When my feet are off the road
Why I dumped the hobby
It was all supposed to be straight forward and should have been fully working well before now. The lockdown had begun in March and I needed something creative to do, so began a model railroad as a caricature, semi kinetic art project. Model railroads are never really finished. They evolve as new rolling stock, buildings and the like are added. I looked forward to it all: figured all the scenery would be down and the thing running within 2 months, max. That was over 4 months ago.
The first thing which had to be done was to get the track laid and a locomotive running, without any problems whatsoever. The scale was HOn30, something which was one half the size I used to do, so bought some track and 4 switches (turnouts or points to the English). The whole lot could only be obtained from a manufacturer named Peco. All well and good, I thought, then reality hit me in the face. Their turnouts failed after 2 or 3 uses. Everything was tried and I got nowhere, by then it was the last week in June. I had even set up a sub domain to share the experience with others who wanted to know about it.
Back in the early 1980's, I began a layout and used HO gauge as 3 feet between the rails (now called 55n3). Colorado narrow gauge lines were used as a theme and everything was scratchbuilt running on handlaid trackwork. That continued until 1994, when my creative juices began to run in another direction (Graphic Design and web development). During that time, I never had a problem with anything running. All my rail and a lot of other stuff was bought from the States with things like wood, balsa and plastic parts purchased in England. I had never used any English made trackwork or models, except for some arch-bar trucks made by Ratiothey were altered to use as Denver & Rio Grande freight trucks (and worked okay).
Inside the blue rectangle you can see why these consistently fail. That 90 degree angle causes the short unsupported blade to bend, losing contact. I overcame that by inserting sections of a throw away razor blade under the main rail which contacted with the part of the switch that moved and worked very well, until the weather changed.
In the white square is the throw bar. It lays on the homasote (called Selotex in the UK), which would swell when the humidity rose. That lifted the throw bar a little and contact was again lost. The entire turnout is very solid (fair enough), but the throw bar moves up and down a littleit is too thick!
This turnout is constructed the correctly. The throw bar is a lot thinner than the ties, so will not have the problem of upward movement that the Peco one has. The blades of the turnout retain the base throughout the construction and as a result have the support needed. When I made my own. I soldered a hard brass strip between the rails of the switch points and operated them by a stretch of piano wire connected to the switch throw. I never had a problem like the one encountered with Peco 009 units (all of them, regardless of radius).
The endEverything was running smoothly, my scenic hardshell hill in place and I had taken a couple of days off for a break. It was when I returned and found the Peco turnouts failed again, that was it. It was not a workman blaming his tools, because I know how to build correct turnouts. The fault was Peco's and Peco's alone. Enough was enough, I had given this trashy manufacturer dozens of more chances than they deserved. A trusty hammer was applied, firmly, to each turnout. All of the equipment and rail I had went in the trash and the hobby abandoned. To say I was disappointed is an understatement.
Will I ever build a model railroad again? Probably not, but if I do it will be back to 55n3, and hand lay my own turnouts and track. I will never, ever, buy anything from an English manufacturer again (except Ratio arch bar trucks), it will cost a lot more but in the end may be worth it.
Now, I just want to get back on the roadbut am still locked down.
Jul 16, 2020