A PLAN FOR A ROBUST, LIVE CATENARY SYSTEM

Good day all:

The following post covers the construction and operation details of the 300 Loft catenary system I have been working on since 2015.

NOTE 1:  Be warned this is a long post.  Hopefully someone will enjoy it and get some new ideas.

NOTE 2:  This is a 'living' document of sorts.  As I have time, I will post edits, changes and / or progress here as it happens.

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1.  THE LAYOUT & TRACK PLAN

My 'niche' in this hobby is the design and implementation of robust catenary systems that will power the trains.  The third rail would only be to power coaches.  I suppose this was due in part to growing up by the old Pennsy main and catching AEM7s from time to time during the 90s, as well as the close proximity of the Port Road and old A&S branch, with a rich history of electric operation.

The first such system I built modeled Pennsy catenary, with my designs for the support structure.  That layout began as a single track O27 floor layout, which morphed into a double track electrified 'wall-hugger' system.  The support designs were very robust but were not that elegant or parts-efficient.  Additionally, soldering copper blips between the aux and trolley wire over the whole layout took forever.  Some difficult life circumstances forced me to abandon model railroading for about 3 years.  That system is only a memory.  Sadly, I took no pictures, but I did take a few crude videos, which I posted on my YouTube page.

Today I live in a semi-detached with a loft area.  It is not huge, but was big enough to allow for a decent O scale layout, assuming efficient use of the space.  In November of 2015, the itch to build bit hard.  After some negotiation with my wife, construction began.  I ended up using much of the hardware from the previous layout, which saved me a lot of money, given my tight financial situation.

Below is the loft area prior to construction.  I was in the design phase, and had recently acquired an Atlas O AEM7 (my first O scale piece since 2009), the testing of which contributed to the busyness seen around the desk and workbench.

The benchwork started with a duck-under, (seen below in the foreground), and proceeded around the room.  I used 3/4" common board from Home Depot, and all the benchwork support screws go into the wall studs.  The track plan was completed in March of 2016.

I use Atlas track, which I found inexpensively and in great condition on eBay and from Barry's Trains in Manheim, PA around when he closed.  Note the wall under the layout to the right (behind the TV), is the boundary edge of the loft, over which is a long fall to the first floor.  As such, I installed the 'guardrail' benchwork along the edge of the system.  The ruling curve is O63, which is a compromise.  I desired to use O72 (as the wye turnouts are) or even O81, but that left too much of the system in a 'curved' state.  I settled on O63 as a happy medium.

In the shot below, the wall corner that is closest to the staging track needed to be modified in order to provide appropriate spacing between it and the tracks.  We are looking towards the staging track eastern limit and where it diverges from the mainline.

Below, we are looking toward the staging track southwest limit and where it rejoins the mainline.

The yard below stretches to the staircase, and is roughly 8ft or so long.

I think this is the best track plan I could come up with given my space constraints.  Despite the smaller size, I think it still allows for some some decent operation with one or two operators.  One can run a mainline passenger or freight, while staging something else or moving cars around the yard / staging area.  After some run time, one train can then be yarded, and the other sent on its way.

The other more mundane use of the system is to relax on the couch in the loft area and listen to the trains run for extended periods of time.  After a brutal day at work, it is intensely therapeutic and worth all the effort.

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2.  THE CATENARY SYSTEM

Catenary construction began April of 2016.  My typical method is to model the wire and immediate catenary supports against a prototype, and design the extended catenary support myself.  Materials had to be acquired locally, and all were except for the wire, which I purchased as a 125ft spool of 18g from Small Parts.  I also wanted this system to be a bit more elegant, consistent and parts efficient than the previous Pennsy system was.

Since I wanted to model some European electric operation in addition to Amtrak, I decided on the newer style catenary Amtrak installed above New Haven, which has a Euro feel to it.  It's also a little easier and less time-consuming to fabricate, given there is no aux wire.  The image below is a good shot of the catenary style I am modelling.

Before I erected any cat poles, I had to determine where they would be installed, which obviously was critical to good wire placement and thus pantograph travel.  As the prototype image above shows, this style of catenary uses tensioned straight sections between curves, which is great for even pantograph wear, but more challenging to properly place the cat poles.  This challenge was overcome with sewing thread and some small nails.  The wire had to stay within the gauge, so I installed a nail at every O63 curve joint, which kept the sewing thread inside the gauge.

In the the straight runs, the thread was pulled toward the inside rail.  (Below)

The immediate cat supports were modeled after the prototype above.  After some trial and error, I arrived at the plan below.

I then used a piece of scrap board and dremeled out a jig that would allow me to solder the separate pieces together.  The red line was a rough estimate of how the bottom most piece would be shaped, where it directly supports the trolley wire.

The supports are made from brass rod at Lowe's.  After more trial and error, I got in a good rhythm of bending the brass just right as to fit the jig.  The first prototype cat pole is below.

While this was a good start, there is an obvious weakness inherent in this design, which is where the bottom arm is soldered.  When I installed a test section of wire under full tension, some of these single joints holding the bottom arm began to fail after only a few days.  This necessitated a minor change in the design, shown below, along side a failed first generation support arm.

It was then fitted to a cat pole.

Of course, the the top part needed trimmed to match the bottom, but the double-solder joint of this support has yet to fail anywhere in the system.  The pole is 3/8" threaded rod from Lowe's.  Aluminum grounding lugs and nylon spacers hold the support in place, all available at Lowe's.  There is a lock washer between the nuts, between the aluminum lugs.  This gives me solid support, complete adjustability along any axis for fine adjustments in wire position and height, and most importantly, no cat pole is hot.

There is also a prototypical catenary support that is 'reversed', often found in curves and tight spots.  The following is a good example, toward the top-left corner.

The jig will do either support.

Once I cut and bent the brass to fit, I fastened it down and soldered it up.  This technique was used for both support types.  While a bit busy, this arrangement (or something similar) allowed me to make fine adjustments before soldering, and to get a good joint.  I used a 100w Weller pencil iron.

These also need some trimming, so the top joint matches where the bottom piece ends.  The other end needs trimmed as well, where the support mounts to the cat pole.

While this design was generally effective, a weakness appeared when the reversed support was used on the outside of a curve.

When wire is under tension using this support, the tension force pulls somewhat down and inward.  As can be seen above, this negative force vector defeats the the upper-most joint over time.  (NOTE:  it is quite a startling 'bang' when one of those joints gave way).  Rather than redesigning the entire support, it became easier to simply to use this support on the inside of a curve, such that the force pulls somewhat up and inward.  This positive force vector actually causes the support to compress, adding somewhat to its strength.

Once the cat poles for a given section were up, it was time to hang wire.  The sequence was to hang trolley wire first, then aux wire, and finally the support catenary between the two.  For the mainline loop, there needed to be a way to tension the wire without 'cheating' by using poles at the end of each straight shot and soldering un-tensioned curved wire between them.  That's not prototypical and looks silly.  Naturally, this wasn't a problem in the yard or staging track, as they all end with bumpers, such that a pole could be placed after the bumper and still be reasonably prototypical.  This debacle led to the use of 'pull-off points'.  This was were one section of catenary would 'pull off' to a tensioner pole, and another section would 'pull on ' from a tensioner pole, meet in the middle, and continue to the next section with no gap in the wire.  There were 8 such pull-off points, 2 per section.  See the diagram below.

Wire is tensioned using wall-drillers and beefy #10 screws.  Drill 2 holes in the threaded rod, one for the trolley wire and one for the messenger wire, (roughly 1.5" apart).  Install the screws and wall-driller, leaving about a 1/2" gap between it and the pole to allow me the slack for applying tension.  Dremel a hole in the wall-driller, thread the wire and solder.  To ensure some elegance and efficient use of supplies, tensioner poles doubled as cat support poles for the mainline.  It looks tacky to have poles standing right next to each other for different purposes.  While it was tricky to get everything aligned properly, this arrangement ended up being a very effective design.  See below.

The spot where pulled-off wire sections met and diverged to their respective tensioner poles was in the middle of straight runs, as the diagram above showed.  I expected this to be a lot harder to implement than it was.  I simply dremeled a deeper notch in the cat support, and both wires slipped in.

For the shot below, note the top-right and bottom-left wires are the same, being pulled off out of frame to the left.  The top-left and bottom right are the same wire, being pulled off out of frame to the right.

Below is the same wire-section meet from track level looking up.  Naturally, diverging wire was pulled upward toward their respective tensioner poles, such that the pantograph sees a nice smooth transition from one section to the next.

Below, the same wire-section meeting point is in the foreground, while one of it's respective tensioner poles is in the background prior to the curve.  Once tension is applied from both ends of a wire section by tightening the wall-drillers, the wire is soldered to the cat pole supports.

I exert a fairly high amount of tension on the wire.  Hence, I always used safety glasses when tensioning any wire.  Below is an example of a tensioned wire outside the yard.  All poles are bolted to the benchwork, through a metal mending plate at the base of each pole.  Tensioner poles or those at a bumper are re-enforced through a second metal plate below the benchwork.  The image below is also a good view of the screw / wall-driller tensioning assembly.

With all these logistics solved, the cat poles for a given section were planned, distributed and erected.

At times, there were poles and other related support structure all over the place.

Once poles were erected for a given section, I could actually start stringing wire.  As I mentioned above, the sequence was always to hang / tension trolley wire first, then hang / tension messenger wire, then install the support catenary in between.  Any section is considered 'safe' once all three of these components are in place.  That way, any break would be controlled by the surrounding wire it's soldered to.

Once one end of wire for a given section is fastened to a wall-driller...

...it was time to break out the spool and hang wire around the section in question.

 

Wire height is roughly 4.75" from rail head to trolley wire.  This was a bit higher or lower in places to simulate stations or other areas where wire height varied from the norm.  Heights were measured with a ruler, or the pirated scrap of an end table, cut to size.

The support catenary was easy to fabricate, but the biggest pain in the neck of the entire system.  First, I too a pair of tweezers and stuck a few piece of rubber on the ends, procured from a failed hard drive.  For clamping wire, this was a great way to dampen vibrations and allow me to work with everything moving around.

Pieces of support catenary are the same 18g wire in 1-2" lengths, depending on where in the system you are.  Use pliers to bend a curl in the top, drape it over the messenger wire, and clamp the bottom to the trolley wire.

Solder it up, trim the bottom, and use a dremel with a stone to smooth the bottom for pantograph travel.  Smoothing is critical to wire travel, and also the noisiest, most bothersome task on the system.  I still do some smoothing from time to time, as the pantographs tell me.

Once a wire section was done, it needed to be mechanically certified for height and position with a pantograph.  This was accomplished with a stripped down Atlas AEM7, fitted with a stock pantograph (back), and a scratch-built pantograph (front), and 2 green LEDs for electrical tests.  The section was then electrically certified by checking each pole with a DMM to ensure electrical isolation from the wire.

 

The yard and staging tracks presented the major challenge of joining wires over turnouts.  The solution was to use some brass i-beams from HO catenary I had in the spare parts collection.

Cut a piece about 3/4" long, and dremel both ends smooth in an upward fashion.

Drill some very small holes and run wire into them.

Hang the whole thing up.  Note the wire in place is behind, the wire to be joined is in front.  Both wires clamped into the joint very nicely.

Finally, solder the assembly and trim any excess.

The yard entrance below was one of the more complicated areas to wire.    There is a "double-duty" pole, where one support is on the staging track (to the left) and one in the yard throat, (to the right)...

...and then the 'cornerstone' pole of the yard.  It needed to be supported by a turnbuckle to keep it straight.  This pole is the endpoint for all wires in the yard.

Below is a full view of the yard area, looking west.  The mainline is the inner-most track and the staging track is adjacent to it.

The final major construction hurdle was to join the turnouts that link the mainline to the staging track, which are on separate electrical circuits.  The solution to that was a bit more parts-intensive than I had hoped, but it lent to a very sturdy structure and complete operational success.  To start, I had to mount a pole in the 'middle of nowhere'.  Given the large structure to come, I used 1/2" threaded rod for the cat pole.

Lay out the hardware, with the pole lined up with the center of the turnout.  This is the basis of the turnout support structure.  Note the beginnings of a wire-section meeting point on the same pole, off the mainline.

Assemble the hardware, with two half poles pointing in opposite directions, such that the wire will overlap, but stay electrically separate.

Install a support brass piece and wall-driller tensioner on each side.

Finish the wiring on the mainline, adjacent to this turnout and branch a wire off the mainline toward the turnout structure.  It took 3 tries to get the spacing correct so the pantograph didn't slip off.

Below, success.

Below is the completed turnout structure, from track level looking up.  The wire pulls off on each side, and stays electrically separate.  It's also a seamless transition for the pantograph.  Ensure the wall-drillers' threading is above the wire plane!

Below is the same, also including the wire-section meet and diverge point, as mentioned previously.  This entire assembly is supported by the single 1/2" pole.  Since everything is bigger on this pole, (1/2" pole, aluminum lugs, bolts, etc), the catenary support didn't quite fit properly.  As can be seen, I had to use some additional elbow grease to make it fit.

Below, a similar design was used at the other mainline-staging track junction, near the southwest limit of the system.

Below is the same junction, as seen from above.

Below is the same junction, from track level, looking southeast.  Sorry for the blown-out image.

The completed catenary system can be seen below.  It's quite a change from the first images with only 'bare' track.

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3.  THE TRAINS, LOCOMOTIVES & PANTOGRAPHS

At long last, it was time to test trains and actually make the system work.

My favorite trains have always been the electric-powered Amtrak trains of the 80s and 90s.  The paint schemes then were much better.  It's nice to see a 'new' phase 3 paint scheme making a comeback today.  Call me backward, but the Amtrak 'Chevron' logo looked the best on the old Amfleet 1s.  The AEM7 is my #1 locomotive, followed by the E60x, of which I am patiently waiting for a decent model to arrive.  The GG1s were rather before my time.  I appreciate them, but don't have a burning desire to run them. 

I have one of the new MTH AEM7s, and a string of Phase 1 decorated MTH Amfleets.  I didn't even realize MTH made Amfleets in Phase 1 paint, until I happened upon them while browsing Western Depot's website and promptly grabbed up the only set they had.  They have the simulated aluminum finish that the AEM7 has, with the added bonus of people figures inside.

I am a stickler for details, and I am aware of some deficiencies with this train.  The AEM7s didn't have ditch lights when Phase 1 painted Amfleets were around.  The blue paint on both models is too dark.  MTH Amfleets are not quite to scale. Finally, the AEM7 body numbers are too skinny a font, (the latter of which is the subject of another post).  But, given the overall look of both models, the sounds and functions of the new AEM7, these few deficiencies are forgivable.  This is the coolest engine I have ever owned, hands down.  I will shortly post some videos of this train in action.

MTH pantographs are known to be troublesome, but the ones on the AEM7 are well-sprung and of relatively good detail.  However, the pantograph head isn't right, and in any case, too light-duty for use with catenary.  Therefore, scratch-built pantograph heads were required.

I started by stripping the paint and cutting the ends off the existing pantograph head.  I then made two new pantograph strips, using K&S Engineering brass bars (#81024), just about the width of O gauge track.  I used pliers and the outside curve of a Tupperware container to shape them as seen below.  The strips are not completely straight as the original Faiveley DS-11 pantographs were, but a slightly bowed strip head makes for better travel along the wire, which is more important to me.  Most European locomotives have slightly bowed pantograph strips.

Next, I used a piece of dowel wood and a push-pin to position the new pantograph head pieces.  I used the old head to know how to space the supports.  This is a tricky and time-consuming step, to get a pantograph head to look like this.  Pieces move around very easily.  A good dose of patience and Aleve are required when building these heads.

Solder it up.  I used a 100w Weller to get the job done right, and quickly.

Next, balance the pantograph on the new head, and use another small dowel and 2 push-pins to hold the whole thing still.

Solder the new head to the old one, then dremel the heads to get any residual flux remains off.

With both pantographs done...

...mount them back on the motor.  I had to make some adjustments so they would collapse on the roof a bit more cleanly.

All pantographs were well-lubricated with silver conductive grease on the head and joints. 

Test the motor.  Look ma, no rollers.

The other train I wanted to model is pictured below.  The locomotive is a Bombardier TRAXX F140 AC(2) in the Swiss SBB CARGO scheme, and a string of GATX tankers.  I have always liked the CARGO paint scheme for some reason, and a clean string of identical cars was very appealing to my OCD mind.

MTH released their version of the TRAXX F140 in 2008 and 2012.  It is a superb model in form and function.  It is seen below with it's new pantographs.  The stock pantograph heads are too narrow, so I followed a similar method as above to give it a new set.  The automatic pantograph function is just too cool.

I was able to acquire the GATX tankers at a good discount, and so I have the entire prototypical train from above, (albeit shorter).  I'll also be posting a video of this train in short order.

Finally, I used an MTH Railking MP54 coach as a catenary test / maintenance car.  The pantographs are from a Japanese brass model, and work great as they are without modification.  The interior is lit, and the rollers on the bottom can transfer overhead power to the 3rd rail, making it a 'HEP generator' of sorts for any coaches that might run.  While this isn't really necessary (or practical), I took satisfaction in knowing that all parts of the train were powered by the overhead wire.

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4.  SYSTEM CONTROL & DCS IMPLEMENTATION

The 'final' step is command control.  Referring to the image below, note the back plane where the white cable modem and black WLAN router is, under the curve of the layout.  The DCS TIU and AIU (sitting on the benchwork above), will mount beside them, vertically.  I use a current Revision 'L' TIU, running DCS v5.0.  The black box on the workbench in the foreground is where the power supply, electrical control circuitry and turnout control (via DCS or manually) will be housed.

The control circuitry consists of a few beefy Hammond transformers, (19VAC at 10.5A), a DC power supply (for the LEDs and relay coils), protection devices (MOVs and fuses), other toggle switches and various indication LEDs.  Center-off toggle switches for each turnout allow the user to select which turnouts are controlled by DCS, which turnouts are controlled manually, or which turnouts are off.  I use capacitive discharge circuits and latching relays to actually fire the turnouts.  There is no turnout 'memory' built in, but for a small layout with only 7 turnouts that can easily be eyeballed, I didn't stress over that.  There will be indication of the 'last' turnout status via LEDs.  The user can turn sections of catenary on or off via LED indicated toggle switches.  There is also provision for the insertion of a user-provided transformer for regular 3rd rail operation, DCS or conventional, for visiting locomotives.

The control box is not yet built, as I have been busy testing trains under the wire, but it has been started at least.  The above design for control is still changing some as I test the system and come up with more efficient circuitry.

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For now, I am at the point of building the control system, and doing shakedown runs of trains at speed under the wire.  While this is 'only' a model system, I can attest to the fact that it has all the problems of the real system.  Alignment frustrations, contemptible pantographs, the occasional busted support and numerous lacerations, abrasions and stains.  However, I have had no accidents or lost pantographs as yet.  In any case, I immensely enjoy building systems like this, as well as conquering the challenges in design and repair as they arise.

If you've read this far, THANK YOU!  I hope someone found it an enjoyable read and perhaps provoked some new ideas.  Any comments, criticism, questions or whatever are welcome.

--Nate Murry

 

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PANTENARY = PANTographs under catENARY.

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Original Post

Most impressive !   You have certainly put alot of engineering skill and practical skills into your system.  Are you sure you didn't design the real thing ???  You should be very proud and pleased with your work.  Just for old timers sake, get at least one GG1.....LOL

Dan Padova

 

"In the course of my life I have had to eat my words, and I must confess it was a wholesome diet"..........Winston Churchill

                                                                                                                                        

 I agree, great writing, design and Photos! " Dan said ; Most impressive !   You have certainly put alot of engineering skill and practical skills into your system.  Are you sure you didn't design the real thing ???  You should be very proud and pleased with your work.  Just for old timers sake, get at least one GG1.....LOL'

>>>raises a glass with sir Mitch! (ill bring over my GG1 oldie but goodie!)

 

 

-miggy-  frank

"...be a kid.... 5 & 1/2 years old....... The more I know, the more I know how little I know.."

I have designed several cat. systems.  They're hard to build because the scale sized metals are too weak so you resort to larger unscaled metal that looks too clunky.  Using my 3D printer I revised my Pitt-Mark system with additional parts to make it look better. 

Your system is very close to the look and feel of an actual cat. system but it's big and the metal rods are over-scaled.  Honestly it may be the only way to do it.

 

 

AlanHN

Gentlemen:

Thank you for the comments.  For all of you GG1 fans, I can do the shortened versions! 

Alan:  You are correct in the scaling issue.  The wire and immediate cat supports are close to scale, but the rest of it clearly isn't.  That is a compromise I make, based on the purpose of the system.  I'm more interested in mimicking the design, implementation of the real thing than getting the scaling details spot-on.  Still, you are correct, and especially the structure over the electrically-isolated turnouts came out bigger than I had hoped.  Even though it's 'complete', I still make upgrades and changes as I think of new methods.   Do you have any pictures of yours online anywhere?  I'm always interested in seeing other ways of doing this.

I do enjoy writing, but my downfall is endless edits.  I added a few pictures of the support wiring and re-worded a few things.  My OCD doesn't permit me to ignore mistakes that I find!

Thanks again.

--Nate Murry

 

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PANTENARY = PANTographs under catENARY.

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The shortened GG1s are what I was hoping you would go for.  Fairly reasonable on Evilbay.....Hint  

Dan Padova

 

"In the course of my life I have had to eat my words, and I must confess it was a wholesome diet"..........Winston Churchill

                                                                                                                                        

Dan -- Check this video out from my old layout.  I had the old Lionel GG1, the Penn Central with the goofball number.  Dumb as I was then, I mounted the pantograph in the middle of the engine so it would work under the O27 catenary.  I'm ashamed, forgive my sin! 

I figured someone would lease me one at some point.  *hint hint* 

--Nate Murry

 

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PANTENARY = PANTographs under catENARY.

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Great post!  The ingenuity of your system is quite impressive as is the workmanship.  A Williams scale GG1 will operate on as little as 0-42 curves so you may consider getting road number 4935 and installing DCC in it.  With replaced pantographs, it would be a much better model.  4935 in PRR DGLE was among the last of the GG1s to operate for Amtrak and saw some service for New Jersey transit in 1982 on lease after Amtrak stopped running theirs.

Off course the choice to avoid the GG1 based on your modeling period is completely understandable.  I have an Atlas AEM7 and a NJT ALP44 and they are both wonderful models even if my AEM7 needs a run through the Wilmington Shops for a major overhaul. 

With your modeling skills, you could do justice to a new 3D printed O scale E60.  I don't remember the site, but there are available for $85.00 and are designed to run on a MTH U30C chassis.  Lot of prep and assembly is required, but with your skills it wouldn't be a difficult project.

 

Jonathan Peiffer Modeling the NY&LB in Arizona

Proud TCA Member, rivet counter, and operator of all scales of scale trains.

Sometimes the craftsmanship and ingenuity of the members here amazes me.  This is one of those times.  Very nice indeed.  

As far as actual scale, well there are always compromises.  My favorite scale to think about is weight.  For example the PRR S2 weighed in at nearly 1,000,000 lbs.  At 1/48 scale that is still in excess of 20,000 lbs.

Beautiful work!!!

Tony

The reason for the scale is that the primary view I think should be the trains. Then as you look further you see the Cat. system as a background structure like the track. The Cat. is a secondary feature.

It's hard to do because the cat. materials at scale are too slender to withstand the upward pressure from a pantograph while being tensioned laterally. Then the vertical rods need to stayed to maintain their verticality ( not really a word). 

So to minimize the forces a Marklin cat. wire truss is use for the carrier and power wire truss and a Pittman pole with crossbuck is used for the vertical support of the wire truss.

AlanHN

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Good afternoon all:

Thank you all for the compliments.  I do this stuff because I greatly enjoy it, but it's even more fun to share it with others.

Jonathan -- As I read your post, I remembered that the Williams Gs would do tighter curves, and in fact I had eyed up the 4800 in Conrail blue some time ago.  I probably wouldn't get one for myself, but I'd try to run one if someone had it.  My only concern would be likelihood of the pantograph sliding out from under the wire as as the nose swings through a curve.  It might be OK with the O63 curves, but I think I'd be surprised.  Also, you see Amtrak and Swiss SBB Cargo together above, so I'm never opposed to running anything that has a pantograph and would fit, even if the eras (or locations in this case) don't match.  The E60 sounds like a great idea.  I seem to remember seeing that shell on eBay at one point.  I think I have to get some other things done before I jump into a totally new project!    And what is wrong with your AEM7 that it needs such an overhaul?

Alan -- Interesting pictures.  Did you do that in a CAD program?  I understand your point about the trains being of primary focus.  In my case, I would say that the trains and the catenary share said focus, and that's the way I designed it.  Many folks run trains, but not many power them with overhead wire.  It's an oddity of sorts, kind of unique, and an interesting talking point.  Now, if I had to actually model catenary to scale, I'd probably use Sommerfeldt, maybe with some Marklin components.  But, as you correctly state, its not near robust enough to handle the kind of traffic I would throw at it.  It's hard enough to maintain this system, much less the delicate scale stuff.

I actually made a number of repairs today as a result of trying to make some videos last night.  Wire was too high over the staging track bumpers.  I eliminated 3 insulated joints, which resulted in having to redo a tensioner because the wall-driller ran out of 'tensioning' room, and the wire still needed more tightening.  Now the rear automatic pantograph on the TRAXX F140 doesn't raise all the way for some reason.  There were also a few spots that needed more dremel smoothing, as they partially flipped the AEM7 pantograph at low speed.  A tensioning pole was missing 2 base plate screws.  (???) 

It's an odd dichotomy of fun and frustration.  Rarely can I make a repair on the line without having to fix something related to it.

--Nate Murry

 

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Pantenary posted:

Dan -- Check this video out from my old layout.  I had the old Lionel GG1, the Penn Central with the goofball number.  Dumb as I was then, I mounted the pantograph in the middle of the engine so it would work under the O27 catenary.  I'm ashamed, forgive my sin! 

I figured someone would lease me one at some point.  *hint hint* 

I didn't notice the pantograph being center mounted until you pointed it out.  Just the fact that you got it to work on such tight curves is worth noting.  Your center mounted pantograph is not nearly the sin as was Tyco's GG1 with two outward mounted six wheels power trucks !!!  Now THAT was a sin !

gg1tyco

Dan Padova

 

"In the course of my life I have had to eat my words, and I must confess it was a wholesome diet"..........Winston Churchill

                                                                                                                                        

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Nate,

In the time between me posting my original post and your response, I bought one of the shells.  eBay has them for $65.00 and here is a link to the manufacturer's website.  It will be a long term project for me and I have to decide whether or not to go New Jersey Transit or Amtrak.  Ideally I'd like one of each.  I have an SD60 Chassis which also works even if the trucks have the wrong side frames that I was going to sell anyway.

https://www.bigdawgoriginals.c...shell-o-scale-trains

One item to note is that this is the E60MA, which represents the remanufactured version post 1986-1988.  I've always wanted a scale version and have a kitbashed nearly scale Williams version I found for about $25 a number of years ago, but this one is more accurate and much less work to complete than the shell I have. 

As for the GG1 - You may be correct, I have issues on 0-72 curves with the pantograph nearly slipping off the trolley wire and I simply have the less than ideal RailKing system.  That will be replaced when my 2 rail layout becomes a reality perhaps sometime in my lifetime.

My AEM7 just has been run nearly to death.  The screw fell out for the front coupler which I'll convert to a Kadee anyway to start.  I also believe I have a broken linkage in the mechanism, but like you with so many projects it's not high on the priority list.  I have lots of Amtrak engines, however not many electrics in O scale beyond my fleet of GG1s.

Jonathan Peiffer Modeling the NY&LB in Arizona

Proud TCA Member, rivet counter, and operator of all scales of scale trains.

Dan Padova posted:
Pantenary posted:

Dan -- Check this video out from my old layout.  I had the old Lionel GG1, the Penn Central with the goofball number.  Dumb as I was then, I mounted the pantograph in the middle of the engine so it would work under the O27 catenary.  I'm ashamed, forgive my sin! 

I figured someone would lease me one at some point.  *hint hint* 

I didn't notice the pantograph being center mounted until you pointed it out.  Just the fact that you got it to work on such tight curves is worth noting.  Your center mounted pantograph is not nearly the sin as was Tyco's GG1 with two outward mounted six wheels power trucks !!!  Now THAT was a sin !

gg1tyco

Dan -- Holy crow, that thing is hideous.  Someone either didn't do their homework, hated their job, or was just a 'troll'. 

--Nate Murry

 

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PANTENARY = PANTographs under catENARY.

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GG1 4877 posted:

Nate,

In the time between me posting my original post and your response, I bought one of the shells.  eBay has them for $65.00 and here is a link to the manufacturer's website.  It will be a long term project for me and I have to decide whether or not to go New Jersey Transit or Amtrak.  Ideally I'd like one of each.  I have an SD60 Chassis which also works even if the trucks have the wrong side frames that I was going to sell anyway.

https://www.bigdawgoriginals.c...shell-o-scale-trains

One item to note is that this is the E60MA, which represents the remanufactured version post 1986-1988.  I've always wanted a scale version and have a kitbashed nearly scale Williams version I found for about $25 a number of years ago, but this one is more accurate and much less work to complete than the shell I have. 

As for the GG1 - You may be correct, I have issues on 0-72 curves with the pantograph nearly slipping off the trolley wire and I simply have the less than ideal RailKing system.  That will be replaced when my 2 rail layout becomes a reality perhaps sometime in my lifetime.

My AEM7 just has been run nearly to death.  The screw fell out for the front coupler which I'll convert to a Kadee anyway to start.  I also believe I have a broken linkage in the mechanism, but like you with so many projects it's not high on the priority list.  I have lots of Amtrak engines, however not many electrics in O scale beyond my fleet of GG1s.

Hi Jonathan:

That shell is what I saw.  Now you got me thinking.  The pantograph from an MTH E44 is a reasonable match...and most of the other details shouldn't be hard to find.  I'd need to find some decent decals; there aren't that many good ones in Amtrak.  

Have you run your AEM7 off the catenary?  I have plenty of spare parts for Atlas AEM7s.  If you need something, let me know.

--Nate Murry

 

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PANTENARY = PANTographs under catENARY.

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Dan Padova posted:
Pantenary posted:

Dan -- Check this video out from my old layout.  I had the old Lionel GG1, the Penn Central with the goofball number.  Dumb as I was then, I mounted the pantograph in the middle of the engine so it would work under the O27 catenary.  I'm ashamed, forgive my sin! 

I figured someone would lease me one at some point.  *hint hint* 

I didn't notice the pantograph being center mounted until you pointed it out.  Just the fact that you got it to work on such tight curves is worth noting.  Your center mounted pantograph is not nearly the sin as was Tyco's GG1 with two outward mounted six wheels power trucks !!!  Now THAT was a sin !

gg1tyco

I have this GG1 purely for collectors purposes.  This was towards the end of Tyco production and they used the same trucks for their C636, E7 and GG1.  It's one of my over 40 in HO scale.  Kind of the Pokeman thing my kids are into, "Have to catch them all."

Jonathan Peiffer Modeling the NY&LB in Arizona

Proud TCA Member, rivet counter, and operator of all scales of scale trains.

Pantenary posted:

Hi Jonathan:

That shell is what I saw.  Now you got me thinking.  The pantograph from an MTH E44 is a reasonable match...and most of the other details shouldn't be hard to find.  I'd need to find some decent decals; there aren't that many good ones in Amtrak.  

Have you run your AEM7 off the catenary?  I have plenty of spare parts for Atlas AEM7s.  If you need something, let me know.

The E44 Pantograph is a good match.  I'd like to see if MTH has any in parts.  The rest could be fabricated.  I have some reasonably good photos to work with.  As for decals, I would likely make my own as difficult as they are to apply.  I used Testors decal paper in both a clear background and a white one.  This is how I got my 40th Anniversary Phase Heritage Genesis a few years before Bachmann came out with theirs.  A fun little project:

IMGP4903IMGP4904

As for the AEM7 - I'll have to dig it out and let you know what I need.  Need to get it apart first.  Thanks for the offer!

Jonathan Peiffer Modeling the NY&LB in Arizona

Proud TCA Member, rivet counter, and operator of all scales of scale trains.

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Photos (2)

Wonderful documentation on your methods of execution, Nate.  I hear you about the editing.  I think my head would have exploded composing such an indepth review.   Those custom made pans are absolutely fantastic.

As for this....well.........EVERYONE knows a real GG1 is numbered 48XX or 49XX.

Bruce

GG1 4877 posted:
Pantenary posted:

Hi Jonathan:

That shell is what I saw.  Now you got me thinking.  The pantograph from an MTH E44 is a reasonable match...and most of the other details shouldn't be hard to find.  I'd need to find some decent decals; there aren't that many good ones in Amtrak.  

Have you run your AEM7 off the catenary?  I have plenty of spare parts for Atlas AEM7s.  If you need something, let me know.

The E44 Pantograph is a good match.  I'd like to see if MTH has any in parts.  The rest could be fabricated.  I have some reasonably good photos to work with.  As for decals, I would likely make my own as difficult as they are to apply.  I used Testors decal paper in both a clear background and a white one.  This is how I got my 40th Anniversary Phase Heritage Genesis a few years before Bachmann came out with theirs.  A fun little project:

IMGP4903IMGP4904

As for the AEM7 - I'll have to dig it out and let you know what I need.  Need to get it apart first.  Thanks for the offer!

Hi Jonathan:

Those decals came out great.  Where did you get the 'Amtrak' font?  I might be tempted to make my own, but I have not looked into all the details to do them, and in any case, the font has to be perfect or its worthless to me.  You got a very nice finish on that model as well.

Yes, the E60 would need a lot of detailing .  I don't think it would be too hard to find.  I actually got a decent roof shot a long time ago.

--Nate Murry

 

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brwebster posted:

Wonderful documentation on your methods of execution, Nate.  I hear you about the editing.  I think my head would have exploded composing such an indepth review.   Those custom made pans are absolutely fantastic.

As for this....well.........EVERYONE knows a real GG1 is numbered 48XX or 49XX.

Bruce

Hi Bruce:

Thanks, I appreciate the complement from a detailed modeler such as yourself.  It's good to see the catenary modellers represented here!

I'm rather embarrassed to admit it took me a day or two to write it, and a week and a half to edit it.  Writing, like many things technical, sneers at me..."bet you can't find all my spelling mistakes...you missed a grammatical error...you should organize me better..."    This past Friday I finally had enough and just posted it.  Then proceeded to edit it repeatedly since.  

I agree on the GG1 numbering.  That's why I didn't keep the one Lionel non-scale Gs I had a long time ago...goofball numbers that reflect the item SKU as I recall.  But even as a collectors item... *shudder*

--Nate Murry

 

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PANTENARY = PANTographs under catENARY.

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Nate,

That's a great photo and I just saved it.

I have done graphics work and model consulting for 3rd Rail for 7 years.  I have built a library of graphics for that company as well for myself.  Amtrak is the "Helvetica" font. The other graphics I developed off of photos in 2010.  I work in AutoCAD and Photoshop.

Home made water slide decals are really hard to work with.  I ruined quite a few in the process. 

For the E60 project I may purchase an HO version and copy details in O.

This is my NJT version made out of Williams shells. Not entirely accurate but passable with some work.

tmp_25691-20151028_201650588453143

It's just sitting on MTH C30-7 trucks for the photo.

 

Jonathan Peiffer Modeling the NY&LB in Arizona

Proud TCA Member, rivet counter, and operator of all scales of scale trains.

Attachments

Photos (1)
GG1 4877 posted:

Nate,

That's a great photo and I just saved it.

I have done graphics work and model consulting for 3rd Rail for 7 years.  I have built a library of graphics for that company as well for myself.  Amtrak is the "Helvetica" font. The other graphics I developed off of photos in 2010.  I work in AutoCAD and Photoshop.

Home made water slide decals are really hard to work with.  I ruined quite a few in the process. 

For the E60 project I may purchase an HO version and copy details in O.

This is my NJT version made out of Williams shells. Not entirely accurate but passable with some work.

tmp_25691-20151028_201650588453143

It's just sitting on MTH C30-7 trucks for the photo.

 

Hi Jonathan:

That is excellent work.  Paint the trucks black and get your roof detail and you are set.  I might be asking for some more advice regarding the decaling at some point.  That sort of work drives me berserk.  I remember using good Microscale decals and Solvaset in HO scale and nearly tossed the model out the window.

Here is what I want for my system, exactly as it is:

 I shot this in the early 2000s, when it was still 'sort of' OK to take pictures off the parking garage roof.  The sounds that thing made were delightful.

--Nate Murry

 

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PANTENARY = PANTographs under catENARY.

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Nate,

My NJT decals are Microscale.  I've been custom painting since age 12.  I finally got good at it around 29 :-)  It takes patience and practice.  My N scale 1990 era Broadway Limited was an act of extreme patience.  I don't have the eyes for the smaller scale these days though.

I love th E60MA you posted.  That is how I will paint my Amtrak one.

Jonathan Peiffer Modeling the NY&LB in Arizona

Proud TCA Member, rivet counter, and operator of all scales of scale trains.

GG1 4877 posted:

Nate,

My NJT decals are Microscale.  I've been custom painting since age 12.  I finally got good at it around 29 :-)  It takes patience and practice.  My N scale 1990 era Broadway Limited was an act of extreme patience.  I don't have the eyes for the smaller scale these days though.

I love th E60MA you posted.  That is how I will paint my Amtrak one.

It sounds like you have the patience for paint that I do for pantographs.  Maybe its the fumes.  I've never had a knack for decorating locomotives.  I use a magnifying desk lamp.  My eyes aren't the greatest either, but are still usable.

I would take an operating E60 in any form.  I hope someday I can go out west and see the Desert Power Railroad E60s before they go the way of the rest of them.  That said, I do prefer the Phase 3 paint over the Phase 2.

So, here are a few oddities for your consideration.  First, a Phase 3 painted E60, with a 900 series number AND Brecknell-Willis pantographs, which a couple of them had at times.

Next, we have another Phase 3 with Brecknell pans.

 AMTK E-60-CP # 602 is having some difficulties at Frankford Junction

According to the caption I found on the lower image, 602 was experiencing some kind of problem.  Note the conductor next to the engine, and its apparent uncoupled condition.

Any of those would be great to see scale modeled.  Guess I need to get busy at some point. 

--Nate Murry

 

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Photos (1)
Tinplate Tom posted:

Two thoughts on your overhead system

 

1:  use silver solder as it has higher strength.  Downside is you need fire bricks and 1200 degrees to melt it.

2:  Sommerfeldt of Germany now makes O scale catenary systems

Well, I'll keep the first point in mind if I ever get that kiln built next to my son's room. 

I have seen the Sommerfeldt system, and its an excellent representation.  I think I'd go a little batty trying to make it work with my trains.

--Nate Murry

 

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brwebster posted:

Nate says ;  I had the old Lionel GG1, the Penn Central with the goofball number

In case you're feeling nostalgic, I could be persuaded to let one go

Or maybe, one of the other goofball numbered G's?

Bruce

 

Hi Bruce:

Don't tempt me.    In all seriousness, the old Lionels tracked well under the wire.

If I was serious about getting a GG1, I'd go after this one.

--Nate Murry

 

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Note to Nate Murray:  You don't need a kiln for silver soldering.  A small pinpoint butane torch available from Micro Mark would do the trick.  I build live steamers in 3 1/2 inch gauge and O gauge and have an oxy-acetylene rig for boiler making and soldering brass check valves, injectors, axle pumps, etc. together.  You would only need one fire brick for small items like your supports.  Use iron wire to tie them together as the silver solder won't adhere to the iron wire.  Silver solder is available in rods and in sheet form for small items like your project.

Pantenary posted:
GG1 4877 posted:

Nate,

That's a great photo and I just saved it.

I have done graphics work and model consulting for 3rd Rail for 7 years.  I have built a library of graphics for that company as well for myself.  Amtrak is the "Helvetica" font. The other graphics I developed off of photos in 2010.  I work in AutoCAD and Photoshop.

Home made water slide decals are really hard to work with.  I ruined quite a few in the process. 

For the E60 project I may purchase an HO version and copy details in O.

This is my NJT version made out of Williams shells. Not entirely accurate but passable with some work.

tmp_25691-20151028_201650588453143

It's just sitting on MTH C30-7 trucks for the photo.

 

Hi Jonathan:

That is excellent work.  Paint the trucks black and get your roof detail and you are set.  I might be asking for some more advice regarding the decaling at some point.  That sort of work drives me berserk.  I remember using good Microscale decals and Solvaset in HO scale and nearly tossed the model out the window.

Here is what I want for my system, exactly as it is:

 I shot this in the early 2000s, when it was still 'sort of' OK to take pictures off the parking garage roof.  The sounds that thing made were delightful.

I used to take pictures from the parking lot back in the late seventies/early eighties.  I didn't know there were restrictions placed on photography since then.  I have a friend from the UK visit with us a in 2012.  He came up by train from business trip in Washington to stay with us a few days.  As part of our "Train weekend", I took him first to the tracks near Zoo Tower.  He was amazed that we could just walk onto railroad property without anyone approaching us.  

Dan Padova

 

"In the course of my life I have had to eat my words, and I must confess it was a wholesome diet"..........Winston Churchill

                                                                                                                                        

Dan:

In the mid to late 2000s (I think) they built some huge parking add on, or other building for something.  The vantage point from the above image doesn't exist any more as far as I know, or you are so far up that it would freak me out.  I am quite the acrophobiac.

If I can say so respectfully, you could do a lot of neat things in the 70s/80s that will get you shot today.  My last 'real' railfan trip was in 2003 or 2004...went to Perryville, MD at the STATION and set up my tripod.  Some knothead in the adjacent trailer park call the police for 'suspicious activity'.  A MD state trooper proceeded to park me in for about 35 minutes while we discussed 'my business' there. I haven't railfanned to any great extent since; its not worth the hassle to me.  With GG1s, E44s, E60s and now AEM7s all gone, there is hardly anything that really holds my interest.  I'm not a big fan of the ACS64...yet. I guess a whole bunch of folks said that about AEM7s when they came out.

--Nate Murry

 

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PANTENARY = PANTographs under catENARY.

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Tinplate Tom posted:

Note to Nate Murray:  You don't need a kiln for silver soldering.  A small pinpoint butane torch available from Micro Mark would do the trick.  I build live steamers in 3 1/2 inch gauge and O gauge and have an oxy-acetylene rig for boiler making and soldering brass check valves, injectors, axle pumps, etc. together.  You would only need one fire brick for small items like your supports.  Use iron wire to tie them together as the silver solder won't adhere to the iron wire.  Silver solder is available in rods and in sheet form for small items like your project.

Hi Tom:

I was mearly pulling your leg.  

From what little I know a bit about silver soldering, seems like overkill for my work.  Live steam is another I'm not a steam junkie, but it is very cool to seem model steam locomotives that are actually steam powered.  It seems fraught with joy and frustration depending on the day and the weather, (much like a model catenary system!).  I have great respect and admiration for you live-steam modellers. 

--Nate Murry

 

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Actually, silver soldering is easier than soft soldering.  When the metal is hot enough, the solder runs into the joint with no blobs like you get with lead solder.  Silver soldered boilers on live steamers are pressure tested to one and a half times working pressure, generally 150-200psi test.  It is basically the same process as they use in jewelry making.

Very impressive! I experimented with threaded rod supports, but didn't like the look of the threads. I slipped on a thin brass tube, but this was expensive and I thought made the supports to thick. Finally I used rolled paper, sprayed with adhesive, then painted.

Good morning all:

I'll try to get an update posted this week; there has been some progress made.

The possibility exists of acquiring an MTH E44 PS3 locomotive for the 300 Loft system.  I was researching pantographs again, and came across these 2 oddities:

#1:  E44s in passenger service.

#2:  A GG1 with an E44 Pantograph.  I've never seen such a thing.

====================================================================

If I get the time, I hope to repaint any E44 I may get a hold of in Amtrak colors.

 

--Nate Murry

 

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I've read through this post and all I can say is "WOW" that's impressive! I like what you've done with the layout in the small loft space you have. I have a loft about the same dimensions probably and the layout you have come up with would definitely satisfy me! Now the cantenary system, that is great, but sorry to say I just don't have the patience anymore to do that myself.  Although I didn't "grow up" in this generation, I guess I've morphed into what you would call one of those "instant gratification" people, of course I'm sure my ADD also plays a role in that too! LOL. But nevertheless absolutely outstanding in all regards!

Engines of any sort, steam, diesel or electric are just fascinating pieces of equipment.

Pantenary posted:

Dan:

In the mid to late 2000s (I think) they built some huge parking add on, or other building for something.  The vantage point from the above image doesn't exist any more as far as I know, or you are so far up that it would freak me out.  I am quite the acrophobiac.

If I can say so respectfully, you could do a lot of neat things in the 70s/80s that will get you shot today.  My last 'real' railfan trip was in 2003 or 2004...went to Perryville, MD at the STATION and set up my tripod.  Some knothead in the adjacent trailer park call the police for 'suspicious activity'.  A MD state trooper proceeded to park me in for about 35 minutes while we discussed 'my business' there. I haven't railfanned to any great extent since; its not worth the hassle to me.  With GG1s, E44s, E60s and now AEM7s all gone, there is hardly anything that really holds my interest.  I'm not a big fan of the ACS64...yet. I guess a whole bunch of folks said that about AEM7s when they came out.

Sad, isn't it.  The big blueish building Amtrak built at 30th Street station is not on my most admired architectural building list.  

I get what you're saying about modern equipment.  As I recently read somewhere, watching trains today is like watching a conveyer belt.  

Dan Padova

 

"In the course of my life I have had to eat my words, and I must confess it was a wholesome diet"..........Winston Churchill

                                                                                                                                        

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