Sunday 21 January 2024

Remote Control and Battery for Fowler

Finally after very long time and a lot of frustrations my second loco can now move under its own power. The Fowler F 30 from Essel Enginering has been fitted with a new control system and battery. Now traffic can finally take off to new heights on the 1/19 scale model of the 600 mm gravel line at Nystrup Gravel.

For the real Nystrup Gravel company the arrival of the Fowler in 1934 meant an increase in capacity. The Fowler could pull longer trains than the smaller Danish built locos.

As delivered the Essel Engineering Fowler was equipped with a huge battery pack and manual control via toggle switches in the cab and chimney. That's probably not too bad on a garden railway with few directional changes and long or continuous runs. On a very short layout manual control is (in my view, at least) unpractical, even if the chimney speed control on the model worked fine. Having had good experience with the RC equipment built into my little Lister it was my plan to fit the Fowler with RC gear from RCTrains. Despite being quite a patient guy, I simply gave up waiting for an RC-receiver. Having been e-mailing back and forth with RCTrains regarding the order since July 2022 without any results to show for the effort, I looked for an alternative. Now the Fowler has been fitted with a Maxi unit from Loco Remote.

Testfitting the Maxi unit next to the motor.

While the RCTrains equipment works with a hand held RC transmitter and receivers in the locomotives much like the better known RC cars and planes, the Loco Remote design is based on a unit placed in the locomotive and a controller interface generated by the unit on a Wi-Fi device like a phone or tablet. Quite clever actually, meaning you only have to purchase the unit for the locomotive as most people have a Wi-Fi enabled phone these days. The Maxi unit consist of three prints with components assembled into a single 'brick' to be connected to battery and motor.  

Originally a huge battery pack protruded into the cab. Here seen before I dismantled it and the original speed controller (seen to the left of the motor).

The battery pack in the Fowler originally consisted of no less than 6 AA-batteries. A small layout like mine has no use for locos with neither the power or endurance as a garden railway and I cut down the battery size to a single rechargable 9 V battery. How I dismantled the Fowler was described in this blog post. I fitted the new Li-ion 9 V battery between the frames mounted transversely between the axles. The battery was simply fastened to the loco's underside with double sided tape. I used a standard click-on connection to the battery's poles and ran wires to a sliding switch under the cab floor.

Battery well hidden between the frames held in place with two pieces of double sided tape. The battery can be recharged in the loco via the USB connection.

The wires were routed to the sliding switch under the footplate through a hole in the scratch built cab floor via a small fuse. From there wires were run to the Loco Remote Maxi under the bonnet. The inside of the bonnet was covered in insulating tape to avoid accidental contact with the electrical components. The motor terminals were then connected to the Maxi and that's all the wiring needed on the loco. I will be installing lights on the locomotive later and wires are of course needed for that, too.

Switch and wires fitted under the cab floor connecting battery and Loco Remote Maxi unit.

Protective plate fitted under the model's rear end. Makes sure no wires snag on my prototypically bad and overgrown track.

Loco Remote Maxi unit mounted between motor and gear box cover. I covered the inside of the bonnet with insulating tape, but the Maxi unit fits perfectly and could possibly work risc free without. But better safe than sorry!

The business of connecting the unit installed on the loco with the controller interface on my phone worked out without any problems at all. I simply followed the guide from Loco Remote and everything worked exactly as laid out in the instructions. I guess anyone with a modern phone could do this - my 80 year old dad included.

Happy moment on Nystrup Gravel! The Fowler is moving smoothly along my home built track controlled by my phone. A true breakthrough for my small model railway.

With functuality and power established I'm now moving on with detailing the Fowler to make it resemble the Nystrup prototype with all its small modifications.

Thursday 18 January 2024

Snow, Frost and Gravel Extraction

It has been rather cold in Denmark lately and with a cover of snow all over the country. It's been a few years since we have seen that. Snow didn't hamper gravel extraction as such. As long as the temperatures didn't drop too much below zero making the ground's top layer frozen, an excavator could force it's way to the gravel.

Winter in a gravel pit. Photo: Mimi Kristiansen.

The main reason for Nystrup Gravel's low production during winter and snowy conditions was the demand for gravel from construction projects. Most construction projects were stopped or reduced during winter to limit the risk of stoppages due to frost and snow. Winter was thus a season of repair and maintenance of equipment and production facilities.

Some of the workers at a Danish gravel company taking a break in the shadow of the company's loco shed. If they had good skills for maintaining equipment they kept their job during winter and frost periods. Otherwise they were laid off and had to find other jobs to help sustain their family. Often hard during winter where manual labour wasn't needed in agriculture. 

Tuesday 9 January 2024

Power, Poles and Isolators

A little over a year ago I received some excellent 3D printed porcelain isolators for my little 1/19 scale layout. I have now fitted a few isolators to poles made earlier. The poles are first stage in the electricity and lighting installation on the layout.

Finished pole top with isolators and protective sheet metal cover.

In Denmark wires hung from steel or wooden poles are fast disappearing completely as most wires and cables are being buried. Some may appreciate the improved view from their house, but I've always liked the nice and orderly impression of  power or telephone wires on a wooden pole. But while poles are becoming abscent from the Danish landscape new ones are now being erected on the Nystrup Gravel layout.

The fate of many Danish poles: stacked waiting for a new owner or the chipping machine.

My work began with separating the isolators from the small print support sprue and file away the tiny attachment stub. The 1/19 scale isolators are designed with a small hole in the bottom to accept a 1 mm wire for mounting. I had planned to make a small jig for bending the isolators' mounting bracket, but I soon realised that making a jig would consume more time than hand bending double the number of brackets freehand and binning the worst. I bent the brackets from 1 mm nickle silver wire and having selected the best, they were trimmed and isolators test fitted. Each bracket was then adjusted to ensure a minimum of similarity of the isolators' position on them.

Once I was satisfied with the isolators' fit on the brackets I painted the isolators with a light sand colour and the brackets a light grey. When dry I mounted the isolators in pairs on the poles in predrilled holes. My model poles correspond to a prototype height of 6.5 m and I fitted the isolators with a distance of 2 cm on the poles with reference from prototype poles. Once the AC glued had dried I weathered the isolators lightly with a wash of black oil paint while the brackets received a burnt sienna wash for imitation of rust.

Fresh from the 3D printer: A 20 piece double row of Danish pattern porcelain isolators in 1/19 scale from Per Møller Nielsen of Epokemodeller.

Four isolators fitted to nickle silver 1 mm wire. Final adjustment still to be done to ensure a minimum of similarity of the isolators' position on their wire brackets.

The previously made wooden poles had been fabricated from round wooden sticks that I sanded with a file to obtain a slightly tapering shape. I smoothed the surface somewhat with finer modelling files before I treated the pole with dark grey wood staining fluid and an assortment of thinned acrylic colours. Each pole took no more than 10 minutes to make. Before I mounted the isolators I fitted the poles with the usual top protection to avoid the rotting from the top in the humid Danish atmosphere. I made two types from cut-up soda can metal: the simple bent pointed plate and the flat topped round version. 

Close up af a pair of isolators on a pole.

I have yet to find permanent locations for the poles as I'm still looking for an ideal balance between what will look good and at the same time put the poles least in risc of damage during traffic on the layout. Once the poles have foundt their final upright positions I'll show them in their full height and glory!