Tuesday, May 27, 2014

running my train...

to death?
Oddly enough for running my train from 5pm to 10pm on Thursday and Friday and from 9 to noon on Saturday I have only one picture on my camera, the one of Robb with a Saturday passenger train shown yesterday.  35 miles were put on the train in that time.  One hour, 4 miles was with the small batteries and me sitting directly on the truck.  Talk about a fun way to inspect the track.  Flying on a magic carpet.  I could tell that the track was made on a panel with a slight turn at the end, shhhhhhtik  shhhhhtik every ten feet. I never noticed it while on the bigger train but sitting on a little four wheel close to the rails it was very noticeable.  I will say the track was quite well maintained, and I could tell newer than Hesston.  (The first section of this track was laid 20 years ago and is showing some wear and different construction methods.)
The engine ran very well the entire time.  Robb rewired it on Tuesday and Wednesday to add an amp meter.  Amp meters have very large shunt that needs to be electrically insulated.  While he wired I made a dashboard from a small wood box from Michaels, it hooks up to the truck via cat5 cables.  We will probably be wiring the unit one more time to install radio control.  Currently the control board is a pacesetter.  Robb purchased a 4QD thinking it would be better.  Several people at the meet said the pacesetter board was better than the other options.  We do want to play around to see if we can extend the range of usefulness of the throttle.  Currently it is 1/4 deadband, 1/4 useful and 1/4 way too fast.
One of the first areas of the railroad, and few of the open areas, most is in the woods or swamp.

While the truck ran nearly flawlessly.  I can't remember any problems with it. We did have some trouble with the cars.  The way the axle were made the bearings are at the outside edge.  Then the side frames have enough play to move in and out the full thickness of a bearing.  Yes, you guessed it, first on the blue flat an axle came out of the bearing, grinding down the end of the axle destroying the bearing but the wood block was fine.  Another railroader there saw our problem on Friday night and suggested installing washers or o-rings to make sure the bearings stay on.  We visited tractor supply and bought both, installing washers Friday night and ran for a long time no problems.  On Saturday the same failure occurred to the gondola, this time one of the wood block crack during the derailment. It actually failed within 1000 feet of loading into the van, if it had not we probably would not have taken a better look at the trucks until I was back in Iowa.  Robb decided that we should follow the other suggestion we got, mill the shoulder over an 1/8th of an inch on each side to have the axle extend out and the bearing in some.  He started the project while I took a nap on his couch.

Speaking of naps....
This is from Tuesday.  I used to sleep in the same spot with mom when I was a little kid.  Mom is watching a cooking show on TV and Lillian slept for several hours.

So while he milled axles on the lathe I re installed them on the trucks.  We chose to replace the two damaged axles wholesale.  I will also be replacing two of the wooden journal blocks that were damaged.  The bearings are held in the new inboard position by o-rings.  I plan to inspect the cars more often than every 60 miles until I know they are good.  In other bad news three of the nuts that hold the trucks together were missing.  I will be switching all the nuts out for locknuts or using locktite.

It is hard to sit cross legged for a long time, sitting like a chair is better.  Even padding on plywood gets hard, use good seats.  Sitting in a gon traps your feet, not easy to get out to switch, etc.  A flat car with a milk crate, or boat seat is better.  The long riding benches are good for passenger riding cars.  I plan to make up some crates to go onto our flats, they will double as toolboxes, the top will be wood, then a kneeling pad, then the foam cushion, then some cotton batting, and then the actual cover.  The larger the seat the better.  For some of the time I ran while sitting on both gondola seats.  These short cars are hard to load two people into, better to have one or one and a kid.

Make sure to wear sunscreen and have enough water.  Also dress for a breeze, riding the train is like sitting in a constant 4 to 8 mph wind.  I also like wearing safety glasses and gloves.

This is definitely something I would do again.  A good use of two vacation days.  I was within 15 miles of the ILS track Sunday on the way home, I chose not to stop off, I should have though.  The IMLS spring meet in in ten days.  The whole family will be going down there, meeting Jeff and Barb.

Monday, May 26, 2014

28 hours of trains

Robb and I took two days off work to play.
 We went to White Creek with my train and ran with Jerry all day Thursday, starting at 9 am until about 5pm.  Robb, Jerry and I traded off doing the different jobs.
Conductor, Engineer, and brakeman.  We rode around the layout setting out cars at industries and picking up cars at other industries.  This one shown here is Samson Manufacturing.  We went out four times on Thursday, and Jerry and I went out three times on Friday, Robb joined a different crew for his three runs.
We start out with 5 cars from the yard, each with a card listing which industry in which town to deliver to.
 We plan our route, dropping and picking up as we go.
 Some are easy trailing point others require runaround moves, using gravity, and in one case a flying switch.
 The sections of the railroad between towns are single track.  To enter one the engineer requests permission from a track side control stand.  This turns the signal red at the other end eliminating cornfield meets.
 There were up to 15 freight trains, 4 passenger trains, and two yard crews working the railroad.  The freights needed to make sure they were clear of the passenger trains which ran on a time table every hour.  It was a blast.

What did my little train do?  Well it is not strong enough to pull a five car freight.  But it could pull some passenger cars.  On Saturday, while I helped out in the yard Robb ran three different passenger train runs.  I ran with him on the last one.  It is quite a challenge making sure to go the correct route, obtaining and releasing signals, and keeping on time.
Those two passenger cars were quite a challenge for our train.  They have bronze bushings, not roller bearings, so they are hard to pull.  I am glad to see that the loco kept up, even as the voltage dropped and the amps climbed towards the end of our time there.  I will do a second post about running our train.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Family fun day

I let Robb and my parents drive the train around.  
 I drove the train sometimes too.
 We got Lillian to ride in the tugger for one trip around.
 Even dad drove the train.
We put over 20 miles on the train today.  There were some derails, mostly due to improper loading of the  cars.  We did have a problem with a switch with wide gauge.  Towards the end the circuit breaker kept going, we were told this was because the voltage in the batteries was low.  I did not charge the batteries tonight and plan to run around a lap or three tomorrow.

Friday, May 16, 2014

It is ALIVE!!!!

Today the train got on the track for the first time.  It ran well.  First time around I ran it without any batteries in it.  It did OK, struggled on the hills without extra weight.  I sat on it to help on the next time around and found a dip in the track and derailed the front axle, I think my weight was too far rearward.  I put the small batteries in and had no trouble after setting Jonathan's riding car on a siding.

Five times around and the large batteries were at 27% ... that makes me a little sad, I was hoping they would be higher.  Tomorrow we will see if I have life at the end of the day.  I plan to also use the small batteries also from full to empty.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

in the van

Nancy and I put the gon and storage battery truck in the van so I can show and tell tomorrow.

Monday, May 12, 2014

DON'T DRILL .... the gon

Today in the process of making a rack for the van to hold the railcars I drilled some large holes so I could hook the tiedown straps to the seat mounting pegs.  What Nancy did not say fast enough as I was using the gon as a sawhorse is DON'T YOU ARE GOING TO HIT THE GON.  I feel bad, but the gouge is not that big and she filled it with wood putty and will paint it tomorrow.

I also got several other small projects done like drilling out the coupler pin holes, turning the bolts over in the trucks so they do not hang as low, using locking nuts on the trucks, and purchasing turnbuckle links for the safety chains.

Nancy got all the batteries charged.

Sunday, May 11, 2014


Today I fixed some issues.

Found a loose wire on the control board, in a hard to reach spot, had to take all the wires off and the board out to get it back in.  One of my crimps was not tight enough to the spade connector.  I went through and crimped all of them again.

Then I made wires for the large batteries.  Right now I will need to screw and unscrew a connection to switch power sources.  Eventually I will get some quick disconnects.

I also cut the safety chains.

Nancy has been charging the batteries to 100%

I started collecting the stuff to go on the trip.

Trucks and Couplers

Today I made a second set of trucks.  Nancy took pictures while I worked.

I bent the trucks the same way Nelson does at http://www.nelsonslocomotive.com/Small%20Projects/Trucks/Trucks.htm.

 A template bar is used to drill the holes in the shorter arches.  Note that the top and bottom arches have the same offset.  Also I used all 1/2x1/8th hot rolled steel.  Nelson uses 3 different thicknesses.

 Deburr everything.
 Then to drill the outer holes on the middle arch bolt the two parts together and clamp the outer edge, then use the top arch as a drilling template.
 The idea for the springs / side frame / bolster interface came from a picture of the trucks Plum Cove sells.  http://www.plumcovestudios.com/trucks_01.html, while not prototypical it can be made in the shop with a saw and a drill.  The middle arches were drilled with the top arch used as a template, bolt the spring bolts in place and clamp the outer ends.
 The journals are made from oak for R8 bearings.  I got the idea of using wood from Laurance Johnson, his CD's are forsale at http://www.discoverlivesteam.com/books/books.html.

The end result of the day, two trucks less wheel sets.  Those are at my brothers house.  Anna posed the mannequin tightening one of the bolts, I wish I was that flexible.

After dinner I went back downstairs and made drawbars for between each piece of rolling stock, no pictures, Nancy was putting the kids to bed.

I think other than loading the vehicle all I have left to do is charge the small batteries and mount the large ones on the auxiliary top.

Friday, May 09, 2014


Tonight I put together the second truck.  The wheels were parallel and in line on my first try.

Then Jonathan and I did a little testing on some 2x4 rail.  He was quite concerned about riding.

Thursday, May 08, 2014

Half of Half Done

One of four trucks put together.

Parts made for one of two cars.

Lessons learned.  When drilling the hole for the axle do not center on the imprecise bandsaw cut, center it on the precise drilled bolt hole.  To get the axles parallel and the wheels in line with each I had to reach back to my Red X days of measuring and trial and error.  I got everything good on the third try because I had figured out what what red x and pink x were and how to stack the odds in my favor.

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Bent Arches

Today continued building of the trucks.  I started by finishing one side frame to make sure it would work.  Other than needing to open the holes in the bolster so that it will slide up and down better it looks good.
 I followed this by cutting, drilling, and bending the parts for three more side frames.

I have yet to drill the holes to hold the journals, and the 1-1/8th in bearings holes.  Then after this set is done I will have to make another set for the trucks wheels and axles that Robb has.

I am glad for how much work I got complete today.

Monday, May 05, 2014

First Arch

Today I made the jig for bending the arches, as well as bent the first arch.

First I cut off a section of 3"x1/2" steel.  Sanding one side smooth as glass with a power sander.

 Then I scratched the horizontals and marked the hole positions with an awl.
 Then I checked them all with a calipers to see if the mirrored points were equadistant.  Only one hole in the lower right was out of position.  After checking I deepened the holes with a duller awl.  Then over to the drill press.  First i used a small center drill to mark each hole, then a larger center drill.
 Finally I used a 1/4" drill bit to drill all six holes.
 The pins are 1/4" rod.
 I then made the clamping bar.  The first arch was cut to length and drilled with the large clamping bar made yesterday.  Then I assembled it on the jig.
 I first tried to bend it with a vice grips, that did not work.  I made a bending bar like nelson locomotive works suggested.  It works best to have the bender as close as possible to the pin.  I will be making a second short clamping bar to make that easier.
Last was back to the drill press with the long bar to drill the 4 outer holes.   One arch completed.  Eight this size and 4 large ones per car means 23 more to go.