write right rite

Having taken the time to write out all of the requirements for this project in order to illustrate a point, I noted that I had failed to take care of several of the sub-tasks. I would have noticed this when it came time for assembly, however it's always nice to be able to check things off in turn as you progress through any project. The corporate world makes a big fuss over celebrating milestones - I think that people need to do the same in their personal lives. Rejoice in success, however small.

The point is, taking the time to visualise and document the task you are about to undertake can go a long way towards ensuring a successful outcome. Imagine each step of the process before you start the actual work. Note which tools and materials you will need before you set foot in your workshop. Cutting down the number of trips to the store and reducing wasted material are both good things. The exercise of planning it all out in your head will probably reduce your frustration level when the work is being done, too.

the fear of all sums

It's easy to envision a basement filling, model railway empire. One that spans the limits of your imagination, with hundreds of turnouts, and hundreds (or more) of pieces of equipment rolling over the rails.

It's also easy to overlook the work involved in building such an empire, and maintaining the behemoth once it's brought to life.

An example is the eight (only eight?) turnout controls for the Port Rowan project. Admittedly, it's a little more complicated than some methods, but it's still small potatoes, right?
Let's add up a few points:

several hundred wooden ties to layout, glue, sand and stain
8 complete turnouts worth of parts to cut, solder, test fit and hand spike (no small job!)
8 slots to cut through the roadbed to pass the throw rod
8 pieces of brass tube to cut to length, cross-drill and lap
8 pieces of larger brass tube to cut, deburr, lap, and press fit
8 lever arms to cut, file, solder and drill
16 headblock ties to cut, glue and pre-drill 2 holes in each
8 shelves to cut, shape, and drill
8 machine screws to install at an awkward angle
32 very tiny wood screws to install
8 Bullfrogs to punch-out, trim, glue and modify 
16 screws & washers to install upside down to hold the Bullfrogs
8 outer R/C tubes to cut to length
8 inner R/C rods to cut to length
8 throw rods (hardened music wire) to test for length, remove, cut, and reinstall
16 threaded rods to cut to length
16 clevises to thread on to the R/C rods
16 oversized mounting holes to drill for shelves
16 screws and washers to install the shelves
8 holes to precisely locate and drill for the R/C tubes
8 switch stand targets to adjust

This does not include the addition of a lock for each switch stand (more on this later).

Does this list appear daunting? Well, it is and it isn't. Each bite-sized task can be done and set aside until final assembly. There's no complete sequence that you have to start and finish all in one go. These sorts of sub-tasks can be done when you've got 15 minutes or 1/2 hour to spare.

But, if you had 20 or 50 or 100 turnouts, the amount of time required goes through the roof. And this is just the turnouts. Never mind the rails that links them all together, the roadbed, the ties, the benchwork and all the scenery and buildings to flesh out this miniature world. Dream wisely.

Now I'm not trying to dissuade people from building large layouts; just trying to encourage some critical thought and planning before taking the big plunge. If you have the time and attention to devote to a large project, by all means undertake it and reap the long-term rewards of your efforts.

"Wait!" You say "I'm building my layout using Kato Unitrack with built-in turnout motors! I don't need to worry about all this stuff!". And, of course, you are (mostly) correct. Using pre-made items greatly speeds the process and reduces (modelling) labour. But you are trading time for money. If this is acceptable to you and suits your plans and budget, then go for it. There's a massive appeal to getting the trains running TODAY instead of trudging through the slough of despond to reach each milestone.

And now, back to the fettling and fitting.


why why why

The question of why we were implementing this particular style of turnout control was recently asked. After all, it looks like way more work than simply sticking the control cable through the fascia and gluing on a knob or handle to move the Bullfrog, and it doesn't do a more efficient or reliable job of throwing the points.

There are a few really good reasons:
1) Moving the turnout points now feels a lot more like "the real thing". Our experience on the Maine Narrow Gauge RR gave us a taste of how the real railroads did things in the days of steam, and we've been looking for ways to reproduce that sense in the model realm.
2) It adds just a little more time to the operation of setting a turnout. This layout only has 8 turnouts total, so an op session using Peco solenoids or simple buttons would make things go a lot faster. We're trying to slow down and enjoy the process of running trains in a prototypical manner.
3) We would like to implement a feature that would prevent the turnout from being thrown without the extra unlocking step that a real brakeman would have to perform. Again, this is in aid of reproducing the sense of doing things like the prototype did, and slowing down the pace of operations.

Right now I've got all the parts cut up and ready for their secondary operations (drilling, sanding, soldering as required). The plan is to complete the assemblies and start installing them this week.


stand up

Some measurable success in the prototype department. The first switch stand assembly worked as hoped, with just the right amount of resistance to give a sensation of doing "work" when throwing the points.

See the whole post at -> Port Rowan in 1:64 - Switch Control Concept


clearance, Clarence

Can't seem to create much slip between two pieces of K&S brass tubing. Just too close in fit. Even spun the smaller one inside the larger one with a shot of Brasso using a cordless drill to see if I could lap some gap into the assembly. It moves slightly more freely, but not as much as I'd like.

Now, had I wanted a tight fit without fasteners or adhesives, no amount of mucking about would have produced it.

This is in pursuit of a slightly different turnout control for a layout project. The stands are from Sunset Valley, and they will actuate a FastTracks Bullfrog under the points. The Bullfrog has it's detent spring removed, and the two devices will be connected together using Sullivan R/C aircraft cables. The SV switch stands operate just like the real thing, and are sized for use with garden railway equipment.