Thursday, April 14, 2011

Testing the Peddler Job for Operations

Adding a single switch and siding to the Ponderosa Lines last week opened a whole range of new opportunities. One goal with the railroad is to conduct operating sessions that provide the railroad with a purpose - at least an imaginary one. In HO scale it was easy to keep adding track and sidings and industries, allowing for a slew of operating schemes. With a more prototypical G-scale layout, however, track switches are at a premium, and sidings are, by necessity, minimal. At least for now. With some old fashioned ingenuity and a little imagination, however, it's quite possible to create a workable and realistic operating scheme with a relatively simple track plan. And so I put my brain and notepad to work.

The first issue was the length of the main line from Paradise to Boulder Point (see the "Concept and Maps" label). While I'm grateful to have a lengthy backyard pike, there is a simple way to instantly double the operating length of the railroad: take the train around twice. After I got myself beyond the issue of doubling up operations on the same track, this opened up a wide range of possibilities. After the first lap around, the origin town of Paradise turns into the instant town of Viterbo. With the new siding there, Viterbo provides trains with a passing siding and stub track. The next stop (second loop) is Blumenthal, where the passing siding can serve doubly as an industrial siding or house track. Finally, a "third" separate siding serves as a house track at the effective "end" of the line at Boulder Point. Three sidings provide plenty of opportunities for a simple mixed or peddler (local) freight that drops and picks up a few times during its round trip! Passenger trains provide yet other avenues for creative "jobs," which will likely provide fodder for future blog posts.

During a spring-like though chilly evening, I took the future Peddler on a test run using an operating scheme. A pick-up at Blumenthal, drop-off at Viterbo, and pick-up at Boulder Point. This train included the recently acquired Drovers caboose, which necessitated some local flag stops at minor stations. The whole trip required four laps around the yard, so to speak - two laps to Boulder Point, and two on the return, including the aforementioned stops. The entire job lasted about 40 minutes and ran perfectly as a small mixed train headed by WP Diesel #3. Now to integrate the job with a passenger train, something I've got plans for on paper. Three trains on this layout might be pushing it, but not impossible. For now, I'm looking forward to some simple ops sessions with 3-5 operators: two crews with two each, and Dispatch or yard master.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Cleaning an LGB Mogul 2-6-0

Since the time I began thinking about building a G-scale railroad, I have always admired the LGB Mogul. Its 2-6-0 wheel arrangment should be perfect, I felt, for a branch-line type railroad and short passenger or freight trains. And now there is one inside our house, having arrived on the porch step the other day in used condition. My first task was to clean up the outside of the engine to remove the apparent years of dust and grime. Some light soap and water and a combination of kitchen sponge and paper towel did the trick. Looks practically like new (see photo below).

The next step involved performing minor surgery, exploratory in this case. If possible, I wanted to inspect the drive wheel axles and pickups, which in HO scale are typically the first to gather hair, dust, and grime. This case would be no different. Using a variety of handy kitchen props available within eyesight, I flipped the engine on its "back" and scanned the underside. I gathered various implements of destruction including pliers, tweezers, and various sized screw drivers. With surgery ready to proceed, it was time to reverse-engineer its "insides". The cover plate looked easy enough. All four screws came out with no problem, but they were of different sizes. I was therefore careful to keep them in the correct order on the counter for ease of reassembly later. I highly recommend this practice. As you "reverse engineer" an unknown locomotive, be careful to keep track of where the parts come from.

I heard a "sproing" when the cover plate came off, exposing the gears, contacts, and drive wheel axles. It happens that the front pilot truck is connected to a short spring that provides tension to the pilot axle as it turns. These Germans were creative! After gawking at the mass of metal and plastic (and grime), I dove in and took off the pickup shoes and long metal contact plates. Nothing seemed that complicated, and it was a pleasure to work with such large parts after dealing with HO scale in the past. I was more pleased to learn that the brake shoes pull right up out of the frame, so I organized them with the other parts so that I could tell what went where later on (see photo below). These pre-molded plastic parts were easy to put under soap and water, immediately relieving them of their years of collected hair and filth. I then gingerly toyed with the drive wheel axles to see how I could separate them from the frame for cleaning. I was not courageous enough to remove the wheels from the tie rods, and I saw no need to do so.

I took some Goo Gone to the wheels, both their tires and the insides of the wheels. Looked like a lot of grease, and the nastiest part of the whole cleaning process was the grease and oil that a previous owner had apparently applied. It became an instant mess, not unlike that of cleaning a bicycle chain. I ruined a couple of cheap wash cloths, but they had already been downgraded to "railroad cleaning" duty previously. The black stuff got all over my hands (like a bicycle, which is why I don't clean those often, either) and was tough to wash off. I can't imagine that the engine will need any more lubrication in the near or far future, as most modelers advise newbies like me to not go so heavy with the grease and oil.

Thanks to good planning, I carefully reassembled the undersides after cleaning all of the contacts and surface parts that I could easily access. Should be ready to go for its first test run on the Ponderosa Lines! Needs to be converted to battery power, first! Not willing to wait that long, a neighbor G-scaler has kindly agreed to test run the loco on his own track-powered layout. Soon after, C&S #6 will be the fourth locomotive assigned to the Ponderosa Lines roster.