And then it all went pear shaped

The new electric points arrived that I had bought from Peter Davies and the key one was fitted and wired up. Trains were sent around the track and then reversed into the sidings to check for derailments. Each engine and its train were being checked out and then out of the blue the engine just stopped. The auxilliary controller showed a dead short every time one tried to start the engine.

The multimeter had died over Christmas so the short had to be found by trial and error. The first thing to check was obviously the extension, suely it must be there. The new extension track was disconnected from the existing track. The extension connection from the main controller was removed. The auxilliary controller was wired directly to the extension now running seperate from the existing track. All was fine.

So track that had been laid between 2000 and 2004 and never given a problem all of a sudden had a dead short. Now this track is screwed down and ballasted and in some places almost impossible to get at. All the trains in that area had to be removed and stored. A mulitimeter was borrowed and testing began on each track section. Everything within easy reach was OK. Sods Law was fully operational. More trains were removed cushions were laid on  the track so that I could kneel on them without damage to the track and the far flung eaches of the layout were checked. A short length of track the furthest away from the front was the problem. How, why who knows but there it was.

Unscrew the track replace the offending peice and all was fine but I took the opportunity to remove a point to a very small siding to reduce decoupling in this area and to slightly realign the track.

This took a lot of time as this slight realignment seemed to throw everything off and the re were derailments and decouplings. In the end I renewed all of the track in that area and started running all the trains again.

For the moment work on checking the electric point installation has stopped until this section is running reliably again

One thought on “And then it all went pear shaped”

  1. I’m sorry to hear you are having all these problems. My experience of Dublo track (on and off for almost 60 years) is that it can be very troublesome, but can be beaten. It needs careful laying and only track that has passed rigourous inspection should be used.

    A sheet of glass is useful to check that the rails are absolutely flat. Bases with obvious distortion should be either straightened if possible or scrapped. I avoid all track from the Korean war period (card insulators and steel rail are give aways). I also find that mixing wide and narrow tongues can sometimes give problems. The last section of curved rails is often straight, causing doglegs. Careful use of flat nose pliers corrects this – sighting along the rail shows up this one. Duchesses are near their limit on 15″ curves and don’t need any bad joints to worsen matters

    Diamond crossings give trouble because the bakelite section in the middle warps (this also happens with uncoupling rails) and there is a bump between this and the metal part File smooth or scrap.

    The real problem is, of course, the points, though I have not had particular problems with electric ones (it’s essential to check that the tiny spring underneath holds the point blades firmly over both ways however) . My investigations of these have revealed several problems. Firstly, the gauge through the blades widens to about 18mm. This is why fine scale wheels derail and only wide wheels like Dublo, Lima and later Tri-ang / Tri-ang-Hornby (This stuff is still Tri-ang to me despite usurping the Hornby name!) run through OK. Then, at the other end, the check rails are often bent out of shape and need restoring to their original form, so that the wheels are gently eased into line. Any burrs need removing obviously. Also check that the centre rail is level. Castles, 8Fs and 0-6-2 tanks in particular are prone to the collector shoes getting caught and derailing or shorting and stalling. Again flatness is essential.

    I have found that some wheels are out of gauge (the back to back should be 14.2mm). This has to be corrected to avoid problems. A gauge or a vernier/digital caliper is necessary to check.

    I’ve waffled on (as usual!) but a last point. To avoid uncoupling, all couplings have to be the same height (I have reserved one wagon with pristine couplings as my standard and all others have to couple and uncouple with this one). The hooks are ideally all the same (original) shape and it is essential that the actual coupling surface is vertical. Level track and attention to these points should mean unwanted uncoupling is rare.

    I hope I’ve not stated too much that’s obvious, but I firmly believe in keeping them running rather than decaying away in some collector’s boxes.

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