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Author Topic: Robertsfield  (Read 702 times)

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Offline Pelhama

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Robertsfield
« on: May 11, 2018, 10:25:20 pm »



Robertsfield is my British Railways, Southern Region - South West division, layout, based in the steam to diesel/electric transition period.
The layout is not intended to be any form of accurate depiction, but is to accommodate my desire to build a Southern steam layout, and to be a little different to the many “height of steam” models by recreating the run-down, grotty period where steam was a little less cared for.
 
I have not set a fixed location for Robertsfield, but it is intended to be along the London & South Western main line, after four tracks become two, and where green outweighs brick and concrete.



The station and goods facilities serve a small town and local industries, and provides a railhead for branch line traffic; the branch diverging further to the West. Some branch passenger trains terminate here, run-round and shunt into the bay for departure, while others may continue on to the next major town.


Baseboards and Sub-Frame




The baseboards for Robertsfield utilise the 1ft wide laser-cut kits available from Tim Horn; a Left, Centre and Right "Scenic/Photo Plank Board",
three plain, and two pairs of 1ft6in radius curved boards form the oval. These are held together with simple 'case latches' for ease and speed of assembly.

I have slightly modified the design by adding a secondary backscene to give a 'flush' appearance between the lighting supports. This uses softwood battens glued to the original backscene, with an additional sheet of ply across to form the new backscene. The exception is the corners which were formed using 'flexible' MDF. The voids were all filled with expanding foam.

The baseboards were given a white undercoat, and the scenic board faces in view were painted matt black. The surfaces were covered in self-adhesive cork tiles, which were then sealed with PVA.



This all sits on a sub-frame that has been based on a design by my good friend Rob Cottrell, who has also expertly built the support and bearer assemblies. It is designed to observe my requirements for ease and speed of assembly, with minimal individual components, whilst also being fairly easy to store. It consists of four main 'A' frames that connect in pairs once erected, which then support two pairs of bearers. Two bearers each sit with one end on a main 'A' frame, and contain a further drop-down, integral 'A' frame for supporting the other end of the bearer at the centre of the layout. The second pair of bearers span the gap between these and the second pair of main 'A' frames. Finally a pair of 'shelves' span the gap between the longitudinal bearers to support the end curved boards.


Track




The track plan for Robertsfield was produced in Templot, after a great deal of time trawling the internet for prototypical designs. I settled on a design to maximise operational interest whilst maintaining the feel of a Southern Region prototype.

The full-size printed track plan was glued to the baseboard using a UHU stick, and was then lacquered to minimise moisture ingress when adding the scenics.

The track itself, is built using "FiNetrax" turnout kits and plain track components from British Finescale.  I have used a mix of B6 turnouts and crossing for non-passenger carrying track, and B8 for passenger carrying turnouts. There is one B7 turnout in the goods yard, to allow the geometry to flow better within the baseboard confines.



After pre-drilling the operating wire holes, I glued the milled turnout bases to the baseboards, then assembled the remainder of each kit in-situ. It takes a bit more prior planning this way, but is worth it for the flowing appearance of the track.

At baseboard joins, rail ends are soldered to brass pins on the scenic section, and copper clad strip on the fiddle yard boards.
 
Track in the fiddle yard is Peco, for quicker installation and cost saving. These are slightly modified to improve running by filing a taper into the switch blades, and adding a thin strip of plasticard into the common crossings or 'frogs'.




Electrics



Robertsfield will use a DCC control system for controlling the trains, and I have opted to use the Model Electronic Railway Group "MERG" version 2 system. I have tried various systems previously, and never found a handset that I particularly liked. They were either a nice size, but lacking functionality; or overly large, with too many controls than are really needed for basic 'playing trains'. With the Digitrax system, I don't like the small rubber buttons, and the more compact throttle has the very un-ergonomic encoders for changing loco address. Equally, I'm not keen on the Lenz system where you either get a throttle with a full numeric keypad, but speed control via buttons (which I really don't like!), or a rotary speed controller, but with limited keypad.
​I find the MERG CANCAB is a very nice ergonomic design, that encompasses all the features that I sought.
 
The control of the layout itself, i.e. the turnouts, signals etc. will utilise the MERG CBUS system. Again, i find this a very adaptable system that works very well. It is far more cost effective than 'off-the-shelf' digital products, and allows far more flexibility than a basic analogue control system, such as running two control panels with overlapping controls.



For turnout operation I am using servos, fitted to MERG (there's a trend building here!) servo mounts, and also servos with MERG signal mounts for the signals. The uncoupling magnets are DG electromagnets from Model Signal Engineering.
The photo shows the components required to make baseboard 2 work (except the signal servos): from the connections box at the bottom centre of the photo there will be 12VDC for the CBUS components and accessories, 12VDC for the LED lighting, DCC track bus to the rail droppers and turnout motors for polarity switching, and CBUS data. The three CANACC8s convert CBUS data into 'discretes' to trigger the SERVO4s and Relay boards, which in turn drive the turnout/signal servos and magnets respectively.
 
One of my 'pet hates' is watching a layout doing nothing, whilst the operator faffs with a throttle trying to change the route; I am a firm believer in using a control panel, be it a physical panel with switches and buttons, or an electronic panel on a computer. I will be building a pair of control panels, per the design below, to allow two scenic operators to control any part of the layout.



The yellow buttons will set the routes, simultaneously returning any conflicting signals to danger, the green buttons operate the electromagnets, the white buttons operate the main signals, and the black buttons operate the ground signals. The two blue buttons will be connected in series to trigger the Initialise, or "start of day" CBUS event. This simply sets the layout components and LEDs to a predetermined condition such that the layout and panel are in agreement.
 
The integral layout lighting uses "White" self-adhesive LED strip. I prefer this colour as, in my opinion, "Cool White" can be too clinical, "Warm White" can be too yellow, and "Daylight White" tends to melt the retinas.

The adhesive can be unreliable, so the strips were attached with Gorilla glue approximately every 3" for when the supplied adhesive inevitably ​dries and peels.
I have installed two strips per baseboard; one along the front edge inside the lighting unit, shining straight down, the other along the lower edge of the fascia, illuminating the backscene. This stops short of the ends of the layout by approximately 6" to avoid glare on the curved backscene sections.


Progress so far...



To date I have all the track in place and the basic wiring installation is complete, except for revisiting the three scenic baseboards to install District Cutouts and associated LED indicators and sounders on the junction boxes. Once this is done I can connect up the common crossing wiring to the servo microswitches ensuring correct polarity, mechanically set up the microswitch operation, and then program all the CBUS modules.

To allow me to get all the CBUS components working, and prove the panel concept, I have started to create a control panel in JMRI that will mimic the operation of the physical panels:



I have also started working on the first building for the layout; I quite liked the design of Signal Box that my friend Rob Cottrell built for his jointly owned/built 7mm layout "Newhurst", it was a LSWR 'type 4' brick-built structure, which I think has a nice look of quaint yet sturdy. The kit I purchased was the Arch Laser Co "Exeter Central" box from Osborn's Models; a much more substantial structure, but a similar design to that I had in mind.

I made a start on a "cut-and-shut" project to assemble the kit in a guise more appropriate for Robertsfield:



Once the electrical 'commissioning' is complete, I intend to give the layout a thorough shakedown operationally, then before I go too far into the scenic work I will need to add the finishing touches to the track - some cosmetic chairs around the common crossings, and install point rodding from 2mmSA components.

It has taken a fair while to get this far; updates will be infrequent, but will be posted when any progress is made.


Offline stevewalker

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Re: Robertsfield
« Reply #1 on: May 11, 2018, 11:45:40 pm »
That looks a very nice job. Well thought out and implemented.

Offline Newportnobby

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Re: Robertsfield
« Reply #2 on: May 12, 2018, 12:37:47 pm »
What an excellent build, and an area/era I do like.
Will you allow the odd Warship onto the lines, and I bet you also wish Dapol had gone with the Bulleid light pacifics?

Your control panel looks far more professional than my poor wee jobbie but I do like the 'Robertsfield' totem. Is that something available openly as I could make some 'Kimbolted' ones up :hmmm:

Offline Pelhama

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Re: Robertsfield
« Reply #3 on: May 12, 2018, 01:28:38 pm »
Hi NewportNobby,

Something like this?




I am a little confused as to the status of Dapols Bulleids; there seems to be a lot of contradicting info on the various forums, but the impression I get is that they are still likely to go ahead, albeit later than originally planned - I hope so anyway!

Regarding the totem, do you mean the physical one or the graphic? The physical one is from www.jafgraphics.co.uk; the graphic was created in Xara.

Offline Newportnobby

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Re: Robertsfield
« Reply #4 on: May 12, 2018, 03:29:41 pm »
Thanks for the Warship pic :)
The totem I referred to was the one on your control panel as it's something I'd like to do with mine.
That's the Xara one, I assume?

Offline Pelhama

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Re: Robertsfield
« Reply #5 on: May 12, 2018, 03:40:38 pm »
Yes, that was in Xara.

What size would you like and what background colour?

Offline Newportnobby

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Re: Robertsfield
« Reply #6 on: May 12, 2018, 03:43:14 pm »
3 inches long (total length) and Western Region brown please.
Thanks very much

Offline Pelhama

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Re: Robertsfield
« Reply #7 on: May 12, 2018, 03:58:59 pm »
Here you go...



If you would like the JPG file, rather than downloading it, you could PM me your email address and I'll send it over. The colour uses the Hex code from this Wikipedia page - hadn't seen it before and didn't know the correct colour so did a quick search - Google is a wonderful tool!

If you'd like any adjustments made, let me know.

Offline Newportnobby

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Re: Robertsfield
« Reply #8 on: May 12, 2018, 04:04:31 pm »
Ta muchly. I've saved the jpeg and also copied it to label paper for future use.
 :thankyousign:

Offline belstone

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Re: Robertsfield
« Reply #9 on: May 13, 2018, 09:26:26 am »
Lovely work so far, good to see someone else using Finetrax.  I am now embarrassed by the photo I put up of the underside of my baseboard. Yours is neat, mine is a rat's nest.  It never occurred to me to paint it white - that's a brilliant idea, especially when trying to diagnose a wiring fault at a show with only the torch on your mobile phone for illumination.

Richard

Offline Pelhama

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Re: Robertsfield
« Reply #10 on: May 13, 2018, 10:30:02 am »
Hi Richard,

I don’t recall where I saw it, but painting the underside of the boards wasn’t entirely my idea. The boards needed sealing in some form, so rather than just varnishing I thought I’d paint them white. I have seen another layout with the track plan printed in reverse and applied under the boards, I decided not to go to that extent, but the white paper background made everything a bit clearer to see.

I did consider fitting LED strips on the inner sides of the boards, but concluded that the light would probably get in my eyes and be more of a hinderance than help. I have a good head torch that I used to use at work that will come in handy if needed.

I figure that putting a lot of effort into the wiring is like an insurance policy - the more you put into installing and documenting it, the less chance there is you’ll need it later. Plus for exhibition layouts, the boards will be susceptible to vibration in transit - wiring needs to be secure to remove as much movement as possible; 20 years fixing aeroplanes taught me that one. I have seen the difference having dealt with other layouts with less secure wiring where, after setting up at a show it’s straight under the board to start troubleshooting.

I appreciate that wiring is a necessary chore, but it can be quite therapeutic if you take your time over it.

Cheers,

Mark

Offline belstone

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Re: Robertsfield
« Reply #11 on: May 13, 2018, 11:31:02 am »
It's all a bit odd really, my day job is repairing classic Land Rovers, I do a lot of electrical work and I am always very careful about routing cables properly, using the correct size of wire etc etc.  Then I come home, start working on my model railway wiring and in no time at all it looks like the kind of bodged-up mess that I spend much of my time at work pulling out and replacing :) To be fair my layouts are always electrically reliable - they have to be, given my complete disregard up to now for any kind of colour coding.  I blame my grandfather: he worked as a colliery electrician, and all my early layouts were wired up with offcuts of detonator wire, which was almost always yellow.

Richard

Offline Pelhama

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Re: Robertsfield
« Reply #12 on: May 13, 2018, 12:24:11 pm »
Hi Richard,

In general, on aircraft the white wire connects to the white wire, but not that white wire, the other white wire. Unless the cable is for a specific function they are all in white insulation. Data transmission wires will be red and blue for a twisted pair, and if a twisted triple also include yellow, but these are still in an outer white sleeve.

All the wires are idented, usually by heat stamp, so are identified by coding. I would use a similar approach, but the cable idents are not great - the shrinkable ones are better, but still not ideal. I prefer to document the terminations of the wiring, which covers enough for troubleshooting purposes.

Cheers,

Mark
« Last Edit: May 13, 2018, 02:46:00 pm by Pelhama, Reason: Spell correct incorrectly correcting. »

Offline The Q

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Re: Robertsfield
« Reply #13 on: May 14, 2018, 11:58:28 am »
Imagine a building on three floors, 47M by 58M and almost entirely wired with pink wire, the upper floor has 19 inch wide 6ft high racks covering 50% of the floor area,  there was a bit less on the ground floor...The old Ground Radar Stations were a nightmare to trace a wire...

However I do like your wiring,  I've rarely seen white painted underside before but it's a good idea especially with that labelling.  I've rarely seen work as neat as that on a layout,, Well Done..

Once I get to that stage on the layout I'm rebuilding I have a lot to tidy up...There is too much under there for a complete rewire, My old workshop practices instructor would have a heart attack looking at it at the moment..

Offline Pelhama

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Re: Robertsfield
« Reply #14 on: August 16, 2018, 09:28:49 am »
Morning All,

I have had a bit of time with the house empty, so have taken the opportunity to do some work on Bridgtown and Robertsfield, in between sessions reorganising the office.

I had plans to assemble Robertsfield in the lounge while I had the house to myself, but time has been against me and I can see this not happening. I should still be able to make some progress though; I plan to revisit the wiring on the scenic baseboards to make some changes/corrections. I had not originally installed the District Cut Outs, these being a later addition to the design, so they will be installed and the necessary wiring modifications made. I also need to review the CBUS connections in the baseboard connection boxes, I think I may have used a diagram for an alternative proposed spec for the connector pinout, so appear to have a discrepancy between the scenic and fiddle yard baseboards.

I have also been having fun with my Pickit3 - the device used to allow my PC/Laptop to directly load the firmware to my CBUS modules - it just won't talk to the PC! I've got a few more tricks to try, but am lacking the time to try them. I need to get this working though so that I can load the firmware to my CANMIOs, currently a major hurdle towards getting the layout fully operational. I'm sure time and perseverance will find a resolution.

Cheers,

Mark

 

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