Busy on the Wharf


Ben Weiner


1st January 2020

Reading Time

3 minutes

Inspired by the sight of us slaving away to get Orchard Wharf fit to show to the expectant public at the London Festival of Railway Modelling (usually known around here simply as ‘Ally Pally’ — we all know the mega life event to which we refer), one of our EM colleagues suggested it was high time we wrote a post on what we’re up to.

So here goes.

Scenery: drawing profiles of as many buildings as we can, so they can be composed on the boards to achieve the best fit and most satisfying look. We have three fairly serious traversers we think we should conceal (actually some of us think we shouldn’t — let us know whether you think hiding or showing ‘the wings’ is a good thing or a bad thing).

Speaking of traversers: did we mention these are pretty serious? There are three on a layout which only has two ends. One is below another. It has curved storage roads. Everything has to slide silk-smoothly. Everything has to line up, on all the tracks, every time, at every show. The means of operation has to be accessible as does the means of securing the platform when a train is running in or out. So lots of careful design work and lots of careful fettling. We are getting there, just in time for …

Track: the main running lines on the high level have crossovers at each end; one is in the form of a single slip that also provides access to the goods loop on the down line. Both these crossovers and the associated turnout at the country end are under construction, with the chairs almost done on one. Turnouts tend have to moving switch rails which brings us to …

Turnout actuators. These sit below the baseboard and have vertical tubes that engage with pins on the switch rails on the turnout above. They are an original design not yet tested. John has soldered up almost a dozen so they better be right. They will be moved by …

Servo motors in MERG mounts: thank goodness somebody else designed and manufactured these for us. They’re all safely in stock ready to be fitted. Of course a servo doesn’t run by itself; it needs a control sytem connected to it. Which brings us to:

Electronics. There was a brilliant learning session in November where Graham G taught the essentials of successful soldering (not sloppy soldering, note). Participants then dived on a pile of board kits and soldered them up. Some of the kits are MERG designs (we’re using the CBus system) and some are designs by Graham. When the dust had settled Graham had a look at the results and has now refined the technique of the more prolific solderers, so they’re not only nippy but also capable of reaching his high standards.

Why do we need high standards? Well, Orchard Wharf is a layout built by the club for show. It will be repeatedly packed up, thrown in a van, unloaded at a venue that could be anywhere in the country, put together, played with for a weekend, taken apart, chucked back in the van, carted back to Keen House, unloaded, fiddled with and then the cycle repeats. Stuff has to be solid and reliable, just so that we can handle the number of failures we actually expect. We don’t want to let down our show managers, the public, or ourselves as operators; when we show the layout we want it to run!

Which brings us back to where I started: the Ally Pally show. See you there? I might not get to go out much before then ๐Ÿ˜‰


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