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Operating Points Outdoors

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Hi,

I have been inspired to start the planning of my own DCC garden railway in OO.

A quick question though :- is it possible to operate peco points outdoors reliably? Indoors I use the peco point motors without problem but not sure about how they will cope with the elements if outside.

I suppose they could be hidden in lineside buildings and operated via the plastic rod supplied with the peco base. The main station I am going to house in a large shed so electrics for points and signals etc would be protected and in a permanently dry space. Similarly my Branch station would be indoors on the opposite side of the shed.

The DCC main bus wires ooutside would be installed as part of the permanent structure, bonding all the sections and adding droppers to make sure I have a good DCC feed all around the layout.

For the DCC control electrics I was considering creating a pluggable module which would contain the LS110/LS150 and possibly the Feedback modules - I use an LDT RS8. Having them as removabe pluggable modules would mean I could keep them indoors until I want to have a running session. They would be shower proof but not water proof.

If it is feasable to have points outside then this opens up the scope to have an intermediate station with goods yard and passing loops etc. Would make the operations a bit more interesting.

Long term I want to have some element of computer automation, hence the pluggable modules for the points, block detection and feedback.

I know you don't have points on the SGR but do any of your other readers have any experience of using points outdoors?

Thanks,

Martin Head

Nr Daventry.

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Hi Martin,

I've been using peco point motors on the "Kirkfield and Warmthorpe" for the last couple of years.

They are housed in sealed boxes made from plastic sheet. I have had a couple of instances where the motors have stuck due to rust on the main solenoid rod. I now spray the motors with silcone grease and have had no further problems.

ianr1.jpg

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Ian,

Many thanks for the speedy reply.

Yes, I had noticed a similar picture in your online photo album.

Is the box simply made to fit over the top of the point motor as it sits on its base - looks like that from the photo. Is the box lined with any form of insulation?

Apart from the siezure of the motor, do you get any problems with the peco point at all?

What is the grease and where are you getting it from, if I can ask?

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Martin,

The box has a base too totally enclosing the motor. I understand that people have had success by simply covering the point motors with buildings but I would recommend spraying with the silcone grease too. The grease that I am using comes in 200ml spray cans, is called Servisol Silicone Grease 70 and is available from Maplins.

ianr2.jpg

Point motor housing with top removed

ianr3.jpg

Underside of housing

ianr4.jpg

Point motor box hidden under signalbox

I have had no problems with the Peco points themselves but before laying the you will need to attach bonding wires as shown on the photo. You cannot rely on the point blades to provide electrical contact outdoors, well not for very long anyway!
Also the points have an overcentre spring which is made from steel, this needs lubricating every so often to prevent it from rusting away, once again I use silicone grease, not the spray but the sort that is available in a tube. Vaseline may do the trick too.

ianr5.jpg

Bond wires on Peco Insulfrog point

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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.

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Just spent the last couple of hours converting all my points for outdoor operation, following Martin's tips on soldering and Ian's what needs to be done. I found some 10 amp fuse wire (in an old tabaco box I inherited from my granddad) which was perfect for the job. I gave it a quick rub with some glasspaper to remove the tarnish and then it tinned very nicely. My technique quickly improved and doing a dozen points in one sitting certainly gave me the chance hone my skills.

Thanks for the advice chaps, all very useful and most importantly, put into practice.

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May be it's time someone starts a topic on "Points"...

I've spent great deal of time thinking about how to mount point motors under the base board but safe from the weather. My main aim was to come up with something as simple as posible and thus with little that could go wrong.

There are two main issues with rain. The first is that as soon as you put a hole in the base board then you have created a drain or plughole and water will run, even flow down it, we aren't talking about protecting from individual rain drops. This flow of water has to be directed away from the motor rather than letting it in. Even if the flow can be managed the second concern is that the motor still has to be protected from more general moisture and damp.

One option is to mount the motor away from the hole and create a mechanical drive mechanism. This isn't simple enough for me, too may things to go wrong. The Seep motors come with long (5cm?) arms which are capable of switching a point when the full length is used. Bending this arm through 90º still leaves the arm strong enough to throw the point. Bending the arm in this way has allowed me to mount the motor to one side of the hole away from the flow of water.

To cope with the flow of water I purchased an aluminium pipe, 10mm in outer diameter and 1 mm think. This pipe was cut at a 45º angle at one end to create a point from which I hope that water will drip (run), keeping it away from the arm and the motor.

With the arm bent at a right angle the motor needs to be fixed at 90º to the baseboard. I have used a short length of "L" shaped aluminium to create the braket. The first picture shows the pipe and the bent arm.

c1.jpg

Getting the motor to throw the point was still tricky, but I made the holes in the mounting bracket large enough to allow the motor to be moved into the correct alignment. The hole for the arm is 10mm, this is needed so the arm can move from side to side, it also needed to be this size to allow the arm to be passed through now that it is bent through 90º.

c2.jpg

Obviously the motor is still open to the elements. I'm on the look out for a small sandwich box which the motor will be housed in, somehow.

c3.jpg

The pictures are of my prototype, and when I'm brave enough (and Monk Bar Model shop has some PM1's in stock!!) I'll have a go at drilling into the base board outside.

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I agree that the subject of points outdoors deserves its own topic so I've merged all postings regarding outdoor point operation into a single topic. I trust that this will be okay and that everything has merged successfully - let me know if anything's missing.

That looks interesting Chris although due to the fact that I have yet to install any points out there in the open it's a subject I haven't given any thought to previously. I'll be following with interest because it's obvious that I'm going to have to make the transition soon if I am to gain some operational interest.

Mick

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This is a picture of the hole in the baseboard after I'd put my aluminium tube in. I worked the roofing felt over the top rim of the tube so hopefully it will kept water away from the baseboard.

c4.jpg

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I've finally found a container suitable for housing point motors below the baseboard. They are clear plastics boxes designed for holding a couple of hundred business cards. They are very rectangular in shape (most tubs have sloping sides) and the lid over laps by a couple of centimetres. My plan is to replace the aluminium bracket shown in the photos above with the box itself and to stick the point motor to the box using double sided tape. Ii've cut out a hole in the box the same size as the aperture on the Seep motor, which is tiny compared to the 10mm hole in the aluminium bracket. This small hole shouldn't let much water in, but I also plan to place a lot of Silica Gel in the box to soak up the moisture. I may buy a kilo of the stuff that changes colour to once it's got wet.

I've also thought about the wiring. I want the motor boxes to be modular, so they can be removed during long periods of inactivity (Winter). This means that they cannot be connected permanently to the track bus, frog etc. This requirement led me to think about a cable running back into the shed for all of the 6 wires to the PM. A computer serial lead (9 pin) would have worked, but I didn't have any kicking around, and then it struck me that computer network cable would be ideal, and I have plenty of cat5 leads doing nothing. I've culled a couple of old network adaptors and soldered one of the sockets to a fly lead to the point motor. I've got a proper network socket to go in the shed (face plate and everything) which I'll connect to an accessory decoder and the track bus and frog. When I put the Point Motor box in position the only wiring up required will be to plug a network lead in between the two sockets, simple. Well that's the plan.

Once again, when I get a camera...

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I finally attached a point motor to an outdoor point yesterday.

I made one significant change form the previous post. The short bit of network cable I was using to connect the SEEP PM1 to the network socket was solid core and a couple of the wires had broken and required resoldering. After some thought I decided to dispense with the idea of having a socket next to the motor and I've soldered one end of the network cable directly to the PM1, network "fly leads" are many strands 24 AWG. The cable I used was 3 meters longs so I could cut it in the middle and use both halves for the two motors I plan to operate in this way.

For the record I've wired the motor thus

PM1 wire CAT5

A - orange - 2

C - blue - 4

D - green - 6

E - white green - 1

F - white blue - 3

B - white orange - 5

x - brown - 8

x - white brown - 7
This makes the two orange wires thrown and closed, with the blue common. The two green wires are the rails and the white blue powers the frog. The brown wires aren't used.

I've glued the point motor to the inside of the plastic box and the cable exits through a 5mm whole in the bottom (the cable was fed through before soldering it to the motor). The box lid has been screwed to the underside of the baseboard and so far I've held the box in place with an elastic band, although a better solution may be require. Some adjustment was required before it started to throw every time.

The box is so quick to put in place I may find that I put it away after each running session. If this is the case then I will have to think about just how weather proof my other motors need to be if they aren't going to have to brave the elements.

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After putting points on my layout I got the urge to automate. This is some good info here. I'll post photos as I develop my own variations on these control systems. Thanks to all the previous posters here, I see some people no longer visit the site. Come back, we need you. :)

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I bought one of these via eBay. It is a slave servo for car central locking systems.

It works from 12v dc, is cheaper than point motors and best of all is water resistant. I'm going to experiment with it to see if it's suitable for operating points.

At the full 12 volts it is rather fierce but reducing the voltage gives it a softer action. It needs a DPDT momentary contact switch ( momentary on - off - momentary on), also via eBay to operate.

I'll let you know how things go.

ianr6.jpg

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I did some experimenting with the servo yesterday and the results are very promising.

I've got it operating two sets of points simultaneously, via a couple of bell cranks with an old Tri-Ang controller set at half speed. You could also use a 6v lantern battery.

inar7.jpg

ianr8.jpg

As you can see the servo is mounted under my baseboard although it would be easy to surface mount too.
£1.85 (April 2013) for a powerful, water resistant point motor has got to be a bargain!
They are rather large but would be quite easy to disguise with buildings and/or scenery. Two wire operation too.

The project isn't finished yet and I'll post more details and pictures when it is.

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A bit more experimenting today. The servo now operates two sets of points and a semaphore signal perfectly.

I've got to sort out a permanent supply in my control panel now. I've found that the servo is perfectly OK using full 12v but I prefer the softer operation of reduced voltage.

This has cured a problem set of points which had unreliable operation using ordinary point motors, they operate perfectly every time with the servo.

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This is developing into a very interesting project.

You do realise that I'm going to need a more detailed account of what you are doing. A trip to your house may be required.

Two wire system? I'm kind of conditioned to 3 wires. I'm guessing it throws to the opposite state whenever it receives a bolt of power.

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