The "Clandestine Mine" Wall-hanging Layout

This is the Clandestine Mine hanging on my office wall. It is a simple shelf layout where a locomotive shuttles back and forth. It is totally solar powered, and stores its energy in supercapacitors in the interests of a long and reliable life. The supercapacitors store about 700J which is sufficient for 20 to 40 trips from one end to the other with a little shunting about. Thus it typically runs well past sunset.

It is specifically designed to live on the wall in the Sydney apartment. No residence should be without a train. A year of lockdowns and closed borders prevented delivery.

The concept is that some enterprising fellows have found a branch line that now stops well short of where it once ran. Taking advantage of the neglectful railway administration, the have their own little line operating. They have secretly extended the track to where they are busily working on subterranean constructions. You can see the signal box and signal at the end of the branch line at the left-hand end; at the right-hand end, past a castle ruin, in some dense trees, is a compact little tunnel, the entrance into their scheme.

This is the view from the stationmaster's greenhouse towards the end of the line. You can see here the rail with concrete sleepers (ties) ends.

This is the reverse view from the castle ruin towards the signal box. The track gets much more irregular. You have to appreciate that the tunnel is much longer in reality, so the goings-on are not so obvious (and the model layout fits into a tiny studio apartment).

The line has two vehicles to choose from. There is one of the old Bachmann "gandy dancer" trucks, and the lovely Hornby "Ruston and Hornsby 48DS" diesel that you see in the main image at left.

The little Hornby loco is simply cute, in the best way. The original has axles spaced only 1.6m, so the model is about 55mm buffer to buffer. Normally a loco with only two axles would be apt to suffer from bad connections, so this one uses the trailing flat wagon for power pickup in addition to the main loco wheels.

You can see the connecting wire in this box image. It is provided with a plug and socket for disconnecting the flat wagon.

This is a short video of the train moving about. The train moves more often when there is more sunlight.

This is the rear view of the first version of the layout. After a while it was clear that a more sophisticated drive system would be required for relaible operation. The problem is mainly that dust and dirt can settle on the track, as the layout is not enclosed like the Japanese Tram or St Lesitz. I installed a PlasmaDrive circuit, and now it runs very reliably. That is called cracking a nut with a steam hammer.

This is the higher-tech version, slightly messier.

The little house with the black cable houses the supercapacitors, plus a USB cable for operation if there is insufficient light.

The RYG signal next to the stationmaster's greenhouse signals what is going on. It remains dark (except for clandestine signalling, see below) until the solar cells accumulate 3500mV, at which point it shows green. Green means to our likely lads that there is no "proper" service coming down the single track, and they can fool around in safety. When the loco starts, the signal turns red. When the loco reaches an end bumper, or there is some fault, or the system is dumping solar power because it has too much, it turns yellow. When the loco stops, it turns green again.

An interesting aspect of the layout is the Morse code info feature. If one presses the red buttom at rear, or either of the touch bumbers at the end of the track, for 5 seconds, the controller signals information in Morse via the red signal light. The first press gets the number of runs. As of the end of August 2021, the locos have done almost 1000 one-way runs. The message reads "RUNS 976", ".-. ..- -. ... ----. --... -." in Morse. A second press reads out the supply voltage in millivolts, which tells you how much sun the panels have received. The PlasmaDrive will run anywhere from 3500mV to 5500mV. The signal can also let you know if the loco is derailed or broken with the message "LOST", or if there is a short circuit ("I") or open circuit ("O").

As of the end of December 2022, the loco has done over 10,000 runs, or more than 17 shuttles per day.

When installed and running in Chelmsford St, the loco had done 13,671 runs, noted at 9th March 2023. I note also that it had done 15,430 by 2 November 2023, although the apartment was not continually occupied.

By 7 December 2023 it had done 18,941 runs, and by 30th January 22,520 runs. This represents 3511 runs in 35 days, almost exactly 100 per day, in the first interval, and 3579 in 54 days or 66 runs/day. The latter period was less sunny!

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