First NEM Coupler Conversions

My Dapol 28XX 2-4-0 engine came factory-equipped with NEM magnetic knuckle couplers, but my trusty old Graham Farish 0-6-0 was unfortunately only equipped with bulky and unsightly Rapido couplers, as were my Dapol Collett coaches. Rapido couplers are not compatible with NEM couplers, and they don’t have a metal flange so aren’t triggered by the magnets on my layout.

I finally decided to change that. I have been holding onto a Dapol NEM conversion kit for many months. I’ve been a bit intimidated, to be honest, having read the instructions about a dozen times. But tonight I resolved to equip my Collett coaches with NEM couplers (I will wait to convert the 0-6-0 until I am a bit more experienced).

It really wasn’t all that bad. I removed the trucks from the coaches to make it easier. Then I used some clippers to remove the Rapido coupler box (well, most of it; it is molded into the trucks so a bit of the Rapido pocket remains). I filed the cut ends flush with a jeweler’s file, then super-glued the NEM box in place. I added the “inner pocket” (which enables some lateral movement) and then snapped in a NEM short-shank coupler.

I wanted to take some photos of the process, but it was almost impossible due to the small size of the pieces and poor lighting. I took a couple of “after” photos using my flash, which was the best I can do. In the first photo, you can see the jig on the rails,which helps gauge the height of the couplers and also holds them in place while they are being glued to the trucks:

Adding the Panels

I started attaching the backscene panels this morning. Here’s the first panel being clamped:

The process has been fairly straightforward, except the baseboard wasn’t perfectly square, causing a slight lean. It is imperceptible to the casual observer, but caused a bit of an issue when connecting the left side panel. I broke up some small bits of wood, stuffed the gap with a few splinters, and applied copious amounts of wood glue. It is currently being “clamped” with painters tape until the glue is set:

Once set, I will use some plastic wood filler to smooth it out. Otherwise, the whole thing is coming together nicely.

Backscene Panels

My local lumber distributor was having issues with their cutting machine, so I was left to my own devices when cutting panels for the backscene and fascia. I’m using 1/4″ birch plywood.

Here’s a sketch I made of what it should look like when assembled:

Without a professional cutting tool, and having wanted one for a long time, I bought a circular saw and cut my own panels. Here they are, ready to be attached:

I have a few more things to get before I attach these, though. Most importantly, I need to see what my options for tape are. I was planning on using drywall tape or something similar to hide and reinforce the joints and keep the exposed edges from splintering and peeling. I would then “mud” the tape and any gaps, and sand it all down before painting.

Preparing for the Backscene

Okay, now that summer is over and I’ve done enough of nothing, I’m gearing up for another round of LSR. Here are the loose plans:

  1. By the end of October, I’ll have the backscene and fascia completed. I have already purchased the “Hills and Dales” backscene from Model Scenery Supplies. With the height of the backscene in mind (it is 9″ tall) I can begin working on the fascia/backscene wall, even before the backscene prints arrive.
  2. Once the backscene is in place, I’ll complete at least one building per month. I have decided to use cardstock buildings, because it has become grossly apparent that I don’t really enjoy modelling with plastic. I’m fairly happy with the structures I’ve built so far, but the super-glues, solvents, and paints just aren’t for me. I end up becoming stressed when faced with various drying times. Instead, I have been collecting structures and textures from Scalescenes for the past few months and will begin editing them in Photoshop to suit LSR.
  3. When all buildings are done (there will be five major buildings) I’ll be able to finalize scenic elements such as soil, grass, shrubbery, and trees.

 

Summertime Hiatus

I just wanted to drop a line: I’ve all but stopped working on LSR as my attention has turned elsewhere for the summer.

However, I am spending some of my idle time considering some aspects of modeling (in particular, I’m looking into how others have designed backscenes) so once I start again I will have some new ideas.

More Turntable Stuff

All Switch-Kats have been programmed (a very, very easy process) and I’ve reprogrammed the turntable as well.

The Switch-Kats worked flawlessly right away, and the turntable worked great… most of the time. However, there were a couple of instances during which the turntable motor simply stopped mid-rotation, as though it forgot what it was supposed to do.

I assumed the issue was one of three things, and I remedied each of them as follows:

Assuming the wall wart that powers the Arduino, shields, and motor was too weak (it is only 0.8A / 3V) I purchased a 5A / 12V wall wart and swapped it. Bad idea. The DCC shield got very hot very quickly, and the turntable had so much torque that it ticked like a clock when it was supposed to be microstepping. I resorted to the original wall wart.

Assuming the CAT5 cable between my controller and the layout needed to be replaced, because the little plastic piece that clips it into the plug broke off a few days ago, I purchased a new one. I’m not sure if this would have affected a command that’s already been sent to the Arduino, but it was broken anyway so it had to be replaced. Here’s the new cable (exciting, right?):

Assuming the motor was getting too hot (all stepper motors get hot when they are drawing power, whether they are at rest or working), I bought an aluminum heatsink. Here you can see it on the top (bottom) of the motor, where it tends to get hottest:

I’m not sure whether it was the controller cable or the heatsink that did the trick. I’m guessing it was the cable. Now, the turntable more stable than it ever was, and is working reliably.

For posterity, here is the Arduino sketch I am using for the NEMA 17:

#include <NmraDcc.h>
#include <Wire.h>
#include <Adafruit_MotorShield.h>

#define DCC_ADDRESS 7 //Change accessory address here.
NmraDcc Dcc ; //Declare DCC Shield.
Adafruit_MotorShield AFMS = Adafruit_MotorShield(); //Declare Motor Shield.
bool firstloop = true;
//Comment: getStepper(steps, stepper#)
//Stepper# is which port the motor is connected to. If using M1 and M2, indicate port 1. If using M3 and M4 indicate port 2.
//NEMA 17 Stepper Motor has 200 steps in 360 degrees.
Adafruit_StepperMotor *myMotor = AFMS.getStepper(200, 2);

//This function is called whenever a normal DCC Turnout Packet is received.
void notifyDccAccTurnoutOutput( uint16_t Addr, uint8_t Direction, uint8_t OutputPower )
{
Serial.print(“DCC Turnout Packet Received\n”);
if ((Addr == DCC_ADDRESS) && OutputPower){
Serial.print(“Move 180 degrees\n”);
myMotor->step(100, Direction, MICROSTEP); //Move 180 degrees in the specified direction.
} else if ( (Addr == (DCC_ADDRESS + 1)) && OutputPower){
Serial.print(“Nudge 1 step\n”);
myMotor->step(1, Direction, MICROSTEP); //Move 1 step in the specified direction.
}
delay(200); //Wait 200 ms for debounce.
}

//setup(): This is executed first and only one time.
void setup()
{

Serial.begin(115200);
while(!Serial); //Wait for the USB device to enumerate.
Serial.print(“Start Setup\n”);
AFMS.begin(); //Create with the default frequency 1.6KHz.
myMotor->setSpeed(0.025); //Set speed for 1/2 rotation per 1/2 minute.
Dcc.pin(0, 2, 1); //Setup external interrupt, the pin it’s associated with that we’re using, and enable the pull-up.
Dcc.init( MAN_ID_DIY, 10, CV29_ACCESSORY_DECODER, 0 );//Call the main DCC init function to enable the DCC receiver.

Serial.print(“Setup Over\n”);
}

//loop(): If the DCC function detects a signal, it will call notifyDccAccTurnoutOutput on its own.
void loop()
{
if (firstloop) { Serial.print(“First Loop\n”); firstloop = false;}
Dcc.process(); //Calling this method makes the DCC shield check for new communications. It must be frequent or a message may be missed.
//myMotor->step(100, FORWARD, DOUBLE); //Move 180 degrees in the specified direction.
//delay(5000);
}

Oh, and I also added a holster for the controller, which I’ve put off for a long time:

In the background of the heatsink photo (earlier in this post) you can see that I added adhesive cable clips to some of the longer feeders and to the bus wires. So, I’ve really finished just about all of the wiring projects I had planned, and now I think I’m ready to start working on the terrain a bit more before adding a fascia and backscene. Pretty exciting. I’m already past the stage I was at with the former module, and I’ve only been working on this module for a few weeks. I anticipate that things will decelerate a bit now, as I’m moving into new territory.

Six Switch-Kats in Situ (Say That Ten Times Fast)

Tonight I repaired the single dead rail by soldering its feeder wire. I had unknowingly severed the wire with a quick-splice clip when attaching it to the bus wire yesterday. Here’s the repair:

I had already severed another feeder with a quick-splice clip, but I realized I had done it right away, so I was able to repair that as I was wiring the rest of the module.

Because I already had the module tipped up, I figured it would be a good evening to start wiring the Switch-Kats. These are simple decoders that connect to the bus and give each turnout a DCC address. This will allow me to select each turnout with the controller and it will translate my inputs into “switch left” or “switch right.”

I mounted the Switch-Kats using plastic standoffs, as I had done with the Arduino, and situated each one a few inches from the wire leading up to each respective turnout. I angled most of them, as I will need to access the “top” end to insert a jumper wire when putting them into “program” mode.

Here they are before wiring them to the turnouts:

And here they are, wired to the turnouts:

And here they are connected to the bus wires:

I still need to add some anchors to keep wires secure, but otherwise I think I’m done with all “under the table” wiring. I will be adding a couple of holes on the back to run power cables through; this will allow me to anchor them a bit more securely. I’ll also be adding a hole on the right side to connect the bus to the next module. I will wait to tackle this project until the fascia has been added to the back.

Now it’s time to program the Switch-Kats and reprogram the Arduino, and LSR will be back in full operation.

Running Again

I spent four or five hours this weekend wiring up the track, sans the turnouts and turntable, which I will likely get around to later this week.

Engines are running without any significant issues except for a dead rail on the far side of the turntable where the engine shed will be; so I need to re-wire the feeder to that rail. I will post pics of the underside of the module when I’m repairing that.

For now, let this picture of my super helpful cat suffice (she fell asleep on my screw-gun case while watching me test the engines):

Tables Have Turned (Almost!)

I don’t have many photos to show for it, but I spent five or six hours yesterday mounting the motor and truing up the alignment. I mostly figured it out, but it wasn’t as simple to install as I expected!

I also mounted the Arduino/motor shield/DCC shield tower and wired it up. There’s no power yet, but that should be coming soon! I left plenty of space to reach my hand between the motor and the tower. One of the most frustrating issues with LSR’s first iteration was that some under-the-table components were too close together, making it difficult and uncomfortable to make adjustments.

Additionally, I am altering the track plan a bit to make better use of the left-hand side of the module. In the following track plan you can see that I’ve pushed the goods shed access track further back. This opened up a larger yard around the station platform and adds a bit of “flow” and balance to the overall design.

LSR and extension