Now at last, time to start some work on the railway
, or what there is of it anyway.
I guess the first thing is to start with the two lengths for the main board. If like me you start with a new length of track (Peco 0-16.5/On30 here), so much the better. I would suggest using the two ends of the track at the join with the cassette, the factory cut ends should require no work to make them perfect for mating up to the cassette. For this project, my tracks are shorter than the layout length by about ¾"/19mm to allow a bit of space for a brick wall or fence at the end. I'm sure we all have our own preferred method of cutting rail, so I wont go into that, but would recommend that whichever method you use, a fine file is used to clean up the cut end and remove any burrs or swarf from the cutting.
Now you have the track for the main board, put them to one side for the moment, as we turn our attention to the cassette and the method of connecting the two together. From the remainder of the track left over, cut a length approximately the same length as the cassette base and clean up the ends. I am going to describe 2 methods of connection, the first easy to do, the second a little more complex, but I feel is better to use.
The simple way is to use conventional railjoiners, but as I'm sure most are aware, these are normally a tight fit and wouldnt be ideal for joining and seperating track on a regular basis. Thankfully, that is easy to cure. First off slide the railjoiners onto the length of track for the cassette, so the rail comes to the halfway point. If they are a tight fit, so much the better, if not once in position, gently squeeze them onto the foot of the rail with a pair of pliers. Now you will need a small screwdriver to slide into the open end to ease them open slightly, hopefully the photo will show what I mean.
What we are aiming for is to open them out enough for the incoming rail to slide into them easily. The one without the screwdriver in the photo has already been eased open. If you dont have a screwdiver small enough, a small nail pushed in could work, or some very thin nosed pliers should do the job. Use one of the lengths of rail prepared for the layout to check how smoothly they slide in and out.
Slightly more involved and does require soldering, but in operation, this is easier to use. This method consists of short lengths of brass rod soldered to the outside web of the rails. A couple of pics to show it will I hope help to understand how it works.
The shaping is fairly simple once the rods are soldered onto the rails, I hope the overhead shot shows how from the end of the rail, the rod bends in slightly, so that it firmly bears against the rail it is pushed upto, then flares out again which is to aid getting it into location.
For speed of construction, the rail joiner method is quicker, but it does take more care to get the the cassette to locate against the track on the layout. There is no reason not to have two cassettes to try each method to see which you prefer operationally.
LAYING THE TRACK
Once the method of joining is sorted, the track can now be fixed down on both the layout and cassette. There is not too much in the way of tips that I can think of to pass on here. The track is simply pinned to the board, using track pins through pre-drilled holes in a few sleepers/ties. I used 4 pins for each length, one at each end and two equally spaced along the length. Similar on the cassette, though an extra pin on the second sleeper/tie at the joining end, may be an idea. Although only going into card, the pins do hold very well. Track pins are preferable, though ordinary household pins may work, be careful that they are not too long for the base material, it is pretty borderline on the thickness I have used.
As for track spacing, this will depend on stock sizes, I have based mine on a maximum width of 40mm stock and the track centres are at 55mm or just over 2 inches, to give plenty of space between. Where they are positioned on the layout will depend on what you plan scenically. Mine are pretty much centred on the board, which will work with the way I plan to scenic it.
I guess the one thing that is worth setting correctly at this stage, is to have the ends of the rails level with the edge of the board where it meets the cassette, though with the rails being able to slide, it isnt critical at this stage and can be finetuned at a later stage. Now time to move onto the electrics.
Now I know this sends shivers of panic through some people, but it doesnt come any simpler than this project. Again I will describe 2 alternative methods, one quick and easy, the second a little more involved and probably the better way of doing it. So here goes, this should get rid of any fears for this project anyway.
OK, for those in a rush or have a fear of anything electric, this is for you and you should be running trains in a few minutes. All that is required is a screw block electrical connector. Probably has different names in different places, but I'm sure all will recognise them from the pic.
The most difficult part is removing them from the plastic holder. You may find some that are small enough to use complete with the plastic casing, but these were too big. To extract the centre, the part holding the screws need to be cut off, then the core slid out. The screws can then be removed and put back into the connector. Feed the connector onto the rails on the cassette, so the rail comes half way along the length and tighten the screw down onto the top of the rail. Then insert the output wires from your controller into the other end and thats it. Feeding through the cassette, means that whichever track on the layout the cassette is plugged into will be live, the other will obviously not have power to it. One of the advantages to this method, is that you can have 2 loco's on the layout at the same time, one with power, the other on the opposite track isolated. Time to play, though you might want to check method 2 to see if that is better suited to your needs
This second way of wiring is a little more involved and powers through the layout, rather than the cassette. Both tracks will be powered at all times, so only one loco can be used on the layout, but it does mean you can have several cassettes in use with different trains on them.
I have kept attaching the wires as simple as possible and it is just one way of doing it. Lets start with a pic.
I know I said that I wanted to avoid using solder, but couldnt resist
, plus I want to take this to shows, so reliability was a factor. Rather than solder directly to the rails though, the wires are soldered into cut down railjoiners, which are then put onto the end of the rails. For those that dont solder or dont have the facility, the same can be done by threading wires into the railjoiners, then squeezing them shut to trap the wires, a fair compromise I think
The wires are then taken along the surface and down to the connector inderneath, all ready for the controller to be connected to the other side. Note the staples to hold the wires down, I said this was back to basics
One last thing before the end of this instalment, which happened to me. While connecting the railjoiners to the end of the rails, I found that the rails had slid forward from the pressure of putting them on, so it will be worth checking the opposite end to make sure they are still level with the end of the layout. A ruler pushed up against the end will ensure everything is in place, like so
I'm hoping that one of these two options will be suitable for everybody. Of course those that have some experience will have their own ideas on how they want to wire things up and may even be able to offer better advise, if so please add your ideas to the thread. Now it's time to play for a while to make sure it all works properly
. The next step will be painting the track, that should be fun