Author Topic: Retro Tech Layout Project - N Scale Compact Layout  (Read 9566 times)

0 Members and 2 Guests are viewing this topic.

wm3798

  • Crew
  • *
  • Posts: 12595
  • Gender: Male
  • I like models. She likes antiques. Perfect!
  • Respect: +876
    • Western Maryland Railway Western Lines
Retro Tech Layout Project - N Scale Compact Layout
« on: January 24, 2019, 10:25:12 AM »
0
As I have posted elsewhere in these pages, I received a substantial collection of vintage N scale track and rolling stock from my cousin at Christmas time.  Included in the boxes of stuff were numerous kits, freight cars, locomotives and structures that wreak of nostalgia.  You know, that heady aroma of cork roadbed, dry rotted lychen, stale gear lube and ozone that only model railroaders of a certain vintage can appreciate...

Well, this addition to my collection of N scale has given rise to a project that I hope will be manageable and compact enough to fit into my office, and my life...



Utilizing two Ntrak module skeletons that I had gotten a number of years ago from @seusscaboose and the pile of snap track that came with the collection, I've sketched out the attached track plan.

Since laying that out, I've added the obligatory streetcar line, running in a figure 8 in the middle, thanks mostly to some old Arnold (or is it Trix?) 8" radius track (a complete circle with a terminal track!)

I've also worked out some elevation changes with my handy stack of 2" blue foam, so the scenery can rise and fall around the dead level track loop that old school N scale locomotives demand to function at their optimum.


My plan is to use the retro track, including those great old turnouts with the gigantic coffins next to them, and the old school wiring techniques, setting it up for 2 cab operation and blocks.  My plan is to provide for three, possibly four trains to be available for service at any given moment, plus the streetcar.  I also received a bunch of those super cool "strong arm" style turnout actuators that Atlas provided back in the mid 70s, the control "tower" will have that added element of fun (provided they still work as advertised.)


The wiring plan will also (hopefully) include a master switch that lets me run my newer DCC stuff when I have a mood to do so.

As fun as it will be to run the old trains, I don't plan to go full retro with the scenery.  I have a lot of classic structures, but sadly, back when we were teenagers, my cousin and I were not what you'd consider "craftsmen."  I plan to rehab what I can of the buildings, and any new in the box kits (there are several) will be built to suit my current scenic ethos.  I'm also taking advantage of the front corner to display my WM Cumberland Station prominently.  As usual, structure lights and little eye catchers will be the rule.



While I still have a ton of Code 55 track, and lots of nice detailed models, my goal for this layout is to just have some fun running the old equipment I remember from my youth.  So no yard, no branch line, very few places to switch cars (but some!) and as few maintenance headaches as I can manage. 

The total footprint is a 36" corner module and a 24"x24" straight module frame, creating a porkchop shaped platform 60" x 36"  The controls will be set in the open corner to the right.  I've located this model on the other side of the room, away from my studio desk, so it can still serve as a pleasant burbling diversion while I'm working, it won't be in my way when I have to pull a drawing off the printer. 

And for those of you taking notes at home, I still have the Canton, Highlandtown and Fells Point layout stored, and hope to one day included it as a switching area of a larger ops-oriented layout.

Now, back to work so I can pay for all this crap!
Lee

Route of the Alpha Jets

Lee Weldon www.wmrywesternlines.net

Ed Kapuscinski

  • Global Moderator
  • Crew
  • *
  • Posts: 17363
  • Respect: +1875
    • Conrail 1285
Re: Retro Tech Layout Project - N Scale Compact Layout
« Reply #1 on: January 24, 2019, 11:36:32 AM »
0
This sounds like a lot of fun!

C855B

  • Crew
  • *
  • Posts: 7394
  • Respect: +784
Re: Retro Tech Layout Project - N Scale Compact Layout
« Reply #2 on: January 24, 2019, 11:41:37 AM »
+1
...

My plan is to use the retro track, including those great old turnouts with the gigantic coffins next to them, and the old school wiring techniques, setting it up for 2 cab operation and blocks.  My plan is to provide for three, possibly four trains to be available for service at any given moment, plus the streetcar.  I also received a bunch of those super cool "strong arm" style turnout actuators that Atlas provided back in the mid 70s, the control "tower" will have that added element of fun (provided they still work as advertised.)



...

A little contact cleaner (with residual lube) will resurrect those old switch control levers. One caution - they were known for not springing back all the way when pressed into the "throw" position either up or down, tho' the cleaner will help with that. Anyway, by the time you smell the plastic melting over the switch machine coils, it's too late. [Gawd, that's a memory from 50 years ago! :scared: ]

I'll try to remember to rummage through boxes for the stash of A1G track I've kept since then to send your way. Not a lot, but a reasonable variety.
...mike

http://www.gibboncozadandwestern.com

We don't make mistakes, we have happy accidents. We just don't tell anybody. -Bob Ross

wm3798

  • Crew
  • *
  • Posts: 12595
  • Gender: Male
  • I like models. She likes antiques. Perfect!
  • Respect: +876
    • Western Maryland Railway Western Lines
Re: Retro Tech Layout Project - N Scale Compact Layout
« Reply #3 on: January 24, 2019, 12:22:41 PM »
0
Thanks, @C855B but I have more than enough vintage track at my disposal... turnouts, however, will help me flesh out this little project.  I need a smattering of Lefts and one or two rights (I'll have to review the inventory and see what's on the "to do" list...)

Duly noted on the lever switches.  I'm picking up some contact cleaner this weekend.  It seems a tumbler of bourbon may have been upset onto the power pack, and the direction switch has become a bit sticky!

Lee
Route of the Alpha Jets

Lee Weldon www.wmrywesternlines.net

Doug G.

  • Crew
  • *
  • Posts: 749
  • Gender: Male
  • Respect: +74
Re: Retro Tech Layout Project - N Scale Compact Layout
« Reply #4 on: January 24, 2019, 03:51:40 PM »
0
The lever switches came in two varieties. The original early Atlas ones were made in Italy and came with the Italian-made turnouts. They have a PC board with traces on it and a contact, connected to the lever, moves in an arc to contact the traces to throw the switch machine solenoid one way or the other. There is a flat metal spring in the bottom of the housing to bear against the lever to move it off the PC board trace after the lever is released after the solenoid is thrown so the solenoid coils don't burn out.

The second variety was also made in Italy, at first, but then made in Austria when Atlas started selling the Austrian turnouts with the two-piece switch machines. This kind has plastic rods attached to the lever to act as springs and small contacts to make direct contact with the plugs at the rear, inside.

The original Italian ones are superior in design because the plastic "springs" of the "Austrian" version, as I call them, can break and, if they do, the contacts will keep the solenoid connected, powered up, and it will burn out, taking the plastic housing with it. I had that happen, once. The Italian version is just so much more positive.

You can tell which is which by looking into the slot in which the lever moves. You will see the PC board on the left inside on the Italian version. The Austrian version won't have that and you can see the plastic rod "springs" attached to the lever.

I originally thought I could always tell which version I had in my hands by merely looking at where it was made. It will either say "Atlas Italy" or "Atlas Made in Austria" on the outside but, one time I noticed one said "Atlas Italy" and it was the plastic "spring" design and I have several more like that.

It IS possible to tell which is which by looking at the length of the lever sticking out. The original Italian version lever is longer. It's not a great difference so it takes a bit of getting used to.

I agree with cleaning and lubing. I just wash them in the sink and force dry them with a compressor and nozzle. I use LaBelle 107 oil to lube them Lubricate the shaft on which the lever assembly rotates and, on the Italian version the spring at the bottom because the surface often has surface rust on it and keeps the lever assembly from moving freely.

Wow! That got to be long! :D

Doug
« Last Edit: January 24, 2019, 10:23:42 PM by Doug G. »
Atlas First Generation Motive Power and Treble-O-Lectric. Click on the link:
www.irwinsjournal.com/a1g/a1glocos/

Doug G.

  • Crew
  • *
  • Posts: 749
  • Gender: Male
  • Respect: +74
Re: Retro Tech Layout Project - N Scale Compact Layout
« Reply #5 on: January 24, 2019, 03:56:18 PM »
0
I have about four of the structures you show in your photo on my current layout.

:D

Also, if the rail ends of any given piece of sectional track are staggered, it's Rapido track. Even ends indicate one of many other brands. The rail of Rapido track is blackened although I have one piece of Minitrix track with blackened rail.

Doug
« Last Edit: January 24, 2019, 04:01:08 PM by Doug G. »
Atlas First Generation Motive Power and Treble-O-Lectric. Click on the link:
www.irwinsjournal.com/a1g/a1glocos/

David K. Smith

  • The Pitt
  • Crew
  • *
  • Posts: 10820
  • Resident fafgin' icehole
  • Respect: +1483
    • DKS
Re: Retro Tech Layout Project - N Scale Compact Layout
« Reply #6 on: January 24, 2019, 04:59:32 PM »
0
Wow! That got to be long! :D

OK, who's going to say it?
"Life's a piece of sh!t when you look at it."
                                       —Monty Python

Point353

  • Crew
  • *
  • Posts: 1358
  • Respect: +251
Re: Retro Tech Layout Project - N Scale Compact Layout
« Reply #7 on: January 24, 2019, 08:14:59 PM »
0
My plan is to use the retro track, including those great old turnouts with the gigantic coffins next to them, ...
Paint the "gigantic coffins" to match whatever ballast you'll be using.

C855B

  • Crew
  • *
  • Posts: 7394
  • Respect: +784
Re: Retro Tech Layout Project - N Scale Compact Layout
« Reply #8 on: January 24, 2019, 08:44:12 PM »
0
... turnouts, however, will help me flesh out this little project. ...

I looked, can't help. Found a RH in the box of loose track, useless - busted mechanism.

If any interest in odd bits, I have a Minitrix 30° crossing and an Atlas 15° if you want 'em.

We're on a clutter tear, so I'm of the mind to toss the rest, nearly all curves from '68-'69, no original boxes. :|
...mike

http://www.gibboncozadandwestern.com

We don't make mistakes, we have happy accidents. We just don't tell anybody. -Bob Ross

Doug G.

  • Crew
  • *
  • Posts: 749
  • Gender: Male
  • Respect: +74
Re: Retro Tech Layout Project - N Scale Compact Layout
« Reply #9 on: January 24, 2019, 10:28:59 PM »
0
OK, who's going to say it?

I used to, every time I looked down, Not so much, these days.

:D

Doug
Atlas First Generation Motive Power and Treble-O-Lectric. Click on the link:
www.irwinsjournal.com/a1g/a1glocos/

wm3798

  • Crew
  • *
  • Posts: 12595
  • Gender: Male
  • I like models. She likes antiques. Perfect!
  • Respect: +876
    • Western Maryland Railway Western Lines
Re: Retro Tech Layout Project - N Scale Compact Layout
« Reply #10 on: January 25, 2019, 03:52:37 AM »
0
Ugh.  The lever switches all appear to be the Austrian variety, and I can see one of them is already problematic.

I guess I'll have to test drive each one (I have some other switch machines I can try them on that are more or less expendable) before I install them on the real thing.  I may also sacrifice one and do an autopsy to see if there's a simple way to make them more reliable.

I really want them to work.. they're awfully fun to look at!
Lee
Route of the Alpha Jets

Lee Weldon www.wmrywesternlines.net

David K. Smith

  • The Pitt
  • Crew
  • *
  • Posts: 10820
  • Resident fafgin' icehole
  • Respect: +1483
    • DKS
Re: Retro Tech Layout Project - N Scale Compact Layout
« Reply #11 on: January 25, 2019, 06:11:25 AM »
0
As interesting as those lever switches may appear, I'd opt for the Atlas slide switches instead. Easier to install, much more reliable, and available in different configurations to do different things. Plus, as a bonus, you can still get them new and they look identical to their earlier counterparts.

I used them to refurbish this retro layout. Before:



After:



http://davidksmith.com/modeling/rock-1.htm
"Life's a piece of sh!t when you look at it."
                                       —Monty Python

wm3798

  • Crew
  • *
  • Posts: 12595
  • Gender: Male
  • I like models. She likes antiques. Perfect!
  • Respect: +876
    • Western Maryland Railway Western Lines
Re: Retro Tech Layout Project - N Scale Compact Layout
« Reply #12 on: January 25, 2019, 08:45:25 AM »
0
I was able to take one apart, it's just snapped together.  I'm going to look at the actuator a little more closely to see if it can be improved.  There's really just one moving part.  I'll take some pictures of the disassembled pieces later to let us approach an improved design.

Lee
Route of the Alpha Jets

Lee Weldon www.wmrywesternlines.net

wm3798

  • Crew
  • *
  • Posts: 12595
  • Gender: Male
  • I like models. She likes antiques. Perfect!
  • Respect: +876
    • Western Maryland Railway Western Lines
Re: Retro Tech Layout Project - N Scale Compact Layout
« Reply #13 on: January 25, 2019, 12:48:53 PM »
0
Strong Arm Switch (Austria) guts...

Down position, resting


In the "down" position


The "up" position


Up position, resting.


The down position "spring" is definitely the most suspect part of the operation.  It's just not quite springy enough to guarantee that contact is momentary.



Here's a detail of the lever, which has a slot in one side that receives the phosphor bronze strip that transfers power from the hot leg that also serves as the pivot point, and the two contacts that go to the switch motor.

My first thought is to put a styrene spacer on the pad the spring lands on to provide just that little extra bit of resistance, like so...



The upper spring can get some extra resistance by putting a collar around the brass common leg at the top.



The trick, of course, will be to add enough of a spacer to guarantee the contact will be clear of the terminal when released, but not so much that it misses contact altogether.  I also have to be cautious of "over" flexing the plastic spring, which would cause the spring to become altogether ineffective...

I'm considering a couple of other procedures that might work, but this one involves very modest and easily removable modifications should they not work.  Stand by for news.

Lee
Route of the Alpha Jets

Lee Weldon www.wmrywesternlines.net

Doug G.

  • Crew
  • *
  • Posts: 749
  • Gender: Male
  • Respect: +74
Re: Retro Tech Layout Project - N Scale Compact Layout
« Reply #14 on: January 25, 2019, 12:59:08 PM »
0
The Austrian ones are fine to use as long as you get used to making sure the lever springs away a bit from its extreme positions. I have always moved it away from the extreme positions manually, after my one time of smelling melting plastic. Oddly enough, I caught it before the coil burnt up and I used that turnout for years with the melted part of the housing cut off and the coil showing.

As David said, the slide/push controls are more reliable. I have some of each on my current vintage (for the most part) layout. I also have some of the other Atlas switches (Selectors) on that layout, too. In the past, I have made "official" model railroad control panels with a track diagram and all that and I guess it seemed like a lot of work so now I just have the turnout controls and Selectors in a row and it's surprising how fast you can memorize which controller controls which block or turnout on the layout.

Doug
Atlas First Generation Motive Power and Treble-O-Lectric. Click on the link:
www.irwinsjournal.com/a1g/a1glocos/