Controlling Interests #2 Turning tables

In my controlling interest #1 post I mentioned the change of turntable control system to the Model Railway Electronic Group (MERG) turntable control unit.  Since I first built Fisherton Sarum the turntable was powered via a Frixinghall motor and gearbox that did not have any form of automatic indexing. This meant that the rotational speed of the table was not easy to control and track alignment had to be done by eye (sometimes hitting the mark easier than at othertimes) via a toggle switch.

The turntable on Fisherton Sarum is very much the focal point of the layout.

Friend and regular operator of Fisherton Sarum, fellow High Wycombe and District MRS member and electronics wizard Mark Riddoch has very kindly built for me a MERG turntable control kit which drives a stepper motor and gearbox.
This clever bit of electronics can give up to 63 different positions (I only need 8 i.e. each end of 4 roads, on Fisherton Sarum) to an amazing precision of 0.03 degrees.

The stepper motor and gearbox installed on a new cross member on the underside of the turntable well

The turntable is simply operated from the panel via a rotary switch (a binary hex coded switch, for those that understand such things) to select the desired road and then pressing the start button. The controller then automatically works out the shortest distance to the desired alignment. When turning clockwise the deck is stopped automatically at the correct place or if turning anti-clockwise it over runs slightly before stepping back clockwise to the correct position ensuring any slack in the gearbox is taken up. The controller has a learn mode to allow the desired positions to be accurately set up which it then remembers.

The Meccano shaft locked in position with a brass pin through the boss and shaft. (apologies for the poor image)

The typical bank holiday weekend weather, just passed, encouraged working inside rather than other pursuits so the installation was completed. Installation has required a few slight changes to the control panel: firstly to incorporate the rotary switch,  mounting inside the control panel the controller PCB card and changes to the wiring harness to get the required five wires to the stepper motor and gearbox that is being mounted directly under the turntable itself, replacing the previously installed traditional motor, gearbox and worm and wheel drive.

It is imperative that the link between the gearbox outlet and the table deck is positive and has no possibility of slip. The Peco deck is designed to be an interference fit on to a Meccano shaft so to ensure no unwanted movement is possible I have drilled through the boss and the shaft at 90 degrees and pinned it with a short section of Brass wire.

A close up of the motor, gearbox and drive coupling arrangement.

This shaft matching  the gearbox output shaft has had a flat filed onto it and a brass collar joins to the two with grub screws ensuring a positive connection.

Programming the turntable in learn mode has not gone 100% to plan and I did not yesterday  manage to get it working correctly, so need to some additional advice. Once I have mastered the programming I will upload a video of the turntable under its new control in action, so watch this space.

I am once again indebted to Mark, and offer my my sincere thanks for his time and assistance with this addition to the control of Fisherton Sarum which should, when fully up and running,  improve the operation and visual effect no end.

10 thoughts on “Controlling Interests #2 Turning tables

    1. Hi Steen

      Sorry for the delay in my reply due to being with family at Christmas.

      The Stepper motor and gear box I used is as specified by the MERG turntable control kit and comprises of a 7.5 Degree step unipolar 12VDC 180mA stepper motor (RS number 440-262) and a Ratio 250/1 Ovoid gearbox 9RS Number 336-416.

      I hope this helps.

  1. Grahammuz, I have been tearing my hair out trying to find a method of indexing my Peco N Scale turntable. Up until now I haven’t even come close for my size train. Do you think this would work for me? Also, I’m in the U.S.A. can I obtain the kit or whatever is needed here, or would I be better off trying to order from you? This is so fantastic. I really would like to have a rotary switch control where you turn it to a position and it moves to there and stops. Thanks for the writeup.

    1. Hi Greg

      I do not see a reason why the MERG solution would not work for you with an N gauge Peco turntable. You have to be a member of MERG to buy the kit ( I am not a member but a freind at my Model Railway club was) and the components such as the motor and gearbox etc are available from RS Components.

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