Monday, 30 September 2013

LCH loads - An alternate solution

Recently, I posted a short piece on the different solutions that I had used to create loads for the growing CCH/LCH fleet servicing the Philip's Creek coal mine.  ( ) The CCH loads have worked well but the solution to simulate the LCH loads was not satisfactory. Because of the spreader bars at the top of each LCH hopper , there was insufficient space for some form of thin plate to carry the simulated coal without leaving an untidy gap between the load and the top of the hopper. The slight dimensional variability between different wagons also contributed to the situation. The right hand side of the photo below illustrates the problem.

I received some helpful suggestions in response to that post but I was hesitant about cutting into wagons that had just been completed particularly with my 'less than steady' hand. So I decided on a different approach. If I am trying to simulate coal, why not simulate a full load rather than just a cap  on the top. So the challenge now was to get a load of coal into and out of the LCH hoppers without making an almighty mess.

I decided to measure out  and store quantities for each wagon separately. I purchased some small cheap containers from Woolworths and they now each hold one hopper's worth of 'coal'. I also fabricated two funnels to assist the loading and unloading, the long rectangular one for loading and the square one for unloading. In reality, the unloading funnel could be any size as long as the coal can be poured from the hopper without spillage. However, the dimensions of the loading funnel were a little more critical. The base of the loading funnel is slightly smaller than the top of the hopper and two styrene supports were glued to the base of the funnel so that it would sit on the hopper.
It's a simple process that does not take too much longer than the loading of the other CCH loads but it is advisable to spread the load along the length of the hopper. To date, there has been very little spillage of 'coal' and any major issue will be addressed with 1:1 scale vacuum cleaner.

I was a bit concerned that, perhaps, I was under filling the wagons, but after a check of a loaded coal train passing through Hornsby, I noted that quite a few hoppers were significantly less than brimming. So I don't think it's an issue.

This idea may not work in hurly burly of an exhibition or on a large home layout during a major operating session. However, it is viable for layouts like Philip's Creek with a single operator.  Would I use the same technique for the CCHs? Probably not, it may be more realistic but it's not really necessary and poor old 5131 struggles with heavier loads, so I think I'll restrict it to the five LCH wagons in the fleet. However, the concept may be trialled for the BBWs where I am experiencing a similar challenge.

Thursday, 12 September 2013

'Buses will replace trains'

'Buses will replace trains' is a familiar refrain for commuters on the greater Sydney rail network when essential track maintenance is programmed. And so it was for Philip's Creek, when the decision was made to replace two points in the middle of the yard area.

The two original Atlas points had been in place since 1997 but the electrical connection on one had failed. The points provided an essential loop for shunting operations but the electrical fault, combined with the large isolated frog on both, had made these actions difficult for most locomotives.

This was a job that had been planned for some time. Having originally used Code 83 track, I decided to purchase two Peco Code 83 electro frog points as replacements. This was done about a year ago, but I held off commencing the project because of its impact on operations. There was no bypass and trains would have to cease operations. With my very recent retirement from the workforce, it was now or never for the project.

The job had several complications. The points were located in the oldest section of the layout and, consequently, the area that had been the subject of significant landscaping and detailing. Power poles, buildings, the fettlers' work area, a water column, fences and a war memorial all had to be negotiated during the repair activity.

To lift the old points, I saturated the old ballast with very hot water and some kitchen detergent and removed all of the track pins and cut the track in appropriate locations. I then used a paint scraper to ease each point out. The first came off as anticipated but the second proved to be a little more difficult and lifted the surface of the original homasote roadbed as well.
After some basic cleaning up, the exposed homasote was coated with a grey paving paint prior to the installation of the new points. The installation was a bit fiddly with additional wiring to support the electro frog arrangement and new point motors. Most of my points are manual but in this situation, I decided to use point motors and combine the operation of both points using the one switch.

The new points were significantly shorter than the original Atlas points and it was necessary to add additional short lengths of track to span the gaps.

The process took much longer than planned as I had to recall a number of skills that have not been used for some time, as well as negotiating all of the scenery obstacles. Furthermore, I hate crawling underneath the layout to finish the wiring, so additional prefabrication work was necessary to minimise this part.

The work is now about 90% complete. The point motors have yet to be connected and I am going to hold off the final ballasting until I am sure that there are no problems with the new arrangement.The repairs to the landscaping including something to cover the polarity switches will be completed after the ballasting.

But now at least, trains are again running through the Philip's Creek station and yard, and the buses can now be sent back to the depot.