Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Track - how not to do it

In Greenberg's book on Carlisle and Finch, Graham Claytor wrote that one of the main reasons they failed as a train company was because they never developed sufficient track for the masses. I have written in previous blogs about the craptacular nature of their track. You choice was either strip rails set into individual ties, or prefab stuff made out of wood wood ties with rails nailed in with carpet tacks. The former was only for permanent set ups and was a painful thing to put together, the latter was fragile, flimsey and frequently got out of gauge. This was a far cry from Lionel's 120 lb track that would withstand a car running over it and could be set up in minutes.

But if that wasn't bad enough, try this:

This is Beggs live steam track. Each curve is composed of three wood blocks with rails embedded into slots cut into the blocks by some unknown and magical process. Rail connections are simply made with overhanging rail on one end fitting into the slots into the next piece where the rail comes up short. Since Beggs engines were live steam, there was no need for electrical conductivity. Sounds kinda limited? well, there's more (or less, depending upon your point of view): Beggs designed it so that 7 sections made a circle. How are you supposed to make an oval when 7 sections make a circle? You aren't because most Beggs engines were made with the pilot wheels fixed to run in a predetermined radius. The engines couldn't go straight. The cars even had different diameter wheels, larger on one side than the other, to give them less rolling resistance going around the circle. The more delux Beggs engines did in fact have real pivoting pilots and were made run on ovals, however Beggs straight track is very rare and most went in circles. You would think this was very limiting and would result in a quick fold-up of the company, but in fact Beggs and its sucessor McNair produced trains from about 1875-1910; a good long run. I guess in the late 1800's getting a live steam toy to run around in circles was probably the highlight of your week....Here's what a complete set looked like:

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Good stuff Alex.

How often do you actually fire that Beggs loco up?

That would make a great video.