Monday, August 29, 2016

Motorized Lighthouse

First project in the new apartment, again something that is long pending.

Though I made the lighthouse nearly 5 years back (Gosh! time flies!), I never got around to motorize it. While re-assembling the layout in the new apartment, I decided to start with this one since I already have all the materials needed to motorize the already built structure - it's just about attaching the lens housing (which was also made nearly 4 years back) to a slow motion motor.

The first step was to measure the space and clearance for the motor:

Then I'd cut a Masonite circular disk matching the inner diameter of the base of the lighthouse

The central hole was made to fit the motor bolt thread of the motor housing

The motor was then fixed to the board,

And then test fitted at the bottom of the lighthouse to check for clearance etc.

If you see the original construction details of the lighthouse (and many pictures thereafter), you would notice that the beacon housing already had a light installed. I just tested it's position and made sure everything is in it's place

Next step was to attach a shaft to the motor. Now this is where I again switched to 'scrap-building' mode. I didn't have a hollow shaft of suitable diameter with me - neither styrene, nor metal. So I went scrap hunting that can be made into a suitable hollow shaft, and I found a non-working pen. This was a gift from Brooklyn Locomotive Works, so I thought what could be a better place to utilize this than on an N scale Layout!

All the internal mechanism of the pen was removed - the tip side of the pen meshed nicely with the motor shaft, so I just secured it by drilling a through hole on the pen and securing it to the motor shaft using a pin (which was actually a part of a paper clip):

If you follow my work closely you would notice that one of my major focuses is always easier maintenance, because in my experience, things can go wrong at any time. So I decided not to permanently attach the lens housing to the shaft. So I created a removable section that tightly fits to the upper portion of the pen, but can be removed if required.

Now, if you are wondering how I found that lens - it is actually a contact lens packet! Some of the contact lens packaging have a perfect lens for model making - perfectly shaped, made of tough plastic and has very short focal length which is perfect for a lighthouse animation.

Here is the final shaft assembly with the lens:

And here is how the assembly looks when you 'cover' the shaft with the lighthouse structure. The light bulb hangs from the ceiling of the beacon housing and sit along the axis of the rotating, hollow lens housing.

And here is the lighthouse totally assembled:

Final test before installing on the layout

And that's how it looks when installed:

Here is a very short video to show it in action - Technically this is a 'fixed and flash' lighthouse with no eclipse:

All the photos and videos are with my phone, hoping to get a better composed video soon - may be after I finish some more work on the layout. :)

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

5th home for Wrightsville Port

When I'd set out to build this Model Railroad back in 2010, very little I knew about the road ahead of me. Well, you might say that you never really know the road ahead, but you have a general idea most of the time, you tend to follow a 'track' (Pun intended!) - you know where you are going, you know the 'stations' to come and you know the timetable. For me, it has always been more of a free flowing road trip for last 5 years - I worked in 4 different companies, all in very demanding jobs, moved to 5 different apartments and 3 different cities. Now, I had no idea back in 2010 that stability will be so hard to get - especially when we bought our own apartment back in Calcutta, but life had different things in store for me than what I'd thought, and things changed. Just to make it clear, it changed for better.

That's where I see the biggest success of Wrightsville Port - It stayed with me for last 6 years and never been a headache during all these movements! It was built as a portable layout, yes, but I never thought that it would travel to so many places (and I can assure you, it's not done yet!). Every new move also presents me with the opportunity of fixing and improving a few things. The layout is generally made clear of all buildings, ships and most of the details - they are removed, packed and shipped separately; only the permanently glued details and the main lights remain on the layout. This gives me the opportunity to work on the wiring when the layout is taken down (it takes 2 people to take down the baseboard - so far it has always been Mouli and I), so we did it this time too. However, this time I also took the opportunity to build a brand new acrylic dust cover for the layout. A dust cover was long over due, and 6 years of dust already made some damage despite my best efforts to clean the layout. I bought a sheet of 2mm clear acrylic, cut them in strips of 18" width and used a heat gun to shape according to the unique contour of the layout. The top is made of PVC foam in two halves. All in all, it takes about 60-90 seconds to remove them, and about 30 seconds more to assemble  - pretty acceptable before and after an operating session.

So, here is Wrightsville Port, happily settled in it's 5th home! This time even the dimension of the room is just made for the layout - 9' X 8' - gives snug fit to the layout and the staging-cum-bookshelf, with enough room for me to stand and operate.

This experience of working with acrylic sheets and PVC foam board is going to be important though, because I think I found my ideal material for modern benchwork that is far easy to work with and has many benefits over plywood - so the next project is definitely going to have these two as the base construction material - however, more on that later.