Mar 31, 2019

Sumkynda Mill: $3 and counting...

Workshop member Jim Martin checks in with a report on a new structure for his layout...
March was a productive month in the Martin basement. I completed the necessary corner trackwork, finished installing my battery control for the turnouts, built a roll-away paint booth, got a wee bit of scenery done, and started filling an empty back corner on the layout with my mystery mill.
Still in-progress, but a quick coat of craft store paint brings the basic shell to life,
and gives Jim an idea of what the final structure will look like on the layout.
Some years back on The Model Railway Show podcast I co-hosted*, I had an enjoyable chat with Bob Walker.  Bob’s Scratchbuilder’s Corner appears regularly in Railroad Model Craftsman.
We both agreed there’s a special satisfaction in being able to build a structure for free, or almost nothing, using accumulated materials from past projects.  
So it is with Sumkynda Mill. Sumkynda Mill is currently morphing from the mock up stage into something presenting a more finished appearance. 
This all began some months ago when a friend showed me the Danby Mill kit she had assembled for the HO layout she and her husband are building together. I was smitten by the look of the thing and decided I should have an S scale approximation for myself.
The Danby Mill by American Model Builders was reviewed by Trevor in the June 2003 issue of RMC. That kit was inspired by the Hinkle Mill article in the January 1982 issue of RMC. Written by Mike Small and illustrated by Julian Cavalier, it begs to be modelled. Armed with both issues, I’m attempting my own take on the rambling, rustic structure.
My total cost so far is just three dollars. That’s enough for two sheets of dollar store Foamcore for the basic structure shapes. Everything else is being sourced from various trays and boxes around the workshop.
Odd assortments of Grandt Line doors and windows are the principal second ingredients. Old, rambling mills are great for using up various sizes of windows. Also tossed into the mix are parts from damaged plastic kits, industrial fittings from Ratio, Rusty Stumps warehouse doors, a variety of stacks, scraps of wood, matboard, styrene, and so on. The bits I’m finding will inform the final design while still paying tribute to Hinkle. I think Bob Walker would approve.
Foam core is lightweight, fairly rigid and easy to work. I mortise the corners so no bare foam is exposed. Window and door openings are cut on the surface and the foam backing is gouged out. The bottom layer of paper remains. The cavity is painted flat black and once the glazed windows are installed the effect is sufficient.
Foamcore board is inexpensive, lightweight, rigid and easy to work.
I’ve used this stuff in the past for smaller mock ups but I’m not sure it’s the final answer for something this size. Before proceeding any further, I may construct new core shapes from heavy matboard. It wouldn’t be too difficult at this stage because I can easily copy the measurements from the foam core structure with my digital caliper.
This will not be an exact copy of either Danby or Hinkle but so far I’m pleased with my efforts to capture the proportions and essential character of both mills. I would have liked a little more room on the layout to model the full width and depth of the complex but the most interesting shapes have been captured. I am adding a kit-built general store constructed and given to me by Pete Moffett.  It will become the mill office.
A quickly-applied coat of craft acrylics hides the white foam. These base colours will suffice until I get around to applying various textures of building papers. I will print those onto photographic paper from my Model Builders program.
Having gotten this far, I will likely let this sit for several months before starting up again. Spring has arrived and I’m getting anxious to leave the basement and play with my outdoor toys.
One last thing: Sumkynda Mill is a name that’s going to get old pretty fast. It’s simply a play on words while I figure what kind of mill it will be. Right now I’m leaning toward wood products.
- Jim

(*Want to hear that episode? All of The Model Railway Show episodes are still available to enjoy. He's the link to Jim's interview with Bob Walker.)

Mar 5, 2019

Stoopid, Simple Turnout Control

(Workshop member Jim Martin describes what he calls "Dead Rail’s Dimwitted Cousin"...)
Electric turnout control, about as easy as it gets!
As I switch over to Dead Rail (battery powered locos) - obviating the need to climb under the layout to solder feeders - I got to thinking about those Tortoise switch machines lurking beneath.
Conventional thinking would still have me climbing under the layout with a soldering iron to connect to the power bus and toggle switches. Why would I want to do that? So I’ve put into practice a method I experimented with years ago, using a small 9-volt battery as an external power source - an electronic switch key if you will.
Here’s how it works:
Quite simply, the two wires required to power the switch motor are brought out to the front of the layout fascia where they can be activated by the battery contacts. Touch for one direction - flip the battery for the other direction. I actually thought of drawing a wiring schematic for this article but that would be akin to listing the ingredients in milk. The photos are the schematic:

Ignore the wire colours. They mean nothing: I was just using up scraps of wire. The polarity is either one way or the other, and as you will soon find out, that’s really easy to change.
Tortoises are stall motors - that is, they are supposed to be under power at all time. That would require connecting them to an under-the-layout power bus. But my experiments have shown negligible creep-back once the power is removed. So I thought it might be feasible to use external battery power. As the late John Armstrong would have said, the method has been “feased”.
Most of the work can be done at the workbench. For each switch machine cut two lengths of wire and solder alligator clips to one end of each. Cut an electrical gap in a short length of printed circuit tie and solder the other ends of the wires to each side.
Glue the tie to the bottom of the facia in front of the switch points you want to control, bend the wires under the layout, and connect the alligator clips to the switch machine’s outside terminals. Don’t worry yet about which wire goes where.
Draw arrows on each side of the battery indicating point travel and start testing each switch. If the point travel is contrary to the arrow simply swap the alligator clips. That’s it for the under-the-layout work.
 A close-up of the printed circuit board tie, glue to the bottom edge of the fascia.
As you can see, the contact points on the front of the layout are pretty unobtrusive but I’ll probably improve the cosmetics. I also plan to build a more elegant battery case, one with spring contacts and a DPDT switch to control turnout direction.
In the meantime I have an inexpensive and uncomplicated way to operate my switch machines - one that’s stoopid simple.
- Jim