12 volt motor

The decoder has Back EMF which can assist in keeping it spinning. The decoder is not in a DCC consist with the 44 Class as it needs to run at full speed. Any decoder with Back EMF would be suitable. The 44 Class is run slowly to give more cleaning revolutions of the disc on the rails.

Finally, this method of making a track cleaner could be applied to any other dummy model diesel by designing and printing an equivalent style chassis, etc.

Here is another motor and gearbox style that could be used. The link was good at the time of this post.

If your diesels are having intermittent power pick up issues then have a look at this earlier post where I put forward a theory about it and solve it with some easily fitted power pickups.