Thursday, September 24, 2020

Updated control panel

As explained in the recent post Rebuilding of Sparks yard, a new control panel will be needed.   This is  the procedure I follow to make my control panels.

Below is a preliminary design drawn with Microsoft Visio.   Having a drawing available now would also be a good time to go over the operating scheme of this yard.  

The original momentary center off toggle switches that could route in either direction have been replaced with 6 red push button switches to select the route.  The green LED's show track selection or turnout position as they did on the old panel.  All traffic will enter through the first turnout in the closed position and pass through the yard track selected.  After going around the loop there is one more siding along the return track.  The siding turnouts are also controlled with the red push buttons. The control of that first switch is automatic using sensors just like it was before so will align itself when a train approaches to exit the yard.  The sensors can be over ridden by a pair of red push buttons.   The toggle switches will be used to control which tracks will be in use for the automatic sequencer I am planning to include using Infrared sensors.

The original control panel was made from a pattern which I kept.  This pattern was made from a scrap of hard board is seen in the photo below.  Using this ensures proper size and alignment of the mounting holes.  The new panel is made from this same pattern.

Once a design is finalized, a printout of the drawing is stuck to the acrylic sheet and taped around the edges.   After drilling, the printout is removed and the acrylic sheet is cleaned up and polished with a product that removes any small scratches.

A sheet of .030 white styrene sheet is cut to match the size of the acrylic sheet.  Using the acrylic sheet as a pattern holes are made in the styrene sheet to match the ones in the acrylic sheet. Then another copy of the drawing without the switches and LED's is used as the actual display.  Using the acrylic sheet again as a pattern two or three of the switch holes are cut out from the drawing using a hobby knife.  The drawing is then sandwiched between the acrylic and white sheets and switches are installed in these holes so that everything stays aligned and then all the other holes can be cut out.

Since this panel was made the same size as the original, it will fit right into the original housing.  Almost all of the control wiring can also be reused with a few more added.   The red and white bottle shown in this photo is the product I use to polish out any small scratches on the acrylic sheet.

Friday, September 18, 2020

Sparks Yard rebuild - general update # 1

This yard rebuild project started around September 1st.  My plan is to push on with this through the fall and will be posting regular general updates along with posts on specific items as needed.  This is the first general update.

On the entry end next to the helix all 5 of the turnouts and Tortoise motors were removed.  Enough of the track and road bed was removed so a smooth transition from old and new could be achieved.   3 new Peco turnouts were assembled into a yard ladder on the bench and then installed and integrated into 4 of the existing yard tracks.  The turnout in the upper left corner will create the return loop and still needs to be installed.

At the other end (the loop end) of the yard the 5th track was realigned to be a single siding off of the return track.  In this photo the remnants of the old road bed can be seen.  The remaining 4 tracks have been cut off at this end of the yard and this yard ladder will be worked on when the entry end is finished.

Monday, September 14, 2020

Modifying guardrails on Peco turnouts

Almost 30 years ago I attended an informal clinic during an Ntrak club meeting on modifying Peco turnouts by adding a .010 shim to the inside of each guard rail to prevent the inside wheel flanges from hitting the frog.   This method became something of a standard for the members in the group and it is something I have always done prior to installing Peco turnouts on my home layouts and Ntrak modules.   I don't add this shim to my code 55 turnouts on my Asia prototype modules as some of the equipment run on that layout has thicker flanges and the shim would make the guard rail too tight. 

This photo illustrates what happens when the space between the outer rail and guard rail is too large.  When allowed to slide inward the inner tab of the gauge can hit the frog.





These are the materials I use for this project.

Super glue, Black sharpie pen, Hobby knife with new blades, .010 styrene strips about .125 in width, several tooth picks or push pins.



The strips are cut to a length just a bit longer than the guard rails and one side is blackened with the sharpie pen.





The side that is not blackened gets a fine bead of the super glue along it's length and is placed into the space between the rail and the guard rail with the glue side facing the guard rail.  Tooth picks or push pins are pushed into place to hold the strip against the guard rail while the super glue sets.



Next the excess strip is carefully cut away with a hobby knife making it flush with the guard rail.  The rails are used as a guide.  Any excess of the strip that extends beyond the guard rail is also removed.  This is where a nice new blade in the hobby knife pays off.



The shim should match the height of the guard rail and the edge is colored with the black sharpie pen.  As seen in this photo the gauge passes through without the inner tab hitting the frog.


Friday, September 4, 2020

The rebuilding of Sparks Yard

In October of 2014 construction on this layout started this layout with a double staging yard.  The first part of the staging yard was for the Southern Pacific line extending west from Weso so it is referred to as Sparks.  For those who do not know the area, Sparks is just east of Reno and SP had a large yard there which UP still uses today.

A number if issues with this yard have come up after this long and I have also learned a few things with experience of running the layout that makes me want to rebuild of the Sparks yard.  I will list those issues and planed solutions below.

  • These were my first Fast Tracks turnouts which I did with code 80 rail in a jig designed for code 55.  While the code 80 rail fit into the jig, the performance of these turnouts has never matched that of later turnouts done with code 55.  The plan will be to use code 80 Peco Electrofrog turnouts in the rebuild.

  • The layout of the yard ladders was compromised to try to fit in a 5th track.  The new layout will still have 5 tracks but with the 5th one being as a siding off of the return track.

  •  The controls were designed to allow for train movement in both directions and this added complication to the control panel and wiring.  After running the layout for 6 years and always running the trains in and out in one direction I now realize that this is not necessary.
  • A railroad herald made of Masonite that had been glued to a cabinet door above the yard fell damaging 2 control switches and cracking the acrylic of the control panel.  As the yard layout and control scheme will be different, a new control panel will be built using the existing housing.

And so it has begun as seen in the photo above.   This is the entry into the yard from the helix.  Five original turnouts have been removed and the sidings will be cut back to make way for the new track and turnouts.  Once this end of the yard is done then work will begin on the other end.  This will not be a quick project and I expect it may take a couple months as least.   The layout can still be operated using the other staging yard.  Updates will be coming in future posts.