Portchullin at St Neot’s – 11/12 March

Portchullin’s next outing will be this forthcoming weekend at the St Neot’s show:

Come along and see some noisy diesels like this?  I rather hope to have a type 1 make an appearance over the weekend and any HR enthusiasts might wish to see a Barney put in an appearance (still in brass, don’t get too excited!)

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Couldn’t have done it without……

As tonight is Oscar night and I am sure this phrase will make a few outings, I thought I could get in on the bandwagon……………….well, a more honest answer is that work has been rather too intense in the past few weeks for me to have done any modelling so I need an idea for a blog post!

So I thought I would share with you one of the most important tools in the Tatlow modelling armoury – a Proxxon TBM 220 bench drill.  The difference of this to my modelling is a much improved control over the drilling – its great when the hole appears where you want it!

Equally important is the really significant saving in drill bits (don’t laugh, it is true!).   There is a world of difference from a DIY store bench dril or even a Dremmel to these Proxxon drills.  Their accuracy is stunning and they are very well made so are smooth to use so you can control pressure with ease..  Add to this the chucks are such that they will hold down to a 0.3mm drill and these are so delicate that I really don’t think you cna use hand pin vices for these.  Thus, this gives you the ability to drill much smaller holes and without costing a fortune in fine drill bits.

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I have not presently got the compound table that I would need to enable this to be converted to a lightweight milling machine, but it is on the shopping list!

Mine was a nearly new model from ebay at just over £100 but they are regularly available from a number of supplies such as Axminster Tools or Proxxon themselves.  Well worth the buy, so go on…………

Christmas Layout Wiring (Not!)

I promised a number of people that I would be making sure that the layour had at least the main elements wired up over christmas, so that it could at last run.  But then it was a bit wet and cold so I did not fancy it out in the summerhouse so I applied rule no 1 – its my trainset!

Instead, I stayed at the bench and made a pair of the signals that still remain to be made for Glenmutchkin. The signalling plan has developed very slightly since I originally showed it back here and is shown below (actually this is the artwork for the control panel facia).

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The signals that I built were those that control the main loop prior to the shed link – levelrs 27 & 28 – and then the outer starter (that covers both the main loop and the main line) – levers 23, 24, 25 & 26.   Only a pair of two doll signals, I thought, they shouldn’t take more than a day or two?  Phew, well that wasn’t right; the more you look at the prototypes, the more you find there is to model!

Having created much of my own etchings and castings for MacKenzie & Holland signals I have obviously made good use of these.  In this case, the small brackets, arms, ladders and castings.

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Both of the signals have used the small brackets to create smallish landings.  The smaller of the two signals has only one arm per doll, the larger two.  The dolls and the posts are made up of square brass section which is filed to a taper – a certain amount of elbow grease is needed to acheive this!  The posts are then sandwiched between some transom beams that also clasp the doll post – this is all soldered with a high melt solder to stop it ungumming later.

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The brackets are then offered up from below, with scrap etch forming the bearing plates to pick up the transomes.  In the etch I also included smaller brackets to pick up the free end of the landing, along with the landing itself.  This gets you to the stage shown above.

But this is not the half of it on a signal, there are the finials, lamp brackets, lamps, cross stays, access steps, access ladders, pivot plates, handrails, operating cams, safety hoops and ladder still to do………..

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In a departure from my previous practise, I made the main ladders detachable (they will be held with the wire that can be seen in the pictures being turned over in secret pockets.  I am also going to paint this prior to the final assembly; which will mean some touching uo of the painting later but I hope will make it easier.

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And of course, I had to sign them with these rather nice custom name plaques from NBR 4mm Developments.

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This is the first time that I have used the brackets in signal making and I was pretty chuffed with how they have come out.  This is where things presently stand and we head for the paint shops tomorrow…….

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A Return Ticket to Buckingham – Part 3, the Automatic Crispin

Peter Denny’s Buckingham branch was very much an operational layout; for many years Peter’s children – Stephen and Crispin – were his chief assistant operators.  However, as his children grew up they weren’t always available and Peter found himself operating short-handed.   He found this frustrating as the need to cover the missing person interfered with the remainder of the operators.

This provoked the creation of the Automatic Crispin, one of the more famous parts of the layout.  Long before the use of DCC, micro-processors or automatic shuttles, this was an electromechanical computer – and very ingenious (and mind bogglingly complicated) it is too.  This was designed by Peter’s other son – Stephen – and took the place of Crispin to operate a portion of the layout automaticaly, in response to requests and commands from the other operators.

The heart of the system are a pair of disks and a paper chart with holes in it; all powered by motors and the enivitable mechano!  The disks contain a series of metal studs or runners, each of which is connected to either the bell, the block instrument, the track or turnout relays.  Running across these were a series of wiper blades of brass that connected power to the studs or runner as required.

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The operation of the disk was initiated by Grandborough Jct’s signalman.  As he sends a bell code, this sends a pulse of power to initiate the motor to rotate the disks or the paper chart on one segment; this first segment sends power to activate a bell code reply (each stud giving a ping).  When this is answered by Grandborough Jct, in addition to acknowledging the offering forward of a train with a further bell code, it sets the block instrument.  The acknowledgement of the latter being the next command to operate the correct route into the fiddle yard and power up the track in order to allow the train to arrive.  The arriving train would hit a dead portion of track at the end of the fiddle yard to stop it running away, but in the process would send the “train out of section” bell code back to Grandborough Jct to allow the line to be cleared.

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The story always told by Peter was that the Automatic Crispin was required when the real Crispin went to University but I think it is time to share with the world that this was a white lie.  Crispin’s more prosaic explanation was that he had discovered girls at the time and all of a sudden, playing with Daddy’s trainset didn’t seem quite so interesting…….

As can be seen in the pictures, at present the Automatic Crispin is presently in bits, but is all beleived to be complete.  It is part of Tony’s master plan to reassemble this; its orignator Stephen is apparently up for assisting to, so who knows?

To conclude the last of these three posts on Buckingham Central, a few photographs and to give you a chance to see the Automatic Crispen in action, take a look at this link to the BBC News article on Peter’s death and some video from circa 1980 of the layout – enjoy!

http://news.bbc.co.uk/local/cornwall/hi/people_and_places/history/newsid_8700000/8700293.stm

It is fair to say that Peter Bond and myself were not as proficient as Peter and his sons in this, sounds like we need some more practise Peter……..

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A Return Ticket to Buckingham – Part 2; Peter Denny’s Modelling

When I was still in my shorts, I used to peruse my father’s extensive collection of railway magazines for hours on end – the Railway Modeller, Model Railway News and the Model Railway Constructor.  I even marked in pen articles I particularly liked (not for long, the old man soon warned me off that approach!).  My memories from this period of Buckingham were not about its operational possibilities but for its modelling.

Whilst the years have passed and there are now a fair number of fine layouts that have eclipsed Buckingham, back in the 1970s (when I was leafing through these magazines) these were not common and going back to when the articles were being written 10 or 15 years before, only a very few even got close to the standard of Peter’s modelling.  So this post will illustrate what state of the art 1960s scenic modelling looked like.

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As can be expected of a layout that is 50+ years old, wear is showing in places and prior to his death, Peter Denny did have a programme of repair and improvement underway.  One of the aspects to be dealt with was the trees made of sprigs of lichen on trunks made of wire or heather – these had not faired well.

Tony had been mulling over what to do about this and consulted with Peter’s children who still have an interest in their father’s layout and seem to act as “non-exec directors” to the board.  The conclusion was “do as Peter would have done” and as a result little upgrades and repairs are being completed to Buckingham, so the layout will still develop.  In the case of the trees, replacements will be made of sea moss and ground foam.

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One story that Tony was able to share with us, which I do not think is widely known, is why Peter selected the Great Central for his modelling.  Apparently, he initially started modelling the Great Western but soon found that there were a few too many people that knew a too much about the GW.  He was concerned any incorrect details would be found out and so he sought out a rather lesser known prototype.  He settled on the GC because he wanted a prototype that had wooden post signals (he could not work out how to make lattice posts); he liked the brown and cream full coach livery that the GW & the GC shared and he did not want a company that used outside valve gear because he was concerned whether he could model it!

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The layout contains a number of quite clever little cameos, often segregated from one another with a bridge or a blocking building.  This means that there are quite a number of such scenes within close to each other without it looking too crowded.

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Beyond the buffer stops of Buckingham, a market square and a pair of streets were modelled.  Obviously, it is market day to generate a couple of extra trains – you can’t call this a cliche, because it was essentially the first example so every other example is the cliche!

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In the final part, I will take a last look at the layout and also one of its more iconic features – the Automatic Crispen; with a shock horror revelation………..

 

A Return ticket to Buckingham – Part 1; A Running Day

For my 100th post we ought to choose an interesting topic, so it is fortunate that I recently  wangled a return invite to visit Peter Denny’s Buckingham Great Central on a journey back home from the north east!

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I was accompanied on the visit by Peter Bond and although perhaps not initially intended, this turned into quite a long operating session.  Fortunately, there were several cameras on hand; so there are plenty of photographs – sufficient to split this posting into two or even three, so look out for further installments in a couple of days time!

Pete managed to blag command of Buckingham’s control panel; which is the most complicated of them – so he did regret his decision at times!  Here he is looking suitably perplexed!

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Perhaps with good reason…………..this is the control panel:

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And this is the signal diagram:

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All platforms have calling on arms, all lines have inner/outer homes and the platforms operate to receive and deliver!  So, there are a fair number of signals to contend with – all (well, nearly all if we are honest!) of which work and need to be complied with.  Here for example is the main home gantry………….

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On this occasion, I operated Grandborough Jct, which has a less exacting timetable but even so, its control panel has a few idiosyncrasies.  It (like that to Buckingham) is entirely handbuilt including its switches so some of them need to be coaxed across, others need to be pushed firmly and a few – most of the signals – do not yet work.  There were also hand made block instruments and some signal bells to contend with.

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Buckingham operates to a careful conceived timetable, that plots a “day in the life” of a busy market town station, not so inconveniently located for travel to London.  There is a variety of fast and semi-fast commuter trains to London; a pair of pick up goods trains; local services services and a couple of services that come off the Leighton Buzzard branch which continue through Grandborough Jct to terminate in Buckingham, such as this one just coming to a stop at Bourton Halt and disturbing a hunt:

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Even with over three hours at the regulator, we managed less than 20% of the day’s timetable; so we were going at around 120% of real time.   Peter originally had a speeded up clock to keep the pace moving (which Tony, the layout’s now owner has on the wall but does not use).  Apparently, you needed an experienced team to keep up with the clock and – just like the real thing – if you started to fall behind the whole system quickly becomes bunged up!

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The timetable contains just over a hundred train movements.  It starts in the morning with newspaper and milk trains, getting the town ready for the day.  Then the early morning commuter trains start, along with connecting local services.  A little later, the London expresses start, timed a little faster for the city suits to use (and pay for, they are posh coaches!).  Here is one waiting for the right of way.

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Once the morning rush is out of the way, a more settled period starts and the freight trains move around the layout interspersed with local passenger trains.  However, towards the end of the day the reverse happens with the returning commuters.  By the end of the evening, Buckingham is chock-a-block with trains, as you can see here:

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But this is not the end of the day, because all of the locos need to be released and sent to the sheds, the trains remarshalled and made ready for the next day (which was great, because Grandborough Jct had no moves so I could go and poke Pete for all the errors he was making…………).

And here are the day’s operating crew!

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So thanks for joining me on this blog; we are a minnow by some standards with around 40,000 hits but I hope there are things in here that interest you and maybe even some sources of inspiration!

Improving the Oxford Rail North British Jubilee Wagon

As I mentioned in my previous post the Oxford Rail Jubilee wagon is a pretty good rendition of the original but it does have a few small issues and is fundamentally the wrong colour!  Actually, these proved very simple to fix and the conversion to P4 was relatively painless; so within a couple of hours you can have a good rendition of this typically Scottish wagon.

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First off was the conversion to P4 which is not possible to do with the existing underframe as it is too narrow.  In an approach that I have not seen before, Oxford Models have created an underframe that slips between the solebars.  Even better, this is not secured with glue and merely popping out the buffer shanks from their housings allows this to drop out.  Neither the buffers nor the brake gear are secured with glue either and I elected to temporarily detach these from the model throughout to prevent any damage to them.  Bill Bedford pre 1907 RCH sprung W irons were then used but it was necessary to scrape back about ½mm of the inside of each solebar to get these in.  Checking the ride height against the buffer height gauge I found that the right height was achieved without the need for any packing.

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Although the axleboxes that are provided as part of the model are a bit crude, I did not have any better ones available (although 51L do provide them) so sought to retain these.  There is a fair amount of cutting required to remove the remains of the plastic W iron and open up the rear of the axle box to take even a waisted pin-point bearing.  Definitely do this with a finger drill and not a powered one as you need to remove as much plastic as you can short of actually going through it.  Cutting these rebates was the slowest part of the whole task.

The end stanchions were separate pieces and popped off without bother but the planking joints did not run behind them continuously.  Therefore, whilst it was easy to reattach the stanchions with glue, I had to score the missing plank joints in first.  The buffer shanks are a tad too long, more appropriate for NBR fitted wagons than unfitted but these were easy to deal with.  The metal heads pop out easily and then a few strokes with a file takes off about ½mm to reduce the length.  The fixing hole needs to be deepened slightly and then the head can be resecured with a dab of glue.

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The missing ironwork to the solebar was from a left over etch; Mainly Trains and ???? do alternatives.  I found that the rivets to the straps either side of the door had some of its rivets in impossible locations (in the joint between planks) and I therefore shaved these off prior to applying replacements with Archer transfer rivets.  This is the first time I have actually used these and they are really easy to use; much quicker than any other method.  The strapping to the inside of the wagon was missing, so this was added with microstrip and more Archer’s rivets.  The hinge rings to the end door should be almost a full circle so these were replaced with pieces of bent wire to conclude the physical modifications.

The model comes fitted with scotch fulcrum brakes to both sides which is correct for some vehicles but I cut away one side as I wished to represent the more common variant that had these only to one side.  The actual fulcrum and brake block detach from the underframe without difficulty and I found that I could reuse it, after first mounting them on a piece of plasticard secured to the underside of the floor.  I did, however, change the brake lever which I thought to be a bit clunky with an etched replacement and added a fair amount of lead as the model is very light.  I also attached a piece of scrap brass to the underside – as seen below – as a temporary means to hold the wagon whilst it is painted.

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I chose to lightly abrade the surface of the existing lettering with a fine wet & dry paper as I was concerned that they might leave an impression through the new paint.  Thereafter I painted them all over with Tamiya Paints, German Grey, picking out the ironwork to the solebar and below with black.  The lettering was from PC Transfers sheet 20 but it will be partially lost below weathering; when I get it to this stage!

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Here we can see the benefit of the brass strip to hold the model with during painting and weathering.

Oxford Rail North British Jubilee Wagon

Until recently, there have never been any mainstream ready to run locomotives or stock suitable for the pre-group modeller of the Highland.  Whilst there remains nothing that emanated out of Lochgorm, with the release by Oxford Rail of a NB 8 ton jubilee wagon we do at least have one that would have made it onto the system regularly!

The first of these wagons originated from 1887, the year of Victoria’s jubilee (hence their name) and the bulk were constructed at Cowlairs but with others from several outside contractors.  The design was developed and eventually over 20,000 were constructed, forming the mainstay of the North British’s mineral fleet.  The model represents an example of the diagram 16B wagons, built from 1896 and marginally longer than those that went before.  Oxford Rail presently produce this in NB livery and five private owner liveries, recognising that many of the railway company’s vehicles were leased to collieries and took on their lessee’s branding.

Dimensionally, the model matches the prototype well and as a result the proportions capture the character of the prototype.  One exception seems to be the stanchions to the fixed ends which are placed rather too close together.  Although with such a large number of examples spread over many batches there may have had examples with this closer spacing, I have not been able to unearth any photographs to confirm this.  This problem is not difficult to solve, as the end stanchions are separately applied with small spigots attaching them to the body – thus it is easy to prise them off and reattach them on fresh holes at the correct distance apart.

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The model correctly incorporates scotch fulcrum brakes, although it provides one complete set per side.   Although not wrong, it was more common for the wagon to be fitted with brakes to one side only and this variety can be provided by the relatively simple task of the removal of one set.  In an approach that I have not seen before, the solebars are part of the body moulding with a separate chassis moulding that sits inside this.  This does make the colour changes between the ironwork and the timber crisp but has resulted in the width between the W irons being narrower than usual – especially as the width over the solebars is a tad narrow.  It is possible to convert the wagon to EM but it requires the shaving of a large degree of the inside of the W irons to take the increased width across the wheel faces.  It is not possible to widen it further to accommodate P4 wheels, so to convert the wagon to P4 requires the replacement of the W irons in total.  Few P4 modellers will be put off by this as with some carving away of some the inside of the solebars, Bill Bedford sprung W irons can readily be used.  If the vehicle is to be kept as OO, the wheels can be retained as the correct split spoke wheels have been provided – a first I believe for a ready to run model.

The moulding is beautifully crisp throughout and the detail neatly incorporated.  There are good amounts of separately added elements of detail – such as brake gear and buffers – assist in achieving a quality rendition of the prototype.  They are also readily removed/reinstated, which is of assistance if you chose to enhance your model or convert it to one of the wider gauges.  Rather peculiarly, a number of fairly obvious elements of ironwork to the solebar have been overlooked, including the crown plates.  On the private owner variants these are visible so it appears to have been the intention to paint these on the model but this has not occurred in the North British liveried version for some reason.   However, it is not particularly difficult to add these as they are available as etches from a number of sources.  The most obvious issue with the model, however, is its colour; it is much too light for North British wagon grey and no amount of weathering will disguise this.  This is a shame because the printing of its lettering is exquisite and any repaint will obliterate this.

Other points of detail that are not quite correct are the end hinges, part missing internal strapping, buffers that are too long for an unfitted wagon, overly skinny side door hinges and a few rivets that are in impossible positions.  However, only the more fastidious modeller will want to change these (although this might include me!) and but for the colour this would be a “ready to plonk” model for most people.    Helpfully, none of these points are insurmountable with a little effort and for those that want to improve the model, it will be a task of only a few hours.

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So overall, I would commend this to the Scottish modeller of the pregroup or grouping era as it captures the look of these distinctively Scottish wagons even if it does really need a repaint.  As I have hinted, I have attacked my wagon to correct these issues and convert it to P4; this will appear in the next blog post.

1955, somewhere in North London

In my travels, I have managed to blag an invite to see Bob How’s developing model of King’s Cross and portions of the Great Northern’s main line in north London.  This is depicted in the mid 1950’s when the pacifics still reigned supreme and there was a full mix of locals, semi-fast and express passengers, along with a modicum of freight on the metropolitan widened lines.

It is hardly surprising, given the magnitude of the layout, that this is still a work in progress but what has been built is largely operational and therefore playing of trains is a regular feature in the How household.  Given the location of the prototype, this means even the relatively short trains were 6 coaches in length and the full expresses upto 10.  All this is in P4 and includes various gradients/curves to allow the lines to cross each other, so it tests the haulage power of loco’s upto prototype levels!

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The more scenically finished portions of the layout are on the continuous run outer loop which comprises twin tracks to one side and four tracks to the other.  This culminates in a very impressive junction where the main line to Kings Cross joins and a dive under to give access to the fiddle yard passes below.

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As can be seen, there is still lots of work to do to these areas, including the provision of signals but the impressive nature of the layout is immediately apparent.  But the real magnitude of the endeavour becomes apparent once a look at the terminus is made.

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Even without any meaningfully completed elements of scenery, this is unmistakably Kings Cross that no doubt all of us are familiar with either from personal experience or photographs.  Just imagine what it will be like with the full trainshed and a batch of northbound trains waiting their due departure time?

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Bob’s intentions are to model the full station, including the MPD, the suburban station and milk depot; although at present these last areas are sill to be started.  It will be a monster when it is finished!  As you can see, even the fiddle yard is somewhat of a giant, although Bob was close to admitting that it is rather too small for the layout!

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Apologies for the grainy photos, the layout lighting is a task still to be confronted and photography was pushing the camera to its limit!

You have some catching up to do Mr Hanson………….

Control Freak

I have been back onto the layout of late, with a view to get the first wheel turning on it before too long.  That means attacking the electrickery things, beginning with the control panel.

I made a start on this by drawing up a diagrammatic representation in MS Paint and then using this to get one of the online firms (Vistaprint) to print me up a poster board to form the basis of the control panel.  I am not sure I chose the right material as it turned up on a light weight foam board and I had to mount a sheet of aluminium behind for it to be stiff enough to be useable.  But it did look pretty smart I thought………….

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The control panel deals with all of the signals and turnouts that the cabin will have controlled, with local ground frames (which will be located on the boards locally) to be used to control the goods yard and the MPD.  The latter will be arranged such that it can be located either to the front or the rear, to allow some flexibility in operation.

I have got to the point where the full extent of switches have been wired in and I am just completing the jumper leads.  I took a lot of care to plan the wiring prior to any construction – despite the locos being DCC controlled, there are an awful lot of wires.  This is because I have stuck with traditional control for the turnouts and signals.  There is further complication as a result of the desire to incorporate some bells and even a block instruments (well maybe, at the moment it is just the wires!).  So in all, there are 90 odd wires doing something or another on the layout.

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Somewhat in contrast to Portchullin, I have sought to keep the wiring as tidy as possible; everything is neatly collour coded and even labelled (to be fair it was labelled on Portchullin, but in a non colourfast ink………..!).  I am hoping that this will make the wiring easier to debug at the start of the matter and repair if it does get damaged.

I am proposing to use a variety of connectors between boards and to the control panel, including this rather nifty varient of the D-sub range that is wired directly onot a cheeseblock wireless connector.  Available to a variety of types from ebay including from this seller.

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