September 29, 2017

Getting Ready for Op Session 2

Newest freight cars to join the Aquia Line fleet

Logo on new shirts
Like the Monitor arriving just in time to save the Union fleet at Hampton Roads, the new Aquia Line embroidered shirts have arrived just in time for the ACWRRHS Op Session and Open House. (BTW have you ever noticed how many ACW battles swung by the just in time arrival of a some unit - Johnson at First Bull Run, AP Hill at Antietam, Longstreet at Wilderness and Chickamauga, Buell at Shiloh,... I digress)
Actually they are on a UPS truck to my house  update- are on hand now.  These are special shirts reserved only for those that have helped build the layout.

The op session for the ACWRRHS starts at 1300 tomorrow. I expect a big group. Then at 1500 it switches to an open house for the ACWRRHS members that don't want to operate.

I had a busy week, despite catching a cold.

First, I tweaked track by test running both battery and DCC powered locos. I found a few spots that needed adjustments. I have learned that the most problematic aspect in my turnout construction is where the point rails bend at the frog. That bend has to be made very precisely. I have found that the portion of the point rail that is adjacent to the frog can be set a bit loose without hurting performance. But the guard rails opposite them on the stock rails must be spot on. They need to be set right to the gauge so that the trucks don't pick the frog, but not too tight that the pinch the wheels.

I also drove more spikes, so there is probably only 6 feet or so of track left to spike.

I finished building 6  more cars, 4 box cars and 2 flat cars, thanks to some pre-assembly work from JB Weilepp and Paul Dolkos  (see photo above). I painted these box cars medium gray, which looks good when paired with my other burgundy and tawny brown colored cars (sounds like a wine tasting, bring your own crackers). All these cars have home-made cast metal trucks, so their brakes do not operate. That makes 21 cars so far. I think 30 to 36 is a good target number. I have three more "kits" ready to build. Then I want to make some peaked roof box cars, which will require some new laser drawings.

I went on a coupler height adjustment campaign too.   When backing cars, coupler height is critical. When the couplers are mismatched height, the links jam and cars derail. As long as the couplers push face to face when backing, they run well.   I also swapped the factory installed couplers on the locos with my own photo etched versions, as mine work better when pushing.

I also cleaned the pickup wheels for my locos, ... but then, I swapped the battery power supply for Whiton with one of the new designs.  The new BPS uses track power to power both the motor and the battery recharger. The battery only kicks in when the track power is off.  In other words, it is the mother of all keep alive circuits.  I did a test and sure enough, the new BPS can run the decoder off track power even without a battery. With this BPS and the old battery, Whiton now has been running near perfectly.  With the new BPS system, one can use a smaller battery, which will make future installations much simpler. I am now seriously considering converting all the locos to the Stanton battery system.

Wait, didn't you just wire the whole layout for DCC? Why not just just DCC decoders with keep a-lives capacitors?  Haupt has such a keep alive circuit with regular DCC. For some unknown reason, it will stall every now and then. The Stanton battery locos don't stall. They even chug through the occasional short that happens when my brass locos  touch wheels to frames on my tight curves.  Yes, as much as I tweak the engines they do still happen.

A last item, I modified the timetable a bit to try to pack in a bit more action.  One of my testers from last week suggested I run fewer cars in the trains fro new operators, so we will try that.

Tomorrow should be an interesting day.

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