Thursday, February 1, 2024

Trackwork wars, Part 9

From time to time, I document some of the maintenance and upgrade work done on my layout. The most elusive solutions and most persistent problems seem to be trackwork and electrical ones, thus the names of a series of posts about each, under the “wars” title. The “electrical” series is the longer, but as the present post demonstrates, I have my share of trackwork problems too. 

The previous post in this series,though not a logical predecessor as it was in an entirely different part of the layout, did focus on track leveling issues (see that post at: ). That was very much an issue in the area to be discussed in the present post, which is shown below.

This is the area where the layout transitions from the town of Ballard, to the left of the creek, to Santa Rosalia, at the right of the creek. It has been troublesome for some locomotives in several previous operating sessions, but recently has become worse. 

The building with the gray roof, against the backdrop, is the site for the MP1 switch machines powering the adjacent switches. (For a discussion of the MP1 machine, see: ). With that building removed, the MP1’s are visible (below). I’ve been pleased with these linear-motion switch machines, following their installation (see: ). It was essential to use surface-mounted switch machines in this area because there is trackage right under it.

Note in the above photo the small level on the track at left. I quickly discovered considerable variations in track level over short distances, an excellent arrangement to cause derailments. Even this simple tool can easily reveal the level differences that are causing trouble, as you see below. The area depicted in both photos is a close-up of the area shown above, one photo for each switch.

This sharp difference in level over a short distance has to be corrected. I used white styrene (HO scale 1 x 10-inch strip) to cut shims, and try them out under the track to get closer to cross-level throughout. Below is a first cut at these corrections. They are not final, but closer to what is needed.

The next step was to try and use the transparent “test car” to check consistency in the track leveling. One attempt is shown below. But this is not a very effective test, because the truck mounting is not very stable against tilting. One can carefully level the car, and try to gently move it over the track to be tested; but even the slightest of bumps will change the tilt of the car. Something better was needed.

My next test was to bring one of my steam locomotives to the area, and slowly and rapidly back through and then go forward through, the affected area. After all, this is the real goal of the track project, to avoid derailments. This is shown below. Note that the trackage being tested is all unballasted, which won’t change until the track problems are at least close to “fixed.”

Much of the previous problem, and at the usual derailment location, was remedied. But one position of the switch to the right in the above photo still gave some derailments. So further work is needed beyond the leveling that was described above. I will return to this problem.

The work so far seemed successful, though more is needed, and more thorough testing. Of course, the real test, as any layout owner knows, is an operating session with visitors, ideally ones you want to  impress; but that will have to wait. Right now, things are certainly improved, though I need to continue to experiment, modify, and of course, test and test . . .

Tony Thompson

1 comment:

  1. Good work! The good news is, shims for trackwork are completely prototypical. I have seen prototype drawings for shims in a variety of applications.