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Dismantled - Indoor layout


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I've not yet decided what to call my proposed indoor layout and it is still essentially in the planning stages but what I do know is that I would like it to be in the form of a preserved railway. I have been contemplating the closure of a small branch line and the reopening of a section of it as a preserved railway with the possibility of expansion of the line in the future. My layout would be based on a small station that had once been a through station but which now formed the preserved lines terminus. Originally with both up and down running lines through the station, only a single line would be in operational use with the opposite line forming a run round loop. A couple of bay platforms would be in use as storage lines and from the station the 'unused' line would lead to an engine shed and workshops - the hub of the preserved lines present day activities.

My passion with model railways is for all kinds of locomotives and rolling stock and the idea of an entirely fictitious preserved line would meet my desire to be able to operate any type of stock that took my fancy. I don't intend to adhere strictly to the list of stock currently in preservation throughout the country but more along the lines of a catalogue of stock produced by model manufacturers. I want to be able to use all those locomotives and coaches that I have collected which I don't intend to run so frequently on the outdoor layout. It's not going to be a layout for the purists!

Trackwork will be Peco finescale code 75 as it was purchased in anticipation of an indoor layout a couple of years ago. I have several points, double and single slips and a 3-way point with which to construct an operationally interesting layout. Baseboards have been made previously but may be amended to fit the available space or new ones will be constructed if required. I anticipate a maximum of 4-5 coach trains and DCC control. Whereas the outdoor line will rely almost entirely on nature to provide a scenic background, my indoor layout will allow me to try my hand at constructing some of the scenery myself although I am sure that some of the very nice RTR buildings will make an appearance!

I had thought about the possibility of linking the indoor layout via a helix at the rear of the shed to the outdoor line but that would be something for the future.

More details as things progress.

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  • 3 months later...
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I like to keep abreast of what others are doing with their railway modelling projects and regularly check several online forums for news, ideas and inspiration. I'm amazed that anyone could be capable of constructing a complete layout, albeit a relatively small one, in only a matter of a few weeks when it seems to take me that long just to decide what I would like to do.

I did manage to make a little bit of progress with my proposed indoor layout yesterday but before I mention that I would just like to show the following image.

IMG_2909.jpg

The above photograph was taken back in March 2009 after my return to the model railway hobby when a decision had been made to build a small end to end indoor layout. I managed to get as far as making a couple of softwood frames with mdf tops and some legs for them to stand on. It was intended that the layout would find a home within my integral garage but then my plans changed and I decided instead to venture out into the garden with the Selby Garden Railway. Since that time the two baseboard have been erected in the garage and used for the storage of all kinds of things. You'll notice in the above photo, taken in my garden, that there's absolutely no sign of any outdoor lines so it's most definitely pre June 2009.

So back to the present day and yesterday the 2 wooden frames were brought out into the garden for an assessment. Each board was approximately 6 feet in length which wasn't initially going to be a problem because the idea was that they would form a permanent layout in the garage. However, six feet long with mdf tops are pretty heavy and at a combined 12 feet in length they were not going to fit within my 10 feet long garden shed. Out came the handsaw and a quarter of each frame (one section) was removed reducing the length of each board to a more convenient 4ft 6 inches approximately. With the mdf tops replaced they are still heavy but once I have decided on a final trackplan I should be able to remove some of the excess to lighten the load a bit more. As it was nice and warm the mdf was given a generous coat of exterior varnish to both sides and all around the edges to help protect it from damp penetration.

Mulling over some ideas for the track layout it's clear that space will be at a premium although at least now with the boards at their finished size it's easier to lay out sections of track to get a better impression of how it might all look. I was hoping to be able to accommodate trains hauling a maximum of 5 coaches and it may just be possible to squeeze that in although 4 coaches would give me some breathing space. Compromises will need to be made with the track layout and one idea I came up with utilises both double and single slips as well as a 3-way point in order to save on the required space. I'm not entirely sure anything like that would be prototypical, especially with a 3 way point in the station but it's just one idea I have in mind. I may ultimately decide to simplify my intended track layout to reduce the number of slips in use but I have them available so using them wouldn't result in any additional expense.

No further progress was made other than a means of securely attaching the legs and the remainder of the day was spent drinking cold bottled beer and deciding how to wire the points. This certainly won't be a six-week layout!

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The weather's not been very kind over recent days but as I'm waiting for a delivery of items for the indoor layout there's not a lot I could be doing just yet anyway. I've decided that my Peco electrofrog points will be operated by the highly regarded Tortoise point motors and so an order for motors, wiring and switches has been made. I've been reading up about how they need to be wired and how to modify the points themselves for optimum operation.

I haven't had the chance to erect the boards again to take another look at my proposed track layout but the weather forecast towards the weekend is looking better so by that time my point motors and other items should have arrived and I will be in a position to make a final decision and perhaps that eagerly awaited start.

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  • 3 months later...

Blimey! ...was it really June when I made my last post regarding my plans for an indoor layout? Well, the reason for such a delay is down to the fact that since that time I hadn't made any further progress - until today. Yes, I've had a good old think about track formation and how the layout might be operated and at last I've made a start with 2 electrofrog points and 4 sections of flexitrack being wired up and placed in position.

As stated previously, track is Peco Finescale code 75 and the points are all electrofrog. I've soldered wires directly to the outside rails of the points and across to the point blades, cut the Peco link wires and will be switching the frog polarity using the integral Tortoise point motor microswitches. I'm still not entirely comfortable with a soldering iron but I think I'm getting better with each attempt.

I will try to add a 'proposed' track plan later but for now I am concentrating on getting the track installed along the platform, the run round loop and a single bay platform. Using the full width of my 2 baseboards I have sufficient space to run round 4 coaches with some comfort, and 5 coaches at a rather tight squeeze. The platform itself will accommodate 6 coaches while still allowing room for a locomotive to be detached from the front and a second loco to be attached to the rear for the return working. The variety in the number of coaches should in itself provide operational interest.

I'm looking forward to being able to use a variety of coaching stock. I have GWR Collett coaches in both brown & cream and crimson & cream which as yet I have never used. I have a number of Mk1 Pullman's in brown & cream and in blue/grey as well as Gresley teaks and the standard Mk1 coaches in all their regional liveries. I have so many Hornby Pullmans with lighted table lamps that I have lost count. Hopefully I'll get the chance to feature many of these on this small indoor layout.

One small setback today was the fact that I had to move 2 lengths of the cross brace timbers from one of the baseboards which were fouling the locations for the point motors but it was just a few minutes additional work to make the forthcoming tasks a whole lot easier.

Let's see if I can keep the momentum going......

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I have now laid both the platform line and the run round line to their required length along with a crossover ahead of the buffer stops and have got as far back as a double slip which is now in position and a 3-way point which awaits installation. Each section of track has its own power feed and all droppers have been routed through to the underside of the baseboards ready for the actual task of wiring. Once I have completed the 3-way point along with the line towards the bay platform I will take the boards outdoors to take a photograph that can be used as a track plan. There is access from the 3-way point into a yard or sidings but I have yet to decide what I wish to do in that area. One of the most satisfying acts today was actually cutting the tracks across the baseboard join and being able to take the boards apart and put them back together with the 2 tracks accurately aligned.

I am still going with the idea that this was originally a small through branch line station and that after closure of the entire route a preservation group gained control of a section of the line. The groups running permissions terminate at the buffer stops depicted on my layout and although the line was originally double track, only a single line is now retained for operational running. It's totally freelance and not based on any current location (I don't have time for construction let alone hours and hours of research) and so I have also to decide what type of station and associated buildings will be used. As with the outdoor layout, this indoor layout is purely for my personal enjoyment and to allow me to run whatever type of train I wish to. It should give me lots of operational interest.

I'm not keen on threads without photographs or illustrations as they're not so easy to follow so I'll try to remedy that over the next day or two.

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You know how it is when things are going so well and then all of a sudden something happens to put a dampener on everything? I've experienced it countless times and so I tend not to get too far ahead of myself, but after an afternoon finishing the track laying today all I had to do was to cut one final length of track in the bay platform that spans across the baseboard join. Cutting track is a simple task when using a mini drill and the one I purchased last year has been worth every penny but when the cutting discs break you'd better beware. Not only can the fragments of shattered discs cause serious injury but as I discovered, they can also ruin your latest handiwork. Just two rails to cut and I would be finished for the day and the first cut was childs play. The second was almost through the rail when the cutting disc shattered sending fragments everywhere. Fortunately I wasn't in the path of any flying 'shrapnel' but the remaining piece of the disc that was still attached to the spindle somehow caught up in the plastic sleepers and tore a six inch length of rail completely out of the chairs. Try as I might I couldn't get the length of rail relocated and so I ended up having to cut out a section of rail and replace it up to the baseboard join.

With the remedial action on the final section of rail I have now completed laying the track in the station area. Although I have still to lay track in the sidings or yard area that can wait until a later date when I've had chance to think about exactly what I want to do. In the meantime I will be starting on the wiring and installation of point motors as well as constructing the platforms and station buildings. I've thought about using commercial buildings for the station but I'd like it to look different so I might just try my hand at scratch building a station building based on one in my locality. I quite like the Midland Railway architecture such as can be seen along the Swinton & Knottingley Railway at Pontefract Baghill or Moorthorpe for example. I have several postcard images of the station at Pontefract Baghill dating from early 1900's, when it was adorned with a short canopy, up to more recent times when the canopy had been removed and of course it's not too far for me to travel should I feel the need to visit to obtain additional details.

I've still to think of a name for the layout and have several under consideration but will be checking to ensure that any name isn't already prominently in use elsewhere before coming to a final decision.

If it's fine tomorrow, as the weatherman predicts, then hopefully I'll get the chance to erect the 2 boards outside for some photographs. I have a bit of work to do on one board to allow me to use the legs as I had to move 2 of the central bearers to allow room for the point motors and these were originally where the legs attached - still, not too much work required.

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This afternoon, without attaching the legs, I took the 2 baseboards outdoors and laid them on the ground to grab a couple of quick photographs which I hope will show the trackplan so far along with a progress update.

The first photo is taken from what will be the station approach. As already outlined, the idea is that this was once a double track through station which now forms a small terminus with a single track approach. There is a single bay platform to the left with the main platform alongside and a run-round line opposite which will also have a platform face. The trackwork comprises a double slip and a 3-way point at the station throat which conserves space with a crossover near the buffer stops. The 3-way point includes access to a future proposed yard or sidings area which has yet to be decided upon.

IMG_4330.jpg

The second photo shows the corresponding view from the buffer stops. The crossover is formed from 2 Peco large radius points which take up a good deal of space but certainly look the part. All the main points are Electrofrog.

IMG_4323.jpg

In operation it is envisaged that trains will arrive at the main platform via the 3-way point and double slip where the loco will be detached to run round its train for the return working. A maximum of 4 coaches can be accommodated between the crossover and the double slip for running round purposes but with a change of locomotive, an arriving train of 5 coaches can be brought into the platform as far as the buffer stops where the loco is then uncoupled from the front of the train and another loco can be attached to the rear to work the train forwards. It is also possible to have 6 coaches at the platform with a loco on the front so there are several operational possibilities. The bay platform will be used primarily by DMU's and can take 4 coaches.

When I have finally decided on future plans, sections of the MDF will be removed to reduce the weight of the boards to enable them to be moved easier, and some additional cross braces will be inserted where required.

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  • 2 weeks later...

After seeing how easily any unprotected and vulnerable sections of track can be pulled from the plastic sleepers (and from personal experience I know that its bloomin' difficult to get it back in place again) I have decided that the plastic sleepers at the baseboard joins will be replaced with some copper clad sleepers, and then the rails themselves will be soldered to them to give a more secure join. I have obtained a supply of copper clad sleepers as well as some DPDT switches that I need in order to wire the point motors. As the weather forecast for the coming days isn't so good that should give me something to be going on with.

Apart from the sleepers and switches I have also obtained a turntable which I believe will add to the operating potential of the layout. It's doubtful that a small station such as the one I am attempting to model would ever have had a turntable at all let alone one of 70+ feet but then this is a layout for pleasure so anything goes. The turntable well is vacuum formed by South Eastern Finecast and it's surprisingly solid - I half expected it being much more flimsy. There are instructions for using the plastic bridge unit from a Dapol turntable kit so I'm on the lookout for a cheap offering. I'm thinking of keeping it as manually operated - certainly don't mind having to turn the thing round myself via some gears and a crank on the end of a wire rod. In fact I'm looking forward to seeing what I can do with it.

Mick

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Today, taking the copper clad strips I recently purchased, I used a mini drill to quickly cut some suitable sleeper lengths to be used to help reinforce and protect the ends of the trackwork. As well as doing the baseboard joins I decided it might be a good idea to also add a copper clad sleeper in locations where there will be buffer stops too. It's not the potential damage while the layout is in use that I am concerned about but the damage that might occur whilst the layout is stored away in the garage or shed so any additional protection will be worthwhile.

I didn't have a suitable sized drill to make small holes in the ends of the copper clad sleepers so that I could insert a trackpin to hold then sleepers in position so for now I have used an epoxy glue to stick them in place. I may add pins later if I feel they are needed but right now they feel sufficiently secure. When the epoxy had hardened I soldered the ends of the rails to the copper clad sleepers and then using a small file I made a cut in the centre of each sleeper to electrically isolate the two rails. I'll see about adding a photograph tomorrow to show exactly what I've done.

Using the copper clad sleeper strip serves to highlight the limitations of proprietary products. Peco code 75 finescale track is far superior to the old Hornby track I had become accustomed to some years ago but the Peco sleepers and their sleeper spacing are clearly not right. The copper clad sleepers I cut to length today look the correct sleeper shape, being slightly wider than the Peco plastic sleepers and they can be laid at the correct spacing. Perhaps next time I will consider making my own track but for now I'm pleased to have got this task out of the way.

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I've got time to spend a couple of hours on the layout today but before I make a start here are two photographs showing my somewhat less than perfect handiwork from yesterday reinforcing the track at the baseboard joins.

The first picture shows one of the track ends at the point where it joins up with the adjacent board. I've removed 2 of the plastic sleepers and replaced them with 2 lengths of copper clad strip before finally soldering the track to the copper clad sleepers.

IMG_4389.jpg

The image below shows the 2 boards placed together with both free ends of the tracks now much better protected. The outer copper strip has been cut through with a sharp file to isolate the rails from each other and finally tested with a circuit tester to ensure that no current passes through.

IMG_4392.jpg

On with the work...

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If you've got little or no previous experience and you're considering building your own model railway layout then you could do far worse than to read about my experiences before hand. I'm sure that you'll get along much better if you can avoid making the same mistakes that I've made. Admittedly a lot of the mistakes have been caused through my own doing, perhaps carelessly, but even some of the more menial tasks which you feel should be accomplishable without further instructions are just ready and waiting to catch you out. NOTE: I'm not trying to sound like I've suddenly acquired a wealth of experience but I'm the kind of person who works in a way that you would be best advised not to. I make mistakes and then try to work my way round them instead of simply avoiding them in the first place.

For instance, the instructions with my Peco electrofrog points provide details for replacing the over centre spring should it ever break or go missing. Bend back the two securing lugs to gain access and away you go etc - and all without the need to remove the point from the layout. What I failed to notice was that access to that pesky spring on the double slip is gained from underneath so you need to be able to get to the rear of the point. As I'm using Tortoise slow motion point motors I don't need the over centre spring as the Tortoise creates sufficient tension to hold the point across in the correct position so I have to remove them altogether. You guessed it, I hadn't yet done that but I have laid the track and while springs on the standard points were quickly removed, I had to take up the double slip altogether to get to the two springs. That's one lesson learned.

Another bit of a problem I encountered, which I hadn't foreseen, is that there isn't a lot of room when installing the Tortoise motors. I had routed the wiring from the points down through the baseboards exactly beneath and in line with where they are soldered to the points. That might be fine with a single point but with the 3-way and the double slip it doesn't leave enough room for the motors to be fastened to the underside of the baseboard. It took me some time to carve out channels along which the wires could be safely routed. Another lesson learned for the future.

At the end of the day I've got the bus cables installed for the track power feeds to the droppers and I've also installed 4 point motors. I'll leave it until later before I begin the actual soldering.

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Into the small hours of this morning I began soldering the track droppers to the bus bars and then with the aid of a small trainset transformer I was able to test and verify that all four installed point motors actually work. What a tremendously proud moment! I've wanted a layout for many years and yet this is the very first time I've actually installed an electrically operated point and been able to witness it's operation. With thrills like this to be had why would any man ever want to grow up?

The Tortoise point motor sounds and looks very prototypical in operation and the old Hornby transformer does a decent job at providing the necessary power, and by using the controlled output you can adjust the speed of the throw with the dial. Who knows, perhaps later today if I can get on with things, we might even have a train running!

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Just about had enough for today :(

I was hoping to get the point motor switches soldered up by tea time but things weren't that straightforward. Firstly I made another careless mistake by not reading the wiring instructions for the double slip carefully enough. I thought I'd done it right yesterday but I was feeding the frog from the wrong motor terminals (I thought nearest point motor to the respective frog was right) and so I spent some time trying to solve that problem before finally understanding my error and correcting it. Then for some unexplained reason there was a short somewhere but I couldn't find out exactly what the problem was. I began unplugging things until it started working again. There didn't appear to be anything wrong so I put everything back together again and it was fine for a time and then it shorted out again. This went on for some time and I even altered some of the wiring that I thought may be the culprit. To cut a long story short I didn't do anything to get it working faultlessly, but faultless it now is. Perhaps there was a stray wire, a thread, something like that? At least it's now fine and my little class 08 loco traverses the 3-way point and the double slip without any problem, and in all directions. So, that's the wiring on the first board about finished and so it'll soon be onto the second board where there isn't quite as much to be done with just the single cross-over to worry about.

Better go get cleared away now.

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I couldn't resist having another crack at it this evening so here I am at just gone 1.00am having wired up DPDT switches to 2 of the the point motors and after a good old play for an hour or so! I'm well pleased with the running qualities over the pointwork, fearing that the double slip might cause a few problems, but it and the 3-way point work perfect even with short wheelbase loco's.

I've tested all the routes a number of times with several different loco's and there has been no reoccurence of any of the short circuit problems encountered earlier. Whatever the cause of that problem I've obviously done something right to clear it up.

I know that operating points via switches is probably seen as the 'old fashioned' way of running a model railway these days but I'm not really interested in automating everything. The layout isn't going to be a complicated affair and there'll only be a small number of routes available so I'm sure I'll manage okay by flicking a few switches across.

Looking forward now to getting the second board wired up so that I can run a loco from one end to the other. Before I can finish it completely however, I need another 2 Tortoise motors.

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Dave said:

All that points work sounds like it wasn't too much fun. I hope the end result of them working is rather more enjoyable! :)

The 'short circuit' dilemma was anything but fun Dave but I did actually enjoy wiring the points - and the joy of playing with the end result....? well that's priceless!

I'm not sure how informative or interesting the following photograph will be but it shows the state of play on the underside of the first board now that the motors are fully installed and all the point switches have been connected up.

IMG_4407.jpg

I've had a 'play' again this evening to ensure there are no electrical faults. The points work fine and I've yet to have a loco stall on any of them - even when running at a crawl. Without incorporating any form of automatic route setting I'm going to have to get used to setting the road either by sight or from memory, both of which will no doubt prove to be a challenge for me!

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I wasn't able to do any additional work today until late this evening when I installed the power bus on the second board and soldered up all the droppers from the track. I've just tested it using my trusty class 08 and it appears to be okay but I'll need to wait until I have the point motors installed for the cross-over and feeding the point frogs before I can test it out fully.

I've now obtained some additional point motors and with the experience of having installed 4 already I'm not expecting it being such a long job to install the remainder as I have a rough idea what I'm doing. I intend to wire the cross-over to a single switch so that both points operate together and can't see any reason why that shouldn't be possible. If it's not possible then that'll be yet another lesson I've learned.

Once the point motors are completed and working correctly, which will hopefully be by this time tomorrow evening, that'll be about as far as I wish to go with the wiring at this stage. All I require then is to get some plugs and sockets to connect the baseboards together electrically and it should be up and running. I can then turn my thoughts to some scenic work and to the fiddle yard board.

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I've now installed the cross-over points on the second board with all the wiring completed except for the short section that connects it back to the operating switch. I've test wired it to my small controller to verify that both points operate together and it's working just as I hoped it would. As things stand at the moment, the cross-board wiring amounts to only 4 wires but I still think it will be best to connect to a small plug and socket for ease of use. Later tonight, if it's possible, I'm going to try the first connection of the 2 boards since I began the wiring. Unfortunately this will have to be done in the living room as it's the only space I have available right now, but I'm eager to see a loco run from one end to the other across the baseboard join.

Perhaps now that the major part of the basic track wiring is completed I will be able to start work on other areas where photo's of my progress can be published. Oh, nearly forgot - I still have the turntable to install but getting the well set into the baseboard will be sufficient at the present time. I envisage that access to the turntable will be via a road from the yet to be started 'yard' section so connecting the turntable in will have to wait until work is started on the yard/sidings area.

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I didn't feel like doing anything last night so I called it a day and connecting the 2 boards together had to wait until today. As the weather was nice enough, once I had finished wiring the cross-over points to a DPDT switch, I decided to erect the boards out in the garden. Added to my shopping list now, apart from the cross-board electrical plugs and sockets, are some levelling feet as it took some time to get the boards level using some scraps of cardboard so that the baseboard join was a nice, smooth transition. Connections between the 2 boards were by temporary terminal strips and short lengths of wire - just the 4 connections needed as mentioned already so not a big deal.

Everything works fine. I used the Prodigy DCC controller rather than the DC controller I had been using up to now, and after giving the track a quick clean, running was exceptional (but how on earth does the track get so dirty even before it's been used?) I'm thinking that I should have made the head-shunts a little bit longer but the drivers will just have to be extra careful. It's all turned out better than I initially expected but it's far from being perfect. It's easy to set a point incorrectly and short the controller as the loco contacts the frog section (yes, done that!) but there aren't that many points to get used to so I'm sure it's just a case of practice makes perfect.

More than anything, this first attempt at a 'proper' layout has been a learning exercise. No matter how much you read elsewhere there's nothing like getting some hands-on experience and discovering any shortcomings yourself. I'll not be rushing into adding anything permanent until I'm certain that I don't want to make any changes so I'll be thinking it over for the next few days.

I did try to make a short video of one of the first movements so I'll see how that turns out and perhaps add it later. It's not easy to operate a video while manoeuvring a £150+ loco towards the very edge of a board which is approx 3 feet from the ground!

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Well here it is, the first train to run the entire length of my two scenic boards. Okay, it runs somewhat slowly and just goes back and forth but I didn't want it ending up in bits on the floor. For the record, the loco is 47406 'Rail Riders' and it is fitted with a Howes class 47 sound chip.

 

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