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Our Generic Fiddle Yard


Back in 1992 after we had successfully completed building our Arrowmouth layout and as our next project we conceived the idea of building a single fiddle yard that could be connected to a number of new exhibition layouts. This would save the costs of building multiple fiddle yards and  space to store them. It would also save  time to construct new layouts as it would be case of just building a number of scenic fronts. The big disadvantage is that because the fiddle yard is needed on multiple layouts it does see far more use which has on occasions caused a need for more maintenance.  The fiddle yard also dictates the size of layout we can construct using a standard fiddle yard.  

Mark one fiddle yard

We set the length of the layouts and fiddle yard at 18 ft with a standard double track spacing of where the fiddle yard is linked to the layout. The first layout to use the concept was our now dismantled Gorcott. This used standard baseboards 3 ft by1 ft. The front section was made up of four boards giving a length of 12 feet with a board at each end based around a 3 ft square to take the layout round to a the fiddle yard at the rear thus giving the 18 feet length. It followed the fiddle yard should have similar dimensions and so the main section was made up of 4 boards each 3 ft by1 ft. This gave space for eight loop lines in the 1 ft width of board. It was set up with four storage loop lines in each direction (all the layouts are double track). There was a simple curved bridging piece that linked the fiddle yard to the main layout. This eight road fiddle yard formed what became the mark one version of our now generic fiddle yard. This served us well for around 10 years. In which time we had built a second scenic front which is our Chilcompton layout. With members building more and more stock eight roads was proving too small.

Mark two fiddle yard

 During 2001 to enlarge the fiddle yard we simply added a second set of four boards and eight more tracks on the back of the original fiddle yard so that one set of loops acted as the up yard and the original one as the down yard. This is shown in the picture at the top of this page. A slightly more complicated and fairly unwieldy new bridging board was created to link the enlarged fiddle yard to the main layout. For some unknown reason these got christened the banjo boards even though they were not banjo shaped. The mark two fiddle yard gave us the extra storage capacity but the whole arrangement proved rather unwieldy at shows of having to join eight boards together to form a fiddle yard area of 12ft by 3ft. When we moved to our current club rooms in 2006 our first project was to improve the fiddle yard and so the mark three fiddle yard was born.  

Mark three fiddle yard

Instead of eight 3 ft by 1 ft boards these were replaced by three new 4 ft by 3 ft boards. This gave the same 16 ft by 3 ft area for the sixteen storage roads. All the existing track work was transferred to the new boards. Improvements were made to wiring and the control panels were incorporated into the baseboards. To help improve reliability of point switching the control voltage was increased from the usual 16 to 32 volts.

We were using trusty old H&M motors which the club has literary 100s of. The motors on the fiddle yard were modified to remove the polarity switch and a plastic washer was added to stop the motors overriding. An achilles heal of the H&M motors is because they are made up of a series of aluminium stampings which over time wear causing the motor to jam. Installing a plastic washer stops this. The above picture shows a standard point motor on the left and a modified one on the right. With the increase in voltage all the components in the capacity discharge units were also up rated to work on higher voltages. The mark three fiddle yard served us well with it now being used on a further two layouts Oakenshaw and Dagnell End. Being used on a number of layouts and with bits now well over 20 years old the fiddle yard was starting to show its age. We had two options either refurbish or build a new one and so mark four was conceived. 

Mark four fiddle yard

We took the decision at our AGM in June 2019 that we would replace the fiddle yard with a totally new one based on a new design of seven boards made up of five 4ft by 3ft boards and two bridging boards of 2 ft by 1 ft boards that link the main fiddle yard and the scenic parts of the layout. Key improvements are the separate trestle that supported the former versions have been dispensed with. The new boards having integral legs that fold up within the boards for transport. We have also improved the track layout so whilst maintaining the sixteen storage loops we have managed to increase the length of all of loops. This means space for more and longer trains. Like the previous fiddle yard it is wired so that it can operate with both analogue and DCC operated layouts.

All point control remains separate and following experiments of other member layouts we have used the MERG (Model Electronic Railway Group)) point control system. This uses servo motors to switch the points and should improve the reliability of operation of the fiddle yard.






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Mark one:


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