Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Along the Neighbours' Fence

...or "Some Recent Activity on the Garden Railway".


The previous post showed a train taking its first tentative steps on the new section of trackbed. This section has the boundary fence on one side, and the raspberry beds, then the greenhouse, then the drying green on the other. It also finds itself, due to the lie of the land, about 2ft above the ground. All of this conspires to make this section unsuitable for full integration with the garden as has been done elsewere, and the plan is to build it like a traditional model railway on a baseboard, with rudimentary scenery, and (if practical) limited weather protection.

The temporary track has now been extended along the full length of the new section, almost to the greenhouse. The next stage of the plan is real track, some scenery, and the weather protection!

The first train to reach the greenhouse.
The Dapol track cleaner should be a real time-saver for a garden railway, providing a built-in vacuum cleaner, railhead cleaning fluid applicator, railhead scrubber and railhead polisher. It sounds like a dream come true, but I haven't yet for various reasons managed to get the best out of it. It is however useful for clearing the cobwebs from the tunnel at the start of an operating session!

The cobweb-removing train emerges from the tunnel with a fine catch of webs.
As I have mentioned before, the crossover from single track back to double beyond the tunnel is laid on a thin base and can be removed as a complete module. This allows the turnouts, point motors, electronics and wiring to be taken indoors when not in use, for protection from the weather. Installation or removal only takes a few minutes, with eight rail joiners to be slid using fine-nosed pliers, and two electrical connectors to be mated or undone. The wiring is largely out of sight from the normal viewing direction, but stepping over into the narrow gap by the fence, it becomes clear that the railway company's electrical contractors, K.Watt & sons, of Voltstone, Ampshire are not very good at producing tidy wiring! A bit of lacing cord and some camoflage paint should improve things, however.

On the removable crossover module. From this side the wiring is unobtrusive...
... but from the fence, it looks a mess!
Right from the start of the railway project, there has been a strip of level concrete above the viaduct for a station platform. About a year ago, a platform was built, with embosssed plasticard facings and an infill of concrete-based floor screeding. It seemed a good idea at the time, but unfortunately the screeding did not stand up to the weather, and soon looked a mess. So it was removed, and since then there has been no platform. The new one uses the original facings, but has a new plastic top. Now it just needs station buildings and a signal box!

A ballast train passes the new station platform. The shelter is borrowed.
The final picture provides a privileged view of the control room. On the left of the shelf is the NCE equipment, (a 5A power supply / control module, an overload trip, and a USB interface). Connected to this via the USB interface is an old netbook computer, scrapped because its display stopped working, and an old 15" display from one of our early home computers. Running on the netbook is a free programme called JMRI. Hidden behind the netbook is a wi-fi access point / router made redundant by BT when they upgraded this area's brooadband to use fibre-optics, and the box high on the wall is a controller build by my father about 50 years ago, with all electronics removed except the transformer, thereby providing a 16V AC supply for accessories that need it. I hate throwing things away if they can be re-used!

Not shown in the picture is the actual control panels used by the engine drivers or signalman. These can be any Apple iphone, ipad, or ipod touch or any Android* smartphone, running either the free or the under-£10 version of applications called WiThrottle or Engine Driver*, and communicating with the netbook through a wi-fi local network. This means that operators can wander wirelessly anywhere in the area of the railway.

*note: I haven't yet tried it with "Engine Driver" and an Andoid device.

The Control Centre.

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