Laying Track II

After six hours or so, I have cut and situated most of the track:

I also made a few recesses in the cork beneath the track. These are located in places where I will likely want to uncouple wagons while shunting. When I start amassing some wagons, I will replace the clunky Rapido couplers with Dapol Easi-Fit knuckle couplers, which will uncouple when reversed slightly while situated over a magnet.

After digging out each recess, I drove a couple of screws in:

Then I placed a rare-earth magnet into each recess, which held fast to the screws:

There are three magnets on the layout. I could have placed more, but there is a chance that they will occasionally cause unintended uncoupling, so I placed as few as I could while enabling me to uncouple and shunt in each section.

Here, I’ve moved the track aside to display the magnets:

GWR 0-6-0

I haven’t spent much time working on LSR lately, partially because I’ve been waiting for a DCC-equipped engine so I can test track before I finish laying it down.

About a month ago I finally ordered a Graham Farish class 64xx 0-6-0 (with pannier tanks) from Hatton’s. I really have a soft spot for class 0-6-0 engines—the DC engine that I have tucked away with my Inglenook is the same class (but is based on a U.S. prototype, with a tender instead of panniers). Hatton’s fitted the engine with a Bachmann E-Z Command 90-degree 6 pin DCC decoder before sending it across the pond, and the package was finally delivered today.

The long turnaround was partially due to Hatton’s having something of an inventory problem; a week after I placed the order I received an apologetic email stating that some items listed “in stock” were actually not. I called several days later to ask for clarification (“…is the order cancelled or on backorder?”) but it seems they had already processed my purchase without error, and it was in line to be fitted with a decoder and tested. I was told I’d receive an alert when it shipped. A week later I inquired again, and was told it shipped already, but the tracking number wasn’t registering, so they didn’t know which side of the pond it was on. 

I’ve gotten used to the fumblings and bumblings of model railway manufacturers and sellers in the U.S., so it’s actually kind of heartwarming that U.K. modelers are experiencing the same thing. Overall, though, Hatton’s seems to be a friendly, hard-working group, and their personal communicativeness makes up for any lack of automated processes.

Anyhow, I’m excited to finally start tacking down some track this weekend and running this little bugger. I think I’ve already named it “Bellwether,” for being the first of the flock.

Forgive the bad lighting:

Laying Track I

I have no idea what I’m doing.

Using a 1:1 printout as a guide, I am cutting flex-track to length (roughly) and fitting up turnouts with fishplates (little joiners that connect sections of track together).

I have been scouting around the internet for months, looking for a definitive and understandable guide to wiring a simple layout. Conclusion: either I am a complete idiot or there isn’t a single set of rules.

My biggest question was this:

Do I need to modify my electrofrog turnouts to become “DCC-friendly” as some sites suggest? Will my locomotives cause a short in the turnouts and shut down the system if I don’t?

I still don’t know for certain.

Those who modify electrofrog turnouts (by cutting gaps in the rails and adding jumpers from the stock rails to the point rails) never seem to have suffered the fate they are so laboriously protecting themselves from. Those who don’t modify their turnouts don’t seem to be suffering either, except in rare instances and due to specific issues.

In recent years Peco has updated its electrofrog turnouts to feature gaps and jumper-sites already prepared, but my turnouts are older and are not quite so fancy (and that’s likely why they were discounted). I read a claim in the official DCC wiki that Peco will completely discontinue electrofrog and insulfrog turnouts in favor of a “unifrog.” I can only find unifrog turnouts in a single larger scale (HOn3), though, and I’ve read absolutely nothing anywhere else regarding the discontinuation of electrofrog and insulfrog turnouts in other scales.

Anyhow, there is one very important rule to follow when using electrofrog turnouts with DCC, on which all sites agree:

When connecting the frog-end of the rails with fishplates, the inner rails (the “crotch,” so to speak) needs to be gapped or (better yet) connected using an insulated rail joiner. This is to prevent a short when a train runs past the “fouling point” (i.e. when a train approaches the frog-end of a turnout that is not switched in its direction). Here you can see the metal fishplates on the stock rails and the plastic insulated joiners leading into the frog:

I haven’t laid much track yet, but I’ve gotten past the initial intimidation, and I will keep at it when I am able this week.

Scratchbuilding with Cardstock III

I spent a number of hours cutting and pasting up a platform station in printed cardstock, but haven’t been impressed with what I’ve come up with thus far. One of the biggest issues I’ve run across is my inability to square the masonry windows properly. Masonry windows have no external frame to cover up the fit, so any imperfection becomes glaring.

I’ve thought about creating a new station with clapboard siding, but I’ve decided against that, as the brick station is part of the reason I really like Hemyock. In addition, even though I have a decent printer it doesn’t print detail as sharp as I’d like, so I’d probably have wound up resorting to a professional printer and spending quite a bit of money and time on that.

Thus, I will probably end up purchasing an inexpensive plastic station from Peco or Hornby and modify it a bit to add an adjacent signal box.

Oh well. The time I spent designing cardstock buildings, etc. might have been spent working out the wiring plan, which is more important at this stage anyhow. Thus, putting together the track and wiring it up will be my next project.

Scratchbuilding with Cardstock II

Just wanted to post a brief update, as I think I’ve finalized a printable station for Little Snoring. This weekend I hope to start printing and cutting, and I ought to have plenty of leftover windows and doors for this project (I purposefully designed it with few).

Next, I will need to work out the platform and then create a few outbuildings. If this whole “printed cardstock” project works, I’ll be ecstatic. Not only will I save myself a great deal of money, but if I bodge anything up I can simply redesign or reprint and (perhaps most importantly) the outcome will be fully customized to my vision. It is likely that I will create new versions of these models in the future, after figuring out a thing or two about what works and what doesn’t.

For now, I’ve decided against fully detailed interiors, as I’m not planning on lighting the structures. If I change my mind, I will rebuild (or retrofit) them with interiors and will likely use Woodland Scenics’ Just Plug lighting system.

Anyhow, here’s the updated station, sans platform:

Little Snoring Station

Powercab PCP Panel Installed (Sort Of…)

I spent about an hour this afternoon drilling and then filing a rectangular hole into the front of the terminus module, just big enough to fit the circuit board of the PCP panel that came with the NCE Powercab. This is where the Powercab controller (and an optional second controller) plugs in. I haven’t fully attached the panel, as I still need to put some kind of cosmetic fascia around the module. I’m almost ready to start wiring, though, so it’ll be good to have this in place.

Did I mention the Powercab controller yet? I purchased it at the same time as the track and turnouts, while Tony’s Train Xchange was having a ripper sale.

The Powercab is a neat little DCC unit: it provides power while also controlling locos and accessories. For a layout as small as Little Snoring, it should be all the power I need. This simplifies the wiring (and makes the whole project a lot less expensive).

Here’s a pic of the Powercab, for those not familiar:

Next up: wiring. However, before I start, I need to purchase a locomotive with a DCC decoder. I don’t want to get too far into wiring without being able to test each length of track and every turnout in real time. The PowerCab doesn’t have the ability to run DC motors, so I need to save up some dollars for a loco. In the meantime, I will finish the Elkton Creek smelter and continue to design Little Snoring station.

Elkton Creek Smelter II

I painted and assembled some parts of the Elkton Creek Smelter kit this weekend, and even put something of a roof on it.

I installed sheets of transparent film behind the windows before gluing the roof down. The kit came with a single transparent sheet marked with individual windows for modelers to cut out. To save myself a few hours, I used larger sheets of transparent film, cut roughly to the size of each wall or partition. This also had the added benefit of providing more surface area to glue the sheets in place.

I’ve been contemplating whether to add light to my structures, but I think I’ve finally decided not to in an effort to simplify the layout. After I stopped fretting about adding interior details, the model has been coming along much more quickly. There will be plenty of complicated wiring ahead as it is.

The “tarpaper” roof that came with the kit was simply a printed sheet of paper, with no depth or texture. I decided to step it up and cut strips of black construction paper, then laid them individually across the roof. I trimmed the ends after they were all laid down, and am pleased with the results.

In other news, I’ve been researching under-layout switching options, and have decided to use Circuitron’s decoder-equipped SMAIL machines. These aren’t cheap, though, so it will probably be months before I can actually run some engines. 

Before I lay the track down, I will need to remove the springs under the turnout points. This will allow the SMAIL machines to switch the turnouts slowly, with no resistance, but without the springs or the SMAIL machines in place, the points will be loose and cause the system to short out. 

Adding to the cost, I will also need to use “remote” mounts to secure the switch machines in a horizontal position. The module is too shallow for conventional mounting.

Why Little Snoring?

Some readers might be wondering at the name “Little Snoring,” so I want to take a moment to explain.

There is, in reality, a parish called Little Snoring in Norfolk, England. The name derives from “Snear’s People,” (Snear-ingas), Snear being a Saxon invader whose name meant “bright” or “alert.” This has long been my favorite placename, and it is fitting for a village that will have little trains snoring and snarling about, so I decided to use it.

I don’t intend to model the real Little Snoring; in fact, the nearest railway station is in Sheringham, about 18 miles northeast of Little Snoring. Instead I intend to borrow elements from a number of real locations in an effort to create a plausible but fictitious place. Likely, I will borrow most heavily from Hemyock, but there will certainly be other structures and ideas from other places.

All in all, Little Snoring Railway will be an “ideal” branch line terminus, filled with my own whims and interests as I see fit to add them and as they seem to fit into the overall project. This approach will provide a lot of flexibility once I begin the process of collecting and modeling engines and wagons. (This is important: I live in the U.S., where the availability of U.K. models is spotty at best.)

Scratchbuilding with Cardstock I

I’ve been working on N Scale Architect’s Elkton Creek Smelter kit, slowly, and will post pictures soon.

I have also been toying with some textures in Photoshop (some were downloaded from months ago, and others I found online, ad hoc) in an attempt to design a station that is somewhat akin to the one that used to be at Hemyock. Aside from a few quirks, Hemyock was a typical British light railway station drafted by William Pain, who designed a number of stations on the Highworth and Hemyock branches. I originally planned on using a N Scale Architect station (and I still might, depending on how this experiment goes) but the few models offered by that company are distinctly North American and would need some altering.

For those who don’t know, one major difference between railway stations in the U.S. and those in the U.K. (and just about everywhere else in the world) is that most U.S. railway stations are built at ground level, requiring stairs to climb into passenger cars. By contrast, almost all stations in the U.K. are built on distinct platforms with ramps on one or both ends.

Here are pictures of Hemyock Station, front and back, showing the arrangement:

Hemyock Hemyock Rear

To create Little Snoring station in miniature, I plan on printing most parts on cardstock and then folding, cutting, layering, and gluing. Windows are particularly difficult to model, so I will be using plastic molded windows from Tichy. I will also be using Tichy doors for continuity of depth. I don’t want the model to look too “flat,” as commercial cardstock structures tend to do. (I purchased a cardstock kit from Metcalfe last year and, although building it was fun, it tended to look like more like a paper model than a tiny building.)

There are still some missing pieces (sills and lintels, for starters), but here is the attempt I have made so far to approximate Hemyock in 1:148 scale:

Little Snoring Station Page 1


Turntable II

I chose the Peco turntable due to Peco’s promise of a compatible turntable motor, which I’d read about a couple of years ago in a bulletin. Looking into that now, though, it appears that the motor hasn’t yet been released and I’m left wondering if it will be. In the meantime, I will be putting a simple decoder on a Hankscraft 1 rpm motor, which I already have. Tonight I decided to play around with ways to attach the motor to the underside of the turntable.

I almost threaded some small bolts from the topside of the well (which likely would have worked, although I’d have to disguise the screws later) but then I rediscovered a tin full of adhesive zip-tie mounts. These should work just as well, without the mess; I just stuck them to the underside of the well and zip-tied the motor. Here they are in action:

Before using the turntable I will need to fill the bearing with epoxy, as the motor’s shaft is a bit too narrow.

Edit: on July 30 I emailed Peco:


In 2015 I was browsing a bulletin about up-and-coming products from Peco, and noted that there was a turntable motor in development. However, although the turntable motor was slated for a 2016 release, I’ve not seen nor heard of it since, save some third-party sites which claim that it is still in production. Is it? And if so, when is the anticipated release date?

I’m planning to use a 1 rpm motor to power the turntable, for now, but I very much anticipate the day when a compact, working, fitting motor is released. Other commercial solutions are far too large and complicated.

Thank you for your time,

Aaron Mitton

Today I got this response:

Dear Mr Mitton,

Thank you for your email.

We are progressing with the turntable motor unit, and aim to have it available later this year.

Kind regards,
A. Beard, PECO Technical Advice Bureau

Howe & Davis Ltd., Underleys, Beer, Seaton, Devon EX12 3NA