Category Archives: Controlling Interests

Controlling Interests #11 Operation of Canute Road Quay #1

Canute Road Quay is by its nature a pretty simple layout and therefore operation is kept reasonably simple, although being DC control not DCC control there still seems a reasonable number of wires involved!

The four track sections are coloured in this diagram

I have allowed for four track sections being the left hand headhunt and run around loop, the right hand head shunt, the front quayside headshunt and finally an isolating section  within the engine shed road to allow for more than one engine to parked in the shed / coal stage area. These simple four section allows for flexible control especially when I want to have more than one locomotive on the layout at anyone time.


Keeping track and wheels clean are essential to good slow speed running.

I am only using one controller for the layout and am using the trusty Gaugemaster W series hand held controllers (that like my transformer box I swap between Canute Road Quay and Fisherton Sarum).  I have therefore used a common DIN plug and socket wiring arrangement between the two layouts. Some time ago Gaugemaster changed their housing for the their W series hand held controllers to a smaller overall but deeper housing and to be honest I prefer their original style and therefore have obtained a number of the original housing style controllers. The other advantage of using Gaugemaster controllers is their excellent mo quibble lifetime warranty and repair service, which although I have only called upon once proved to be excellent and quick (I will state the usual disclaimer that I have no connection to Gaugemaster other than being a happy customer).
I have also been using on Canute Road Quay their WS version of the hand hand controller that has a braking and acceleration simulator built in via a small thumb operated wheel on the side which allows for nice realistic slow speed acceleration and stopping.

Track and wheel cleaning

The WS controller, Din plug and socket and also the track with sprung wire contacts to the inset brass contact screws can be seen in this picture. The on the control panel the switches are coloured as follows: Red – Track sections, Blue – Points, Black – unclouplers and Yellow – lights

As with any layout especially small shunting layouts where locomotive speeds are low, to ensure nice smooth running cleanliness of both the track and the locomotive wheels and picks is essential.  before any running session I clean the top of all the rails bu lightly rubbing with a soft wooden coffee stick of the kind that can be obtained from any coffee shop, this is not abrasive but picks up any dirt easily and by doing each rail separately it does not cause any issue due to the inset track areas or those sections of track that are slightly overgrown with grass and weeds etc.
I have also , as I am not using DCC, fitted a Gaugemaster High Frequency (HF-1) track cleaner into the controller circuit, which although not liked by some, means that during the hours that the layout might be operated at a show ensure ongoing cleanliness and good running.

A close up of the screws and springs to provide power to the temporary track for the Trix track cleaner within the fiddle yard.

For wheel cleaning I have tend to use a Trix/ Minitrex (66602) wheel cleaner, the kind that sits on a straight section of track to transfer power from the track to the brass wheel cleaning brushes area to rotate the locomotive wheels. These are now also marketed by Gaugemaster (GM60)(apologies if this post is being a bit like an advert for them but it’s not intentionally that way) as there is not really a straight section of track suitable on Canute Road Quay I have inserted a couple of countersunk brass screws, that are wired directly to the controller,  into the top surface of the fiddle yard on which I can place a short length of track. As can be seen in the picture left this has a couple of sprung wire droppers to transfer  power via the rails to the wheel cleaner, therefore allowing me to clean a locomotive wheel off scene and can be easily removed from the fiddle yard to allow for movement of the cassettes..

I will cover the operation of the points and uncouplers in a future Controlling Interest post, so what this space.

Controlling Interests #10 – more on turning tables, Fisherton Sarum’s turntable is replaced

Wear and tear occurs on anything mechanical over time and model railways are no exception, especially when subjected to the rigors (and occasionally operator error) of exhibiting for hours on end at shows. One of the focal points on Fisherton Sarum is of course the turntable which during an exhibition seems to be pretty much constantly on the go especially when younger viewing eyes are present.

My T14 is turned on the turntable at Fisherton Sarum

I have posted before about the turntable on Fisherton Sarum in my Controlling Interests #2 post here., but as a quick recap the turntable comprises of a Peco LK-55 kit where I have utilised the well and deck, whilst adding scratch built sides to represent the turntable installed at Salisbury; and it is controlled by  MERG turntable control kit which drives via a stepper motor and gearbox.
During the last couple of shows I attended with Fisherton Sarum I noticed that the operation of the turntable was getting less and less reliable mainly due to issues of the plastic drive shaft mounting hub on the underside of the table deck starting to disintegrate and wear to the  track power feed split contact ring.  I therefore decided to hopefully remedy the issues by removing the deck and trying to replace the drive shaft mount and also effect a repair on the power feed ring. However having examined the removed turntable and due to the lack of the original plastic now remaining at the mounting point it proved difficult to align my replacement metal bush accurately, both vertically and centrally, to give reliable running.

The original scratch built side sides have been grafted onto the new deck

I have now therefore obtained a replacement turntable kit and built a brand new replacement deck (if anyone wants the kits well components that I now have surplus to requirements let me know, free to a good home…) and carefully added the scratch built sides from the original deck to the new one.

The replacement split ring pick up bush in the middle of the well

I have also replaced the now worn power feed split ring in the turntable well as the plungers on the underside of the deck over time had worn a groove and then starting to catch on the edge of the copper split rings.
In order to make future maintenance easier and allowing easy removal of the deck, if required, I have also now incorporated new direct coupling with grub screws. I carefully drilled on a pillar drill to ensure vertical alignment, the bush in the underside of the deck to suit a 4mm OD silver steel rod to match the output shaft of the gearbox and the coupling,  as the Peco LK-55  kit is designed to be interference fit  for a standard Meccano imperial Standard Wire gauge 8 shaft.
I had tried as an experiment a  Ruland Aluminium Flexible Beam Coupling, from RS Components to link the drive shafts of the deck and gearbox, but although these are designed specifically for use with stepper motor drive systems where no back lash is a requirement a certain amount of juddering occurred as they flexed, so I have gone back to a fixed brass coupling but one with two opposing grub screws at each end to ensure a good grip on the shafts (which as per good practice have a slight flat filed on them to ensure the grub screw can grip properly.

The replacement turntable has been fitted and tested on Fisherton Sarum and means that the layout is all ready for its next outing at the Hampton Court MRS, Tolworth Showtrain, on 11th / 12th November at the Tolworth Recreation Centre, Fullers Way North, Tolworth, Surrey, KT6 7LQ

Controlling Interests #9 Operating from the front

As with any layout the old adage says “it is never finished” this is true of Fisherton Sarum.  Regularly after operating the layout at an exhibition, more often or not in the pub over a pint, ideas for modifications / ‘improvements’ are suggested by the operating team (usually a combination of Mark and Roger…), some more radical than others, mulled over and sometimes they eventually get implemented.  With the next couple of exhibitions looming in September (Worthing MRC) and October (Hornby Magazine Great Electric Train Show), I have set up Fisherton Sarum at the clubrooms of the High Wycombe and District MRS to allow me to check everything over and also make another one of the changes previously suggested.

Such past modifications / ‘improvements’ have included:

A view of the control panel located in its new front position at the ‘west’ end of the layout

With the two fiddle yards now able to independently control the main running lines, including remotely the operation of the two signals it was suggested that to increase engagement with the viewing public, an aspect at a show that all the operating team enjoy, that the main control panel could be located to the front of the layout. In actual fact the most suitable location was actually at one end of the scenic section but in front of the ‘west end’ fiddle yard. This has necessitated new mounting brackets for the control panel and some longer cables between the control panel and each scenic board (with grateful thanks to Roger). As can be seen from the picture to the left I have now made this change, although the control panel can still be switched back to its original position should it be necessary.  We shall try out his new configuration at the Worthing MRC exhibition on the 26th/27th September and see how we get on.

Following the success and hands off operational interest gained from the installation of a ‘Dingham’ electromagnet uncouplers, as outlined in my previous Controlling Interests# 6 and  #8 posts, I have added a further a uncoupler.

Shed pilot an Adams B4 No.100 positions the ash wagon over the new uncoupler in the coal stack road.

This new uncoupler is located in the coal stock road just behind the shed to provide additional operational flexibility leaving either the ash wagon or a coal wagon, newly fitted with the iron wire dropper to be activated by the electromagnet. Good eyesight is required from the new control panel location to stop the locomotive in the right place, however a new member of the shed crew has been suitably positioned so that as soon as he is out of the shadow caused by the wagon to be uncoupled it is the right place to stop and operate the  ‘Dingham’ electromagnet.

Controlling Interests #8 Uncoupling the ash wagon

Following the success of the installation of a ‘Dingham’ electromagnet for uncoupling the box van delivering spare parts to the shed stores siding as detailed in my Controlling Interests #6 post, I have now added an additional Dingham’ electromagnet  for also uncoupling the ash wagon next to the workers clearing the ashpits.

the ash wagon is moved into position next to the workers for the removal of the ash

As with the box van I have added  a short piece of iron wire fixed to the dropper of the tension lock coupling hook of the ash wagon, and installed the ‘Dingham’ electromagnet by simply self threading the 5mm core bolt of the Dingham’ electromagnet  into an interference hole drilled through the ash pit into the baseboard. The head of the bolt within the ash pit itself has been covered with ash keeping it totally invisible from view.  A simple push to make switch on the control panel provides the required 12v DC for the magnet to operate that pulls down the iron wire dropper that lifts the hook for uncoupling.

This latest modification is ready to operated next weekend when Fisherton Sarum will be returning to its spiritual home, Salisbury, to be exhibited at the Salisbury and South Wilts Railway Societies 50th Anniversary exhibition.  
The exhibition is being held  at the Michael Herbert Hall, South Street, Wilton and being their golden anniversary should hopefully be a special event. It is open to the public 10.30am to 4.30pm on the Saturday and 10am to 4pm on the Sunday. In addition to Fisherton Sarum there are 14 other layouts across a wide range of scales attending including a number that are Southern related.


Controlling Interests #7 Fiddle Yard exit power

Although I have been exhibiting Fisherton Sarum since November 2006 feedback from my operating team has resulted in suggestions and ideas for ways to continually improve the way we operate and exhibit. The main and largest change to date was as reported in my Controlling interests #1 post that added a third controller to enable independent up and down main line operation whilst still allowed movements to carry on in the shed area.

The Fiddle Yard Indicator panel.
The lamps are switched by the rotary switch at the opposite FY.
The red ready send button is pressed when a train is set up and illuminates the green lamp at the other FY.
The light green push button is the new switch to energise the track feed at the opposite FY exit.

We now operate with each fiddle yard operator driving trains towards them, each fiddle yard operator has a small indicator panel to communicate the type of train to each other (as different length trains require different length fiddle yard cassettes to be positioned) and this also shows them that a train is set up in the opposite fiddle yard and ready to be driven. Following this modification the indication panels gained a switch to enable them to operate the approach signal without having to move across the to the main control panel.

With this method of control now having been used at a couple of exhibitions there have been occasions when the next departing train is set up the previous train is either still moving or the controller has been left on causing the next train to start too early. To overcome this a push button has been added to fiddle yard indications panels that an operator will have to press to energise the power feed to the train they about to drive in the opposite fiddle yard. Once on the main board the push button can be released and the train will carry on.

These indicator panels also reduce the need for the operators to have to shout at each other which prevents viewers of the layout from hearing the fact that my locos’s are neither DCC or sound fitted!

This latest modification to Fisherton Sarum will be used for the first time on 8th / 9th March 2014 at  the  Basingstoke and North Hampshire Model Railway Society show being held at the Aldworth Science College, Basingstoke, RG22 6HA  i hop[e to perhaps some of the readers of this blog there, please make sure you say hello.

Controlling interests #6 uncoupling the box van

One of the regular operational movements when operating Fisherton Sarum is to bring the 12t box van of spare parts and shed consumables, that has arrived from Eastliegh works, to the shed stores located in the water tower building at its own unloading platform.

With the electromagnet energised the iron wire dropper visible under the coupling hook is pulled down and the hook lifts

Just as at Salisbury this involves a shunt across the turntable. At an exhibition this has required a 12″ to the foot scale ‘hand of god’ to uncouple the wagon from the shed pilot loco, or sometimes the ash wagon, until now…

With the simple addition of a short piece of iron wire fixed to the dropper of the tension lock coupling hook, and the installation of a ‘Dingham’ electromagnet kindly provided by fellow High Wycombe and District MRS member and regular Fisherton Sarum operator Mark Riddoch the process is now totally hands free!

Another view with the electromagnet energised and the hook lifted clear of the bar

The bolt of the Dingham electromagnet has been simply self threaded into an interference hole drilled into the baseboard below so that the end of the bolt does not quite come though the ballast keeping it totally invisible from view, whilst firmly holding the coil in place under the board. A simple push to make switch on the control panel provides the required 12v DC for the magnet to operate that pulls down the iron wire dropper that lifts the hook for uncoupling.

This latest addition to Fisherton Sarum can be viewed in action during its next exhibition appearance at the Hornby Magazine Live Exhibition at the Hartlepool College of Further Education on the 13th / 14th July 2013.

The brief video below also shows the uncoupling in action.

Controlling Interests #5-xtra Turning Tables the movie…

My recent Controlling Interests #5 recent modifications completed…and working post  included an update on the Model Railway Electronic Group (MERG) turntable control unit that with the grateful help of fellow HWDMRS member Mark Riddoch I am now using to drive the turntable on Fisherton Sarum.

The purpose of this #5-xtra post is to demonstrate how the operation now looks via the short video I have put together below, enjoy:

Controlling Interests #5 recent modifications completed…and working

In my previous Controlling Interest posts I have discussed changes being made to a number of layout control items on Fisherton Sarum. For the last number of weeks the layout has been set up in its entirety at my local Model Railway Society , the High Wycombe and District MRS (whom have a nice new website also worth taking a look at..) initially to enable a photoshoot for a future magazine article to take place along with preparation for its planned appearance at the Basingstoke show.  Unfortunately, due to ill health I was unable to attend this show (but is now booked to attend next years show instead) and the layout has stayed at the Society Rooms enabling it to be running at this Saturday’s HWDMRS open day and also means it can fully prepared before its visit to the Hornby magazine exhibition at Hartlepool in July.

This prolonged period of having the layout set up has enable a number of items of work to be carried including:

There are two working LSWR lattice post signals on Fisherton Sarum, built from Model Signal Engineering components, based on two actual signals at Salisbury. These will be the subject of a View from the line post in the future, but I have recently repaired the east end bracket signal that was damaged at the last show and both have had their paintwork touched up.

Remote Signal Operation
Before the last show I attended I added a third controller to the set up so that each fiddle yard operator can now drive trains towards them, whilst the third controller allows shunting the shed area to be carried out. This balances the workload between each yard operator, and to enhance this further I have now added a remote signal switch to each of the fiddle yard indicator panels to allow them to operate the approach signal at their end without having to move across  to the main control panel. This is controlled by a ‘Local/Remote’ switch on the main panel, this provides an interlock to ensure that only the panel or fiddle yard switches can operate the signals at any one time.  After a bit of head scratching and the addition of a couple of diodes in the circuit this is now fully functional.

As per my Controlling Interest#2 Turning Tables post with the grateful help of fellow HWDMRS member Mark Riddoch the Turntable is now controlled by a  Model Railway Electronic Group (MERG) turntable control unit.  After initial installation there appeared to have been an issue with the counter clockwise alignment (to take up any slack when turning counter clockwise the MERG unit is designed to rotate past the selected track and then move clockwise back for final alignment) this has now been identified as being due to a small amount of slip in the connector joining the turntable drive shaft and the output shaft from the gearbox and this has now revised and I am pleased to say the turntable rotation and alignment is now quiet smooth and accurate in both directions.

In addition to the above I have also carried out a general touch up of the scenery in some places and paid attention to some of the track joins to improve running.

Controlling Interests #4 looking to ‘turnout’ inprovements

One the benefits of recently changing to slow acting ‘stall’ type point motors as per my Controlling Interests #3 post, where I describe my fitting of DCC Concepts Cobalt slow acting motors, is that the unprototypical spring and spring housing in the middle of the Peco turnout is no longer needed, removal of this certainly improves the look of the turnout.

A Peco Turnout as previously Installed still with spring and spring housing

There are a number of simple improvements that can be made to the Peco turnouts even when using solenoid type motors that still require the spring to be in place. These include firstly removing the lugs at each end of the tiebar, that are designed for hand operation. Secondly, and if the motor is not being mounted directly under the turnout but under the baseboard, shortening the sleepers either side of the tiebar  that have the slots in them for the Peco point motor fixing tabs.

Spring, spring housing and spring housing sleeper base removed

I had already done these modifications on Fisherton Sarum’s turnouts and now have been able to go a step further by removing the spring, spring housing, the spring housing sleeper base and trimming back the spring location moulding on the tiebar.  The spring is easily removed along with the spring housing by simply bending back the metal clips on either side of the housing and removing complete with the spring. This then exposes the moulded sleeper base under where the housing was and this can be simply cut away along the edge of the neighbouring sleeper.

New sleeper and ballast added and lightly weathered to match the original

I then filled the resulting space with a sleeper, from a spare piece of plain Peco track, cut to length and glued into position. Ballast was then also glued between the sleepers, and the whole lot weathered to match the original turnout and ballast.

All of the above modifications would of course be easier to do before the turnout was installed on the layout, in which case I would suggest replacing sleepers either side of the tiebar with copper clad sleepers soldered into to position but as this is retrospective modification I decided on the process above.

Controlling Interests #3 it will ‘turnout’ ok in the end

When I first built Fisherton Sarum I made the decision to use SEEP solenoid point motors to control the turnouts, this was partly due to being familiar with solenoid motors at the time and partially due to cost. In hindsight from both a visual and reliability perspective a mistake. It has become apparent after a number of exhibitions that reliability of the SEEP motors is questionable, even when used with a Capacitor Discharge Unit (CDU), and most frustrating issue has been the inconsistent operation of the built in microswitch.

The first two Cobalt motors in place.

Originally I used the built in switch of the The SEEP PM1 motor for changing the turnout frog polarity and had glued a Peco PL-13 Accessory switch to the underside of the motor to provide switching for point direction indications on the control panel. As time has passed where the built in switch has proved inconstant or unreliable I have swapped the duty of the two switches over so that the Peco Accessory switch is doing the more critical role of switching the frog polarity.

I have now decided to replace all the point motors with the slow acting type and have chosen the DCC Concepts Cobalt slow acting motor (note I have not gone DCC control, I am still of the analogue camp). I choose this over the other slow acting motors on the market due to it being slightly smaller than its competition, recommendations from other users and experienced gained with them on Ashland, one of the Hornby Magazine layouts I helped build.

There is always an awkward one, the clearance under the main baseboard L Girder is not enough for the Cobalt to be directly installed. I will install it to the side and operate the Turnout via a crank and probably leave the unpowered SEEP in place here to act as part of the crank.

Installation of the motors on the whole is quite simple with the exception of one location where the motor needed to be installed to the side (where I plan to keep the  unpowered Seep motor in place as part of the crank arrangement).
I am utilising the existing wiring and control panel push buttons, but as the Cobalts require a polarity change and a constant supply, I have turned once again to my friend, fellow Fisherton Sarum operator and electronics wizard Mark Riddoch who is building for me some cleaver circuitry to take the push button inputs to and turn it into the constant feed required by the motor. Being operated from a 12VDC supply I am retaining a diode matrix system to operate a number of motors from one button when required such as on the ladder of turnouts in front of the shed.

This weekend has seen the first 4 motors (6 to go) changed and wired up.

Update 20th May: All 10 motors have now been changed to Cobalts. Next step will be the changes to the control panel to power them.