Controlling the Intermediate Station

The middle station needs no power feed of its own, being powered by the controllers at the two termini (well, just Innsdorf at the moment, but the mountain terminus, Bad Moritz, will have one in due course), but it does need its points and signals to be controlled locally, and I have built a small panel to hold the switches for these.

To operate the points I decided not to use the Hornby/Peco type of motors that I used at Innsdorf which left a big hole under each point that was hard to hide, but rather to use some second-hand Hammant & Morgan motors I happened to have, along with an ancient Tri-ang motor that probably dates from my childhood but still works. The H&M motors are used in the same way that I used when I added electric point operation to Kingsgate: a rod through a small hole in the baseboard between sleepers near the point, with a stiff but springy steel wire soldered into a deep groove in the end of the rod and hooked into the tie-bar of the point – stiff enough to push the point blades across but flexible enough to absorb excess movement. The Trip-and motor is mounted above the board and will be hidden in the scenery.

The track layout at this station is simply two loops off the single track and as the points at each end of each loop will always be changed together there was no complex insulation needed to avoid shorting the live-frog points, and provided I used a capacitor-discharge system to provide the “oomph” I could change both points at once with one momentary contact switch for each loop. These are toggle switches so it is hopefully going to be instinctive to operate … A switch is also provided at each end of the panel for the starter signals.

The power controller that will eventually be used at Bad Moritz, the proposed top station, has a socket for a hand-held second controller and I shall be able to use this in the event that train control is needed at the intermediate station, for shunting, for example, or for running a locomotive round if I decide to terminate trains here for some reason.

There is still much to do here electrically so rather than make you all wait until it’s finished, this video is a bit of an interim report. More to follow when I get a bit further with the project!

Laying Track Through the Mountains

The track base is now complete as far as the intermediate station on the mountain pass line, and slightly beyond, and I have been laying the track and have successfully run trains to and from the station. I had to use flexible track because the fixed-radius curves I have in hand are not small-enough radius to provide the effect I need in the space I have available. It is hard to lay flexible track for such tight curves, but with care it can be done: it tends to tilt and can tip trains off, and it is also not easy to avoid variation in curvature, which can be catastrophic when working so close to the tolerances of the locomotives and rolling stock. I did make a test curve before I designed the layout so I knew that I had some vehicles which could go round these curves successfully, but I also suspected I’d have several that would not and would have to be confined to the other part of the layout!

I drilled the sleepers and pinned the track direct to the MDF which I was using for base: no cork underlay was used on this section because it was all going to be hidden under snow, so the ballast shape did not matter and I felt that with the need for firm track here the trains may just run slightly better on a firmer base. After one of the test runs I did some adjustments to the track where it was joined just outside the intermediate station – the join was not quite straight, only very slightly out – and sometimes caused some vehicles to derail. One railcar in particular was right on the edge of its ability to take the curve and the slightest deviation was enough to allow the flange to climb over the rail!

Now that the track is laid I shall have to install the point motors and wiring, position the tunnel mouths and erect the overhead electrification masts to the open stretches of track. For light relief I can build the station buildings and the road. There is to be a level crossing, and there will be a road winding up the mountain pass. There is also the need to take the line onward to the terminal station higher up the mountains. Once that is done, then completion of the mountain scenery becomes feasible. Exciting!

Onward and Upward

Was it really May last year that I posted the beginning of the spiral climb? That was just as Britain was beginning a degree of freedom from the restrictions imposed to control the spread of Covid-19 and from then activity tended to be out and about rather than in the railway workshop! There was progress, but rather bitty and nothing much to write about here: the odd bit of track laid, the occasional bit of detailing, some planning and some carpentry. Some of that has now come together and real progress is being made on the Alpine pass scenic section, with the trackbed now extended as far as the intermediate station and beyond towards the mountain terminus. Indeed, since the video was made track laying is complete as far as the intermediate station approach points, so the next video should not be too long in being needed.

Meanwhile I have also been adding to detail in the Innsdorf station and village area with gifts of people and the gradual addition of more snow etc to make this first sectional complete as possible. Occasional running sessions have taken place in order to prepare to exhibit this portable section eventually. I was also given a “new” train, an Allegra electric multiple unit, a type of train I have travelled on often in Graubünden and which really places the layout in both place and era.

Video 23: onward and upward!

Locomotives and Rolling Stock

So far I have described the construction of the layout in terms of baseboards, track, wiring and scenic work, but, of course, the trains are as important as anything else! I do not build the trains myself as some other modellers do, largely because I know too little about Swiss trains to set about building them; also because such work would take a very long time and I wish to have a layout I can run as soon as possible (perspective shifts as you age: a young person can start building with a view to having a complete layout in, say, fifteen years’ time). However, there is still work to do to the commercially-produced trains that I use. I have already described the addition of passengers inside the coaches (and I still have many more of those to add), but many of the vehicles I buy come with a pack of super-detail which I always use to add the appearance of the models. Because I buy mostly used items I sometimes have to make the details which may be missing from them, but recently I bought my first brand-new Bemo locomotive and have just finished detailing it with the super-detail pack …

Detailing locomotives and rolling stock, as well as buildings and road vehicles, is an interesting task that can be undertaken in parallel with the more tedious jobs such as ballasting or with jobs that require setting aside for glue-setting or paint-drying, so many of my vehicles have been quietly detailed in the background over the last couple of years, and I thought it was perhaps time I mentioned it!

Meanwhile design and construction of the next part of the mountain section is slowly moving forward and I hope to post an update soon. Somehow time just keeps slipping by …

Home Again

Apologies for “internet silence” for so many weeks. The simple explanation can be seen on my other website, www.mwtrips.co.uk, which details the many trips and tours that I have undertaken now that travel is allowed again! There are still some absences to come, one of them for nearly two weeks, but I have recommenced work on Innsdorf and hope to be posting something new soon.

Just one of my summer trips

Beginning the Spiral Climb

In many ways this is one of the most exciting parts of the project, as well as being well outside my modelling comfort zone! The experience of building the single-track branch line on my art-deco Burghley Junction layout has been helpful: I have at least built a gradient on a curve, and a fairly steep one on a fairly sharp curve at that. But here I am building a series of curves with a need for a variety of steepness of gradient, with unknown locomotive performance and unknown clearance requirements, too. I am open to the possibility that I may have to take something apart and start again on at least one section if it does not work, and also that I may have to redesign sections as I go along, but this week at least I have made a start. I have not got far, but I thought readers may like to see the little I have done.

Of course, work is proceeding all the time and since this video was compiled I have laid the first metre or so of track and pushed some rolling stock up the curve, so progress is being made. I hope to get the next video uploaded soon so that you can see this.

Almost all the curve you see here will be under the mountain eventually, but scenic construction cannot begin until this track and the curve above it are both in place, with their overhead rails which take the pantographs when out of sight in tunnels. Removeable scenery will be necessary so that incidents in the tunnels can be deal with, although so far it seems that Bemo wheels on Peco track seem pretty stable and derailments are not a big thing on this layout.

For the track base for the line through the mountains I have used 6mm MDF, about one-third of the thickness of the solid baseboards used for the station and the fiddle yard. This makes it much more flexible for gradients, especially essential on curved gradients. This is supported at intervals by short timber sections of carefully graded heights to give the necessary gradient. The line will continue to climb to and around the other end of that section of the layout and then come back on itself, level, for an intermediate rural station and then climb again in a curved tunnel above the one currently under construction before making its way to the other terminus, to be built above the fiddle yard.

It is hard to guess how long all of this will take; it depends upon how much freedom to travel we have over the coming year or two, and how much I get involved in the model railway club, my local church and other community things. The great thing about this type of layout, though, is that there is a huge variety of things to do, and if I have had enough of carpentry and track laying, there is always detail at Innsdorf station and village, and the trains themselves need work, too. I am so looking forward to seeing a little red train snaking through the mountains, in and out of tunnels and over and under bridges that the impetus to get on with the project is always strong!

Tweakings and Adjustments

I must apologise for not having written much lately. While I have been busy with other things, there has been progress on the model railway, but it has not been the sort of progress that would make an exciting piece of video! Having completed the platform canopy installation last month I have been doing thorough running tests and uncovering little snags, literally, here and there where the pantographs of some locomotives catch on the overhead installation or fitted snowploughs catch on trackwork, so I have been taking some time adjusting all these little things to ensure smooth running before I move on to the next major project.

While I have been doing this, though, I have also installed the overhead through the second tunnel from Innsdorf station and including that in the snagging project, as well competing the cosmetic bits and pieces missing from the overhead where it meets the tunnel portals. Photographs of these jobs are included here for your interest.

Lining the tunnel

The next major project will be the construction of the first of the curving gradients up the mountain pass. I must lay the track for this before building any more mountain scenery, and I need to buy some suitable sheet material for the track base, perhaps plywood or thin MDF. I shall try to get this started in the next few days. The experience gained when building the branch line on my OO gauge Burghley Junction layout will be of great benefit in this project.

I still have jobs to do in and around Innsdorf station and the village so things are still moving on there as well – pictures and video to follow in due course.

Also, though, it will not be long now before real-life train travel will recommence and I shall be absent for a few days at a time, over on mwtrips.co.uk!

Completing the Platform Canopies at Innsdorf Station

Last month I posted about the construction of the canopies for the platforms at Innsdorf, but I did not install them because the wiring of the lighting under each canopy required the turning over of the station baseboard to work on the underside, which was not convenient at the time. This has now been done, and here is the story:

This was a good dry-run for taking out the two portable sections which are intended to be “exhibitable” and did reveal some issues, so I took the opportunity to remove about 15mm from the end of the layout (mercifully not yet developed!) to make it easier to extract these sections. We are now not far off being able to call this part complete: back scene and more snow to go, I think! And maybe more lighting … no layout is ever finished, but can be exhibited when complete. Before it can be shown, however, I do need to create a portable fiddle yard and some trestles, plus some display material. If a show came up next month I’d race aead with that work, but it will not be needed for many months yet and I can take my time, balancing that with the construction of the, fixed, mountainous sections for my own entertainment!

Alpine Civil Engineering

A start to scenery in the mountain area

The system I had devised in my head for taking the overhead electrification into the hidden storage area but leaving the hidden sidings devoid of the the clutter of overhead wires has been successfully installed, and I have moved on to begin creating the mountain scenery ready for building the spiral gradients on the other main line which will take it over the one laid a fortnight ago and into the mountain terminus above the hidden section. A small step in a long journey, but a firm start!

Here is the description of that early work:

Taking the Overhead Wires Through a Tunnel

A challenge that was always there from the start and which had been exercising my mind from the day I started planning this model railway was how I was going to cope with taking an overhead-electrified model railway line through tunnels. The overhead on this layout is realistic in appearance but is non-functional, the trains picking up their current through the normal two-rail system just as models of diesel or steam trains would do, but it is just as important that the pantographs keep contact with the wire or else they would cause major problems, possibly including damage, if they are dewired and snag the catenary.

The solution I adopted, and which I have since heard has been done by others, was to glue a length of rail to the roof of the tunnel, soldering the contact wire carefully at each end to make a smooth transition. A pantograph then glides from wire to rail as it enters the tunnel and back to wire when leaving the tunnel, but to the observer the wire simply seems to enter the tunnel as it would in real life. Because of the presence of overhead lines it is impossible for a viewer to get their eyes low enough to look into the tunnel and see that I have thus cheated! See it done on the latest video:

Taking the OHLE through the first tunnel

The next project will be to take the wire to the next tunnel mouth which will be the entrance to the hidden sidings where I shall have to make arrangements for the overhead to end in such a way that raised pantographs are wired as they leave the hidden area for the visible part of the layout. Once that is done I can begin the gradients and spirals, with more complex tunnels, which will take the other track up and over the mountains to the terminus to be constructed above the hidden sidings. In many ways the short section of track on this first line has been the test-bed for the complex sections to come, but in any case it had to be built first because the rest will be built over it!