Monday, September 19, 2011

Open house!

We had about 40 local NMRA members come by and visit over four hours 
during the open house Saturday. I enjoyed having a chance to see old friends, and make new ones and got a kick out of seeing the reaction to some of my rather unusual construction methods. 
      The layout performed well without any issues - I was really pleased especially considering how "temporary" some of the wiring is at this point! I actually laid some track the in the morning and wired it in time for the open house!  I really shouldn't have done that, but I wanted to be able to run the entire length of both sides of the peninsula. I had a list of 10 things I wanted to get done for the open house - issues with one turnout cost me more than a day of troubleshooting which blew the timeline so I didn't get the fascia painted (item no. 10). I considered painting it on Saturday morning, but cooler heads prevailed when I had visions of visitors leaving with splotches of fascia color on their clothes!
Jeff McGuirk (in bright green shirt) chats with Potomac Division members
at the September 17 open house. 
     Jeff (my oldest son, in the green shirt in the photo) came up from Virginia Beach for this event. He helped clean up before the open house and was a great help during the proceedings - he mostly ran the trains and I talked, and talked, and talked. Which apparently isn't really a problem for me . . .
     Everyone who saw the previous layout footprint found the new arrangement to be a real improvement. I'd estimate we had as many as 25 people in the basement at one point. It seemed cramped but not overly crowded - of course I'll never have half that number for an op session. But I concluded the day secure in the knowledge that 8-12 member crew will be very comfortable in the space.
     I reviewed some options for the mill stream arrangement with a few folks, including Dave Emery who's an expert on New England mills. We did come up with a workable arrangement for the Lamson & Goodnow kit but I'm still considering using the Atlas Middlesex building since it seems a little larger, more modern, and might fit the space better.
     I also talked through some decisions that need to be made for the "yard" area - which is still an expanse of open benchwork. Stay tuned to this blog for more details on how that area will shape up in the next few months. 
     The decision to change the layout has been worth the blood and sweat to pull it off. Since the entire layout is actually cleared off I should take a series of pictures as a "walking" tour (Dave showed me some cool pics he took with his "extreme wide angle" setting) and record what it looks like at this point - about nine months to the day after I started construction!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

"Houston, We have a problem"

We had family visiting for most of the weekend, so I didn't get a lot done on layout - until they left for the airport on Monday morning. I spent the first part of Monday afternoon getting the remaining feeders connected to the buss wires. Then I tweaked a troublesome turnout on the south end of Richmond (just beyond the bridge scene). Once I got the passenger cars through it without any issues I dug out the Division Point 2-10-4s and one of my Overland 4-8-2s. 

The 2-10-4 made it through the mainline route of the switch - the diverging route traveling northbound direction was no joy - that wasn't a surprise and is something I can handle with a timetable special instruction (there's no reason for a 2-10-4 to be on that siding anyway). 

Then I got out the first 4-8-2 - it ran back and forth just fine, I was thrilled. Then, the engine stopped. I mean it just froze. I immediately suspected a wiring issue - after all I was testing the wiring. Then I figured perhaps it was a track issue - no problem, the engine was on the rails. Then I noticed the side rods were a funny shape - the main rod looked like a mountain range - going up and down. That can't be right. Apparently the long screw holding the valve gear assembly into the third driver had loosened to the point where it slipped out of the driver on one side - throwing everything out of whack.

I put the engine back in the box, and put the other 4-8-2 on the track - checking it to be sure it was in good shape. It ran back and forth even better until it started stuttering - I shut it off right away and examined it closely. Believe it or not, this engine had the EXACT SAME issue - loosing it's siderod screw after a few runs back and forth. 
So now I have two engines that are down hard until I have enough time to really work through the issue. I've never been much of a locomotive mechanic - looks like that's about to change. 
I'm so mad I could spit.