My friend Hunter Hughson visited yesterday for brunch followed by an afternoon of talking trains – and running the layout.
I had a great time. It was fun to spend an afternoon discussing Hunter’s layout plans and he brought along a pair of in-progress modifications to Athearn 86′ boxcars that are going to be fantastic models when he’s done with them. Hunter is documenting the upgrades on his Ontario in HO Scale blog – click on the NYC boxcar below to visit:
That’s the good news. The bad news is that the layout had other ideas yesterday. This year’s deep freeze continues – and continues to play havoc with model railways. I must also confess that I haven’t run the layout in a few weeks – I’ve just been too preoccupied with other things, mostly beyond the scope of the hobby. Nothing bad – just busy.
The result, however, is that we had about a dozen derailments. The pony truck on one of the 2-6-0s hit the ties. So did the combine. And a freight car or two joined in on the fun.
These appeared to be intermittent faults: Trying to repeat them sometimes worked, and sometimes didn’t. And I’ll point out again that I haven’t really run the layout in a few weeks, with the exception of a quick dash to Port Rowan with The Daily Effort about a week ago. This is important because frequent operation is not only the best way to identify problems and stay on top of fixing them, it’s also the best way to prevent problems in the first place. As proof of this…
The problem with a boxcar went away after I picked it up, turned it over, and jiggled the wheel sets and trucks a bit. I suspect the sprung side frames on the trucks got used to sitting in one position and needed to be poked a bit to free them up so they’d track on the rails properly.
I also know from experience that the track switches throw much easier when they’re thrown regularly.
As for the other problems, I suspect a shifting layout is the culprit. This is the first really harsh winter the layout has endured. I’ve already found and re-opened a couple of gaps that have closed up. I’ll need to look for more. And I’ll have to put the standards gauge to work, testing rail spacing and the like around yesterday’s trouble spots.
Hunter – great to see you: Sorry the layout sucked. I’ll do some trouble-shooting and hopefully next time it’ll be better!
On days when my layout lets me down like this, I’m tempted to order a dump box and have the entire thing carted away. But this is more than a hobby, right? It’s a way of life. Fortunately, there are many ways beyond running the layout to participate in the hobby so when one approach isn’t going well, I can always try something else…