Saturday, March 12, 2022

The long snooze

 Like most modelers during the pandemic of the last two years, I have had a relatively inactive layout. At least I did have a few operating sessions with my granddaughter (see for example: ). But these did not exercise the layout very extensively, as they were all “reduced-length” sessions. At least some wheels turned — but still, much of the layout has had a long snooze.

An obvious point is cleaning. All track, every bit, including staging, needed to be cleaned, and wheels of locomotives needed cleaning also. I also checked track gauge in places where there have been issues in the past. Yes, track can shift with time, as I have certainly learned.

In addition, I now know to check the gauge of all my Peco switches. I have seven of them on the layout, and all operate perfectly — except for track gauge on two of them (for a report: ). Once again one of them is acting up by apparently shrinking the plastic parts, because where the track gauge used to be fine, now it is tight. This is through one part of a 3-way switch.

The problem area is the diverging route at the top of this photo, just as it clears the frog area. I have simply had to file the rail head here to get it into gauge. The Peco people claim they have “never heard”of such a problem, but having observed it with more than one of their switches, I regard their denial with some scorn.

At another switch, I found a gauge problem also, as you can pretty clearly see below at photo center. Here the rails are no longer aligned, for what reason I cannot imagine. But by spreading the tight-gauge part (upper rail) slightly, I was able to correct this.

In addition, of course, there were electrical issues. Long-time readers of this blog will recall a number of installments of my series, “Electrical Wars” (you can use that term in the search box at the top right of this post, to find examples). And there were a few that had arisen during the snooze.

I recently was sent the cartoon below, which expresses my own feelings quite well. It’s by Hal Kattau, who did cartoons for Model Railroader for years, but I can’t find that this one appeared there, going through my CD archive of the magazine. My source couldn’t remember where he got it, so my apologies for not citing the source.

Next I had to address the “population” of freight cars on the layout. Normally, these cycle from operating session to session, and move through the normal steps: arrival on the branch, spotting at destination, and later being picked up to move off the layout in turn. But during the snooze, many cars were arbitrarily added or removed, mostly added, so this all had to be thinned out.

In addition, waybills were entirely out of order. Many remained from much earlier sessions; a fair number of cars that were on the layout had no waybills present; and so on. I simply had to make all of that rational with an intensive waybill re-think and re-work, to set up the upcoming session.

It was nice that the result was a “lean” layout appearance, no more excess cars everywhere, and ready for this weekend’s operating session. And right now, everything seems to be working (until the dreaded “guests present” glitches occur).

Tony Thompson


  1. Hi Tony,
    That’s a great cartoon, I love it!
    Wrt Peco switches, this is a common problem with them - their plastic swells and shrinks all over the place. As a Brit, I have used them too many times over the past forty years both as an individual and a club member.
    As you have discovered, they go in and out of gauge, they will also “hump” at the frog, the very useful three way is particularly prone to this.
    It is sad but to hear that they claim to have “never heard” of this problem is tantamount to corporate lying. There must have been many complaints made in the UK.
    Maybe it’s partly us as modellers at fault, we just get on and fix things or in my case, move onto different suppliers, Roco in my case.
    Hope that’s of interest to you and your readers,
    John Edge,
    Tolo, Peloponnese, Greece.
    Formerly of the UK

    1. Yes, "corporate lying" by Peco does seem to be the case. Your mention of a "hump" in the 3-way surprised me, so I went and had a look, and sure enough, mine has bulged up in the middle.

      Thanks for your comment from the perspective of an experienced Brit modeler, I'm sure with far more experience of Peco trackwork than most Americans. And it's too bad, as I like the point mechanism.
      Tony Thompson