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Bunkerbarge
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I thought I might start off with a couple of pictures of the base board now that it is finished.  The base is Wickes Kitchen units on one wall with cut down MDF book shelves on the opposite wall with cheap B&Q doors on top of them.  This means the underside of the base is not available however I intend having almost all of the layout at higher levels above the base.  The outside mainline ring will be at 100 mm above the base, a lot of the next level down will be at 50 mm and there will be low lying areas at 25 mm.  A few bits and pieces such as the canal basin will be on the base board itself.  This means that points motors and wiring will not be immediately accessible after the layout has been completed although there should be little damage needed to get to anything.

The west wall needs completing with the six inch wide shelf that is to hold the outer main lines but that will be done when the rest of the shelf is fitted.  This will give a complete ring, needed for the live steam line.

 



You may notice the row of wooden knobs, this is the control area where the live steam and DCC controllers will be located.  The wooden knobs will be fitted with two tensioned wires, connected via pulleys to the operating arms of the points.  This will enable the points to be operated by rotating the wooden knobs.



















Yes, I'm kidding the wooden knobs are for the kitchen unit doors!! ;-)

Last edited on Sat Aug 26th, 2017 07:18 pm by Bunkerbarge

Longchap
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Nah, I think the point control knobs should be to hand in a little cabin, not on the unit doors. That's just silly!

Bill

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Bunkerbarge
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Well I finally received my wood the other day and so was time to do a bit of more serious pondering.  I had decided to go for the back 'shelf' as being 100 mm high but the more I thought about it and the more I read about it the more I was unsure of the idea.  While 100 mm would give me a lot more scenic options in the future as regards bridges and tunnels etc. my big concern, and the one which I read more warnings about than anything else, was the challenges with gradients, in particular when using full length main line traffic.  Consequently I decided against 100 mm and while 75 mm would be a good compromise 50 mm allowed me to cut my wood stock in half and double the quantity of bearers.  I could then use the whole 17 foot length of the layout to arrange the transition lines between the main line and the branch lines.  One would be on one side of the layout and the other would be on the opposite side.

Consequently I cut the wood in half and started to build the 'shelf'.  The first piece was going to be a simple arrangement of a solid corner so the ply was marked out and cut and bearers prepared to support it.  The ply is only 3 mm thick, to allow easier cutting and shaping, so it will need good support to prevent any flexing so, despite a lot of scenic material on top that will solidify the structure, the bearers were placed quite close together for now.  The bearers are simply attached to the base with a bead of 'No More Nails' and the ply will be stuck on top in a similar way.  The holes in the bearers are for the cable for the steam circuit 'Bus' and will allow the whole bus to be installed and made operational before moving on to the installation of the lower levels.



















Bob K
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Live steam. This should be interesting.

Bunkerbarge
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The current thinking is that the outer ring will be the Live Steam line however it will be supplied from a change over switch enabling it to be supplied from either the Live Steam controller or the DCC controller, which will already be controlling the remainder of the layout, including another main line ring, which will run alongside the Live Steam ring.  The points joining the two parts of the layout will obviously need to be isolated from each other.  Hopefully it will all work OK but, to be sure, the Live Steam line and the adjacent DCC line will both be powered up and proven to be fully functional before the remainder of the layout is built and before any of the cabling is covered.

Bunkerbarge
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After a bit more playing around and a bit more pondering the shape of the first corner changed to give me an even larger radius for the main line and so the bearers were extended.  I also increased the width of the shelf to allow for two main lines side by side and around six inches behind it for a backscene and its transition.  The very regular lines will be broken up in the future when scenery is added to the layout as well as increases in terrain levels above the base and the shelf level.  In front of the 50 mm level will be an area of 25 mm high which will provide a suitable foundation for the more intricate levels to be added with easier to work scenic materials.  For now the main aim is an operational ring of two main lines and a period of proving before progressing to the next stage.



After the bearers were progressed along two of the main walls I decided to have a go at installing a part of the steam line ring bus.  This worked better than I had anticipated and it allowed me to fix the first piece of ply in position.  The ply is simply held down with beads of "No More Nails" on the top surface of the bearers and a good weight to keep it all in place intil it sets.





The bus was then pulled through to the point whereby the bearers need continuing and allowed me to get a feel for feeding it through the holes in the bearers. I also decided to fit some new lights to the ceiling to do away with the grim old flourescent tubes so they were replaced by some new low power LED units to give much better lighting.





Next job is to work out how to create the transistion in the corner to the narrow shelf across the wall adjacent to the staircase.  I want to put a geat deal of care into the construction of this part to ensure perfectly smooth trouble free running as a derailment across this stretch will end up with rolling stock flying down the staircase.  I think a suitable retaining wall and a perfect straight run should ensure no such problems.









Last edited on Mon Sep 25th, 2017 09:22 pm by Bunkerbarge

MaxSouthOz
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Hi Richard

Nice carpentry work.  :thumbs

However, aren't those bus wires a bit too close together?

Cheers

Bunkerbarge
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I wasn't aware of any need to seperate them, is there a reason to do so?

Sol
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Bunkerbarge wrote: I wasn't aware of any need to seperate them, is there a reason to do so?

Have a read Richard
https://sites.google.com/site/markgurries/home/dcc-general-best-practices/wiring-planing/twisted-pair-wiring
http://www.members.optusnet.com.au/nswmn2/DCC.htm#Twist


from what I have read, either keep them apart or twist them.

Bunkerbarge
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Thanks Ron, Interesting reading. From what I see twisting the two cores together during installation should ensure that i do not experience any challenges.  I'm not sure I can achieve 3 twists per foot but I'm sure I can get close!

Many thanks for the input gents, that is exactly why we share our projects with more experienced members.

MaxSouthOz
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The invoices are in the post, Richard.  :mutley

emmess
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I'm not wiring for DCC and my layout is tiny, but I still found that reading fascinating - thanks!

Bunkerbarge
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Does anyone know what the safe distance should be between copper tape conductors if you are using them for a bus set up?  I have actually seen examples where the tapes cross over each other but this was not a very large layout.

Last edited on Wed Sep 27th, 2017 12:33 am by Bunkerbarge

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I used 1/4" wide tape on a plank an inch apart and when they to crossed over, clear plastic from those A4 protector sheets. Dropper wire soldered to it perfectly.

Bunkerbarge
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So now cable removed, stretched across the garden, twisted with a battery drill and rethreaded into the beginnings of the layout.

Job done, many thanks gents.



MaxSouthOz
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That looks the goods, Richard.

You should be able to pick it apart to make the dropper joints.

I use a craft knife to pare off the top of the insulation and then work an O ring pick under the other side.  The resultant hole makes an ideal clamp to hold the dropper wire while it's soldered.

Bunkerbarge
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What is the general feeling on using the scotch lock connectors that seem to be mentioned frequently?

MaxSouthOz
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Some like them, Richard - provided both wires are the same diameter.

I prefer to do it properly - with solder.

It's a very touchy subject.

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I'm with Max on this one for permanent connections, if there is a chance you may wish to undo the connection, and / or  it might be difficult to solder in there,  then I'd use Wago connectors.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Connectors-222-413-3-Port-Lever-Terminal/dp/B00DUJ96N0/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1506583490&sr=8-1&keywords=wago+connectors



 The three lever connections are common inside the block, they're rated for 32A and they are only about twice the size of Scotchlocs so not huge..



They also do them in 2 and 5 lever versions.

Last edited on Thu Sep 28th, 2017 11:32 am by The Q

Bunkerbarge
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Again thanks for the input gents.

I really like the look of those Wago connectors but one concern I would have is the fact that the bus has to actually be physically cut to tap into it.  This means that the integrity of the bus is now dependent on going through all the cable connections in the ring and, with a long ring, could start to affect the clarity of the DCC signal.

I think I am pussyfooting around the inevitable, which is the only totally sound connection that maintains the best possible cross sectional area of the bus, is to solder the tails.

Last edited on Thu Sep 28th, 2017 12:17 pm by Bunkerbarge

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The Q wrote: I'm with Max on this one for permanent connections, if there is a chance you may wish to undo the connection, and / or  it might be difficult to solder in there,  then I'd use Wago connectors.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Connectors-222-413-3-Port-Lever-Terminal/dp/B00DUJ96N0/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1506583490&sr=8-1&keywords=wago+connectors



 The three lever connections are common inside the block, they're rated for 32A and they are only about twice the size of Scotchlocs so not huge..



They also do them in 2 and 5 lever versions.


My son is an electrician and he uses these,much better than scotchloks.

Bunkerbarge
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Not a huge amount of progress but a significant step in the build.  The gap across the staircase is now completed with a shelf, which will eventually hold the live steam line on the outside and the DCC mainline on the inside.  Care will be taken to ensure that anything untoward happening on this section should not result in a loco and its carriages flying down the stairs so probably a stone wall and a fence will eventually be fitted to protect against this.  The upper level is now almost complete along three walls so not too much to do now to complete this level.  The wooden brace is temporarily holding a bracket in place while the glue sets!









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How neat it all looks. Very interested to see how this project develops. If the woodworking standard reflects in the rest is should be a cracker.

I did some work on a visitor attaction layout in Birmingham a few years ago and we used scotch locks to connect the dropper wires on that, mainly due to time constraints on getting the place open. I have to say in the main they worked well but only if you test each one carefully and are sure they won't be disturbed over time. I bought bags of them for the large layout I am just starting but on balance, as time isn't an issue, i'll be soldering them all. That's another item in the stacks of boxes I have which probably won't get used. Just need to make sure the boss doesn't see me getting rid of them or they could be questions in the house.

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Just a word of thanks for everyone's input.  I think while it is tempting to go for the significantly easier route of either Scotch Locs or Wagos I think the best connection that guarrantees the best possible cross sectional area of the current path is maintained has to be to solder them.

As for boxes of redundant items I think we all have those.  Ideas change as we develop the project and, despite the time and effort we put into the planning and preparation, we will always make changes when we actually see things in reality.  I started off buying a number of old locos then decided to change direction and go for DCC so I am sure that a number of them will not make economic sense to convert and so will be either decoration or be resold. 

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I have finally managed to complete the loop and now have a higher level all the way around the layout.  The Live Steam line power bus is in place and I have started to assemble the control bits and pieces at the control board.  The DCC controller is not in place as yet but I have been using it to test run a loco on a simple piece of test track.  I very much like the Sig-na Trak ACE DCS 2044 control unit and find it easy to use while maintaining a high degree of accessibility and flexibility.  I particularly like the seperate hand held units and while I am only likely to be using one at a time you can plug in four and have four locos individually controlled.

I have also assembled a test piece to try to determine the best process for laying track and ballasting it.  I have gone for Peco code 100 flexible, mounted on 3mm cork, both held in place with neat PVA and track pins.  The ballast is a trial of two different types and a number of different glues and strengths.  I have decided on using the ballast in the centre of the lower track, which is Woodland Scenics, as it looks the best to scale and it is the easiest to get in place.  I wanted to sort out a reliable and consistent technique that can be applied to the entire track to ensure the most consistent and reliable track is achieved, which I think I now have.















Last edited on Fri Oct 20th, 2017 08:57 pm by Bunkerbarge

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With the higher level completed and a test loop run for a week or two it was time to take it apart again and start work on the track laying.  First job is to glue the cork underlay down.  I have gone for 3mm cork by Gaugemaster as it is relatively straightforward to lay and being pre-cut in half makes following curves quite easy.  I marked out the track by centre line then laid the first half of the cork up to the centre line from behind.  When that had cured it was relatively easy to lay the second half of the cork up to the edge of the first piece.  I offset the two halves to stagger the joints.  With a handfull of old gel bateries to hand to hold the cork in place while it set sufficiently progress wasn't too bad.  The intention is to get the two higher level circuits fully operational before going any further as lower levels will cover the cabling so I want to be sure all soldered joints are robust, secure and most of all reliable before covering them. 

The two curves at this end of the room will be 600 mm radius on the inner track, intended only for freight and suburban traffic and the two outer curves will be 670 mm radius, which will be for the main line locos.















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With the progress of the cork laying being fairly laborious it soon became apparent that an alternative task was required to fill in the regular gaps while the cork cured.  Consequently it was time to turn attentions to the track laying.
First up was the decision of what track to use.  It had to be flexible at least for the live steam ring as a dropper was going to be connected to every single piece of track so minimising the number of pieces was an important consideration.  I figured the same may as well apply to the DCC ring and layout to ensure the highest levels of reliability.  Eventually I decided on Peco code 100 Flexitrack and Peco code 100 Electrofrog points.  I went for Electrofrog for reliability and looks, without limiting myself in the future with potential rolling stock with code 75 track.

Having decided on the track next up was to decide how to operate the points.  As I have mentioned almost all my wiring and electronics is going to be above the board so surface mounted points motors was also necessary.  All the reading and research eventually led me to DCCConcepts Cobalt SS points motors and the two below board motors could be DCCConcepts ip Digital motors with their neatly built in decoders.  Consequently I put together a starter order with DCCConcepts for a pack of six Cobalt SS Points motors with decoders and accessories, a crossover pack for the two crossovers, two of the six pack would be used for the other crossover, and a couple of below board Cobalt iP digital motors.  The order arrived this morning.












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When I opened up the six pack of Cobalt SS motors I was very surprised to find such a comprehensive set of accessories.  There was a two way and a three way splitter included as well as an extension cable giving quite a bit of flexibility.  There was also a bag of various link wires for mounting either on ballast or on the base board and plenty of screws to put them all together.  The decoders are supplied in pairs on a single board and are a substantial size but they do fit comfortably underneath a Bachmann barn so will be arranged around the layout with buildings simply dropped over them.







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When the order arrived I decided to have a play, which eventually developed into fitting one of the Cobalt iP Digital motors to the first piece of track to be laid, namely a point.

First up was to mark out the base where the point was going to be fitted so I could then drill the two holes for the droppers and the larger hole for the tie bar actuator. 






The two link wires were removed from the points blades to isolate the frog and two droppers were soldered to the outer rails, with links being incorporated to jump to the inner rails. 















The centering spring was also removed so avoid the motor having to work against it. I didn't want to rely on contact with the outer rails as they were going to be painted so a direct feed would be far more reliable. 

The Cobalt iP motor was mounted onto a wooden plinth rather than directly to the 3mm ply base to give the screws something to hold on to plus giving complete flexibility when finally permanently mounting the motor.  The plinth will be simply glued in place below the base board.




With the droppers soldered onto the base of the rail a test fit showed the point sat where I wanted it with the tie bar right in the centre of the large hole and the operating arm clear all around.



Consequently the point was glued and tacked into position.  With my first piece of track actually permanently fixed in place I really couldn't help myself as I wanted to see how a length of track was going to look.  Consequently I marked out the next piece and soldered two droppers to a piece of flexitrack.  The chairs were cut back and fishplates were fitted and the piece of flexitrack was also fitted and glued down.  I wanted to see how the droppers looked and was pleased to see that they are neatly tucked away below the rail.  I might experiment with soldering the droppers with the bend in line with the rail but I will see how ballast covers these up first to see whether it is necessary.  I hope the ballast will cover the ends of the droppers up easily and they will be completely invisible.






Last edited on Sun Nov 19th, 2017 02:39 am by Bunkerbarge

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Once rails painted, track ballasted & weathered, you won't see droppers.
Watching this as I want to see how you get on with the top mounted SS units.

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Good progress. Try staggering the cuts in the frog rails, it provides a bit more structural stability to the point.

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Hi Marty,  I'm not sure what you mean, the cuts in the rails are factory done and cannot be adjusted.  Am I missing something?

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This layout is coming on a treat. I like your neat ballasting too.

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Thanks for that.  The Gaugemaster cork underlay goes down very well and, being split in the middle allows you to very easily line it up perfectly with the drawn centreline.

The ballasting is going to be quite a job but I have decided now how I would like to do it and what materials look best.  I was a bit apprehensive about the idea of spraying water everywhere before glueing but, when I had overcome the nerves and gave it a go, it actually works very well.

I am nearly half way around the two main loops with the underlay so progress is slow but steady.

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Bunkerbarge wrote: Hi Marty,  I'm not sure what you mean, the cuts in the rails are factory done and cannot be adjusted.  Am I missing something?

No, you’re not missing anything, I’d forgotten 00 comes pre-cut. In N gauge we have to cut our own frog rails, they don’t come pre-cut.

Carry on... loving how this is coming together.

Cheers

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As the underlay slowly progressed it was time to turn my attention again to the track and, first of all, decide on the processes I wanted to adopt to lay it.

Initial playing around with it soon identified the challenges of trying to get it to remain in shape so soldering droppers to curves and marking out the base for drilling became quite a challenge.  I also noted that laying straight lengths was far from easy as the Peco flexi-track is exactly what it says on the tin, namely very flexible!  I found that glueing the straight lengths worked better and nailing the curves made life a bit easier there.  Everything would become consolidated at the end when the ballasting was glued in place so I made a decision to glue the straight lengths while using a straight edge to ensure the piece remained true but to nail the curves, while following the join in the underlay. 

I also realised from a lot of reading and watching far too many YouTube clips that there are as many methods of laying track as there are people doing it so I would still need to make my own mind up as to the process and I think everyone has thier own little pet preferences that are important to them.  As an example I really want the droppers to be invisible so they have to be soldered to the base of the rail.  This means they must be soldered before fitting, thereby making the soldering and fitting significantly more tricky.  I notice many solder the droppers in place but the ends can never be really hidden then so that is just my own little thing.  A point I did take on board was to stagger the rail joints on the curves.  This again makes things much more tricky but the curve is definately much smoother.  I decided not to bother on the straights as they didn't really need it and it saves at least that job.

Consequently I ended up with the following process that I am reasonably happy with.  It may be modified as I go along but the most important part for me at the moment is to establish the procedure, which I can become familiar with and then follow, which will hopefully prevent me from making so many mistakes.  Pitfalls I have fallen into so far are as follows:

1) I forgot to put an insulating fishplate on the track joint at the frog rail of the point.  I had to remove the metal fishplate, cut a gap with a Dremel, insert a cut down insulating fishplate and seal the joint with epoxy.  Luckily I was able to do this with the track in place.
2) I hadn't realised how critical it would be to get the dropper wires in exactly the right place for the drilled holes.  I could use a larger drill but for my first attempt I soldered the tabs of the dropper the opposite way around and it put a significant 'S' bend in the track.
3) I forgot to file the track before soldering.
4) I mixed up the red and the black cables on one piece.
5) Drilled the baseboard between the wrong pair of sleepers!

Etc...etc...  All a learning curve.

Last edited on Fri Dec 1st, 2017 09:53 pm by Bunkerbarge

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So with those learnings in place this is the process I have settled on.  This is a straight piece without staggering the joins:

1) Remove the chairs from the end sleeper on both ends of the track.



2) Remove the tabs from two gaps below the track.



3) File the surface of the rail to enable a better soldered joint.



4) Mark the underlay at the exact point where the dropper is going to be, bearing in mind the right angle on the end of the wire.



5) Drill the holes for the dropper wire in the baseboard with a clearance drill that enables a nice easy fit without being too sloppy.



6) Tin the underside of the rail with a good sized blob of solder ensuring the rail is hot enough to wet the solder.



7) Tin the end of the dropper wire.



8) Bend the end of the dropper over at 90 degrees.



9) Cut the tab on the end to suit the gap in the sleepers.



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10) Place the tab on top of the tinned rail and apply the soldering iron tip again to fuse the two together.



11) You should end up with nice neat droppers solderd to the base of the track.



12)  Next is to fit the droppers to the holes in the baseboard and pull through just enough to leave the track upside down.




13) The two fishplates are then fitted to the fixed track ends and pushed up to the first complete sleeper, ensuring that they will sit firm as the track is fitted.




14) A bead of neat PVA glue is then run down both sides of the track below the rails before the track is then flipped over, the ends slid into the fishplates, the droppers pulled through the base and the track aligned with a metallic straight edge.




15) Finally a straight piece of wood is placed on the track and weighed down until the glue has set.




 
Not a great deal to show for the efforts so far but at least I now have a process I am happy with and the track I have down so far seems to be neat enough and I am happy with the fact that every piece has a pair of droppers soldered to it.




Sol
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A neat job Richard

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You will be glad that you took the time to do it well, Richard.

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Thank you Ron.  The challenge now is looking at what I have done and how long it has taken me and then thinking about how much I still have to do!  Hopefully having now established a process things will move slightly quicker, although when I get around to the other side of the layout there will be two crossovers to fit so lots to think about there.

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Hi Richard,

Great modeling. One tip for soldering to the underside of the rail is to cut the webbing joint on a few sections around the soldering point, and to push the sleepers along a bit. Put a piece of wet kitchen towel either side of where you are welding. Saves melting the adjacent sleeper. Push the sleepers back when done.

Use a 3/16" or even a 1/4" drill bit for the dropper wire and have them offset so they are just outside the rail. Have the drill at 60 degrees so the hole slopes. Or drill vertically and file the inner lip with a round needle file. That way you can pencil in the space between the sleepers and see exactly where you need to drill. X definitely marks the spot. You will have to bend the dropper slightly out. Fill with silicone or epoxy or even wood filler. Ballast will hide all.

Nigel

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Hi Nigel,  Many thanks for the tips.  I had already developed the technique of moving the drill bit backwards and forwards to create a slot, which give a little bit more flexibility without making too big a hole.  They key is defenately accurate marking, which usually requires the piece of track to be fully fitted first, then removed again for soldering.

As for the sleepers I sometimes feel like you need three hands, especially on a curve where any slight movement displaces the rail from the gap in the sleepers.  I have learned to be careful and delicate!  I tried using the track clamps but very quickly gave up on them as they all to frequently pop off just when you least want them to.  I have managed to find a soldering iron and tip that puts a neat blob of solder onto the rail, suitably fused to it, without transferring too much heat into the adjacent sleepers.  The 1.5 mm droppers for the live steam track are a bit more challenging but even they seem to go on neatly.  Care, preparation and a bit of practise seem to be paying off.

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Hi Richard,

Glad to hear you are using slots rather then holes.

Use those dress-making pins with the big round heads in various colors to keep track in place. Strategically placed they will hold straight (tangent) and curved track in place (insert them into the cork inside and outside the rail head, stagger them along the length). You can even lift the piece of track up to paint some PVA underneath and let it drop in place. Support with wood blocks either end. I use a felt-tip pen to mark around some sleeper ends so it drops exactly where it should. With a bit of practice you can paint with PVA to the edges of the ballast line (or in yoiur case the cork track base), drop the track, and add ballast in one go. Mist gently with water/IPA (75:25 by volume) and the ballast should not stick to the top surface of the sleepers.

There are ways to stiffen up flex track (spray lightly with matt acrylic while straight, when dry there is enough acrylic in the joints to make it stiff), but pins are best. If you think Peco is bad for keeping in place, Atlas is even worse. It's not bendy, it's whippy.

These days I use copper clad rail joiners between track sections rather than rely on rail joiners. You don't actually need insulated rail joiners on the frog exits - an air gap is as good as a plastic one. Controversial, but try it.

Nigel




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Many thanks for all the suggestions Nigel.  I like the idea of pinning the track and I'm feeling a bit reassured that I'm not the only one who has a challenge with flexible Peco. It does look neat when laid but a lot of swearing has helped to get it there!

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Time for a bit of an update.  First of all the underlay has now finally been completed around the two main tracks of the higher level with the crossovers also done as well as a line to the engine shed.  I still have to do a siding on the North side to run along the loading bays and warehouses but the main work is done for now.







Next job was to fit the second points motor below the staircase 'causeway' and wire it up to the DCC bus. Armed with the knowledge gained from the first one this went in fairly quickly and, after a couple of calls to the guys at DCC Concepts to help me address the first one I was able to set this one up very easily and quickly. Its a shame I only have these two as all the remaining ponts motors are going to be of the Cobalt SS type.

Next job was to work out how to complete the soldering of the bus connections, which is quite tricky with pre twisted cables.  I want to displace the connections to minimise the risk of any shorts being experienced so simply cut open the insulation for a few milimeters, tinned the exposed cable and soldered the end of the dropper to it.  I really wanted to avoid cutting the bus to minimise any resistance losses in it so opeing it up with a wedge of wood allowed me to work on it while maintaining the access and achieving a strong joint. 













Finally I sealed the soldered joints with liquid insulation.  One thing this has taught me is to try to minimise the numbers of connections directly to the bus as the twisted cable is quite tight and opening it out for numerous connections adjacent to each other is going to be tricky.  Consequently when I move on to the Cobalt SS motors I will be looking at a single dropper connection for a control board and take the power for the points from this dropper rather than the bus. 














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Next job was the first play around with the Cobalt SS point motors and controllers.  I first of all rigged up a temporary test by taking power from the bus to feed into the controller and connecting two of the Cobalt SS motors.  The controllers can actually power three motors comfortably on each address however there are only two addresses available on each board.  Consequently for a crossover both point motors can be arranged to change simultaneously on the one command, which is very convenient and, of course cheaper.




In the case of the first one I was playing with I wanted one address to operate the two points of a crossover and the other address to operate the point for a siding.  The test set up included the board and two motors on one address coinnected together with a 'Y' lead and an extension.  After only a little bit of playing around I soon found out how to asign the address from the DCC controller, which, once the order of play was understood, proved to be extreemly easy.




The manufacturer even thinks to include a reversing connection on the 'Y' leads to give you even greater flexibility with the plug in arrangement.




Next job was to decide which of the many linkages supplied with the motors to use to connect to the point.  These all give you flexibility depending on your underlay, scale etc..etc..



 I found that the orange labelled packet worked best however I was not happy with the placing of the motor and realised it was time to decide just how I was going to mount all my motors, bearing in mind the old chestnut of balancing the operation against the scale reproduction.  All I have decided so far is the fact that I want the motors to be hiden below various assorted track side huts with the linkages arranged to at least represent realistic rodding and interlocks.








I am therefore going to have to decide how to extend the linkages from the motor to the point operating arm while maintaing a degree of realism.  More to come!

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Hi Richard

Not sure how frequently you have been operating the Cobalt SS motors. You may not have yet experienced the problem I have had.

After a period of inactivity  (as little as 30 minutes) the unit loses memory and "forgets" its last position. If the blade was left at position [+] and you want to move the blade to position [-]  pressing/entering  [-] has no effect......you have to press [+] before pressing [-]............

I wrote to DCC Concepts and got this reply:

"We have recently found that there is an issue after powering down if they are set to CCW. The problem has been resolved in software and the current units cannot easily be reprogrammed. The next production batch will have the amended software.
 
The immediate fix is to run with the switch set to CW and use the reverse extension as supplied with the motors and control board.
If you do not have enough reverse connectors, we will send one out to you".


The fix works on one motor and they are sending me a reverse extn for the other.

The issue may not have yet affected you but you may like to do some testing on your layout now and, if it exists, correct the problem before going too far down the line with your wiring

Best wishes

John

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Hi John,

Firstly very many thanks for your warning.  I have had many discussions with DCC Concepts recently, one of which culminated with the very advice that you have mentined above.  After much testing on the bench I did in fact prove that my set up was experiencing the same issues however as my first set up was a crossover with two points connected to the same splitter the solution was to simply change over the connections on the splitter board.  Since then further extensive testing has proved a reliable operation.  I will be exhaustively testing everything as I progress this project before committing to further installatioins just for my own peace of mind and to minimise wasted time.

I now have two operational points connected together on the one address operating as a crossover reliably and repeatedly so I will leave that with temporary non soldered connections and have a go at the second one.  I do now actually have a loop so I can operate a loco as I work and so now continuously prove things as I progress.  I was just about to update this thread with the latest which will explain what I have been through with this and how I have connected the motors to the points.

Thanks again for the warning.

Bunkerbarge
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So just to detail a bit on what has been happening with the points.

As mentioned above firstly a loose set up was connected together using temporary dry connections to the bus.  My first use of the Cobalt SS units was going to be the crossover to the live steam circuit so there is quite a lot going on at this particular part of the layout.  Not only do I have the points operation to consider but I also have to be able to change the power supply over from the live steam transformer to the DCC controller and back again.  When the outer loop is on DCC  the points and the circuit has to operate as normal and when on live steam the points have to be completely isolated from the DCC system.  More about that part in later posts but for now the main objective was to simply get the crossover operating as a DCC set up.

After the challenge described above was addressed by using the reversing 'Y' connector and the motors proved to be operational when sat loose on the layout the next consideration was how to connect the motors to the points.  The supplied linkages are only good for having the motor very close to the edge of the track and I particularly wanted then to be hidden.  Consequently longer linkages were going to be required and, despite the Cobalt SS instruction sheet referring to available linkage extentions, DCC Concepts seemed to have no knowledge of these and repeatedly tried to tell me I was misreading the instructions as this was referring to remote operation electrically.  I'm afraid the instructions specifically refer to remote mechanical linkages.  Realising therefore I was on my own with this I started to experiment with possibilities and purchased some brass 0.8 mm square section rod and a couple of differing sizes of plastic.  The plastic turned out to be a non starter as it is way too flexible.  So I was left with brass square section rod.  I filed the ends down to a round profile before bending them into some sort of acceptable shape to roughly represent real life linkages. 




A couple of failed attempts later and I managed to come up with something I was happy with.  On one point the rods will have to run below the adjacent track in a fairly prototypical manner so the underside of the track will have to be insulated to prevent the rod shorting out the tracks.  This will be done with small plasticard plates glued onto the base of the rail.




The two motors were then mounted on the base board in an appropriate location to enable them to be covered and disguised by static rodding and tested.  After a couple of misfires as a result of parts of the rods interferring with other bits they started to work well and have proved to be fine since.  I will leave the temporary connections for now as I still have the change over arrangements to put in place for the live steam power supply.


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As often seems to be the case with such things parts of the project seem to be inter-dependant and such was the case with the upper level of the layout.  On the one hand I want to locate point motors below suitable buildings but on the other hand building locations will also be determined by the backscene.  Consequently while the building has been going on creating the backscene has also been progressing.

I started off by looking closely at a couple of possibilities from the ID Backscenes catalogue, which seemed to fit the bill.  I had also toyed with the idea of taking my own pictures but finding a suitable printing firm that understood what I wanted seemed to be a challenge, despite a number of phone calls.  It was then that I noticed on the 'Art Printers' web page that they would also consider making a bespoke backscene from your own pictures.  That was just what I was looking for.

Next job was to take the pictures and that involved chatting up a friend who has 'contacts' in the local church and was able to help me by arranging to allow me access to the top of the church tower on a Saturday morning while the clock was being wound up.  I therefore took my camera up to the top of the tower and took a great many sequential pictures at varying focal lengths while I tried to maintain a consistent perspective field and horizon position without the use of a tripod.  When I got home I studied the shots, picked out the best focal length and forwarded the set to 'Art Printers'.  Of course I wanted a backscene of 1 foot high by 29 feet long, times two, so the part of the shots that would be used was going to be only a narrow band either side of the horizon from my shots.  John  at 'Art Printers' stitched all the shots together before a few e-mails were exchanged to fine tune the results.  John very cleverly copied and flipped a couple of parts of the scene  to give me a bit more length and therefore allowed a wider band of the original pictures to be used, thereby increasing the resolution of the final scene.  When I explained that I was looking at a 1940s era he also produced some further magic by removing some obviously new bouses as well as removing the solar panels from many of the house roofs. 

Despite all this work he did not charge any extra for the editing and the resultant backscene cost me no more than an 'off the shelf' one would have cost.  He even gave me a discount for a large order!  I cannot recommend his service highly enough.

I must admit that when I first recieved the rolls I was a bit dissapointed as they looked quite indistinct and too soft however recent reading has taught me that the backscene should not be too sharp or high contrast as it will detract from the foreground and look unrealistic, bearing in mind that real distant horizons are not clearly defined.  I decided to trust to the expertise of 'Art Printers' and reserve judgement until it was on the wall.





For mounting I decided to follow the advice given by 'Art Printers' and use Foamex foam board in 3mm sheets, which can be puchased from the supplier recommended by 'Art Printers' at 2440 mm long by 300 mm high.  This arrived superby packaged and in perfect condition so was unpackaged ready to fit.  I used a high grip sealer/glue mastic and ran it over the back of the foamex before placing it against the wall and rolling it down with a small paint roller and a seam roller.  I decided on a corner radius that enabled a smooth transition of the backscene without loosing too much of the available surface and held it in place with some masking tape overnight.  The mastic proved to be particularly sticky however and it went into place easily.




The blue is a protective film on the face of the Foamex.





Next job was to place the six 1500 mm pieces of backscene on to the foamex and this was a bit trickier.  I started in the centre and ensured that the rolled up piece remained square on the base at all times while it was carefully unrolled and pressed down simultaneously.  An assistant makes this very much easier.  I did the three pieces to the left of the centre line and the first piece to the right and the more I looked at it the more I thought it fit the bill perfectly.  There were a couple of areas that I thought may require scenic breaks to hide but they are significantly fewer than I feared and I am certain that with some careful blending in and perspective assistance the backscenes are going to look better than I could have hoped.

Then I came across piece number five of the first scene, which had a cut out in it to go around a wooden post in the wall as well as go around the corner, while I was straddling the open staircase and leaning across the corner of the board.  I didn't get it square and so decided to try to remove it and try again.  I ripped it while removing it so a phone call to 'Art Printers' saved the day as they keep all customers files and can reprint any part of your bespoke scene.  Huge relief!  I'll take another shot when this wall is finished but meanwhile I am very pleased with the results.





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Brilliant, Richard.  :thumbs

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Looks fabulous. Crystal clear days where you can see forever occur but I suspect less a less visible horizon is more common.

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Apologies for the period of quiet but things have been progressing.  I will add a bit of an update soon.

In the meantime I have been pondering the challenges of locomotive speed and trying to establish something a little bit less hit and miss than I get out of the box with L1s and J15s screaming around the layout significantly faster than the A4s!!

So I have done a bit of research and set myself up with a test bench that I realise may be of use to other members here.  So the thinking started first of all with how to measure the speed of the locomotives on the layout and realising that I needed something equivilent to a measured mile.  Near as makes no difference I soon realised that 2.1 metres actually works out at close enough to 1/10th of a mile at 1/76th scale.  Consequently I marked out a 2.1 meter stretch of straight track with some frog tape.  Next I played around with some numbers and decided to put together a simple table which gives you a real life speed for a timed run of the 2.1 meters.  Consequently if my loco takes six seconds to complete the 2.1 meter stretch then it would be doing a scale speed of 60 mph.  The rest of the table followed accordingly:

Time    Real Speed
(Secs)  (mph)

5.0    72.0
5.1    70.6
5.2    69.2
5.3    67.9
5.4    66.7
5.5    65.5
5.6    64.3
5.7    63.2
5.8    62.1
5.9    61.0
6.0    60.0
6.1    59.0
6.2    58.1
6.3    57.1
6.4    56.3
6.5    55.4
6.6    54.5
6.7    53.7
6.8    52.9
6.9    52.2
7.0    51.4
7.1    50.7
7.2    50.0
7.3    49.3
7.4    48.6
7.5    48.0
7.6    47.4
7.7    46.8
7.8    46.2
7.9    45.6
8.0    45.0
8.1    44.4
8.2    43.9
8.3    43.4
8.4    42.9
8.5    42.4
8.6    41.9
8.7    41.4
8.8    40.9
8.9    40.4
9.0    40.0
9.1    39.6
9.2    39.1
9.3    38.7
9.4    38.3
9.5    37.9
9.6    37.5
9.7    37.1
9.8    36.7
9.9    36.4
10.0  36.0




All I now have to do is to adjust the limit on the speed controller to give me the time I am looking for.  I have decided to work to 30 mph for goods traffic, 30-40 mph for suburban passenger lines and 40-50 mph for main line with the A3s and A4s going up to 60-70 mph.  Very approximately!!

All you need to do is set up two points on your track 2.1 meters apart (figures, buildings, vehicles, signals etc), time your locos through them and see what the scale speed is from the table above.




Last edited on Sat Apr 28th, 2018 05:28 pm by Bunkerbarge

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Really enjoying following this thread Richard.  If you have time to visit members layouts to find "blossom Hill" you can see how i got over the problem of stock falling of the track over the stairwell. post 171 i think.
I was also interested in your marking the controller in order to set up more realistic speed control using your measured mile idea . I would like to copy your idea , but i am not sure if the performance of my individual locos will allow me to get away with that, maybe near enough though.
Meanwhile looking forward to more of your posts. :lol:

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Whoops ! I got that wrong more like post 71. :oops:

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Hi Reg, Thanks for the reply.  The marking the controller was of course for the DC lads.  I am fortunate to have gone the DCC route so I can simply set up the limits in the controller.  I have been playing this afternoon and have now set a J15 and a J50 to just over 30 mph, a N2 to about 40 and an A4 to 60 mph.  I now feel that they are looking far more realistic in operation.

For the DC systems I guess it would not be too difficult to have a scale around the controller knob and mark it off with lines for appropriate top speeds of various locomotives.

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As research continues alongside the build of this layout I have now finalised a suitable name for it that I think fits the bill much more specifically than East Coast Mainline and is much more appropriate for my local area.

I am going to name the layout 'The Lincolnshire Loop'.  I am only going to have a suburban station as I do not have enough room on the higher level for a mainline station but the terminous station with associated sidings,  goods shed, engine shed and turntable will take up a fair chunk of space.  I will also have a very small terminous halt, which will actually be for the purpose of including a programming track next to the control area so its supply will be switchable.

The stations will be called Kirkstead Junction for the suburban terminous and Timberland for the halt.

It all seems to have that bit more of a clearly defined identity now that I have settled on names and I'm feeling more positive about it all.

Barry Miltenburg
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Richard

Apologies for getting onto the horse a bit late but I have been "binge reading" layout posts lately.

Going back to track laying and wiring, I have always soldered to the metal fishplates and despite the threat of a failed contact between them and the rail, I have never suffered such a problem - I use code 75.  It also means that on a dark windy night, you can sit and solder a couple of dozen fishplates with different coloured wire ready for use.  If the track section is extremely short and between two isolating fishplates, I resort to the method you use now.

For laying track, I bought a set of Tracksetta curved/straight templates a few years ago and would not lay track without them.  They come on a range of about 6 or 7 radii and the straight one is very useful when used with a 36in steel rule.  The templates have slots to allow you to pin through the template into the track to confirm its final position.

Nice updates - I look forward to seeing more as the layout progresses - particularly the live steam!

Barry

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Hi Barry many thanks for the input.  I did toy with the idea of soldering the drops to the fishplates as it does seem to be an infinately easier way of achieving the goal but everyone I spoke to suggested, as you mention, the dangers of a bad contact, particularly as I will be spray painting the track as the first stage of weathering before ballasting.  The more I thought about it afterwards though the more I suspect that the chances of a bad connection are unlikely plus, if I use a drop at every joint even in the worst case scenario of a bad contact the track section is still being fed from only 900 mm away.  I think when I go to the lower levels I will have a go at soldering the drops to the fishplates.  I did find that the slightest misalignement of the wire with the hole would put the track out and I did struggle with a couple of sections.  I also tried the curve templates but my track does not conform to 'standard' curves so they ended up being more trouble than they were worth.  I also tried the adjustable curve holders but found I needed yet another hand to hold them in place!

I think I should have had a go with the straight one but the long straights are all down now and regular use doesn't seem to highlight any major problems.

To be honest the curves proved to be easier to deal with than the straights, which are not as perfect as I would have liked.  I have to say though that I do feel fairly reassured when I look at magazine and show layouts and see that perfect straights seem to be a challenge for everyone.

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Well just a bit of an update for now.  Since I last wrote I finished the backscene on the north wall but had a problem yet again with the same piece.  The challenge stems from the fact that I have to make a deep cut out to go around a piece of wood on the wall so the backscene ends up very weak and flexible at that point.  I ended up again with a bad joint but decided this time to hide the joint with cunningly placed scenery later.  This piece also of course then threw the last piece out as well so I have two bad joints to hide.


After that I completed the two upper level loops of track and have been frequently testing it since.  The straights could be better but being fitted at arms length were never going to be easy.  The rolling stock all seems to work fine apart from the Hornby L1, which seems to have a reputation anyway.  From what I can see on line the front pony truck is a well known challenge and quite why Hornby are still selling it is completely beyond me.  They are well aware that this locomotive has challenges rendering it almost useless yet they still continue to take people's money for them. 



Anyway the track incorporates two crossovers between the loops on the north side with the pairs of points being operated from a single channel.  I also have the two points fitted to connect to the lower levels at a later date and a point to a loco shed siding line and a goods shed siding line.  The goods shed will fill up a corner but I thought it simply looked odd with a buffer behind it as I am sure that trains will be filled as they file through the shed for its full length.  I decided to cheat by using a tunnel entrance to give the impression of a much longer siding and the best way of achieving this seemed to be by knocking around some Will's kits.  Fitting it into a curved backscene took a bit of doing.  It remains a separate piece for now until the painting and scenery pieces are added.


Another thing that has absorbed a lot of time is the playing around with the building of the loco shed.  I liked the LCC kits so put one of those together and added some detail in the form of quoins to cover the corners, fans in the gable ends a piece of platform inside along one side and some signage.  I have played around with this on a test board and added a platform, also from LCC with some additional stiffening, and a coal office.  For that I didn't like the wooden staithes so I made my own from wood stock.  The derrick is a ratio kit and the water tower is a Backmann ready made item, both to be finished painting, detailing and weathering.  The stores/office/canteen is a cheap Hornby coach removed from its wheels, mounted on a wooden frame and weathered up.When I am happy with everything they will be transferred to the layout after the goods yard in the corner has been done.


A big challenge has been the operation of the crossovers, which regularly fail and then throw the pair into an uncoordinated mess, which takes a long time to reset.  I can only think the challenge comes from the 1 mm brass rod I have used to operate them, which maybe causes them to stick occasionally.  I must admit I am not as happy with the look of them as I had hoped so I might try for a less obtrusive and more reliable connection to the point or I might try some plastic sleeving and piano wire arrangements instead and then use plastic points rodding kits to hide them.  I have some 1mm OD x 0.5 mm ID plastic tubing and some 0.46 mm piano wire, which fits perfectly.


When everything is eventually working reliably the electronics will be boxed in and a hinged cover fitted which will have scenic items on top of them to hide them.









































































































Last edited on Mon Apr 30th, 2018 07:07 am by Bunkerbarge

Barchester
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Hi Richard, just a thought with the backscene how about instead of cutting round the wood block actually bend the backscene completely round it ? The same as you did in the corner, but bend the backscene board so it comes out, round and back in. Then your scenic paper would flow round rather than needing cut. Might be worth considering if you re do it anytime.   looking good  though !

Cheers

 Matt

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I did think of a number of possible ways of accomodating the post, including going around it as you suggest, but decided the cut out option was going to be the easiest way of doing it!!  I'm stuck with it now as removing the backing will probably remove most of the plaster with it.  Consequently it is staying put.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing.

Barry Miltenburg
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Hi Richard - coming on a treat!!

I confess that, having looked through the pictures, I cannot see a bad backscene join.  Did you manage to keep it out of shot?  The loco shed and facilities are very nice - its this sort of eye candy in the foreground that always let you get away with the odd blemish in the background I believe so the backscene issue may simply vanish.

Barry

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Hi Barry,  If you look at the wooden post on the wall the first bad join is around six inches to the left of it.  The worst one is around the corner about two inches to the right of the building sat on the right side of the group.  I have intentions of elevating the level around the corner anyway so I think a strategically placed tree and a bit of careful airbrushing should render it almost invisible.

I do agree with the thinking of the foreground taking the eye away and, as I mentioned earlier in this thread, the research I have done on backscenes all suggests that the detail and clarity should be reduced towards the distance to give the impression of depth.  I think blowing mine up as much as we have has had the desirable effect of doing just that and, from what I have played around with so far with low relief buildings etc. I think the overall effect will work well. 

Its just a shame when all the other joins are almost invisible and i was really pleased with the whole scene.

Barry Miltenburg
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Blimey Richard - if you have to point out the bad joints they can't be that bad!!

I would plant some trees and forget about them!!

Barry

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I think we are all more critical of our own work.  I agree though, they will be hidden with something appropriate.


                 

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