Waton - N gauge challenge

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ElDavo
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Waton - N gauge challenge

Postby ElDavo » Thu Jun 03, 2010 4:27 pm

This is one of a few "catch-up" posts I'll make on this thread in the next few days to detail what I've been up to since March 2010. Apologies to those who may have seen this stuff on other forums...


Having got Cramdin's first show out of the way back in March my thoughts immediately turned to the follow-on project. In fact I had been thinking about well before March and had been doing sundry experiments for months There doesn't seem to be any reason to extend Cramdin any further and over on that "other forum" (RMWeb) they have a 2010 challenge running to mark the forum's 5th birthday. Unfortunately I've never been able to pass up a challenge! Well it would be rude not to have a go.

Time for a little foray into 2mm N gauge I think. I've acquired a few bits of stock so I need something to run them on. That's my excuse anyway. the setting is somewhere in the Midlands and it is based on a location well known to many train spotters, Water Orton. As ever the name, Waton, is silly being a compression of Water Orton just as the track plan is compressed. In addition it has 5 letters and every reference/inclusion of 5 in the entry can add points to the score!

Era is present day(ish). Here's an early draft track plan created in Trax2:

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All routes end in cassette storage and I think this is comfortably less than 2010 square inches which one of the rules of the competition. Should be able to run a train of 3ft or so which is not wonderful but probably adequate.

I have little experience of N gauge so I felt I needed to see what the track plan would look like full size. A one foot wide baseboard sounds awfully narrow so I was concerned it won't really work. I laid out the basic plan in Trax2 and refined it a little so I set up to print out a set of templates for the scenic area, pretty much the entire 10 foot length. The resulting umpteen sheets of A4 were stuck together with sticky tape and laid out on the kitchen floor. Well it certainly took up a fair amount of the kitchen but it also looked quite interesting.

I did some experiments with track construction. I tried the Peco code 55 track but found the running less than wonderful and didn't like the look of it at all. Consequently I joined the 2mm Society and ordered up some of their track components. I've built track using copperclad sleepers and bullhead rail before, in fact all the turnouts on Cramdin are constructed in this manner. This time though it's flat bottom rail and in N!

Knocked together a rough section of straight(ish) track then painted and ballasted it. I'm trying to get the effect of concrete sleepers and this experiment didn't really work. The ballast colour is yuk as well!

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You'll have to forgive the fact that the rail alignment with the sleepers is out, it was a rush job! Doesn't look too bad with a train on it.

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Also had a crack at some pointwork. The soldering looks pretty crude doesn't it?

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This stuff is seriously small though especially for someone who really isn't good at precision

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The plain track is code 40 rail laid to 2mm finescale gauge but the pointwork is adjusted to allow use with unmodified RTR N gauge stock. Well that's the plan anyway.

The point is actually one of a pair of B6 righthanders forming a facing crossing. The other half of the crossover was built and I added temporary tiebars so I could test things and amazingly stock seemed to run through very smoothly in all directions. I didn't do a complete electrical test as I didn't have connections to the frogs but locos seemed to amble around OK. Bit surprised to be honest.

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Following on from comments I made some modifications to the wing and check rails on the first point to make them look more like planed rail rather than the bends that are seen in bullhead turnouts. The modifications are partially successful but I suspect I may replace the check rails completely. The second turnout has no bends in either wing or check rails and they have just planed ends. The check rails should have more of a curved profile but that is tricky in this scale (at least for me it is).

You can just about see the difference in the shot below.

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The flangeway gaps are a little larger than I would like especially on the curved routes. I have been able to tighten these up with a few more small adjustments on subsequent efforts. From a normal viewing distance the gaps are not so obvious and things improve with paint and ballast. Here is an extreme close up which is pretty cruel. I'm going to have to improve my macro camera technique if I'm going to work in this scale!

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A couple of days were taken up in building baseboards. The scenic boards measure 10 feet by 14 inches which I calculate as 1680 square inches leaving just enough for cassettes.

Here's the set of 4 boards with sundry weights and clamps still in place.

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The construction follows my normal practices i.e. it's crude. Basically it's an open framework of 5.5 mm ply with softwood blocks glued and pinned at the corners. Cross bracing, if you can call it that, is at approximately 12 inch intervals. The end plates are a double skin of 5.5mm ply, to allow mounting of alignment dowels, with a softwood batten across the top to allow brass screws to be inserted to which rail ends will be soldered.

The track bed is more 5.5mm ply raised about 11mm above the framework surface to allow some more interesting topology and to improve the view of the trains for those who are vertically challenged or seated. There are 4 baseboards, two 3ft long and two 2ft long. These will be bolted together face to face using MDF end boards for transportation/storage.

Here's a closer view. Those of a delicate disposition or competent in woodwork should probably look away at this point!

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Of course nothing is straight or square but that's normal for me. Lots to do...

Cheers
Dave

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Re: Waton - N gauge challenge

Postby ElDavo » Fri Jun 04, 2010 11:32 am

As I am building all the plain track as well as pointwork from copperclad I need a jig to help speed construction. Out with a bit of scrap MDF, some card and glue and we have this...

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The sleeper spacing is pretty approximate but it will probably do. Basically the sleepers are slotted into the gaps (a truly tedious job) and then one rail is soldered in place. The assembly is then removed and laid on the baseboards with whatever curvature is required and the second rail is soldered in place. Here's a shot with a length of half completed track in the jig.

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A close-up shows this is a pretty crude piece of work.

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In preparation for track laying the baseboard ends have all been drilled for assembly bolts and alignment dowels. The simple bullet style dowels have been fitted with epoxy and then the boards assembled and the track bed planed to get smooth inter-baseboard transitions. All the timber work has then had a coat of polyurethane varnish help keep out any damp. Baseboards will be stored/transported in pairs bolted face to face between two MDF end boards.

At this point(!) track laying began. The crossover I had already constructed was laid along with the first section of plain track. As always I started with something simple NOT! Here we have a crossover that is fed off a curve with a baseboard join right by the toe. I guess if this works the rest should be simple. The rail ends are soldered to brass screws at the baseboard join.

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Having spent some time on this small bit I realised there is a heck of a lot of track on this layout!

As I had now started to lay track and I don't currently have anywhere to keep the boards set up permanently, I needed to sort out the end storage/transport boards. A spare moment and the end covers/boards were cut and drilled. Of course I then found I hadn't got enough M6 wingnuts or washers! These boards are certainly somewhat smaller than the Cramdin main board (6' 3") even when bolted together in pairs.

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Just goes to show a bit of forward planning helps. When the backscene boards are added each pair of boards will form an almost sealed up crate. I've also wired up the track that has been laid so far to try and avoid having to do a ton of wiring all in one go.

Cheers
Dave



Cheers
Dave

Michael Thornberry
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Re: Waton - N gauge challenge

Postby Michael Thornberry » Fri Jun 04, 2010 12:34 pm

Hallo David,
The excellent pre-planning has worked well for you - Keep-up the good work, mate,
Kind Regards,
Michael Thornberry.

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Re: Waton - N gauge challenge

Postby ElDavo » Sat Jun 05, 2010 5:30 pm

Some more progress shots. This is the layout after about two days of track laying. Not made a lot of impression on it!. Waton East junction is starting to take shape. Building plain track seems to take an age. I know, should have used Easitrack! Here's a shot of the East end of the layout with two of the boards bolted together to give a 5 foot length.

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Looking closer the track doesn't look that special but with a bit of tinkering, ballasting and painting it will be fine. The curves get a bit tight as the track heads off the boards to the cassettes but these will be hidden/disguised somehow. This small section is over 500 sleepers and about 8 metres of rail!

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After another day of track laying board 2 has all its track and Waton East junction is now complete.

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The odd looking rationalised track plan is starting to emerge now. A lot of time was taken up with doing a bit of "on board" replanning. As ever with my projects what fits nicely in the track planning software doesn't quite fit in reality. The platform area seemed too short and in trying to extend that the pointwork at the western end had to be adjusted. I think it will all fit now but time will tell. This shot looking from the western end shows the outline of the platform on board 3. The road overbridge will sit on board 2 tight up against the board join with board 3 and the station building, which will be on board 3, will have to be made removable. This should(!) disguise the board join somewhat.

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Cheers
Dave

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Re: Waton - N gauge challenge

Postby ElDavo » Sat Jun 05, 2010 5:34 pm

As per normal I'm using the best quality materials available. Can you see what it is yet?

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This is the start of work on one of the major scenic features of the layout, the road overbridge and attached station building. I started roughing things out in some old gash card from the recycling bin and now I'm undecided whether this will turn into the actual model. I originally intended to build it in plasticard but having looked at the 2mm brick sheets available I'm not convinced. I think it may end up as card with brick paper, probably custom printed in the trusty PC.

Here's the structure, as far as it is, balanced on the end of the East junction board. 2mm buildings are rather on the small side!

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This shot also shows that the track has been painted and mostly ballasted. Also some detailing has started. It would all have been ballasted except that one section developed a dead short! I had to re-gap a number of sleepers to find the offending one and cure the problem. B****r!

Here's a cruel close-up to show more of what's been done. There's obviously still some fettling and then weathering to do but it's getting there.

Image

Cheers
Dave

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Re: Waton - N gauge challenge

Postby ElDavo » Sat Jun 05, 2010 5:38 pm

Another challenge, fit backscene boards. I figured I can't really do any landscaping without them so they had to be done at this stage. Basically made from 3mm MDF and either bolted, to allow removal from the 3ft boards, or screwed and glued for the 2ft end boards. The ends have been curved round by scoring the reverse of the board, shaping then filling the score marks with "no more nails". Hope it stays put! Here's a shot of all 4 boards assembled.

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The tops of the backscene boards are not located positively against one another yet so I have to figure a scheme for that. They have been sprayed with a couple of coats of B&Q matt white emulsion as a base. Blagged an airbrush and compressor for a week or so to get this job sorted.

A slightly closer view shows the Eastern end where the track has been laid.

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These were then airbrushed to give a progressive blue shading.

Cheers
Dave

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Re: Waton - N gauge challenge

Postby SouthernBoy » Sat Jun 05, 2010 6:39 pm

Top notch work Dave, especially for someone with little experience of N. And quick progress too compared to many of us :shock:

I was trying to think of other '5s' you could include to increase your score: 5 people on the platform, 5 luggage trolleys, 5 benches, 5 parked cars, a bus with route number 5, 5 street lamps, 5 horses in a field... I'll try and think of more :)

I have seen some of your progress on RMWeb - but a couple of questions I'm curious about ...

Will this be DC or DCC?
Are you going to signal it all up properly? And if so will they be controlled by train movements or manually?

Thanks, and good luck for the challenge! :)

Mark

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Re: Waton - N gauge challenge

Postby ElDavo » Sun Jun 06, 2010 11:55 am

At the Eastern end things got messy. Very messy. Basic ground shape created by forming kitchen roll soaked in finishing plaster over crumpled newspaper. This'll take a couple of days to dry out!

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There's a skeletal bridge which will form part of the scenic break and hide the hole in the sky (hopefully!).

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Plaster still drying so time to look at some of the structures. The "mock-up" road bridge in the centre of the layout that will have the station buildings has seen some attention. Played around with using Scalescenes brick paper and some custom image textures. It's sort of OK but not brilliant by any means. I remember why there is no wallpaper in my house now, hateful job!

A 66 emerges from the Minworth Lane bridge heading for Derby. I still haven't conquered photographing these diminutive models!

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The same taken from a different angle. Spotters at Water Orton would take similar shots from a footbrige just East of the station.

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Still undecided whether the card and brickpaper route will be good enough. I know why I like working in plasticard now though!

The second board then received someattention and had some of the topology built up. In my normal manner I didn't simply use the same technique as I had used successfully on board 1 but switched! This time I've used old fashioned papier mache techniques with kitchen roll and dilute PVA glue. Should be a bit lighter than the plaster option I used before and is slightly less messy but takes longer to construct but also dries quicker! Here's an overview of the board after a coat of neat PVA has been splurged onto the dried papier mache construction.

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The first board has had a sealing coat of neat PVA applied and a base coat of Burnt Umber. Ooh, chocolate pudding!

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This was then given a blast of rough grass. Actually several different types of static grass woofed at wet PVA using a variety of "puffer" bottles. The PVA is still wet in this shot but it's starting to take shape.

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Here's an overview shot of the 2 boards bolted together.

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Cheers
Dave

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Re: Waton - N gauge challenge

Postby ElDavo » Sun Jun 06, 2010 12:09 pm

More faffing around with scenic stuff sees the ground profile completed on baseboard 2 and every spare spot has been blasted with static grass. looking at photographs of Water Orton it is amazingly green, there are trees everywhere. Time to start experimenting with creating trees and bushes.

After quite a number of hours of tinkering and fiddling I've created a small section of hedgerow and a couple of trees!

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It's at this point I realise I should have opted for an urban location rather than this one! Why are trees so difficult to make?

Here's the area from a similar angle with a 66 approaching from the Derby direction. The small tree in the background is attempt number 3 with attempt 4 being the larger tree in the middle ground.

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From above you can see this is just a tiny area. It's going to take forever to build enough greenery for all of the layout!

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More greenery gets added...

The local spotters find it hard to get shots of the trains in these parts as they appear to be in camouflage!

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Moving down the road to get a better shots things just get worse!

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The only way to get a shot is to walk to the overbridge by the station. No idea why this Fred is parked out there as the S&T dept. haven't installed signals yet!

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One of those jobs that got put off for a while was creating a footbridge that will be used as part of the scenic break on the Derby line. Eventually it got cobbled together from a few bits of plasticard.

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Cutting individual steps seemed like a good idea when I started! It's a bit rough and ready but hopefully with a dab of paint it will do the job. It's not very visible from most angles which will help!

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Most of the lineside fencing so far has been carefully hidden by undergrowth but there are going to be a few places where I will actually have to model it. One such area is around the footbridge over the Derby line. Couldn't see a way of having the footbridge emerge from the foliage convincingly so some fencing was needed. I'm not spending money on this little bit of baseboard so no fancy etchings or anything. Can't produce post and wire or chainlink this small so it will have to be a bit of decrepit old post and rail fence that has survived.

Out with the sophisticated tools and a jig is created. A bit of A4 paper, some bluetac and a few pencil lines. What more could you possibly want? Oh, that'd be some brass wire, flux and a soldering iron. Not very sophisticated is it?

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Here are a couple of assembled sections either side of the track by the newly painted footbridge. How crude is that footbridge!

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A view from the side.

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The fence is supposed to represent 4ft or 4ft 6" fence with 4 rails. There's a British standard for these things which of course I consulted to get the dimensions right(ish). The eagle-eyed will of course spot that I managed to transpose one of the dimensions in 4mm not 2mm! I carefully made up a couple of sections then realised the posts were spaced at 12ft intervals instead of 6ft. Couple more snips of brass wire and some superglue and the missing posts were added.

The (amended) fence sections were given a hasty splash of greyish/brownish colour acrylic, the footbridge was then given a dose of weathering powders and it and the fence sections were then planted. Out with the lichen and other scenic bits and things get a bit more blended in. The PVA glue is still wet in these shots but hang about, where did the fence go?

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From the side it is slightly more visible but not much. Just as well I didn't spend too much time on it.

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Of course if you step back to a normal viewing distance it's practically invisible. Even this is a closer view than most folks will get! Still it kept me amused for an hour or two.

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Cheers
Dave

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Re: Waton - N gauge challenge

Postby ElDavo » Sun Jun 06, 2010 12:26 pm

For the last few weeks I have been noodling on how best to operate this layout. My tendency is to use DCC given that I have the gear and am fully convinced of the benefits in OO. Trouble is I'm not sure I'm keen to struggle fitting chips into my rapidly growing collection of N gauge stock and, at £20 a pop for each one, it soon adds up to a considerable sum. There is also the problem that going fully DCC would probably mean I would not be able to borrow stock from others. So wiring for DC would seem to give me more options at least in the short term.

The track plan is really simple. In fact it has been simplified slightly from the original plan to give more platform space and ease curves etc. Even though it's simple there are 7 (I think) possible paths through the station plus additional permutations where trains stop. I'm planning on having 2 controllers to allow 2 train movements simultaneously to add interest, one controlling Westbound trains and one Eastbound.

Many of the paths conflict as the route through platform 1, the lower face on the plan, is bidirectional. So the easiest way to build a control panel would be to have a switch for each point/crossover, one for each signal and one for each trackfeed. The trackfeeds could each select the East or West controller and have a centre off position. Job done... ...well maybe.

Such a control panel would undoubtedly be easy to construct and wire but would be pretty tricky to operate especially if this thing ever makes it to an exhibition. With two operators the chances of a screw-up would be high I speculate.

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So what to do? I'm a member of the Winchester Railway Modellers and several of our membership are heavily into building fully interlocked signalling systems, both mechanical and electrical. In fact Jeff Geary and John Shaw have written a books on the subject along with track building/planning software Trax. So it ought to be possible to do something for Waton along these lines. This weekend I thought I would have a play with some switches and wires.

The diagram above shows the points and signals numbered in a fairly conventional manner as though they were in a lever frame. Levers 1-4 are signals controlling Eastbound movements, 5-9 are turnouts/crossovers and 10-13 are signals controlling Westbound movements. The idea is to use switches rather than levers with electrical interlocking and the track feeds controlled through the signals. Simple to say but not quite so simple to implement. On the plan the trackfeeds are numbered F1-F9 but I've missed 2 on the Eastern end!

So the operators are presented with a track diagram like the one above and 13 switches. Here's a really rough prototype, simple init!

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The switches are numbered from the left and the signal switches have a red cap on the toggle.

Of course if you look inside it's not quite so simple.

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Each of the switches (will be) wired to control a 12 volt relay. Currently only some of the signals have been wired this way and the 2 turnouts wired so far, 7 and 8, are simply switching the motors. There will need to be a few more relays in here to do the whole layout as currently this only controls the 2 Eastern boards. Signals can only be pulled off when the appropriate road is set and conflicting signals cannot be pulled off together. The power feeds are all wired through the signal relays and so a train can only be moved if an appropriate signal has been pulled off.

The point motors will have to be controlled through relays as well as currently it is possible to reverse a turnout after a signal has been pulled off and this is definitely a no-no. When all the interlocking is in place pulling a signal off will lock all the points on the route in the correct orientation so that reversing a turnout switch will have no effect until the signal is reversed. In additon each switch will have an LED that shows whether it is live or disabled at any given time. Also there will be LED indicators for each of the track feeds on the schematic to indicate that it is live and, in the case of the bi-directional areas, which controller is delivering power.

All this just to drive toy trains! Which it does and the first trains have moved under control of the panel. New arrivals are seen at Waton. The Cross Country 170/2 heads South away from Waton as a 66 with a rake of container flats (acquired at Railex!) takes the goods relief road en route to Birmingham.

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Hopefully all this should(!) make it simple to operate and reduce the risk of two operators treading on each others toes.

Finally, bringing things right up to date (4th June), having got two of the four boards into some kind of shape it's time to move on to the third. I've managed to get 3 of the turnouts for the Western end of the layout constructed. There's still one more and two catch points to build. Unfortunately the next job is to rig up point operation gubbins for these and lay them. One thing I hate is point actuation mechanisms as they require a certain amount of precision, especially in 2mm, and I'm really not good at that. Always takes me ages and lots of fiddling and reworking to get them to work well.

The Eastern end points have simple copperclad sleeper tiebars but I'm not happy with how they work so I'll probably rework them. At this end I'm going to use a spring steel wire running from each blade to a more sunstantial tiebar underneath the board. I managed to get this to work in 4mm on some of the points on Cramdin but soldering wire to point blades in 2mm is tricky to say the least. Well it is for me anyway. We'll see how it goes.

Here's the point complex so far on my rather grubby workbench/freezer.

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Probably not much more progress this weekend as we have friends round and today I'm off to Thruxton to drive a Ferrari. :P

Cheers
Dave

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ElDavo
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Re: Waton - N gauge challenge

Postby ElDavo » Sun Jun 06, 2010 12:32 pm

SouthernBoy wrote:Top notch work Dave, especially for someone with little experience of N. And quick progress too compared to many of us :shock:

I was trying to think of other '5s' you could include to increase your score: 5 people on the platform, 5 luggage trolleys, 5 benches, 5 parked cars, a bus with route number 5, 5 street lamps, 5 horses in a field... I'll try and think of more :)

I have seen some of your progress on RMWeb - but a couple of questions I'm curious about ...

Will this be DC or DCC?
Are you going to signal it all up properly? And if so will they be controlled by train movements or manually?

Thanks, and good luck for the challenge! :)

Mark


Hi Mark,
Yup, I will be looking for 5 references to add and some of those are on my list! 5 spotters at the end of the platform is pretty much a certainty.

Hopefully the last post before this will explain the control options. Initially DC but maybe DCC in the future. I will be fitting signals and they will hopefully be operational. I haven't quite figured out how to make the 4 aspects semi-automatic but I'm working on it. The train movements will be controlled by the signals and hopefully the train movements will feedback to cause a green signal to go red and cascade backwards up the line to turn a red to yellow, yellow to double yellow, etc.

Cheers
Dave

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Re: Waton - N gauge challenge

Postby SouthernBoy » Sun Jun 06, 2010 1:16 pm

Thanks Dave, I'll look forward to learning more how you wire up the signals / feedback etc when the time comes.

Fine scenic work btw - especially the ballasting, very neat.

Mark

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Re: Waton - N gauge challenge

Postby Ben A » Sun Jun 06, 2010 1:51 pm

Hi David,

Thanks for posting these images - very inspirational. I have never tried building track but the improved appearance you have achieved makes it very tempting... though after your comments earlier in the thread I suspect I'd be tempted to go the Easitrack route!

cheers

Ben A.

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Re: Waton - N gauge challenge

Postby sishades » Sun Jun 06, 2010 3:55 pm

Hang on a mo whilst i sit down and catch my breath, I am struggling to keep up with your pace....
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Re: Waton - N gauge challenge

Postby Tank » Sun Jun 06, 2010 7:55 pm

Wow, superb! I'm hoping to start with 2mm track in the Autumn, so I'll certainly be asking you for tips!!!! :lol: It really looks very good.
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