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Topics: 12   Replies: 16
posted on Feb 5, 2018:

This rainy-afternoon project was more for amusement than something practical I'd expect anyone else to try. But this might spawn other ways to apply low-cost Arduino and similar DIY microcontrollers and remarkably inexpensive (99 cents) servo mechanisms which easily attach to Arduino modules.

For conventional O-gauge operation, I am not aware of any inexpensive method to smoothly vary AC track voltage under remote control. Typical applications might be to automatically decelerate or accelerate a train approaching or departing a station. Or to automatically adjust track voltage to regulate speed as a train ascends or descends a grade.

I say "smoothly" vary because there are several write-ups on using the string of back-to-back diode method to provide discrete voltage steps...some even using relays under Arduino control to sequence a stair-step of voltages selected from a diode string. The diode string method is simple and inexpensive but is also inefficient from a power standpoint. The standard method for varying AC voltage in most low-end O-gauge controllers (Lionel CW-80, MNH Z-controller) is the semiconductor triac. But it takes specialized knowledge to control triacs from an Arduino.

On the other hand, making a servo motor turn from one angle to another is as simple as a single command using the standard Arduino servo library. So why not just use a servo motor to turn the knob of a Z-controller. Note that in the video a $1 servo-exerciser is used to generate the magic pulse-modulated commands that the 3-wire servo requires.

The Arduino can emulate a DIRECTION change by momentarily commanding zero track voltage.

And since even the entry-level Arduino comes with 2 servo outputs, the obvious next step would be to use a 2nd servo to control whistle/horn and bell. The trick is the buttons on a Z-controller are spaced such that a single servo can activate both!

Multi-button sequences of Horn and Bell can trigger special functions in some O-gauge engines as demonstrated at the end of the video. For example, a controller that is sensing where a train is on a layout can know to activate a short-short-long warning when approaching a grade crossing.

Servo control of MTH Z-controller transfo...
Topics: 42   Replies: 55
posted on Jan 31, 2018:

I like to build whimsical pieces of equipment that a small railroad, like a logging railroad, might have built in their own shops.
The people that ran and maintained small working railroads back in the steam area, were very good at creating whatever they needed from whatever spare parts and used equipment that they had access to.

Unlike today, where most often we buy a new piece of machinery or other kinds of equipment and when it is worn out we just throw it away, back then they scavenged parts off their worn out equipment and used them to build something else that they could use.

These models that I build aren't replicas of anything that really existed, just fanciful ideas of something that someone might have built out of junk parts.
I built this one way back in the 80's and it is a steam powered crane that might have been built back in the 1920's or 1930's.

The boiler is from a Rivarossi Casey Jones locomotive kit from back in the 70's with the back half of an 0-8-0 tender wrapped around it to hold the the water supply.
I believe the smoke stack is made from a magic marker tube and the rest is just bits and pieces that I had laying around and they're all mounted on a flat car.

Thinking along those same lines, I was going thru some of my junk parts left over from building other projects and I decided to build another steam operated crane that would have been built right after the war and be a more modern version of the older steam crane.

The older crane had to be transported to the job site with a separate steam locomotive and crew and I decided that this one would be self powered and use the wrecker boom from a Army surplus wrecker.

Here are the parts that I've come up with to get started.
A working chassis from a 0-4-0 steam engine, a cab and boiler parts from the Rivarossi 0-8-0 locomotive kit and the truck bed and wrecker boom from a model of a Army wrecker.
I have already attached a set of steps and a platform to one end of the truck bed.

The crane part of this model is from an old model of a Army wrecker that I had gotten from somewhere and for some reason that I don't even remember why ( I'm not interested in Army models at all ).
The wrecker model is 1/32 scale and my trains are 1/48 scale so the truck itself is to big to go with them but the size of the truck bed and the wrecker boom are okay as part of a railroad car.

I'm going to mount this truck bed in front of a steam engine as a flatcar for the crane to sit on.
The first thing that I need is a heavy duty truck to support the flatcar.
I'm using a six wheel passenger car truck and I've fixed it up so the electrical current for the motor can be taken from it's wheels along with the drive wheels on the locomotive part of this contraption.

The six wheel truck is mounted under the Army truck bed and then the truck bed is attached to the front of the steam locomotive chassis.

Using parts from the boiler from the 0-8-0 model kit and some pieces of PVC drain pipe and other parts, this is the boiler that I have ended up with to mount on the locomotive chassis.

Black is the most common color on steam locomotives so the " flatbed " is repainted so it is now mostly black.

The parts for the valve gear are assembled and painted, as is the steam cylinders.

The steam cylinders and the valve linkage are assembled onto the chassis and it's time to test run it and make sure that everything works correctly.

Now .. because this crane is going to be operated by steam power, I need to come up with a steam line running from the locomotive to the crane.
I have some nice pipe fittings that are made out of pot metal and some 1/8 inch diameter brass rod for the pipes.

The instruction for the pot metal fittings says to glue them to the brass rod.
The brass rod only fits about .010 inside the fittings so the two parts are basically butted together at the glue joint.
I have found that when gluing materials like these together, without having one part slide far enough into the other part to actually hold it, they will eventually come apart even when using super glue.

So, I want to solder them together but the pot metal melts at almost the same temperature as the solder.
I have some very fine solder that is only .015 diameter and I found that I have about a half a second from when the solder melts until the pot metal part melts.

This is the first fitting being soldered onto the brass rod.
I'm using my resistance solderer to heat the brass rod so as soon as I see the solder start to melt, I pull the solder tip away from the part and it instantly cools enough to harden the solder without melting the fitting.

After two hours of cutting and filing and fitting and soldering, the steam pipe is completed.

The steam supply line runs from the side of the steam dome on top of the boiler to the crane.
I still have to make some brackets to support the pipe along the top of the boiler.

I'm using the plastic body for a Lionel slope back tender for this model.

The sides for the coal bunker are extended up using parts from the tender for the Rivarossi 0-8-0 locomotive model kit.

A brass end sill and foot board is mounted to the rear of the tender and the hand railing is made up and mounted along side the steps going up the back slope of the tender.

The Lionel trucks with the big flange wheels were replaced with brass scale trucks with the smaller flanges on the wheels.
I've mounted some lead on the inside of the tender to give it some weight.

The guys in the back shop of the maintenance garage are excited today.
It has taken them several months but they finally have a new work crane for them to use.

The big boss thought they were crazy when they told him that they wanted that old steam switch engine that had been moved to the scrap yard when the company bought that shinny new diesel switcher but he said they could go ahead and use it.

Joe's uncle worked in the Army surplus yard over on the other side of town and he said an old wrecker truck was hauled in there that had the front end smashed up really bad.
The railroad maintenance guys loaded up their acetylene torch on the back of the company's old flatbed truck and drove over to the Army surplus yard.
They cut the crane bed off the back of the Army truck and winched it onto the back of their truck and brought it back to their yard.

Over the next few months, the guys in the shop set the bed from the Army wrecker on a six wheel truck from an old passenger car and attached it to the front of the old switch engine.
The boom crane from the wrecker had been operated with power from the truck engine thru a power takeoff on the truck's transmission.
The guys in the back shop adapted steam driven motors to the boom crane to operate it and ran a steam line from the locomotive to power it.

This morning they fired up the little switch engine and pulled it out of the shop and Bob brought his camera along to take some photos of their new work crane.

The boom crane can rotate from side to side.

bits and pieces
Topics: 12   Replies: 16
posted on Jan 30, 2018:

You can now buy a hobby servo for 99 cents with free shipping from Asia on eBay. This makes it practical and inexpensive to consider using these mechanisms for animations or similar layout enhancements.

There are countless web resources on servos, how they work, how to apply them, etc. Not so common are descriptions of a modification to standard off-the-shelf servos to make them operate continuously or what is effectively a bi-directional DC gear motor. These seem to have taken on the name of a "Continuous Rotation Servo" or what I'll call a CRS. The idea is you can use the standard 3-wire connection to the servo to make it spin at variable speed in either direction. If using standard R/C plane/car/drone controllers you can use a CRS plug-and-play. Or if using an Arduino or similar controller with servo outputs, you can use the standard servo library functions.

You can buy a CRS from many sources that have modified a standard servo. You can find web resources and videos on DIY modifications. These resources should be a starting point. The contribution here is to show how to modify the specific SG90 99 cent servo available on eBay in early 2018. Apparently the SG90 has undergone revisions so this may not apply to earlier or later revisions.

Remove the two long screws after which the housing can be separated into 3 sections.

There is a tab on the output shaft which mechanically stops the shaft from spinning a full rotation. The tab must be cut off with a hobby knife or razor blade. The output shaft is rounded near the gear but becomes a blade-shape (like a screwdriver) near the end. This end is what inserts into the feedback potentiometer within the servo. Since the potentiometer must be disabled in a CRS, the end of the shaft will also be removed (later) with a hobby knife.

With the tab removed, the final act for the bladed-end of the shaft is to set the internal potentiometer to its mid-point position. Power up the servo and command it to the mid-point position. If using an Arduino, this could be with the standard library command servo.write(90). Or for about $1 on eBay you can buy a servo-exercise which has a so-called "Neutral" mode where it sends the mid-point command.

The internal motor must be dis-engaged for the output shaft.

The bladed tip of the output shaft is inserted into the housing and engaged into the potentiometer. With the servo commanded to its mid-point (via the Arduino or via the servo-exerciser), the potentiometer is adjusted into motion stops. This is shown at about 15 seconds into the video.

After the potentiometer is centered, the blade-end tip of the shaft can be removed. Now the output shaft can spin freely and continuously with affecting the potentiometer position. This is the key to the operation of a CRS.

The gears can be re-stacked and servo re-assembled. The video above goes on to show the CRS action. Additionally, the video shows the modified CRS electronics can be used to drive other than the internal DC motor. The DC winding resistance of the SG90 motor as modified was about 4 ohms. There is just over 1 Volt of drop (due to the bridge driving electronics in the SG90) so the motor only sees just over 3 Volts DC.

Modifying a 99 cent servo for continuous ...
Topics: 67   Replies: 114
posted on Jan 15, 2018:

This B&O snow flanger has been inspected and stands ready for work. The model was re-built from 1952 Train Craft tool caboose kit in the 1990's. New siding was put on, a front window cut into one end, with smaller caboose sized windows installed, along with other details. The front plow was built in brass from B&O drawings.

The prototype began as a Class M-8 boxcar number 42005 built by Pullman in September 1897 and rebuilt to Class M-8B number 98294 at Chicago in 1913.
In 1929 it was converted to snow flanger SF 43 by B&O at Locust Point MD.
In 1941, it was converted to become a class C-14 caboose number C-1652 at Keyser WV for the WW II years. By December 1945 it was changed back to snow flanger 43, stationed at M&K Junction in West Virginia.

The last of its kind, here is prototype SF-43 awaiting a move to the B&O Museum in the early 1990's. Before it could be readied for the trip to Baltimore as a special-handling flat car load, it was burned by vandals to become a total loss in 1995, two years short of its century mark.

Ed B
Ready for Snow
Topics: 42   Replies: 55
posted on Jan 6, 2018:

While looking at photos of old steam locomotives on the internet, I came across this photo of a small engine with a 2-4-4 wheel arrangement and I decided build a 2-4-4 engine for my collection.
I searched for some time trying to find a photo of the engineers side but these two photos were all that I could find.

This is going to be a brass model so I scrounged thru my parts to see what I had to work with.
I found a working 0-4-0 chassis, two parts for a cab, a boiler and foot boards from a switch engine kit made by Thomas Industries, and a truck for the rear that looks similar to the photo.

This chassis is from a kit that was made back in the late 40's or early 50's and it used a large open frame electric motor that mounted on the angled plate on the rear.
I want to use a newer ' can motor ' so I removed the angled mounting plate and made up a square plate to mount the can motor with.

The new motor is mounted on the chassis and I'm test running it.

I found a piece of cast brass that will work well for extending the back of the chassis frame.
The two sides of this piece are different heights and they are tapered from one end to the other.
The piece is clamped in the vice and I'm milling the two sides so they will be even.

This frame piece is fastened onto the back of the chassis and it extends out beyond the drive wheels quite a ways.

Unlike real railroad track that has long sweeping radius curves, model railroad track has short radius curved track.
With the the four drive wheels sitting the track, the rear of this chassis is going to swing out past the track on these tight curves.
Obviously I can't put a coupler on the back of this engine because the frame swings out past the the track on the curves.

So I machined the flanges off the two rear drive wheels and mounted the rear truck in the center of the frame like it is designed to be mounted.
As you can see, all four drive wheels are still on the rails on the straight track.

As this goes around a tight curve, the chassis is supported by the front two drive wheels and the rear truck and you can see that the two rear drive wheels have slipped completely off the rails.

Viewed from above, you can see that the rear of the frame now stays in-between the rails so there shouldn't be any problem with pulling some railroad cars.
I'm going to put some lead in the boiler, right over the two front drive wheels to help with traction.
I'm also going to put electrical pickups on all four wheels on the rear truck.

Looking thru my parts, I see that I only have three front trucks that have only two wheels and they are all for larger locomotives than this so I'm going to have to build the two wheel front truck.

Starting with a piece of 3/8 hex shape brass, it is machined to the correct length on the lathe and then a hole is drilled thru it for the axle shaft.

Then a piece of ' T ' shape brass is soldered to the hex brass.

Here are the finished parts for the front truck.
The small round piece of brass next to the screw will thread onto the screw to form a shoulder bolt for mounting the truck on the chassis.
The small hole in the center of the hex brass piece is so I can oil the axle shaft after it is all put together.
I'm using the large piece of brass so it will have some weight to help the front truck track properly.

This is how the two wheel front truck looks all put together.

The original photos shows that this locomotive has a step pilot on both the front and the back and in my supply of pilots, I found two that match.

The one on the left is upside down so you can see the two ' bumps ' at the top on the back from where the brass was injected into the mold.
There are two couplers and two shoulder screws for mounting the couplers.

I clamped each pilot in the vice and milled off the two bumps on the back.

The mounting bracket if formed from a piece of sheet brass and soldered to the back of the pilot.
one of the shoulder bolts is solder in the coupler pocket so I can mount the coupler and put a washer and nut on it to hold the coupler in place.

he pilot is then fastened to the back of the frame with two flathead screws.
The sheet metal for the tender will fit down onto the top of the pilot and cover these screws.

When I first started building trains, I made up a block of wood that fits on the track and has a coupler mounted on it.
This is the gauge that I use to get all of the couplers at the same height.

The front pilot has a piece of sheet brass soldered to it also and it is then soldered onto the top of the two front frame rails.

If you look closely, you can see the short piece of brass that I hed to add the the front frame rails to extend them out to the back of the front pilot.

Here is the boiler and foot boards that I'm using from the Thomas locomotive kit.
The foot plate was fastened to the underside of the boiler with two screws and small square nuts that gripped the inside of the boiler.

The foot boards are fastened to the underside of the boiler with the two screws and special nuts and I also soldered the cross braces to the underside of the boiler.
Both parts were cleaned up before I did any soldering on them.

The stanchions for the handrail on the sides of the boiler are threaded and are fastened on with small nuts on the inside of the boiler so I put them on before I fastened the foot boards on.

A piece of brass is soldered into the bottom of the boiler and is drilled and tapped for the screw that holds the boiler onto the chassis.

The boiler is now fastened in place.

The Thomas locomotive kit uses two cast pot metal pieces for the front and rear of the boiler.
I'm using a brass smoke box front and it has four tabs on the back of it to center it in the front of the boiler.

However, this front is made for a cast boiler so the tabs are not out far enough to hold it in this thin sheet metal boiler.
I turned down a piece of scrap brass so it fits inside the boiler and than machined it so the boiler front piece fits into it.

The machined brass ring is soldered onto the back of the boiler front and it now fits snugly into the front of the boiler.

The smoke box front now fits snugly into the front of the boiler.

A piece of flat brass was machined to fit on the back of the boiler and soldered in place.

Then another piece of brass sheet was cut to size for the floor and this was soldered onto the back of the boiler and made so it is fastened to the back of the chassis with a screw.

The cab that I'm using has a nice window visor on the fireman's side that is a brass casting but it is missing this visor on the engineers side.

To make another visor, I start by putting ' rivets ' along the edge of a small strip of brass to match the rivets on the cast visor.

The strip is cut to size and a notch is cut on either side of these rivets.

he rivet area of the visor is bent up so the visor will angle out when it is fastened to the cab.

The two ends are bent down and trimmed off to form the completed visor.

This is then soldered to the side of the cab over the engineers window.

2-4-4 locomotive build
Topics: 2   Replies: 17
posted on Dec 29, 2017:

I am attempting to upload photos, but it is very difficult. I am a new member, so forgive me. I have always loved miniatures. In the past, I worked for large Industrial Companies as an Architect/Designer. One of those companies was PITNEY BOWES. More than 20 years ago, before closing their Factory Museum in Stamford, CT, I was asked if I wanted the entirety of the 1/4" scale factory model display. I accepted, and have been the owner ever since. Because of the vast size (more than 10,000 items) I have determined that the best choices are to either sell the pieces individually, or divide it up into many small factories. The items are all vintage, and many pieces were created by the company "Visuals" which is long gone. I will try to load more photos if I can.
1/4" Scale Miniature Factory
Richard E
Topics: 69   Replies: 29
posted on Dec 24, 2017:

Canadian National Pacific 5603 is rolling to a stop at St. Paul Depot. CN 5600 pacifics were one of the few without all weather cabs
This is a custom painted K-Line Pacific, Although not completely accurate it is very close.
Canadian National, Eh!

O Gauge General Categories:

Electronics & Wiring (58)
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Electronics & Wiring (58)
   Modifying a 99 cent servo for continuous rotation
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   New metal bridge
Electronics & Wiring (58)
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