Saturday, February 23, 2013

Accidents happen......The good, the bad and the WTF???

 Generally, operators and dispatchers of interurban lines exercise careful operating practices that promote the safety and well being of the public, train crews and equipment. Today we had a couple errrr.....hiccups. Perhaps I should have stuck to FVT&L 28, the training car. Damn the torpedoes and full speed ahead, being out from under the watchful eye of the Trainmaster and Head Lineman (get well soon Bob, you are missed), I had four trains running on the interurban line and juggled a city car in the mix. I hope I get my operating rotation under control without angering the shop forces and the office too much.

 The good: Keeping four trains and a streetcar in play, executing several flying meets on the outskirts of Olsonville.

 On the outskirts of Olsonville, we have a flying meet of Electroliner 801-02 and a NSL Silverliner. Note the speed of the passing Electroliner, too fast for the shutter of the cameraman.

 The local car met the Liner first on the outskirts of town, then again in town as the Liner was loading passengers on Main St. Tight schedules are kept to ensure the comfortable and seamless transfer of riders between trains.

 The local car squeals around the girder rail curve to stop for passengers getting off the Electroliner.
 Leaving Olsonville, the Electroliner Has another perfectly timed meet with the local freight, pulled by FVT&L 34. There are a few freoght customers around Olsonville, the #1 customer being the Pillsbury plant a mere hop, skip and a jump from Olsonville Shops. The most effective way to reach the plant is a run through town rather than go against the flow of traffic on the city line.

 The freight gets stopped waiting for emergency crews to clear an accident. The city car stops at The Palace Theater. The CA&FV Bridge Car is in the foreground.

 By the time FVT&L 34 and its train are underway again, the city car has caught it and follows behind at a distance of no closer than 5 line poles and waits for it to clear the car loop switch. Safety first!!!!
   We rejoin the North Shore trains at Walt Siding, where the Silverliner grinds by as fast as it can, not wanting to delay the Electroliner's return trip to Olsonville.

 And now for the bad........The motorman of the Electroliner, upon returning again to Olsonville misses the switch lined for the local car. Notched up to about the fourth point to make the curve, the motorman goes down the diverging path,  going boldly where no Electroliner has ever gone before....

 We will not make this mistake again........

 And if you thought this was rough, now for the WTF????? of the evening....... It seems the motorman of the big Jewett car had a bit much to drink and went bombing through Walt Siding at about 70 mph, nevermind the speed restrictions on the siding....with this being the end result..

 After this was cleaned up, all trains were parked pending a safety review of the days events, a thourough A** reaming from the office, and a pending urinalysis of the dispatcher.

 And with the safe return of the re-railing crew aboard the bridge car, we bring this fun to an end. Sincere apologies to the passengers of the Liner and the big Jewett, It'll never, ever happen again....( wink wink)

Much needed shop time followed by controller twisting

 It became quite clear during operations some of my current collection devices left alot to be desired. The main culprit were poles from Walthers. As cool as the sparks were, the operating trolley wheels experienced frequent disturbances at switch pans and in very random spots. The random occurences are due to the fact there are no commercially cast hangers with the exception of the frogs. The poles would occasionally de-wire at speed due to the operating trolley wheels bouncing off the span wires. I have a glut of these Walthers poles with operating wheels, most of which are still in the package. I need to find some shoes or fixed, non spinning wheels as a fix for these. As a work around, these will go in a box in favor of Rich Eaton's poles.

 See the photo, the wheel was impressive on the freight engine, an added bit of realism with all the flashing and arcing at the trolley wheel bclimbing the grade into Sparta. There has to be something other than a spinning wheel or dirty wire to produce those awesome blue arcs.......folks, that's as true to life as you can get.

 With the poles changed on FVT&L 34 (box motor) and FVT&L 28 (training car), the wheels started turning upstairs(in my head, not the belfry). The FVT&L equipment are the last cars left from my home layout. I painted these cars from rattle cans at age 14, the paint jobs are now 20 years old. I have another Roundhouse Boxcab diesel waiting to be kitbashed. This one will have some advancements beyond those on 34. The new one will probably be numbered 35, at which time 34 will be relegated into yard goat service. There is an upper yard  at Sparta that is in need of a capable switch engine. 34 has the newer style drive with the flywheel and reduction gear, making it noisy as hell. It also tends to tie up the railroad, trundling along at 25 scale MPH.

 In the above photo, FVT&L 34 poses on the kitchen table floor with the next victim. The replacement will have trolley boards smaller than railroad ties. Im thinking of making different marker light cans, perhaps utilizing lights instead of jewels....time will tell.

Drive on the left is sloooowwww, the one on the right will be much better suited to the task of getting into the siding before the Limiteds and Express trains have to stop and wait.

 Wednesday night, time was tight. FVT&L 34 & 28 each made a couple round trips with shop forces at the controls. Pole tracking issues were addressed, along with an arcing controller in 34. Hats off to the VMT (Valley Model Traction) shop crew for succesfully getting these two cars inspected and in revenue service after a 12 year hiatus. Join us in the next post for the good, the bad, and the WTF!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

How did I miss this one? Take the controller for a spin on CTA's Brown Line, only for PS3...say what?

 I usually leave the video games to the Mrs. This one will make me dust off my never used gaming skills. Put yourself behind the controller of a set of CTA 3200s on the brown line for the most realistic transit simulator I've ever seen. Birds, cars, people and other trains.......a screaming cab alerter and the automated announcements at each stop.......I can almost smell the B.O. of the unwashed masses behind the bulkhead. Buy the ticket, take the ride- Hunter S. Thompson......that is all

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Electroliner shake down runs are a great success, now serving Electroburgers!!!!!!!

 The verdict is in, and the Electroliner is a keeper. After final tweaking of one truck that was slightly out of tram, the Liner got to stretch its legs. Bring your ticket, have a seat in the Tavern Lounge and enjoy the ride.

The Liner departs the platform on the outskirts of Olsonville. At Clintonville, we find a railfan's special that has taken the pocket track for a photo op.

 After the stop at Clintonville, the Electroliner speeds on in excess of 80 mph until it comes into the outskirts of Sparta. We catch up with it as it crosses the bridge.

 It climbs a grade of between 3 1/2 amd 4% as it rounds the curve into beautiful downtown Sparta.

 The liner squeals through the loop and accelerates wildly through the streets of Sparta, hell bent on not being outdone by the speed of the passing C&NW scoot.

 As the special train heads out of Sparta, we see it pass under the mainline where the Illinois Central City of New Orleans is holding for a signal. That dispatcher got fired later that evening.

After a stop on the outskirts of Sparta for passengers to stretch their legs and to replenish the Leinenkugel's and Beef Tenderloin in the tavern lounge, the train departs for a high speed burn through the praries of northern Illinois and back to Clintonville, where the foamers are still on the hill with camers, waiting to catch this photo of the Liner on its inbound trip.

 The special train departs the Clintonville stop and streaks toward Olsonville, the origin and destination of our inaugural run.

 An aerial photographer is on hand at Olsonville and catches the Electroliner before passengers disembark in beautiful downtown Olsonville. The nearby Palace theater is hosting a special viewing of the newsreel featuring the race between airplane and interurban on the Cincinnati & Lake Erie. Don't blink or it will pass you by!

 The Liner squeals through the tight curve by the carbarn, and is parked awaiting instructions on where to tie up. Here we see it with a NSL Silverliner.

 Now that all is well with the Electroliner, and the boys at Highwood don't answer the phone, we need to find a painter. Send your suggestions to This trip was sponsored by the North Shore Line, proud maker of the Electroburger. Special thanks go to Bob Opal, Jeff Obarek and the entire crew at .

Saturday, February 9, 2013

An Electroliner, an inspection pit, a red faced shop foreman and a beached whale

How do these things relate to each other? My MTS Electroliner arrived Thursday. By Friday I was at the kitchen table, deep in gears and grease on a crash course to ready the liner for operation.

 One of 50 made by Model Tramway, I believe these were the first commercially produced models of the Electroliner. As you can see its untarnished and absolutely beautiful. Looks amazing for something made in 1965. It came with this photo of 803-804 at Highwood after abandonment, before it was shipped to Philly for its second life as a Liberty Liner. Upon tearing into it, I discovered this one had nowhere near 3.3 million scale miles like my NSL Jewett combine.
 Somebody loved this thing. It has a directional lighting kit installed. I had originally procured plugs and sockets thinking I was going to install a bus jumper through the train to make all pole sockets active. MTS or its previous owner beat me to it.

I figured this system would suffice to get me on the high iron. You can also see the new tubing in the drive. My local hobby shop had this stuff on a spool, and it is excellent. After lubing the drive and giving it a general once over, I was tickled to get it together so rapidly..........not so fast

 The club layout embarrased me. Every time this thing hit a grade crossing or street trackage, it would derail or stonewall stop. Fortunately by design, you can run the motorized tavern/lounge car independently of the train. The truck undercarriage rides so low, the screw heads were striking the crossings. The above photo shows the offending screw head. Clearance is that tight under the truck. After consulting the yahoo ho traction message board and hearing many suggestions, I hit both Chicagoland and Des Plaines hobby in search of screws. The only ones I got were wrong, so back to the drawing board I went. After quiet reflection and a few uttered words not fit for print, I pulled out the Walthers combine mentioned in a previous posting. On a whim I took the screws out of the Jewett's power truck and tried them in the liner.

This is a drastic improvement. Come Wednesday, I'll find out if it clears the grade crossings. It was suggested to take a look at the layout as the problem, and I don't think the club layout is to blame. Ive run at least 6 of my other cars through these crossings and street trackage with no issue. I'm reluctant to repower it because I havent seen any pieces with this type of drive that run this well. It climbs almost a 4% grade like a boss. Wednesday will be make or break it night.

 It became apparent the bus jumper system in place was a total joke. If this thing was on my home layout and never disassembled it would work. My work around is a nice two circuit disconnect system.

These plugs snap together, and with the two wires enable me to bus both the hot and ground throughout the train. I'm not going to fool with pole reverse on this set. Im just worried about consistent operation. With 2 poles on the wire and every truck in the train grounded I should eliminate erratic operation altogether.

A big thank you to the seasoned veterans in the HO Traction Yahoo boards, and Jeff Obarek for moral support Friday as this thing had me pulling my hair out.


Monday, February 4, 2013

Henry Cordell asks......" Who vas da motorman " and a new acquisition for the historic fleet

 " Who vas da motorman? " - Notorious quote from Henry Cordell, master mechanic of the Chicago North Shore & Milwaukee Railroad, heard when cars made it to the shop with damage that could have been prevented. I recently pulled apart the drive of a Walthers North Shore Jewett Combine and found myself asking the same question.
 On the left, the car in question. The unfinished body on the right is an Walthers kit for a rainy day. These car kits were often motorized with an open pole motor and spring bands that turn a pair of worm gears. With maintenance this system can spin off countless scale miles. I have a Fairfield/ MTS Jones car with this same drive that can do a better low speed crawl through city streets than some of the bachmann spectrum Peter Witts. The Electroliners of North Shore fame spun off 3.3 MILLION miles each between 1941 and 1963. Cars like my Jewett model probably did over 6 million miles. So begin the guessing as to how many scale miles might be on this Jewett Combine..... The drive has a tale to tell... This car was an ebay find. Let this be a cautionary tale of what may lie in store during your first inspection of a vintage model.

Upon removal of the roof, you will be met by a pair of flexible spring bands. These along with the free swinging design of the bolsters allow the truck to turn far enough in curves to negotiate city intersections. I keep the spring bands clean and dry. Any lubrication of the spring bands will cause unanticipated slip. The plates beneath the truck are held on by two tiny screws. Be careful not to lose, it took a 500 watt light to find the one that fell off the table.

 This is what old oils, greases and layout dirt looks like when it stops being polite, and starts getting real. The oil dripped in when Lyndon Johnson was in office is still here, caked and baked on the little frame that retains the axles. HA!!!! You thought it magically evaporated!!!!! If you wondered why that favorite model smells like a 2 stroke engine, now we're on to something. 99% denatured alcohol to the rescue.

 It looks like the kitty lost his ball of yarn, er hair and it wound up neatly wrapped for safe keeping around the axles. The gears that turn the axles look none too pretty either. Check out the bright silver wear spots on the axles. Its closer to clean, you can see the axle wear clearly.

 A clean truck is a happy truck.... this one is almost there. An application of LaBelle grease and its ready to roll. Everything looks good so about those worm gears?
 The first thing I noticed was how worn they looked, especially the one under my finger. Ahh the evils that lie within. only while cleaning do I get to see the bigger picture. (pun intended)

 Examine the gear at its base. The brass has worn paper thin, and rolled over. The other worm isnt much better. I suspect this to be the source of the occasional bind during its test run. Careful removal with a file, addition of grease manufactured after the oil crisis of 1973 and we begin reassembly.

 Sadly, despite greatly improved operation this car is my first candidate for a repower. I'm thinking a bowser drive with 34" wheels. This drive should be close enough in wheelbase and wheel diameter to be passable. The upside of the schwartz is in the meantime, I can do something about the hideous paint.

 And now for something completely different.........THE LINER IS COMING!!!THE LINER IS COMING!!!!!!!!

Haven't made up my mind whether to keep it or try to magically turn it into a CA&E car via trade, but its coming. This is my first brass purchase since the Clinton administration. Stay tuned for further developments. This should be fun