Empire Belt RR ALcos

Empire Belt RR ALcos
Custom Painted FA / FB Units

Monday, November 28, 2011

Intermodal Testing

The New York Central was a forerunner in what became known as intermodal rail traffic. Intermodal means traveling by more than one mode of transit such as truck and train, ship and train etc. NYC started with the Flexi-Van Service on 89' flatcars and then the Trailer on Flat Car also known as TOFC and later Container on Flat Car, COFC. Other railroads such as the PRR and B&O were also quick to explore this traffic opportunity. The PRR featured the "Truc-Train and the B&O lettered up their equipment for TOFCEE Service. This method of transportation offered several immediate benefits since it was no longer necessary to"break bulk". This reduced theft and damage while speeding up shipping.
Since my my New York Central  layout  is basically set in the mid 1960s this early intermodal traffic would be right at home on my layout. For the last few days the New York Central has been testing Intermodal Cars on the new lower level. While the lower level was built for passenger trains to access Central Station, some of the passenger trains feature a few Flexi-Van cars on the head end. If the Flexi Van cars are going to be loaded and unloaded maybe a combined facility for all intermodal traffic could be worked into the plan.
So for the last few days I have been using modelers license and running my Impack Car intermodal fleet. The 22" inside curve radius limits the number of cars per train to about 25 due to their light weight and high center of gravity. For optimal operation I have imposed a 20 car maximum for all impack car unit trains plus a caboose to avoid any string lining issues. So far this has worked very well, except for the pedestrian bridge that was struck by a trailer. Thankfully there were no pedestrians present and damage was minimal.
 Once I got starter pulling out my cranes, trailers and containers this facility grew way to large to be accommodated on the lower level. 




Sunday, November 20, 2011

Spectrum Passenger Cars

Passenger equipment continues to be tested and evaluated on the lower level tracks. During testing several Bachmann Spectrum passenger cars were found to have some questionable operating characteristics. These cars have been around for about 15 years and employed a swinging coupler box that attached to the truck via a metal linkage inside the car body. In theory this would allow the coupler box to pivot on turns which would allow the car to negotiate curves with a radius as tight as 18". The weakness in the system on the early releases, which came with the old style horn hook couplers, was that the coupler box would droop causing knuckle couplers to be prone to disconnecting. In order to have reliable coupling and operating characteristics I removed these swinging coupler box assemblies from the cars and body mounted good old Kadee #5s. The body mounted #5s were mostly right on target with the Kadee coupler height gauge and those that were not were easily adjusted with a small washer to two. The downside of the body mounted coupler was the cars no longer handle the 18" radius curves. The good news was that the cars can easily handle 22" radius curves. It should also be noted that later releases of these cars with Bachmann knuckle couplers had a more stable mechanism and did not routinely require the removal of the assembly for reliable operation.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Trials & Tribulations of the Empire State Express

In late October 2011 after receiving numerous complaints from crews and passengers the 8 car set of IHC 86' corrugated side passenger cars lettered for the Empire State Express were removed from service. All 8 cars were suffering from excessive rocking at both low and high speeds.
The cars were forwarded to the Terminal Repair Shop where skilled craftsmen diagnosed the problem(s) and came up with a cost effective plan of action for rebuilding the cars. Here is a list of steps taken to correct the erratic and annoying behavior of these cars;
Completely disassembled cars.
Added steel weights to floors. NMRA weight standard for this sized car is 7 ounces.
Discarded plastic wheel sets.
Reworked trucks to accept 33" metal wheels. (Proto 2000 and Kadee)
Tested trucks to ensure all were free rolling with no wobbling.
Removed nub on top of trucks that rested against bolster.
Drilled out bolsters to accept #6 machine screws.
Discarded plastic press pins that attached trucks to bodies.
Attached trucks with #6 screws using flat washers on both the bottom and top of the trucks. This step is very important as the lower washers add stability and the top washer allows room for the McHenry couplers to swing freely without getting caught up on the car diaphragms.After tightening assembly with #4 nut and allowing a bit of free play I added locked the nut and bolt together with CA. 
Road tested on through Atlas #6 turnouts and 22" and 24" radius curves. Cars ride steady and no derailments have been reported.
Empire State Express put back into service.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Turning Passenger Trains

When designing the lower level of the layout which has a 4 track passenger station I knew that getting the consists turned around and back to the staging yard would be challenge. Originally I planned a reverse loop for turning the entire train and then thought that a simpler move of just running the locomotive to the rear of the train and pulling it out observation car first would be OK. This simpler move would mean no complicated wiring, no additional track to lay and bench work to build. After a few days it became apparent that the reverse loop was the way to go. So a couple of Atlas #6 turnouts, a specially wired Double Pole, Double Throw Switch, some additional electrical and carpentry work and what do you know. The thing actually works and is quite enjoyable to operate. The turning of the trains in this manner is remincesent of  how it is done in Sunnyside Yard located in Queens NY. Sunnyside Yard serves Penn Station. It was built by the Pennsylvania Railroad for the purpose of storing, servicing  and turning their passengers trains that terminated and originated at Penn Station. Today it is still in use and owned by Amtrak. New Jersey Transit trains can also be found there as well. These photos are from May 2003.

So in conclusion a project that I was leery to undertake because I was unsure of my skills with reversing polarity and keeping the trains from shorting out turned out to be a lot easier than I imagined and is a big operation plus for my layout.