The engine that I ordered last week arrived today at work and I put it on the track as soon as I had fed the dogs when I got home. The engine looked great. I first powered up the track with a very low voltage until the engine started moving. I let the engine run around the track backwards to watch how it behaved and ensure that there were no problems on the track. All looked good.
But, I changed direction through the switch on the front of the engine and let it run forward at the same slow speed. The engine did fine until it hit a curve and it stopped dead. I checked what was going on and found that the front two wheels of the train not only pivot, but they also shift from right to left. This allows the long engine to traverse curves without having to have any pivots in the drive train. The situation is difficult to see unless you look very closely at the way the front two wheels move with relation to the body of the train.
Unfortunately, this is not a situation that I had expected or planned for in the ceiling mounts. All would have been fine except the front of the train had ears that supported a metal bar and the ears were catching very slightly but enough to stop the engine on the low speed. I have highlighted the ears in the following picture.
So, I took the nose of the train off the engine (it is leaning on my keyboard in the above picture) by removing two screws and then I got out the dremel tool, mounted a cutting blade, and cut 1/4 inch out of the plastic ears. The two little metal feet that are hanging down below the circles are what I removed. After mounting the cow catcher back onto the engine with 1/4 inch of the ears missing, the engine has no problem running around the track. Notice that in the picture below that the bar that was on top of the cow catcher is gone.
So, with the cow catcher adjusted and the ears shorter, the train is able to move around the track with ease. The next step was to start running the train a bit faster to see how it did at a decent speed. Initially, the engine moved with variations in its speed, but those soon went away. But, one thing I noticed was that as the engine went through the S-Curve, there would be a small clicking sound but the engine did just fine. After watching it a couple of times, it was clear that the front two wheels that are floating with a very light spring were coming off the track and then popping back on. I put the gage on the track and found that the track was not matching the gage any longer. I tapped it back into position and the problem still occurred. But, then I realized that what was happening was that the S-Curve was causing the wheels to shift across from one side of the engine to the other making a complete shift in a very short area of track. There is a plastic seam in the middle of the slot that the wheels shift in and the seam was causing the wheels to catch. After about 10 runs of the train around the track, I noticed that the wheels stopped clicking through the S-Curve.
So, now that I have the train moving smoothly on the track, I added the tender car to the engine. The tender has two wires that attach to the engine. One pair of wires has a label “light” on it, and the other pair says “sound”. When the train goes forward, the light on the front of the train is on. When the train goes backwards, the light on the tender comes on. The tender has a slot where a 9-volt battery goes in and if you put a battery in, the tender gets a trigger from the engine every time the valve changes direction on the piston of the mechanism.
So, now the engine and tender have been tested and I can add cars. I put the two animal cars on the train and the little caboose, but the caboose made a ton of noise with its metal wheel mounts. So, I put the performer car on with the ringmaster logo to the back so that it lit from behind. The engine was sluggish at first but after giving it a bit more power, the engine was able to pull the train without issue. It slowed down in the curves, but otherwise did just fine. I adjusted the pressure on the pickups on the wheels to free them a bit, and the train did much better. Here is a picture of the entire train over the fireplace.
And below is a picture of the train pulling through the S-Curve.
Another view from under the 5th curve looking at the section that goes over the pool table.
And, finally a shot of the train pulling into curve number 5.
So, now my train is running and there are no problems. I went upstairs to get something from my desk and left the train running. When I came out of my office, I heard the sound of either a small jet or a large truck in the driveway but then realized that the sound was coming from the floor. That is when I realized that this train makes a lot more noise upstairs than it does downstairs. Downstairs you hear the metal wheels on the metal track, but upstairs, you hear a roar as the floor not only transmits the sound, but it seems to amplify it. The track is mounted to the joists between the ceiling of the basement and the floor of the main level. So, after discovering this effect, I realize that I won’t be running this train when people are sleeping.
Well, the big concern left is that the real engine, which is more than double the cost of this one, will have the same issue with clearance. I don’t mind cutting on this cheaper engine, but I hope not to do the same to the expensive one!