NEWS FROM THE 300 LOFT CATENARY POWERED SYSTEM: THE E44s ARRIVE

GG1 4877 posted:

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.

 

I bought one of those E60 shells on eBay. It's very nicely done. I don't have the time to start working on it yet but hopefully I will soon. 

For those of us not into the intricacies of scratch-building, I thought I'd mention a terrific modular catenary system I ran across at York this past April from East Coast Eneterprises based in Dover, NJ.  This is Rich Roman's company that builds custom layouts as well as lots of fancy bridges and elevated track superstructures.  Very impressive stuff, and the new catenary system is world-class as well.  Definitely worth a look before you seriously consider building your own.

David

Rocky Mountaineer posted:

For those of us not into the intricacies of scratch-building, I thought I'd mention a terrific modular catenary system I ran across at York this past April from East Coast Eneterprises based in Dover, NJ.  This is Rich Roman's company that builds custom layouts as well as lots of fancy bridges and elevated track superstructures.  Very impressive stuff, and the new catenary system is world-class as well.  Definitely worth a look before you seriously consider building your own.

David

I did a Google search. East Coast Enterprises does not seem tho have a web site related to model trains.

Randy Harrison,

President of the:

Great Northeastern Railway

 The Standard Railroad of the Basement

 

 

 

So I have been looking at this thread since it started. I have been thinking of a way to 3D Print the hangers with one lead as a tube that contains the power wire. As to the catenary wire that could be done with varying length verticals that have a C-shaped piece at each end to hold and separate the longitudinal wires.  The end insulators would be no problem.  My resolution is 0.1 to .05 mm.

The issue is the upper stress from the pantographs against the continuous lower wire. To minimize that stress instead of the fixed wire as in this threads system, the resin hangers would be much more flexible as the pantographs  move along the system. This is a similar flexibility as is found in the HO Marklin system.

Stay tuned.

 

 

AlanHN

shurlock1 posted:

Nate I am looking for Atlas AEM7 pantographs. Do you have any? Thanks Joe.

Good morning Joe:

I may be able to part with one, but I also like having spare parts.  Shoot me a note off the forum and we can talk.  Thanks.

--Nate Murry

 

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They might not have catenary photos posted on their website yet.  Call or email Stan W at east coast enterprises. He is the one that builds the bridges and catenary.  He built a bunch of bridges for me.  He can email some pics to u.

They also have a Facebook page

 

Jeff C

Good evening all:

I have added a video of a brief revenue run on board an Amtrak Metroliner.  The power is the new MTH AEM-7, motor #928, complete with a custom-fitted, scratch-built pantograph.  The is a short narrative in the video description.  Comments are welcome.  Thanks.

MTH PS3 AEM-7, POWERED BY LIVE CATENARY

--Nate Murry

 

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Great post.  Making a working system is hard work.  My hat is off to you.  Enjoy. I am also a catenary guy.  That is a live catenary guy.  I feel if you do the work to build it, it should be live.

 

 

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I loved your video.  Everything is first class.  When I built my system, I had to do it to an already finished layout.   I pulled the rollers from every electric as they all operate from the wire.  I have one of my ROW transformers that puts power into the center rail to give constant voltage to the passenger cars.  

 

 

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Good morning Marty:

Thank you very much for the complements.  Coming from you, that means something to me and I appreciate it.

I also cannot see building an overhead system that will not be energized.  I find the engineering challenges very appealing, as well as duplicating the operation of a 1:1 electrified railroad near exactly.  Additionally, as you have said previously, if such a system is designed and built properly, it will work well.  I rarely see any pantograph arcs.  I have yet to lose a pantograph at speed or experience a significant electrical / structural failure.

I do rather envy the elaborate 'layout elements' that you and many others have, (buildings, lights, landscape, effects, etc).  However, building the operational catenary was my primary motivation, and given the limited space along with the likelihood of moving in the next couple years, I'm content with what I have have.  I am adding some more DCS automation and a few buildings as I have the time and resources.

I feed the third rail with DCS so I could run visiting locomotives if any ever came along, (none yet).  Since I have no intention of running locomotives without pantographs, I may end up migrating to a standalone AC supply for the third rail, since only the coaches use it at this point.

I hope to post some videos of the E44-powered coal drags before Christmas, when I finally acquire the E44s.  I use real coal, and those trains require some horsepower.

Thank you again.  A tip o' the hat to you and your system as well.  I would love to see it in person some day and view your 'wall of fame'.

--Nate Murry

 

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Thanks Nate.  I run trains from the catenary and can throw a switch to power the center rail to run any DCS or Legacy locomotive from one of my ROW transformers.  I also have DCS also in the catenary.  I grew up in Pennsylvania in the 50's and watched the mighty GG-1 and others every day.  A fun day would be getting the Reading MU train in Hatboro and heading to the Reading Terminal in Philly.   With my Uncle, we would head cross town to the 30th st station and watch the GG-1 locomotives and others pull in and depart.  Great days, great trains.  My Uncle and the GG-1 have gone into history but as long as I am above ground, the memories will live on.

 

 

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Marty:

I did the same thing, only with different locomotives some years later.  I grew up near Muddy Run and heard / watched Conrail on the Port Road, which would have been shortly after the overhead came down.  I just missed the electrified freight days, but did catch some A&S action in Quarryville when we went to town.  My dad worked 2nd shift at High Steel, and we would bring him dinner once or twice a week, where I took in the F40PHs and the occasional AEM7 on the old Pennsy main.  I think that is where I acquired the 'electrified bug'.  For 'career day' in 8th grade, I got a cab ride in an AEM7, (Newark, NJ and the Pit at Penn Station) and an E60, and they remain my favorite motors.  When I could drive, I would take trips to 30th St and Perryville and watch them roll in and out for hours.  Today I hang out with them at Strasburg every so often.  The ACS64 is neat (I'd probably get a model if MTH did one) but I miss the older electrics.  So, I relive it in the layouts I build and the occasional perusal through the old printed photographs.

--Nate Murry

 

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Nate, being older I caught all the electrics on the PRR and Reading.  Great days with great memories.  I spend lots of time running electrics from live wire.

 

 

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Good evening (morning) all:

The MTH AEM7 is a delightful model, and the backbone of my passenger operations for the 300 Loft Catenary System.  However, while the sounds/lighting effects are excellent, the shell simply does not pass muster with me.  I tried to ignore the deficiencies, but my idealist OCD won out.  The number font is way too thin, the blue paint is too dark, and the shell has the chrome finish that the older MTH Amfleets used to have.  This chrome finish is excellent for Amfleets, not so much for the AEM7.  Finally, I hate ditch lights in AEM7s.  The effect is fun to watch, but Amtrak butchered the nose to install them, and they are out of my modelling time frame, (the very early 80s when AEM7s were new, and Phase 1-painted Amfleets were common).

The first generation MTH AEM7 got it all right except the blue paint is still too dark, which is the least offensive shortcoming as far as I am concerned.  A case could be made for prototypical accuracy of this darker paint based on the picture below, but I suspect that is more the photo processing than its actual color.

So I decided to transfer the PS3 innards of the current model (#928) to a shell of a first-gen model (#924).  I was told this was not practical or easy, but I found both statements to be unfounded.  It was a fun project, and not really that hard at all.

First, we crack open the newer PS3 unit.  It is stock except for the pans.

I had already acquired a shell from #924 (first-gen) and pulled the PS1 innards out, bulbs and all.

Next, we pull the PS3 innards from #928.  This is a delicate operation, but with some patience and dull tweezers, it was not hard.

Now that we have all the PS3 stuff out of the old inaccurate shell, it is time to install everything in the 'new' #924 shell.

I left all the roof detail the same, EXCEPT for pulling the white Carrier AC units off the newer shell, and installing them on the #924 shell.  There is plenty is precedent for this change, one of which is below.

I also installed the red insulators for some contrast.  There is precedent for that as well, one of which is a slide from my collection.  So we now have the finished #924 shell, with new ACs and PS3 goodies.

Next we connect the PS3 board to the shell, re-install the shell and mount the pans.

Finally, we have the finished product being tested with the Phase 1 Amfleets, and now we have a more prototypical train.  The new PS3 lighting really looks good in the older shell.

Plans are in place to do this procedure to another AEM7, as the train is now 9 cars long, (8 Amfleets, and one baggage / lounge).  The baggage/lounge is a recent addition, and makes for a nice prototypical consist.

It is amusing to note that at one point, there were 3 AEM7s in pieces on my desk.  Thankfully, it all ended well.

Thanks for reading.  The next update will be in the next few weeks, as the Conrail E44s have arrived!

--Nate Murry

 

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Hi Mitch:

I got the 2-pack un-powered set of the Railking SEPTA MUs a few years ago, with the intention of running them plus the PS3 4-car set under the wire.  Regretfully, that project died, as it was deemed more grief that it was worth to change out all the MTH pans (with hideous rounded pan shoes) for proper brass ones, on top of the cost for the set.  Since MUs are secondary in my desired operation scheme, I ditched the idea.  However, I was without a catenary test / alignment vehicle at the time, so I installed a set of Japanese brass pans (with their own insulators) on one of them and use it to align any overhead that may need replaced or touched up.

This idea was modeled from an older SEPTA wire train that used to run.

I know that the SEPTA MUs or the cat maintenance vehicles that were made from them never had two pans, but it was convenient for the type of testing an alignment I do to have pans at both ends.

There is also a toggle switch in the undercarriage that can utilize the 3rd rail if need be, or short the 3rd rail to the overhead in a pinch.

 

--NMM

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Hi Shurlock:

My apologies for the tardy reply.  Those wipers are standard on the MTH AEM7s.  The old ones are black, the newer ones are silver, the latter of which appears more often in photos from that time period.  I still have to switch some of the detail parts from the 'old' #928 shell to the 'new' #924 shell, the wipers being one of them.

--Nate Murry

 

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Good evening (morning) all:

This update details an addition I have been waiting quite a while for, which is the arrival of the MTH E44.

The 'era' I am aiming to model is the early to mid-80s on the Amtrak Keystone, some PA parts of the Northeast Corridor, Enola branch, Port Road, and the A&S branch, most of which were reasonably local to me growing up.  The AEM7s were new and becoming frequent, the Amfleet 1 coaches shimmered in Phase 1 paint, and heavy electrics still handled a sizable portion of the freight.  After the AEM7, my next favorite locomotive was the GE E44.  I never saw them in action personally, but for some reason the boxy, practical aesthetics combined with awesome tractive effort and loud fans are very appealing to me.  I think they looked best in Conrail blue.  I am sure I can hear some GG1 Pennsy fan sobbing somewhere.   

MTH has released an excellent treatment of the E44, particularly the PS3 version.  I have had two of them on reserve for the better part of a year, and only recently was able to bring them home; the 4407 and 4413.  They are well-detailed and the sound file is excellent.  Lighting effects are minimal, as was the case on the prototype.

There were two modifications that I wanted to make.  The first was to be the replacement of the blind wheelsets with flanged versions.  Sadly however, the trucks will not track around an O63 curve with all-flanged wheels.  Its very close, but not quite.  An O72 ruling curve or greater is required.

The second modification was the pantographs, (as always).  Anyone who reads these posts knows I am a bit of snob concerning how pans look and function on the locomotives I run.  The MTH model renders the single-stage Faiveley pan surprisingly well, except for the contact shoe, which is the same as other MTH models.

The stock contact shoe doesn't work that well with my catenary installation, and doesn't really look right.  Additionally, while the pans are sprung reasonably well, I feel they can be improved upon.

As far as the contact shoe goes, the prototype is a fairly simple, dual-surface design.

I started with the contact shoes on a brass two-stage pan.

My new E44 pan design calls for one shoe per pan, so a single brass pan is required per E44.

After the shoe assembly is pulled off the brass pan, separate the shoes and straighten the end-horn tips.

Next, remove the brass flashes, and copper contact strip from the top.  Lightly tin both sides.

The contact shoe is ready to be installed.  Now, the MTH pan must be prepared.

First, cut the ends off the MTH pan so they are flush with the mount.  Dremmel ALL of the blackening off so we have a nice surface to solder to.  It is also critical to smooth the ends off to a nice round finish.  This models the dual-surface of the prototype.

Next, flatten a contact shoe completely, and place on the pan assembly.  Center it up nicely, using the holes in the horn as a guide.

Solder it up, and round off the corners next to the pan horns for a nice smooth contact surface.

Round the horns and bend the extreme points downward...

...just like the real thing.  It is not a perfect match, but reasonably close enough for me.

We are now ready to add some improved upward spring.  I had some Atlas AEM7 pans handy, so I took the base springs from them.  They are the best sprung pans I have seen.

Now, using both Atlas springs is too much.  The pans won't stay collapsed.

The solution to that was to one Atlas spring, and one MTH spring.  This makes for satisfactory tension on the wire, and you really have to look close to see the spring mismatch from above.  I also used this trick on the MTH AEM7 pans.

Now we have a complete assembly, ready for installation.

Install the assembly back onto the E44 roof, and add a generous helping to silver conductive grease to the contact shoe and stage joints.

After doing likewise to the other unit, we are ready for individual and lash-up tests.  All tests and break-in was performed with both pans up.  Normal operation will always see the central-stage angle joint pointing forward, as the E44s were typically run, regardless of how the locomotive was otherwise oriented.

I have some videos of the tests and initial revenue service on coal drags, but I have not had a chance to upload them to YouTube yet; perhaps yet this weekend.

Thank you for reading.

--Nate Murry

 

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This is definitely one of those "WOW" posts.   What an amazing job of engineering and implementation.   Just curious about how much time it took to build the catenary system.    Really impressive fabrication of the parts.

i am currently beginning to build a catenary system and am very excited about doing it.  Excited that is until I hear all about the trials, tribulations, cuts, and frustrations many more talented folks than I experience.   My friends are always telling me that I am not the brightest light on the string so I think that may help me in building mine in that I can blissfully ignore all the troublesome aspects of the build I keep reading about.

Thanks for the terrific details and photos.  

Ed

Hi Ed:

Thank you for posting.  As much fun as it is for me to build, it is even more fun to share.  I started construction of the track plan in November of 2015, and the catenary installation commenced in early April of 2016.  The first overhead-powered train ran on 2/17/17, around 8:45p according to my camera.  Remember that my current system uses 'simple' Euro style catenary, not the more complex Pennsy compound catenary.  When I built a system using that style in the mid-2000s, it took me almost 4 years.  I took almost no photos of that install, but I did get 1 or 2.

I am glad to hear you are building your own system; the world can always use more 'live-wire guys', as Marty Fitzhenry puts it.  I would enjoy additional details on how you are doing it, prototypes (if any), etc.

For me, a large part of the fun includes the trials, tribulations, etc., that you mention.  I am trying to model / replicate the operation of an overhead electrified railroad, similar to that which could be seen in the Pennsy era and onward.  The engineering challenges and maintenance issues are part of that operation, and I embrace it all fully.  Don't forget that the pantographs and underside of the wire often have more than enough silver conductive grease to make a mess on anything if you aren't careful!  I do try (within reason) not to get that stuff smeared all over the locomotives, but it is of no consequence if it does.  Real heavy electric locomotives were filthy.  The system can be 'troublesome' at times.  However, it is all worthwhile and very rewarding when it works, especially at speed, (see the YouTube links above).

It is a labor of love, but if you take the time to do it right from the start, and design effectively, then the problems you experience will be fewer and easier to remedy.  I have yet to experience an operational derailment or pantograph damage of any kind.  I have had two support structures fail, (as I detailed in the main post), but the wire remained intact due to the collective effort of the nearby support structure.  Sometimes things have to fail in order to learn what works.

You may or may not need help, but I would encourage you to try to do as much of your own work as possible.  I might also respectfully suggest that if your friends are always commenting on the 'brightness of your lights' (or the lack thereof), then perhaps you just need to be plugged into a different outlet, or acquire new friends. 

--Nate Murry

 

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Nate,

It was as a result of visiting Marty Fitzhenry last year that inspired me to move forward.  His layout is nothing short of a wonderland with catenary.

My father was an engineer for the Penn working out of Sunnyside Yard driving GG-1's.   Back in the early 50’S every now and again he would take me or one of my brothers with him to work.  I can still vividly remember the 1st time I sat on his lap in the engineer seat with him as he moved the throttle.   I thought the engine was going to fall over sideways as it seemed there was so much sway going down the track.    

So needless to say I am a big fan of the PRR and GG1’s.   My father would have loved to see this being built now.

As for my perceived dimness by my friends, they would say its not that I need to be plugged into a different outlet but that I just need to be unplugged.   I would get new friends but I've had many of them for 50+ years and I am too old to find new ones.

i will post some photos, hopefully in a couple of weeks,  when I have enough completed to make a short run.  Really good advice about taking the time to do it right which is actually the same advice I got from  Marty.  

Thanks for all the tips and such. 

Ed

Hi Ed:

Well, I am rather jealous of the rich railroading history you have in your family, especially with the Pennsy.  I hope you got some pictures somewhere along the line.

You will have to pardon me, if your friends have been giving you that sort of friendly grief for that long, I must say that is rather special.  Friendships of that sort are rare, and I cannot say that I really have any right now, much to my chagrin.

I have seen Marty's layout in detail here, but not in person.  'Amazing' is an insufficient adjective for his system, even the pictures.  You are extremely well-advised if you are getting tips and / or tricks from him.  I hope someday I can see it and perhaps even sign a corner of his wall.

Please do post some pictures of your progress when you can.  I enjoy seeing how others install catenary on their layouts.

--Nate Murry

 

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Hi Shurlock:

Forgive me, I thought you were referring to the 'windshield wipers'.

The pantograph shoes on my AEM7s are scratch-built.  That process and the parts I used is detailed in the first post in this thread.  The rest of the pan is MTH standard.

The pantograph shoes for my E44s are 'scratch-fabricated' from the stock MTH pan shoe with a Japanese brass pan shoe applied inside of it.  The Japanese pans are excellent to use with overhead wire and just as good for parts, as they are well-built and have no paint to deal with.

--Nate Murry

 

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Thanks. I do like the older MTH proto 2 GG1"s and the later p5's because the wipers on the pantographs looks so much better. I was thinking about getting another pant wiper and metal cast using pewter or some metal with low melting temp. I started casting using silicone molds and think this would be a better and a easier way of making pantograph wipers.

I made mine with K&S Metals #815024 and 815025, a 35W solder iron, a toothpick, 2 push-pins and several Aleve.  It's precision work to be sure, but I was pleased with the result, and it works very nicely with the overhead.  The MTH shoes are a good effort (on AEM7s anyway), but custom pans look and function so much better.  You are correct that some of the MTH GG1s and the P5/P5a models have excellent pans from top to bottom.  I have found the TRAXX F140 to be the same way, although they are a bit more fragile.

--Nate Murry

 

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