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Today I went and got my coal. I decided to use the abrasive coal slag from TSC. It looks great in my opinion! My favorite part is how easily it slides out of the fish belly hoppers like the real deal. 

Now I'm going to do some thinking out loud. 

I've been resisting the idea of going with a helix at the nothern end of the layout to connect the bottom and top level because I felt like it was a waste of space where cool things could be modeled. That was before I started collecting hoppers with opening hatches in the bottom. Now I'm thinking the helix would be perfect because it would be a lot easier to build than a custom lift like I had planned on. It also means that when the hoppers empty at the steel mill, that load could easily be funneled down through the helix, out of sight, and go into the coal mine on the lower level where I can then fill hoppers again. This would allow for continuous operation and I'm very excited for this possibility. A guy by the name of nsmodeler24 on youtube has a similar setup involving a rotary dumper but I couldn't find the video showing them connected. Life and work have been beating me down pretty hard lately for whatever reason so it will be nice to sit down on Anyrail with the dog and just work out the plan for the next few nights while I try to catch some downtime without any surprises. My only concern is the weight of a coal drag going through a helix. I'm not concerned at all about motive power. It would just be a biblical mess if the hoppers stringlined on the helix!

I'll post the track plan when I get it figured out. 

It sounds like a good idea, but I agree I don't know how many cars and how much power it would take to pull them up the helix.  You can work on Anyrail and if you think that is the way you want to go, then I suggest you build a small temporary setup to try out the idea.  That is how I learned I could pull my short trains up a 4% grade.  I built one on the floor and tries every engine on it.

I don't have anything to show for improvements but it's been nearly a month and I still gotta burn 15 minutes at work.

I worked out how much carpeting I need. Now I need the Norgeville Railroad board of investors to fork over some cash haha

I'm working on modeling and prototyping those models on the 3D printer since carpet isn't in the budget. The current item is the car dumper for behind the blast furnace. It might be dumping ore, might be coal, should be coke or limestone but whatever; the end goal is to push hoppers (fish bellys) up to the high line and dump them at the furnace. Atlas and MTH 55ton fish bellys have opening doors and my hand tests show the coal mostly falls out. It might need a little help but that can be solved later. I will need to convert the MTH hoppers to be spring loaded like the Atlas. MTH doors lock open and closed where the Atlas doors are held shut by a torsion spring. I'm having trouble sourcing the springs but I'll get there. I got a place to make custom springs since I couldn't buy them from Atlas but I need to get my measurements and whatnot figured out. I don't know the nomenclature for how to call out spring dimensions.

Either way, I cut the ties out of the track and it sets down into the top of the dump station. Then two axles are connected via gears on the outside. The axles have one finger each. The axles turn and the finger pushes the door open and the coal empties. I'll see about getting some pictures up when I get home of the rough prototype. It works. It just doesn't work well.

That's pretty much the extent of the excitement. I have decided to go with the helix for a number of reasons. The top reason is that the helix will be under the blast furnaces so I can hide the coal falling through the table and going back into the coal mine on the lower level. This will (hopefully) give me hands off coal loading and unloading. That should be a good time and I'm excited to be able to do that.

But it does change the entire dynamic of the layout. Half of the top level just opened up. Do I put a different industry at the end of the table where the coal mine was? Or do I say the heck with it and let the steel industry dominate the entire top half of the layout? That would be interesting!

That's all for now. Maybe I'll snap some pictures of the unloader when I get home. Lunch is over!

Bill, Please do take some photographs of the unloader for us.  I would like to see it.  Several years ago I bought an NIB Lionel 456 unloader with one car with the plunger actuator with the Lionel MSRP on it of...hold your hat...$18.50!!  I have no idea when it was made.  IT works slick, and I have a few other cars with the plunger.  I thought I could use it on my layout, and doctor it up a bit to look more prototypical, really just the base would need work.  That is one reason there was a lull in my layout build topic.  I finally decided I don't have room for it on this layout.

The helix sounds great too!  There are so many things to consider when designing a layout.  Remember, you can always change things around as you are building.  My layout is basically as planned, but I have been able to squeeze in a lot more than I thought!

Two photos are attached. Video coming. The finished unloader will be one whole piece. I printed it in a bottom and top section so that I didn't have to print the entire thing every time I wanted to make a change to the top. It took a few tries to get the side shields designed so coal wasn't splashing everywhere. Then getting the spacing right to fit the ties took two tries because I didn't measure twice like the rule says.

So the bottom has the through axle with bearings at each end. The bearings might be overkill but I figured it would eliminate wear and I wouldn't have to think about it ever again. The two gears are meshed and one will be driven. They are what flips the fingers. The fingers will need more work. A lot more work. They don't fold into the base so cars/trains will be unable to pass over them. I'll need to find a spot to tuck them but I think it will be as simple as a printed slot in the base. The unloader is tapered and the coal falls down it nicely. I'll have to see about adding a cavity ok the underside for an oscillating weight to help get the last bits of coal out of the car.

I assume arduino will be the way I'll control it. The main reason for that is I should be able to set stepper motor spin limits so anybody will be able to unload coal without me worrying that they break something on accident.

I took a day off Friday so I can go vote early and I hope I can finalize the design and print it. I'll post if I get to.

The videos show more detail of it working. It I'll have two fingers in time and I plan to make the fingers out of aluminum instead of printed prototypes.

The workbench is a mess because I've been so busy. It's not normal got things.... everywhere.


Images (2)
  • IMG_20201021_170535147
  • IMG_20201021_170554115
Videos (3)
Last edited by BillYo414

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