Monday, November 23, 2009


The interesting way in which County Gate uses fixed consists has got me thinking. One of my main worries about using 009 is to do with reliability of running. 009 allows me to model far more of Rhyd Ddu than would ever be possible in 7mm, or even 5.5mm and also allows me to show the trains in their scenic setting. Running is its Achilles heel usually. There are many ways that running can be improved such as:

- Making sure the trackwork is top notch paying particular attention to check rail clearances and board joins.

- Making sure that electrical feeds are introduced more often than strictly necessary to give some redundancy

- Ensuring the track is clean

- Ensuring loco wheels are clean

- Building chassis that are dead square so all wheels are in contact with the railhead at all times

- Running in locos

- Installing flywheels and using the ‘jump start’ feature in many decoders

- Installing extra weight over the driven wheels to keep them from lifting off the track and to help adhesion generally.

- Ensuring locos are balanced and don’t have a tendency to pitch.

- Using modern mechanisms with quality motors and gearboxes.

And for the majority of the time the above will work… but even if I manage to do the above I am still concerned that locos with just two pairs of wheels picking up are prone to unreliability.

So the locos I am concerned about are:

- Prince – using a 0-4-0 ibertren, which I despise anyway due to its deep flanges. A better kit is available from Mercian.

- Upnor Castle on an 4wh bullant with mashima

- Conwy Castle an 4wh bullant with mashima

- Blanche - using a 0-4-0 ibertren (see above), possibly to be swapped for the new Parkside outside framed RTR chassis version.

- (Linda) – I only have a scratchbuilt body, but the same issue with pickups would exist had I a chassis for it.

- Taliesin – 0-4-4 backwoods with mashima. The rear truck can be made to pick up too, so this may not be the problem I fear.

- (Palmerston) – same issue as Prince, but I don’t have a kit for this engine at present.

I am considering whether some special measures should be taken with these engines to ensure better running (and less hand of God [Thierry Henry?] from the sky). This would either involve double heading – Conwy and Upnor could well work that way for example, or utilising the County Gate ‘trick’ of using another vehicle with pickups and passing the juice through micro connectors.

Taliesin was at Rhyd Ddu recently on the Col Stephens’ set and Prince and Palmerston were used in a similar way during last year’s photo charters. So I could use a companion car with these engines and use micro connectors to pass the juice through to the decoder and thence to the motor. The problem with this is that I wouldn’t then be able to run around the train without disconnecting the micro connector, thus limiting my operating options. But at least they would run reliably.

Taking this one step further, I could actually create a small consist of carriages where some of the carriages bogies also picked up from the track and passed that juice through to the loco and also to lighting strips set into the ceiling of the carriages - I have recently bought such a strip from dcc supplies for testing purposes.

Perhaps a small subset of the Col Stephens’ set could be used to improve running AND also as a kind of showpiece lit set?

That train could also draw some serious current – perhaps 200mA per lighting strip and perhaps 300mA for the motor – good job I bought a 3.5A max DCC system!

For an image of the connectors see this link.


Rob Waller said...

Colin, you make some very good points about quality control in all aspects of layout and stock construction - but in my experience going for the full County Gate solution is not necessary.

As regards the Ibertren chassis I would suggest you have little to fear regards getting reliable electrical contact. With the FR kits you mention - Englands, Ladies and Planets - you've got an ideal weight distribution with a big lump of white metal body sitting square on top of the wheels. Dodgy running with these units is usually because of dirty or mis-aligned pick ups. (Poor maintainence in other words)

On 'Dduallt' we've got some Ibertrens which have clocked up 20 years service now and are among our most reliable and trouble free locos. I reckon they run better the older and more worn they become. (Those ridges on the wheels wear down for a start!)

We found replacing the original motors improved the performance greatly too.

As you point out, the secret with 009 is to take care to optimise your layout and your rolling stock.

The sticky running seen on (still under construction) 'Bron Hebog' at Warley this weekend demonstrated perfectly what happens when a layout hasn't been tweaked.


Colin Lea said...

Thanks Rob, I bow to your greater experience. My worries mainly come from the poor performance of my Blanche - looks great, runs terribly! I'll have another go at cleaning everything and see if I can get better results...

Paul Holmes said...

Colin Good to see you at warley if briefly - please come round the back next time .. I too have been striving for perfect running and have probably over engineered my solutions!! On Dinas we only had the one England loco stall three times all weekend and the others had not had a wheel clean since before the Shipley show a month ago.. On Dinas the two other Englands have the Power One Lens module which works a treat. My other problem was a dead section in the fiddle yard courtesy of a Shinohara point - my scratchbuilt pointwork was fine.

so on Borth-y-Gest I developed a complex solution so here goes!

1 8 wheel pickup on all locos, so tender collection or bogie collection.
2 As I use 2mm Assoc components, split frame chassis but with a light sprung nickel wire bearing down on the non geared axle too.
3 Non geared axle free to move 1mm in slotted 'hornguides' with bearing free to move up and down but restricted from turning by a sliver of brass soldered across the bottom. Then it pivots about a stainless steel rod fixed to the chassis cross member ( syringe needle)
4 Tender chassis split frame with compensation by rocking solebars.
5 All coreless motors faulhaber or maxon
6 DCC so 15V AC to track
7 Lubrication with Electrolube contact switch cleaner/lubrication.
8 Track cleaned with fibreglass stick then maplin contact cleaner and vacuumed with mini computer keyboard vac.

Probably overkill, but if you want to shunt in NG 4mm and have lovely slow starts, buffer up to stock at speed step 1 on the DCC and take up the slack in the couplings between wagons before moving off, then Eggerbahn running aint no good for me!

Keep in touch

Paul Holmes PS How can i give you my Email address without all the world finding out.

Colin Lea said...

Hi Paul,

you could send me an email to a special account I have set up but will not use - and then I'll reply from my real address. By posting the above address I will probably get loads of spam to it, hence why I won;t then use it ongoing. hope that's ok - it protects your address that way.