Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Episode 11: Powerrrrrrrr

As the great Jeremy Clarkson once said, 'Powwwweeerrrrrrr.'

Back in't'day... there was only one way to power your model railway. A good old Analogue potentiometer took care of business. You can go faster. Or you can go slower. One train and one controller per track. Simple. 

More recently however the model railwaying world has been taken a storm by DCC (Digital Command Control). I'm not going to go into detail, because you can catch me chatting about DCC in Side Tracked 1 of this blog, but DCC allows for multiple trains per track, plus an array of extra such as lighting and sound via one control unit. Sounds great, but it is more expensive and you will have to convert your existing locos with special decoder chips.

One day I will invest in DCC and possibly convert some of my older stock but right now we'll look at a couple of power issues on my good old Analogue layout.


First an issue with Isolation. DCC layouts can support multiple trains on the same track due to given every loco a code and powering that code accordingly. With an analogue layout, you don't have this luxury and 9 out of 10 times the golden rule is: one train per track/loop and one train per power supply

You can of course, like I have, design your layout to have multiple loops to accommodate additional trains which can be isolated from the power supply and swapped as desired. This works perfectly well for certain point setups...

When Point C and Point D are set in favour of the Outer Loop you are isolating the outside rail of the Inner (Orange) track. Locos must receive power on both rails to work, therefore by setting C and D in this way you have definitely broken part of the circuit on the Inner (Orange) loop and your train doesn't move. Conversely you can set C and D in favour of the Inner (Orange) loop and this Isolates the Outer Loop allowing for aforementioned train swapage. Forgive me if this is simple stuff but it helps explain the next part a bit better. 

My plan was to deploy a similar tactic for the Blue section of track, isolating a train here allowing A and B to be set to allow access to the centre siding from the Outer Loops. This is essential for maximising stock on the layout. As the following diagram will illustrate this plan was slightly flawed... 

Even with points A and B set in this way the Blue section of track is not isolated. Wherever you place a locomotive on the oval it will still pick up power from 'Power Supply 1.' You can check this by choosing a point on the oval and see if the red and green lines end up at the purple box (Power Supply 1). And they always do.

We therefore need to create a break in either* the Red or Green line in the Blue section of track which we want to isolate.

*Remember we only need to break one rail for the locomotive not to be part of the circuit. 

Thankfully - this is painfully simple. 

Carefully lifting up the track I was able to remove both fishplate connections just to the right of 'Point B.'

This achieves a physical break in the track. Don't worry though, as long as you are accurate with your nailing (back) down the track is still aligned and this doesn't affect the running of your trains when you DON'T want to isolate this section.

When you do however, you'll notice that in the Blue section of track the Red line (rail) is now disconnected from Power Supply 1. 

You can now safely put a train in this section whilst you move another out of the centre siding. 

A similar tactic was also employed just to the right of Point C (above). 

Some modellers will add additional isolation points and purposefully reconnect them via an on/off switch. This gives them the option to turn power on and off to sections of continuous track should they so desire.

This is something for me to consider in the future, but currently it is not required on a layout of this size.

Getting Power To The Track:

The second thing I've done that relates to Powweerrrrr isn't so much an issue but more of a way of making the layout look neater. It does also help in set up/down.

Here was what I was using before...

This is the 'Hornby Power Clip.' You plug in your power supply to the points A/B (above) and it slots into the side of your track. This is fine for those starting out, but I find them unsightly, unreliable and restrictive of at which spots on your track they can be slotted into. 

This is how they looked on my layout. I found that once you had a wire plugged into this one (above) on the inner loop, it was encroaching and restricting the loading gauge of trains on the outter loop. Securing the wire from not getting caught up in the trains on both loops was also becoming a problem.

This (above) - killed two birds with one soldering iron. And some wire hooks.

Quite simply - I've soldered the wires straight onto the track. Then using wire hooks nailed the wire down to keep them away from trains. Eventually I will paint these black, and I think they will look like quite realistic lineside cabling! (Hopefully no OO scale people will come and steal it...).

I found it easiest to feed wires under track under fishplate joins. 

It may be worth removing a couple of the plastic sleepers where you intend to solder the wire to the track. I found it hard to avoid them melting.... The track is tough though and will accept the heat without buckling. Other modellers will solder the wire to a fishplate first, and then reconnect the fishplates to the track. This avoids being near any melting sleepers when soldering... But this sounded fiddley, so I didn't bother. 

To complete the setup I ran the wires under the join and then along the side of the board. The controllers are then plugged in just out of sight on the right.

Next time I'm going to talk a little bit about adapting points to help reduce derailments. 

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