SLAG News - September 2011

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Steve Carter
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SLAG News - September 2011

Postby Steve Carter » Tue Sep 06, 2011 11:38 am

Hopefully you all enjoyed the recent St Merryn article in MRJ accompanied by the excellent photographs by Philip Hall?

Having got the “writing bug” we have been working on a different style of feature for one of the mainstream Model Railway publications. (Oh, alright it’s Model Rail). This will feature the splendid photographs of St Merryn that were taken earlier this year by Chris Nevard.

Watch out for it soon.

St Merryn has been to three exhibitions this year, Crawley, York and Twickenham, and we were pleased with the running and reliability. All of the efforts put into maintenance and operators competency certainly seem to pay back big time.

During each show we maintain a written record of faults and these are then addressed back in the clubroom. It’s important to close things off and test if we are to make sure that the presentation and performance of St Merryn at an exhibition is the best we can deliver. No scope for slackness here!

During this “rest period” before next years booked shows, we are continuing making the improvements we planned. The new pub is progressing well and now has walls, windows and a roof so hopefully is protected against the elements?

We are taking St Merryn to Leamington and Warwick in January and Wigan in June next year. There is a strong possibility that St Merryn will be “going home” in October as we await confirmation of an invitation to a show in Wadebridge.

Area Groups can (should as far as I am concerned) be an important part of the support and service the Society offers to members. I understand that not all members want to be part of an AG but we feel it’s important to at least let people know we exist and that we are not a “closed shop” (we are friendly really :D ). So, with Danny Cockling’s help, we have recently sent an invitation to some 60 local Society members to come and see what we do and can offer.

Hopefully they won’t all want to come at the same time!

I’ll let you know how it goes.

We are all looking forward to another great Scaleforum weekend and meeting friends old and new.

See you there and enjoy.

Steve
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Tim V
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Re: SLAG News - September 2011

Postby Tim V » Tue Sep 06, 2011 4:07 pm

Waterloo wrote:During each show we maintain a written record of faults and these are then addressed back in the clubroom. It’s important to close things off and test if we are to make sure that the presentation and performance of St Merryn at an exhibition is the best we can deliver. No scope for slackness here!
Steve


Any chance of a sight of the faults list Steve? I keep such a thing myself, but it would perhaps be interesting to others to see the extent of the faults, and the actions taken to clear them. I think the average punter does not realise how much work goes on behind the scenes :!:
Tim V

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Paul Townsend
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Re: SLAG News - September 2011

Postby Paul Townsend » Wed Sep 07, 2011 5:53 am

Waterloo wrote:During each show we maintain a written record of faults and these are then addressed back in the clubroom. It’s important to close things off and test if we are to make sure that the presentation and performance of St Merryn at an exhibition is the best we can deliver. No scope for slackness here!
Steve


Any "random derailments" recorded that defied logical fault diagnosis and where you failed to identify a cause and thus no cure attempted?

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Re: SLAG News - September 2011

Postby Steve Carter » Thu Sep 08, 2011 4:44 pm

Sorry for not replying sooner but I have been working in France the last few days (well it helps pay the bills!).

I will pick up a copy of our “fault log” at our next AG meeting on Monday and scan it in and then post it on here.

We have had some strange “faults” including a short on a bogie vehicle that defied all obvious investigation and testing until one eagle eyed group member noticed a rouge strand of static grass wedged between the bogie and touching the wheel set.

Static grass removed and shorting problem disappeared. I kid you not!

Steve
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Tim V
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Re: SLAG News - September 2011

Postby Tim V » Thu Sep 08, 2011 5:47 pm

Yes, I heard about that. Couldn't be found with a multimeter, but did show on DCC! I suggested that AC (well OK, square wave) could do things that low voltage from the meter could not.
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Re: SLAG News - September 2011

Postby Steve Carter » Tue Sep 13, 2011 5:56 pm

As promised here is a copy of the ‘Defect & Occurrence Report’ we use.

It is important that as much detail as possible is recorded at the time, just writing down “the point didn’t throw” or “loco derails” will lead to many expletives back in the clubroom!
For example, knowing where on the layout, the vehicle number(s), which end, coupled to what, when in the sequence , etc, can mean that we get to the pub quicker (and better tempered!).

Sometimes we are unable to find a defect or reproduce the reported fault (the railway fitters well know ‘NDF’). This is logged and we will continue to monitor.

Steve
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Paul Townsend
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Re: SLAG News - September 2011

Postby Paul Townsend » Thu Sep 15, 2011 3:54 am

Waterloo wrote:As promised here is a copy of the ‘Defect & Occurrence Report’ we use.

Sometimes we are unable to find a defect or reproduce the reported fault (the railway fitters well know ‘NDF’). This is logged and we will continue to monitor.

Steve


Reads like "random derailment to me ! "

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Tim V
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Re: SLAG News - September 2011

Postby Tim V » Thu Sep 15, 2011 8:09 pm

That was a good show, no defects :!:

Seriously, Brian showed me a copy from a show - which read of a lot of uncoupling problems - perhaps AJs are not as good as they are made out?
Tim V

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Re: SLAG News - September 2011

Postby martin goodall » Sun Sep 18, 2011 5:28 pm

Tim V wrote:Brian showed me a copy from a show - which read of a lot of uncoupling problems - perhaps AJs are not as good as they are made out?


This confirms my own impression of AJs - a really elegant design, but very fussy over precise alignmnent, which can be thrown out by a whole host of different factors, despite every care being taken in setting them up, checking them and adjusting them in service.

I know some modellers who are quite pleased if they achieve 66% reliability with them, but that is just good enough so far as I am concerned. At the risk of blowing my own trumpet, I have achieved something very close to 100% reliability with my own 'Burford' couplings, and when painted these are as inconspicuous as AJs.

I posted a fact sheet on these couplings on this forum some time ago, but don't have a note of the link at the moment.

As regards 'random derailments' (and they do occur sometimes, for no apparent reason), you already know my answer to that problem!

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Re: SLAG News - September 2011

Postby Steve Carter » Tue Sep 20, 2011 6:57 am

The report from the last show that Tim has seen lists 16 ‘defects’. Couplings account for seven of these, six of which refer to an occasional minor difficulty or where the coupling did not work faultlessly first time; these were not total failures. That leaves just one incidence of a coupling that totally failed to operate.

In respect of passenger trains, coaches are uncoupled 13 times, sometimes from each other, during the sequence (and coupled 13 times), so over a typical exhibition weekend, there is a total of some 260 occasions when AJ couplings are either coupled or uncoupled. At the last show the reliability achieved was 100%, and taken over the last 3 shows, it was in excess of 99%.

It is much more difficult to obtain the reliability figure for the freight stock as the sequence does not specify the shunting moves. However, it has been noted that the layout has been operated for 50 minutes without any difficulty experienced with the AJ couplings.

It has taken longer to identify defects with the freight stock as the total permutation of coupling one vehicle to another is in excess of 400. It is only by recording every problem, no matter how small, have we been able to improve the reliability, and that is why the report sheet at first glance appears to indicate so many problems with the AJ couplings. It will be interesting to see by how much the reliability for the freight stock can be further improved, although we shall not rest until it is 100%!

Our experience has shown that AJ couplings do not need constant adjustment. It is imperative to ensure they are set correctly when first fitted to stock, and it is acknowledged that sometimes this is time-consuming. Any subsequent adjustment is usually only necessary as a result of a serious error by an operator.

Of course, we do not know how good AJs are made out to be, and we would certainly not claim them to be perfect, but regard them as the best compromise for what we want to achieve.
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martin goodall
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Re: SLAG News - September 2011

Postby martin goodall » Tue Sep 20, 2011 3:10 pm

I suggest that the other factor which can lead to AJ couplings going out of adjustment is packing and unpacking the rolling stock when taking vehicles to an exhibition. If you have the time to check and (if necessary) adjust every coupling before the vehicle is placed on the layout, then there may be no problem, but all too often layout operators run out of time to do this before the show opens, with resulting problems with some of the couplings.

This problem is not just confined to couplings; I have done more damage to my rolling stock (e.g brake levers, and other dangly bits) when packing and unpacking vehicles than through any other cause. There always seemed to be a list of repairs to do after every exhibition.

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Re: SLAG News - September 2011

Postby Tim V » Tue Sep 20, 2011 3:29 pm

Thanks for that response Steve, which puts the errors into context.

The conclusion is that AJ's are worth the effort :!:
Tim V

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Paul Townsend
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Re: SLAG News - September 2011

Postby Paul Townsend » Fri Sep 23, 2011 6:59 am

Waterloo wrote:The report from the last show that Tim has seen lists 16 ‘defects’. Couplings account for seven of these, six of which refer to an occasional minor difficulty or where the coupling did not work faultlessly first time; these were not total failures. That leaves just one incidence of a coupling that totally failed to operate.
.

May I be cheeky and ask what the other 9 faults were, just in outline, I am not asking for individual stock items to be criticised!

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Re: SLAG News - September 2011

Postby craig_whilding » Fri Sep 23, 2011 7:25 pm

martin goodall wrote:I suggest that the other factor which can lead to AJ couplings going out of adjustment is packing and unpacking the rolling stock when taking vehicles to an exhibition. If you have the time to check and (if necessary) adjust every coupling before the vehicle is placed on the layout, then there may be no problem, but all too often layout operators run out of time to do this before the show opens, with resulting problems with some of the couplings.

I'd agree the design of the stock box has a large part to play in the success or otherwise of AJs in an exhibition. You effectively have to ensure the vehicle can't move end to end as the coupler overhangs the buffers.

Testing each coupling while trains are being coupled up is possible but its the uncoupling that needs the extra accuracy and you'd have to properly check them against a jig really for that. A classic issue is the coupler ending up on the wrong side of a buffer beam pipe on diesels I find!

I'd also agree that they can be a bit fun to initially setup, i've had some fun getting them installed on my stock recently though once working and in their nice custom foam slots in the box they are generally ok.

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Re: SLAG News - September 2011

Postby Steve Carter » Tue Sep 27, 2011 5:08 am

I’m sorry to possibly disappoint those who maybe looking for in-depth reports about spectacular derailments, catastrophic electrical failures, wild out of control run-away trains, or the like!

Now if you are really struggling to sleep then tales of a broken point lever in the carriage siding (yes, it was me being over zealous with the track cleaning!), chipped paint on the lighting pelmet, sluggish ground signal, are much more effective than counting sheep!!

Pleasant dreams.
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Re: SLAG News - September 2011

Postby martin goodall » Tue Sep 27, 2011 10:34 am

Tim V wrote:The conclusion is that AJ's are worth the effort :!:


I am afraid I remain sceptical about the reliability of AJ couplings when in practical use on a layout (whatever the precise reasons for this). I saw several examples of AJ couplings failing to couple, or (more frequently) to uncouple, at S4um last weekend.

Something very close to 100% reliability is essential with couplings. That is why I ended up devising my own design. I would claim that my own design of home-made coupling (the 'Burford' coupling) achieves as close to 100% reliability as one is ever likely to achieve.

I have always admired the AJ coupling as a design; it is just that it seems to work with absolute reliability only in perfectly controlled conditions, which in practice cannot be maintained on a working layout.

While carrying out the experiments which led to the development of the 'Burford' coupling, I tried out but eventually rejected for entirely practical operational reasons several design features of the AJ coupling. They were not dismissed out of hand, but as a result of careful testing. My final design consists of a fixed hook and a pivoted loop, which is controlled solely by gravity except when raised by a magnet.


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