Railway update

A Class 57 joined my little collection of model railway bits today. I was intending to add a Class 08 shunter had that not been scuttled by the Hermes debacle. And this one drew my attention. DCC again and with working directional lights. I still want an 08! No track yet, it seems that no-one anywhere has the items that I want.

Further adventures in DCC

So I now have two DCC locos, the Class 37 as before and now a Class 03 shunter. I am still looking for a Class 08 / 09 but less so now I have the 03.

I also got a tiny Lenovo PC which is only about 7″ square and an inch high yet has a Core i5 at 2.9GHz, 8GB RAM and a 500GB disk. I loaded Ubuntu 18.04 on (because it’s what I use elsewhere so it is familiar) in order to run the JMRI software. All went well except…

First off, the Sprog comes up as /dev/ttyACM0 as expected but the device is not world accessible. One needs to ‘chmod 666 /dev/ttyACM0’ (as root of course) before loading JMRI. A more permanent (and more proper!) solution is to add your userid to the dialout group in /etc/group. Ok, first hurdle passed.

But worse, although DecoderPro can see the Sprog and the config was all set up correctly, when adding a loco it goes mad. The USB LED on the Sprog goes out and the Sprog console shows a continual stream of data being sent. It all works fine on the Mac so this is something I need to sort out.

And here is the 03… needs a bit of running in yet but seems to work fine…

Update: There was a difference in the two configurations. On the Mac I had selected ‘Sprog’ as the controller but on the Linux box I selected ‘Sprog command station’. Setting it to ‘Sprog’ on the Linux box has cured that issue. The annoying thing is this is mentioned in the setup guide provided with the Sprog and I had read this before using the Mac for the initial tests and then forgotten it all when I set up the Linux box! But now it’s time to stop fiddling and actually do some reading up on this stuff!

Adventures in DCC

So, I decided after some 50 years or so of, er, deciding, to cobble together a small model railway. Early days yet but I always wanted to set up something with DCC. I recently got a Sprog 3 DCC controller and now have a Bachmann Class 37 loco that came with a DCC decoder fitted. And here it is in all it’s glory on one whole metre of track!

I have an area in the workshop to build a (very) small layout, probably modelled on a yard or something similar. It won’t be complex as I don’t have enough space, but I hope to have at least a couple of points and working GPLs, sufficient space for some trucks and carriages, the Class 37 and hopefully a Class 08.

For control I’ve downloaded the JMRI software onto the Mac and this works well, albeit for the 20 minutes or so I spent setting it up as a test. It also works with the WiThrottle app on the iPhone which is neat.

Indian train ticket scammers

We came across an interesting scam while in New Delhi. The scammer approached me and told me first that our train as delayed by 6 hours – it wasn’t – and next that our tickets were invalid ad we had to go to the tourist office on the second floor. I played along here but there was no second floor. Another scammer, I’m guessing they worked in pairs, then told me that we had to go to the railway’s central office in town and get the ticket changed for a later train. At this stage I got my mobile out and told him I would ring our driver and he could explain to our driver why. Unsurprisingly we were told that the tickets were fine!

But I don’t understand the scam. All that they would have achieved is that we would miss our train, and given ticket sell out days or even weeks in advance we would not be able to buy replacements. So what do they gain personally? Strange people.

Since we returned I have searched and found other scams at railway stations too, including people standing by the x-ray desks and pretending to be railway workers. From memory we did not see anyone around that looked like a genuine railway worker other than the guards on the trains themselves so I would not readily be able to tell if someone was official or not. Some uniforms and IDs would be useful.

Anyway, just be careful. My mistake was I was holding our tickets and that made me a target.

Shunting

I attended an introductory shunting course recently which was great fun but left me with a lot to ponder. Not had a go with the real thing yet – that comes later in part 2. Moving stock around a model layout was both entertaining and quite an eye opener in that the logistics can go horribly wrong with far too many moves being made. It’s one thing to move models, quite another to make the poor shunter run miles round the stock being moved.

I can imagine on part 2 there will be wagons and coaches scattered all over the place, and for real! One thing I do know for sure, I really need more upper body strength!!

Buckeye coupler

Signal box lever work

A lot of my work on the railway this year has been as part of a team building up all the components to make a 27-lever signal box frame. Components from two separate dismantled boxes were gathered from a variety of storage locations on the railway. Shown here are some of the segments prior to them being dismantled.

The various components are shown here placed side by side to ensure there are sufficient parts to make up the frame. Three base sections, the various segments along with segments supporting the locking trays (not shown), and the end castings were then all ready to be sent off for shot blasting.

Levers needed completely stripping down to their component parts. There were two types of lever, the differences being in the foot casting and the end of the catch rod. Each lever consists of a number of components: the foot, the lever itself, the catch rod, catch handle and pins, a spring housing and spring.

As can be seen, the shot blasting had a quite dramatic effect. Here are the levers as returned after being cleaned and primed. The two leftmost levers show the differences – each has a different type of foot and the stop for the catch rod – a square peg on one and round on the other are also different.

The spring housings, shown here on top of the cleaned and primed segments were not sent away and were cleaned by wire brush and files. New spring had to be ordered for these as the originals were mostly in a very poor state.

Assembly of the frame commenced after space was made in the workshop. We tried a few methods of assembly and in the end it proved easiest to place each lever without the catch rods or spring assembly and add those later. Despite losing a few nuts down various holes this work carried on that way.

Here, the first five levers are in place. Only 22 to go…

Assembly continued over a number of weeks, working one day a week. This photo shows the locking trays in place.

Finally, all the levers were in place fully assembled and adjusted to ensure that they moved smoothly. This proved tedious as numerous adjustments had to be made not just to the castings, but also catch rods, levers, and even some of the springs had to be shortened.

The next steps are for the frame to be marked up and dismantled. It will then be sent away for the locking to be built up before coming back to us ready for assembly in the signal box. This story is ongoing and will be continued!

Anti-Vibration gloves

Anti-vibration gloves

After spending hours cleaning metalwork with a wire brush in a grinder and suffering as a result I decided to get a pair of anti-vibration gloves. I wasn’t really sure how good these could be, I mean you still need to hold the grinder, but after a similar number of hours they do seem to work well. Last time I had to take an increasing number of breaks to rest during the work but this time I only had to rest because of me overheating. Of course, I was still talking regular rests anyway – you absolutely must – but no shakes or pins and needles this time. Yes I did read up on hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS)¬†and I was already aware of the risks but this kind of protection is really worthwhile and does not cost that much.

The ones I got are from Port West, others are of course available and results for you may differ from mine – this is my experience only so treat as such.

On the rails…

…or off my trolley, not sure which.

I volunteer at a heritage railway as an S&T (signals and telegraph) technician and currently go there at least one day every week. But I remembered recently that I had been to this railway many years ago when I was a kid. Back then, we travelled to a railway station that we were not supposed to. I think I was 10 and with a friend the same age. We were allowed to play trains, i.e. travel on them but were not supposed to go far, and certainly not that far even though it’s only 25 miles or so. I have a photo taken with a very old flash-less camera of a train and, in the same shot is the station name. My mum must have seen it…

Anyway, we saw an advert (remember this was 1970-ish so no web) for a steam railway and so off we set for a 1.5 mile walk. We found the place closed, well, except for the shop. I remember I got a few secondhand railway magazines. The line was short back then, in fact I don’t think it went very far at all. Oddly I never took any photos.

Fast forward to 2018 and I signed up as a volunteer and I’ve been going there ever since. I even got to actually travel on one of the trains recently, rather than just keep out of their way. The line is now very popular and gets a lot of good press.