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Blackpool on a Shelf - Model Tramway


scoopey
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This is the story of building a model tramway...

It starts of with the dangers of looking on eBay...
Was looking for a bit of colour to go with my model tanks and saw in one of the random search results a model tram...so I searched for model trams. They can be expensive to motorise (£50+) but one seller was making a kit for £12 and I thought I could have a go at that...and so it began.
Having only a 2 metre shelf x 25cm there was not of room to play, but people have made 00 gauge shunting layouts smaller so I could work with it, albeit some compromises. I decided though that this would be portable and had to fit in my (small) car.
Here's the initial planning....

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I'd decided from the start, that despite the difficulty of construction I was going with a traverser at both ends to shuffle the running order of trams "off stage".
With that in mind it reduced the scenic area to 1.6 metres x 25cm, and so I designed my baseboards...

20200905_183313 20200905_183244

 

 

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TBH , about 20 years ago, I collected Corgi and EFE buses and trams. I sold them all about 6 years ago so I had to buy some back.
Was originally going with Dick Kerr 4 wheel trams as they were being sold (wrongly) on eBay as 1/76 when in actual fact they are closer to 1/64 which is a slightly awkward scale. The Balloon and railbus trams are 1/76 so its easier.

I could have also gone Hong Kong trams as they are around as well in either 1/76 or 1/87. The compromise with the Blackpool trams is the motorising unit is only a 4 wheeled chassis, making them less bogie and more railbus but TBH without any tight curves to spoil the effect then it is not as noticeable unless you are really looking. By the same token a lot of the £50 bogie units install on the inside between the Corgi casting and the cast bogie frames are left on the model. This to me seems equally odd, although cutting them off and attaching them to the actual motorised units would be very difficult without damaging the model. To motorise the Corgi tram therefore is solely based on which compromise you accept.
Railbus chassis is incorrect prototypically but the actual motor is below the glazing level.

Bogie units which are prototypical but you end with a motor unit visible through the side of the tram....

I'm a cheapskate so £13 it is lol!

 

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Now that I have a base coat of white all over the wood, I decided to paint it black...because I'm funny like that.

OK Aldi had some black paint on offer and I figured out that no matter how well I fill in between the rails one would see the baseboard so it would be better black than white.

20200910_191113 20200910_191107

 

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Next up, start laying the track.

Unseen in the early pictures is the fact that the I had metal dowels in the central joint to guarantee they would align perfectly everytime. Now I had to use bolts to make sure the boards are tight. Using two pieces of track each with a pair of copper Clad board located either side of the centre I fixed the track in place.

I was going to use 4 pieces of track and align the ends together but the model railway gurus all say use a solid piece across the joint and then separate them with a saw (or dremel) afterwards, this way the track at the joint is perfectly aligned.

 

20200911_192551

 

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Now the bit I was dreading...cutting the central track joint.
I got a new razor saw for the job, but the fear was what might happen if I started sawing and the blade jumped.

No g clamps to attach a guide from scrap wood and buying them for one job seemed OTT. Then I remembered I had some cabinet "blocks" in stock and they fit between the rails rather well.

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With a guide to prevent the saw jumping I managed to cut the track and split the boards

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Currently funds are low until payday. I am working on electronics/electrical for the traverser(s)

Tried sliding contacts and that did not work on a prototype.

The next method is microswitches with a striker arm.

The traverser with 3 entry sections though requires 18 of them (or 9 x DPDT but they are very expensive).

The alternative is relay switching controlled via a rotary switch which I need anyway for when I put the motor drive in.

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The great gamble in progress...

The traverser electrics. Whilst relay switching is nice, until I get a motordrive installed I really wanted the traverser to automatically connect the sliding tracks to the board exit.

This is tricky because most people use a double line into a traverser, and I have 3 at the "North" end.

Already mentioned, the sliding contacts did not work so I went with microswitches.

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For the design parameters I had to work out the way it switched. In position one the three input lines can connect to the first three lines on the traverser.

Since DPDT micro switches are at stupid prices that meant for each track I needed a pairs and since three lines are connected that meant 2 x 3 =6

In position two three lines also connect to three lines, so another 2 x 3 = 6

In the third position the line furtherest away connects to nothing so only two tracks can connect. Therefore 2 x 2 = 4

In the last position the front track on the board connects to the last track on the traverser 1 x 2 = 2

Altogether 18 switches.

To trigger them I created a pair of striker plates that operates similar to a music box.

The actual traverser is made from polycarboante ( a seller on ebay cuts to size). This is why you can see the actual track on the underside view.

Switches are mounted to two plastic plates with slots for screws to fine tune the alignment.

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Well i wanted to run the connecting lead under the traversers but found that they fouled the microswitch assemblies. 

I therefore put them top side so each one has a connecting umbilical to supply power to the traverser tracks. At the same time I removed the original trial switch assemblies and "upgraded" them. Instead of them being glued in groups they are now bolted so that individual switches can be replaced. 

 

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I added a piece of ply to mount the motor for each traverser. It fitted between the end wall and inner endwalls.

Motor gearbox was 20mm diameter.  A perfect bracket I found were metal conduit clamps. Lead screw is just an M6 threaded bar. The anchor point on the platform used an M6 barrel nut. 

This is 10mm diameter so a pair of 10mm pipe clips formed the basis to attach the barrel nut to the sliding platform.

Perhaps the only problem I had was connecting the lead screw to the motor gearbox.

I tried a rigid coupling but since the mechanics were not perfectly aligned I lost a lot of energy pulling the traversers at the near end. After swapping for universal joints both traversers ran a lot more smoothly.

Below are pictures of both traversers and the rebuilt switch assemblies. The more complicated being the one with 3 entry tracks.

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And I'm still not finished with microswtiches...

Need to add another 6 to each traverser to trigger the motor stop.

The end stops are easy but in experiments with "snap" action switches and a trigger cam I noticed that the "snap" point changes when the cam is running forwards or backwards. The difference is only about 1.5mm travel but thats enough to have track out of alignment. I'm therefore adding two triggers for each mid point "stop" location. Traverser positions 2 and 3 will be governed by 4 switches but only two used at a time, depending if its running forwards or backwards....

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  • 2 weeks later...

Wiring done on the traversers. This is the "North" traverser, so called as it's at the northern end of the railway. 

Already there are microswitches underneath to select tracks. The additional six switches in the picture are positional switches. They are triggered in sequence, three on the outward travel and three on the inward travel.

Two are endstops and the other 4 are dispositions. They are actually 2 pairs that are triggered at the same time. The reason for this is that microswitches tend to trigger slightly different if the trigger is being pulled or pushed. The difference is perhaps 1mm or slightly more. Negligible in most cases but not when lining track up!

Therefore the mid positions are only activated in one direction....of course now  have to find tune it all!!!!

20201015_202648

 

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Hi Scoop.

This is amazing, and far too technical for me.  I know the Blackpool tram system very well and rode my first tram along the promenade in the late 1940s, we lived in Wigan at the time and had regular holidays with relatives in Poulton.  My favorite stop was 'Uncle Toms Cabin' for the boating lake.  I had my first ever flight in a Dakota from Squires Gate Airport in 1949, I think that this sowed the seed for my joining the RAF, 60 years ago on Sunday.  There was a toy shop at the entrance to the North Pier, I think that I still have a couple of Corgi trams still in their boxes packed away somewhere.  Hope that you are keeping safe in Manchester, I am kept up to date by my Grandson who manages a restaurant/ bar in the City centre.    Robin.

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Aha  i did not see your reply Robin....

I've not been to Blackpool for a long time. When I decided to do this I was shocked to discover the Balloons and Railcoaches are now heritage tours.

Their design was decades ahead in style. I really need to find out if other non Bkackpool trams "visited" the line. I have heard that at one point there was a Hong Kong tram there which then ended up in Birkenhead.

When I've finished I want to have a Dreadnought,  Toast rack and Boat.

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These are pictures of my relay interlock circuits triggered by each traverser. When the motor is in operation the lead in tracks have power disabled. It will prevent a team being driven on or off the moving traverser. 

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  • 3 weeks later...

It's been a while since I've posted as I've been very busy wiring everything up. Part of this process involved me removing the microswitch positioning sensors on the traversers. Though my system worked as it was a mechanical system it had a tendency to lose it's accuracy if I worked on the layout. Having to reset the positions got annoying. 

I decided to change the triggers to an optical break beam system. This is made easier for many people these days due to modules being made for arduino systems. I could have built my own modules but the cheapness of buying them meant it was not worth the time and effort. I did build my own boards connect all the wires though. 

The best part about the modules is that they have leds which makes it easy to set up and test.

However I will have to take over them when it's all set up as the green light would be a distraction if I make the tramway light up in the dark.

20201118_202815

 

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