Switching cars at a train show, neat!

Folks:
You know how train show layouts normally are, right? Big or small, they're often multiple nested loops with dingy ground-foam scenery and dust covers everything
except for a strip by the tracks over which the trains grind, around, and around, and around, and around...
Now, I know that's not quite fair, and just watching the little trains run *did* get me into model railroading, and still can be fun, especially when the scenery and buildings aren't dust-covered (please, folks, clean your display layouts). Still, though I know why they don't (too much derailing, too much work), I do sometimes wish we saw some real operation, even just a bit of switching on isolated tracks.
But what did I see at this show? To my amazement, somebody had brought in a largish switching-yard module, and was actually making up trains, and doing quite well, without any derailment. Furthermore, despite what you hear about the public and switching, they had about five "civilians" watching the little engine shuttle back and forth. I'm sure they'd never have thought model trains could work that way.
I talked with the proprieter of this setup, and he explained that he was trying to sell DCC, and I hope he made some sales. I do think that he ought to have had more than one loco running at a time, as was going on when I was there...having three switchers crisscrossing back and forth, sharing the work, that would have been a spectacle!
I also think that a bit more speed would have been in order. He was switching at realistic speeds, but I note that, though the 1:1 Conrail crews used to operate this way, CSX sometimes tends to go juuuuust a bit closer to Lionel territory. :) I think just slow enough not to irritate the serious modelers, but just fast enough to give the public a bit more action, would have been good. After all, there is a "showmanship" angle here.
Anyway, I thought it was a great idea, and I hope to see more of it.
Cordially yours: Gerard P. President, a box of track and some plans.
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snipped-for-privacy@gannon.edu wrote in

*snip: Switching at shows.*

I plan on doing that sometime soon. I'm running into equipment problems, though, as my Atlas RS3 N-scale locomotive has traction tires on both trucks. They're spaced in such a way that the plastic frogs on the turnouts just happen to be under the two wheels that actually are picking up power, so there's a lot of herky jerky "flyin' l" motion to keep that loco running. Not good for a Time-saver inspired track layout.
Puckdropper
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Pd:
I run into similar problems with my HO 0-4-0T's and dead switch frogs, especially if the frogs aren't flush with the railhead. I'm figuring on powering the frogs on my next layout...in the past I've just picked up a bit of speed to make sure I'd coast over.
I guess you could switch to powered frogs or get an engine with different wheel spacing for the shows. Get it working, and I bet you'd really wow the rubes with your N-scale switch-fu. :)
Cordially yours: Gerard P. President, a box of track and some plans.
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snipped-for-privacy@gannon.edu wrote in wrote:

*snip*
I've got a couple ideas on fixing this without spending a bunch of money, one of which is to simply change the orientation of the dead and powered wheels.
Another is to get a conductive pen (one of those "circuit writer" ones) and extend the conductive area out onto the frog. (Making sure, naturally, to avoid shorting the rails together.)
Puckdropper
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Puckdropper wrote:

Pd:
I don't think I'd get away with the conductive pen idea for long in HO, but with N's lighter weight it just might work. Would you really have enough 'conductor area' to conduct enough current, though? Of course the distance is very short, and if wear became a problem you could always touch it up later.
How about filing down the railhead and plastic frog and soldering on a piece of nickel silver, overlapping part of the frog. Yeah, I didn't think so, either.
Moving the wheels around sounds like the best plan. Could you order non-tire-equipped wheels from Atlas?
Cordially yours: Gerard P. President, a box of track and some plans.
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snipped-for-privacy@gannon.edu wrote in

I might try this if I get a conductive pen for other purposes (electronics is another hobby.) If I do, I'll let the group know how it works.

I don't think that would work, it'd probably damage the turnout and not solve the problem.

I don't know. I want to try moving the wheels first, and then make a trip to my LHS.

Puckdropper
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Where would one buy tthese pens, Radio Shack? As an electrical engineer, I'd be surprised if these pens would have a low enough resistance to pass a couple of hundred milliamps that even an N scale loco would draw.

I did something similar. I am building a little DC HO 2.5 X 5 foot 1830s layout using the 3 old engines (trains) Backmann sells. All are just two axles (actually the John Bull has a non-swiveling pony too). Anyway, when I bought a couple of turnouts I had no clue about the difference between the insul-frogs and electo-frogs. I ended up with the insul-frogs and the little locos couldn't make it through at low speed. I ohmed out the switches, saw the problem, and removed them, replacing them with peco electofrogs. These were a problem too. The frogs in the pecos were not frogs at all, just plastic molded in where the metal should be. Plus, the flanges on the engines and cars are about 0.030" high, and the top of the plastic peco frog was 0.050" down from the rail head surface. What I did was put a little paint on the top of the rail around the frog area, then carfully press some 0.020" thick brass stock down on it to get a pattern, then after the paint dried I sawed out the pattern and then filed the edges until it would slip down between the rails over the plastic frog. I tack soldered it in one spot, then filed down the solder so it wouldn't interfer with the wheel flanges. Works great. The flange can roll on the brass frog surface with no noticeable drop into the gap. The other problem with small 4 wheel engines and frog gaps is.........one wheel can drop into the gap, simultaneous raising the catty-corner wheel, so that only 2 wheels are getting any voltage, and one of them might be a bit dirty. I'm toying with the idea of putting a capacitor inside the engine (the motors are inside the tenders) of the right capacitance to keep it moving for a second or two, but extra circuitry might be needed because of the polarity reversal and withstanding the full voltage, and electrolitics are polarity sensitive, whereas dry caps which aren't, probably wouldn't have enough storage capacity and/or be too large. Another idea is to add pickups on the engine wheels and wire them back to the tender, resulting in 8 wheel pickups. I want these little trains to be able to crawl through the turnouts on pulse mode. I'll get there sooner or later. This is my first layout in 45 years (except for an unfinished 3x5 N scale one my son never finished 25 years ago, which is now a future project) Already the turnouts don't really reflect the 1830s, with the peco switches and a shimano (or whatever) double crossover. If I had it to do over I would hand lay all of the track and turnouts in code 83 and maybe with stub turnouts. I bought a bunch of wooden ties and spikes, but that will have to wait until this one is done first, before I go back and make it better. The idea (my wifes) is that I bring it upstairs for Christmas 07 :-) Meanwhile, my plan is, using the block system, to run all three trains simultaneously on either manual or full automatic control, with the turnouts squenceing all on their own. It's basically two loops connected by a double crossover, with the inner loop also having a double ended siding. the outer loop going up over hills and over a tressle with code 83 bridge track, which looks more realistic than the code 100. I also noticed that the smaller HO spikes I bought still look way too large. Is it possible to buy N scale spikes? I laid down an incandescent drop light on the track recently for a few minutes and it melted about 6 inches of plastic ties. So I removed the destruction, filed down new ties so they would slip under the rail, glued them in place, then had to go buy a $30 drill set to get an 0.035" #65 bit to drill holes in the new plastic ties for the spikes, which now look better than no spikes, but still, too large. Is it possible to buy specific sizes of drill bits, or are just whole sets available?

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Wayne L wrote:

Your right! Current draw is a problem. But, Some contact, is better than NO contact, when you are trying to keep things moving. The "surface" would probably need to be 'refreshed' fairly often. Maybe even every 3 0r 4 hours of operation. But that's still better than stalling 'every' time.

Not that bad an idea. Look into Code 70, and even smaller before you decide which path to take. The 'Visual' difference can be amazing. Particularly when photographed.

As far as I know, the 'low profile' HO spikes are the smallest available.
Is it possible to buy N scale spikes?
The 'spikes' are a commodity item. I.E. They are what they are! The Scene where they are used determines whether they are the 'correct' scale or not.

Short answer YES. Practical answer, maybe. The individual sizes, come in 'tubes' of 12 ea. If you have a friendly Hobby Shop that stocks them, they MAY sell singles, more likely, they want you to buy the 'tube' of 12. (Those suckers can be fragile. !2 of a commonly used size isn't a bad idea.)
Chuck D.

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Charles Davis wrote:

CD/WL:
While code 70 or smaller looks nice on late 1800s layouts, it still wouldn't look much like 1830s track, which would very likely be "strap rail" on large square timber stringers, with widely spaced ties. With that in mind, I think Wayne's best bet would be to stick with the C100 track, perhaps embedding the ties in dirt and weathering the rail to de-emphasize its shape...it would at least have the proper 'high' appearance of the strap rail track, and if in the future he wants to redo the track as strap rail, he can always do that later...it sure would be a big job...
Just stick with what you're using, Wayne. We need to see more 1830s stuff. Do be sure to check out the Yahoo Earlyrail group for more info:
groups.yahoo.com/group/earlyrail
It has a lot of good discussion on pre-1900 rail, which can be tough to find data on, and plenty of files and pictures for reference. Don't forget to try your public library, too.
Wayne, the filled flangeway you made can work well if your flanges are all pretty close in depth...but as you have found, you do sometimes get 'wheel drop'. I suggest you get hold of an NMRA standards gauge and check the models' wheels.
Here is how a frog is supposed to work:
http://www.modelbaneteknik.dk/model/stnd/afsp-fig1.gif
The guardrail holds the opposite wheel's flange clear of the pointed frog rail, while the corner of its tread rolls through on the wing rail. Too-narrow wheels or too-narrow spacing can cause the wheel drop you mentioned, shown here:
http://www.modelbaneteknik.dk/model/stnd/afsp-fig3.gif
It's usually easy to correct the gauge on press-fitted wheels; on drivers you run the risk of changing their 'quarter' (the angular offset of crank pins with respect to each other), but on a loco with 2 drivers this won't hurt a thing, as we aren't really using steam to power our models. :)
There's some good info on derailments in general here. Note that it's written with NEM standards in mind, but the general concepts are the same as used in the NMRA or any model railroad system:
http://www.modelbaneteknik.dk/model/stnd/afsp-e.htm
Good luck with the early rail stuff.
Cordially yours: Gerard P. President, a box of track and some L-girders.
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I did paint the rails "rail brown" and the ties "railroad tie brown". The strap rail sounds like a future project to try. Would stub switches be appropriate for the early years?

I will. I didn't even know it existed. Thanks!!!

I've bought about a dozen books over the last 3-4 years that contain info on the early years, at the stores at the Strassburg PA Railroad and the Pennsylvania Railroad Museum across the street, the B&O Museum store in Baltimore, MD, Steamtown in Scranton, PA and at local model train flea markets. The one I liked best is "A History of THE AMERICAN LOCOMOTIVE It's Development:1830-1880" by John H. White, Jr. Things changed and improved so fast during that period, especially during the first 25 years.

I made a brass track gauge and "miked" the flange depth on all the wheels on one train, and they were all 0.028-0.030. I haven't tried running the other two trains yet. I wanted to get the 1st one running really well first. Right now it runs through the modified pecos forward OK. It won't get through them backwards though, probably because the passenger stage coach body cars are only a little over an inch long, are really really light, and are coupled together with a link bar. I'm going to glue a little weight to the botton of each and see if that helps. At low speed the train gets hung up on the central insulator of the double crossover (something else they probably didn't have in 1835), but I'm going to wait until I get the tortise motor and its internal switches installed and wired to the four switches to see if that improves things. BTW, it looks like I should be able to run all four turnouts on the double crossover with one Tortoise motor and some home made brass bellcranks and rods. Does anyone else do that?

When I got the two Peco Electrofrogs to replace the original Atlas Insulfrogs, I hand checked one of the passenger cars before installing the Peco. If I forced it to ride against the wing rail, the flange would hit the frog point. I got some 0.010 x 0.100 styrene and glued it to the wing rails so as to narrow the space between the wing rails and the main rails, and it solved the problem. I never checked the wheel gauge but I guess I should. I've seen little wheel / gear pullers at the hobby shops. Do they somehow also push the wheels closer together if need be, or are there toels for that too?

Thanks for all I've learned from you , in this and all the other of your posts I've been reading for that last year or two.
Wayne
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Wayne L wrote:

They would.
Here is a strap-rail stub switch, and also a much later (1875) and very scenic photo that shows a more modern T-rail type:
http://www.geocities.com/joetubesock/twostubswitches.htm

http://books.google.com/books?id=fKjTayVqQdMC&printsec=frontcover&dq 30s+stub+switch
(If I was you, I'd try to hunt this book down at a library, probably at a college...it looks very informative for the early-day modeler)

They certainly did.

Getting one thing working at a time is always a very good plan. Since you have a mike already, can I assume that you also have a set of vernier calipers? With those, you can probably do everything you'd use an NMRA sheet metal gauge for, and of course much more, but the gauge is fairly cheap and quite helpful.
Here is a link to the NMRA's standards page online: http://www.nmra.org/standards/consist.html#standards
As for the switch motor, I don't know if anybody has done exactly what you describe, but it sounds like it could work fine if done right. Why don't you go ahead and make it so, and let us all know how your mechanical interlocking turns out? That's what this forum is for, information exchange.

I, well, don't own a puller, and tend to use small homemade punches and plates with some sort of notch for removing wheels or gears, but to adjust plain wheels on rolling stock I usually just gently twist them and push them together. I don't claim to have the best-equipped shops out there...however you do it, /beware/ of disturbing 'quarter' on driving wheels (you could perhaps scribe a light matchmark across the axle ends if you can't measure quarter) and do make your very best effort to see that the wheels are more or less symmetric across the axle centerline. :).
Cordially yours: Gerard P. President, a box of track and some grids.
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I've seen kind of really 2D drawings of the strap rail in some of my books, but nothing detailed, leaving me to imagine oak 4x8s on edge with some large home depot angle iron covering the top and inside surfaces. The detail on the drawing you have from Bianculli's book is wonderfully detailed. The strap is only a little inside of center on the top, leaving the flanges to rub against the wood, and the top inner surface is beveled to accomodate the cove in the flange. Clever!

http://books.google.com/books?id=fKjTayVqQdMC&printsec=frontcover&dq 30s+stub+switch
Now I want all four volumes, but the Mrs. won't be pleased, so I'll start with volume three. Drexel library has one (spent 3 nights a week for eight and a half years there a long time ago) but probably can't check it out. I'll be back to Strasburg PA within the next couple of months for a short day trip and see if they have it. They claim to have 2000 train books and I've bought a few. If they don't have a copy I'll buy it on-line. Have you ever been to Altoona? The Mrs. suggested our next road trip to be Gettyburg again, then down to Antietim, then down to Luray Caverns, which we stopped at once in 68. I suggested we also stop at Altoona first, and she replied that we saw three train places last year and she wasn't interested in seeing another so soon :-(

A couple of cheapies, but close enough for government work, and a dial indicator, which I bought years ago to see how much a cam in a 225 Chrysler slant six was worn.

Will do. And thanks again for all of the info Gerard!!

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Dear Prez:
I agree about the switching layouts. So when I take my N-scale layout to shows, I also take along an HO-scale John Allen timesaver that I made which I let anyone, especially kids, try. I modify it a bit based on the age of the kids, but usually it entails having them switch two or three cars from the "mainline' track into the sidings (sometimes with obstructing freight cars and for little kids, without). They control the engine with just a back/forth switch while either my trainman or myself uncouples the cars for them. They have to throw the switches by hand. In order to ensure there is sufficient gravity to the situation, I tell them the company's crack passenger train is going through the mainline in "x" minutes and they've got to be done and off the mainline by then. You can see some pictures from a show at the followingl addresses:
http://personalpages.tds.net/~jwudgy/timesaver1.jpg
http://personalpages.tds.net/~jwudgy/timesaver2.jpg
http://personalpages.tds.net/~jwudgy/timesaver3.jpg
Interestingly, I've found that girls seem to be much better at figuring out the logistics of the manuevers than are boys. Not sure why. Kids, overall, are far faster than adults.
Regardless, it is very popular and always has lots of people watching and working it. Most train shows tell kids "don't touch"; this is something they get to touch and run and actually have to think about. At least once at each train show somebody asks me to sell it to them.
In honor of John Allen, I use the Gorre & Daphetid rolling stock for the timesaver and, most of the time, the G&D 0-6-0. When that's resting, I use a Soo Line early generation diesel.
Soo Line fan
-------------------------------------------- Never criticize another until you've walked a mile in his shoes. That way you'll be a mile away and have his shoes.
--------------------------------------------
For email reply, try jwudgy at tds dot net and you'll get through.
Thanks.
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snipped-for-privacy@SooLineFan.Net wrote:

[snip excellent post]
Cool, that's an idea worth emulating.
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W:
Definitely worth emulating. Besides being a display of switching (which by itself is great, and too rare) it lets the public interact a bit, which we need more of. I think an Inglenook Sidings layout would be another good design for such train-show switching games.
The original Timesaver was used in a connected pair, with two players passing cars back and forth. That might be neat to do, too.
Anyway, I hope we will all go out and bring switching layouts to the next train show. Make it the biggest MR fad since the exchange of passes.
Cordially yours: Gerard P. President, a box of track and some plans.
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