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

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.


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