Over the past couple of months I have been focusing on building other things rather than actual work on the layout itself. One minor thing I recently did was saving the tea leaves from my tea, and using that as generic dead-fall on the layout. It seems to make a bit of a difference. It gives the scenery a bit more of a "cluttered" look (you can see that in the photos on this page). The reason for this update, however, is that one the turnouts has been giving me problems for quite some time now. It is one that leads to a short team-track. I don't use it very often, but when I do, sometimes one of its point rails would break loose from the throwbar. Not a big deal; I just solder it back in place. Nonetheless, it shouldn't happen. It is a very sharp/short turnout, so I attributed the problem to the angle of curvature putting stress on the point rails. Recently, however, I got annoyed by this "feature", so I decided to investigate further. I found that the actuator rod mechanism I had built (shown in the photo below) was really not doing the right thing, and so it was putting an unnatural pressure on the throwbar, causing it to want move in a direction that caused way too much pressure on the point rail solder joint.
So, I took a long look at the problem, and realized that I could make a different mechanism that actually works better. This is shown in the next photo. I glued a piece of styrene (sanded smooth) onto the mounting block to which the Tortoise is mounted. I then glued three 1/2-inch square blocks of wood together, and when that was try, glued another piece of styrene to its bottom. The two pieces of styrene slide over each other with far less friction than two pieces of wood would. I then took a piece of brass tubing, put a 90-degree bend in it, and glued it into one end of the wooden block with some 5-minute epoxy. I could then slip that into the hole in the throwbar of the turnout. The actual actuator rod on the Tortoise is made from strong, stiff music wire. I had to try three different gauges before I found one that actually moved the wooden block. The fulcrum of the Tortoise allowed me to adjust it to where it fully threw the points of the turnout in both directions. However, I noticed that when the throwbar was in the position that it is in shown in the photo, the wooden block had a tendency to want to pop up. So I formed a brass tube that somewhat loosely fit over the wooden block and then used lots of 5-minute epoxy to glue it down to the mounting block and the Tortoise. The turnout seems to work fine now. Before closing up this hole in the ground, I am going to test it plenty of times to make sure it all works. One note about the hole I had to drill through the wooden block for the actuator rod: due to the thickness of the wood, I had to make the hole on the right-hand side (the "exit" hole) much wider otherwise the actuator rod would not bend and therefore not cause the block to move. I had to give it a bit of "give" on the right-hand side.
As I was thinking about re-applying the scenery base to cover this gap, I realized that I might put this barber shop structure over the hole. That way if I have any problems with the turnout mechanism, I might be able to just lift up the building and get to it. The problem is that the wooden block that I made for the mechanism needs clearance above it. If I were to re-build the ground surface like I had it before, I would have a rather large "bump" there, which would clearly indicate that there is a turnout mechanism under the ground. Instead, I am thinking about building a raised foundation upon which this barber shop building will sit. The building has interior lights and an animated barber shop sign, so it will need to be hooked up to the 12-volt accessories bus under the layout. I plan to fully build the store front detail, so having it near the front of the layout would make that effort worthwhile.