Friday, April 5, 2013

Start of Spring - April 2013

This late winter and spring has been quite wet here in North Carolina with us running a surplus of rain this year.  Little snow fell as it seemed to hover in the 30s but not cold enough for snow.

The railroad has been successfully operating over the new tracks near Dogwood except one section which I believe I need to pull the short rail out and bend it some more.  And another load of ballast here would help.  Rains helping to settle the tracks here nicely.

A couple weeks ago I hauled in about a ton of oak 2 by 3s which were rejects from a local box making company which makes pallets from the better ones.  A few are good enough to use to make into end beams for the railroad cars (not long enough for side sills) and many other ones can be ripped in half to be turned into ties.  The remaining ones will be turned into blocks for burning mainly.  I might be able to barter some with my brother-in-law who got an equal sized load and get the better ones from him for the bad pieces since he will only burn them.

The RGS shop in "Telluride" has been turning out restored and new equipment in an off - on - off - on again scenario.  Many days I just don't feel like being out in the cold and damp messing with the train.  I guess I am getting old.

Starting in January the #302 went into the shop to receive new trucks and air brakes as well as a by-pass air line to connect the compressor and reservoir at the end of the car to the locomotive air brake system.  The air compressor was set up and will be housed in a self-contained box with a battery.  This will allow this car / compressor to be used wherever a portable compressor is required.  The 302 will be stripped of paint and receive the same yellow paint as the #10 and #11 locomotives, once it warms up enough for the paint to stick well.  The engineer seat needs only a few little tweaks and will be able to sit on the car sides and slide forwards and backwards to adjust to different engineers.

In late February, Adam Wright stopped by on the way back from a train meet in Florida and we started to set up the flat car 4686's new trucks with brakes.  Since the arch bar trucks from Roll Models would require a good deal of additional work to set up the brakes, it seemed logical to switch it over to Adam's Andrews trucks.  The remaining brake linkages, cylinder, air fittings and the like are to be delivered shortly along with new builders plate for RGS #20.  The arch bars will be used on one of the flats still to be built after we come up with the best way to mount brakes on these cars - either truck or body mount - we will come up with something.

Part of the project of switching the 4686 over to the new trucks involved changing the bolster which had to have some grinding and a new one had to be welded in place.

Once the 4686 was returned to service that evening, we coupled up one of Adam's EBT hoppers to the flat and the #11 and in the fading daylight we spread one gondola load of ballast.  Adam is currently producing a long, high-side EBT hopper for the RGS to hopefully arrive on scene in late September in time for the fall "track building campaign."  I do hope that by fall I will have enough motive power and rolling stock in active service with no defects to be able to operate a couple proper track construction trains.  (Number 10 handling the rails, ties and tools and Number 11 handling the ballast hopper and the flat of buckets of ballast which is hand dumped ahead of the track building crew.  You can not get to much of the railroad with tractors to haul rock - maybe later from the lower end of Pine Hill I can.)

D&RGW 4686 coupled to D&RGW 159 (frame)

RGS #11 with the 4686 and 159 with #10 on the right  Also notice that the #11 has a number plate.

159 frame on its wheels with couplers and the stack of frames to the left.

D&RGW 4686 on the new Andrews trucks.  You can see the brake shoes inside there.

Later in the evening, Adam and I tackled one of the other car frames I had on hand and put some more Andrews trucks under it (no brakes on this one - yet.)  We had to tweak a lot of the frame to make it work and will probably go with different bolsters on the future car frames.  We also welded additional coupler pockets on the car to allow it to be coupled to either 1.5" or 2.5" scale trains.  This car will be D&RGW 159, a 40' long reefer.  I decided because of the length, it would be better to be a reefer than a boxcar.  So far I have the frame, floor, walls and ends made for the car.  The roof and wrapper which will be routed to look like car siding still need to be made and installed which will make this car weigh in around 250+ pounds easily.  The roof will flip up and the car will be used by the Maintenance of Way department to hold ties, track parts, tools, etc. and get them out of the barn!!!  A box car is still possible to be built down the road but I have plenty to do between now and then.

D&RGW 159 body set on it's frame and rolled out on the Dogwood Bridge with RGS 302 for contrast.
D&RGW 159 and RGS 302.  The 159 is a fraction under 8 feet long.

Since Adam's visit, the #11 returned to the shop because the throttle cable broke on it (again.)  It has been rubbing against the frame.  It was decided to redo how the sleeve for the cable connects to the frame and since the throttle arm was removed, the locomotive's controls were reworked with a new air brake valve and gauge for the train brakes and a new horn button.  At the same time, the electrical system was gone over and a new main power switch was installed since the old one was faulty.  The air compressor and tank have been installed under the engineer's seat and the system is being plumbed.  The air line and valve at the front of the #11 needs to be installed and the air system will be completed (although I am thinking I will add another regulator and the air tank feeding the train line.)  The throttle being redone allowed me to fix the locomotive brake as well.  Now it does not rub and functions properly.  But the prime mover motor is not operating well and might need a cleaning.  I wonder if the problem is the amount of ethanol added to gasoline now is gumming these locomotives up.

Up next was RGS #10 which was returned from the small engine shop where its prime mover was gone over due to a faulty shut off valve caused it to get gummed up.  The #10 also received some work on its electrical system and the new horn was made functional (although the switch seems to have since broken when a visitor was a little too hard on it - a button will probably replace that too.)  The air brake valve and gauge have been installed on the backhead but was awaiting more parts before the air lines can be completed.  I attempted to letter the locomotive but the 40 year old fiberglass cab is in bad shape that paint does not stick to it and the lettering masked pulled the paint off.  Ideally, this locomotive will undergo a class 1 shopping in 2014 to receive a new prime mover (as the small engine repair people say that parts for the current motor can not be found any longer.)  The locomotive can also get a new metal cab at that time too.

The old Kohler 4 HP prime mover on the #10 and the Eaton transmission.  Fresh back from the shop awaiting the body paint, electrican and plumbing to be completed.  And the new number plate was being installed on the locomotive too.

The compressor "in a box".  The box was shortened a little since I went with a garden tractor battery to power it instead.

Currently only the beam riding car and the #302 have air brakes operating.  The Santa Fe flat has old (beat up, torn up) vacuum brakes which also will be switched over to air brakes later this year.  It will require altering the brake hangers.  And once the parts are provided, the 4686 will also have functional brakes.  Also, the brakes from Adam Wright includes hand brakes so the cars can be parts and not roll away when all the air leaks out (although all my trains have wheels which are chocked in place except at Pine Hill where the tracks are level.

The reason for the expensive of brakes on the train is that the Rio Grande Southern of North Carolina is a mountainous railroad with several steep grades.  Moving heavy loads downhill can cause the locomotive to slide and be ineffective in braking.  These are usually loads of wood or ballast.  And the smaller switcher (10 or 11) usually only operate with the beam car for passengers leaving the heavy passenger coach parked.

Ongoing work is to complete both air brake controls for the locomotives and dial them in.  Then the car brakes need to be adjusted.  Then I will work on the #159 to get it on the tracks.  Part of that project will include purchasing another set of brakes and setting them up before the car it put into service.  But this spring will have to be split between the railroad and other projects.  This summer, weather permitting, the house track will be realigned and stabilized and I will build a small engine house over it to hold the #10 and #11 out of the weather.  Too many problems with animals (deer mainly) down around Pine Hill jumping over the wood pile and landing on the equipment.  I need to protect the equipment where possible.  Also, the electronics for the switchback control will installed and the powered switch installed above the one which was going to go to the lower section of a car barn.  That switch will be removed reused elsewhere.  A new powered switch will need to be built to be installed next to the lower switchback switch to provide a run-around there.  And the house track switch needs new points and a new switch stand as the current arrangement just does not work no matter what I do.  A harp switch stand will take over and new aluminum points installed.  Below this the track needs to be dug out and the hump removed from what we believe was deer jumping over the wood pile and catching their hooves under the rail.  Must be clumsy deer.  No lame deer have ever shown up so it could be a tree roots too.  I will not know until I investigate.  But as I mentioned at the start, it's VERY WET down at the tracks.  :-)

Another load of ballast will need to be ordered for use on the switchback to raise it up some more and the prospects of replacing the wooden wall in the next 5 years looks pretty real.  All the new electronics control systems will have their cables in conduits anyway...

I know I change my mind (frequently it seems looking at this blog) but in actuality as it takes longer to build stuff like the train tracks, I find that I have opportunities arise (like purchasing the additional land) or needs (like a passing track where I can run around a train) which changes my plans.  As long as I do not have the tracks built, I have options.  And since the #20 I hope will be done in a couple years, additional storage space will be required for her so I might alter my engine house design and move that switch from below up to the house track instead.  I'll have more room and more options later when I get built down around the s-curve for Pine Hill (possible engine house or round house down there - or at least a car barn.)  Up near the barn I have a little room along the garage which can be dug out to allow a roundhouse to be built there - built off the turntable there.  And a steaming bay track with a scissor lift between the engine house and the garage would work well too.  Having the roundhouse structure next to the barn would allow me to power the building easily and heat it too which would be required to store my steamer securely.  A possibility is building the lifts inside the roundhouse to work on equipment and then lower it down to head out half-sized doors.  See - many possibilities.  But only one man working on them so...  it takes a LONG time.