Friday, September 23, 2005

Preparing for Rita

As I write this Hurricane Rita is starting to beat on Port Arthur TX. Its already overwhelmed a levee in New Orleans and its not expected to hit shore until tonight. Now we are in the Dallas Fort Worth area a good 360 miles northwest of Port Arthur. But we are still looking at rain from this storm. Yesterday when it looked like it was going to hit Galveston the projections put Rita right over us Saturday/Sunday still as a Category 1 hurricane. We prepared for the worst.
I gassed everything up and secured all projectiles. The generator was dug out and cranked up after sitting for a year or so. The lanterns were oiled up, white gas supply was checked for the Coleman lantern, extra propane was acquired and Toby was given a full charge.
Toby a charge? Normally doing storm preparation does not involve a railroad like this except for securing things that might get airborne. Toby is an engine that can come in handy when power is lost. Toby is my last line of defense in a power outage. Toby is a battery powered engine that has 225AH (amp/hours) of 12 Volts in it. Enough to run a TEC cooler for a while. So if everything goes in the tank I still have a 12 supply to run off of.
Be Prepared, My Eagle Scout medal is not just jewelry.
Well anyway it now looks like Rita is going to miss us and we might get some rain out of it. Bring on the rain! WE NEED IT!

Thursday, September 15, 2005

MOW Equipment

For those who don't know MOW stands for Maintainance Of Way. All railroads have a variety of equipment or section cars to do work along the track. I have now built up my version for working on the 1/8th scale track. I built the chair on wheels about a 6 months ago. This is a copy of one a friend of mine built for his own railroad. This worked out well and I recently added the holders for the parts trays on each side. This was better but it always seemed that I needed a tool or a part that I did not have with me on the chair. I have the bucket boss which has all of my other track tools and when I was working on a track, like the trip to Sherman, it never failed that I had to go back to where the bucket was to get some tool. Well this inspired me Instead of figuring out what to mount on the chair I built another rolling frame and instead of another chair I put a Lazy Susan and a frame to hold the bucket of track tools. The Gandy Chair and the Track bucket are coupled together with a rod. Now if I need something out of the bucket I can spin around and spin the bucket to the pocket I need. No more up and down or hiking back to where the bucket got left.
Now I have my own MOW section cars.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

A Busy Month

It’s been almost a month since my last entry. I have been pretty busy railroading and if I am railroading or working on a track I am not in front of the computer.
Many things have happened so I will start with the saga of the switch. I had to get the switch rebuilt before Thomas’ birthday party. I wanted to get it done before the loaner steam engine arrived but that was not to happen. To rebuild the switch I pretty much had to destroy the switch as it was. The only thing that stayed in place was the frog everything else got ripped up.
This picture shows the switch before I started in. Notice it makes an abrupt 45degree turn. My little 4-wheel switcher did not even like to go through it. This was the first switch I built from scratch parts included so I did not know some of the nuances of the components. This was to be the switch from the main to the loading spur that butts up against the driveway. Well I learned that it was pretty useless because of the switch. I also discovered that I needed to study how to make the components for practical use. I have built several switches since and now pretty much know what I am doing.
This switch had been a low priority to fix it because I could work around it with my equipment but I had a 2-6-0 Mogul showing up and I wanted to use this spur as the steaming bay lead and there was just NO WAY the long wheel base of a Mogul was going to make it through this turn. I had made arrangements to have the Mogul brought and I was hoping to get the switch rebuild done before it arrived so I could use this spur for what I originally intended it.

Well it was not done when the steam engine arrived and it was it this state when the Mogul arrived. The rail up the spur is not attached and the points are not hooked together and the switch machine is not installed.
The switch machine is not right either. Again I did not have a design down that worked right just sorta right. This machine will do until I can replace it with the design that works right. For now it stays set to the main line and I use a bunjee to hold it into the spur position. I will get back to it later.

The Steam Engine Arrives!

And the switch is not ready…. So what else is new.
Unloading the engine and getting on the track became the project for the moment. Normally I use a automotive engine lift to pick up my equipment to put it on the trailer but this was a much larger engine and I could not separate the tender from the engine easily. So it has to come out as one unit.
Some quick thinking on how to do this was implemented. I used my jump track, which is a 10’ piece of steel track that I use to ramp from the trailer to the ground. It is built to stand the weight of an engine with just supports on the ends. I rig this up buy setting one end of the track on the rear bumper of the suburban and supporting the back end with a stepladder. I then used 2x4s to shim the track level. We rolled the engine out onto this track. Now we have to get it down on the ground. I strap the engine to the track. I don’t want it falling off at this point. I pick up the engine and track together with the auto engine hoist. So far so good. The suburban gets moved out of the way and now I can lower it down to ground level. Well the spur is not done so I gave to put it down on the grade crossing. Ok no big deal but I soon discovered that the track and engine does not clear the legs of the lift. Well S*$%. So it ends up one person is holding the engine away from the legs and one was lowering it down. With some wrestling its down and railed.

Thomas Is Excited!
With the steam engine moved to the siding in the back yard Thomas wants to run it. He sits on it and pretends to run it. I feel for him and try to help him get a taste of running it so I charge the boiler with compressed air from the air compressor and let him try it on compressed air. After a few times back and forth he realizes that there is more to it than pulling the throttle out and we have not even covered boiler operations.
Now with the switch rebuilt and the track work done, I need to test with the steam engine how my track is going to handle it. I built the track with a steam engine in mind but I have never tested that till now. The first thing is to rig up a steaming bay in the driveway. I use my handy 10’ jump track again and use some ties to se it to the height of the loading spur. The steam engine gets moved out and the first big test is how is the rebuilt switch going to work.
That test goes of well. The rebuilt switch works just fine the long wheelbase of the steam engine went through it. YEA!
Well I need to fire the engine and do some running on my track to make sure its all going to work for the party. I get the engine up on the make shift bay and start firing up.
Everything looks good so far and a once pressure is up I venture out. I find out that the engine performs quite differently than my switcher does. The grade through the passing siding needed some finesse to climb without slipping. A good sanding of the rail helped as well. Once in the back yard I discovered a big Oops.
The swing bridge in the back yard is to narrow. This is not a problem on any of my stuff because I don’t have footpegs on anything. The tender with footpegs doesn’t clear the bridge! This is a minor problem because the footpegs fold up out of the way but now I have to run the engine side saddle and make sure I lift my leg going through the bridge. This will have to be fixed later. My Steam engine will have footpegs and the bridge will have to accommodate them. For the party I will make do.
I continue to practice and get the hang of running this engine on my track and feel confident that the party will be no sweat.

Party Time

The 21st arrived. The party is at hand. After getting home from church the mad dash started for me. I have about 2 hours to be ready. That includes setting up the steaming bay, inhaling some lunch, and firing the engine. I get it all ready and move out onto the track with the kids watching. I need to go pick up the train so a quick once around to make sure everything is still OK. The temperature was already in the high 90s if not 100 and I take off well I no sooner got moving that I noticed the facing switch into the passing siding has a sun kink in it! The rail had expanded from the heat that the track pushed out and ended up with a square turn. I could not stop before I hit it and promptly derailed. That knocked open the ash pan and set the track on fire underneath the engine. Quick thinking to turn the injector on and let it blow water onto the track and quench the fire. Just a little excitement. I rerail the engine and back it up. There was a short delay while I got the track tools out and did a little track work to take the kink out. Within 15 mins I was going around to get the train. I made one more run to make sure the track work was going to hold and then the rides began.

I ran for a while but the heat were just too much these kids were wilting and so were the parents. They went in and I banked the fire. I will run later in the afternoon.
The party ended up going well just wish it wasn’t so hot.

The Next Weekend.

One last hurrah before the steam engine goes home. Thomas invites his new friend Thomas. That’s right I did not stutter. Thomas is just as consumed with trains as my Thomas. Thomas is 12 and they met at a home school event and immediately had fun. They had already been out and about riding the Trinity Rail Express earlier in the week. He was invited over to experience live steam before I sent the steam engine home. This time it was far more relaxed that the party. While I was firing the engine the two Thomas’ rode on Toby and took turns operating it.
Then steam was on tap. It was again a hot day but a storm cell popped up a few miles away from us and the outflow cooled it off for a while and made it bearable. I ran around for a while and then decided that the Big Thomas was mature enough to follow instructions so I let him have a shot at running a steam engine. It did not take long for him to get the basics and I do believe he was thrilled. He was quite absorbed in the operation. I think given time he could have wrapped himself into the boiler operation as well.

The Steam Engine Goes Home.

I spent Sunday building a better way to load the engine with the engine hoist. Now my Jumptrack can be used with the engine hoist and it goes all the way to the ground. I shortened the legs 4 inches to accommodate this. Now it can be used with the loading spur and lock the engine in place and lift away.
Monday Morning comes.
Mr. Lucks shows up to retrieve his engine the contraption works well and we had the engine up and in without a whole lot of trouble. My DW takes picture of this operation. Pictures have not bee developed yet so pics of this later. Thomas was very heart broken to see the steam engine go.

Sherman Bound
The Labor Day meet came. This was a meet to build track. A full-blown work session. I was decided that I would just go on Saturday. Thomas would not have anything to occupy him since there were going to be no trains.
I went and worked with my Gandy chair and laid track while others built track panels welded up bridges and moved dirt. Three tractors ran all day moving dirt. Come 8:30pm I threw Gandy chair in the car and headed home. I will have to find out later what got done Sunday and Monday.