Saturday, May 03, 2008

Contortionist dream

Top image- the shelf I have to crawl on like a reptile. See the light shining into the hole where the loops are waiting? Less that 20" of space.

Bottom image- looking down onto the loops. I'm holding the camera against that metal air duct visible in the top picture.

It might be a contortionist's dream but for me it is more of a nightmare. I knew when I designed it I was courting problems. I attempted to eliminate them. What am I taking about? My infamous "loops" that connects the two levels of my model railroad.


I wanted the maximum of track and scenery in the one room I have "track rights." My solution was around the room twice on two levels cantilevered from the walls. This meant that I needed a way to get the trains from one level to another.

Solution: Since I could use the room occupied by the furnace, water heater, and storage I designed a set of "helical" loops. Unlike a previous layout this time I designed the loops so that they were not stacked directly on top of each other. I call it a pyramidal helical loop. In addition it is oval in shape. The grade is a bit less than 2.25%.

I installed rerailing devices on each level and there are two tracks . My thinking was the "outer" loop would have a but more track and then grade a bit less severe. The rerailing devices were insurance. In addition, I have cross over tracks on eack level.

When first installed it worked like a charm. The track is fastened with contact cement.

And last month I ran a few trains on "the loops" after a few months of inactivity.

First the track was dirty. Trains were stalling. Slowly I resolved this. I promised myself "never again" and bought a spray conductivity liquid. After a few diesels ran successfully up and down repeatedly it was time to try a steam locomotive.

Can you guess what happened? Yep, a derail. It didn't drop to the floor it just stopped.

Naturally, the location of failure was a problem.

To increase storage in the area I'd built a platform over the loops. Yes, I designed it to be strong and to allow me to remove a section of the shelf.

So I set about getting a ladder and unloading boxes. Did I mention the shelf is more than six feet off the floor? After unloading the boxes I collected tools I thought I might need and climbed up onto the shelf. I'm glad I designed it to hold my weight. But I also have to crawl on my belly like a reptile to get to the spot where I can peer down onto the track.

Darn! where two sections of track meet (naturally on a curve) the pressure of the taut rail had pulled so that the track wasn't in gauge. So for several hours I was carefully realigning track, designing mechanical devices to "hopefully" keep track aligned in the future, testing the track and cursing under my breath when I dropped tools.

AS I write this the steam locos are negotiating the "loops" successfully. I also too the opportuity to pull some of the cable from our departed Comcast installation and making the Verizon installation a bit neater. If things work for the next day or so I'll reinstall the shelving, load the boxes and cross my fingers.