Robin Sundt Echini

St Catherine’s Lock, Shalford.

A year and a half ago, I decided to enter the DCC Concepts “Rodding” competition. I had been thinking for some time of extending my 00 Gauge layout to include the railway junction at Shalford and, alongside the junction, the St. Catherine’s Lock on the Wey and Arun Navigation. This was suggested by my wife as we have a narrowboat and have travelled through that lock on a number of occasions.

St Catherine's Lock 2017.jpg
In the foreground is St Catherine’s Lock and in the background is the train from Redhill joining the main line from Havant to Guildford, taken in 2017.

Cramming everything into a 6ft by 2ft baseboard obviously required some compromises but, in general, the scenery went together quite well. The DCC Concepts scale rodding worked very well but I did make the mistake of trying to drive the signals with the same IP Digital point motors, which was definitely a mistake and cost too much time and effort.

The biggest problem that I had was the mechanism to drive the model narrowboat through the lock, opening and closing the gates and raising and lowering the “water” in the lock. At either end of the layout, there were turntables under small hills designed to turn the narrowboat around and sent it back through the lock.

I have usually found that trying to do something new and complex takes several attempts to get it right and, unfortunately, the time pressure to complete the layout by the competition deadline meant that there was only time for one go at getting it right – and it never really worked to my satisfaction. I did manage to film the narrowboat going through the lock for the final competition presentation but it took several attempts to get a clean run just in one direction. Trying to find solutions to problems, the mechanism became quite “Heath Robinson” and was never reliable.

Recently, during our enforced isolation, I decided to try to rebuild the mechanism and to make it work properly. One major advantage now, compared to 18 months ago, is that I have acquired an inexpensive 3D printer so that I can custom make parts as required. I designed and built gearboxes that sit under each lock gate to open and close them with adjustable limit switches. I designed and built a further gearbox that rotates a pair of M12 nuts to raise and lower the “water” in the lock. There are three drive motors, one above the lock, one in the lock and one below the lock, to drive the 6mm toothed belts that engage with the carrier that holds the magnet that pulls the narrowboat model along.

All the mounts and end bearings were also 3D printed along with the freewheeling pulleys. In all over 40 different parts, each one went through a number of iterations to get them right. One major advantage of a 3D printer is that if one part needs to be adjusted by 1 or 2mm, you can just adjust the drawing and reprint it.

The mechanism is built in three modules with the lock in the middle and the upstream and downstream modules as mirror images of each other. After a good month of constant incremental improvements to each module, the three modules could finally be run together on the bench.

While this was going on, I had to take all the old mechanism to pieces and remove the old “water” in the canal without damaging the rest of the model too much. Despite many layers of varnish and fine sanding in between, the old "water" surface was never slick enough for the narrowboat to move without jerking. At the Alexandra Palace show last year, I spoke to one group that had a lake with models sailing round it. They advised using Perspex as the “water” and “Gliss” powder to provide a friction free surface, so that is what I have done.

I also completely rebuilt the turntables at each end of the layout that turn the narrowboat around and reverses the direction of travel. Again this process went through several iterations until it worked reliably. One major change has been to use the brilliant DCC Concepts  “Slim Vertical Mounted Magnetic Sensors” (DCP-TMS), which detect the magnet in the driving carriage under the narrowboat. This meant that it is possible to locate the boat very accurately at each stage of the process. As the detectors are "Normally Open", each one requires a relay to do the necessary switching. The turntable mechanism is hidden under a hill at each end.

Having painted and installed the Perspex “water” on the layout and mounted the mechanism underneath – many hours lying on my back under the layout adjusting everything – the canal element of the layout can now be left to run on its own with the model narrowboat going back and forth through the lock as the trains run past (the chuff-chuff in the video is the steam train not the narrowboat!).

There is still some cosmetic work to be done to repair the damage done to cut out the old “water” and to put some weeds to cover a couple of bolt heads - but the canal itself can now work away all on its own.
Its taken a while but it is great to have it working now.
All the best
Robin

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Bunkerbarge
Robin, absolutely superb.  I can only say how relieved I am that you did not get this all ready for the competition otherwise i would have been out of the running.  The engineering is superb but what really catches my attention are things like the removeable hillside with the turntable mechanism underneath it.  I have been thinking along such lines recently for access to electronics and your example just goes to prove how effective it can be.

I love the 3D printed components and the whole lock mechanism.  All that remains is a little sound chip with a two cylinder diesel engine sound on it for the narrowboat!
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Bunkerbarge
I must say I have been thinking of you a lot recently.  I was bought a copy of a book for Christmas entitled Narrow Boat by L.T.C. Rolt, which I am now reading.  It charts the journey through English canals, starting near Banbury, of Mr Rolt and his wife in 1939 and is widely regarded as providing the inspiration for the modern day narrow boating pleasure business.  What I find particularly interesting is Mr Rolts criticism of the 'modern' industrial world from a 1939 perspective.  You could hardly imagine what he would have made of today's world!

I strongly suspect that you will have already read the book but if you haven't the ISBN number is: 978-0-7509-6061-8.  I know you would enjoy reading it.
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Robin Sundt Echini

Rolt’s book Narrow Boat is THE classic and led to the formation of the Inland Waterways Association with Rolt and Aickman. Without them we wouldn’t have the canal network that we do. It is lovely because we know well so many of the places that he visited but it is sad because he documented a world and a way of life that was dying. If you enjoyed that you would like the books about the “idle Women” in WWII who were anything but idle. Each crew of three young women working a pair of Narrowboats with 50 tons of coal from Birmingham to London and scrap metal back. Tough work!

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Bunkerbarge
The great shame is that, in the book, he didn't go anywhere near the canals that I know better and have particular fondness for and they are the ones from my own home area of West Yorkshire.  Such canals as the Leeds-Liverpool and the industrial areas of West Yorkshire are an amazing wealth of industrial engineering in themselves.  
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Ruffnut Thorston
Hi BB.

Mr. Rolt's boat "Cressy" was a 70 foot long X 7 foot beam ex Shropshire Union Railways and Canal Company narrow boat.

As such, it was too long to navigate the Leeds & Liverpool Canal from Wigan to Leeds, where the locks are only built to take the L&L "short boats" of 60 feet long X 14feet beam.

Some of the other navigations over the East side of the country are also built to take the shorter barges, and keels, used in that area.

The Leeds & Liverpool Canal was mainly promoted from the east, so the canal was built to that gauge.

When the L&L was joined to the Bridgewater Canal at Leigh, the locks between Leigh, via Wigan, to Liverpool were lengthened to take the 70 foot long X 14 foot beam "Mersey Flats" used on the Bridgewater and other West coast navigations based around the Mersey and Weaver.

Thus, narrow boats can navigate to Liverpool from the main system, without crossing the Mersey.

It has been a long time since I read "Narrow Boat", but I think that he turned left at Hurleston Junction, onto the Welsh section of the Shropshire Union Canal, partly to visit the place that Cressy was built, at Trefor.
That was as far North as he got?

Best wishes,

Ruff...
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AHJAY
I absolutely love this project.

A unique combination of persistence, inspiration, technology and determination to succeed. The result really is something special.

Ahjay
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Bunkerbarge
In the book the furthest he has been North so far was Middlewich.  He did say he wanted to go into Wales but war broke out and he decided to stay in England.  I'm only half way through at the moment so I'm not sure where he is going from Nantwich.

One thing I found interesting was the fact that he changed Cressy's engine from petrol to paraffin burning.  How that was done I don't know but I'm going to look into it.  He simply waited for some parts to arrive and converted the engine!  I had initially assumed that paraffin would have required compression ignition, which would have been far too big a conversion, so it must still be a spark ignition engine. 
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David Waite

Hi Robin it’s a mechanical marvel I can see a lot of thought has gone into its construction, its wonderful to see a item that is a one off and something that is so unique such as this, many things in our hobby everyone does and ideas are shared but this is a original from yourself.  Well Done .
Regards David Waite .

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Robin Sundt Echini
Thanks for the positive feedback. It’s been a long time in the making but Lockdown gave me plenty of time without any external pressures, which made it even more fun!

Bunkerbarge, you might like to check out “Sailing through England” by John Seymour. In 1955 he took a Dutch Barge across the Pennines. He also wrote “Voyage into England” about a 1966 four month Narrowboat trip but I don’t think he went that far north on that one. Both available from Amazon.
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Ruffnut Thorston
Hi BB...

Paraffin conversions were once plentiful, as paraffin was cheaper than petrol.

There was TVO, Tractor Vaporising Oil.
This was basically paraffin I believe, certainly the old grey Fergie tractor I knew used paraffin when TVO became more or less extinct.

The procedure was to start the engine on Petrol, then change the fuel supply to paraffin once the engine had warmed up.

You had to remember to switch back to petrol before shutting the engine down.

If you forgot, or the engine stopped for some reason, then you would have to drain the carb. of paraffin, and refill with petrol to get it going again.

Some conversions had the paraffin fed through a heating coil of pipe around the exhaust manifold...

I suppose the comparative thing lately would be the gas conversions to run on LPG, Liquified Petroleum Gas.

All keep the spark ignition system.
Best wishes,

Ruff...
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Bunkerbarge
I thought it would be something along those lines and I suspected that heating the paraffin might be involved!

In my early days at sea you would manoeuvre and shut down the main engine on diesel fuel and then start up and manoeuvre when leaving port.  When changing over to deep sea mode you would change over to heavy fuel for the passage.  If you ever had a blackout or an engine shut down when deep sea you would hope to get it started again pretty quickly as the longer it was stopped the more difficult it would be to restart with heavy fuel in the system.
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Fowler4f
Tom Rolt also wrote Red For Danger, a history of railway accidents and railway safety, from 1830 to 1975 first published in 1955. Tom Rolt died in 1974.
My edition 3 is a Pan paperback with the additional material by Geoffrey Kichenside.
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Robin Sundt Echini
Red For Danger is a great book and illustrates the way that railway systems developed over the years. He also wrote an excellent biography of  Brunell including his vacuum railway, the Great Western and the gauge wars. 
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Bunkerbarge
Interestingly for those of us who have watched the Michael Portillo series on railway journeys, which are based on the writings of a George Bradshaw, who went on to draw many railway maps and eventually established a publishing house that specialised in transport related topics.  They also published a book on canals called 'Bradshaw's Canals and Navigable Rivers of England and Wales', written by Henry Rodolph de Salis in 1904, which lists all canals with thier details and ownerships etc.  Reports are very positive so a copy is currently on its way to me!
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