Sunday, April 27, 2008

Scenery On The NS Line

I've spent the last 4 months laying track, and can tell you it gets old after a while. So... I took a break this week and started on some scenery.

I started with the area just out of Charlotte staging on the lower level and just out of the pit on the upper. The area on the upper represents track between Bowers and Lake.

Both upper and lower levels on this side of the building will be done in fall colors. The opposite side of the building will be winter and the center island will be Spring/Summer.

I got really tired of laying track, so I took a break this week and worked on some scenery. For this section, I am trying a fall theme.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Pen Operated Switches

Several people have asked me about the pen operated turnout controls. I know it was in one of the magazines, but I never looked at what was suggested there and made my own setup. (This was done for Atlas Code 55 turnouts and has not been tried on other types or codes.)

It starts with Bic Click type pens. I found some on sale at Office Depot.

You would think they were everywhere, bu
t I tried half a dozen stores before finally finding them there.

Take the pens and pull them apart enough so that you can clip the end off, and while you're at it, cut the pocket clip off. I use rail nippers, then file the barrel smooth where the clip was. Reassemble the pen. I used the whole pen. There was some thought about replacing the ink cartridge, but I decided to take a chance.

You will also need a European-style terminal strip. I got a 12 position one from Radio Shack for $2 something. You'll have to cut the plastic off the terminals joiners. I used a Dremel cutting wheel to make a cut across the back of each, then cut the plastic away with my rail nippers and pulled the connector sleeves out with some regular pliers.

You will need to figure out where to drill the mounting hole for the pen depending on your benchwork. I used 1 x 4s for the face and had a plywood top in the staging yard where I was mounting mine.

So, I drilled as close to the edge as I could. I found a 1" dia. counterbore bit at Lowes for $8 or $9. It was worth every cent because the first time I tried using a plain wood boring bit and it made a mess of the hole.

After making the counterbore, I used a 3/8" flat wood boring bit to make the hole for the pen.

Glue the pen in the hole. I used something called Goop. Found it at Lowes and Hobby Lobby. Best stuff ever, but it can be a bit messy. Be careful.

I made a bead around the barrel just below the plunger. Stick the pen thru the faceboard from the backside and just barely let the tip extend past the the faceboard. I made mine stick out 1/8" because I am covering the faceplate with a masonite fascia board.

You can also color code the pens and counterbores if there are several close together. I may add colored targets later.

The last parts you'll need are some 1/8" dia plastic tube, and 16 and 18 ga. floral wire (or similar). I found floral wire precut in 18" lengths and tried it because it was soft enough to bend before breaking the turnout throwbar.

I drilled a 3/8" hole under where the hole is in the throwbar thru the deck and then mounted a thin block of wood under the deck to use as a spacer. I then used the Goop to attach the plastic tube to the spacer cutting about an inch or two short of each end.

I connected the 16 ga wire to the end of the pen with one of the terminal connectors, clipping the other end about even with the thru hole. I used the 18 ga. wire (bent at 90 degrees) up thru the deck into the throwbar. I did have to enlarge the throwbar hole with a 1/16" bit. Connect the 2 wires together with another terminal connector leaving some overlap for adjustment.

Give the Goop 24 hours to dry before adjusting the wire.