Private Coal

Normally I don’t post photos that aren’t mine because I’m very conscious of copyright: I don’t like people using my photos without permission and especially without attribution. However in this case I’m going to pretend it’s justified because I did pay for calendar this scan comes from, I’ve deliberately left the photographer’s name (Bob Grant) on the image and I fully acknowledge the source was this year’s SCR calendar. I would highly recommend buying a copy of the calendar each year because it’s one of the best going. The reason I wanted to post this photo (June 2018) is because it so beautifully sums up the atmosphere I’m trying to create on Morpeth at the moment. The photo was taken at Hexam in 1972, which is not a million miles from where the main northern line branches to Morpeth at East Maitland. This was and still is possibly the busiest stretch of railway line in the country and the fact that a private coal railway crosses the government lines at grade makes it fairly unique in this country where these sorts of crossings were rare.

The coal branch on Morpeth will be a far more modest endeavour than the activity shown in this photo, but the colours and movement type won’t be too far from my South Maitland Railway inspired efforts. I love the colour and heavy industrial nature of this sort of equipment: it may not have been terribly sexy or pretty but there’s a certain utilitarian beauty in this scene that I want to capture on my layout as the 10 class hauls a string of 4 wheel hoppers up the line to the coal tipple.

I haven’t been posting to the blog very much recently, mainly because the work I’ve been doing on the layout has been very repetitive, so there hasn’t been much to add to what I’ve written in the recent past: install some sub roadbed, make some track, lay the track and wire it up! That about sums it up. However I have reached a bit of a milestone by running a train right round the room so the track laying is progressing well although these is still a bit left to do. I need to make 3 more switches, sort out the track to the engine facilities at Raworth and finish laying the track in the yard at the coal loader.

This image shows Raworth yard. All the line has been laid and is now wired and trains are running. The big job left to do is to install a new switch leading to the turntable and engine shed at the bottom left. Once installed the track laying on this part of the layout will essentially be complete.

As I’ve worked on Raworth I’ve been thinking carefully about the type of operation I want to run on this part of the layout. The operation of the coal trains on this part of the layout will involve an exchange of wagons on the balloon loop in Raworth yard. A NSWR loco will either drop off or pick up a string of coal hoppers into the loop and this will then be picked up by the 10 class which will be waiting at the engine facilities just out of the photo above. After hooking up, the hoppers will be hauled up the coal branch to the tipple, loaded and pulled back down the line. I’m going to institute a rule on the branch that the loco must be running forward both up and down the grade so the 10 class will have to be run light down the line after loading at the tipple so it can be turned on the 60′ turntable that will be at the end of the line indicated in the photo above. All runs will include a dedicated brake van at the end of the train and this will not be permitted to be run under the tipple so this should complicate things nicely for any operator doing the coal run. I can envisage this operation happening twice during a normal 2 or 3 hour operating session.

I’ve now decided to go ahead with building a SMR 10 class in the next few months and have purchased the wheels for the project. The NMRA are holding their convention in Brisbane later this year and I’ve agreed to give a talk on scratch building locomotives at the convention. I’m also giving a talk on the same topic at this years Modelling the Railways of Queensland convention. I thought it would be a wise move to be actually building something for these rather than just talk about past projects. I’ve also agreed to open the layout up for the self drive visits of the NMRA convention so there’s a bit of pressure on to get the majority of the track installed and running. And finally I’ve also agreed to take the portable part of Morpeth to the New England Convention in November so you won’t be able to turn around in the second half of this year without seeing my ugly mug pop up 🙂

This image shows the progress of track laying on the coal branch. A loco can now be run up grade to the top of the line but I’ve yet to lay much track on the loop and the third and final section of sub road bed is yet to be installed. The sub-roadbed sticks out over the storage line in the centre of this photo to allow for a little more space to model the coal tipple which will be on this section.

I’ve been putting in quite a bit of work on track laying and I have run a train round the room but I must admit to feeling like a bit of a break from crawling around under the layout. I’ve moved inside today to make a new code 125 switch that will be used in Raworth yard and lead to the turntable there (not the one you can see at the end of the storage yards in the above photo). It won’t be long before I have to really make a move on getting the portable section of Morpeth ready to take to Armidale in November and I have decoders to install into a couple of locomotives so I have more than two locomotives to run on the layout during the open house.

This image shows the yard throat of the storage sidings with the coal branch flyover in place. I did a test on the DCC electronics I have installed in this section of track and (as I expected) I hadn’t set things up right. This required another order of DCC parts from my usual supplier and a wait of a week or so while the package arrives. I can’t install the track on the coal loop above permanently until this arrives and I’ve made some minor adjustments to the rail on this section of layout.

 

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So We Move To Plan B…

I’m like a lot of railway modellers: I can rarely resist the temptation to fill a piece of empty layout real estate with another siding if the opportunity presents itself. I’ve spent the past couple of weeks gradually working on laying the track through the last empty part of my layout in the section called Raworth. Raworth is a real place on the Morpeth line but it was restricted to a single line with a through station on a gentle curve. The brick faced platform had a small wooden waiting shed and that was it in terms of line-side facilities. However in the deep, distant past Raworth sported a small balloon loop long enough to hold approximately seven S wagons (short, 4 wheel open wagons) that were used to ship bricks out of a brick works that used to exist at this spot. The brick kilns in this works were fired using coal that was dug up from a deposit on site (well that’s my surmise). This small coal deposit was rich enough and close enough to the surface that at certain times in the line’s history limited amounts of coal were shipped out from the same loop and exported via the wharf that once stood about 2km away at, you guessed it, Queens Wharf.

In my extended version of history this coal deposit was more extensive and economic than the real deposit and as such a coal loader was built at the end of a short coal branch which headed back south from the now extended Raworth passing loop. Non air coal wagons would be hauled up to the loader by an South Maitland Railways 10 class tank locomotive which was leased from this private coal railway. This coal branch is above the bank that runs to the south of the line and as such requires quite a stiff 3% grade to reach it.

This shot is of SMR #22 which is the loco I plan to haul a string of coal wagons back and forth along the Raworth coal branch. If I can get the loco to get up the 3% grade of course 🙂 Oh by the way this loco is not available as a kit so the plan is that it will be my next scratch built locomotive.

Anyway, I had all the the elements in place to start laying track through Raworth, connect the circle of track around the room so I would have a continuous run and then make a start on laying track on the coal branch that would curve back around the same real estate as the main line and rise something like 14cm to cross the throat of the storage sidings and then run along the back of these sidings on a narrow 220mm wide shelf where I’d eventually build the Raworth coal loader.

Then I ran out of code 125 rail!

While I waited for more rail to arrive I looked around for something to productively fill the interregnum and decided that I could make a start on the coal branch. I was going to use code 100 rail on the track on the coal branch and I had a good supply of this on hand. So after I used up the last of my code 125 on laying the last of the main line through Raworth I stopped to take a look at where the track exits Raworth yard and decided that I might just be able to squeeze in a #6 point and use the resultant siding as a line into a brickworks scene or perhaps as a engine siding for the 10 class tank between its trips up and down the line. Which is the explanation for why the video of me making a code 100 point appeared yesterday.

This morning I got up, took the point out to the layout room and sat down to actually calculate the grade and the risers needed to get it to the height needed to provide sufficient clearance so it could cross above the throat of the storage sidings. The point lasted in that location till approximately lunchtime. I knew I could get the track to rise to the height I needed and I was pretty sure I could get a train up that grade, but it turned out that the needed grade was a smidge over 3% and the spot where the grade really kicked in needed to be plain track at the start of the hill. Guess where there point was going to be sitting…

This is a view down the line at Raworth. You can clearly see where the coal line commences to rise as it travels back past the main and curves to the right. The point I made to access that small empty space in the middle of the photo was supposed to connect to the small length of track that leads nowhere that sits on the left.

Placing a point at this location was only an experiment so nothing is lost. The point will be used on the run around loop at the end of the coal branch. I had intended to commence the grade just after the point but that required pushing the grade across another joist to give it some support and stop it transferring this grade into the section of benchwork where the point was sitting and this then telegraphed itself into an even stiffer grade. The end point and the starting point for the grade are fixed elevations so every centimeter I nibbled from the length of the line would result in a steeper grade and this was going to be on a tight curve as well. Getting the point out of the equation put approximately 800mm of clear, single line track back in the run and removed something like a 2mm rise from every 500mm or run. That might not sound like much but it took the grade down from about 3.5% to about 3.1%. Did I get the roadbed’s height where I needed it to be at the end of the line? I’ll let the photo do the talking…

 

“Just Look On Gumtree”, She Said!

As is my want these days I’ve spent the last couple of weeks on YouTube looking at videos of “blokes” doing amazing things to machinery. I’ve watched Japanese blokes hand make saws, American blokes make sanding machines and Canadian blokes restore lathes and build grinding machines. One of my favourite series of videos is by a NZ bloke by the name of Geoffrey Croker who restores a Myford lathe. The following is the first in a 10 part series he made on restoring his lathe. It’s not critical that you watch the video but it gives you the idea of where my head’s been over the past fortnight.

Anyway, as happens with such matters, my mind drifted onto the possibility of getting myself a “new” old bench-top lathe that would be big enough to do the jobs that my little Sherline isn’t capable of. I’ve wanted to do two lathe jobs recently that were both beyond the capabilities of my Sherline. The limitation has been less about the size of the motor or the quality of the Sherline – I find the Sherline lathe to be beautifully made and very accurate – but more about the limitation in the size of the work-pieces it can handle. At not much more than 60mm there is very little clearance between the center of the chuck and the bed.

So as I sat back and enjoyed myself “watching paint dry”, as my better half calls the videos I watch on YouTube, I started to think about looking into the possibility of buying myself a piece of old junk for next to nothing and doing it up, just like my NZ hero Geoffrey Croker. If you’ve watched the video you’ll see what rough shape his lathe was in so it couldn’t have cost him very much. $200 buck tops? That’s probably $1000 NZ dollars but even in real money it couldn’t have cost too much surely? 🙂  Anyway I asked my beloved, who spends most of her free time online looking for piles of old rubbish to buy, where I might go looking for an old junky lathe to which she replied, “Just look on Gumtree!”. You can buy lathes from a tree? Those in the know tell me Gumtree is Australia’s version of Craig’s List. I hope that means more to those of you reading this than it does to me 🙂

Anyway after an abortive attempt to look at the ads for lathes on my desktop computer I tried my tablet and everything went swimmingly. So much so that, much to my surprise, I found a Myford ML7 lathe or sale in Brisbane about 2 hours drive from home. The seller lived about 1km from my sister’s place. Now unlike my knowledge of various online sites I know a little about these machines and I’m well aware that they don’t come up for sale very often, well not in Australia anyway. The phrase that readily springs to mind is that they are “much sought after”. If I had a choice of the lathe I’d want to complement my baby Sherline a Myford ML7 would be either number 1 or 2. The other brand I’d consider, while still being manufactured, is well out of my price range. The poms who are into this stuff go into paroxysms of joy and get very fruity over Myfords, but they’re poms and as such have rather interesting tastes: a bit like Japanese without the Sake. I understand that Myfords, in spite of my lame jokes are a British brand and haven’t been manufactured in years, so the available numbers are a shrinking pool. So when you see one you grab it. And here was one for sale on Gumtree!

I contacted the seller and arranged to go and view the machine in question over the weekend. The outcome of that trip is now sitting in my shed.

This photo shows the lathe as it came off the back of my ute with the tailstock and motor removed to reduce its weight a little. It came with a chip tray and a heavy metal stand that aren’t included in the photo. I’ve placed a meter ruler in front of the machine to give you an idea of its size: almost exactly 1m long. This lathe is still in the range of a “small” bench-top machine but is a beast compared to my Sherline. I can’t lift it on my own even with it lightened for travel but I did manage to manhandle it onto a wheeled worktable by myself when I got it home today. I’ve got a friend coming over tomorrow to help me lift it onto the floor while I work out where I’m going to set it up permanently.

Not to put too fine a point on it the machine was in pristine condition, certainly better than the one that appears in the Croker videos. Everything worked, there were no broken teeth on the gears, the lead screw travel was smooth as silk and the machine ran quietly and smoothly. I was in love! 🙂 The only downside was that this was no junker and the price reflected it. I gladly forked over the asking price and had the seller and my brother in law help me load the thing into the back of my truck. Of course it rained on the way home but I had covered my new toy in a tarp so she was safe and dry back there. The seller had owned the lathe for 25 years and he’d found little use for it since he’d retired a few years ago. He insisted on going over the thing in detail with me and as he did so he locked the gears in place and whacked the machine with a mallet to get the chuck off, something all the videos I’ve watched suggest is the primary reason so many old Myfords come with gears with broken teeth. Having made a specific point of looking for the broken teeth that often result from such treatment I winched as he did this but as I wasn’t yet the owner I wasn’t in a position to stop him. Rest assured that I will not be using this method to remove the chuck in future. As an owner he was also obviously of the opinion that you can never have too much oil on your lathe because the machine was bathed in it. And then he proceeded to pump more into the bearings to demonstrate to me how things need to be.I suppose it was better than having it get rusty.

Do I need another lathe? Ah grasshopper, that is a question with no clear answer! 🙂 I’d been told when I was considering buying a Sherline that I would discover its limitations pretty quickly and that has turned out to be true. However I haven’t done much machining since I finished my last scratch built locomotive so the jury is still out on my “need” for this new machine. I have plans to build another locomotive soon and this time there won’t be a kit that was a close cousin to provide parts for the project. I certainly don’t want the Myford to sit in my shed gathering rust: it needs to be used and as I’ve recently been on leave from work with plans to retire permanently in the next 12 months I have no longer got the excuse that I don’t have the time.

As I was leaving the seller said to me “you know, you’re not the owner of this thing, you’re just the custodian for the next guy gets who gets to have it in his shed for a couple of decades”. I think he’s right. I have some plans for this lathe and a week ago, when I first went online to look for a lathe I could restore I had no notion that I’d be buying one, but this was an opportunity too good to pass up. The seller had looked up the serial number online and it turns out that this lathe was manufactured in 1953/4, so it’s almost a decade older than me. I hope I move as smoothly and quietly as this Myford after sixty five years of age. Somehow I doubt it 🙂

Where There’s A Will There’s A Wall

When you’re planning and building a layout of any reasonable size you live with it in your head for a long time. I’ve been thinking and pondering over this layout plan for so longthat I mostly know well in advance where the tight spots and speed bumps are going to be. One D’oh moment did happen as I laid the track between QW and Morpeth but I think I’m being honest when I say there haven’t been many instances where I’ve been caught out and things didn’t fit where and how the plan said they were supposed to. As the process of building a layout is curated by our own individual personalities it’s no surprise to find that the habits and personality quirks we bring to life and work are reflected in the way we build our layouts and that has never been more true that in building and laying out the curve between the storage yard and Raworth.

Now for those of you who don’t follow my ramblings all that closely I should probably say that the construction of this layout has been impacted by one critical decision I made prior to settling on the final plan. This decision was to include my two portable layouts, Queens Wharf and Morpeth, into the “permanent” design. I knew this would have an impact on the design and construction of the layout but if I’d known how big an impact I’m not sure I’d have gone down this path, at least not with Queens Wharf. This is not to say I’m unhappy with the result, but equally I’m not convinced that the payoff (in terms of time and effort saved) of allowing QW to dictate what happens on a major portion of the larger layout has been worth it. In fact I know it hasn’t been. Queens Wharf was a tiny test bed of a diorama I built over a decade ago. It had some charm and it allowed me to test some ideas but here I am a decade later letting it partially dictate the position and arrangement of the track on a large, permanent home layout. Some of the scenery and all of the track from QW is now sitting on the permanent layout but great slabs of the scenery have either had to be removed or have simply fallen off and as such will need significant amounts of work to be reinstalled. In addition the switches on this little diorama were the first I’d ever made by hand in any number and as such their construction and geometry leave a little to be desired. Anyway the decision was taken, QW now sits along one wall of my layout room and I’m now moving toward the point where I will have the circle of track around the entire perimeter completed and I can run a train around the room. Not that this is a significant accomplishment to a “serious”, operations orientated modeller like me of course. I only put a circle of track in to pander to those of a less serious frame of mind than me 🙂

So I’ve essentially got both QW and Morpeth installed, the storage lines are in place, the not inconsiderable obstacles of a staircase and a cupboard that were inconveniently in the way have been addressed and the two ends of track that form the circle are gradually creeping toward each other to eventually meet in the one totally “new” part of the layout: Raworth! The Raworth (pronounced Ray-worth) portion of the layout is the only station that I can build free from the constraints of a pre-existing diorama or layout segment. Here I can let my imagination run free and “design” to my hearts content to get exactly what I want. Or not. If this layout were a movie it would be Twins starring Danny DeVito and Arnie. Morpeth and QW would be Arnie, who got all the good genes and Raworth would be Danny DeVito, who got all the left over crap. All the easy to fill spaces and walls have been taken up by my two portable layouts with Raworth getting the truncated, “leftover” corner. In addition every fudge and compromise I permitted myself in the design phase to get them to fit has come together in Raworth to provide me with a genuine construction challenge. A challenge that culminated yesterday in me knocking another whacking great hole in one of my newly installed walls/ceilings.

When I reach a tough spot in a modelling project I tend to ignore it and work around it. Thus it has been with Raworth: I had a plan and I knew what was supposed to happen in the corner it sits in but I had done the sums and made some measurements and I knew my minimum radius of 1.5m was in real trouble in one particular spot: the apex of the curve as it rounds the bend into Raworth’s short yard.

After a long design process, a lot of time and effort put into testing curve radii and a great deal of thought I’d put into how to build this part of the layout I discovered three days ago what I’d long suspected: I didn’t have enough space to accommodate my minimum radius curve in this part of the layout. Where my plan said a 1.5m radius curve should be, there was a wall and it wasn’t going anywhere! 🙂

Several weeks ago I’d been able to stand in the middle of the area where the track would curve out of the storage sidings around into Raworth and I could tell that things were going to be extremely tight. This was without adding in a curved point at the top of the curve where the triangle of track was to be created. The radius on this Peco point was much larger than 1.5m and there are straight sections on these manufactured points so this would push the radii out even further. I knew that a 1.5m radius curve wasn’t going to fit, I just hadn’t worked out by how much. So being a go getting type of personality I ignored the problem and started work on the suspended section of rail line that runs over the stairs and through the storage cupboard. This kept me occupied for two or three weeks but the curve into Raworth was always there in the background. I came back to the problem about a week ago. Surprisingly the wall hadn’t shifted out 50mm in the hiatus of work in this area 🙂 The problem wasn’t just confined to the amount of simple distance I had available between the throat of the storage yard and that or Raworth: in addition I once again had to contend with the dormer ceilings that slope up at 45 degrees from the vertical walls. While I would have been able to squeeze in a 1.5m radius curve if I had straight walls, I have in fact got 45 degree angled walls and these were in the way due to constraints further up and down the line: at one end I needed the track to be at a particular height so that it would match the shelf the track runs across in the storage cupboard and at the other end I had plans to curve the coal branch up and over the line running out of the storage roads so every millimeter I could raise the track where it enters Raworth means a slightly less stiff grade on this branch. Of course I couldn’t just raise the line because eventually it would hit the ceiling. So if I couldn’t will that wall away I had to come up with a solution.

The problem had two aspects: the first was that there simply wasn’t enough space to fit my minimum radius in and secondly there was a strict limit to how high I could raise the track at this point to ease the grade on the coal branch. It turned out that I was close but there wasn’t quite enough room to squeeze in my 1.5m “minimum radius curve. In fact I was short by about 50mm (2”) for this size curve to fit in. So I reduced the radius of the curve to 1450mm and drew up and cut two lengths of 12mm ply at this radius and fitted these in place. And it worked. However at the point where I wanted the trains to run the ceiling starts to angle out. While there may have been room for the curve of track, unless all my stock could be reduced to being only 50mm high none would pass that spot without hitting the ceiling.

A couple of days ago I had a visitor who was delivering some wood for a project I’m working on and she came upstairs to see the layout. I’d spent the day struggling with the realization that I couldn’t fudge this part and that I was going to have to do something to get trains round that bend but I wasn’t prepared to reduce the radius of the curve any further to bring it away from the ceiling. I was swearing and carrying on to my friend when I said “and I’m not cutting a hole in the wall!” to which she replied, “why not? You’ve cut holes in three other places.” She was right! So cut a hole is exactly what I did! 🙂

So I gave into the inevitable and cut a new hole in the ceiling, this time to allow the trains to pass. It was a long narrow hole which sits about 200mm behind the backdrop and will allow the leading outside edge of my trains to swing through the arc of the 1450mm curve without hitting their noggins.

As usual with my hole cutting excursions there was a piece of plasterboard channel sitting behind the exact spot I wanted my hole to be. Cutting the hole in the plaster was a mere bagatelle but the bloody metal channel needed the application of a lot of elbow grease by way of a hack saw and I was sweating by the end of the process. Well it was actually two processes as I had to extend the hole when I discovered it wasn’t long enough. And then we come to the backdrop. As you may be able to see from the photo above the hole in the wall is quite a way behind the backdrop. I wasn’t prepared to have a 20mm high backdrop along the entire length of Raworth so I cut the backdrop away to allow the curve to swoop into the gap and out again. Before starting this I thought I could disguise the hole by a few judiciously placed trees but the gap is 1.5m long and 240mm high. It would take a lot of frigging trees to disguise that! 🙂 And before anyone suggests it there are no grades on the Morpeth line so there are no hills and hence tunnels were not an option. I needed a solution to try to reduce the visual impact of this huge gap prior to the application of some judiciously placed trees!

I decided that I would curve a short length of backdrop into the hole created for the curve but this would need to be held very precisely in place on some sort of brace that was ever so slightly of a larger radius that the 1.450m radius curve of the track. This was my solution.

Once I’d made the brace I attached a length of 3mm mdf (this is the backdrop material) to it so that it could be slid in place to provide a cover for all that ugly wall and the hole in it.

When I’d constructed the backdrop screen from a brace and an appropriate length of mdf I slid this in place and mocked up the track bed to check that everything would fit. I needed a clearance of about 115mm above the track bed for it to work and about 20mm behind the track base to let large equipment to overhang on the curve. I’m pleased to report that it all worked perfectly! 🙂

I pushed the backdrop insert into position and screwed it in place, ensuring the backdrop wasn’t leaning forward and interfering with the passage of trains. In spite of the rather bodged up, last minute nature of this solution it looked and worked far better than I had a right to expect. I’ll run a string of LED lights along the upper inside of the main backdrop to get rid of the shadows. It won’t make everything disappear but this will cut down on the visual impact considerably.

Ok, ok, this still doesn’t look “pretty” but it’s a heck of a lot better than simply leaving the gap unmasked so you could see the hole in the ceiling. With track in place, a photo backdrop applied to the whole area, a string of LED lights behind the main backdrop to remove the shadows and (yes you guessed it) a few judiciously placed trees, I think this isn’t going to look too bad. Well I have my fingers crossed 🙂 And I got my 120mm clearance to allow trains to pass at a reasonable height. Not a bad outcome overall.

 

 

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 🙂