16mm Projects

Roy Plum: Snow Blower

It's a very simple conversion of an Accucraft L & B bogie brakevan... some brass sheet, aluminium angle, a flanged housing bearing and two stainless steel hinges from B&Q are at its heart.

I have a 2,000 rpm 12v motor / gearbox coming (yes.. another e-bay item) to upgrade the system from its 1,000 rpm current status, so I'll take a few pictures when it's in bits.

For the pedantic purists (Graham "What a waste of a good brake van") I made a thin blanking plate so that the Accucraft L & B guards bogie could also be run in "almost normal" guise. Initially I used an "impellor" (actually an expellor) fan I found on e-bay.... it was a cheap spare part for a car heater system. I wasn't sure the vanes would stand up to handling snow, but they did. At one point on test the wagon de-railed and bit deep into my loose ballast.... the vanes couldn't handle that! It was all an experiment...

I had wondered whether the wagon body would spin when the rotor bit into the snow! I also wondered if it would take my finger ends off. After trials, I decided to design my own expellor rotor disc incorporating front cutting edges to engage with the snow, Again, I wasn't sure that 3d printed plastic would be up to the job.. but it is!!

The system works reasonably if you hand-push the wagon into the snow. If you push with a loco you need to take repeated runs at the snow to make any headway (the faster rpm might help) but the whole system fails when it meets frozen ice over the rails and in the point checkrails. You need a railway free of debris (loose ballast, twigs, snails, leaves etc) at the start of the snowfall and you need to run the snow blower around regularly before too much snow builds up. Once the snow has thawed and re-frozen you've quite a challenge.

I did try pushing with 2 Accucraft shunter, but one made ominous sounds from the gearing system so I called a quick halt to that experiment. A dpdt switch reverses the direction of throw to left or right, as required at various points on the railway. Initially I put RC and a speed controller on the rotor as I'd no idea of the optimum rpm for the task. This is fine in summer, but in the depths of a very cold winter it's almost impossible to control the RC on the snow blower and the RC on a loco... even when you can feel your fingers.

After 15 mins the battery in your phone fails anyway, so no pictures after that. Just clearing enough snow to put the snow blower onto the track is a killer on the fingers... and remember that you're probably kneeling in the snow at the same time. I've examined various You Tube videos to establish exactly how the real thing works... and as usual, I think I understand it all now, after I've made the 16mm version! I recommend checking outhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4PXcM8ZL7Ks

The video is particularly interesting at 16 mins 45 secs where the operator seems to be setting the cutter blades for direction of rotation. It's much warmer watching You Tube than actually blowing snow! Hats off to the You Tube cameraman and the train crew.. they must have been hypothermic after the first hour.

The snow blower is reverting to its "Summer Guardsvan" mode while I make the fittings for the new 2000 rpm motor. Annoyingly it has a 4mm output shaft rather than the 5mm on the 1000 rpm motor, and the shaft on the new motor is central rather than being offset. No big issue... just another freezing hour down in the gale-blown shed turning a new spindle and drilling a new mounting plate.

I've attached a few pictures of the van body minus the blower attachment, the attachment itself and the van with the blanking panel added.

The van rear window had to be shortened to get the bearing and spindle at the right height relative to the rail head. As usual, my original holes were a little "off the mark" and adjustments had to be made. A little car body filler made the end result a bit less of a dog's dinner. A piece of thick plasticard with all the holes in the correct places was added inside the end wall to provide more strength to the assembly. Not obvious are the holes that had to be drilled in the van floor to let out the melt water!

All I have to do now is remember where I put the coupling.

February 2021






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