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Amblethorpe is my new OO gauge outdoor railway that will run in my smallish back garden in Copmanthorpe, York. To maximise the running length of the railway it will run along the fence, through the shed, back along the other fence and along the wall of the conservatory. Or that's the plan anyway.

To begin with a 10 metre end to end will be constructed. This initial phase will start with a terminus branchline station close to the house which will run along the 9 metre fence before turning 90º into another branch terminus in front of the shed. About 6 metres in the middle of this will form part of the main loop, eventually. The second phase will take the railway into the shed. Being 1.8m by 3.6m there is plenty of room in there, but there is also a lot of stuff already in there. The shed may contain a fiddle yard, or I may use the the dry space for some modelling opportunities. Phase three will take the the route out of the opposite corner of the shed on a tight corner before heading back along the other fence for a a 9m run back to the house. The final phase will run in front of the conservatory on a 3m long viaduct before joining phase one at the throat of the initial station and completing the loop.

I'll be modelling the present day. When it comes to rolling stock I am limiting to myself to anything that goes passed my house, but living 4 miles south of York on the ECML I think limiting is probably the wrong word. The layout is more inspired by the railways of the Northumberland Coast, but imagining that the branchlines to places like Alnwick, Seahouses and Amble are still in situ.

To begin with I purchased some rolling stock. Initially I went for a couple of Hornby multiple units, a Northern Rail 153 and a 156. The 153 was DCC fitted and I've popped a Hornby decoder into the 156. At the same time I ordered a NCE PowerCab which I'm more than happy with. At the York Show I picked up a Bachmann 158 and a slave controller for the PowerCab. The DigiTrains people sold me a TCS chip (T1) for the power car of the 158 and a Hornby to control the lights on the dummy end. The fitting of the DCC chips to the 158 was a lot simpler than I first expected, some of the online guides made it very complicated which required cutting or "breaking" of the model, this included the PDF on the Bachmann site. Fortunately I checked the TCS site and they linked to a guide by Bromsgrove Models which was much smiler and far less destructive. The combination the Bachmann 158 and the TCS chip is very impressive. These three units will do for now as I build the first phase, a 10 metre end to end.

Earlier this week I popped into Monk Bar Model Shop and picked up a box of Peco Code 100 and a few large radius turnouts which are a great improvement on the 30 year old Hornby track I've had kicking around since I was a kid.

I've been very impressed by the construction technique of Ian on his The Kirkfield and Warmthorpe Railway and I will be following him quite closely. Yesterday a friend and I headed off to B&Q (I don't drive) and purchased 18mm waterproof ply, bitumen, roofing felt and adhesive and some Gypframe. The one thing I couldn't get was the Aluminium greenhouse shelf brackets. I'm thinking about going for a bike ride to a garden centre today in the hope they may sell them.

All this leaves me at the cusp of construction. Time to stop writing, change into to work clothes and get out into the garden.

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Congratulations Chris - good to hear that construction of Amblethorpe is under way and from what you say it all sounds very grand and exciting.

I'm well impressed by your methodical planning. I had a vague idea of what I wanted but never any clear plans of what I was doing. I'm also impressed by the fact that you feel able to 'restrict' yourself to modelling a specific era although present day modelling offers lots of variety and there's also the preservation scene to incorporate if you so wish. I've been away from the railway scene for more than 3 years now and so I'm out of touch with the train operating companies and liveries of the day as well as modern rolling stock so I restrict myself to pre 2007 in an attempt to save money! Thanks for the pointer to the class 158 DCC fitting guide as I'd really like to get mine chipped so that I can use it more often. Do you have any specific plans or ideas for protecting the points from the elements and how do you intend to operate them?

I'm looking forward to seeing how everything progresses so be sure to take lots of photographs of every stage of construction. You'll be amazed at how much you will enjoy looking back over them yourself in a year or so from now. I've found that sharing my progress online in the form of forum posts etc.. keeps me motivated and certainly adds to the overall enjoyment.

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I'm thinking long and hard about the points. I'm going Electrofrog and I've been getting my head round the wiring since I bought one.

It seems to me that the best bet is to make sure that the points themselves are not expected to control the supply of power. Their purpose is to control the direction of the train while wires and switches are designed for power. The Peco Electrofrog are an excellent design and appear simple to wire for DCC.

Ian's point motor covers look simple and effective, and if he would like to share any tips on their construction I would be very interested.

Ended up spending 7 hours of yesterday working on my fences. Burning the old fence panels, painting the new and making repares to the others. Still got several more hours of fence painting to be done and that's before I open the can of bitumen.

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I agree that outdoors you would likely require wiring and switches to control the power feed to the points and I suppose if you are going to take those steps then you might as well use electrofrog points. I would expect that feeding power to the point via the point blades would be only as successful as a track connector or fishplate in conducting power from one section of track to the adjacent section in that they would be useful for a limited period of time before they eventually failed to work. I have some large radius Peco code 75 electrofrog points intended for a proposed indoor layout and as you say, the instructions do make the wiring seem relatively easy enough. I had considered dead frog points for the shed area but I believe that the additional work involved with the electrofrog version and the small additional cost of the points would be worth it in increased reliability. There's nothing worse (from my painful experiences) than problematic areas of trackwork and unreliable power supplies and if there's an easy way to reduce the possibility of such problems then it'd be foolish not to grasp it.

I'll be interested to see how you get on. Perhaps your success will tempt me into an extension for a Preserved terminus station?

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Hello Chris,

Nice to see another garden railway in the making.

Have you worked out a method of fixing the Gypframe?

I'll show you how I have done it if you haven't. :)

You definately need bonding wires on your points as they wont provide electrical continuity very long outdoors.

My points are insulfrog and i'm on plain old DC so I suppose it may be a bit more complicated for you.

There was a reason that I didn't use electrofrog and I can't remember what it was!!

Dead frog points don't cause many problems with modern locomotives, especially diesels.

Don't hesitate to get in touch if you think that I may be of further help and you're welcome to call if ever you get over to this area.

Here's a link to the place where I got my shelf brackets http://www.twowests.co.uk/TwoWestsSite/product/SBWM.htm

Good luck,

Ian

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Shelf brackets ordered, thanks Ian.

Please spill the beans on how you've attached the Gypframe. I have looked closely at your pictures on photoBuket and I noticed that you have them closed at the bottom rather than the opening and I haven't worked out how to attach them that way round yet.

Cheers

chris

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I cut lengths of 9mm ply and slid them inside the gypframe. I also cut some lengths of hardboard to even it up as the gypframe has unequal sides. I treated both the ply and the hardboard with diluted bitumen but it may not be absolutely necessary. Hope the sketch helps.

Gypframe.JPG.644585cfb6f5636ceaddff5f03b3ff62.JPG

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Ian, thanks for the drawing, I hadn't noticed that the Gypframe was slightly asymmetric!

The aluminium brakets arrived yesterday so I now have all the main bits required to start. After close inspection of your photos I've made these observations.

  • Your baseboards don't join over the brackets.

    You use simple 4 screw fixing plates on the underside to join the baseboards.

    You have drilled two holes in each the the aluminium brackets to allow you to screw the baseboards down.

    You cut out a small section of Gypframe so they fit round the brackets.

    You've cut extra holes in the Gypframe to allow easier access to the wires.

Are these observations correct? and

  • Did you make the Gypframes line up with the end of each base board, this would be required on corners, but what about the straights?

    Did you drill extra holes in the rear side of the Gypframe to allows wires enter/exit unseen?

    Did you cut roofing felt to exactly 6 inches before putting it down, or did you trim it afterwards?

    What have I missed?

    If you were doing it again, what would you do differently?

I'm eager to get started, but don't want to rush in and make mistakes.

Cheers

chris

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Chris,

Your observations.

The baseboards don't join over the brackets. Avoid having a join mid way between brackets though. This is a mistake that I made on one section and have had to strengthen the join with extra plates as it had started to sag.

Simple fixing plates are all that is required to join baseboards.

Yes, the brackets are drilled for fixing to baseboards.

I cut a small section to fit around the brackets, just slit with a junior hacksaw and bend inwards with pliers.

The extra holes in the Gypframe between the rectangular ones are for extra mounting screws and are drilled with a 25mm hole cutter. This leaves a sharp edge so be careful!

I didn't make the Gypframe line up with the ends of the boards although maybe the Gypframe joints would be better at the bracket positions, this would waste a lot of frame though.

There aren't any extra holes in the rear of the Gypframe, all wires enter through the holes in the underside.

Roofing felt was cut slightly oversize and trimmed when adhesive had set.

The methods that I have used seem to be bearing up well after a couple of winters and I can't think that there is anything that I would have done differently other than avoiding the aforementioned joint.

I have used brass or stainless screws wherever possible.

Where holes have been drilled in the boards for wires I have filled them with roof and gutter sealant applied with a mastic gun.

Now go and get started and keep us informed on the progress!

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Now go and get started and keep us informed on the progress!

Message received and understood.

Manged another trip to B&Q on Friday so this morning I was ready to begin. Things were delayed a little when I concluded that I had to cut the grass, something that hasn't been done this year due to a broken mower. I borrowed my neighbours, but that needed a service before I could use it!

With the grass tamed I got cracking with installing the brackets and then cutting the base borads to length. It took a while I as got to grips with things but I am happy with my progress. I haven't got the bitumen out or the Gypframe attached so it was all a bit rickety.

Of course I couldn't resists the temptation to run a train or two. At first I just ran the my 153, but then I got the DCC hooked up and gave all three of my Northern units a turn.

I did snap a few photos along the way which I've put in a gallery

web.jpg?ver=12746363880002

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Good to see it all coming along nicely Chris and that you've had the weather on your side.

I hadn't really thought about this before but one of the pleasures regarding my garden layout is being able to sit in the garden watching the trains go by. Of course, until I get a longer extension cable for the controller, I have to get up and go to the shed to alter any running settings (or indeed to blow the whistle!) but the rails are at a convenient height to be able to see the action all round the circuit when sitting down. What height are your baseboards and will you be able to see the trains running should you decide to sit and take things easy?

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I managed a good 8 hours of construction the Sunday before last and got all the base boards for phase one painted in bitumen and more importantly got them onto their brackets and braced in place by the gypframes. I'm very happy with the resulting flat surface.

A few hours here and there during the week allowed me to put in place an extra bit of baseboard to allow for a larger radius on a corner and get my head around the removable section which is on a narrow path by the house. The aluminium brackets are great but are not suitable for a section which needs to stored in the shed. In place of them I've purchased a couple of rather heavy duty shelf brackets which will be attached to the underside of the baseboard. In the fenceposts I've screwed in some "dowelscrews", these are wood screws at one end bolts at the other. The shelf brackets slide on to the dowelscrews and wing nuts then hold them in place. This system should enable me to but this section of the baseboard in place relatively quickly.

On Monday I found I had the time to stick the roofing flet on to the baseboard. This was becoming urgent, because the two months of dry weather had gone and I needed to get the top layer of protection in place before the rain started to be an issue. The roofing flet adhesive was a real hit and miss affair. I had no experience of using this stuff and just had to guess how much to use. I can't say I was pleased with the process and I've had to clamp down wood blocks on top of sections where the felt was "bubbling up", but the final result looks like something I may be able to live with (at one point I thought about lifting the lot and starting again!). I still need to put the roofing felt on the moveable section and having learnt a few lessons I'm hoping for more impressive results.

This all leaves me at the point where I could soon be laying track. I'm spending a fair bit of time pondering the electrics, which going DCC basically means woking out the points. I've played around with a SEEP point motor and it's simple design seams very suitable for outdoor installation, all I need to do now is work out how to keep water away from them!

I'm busy over the weekend, and I really must get down to some work next week, once the Tour de France is no longer a daily afternoon distraction! But I do hope to find sometime soon to make some more significant progress.

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Glad to hear that there's been some progress on your layout.

I'm not sure about Seep point motors, I understand that they are intended for beneath baseboard mounting, I would definately avoid that.

I've used Peco motors in homemade plastic boxes. I've had a couple of failures but I now spray the motors with silicone grease and have had no further problems.

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Yesterday turned out to be a free day so I cracked on with construction. My first aim was to get on with the removable section (located in the narrow space between the fence and the conservatory). With one end supported by brackets I decided to use some off cuts of gypframe to provide the support at the other. Strengthen with fixing plates I screwed the gypframe to the ends of the fixed base board with about 5 cm of them protruding. It's not great aesthetically but it does do a good job of supporting the removable board. The next job was to stick the roofing felt to the removable board.

With the boards ready I finally turned my attention to the track. It was a strange moment, seven months of thinking, planning, buying and constructing and finally I got to lay some track, and truth be told I wasn't sure I was ready. Anyway I laid out a few metres of track including a few points and then pondered everything for a while. Having not got to the bottom of the point motor dilemma, I thought it best not to fix them down. I did put in a short twin track section, one of the lines is 3 lengths of flexi and the other 2. I then went to work with my soldering iron and confirmed that I'm still not very good with one!

It was great to get the first fixed section of Amblethorpe in place, now if I can get my head round what i'm going to do with with regards to point motors then I could make some serious head way.

There are a few more pictures in the gallery http://gallery.me.com/chrissharp#100038

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Chris,

Like the pictures of your progress - I have been inspired by everyones work so far.

I hope you don't mind my saying this but I think you are giving yourself a headache with the soldering. The wires you are using are a little bit thick for the job and because of that they need a large hot soldering iron to supply enough heat to make a soldered joint. I think you could reliably drop down the wire size without any detriment plus you won't need to hold the iron onto the wire so long before it melts the flux and solder.

A couple of tips to make the soldering easier :

1 - Use a glass fibre brush to clean the area of the rail you intend to solder.

2 - Always put flux on the wire and the rail before tinning. ( tin = apply solder to each )

3 - Tin both the wire and the rail.

4 - Solder wire to rail adding flux to one side so solder flows.

4 - Keep the soldering iron head clean between soldering attempts.

The secret to soldering is not trying to heat the metal to be red hot, you'll just melt everything plastic and end up trying to heat 2ft of rail! The flux allows the solder to melt quickly and flow so forming a bond. With everything tinned you should have enough solder on both wire and rail so as not to need any extra. It shouldn't take more that a couple of seconds when applying the iron to the items for everything to melt and join.

It may be worth checking that you are using a solder suitable for electronics as these tend to melt at lower tempartures. This saves you having to hold the iron onto the items for too long.

I use a little pot of flux and dip the wire in before soldering - you only need a tiny bit but it makes all the difference.

Hope the above helps - I used to loathe soldering until I was shown how to do it properly and now its a breeze. You can even solder large 13amp cables by following the above steps ( but you need a big hot iron! )

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Chris,

I agree with Martin's observations regarding the gauge of wire you are using for bonding your rail joins. When I first started out I tried using the single wires from a domestic 13amp ring mains cable but even they were a bit oversize and made the task of soldering more difficult than it needed to have been. I purchased a roll of 16/0.2mm gauge wire rated at 3amp which made soldering to the rail sides a good deal easier. I'm still far from being an expert with a soldering iron and in fact I believe it's one of those tasks that I might never master, but I still have some joints to make and I'll certainly have Martin's excellent guide in mind for my next attempt. Thanks for that Martin. In addition, if you also look at how Ian has bonded his rail joins on the Kirkfield & Warmthorpe Railway you'll see that he has made a superb job of disguising the bonding wire by routing it out alongside the sleepers rather than simply running it parallel to the line and along the tops of the sleepers as I have done.

On a more positive note it's good to see further progress with Amblethorpe. We've not had a bad summer to date so that's sure to have helped things along. The images recently posted by Ian showing his method for motorising points are excellent and sure to provide you with that necessary inspiration to keep things moving along. They've certainly made me reconsider the idea of using points outdoors.

Mick

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Chris and Mick,

The size of the wire needed for bonding the rail joins really only has to cope with a load of 1.5 amps max for OO. Even the droppers from your main DCC bus or main feed for DC would only need that. Why? Well for DCC you should have enough droppers to spread the load from your main 5 amp bus so that any one set of droppers and rail joins only has to feed one loco's power requirements.

With DC it is the same as you only have one loco per section, so provided the wires can supply the max load that is OK.

If you do get 2 locos ( double headed ) them the 1.5 amps is still enough as most modern Bachmann, Hornby and Heljan motors draw about 0.5 amps. The older Hornby can draw 1 amp so you might need to factor that in, especially if you have converted the older X04 and Ringfield motored locos to DCC ( and remember to get a chip rated high enough too! )

After all a house ring main is rated at 30 amps but you only use connecting flex rated at 13 amps for individual items. The max load on the WHOLE circuit is limited to 30 amps and the max item load is limited to 13 amps. So think of the main DCC bus as the ring main ( but at 5 amps ) and the individual items as the droppers rated at 1.5 amps max.

I use the individual wires from a 13 amp multi core cable ( stripped out ) as my main bus as that gives me 13 amps capability plus good conductivity for longer feeds. I have read on other forums that the multicore type is better than the solid copper type as the multicore gives more cross sectional area hence reduced voltage drop. That will be a must outdoors to prevent voltage drop, I would think. My droppers are the normal layout wire but they are a max length of 2 ft so no problems with voltage drop there.

My indoor garage layout uses the above methods and the bus run is 16 x 9 x 16ft fed from one end. No problems with the DCC main bus but I do run my Lenz set 90 at a 22v output. Regularly have 4-5 locos running at the same time ( bit of a juggling act but I am trying to use RocRail on my PC to automate some of that ) I have been frustrated by the lack of space afforded by my garage hence my moving outdoors and using a large shed for the fiddle yard and a branch line ( my current garage layout re-used and remodelled )

Can't wait to get things started outdoors and enjoy long trains lazily weaving through the mini landscape ( semi automatically I hope. ) Anyway I am hijacking you thread, so I will update my own in future.

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Thanks for all your comments on my soldering. I plan to get some practice on some old hornby track and polish up my technique.

While I was soldering I was thinking about the weight of the wire I was using and how much power would be going through it. I did come to the conclusion that it would be measured in milliAmps rather than Amps and that a much more discrete wire would be fine. Next time...

Ian, thanks for all your information on points. I kinda knew what modifications were required after web research and close inspection of all your photobucket snaps (but I was trying to ignore the small wire between the rail and the blade). I will have a go at modifying a point and if I'm brave, I'll post a photo.

Still not decided on point motors. I'm going to buy a Peco one, and a switch and an extension arm... and see how well I get on with it. I also have plans for modifying the Seep motor.

Not sure when I'll have time for all this, but I'll keep you informed.

chris

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Good luck with everything Chris.

With regard to the point motors it could be worth checking out the Hornby R8015 Point Motor Housing. With the addition of some bits of plasticard and glue I would think that it could be made virtually watertight. The only problem would be where the arm emerges from the housing, but maybe this could be packed with silicone grease.

I'm interested to see what you come up with for the Seep point motor.

Ian.

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Long day on the railway, but little progess made.

I was laying my first non-striaght section of track. This should have been simple, but I'd decided that a pair of points needed to be on this 90° curve. This made things far more complicated. Simply trying to decided on the radius of the curves took a couple of hours of trial and error.

But it was a hot sunny day and it was all rather enjoyable.

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