8.28 Kite Flying

This late addition is courtesy of some brainstorming on the Railwire. Rick Spano did it for his Sceniced and Undecided. The effect is fairly simple, although I'm doing it differently from Rick. He uses a fan to make the kite move; I'm using a low-RPM motor with a disc having a wavy, irregular groove, kind of like a warped record; a blunt stylus that follows the groove causes a fine wire attached to the kite to swing and sway in two axes.

Assembly began with fine brass C-channel bent by hand into an irregular loop, soldered together, and polished; it's soldered to a piece of bent tubing fitted to the motor gearhead shaft. Then I made a "tone arm" dual-axis pivot from telescoping tube, and a stylus from bent wire. A return spring keeps the stylus tracking properly.

The kite is just some brightly-colored plastic from a bag, backed with aluminum foil so it's opaque. The string is 0.004" stainless steel wire attached to the pivoting end of the stylus rod with CA. That's it!

Subsequently, I added a tail to the kite. It took quite a while to source a material that didn't look unnaturally stiff, like a piece of wire or some such. Finally I found it: 0.6mm silver box chain for jewelry. Smaller chain is available—down to 0.45mm—but then it becomes exponentially more expensive. This chain was ten bucks.

The chain doesn't bounce or sway, but it does do two worthwhile things. One, it changes the behavior of the kite: adding mass reduces its tendency to jiggle unrealistically fast. And two, it always hangs straight down, no matter the angle of the kite, as seen in the image below right. At a normal viewing distance and angle, it's actually quite effective.

On 8 November 2020 I permanently installed the kite mechanism. It wound up being relocated: I'd originally planned for it to be on a grassy knoll in front of Weldon Mill, but as I started fleshing out the landforms in that area, I found there wasn't enough room, so now it's behind the mill, above the spillway (below).

However, when I re-motored the spillway to quiet it down, the kite mechanism got in the way. So, on 18 November 2020 I relocated it yet again, this time clear across to the other end of the layout, in the newly-created Augustine Park—it was literally the only other clear area on the layout with enough room, and even then I had to chop down the mechanism so it would fit.

Then, from 22-24 November 2020, I took the installation all the way to its conclusion by covering up the crater. There's a removable portion about the size of a postage stamp to provide access to the mechanism, as on rare occasion the stylus will jump the track. The figures create a "handle" with which to lift off the tiny access hatch.

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