This topic stems from a comment I find fascinating that I just made on another thread. 

A layout flaw can be a good thing you may want to keep.

The example I gave on the other thread is a voltage drop in a section of my layout where the train runs through town. Of course, the voltage drop slows the train down as crossing gates drop and the train slows down:

Safety first, we need to protect all those little people in that town, and slow the train down when it's running through town.

Thank God for the flaw! LOL!

I can think of another feature of my layout that is arguably another flaw that is a good thing to keep.  Before I share it, I'll give you folks a chance to share any positive flaws you may have on your layout. Arnold

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Arnold: I'm not trying to be the boy that cried "wolf", but a voltage drop like that takes some pretty good resistance somewhere, and resistance in electricity generally makes heat-sometimes to the point of generating fire. It looks like that 022 turnout is the start of your problem. I'd be checking the center rails in that area for a sudden hot-spot before you have a bigger issue.

I appreciate that, D&H 65. There could be some extra heat generated at that switch, which I will check out, but I am not too concerned because that voltage drop has existed for over 25 years without causing any problems. Arnold

Prototype track-work is flawed....so mine is too.  

I took this pic on the old B&O nee BR&P Indiana (Pa) branch which is now a NS branch serving a power plant:

       DSCN4985

The use of telephoto for both pics accentuates the poor track alignment but it is real.

       IMG_0580

I know, I know. The conventional wisdom is that our [model] track-work must be flawless but every time I watch a PER train rock&roll over that bit of track it makes me remember all the poor branchlike track-work I've watched trains roll over.

It's different strokes for different folks, isn't it? 

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Last edited by geysergazer

Lew, I think your post is interesting and has merit. But isn't the defective track for real trains typically on sidings and rarely used trackage where trains would go slow?

In my experience in observing real trains and track, which is quite limited, high speed frequently used main lines have track that looks perfect.

Do you folks agree?

Here is another feature of my layout that is arguably a flaw, which I have chosen not to correct:

20180311_152412

The ballast is way to big, not even close to being scale. But so are the rails, particularly the height of the rails, of the O Gauge tubular track. IMO, that combination makes my way to big pebbles (ground up asphalt) ballast work. At the very least, it mitigates against the ballast being considered too big. 

Please offer constructive criticism if you believe its warranted.

I will say, at the outset, that I would not use this ballast if I used scale size rails and track. Arnold

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Arnold D. Cribari posted:

Lew, I think your post is interesting and has merit. But isn't the defective track for real trains typically on sidings and rarely used trackage where trains would go slow?

In my experience in observing real trains and track, which is quite limited, high speed frequently used main lines have track that looks perfect.

Do you folks agree?

  While I would tend to agree with what you said, looking at some photos of track work throughout the country on the internet sometimes says otherwise. Take for instance train derailments that are sometimes because of missed defects in track work. 

 On my own track there is one area where my wife keeps stepping on with my floor layout. I have Fastrack and while it withstands a certain amount of stepping on it ok, over time it has made a small section of the track slightly "wavy".  For the most part this defect in the track does not seem to make a noticeable change in train operation though .

Arnold D. Cribari posted:

Lew, I think your post is interesting and has merit. But isn't the defective track for real trains typically on sidings and rarely used trackage where trains would go slow?

In my experience in observing real trains and track, which is quite limited, high speed frequently used main lines have track that looks perfect.

Do you folks agree?

Yes, of course mainline track has to have very good alignment. Maybe one of the "real"  railroaders here will chime in with a short summary of FRA track specs.

As a general statement, track condition determines the FRA allowable speed on that track. IIRC with deteriorating condition it gets down to 5mph and then finally the track is embargoed. I know a bunch of specs go into the determination, among them the condition of the ties, what % of ties are in what state of health, how many spikes are missing, whether spikes are fully driven, the profile of the railhead, missing/loose track joint bolts, track gauge as well as the actual alignment of the rails.

I have walked a lot of "bumpy" branchline track, especially if it is jointed rail having "low joints and high centers". Not uncommon (on slow-speed track) to see a 2" gap between the underside of the rail and the tie-plate for a couple ties at the rail joint. I find it a bit disconcerting to stand beside such a rail joint when a train passes over it and watch the weight of the wheels flexing the rail down to make contact with the tie plate and then springing back up when that wheel has passed.

IMO, it is best for all track for real trains to be in optimum condition for obvious reasons; on the other hand, little defects in track for a model railroad can add to its charm and realism, especially on a siding, branch line or other place that is not a main line. Arnold

Arnold,

Your video illustrates the perfect track flaw... The gates go down, the train pauses and then proceeds. Can't get any better than that...

MELGAR

Speaking of a person stepping repeatedly on Lionel FasTrack, reminds me of the famous photo of Otto the elephant at a German zoo stepping on LGB track with NO damage! Reports of the LGB train also in the photo moving the elephant aside are unconfirmed! LOL!

Last edited by Tinplate Art
MELGAR posted:

Arnold,

Your video illustrates the perfect track flaw... The gates go down, the train pauses and then proceeds. Can't get any better than that...

MELGAR

I never thought of it that way. Is it a flaw? Would the train typically be going at high speed through town, or would it slow down going through town, proceeding with caution. The latter is what I thought most likely. Arnold

 

 

After 11 years the area on my layout in front of the control panel sagged, probably from not using top grade 1X4s. You can see it in the attached video. It does look kinda cool at track level though. It hasn't caused any structural problems, so I've left it alone. 

Arnold D. Cribari posted:

A layout flaw can be a good thing you may want to keep.

The example I gave on the other thread is a voltage drop in a section of my layout where the train runs through town. Of course, the voltage drop slows the train down as crossing gates drop and the train slows down:

 

Safety first, we need to protect all those little people in that town, and slow the train down when it's running through town.

Thank God for the flaw! LOL!

You might want to reconsider thanking anyone for that flaw.  The voltage drop means some track or wiring junction is getting hot.  As time goes on, that could actually cause bigger problems or even a fire.  Not exactly something to be thanking God for!

Arnold D. Cribari posted:
MELGAR posted:

Arnold,

Your video illustrates the perfect track flaw... The gates go down, the train pauses and then proceeds. Can't get any better than that...

MELGAR

I never thought of it that way. Is it a flaw? Would the train typically be going at high speed through town, or would it slow down going through town, proceeding with caution. The latter is what I thought most likely. Arnold

On an S-curve like that, it would be creeping through the crossing...

MELGAR

Both D&H 65 and GunrunnerJohn believe that my voltage drop could be dangerous, and could even cause a fire. Thank you for expressing your thoughts and concern.

I will see if that switch and track nearby feel hot when I touch it, and I will otherwise try to diagnose the problem and report back anything I may discover when investigating this.

I have insulated track in that area to activate 2 pairs of crossing gates that are independently powered, and do not draw power from the track, so I doubt if the crossing gates are the cause of the voltage drop.

I have extra 022 switches, so I could replace that switch to see if that would eliminate the voltage drop. That is a significant project because of the ballasted track and because I have to be like a contortionist to get back there, in the 6 inch space between the edge of the plywood table and the wall.

Please share any further thoughts you may have about the voltage drop, which has existed for 25 years, only causing trains to slow down as they go through town. Arnold

An easy non invasive first step is to run your train around and check that area with a voltage meter. Also check other points on the layout for reference.

If the voltage checks out o.k. and there is no heat present. Is there some other anomaly with your layout?

Possibly a slight incline in that area when combined with the curves causes that pulmor powered Loco to slow?

It could be a combination of load , curves, and pulmor power with no cruise.

Last edited by RickO

RickO, that is a great idea but, unfortunately, I don't have a voltage meter.

I just dlturned on the power to that track, and contorted myself to get back there and put my fingers on the rails of that O22 switch and track nearby. I could not feel any heat on the rails or anything else, heard no noise of any kind, saw no sparks, etc. I sensed nothing out of the ordinary when I did that.

The thought occurred to me to repeat the same thing while running a slow moving locomotive. So, I ran my Postwar #41 US Army switcher, put it on the track in the laundry room far away from that switch, and set the power at 14 volts, and started the engine. Then, I quickly crawled under the train table near that switch and felt the rails like I did before, as the engine approached and ran through the switch. 

Same result: I felt, heard and saw absolutely nothing out of the ordinary. Arnold

I just re-read RickO's reply and have some more information to report.

The voltage drop occurs in the outer main line reverse loop on the plywood board on the far left side of the layout.

There is also an inner main line reverse loop on the same plywood board on the same section of the layout.

There is no voltage drop and the locomotive does not slow down on the inner main line loop there. The voltage drop and locomotive slow down only occurs on the outer main line loop there.

The coal dump cars are parked on an independently powered siding that is turned off. Those cars on that siding do not draw any power from the main line tracks. Arnold

Last edited by Arnold D. Cribari

Heres as voltage meter  I have thats under $20, under $15 if you shop around:

Gardener Bender GDT 3190

Gardner Bender GDT-3190 Digital Multimeter, 4 Function, 16 Range ...

A good investment for this hobby. These can be found at the local hardware store as well as Amazon, Walmart ETC online.

OBVIOUSLY given the current circumstances, it may be difficult to get one at this time with stores closed and only "essentials" being sold online.

In the meantime. I'd run that same locomotive with the long string of dump cars around for 10 minutes, then check for heat in that area. Your 1 switcher by itself probably isn't a big draw on power.

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Another thought: I could dig up all the outer loop track in that area to see if there are any rusty pins.  My recollection is that I did that, maybe 10 years ago, and there were no rusty pins.

I wouldn't go tearing up the layout until you verify that you have a voltage problem. The only sure way to do this is using a meter.

Run your trains, check for heat and when your able to get your hands on a voltage meter you can confirm if you have an issue or not.

RickO posted:

I wouldn't go tearing up the layout until you verify that you have a voltage problem. The only sure way to do this is using a meter.

Run your trains, check for heat and when your able to get your hands on a voltage meter you can confirm if you have an issue or not.

Thanks, Rick.

Rick is 100% correct, it's difficult to see how one can build and debug a layout without basic electrical measurement capability.  Even the cheap and sometimes free Harbor Freight multimeter is way better than nothing!  I can think of absolutely no good reason not to have such capability and learn to use at least the basic functions!

7 Function Digital Multimeter

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One more clue to  this mystery. 

When the train runs straight through the switch, runs through the reverse loop and approaches the switch again, it slows down a lot.

When the train takes the curve through the switch, it first slows down a little, and then resumes normal speed as it runs through the reverse loop and approaches the switch again.

Arnold 

 

Last edited by Arnold D. Cribari

Could there be a bad/loose connection on one or more of the jumpers inside the O-22?

Hi Arnold!

I purchased a used Lionel track tool at a train show some time back. As you can see from my photo, it has a rounded insert near the tip which conforms to the profile of "0" scale track. By gently squeezing the rail where you track sections join into this insert, you can improve the mechanical and electrical connection between your tack sections.

I've used it very successfully on my 6'x12' tubular layout and enjoy very smooth and consistent operation from my analog locomotives.

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The current draw might be occurring through the crossing gates, which probably use electro-magnets to pull the gates down. At that location, there is a long train on a tight curve so the train creates a large drag and the motor is operating near stall.

MELGAR

Scotie posted:

Could there be a bad/loose connection on one or more of the jumpers inside the O-22?

When I had tubular track, I took apart every O22 and soldered all the crimped connections to solve these issues.  I had to do the same thing with Lionel's Fastrack switches to get reliable operation.

geysergazer posted:
Arnold D. Cribari posted:

Lew, I think your post is interesting and has merit. But isn't the defective track for real trains typically on sidings and rarely used trackage where trains would go slow?

In my experience in observing real trains and track, which is quite limited, high speed frequently used main lines have track that looks perfect.

Do you folks agree?

Yes, of course mainline track has to have very good alignment. Maybe one of the "real"  railroaders here will chime in with a short summary of FRA track specs.

As a general statement, track condition determines the FRA allowable speed on that track. IIRC with deteriorating condition it gets down to 5mph and then finally the track is embargoed. I know a bunch of specs go into the determination, among them the condition of the ties, what % of ties are in what state of health, how many spikes are missing, whether spikes are fully driven, the profile of the railhead, missing/loose track joint bolts, track gauge as well as the actual alignment of the rails.

I have walked a lot of "bumpy" branchline track, especially if it is jointed rail having "low joints and high centers". Not uncommon (on slow-speed track) to see a 2" gap between the underside of the rail and the tie-plate for a couple ties at the rail joint. I find it a bit disconcerting to stand beside such a rail joint when a train passes over it and watch the weight of the wheels flexing the rail down to make contact with the tie plate and then springing back up when that wheel has passed.

For FRA track spec's, there are multiple classes of track, based, like you were saying, on condition. The worst class is called "excepted" track. It has 5 mph speed limits, and the thing that sets it apart is "no occupied passenger trains" are allowed.

Now, on at least one shortline, I have seen track where the rails had kinked to the point where you could see the train cars rock as they crossed it. It was in a yard, but the track was part of the main.

In hot weather we also have to contend with the rails expanding too fast and bending to the point where speed restrictions or even taking the track out of service is necessary. If you have a track that is bent, you could put a hyrail truck next to it and explain to visitors that the road foreman is checking out a heat kink.

 

I have good and bad news.

First, the bad news: one of my good flaws is no longer. Take a look at the 2 short videos below of my Williams NW2 pulling a flat car unit train in each direction through the reverse loop in the vicinity of the voltage drop:

I'm teasing you, that's not bad news, that's good news! The train now runs smooth and steady through the reverse loop in each direction and there is no, or hardly any, voltage drop. I'm ecstatic!

How did I eliminate the voltage drop?

Scottie said to check to see if there are any loose connections between the track, and Don Winslow said that too and recommended special pliers with a notch for tightening tubular track connections. That tool looked familiar, I searched my tool box and, lo and behold, look what I found:

20200328_174823 

So, I used a very pliers with the same notch for tightened the track connections, and it worked.

Also, regarding measuring the voltage, I was able to do it, because I could use something that was staring me in the face while running the trains: my MTH Z4000 transformer. As most of you know, it tells you the amount of volts when running a train.

I set the transformer at 10 volts and ran the train through the entire outer loop of the layout. The Z4000 told me the voltage would vary between 9.4 and 10 volts, and when running over the track at issue, the voltage ranged between 9.6 to 10 volts. IMO, that is a very narrow range and the operation of the train with hardly any reduction in speed is a great improvement. 

Thank you so much, Scotie and Don Winslow, for your good advice. Also, I thank RickO, GunrunnerJohn, D&H 65, Melgar and the rest of you for your good advice. I learned from all of you.

I think one can think of model railroad flaws in different ways. For instance, I started out stating that the flaw causing the reduction in speed of the train in that section of my layout is a good thing. There is some truth to that, because the train is running through town as the crossing gates go down. However, it is obviously also a very good thing to fix the flaw, eliminate or greatly reduce the voltage drop, and improve the operation of the train.

I guess that is just another thing that makes our hobby so interesting. Arnold

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Getting back to the original topic, obstacles might be regarded as layout flaws.

For instance, take a look at the photo below:

20200224_181936

Underneath the green felt cloth is the washer dryer. The washer dryer is an  obstacle that limits the size of the train layout. But you can overcome that obstacle by having your train run along the dryer, cross a bridge behind the washer dryer, and insert a backdrop behind the bridge that blends in to further improve the scene. 

Such blending in can turn obstacles/flaws into positives that can make your layout unique.

Here is another example of this:

20180222_184608

Those pipes are near the oil burner and furnace and are part of the hot water baseboard heating system for the house. That is where I made a siding to park oil tanker cars. 

If I had my drothers, I would have a basement without such obstacles for my trains, but we can creatively turn them into positives that may even enhance our layouts. Arnold

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Glad I could help you Arnold!

As for the obstacles, that's another story. I know of many model railroaders, including the late John Allen, who converted structural obstacles into scenic features. Maybe those troublesome horizontal pipes could be incorporated into a petroleum facility or some sort of industry.

I have a customer in San Francisco who, instead of concealing old pipes and conduits in his offices, painted them bright colors creating a colorful ambiance rather then a drab industrial look.

 

John Allen removed a post that supported the Living Room floor above the layout, not recommended.

Soon after he passed away, his old house burn badly in a fire, believed to be caused by bad electrical wiring.

House was rebuilt, but layout was destroyed.

Be careful of your flaws.

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