What’s Hidden Beneath

In the video I posted recently you saw my NSWGR 44 class locomotive traverse the new section of suspended track work over the stairs of my home layout Morpeth (Mk5). It’s called Mk5 because this is the 5th “version” of the Morpeth line I’ve built. Of course Mk 5 incorporates Mk 3 within its confines but that’s another story. Following on from that video I’ve discovered a downside to having a layout where I can actually run trains for more than about 3m: it’s that when you get a locomotive out of its box for the first time in 5 years and run it 10 meters or so for the first time in its life it can be liable to pop its clogs. This happened with the 44. I ran it around the curve and out onto the suspended section of layout and when it reached the end of the available track I reversed it but it wouldn’t move. I could hear noises from inside and it seemed to move to one side slightly but it wouldn’t budge. And this was about 3 or 4 meters above the stairs! Exactly what wasn’t supposed to happen happened with the very first loco I ran on this length of track! Luckily I could reach the loco through the hole in the wall so I gave it a shove and it backed up along the “skyrail”. And no you didn’t see any of that in the video because I’m not stupid enough to broadcast my failures to the world! Well not on video anyway 🙂

So what was I to do about this? Pull the loco apart of course and see what was hidden beneath. I posted some photos and words about this loco on the blog a number of years ago (2012 to be precise) and I posted a photo of the new motor and decoder I installed then. Well it’s 2018 and I haven’t run the loco once in all that time so it’s perhaps not surprising that things went slightly awry. So it was back to the workbench and the photo below was the result:

The installation of the new motor in the 44 in 2012 was necessary to replace the very poor motor the loco was delivered with. However my installation was really a bit of a make do job. I used a motor that just happened to be in the cupboard for another project and it looked a little small and “under-powered”. The motor was brand new at the time and seemed pretty big when I bought it but looking at this photo now it looks too small for such a large loco.

In the space of a couple of days I went from having what I thought was a running loco to a pile of parts spread over my work bench. Before I started this service on my 44 I’d already decided that the fault was bound to be in one of the loco’s bogies but now that I have it in parts on my workbench I’m not so sure. After a bit of fiddling about I managed to extract one of the bogies from the chassis so I could test it on its own by running it with the motor. I wanted it free from the other bogie so I could narrow down where the problem might lie. The first thing I needed to do was make a small wooden cradle that would hold the bogie wheels off the deck so I could watch it as it ran under power. I used some scraps of timber to knock this up, set the bogie on it and applied power to the gear tower by holding the motor where the universals could turn the wheels. While there was no obvious binds in the bogie in either direction everything sounded “dry” to my ear, even the motor. Many years ago I learnt an expensive and valuable lesson when I modelled in HO that one should always apply a suitable lubricant to a new Japanese can motor before placing it under load. I read or was told at the time that it was standard practice among manufacturers like Sagami and Mashima not to lubricate their motors prior to shipping. At the time I failed to do this to a motor I’d installed in a Lima loco I’d re-motored and the thing came to a grinding halt eventually. It turned out I’d ruined the motor and it needed to be replaced.

I can’t remember whether I applied oil to the motor before I installed it into my 44 in 2012 but if I was forced to guess the answer would be I probably didn’t. So in addition to oiling the wheel bearings of my 44’s bogie I also applied a little oil to the bearings on either end of the can motor. I find applying oil is never a “magic” bullet: poorly engineered gear trains and motor set ups rarely “come good” after the application of oil or grease but to my jaundiced ear (is it possible to have a jaundiced ear?) both the motor and gear train in the bogie seemed to settle and run more smoothly after I applied the oil. I’ll do the same test to the other bogie next and see if can find a bind there, but it won’t surprise me to find that the thing runs ok.

What I’ve decided to do, while I have the hood off the loco and the ESU XL is in the hands of the “decoder whisperer” in Sydney, is install a bigger motor which I feel this loco probably needs. I’ve ordered this from NWSL and with any luck it should arrive about the same time I get the decoder back. I’ll keep this current motor for some other, smaller loco I might build at a later time. I’ve also decided to have a shot at turning up my own flywheel on my much under-utilized lathe. Having almost buggered a brand new Sagami motor, trying to turn up a brass flywheel is bound to provide new opportunities to stuff things up 🙂