Derail Lock

Derail Lock photo Derail-Lock_zpsee770d1b.jpg

I had lunch with a friend today at The Spoke Club, which has two advantages. First, one can enjoy a meal on the lovely rooftop patio. Second, it’s right next door to Lee Valley Tools.

Therefore, after lunch I stopped in and picked up a brass chest chain so I could add a padlock to the recently-installed derail control in Port Rowan. These chains are normally used to prevent box lids from falling open, and have mounting hardware at each end. I cut them in half to get two chains with mounting hardware, then file out the final link to fit a small luggage lock. The locks are about $1 each and all keyed to the same key, so while they may be lousy for luggage (anybody with the same key could open your bags), they’re perfect for railroad locks.

With the addition of chain and lock, the derail is officially finished!

Derail control installed

Derail Control - Installed photo Derail-Control-Installed_zps602e18a9.jpg

Derail Control - Gubbins photo Derail-Control-Gubbins_zps1b217367.jpg

Chris Abbott and I accomplished several things during yesterday’s get-together. After installing the control for the train order board at St. Williams (and a fun lunch of burgers and pints of Conductor’s Craft at Templeton’s in Kensington Market), we tackled the second project for the day – installing the control for the derail on the coal track in Port Rowan.
Derail Overview photo Derail-Overview_zpsd9f5c60f.jpg
(Click on the image to read all posts about the derail)

We started by creating and mounting a wooden shelf for the control. We then determined the proper location to drill the fascia to accept the R/C aircraft control cable that we’ve used for all switches and other manual controls. (These are called Gold-n-Rods and they’re made by Sullivan. I use style S503 along with S527 Gold-n-Clevises. I get them at a local R/C store.)

Here’s a short video of the derail and control in action. I still need to add a chain and padlock to the shelf to secure the lever in the “set” position. I’ll use the same chain and lock that I’ve used on the switch stands. Enjoy if you watch!

Having done so much work on the layout during the day, Chris decided to stay for dinner so we could have a little fun too. We ran a freight extra to Port Rowan and back, switching a half-dozen cars. The layout ran really well, which is always a relief. (At this point, freight extras are more reliable than the mixed train. I’m not happy with the six-wheel passenger trucks under the passenger equipment – they occasionally derail, which is still too often for my liking. I have plans to do something about that, in the fullness of time.) The run took a scale four and a half hours at 4:1 on the fast clock.

Afterwards, we ordered in from Regina Trattoria, a local Italian eatery that does wonderful things with pizza. Ours featured grilled chicken, sundried tomatoes, roasted red peppers and gorgonzola – not your typical franchise fare.

Thanks again, Chris – great as always to see you!

Coal Track Derail :: Video

Since I’m in the video-production frame of mind, I also shot and edited a short video of the working derail that I built to protect the mainline in Port Rowan from runaway cars on the elevated coal delivery siding.

The yellow post near the top centre of the screen indicates the location of the derail on the track.


(You can also click here to watch the video on YouTube, where you may be able to enjoy it in a larger format)

Before switching the coal track, crews must clear the derail by moving the block (the yellow-painted casting) off the railhead. After switching, they must remember to reset the derail block and lock it up.

With the derail in place, if a car at the top of the incline gets loose it won’t roll onto the main track where The Daily Effort or a freight extra could hit it.

Interlocking the derail

I had a question on a forum about whether it would be possible to interlock my Coal Track derail with the Coal Track switch:
Derail Overview photo Derail-Overview_zpsd9f5c60f.jpg
(Click on the image to read more about the derail)

Real railroads sometimes (often?) did this – so that when the crew lined the switch for the siding the derail cleared automatically, and when they lined it for the main again, the derail set itself. This was accomplished through mechanical means – rodding and bell cranks, like at an interlocking plant.

The easiest way to do this on a layout would be to use stall motor switch machines – for example, Tortoises – to control the switch points and the derail. Then, simply wire them to the same controller – push buttons, toggle switch, DCC accessory controller, etc.

Add some cosmetic rods and bell cranks between the switch stand and the derail, and the installation would look great. It would also operate just like an interlocked derail on the prototype. However…

From the perspective of the layout operators, the derail would become invisible. On my layout, switching the Coal Track would be no different than switching the Team Track. This is why I did not even consider interlocking the derail to the switch. By having it independently controlled, train crews must perform two steps to work the Coal Track: unlock and line the switch, then unlock and clear the derail.

Whether one builds a working derail, and how it’s controlled, depends in large part on what one wants to accomplish during operations. At the micro level that I’m working, on this modest layout, it makes sense to introduce elements like the derail – providing they contribute, in some way, to the experience of working a short freight or mixed train on a branch line.

(It was a very good question – it made me think about why I’m doing this the way I am – so thank you for asking!)

Derail Detail

Derail Overview photo Derail-Overview_zpsd9f5c60f.jpg

Reader Steve Lucas sent me some interesting information to help me detail my recently-installed derail on the coal track in Port Rowan. (Thanks, Steve!) Here’s a look at what I’ve done.

In a comment on a previous post, Steve noted that in the 1950s, the CNR would add a “D” to the target on the switch stand if it lead to a track that had an independently-controlled derail (i.e.: one that was not linked mechanically to the switch stand). They would also add yellow paint to the switch stand handle to remind the crew that there was a derail to unlock and clear. I found a “D” in an old set of HO Scale Herald King decals for a CP Rail gondola. The “D” actually came from the decal set identifier, which now reads “GON OLA”. Thanks, Herald King!
Coal Track switch stand photo CoalTrack-SwitchStand_zps8e67c6e1.jpg

It occurred to me as I was painting the handle of the S scale switch stand that I should mark the fascia-mounted turnout control for this switch in some way as well. Yellow paint wouldn’t do it, as most people don’t have to look too closely at the garden-scale switch stands to operate them. In fact, I can do it pretty much by feel. In any case, the turnout controls tend to be in a low-light situation when we’re operating the layout – in the shadow of the fascia itself. Therefore, I decided to mark the stand that controls the Coal Track switch in a tactile fashion, by adding a length of heat shrink tubing to the handle:
Coal Track turnout control photo CoalTrack-TurnoutControl_zpsd03e5c08.jpg

We’ll see if it feels different enough to remind people that there’s something special about the coal track siding. If not, I’ll cut this off and try something else – perhaps, a couple of narrow bands of heat shrink instead of a solid length of it.

Closer to the derail, I’ve added a couple of important details, seen here:
Derail Detail photo Derail-Details_zps9fb4bf16.jpg
(Click on the image for a larger version)

First, at left, is a length of rail spiked to the ties at an angle. Some CNR info from Steve notes that if a derail is placed close to the clearance point of the spur, or at the base of a steep downgrade, a guardrail must be installed to help divert successfully-derailed equipment away from the main track that the derail protects. I assume in this case that the farm crossing will get torn up rather nicely by derailed equipment, but that the equipment will eventually hit that guard rail and stay off the main track. In any case, it’s a very visible detail. I bent and filed the ends of the rail in the same manner that one does a traditional guard rail for a turnout frog and then glued and spiked it in place. I’ve given the rail a first coat of paint and will weather it after the paint dries.

To the right of the crossing, a yellow post marks the location of the derail itself. I cut a five-foot piece of S scale 4″x4″ lumber and shaped the top into a four-sided point using an emery board. I drilled a hole in the base for a .015″ piece of wire, and a hole in the scenery to mount it.

The photo also shows that I’ve painted the derail. I gave the block a coat of yellow, but the rest of it is painted with Neo-Lube. I didn’t want to use regular paint here, since that could gum up the sliding piece. As the name suggests, Neo-Lube actually lubricates the operating mechanism.

I’m pleased with these little details. All that’s left to do is mount a control on the fascia and connect it to the mechanical switch machine under the derail. Until I get that done, I’ll leave this detail in the “clear” position: I don’t want to put any cars on the ties by accident!

Sliding derail installed

Today, I installed the derail on the coal track siding in Port Rowan:

Derail in set position:
Derail Installed - Set Position photo Derail-Installed-Set_zps15156853.jpg

Derail in clear position:
Derail Installed - Clear Position photo Derail-Installed-Clear_zpse385e94a.jpg

(Click on the images for larger versions)

I scratch-built the derail yesterday – here’s the story. I’ve also mounted a Bullfrog mechanical switch machine under the derail and tested it. The derail slides smoothly in both directions. I’ll “paint” the derail with Neo-Lube, which looks like oily steel and will help keep the derail sliding smoothly. The head will be painted yellow.

I still have to install a yellow post trackside to mark the derail. And my friend Chris Abbott is working on a control mechanism similar to the garden-scale switch stands we’ve used to control track switches. Stay tuned!

Flip derail idea

A few people have mentioned the flip-over style derail. I thought about doing one of these but could not think of a suitable mechanism to make it work. Bell cranks would not, I feel, do the trick: They don’t have the rotation that such a derail would require – it could be as much as 170 degrees.

However, this morning, I had a thought about how one could do this and thought I’d share it here in case others are interested in exploring this option further. I’ll start with a rather crude sketch:
Flip Derail - possible solution photo FlipDerail_zpsf1434b89.jpeg
(Click for a larger version)

The derail head would be soldered to a small – very small – brass pulley. Maybe something from the model shipbuilding hobby would do the trick. Below decks, a T-shaped mechanism – like two bell cranks back to back – would move a piece of EZ Line over the pulley. EZ Line is elastic and would provide good grip on the pulley – but it would also stretch when the derail head reached the end of its travel, so it would add some flexibility to the throw mechanism.

I haven’t tried this – and I’m not going to – but if you do then let me know how it works out!

A working derail

The Port Rowan branch was pretty flat and as a consequence, there’s only one grade on my layout – the short but steep climb up the coal track spur in Port Rowan:
Coal Track Corridor photo CoalTrack-Weeds-01_zps71ad79d7.jpg

Since this elevated track connected directly to the main track, the CNR installed a derail at the base of the grade. It’s noted on some of my prototype documents. I decided it would be a good thing to model – especially since, if I could make it work, it would be an extra procedure for crews to perform when switching this spur.

I’ve been thinking for a while about how to make a working derail. The flip-over type is quite common, but it would be hard to connect linkage to such a model. However, I could use the same type of linkage I’ve used on my switches to control a sliding derail – like the one seen halfway down on this page.

So, I sat down at the work bench this afternoon with a good selection of brass and fabricated a working sliding derail…

Derail in clear position:
Derail-Clear photo Derail-Clear_zps6f2e9d3f.jpg

Derail in set position:
Derail-Set photo Derail-Set_zpsc3e54770.jpg

The derail is mounted on a fixture that I built to make sure it will fit between the ties on the layout, and interact properly with the rail. The base has built-in stops to limit the travel of the derail. I have not yet finished the head of the derail – I’m considering my options (which include doing nothing), so stay tuned. I’ll install this one on the layout to see how it looks – keeping in mind that it will be about two feet from the front edge of the layout, so nobody’s going to get a very good look at it anyway.

The derail slides smoothly and will add another prototype element to working Port Rowan.