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Thread: Working SP Rotary Snow Plow

  1. #1
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    Default Working SP Rotary Snow Plow

    I have always loved videos of rotary snow plows clearing the mainline over Donner Pass and other snowbound areas of the Pacific Northwest, throwing plumes of white to the side as they tunnel through large drifts. I found a YouTube video (https://youtu.be/2cpsiuh7kuU) showing a very nice build of a working rotary plow using a Tichy Trains kit, so wanted to try my hand at one. Turns out that this would be the most complex animation project I have tried to date.

    The motor used in the video was a Maxon with some form of reduction gearing, but I also wanted to add DCC control and working lights and hoped that I could get the DCC decoder to slow the motor down sufficiently. I purchased a Kato coreless motor (the one used for the FEF), and a Digitrax DZ126 miniature decoder (Photo 4). I cut a short section of brass tubing to serve as the axle for the rotary blade (Photo 1) and used a MotoTool to cut a groove for the Kato motor's plastic shaft head (Photo 5). The motor mounts were constructed from styrene and glued to the floor of the plow cab (Photos 2 and 3). The motor is held tight by the mounts but can be removed if necessary for troubleshooting. The windows were covered with Woodland Scenics light block plastic film so that trackside railfans can't see the non-prototypical mess of wires inside.

    I mounted an Evan Designs warm white pico LED for the headlight (Photos 7 and 10) and an inexpensive surface mount LED in the body, each programmed to a different function on the decoder. All of the wiring does fit in the plow body (just barely - Photo 8) but I have left the wires purposely long to make it easier if I need to do any troubleshooting. Once complete, I may cut them shorter and re-solder them.

    The plow blade spins, although way too fast (video), so I need to work to reduce the friction between the sides of the blade and the housing around it, as right now it stalls at slower speeds. I can then program the motor control on the decoder for a much slower maximum speed. Hopefully that will work. Otherwise I will probably replace it with the Maxon motor.

    Next step is to complete my revision of a Bachmann coal tender, from which I have removed the coal load to convert to an oil tender and repainted in SP dark gray [most of the SP rotaries that I can find photos of were a kind of grimy black with Tuscan red rotary blades, but I like SP Lark dark gray better (so much for staying true-to-prototype). I can pretend that they were originally painted gray but got blackened over time ]. I next need to find the best way to reliably transfer track power from the tender wheels to the plow decoder (either via the tender drawbar or directly wired). I am just hoping that the centrifugal force generated by the spinning blade doesn't derail the car when I actually mount some trucks on it and set it on the track! Another good reason to work to slow it down.

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    Soooo cool nice work.

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    Very nice. The rubbing of the sides means there's play in the mechanism or the center point of the blades is not correct. Could you add some small ball bearing? Another alternative is to chuck the blade disk on a lathe and slighttly cut the out of round disk?

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    Extremely cool! I'd be tempted to set up a test track with some baby powder...

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    Very nice, I also have the snow plow and it is pretty small, Great work with electronics.
    "It's not whats best......It's whats best for you"

    Gary

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    I had an article in RMC a few years back about doing the ATSF 199361 plow in N scale, using the Dimitrains rotary blade, modified shroud, and hacking up a Bachmann tender.

    I put an inexpensive 3V gearhead drive in it and a dropping resistor, that got the blade speed down to crawling when I wanted it. This video is OLD, when the only thing I had that would shoot video was a digital camera, but it proves the point it spun. I had an old Minitrix driveshaft and bearings that I mounted the blade on.

    https://youtu.be/SQ6mvomN31o

    Those little gearhead motors from Gizmoszone and others are only in the $20 range, I think the one I used was 25:1, 100-ohm resistor in series to control it.

    Because I started (as ATSF did) with a six-axle tender, I put Kato RSC2 trucks under it for pickup, so while it's not self-powered, it's rock-solid in the electrical pickup side. I converted the chute to an on-off switch to run it off of track power.
    Randgust N scale kits web page at www.randgust.com

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    Thanks, Scotian_Huntress. That video was my motivation for doing this project in the first place. I just wanted to also add DCC, but still need to slow the motor down. It may be that gear motors have more torque at slower speeds than this Kato motor has, so I need to see if I can get the shaft lined up perfectly and any friction source removed. The Kato motor without anything attached turns slowly at speed 1 or 2.

    Thanks, Randgust, as well. More ideas for me to try.

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    Nice build. I've been thinking about making one.
    Jerry

    If you haven't broken something along the way, you haven't learned anything.

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    I've built that exact model from Tichy, and when I tore into the box and looked at all the pieces, I instantly thought how cool it would be to have a running rotary plow. I have almost 0 experience with that kind of thing so I have since wrote it off. But this is great! And the addition of DCC is super cool. I cant wait to see that guy done and on the rails!
    Check out my Blog! I review trains and attempt to build a layout!
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    Default Rotary Snow Plow Part II

    I was just not satisfied with the Kato motor, as it spun too quickly even at steps 1-3 on my throttle. So I did some hunting and found this incredible 700:1 sub-micro planetary gear motor that runs at 90 rpm at full voltage, but allows great slow speed control with the DCC decoder. I got it from Pololu.com (item 2359) for $11.95. They have lots of cool robotics supplies.

    I wound up breaking the plow blade when disassembling it and although I was able to repair it, it was slightly off center, so I ordered another kit from Fifer Hobby (Iíll use the broken blade to assemble a second, non-working model). I finished kitbashing the Bachmann tender and will run wires from the drawbar directly to the decoder in the plow. Next step, decals and then assembly.

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    I've ordered from Polulu before and they do indeed have cool stuff. How noisy is the motor? I'm looking for something quiet for my own nefarious animations.

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    Default Rotary snow plow III

    First test run on real tracks. Still working on fashioning a drawbar between plow and tender and also need more weight in the plow, but at least it works! Tender shell is not all the way on.

    Regarding noise, you can hear it on the video - it is quieter than the Kato motor (the clicks in the background are from my throttle), so I am satisfied. I’ve never heard a real rotary live, but from the videos, they seem to be fairly loud and are also probably muffled by the snow. A sound equipped loco would easily cover up the sound of the plow.


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    700 to 1 will get the rotary slowed down.

    my thought was perhaps a small servo ...
    usually servos have motor that expect 6 volts.
    randgust's comments about a resistor apply with that solution.

    good job on your rotary.

    victor

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    Now you've got it. Good job.
    Randgust N scale kits web page at www.randgust.com

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    As a long time SP modeler(my first locomotive was a SP Kato U30C), Thanks for posting this. It is a great thread.

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    The rotary plow is finally complete, two months and several "back to the drawing boards" later. Two SP F units are pushing plow and tender up to the Sierras to clear the mainline after a fierce late winter storm.

    A test run confirmed that there was not enough weight over the plow's trucks, since the front truck kept derailing, so I added some lead tape (the kind used for weighing golf clubs) and that worked perfectly (Photo). I highly recommend this stuff for adding weight in tight quarters.

    After much thought, I decided to keep the direct wire from the tender pick-ups to the DCC decoder, rather than rely on the tender draw bar. Although this results in wires running between plow and tender (Photo), when on the track, they are hardly visible, and the power pickup is very reliable.

    NtheBasement, the first part of the video is with the loco sound effects off. At slow speeds, the plow motor is really quiet (the video even amplifies the sound, which is quite minimal). I think you'd like this Pololu gear motor for any animation project.

    Thanks everyone for your encouragement and for following along on this build!

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    Well Done!
    BTW Prototype Youtube
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SuX4G3znpDE

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    Thanks for that video link. These are awesome machines when working. Hmmm, wonder what would happen if I tried some WS snow or baking soda?

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    It's not n scale, but it's real snow.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9NT6gEiqpWA
    Tim Rumph
    Modeling the Southern Railway in N-Scale

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