March 22, 2018

March Madness - a Snow Storm on the First Day of Spring

They say March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb. Well the lion got in a late roar and dumped abut 6 inches of heavy wet snow on our area. Late snow is unusual for Northern Virginia, but recall that there was a heavy snow storm storm when President Abraham Lincoln made his Easter visit to the Aquia Line in 1863, as well as several other storms that winter.

Of course the snow caused the local schools, many businesses, and the Federal Government offices to close down. With an unexpected day off, I tackled several miscellaneous tasks on the Aquia Line. Most of the tasks were in the maintenance and rebuilding category.

First, I tuned up several freight cars. Through test operation I found several cars that were derailing in various places. I discovered that some of my cast metal trucks did not have the king pin hole exactly on the center line. This caused the couplers to be offset too much on certain curves. The offset couplers then jam the links and caused derailments by lifting the car and wheels off the rails.

The off center problem  was due to the rubber mold wearing as I cast the metal parts for the trucks. To fix that problem, I cracked open  the offending trucks and replaced the bolster beam with new laser cut parts that had the king pin hole precisely centered. They also had consistent tabs to fit in the slots of the cast metal truck side frames. With these changes, those cars performed much better.

While I was doing freight cars, I also finished up the decals for a new box car. This is now the 28th car on the RR. I also built two more sets of trucks for cars 29 and 30.

But I still had some derailment trouble. All three turnouts to the wye at Aquia had problems. These are key turnouts and must work reliably. The easiest to fix was the switch on the Burnside Wharf side of the wye. My operators from last week reported that the stubs were not clearing the stock rails. Sure enough, one stock rail was too long. That was easy to trim.

The center wye switch had become tight in gauge after I ballasted the track, probably because I was too enthusiastic with dilute glue and wet-water  when I applied the ballast. The excess water caused some of the ties to wrap a little bit. However, I was able to salvage the turnout by slightly re-gauging the track without having to pull the ties and totally re-lay it.

New extended lead and switch stand WIP
The biggest problem was in the south end of the wye. The lead to the turnout was too sharp. While it worked most of the time, certain car-coupler combos still had trouble. The frog was ok, but the lead in the stock rails was the problem.

To fix it, I pulled up  the stock rails, added three inches  to the lead and and re-spiked the track. In the process, I was able to move the switch stand to the foreground, where is it much easier to access. It all works much better now.

One other niggling problem we had was that certain freight cars interfered with the transfer bridge on the car float. I was able to sand the transfer bridge post in the center that was causing the problem. Most cars now fit, except two flat cars with home made stake pockets. I was able to use my new Proxxon disk sander to take off about .040 inches off each side of the cars. They now fit and the cars still look fine.

I recently purchased the Proxxon sander. It has proven itself to be one of the most useful tools in my shop.  How I got along without it for so long is a mystery.  It's for sale direct from their website with feee shipping. And their price is lower than most discounters, like Amazon.

Finally, the USPS brought a package. I guess the, "Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds" is true. Anyway, the package contained an O scale 2-8-0 2-rail locomotive that Jeremy Drummler purchased for me at the 2018 National O scale Show in Chicago last weekend. Thanks Jeremy!

It is shocking to feel how heavy this loco is and how much bigger it is compared to a ACW 4-4-0. The engine weighs 4.1 pounds and the tender is another.  Wow.  The loco is for a new layout project for my next book. More on that later.

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