Passenger car diaphragms

Today, a big box of passenger car diaphragms arrived in the mail from “S”cenery Unlimited* and, since I was in the mood, I immediately got to work installing them on some passenger cars.

The diaphragms are quite nice. They consist of a flexible rubber bellows, fitted with steel plates inside, and a brass striker plate on the end.

Some quick dry-fitting made me realize I would have to modify the stock diaphragms. For one thing, the brass striker plate includes interlocking tabs that connect adjacent cars. It also includes etched “Made in Korea” and “Scenery Unlimited” markings. Obviously, these are intended for passenger trains that run as units, without switching. On my layout, the exposed ends of the passenger cars would look odd with tabs and writing. Also, on my layout, the 42″ radius curves are a little tight for full, working diaphragms.

Once I decided how I would modify the parts, the work went quickly. I had four cars fitted in about two hours.

I started by determining that I would use the brass striker plate as the mounting plate for the car. That would require removing the two tabs designed to interlock with an adjacent diaphragm. I clipped these shorter with a side-cutter, then carefully filed away the remaining material:

Passenger car diaphragms
(Stock diaphragm on the left. Modified diaphragm on the right)

Each diaphragm has a bellows with three folds. They were too deep for my purposes, and I determined that I would have to remove one of the folds. I carefully sliced the rubber between two of the aluminum plates with a sharp knife to remove the fold farthest from the brass plate, then trimmed the rubber with a pair of scissors:

Passenger car diaphragms
(Stock diaphragm at left. Sliced diaphragm at right. Remove the aluminum plate from the sliced-away rubber and save it)

I repurposed the aluminum plate from inside the third fold as my new striker plate. I blackened the edges of the plate with a permanent marker. I noticed that one side of the plate has sharp edges, while the side is smooth. I glued the plate to the thinner diaphragm with CA, so that the smoother side is facing outward:

Passenger car diaphragms
(Stock diaphragm on the left. Modified diaphragm on the right, ready to install on a car)

I glued the diaphragm to the end of a car with CA, positioning the brass plate adjacent to the car end. At this point, I realized that despite removing one third of the thickness of the diaphragm, it still projected beyond the coupler. This, I knew, would cause no end of problems:

Passenger car diaphragms
(Asking for trouble)

Since I already modify all of my couplers, the fix was pretty straightforward. Normally, as part of my coupler tuning procedure, I replace the spring in the draft gear with a piece of styrene, as shown here:

Passenger car diaphragms
(Standard installation)

This prevents the coupler from sliding in and out of the pocket, thus minimizing the slack action. (There’s still a bit of slack, but it’s all in the coupler knuckles – not in the shanks.) I realized I could solve my diaphragm clearance problem by moving the styrene spacer to the other side of the draft gear post, as shown here:

Passenger car diaphragms
(Extended shank installation)

The coupler works the same as it did before, but it now enjoys a longer shank – and it now projects sufficiently to solve my diaphragm clearance problem:

Passenger car diaphragms
(All clear!)

In addition to preventing the diaphragms from pushing passenger cars off the rails on my curves, I’ll also be able to get a manual uncoupling tool into position between a passenger car and a freight car or locomotive.

In operation, adjacent diaphragms don’t quite touch. This photo shows two cars equipped with modified diaphragms, and with the slack stretched:

Passenger car diaphragms
(Mind the gap…)

I can live with that gap. It’s certainly better than the space between cars before the diaphragms were added. In addition, my mixed trains only had one passenger-carrying car on them, and I’m not sure the diaphragms would even have been hooked up between the combine and adjacent express car during normal operation on the line to Port Rowan.

I’ve now done the four passenger cars that I regularly run in mixed train service, and I bought extra diaphragms for future projects.

I think they look rather striking…

(*Check the “Links” section on this blog’s home page for the most up-to-date links)

Trees and Thai food :: A visit with Chris

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(The foreground trees here will visually separate the St. Williams team track area from the Stone Church Road bridge scene)

Chris Abbott and I spent a most enjoyable afternoon together yesterday, running a few trains, discussing my recent work on trees, plans for gathering all of my various workshop tools and materials in one place, my experiments with couplers, and more.

We ran four trains. In addition to the M233 and M238 (seen in the photos with this post), we also took the new doodlebug and a freight extra for a spin. With the exception of turning the mixed train, there was no switching to do – we were returning a couple of staged trains from Port Rowan to Simcoe and points north. But the switching with the mixed train went smoothly – validating my decision to return to using the Kadee 808 couplers.

I was particularly interested in how trains would look rolling through St. Williams, where I’ve temporarily planted a number of tree armatures in the foreground. And I’m pleased. Trains will look even better when these armatures are coated with bark mixture and topped with leafy canopies.

 photo TreeLine-StW-06_zpsf06dd747.jpg
(The new trees will form a short tunnel between St. Williams and the bridge over Stone Church Road)

In adding trees, I like to start with the bare armatures and leave them in place for a bit, while I conduct some operating sessions. This is useful for confirming that the trees will not get in the way of coupling, uncoupling and other tasks.

I make a point of testing the reach-in access for both left-handed and right-handed people. I don’t need to actually do the work with the off-hand – just make sure I can get my arm in and out of a scene without clocking a tree with an elbow. I know I will do a lot of testing with the foreground trees near the middle of the double-ended siding in St. Williams. They’re low, compact trees – but I want to make sure they don’t interfere with dropping and lifting cars in the siding.

 photo TreeLine-StW-05_zpsf27a7acf.jpg
(The foreground trees to the right of the tracks will frame the railway as it curves around this corner of the room)

Chris and I started the afternoon with a trip to Harbord House for a serving of bacon, cheese and ale dip, stuffed chicken breast, and pints – followed by a stop at Things Japanese and Bakka-Phoenix Books – all located within a few doors of each other. I have a great neighbourhood.

Chris stayed for dinner, too: A Thai beef curry done in a red sauce and finished with snow peas and clementines. It was nice to have a very relaxing afternoon, with plenty of time to do things – railway-related and otherwise.

A great time, as always, Chris – thanks for coming over!

Ready To Run

No, this isn’t a post on equipment that’s ready to go, straight out of the box – and how it is either killing or saving the hobby. I’ll let somebody else write that diatribe (on your own blog, please!)

Rather, I’m pleased to report that yesterday I was able to convert back all of my test equipment to the Kadee 808 coupler. After a few months of testing coupler alternatives (including the Sergent EC64 and Kadee 5), the layout is once again ready to run as it should – with all hands on deck.

Although it appears I have some dusting to do first…

 photo ReadyToRun_zps6f85bd0c.jpg
(A representative sample of my equipment roster, lined up on the sector plate. Additional equipment is stored in drawers below)

In all, I’d converted more than a dozen pieces of equipment to Sergent couplers for testing. And from that group, I further converted almost a dozen pieces to Kadee 5 couplers to test that alternative. Restoring the Kadee 808 couplers took all afternoon, but the marathon session paid off. As a bonus, I found some additional work that needed to be done on some cars, and struck that off my to-do list.

I’m looking forward to my next operating session – the first in a long time in which I won’t be thinking about couplers!

Boxcars and gas cars :: A visit with Chris

 photo Boxcar-808_zpsf23a0957.jpg
(What do you see?)

My friend Chris Abbott visited last night, and with his help I was able to make a final decision on my choice of couplers. As the lead photo suggests, I’ve decided to standardize on the Kadee 808 – the S scale coupler (in brown) that I used when I started this layout.

When I look at equipment on the layout, my eyes are drawn to things like the logo, the reporting marks, the roof, the weathering and so on. The coupler is really an afterthought – and when a car is part of a train, the couplers are practically invisible. The bottom line is that visually, the larger-than-life 808 couplers don’t bother me.

Operationally, however, they’re much easier to use than my alternate choice, the Kadee 5. Chris and I switched two trains in St. Williams – one equipped with Kadee 5 couplers, the other with Kadee 808 couplers. Chris and I both found that the 808s were easier to uncouple because they are easier to see and there is more room in the knuckles to position an uncoupling tool. Since I’ve determined that for me, a reliable coupler is The Least Disruptive Option, the 808 is the obvious choice.

I’ll start to convert back my equipment this week.

That said, I’m also glad I investigated other coupler choices – including the Kadee 5 and Sergent EC64. I learned a lot in the process, even as I confirmed that my original choice was the correct one. (At least, for me: I encourage everyone to do their own experiments and make their own choices in this hobby – for couplers, DCC systems (or even whether to use DCC at all), scenery materials, and everything else.)

As with everything in this hobby, what works for me may not work for you – and vice-versa.

 photo GasElectric-15_zps7bd0248f.jpg
(The doodlebug hauls a two-car train through St. Williams)

Chris and I also had fun running my in-progress gas electric. Before Chris arrived, I was able to get some of the fine detail painting done. I’m particularly pleased with how the orange window frames came out. I also finished the headlight by adding some Kristal Klear around the LED to fill the gap between LED and headlight housing.

I’d read that these models could not pull the skin off a pudding – and the gas electric has only a single power truck. So we were both quite surprised when, during testing, the doodlebug walked away with two of my passenger cars in tow. They’re not only heavy, but the compensated trucks add a fair bit of drag – so much so, that my CNR 10-wheelers* have trouble pulling a train. But the gas electric had no problem with them.

In fact, it ran better with the additional weight in tow. We think the train brought more weight to bear over the rear truck, which improved electrical pick-up. As a result of this testing, I’ll add some weight over the rear truck next time I have the unit apart.

(*My CNR 10-wheelers are currently with their builder, Simon Parent, because they need a tune-up – and one of the issues identified is that they’re not riding on their springing properly, so that may have something to do with their tendency to slip their drivers when pulling the passenger cars.)

We ended the evening, as we often do, at Harbord House. We discussed many things over pints and dinner – some of which I’ll share in future posts…

Thanks again, Chris – great, as always, to see you and your help in coming to a coupler decision was greatly appreciated!

“The least disruptive option”

While at the hobby shop yesterday, I ran into my friend Mark Hill – and after leaving the contents of our wallets at the counter, we had a great conversation in the parking lot under beautiful autumn skies.

Among the many topics covered, we talked about my coupler issues – and our discussion helped me organize my thoughts on couplers (and many other aspects of our hobby, but I’ll use the couplers as my example).

It occurred to me that what I’m really looking for with the couplers is the “least disruptive option”. I’m weighing two options:

Option 1 – a coupler that looks very prototypical, but does not couple reliably (at least, not on my layout).

Option 2 – a coupler that does not look as prototypical, but is a reliable performer.

I need to decide which of these two imperfect options will best support my enjoyment of my hobby. And that depends on what my hobby actually is:

If my hobby is, “Build accurate rolling stock that will take a place of pride in a display cabinet”, then the hands-down winner is the coupler that looks just like the real thing.

If my hobby is, “Build a layout that runs well”, then the hands-down winner is the coupler that delivers bullet-proof reliability.

Naturally, the choice is not clear-cut because I hobby is not firmly embedded at one end or the other: I want both. The challenge, for me and for you, is to decide where on that line we fall. And then we have to make that decision for every choice we make in the hobby.

Given that either choice is imperfect, another way to look at it is, do determine which choice is the “least disruptive option”. In other words, which imperfection bothers me most:

Is it a coupler that has a big spring on the side of the knuckle?

Or is it a coupler that doesn’t always couple and that requires resetting every time a coupling is not made?

In this case, I’ve decided that I’d prefer reliable operation over appearance, which is why I’m – reluctantly – retiring my Sergent EC64 couplers. But now I have another choice to make – the Kadee 5 or the Kadee 808. Again, I will have to decide which is the least disruptive option. I suspect the Kadee 808 will be easier to use – the head is larger so it’s easier to get the uncoupling tool between couplers, and the coupler boxes are the standard for S scale equipment to installation is easy and reliable. But the Kadee 5 looks better.

At this point, I need to do more tests to turn suspicions into evidence. But regardless of which coupler I end up using, I’m glad I’m doing these tests because they have clarified some of my thinking about the hobby. I’m going to apply “the least disruptive option” next time I face such choices.

It may not be the only criteria – but it’s a good one.

Three vans :: Three couplers

Yesterday I visited my local chooch emporium and picked up a bulk pack of Kadee 5 couplers, then set about converting a few pieces of equipment so I can test them as an alternative to the Sergent EC64 and the Kadee 808. (As noted earlier this week, the Sergent has many fine qualities but I want more reliable coupling. I’m perfectly happy with the performance of the S scale Kadee 808 but the Ho scale Kadee 5 is closer to S scale size.)

I converted a locomotive and seven freight cars. I also did a CNR van, which means I now have each type of coupler mounted on a different CNR van – perfect for visual comparisons. I took the photos this morning – click on each image for a larger view:

 photo EC64vs5vs808-04_zpscebfce30.jpg
(Sergent EC64 — Kadee 5 — Kadee 808)

 photo EC64vs5vs808-03_zps9f90ca41.jpg
(Sergent EC64 — Kadee 5 — Kadee 808)

 photo EC64vs5vs808-02_zpsd3090e4f.jpg
(Sergent EC64 — Kadee 5 — Kadee 808)

 photo EC64vs5vs808-01_zps145020f1.jpg
(Sergent EC64 — Kadee 5 — Kadee 808)

The Kadee 5 is the smallest of the three. As the photos show, it’s about the same size as the Sergent when looking down on the coupler from above, but not as tall when looking at it end-on or from the side.

Appearance-wise, the Kadee 5 is fine although it could benefit from some rusty paint. (That said, I’m hesitant to paint couplers simply because paint could gum up a coupler and wreck its performance. “Unreliable performance” is the reason I’m – reluctantly – turning away from the Sergents: If painting the Kadee 5 results in performance problems, I might as well stick with the EC64.)

I’m less happy with the HO scale coupler boxes. Simply put, the S scale boxes look better under a car, and because they’re the de-facto standard for 1:64, they’re a whole lot easier to mount. Every manufacturer’s equipment is designed to accept them. I thought the Kadee 5 box might have identical spacing of the mounting holes – and it sure looks that way when you compare the boxes on the bench – but it turns out the spacing on the 5 box is slightly wider than it is on the box for the 808.

From an operations point of view, I do have some concerns with the Kadee 5. It’s been a while since I’ve built an operating layout in HO – my last such railway was torn down in 2003 – and I’m used to larger things now, including couplers. In some quick tests last night, I found my uncoupling tools – all designed for Kadee 5 couplers, mind you – require careful fiddling to slip between the knuckles and separate the cars. Uncoupling is definitely easier with the Sergent EC64 and a magnetic wand – but it’s also easier using the typical uncoupling tool with the Kadee 808.

Now that I’ve been doing some conversions, I’m also reminded that in my years of working in HO, I experienced a lot of vertical coupler movement with the Kadee 5. This is because the opening in the coupler box is taller than the shank of the coupler, allowing the coupler head to rise or fall as train forces act on it. This becomes a problem when two coupler heads are not at the exact same height – when pulling a train, the lower coupler can be forced down, while the higher coupler is forced up, and uncoupling occurs. Of course, all couplers should be mounted at the same height – but even if they are, things like sharp vertical curves can cause problems. And I do have two such curves – at the bottom and top of the elevated coal delivery track in Port Rowan. I did not experience this vertical coupler movement with either the Kadee 808 or the Sergent EC64. Something to watch out for with the Kadee 5.

No – I have not yet made a final decision. I will do some tests with the equipment that I’ve converted to Kadee 5 couplers – including a couple of operating sessions with others. (I think it’s important to do one’s own tests in this hobby, rather than rely on results shared by others, so I encourage you to experiment as well!)

But after working on conversions yesterday and doing some initial tests, I might be reverting to the Kadee 808 after all…

Kadee 5 vs Sergent EC64

My coupler investigations continue…

Here are a couple of quick photos to compare the Kadee #5 HO coupler to the Sergent EC64 S scale coupler (actually, one I built years ago from the original production, because all of my current EC64 couplers are mounted on equipment). In both photos, the Kadee is on the left:

 photo Kadee5-SergentEC64-01_zps3f59f451.jpg

 photo Kadee5-SergentEC64-02_zpsdaf6fbde.jpg

As the photos show, the couplers are very close in size. The EC64 is obviously more prototypical in appearance – that is, after all, one of the selling points of the Sergent line. But if we assume the Sergent EC64 is scale sized, then it’s clear the Kadee #5 is much closer to S scale than is the Kadee 808.

The Kadee #5 is not as tall as a Sergent EC64, either. But if I’m willing to overlook the giant spring on the side of the coupler (and I am), I can live with the discrepancy in height – especially if it means trouble-free operation. (As for that spring, I’ll tone it down with some Neo-Lube.)

I have also compared the coupler boxes for an HO Kadee #5 (Kadee #232) to the couplers boxes for an S scale Kadee #808. While I did not take pictures, I know that the boxes have differences which prevent 808s from being put into a Kadee 5 box, and vice versa.

However, in two key factors they appear to be identical.

– The distance from front face of the box to the post appears to be the same.

– The spacing of the mounting holes appears to be the same.

I will have to confirm this by mounting a #232 box to an S scale car. But in theory, I should be able to use Kadee #232 boxes (and the couplers in the 5, 20 and 40 ranges) on S scale equipment without having to modify my existing mounting procedures. That should save a whole lot of time and aggravation should I decide to change over the fleet to the Kadee #5.

Stay tuned for more on this in future posts.

(On a housekeeping note, if you’ve been following these posts using the Category link, I’ve changed the category’s name to simply “Couplers“. The link remains the same.)

A difficult decision

 photo Sergent-S-Couplers-04_zps9ad86bd5.jpg
(Sergent EC64 at left :: Kadee 808 at right)

 photo Sergent-S-Couplers-05_zpsd61189db.jpg
(Sergent EC64 at left :: Kadee 808 at right)

For the past few months, I’ve been exchanging emails with another S scale enthusiast who has been testing the new Sergent Engineering EC64K couplers on his layout – and we’re both coming to the decision that while these couplers are beautiful and have many terrific qualities, they’re not for us.

It’s not an easy decision to take. I really do want to use these couplers on my layout.

As the photos above show, the Sergents look fantastic. Also in their favour, I love the use of a magnetic wand to uncouple: It works even better than the many different uncoupling tools I’ve used to manipulate Kadee couplers.

But unless the Sergent couplers are perfectly aligned for coupling – and I do mean, perfectly – any attempt to couple results in knocking the knuckles closed without making the hitch. This then requires backing away from the failed hitch, re-opening the moving faces, re-aligning the couplers, and trying again.

I have good success with this in narrower sections of my layout, where the track is fairly close to the front edge. But the Port Rowan terminal – where 75 percent of the work is done – is a fairly deep scene in order to accommodate the turntable:

 photo PortRowan-Overview-201405_zpscea2987b.jpg
(Port Rowan looking towards end of track: The operator’s aisle is to the right)

In my experience, the closer to looking straight down one can get when aligning the couplers, the better the Sergent couplers work. In Port Rowan the combination of a deep scene and a 21-inch viewing window (created by the height of the layout and a bulkhead that runs above the yard) prevents operators from achieving a decent overhead view of the couplers.

In short, my visiting operators and I are having too many failed couplings.

Now, I’m told by those in the business that failed couplings happen – but not as often as they’re failing on my railway. Besides, when couplers don’t couple in the real world, professional train crews just have to deal with it. That’s part of their job – and why such activities are called “Jobs” and not “Smiley Happy Fun Time”.

However, a model railway is not real life. It’s not supposed to be a “Job”. I enjoy building accurate models and scenes in 1:64, but I started into S scale because I was frustrated with the running qualities of On2. S scale has solved those problems, brilliantly. My locomotives do not stall and my equipment rarely derails – in fact, “zero-derailment sessions” are the rule, not the exception. In that environment, failed couplings really stand out as something that detracts from the overall experience.

When couplers fail to couple on Port Rowan, they frustrate me. Worse, they become the thing that visitors remember. The rest of the operating experience may have unfolded as slick as spit, but the talk afterwards will be about how many attempts were required to make the hitch.

I haven’t made a final decision: The EC64 couplers are currently out of production to address a manufacturing issue, which may also improve their performance. I will order some of the couplers when they’re re-released and give them a try. I will also hold onto my EC64 stock for the time being: If I ever build a classic shelf layout, the issue of sight lines would disappear – and the Sergent couplers would be more reliable as a result.

But in an email, my fellow experimenter made the following observation about his tests with the Sergent couplers:

“I have noticed that I operate my layout less frequently, and the sessions are usually only a few minutes (instead of 20-30 minutes in the past). Most end in my frustration of not being able to couple some of the cars.”

I realize that I have experienced exactly the same issue (coupling failures) – with exactly the same results (more frustration and fewer operating sessions).

That’s not why I’m in the hobby.

So – unfortunately – unless the reworked couplers solve the problem for me, I’m going to have to pull the EC64 couplers from my equipment and return to the less prototypical but more reliable Kadee 808.

Trains and dinner with Matt

 photo X80E-Tobacco_zpsf412c6b5.jpg
(Extra 80 East passes tobacco kilns and fields in St. Williams, Ontario)

Last night, Matt Goodman joined me for dinner and an operating session on the Port Rowan branch. Matt is from Ohio but was in my area on business. My friend Chris Abbott mentioned he would be here so I got in touch with Matt and invited him over – and I’m really glad I did.

We had a great evening, talking about trains and layouts and other things as we ran a freight extra.

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Matt was particularly interested in the turntable I built for Port Rowan – using an HO scale turntable kit from Custom Model Railroads as my starting point.

 photo 80-TT-Engine_zpsa415d3e7.jpg

In general, I like prototype turntables but hate the models of them, which in my experience tend to look fine but perform poorly. This turntable is an exception: It has been flawless since I installed it back in June, 2012:

Turntable pit photo PtR-Turntable-01.jpg
(The bridge mounts onto a rectangular key on the shaft and is removable, as this under construction photo shows)

Turntable-Motor photo PtR-Turntable-04.jpg
(CMR’s display motor with 7000-to-1 gearing mounts onto its own box, suspended under the turntable base. There’s plenty of access to allow the drive shaft to be disconnected for serving. That said, I’ve never had to service this turntable – it’s been consistently delightful)

It’s been a while since I’ve written about the turntable, but all of the posts related to it (including this one) can be found in the Turntable Category.

We had no derailments (phew!) but I did continue to experience some trouble with the Sergent Couplers.

I haven’t given up on the Sergents – although I’m also glad I didn’t throw out my Kadees. I will order more Sergent EC64K couplers when they return to market – hopefully, soon – and do more testing before I make a final decision.

A major factor affecting coupler performance is that this summer I have not been running the layout as much as I should – and it shows: Last night’s coupler problems were almost entirely due to operator error on my part.

As an aside, I’ve started to give away copies of my Employee Time Table when people make their first visit to my railway:

 photo ETT3-D1-01_zpsa051c825.jpg

These six-page documents don’t take long for me to assemble, and I think they make a nice reminder of the visit.

They also probably answer a number of questions that visitors might have about the layout’s operation – the kind of thing we think of an hour or two afterwards and wish we could ask.

Between talking, operating and dinner at Harbord House, Matt and I covered a lot of ground in a visit that lasted more than four hours. It was after midnight when he left and I know we could’ve continued to discuss many things. We’ll have to pick up that discussion next time he’s in town.

Great to meet you in person, Matt – come again!

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Couplers and weight

 photo Couplers-Weights_zps5ab533d7.jpg
(More weight might solve some of my failed couplings. It’s worth a shot…)

During an operating session yesterday, I continued to test the Sergent Engineering couplers.

Regular readers know I’ve been doing this for a few weeks now – and while things are moving in the right direction, they still need a bit of work. In particular, I still have more problems coupling than I’d like. However, I’m pondering an experiment:

Recently, Mike McNamara has been blogging about his experiences with boosting the weight in the freight cars on his HO scale Maine Central Railroad to well beyond NMRA specifications.

As Mike writes on his blog, he is now setting his 50-foot cars at 8oz – about double the 4.5oz recommendation per NMRA RP20.1.

Mike chose this weight after reading about the heavier cars used by Mike Confalone on his Allagash Railway. In his excellent eBook series on his layout (available from Model Railroad Hobbyist), Mike C notes:

When drilling cars in a yard, the cars don’t bounce around and jerk all over the place. There is a naturally-occurring inertia battle between the locomotive and the heavy freight cars. The switching shove and pull moves smooth out, and occur more naturally. To put it in perspective, a typical 10-car cut in a yard may weigh 7 lbs or more!

(This is a great series, by the way. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and recommend it to others – regardless of scale, gauge, era, theme, etc…)

Mike McN’s early findings are likewise encouraging…

The amazing thing is how nice the heavier cars feel when you handle them and put them on the track. It makes the other cars seem super light, even at NMRA standards. It just feels like a working railroad piece now and less like a model. Switching a few cars is really cool and feels totally different. Hard to put into words, but the extra weight really changes the dynamics of car handling.

Reading this, I wonder if the extra weight – and the changes in the dynamics of car handling – would provide enough inertia to encourage the steel locking ball inside the couplers to drop when cars connect. Right now, it seems, coupling onto a single car at a prototypically slow speed can actually push the car along without the locking ball dropping into place. Since many of the moves during an operating session on my layout involve single cars, that’s a problem.

So, adding extra weight is worth a try – but I must keep in mind that unlike Mike and Mike, who run diesels on their layouts, my small steam power already struggles with hauling two passenger cars equipped with compensated trucks. In particular, the 10-wheelers will slip their drivers – and my experiments with Bullfrog Snot were not successful.

I don’t want to overweight my rolling stock to the point that my locomotives can’t pull a typical train. As well, locomotives must be able to shove a cut of cars up the short but steep incline of the Port Rowan coal track. And weighting empty open cars like hoppers and gondolas could be tricky.

Fortunately, I have a couple of open cars I can simply set weights in to see if it makes a difference.

Stay tuned…