MegaPoints Controllers

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Frequently Asked Questions

Which servos should I use?

Indoor / conventional layout

Any servo in the 5-10g range will do that’s rated at 6 volts. This covers just about all of the servos that I know of. I find the 5-10g servo range to offer the best balance of size, performance and cost. You can use any modern manufacturer’s servos. If you are planning a heavy duty feature that requires a bit of lifting or torque then look up to the standard servo sizes.  These really are amazing devices.

Outdoor, waterproof, G scale and beyond

Although I don’t use them myself, the specification and price of these servos (HK15139 look good at 3.05 each (at time of writing). With plenty of torque for the larger G scale use they should stand the rigours of the British weather.

Recommended servo list

Points from ‘N’ to ‘G’ gauges, OO semaphores and larger: HK-15178.

Fiddly, delicate or ‘N’ scale semaphores, use a digital miniature servo: HK-5330 (will require you to change the plug).

In the garden waterproof servos:  HK-8482.

If you must not have a power on twitch (2mm fine scale and delicate work): HK-SCM9-6.

*** If you also find a really good servo that’s inexpensive then share a link with me and ill share it with everyone else.

Where do I buy them from?

Locally: Most local model shops will sell them, especially those offering radio controlled aircraft, buggies or boats.

Online: EBay is a good source of inexpensive servos and can offer a bewildering array. I buy from Hobby king in the UK (www.hobbyking.com) and usually take their least expensive 6 volt servo in the 5-10g range such as the HK15178. On my most recent order I paid 1.35 each.

Why don’t you sell servos?

I do this because I love it. I enjoy the challenges of designing and building embedded controllers and will continue to do so. If I were to sell servos then you would be paying more for them as I would need to turn a profit on each item sold. As a service to railway modellers I prefer to do what I do well (controllers), and share my buying sources and advice with you.

Micro switch powering frogHow can I power my frogs?

We use an inexpensive micro switch on a wooden post placed near the servo output arm. When the servo moves the points it also operates the switch. It also keeps 100% of the frog wiring under the points and costs as little as 10 pence.

See the videos for an electro frog installation example or click the image for a larger view.

You could of course look at our frog relay board (its on the front web site page).

What other components may I need when installing servo controllers?

Servo extension leads

Don’t cut the servo leads or remove the plugs. Its much easier to buy cheap servo extension leads and cut these in half. You can then extend the extension lead around your layout to suit and the servo can just plug in or unplug as required. Look on eBay for “servo extension leads”. You can find multi packs for a couple of pounds.  Conventional extension leads are male one end and female the other. Hobbyking also stock a range such as this listing.

Toggle switches

If operating the MegaPoints Controller without a DCC interface you should use toggle switches to control each servo.  You can buy them in 10 packs on eBay for around 2.50. The simplest are listed as SPST (single Pole, Single Throw) and will work fine. If you plan to switch an LED as well, consider the DPDT variety (Double Pole, Double Throw).  The cost about the same as the SPST switches.

Pushbuttons

Go for the SPST push to make (non latching) variety of button. eBay has a huge array and prices around 2.50 per pack of 10. You can go mad with the sizes and colours :)

Micro switches

I use micro switches to polarise the electro frog on points. These can easily be fitted (balsa and super glue) to the side of servos so the servo arm operates the switch as the points move. There are many other mounting options and I’m sure you’ll fine a method that’s right for your layout. Experiment and have a bit of fun. eBay has plenty of variety and the smallest current carrying capability will do. Expect to pay around 2 for a bag of 10 or 15.

Piano Wire

I use 0.6 mm piano wire available from local model shops or exhibitions, however 0.5mm or 0.7mm is also suitable. You'll also find it on ebay or from online vendors such as Robotbirds here.

Where can I get those amazing semaphore signals?

Speak to Jon at BoltonsBits. He custom makes amazing 'O' gauge semaphores including the robust version I had made for my exhibition stand.

Why don’t my semaphore signals bounce like yours?

I’ve observed an interesting phenomenon when using TowerPro SG-90 servos configured as semaphore signals. The servo is not fast enough to keep up with the acceleration curve as the semaphore falls from clear to danger the first time. This is the point the servo has to move fastest. What is strange is that the TowerPro SG-90 servo has a rated speed of 60 degrees in 1/10th of a second, exactly the same speed as stated on the HobbyKing servos I also recommend.

The HobbyKing servos are able to keep up while the TowerPro servos are noticeably slower. I lack the equipment to determine whether the TowerPro is below spec. or the HobbyKing servo exceeds spec.

The TowerProSG-90 servos are fine for points and just about anything else, but you will loose some resolution if configuring as a semaphore. It may help explain why your observed semaphore bounce dosent match what I have in the videos.

I want to make my own cables and servo plugs, what do I need and where do I get it?

If you decide to make your own extension servo cables you can follow these eBay links as a guide. The links will show you the type of crimping tool, crimps and plugs you will need as well as servo cable you’ll need. Don’t just buy the products we’ve listed, but use them as a guide. If you search you probably find the same items for less.

Crimping tool and components link here.

Servo cable: Link here

Which Aluminium channel should I use to mount my servos under track?

I use 13mm (inside width) from B&Q. The store lists the dimensions as H 15mm, W 15mm, L 1M Anodised Aluminium. The link is here or an alternative here. Before buying measure the width of your servo (or better still take it into the store with you and check it fits).

What power supply do you recommend?

There are quite a few bargains to be had on eBay for those that know what they are doing. I can’t recommend any specific deals there because it’s a mains item. Look for 12 volt and a minimum of 2 Amps with a regulated output. For my bench testing I use a Fusion 40 Amp power supply that just does everything for me. They also make and sell in the UK a lower powered version for around 16:00 though sgtocks in the UK are low. Follow the link here for details. You can also try the Ripmax range of power supplies. They are in plentiful supply and available from any radio control model shop. Here is their range. Select any that has a current rating of 2 Amps or higher. The 200 Watt supplies have enough juice to power over 6 MegaPoints Servo controller boards. Their product range can be found here.

What was that servo watt meter I saw you using at an exhibition?

This has to be the best gadget I never knew I needed. It tracks volts amps and computes watts for servos and eliminates the guesswork for your servos power consumption. Highly reccomended for gadget lovers. You can find them from Hobbyking here.

Mimic Panel Questions

What LEDs do you reccomend?

I use panel mount LEDs with the leads already attached from Farnel. See the link here for details.

What buttons do you reccomend?

I use a quality push button (normally open - push to close) with an epoxy base so they are less prone to melting during soldering. See the Farnel link here.

Can I use stud and probe?

Yes you can. It works great.

How do I add an LED to each set of points to indicate direction rather then just ON or OFF?

Add an LED I/O board (MultiPanel 24 LED expansion board) to the MultiPanel and connect it to the complimentary connector. It will then be the opposite of the main lamp, i.e. if the main lamp is on, then the complimentary LED will be off and vice versa. This is how I demonstrate ON/ON indication on my demonstration panels for Mythical Junction.




Contact me: My email address can be found on the first page of any user guide.