Wednesday, March 7th, 2012

image of a badass controller What I’ve always wanted is to have a model train layout like the old-timers used to have: A tangled pile of spaghetti in a small corner of the basement with simple block control from a master control panel that has lots and lots of switches with toggles as thick as your thumb and a throttle with a great big necker knob on it. If you didn’t understand any of that, don’t sweat it. Just focus on the throttle with the necker nob.

The control panel and the toggle switches I can handle. I knocked together a big, wooden box using scrap wood for the frame and a leftover sheet of masonite for the face, and each time I’ve had to stop by the hardware store for a length of pipe or a tool to finish the latest fix-up project around the house, I detoured through the electrical aisle and grabbed three or four toggle switches. After about a month of that I’m pretty sure I’ve got enough to finish the main panel. If I don’t, I will have in one more trip.

The throttle presents a bit of a problem. I’ve saved up enough back issues of Model Railroader to know I could figure out how to build a working throttle from scratch. The thing is, I don’t want to. Maybe some day I’ll save up enough pocket change to buy a mile of copper wire and then somehow find enough time on a weekend to hand-wind a transformer coil, but who wants to go to all that trouble? Lucky for me, it just so happens that I’ve got a controller that has heroically agreed to donate its internal organs in order that the Lost Continent Railway might have a really nice control board.

Tonight I took the first step toward getting at the innards by cutting my way into the case. I wouldn’t have had to cut it open if the people who built the case hadn’t fastened it shut with screws that can’t be undone by any of the screwdrivers I have in my work shop, but they did, so I did. I put a fresh cut-off wheel in my Dremel tool and carefully cut a gash all the way around the bottom of the case. Worked like a dream. The only down side was, a Dremel tool spins at a couple thousand revs per minute and a cutoff wheel is like sandpaper, so it burned through the plastic more than cut through it. Stunk like hell. I’ll probably grow a huge cancerous goiter on my septum from getting some of the smoke from the burning plastic up my nose.

After peeling the bottom off the case I breathed a great big sigh of relief: This was going to be easier than I thought. I was worried that the innards might all be soldered to a copper-clad board. That kind of construction makes it easy to assemble and makes wiring almost non-existent. It also makes it almost impossible to disassemble, but this controller was apparently manufactured in the days before that kind of design became popular. There’s lots of wire inside. I should be able to disconnect the parts with relative ease and reconnect them behind the control panel any way I like.

But that’s enough for tonight. Now I sreepy.

casemod | 10:34 pm CDT
Category: entertainment, hobby, LoCo Rwy
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