To paraphrase Vane Jones, "Knowledge is of little value until shared with others."

Monday, April 28, 2014

Model Power Trucks Part 2 - Comments and Updated Information on Power Trucks

About the only commercially produced parts in a Wagner power truck were the Pittman motor, spring belt, and some screws.

Rich Wagner purchased a metal turning lathe and made the wheels, pulleys, worms, and gears used in making the power trucks. The lathe itself had non-standard gearing. This meant the worms and gears were not standard and unique to Wagner's drives.

In purchasing Wagner's power truck and trolley parts business Ed Miller also purchased the lathe and other machines used to make the power trucks and parts.

When talking about both Wagner or Current Line Models power trucks the term "Wagner design" will be used in this and future post on the topic of "Model Power Trucks".

Prior to 1st Time Usage - Purchased New
When either a Wagner design or Q-Car power truck is purchased new and installed for the first time, before actually installing the power truck place a drop of oil on the axle next to each side of the gear box. Also place a drop of oil in each of the 4 side-frame bearings.

Then the power truck should be allowed to run "on the bench" for about an hour - 30 minutes one way and 30 minutes the other. During this time frequently check to see if the motor and gear box are overheating. The motor should get warm but not too warm to hold. Don't forget to check other parts of the power truck for overheating - the journal boxes.

The truck must be "square on the track" with all 4 wheels touching the rail equally. A minor twist of the truck may be needed to bring the truck into square.

Hook up the power truck to a power supply with an ammeter and voltmeter. If you do not have a power supply with these meters, you should purchase one. During the hour "on the bench" running the amperage drawn by the motor should decrease as the parts of the power truck are "broken in". The voltage should remain fairly constant.

Watch the ammeter, if it starts to go up and/or indicates a short, there is something wrong. More will be said about this in future posts.

Lapping Gears
One step which can make a Wagner design power truck operate more smoothly is lapping the gears. This is a polishing process which removes any spurs on the teeth of the worm and gear. Any modeler can do this.

The gear box is packed with DuPont or similar automobile rubbing compound. Before starting the power truck, be sure there is grease or thick oil in the gear box. The power truck is run for about 30 minutes in one direction and 30 minutes in the reverse direction.

After the hour's time, the gear box must be completely cleaned out. Lacquer thinner can be used. Then the gearbox must be re-greased. Rich Wagner used Lubriplate. A fine lub-grease in its time. Unfortunately it would dry out over time. Today Labelle's 106 plastic compatible lubricating grease should be used. It contains newer lubricants far finer in size and slipperiness. About a 1/4" of the Labelle's grease is all that is needed.

Lapping the gears does not have to be done with Q-Car power trucks. When 1st installing a Q-Car power truck only placing a drop of oil on both sides of the gear box is required. Q-Car uses commercially made worms and gears.

Prior to 1st Time Usage - Purchased Second Hand
Whether the power and trail trucks come in the original box they were originally sold in, come in a second hand box or loose, or installed in a model; treat the power and trail trucks as though they have been in storage for longer than a year. See the part of this post which deals with Models Which . . . for Longer Than a Year.

Models Which Have Been on Display and/or Stored for Less Than a Year
When a model has not been used for this period of time, both Wagner design and Q-Car, lubricate the gear box by placing a drop of oil and both sides of the gear box. The oil will "wick" into the gear box and onto the gears. Wait about 15-30 minutes before operating the power truck.

At the same time the drop of oil is placed on both sides of the gear box, the 4 axle ends which go into the side frames should receive a drop (or less) of oil. DO NOT OVER OIL THESE AREAS. The excess oil will find it way onto the threads of the wheels. This will cause a build-up of gunk on the wheels interfering with the electrical pick-up from the rails.

If the power truck uses an open frame motor do not forget to place a drop of oil on the felt wicks in the motor.

Both the Wagner design and Q-Car power trucks are designed for long service as long as they are taken care of by the modeler. Should you start to hear squeaking coming from a model in operation, it's time to lubricate the trucks usually where the axles extend into the sideframes.

Always use a quality oil and grease on your power and trail trucks. LaBelle Industries provides quality light and medium weight plastic compatible oils and grease.

Models Which Have Been on Display and/or Stored for Longer Than a Year
The longer a power truck has been stored the greater the chance the grease has "dried" up. This means the grease in the power truck gear box must be cleaned out. Use lacquer thinner to dissolve the grease. Re-grease the gear box with Labelle's grease.

Also all of the lubrication mentioned in Models Which . . . for Less Than a Year must be carried out.

Spring Belts and Pulleys
Whenever a power truck is lubricated with either grease or oil, DO NOT GET  GREASE OR OIL ON THE SPRING BELT USED TO POWER THE NON-GEAR AXLE! If you do, remove the grease or oil by using lacquer thinner and something like Q-Tips.

Over time spring belts can be pulled out of shape - they become too long. Replacement belts are available from both Current Line Models and Q-Car Co.

But before doing this, if the spring belt is slipping, inspect the pulleys. During operation the spring belt polishes the pulleys. The smoothness of the pulleys can be removed by running by hand a good, small, round cross file over the pulleys. Scratch-up the brass pulleys as best you can. This will restore the "grip" between the spring belt and pulleys.

Older vs. Newer Standards
In the 1950's Wagner offered NRMA standard wheels. That is, the wheels were 0.172" thick with standard thread sizes. Over time he started to offer variations from standard. Very old Wagner power trucks have what look like oversize flanges when compared to today's wheel offerings.

An important piece of information in the Wagner catalogue in the prior post is the "Gear Outside Diameters" diagram on the inside cover. If you have a Wagner design power truck and do not know the gear ratio, measure the size of the gear.

As mentioned in the 1950-60's, the standard O scale wheel was 0.172" thick. This was for both steam/diesel and trolley models. Over time the standard has dropped to 0.145" thick wheels for steam and diesels and 0.135" for trolleys. Interurban lines use either the 0.145" or 0.135". Fine standard Proto-48 uses a 0.115" thick wheel.

When Proto-48 standards are applied to a track work, not only is the gauge corrected but the clearances used in other track work like turnouts are corrected or reduced. This means wheel sets with 0.115" wheels can get caught in regular O scale turnouts at the frogs.

Just as the thickness of wheels decreased in O scale, the flanges have been reduced in size over time. If you and/or your friends are running both older and newer models, accommodations sometimes have to be made. Modelers, who for the most part, are the only ones using their layout may find when other modelers visit with their models some problems occur at turnouts and crossings.

Today many modelers have either switched to or are using NWSL wheel sets. Over a year or more ago the original owner of NWSL retired with the company being purchased by a new owner. Initially things were rough.

The new owner had many, many stocks of inventory to go through and find storage for. Then some items became short in inventory causing order delays. While I have not ordered NWSL items direct for a over a year, I hope many of the problems have been ironed out.

One Modeler's Take on Power Trucks
One modeler who had magical powers over power and trail trucks was Ron Hastie. Ron was a master mechanic and fine tool machinist by trade. If Ron was not a tool and die maker, he was very chose to being one.

Ron's models always ran without gear noise coming from the power truck. It was a thrill to see one of his models run in a quiet room. Only the sounds of the wheels going over the track could be heard. It was the same as watching a prototype trolley passing by.

Over the years I and others had many conversations with Ron about what he did with power trucks. However, Ron never disclosed exactly what he did to quiet the motor and gear noise of a power truck. Ron took this information with him to the grave!

But, I can tell you something about Ron's models. Ron's models were heavy. He would completely rebuild the underbody of a model as best he could to the original specifications of the manufacturer of the prototype with structural brass. The seats and passengers were made from soft metal. All of this added up to weight! The more the weight the better the model should run.

The weight of a models, in and of itself, can help to reduce the sound a model makes as it runs over the track. Of course, at the same time this places stress on the gear train and the motor in the power truck. It also causes excess wear on the rail. This may be the reason Ron was interested in rebuilding power trucks which had failed. Ron and I spent many hours on the telephone talking about rebuilding power trucks.

Next, the gear box in a power truck in one of Ron's models, which I purchased from Ron's estate, was packed with a black colored grease. Packing a gear train with thick grease will quiet the gear train. Ron's knowledge of grease may have played into what he used in the gear boxes of his models.

In years past I sold more than one automobile with excess engine or transmission gear noise. The engine's crank or the transmission case was drained and filled with STP. STP was an extremely thick, honey colored engine additive. Hint: This should be done during warm weather or if the car is stored in a heated garage.

The thicker the grease used the quitter a gear box will sound. However, the thicker the grease, the greater the amount of energy required to start and continue turning the gears.

Model Weight
From time to time, a Wagner power truck will wear out. This happens when the car in which the power truck is mounted weights too much.  If a power truck does wear out it has to be returned to the manufacturer for repair.

The inside back cover of the Wagner Car Co. catalogue included in the prior post has a number of excellent suggestions regarding power trucks and models. Little info is included about how much a model should weigh.

The standard rule of thumb for how much an O scale model should weigh is 5 oz. + 1 oz. for every inch of model length. For example an O scale model of a steel NSL or CA&E car is approximately 14 inches long; therefore 5 oz. + 14 oz. = 19 oz. or 1 lb. 3 oz.

Never add weight to a model to cause the total weight to exceed the recommended weight for the models size. A model can weigh less but never more.

I recommend the weight to be more (perhaps up to 60%) on the power truck with less (the balance of the weight) on the trail truck. This will give good tractive effort and at the same time the powered model will track well through turnouts and curves plus be able to pull a trailer.

Once again, do not overload your model in weight or the amount of weight your model has to pull. If the model is a locomotive take into account the number of cars the prototype locomotive pulled. If required double power your model.

If your passenger model should be puling a trailer and cannot, consider installing plastic seats and passengers in the trailer. Plastic flip-over seats can be obtained from Keil-Lines Products. They advertise in O scale model publications.

Final Comments
We have all heard the comment, "When in doubt read the insert!" This is great advice. When unpacking my Sunset NSL Electroliner, a brochure on the model fell to the floor. By chance I read it. One of the instructions was to place grease in all of the model's gear boxes before operating the model. The gear boxes were shipped dry.

A word to the wise is to always read the instructions which come with a model!

NWSL has already been mentioned. Many years ago they introduced the Magic Carpet. This was an under-the-floor power unit for O scale. Prior to the NWSL Magic Carpet, the Multi-Unit was available.

Multi-Units were great as under the floor power units. Unfortunately they could draw high amperage. To me, their main drawback was ballast and dirt getting into the gear train plus the use of a non-permanent magnet motor. Wiring the model could be a problem.

The Magic Carpet also had a problem with ballast and dirt getting into the gear train. The bigger problem was the plastic used to make the gears. The gears were force fitted over the axels and metal shafts in the gear train. The tight fit on the shafts combined with the proprieties of the plastic caused the gears to split in 2. There was no way to repair the split gear other than to obtain a new Magic Carpet.

NWSL has redesigned the Magic Carpet - now called Magic Carpet II. I have not had the opportunity to see and use the new drive units. I do have a model with the older units. Some time in the future they may need to be replaced with the newer Magic Carpets II.

More comments and tidbits of information in the next post.


Friday, April 18, 2014

Model Power Trucks Part 1 - Wagner Car Company

We open the topic of power trucks with the Wagner Car Co. catalogue from 1957-1958. Rich Wagner had started making power trucks in the early to mid 1950's. He continued to make power trucks until his death.

Rich's wife, "Birdie", sold the power truck and model parts business to Ed Miller of Current Line Models who has continued to supply power trucks. A link to Current Line Models can be found at the bottom of this blog.

The catalogue is presented for information only. Note the different configuration of power trucks available - how the motor is mounted. Rich Wagner includes information about the power trucks and how to maintain them.

The pages of the catalogue were scanned into my computer full page. The insertion into this blog page reduced the size of the pages. If the reader has the capability perhaps the pages can be printed full 8-1/2" x 11". The front and back covers were printed on yellow card stock. When the covers were scanned the color was lost.

Since the catalogue is over 50 years old, Current Line Models web site should be consulted to see what is currently available.

I hope you are able to print out the catalogue full size. Comments about the wheel and track standards plus maintenance of the trucks will be made in following posts regarding power trucks.

Some "things" to take away from looking at the various power truck designs are the "parts" of a power truck. A power truck is made up of:
  • a motor.
  • a gear box (worm, gear, and casing),
  • wheel sets (wheels & axels ready to mount),
  • a method to power both axels,
  • sideframes, and
  • a method of mounting the power truck in the model.
These "parts" will be looked at further in a future post.


Saturday, April 5, 2014

Trolley Pole Primer - Part 5 Somethings to Ponder About Trolley Poles

The topics in this post has been left until the end. Remember there is no one correct "answer" or way of doing things. 

Despite the problems which can beset model trolley poles, they work well. The manufacturers turn out a good product. It's when we, the modelers, change the wheels or sliders or are careless with the poles do problem arise.

Every now and then you'll here the comment, "The trolley pole has to learn the wire." Another version of this has to do with "trolley pole memory". If a new pole and/or a layout has not been run for a while, oxides and dust will build-up on the wire. The first lap or 2 or 3 around the layout is required before a trolley car will operate smoothly.

The idea of the trolley pole learning or memorizing the wire relates to the trolley pole cleaning off the oxides or dust. The trolley pole through friction has removed particles which do not conduct electricity. Both the trolley wheel or slider plus the wire now have clean spots by which the electrical path is open and clear. 

One way to cut down on the problem of oxides interfering with the conductivity of your overhead is to coat it with graphite. Either dip or brush-on Neolube on the trolley wheel or slider. If this process is done in different parts of the layout, eventually all of the wire will be coated. The coating has to be re-applied about every 2 months depending upon the trolley pole traffic on the trolley wire.

Neolube is a suspension of graphite (carbon) in isopropyl alcohol. Graphite conducts electrical current. One of the unique properties of carbon is it's ability to adhere to metals. With the carbon coating it's hard for oxides to form on the metal's surface. This increases the conductivity of the surface of the metal.

Through out the 4 prior posts about trolley poles I often hinted about some things related to the model and "its" trolley pole. The question is, should each model have its own unique pair of trolley poles (if it has 2) or unique trolley pole (if it has 1)? Or, can a modeler get away with having only a few trolley poles, place them on the models to be run, and then take them off when the model is stored?

Although I do not like buying excess trolley poles, I prefer to have poles unique to each model. Let's review my set of reasons. Along with this are a couple of additional "practices" to think about.

My feeling is each model should have its own trolley poles which are "tuned" to the model.  This way you do not have to worry if the trolley pole will track the wire properly, will the trolley poles catch one another when the model is run with other models in a train, or whatever.

"Tuned" includes:
     length of trolley pole,
     wheel or slider,
     filing out of the "trolley valley" in the shoe of slider for better operation,
     working wheel vs. non-working wheel,
     special shape of the pole itself (CWT 15's bent front pole),
     additional pole for special use,
     special "painting" of the pole, and
     additional reason(s) .

Some fellas instead of operating a model with a pole with a wheel, when the prototype used a wheel, will use a pole with a slider for better pick-up from the trolley wire. If the model is to be displayed, the pole with the slider is replaced with one with a wheel.

Many bi-directional models are operated in a single direction most of the time. The modeler will place the pole which operates better on the rear of the model with the other "worse" operating pole on the front of the model.

When a model is stored in a box or carton, the trolley poles should be taken off the model and stored along with the model. Trolley poles are too fragile to be kept on the model. It's too easy to bend the pole.

There are a few ways to store the pole(s) with the model. One way is to make a slit in the foam or packaging for the trolley springs to fit into. Slip the springs into slit with the pole flat on the foam or packaging. Another way is to make a cutout in the foam or packaging for the trolley poles to fit into.

Many years ago I obtained a supply of plastic, non-safety cap prescription vials. They are long and wide enough for 3-4 poles to fit in. If the poles rattle too much, a piece of face tissue is placed in the vial. For some models if the poles cannot be stored in the foam or packaging, an area is made in the box for the vial.

"Storing" models out in the open or display case is a different story. When photos of different traction properties are reviewed, sometimes cars not in use were stored in yards with the poles up while other companies store the cars with the poles down.

Some modelers are worried about the springs on the trolley poles loosing their tension if the poles are hooked down too long. Cars on the layout can be left with their (both poles if they have 2) up on the wire during non-operating times.

The poles will have to be hooked down when the layout is in operation. If a trolley model is stored in a display case, the poles can be un-hooked and allowed to stick up in the air.

If you have plastic vials, the vials can be labeled with the models identification with the poles stored in the vial. You just have to have a place to store all the vials.

I like the operating PSC trolley wheels. Many of my models have them but not all. Given enough time I'd probably switch all of my trolley poles which have non-working wheels to the PSC working wheels.

One of my friends has a trolley layout which is all street running for  streetcars. Furthermore, the overhead on his layout is tuned for Wagner sliders. When I take a model over to his layout to operate, if my model has poles with wheels or sliders not of the Wagner design, I bring extra trolley poles with Wagner sliders to use on the model.

This brings up a point of "trolley etiquette". When you take your trolley model(s) over to another layout, do not expect the owner of the layout to alter the overhead for your models!

The overhead is tuned for the models which run on a layout the most - usually the trolley models of the owner of the layout. If you are a guest and your trolley model will not run due to problems with the overhead, do not start to alter or "tweak" the overhead to suit your needs.

The altering of the overhead on a layout is at the digression of the owner of the layout and not the guest!

When visiting another layout always bring spare trolley poles with different sliders and/or wheels. If your model will not run, change the trolley pole. Sometimes other modelers present can help solve the problem.

If this does not work, you may need to go back to the workbench. Why a particular trolley pole, base, slider, wheel may or may not work is sometimes difficult to understand. The "problem" may be with the 2-56 screw, insert stud, or insert base and not the trolley pole.

With the trolley pole on the model, using a magnifying lens carefully watch the end of the trolley pole as the pole is rotated in a 180 degree arc (90 degrees each way from the center line of the model). If the trolley wheel or slider twist (rotates) off level you have to find the reason this happens. The trolley wheel or slider cannot simply be twisted level since it may not be level when returned back to the center point of the model.

Over the 50+ years of making trolley models, I have purchased at least one of every trolley pole base commercially available. They have been mixed together so I have no idea who made which trolley pole base. The only criterion I have is, on my trolley models the pole bases must look identical.

The only exceptions are when visiting my friend's streetcar layout or when the prototype does not have the same pole bases. For example, the Illinois Terminal System had 2 different trolley pole bases on some of their 400 series suburban cars. Another example is the AE&FRE 49.

In photos of the ITS 400 series of cars, some of the cars had 2 4-spring horizontal pole bases. Other cars in the series had 1 4-spring horizontal pole base and 1 4-spring horizontal back pole base. Why the 2 different pole bases on the same car is unknown.
The page appeared in "Trolley Talk" Issue 36, November 1961.

For modelers who like to have the trolley rope on their models, at one time Wagner had an interesting spring operated rope retrieving device.

Another way to have a working trolley rope is to place a spring in the model to which the 2 different trolley ropes from the opposite ends of the model are attached. A modeler would have to use trial and error to find a good spring to use.

In recent years an elastic product has been sold for mimicking the wire hung between line poles. Some modelers have used this product as the trolley rope on their models. When using it, an appropriate length has to be stretched out 1st before attaching it to the end of the trolley pole and the trolley rope retriever(catcher) on the model.

When it comes time to sell a trolley model, it can become difficult to sell the model if it comes without trolley poles. The buyer may want to see the model operate prior to finalizing the purchase.

Much like buying or selling a home, what is there and what needs to be repaired and/or replaced can effect the final selling price. Trolley poles are not inexpensive. To buy trolley poles just to sell a model seems like a waste.

If thought is given about the models you have, how many of them require unique poles, and how comfortable you are about ownership of enough poles; you may find it easier to have poles designated to certain models which require unique poles - long or short poles, specific pole bases, working wheels vs. non-working wheels vs. slider, straight vs. bent pole, etc.

When all is said and done, it is up to the individual modeler to decide how many poles are enough to equip the models on the roster!

On to power trucks in the next post.