Culvert Loader 6-12982...Lionel Tip?

A few days ago I was glancing through some old magazines (CTT) in preparation for re-cycling them.  I came across a product review of this accessory...and the Unloader...after their upgraded release of years ago.  

It mentioned that there was a 'problem' with the claws on the culvert transfer trolley having a delayed release of the culvert into the waiting car (The trolley is returning to its 'home' position when the culvert finally drops).  It then mentioned that Lionel dealers were to contact Lionel for a corrective tip on this situation.  (Most of the review, though, was quite positive....as has been my experience.)

I installed my Culvert Loader/Unloader pair not long ago.  It works quite well....except for this idiosyncrasy with the Loader.   I have adjusted the track/car position in an effort to solve the issue.  It's....OK.  But if Lionel had a further tip, I'd like to know about it.

Do any of you accessory gurus know what this Lionel 'tip' might be that was referenced in the article?

I know, I know....I could call Lionel.  But this product was issued back when Lionel and its tech staff were located in Michigan.  Now that they're all in North Carolina, and many of the tipster-techs from back then are gone, I thought the forum might have a broader base of accessory product knowledge from this vintage than the current staff.  My apologies if I'm selling them short.

Thanks for any help.

KD

Original Post

A suggestion ... inasmuch as the TALK TO US feature at Lionel LLC now seems overwhelmed or short-staffed, contact Mike Reagan at TRAINWORX EAST:

mreagan@twtrainworx.com
877-881-4997
4019 Pebblebrook Circle SW
Concord, NC 28027

 

FYI, Mike R. is a former illumerati at Lionel.

Mike Mottler   LCCA 12394

This was from back in ~1998, think Mike R was still running TAS then, so may not have detailed recollection on this piece.

From (foggy   ) memory, I seem to recall there might have been something relating to adjusting the position of the micro switch that is mounted on the beam.  This switch triggers the trolley changing direction after the culvert drops.  (or perhaps triggers the direction change, thereby dropping the culvert on the way back, like I said slightly foggy memory )

-Dave

Dave...

You're probably on the right track (no pun intended!).

But the trolley begins its return BEFORE the culvert drops.  Not by much, but enough so that only by keeping the railroad track tucked close to the structure wall is the drop close enough to the center of the car to avoid having the culvert roll to a catawampus position.  If I were to shave off the ends of the track ties (gargraves) I could probably bring the car even closer to proper drop position.  But, then, there would be other interferences of cars/engines using this same spur track with the accessory......not good.

I'll see if I can find this microswitch you refer to.  Perhaps it can be moved to allow the trolley carrying the culvert to overshoot the car/track center line a bit on its initial traverse.  Then, if the trolley begins its return before releasing the culvert, the drop point will be more in keeping with where it should be.  Maybe?

Thanks, again, for the help!

KD

KD, mine had the same issue when this first came out. I sent it in to "Meeshagan" way back when. The fix was indeed, as described by Dave, moving the micro switches located on the overhead rail to a tiny bit more inward position. I could see the original tiny holes on the rail that were left from the original mounting position when the unit was returned to me.

John

 

Member of the AGTTA

San Diego

The micro switches just dictate the stop positions on each end. The claws should release as soon as it starts traveling the other direction.   There was an issue with the culverts having very sharp edges.  So they didn’t drop when they should as the sort of hung on the claws. Check your culvert edges.  I just sanded mine to a smooth almost rounded edge and the culverts started dropping perfectly.  May not be your issue but a quick fix if it is.

Sean

John Meyncke posted:

KD, mine had the same issue when this first came out. I sent it in to "Meeshagan" way back when. The fix was indeed, as described by Dave, moving the micro switches located on the overhead rail to a tiny bit more inward position. I could see the original tiny holes on the rail that were left from the original mounting position when the unit was returned to me.

John

 

John...

Any chance you still have the Loader and could take a close-up photo of the rail showing the old/new micro switch mounting holes/screws?  Not asking for disassembly of anything....I can interpret dimensions from a photo of the rail just as she stands on the accessory.

If you don't have the accessory any longer, or posting a photo not possible, perhaps another forumite might have this 'Michigan' modification to share a photo thereof???

I think i'm getting closer to a solution here!

KD

SandJam posted:

The micro switches just dictate the stop positions on each end. The claws should release as soon as it starts traveling the other direction.   There was an issue with the culverts having very sharp edges.  So they didn’t drop when they should as the sort of hung on the claws. Check your culvert edges.  I just sanded mine to a smooth almost rounded edge and the culverts started dropping perfectly.  May not be your issue but a quick fix if it is.

Sean...

Maybe this does indeed have something to do with the variability, if nothing else.  I've been working with one package of the culverts...8 of them...and tonight I checked the edges.  Yep, I find some of them have burrs, sharp edges.  On my way to the workshop now to clean them up.

I believe the positioning of the micro switch is another key step.  I hope I can get some photo/dimensional help in this area, too.

KD

I need to close out this thread on a very positive note. Problem Solved!! 

...with a shout out to John Meyncke who emailed photos of his modified culvert beam/track showing the new switch position.  THANKS JOHN!!!

John graciously agreed to have me attach his photos to this thread so others who might experience this culvert drop issue will have the information to make the change.  The two holes (I used a #47 drill bit) were moved outward on the beam by 0.40"....based on John's photo with the taped scale attached.  And that resulted in a MUCH better drop of the culvert into the car!...

20180211_08503620180211_08545320180211_085520

As John pointed out...look closely at the first photo...Lionel apparently made two sets of holes in determining the best micro switch position.  The screw heads show the second...successful...holes to be about 0.4" from the original set.  

The last photo shows a further modification John made to his loader.  He removed the man holding the trolley control tether, and replaced it with a railing/platform of sytrene construction, painted a matching red.  Well done, John!!

I also want to give a shout out to Sean...  He was spot on with the rough edges/inner surface of the metal culverts.  Cleaning them up with a jewelers file and emery paper made them smooth as a baby's butt, and I've no doubt it aids in the smoothness of the release.  Thanks Sean!!

This experience reminds me why this forum is so valuable!!

Time to celebrate!

KD

Attachments

Photos (3)

GPTOM...

Try backing off the two screws on the top surface of the motor drive.  For clarification, check the second (middle) photo above....there are four (4) screws on the top horizontal surface of the traversing unit.  The two closest to the beam end....back those off about 1/4 turn and see if your problem improves/changes.  

If I understand your problem description, you're losing your culvert on the way TO the car.  I can't relate to that.  All of my problems...and apparently John/Sean had the same...seemed to be regarding proper release of the culvert at the start of the return to 'home' position.  Even there, I had a bit of residual variation between the plastic traversing motor drive and the sheet metal frames of the claw, which moves somewhat independently.  Relaxing those two screws a mere 1/4 turn seemed to have a benefit in helping this, too.

(Update March 5, 2018:  As it turns out my suggestion in the above two paragraphs is worthless and totally off the mark in retrospect!  See my entry below, same date, as to what REALLY improved the trolley motion!!!)

But, the biggest gain, far and away, was moving the micro switch mounting.

I've decided that this whole scenario is not unlike a lot of Lionel's accessories.  There's always some improvement one can make resulting in more reliable operation.   OTOH, sometimes the variation (Milkman throwing the milk cans out the door of the milk car, having them land helter-skelter......always good for smiles, giggles, laughs.

KD

GPTOM,

also check to see if the interior of the beam surface is clean and free of debris or sticky stuff. I've noticed when the drive wheel or guide wheels encounter resistance it might be causing the claw to open at the point of obstruction.

Like my friend KD implies, endless adjustments...a lifetime of enjoyment. Keep us posted on your progress,

John

Member of the AGTTA

San Diego

I have filed the inside of each culvert. It appeared that some had done some grinding. Do I need to grind the weld on the inside? I still need to check the beam. Thanks for the help.

I think the drop micro switch has already been been moved to the outside

I have cleaned the inside bottom of the beam. 2 very minor rough spots cleaned up.

the motor reverses itself electrically part way to the correct drop point thereby dropping early. 

I should note that mine is TMCC. Even with the remote within a foot of the loader, I still have problems.

 

GPTOM, This is a tough one, at this point I would have to actually see what's going on with your loader.

Could be drive or guide wheel problems. To my way of thinking unless the micro switch is being activated it  doesn't make sense that it would start it's drop sequence early. I don't know for sure, but I dont think TMCC  would be a factor in this. It's pretty much electro- mechanical in regards to the picking up and dropping part.

Any chance of posting a short video of the action perhaps from the open side of the rail? I hope KD will chime in here as well...

John

Member of the AGTTA

San Diego

GPTOM,

I don't have direct knowledge of the replacement beam specs. Your best course of action at this point is to refer to the photos that I sent to KD and which he posted a few posts up. I included a rule in the pics as a guide to scale and orientation. If your two mounting holes for the micro switch are in a like or similar spot, then it would stand to reason that the switch position as currently placed on your loader is probably not the reason for your unloading anomaly. Again a vid or pic would be helpful.

John

 

Member of the AGTTA

San Diego

gptom posted:

I have filed the inside of each culvert. It appeared that some had done some grinding. Do I need to grind the weld on the inside? I still need to check the beam. Thanks for the help.

I think the drop micro switch has already been been moved to the outside

You don't want to file anything or grind.  That will make it worse.  You want to use very fine sandpaper to polish the edges smooth.  It should feel like a smooth rounded glass edge.  The edges are the only thing the claws touch.

On mine the mechanism dropping the culverts was hanging on to them too long because these sharp edges were snagging on the plastic claw.  After that mine all dropped perfectly.

I think the micro switch is a dead end.  Everyone seems to gravitate to that for some reason.  The release of the culvert is purely mechanical.  The switch just tells the loader the stop point and when to reverse.

Of course maybe we are not seeing In our minds what you are seeing in person.  A video would really help.

Sean

I have an update on the culvert loader function that I'd like to share.

Even after changing the position of the microswitch...a MAJOR improvement in the culvert drop alignment...the trolley seemed to have some hesitations as it transversed the beam, principally on the return to the pick-up (home, in my terminology) position.

I thought it had to do with motor drive itself.  But, I discovered yesterday that the motor drive unit has little to do with this hesitating motion.  I found that out by removing the motor drive altogether....the four screws on the upper bracket removed, the drive can be extricated from the trolley on the beam.

So with the trolley, containing the two claws that retrieve the culvert, free to be moved manually on the beam, I could definitely feel the localized resistance at the same spots as under power.  And what I discovered was that it had to do with the bottom external surface of the beam, not any of the internal surfaces of the beam.  The claw trolley has a couple of small spool-like wheels with a coil spring on each that bears against this bottom beam surface. 

The springs on the spools have tangs which necessarily bear against the beam to provide some resistance to the claw trolley motion as the motor drive reverses direction (return to home, dropping the culvert into the car).  It seems essential that the motor drive move on this return before the claw trolley moves, a relative motion which actually results in the claws releasing the culvert to drop.

So it seemed that the spring tangs on the two spool wheels were simply sliding on the bottom beam surface, but not smoothly in certain spots.  So I decided to do two things: Clean and polish the bottom external beam surface to get rid of any roughness, and then lubricate this surface.  Here's what I did...

I first simply cleaned the bottom beam surface with a bit of isopropyl alcohol.  Then I polished the surface using a set of six polishing cloths I have with abrasive values ranging from 3200 to 12,000....just a few strokes with each cloth in sequence.  (I typically use them to remove light surface scratches).  Just running my finger along that bottom surface after doing that I could tell I had made a SIGNIFICANT difference in the surface feel, and I did NOT feel the same resistance/hesitation to the trolley as I manually slid it along the beam.

But for good measure I did one more thing: I lubricated the surface.  Not with oily grease, but with plain ol' graphite.  I put some graphite powder on a cloth and rubbed it over the surface.   Then the trolley seemed to move even more smoothly along the beam.

So, I replaced the motor drive unit and cycled the action.  A-B-S-O-L-U-T-E-L-Y no hesitation as before.  Smooth operation in both directions.  Correct, repeatable culvert drop.

Time will tell, of course, but I certainly feel the effort was worthwhile.  Perhaps a periodic application of some graphite might be in order....just as is recommended for other accessories, such as those having the solenoid drive motor with the rubber washer having angled nubbins.  We'll see.

Thought I'd share my own results, though.  Simple to do.

FWIW, always...

KD

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