Posts Tagged ‘Cobalt Point Motors’

With the Christmas festivities out of the way for another year, I turned my attention the last couple of days to the fiddle yard and wiring for Canute Road Quay.

A package arrived from Tim Horn the week before Christmas that contained a 1ft x 1ft baseboard specially manufactured with the baseboard top dropped by 4mm to accommodate the depth of the loco cassettes from my Fisherton Sarum layout.  Yesterday I made a start on putting the fiddle yard together.

The Tim Horn laser cut fiddle yard baseframe is assembled, painted and affixed to the main board

The Tim Horn laser cut fiddle yard baseframe is assembled, painted and affixed to the main board

The kit from Tim is designed to have three full height sides but I wanted to modify this and also cut out a section of the front face to accommodate the little control panel and also the DIN 5 pin socket for the controller.
Hopefully the picture left will explain all, after allowing the glue to fully dry it received a  coat of primer including the underside  followed by a top coat of black to match the main baseboard.  The rear full height panel will then incorporate a couple, or possibly three shelves that have been made from the off cuts from the sides. By today the finish pained fiddle yard board is affixed to the main board, although I have still not fitted the shelves as this requires a trip out to get some brackets of some kind.

The wiring between the input feeds fromt he transformer box via the control panel and to the main board is taking shape.

The wiring between the input feeds from the transformer box (right) via the control panel and to the main board (left) is taking shape.

I have also made a start on the wiring from the control panel to the jumper cables. In the picture below,  taken looking from the rear of the underside of the fiddle yard board towards the back of the control panel housed within the front face, the left hand cable goes to the main board for the control of the four track sections (yes I am still a DC Luddite), five Cobalt point motors, six uncoupling electromagnets and the power feed for the gas and building lights (yet to be installed). The right hand chocolate block will be connected to the cable that will come up from the transformer box that I also use on Fisherton Sarum to provide the required 16V AC and 12v DC supplies.

As you can see I am using 25 way D cable connectors with one half of the plastic housing screwed to the baseboard side to hold them in place. I have also soldered the 25 core cable for the main board to it’s 25 way D connector (am I alone in hating doing that job?) but have not yetinstalled it and this will a job for later this week. I still have the short jumper cable to solder to its pair of 25 way D connectors…

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Earlier this month I announced my new little timesaving / timewasting project Canute Road Quay. Last weekend I took the opportunity to visit the excellent Scaleforum exhibition and collect from Tim Horn the kit of laser cut parts for the 4ft x 1ft main baseboard for this project. Tim classifies this design as a ‘Scenic/Photo plank board’ which includes the rear and side backscenes boards and top fascia.

The Tim Horn baseboard after just a couple of hours of assembly

The Tim Horn baseboard after just a couple of hours of assembly

This is the first time that I have used Tim’s laser cut board components and all I can say is ‘wow’ and that I totally recommend them. Tim can supply his baseboards with either with MDF or birch ply tops, the later being my chosen option. The quality and fit of each of the components is excellent and results in a very simple assembly using only wood glue, a small number of screws and a few clamps. Including allowing time for glue to cure between stages assembly was completed without rushing in a few hours last Sunday.

The eft hand end of the baseboard including the cut out for the exit to the 'fiddle yard'

The left hand end of the baseboard including the cut out for the exit to the ‘fiddle yard’

It certainly makes things easier for someone like me whom carpentry is not really my thing. The result is a totally square, robust, lightweight, professional looking baseboard assembly, that now awaits a coat of white primer, including the underneath, to seal it all around,  followed by a matt black top coat coat to the front, side and rear fascias. Tim also includes a single piece 3mm ply fascia to go on to the front to cover all the tab joints, giving a totally smooth final finish, which I have yet to affix.

A sneaky peak of things to come with the trackwork being positioned along with a couple of the buildings.

A sneaky peak of things to come with the trackwork being initially positioned along with a couple of the buildings.

I have taken the opportunity prior to painting to cut the trackwork to size to allow for holes to be drilled in the correct places for the point motors (As on Fisherton Sarum I will be using Cobalt slow acting point motors), and track feed / point frog droppers etc. The well thought out design of the Tim Horn baseframes include cuts outs at the top of the baseframe cross members for cable runs etc.

I also took the opportunity to discuss with the Tim the possibility of obtaining a small 1ft x 1ft cantilever section for the left hand end ‘fiddle yard’ to support the off scene cassette. Due to the fact that I intend to utilise the 12″ locomotive cassette from Fisherton Sarum (along with a small number of other items such as the transformer box) the top surface of this section needs to be 4mm lower than the main board to ensure the rail and cassette heights line up. As it happens I am not the first the first ask Tim for such a board and in fact he had one on display that uses the same modular construction concept as the main board, to ensure it matches and aligns correctly, but allows him to change the final top height, during the cutting process to suit a customers needs depending on the type of cassettes they are using.  The back of this board will match the rear of the main board and I will add some simple supports to be able to hold a number of the cassettes out of the way. This ‘fiddle yard’ board has now been duly ordered. The front face of this section will also contain the switches for the point motors, track sections (yes I am still DC control) and the uncloupler push buttons.

So the next step is the priming and painting of the baseboard…


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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.

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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.

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