Friday, January 20, 2017


Running the flanger last weekend proved a fortunate choice of activity to dispel the disappointment of needing to cancel the first operating session of the new year.  Not only was it appropriate for the snow and ice conditions outside, but my selection of equipment helped me identify the cause of the occasional derailments my crews have experienced at turnouts on the mountain grade.  Each time the Broadway Limited Imports (BLI) SD9 derailed, I took note.  A pattern of derailment at the turnout frogs emerged. 

Armed with my trusty NMRA gauge, I finally turned it over to use the flangeway tabs on the top of the gauge rather than the track gauge prongs on the bottom of the gauge.  The problem became quite clear.  Although the running rails were in gauge, the back-to-back distance across the guardrails was too wide.  The BLI SD9 had wheels set at the minimum back-to-back distance.  They were in gauge, but right at the minimum.  This combined with the three axle truck configuration to “find” every place flangeway back-to-back distance was wider than needed for the minimum gauge wheelsets. 

NMRA track gauge measuring turnout frog flangeways.

The too-broad flangeway settings was a systemic issue for my construction of FastTracks turnouts.  Checking with local fellow FastTracks users, I found they, too, had found the need for extra care and tuning of this dimension.

The cure was straightforward.  I spent a couple of days with a point file and other needle files (pictured) opening up the flangeways.  My flangeway widths cleared the minimum standard, so my choice was to file the guardrail in the frog assembly to provide the needed clearance.  This ensures the guardrail on the stock rail side will pull the wheels toward the stock rail and away from the frog.  Although the solution was “straight-forward,” my fingers and fingernails suffered through all of this.  I reworked some twenty turnouts over a couple of days.  Ouch!

While I was working on issues highlighted by my flanger operation, I finally tackled a modest project at Cascade Summit by installing the throw rods and knobs for the BluePoint switch machines at the base of the summit wye.  With modern diesel operations, we had not needed to use the wye.  Helper sets had controlling locomotive units facing both directions.  The flanger needed to be turned, though—the reason wyes still exist on the prototype Cascade Line.  This was a simple task that finally rose into my action list.

Flanger set backing onto the base of the summit turning wye.  The black knob is on the switch throw rod for the switch the flanger set is passing through.

Another track maintenance item tackled during this winter down time was eliminating several “sun kinks” that had developed.  Although we jokingly refer to the bowed or warped track as a “sun kink,” the cause is quite the opposite.  Prototype railroads can experience rail expanding with high amounts of sun heating, causing track to bow out of alignment. 

Though our model track might bow in a similar fashion, the cause is not rail expansion.  Quite the contrary, the rail is nearly constant in length.  My basement temperature stays within ten degrees between winter and summer—not much thermal expansion in nickle silver rail with that.  The issue is the shrinkage of the benchwork as the humidity level drops.  Such is the case with low (for this area) outside temperatures.  That low temperature air gets heated up indoors and in the process dries out.  The relative humidity drops and with it, the moisture content of the wood benchwork and roadbed drops. 

I had several track kinks to maintain.  The solution was to cut a little bit off of the rail and then move and secure the rail and track back into place.  In most cases, this simply involved reapplying the caulk I use to secure track.  In one case, the rail had popped out of the plastic spikes holding it to the ties.  There, I had to hand spike the rail back into position. 

Over time, each of these maintenance issues is resolved, leading to more reliable operations.  I look forward to my full crew arriving in early February to test my handiwork.

1 comment:

  1. Plugging the needle files into a nice wood handle makes all of that filing a lot easier. I use one made originally for razor saws. The file tang is clamped in the collet and the tool is a lot easier to handle.

    Thanks for linking up the Y controls. Now, show Charlie what you did there.