8.31 Laundromat

This late addition is indirectly the result of some brainstorming on the Railwire. When I decided to do the neon open sign for what was planned to be a florist, it inexplicably made me think of a laundromat instead. I was going to make one for the Black River & Western, although this new one has much better interior visibility. The idea is to have a bank of driers along one wall, with spinning clothes in some of the units.

Work got under way on 16 September 2020 with the gear train required for this little parlor trick. I started by mounting a series of gears from a few mechanical toys to a sheet styrene frame using tiny brass brads press-fit into holes drilled in the frame (below left). The colors of the gears are not arbitrary: green ones are active units on the lower level, blue are active units on the upper level, and red are idler gears. The pattern of in-use versus idle units was too symmetrical for my tastes, but this was out of necessity owing to the need to have all of the running dryers turn the same direction using a single drive train. I could have been more random if I'd had the real estate for a deeper unit having multiple gear trains, but given the dryers were set against an external wall in this case, I had no options.

I was also going to power the dryers using the same motor that operated the neon open sign, but that one was already very close to its load limit; with another mechanical load, the likelihood it might stall was pretty high. So the dryers got their own motor (above right). This had the added benefit that I could built, test and refine it as a completely self-contained unit. And, if I was so inclined, I could control it separately, although I chose not to.

Once the mechanism was functioning properly, I addressed the cosmetics. The dryer drums were all made from ¼" styrene tubing; as these were all cut by eye, I made many more than I needed (above left), then picked the ten best of the bunch. The five "active" drums were bonded to their respective gears and stuffed with "clothes"—tiny bits of shredded napkin, some colored with markers (above right).

The face of the entire array of dryers is a single piece of white 0.020" sheet styrene having ten holes made with a paper punch (above left); into the holes I bonded ~0.030" long slices of shrink wrap tubing, again cut by eye (above right). Unfortunately, the only tubing that precisely fit the punched holes was bright yellow, so there followed the tedious process of painting them all silver (below left).

I then attached a sheet of acetate to the back of the dryer faces, and bonded the inactive drums to the acetate (above right). For more visual interest, as well as to hide the gears behind the two idle drums on the lower row, I added piles of dry clothes, which were tiny crumpled balls of shredded napkin (below).

After a quick test run, I installed the dryers in the building. Note that, at the angle of view, most of the cosmetic shortcomings disappear.

Now I need to finish the rest of the laundromat...

Reference

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