Good morning all:
Please pardon my tardiness to the 'pantograph party'. I do not have the scenery some of you guys do, nor the delightfully feverish activity of Marty's layout. However, catenary powered systems are my niche in this hobby, and the only way I will ever run trains. I have great respect for layouts with electric locomotives and no catenary (or diesels or steam), but I do not prefer to operate that way.
I build robust catenary systems that have the same operational delights and challenges that the real systems do. My wire is under several PSI of tension from adjustable pull-off points, and the entire system is scratch built with parts from Lowe's or HD. The only 'special order' item was the 125ft copper wire spool.
The wire and immediate supports are prototypical of Amtrak catenary above New Haven, and are to scale. The extended supports and other structures are my own designs and not to scale. Operational realism and sturdiness is the aim. The system's construction details can be found here.
I also fabricate my own pantograph shoes and modify pantograph upward tension on the wire as needed for reliable pantograph/catenary interaction. The following are for MTH AEM7s.
I think they are pretty close. I do not paint my pans.
The following are the final models for MTH E44s.
Again, they are close enough for me. This is the pan for the PRR E44 in Strasburg, PA.
I pulled the junk pan that came with the E33 and replaced it with a Japanese brass pantograph.
Pans and the wire are lubricated with silver conductive grease.
Below is the "pantograph factory", AKA the back part of my loft space.
My operational period is the early 80s Amtrak on the NEC or Keystone Line (the old PRR main between Philly and Harrisburg). Also, long coal drags on the Enola Branch, Port Road, and the A&S branch. As such, you will find AEM7s , E44s and E33s on my system. I run DCS6.x with all PS3 locomotives.
I use a stripped MTH AEM7 as a catenary test/alignment vehicle. It is un-powered and a direct short between the wire and outer rails. That is by design, just like the real cat maintenance vehicles.
Below are the videos I have up for the system.
E44 SHAKEDOWN #1
E44 SHAKEDOWN #2
The E44s pull a 21-car coal drag of Lionel die-cast metal hoppers that carry real coal. The E33 is the helper on the rear. I hope to shoot the coal drag soon, along with other run-bys and rides.
I run the system hard, and to date have never had a derailment or operational failure of a pantograph. There have been only 2 minor instances of catenary support failure, which was remedied with some minor design updates. In addition to my desire to share what I do with all of you, it is tremendously relaxing to lay on the couch and listen to the electrics roll.
Thanks, Arnold. This is a great thread.