Motorising Corgi OO Gauge Blackpool Trams

This is a guide to motorising the Balloon and Railcoach Blackpool trams made by Corgi, using the motor units made and sold by Connexions2011 on ebay (There is no direct link to the specific unit, as eBay items are ephemeral, so you’ll just have to go by the photo to identify the item you need).

This may seem like nothing more that a re-write of their instructions, but it includes my observations and thoughts on the process as it goes along.  With photos.

What you will need

A Balloon or Railcoach model.

balloonbrush
For this I’ll be using the Balloon tram.

A motor unit

motor-unit
(Photo taken from the eBay page – to help you identify the correct unit)

Some tools

  • 3mm Phillips screwdriver
  • A scalpel
  • A Dremel (or cheap Maplin copy)
  • A straight bit of OO track
  • Milliput
  • Superglue
  • Somthing to keep the bits in – I use a Bold 2in1 detergent box – its the perfect size:2016-10-27-08-48-07-hdr

So here we go…

Start by taking out the screws A, B and C.

balloon-step1a

The lifeguards at the ends should just pull away.  Put everything you’ve removed in the storage box. And assume that from now on you’ll be doing the same with everything you remove.

Next get the Dremel (or cheap Maplin clone) out, and drill around both of the metal poles between the wheelsets with a 1mm bit. Make a better job of it than I did.

balloon-step1b

You can now prise the base plate off by inserting a thin blade under each end of it, twisting slightly, and dropping the wheelsets on the floor. You’ll be wanting to pick them up.

Now you should have some twisted melted plastic bits stuck to the ends of the poles.

balloon-step1c

By a combination of whittling, grinding, and frantically twisting with a pair of pliers, these should come off an allow the whole tram to fall apart.

balloon-step1d

At this point you might want to do any dressing up of the top deck that you have planned, such as painting the floors, adding seat upholstery and mounting figures. I’m not doing that on this one.

Now you should have the roof unit with two poles sticking out from it.

balloon-step1eThese have to be removed, but take a lot of wiggling to do so. You might want to unbolt the pantograph/trolley pole mounting to avoid damage. If you do so, remember to re-attach it afterwards, just to avoid the screaming later on.

For now put the upper deck diecast part, upper glazing unit and upper seating area to one side. We’ll get back to them in a while.

Take the lower seating deck, and pull out the steps.

balloon-step1f

balloon-step1g

This is where we get destructive. We need to cut out a large area of the lower seating area. This is also where I deviate from the suggested instructions. The suggested idea is to re-mount the outer wheelsets. I’m not doing that, so I’m cutting the mounting points out and running the tram as a four-wheeler. This is in an attempt to get the tram to negotiate a tighter  curve than a 12″ radius.

I’ll get back to that in a moment, but for now let us deal with the upper deck sections, lower deck casing and lower deck glazing part.

Glue them together so that they all fit. Superglue is good.

balloon-step1h

Now we get to the nitty-gritty. We need to make the motor unit fit into the lower seating deck area in such a way that

If you are squeamish about poor workmanship, stop reading now, cos its going to get really ugly.

Cut out enough of the lower deck to fit the motor in:

cutout

Fit the motor from below:

motor-fitted

Now get it in to place to that the wheels are clear of the plastic and its got this much clearance:

motor-aligned

At this point you should be marking out where to drill mounting holes and brackets and things of that kidney. So I just decided to hold the ends in place with lumps of Milliput:

milliput-disaster1milliput-disaster2

These pics also show that the ends of the baseplate and life savers have been refitted.

Now all that there is to do it put the already assembled upper section on top of it, and have a look at it:

balloon-finished1

balloon-finished2

You can hardly tell that there aren’t bogies under there!

And thats it!

Gilneas – The City That Blizzard Forgot

Back in the long long ago, the before time (ok, December 2010), Blizzard released World of Warcraft: Cataclysm, and everyone got all excited as they usually do. Then people got upset that their favourite race/class got downpowered, then they became happy that they could fly in the old lands for the first time, and that kept them busy for a while.

Alliance fanboys played rolled up Worgen characters and played their way through the new dedicated starting area.  They were amazed to see an amazing cod Victorian-Gothic land with some fantastic architecture and landscape, and of course, big fucking werewolves.

From the brooding darkness of Gilneas City, to the grandeur of Greymane Manor, the Gilneas starting zone is wonderful. It is a series of well thought out quest chains, stunning cutscenes, and… well then it ends. The character getting shuffled off to Rut’theran Village on Teldrassil, and Gilneas is never spoken of again.

Unlike the Goblin (and later Pandaren) starting areas, which are off on separate islands that can’t be returned to, Gilneas is on the Eastern Kingdoms mainland. You can go back there, but it most will have no reason to. There are no quests, no NPCs, no… anything, except a stunning and forgotten zone.

This makes is idea for roleplaying in, and, if you are in to such things, modifying to add quests and NPCs (but that is a subject for another day).

So… onward…

Get to Gilneas!

Well, to put it bluntly, one does not simply fly in to Gilneas.

Horde characters have a flightpoint at The Forsaken Front in Silverpine Forest, which is just north of the wall. (You might be lucky enough to have the Forsaken Forward Command flightpoint in Gilneas itself, but its not guaranteed).

The closest that Alliance players have to offer is Chillwind Camp in the Western Plaguelands, which is a long flight/run over/though Hillsbrad away.

Because of this faffery, if I were to be modding Cata WoW to add new content in Gilneas, I’d make it suitable for Level 60, as by that level the characters can fly in to it. Or, I’d make portals to get there. But I’m clearly not doing that as it is Against The Rules.

No matter how you get there, get there if you can.

Gilneas City

For now I’m just going to look at Gilneas City itself. The surrounding zone is the subject of another time.

So I suppose we should start with a map.

WorldMap-GilneasCity

The city, as you can see, is roughly circular and split in to five areas, which I’ll look at in turn, highlighting all the usable buildings and other features of note.

Merchant Square

WorldMap-GilneasCity-Merchant-Square

  • 1-10 denote open doors leading to small single room areas, large enough to hold maybe one NPC and some clutter.
  • 11 is a small graveyard.
  • 12 is the ruined market square.

If I were doing anything here, I’d put traders in the buildings and the square, and maybe a mourner at the graveyard.

Military District

WorldMap-GilneasCity-Military-District

  • 1  leads to a cellar full of cannons and cannonballs.
  • 2 and 3 lead to stair up and over the the roof, connecting to each other.

Greymane Court

WorldMap-GilneasCity-Graymane-Court

  • 1 leads to a tunnel that exits out in the main zone.
  • 2 & 3 are entrances to a small inn like building with a bedroom upstairs.

Cathedral Quarter

WorldMap-GilneasCity-Cathedral-Quarter

This area is a bit dull. There are no buildings to enter, just two large areas full of tents with Alliance banners by them.

Light’s Dawn Cathedral

WorldMap-GilneasCity-Cathedral

The Cathedral is just one large room. Maybe you could stage a rock festival in here, or even a wedding.

The End

So there’s your quick tour of Gilneas City. I’m sorry there are no actual screen shots, but if you want to see it go visit it yourself.

 

 

 

 

Conspiracy Theory Top Gear Brexit Bollocks

OMG!!!!! Did anyone else spot the number plate of the Rolls Royce that Chris Evans drove in the Top Gear episode last sunday? BRX522T!!!! This was clearly an attempt to brainwash the common folk to vote for the Brexit Campaign, even though it was shown three days after the vote! This plate was assigned to the car when it was first registered in Newcastle in 78/79, and Evans has owned it for a few years. This just goes to show how far back the conspiracy goes.

shitstir copy

A non-story started by me, just now… shall we see how it goes?

Model Railway Arduino Signals – Design

As previously explained, I’m working on the use of an Arduino and an old laptop to control the points on my very small N Gauge model railway. Well, I’m also going to control the signals too.

Working on this track plan:

Simplified Garwick Track Plan

I consulted my tame signalling engineer (some say that he once completly ruined the brakes on my MG Montego, and that he spends his spare time writing cod-1950s hard-boiled detective story versions of his work, but all we know is that he’s called The Sig), explaining to him that all the lines were bi-directional. He put on his thinking-trilby, sharpened his crayons, and came up with this idea:

timmy2

(Only the signals inside the box are to be modelled. The ones outside it are off-scene, and therefore just implied to be there and functioning.)

So, 6 signals. As I only had six remaining outputs left on the Arduino, I decided on 2-Aspect light signals.

And, lo, these were on eBay:

z0a

Six of them for £19 incl shipping, actually from http://hezhiqing.com/NSIGNAL.html (yeah, it says 5 on the website, but all the eBay listings show 6 of them).

Nominally they run off 12v but are plenty bright enough with 5v from an Arduino supplied to them. Plus, if you tie the Green line to 5v and the Black to GND, putting 5v up the Red line from the Arduino will switch the signal from green to red. This is counter-intuitive to me, as surely the signals should fail-to-Red, not fail-to-Green?

No, matter, it still make the wiring easier.

sigwires

Eagle-eyes will spot the the lights are the wrong way up.  Ah, well, it’s too late now.

Next… build up the control board for one pair of points, and one signal as a test.

 

Salami Shrinkage?

I bought a Peperami this morning. I shouldn’t really, as the high salt and fat content will make me die. They are smaller now!

12439161_10153958669685992_9094982020698472626_n

Or so it seems…

Quoth feedback@peperami.com:

Hi Tony,

The weight of Peperamis haven’t changed for years. Indeed we are making them shorter and wider, because we are producing another brand (which is shorter and wider, but also 25g) as well and we would like to simplify our production process, but we definitely keep the usual 25 g net weight.
All the best,
Your Peperami Team
So now you know.

Managed Motorways

shoulder2

The problem with this 4 lane running smart motorway guff is that its fine until someone breaks down.

Normally with 3 lanes and a hard shoulder this isn’t too much of a hassle, but with 4 lanes it means that you suddenly lose a 1/4 of the capacity for a short distance causing an instant bottleneck. Sounds brilliant so far. An utter blinder of a plan.

Now imagine this scenario: Poor little old Mrs Thingy in her aged Micra breaks down and gets as far left as she can. The fat controller in the watch-box is busy scratching his knackers and doesn’t spot this hazard immediately. An over-hours HGV driver, distracted by an overdose of Redbull and barnyard pornography also fails to spot the hapless lady in time. Thus her small car is briefly turned into a a metal and flesh death-ball, punted down the carriageway at speeds it has previously never reached. Itchy balls + Redbull + beastiality = dead pensioner.

Can’t possibly happen, right?

Not seen the video of the truck belting down the motorway with a Clio stuck to its front bumper?


Model Railway Arduino Point Control – Design

As stated elsewhere, I’ve mothballed the Arduino Dalek Project, and started to cannibalize bits for a new project: Arduino control of the turnout points on an N Gauge model railway layout.

For a start, heres some information about the point motors I’m using: The PECO PL-11 side mounted motors, which attach to the side of the points, like this:

PECO PL-11 (© PECO Publications)
PECO PL-11 (© PECO Publications)

These motors operate on 16v AC and require only (and indeed cannot tolerate more than) momentary current, and are currently controlled from “passing contact switches” drawing power from a Capacitor Discharge Unit.

There are currently 6 turnouts/points, arranged in pairs as below. As it would be reckless (and in real life impossible, due to interlocking) to operate either of the pair independently, I’ve decided to activate them together.

points1Thus, at all times both A and B will either both lead straight ahead, of both lead off to the left (for sets C&D and E&F it will be right not left).

As the Arduino can only throw out 5v DC, each pair of motors will need to be driven via a 5v DPDT replay. But, as we can’t leave the current on without melting the motors, each pair will actually need two relays (one for each direction of change), driven independently from different output pins. Another complication is that the relays will have to energised and then de-energised within a specific time-frame to avoid motor damage, but this is a programming issue to be dealt with later.

PL-11-CDU-Relay WiringThe above diagram shows only the 16vAC side of the wiring. The Arduino 5vDC is shown below.

Arduino-Relay Wiring

Obviously I could have chosen to just use SPDT relays, and connect the outputs together, but due to the vagaries of how the motors work and the orientation and placement of them on the layout, I thought it was safer to design and wire it this way at the outset, rather than back-fix it later when it went wrong. Plus, I had all the wiring in place, so thought I might as well use it.

Note the lack of common Ground between the two halves of the circuit. Grounding AC and DC together isn’t a good idea. Just say no.

Anyway, here is all is again on one convenient image.

Arduino-Relay-PL-11 Wiring
Click to embiggen

So now the next stage to to take that abstract squiggle and build it as a circuit.

Note – for myself, mainly: Each “pair” takes up 2 outputs, so for the three pairs of points we need 6 lines from the Arduino, out of a total of 12 (not 14, as I’d rather not use the 0 and 1 lines (RX & TX) as this could cause issues with data transfers activating the relays – something that the Dalek had problems with at first.

To be continued… with a start on Signalling!

Death to the Arduino Dalek

Here I go again, repurposing shit. In this case it is both a Doctor Who episode title and some  electronic bits.

The Arduino Dalek/Raspberry Dalek project has been on hold for some time (obviously), due to me not being arsed to sort out a niggling wiring problem that only allowed one of the motors to run in one direction.  That and the camera melting itself into slag. That didn’t help.

Anyway, today it suffered a major setback when the Arduino and relays got removed for use in another project.

But Daleks never say die, so it might come back later.

The gubbins are being reassigned to Project Railway, and will act as the point motor control system, once I’ve worked the circuit design out.

Adventures in N Gauge

It seems a long time ago that I started working on an OO Gauge model railway. Well, true to form I abandoned that idea and moved on. Because of space problems, I switched to N Gauge, which takes up half the space.

I came up with the idea of “Garwick”, a station on a mainly industrial line which still handles passenger traffic. The layout is based mainly on the long-closed Maudlands station in Preston, but with several additions which “just seemed like good ideas at the time”.

The Original Plan - it does not look like this anymore.
The Original Plan – it does not look like this anymore.

The time period is somewhat confused, being set in a fictional era where British Rail never ended, and bus deregulation never happened. Hence old-style DMUs and Ribble buses sit alongside late model Transit vans, Austin taxis, modern cars and a BR Blue liveried Class 66.

Version 2 of the layout. Still not finished
Version 2 of the layout. Still not finished

Garwick is actually two stations. Firstly there is the main station which handles commuter traffic and has a taxi rank and bus stop.

Garwick Bus Stop. A Ribble/Notional Express waits.
Garwick Bus Stop. A Ribble/Notional Express waits.
Garwick Taxi Rank. Some Austin FX/4s wait patiently.
Garwick Taxi Rank. Some Austin FX/4s wait patiently.

This station was originally a two platform station, but one of the platforms was demolished to provide extra siding space for Shocks Mill.  The underpass entrance on the platform now leads to a corridor and storage facilities.

The station sees frequent DMU trains which run to Pill End.

Since the closure of the second platform, the other through line  has been mainly used for freight traffic to the nearby coal depot and bitumen processing plant.

There is also the secondary platform which is generally only used by the single car Class 121 service to the main town station . This was built on part of the former marshalling yard of  Shocks Mill, which still stands above the site but has been converted in to a housing, and the former site of the original No 2 platform.

Unfinished version of Shocks Mill, overlooking some old coal wagons from another layout.
Unfinished version of Shocks Mill, overlooking some old coal wagons from another layout.
Unfinished Garwick Platform 2, with industrial estate behind, and a Class 101 former Express Parcels unit waiting.
Unfinished Garwick Platform 2, with industrial estate behind, and a Class 101 former Express Parcels unit waiting.

To the west, after Farish Lane bridge, the lines split. A single track line runs on to Pill End, and a line runs to the industrial sites at Chain Lane and Caul Road.

66626 hauls Bitumen tanks under Farish Lane bridge as a Ribble Atlantean heads towards Oxford Lane.
66626 hauls Bitumen tanks under Farish Lane bridge as a Ribble Atlantean heads towards Oxford Lane.

To the East, one line runs through the short Victoria tunnel to the City Centre, passing the DMU maintenance depot, while the the main line runs though the double track Albert tunnel to the south to join the main line. Locally, the Albert and Victoria tunnels have been nicknamed “George and Mildred”.

Metcalfe Row and the "Ferret and Dartboard" on the corner of Hatton Street above the tunnels.
Metcalfe Row and the “Ferret and Dartboard” on the corner of Hatton Street above the tunnels.

Obviously there is still a lot for work to do. The who track formation needs re-ballasting, the buildings need tidying up, and a lot of dead space needs to be filled. And that’s even before I start trying to hide the various point motors that are highly visible.

moan, moan, flippin' moan