Thursday, August 16, 2018

A Couple Quick Bluepoint Tips

My layout focuses on operating four local freight trains and most of the turnouts over which they operate are thrown manually, just like the prototype (well, if by "prototype" you're ok with moving the switchpoints with your finger - click here for all the different ways I manually operate turnouts). By contrast, down on the Shoreline (the big mainline through Saybrook), all those turnouts are thrown by the guy in the tower manning a control board which controls a bank of Tortoise switch machines (though I'd started out with Micro-Mark's machines).

But when one of my operators suggested after a recent ops session that I provide some sort of remote control for a turnout under the Rt. 1 overpass in Saybrook, I wasn't quite sure what to do. The turnout was already installed and had been thrown using the included center-over spring (I use Micro-Engineering turnouts). I didn't want to install a Tortoise machine there, since that would be inconsistent with their use elsewhere (i.e. just on mainline turnouts), and the turnout's points would get increasingly difficult to reach as the overpass actually gets installed the scenery develops in the area.

So I decided to go back to the solution I used for the turnout at the north end of the Saybrook wye and installed a Bluepoint switch machine. But of course, given the turnout's location and the fact that it was already thoroughly installed (and ballasted!), adding a new switch machine was a bit complicated. Here's a few tips on how I did it:

The completed installation - you can just make out the turnout/points where the "#25" sign is. Yup - this turnout is in a wall, behind the backdrop, and a bridge will be going over it. No wonder somebody suggested I do something about that!

As I mentioned, I installed a Bluepoint. Fortunately, I had the foresight to have drilled a 1/4" hole under the throwbar before installing the turnout (in anticipation of powering it sometime in the future). Unfortunately, the hole wasn't quite big enough (since the throwbar actually ended up a little off-center) and I had to drill it out a bit. BE CAREFUL if you do that - otherwise you risk the drill bit going right up through your turnout! Yeah, that almost happened to me. Fortunately, all it did was rip out the center-over spring I no longer needed!

I used a regular coat hanger through a slightly-reamed-out hole in the machine for control. Note the four holes - yup, I'd mounted the machine there at first (turned 180) and then realized that the coat hanger/actuating rod would be going right through the adjacent Tortoise machine! Don't be like me. Check first.

This view shows how the actuating rod cleared - once I'd turned the machine around!
The Bluepoint installation instructions are pretty straight-forward. As I mentioned above (and in my previous install), I used a wire coathanger as an actuating rod. It was threaded through a hole drilled through the fascia and then bent into the machine. And I used a yellow wire nut for a knob.

Thankfully, it works like a charm. Now crews switching Saybrook don't have to worry about reaching this turnout - or knocking a bridge, or scenery, over in the process!

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