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Martijn Meerts

Martijn Meerts

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Martijn Meerts

I'm considering building the first 2 mini-modules (that actually ended up not being quite mini after all :)) of my upcoming mini-modules collection.


The modules will be a small, 2-track rural station, with the focus on the detailing. Track will be placed diagonally over the modules. Trackwork and all buildings will be weathered, and the buildings will also all be lit up.


Will be using Peco code 55 track and turnouts, servo's to control the turnouts, possibly double aspect semaphore signals (stop and go, no distant signal). Signals will also be controlled by servo's. Buildings will likely be a combination of (mainly) TomyTec and (some) Greenmax. The station is meant for small trains, like single or double car KIHA 40's, and possibly long enough for something like a C11 with 3 cars.


I doubt I'll get everything done in time though, especially considering it looks like I'll be moving to a new place late september/early october :)

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Martijn Meerts

Well, it's been incredibly warm in the Netherlands lately (over 30 degrees Celsius), which means the attic where I do all my wood working was a sauna. Needless to say, I didn't get around to cutting the wood I bought for my mini-modules a while ago...


What I did do however, is order a couple of turnouts and some more track. I have a lot of turnouts already, but I wanted to use Peco's smallest ones, considering this will be a local line. Of course, even the smallest turnouts still have a 305mm radius. I also tested the idea in Railmodeller, and it actually JUST fits, although I need to test track spacing, because it looked fairly tight.


It's supposed to cool down here soon, so I'll be able to get the module bases sorted out before the real building phase starts :)

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Martijn Meerts

I recently received the track needed for the modules, trying to figure out which structures to use now. I have a TON of TomyTec buildings to pick from :)


I'm a bit uncertain about the direction of travel. Basically, it's a 2-track station on a local singe-track line. From what I understood is that most such stations have 1 track for 1 direction, and 1 track for the other direction. In that case I'll only need 2 exit semaphores, otherwise I'd need 4 of them. Problem is of course that the Tomix semaphores seem hard to get. An advantage of using 2 semaphores instead of 4 is that I'd only need 1 servo decoder (4 outputs total, 2 for the turnouts, 2 for the semaphores.)


http://www.1999.co.jp/eng/10096027 are the ones I'd need, but "long sold out" :)



Edit: Plaza Japan had a bunch of them in stock, just ordered 2 of them to start with, can always add 2 more later since I'll have an idea of the required space to install it. I'll end up removing most of the base and wiring. I really just need the wiring for the lights considering moving the arm will be done using a servo.

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Martijn Meerts

So, I figured I'd cut some wood now that's it doable up on the attic.. Also figured I'd make sure it'd be straight, so I used an aluminium L-profile clamped on the wood as a guide for the jigsaw.. In theory, a good idea. In practice however it turned out not to be the best idea, especially not when the profile seems to be slightly bent =)


Luckily the wood isn't that expensive, and it's always usable for other things anyway. I'll be heading to the wood shop to get some new, and have it cut there now that I know the exact measurements :)

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Martijn Meerts

Made a quick sketch to check out if things will fit. It's really noticeable that 20cm isn't much to work with :)


Lower track is for trains moving right to left, upper track for trains moving left to right. Branch line semaphores will be placed accordingly.


For the station, I'm probably going for http://www.1999.co.jp/eng/10068702 and http://www.1999.co.jp/eng/10068706. Also considering http://www.1999.co.jp/eng/10068701, but I feel that one will be better for a single track station. The station is just long enough to fit a C11 with 3 cars, which is pretty much going to be the longest train on these modules.


Not quite sure yet about the area around the station. I'm tempted to go for something Enoden-like, with building right up to the track. I do have plenty TomyTec buildings to use, so I'll probably just try some things once the track has been laid down.


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Martijn Meerts

In preparation for the start of the party, I built 1 of the 2 module bases I need. This time I had the wood shop cut the wood for me rather than do it myself, so they actually ended up being straight :) I forgot to take pictures while building the thing, but I will take some when I put the 2nd module together.


The semaphores I ordered for the modules turned out to be the wrong ones, so I ordered 2 of the correct type now. It seems that in Japan they used different semaphores for different tracks on stations. For example, on a 2 track line, there's a station with 3 tracks. 2 of the tracks would be considered "main line tracks" and 1 of the tracks would be "side line track". For the side line track they used shorter semaphores compared to the main line tracks. Initially I thought with "side track" they meant branch line tracks, but that doesn't seem to be the case.


So, I've ordered 2 semaphore exit signal for main track, and the 2 side track signals I've got now I'll use for a different module.



It'll actually be interesting to convert the signals for use with servo's. Shouldn't be too difficult considering the mechanism is already there. I definitely need to do something about the large PCB on the back of the signal though, it holds the LED and resistor for the light signal bit, and it actually covers the whole length of the signal ...

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Are you sure that's how the signals worked?


In modern Japanese signaling, on a main that has a branch there would be two signals.  A taller one controlling the main, and a shorter one offset to the side the branch is on that controls access to it.  These can get pretty complicated when multiple route choices exist, although with modern ones these are usually heads on a single mast.


On a siding re-entering the main or on the main at a trailing point switch you should (I think) have the same signal, although the siding might use Yellow/Red rather than Green/Red to limit speed through the switch. In a station those would be "exit signals" at least partially under the control of the Station Master.


I'm not sure how that would translate to semaphores.  I haven't seen enough older photos to have a sense for that. But from the pages below it seems like exit signals can be the same height on different tracks (perhaps lower than block signals on the main) and that subordinate yellow arms are used for something related to trains passing other trains (possibly an entrance signal at a station).  There are also examples of two signals, one shorter than the other and offset to the side, for controlling access to a branch (if I'm making sense of the Google translated text).


Googling for mechanical semaphore signal (腕木式信号機) does turn up a number of examples and an article (Japanese, page 1, page 2, page 3) on semaphore signals.

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Martijn Meerts

I'm definitely not certain that's how the signals work, but that's how I understood it from the small drawing in the 2010-2011 Tomix catalog. I'll scan and post it tomorrow if I don't forget ;)

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Martijn Meerts

Here's the scan from the Tomix catalog bit that explains positioning of semaphores.


The top one with the 2 track is basically what I'm going for. The kanji for the exit semaphores are the ones for the main line semaphores.


The bottom one show an additional track which is the "side track". The 2 bottom ones are still main line track, and therefor have main line semaphores. The top track however is the side track, which has 2 side track semaphores. The sidetrack is also the only one that has travel in both directions.


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This inspired me to try to line up the Kanji of the diagram with those on Japanese Wikipedia's Japanese Railway Signals page, and the above-noted LazyJack article on semaphores (yeah, I was bored this evening).  And I think I've mostly succeeded, although I'm a bit unsure of a couple of them. And, of course, I don't know Japanese and am depending on Google Translate, so I could be completely in left field.


For the first station, Google translate gives me:


主本使用出発信号機 = "The main use of this starting signal", which I think means "Departure signal for the main". Although it doesn't quite line up, this might be (Tomix 5543 腕木式副本線用出発信号機 "starting signal for the sub mains bracketed expression" per Google or "Mechanical semaphore exit signal for sidetracks" per the HS English description) it could also be 5541 (below), but the Kanji doesn't seem right for that (could be two different phrases for the same thing though).


The other station is more complex, but I think I've worked it out as:


主本線用場内信号機 = "Main line home signal for the Main". This could be either (Tomix 5544 腕木式副本線用場内信号機 "semaphore for the main line home signal sub-expression" or "Mechanical Semaphore Entry Signal for Side Tracks") or (Tomix 5545 腕木式主本線用場内信号機 "Main line home signal for the main semaphore expression" or "Mechanical Semaphore Entry Signal for Main Lines") the latter seems more likely from the English, but the former matches the Kanji more closely.


主本線用出発信号機 = "Mains starting signal for the Main". (This Kanji matches a single arm red w/ white per the LazyJack page). Which I think should be (Tomix 5541 腕木式主本線用出発信号機 "Mains starting signal for the main semaphore expression" or "Mechanical Semaphore Exit Signal for Main Line").


場内. 通過信号機 = "concessions . passing signal".  I've seen the phrase translated as "concessions" before meaning something about a siding within a station. (This Kanji matches a dual-arm red w/ white over yellow w/ black per the LazyJack page). And I think this is the (Tomix 5542 腕木式場内・通過信号機 "Passing signal bracketing the ceremony" or  "Mechanical Semaphore Entry/Passing Signal").


遠方信号機 = "distant signal". Which is pretty clearly (Tomix 5546 腕木式遠方信号機 "Expression semaphore distant signal" or "Mechanical Semaphore Distant Signal").


If someone who knows Japanese can correct any errors, I'd be grateful.

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Martijn Meerts

When I match up the kanji from the diagrams with the kanji in the catalog, I'm pretty sure that:


The top diagram semaphores are 5541 (exit signal for main lines) and 5545 (entry signal for main lines). From left to right it's 5545, 5541, 5541, 5545.


The bottom diagram is a combination of pretty much every semaphore they have :) From left to right it's (I think) 5546, 5544 (top), 5542 (bottom), 5543 (top), 5541 (bottom), 5543 (top), 5541 (bottom), 5544 (top), 5542 (bottom), 5546.


I could scan both full pages about the semaphores, one has the 6 semaphores and this diagram, the other has some descriptions about the various aspects.

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Martijn Meerts

After all the tearing down work done today, I really needed to build something as well. Ended up putting together the 2nd module base, so I have something to build the station on now :) Of course, the wood managed to get warped (it would seem the attic is humid as well, probably leaking somewhere even...) but it's fixable.


Pictures will follow soon-ish ...

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Martijn Meerts

Picture time!


Granted, they're not very spectacular, haven't started laying track yet ;)



Image 001:

The bits of wood I'll be using. Most of it has been cut at the hardware store, since my first attempt at cutting it myself failed miserably =) It's all common stuff.. 9mm plywood, 18x18mm pine, and (not shown) 5mm light weight variant of plywood.


Image 002:

Step 1: Cutting out some corners from the "end plates". This will aid in aligning the modules.


Image 003:

Step 2: Making some quick L-shape thingies, again for aligning the modules, as well as providing a bit more stability when set on a table.


Image 004:

Step 3: Profit!  ... ..  ... I mean, cut some holes for wires and such to pass from 1 module to the next.


Image 005:

Step 4: Adding the 2 supports that will hold the main bit where the track will be on.


Image 006:

Step 5: Mounting the L-shapes from step 2.


Image 007:

Step 6: Putting things together.


Image 008:

The 2 module bases with their sides of the 5mm plywood type stuff added. I've also already cut them to have a bit of landscape contours since I don't want the scenery to be entirely flat.









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You say most of this was cut at the store...what kind of setup do you have to complete the cuts? I'm in the boat that I don't really have any kind of workshop so I need to be neat and tidy (the fine china is 5 feet away) but I want to be able to put together stuff like this. My alternative is to wait for a really nice day and do it on the porch, and I still don't really have any heavy tools.


(oh and I really like how your mini benchwork-module boxes came out, which is why I'm trying to steal your secrets)

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Hey Martijn,


What are the dimensions of those boxes?  Any plans to paint the timber to improve lifespan and stability?  Finally, I don't quite get how the separate units lock together.





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Martijn Meerts

David, I use a Bosch jigsaw to do most of the freehand cutting. I use a more or less special saw blade meant for cutting curves. To cut larger straight lines I tend to clamp an aluminium profile alongside the cutline, and just use the jigsaw. For the 45 degree cuts, I use this setup from Bosch which allows you to use their jigsaws as a sort of cut-off saw. I don't have a workshop as such, the cutting was done on the attic. Works well enough except that during summer it's too hot and during winter too cold ;)


After I move to the new house, I'll have a garage to partially convert to a workshop. I'll probably end up getting a decent cutoff saw then as well, and some decent circular saw as well.



Ghan, dimensions are 20x50cm, 10cm tall (not quite "mini" ;)), and they will be painted yes. I'm probably painting both the inside as well as the outside. The inside I'll paint once the modules have settled a bit, the outside probably only after all the scenery is done.


They don't lock into place just yet, I'll add some clamps to the side walls as soon as I find some decent ones ;) They'll be something like http://www.alibaba.com/product-gs/303828695/Display_Box_Clamp.html , just smaller probably.

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Hey Martijn,


Wow!  It seemed 2-3 times that size in the photos.  I was thinking they were about 1.2m long!!!!


I'd be interested to see how the clamps work out.  What kind of accuracy do you expect? Do you need a locator pin or something?  I'm using joinery connectors on my layout.  They seem to allow millimeter accuracy when connecting the boards and I don't need fishplates at board junctions.


I look forward to seeing how this turns out.





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Martijn Meerts

They actually do look quite big on the photo.. Actually, they look quite big in real life as well, until you try to put some complicated track plan on it =)


I don't need a locator pin, the small wooden blocks that stick out basically align the modules. The clamps are really just to hold the 2 modules together. The accuracy is quite reasonable, there's little to no play in either direction (which surprised me quite a bit :))


The modules aren't meant for heavy use either, but mainly so I have some smaller projects to work on when I feel the big projects are becoming a bit too much. Another reason for the modules is to try out new techniques for ballasting, track laying, scenery, etc, and eventually as a test bed for my computer control program. Also, because they're so small, it's a lot easier to super detail them.


Lastly, I have quite a lot of short, urban trains which would do well on modules this size. I'm also getting quite the collection of Enoden trams, so I'll likely do some Enoden modules as well :)

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Martijn Meerts

Couple more pictures. Decided to do a test with the small station and C11 with it's 3 cars. Turns out's a real tight fit, the cars just barely fit alongside the platform if the loco drives completely past it ;)



Image 009:

C11 plus 3 cars alongside the platform. Seems the platform might be a little high for the cars, but that makes sense considering the platforms are designed to fit alongside Fine Track, which is obviously a bit higher than the Peco code 55 track. I wasn't planning on adding cork under the tracks, but I guess that might be a good idea after all :)


Image 010:

Same C11, other side.


Image 011:

Top-down view which shows that the 3 cars just fit alongside the platform. The smaller bit of platform on the right, just before the little station building, slopes down some, so it's not really possible to use that as part of the platform.


Of course there'll be a platform alongside the other track as well, I just didn't feel like putting it together :)




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Martijn Meerts

Cut out some cork yesterday, and glued that on. Of course, 1 of them got messed up somehow, and ended up not being glued to the module like it should've been.. Still figuring out whether I want to try and fix it, or just try and scrape off all the cork and try again :)


Sometimes I really hate cork ;)

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Martijn Meerts

Right, so I completely removed the messed up cork from the module, sanded it down, and glued on a new piece. Worked much better this time around :)


I also used some really fine sanding paper to sand down the cork itself, this gets rid of all the rough bits in the cork, which helps when laying the track. There's a slight height difference between the 2 modules, but that's easy enough to fix by sanding down the cork a little more on the module there's a bit too high. it's really only like 2/10th of a millimeter, if that.


Next step is to paint the cork and approximately 5mm on each side of the cork black, so that none of the cork or wood will be visible after ballasting. The question is where I've put the black paint though. We've already starting packing a bit, and it would seem the paint is already packed up somewhere =)


After painting, I can lay the track, which is going to be quite an adventure in itself, since I need to adjust the turnouts for DCC and servo control, as well as make sure where I want my detection sections to go.


Attached is an image of the 2 modules in their current state.


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Martijn Meerts

In between work, tearing down the old layout, slowly starting packing for the move, and various other things, I managed to put some time into the modules :)



Image 013:

Modified Peco turnouts. As I'm using servo's, I don't need the plastic bits and pieces the Peco added to mount their point motors. So to get a more prototypical look I cut away most of the extra plastic.


Image 014:

Peco turnouts have a small metal plate on the bottom which holds the little spring in place that keeps the point rails against the stock rails. With servo's, the spring isn't necessary (and actually not wanted), so the plate is removed. This has some negative effects when mounting the turnout though, so I made a plastic bottom plate and painted it flat black on the visible side.


Image 015:

Wired turnouts. After having a LOT of issues with Minitrix turnouts, I like to wire the Pecos to make sure they won't fail anytime soon. Blue and red are soldered to the stock and point rails, black is soldered to the frog. Black will be hooked up to a relay that switches frog power between red and blue. Also visible here are the custom bottom plates.


Image 016:

One of the turnouts in place for testing. Because I solder the wires to the bottom of the rails, they're hardly visible even without ballasting. The little white sleeper still needs some paint, but I'll be airbrushing all the sleepers anyway, so it'll get painted then. I also still need to cut the rails just to the right of the guard rails to isolate the frog from the point rails, but this is best done when the turnout is (temporarily) fastened with some screws.



Next up will be painting the cork (which I forgot to do today :)) and then start doing some measuring to decide where the brake and stop sections should be. Since each track will only be single direction, I'll only need a total of 4 occupancy detector inputs, just a shame that pretty much all the common detectors here have 8 inputs :)





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Martijn Meerts

Painted the cork and readied everything for track laying yesterday. Now I just need to figure out how exactly to do the occupancy sections.


Basically, I have 3 options:


1. The minimal option, which gives each track 2 occupancy sections (brake and stop). This allows for travel in 1 direction, which is really all I need. For both tracks that means a total of 4 occupancy detector inputs out of the available 8 inputs.


The disadvantage is that trains will ALWAYS stop at the same spot on the platform, regardless of train length. It might look weird having a single car Kiha40 for example stopping at the end of the platform.


2. The more flexible option, which has 3 sections per track. Depending on the train these sections can be standard, brake or stop. This would allow trains to stop in different positions depending on their length. This would use 6 out of 8 occupancy detector inputs.


The disadvantage is that I'm not sure if any program supports this in a decent fashion. Of course, since I want to build my own program anyway, it might not be a problem in the long run.


3. All out option, using 4 sections per track. This allows the same as option 2, but in both directions of travel. This might be too much since trains will likely never travel in both directions unless I add another 2 semaphores... This would use all 8 of the occupancy detector inputs.


The disadvantage is that the length of the tracks isn't really enough for 4 separate sections.



It is also possible to get trains to stop in the center of the platform even with only 1 section, but as discussed in various other threads on automation, this is too dependent on running characteristics of the trains, and those basically change constantly over time.


I'm likely going for option 2.



The plan for the coming days and the weekend, is to lay the track, then airbrush both the track and the sleepers, ballast the whole thing, and airbrush the ballast a little to soften the contrast between the track/sleepers and the ballast.


After that, the station building and platforms will likely need to get some lighting, and I'll also need to find a good way for cutting the platforms so they line up with the module ends.


I also still need to figure out what I want to do around the station with regards to roads, buildings, sidewalks, grass, etc. etc.

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